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Monday, June 30, 2008

Let's Make a Deal Politics

The days when national leaders responded to a crisis with courage, fortitude and action are long behind us. Today when a crisis occurs leaders look to do two things

1. Shift the Responsibility - Shift the responsibility and the blame

2. Let's Make a Deal - Play let's make a deal with whoever they think can make the crisis go away

To wit behold French President Sarkozy in Israel's Knesset playing an upscale version of Shift the Responsibility and Let's Make a Deal.

If Israel forcibly ethnically cleanses Jews from X amount of land and divides its capital with the terrorists, surely there will be peace, Sarkozy proclaims. As part of his "I'll give you nukes if you join my imaginary Mediterranean alliance" to the Middle East tour, Sarkozy has managed to repackage the same old politics of 'Let's Make a Deal' combined with 'Shift the Responsibility' so someone else pays the price (in this case Israel and French taxpayers) with some dusted off 19th century ideas about building a vast French led alliance.

Yet Sarkozy is downright visionary compared to his predecessors who didn't bother with anything beyond "Shift the Responsibility." This sadly is the modern criteria for visionary leadership. So have the standards for leadership declined that the leader who goes beyond "Shift the Responsibility" by merging it with "Let's Make a Deal" is considered a man of action.

Gone are the days of the Rooseveltian "Pedricardis alive or Rasuli dead!". In the Bush Administration this sort of sentiment enjoyed a brief resurgence after 9/11 when the US took on the Taliban and Al Queda in the old fine style backed by modern weaponry. A few years later though it had all been squandered in a welter of the "Let's Make a Deal" politics that brought us the Iraqi occupation and all the diplomatic initiatives of the Condoleeza Rice White House. Force was out and Diplomacy Uber Alles was back in.

Of course it's a madman or a warmonger who always chooses war over diplomacy, but it's a coward or a traitor who always chooses diplomacy over war.

There are two reasons why diplomacy has so overshadowed plain old war in the arsenal of modern political decision making. It isn't an excess of idealistic pacifism, very few true pacifists are able to do the ruthless things necessary to get into power in the first place. It isn't guilt over past nationalism or colonialism, such things are reserved for university professors and wealthy upper middle class pundits living on seized Indian lands in the suburbs.

The first reason is 'Shift the Responsibility'. Modern day politics is the politics of the lazy. Contrary to what the ideologues of the left like to believe, it's a much safer political bet not to invade a country than to invade it.

Wartime Presidents since the latter half of the 20th century have routinely lost elections or been forced out of office. From JFK's Bay of Pigs to LBJ and Nixon's Vietnam, to GHW Bush's Gulf War to GW Bush's War on Terror, wartime Presidents have taken a beating from any military involvement.

The safest way to lead in modern politics is to take no positions except a solemn promise to change everything the other guy has gotten wrong-- this in a phrase is the motto of the Obama campaign. Leading from the front is the worst way to go. It's safest to be neutral, to make vague statements, to shift the blame and go on shifting the blame, knowing that politics is simply a matter of waiting for your political opponents to do something and screw up.

This modern blinking contest is at the heart of politics not only in America but across Europe where cowardly and inept politicians ignore the need for decisive action and stare across parliaments and houses of legislature, concerned mostly with how their opponents will exploit the situation. And so both sides stare and make occasional speeches and squander money and nothing is done.

The second reason is even worse. It's "Let's Make a Deal". The only real resolution to the politics of inaction is Chamberlanian compromise. The final refuge of the coward and the knave is the politics of splitting the difference. After all no one can blame a peacemaker, right?

The business interests that once drove war, today mainly drive peace. With the end of colonialism, the major corporations still have the same priorities as before, international trade, cheap production and harvests in the third world and fluid travel and no trade barriers. Only the means by which they get it have changed.

The same industries that once made international trade and production flow through national enrichment and conquest now make it flow by dismantling the national sovereignty of their countries, frowning on any military action and pushing peace not for the sake of peace, but so that the rivers of commerce will flow.

The "Let's Make a Deal" politician is the product of "Let's Make a Deal" business. War costs money. National pride costs money. National defense is fine so long as it involves buying weapons from corporations that won't actually get used in any way that disrupts international trade. For corporations, countries have become platforms for doing business. Platforms which they can move around at their disposal.

The price of "Let's Make a Deal" politics is paid by "Shift the Responsibility." Shift it to the taxpayers, to other countries, to future generations. Meanwhile build up your paper alliances into paper empires, hold your paper meetings and dream of a paper world in which all people will get along with each other. And try, try to look away from the riots, the beheadings and the storm of war growing outside. And whatever you do, turn away from the smell of burning paper.


  1. sad state of events really. It seems the world is unwilling to lift itself up above low class stuff.

  2. With allies like Sarkozy (and many other power brokers in Europe and the USA), Israel doesn't need any more enemies. These so-called friends would have Israel commit suicide. They are living under a delusion that giving up land will bring peace. We all know that's not going to happen.

  3. Israel needs to stop trying to find alliances. They don't exist and every time we've ever tried it's led to our destruction.



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