Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Neo-Con Education

That'd be the godfather of neo-conservativism on the right (Leo Strauss)

I didn't realize it at the time, but in college during the late 1990s (1997 through 2000), I was fed a neo-conservative propaganda diet by well-meaning college professors. (And people think colleges are a bastion of liberal/Marxist-Leninist ideas!) Of course, I went to BYU, a conservative university, but while the Political Science department did skew slightly towards liberalism, that still didn't make professors immune to the books and ideas put out by the neo-cons. Several professors promoted so heavily the books "The End of History and the Last Man" by Francis Fukuyama and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" by Thomas Friedman in several of my political science classes that I thought they received a secret kickback from sales of those books. There was discussion on creating a Democracy Corps, which I was actually excited about. And of course, during my college years, Saddam Hussein kept acting up, begging for an attack that Clinton weakly responded to with multi-million dollar missiles fired from U.S. Navy warships in the Gulf and the continuation of sanctions which the UN began reporting that mostly children were affected by it. During my college years, Osama bin Laden made his presence known as a menace to American society with the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, but Americans were distracted by a oversexed tart named Monica.

Anyhow, I remember hearing professors promote the book "The End of History and the Last Man" and was rather baffled. End of history? That title was so arrogant to me that I was immediately turned off. The premise was no better...as Fukuyama claimed that with the end of the Cold War, capitalism had won the debate and the reason for the end of history was because capitalism proved itself to be the ONLY acceptable economic scheme the world has to offer. Whoa, I wanted to say. Not so fast. Any reader of Marx's "Communist Manifesto" (which was required reading for anyone who takes a Political Science or Economics class) can see some of his critiques have merit...such as the inherent exploitation that exists under capitalism. While I was in college, sweatshop labor and our country's odd bending of the rules regarding employment standards and the "Made in the USA" label was an issue among college students nationwide. Even TV news programs featured stories on the darling of the conservative right, Congressman Tom Delay and his boondoggle visits to the Pacific island of Saipan, a hotbed of sweatshop labor in which naive Asian ladies are promised jobs in the United States but end up working like slaves on an island that isn't even a U.S. state, yet clothing made there were allowed to carry the "Made in the USA" label. How can this exploitative system be the end of history? History is more than economic systems. Fortunately in 1999 during a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, protestors showed the world that the debate wasn't over. Capitalism might have defeated communism, but that didn't mean it was perfect, flawless, or that history is over.

Of course, 9/11 changed everything. Suddenly, neo-cons were backing away from their arrogant boasting of history having reached its apex. Now, we were in a clash of civilizations between western values and a tribal culture that won't accept our economic scheme. So, has history been reborn? The irony in all this is that the person picked to lead the rebirth in history is none other than a history major himself, George W. Bush. However, I wonder what kind of history he studied to earn his Yale degree. It was a history that didn't focus on Vietnam or the Middle East, for any student serious about the study of history would know what a folly the whole Iraq war would be. His father knew enough about the volatile Middle East to remain in Kuwait in 1991. But the neo-cons conned a president who didn't learn his history, and now we are where we are...deep in the Iraqmire with no good options before us (leaving would affect our country's security for the worse in the future; staying means more of my generation is going to die or have life-limiting injuries). What a fiasco!

Back when professors were promoting the neo-con agenda, I did like the idea of a Democracy Corps, in which a group of people would be sent to a country and help them transition from whatever system they had or didn't have, and teach/train future leaders the basics of good democracy ("colonialism light"). However, in the debates of 2000, candidate Bush critiqued the Clinton Administration for sending troops out on exhaustive peacekeeping missions and vowed to have a "more humble foreign policy." A promise not kept, of course, but I didn't understand why he was so against a Democracy Corps and international peacekeeping missions...and now has become a go-it-alone aggressor that seeks to start conflicts where none existed before. It's completely illogical. Because of his incompetence and arrogance, I lost my belief that a Democracy Corps would be a good thing. Instead, I go back to our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which states that all peoples have the right to SELF-DETERMINE their form of government. What that means is that we Americans have to allow foreigners the right to choose their own government. Even if it's a dictatorship, it's up to the people under that oppressive form of government to overthrow it, not our responsibility. In addition, we would help the cause of liberty around the world if we no longer made alliances of convenience with oppressive governments, such as with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. After all, George Washington's warning when he left the presidency was to stay out of the alliance system (for good reason, as our twisted history since 1945 can well attest).

Ultimately, capitalism is under siege, and because of examples like Enron and Halliburton, I think we're far from an end of history. Some day, even capitalism will be replaced by a more spiritual economic system, which I call "Ethiconomics", where exploitation of the poor and glorification of the rich is no longer deemed just or acceptable. It will be a system in which ethics rules, where people like Cheney (the ultimate posterboy of capitalism without morals) will be punished and the average citizen will have more than enough to live comfortably on. That is the dream to work towards, but even then, history won't end until the planet no longer has human life on it to record events. To say otherwise is silly arrogant posturing by out of touch intellectuals in their ivory towers and well-funded corporate think-tanks.

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