Friday, March 18, 2005

Bush Republicanism: Destroying the Enlightenment to Save It

When there's more Malice shown than Matter: on the Writer falls the Satyr.--Poor Richard

Over at Press Think, Jay Rosen has been pursuing the thesis that President Bush is self-consciously practicing a strategy of de-certifying and thus delegitimizing the press (This argument is based on the fact that Bush says as much.). It strikes me that there is a further parallel between Rosen's thesis of a conscious Bush policy to decertify the press as a strategy to redefine the political terrain, and Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bolton's explicitly stated agenda of delegitimizing the United Nations.

Both positions insist that control over the will of a political community must not be ceded to institutions invested in legalistic control: one at the level of the domestic state, the other at the level of the Wilsonian United Nations. They reject heretofore hegemonic legal definitions of the welfare state and international law as illegitimate usurpers of communal sovereignty.

To the degree that reporters act as representatives of the Enlightenment and stand on the side of reason as opposed to group self-interest defined in communal terms, they effectively sustain the legitimacy of the previously hegemonic system. Reporters who are not actively challenging the legitimacy of the welfare state and international law are thus instruments of the enemy, obstacles to the anti-liberal Republican revolution.

One layer of astonishing incoherence steps in when Bush Republicans take up the mantle of anti-fascist justice in the name of the challenge to liberal legalism that DEFINED fascism and its Asian allies. They effectively say, "We must reject the legitimacy of international law by starting an unprovoked war of aggression in order to bring to justice those who are or will be guilty of crimes against humanity such as starting a war of aggression in the manner of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan." Liberal legalism is categorically rejected as inadequate to the task of saving itself. It must be overthrown for the sake of its own salvation.

Under international law, Bush has undertaken exactly what Nuremburg and Tokyo War Crimes tribunals found Nazi Germany and Militarist Japan of: Instigating unprovoked wars of aggression and therefore crimes against humanity.

The self-righteousness of the cloak of the Second World War Bush wants to take into battle against "Terror" (and not coincidentally ideologically strip from the Keynesian welfare state types who actually organized and fought it), is grounded in the very principles of international liberal legalism that the neo-con PNAC imperial project rejects as illegitimate. Bush waves the mantle of the very liberal legal system he rejects both nationally and internationally (Ads with Roosevelt against Social Security are another perfect analogy). Rejection is salvation, delegitimization is constructive reform.

Reporters who have a coherent enough personal identity to acknowledge facts of more than a few hours ago are by definition obstructionist wrenches in this system of blatant "up-is-downism." They are framed as New Class hegemons who obstruct the anti-liberal revolution insofar as they continue to imagine democracy involves checks and balances, debate rather than marching orders and obedience. From this point of view, if they are covering enemies legal concerns are category mistakes and aid and comfort to the enemy. The very subject of international law is thus anathema, and counter-revolutionary from the radical Bushite perspective.

A further key element of confusion is that prominent cheerleader allies of Bushite strategy at home and abroad, such as Joseph Lieberman and Thomas Friedman, make the case for these very same anti-liberal offensives IN LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC TERMS. Challenging the welfare state is necessary for economic freedom, military expansion is liberation.

The strategies are rationalized on the grounds of communitarian particularism AND universal humanism AT ONE AND THE SAME TIME.

The fact that the latter enable an anti-liberal, anti-humanist revolution of de-certification is a strategic side-effect that both Lieberman and Friedman seem to be completely oblivious to. In other words, Lieberman and Friedman are cheerleading the de-legitimization of liberal humanism in the name of liberal humanism.