Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cheneyism: The Dominate Ideology in US Policy/Politics Today

Todd E Pierce has a very important article up at Unz Review . . . which was republished from Consortium News. The comments on both sites are worth reading.
"Cheneyism" is an accurate term and describes much of our current US political reality. In fact with this concept, much of our recent history becomes comprehensible.
As I have mentioned before, there are additional knock-on effects that are not so obvious at first. For instance, from a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective, for a country/political community to act strategically there has to be a political context, a potential opponent against which the country/political community orientates. This opposition in turn has a specific context and capabilities which allow for contingent actions/reactions to take place over time. With Defense Planning Guidance or "DPG" this ended. No longer was there a specific opponent in mind, the context became global with even former allies in line to become potential adversaries. Defense planning (and procurement) went from threat assessment to capabilities enhancement which is essentially limitless . . .
Instead of containing the Soviet Union, with DPG the goal was the unlimited maintenance of global dominance, which from a strategic theory perspective is incoherent since the scope is simply too broad and complex to plan for in any realistic way, not to mention beyond the material and moral means the US possesses. So, we see strategy giving way to notions of US exceptionalism and the proclivity to see the use of force (in various forms) as the preferred means in international relations. This explains why the US today has lost the ability to act strategically and has been acting astrategically since at least 9/11.
This maintenance of global dominance in turn required the demolition of much of the international structure that the US had so carefully constructed after World War II, since the assumption (although not always followed) was that the US was first among equals; thus alliance relationships have decayed and shared values have been replaced by narrow interests of "allies" often operating at cross purposes . . .
Notice too the mention of Carl Schmitt. On the Torture as Stalking Horse thread I used a quote from Schmitt to introduce his concept of "sovereignty". This consists of the ability to identify the enemy of the political community in question and wage war against that enemy. Cheneyism and its followers have been doing that since 9/11 and in fact much of what they have done has been in the name of "keeping us safe" from a projected "existential threat", which is what the Global War on Terror or current War on Extremeism has been all about. Both are struggles against abstractions or methods (as in terrorism) not against a specific political community at all.
Cheneyism operates according to a politics of subversion and obfuscation. Nothing is as it seems, publicly stated policy goals are formulated for propaganda effect, while the actual goals remain hidden, unstated, even deniable. Much of what is going on in the world today follows in tow of this political approach with countries in the thrall of Cheneyism taking on many of its political characteristics. This fascistic ideology is perhaps best seen as a malignant social/political virus.
This all has also had a serious knock-on effect on our national intelligence collection, in that the purpose of that collection has become providing the justification for actions already decided upon, rather than accurately reporting on foreign relations/conditions.
Finally, the notion of US exceptionalism, upon which Cheneyism rests, assumes that the US cannot actually be defeated militarily. "We can only beat ourselves" or rather the people lose interest in carrying on "their fight". For this reason, domestic information operations become a military necessity, the main stream press becomes essentially a "ministry of truth" and elements of a police state are systematically put in place to restrain and punish an ungrateful populace . . . who are purposely kept unaware, but also assumed unworthy or even hostile to the attainment of the maximum plan. Exceptionalism thus applies not to Americans as a political community, but to the Cheneyite elite who guide and control the state unaccountable in any meaningful way.


  1. Cheney was merely an exaggerated embodiment of a form of disrespect which is at home in some demographics, some countries more than others.

    I don't think his way is worth being called "Cheneyism".

  2. S O-

    Cheneyism is much more than simply Cheney. Ideas have lives of their own spawning ideologies which is something the history of the 19th Century taught us . . . or so it seemed. I guess one would have had to have studied Max Weber, instead of "economics" to have seen that . . .

    1. LOL, if you knew...

      The lectures on the theory of government revenues were 90% about philosophy, for example. Don't mistake a German university's econ faculty of the 90's for an American MBA mill.

      And you may underestimate the power of organisational blindness; outsiders can sometimes see more clearly what's up than insiders.

      Cheney looks very much like an exaggerated, partially stereotypical, version of the United States' culture.
      Culture, not idea.
      This is the less comfortable view, of course.

