Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Draft Sam Nunn

(draft: "The Canadian Century")

By Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network, 9/4/2007

By now the fire was rising above the heap of dry wood, the flames were enveloping his legs, and in another minute they spread all over the tree . . . But are there any fires or any tortures or indeed any force in the whole world that can prevail against Russian force?

- Tarus Bulba, 1835, Nikolai Gogol

Anatomy of war behind, war ahead: War often builds on the same pattern – it is an abstract contention of the head at odds with the heart looking for a purpose and agents. When economy shifts radically, as it did in the 1830s and 1840s when American head and heart prepared for war together and again in 1929 in a different war, opportunity for the one or the other to take the advantage manifests in the matrix. It is worth noting as mortgage defaults are higher today than at any time since the Great Depression and the world economy is going through seismic shifts, primarily because of the rapid rise of China in world economy, the decline of the dollar, the rise of the ruble and the sudden ascent of Russia as an oil-rich nation.

Sun Tzu said in a line made famous in the movie Wall Street that the war is over before it begins: The fight, when it comes, is only the result of forces and efforts which have been working unnoticed or willfully overlooked in political delusion or hubris over long periods. Over decades perhaps and possibly interlinked to the beginning of human history itself. Countervailing and struggling possibly even to the Creation. It comes maybe - as Walt Whitman said in the greatest ever observation on American karma - from our “unsatisfied Soul” seeking passage to the sun and moon and all the stars and Sirius and Jupiter.

Churchill said England’s issues with Germany started with the Boer Wars in Africa, a war motivated by England to free the African slaves of the Voortrekkers in the 1830s. The rise of Evangelical Imperialism and a righteous purpose gripped the early Victorians. Having slaved from the beginning and having filled the world with slaves, freeing the slave world it helped create then became the motivating moral imperative throughout its world empire and in the United States as well. And again, economy was key: By the 1830s England’s economy was radically shifting to manufacturing and she no longer needed slaves.

When moral purpose is set the spirit flares and a dissident individual or a minority oppressed by the opposition must be found to team up with. Then organically, that interior minority or individual falls into the alliance with the side which opposes its master. But that individual may be an abstraction as well, like Eliza, the heroine of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who, possibly more than any real-life individual, brought the modern world into existence.

Bush in 2005 wanted to ally his cause with every dissident group he could find on the planet, in effect seeking a global struggle to “democracy” by direct military invasion and intervention not conceived of in scope since the dark sun of Joseph Stalin rose in Europe’s twilight. Party touchstones, like Peggy Noonan, fled in utter confusion and from there he lost his thoughtful middle and had only the edges to hold on to: Those out there where the buses don’t run like Religious Right columnist Cal Thomas, who proposed within weeks after the tragic day that we use nuclear weapons in the war against terror in retaliation to 9/11.

War changes a country’s collective personality and psychology: The Mexican War prepared the South psychologically to fight in a greater war shortly after, and World War I awakened a barbaric sensibility in Germany – a primal spirit of the earth god Woden depth psychologists have called it – that would shock the world as it had never been shocked before 25 years later.

The Iraq war has changed America as well. Several of the Democratic candidates today running for President, desiring to show that they have the manlies of Khrushchev or Stalin, this past month virtually swaggered and bragged about their willingness to use “First Strike” in the war against terror, adopting Thomas’s position and the Religious Right position of five years ago.

This (“never take any of your tools off the table”) is a standard Best Practices consideration of middle management conference-goers today, adopted by Presidential candidates who Mitt Romney said correctly, “have never managed even a corner store.” One claims experience in this end-of-the-world-nuclear-winter scenario because one of her relatives was President and she watched for eight years. Not unlike the way one of the family, possibly one sweetly but sadly Touched by the Lord, would learn to milk cows up here in New Hampshire. To his credit, Barack Obama said he would not use nuclear weapons in the fight against terror under any circumstances.

Eliza was a fictional American slave who escaped to freedom in Canada carrying her baby under her arm. Her liberation was a world liberation and we were her baby. Jefferson was barely cold in the ground when liberation of the slaves became the moral imperative of Victoria’s Evangelical Imperialists and the Industrial North in the United States. He expected invasion of the agrarian South as early as 1797 and it was possibly only his physical presence on the earth as the Great Man of the Enlightenment that prevented it from happening. Jefferson died in 1826. William Lloyd Garrison established the anti-slavery journal Liberation in 1831. High purpose bonded with the great new wealth of the industrialized states and sealed the deal.

