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I hadn't read the NY TIMES MAGAZINE article by RON SUSKIND yet, but I knew it must be good since the jerkoffs on FOXNEWS were bitching about it this afternoon. BOB HERBERT's column for tomorrow's paper deals with how you can't deal with a problem & lead, if you can't accept there is one. Herbert quotes one of the most chilling passages from the Suskind article where he talks with a WHITE HOUSE aide...
...According to Mr. Suskind, "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' " The aide told Mr. Suskind, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."

Got that? We may think there are real-world consequences to the policies of the president, real pain and real grief for real people. But to the White House, that kind of thinking is passé. The White House doesn't even recognize that kind of reality.

Originally posted to 医生的宫殿 on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  November 2, 2004 (none)
    America's Bastille Day.
  •  It's quite a good article (none)
    I just read it tonight myself.  I'm a big Suskind fan, since reading the O'Neil book this winter.  I also saw him speak on CSpan once or twice.  He's got an amazing story by the tail.  Not to mention the documents O'Neil was sent when he left Treasury.

    I trust what Suskind's writing, because it dovetails so well with the stories from the Price of Loyalty, which are supported by O'Neil and all those documents.  

  •  Caesar probably said something similar (none)
    and we all know what happened to Rome.

    Talk to me on November 3rd.

    by El Payo on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:10:12 PM PDT

  •  Empire is the proverbial elephant in the room, (none)
    the most important issue of this election (and of our time), mentioned by neither of the major candidates, and strangely by none of the left-leaning third party candidates. I'm the first to recognize that an anti-empire platform (ie energy independence + withdrawal from the Muslim world - no bases, airfields, even embassies + restrictions on Muslim immigration) would be electoral suicide at this point, but it is sad that this absolutely vital debate is barely happening on the left.

    And as much as I oppose the neoconservative imperial agenda in the Arab and wider Muslim world, I do not find the Democratic alternative of liberal internationalism a sustainable alternative. The neoconservatives, unlike the liberal internationalists, recognize that the political, economic, and cultural status quo in the Arab world, and America's continued enabling and protection of that status quo, is what is breeding the terrorism against America. Their solution, a military campaign to radically transform and westernize that political, economic, and cultural is clearly being interpreted by Iraqis and Arabs more generally for what it is: imperialism. You can be certain that the quote from Mr. Bush about American being "an empire now" in the Suskind piece wasn't a fabrication or an exaggeration of his thinking, or indeed of reality. You can be certain that as the Arab baby boom comes of age and continues to radicalize, the neoconservative strategy in the so-called war on terror will become increasingly unsustainable, but also that working with the crumbling repressive regimes of the Arab world to fight Islamist terrorism (as the liberal internationalists would have us do) will increasingly no longer be a viable possibility either. The Islamists make no distinction between the empire-heavy of the neoconservatives, and the empire-lite of the liberal internationalists. And in any event how long will the Chinese go on bankrolling American empire? The days of American dominance are numbered.

    In any event, thank you for citing this issue. I've tried to raise a kazillion times on kos without a whole lot of success. Maybe you'll have more.

    Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

    by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:15:31 PM PDT

    •  Actually, the quote wasn't from Bush (none)
      But I happen to agree with you, that this is a very important elephant.  But it is, indeed, political suicide to admit that it exists.

      How ready are the American people to deal with the at-home consequences of a radical change in international policy?

      I will attempt to answer that with another question:  How many people still don't believe that we went to war with Iraq to protect the American way of life?

      Know what happens if America can't secure a steady oil supply?

      "Dude, you're getting a depression."

      Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. --Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

      by perspicio on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:29:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No. You're right, but its difficult not to suspect (none)
        that this is Mr. Bush's thinking as well. The Democrats need credible surrogates to start talking up a different policy. They can be from well outside the beltway, but the fact is that the only real alternatives to neoconservativism and liberal internationalism are coming from the libertarians and from the paleocons. Badnarik is the only candidate this year who's made an issue of empire. Where's the left on this question? The new left of the late 60s and early 70s was obsessed with the issue of empire, and were about 30-40 years ahead of their time. They all seem to have either become mainstream liberals or in rare cases neocons, but as much as Democrats arguably didn't need those voices then, they need them now. America needs them now.

        Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

        by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:47:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We've been an empire (none)
    since WWII.

    The problem now is that we're the biggest, most loose cannon on the planet.

    The rest of the world is starting to think we're all idiots, so taking back our country for people who can think will go a long way to re-establishing ourselves as a leader and not just an idiot driven empire.

    "Quit covering up your lies with half-truths and gorilla dust!" - Bill McNeil (Phil as Bill)

    by The Free Man on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:19:20 PM PDT

    •  The trouble though is that the Islamo fascists (none)
      make no distinction between the empire of Bush and the neocons and the UN & EU approved empire lite of the liberal internationalists, from Kerry to Clinton (you'll recall that al Qaeda was not a response to Mr. Bush's thuggishness, but began planning 9/11 during the Clinton years). The point is that we can't go back to what existed in the 1990s because it was part of the problem, and if Democrats don't want to support the lunatic neoconservative crusade to make liberal "democratic" client states out of Arab world, they need to come up with a compelling alternative. And the foreign policy bag of tricks only has so many options, of which a kind of pragamtic isolationist realism is probably the best. This means developing energy independence pronto, getting the hell out of the Muslim world (no bases, airfields - nothing), probably (sadly) restricting Muslim immigration, and probably (sadly) retalliating to future attacks on American soil by bombing countries from which terrorists who perpetrate the attacks come from.

      Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

      by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:31:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No easy answers. (none)
        It might be nice if we had a little less excess for a while.  Raising our kids in a nation of super-abundance is a good way to make sure they remain childish in their adult years, unable to grasp the compelling reasons for violence in parts of the world where survival -- individual and cultural -- is an issue.

        Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. --Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

        by perspicio on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:35:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The point though is that this isn't like the cold (none)
          war when the threat of nuclear annihilation was real, but ultimately abstract. The American people will simply not accept a policy of containment, when containment means a massive attack on American soil every few years. We won the cold war largely by sitting it out, and waiting for the Soviet Empire, and the ideology that guided it, to die of its own accord. Our interventions and covert dirty wars didn't particularly help. What's different now is that both the neoconservative way and the liberal internationalist way are likely to make matters worse for us.

          Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

          by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:42:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We need to export our talents. (none)
            If we simply continue to be materialistic prigs, we will most assuredly suffer repeated attacks.

            But if we devote ourselves and our vast resources to solving some of the tenacious problems around the world, like we did back in the Carter era (even with nuclear annihiliation on the horizon), then we will be instrumental in fostering a world community that doesn't unite around their common hatred of us.

            Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. --Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

            by perspicio on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:48:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have no trouble with foreign aid and (none)
              development assistance for most of the rest of the world, but much of the Muslim world has become like that mean old man who lived down the street with the nasty dogs and the shotgun whose house your father told you never to go near. Now, maybe this guy had plenty of good reasons to be an angry old man - the world hadn't treated him particularly well - but the fact of the matter is that it was probably better just to stay away from his house and not bother him.

              And the other thing is that America is running on fumes fiscally and economically. We can't afford our current domestic and foreign policy commitments, let alone some sort of multi-decade crusade to "democratize" the Arab world. In less than four years, 77 million baby boomers will start retiring. The shortfall for their entitlements is upwards of 100 trillion (10 trillion for social security, 52-60some trillion for medicare, trillions more for medicaid). These are bankrupting numbers, and we can't even pay for what we're doing now. It's all very crazy.

              Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

              by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 11:05:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No matter how you look at it... (none)
                ...there are difficult times ahead.

                The mean old man would probably like to be left alone, wouldn't he?  But we're not doing that...are we?  And he's got his hillbilly brethren in the backcountry, itchin' to put you in your place if you come one...step...closer.

                We are at a critical point.  Right now.  We've become high-handed and self-assured in our prosperity, but it's going to end.  We ought to look deeply into the core of our values, and take honest assessment...are we, as a nation, really living up to our ideals?  Individually, maybe...but do we really police the heavy-hitting wrongdoers that we have spawned here?

                And if not, then who will?