    2. S O-

      "Culture" is too nebulous, not to mention far too deterministic to explain what has happened imo. Also America is hardly one culture, most Americans could care less about foreign policy and one normally gets blank stares with the mention of "empire".

      More importantly where is the "will" to make the radical changes that we have seen? We are talking about a shared perspective (idea) of a relatively small group of highly influential people who have succeeded in changing the course of the country, even the nature of the government in fundamental ways . . . the ideology resulting is the source of the group think, not some broadly shared cultural assumptions.

      Furthermore, it is difficult to even see this ideology as nationalistic since the interests of the country don't seem to play much of a role in influencing the policies/politics.

      "Exceptionalism" is not the culture, it's rather part of the scam, the main driver seems to be the emphasis to use various forms of force/violence as the preferred method . . . if you wish to call that an American cultural trait, go ahead, but it hardly explains anything . . . seems more the product of watching too many Hollywood films.

    3. Exceptionalism is merely an outgrowth of a culture which is systematically disrespectful of foreigners, even allies. It's not apart from the mainstream as much as it is merely a focused version of it.

      And this (temporary) culture is driven by the appraisal of the situation, which seemingly indicates that one can benefit of, and get away with, being disrespectful. Like a child kicking the puppy because Mom doesn't intervene.

      Cheney isn't so special, nor is his pattern of behaviour. He's merely a focused personification of the general attitude.

      You may consider the Neocons as different from the rest of the people, but what exactly is the difference between them an Obama, for example? The fact that he has bombed but one country and invaded none seems to be borne out of the post-War situation more than anything else. Without the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences he'd have invaded Syria, for sure - and the whole difference between this and Iraq 2002 would be that he wouldn't have needed to make up justifications for it.

      Look how disrespectful the Obama administration is to China, to Russia, to the allied Turkey, even to the UK (remember the recent Falklands episode when HR Clinton didn't side with the UK?). And then there's the open disdain for all the allies they spy on. They were called out and still even refuse to promise to not spy again on allied governments!

      The disrespect goes so deep in the United States that the people aren't even irritated by the fact that THEIR government is probably the most hostile country even for allied countries.
      I as a German have difficulties explaining how Russia or China or Iran could possibly be more hostile or at least more troublesome to my country than the U.S.. THEY are hardly ever found to have done anything offensive to us.
      Maybe you can tell?

      Cheney wasn't unusual. Cheneyism is a slightly amplified version of what the U.S. is these days. It's a horrible sight in the mirror, but the mirror speaks the truth.

      There's but one way out; drop the idea that the U.S. "can get away with it". This requires a better information and education on the rest of the world. It takes better mass infotainment (news) media (the old ones cannot reform - they need to be crowded out).

    4. S O-

      Questionable assumptions . . .

      First off, you conflate US "culture" (which you have very narrowly defined) with Americans, essentially all Americans, along with the actions of the current US government. Three quite different things. As a German I would expect that you would be quite sensitive to that obvious fact.

      Second, "disrespect of foreigners"? This is where the above conflation comes in again . . . as compared to what country exactly? You bring up the NSA scandal, but total surveillance is hardly confined to foreigners, in fact the US citizenry seems to be the main target which in turn the US government consistently lies about. The fact is that foreigners are treated with the same distain by the current ideologically-motived US government as the American people are. That Ms Merkel doesn't seem to have a problem with any of this, besides being taped herself or no being allowed into the "5 eyes", is a domestic German political issue you avoid.

      "to the allied Turkey"? This was hilarious. Didn't you post something on your blog about how the Turks tried to stamped us into the Syrian conflict, and almost got away with it? Also I noticed no mention of Israel in the list of countries we so poorly treat . . . why is that?

      "Russia"? The anti-Russian propaganda is coming from all the EU countries as well as the US. How would you assess the EU's responsibility in precipitating the Ukraine crisis? How were the actions of the EU "respectful" of Russia's interests?

