Ideological assumptions that but two generations ago would have been deemed eccentric, if not utterly insane or even demonic, now rule the “mainstream.” The trouble is that normal people do not take madmen seriously enough. This works to the advantage of politicians—an inherently insane breed—and their subjects’ attitude of “they can’t be serious” allows them to sneer back, “Yes, we can!” America’s foreign-policy establishment proves the point.
In a New York Times profile last September, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott declared that the United States may not exist “in its current form” in the 21st century because the very concept of nationhood—here and throughout the world—will have been rendered obsolete.
Now, this will come as a surprise to all those Americans who have naively assumed that the purpose of foreign policy is to ensure the survival, security, and prosperity of the United States within the international system, rather than its eventual absorption by the system. It should be noted that Talbott’s statement was an exultant prophecy, not an impartial analyst’s assessment, and it came from the man who has defined, shaped, and executed this administration’s foreign policy since the first day of this abysmal presidency.
While his party’s presidential victory was still far from certain, Talbott wrote in Time (July 20, 1992) that he looks forward to universal government run by “one global authority”;
Here is one optimist’s reason for believing unity will prevail . . . within the next hundred years . . . nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority. . . . A phrase briefly fashionable in the mid-20th century—”citizen of the world”—will have assumed real meaning by the end of the 21st.
The key ideological foundation for Talbott’s beliefs was stated bluntly: “All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary.”
To Talbott and his ilk, the United States, Serbia, East Timor, Ireland, Russia, Iran, China, Cuba, etc., are merely transient, virtual-reality entities. Owing allegiance to any of them is inherently irrational, and attaching one’s personal loyalty to it—let alone risking one’s life for its sake—is as absurd as worshipping icons or dressing for dinner. Atavistic sentiments may have to be invoked for hoi polloi from the prairies who provide the cannon fodder for any given project, but this odious task is best left to the front men, such as presidents.
Like Marx’s proletarian, Talbott knows of no loyalty to a concrete country. He could easily serve any—or indeed all—of them, if they can be turned into the pliable tools of his Wille zur Macht. In 1792, it could have been France, in 1917 Russia. Today, the United States is the host organism of choice for two reasons. It is immensely powerful, and its political system is susceptible to penetration by a rabidly anti-traditionalist and deeply anti-American worldview and political agenda.
By treating America as an ideological proposition rather than a real nation, Talbott and Company at least cannot be accused of partiality when they treat other nations as either minions to be cowed or savages to be exterminated. They are imposing a bird’s-eye view of world affairs in the process, which makes discussion of their policy possible only within their odd terms of reference. Try applying the traditional criteria of national interest, and yon will be labeled a Buchananite, with all the attendant “isms” that will destroy your name and career. But if you put on their specs and think of their project as one great moral crusade on behalf of human rights and democracy everywhere, you enter the virtual world in which all pretense to meaning is abandoned.
Their playful disregard for principles and order smacks of 1960’s frivolity, but it comes with a big stick. The bombing of Serbian buses, hospitals, trains, and TV stations was conducted under the label of “humanitarian intervention.” The destruction of the traditional concept of sovereignty and the rule of law is a triumph of the “international community.”
The former peaceniks-turned-bombers in Washington, Bonn, London, and Brussels saw the late unpleasantness in the Balkans as a major step toward the fulfillment of their One World, post-national vision. Universal human rights were invoked to justify the will of the “international community,” that modern equivalent of Rousseau’s “general will,” which means the will of the person talking. The rule of law and respect for national sovereignty and tradition have been boldly denied. But since universal concepts are by definition deracinated, the next step will be to demand a single global system of civil law that cannot stop short of a world government. The Serbs were a litmus test, and their collapse—predictable, even unavoidable, under the unspeakable Mr. Milosevic—means that the project will march on.
For that reason, it is not just about the Balkans: In the aftermath of NATO’s war, we are faced with a global problem that goes beyond “Culture Wars.” It is the end of culture. For many millennia, people lived in communities in which the bonds between them were direct and emotional. In the fertile plains of Mesopotamia and the Lower Nile, “society” eventually emerged: Relations between people were formalized and measured in terms of objects, but the individual was still the subject of his own acts, motivated by his feelings and needs. But by the middle of the 20th century, society had evolved into a vastly complex social-technological system, and man was reduced to a mere element—the “human factor.”
n our own time, what the ruling elite would call “ideology” —and what our grandparents would call spirituality—has been replaced by “content,” by information. The process is accelerating by the day, and culture as a mechanism for maintaining social identity and coherence is becoming obsolete. Wealth, success, and health are the only “values” in the information era. The soul, emotional experiences, personal opinion —all these are regarded as waste that distracts from production or from the precise execution of instructions. Culture, if not already embalmed and relegated to “heritage,” is automatically designated “traditional.” The real end of history—the complete transformation of society into a social-technological system-would signify the end of mankind’s cultural history. It would also signify the end of mankind.
