We need a transition
Doug Henwood's Facebook page had this paragraph emblazoned upon it today:
I write this nervously out of fear it will unleash a shitstorm, but here goes. As the mess in Syria deepened, I kept hearing from people on the left that something had to be done about Assad. What that something was was never specified—the closest I ever heard to a specific policy was a no-fly zone, which sounds harmless but actually involves a lot of bombing. It always seemed to me that the call to do something would end with a barrage of cruise missiles at the very least. Who would the agent of "doing something" be other than the U.S. military and its allies?
So here is my question: after all we've read from William Blum and from Noam Chomsky, how is it that for some of us (at least) the US military became a moral agent? It should be clear to all of us by now that the US military is nothing of a moral agent, but rather an entity which brings ruination upon countries throughout the world for the sake of the raw exercise of power. Or, as the character of Paul Atreides says in Frank Herbert's Dune; "The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it." It's mostly, but not entirely, true.
It's been clear since the Cold War began that the US military is the sort of agency described by Atreides, and that it exercises its control over the world without any real purpose beyond the exercise of this power. A great example of US agency is the decade-or-so it spent "escalating" in southern Vietnam, after having spent another decade-or-so supporting the pointless Diem regime. When the whole "power to destroy a thing" charade was over and the "destroyed" entity recovered, the regime in the southern part of the country collapsed because there was really no point to it beyond the fear expressed by the southerners that the northerners would take revenge upon them once they had given up. Alan Dawson's 55 Days offers a good blow-by-blow description of what actually happened.
If you want to "do something" about Syria, then, you need to develop some agent, and some agency, capable of "doing" whatever it is needs to be done. One of the reasons we don't have a Left in the US is that our cultural "Left" has not gotten to the point of thinking about agency, about what or who it is that is going to develop the sort of agency we want. Instead it is imagined that we are to "bear witness" or "speak truth to power" or any of that cool Quaker stuff, and the correct agency will magically appear. Hint: it won't. Second hint: even if you want the military to "do something" about Assad, the odds are fast approaching zero that the US military will do what you want it to do. The US military has been bombing countries throughout Obama's and Bush Junior's terms of office; be thankful you heard something about it this time around.
This argument applies to all discussions of a "the US government should do X" character. For starters, I'd like the US government to enact all of Bernie Sanders' agenda; wish me luck. Let's start with the reality that we have very little control over what the US government actually does, and then proceed from there. Once having designed an agency, we can then dream of what the US government will be compelled to do in light of our agency. We will find, however, that once we are involved in the nitty-gritty of agency, that most of our attention will be focused upon how to make the agency happen, rather than upon what we want to do.
Here's another option: we need a transition. We'll need a period in which the agencies we need will be built, brick laid upon brick. If the world goes to Hell in a handbasket in the meantime, we will have to console ourselves with the notion that there really isn't anything we can do about it. We don't build transitions now. We wax idealistic about how the world could be what we want it to be, and then when push comes to shove we vote for lesser-of-two-evils candidates and undo whatever it is that we might have done. That's why Daily Kos was and is at best a self-nullifying entity.
A transition is something that needs to be planned out practically. It has nothing to do with immediate moral reactions we might wish to emote in response to whatever it is the news media have flashed before our eyes at any particular time. It's about building organizations, appealing to the public, solidifying a utopian vision that isn't the utopia of money whose patrons currently tell us "there is no alternative."
So what's it going to be folks?