But that which begins in abstraction ends in abstraction. Recently, Vermont’s state archivist, Gregory Sanford, in opposition to mischief makers (of which I am one) who seek Vermont secession has written that it is a myth that Vermont fought in the Civil War to end slavery: “Jeffrey Marshall, the head of Special Collections at UVM, has read thousands of Civil War letters from hundreds of Vermonters,” he writes. “He reports that only a ‘handful’ of the Vermont soldiers cited slavery as the reason they were fighting; they instead directed their ire at the secessionists, who they characterized as treasonous.” Yet from 1865 to the present, every Yankee child (including myself) has been taught that slavery was the cause and reason for northern aggression in the Civil War.

Bowdoin College’s Joshua Chamberlain is long forgotten and has been replaced up here as generational avatar by Bart Simpson. And the purpose and idea of federalism, for which Chamberlain and his small band from the North Country fought with stone and knife at Little Round Top in a battle that sealed the turning and direction of American and world history has vanished into the thin ether of Aquarius. In the papers this weekend both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama propose that gay marriage be an issue departed to “states sovereignty”: States Rights; the driving and motivating spirit of Nathan Bedford Forest; the fleeting rebel cry that Chamberlain and all but a handful of Vermont warriors fought against to create a northern vision of an American federation and to create the modern world.

Not to pick on that particular college, one of New England’s venerables. The general tendency up here since I went to college in the 1960s and 70s has been to equate soldiers of any side with fascism in the undergraduate mind and that idea still drifts through the hills here in the cold and the night and the fog. The student guide who disparaged Yankee soldiers and touted the opportunity to do an independent study on Bart Simpson was only reflecting the trends of the broader region. When Harvard opted to drop ROTC in a pique of anti-war piety some years back, most Northeast colleges followed on cue.

But the chemistry of this history is about as complicated as baking a cake: The net result 25 years later is an army officer corp bereft of Yanks and made up almost exclusively of Southern and Midwestern officers, a very good many of them taken up by the fanciful Southern political direction (now waning rapidly) of Jerry Falwell and its millennialist fever, complete with visions of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ focused on Iraq. It was virtually an act of secession by these northern schools from the definitive federalist vision of duty, responsibility and dharma incarnate as Lincoln demanded it and as Chamberlain got shot with five bullets for, but without the character, courage and conviction to actually secede.

Historian Tom Gossett, late of Wake Forest University, in his learned and excellent text on race relations in the South shows the importance of the Negro in the Mind of the North in the mid-1800s; in the mind of Victoria, in the mind of the world: When Eliza crossed the frozen river breaking up and jumping from floe to floe with babe in arms, we crossed the river with her, cradled in her arms, as was the Christ Child in the early pictures of the Divine Mother at Bethlehem. The image of Eliza and her Deathless Child appeared throughout the world, writes Gossett, on cigar wrappers in tsarist Russia and on signs and dramatizations everywhere which permeated the popular culture as the world first began to emerge as one world. And from that crossing there would be no turning back: The Russian tsars would free their serfs. China, Italy, all, would head to the federalized state in opposition to the independent nation-state. (Till now, when Vermont seeks sovereignty.)

The march to the federalized state envisioned by Hamilton – the marriage of corporation and central government (and Marx, Hamilton’s Dark Twin) could not be stopped. The abstraction had found its cause and its avatar; war, mayhem and the sacking of Atlanta, the carnage and the flow of blood – up to 40,000 killed in a day in conflict previously unimagined - and the wholesale slaughter of civilians in democratic warfare in which, in the “Sherman Doctrine,” all would share in blood and loss, were vast panoramic footnotes to that one essential crossing, in which Eliza freed the slaves and the world fled across the mythic river following the North Star; then as today and in every day since the day of Loki, Woden, Thor and the Green Man, the marker which marks The Center of the World.

The Russians have planted their flag there in recent days; there at the North Pole; that singular place where the earth seems to align itself with the North Star. I seem to live not far away; in any case, as near to the North Pole as one can possibly live and still be an American. In the Border Lands in Wisconsin thereabouts, agrarian visionaries say there is nothing north of them but “a bunch of fences.” I’ve been there. There are no fences.

It is starting to get crowded up here. New Elizas are coming here daily to the northern edge of New Hampshire even from as far away as North Carolina and beyond, and my own neighbors are looking even further north. And for this reason only: It is getting hot up here. For the first time in my history I have talked this summer to tobacco farmers in North Carolina who complained about the heat. As part of the unspoken lore and tradition – that which makes us who we are – Southern people generally do not complain about the heat. Same here. We never complain about the cold. But it is not that cold anymore and last winter we didn’t have November ice till late January. The Canadian Century is upon us and all roads lead to the thawing tundra: I’m beginning to wonder if I may yet buy real estate at the North Pole.

