Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Cudos to Conor Friedersdorf!

In his widely discussed piece on why he won't vote for Obama, Conor Friedersdorf makes a really important contribution to consciousness raising in the Empire. (I have to talk about the Empire, here, because I'm not an American citizen but insist on considering myself an imperial subject, one with only very indirect access to representation. I'm a Dane.) I want neither Romney nor Obama to be president from 2013 forward and would, yes, very much prefer Gary Johnson. Like many others, I did very definitely prefer Obama over McCain, and very, very definitely Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin. In truth, my "deal", which I did of course expect to be broken, was that Obama would end, not just the occupation of Iraq, but the War on Terror. That is, I hoped he would admit that the policy of fighting terrorism with a military machine was simply wrong. Morally wrong. Insanely wrong.

I hoped also he would do the same for the War on Drugs. Both of these wars, which are central to the administration of imperial power today, are "deal-breakers" for me. And they are such horrors for this planet and its people that one president that is, within the limits of current presidential power, not working to end them is morally indistinguishable from another president that is not working to end them.

These are not so much "imperialist wars" as wars of imperial administration. Fighting the wars achieves no strategic objective. There is no end-game for them. They are simply ideological cover for a great deal of highly militarized police work, that is, for the state's interference in the lives of millions of people, foreign and domestic. This interference is not just a nuisance, though it is that for most, it is (as Friedersdorf notes) also very violent for some. It is an oppressive use of force.

So I'm not impressed with Robert Wright's response. Frankly, I don't think a presidential election ever gives the American people a choice between an ordinary imperialist and a monstrous one. These days, it gives Americans a boring alternative between two ways of fighting the wars on drugs and terror, both of which are nonsense in theory, and immoral in practice. The entire apparatus of the state serves these two wars. (I will leave aside the role of the wars in the administration of the financial system. And vice versa.)

In short, I think Wright's "consequentialism" is a way of scaring people into voting for empire rather than against it. I didn't read Friedersdorf's thought experiment as an occasion to compare Pretend Racist Obama to Possibly Insane Romney and therefore testing consequentialism in principle. What Friedersdorf was doing was remind Obama supporters that they ignore, say, the drone war, in way that they would (he presumes) not ignore evidence of Obama's anti-hispanic sentiment. Wright is basically saying that he doesn't have "deal breakers".

My "vote" (a sentiment only, given my citizenship) will always go to the candidate who offers the best hope of rolling back the menace of drugs and terror, which is to say, the candidate that is most likely to call off the insane wars against these really, relatively harmless aspects of life in a complex world. I'm with the emperor who calls off the pursuit of threats the pursuit of which itself coverts them into menacing horrors, and turns us into those horrors ourselves.

In 2008, I decided Obama was the best hope. Not because his policies were better than, say, Ron Paul's, but because he was clearly electable, and Paul was not. Today, neither of the two electable candidates offer me hope. And I refuse to be frightened into approving of empire with the threat of a slightly more violent empire than the one I live under today. To vote for Obama out of fear of Romney is no better than to vote for McCain out of fear of Osama.

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