[Marxism] Of interest from the latest London Review of Books

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Oct 13 08:29:36 MDT 2005


LRB | Vol. 27 No. 20 dated 20 October 2005 | Anatol Lieven
We do not deserve these people
Anatol Lieven

The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by Andrew 
Bacevich [ Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Oxford, 270 pp, £16.99

A key justification of the Bush administration’s purported strategy of 
‘democratising’ the Middle East is the argument that democracies are 
pacific, and that Muslim democracies will therefore eventually settle down 
peacefully under the benign hegemony of the US. Yet, as Andrew Bacevich 
points out in one of the most acute analyses of America to have appeared in 
recent years, the United States itself is in many ways a militaristic 
country, and becoming more so:

     at the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The 
scepticism about arms and armies that informed the original Wilsonian 
vision, indeed, that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, 
vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became 
enamoured with military might.

     The ensuing affair had, and continues to have, a heedless, Gatsby-like 
aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might 
ensue.

The president’s title of ‘commander-in-chief’ is used by administration 
propagandists to suggest, in a way reminiscent of German militarists before 
1914 attempting to defend their half-witted kaiser, that any criticism of 
his record in external affairs comes close to a betrayal of the military 
and the country. Compared to German and other past militarisms, however, 
the contemporary American variant is extremely complex, and the forces that 
have generated it have very diverse origins and widely differing motives:

     The new American militarism is the handiwork of several disparate 
groups that shared little in common apart from being intent on undoing the 
purportedly nefarious effects of the 1960s. Military officers intent on 
rehabilitating their profession; intellectuals fearing that the loss of 
confidence at home was paving the way for the triumph of totalitarianism 
abroad; religious leaders dismayed by the collapse of traditional moral 
standards; strategists wrestling with the implications of a humiliating 
defeat that had undermined their credibility; politicians on the make; 
purveyors of pop culture looking to make a buck: as early as 1980, each saw 
military power as the apparent answer to any number of problems.

Two other factors have also been critical: the dependence on imported oil 
is seen as requiring American hegemony over the Middle East; and the Israel 
lobby has worked assiduously and with extraordinary success to make sure 
that Israel’s enemies are seen by Americans as also being those of the US. 
And let’s not forget the role played by the entrenched interests of the 
military itself and what Dwight Eisenhower once denounced as the 
‘military-industrial-academic complex’.

full: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n20/liev01_.html

===

LRB | Vol. 27 No. 20 dated 20 October 2005 | Eric Hobsbawm
Benefits of Diaspora
Eric Hobsbawm

Most work in the field of Jewish history deals with the almost invariably 
vast impact of the outside world on the Jews, who are almost invariably a 
small minority of the population. My concern is with the impact of the Jews 
on the rest of humanity. And, in particular, with the explosive 
transformation of this impact in the 19th and 20th centuries: that is to 
say, since the emancipation and self-emancipation of the Jews began in the 
late 18th century.

Between their expulsion from Palestine in the first century ad and the 19th 
century, the Jews lived within the wider society of gentiles, whose 
languages they adopted as their own and whose cuisine they adapted to their 
ritual requirements; but only rarely and intermittently were they able and, 
what is equally to the point, willing, to participate in the cultural and 
intellectual life of these wider societies. Consequently their original 
contribution to this life was marginal, even in fields in which, since 
emancipation, their contribution has been enormous. Only as intermediaries 
between intellectual cultures, notably between the Islamic and Western 
Christian worlds in the (European) Middle Ages, did they have a significant 
part to play.

Consider a field of outstanding Jewish achievement: mathematics. So far as 
I am aware no significant developments in modern mathematics are 
specifically associated with Jewish names until the 19th century. Nor do we 
find that Jewish mathematicians made major advances which were only 
discovered by the wider mathematical world much later, as was the case of 
the Indian mathematicians whose work between the 14th and the 16th 
centuries, written in the Malayalam language, remained unknown until the 
second half of the 20th. Or take chess, the excessive practice of which was 
actively discouraged by religious authority in general and Maimonides in 
particular as a distraction from the study of the Law. No wonder the first 
Jewish chess player to gain a wider reputation was the Frenchman Aron 
Alexandre (1766-1850), whose life coincided with the emancipation.

full: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n20/hobs01_.html

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