Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Are they stupid, or just dishonest?

Christopher Montgomery writes an excellent article in antiwar.com this week, in which he asks that horrible question - what happens if America does not remain the world's top dog.

He also ties it in with that strange American growth, the neo-conservative intellectual - saying they may not be stupid in thinking that it will last forever, just dishonest. One point that may have strengthened that thesis is the worshipful reverance respect that many of them for Leo Strauss. This was the chap who took Plato's cave a bit too far.

Plato, remember, said that the world was like a cave with flickering light from outside shining against a wall. Most people in the cave (that's the plebs - you and me) looked at the light and thought that this was all that there was. The philosopher was the chap who went in search of the daylight. We can take a wild guess in which class Strauss included himself, but he had a special twist.

To Strauss the masses are not just ignorant but they suffer from allergy to sunlight (no, not literally, I'm trying to stretch the metaphor). The whole society will simply collapse if certain "truths" are revealed to them. So while thinking that God is dead, the neo-cons support, by and large, the religious right and many of the younger ones even get stuck in at their local places of worship. All for the maintenance of society of course. (Perhaps societies tend to degrade once they lose religious belief because religious belief fits the facts of the world better than materialism, but perhaps thats too sensible and plebby a view).

Now Mr Montgomery's idea that the neo-cons are actually aware that every great power becomes a less great power in the passing of time - now becomes even more plausible. They actually believe in the big lie, its a matter of faith. Intellectual honesty is for wimps.

Another point of Mr Montgomery's article is a point of great hope. One of the problems of being a declining hegemon is that the rising powers start looking at your territory. Russia is likely to face this in a generation or two with Siberia. Britain was fortunate enough to have strong neighbours on continental Europe who stopped her holding on to continental holdings for any period. America is in an even more enviable position than Britain was. As Mr Montgomery says "the continental US is still a long way away from anywhere interesting". This may have been meant to point out that the Americans are actually weaker than previous hegemons, but the point is that they are also stronger. With the exception of the perfectly manageable Mexican border area, there's no significant geographical threat. America is not going to have an Ireland, Palestine or Falklands on her hands.

That is enviable.


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