Thanks, Kerry

bullhorn As Harry Braverman once noted of Frederick Winslow Taylor, sometimes an individual comes to speak the words of the system. Not that he approaches Taylor’s level of purity and consistency, but, apparently, John Kerry had one of these moments today. During his hearings to be confirmed as the next  Consigliere Primo Secretary of State, Kerry, amid the obligatory war-criminal* threats against Iran, etc., said this:

“Foreign policy is economic policy.”

How utterly and simply true.

And isn’t every kind of policy really “economic policy” under the reign of corporate capital?

*UN Charter, Article 2, Section 4:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

US Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2:

All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.

6 Replies to “Thanks, Kerry”

  1. Can you explain to me why is it so difficult to explain to the run of the mill self-professed “progressive” (as I’ve struggled personally) that our foreign policy is precisely the reflection of a system-level logic, which in turn is consolidated and driven by the ideas, efforts, and interests of a fairly small, if loosely connected, group of elite economic interests, and in no way is an extension and representation of the “will of the people”?.

    But NOOOO… For some reason some prefer to believe that “the [stupid, naturally] people” push the otherwise “good and rational” Obama and our otherwise “sensible” government to pursue such harmful (home and abroad) actions. See, it is the “stupid and violent american’s” fault that we are still in Afganistan etc. Damn, if only “the people” could stop letting us down…

  2. I had the exact same argument with my uncle on Thanksgiving.

    In any event, such people are themselves quite ignorant of both a) the structure and flow of public opinion and b) the basic history of US military interventions. My suggestion would be to ask such types for their own short overview of the latter topic. They will almost surely give you a ridiculously short and erroneous account, if they can give any at all.

    As for public opinion, it is, of course, most easily manipulable in the area of foreign policy. That’s because the topic deals with far-away things most people can’t picture or experience or examine in their own lives. It’s also because, in an important sense, the claim that the United States is a Special Nation with a continuing mission to bring reason and democracy to the world is the very core of national indoctrination, and this is history’s most indoctrinated society (see Alex Carey). It’s also the area where lack of basic information and context is most severe.

    Nonetheless, it doesn’t take much memory to remember what initial public opinion was before both Gulf Wars. It took serious efforts over months to accomplish the eventual trick. And now most everybody knows the shift was a trick.

    Chomsky is also always excellent on this topic:

    The United States is a formal democracy, but only in part a functioning democracy. It is perhaps the most free country in the world, but there is a huge gap between public opinion and public policy on many crucial issues — and on many of these, I think public opinion is far more sensible and if followed, would lead the way to a better world. I won’t review the reasons, discussed to an extent in Interventions and in more detail elsewhere: recently in my book Failed States. Also in Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton, The Foreign Policy Disconnect, who show that public opinion tends to be coherent and fairly stable over time. Sometimes government-media propaganda dupes the public — on Saddam and 9/11, to take a dramatic example. We know the means very well: huge government-media propaganda exercises, which do have detectable effects. But quite often the public is not duped and continues to oppose the policy decisions of the government, the media, and elite opinion, as public opinion studies reveal.

    You might also suggest this item to your people-hating lib friends.

  3. Thanks a lot for the links. And in general, the blogosphere really helps in staying (sort of..) sane. As Chomsky has mentioned a few times on the topic of “intellectual self-defence”, is really hard to do consistently in relative isolation, so every little bit helps 🙂

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