During the make-believe cold of the Cold War, the great Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung warned that as power grew in the post-war West and the “American tempo” rose in the world, we should be careful not to “project our shadow.” By which he meant that our enemy is us and as we build our own strength, it strengthens and builds our enemy as our Dark Twin, the Soviet Union, with the same strength as our own. Worth noting that when we suddenly and out of nowhere declared ourselves to be a “Christian nation” in the late ‘70s under the influence of the most po’ly guided and least-learned free-church political shamans up there from the hills near my old home in Tobaccoville, NC, (a political awakening quite similar to Victoria’s Evangelical Imperialism), likewise, Radical Islam – out of nowhere – suddenly became our enemy; an equal and opposite counterforce to our burgeoning religiosity.

Our Shadow had shifted. But that element seems to be drifting now and even my hunting buddies, it is reported, are putting down their rifles and the whole culture appears to be dwindling. Perhaps we are devolving to reason and good sense and returning from Outer Space. But it could be bad too: If we shift back our focus we will only return again to our old and greater economic enemy; Russia again perhaps, this time in league with China. We cannot beat it. As Pogo said, the enemy is us. And then we may long for this little, ancient (almost childish in incarnation), but time-honored war with Islam. But perhaps it is that we are just falling apart and that is part of nature.

The Russians will not go away. The Russians never go away: It is part of the Western heart as Particle is part of Wave. Contention between the East and West is the oldest in Christendom, pervading relations between Eastern and Catholic Christendom as early as 1100s and dividing the Roman Empire to its dual centers of Rome and Constantinople 700 years before. It is our nature to see ourselves in who we are not but somehow still are; as Constantine looked across the river at Rome, as Eisenhower looked across the river at Moscow.

This division amplified in the Cold War and it flares again: When the Russians planted their flag at the North Pole it was at the end of a series of war games uniting China and Russia. On the same day they sent their bombers, armed with nuclear weapons back to the sky after almost two decades of quiet brooding.

There was perhaps only one moment when this division could have been healed; when a mandala could have been placed between the heart and head to find union between the two rather than contention; to open passage to which the One could find its Long Lost Pure White Twin.

That moment was in the late 1990s when the Clinton Administration, intent on convincing the world and itself that in spite of the effeminate and narcissistic effects of the President and his agents, they were not anima polluted (for what there is a much better street expression), and could be as warriorish in the tradition as any who threatened Russia: In 1997 the Clinton administration led 90 Senators to expand NATO and bring a new line of nuclear weapons into parishes of the Eastern Orthodox Church on Russia’s border.

But these people, some of them Rhodes Scholars and educated in the most formidable of traditions – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, Oxford – indeed the entire State Department, the Foreign Service and all the well-funded think tanks and all of those men with the high brows and resonant baritone voices who come to Jim Lehrer’s News Hour, turned in the end only to one of two quite common voices – Robert Kagan, the anti-hippie of his generation, who had a gratifying vision of a Shining City in which China and the Yellow Peril did not even exist, and Newt Gingrich, a small-time professor from a heartland college who had traveled South like Simon Legree with a vicious grudge against the Northeast Establishment.

Early on; long before, Clinton said he didn’t know what to do. Standing next to Elie Wiesel at a news conference during the Bosnian tragedy, he publicly announced, “ . . . I don’t know what to do” (nor did the Leader of the Free World know what to do in Rwanda, but in the fashion of the day he later apologized . . . a modest response and one which in less ethereal times would seem pathologically detached, given that over a million died; mostly women and children and by the knife). Shortly after he was seen carrying one of Kagan’s books around the White House. Then he knew what to do.

And when the Soviet Union fell, he followed the playbook of Kagan and Gingrich and expanded NATO, although Susan Eisenhower, George Kennan and some of the best minds of the time (but old minds) called it a mistake “of historical proportions.” Even my old and venerable Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, of late befriended by the Dalai Lama (but still no friend to the Russkie), had to ask: “Is a border dispute involving one or several of the new NATO members so vital a national security threat to the U.S. that we are willing to risk American lives?”

But it was the End of History, don’t cha know. The Russkie had fallen, and in one of the most pretentious pronouncements ever uttered by a think tank as the Age of Incompetence began to take on its head of steam, it was even called the END OF TIME itself!

