“A feature, not just of the age of the end of ideology, but of the age immediately preceding the age of the end of ideology, is that of the dictator who has no ideology at all.”
— Christopher Hitchens
“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”
— Thomas Mann
The assassination of one of Iran’s top thugs is for Trump and quite possibly for everyone else, the contemporary version of the half-assed assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, in 1914.
The shooter, Gavrilo Princip, was part of a nationalist terror cell. The Archduke and his wife were killed, the sclerotic, leaden and soon to be erased Austro-Hungarian empire, demanded that the Bosnians surrender.*
The Balkans being generally as stable as a bag of feral cats mixed with plutonium, had already fought a brief and inconclusive war; were notoriously complicated with family, tribal and political feuds stretching back centuries and, due to the curse of geography, was located in an area that brought together the geniuses of Ottoman and Post-Ottoman ambition, the peace-loving Greeks, the Zen monks of Czarist Russia, and the Baroque styling of the Austrians and the imperial god-parents of the future train schedule fetishists in Berlin.
All of that in turn drew the attention of the vicars and accountants in London and the pastry chefs and political ballerinas of Paris.
Think of a large bonfire. Then add a gang of lunatics playing with matches and gasoline and you begin to see the chessboard.
None of which is to deny issues of legitimate political concern.
However what to do about those issues and who should be in charge of deciding what should be done is another set of questions.
Fast forward about a century and then there’s the Caligula of American politics – Trump.
“Trump” though clearly insane and as much of a stable genius as a puddle of muddy water, is not solely responsible for this catastrophe.
Mitch McConnell, the South Shall Rise Again rat fucker, is to “Trump” as Rasputin was to the Romanovs and as Talleyrand was to Bounaparte.
Nancy Pelosi, currently being venerated by the liberals who previously despised her, either can’t see, or won’t admit the direct line that runs from saying, we’re capitalists get used to it, to “Trump” and is now castigating Trump for his recklessness.
Add in the brain dead, mile wide inch deep establishment media, the feckless Vichy liberals of establishment rags like The New Yorker (where chief cheerleader David Remnick was a war in Iraq fanboy), the situationally ethical gangster, Netanyahu, the evangelicals who see The Handmaid’s Tale as a how to manual, or fascism for dummies, the whore house on Capitol Hill, the oil empires that run from Riyadh and the Gulf to Wall Street, and include outposts of progress world-wide, and you have a massive circular firing squad.
Obviously Soleimani was a psychopath.
However, an aspect of power that is seldom discussed and generally understood less, is a question of not taking action.
In contrast to the Tourette’s Syndrome, video game, Rambo dance moves of the empire by accident method that currently dominates America’s shambolic foreign policy.
While old behemoths like the Military (Congressional) Industrial complex, can and do go about the business of starting and profiting from wars and so-called proxy-wars, there is simultaneously a sense that the system (such as it is) has more in common with the bedroom in Spielberg’s Poltergeist, where a whirlwind of toys and detritus spins in an gates of hell frenzy.
In such an environment you’re as likely to find calm deliberation as you’re to find a toy version of the Hulk racing towards you on a toy horse.
“Trump” hates Obama. The main reason McConnell lynched Merrick Garland is because he couldn’t get away with lynching the president. But anyone who doesn’t think America’s systemic bigotry isn’t an issue is either a bigot or an idiot or both.
But then there’s everything else – oil, and treasury bills, and interest rates, and misty dreams of empire that reach back all the way to Alexander saying – I have business with the Persians; we ride at dawn.
Most countries tend to believe they are the only ones with cultural memories and even if they acknowledge the dreams of others, it’s only in the brief moment where they pause while trying to figure out how to kill you.
The Persians (if you’re a nationalist and against the revolution if not in favor of the religious mafia, you’re Persian, but if you’re against the Shah but not necessarily in favor of the revolution, you’re Iranian) look at America and they are as likely to see “sinister” Jews and the CIA and Royal Dutch Shell, as they are to see the Greeks.
No one is going to ever go broke overestimating Persian cultural neurosis. Crippled by narcissism, insecurity, paranoia, and ambition, and a burning desire to be the French, you can count on them to, choose poorly, even while impressing everyone with their baroque theater of political sadomasochism.**
Anymore than a reasonable person will look at “Trump” and see the long shadows of John Wayne and Rambo and the Terminator mixed with a rousing chorus of Onward Christian Soldier – with a commercial that says this crusade is brought to you by Budweiser.
Add to this the obvious connection between Trump’s insanity and impeachment and in addition to lashing out on Twitter, or by ordering his goons to roust children at the border with Mexico, the lunatic has decided to up the ante with Pelosi by starting a war.
