Friday, February 24, 2006

Ports in raging political storm: The Nationalist/Jacksonian/Lou Dobbs Backlash?





















It's great to find that David Brooks ("Kicking Arabs in their Teeth)" and Justin Raimondo ("Hating Arabs") are almost in total agreement when it comes to the Dubai/Ports controversy. Is "Dubai a hotbed of radical Islamist agitation?" asks Raimondo, who notes that "Dubai is the one city in the Middle East that is the most like America in that it is a symbol – the symbol – of the Arab world's entry into modernity." "Nor is Dubai a bastion of Taliban radicalism," stresses Broooks, who describes it as "modernizing, globalizing place." Wow... Is this a sign of major realignment of American politics? Just kidding... But while I mostly agree with the main point that the two are making on the issue, that the Dubai ports deal does not pose a direct threat to U.S. national security, I'm also intrigued by the somewhat hysterical reactions to the deal on Capitol Hill and the related Dubai-bashing. The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats are exploiting the controversy to "get to the right of George Bush," as Charles Krauthammer and others are proposing. That's probably an accurate analysis. But why are so many Republicans attacking the deal and seem to become very emotional on the subject. William Greider in the Nation William Greider in the Nation provides an answer of sort:
Hysteria launched Bush's invasion of Iraq. It created that monstrosity called Homeland Security and pumped up defense spending by more than 40 percent. Hysteria has been used to realign US foreign policy for permanent imperial war-making, whenever and wherever we find something frightening afoot in the world. Hysteria will justify the "long war" now fondly embraced by Field Marshal Rumsfeld. It has also slaughtered a number of Democrats who were not sufficiently hysterical. It saved George Bush's butt in 2004.
Bush was the principal author, along with his straight-shooting Vice President, and now he is hoisted by his own fear-mongering propaganda. The basic hysteria was invented from risks of terrorism, enlarged ridiculously by the President's open-ended claim that we are endangered everywhere and anywhere (he decides where). Anyone who resists that proposition is a coward or, worse, a subversive. We are enticed to believe we are fighting a new cold war. But are we? People are entitled to ask. Bush picked at their emotional wounds after 9/11 and encouraged them to imagine endless versions of even-larger danger. What if someone shipped a nuke into New York Harbor? Or poured anthrax in the drinking water? OK, a lot of Americans got scared, even people who ought to know better.

Or to put it differently, when you unleash the forces of nationalism, don't be surprised if you'll be overwhelmed by them, especially when one considers that the Republican party has been the main beneficiary of the post-9/11 nationalist wave.
And Greider also makes another interesting point:
So why is the fearmonger-in-chief being so casual about this Dubai business?
Because at some level of consciousness even George Bush knows the inflated fears are bogus. So do a lot of the politicians merrily throwing spears at him. He taught them how to play this game, invented the tactics and reorganized political competition as a demagogic dance of hysterical absurdities, endless opportunities to waste public money. Very few dare to challenge the mindset. Thousands have died for it.

And here is Greider's punch line that seems to explain the current mood among many Republicans and conservatives: "Bush's terrorism war has from the start been in collision with the precepts of corporate-led globalization."
Which brings me back to Francis Fukuyama
and his latest Kristol-is-a-Leninist manifesto in which he predicts that those conservatives who supported George W. Bush's war on terrorism as part of an effort to capture and kill those responsible for 9/11 have no patience with the president's Global Democracy project:
Those whom Walter Russell Mead labels Jacksonian conservatives — red-state Americans whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in the Middle East — supported the Iraq war because they believed that their children were fighting to defend the United States against nuclear terrorism, not to promote democracy. They don't want to abandon the president in the middle of a vicious war, but down the road the perceived failure of the Iraq intervention may push them to favor a more isolationist foreign policy, which is a more natural political position for them. A recent Pew poll indicates a swing in public opinion toward isolationism; the percentage of Americans saying that the United States "should mind its own business" has never been higher since the end of the Vietnam War.

I think that some of the Republican-conservative reaction to the Dubai port deal is a reflection of the political backlash on the political right not only against the Wilsonian campaign in the Middle East, but also in opposition to the globalization agenda in general, projecting powerful economic protectionist and anti-immigration agendas. Just watch Lou Dobbs Tonight (as I do when I run on my treadmill in the gym in the evening) and you'll get the idea. That explains why against the backdrop of the mess in Iraq, Republican-Jacksonians could gradually distance themselves from the Wilsonian-Hamiltonian wings of the party that are in charge now of foreign policy and why some liberatarians and some neocons who are pro-free trade and immigration and are globalization-buffs could find themselves sharing the same political bed.

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