But of course, it wasn’t. It was that our ideological Dark Twin was now weakened. Certainly it was morally weakened and condemned by its own, especially Gorbachev and our living Tolstoy incarnate, Solzhenitsyn.

In truth, the 90 Senators who voted for NATO expansion saw Russia as returning to peasant stock pulling on its forelock, while America soared to Jupiter, Sirius and beyond.

That was the singular possibility. We could then have found our Lost Twin and embraced him. But the Democrats, under the aegis of the Clintons She and He and Al Gore who vigorously supported this policy, had ceases to listen to Kennan, Eisenhower and the Old School in any matters. They refused to listen to Kennon – our most esteemed diplomat since Franklin - on foreign affairs and drove him to actually support Vermont secession at the very end of his life. And they refused to listen to John Kenneth Galbraith on economic matters, who came to consider them leisure class; a Culture of Contentment. Instead – and in hindsight this will be considered their great, narcissistic flaw – they listened to voices only of their own generation and their own age. Even if they were ascending radical Republican voices like Gingrich’s, or neo-conservative voices like Kagan’s.

Today Gorbachev no longer condemns Russia. He supports Putin’s efforts as necessities in keeping Russia together. Solzhenitsyn has returned to Russia and recently, he thanked Putin who visited his home to give him a national award.

Today, Russia is not broken and it is not a peasant pulling on its forelocks. It is one of the richest countries on earth. The ruble is booming, while the dollar is on the verge of collapse. Europe is entirely and exclusively dependent on oil-rich Russia for natural gas. Russia has reinvested its new oil wealth in its army while our army is spent on Medieval warfare of malevolent origin drawn from millennialist, eschatological visions of Armageddon and the Coming of the Son.

And two weeks ago Russia planted its flag at the North Pole

The planting of the flag was a Sputnik moment but underwater. Its purpose was to territorialize our northern regions and surely as if it was a war dog peeing the frozen tundra property line to warn off Canadian coyotes.

We moved NATO into Russia’s realm because we saw Russia as weak and we took advantage. No other reason. Now we are weak and the main reason is this: We have been without adult supervision in this country going on 16 years now.

Our first crisis in America today is a Crisis of Competence and it starts at the Oval Office. It is a management thing; both parties need to understand. And of all the way many people who have until recently announced that they want to be President, on a management-basis alone, only three are actually qualified to do the job if we are to advance as a mature and positive nation in the world. They are Mike Bloomberg, Mark Warner and Mitt Romney.

We have reached the turning point and the moment of high crisis – a crisis in competence in management but also in outlook. We can no longer go forward as a federation as Hamilton envisioned it and as Lincoln enforced that vision with another eight years of adolescent, undergraduate or incompetent management. Ron Paul brings a new spirit of endeavor and awakening paradigms to the contest. But if any of the others is actually elected at this point we face today the possibly the actual collapse of federalism in the United States as we and the world have come to understand it since Eliza crossed the river in 1852.

As a prominent Vermont politician said recently, Vermont’s attempt to secede is just a “silly Vermont thing.” Indeed, but for some unaccountable reason the myriad of Vermont silly things today manage to find their way into the broader conversation. Already, people who are not silly, like the Governor of California and his allies in major northeastern states, are taking notice and for the first time since 1865, have defied and ignored the federal government and resurrected the idea of states rights on environmental issues and other issues.

We have seen a complete failure of federalism in Iraq and in the Katrina region. This cannot be blamed on President Bush alone but on a systematic spiral of incompetence in management over the last 20 years. The first observation, as zen asks us to look at the thing itself without illusion, is that we have come to the end of things with the feds, and states on their own, like California and New York (and even Vermont) are able to do much better by themselves.

When historians look back at this fin de siecle to see what happened here, they will see a turning of events stemming primarily from a crisis of competence in governance. Both parties are cursed by it and it plagues especially the rank and file. It manifests in elected Democratic mayors of cities like Atlanta hiring Mitt Romney’s company, Bain & Co. to do the work for them. And in the appointment of Howard Dean as Democratic party chief; Dean, a Presidential candidate in ’04 who would ordinarily be considered a perfect failure and a marginal player as he lost ever primary and shifted the tone of the race to the Magic Mountain escapist politics of Vermont. He reanimated early visions of the Democrats as a silly party in a race which might otherwise have well gone to John Kerry had he remained in Vermont.