Yes, and it is all for the best, according to Prof Jon Huer at the University of Maryland, whose musings on the future were noted in Signs of the Times (July 1999). For Huer, the bombing by Americans and human-shielding by Serbs represented two very different worlds. The high technology “of ultimate sophistication, so logical and so rational, with little human involvement,” is countered by “the total disregard of logic and rationality.” Americans believe in the power of technology “and all that it implies—reason, logic, practicality, solution-finding.” Serbs believe in the power of their destiny, “powerful, and so human.” “Americans,” he says,
are now entering a wholly different era of society and culture . . . a “Post-Human Era” where all aspects of social life are streamlined and rationalized . .. [and] each individual is isolated from other individuals so that his or her self-calculation can be logically derived without distraction from other human beings.
Huer believes that post-human Americans are probably “the future prototype humans,” while Serbs are “an atavistic holdover from a bygone era.” He concludes that the Serbs have “to recognize this inevitable development of history and join up with what will be, not what was or should be.”
This gem of brutal honesty indicates why it is not just the Balkans anymore. Between the “prototype rational post-humans”—epitomized by Clinton, Albright, Berger, Cohen, Blair, and Cook—and the atavistic, irrational humans, each of us needs to make a choice. The former will rely on America’s continuing technological and military superiority, not on its moral authority or political magnetism. As British historian Michael Stenton has put it:
Victims and opponents are invited to contemplate the strength of a dominant culture, and despair. The experience in the Balkans today is of resourcelessness. One must plug into the West—its power centers and its culture—and pray for favor, and try to be noticed in the right way. Hence the readiness of Balkan countries to damage themselves to help America damage Serbia. Looking for favor is the only game in town. If only it were just the money! Imperial culture—today one says global culture—confiscates respect for what is local and native and replaces it with something universal, however bad.
The Balkans—humanitarian bombings, multicultural Muslims, rape camps, and all—was the post-humans’ exercise in counterrealism, which is the essence of postmodernism. “Jamie” Shea and “Jamie” Rubin (note the cute nicknames retained by these presumed grown-ups) move beyond truth and reality, just as their more arty counterparts move beyond the limits of the aesthetic. The reversibility of the signifier and the signified, aggressor and victim, ethnic cleanser and ethnically cleansed, eventually eliminates the creator and—ultimately—the subject, leaving nothing but the subject’s “signature,” in the form of bomb craters if need be.
This is the “culture” of the artificial world, of post-historical, technological man who has lost his bond with nature, surrounded by artificial reality and permeated by it. The “Jamies” of this world arc literally beyond conscience, and in case of a hitch, paid professionals arc there to release them from the burden of moral choices. This is manifested in foreign affairs in the obliteration of the ethnic identity of peoples, their special color and uniqueness, in the loss of diversity of social evolution that goes with the diminishing diversity of nature. A crude Gleichschaltung is performed under the ideology of universal human values, of a homogenized “culture” for the whole world. As befits the postmodern world, the proponents of “diversity” are in fact promoting its exact opposite: social-technological monism.
The destroyers of human culture are emboldened by demographic trends on both sides of the northern Atlantic. They believe that the seemingly obvious futility of resistance will force the remaining atavistic humans everywhere—especially in America’s heartland—to accept the inevitable and merge with the post-humans through spiritual and physical degeneration and loss of cultural identity. They are in hot pursuit of global power for its own sake—that Great Temptation and path of ruin that winds from the Persian King of Kings to Hitler. They like the fact that most of our fellow citizens, steeped in state school-induced amnesia and ignorance, have never heard of the former and have only the foggiest of notions about the latter.
They hope and trust that nobody will listen when we warn that our rulers are doing all over the world today what Athens did in Greece after leading the Hellenic coalition against Persia: trying to turn leadership into hegemony, i’he result was destruction of Hellas as a political and military factor for all time, and America will just as surely be destroyed if its rulers are allowed to proceed with their mad quest for the Weltmacht. But our foreign-policy elites—poorly educated, rootless, arrogant, inimical to traditional values and morals, cynically manipulative, and ultimately criminal—are tipsy on their brew of “benevolent global hegemony” and march boldly on. Their co-conspirators in the courtier press and the new academia are calling it a pilgrimage. Bosnia was the litmus test, and they claim it worked. Kosovo was a well-rehearsed sequel.
With each new murder that the post-humans commit abroad, the task of resistance at home becomes more difficult. But there are many atavistic holdovers from the human past who will refuse to believe that the outcome is preordained. The struggle of real people for survival is natural and inevitable and good—even if the outcome is far from certain. We may disappear, but we will not cease to hold on to life and beauty and truth.
The Serbs may be the first to perish, but the best among them will not despair. They remember, from that first Battle of Kosovo in 1389, that the world is a cosmos ruled by God, not chaos ruled by men (even those of the post-human variety). If their lonely suffering prods or shames others into struggle for survival, their Calvary will not have been in vain. The path of survival thus starts with understanding that the bell tolls not just for the Serbs: It tolls for all of us.