      The neo-cons or their fellow travelers make up the majority of Obama's foreign policy team of "rivals". His not moving on Syria last summer had nothing to do with the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan, but was due to the fact that the whole justification for US intervention was unraveling . . . see Sy Hersh's latest piece in the LRB.

      As an American, I can't explain why Russia, China or Iran are any threat at all. But the ideology requires a threat so there you go. Have you ever argued that Al Qaida was a threat to the US or the West in general?, just wondering . . .

      Cheney is very unusual. You are talking about a very powerful individual who had high access to government power players from 1974 intermittently till 2009, including deputy assistant to the president, White House Chief of Staff, House Minority Whip, Secretary of Defense, and finally choosing himself as Vice President, an office he served in for eight years as the most powerful VP in the nation's history. Cheney has admitted to supporting state torture which is against US law, but is essentially untouchable. His minion John Bolton reportedly used the NSA to spy on Bolton's then boss Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State. It is difficult to conceive of the radical changes that have rocked the country since 2000 as taking place without Cheney . . .

      You use the metaphor of a mirror, but from my perspective, you have painted over that mirror with black paint and then added a few stick figures to replace what to me is blatantly obvious . . . that the ruling elite in your own country is in thrall to the Cheneyites, seemingly hoping to join them . . .

      Finally, your "one way out" is not a way out at all since how is this conflation you've constructed supposed to "drop the idea"?

    5. Sedylitz-

      For a point to ponder, might I offer that American "culture" has never been "inclusive", from day one. America began as a WASP culture, and while dependent on immigration for our growth, immigrants were never accepted "as is", but only after emulating WASP characteristics. Mediterranean Catholics had a hard time achieving somewhat equal footing, for example. My grandma forbid our parents from teaching us Italian, lest we carry the stigma of a bit of an "accent".

      If the US is rampant with "in-group/out-group" divisions domestically, is it any wonder that we so freely trod on the rights and sovereignty of other nations, the ultimate in "out-groups"?

      Cheny et. al. simply capitalize on America's centuries of seeking exclusion to foster support for their self-serving goals. Of course the "Cheneyites" consider working stiffs an "out-group", but for power purposes, allying them into a fabricated "in-group" against foreign "out-groups" gives them the masses the exclusivity they so desperately seek.

    6. "You bring up the NSA scandal, but total surveillance is hardly confined to foreigners, (...)

      "to the allied Turkey"? This was hilarious. Didn't you post something on your blog about how the Turks tried to stamped us into the Syrian conflict, and almost got away with it? Also I noticed no mention of Israel in the list of countries we so poorly treat . . . why is that?"

      Now if I beat up you and also beat up my sister, does this mean I was not disrespectful and offensive to you? Hardly; your counterpoint was confused.

      The Turks got treated badly on many occasions since they didn't help with the war of aggression against Iraq. Again, you brought up something irrelevant as a faux counterpoint; it's irrelevant what the Turks did recently, since the disrespectful behaviour to them was standard pattern for years.

      And Israel is not really an allied country. It's a mere foster country. A real ally would have promised to defend the U.S. if it's being attacked, as did Turkey and Germany in the North Atlantic Treaty.
      Please note the English language is imprecise in regard to the word "allied" and I am under influence of the other languages I know which are not this imprecise. Languages influence thinking, and I make a clear cut between those who entered an alliance treaty and those who merely cooperate.
      That is why Israel is totally irrelevant. Besides, I didn't mention Denmark either - a similarly tiny country, so why WOULD I mention them?

    7. Al-

      I think almost all cultures are not "inclusive" in the way you mean, that's what makes them cultures especially those more traditional. The kids of immigrants might fit in or not, but eventually something . . .

      The US "reality" from my perspective growing up was that if you were "white" you'd probably fit in. Black folk probably had it worst off . . . regardless . . .

    8. S O-

      Your "argument" comes down to "what shoddy treatment of US vassals like the Turks, you should be ashamed of yourselves!" Noted.

      Oh, and one can't mention Israel . . . Noted.