                I'll bet you know.

                Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. --Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)

                by perspicio on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 11:16:07 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I like this mean old man analogy. Do the hillbilly (none)
                  brethren sell moonshine on the side? Maybe grow a little hooch in the woods behind the homestead?

                  "We are at a critical point.  Right now.  We've become high-handed and self-assured in our prosperity, but it's going to end."

                  Good. We deserve it. Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the coming fiscal and economic apocalypse.

                  "We ought to look deeply into the core of our values, and take honest assessment...are we, as a nation, really living up to our ideals?"

                  That's the other spooky part though. Folks in the blue zone have a very different idea of what our ideals are than folks in the red zone. The country hasn't been so politically self-segregated since 1860.

                  "but do we really police the heavy-hitting wrongdoers that we have spawned here?

                  And if not, then who will?

                  I'll bet you know."

                  Well I know who Bush has in mind. Its the tens of million strong generation y that's just coming of age now, and who he plans to start drafting if he wins a second term.

                  Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

                  by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 11:34:27 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (none)
        we have created the problem.  We have supported monarchy regimes in order to battle communism and so have fertilized the seeds of the Islamic religious fundamentalists.  Hell, I don't blame them for lumping us all together.  You reap what you sow.

        My point was that continuing on the path we're on will lead to an escalation of the problem.  There are alternatives, albeit not easy or clear ones.  But we have to try.  We're going to have to deal with our sins of the past and it will be rough.  But anything is better than the course we're on now, which is guaranteed isolation from the rest of the planet.

        "Quit covering up your lies with half-truths and gorilla dust!" - Bill McNeil (Phil as Bill)

        by The Free Man on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:43:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  An alternative to Islamofascism..Islamic Democracy (none)
        One of the biggest problems in the Islamic world is that the dialogue between "tradition" and "modernity" has evolved into an all-or-nothing struggle between secularists who believe any recognition of Islam in the public sphere is a challenge to Western modernity and traditionalists who see any importation of "modernity" as a threat to traditional Muslim teaching (shades of our own fundamentalist idelogoues, no?). But there is a small group of political leaders who are trying to find a "middle way" that blends "modernity" with the traditional values. Probably the most prominent exponent in the Islamic world today is the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The modern Turkish republic was established in the 1920s based on the belief that rigid secularization in the public sphere was essential to help Turkey "modernize", creating a disjunct with the strong Islamic core values of the majority of Turks. As Turkey has democratized in the past fifty years, there have been attempts to reinsert a public role for Islam in the public sphere. This has created a great deal of social and political upheaval in the 1970s, 80s and 90s between strict secularists and traditionalists who wanted to turn the clock back to before the 1920s, but that struggle seems to be moving towards an accomodation. I think PM Erdogan might be evolving the kind of blend that could offer that "middle solution."  Basically his model is that of the Christian Democratic parties in Western Europe that evolved after 1945 - parties that compete for power within a democratic framework and promote "traditional" values in society. I think this is what Erdogan wants to achieve in Turkey.  He is definitely not a fundamentalist - he would not be pushing reforms through the Turkish parliament to help gain acceptance for Turkey to become a full candidate for membership into the European Union if he was. But he believes there are values in Islam that should be recognized as being valid within the public sphere. His party may not necessarily be the most politically progressive party in Turkey, to be sure, but not completely reactionary either (and Erdogan has been good at promoting social improvements based on Muslim values of aid to the poor and destitute so there is a progressive element to his party.)   Hopefully when the Kerry administration takes office in January they will look at what Erdogan is trying to accomplish in Turkey and support his efforts and help move him in a further progressive direction.

        "We Need To Find Courage...Overcome...Inaction Is A Weapon Of Mass Destruction..."(Faithless "Mass Destruction")

        by DanceboyOH on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 11:11:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, absolutely, and to the extent that the (none)
          Iraq war might ever succeed, that would probably be the best outcome we could hope for (although there is a question as to whether the Sunni fundamentalists will accept a moderate Islamist democracy, and whether the Kurds will accept any real official role for religion). Back at the ranch, there might be a middle way too for American foreign policy between neoconservatism and liberal internationalism, which involves the promotion of Arab democracy by means other than military interventionism. Some folks think Kerry is entirely cool to any kind of democracy promotion, but others (including the New Republic, in their endorsement of him) think he would go further than Bush's ill fated democracy initiative or whatever it was called. I have no idea.