People from the ridiculous if on point Anthony the Mooch to far more sophisticated and less combustible (if just as awash in corporate lucre) members of the chattering class, have been saying for some time, Trump will lash out in response to impeachment.
The Iranians being stupid and prisoners of their own pathologies, gave him a pretext.
The Americans and the Europeans and the Russians, all wrapped tightly in the cocoons of their pathologies have given the Iranians and each other a pretext.
And if this doesn’t remind you of the era of the Great Game – the era of imperial clusterfucks running from Kipling to Conrad, from Fashoda to the British vs the Zulus, from dead empires vanishing into the hole of Afghanistan, and all of it reaching its almost end in the trenches of Europe, culminating in a world setting itself on fire and ending with the double bang and spiritual whimper of radioactive mushroom clouds, you’re either a spectacular moron, a product of the wonder that is the public education system, or both.
A lunatic de facto king, is running the biggest, most powerful, hollowed out empire on the planet.
The Europeans are dithering, feckless, righteous, incapable of definitive action but overly willing to be half-assed. One of their chief factions has been taken over by a dunce with the ethics of a virus, the Russians are ruled by a crypto royalist thug with one eye on his bank account and the other fixed on revenge, and the local, regional tribalists are looking to stay alive for another hour while warming themselves at the fire of millennial memories.
In the mix are legitimate issues about survival, the accelerating terminal catastrophe of environmental genocide, the refugee crisis (which is in fact a facet of the environmental crisis which is in turn a facet of the crisis that is end phase capitalism and human stupidity) and the psychosis of religious certainty.
What is required of course is compromise, wisdom, calm, intelligence, creative flexibility and the wicked magic of authentic diplomacy by the sort of people who know never to pull on superman’s cape, and how to order coffee or tea in ten languages.
In other words, the sort of people currently in exile or hiding under their beds.
The Iranians will of course retaliate.
Expect a bombing in Europe, or Indonesia or the Philippines.
First a relatively soft target somewhere off center.
Then a massive car bomb in Buenos Aires or somewhere similar.
Look for an assassination – an American or Israeli diplomat – in Paris, or Berlin, etc.
And don’t bet against a bomb going off in Canada as a way of saying it just as easily could have been in the US.
Followed of course by American retaliation.
“It was a slow day
And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road
There was a bright light
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo…”
*Princip’s gang were Chetniks but where one cell ended and began is, problematic, and included future fencing aficionado and noted political Beatnik, Tito.
**This should not discount the nationalists and the religious tyrants who have all the same qualities as the new money aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, and assorted exile communities but loath the French and look inward while offering a bipolar system.
This world view wants a religious tyranny with secular decadence, as long as it’s kept behind closed doors.
That in turn is coupled with regional domination.
No one should underestimate the ambition to establish a Persian empire.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind the systemic corruption that works side by side with the outside religious tyranny and the interior permissiveness.
“Smuggling” (and that’s in quotes because at a certain point it ceases to be smuggling and becomes simply another facet of the system of trade and negotiation) is rampant (and has been for about 3,000 years) and includes everything from meth and hash, and opium, to bootleg western movies, video games, clothes and cash.
In other words, the corrupt, tyrannical regime there, is to local gangsters as the corrupt tyrannical regime elsewhere is to, its local gangsters.
So what just happened?
Iran makes noise and fires off what amounts to some firecrackers and Trump (Trump?!?) says, ok, no worries.
For the iranians it’s a political disaster.
Revealed as a paper tiger that can’t defend itself against arch enemy number 1 does it slink away or does it set off a bomb somewhere in the (relatively) soft periphery?
Answer: It sets off a bomb somewhere.
As to Trump: Trump is of course a coward who doesn’t want a war (certainly not “Trump’s war”) but he also is insane.
So how did he manage to talk himself down off the ledge?
First no doubt because he doesn’t want to actually have to deal with the complexities and blunt reality of a war.
Second because the Joint Chiefs and their friends scared him into backing down and that allowed him to take yes for an answer.
He claim to have smacked the bad guys and the Iranians can do the same.
Except nothing has changed and their top dog is dead and the perpetual cultural memory machine hasn’t been turned off.
So while a direct war (which the iranians would lose in the short term – that is their military is no match but in the long term no tactical victory will make 70 million people vanish so even if there was a new regime you’d still have most of the same problems) has been avoided, everything else remains the same.
Tit for tat, bombs, assassinations, hacking, and mistakes and miscalculations.
The bomb in the baby carriage is still wired to the radio.