Friday, August 04, 2006

A republic, if you can keep it.

As I watch Lebanon - and American Middle East policy - dissapear in a haze of smoke and missiles, I turn to wonder: how the hell can a nation, and a people, be so nakedly, obviously blind to their own interests.

It's not like this was quantum physics. We had to pretty much know beforehand (waaaaay beforehand, if the "Cheney greenlighted the attack" rumors are true) that the sight of Israel bitchslapping Lebanon would go over in the Muslim countries kinda like a Nazi oompah band at a B'nai B'rith convention. And that, given that we need these countries for our little "remake the Middle East" project, this would NOT be a good thing. And yet we did it anyway.

Even the Democrats refuse to call this what it is: arrant stupidity for America masquerading as support for Israel. It seems that this line is parroted by the news organs as well.


My feeling is that this entire episode is a terrific example of what has happened to the Founders' ideal of a small-R republic once you open the halls of government to unlimited largesse. It is no coincidence that AIPAC and the Israeli lobby contribute significantly to any legislator that has a stake in making American foreign policy. This is prudent, and good for Israel. Whether this is good for American remains to be seen.

In addition to the foreign political aspects of this, in case you haven't noticed we are fighting overseas at the same time that our political leaders are competing to shower donatives on their financial benefactors. The "tax cuts" haven't made my fiscal life any easier. Have they yours? Do you have more money left over at the end of the month?

I'll bet Paris Hilton and Sam Walton's kids sure do...!

Ya think that their political contributions may have anything to do with the fact that to get a hike in the minimum wage we're supposed to give Ms. Hilton and the Waltons and the Kennedys an immense donative to pass on to their now-hereditary elite?

ISTM that the kind of crass, ugly, naked greed that has developed in our political system over the last 200 years has been a direct result of the Fonders' inability to perceive a) how expensive running for political offce would become (with the consequent rapacious need of the candidates for cash) and b) the ruinous effect on the public trust that the influence of this filthy lucre has had.

No one I know - and I truly mean no one - believes that there is such a thing as an American pol that can't be bought, or will stay bought, if someone with a deeper purse comes along.

I am enough of a student to suspect a variety of motives for this new War in Lebanon (as well as our ongoing Majuba-Hill-in-the-Fertile-Crescent) including simple geopolitical stupidity; however, many of my friends and correspondants simply assume that the Bushies have some sort of corrupt financial payoff at the end of the Middle East tunnel - oil, bases, contracts...whatever. They refuse to attribute to simple strategic stupidity what they can blame on political greed so bottomless that cares nothing for the welfare of the country or its people.

If you believe in a republic, this is horrifying.

When the People no longer believe that they can trust their elected representatives, the bond that holds the republic together fails. The result is at best autocracy, at worst chaos. If you believe only in power, as the behavior of the Decider-in-Chief and his lackeys suggest that they do, then the failure of the bond is business as usual. The unwashed masses don't matter. It's the Big Boys that pay for the Big Toys; wars, development, "pork"...they're the real "We, the People" that get served.

Do I think that political donations are "free speech" as currently described under the present combination of constitutional protection and case law? Yes.

Do I think that, could we summon the spirits of Madison, Franklin, Hamilton (well, maybe not Hamilton...), Adams and Washington, and show them the naked avarice masquerading as governance in the District of Columbia (and so many other places in our country) today that they would set their ghostly hands to the parchment and attempt to amend their work to prevent this?

In a heartbeat.

Remember that it wasn't only Caesar that crossed the Rubicon. One man doesn't overthrow a republic. Behind him came rank after rank of iron-shod veterans; abandoned to liberal principles, tired of the abased antics of the venal Senate. And waiting in Rome itself, a corrupted, disinterested, cynical citizenry - indifferent to their own liberties provided they got the corn dole and the violent antics of professional sports.

A republic can be killed, but she can also die from internal sickness. And a glut of internal silver can be as fatal as external lead.

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