    9. You obviously think what you want, damn the reality.

      There's a mile wide difference between not mentioning Israel because it's irrelevant for the point and "can't mention Israel". What you imply is a "must mention Israel", which is bollocks.

      And your focus on the Turks, which were merely mentioned with one word as an example at first, only shows that you fail to understand what I wrote.
      And to paraphrase me as "US vassals like the Turks" is far beyond stupid. It's outright lying.

      The disrespect is a general cultural thing. Nobody did beat respect into the U.S. past the point of ignorance. Whatever backlash there is, it's widely ignored and the poor manners live on.

    10. S O-

      Rather damn your "reality"?

      I think I got it now. You have to excuse me since your levels of rationalization or self-rationalization, are far beyond my simple ability of comprehension. Too bad.

      Or, it is in fact what we used to call back in the bad ole days the typical Wessie notions of "Selbstherrlichkeit" . . . ? So prevalent it made your teeth hurt, but then you would have had to have been there to know that . . . maybe you should have been born ten years earlier.

    11. Thanks for admitting you've got no point by writing a comment without substance, with some blather about me instead.

    12. It's all about you, right? I thought that was the point of Selbstherrlichkeit . . .

    13. Well, I wrote about the subject, you wrote about me. Can't help it, I'm not in control of your keyboard.

      I'll explain to you the difference:

      S OApril 11, 2014 at 8:11 AM
      one line of intro
      four lines response about the strange Israel highlighting
      five lines response about the strange Turks things
      four general lines about my original point

      seydlitz89April 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM
      one line of intro
      three lines of nonsense
      five lines of more nonsense

      S OApril 11, 2014 at 4:25 PM
      two lines of calling out

      seydlitz89April 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM
      two lines of even more nonsense

      You're simply not discussing the subject with me here any more, and I tend to call out people who stop discussing and turn towards spouting nonsense instead.

    14. S O-

      Sorry, but you haven't made much of an argument at all. My distilling your points was to offer some clarity to what you were saying, if they came across as simplistic, it was because I didn't have much to start with: your failure to consider what an ideology in fact is; your conflation of broad social realities into a crude abstract identity which fits with your own prejudices; "cultural determinism" essentially run amok; and seemingly little understanding of US political relations today (the "foster country" Israel!?).

      I would have welcomed a thoughtful response, as I have a long history of doing. Also compare my responses to your comments with those of the other commentators . . . see a difference?

      I've got an idea . . . why don't you post a thread on your blog on "Israel as foster country of the US" using your form of "argument" and see what type of responses you get?

  3. I blame the Soviet Union.

    Opposing it was the great organizing force in Western countries.

    When it bloodlessly went "pop" in an eyeblink, there went the neighborhood. A number of institutions commanding vast quantities of of power and wealth no longer had a reason for being.

    The only thing left that would justify their budgets was total world domination. After all, what good is a world without a superpower?

    1. Ael-

      Your comment reminds me of Hew Strachan's argument here . . .

      Strachan brings up a lot of interesting influences from the Cold War and how strategic thinking developed, the source of much of the current group think . . .

  4. I have had difficulty getting my head around "American Exceptionalism". From whence does the idea arise that a given nation is destined or foreordained to dominate the world? Surely not from history.

    Our son, reacting to the proposed Obamacare, said, "We already have the best health care system in the world." I asked him to describe the "system" and what it's goals were in providing health care. That was 5 years ago, and I am still awaiting a response.

    In many ways, American Exceptionalism is a tool for the power elite. Makes the masses happy to think their lot is and always will be the best, regardless of fact. Imagine his shock when our son was able to see a Greek National Health Care doctor for a sinus infection 30 mins after walking in to the island clinic, versus trying to get an appointment to see his physician in the US, a typical 2-3 day wait. For no cost, the Greek physician did a thorough diagnostic, to include bacterial cultures to determine appropriate antibiotics, something his US physician had never done.

    Point is, being a "super-power" helps to make it easier to avoid facing our shortfalls at home. Successful cult leaders learn to reinvent the cult to keep it relevant in the face of changing reality. When the Soviet Union rolled over and died, folks like Cheney simply had to reinvent the world to retain their positions of power.