This systemic incompetence started to become apparent when Clinton uttered the phrase, “I don’t know what to do,” regarding Bosnia in 1993. It continues this week, as Bush, asked why the Iraqi Army was disbanded two months after the invasion, predictably advancing chaos in the region to catastrophic levels and costing thousands of lives and endless broken spirits in families and neighborhoods, used this phrase: “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said ‘This is the policy, what happened? . . . Again, Hadley’s got notes on all this stuff.”

The chaos and incompetence afflicts both parties. But on the Republican side, the adults have stepped in. The well-needed Baker-Hamilton report was simply an action by the well-regarded Bush family-fixer, James A. Baker, to stem a disaster wrought by a son randomly cast into the Presidency and fully unprepared for his responsibilities.

Unity 08, with prominent Libertarian, Democrat and Republican features, has proposed these past two years that it is time for a new approach and possibly a third-party candidate and just recently, Sam Nunn, the highly respected former Democratic Senator from Georgia, has announced that he has held talks with both Unity 08 and with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg about running for President as a third-party candidate.

Recently, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Nunn, who retired from the Senate more than ten years ago, “ . . . has watched what's happened to the country, and he's more than a bit ticked — at the "fiasco" in Iraq, a federal budget spinning out of control, the lack of an honest energy policy, and a presidential contest that, he says, seems designed to thwart serious discussion of the looming crises.”

"It's a possibility, not a probability," Nunn told the Atlanta paper. "My own thinking is, it may be a time for the country to say, 'Timeout. The two-party system has served us well, historically, but it's not serving us now.'"

But a lawyer friend of Nunn in Perry, Georgia, says it is in fact more a probability than a possibility.

Nunn said he's not likely to make up his mind until next year, probably after the early rush of presidential primaries have produced de facto nominees for both parties. He said the decision will depend largely on what he hears from the current candidates. The only certainty, he said, is that he won't be anybody's candidate for vice president.

In the Journal-Constitution interview, Nunn admitted he is also tempted by the fact that a presidential run would offer him a world stage to press for a revolutionary shift in U.S. defense and foreign policy.

Reading the blog on Unity 08, Nunn is liked by its participants. More than any living American politician, he has brought sense and sanity to a world hell-bent on mutually-insured-destruction. Just this week he traveled to Russia with Senator Richard Lugar to mark the 15th anniversary of the start of the Nunn-Lugar program, which is intended to help rid Russia of fissile materials left over from the Cold War.

Ultimately, he told the Journal-Constitution, if there's to be any chance of persuading smaller countries to give up nuclear weapons technology — and keep it out of the hands of increasingly sophisticated terrorists — world powers will have to put themselves on a gradual, verifiable path toward total nuclear disarmament. That includes the United States.

Political debate has been captured by the extreme wings of both parties, he said, ignoring solutions that can only be found in the middle.

"I do not see tough calls willing to be made by the body politic," he said.

Nunn is a conservative and a hawk on defense. He is also CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private charitable organization originally bankrolled by Ted Turner. Like colleagues Kissinger and George Schultz who he recently consulted with in private talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin on how to improve U.S.-Russian relations, he brings to the table a maturity that the Democrats have not shown in recent years and which is non-existent in the current line-up of Presidential candidates, several of whom were part of the Clinton’s Cajun Cartel.

Unity 08 calls for a new approach and in a recent NPR interview, CEO Robert Bingham called for candidates to name the teams they would bring to Washington with them.

I was delighted to read that Senator Nunn had talked to Mike Bloomberg about an independent run for the Presidency in ’08. I also think that he should take Unity 08’s cue and not only name the Cabinet or advisors he would bring to Washington, but as James A. Baker did, bring forth a group – a Founder’s Committee - for this auspicious new political direction, a group which might include Unity 08’s Angus King and Bill Weld, creative former Governors who brought Independent and Libertarian influences to their duty. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who uses the phrase “post partisan” might also be considered and Mark Warner, former Governor of Virginia, who pioneered ideas of post-partisanship by working most effectively across the isle in politically polarized Virginia.

And Mike Bloomberg is not the only billionaire who is considering third party politics. Warren Buffett shows strong interest in Arnold Schwarzenegger entering in a third party movement. Ted Turner might consider this as well; perhaps these and other philanthropists would join forces in a new third party direction. Consider that a Founder's Committee or Board of Trustees of some kind with responsible citizens from different walks of life might appeal to a larger group than just one person like Bloomberg or Buffett.

It is time for the Democrats to Kick it Old School and do as Baker did with the Republicans. Bring back the adults: Draft Sam Nunn.