          My whole worry about this project is that once we have committed ourselves to it (and right now it seems we could still backtrack or jump ship) we end up with multi-decade curbs on economic freedoms, civil liberties, and freedom of expression. This is why the Taft Republicans warned about Wilsonian interventionism and democracy promotion during the cold war. Its no coincidence that the rise of cultural liberalism in the late 60s, the return of full civil liberties (particularly after the Church committee findings), and freedom of speech coincided with the death of Wilsonian idealism and democracy promotion as a cold war foreign policy in the jungles of Vietnam.

          Card carrying member of the Reality Based Community

          by spot on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 11:47:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Since WAAAAY before that (none)
      ever here of a little thing called the Spanish-American War? That's how we became an Empire.

      (But we had been trying hard before that, what with the attempts to annex Mexico and Nicaragua in the 1840s and all. )

      That's how we ended up in WWII, ultimately. The [forcible] Opening of Japan, Commodore Perry, -- blowback.

      We've never been Isolationists. Buchanan is either a liar or a dunce.

      We just like to tell ourselves that we always just MYOB, but we've actually always "sent our armies forth" to guarantee a good climate for American Business Interests. (qv. Hawai'i, former nation of.)

      And Oil was part of it all, a hundred years ago.

      "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

      by bellatrys on Fri Oct 22, 2004 at 06:12:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yesterday, (none)
    when interviewed after the final game of the ALCS, Larry Luccino of the Red Sox said, regarding the Yankees..."All Empires Fall Eventually"...

    From his lips to the peoples' voting booths, I hope.

    The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

    by RedDan on Thu Oct 21, 2004 at 10:24:01 PM PDT

  •  I enjoy (none)
    Atrios' new tag line, "proud member of the reality-based community."
  •  That one paragraph of quotes from the aide (none)
    are repugnant.  Why isn't this person quoted on the record, if they're so sure of their empire?  
    I loathe these people.
  •  Yes. chilling passage. (none)
    Do read the piece, it's very.. um... motivating.

    That passage is very scary.

    Another one of note is when Bush, right before inauguration in 2001 meets with a bunch of pastors in Austin, TX to talk about how he can address poverty.  He asks them "How do I speak to the soul of the nation"?  

    They all confer on the subject for hours and Bush in a private conversation says, paraphrasing, "I don't know about poverty, I'm just a white, Republican guy, how do I learn about poverty?"  The pastor he's with says to him, "Well, you can listen to the poor and to the people who know and live among them."

    Bush calls over Michael Gerson, his speechwriter, who he apparently brought with him that day and says "Michael, I want you to hear this."

    A short time later, a nearly identical line shows up in his inaugural address.  

    The moral?  Bush never really gave a rat's ass about the poor and about learning about poverty.  He brought his speechwriter so he could learn how "to speak to the soul of the nation."

    dispicable.

  •  empire light? (none)
    If the results are better and they cost less in blood and money, I take "empire light".

    The folly of neo-cons is that they had no idea what does it take to obtain direct control over a country.  Their template was Central America with reactionary pro-American elites.  You supported the elite against guerilla, or Contras against Sandinista.  This were occupations of neo-cons in their formative years.

    Already in South America this model does not work.  Why the elite, democratic or not, should be pro-American?   Because they should love freedom?  Do we look like freedom over there?

    Our policies in Muslim countries during the last, say, 20 years, at best created some "friends of convenience" who privately despise us.  The latest invention, bombing cities so one can conduct democratic elections in them, is defying reason.  Perhaps we will fail, there will be no elections there anyway.  Perhaps we will succeed partially, there will be elections rigged so our favorites will win.  Or perhaps we will succeed fully, there will be truly free elections, and 95% of the elected deputies will either hate us (Sunni Arabs?  Sadrist Shia?) or despise us (moderate ayatollahs).

    Seems like loose-loose preposition.

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