    Maybe I can get my head around American Exceptionalism after all.

  5. Al-

    I'm convinced it's part of the scam, since the only "exceptionalism" this elite believes in is limited to themselves . . .

  6. Seydlitz,
    The scam is that our allies neither like us, nor would they fight to defend our interests,nor would they fight to protect themselves, but they pretend to be allies when in fact all they want is a free ride and sitting pretty under our umbrella.
    We're too friggin' stupid to comprehend the reality.
    Does anybody think that any of the Arab spring idiots give a rats ass about us? Will any little NATO country from Belgium on down really lay it on the line for our welfare?What can nato or any country add to our security?
    We do the heavy lifting and every body else rides the gravy train.
    Paid for by saps that we glorify and call citizens.

  7. cheneyism = self deception, arrogance, cowardice, and a ticking time bomb.

    I hope to p!ss on the man's grave if I can outlive him.

  8. jim-

    Disagree. NATO is a structure that the US keeps in place since it allows for the domination of Europe, especially Germany. It also greatly eases force projection into Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Expanding NATO eastwards destabilizes Europe and is not in the EU's interest, but they won't stand up openly against the US since they know what a nasty bitch we can be if we don't get our way, remember "Freedom Fries"? This comes under what I described in the post as "the demolition of much of the international structure". It's not the same Uncle Sam as that of our parents, it's something quite different and Cheney's grimy claw marks are all over it . . . Essentially this is the post-USA we're living right now. Washington DC should be re-named Cheneyville to reflect the actual political transformation carried out before our "lying eyes" . . .

    I was in Europe during and after 9/11 of course and experienced the great wave of spontaneous and honest solidarity that Europeans across the political spectrum showed to the American people . . . all pissed away by the Cheneyites . . .

  9. If one takes a cynical look at the US, it came into being by ignoring the sovereignty of the native population. Violence against the sovereignty of others was part of the American birthing process, and continued with westward expansion. The first "illegal immigrant" problem in North America was the influx of WASPs.

    White "America" is, and has been from day one, a violent society. Violence is indicative of a complete lack of respect for the rights of others. The form and substance of that lack of respect may have shifted over time, but the basic lack of respect has been ever present. It's simply a matter of how "leaders", such as Cheney, capitalize on it for self gain.

    When our town celebrated its 300th anniversary, we learned an interesting lesson in school. The Siwanoy Indians did not "sell" the land to Lord Pell, as Indian culture held that their Great Spirit owned all of creation, and allowed peoples the use his land, in return for their properly caring for it. Rather, the Siwanoys let Pell use the land in return of a modest yearly share of the land's harvest. Thus, the contract was for a modest cash payment, AND and "annual fatted calf". In short, the Native Americans saw land as something which had been entrusted to their care, while the WASPs saw (and still see) it as something to own and exploit, because their God gave them "dominion over all creation". Pretty difficult to reconcile.

    As to the treatment of immigrants, seydlitz, my point was that while the US has been described as the "Great Melting Pot", it really hasn't been exactly that at all. If it were a "Melting Pot", the resulting culture would have been an amalgam. However, it isn't, even amongst "whites". Southern whites, for example, along with prejudice against people of color, have long held anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic sentiments.

  10. Al-

    I don't disagree with anything you say, but what exactly are their connections with the rise of Cheneyism? America is a racist culture. The South particularly is a violent culture. But there are other racist and violent cultures, or is this where American "exceptionalism" comes in? How does one explain that the South especially has changed a lot since the 1960s?

    So starting with that how do we get to our current reality of an essentially lawless kleptocracy/oligarchy, systematically erecting the structures of a police state, acting astrategically in vain hopes of maintaining a state of perpetual global domination? Or the great changer, a man of color, elected in 2008 to reverse this course instead consolidating it? I could add more . . .

