[Marxism] US Presidents acting nuts

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 20 10:18:00 MDT 2006

This morning my eyes popped out as I was reading Paul Kane's call for 
reinstating the draft on the op-ed page of the NY Times. Kane is identified 
as a Marine who served in Iraq and now is a fellow at the Kennedy School of 
Government, a prime training ground for CIA agents, State Department 
flunkies and other dark forces.

Kane states that if Bush starts drafting young men and women, then Iran 
will get the message that we are gearing up for a major war and will step 
down. Back in high school, we used to call this playing chicken. It was 
dramatized in "Rebel Without a Cause" when James Dean bested a rival in a 
drag race toward a cliff. Whoever stopped first was the chicken. When his 
rival's jacket got caught on the car handle, Dean won by default. This kind 
of behavior has characterized US foreign policy since WWII. Another example 
was JFK's confrontation over Russian missiles in Cuba, which in his mind 
must have had the aspects of a touch football game played for very high stakes.

Kane takes up the sports analogy and tops it with images drawn from the 
world of abnormal pyschology. For him, the point of reinstituting the 
draft--a wildly unpopular measure--is not just to show the Iranians that we 
mean business, but to show them that the US President is basically *nuts*.

"President Bush has the perfect credentials overseas to execute this move, 
and little political capital at home to lose at this stage. Polls confirm 
that a wide majority of people in many countries view him and the United 
States as the major threat to global peace. Why let them down on this 
count? Go with the flow.

"President Ronald Reagan was the past master of using this strategy during 
the cold war. Reagan capitalized on his image as the madman at the helm to 
keep the Russians off balance, using the signs of war to dissuade our foes 
and avert actual war. President Bush should take a page from Reagan's 

Actually, President Nixon tried out the "madman" theory long before Reagan:

National Security Archive, 23 December 2002
Nixon "Madman Theory" Alert Revealed in Declassified Documents

In late December, 2003 declassified documents published by the National 
Security Archives disclosed a worldwide secret nuclear alert Nixon and his 
national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, stage-managed from 13 Oct. to 
25 Oct., 1969. The alert consisted of a series of actions to ratchet up the 
readiness level of nuclear forces hoping to jar Soviet officials into 
pressing North Vietnam to meet U.S. terms in peace negotiations. The move 
caused no change in Soviet policy towards North Vietnam.

The nuclear alert was based on a diplomacy-supporting stratagem Nixon 
called the Madman Theory, or "the principle of the threat of excessive 
force." Nixon was convinced that his power would be enhanced if his 
opponents thought he might use excessive force, even nuclear force. That, 
coupled with his reputation for ruthlessness, he believed, would suggest 
that he was dangerously unpredictable.

Although Nixon favored this theory more than most, threatening excessive 
force was nothing new. In the 1950s President Dwight D. Eisenhower, his 
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and then-Vice President Nixon, had 
overtly practiced a version of the Madman Theory by means of the 
"uncertainty principle" and coercive nuclear "brinkmanship."

Such is the state of the world when Harvard University fellows urge the 
President of the United States to act nuts. In the name of preserving 
peace, George W. Bush is supposed to reintroduce the draft and god knows 
what else. This kind of behavior was summed up in Orwell's "1984" as 
double-think of course: "War is Peace". You can also add a new slogan, I 
suppose: "Insanity is sanity".

With all proportions guarded, when I read Paul Kane's bloodcurdling prose, 
I am reminded of what Leon Trotsky wrote in the 1933 article "What is 
National Socialism."

"Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only 
in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the 
twentieth century the tenth of the thirteenth. A hundred million people use 
electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. 
The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous 
transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who 
pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man's genius wear amulets on their 
sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, 
and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet, fascism has given them 
a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national 
organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal 
development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist 
society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the psychology of 
National Socialism."



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