We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
-Step One of the 12 Steps to Recovery for Narcotics Anonymous
As 2011 hits its stride, members of the United States Congress from both sides of the aisle are demanding that the United States Armed Forces be employed to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The rationale for this demand is that the United States can provide tactical space for the forces of popular rebellion against a long standing US bete noir Mummar al-Gaddafi – “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.”
In fact, 2011 has borne a crisis for the US government in the region, and this absurd proposal has been co-presented by those manly-man Vietnam veterans of the Senate, John McCain and John Kerry, two former candidates for the nation’s highest office, proving once and for all that – no matter your political affiliations – when all you know how to use is a hammer, the world begins to look like a nail.
It’s a desperate idea for re-establishing influence in a strategic region, where an outbreak of popular rebellions is threatening some key US satrapies. The political linchpin of US regional geopolitics, Egypt, is now well on its way to breaking its contracts. Bahrain (where there was noticeably little outrage about the government gunning down protesters), harbor for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is also under duress. Then there is the nightmare of nightmares – glimpsed past the foreground of rising oil prices anticipated throughout the coming summer – that something might happen to overturn the rule of the House of Saud, the venal offspring of Muhammed bin Saud who rule Saudi Arabia, geopolitical vessel of 20 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.
Not a peep from Congress, the TV Commentariat, or our esteemed Chief Executive so far about this “friendly” nation-state, where political detention, torture, and murder are political devices as common as catered parties. But the fear is there. Saudi Arabia could erupt, and the US economic linchpin in the region could be lost. The victors in any popular rebellion are unlikely to welcome the arch-Zionist Hillary Clinton in for a meeting to discuss diplomatic continuity.
The “Muslim world,” as it is called, is surely viewing the recent viral video of Orange County, CA whitefolk staging a deranged and hatefully offensive demonstration against Muslims who were meeting to raise money for homeless shelters. In this video, where American flags blotted out the Disney-fied background of affluent Yorba Linda, shrieking lunatics in designer clothing, inflamed by speeches from Congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller, and Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly, issued insults to Allah and death threats to all Muslims – described as “terrorists.”
This manifestation is surely a sign of unmanageability.
This, too, is just as surely a form of diplomatic crisis, because it happens at the same time that covert operator Raymond Davis is being held in Lahore, Pakistan, after shooting two Pakistanis in the back on a public street as part of some US provocation. Davis is likely an active duty member of the US military – his records tucked securely away in a restricted file – who was using what is called in the trade “an official cover.” That is, he was given a diplomatic passport that let him claim to be a State Department official.
Davis shot two men, then jumped out to photograph the bodies; but something went awry, and Davis got stuck before he could make good on his getaway. A chase vehicle, also “covered” with diplomatic plates, rushed to his rescue, whereupon the reaction team ran down and killed yet another Pakistani. Long story short, Davis was apprehended by Pakistani authorities, and is being charged by the Pakistani courts – rightly – with criminal homicide.
In the wake of the Davis affair – after the US unsuccessfully tried every manner of arm-twisting on the Pakistani government to release Davis “because he is a diplomat with immunity” (Right!) – an entire cover ops network has been dismantled, and numerous unknown US subjects have been sent home to their neglected families, while the State Department, et al, erect a flimsy barricade of lies to obstruct the view.
Meanwhile, unbeknown to most Americans, there are still 75,000 troops in Iraq – where yet another rebellion threatens to break out; Commander-in-Chief Obama continues to oversee a lost and cruel war in Afghanistan; the CIA continues its covert drone war against rural Pakistan; and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke has successfully reflated a financial bubble, ensuring that the next crash – coming to a theater near you – is even more traumatic than the last. Then, we’ll see more Yorba Linda-like lunacies, because this is what middle-classes do when they are frightened.
I believe what the Irish bard said was, “the center cannot hold.”
The empire, in a word, has become unmanageable, but like any addict, it continues to do the same things, while expecting a different result. We 12-steppers call that “insanity.”
At last, I’ll get to my point, and link the article that this is leading into. Empires always become unmanageable, because they are inherently “addicted” to the exploitation of peripheries. As those peripheries are exhausted, the core must continually seek further and further afield to satisfy its habit. This core-periphery dynamic is, in fact, not only a feature of empire. Empire is one manifestation of the same process – an ecological one at bottom – that we call “civilization.” Because no core can continually feed on a periphery without materially exhausting it, no core can go on indefinitely. It will eventually overreach, and at that point, it loses the ability to manage its own system – a system that turns out at the end of the day to have created a fatal dependency on that periphery, even as it has pillaged it.
Here is the article I wanted to highlight.
The search for knowledge has drawn both Trella and Wattenmaker to Upper Mesopotamia, which spans modern Iraq and part of Syria and Turkey. Here, in the Fertile Crescent, humans first domesticated animals and cultivated crops like wheat and barley. Five and a half thousand years ago, city-states in the region left behind the earliest evidence of writing and elaborate burial rites for kings. Trella draws on 14 years of experience, which includes sites in Turkey and Syria, where he studies the Early Bronze Age, between 2500 and 2000 B.C. He uses bones, both animal and human, to trace changes in population density and food sources that reveal a compelling narrative of early civilization—and how we view progress.
“From the vantage point of the modern industrialized world, history appears to many to be a slow progression from less complex social organization to more complex—hunter-gatherer to chiefdom to city-state to empire,” Trella says. “This notion of progress that leads inexorably to us—Western civilization—has big value implications, the most significant being that things are getting better. And that complex societies are better.”
But the cities didn’t simply get bigger and better. The archeological record reveals that different eras showed vastly different populations in the cities as they went through boom-bust cycles. Cities grew for several hundred years, then dwindled as populations dispersed into the countryside—and later grew again…