    What if Al Gore had won by "enough" in 2000 and Cheney ended up in a mad house by 2001 where he arguably belonged? My point is that it doesn't take much to upset this whole little applecart of radical change that has been under way since 2000. What if 9/11 had been prevented? A few different outcomes and the current result 14 years later would be very different, or is this too much to assume? How deterministic are these characteristics you mention anyway?

    To me what makes the difference is "will". The will of a ideologically-focused minority to impose their will on the country as a whole through subversion and obfuscation . . . the tendencies you mention are simply some of the strings they use to manipulate, fear as you have repeatedly pointed out being another . . .

  11. seydlitz-

    The will of a ideologically-focused minority to impose their will on the country as a whole through subversion and obfuscation

    Not just by subversion and obfuscation, but by striking a receptive chord in enough of the American population to impose their agenda on the nation and the world. An one very receptive chord is "American exceptionalism" - elevating America and Americans above all others. Another is defending ourselves from all those other lowlifes out there.

  12. "The will of a ideologically-focused minority to impose their will on the country as a whole through subversion and obfuscation."

    Trust me; I yield nothing to anyone in my loathing and contempt for the man and everything he and his coterie represent. But I think this oversells their status as Caligari-like figures manipulating U.S. public opinion from the darkened cabinet.

    As Al points out, there's probably a good third to two-fifths of the U.S. public who buys the Cheneyist spiel. I mean, look at his approval rating in 2007 when the Bushite agenda had been exposed repeatedly as the disaster it was for everyone not in the small clutch of hangers-on to the Bushies and their enablers. The guy never fell below about 20% even at his worst.

    Add to that the Christopaths, and the racists, and the moneyed classes and you have a fairly hefty slug of the U.S. public. Then throw in a Democratic/liberal electorate that has gone into a defensive crouch, unwilling to aggressively defend the old liberal standbys, and a courtier press impressed by all that stalwart Republican manliness.

    I honestly WISH that Darth Cheney and his minions were just using their Sith mind-tricks. But I'm afraid that it's more the case that a hell of a lot of the U.S. public actually believes as they do.

  13. Chief: But I'm afraid that it's more the case that a hell of a lot of the U.S. public actually believes as they do.

    Perhaps not 100% agreement, but agreement on enough emotionally charged issues to get their support. There may be many who do not whole heartedly support our overseas adventures, but do support unfettered gun rights, for example. Gotta take the good with the bad, you know. Sending other peoples' kids off to Buttfuckistan is a small price to pay to have your God given right to own firearms preserved. There is a world of difference between the social responsibility doctrine of the Catholic Church and the Religious Right, but they agree on issues of abortion and contraception, and the Catholics have added voters to the Right on this one basic issue. Lots of Faustian Bargains to be made, and the Cheneyites have learned how to offer same.

  14. Gentlemen-

    Understood. It's pretty scary to think that there may actually be an ideology driving US/Western policy in the world today . . . a "space of flows" nexus of finance, power and politics, semi-hidden, through a glass darkly, and easily deniable, in fact you're cool if you use the term "conspiracy theory" to attack even the thought of questioning . . .

    Still this ideology is seen as influencing events in astrategic ways, globally.

    Let's define "astrategic" as the ability to create/influence strategic effect divorced from any rational political purpose. It's something of a contradiction in terms yet has interesting recent examples. From a strategic theory perspective there would have to be a "rational" element, but given the fact of Clausewitzian dialectics, this could also be its opposite, a polarity. In other words the political elite has lost touch with reality and is operating in a distorted maze of their own false assumptions.

    What allows for this level of domination is an effective "total propaganda" approach following Ellul. Consider how the US main stream media as a whole is able to present foreign policy/foreign crises in the narrative of their choice. They are expert at manipulating symbols, metaphors, framing discussions, the consistent, if dubious use of labels . . . Given that the society went from the written word to the image some time ago, how difficult is it really to manipulate masses of atomized individuals, who have to focus mostly on their economic existence, and lie to them about what is going on in places they would never be able to find on a map? Add fear and one begins to understand how easy in fact it could all be . . . It is all far too abstract, the places, the interests, the wars, the $trillions . . . the greatest scam in human history?