Saturday, June 22, 2013

Trapped Inside the Oval Office, Part 5

Trey Smith

In seeking to understand the U.S. Executive Branch, and its evil, lawlessness and authoritarianism, it is important to note that we are not delving here into "conspiracy theory". On the contrary. U.S. Executive Branch policy is determined not by conspiracy by a few but rather out of the interaction of hundreds of semi-independent power centers within the bureaucracies and corporate world, the huge agglomeration that Eisenhower termed the "military-industrial complex." Policy emerges as a result of countless meetings, lobbying sessions, phone calls, meals, negotiations, promises of future jobs in the private sector in return for government contracts, forming and breaking alliances, promoting and demoting individuals.

It is also important to note that when we speak of "evil", we are not speaking of evil individuals as normally understood. The term is conventionally applied to the clearly demonic monsters who periodically pop up in world history, most notably of course Hitler and other Nazi leaders, i.e. the standard humanist understanding of what most people call evil.

By contrast, most U.S. Executive Branch leaders tend to be rather conventional types before they join the Executive. Like Mr. Obama most have some feeling for their mates, children and/or dogs, give to charity, and hold accepted beliefs about democracy and the rule of law. They do not lie as a matter of course to family and friends, or commit face-to-face violence against those with whom they disagree.

But in the postwar Executive world one need not be classically evil to do evil. It is institutional evil, e.g., mass murder, conducted by normal individuals which poses the greatest threat to human life, decency, democracy and the rule of law in our time. Top Executive Branch leaders are not motivated by grand theories of “purifying the race” or “thousand year Reichs”, but rather simply succeeding in their jobs, advancing in their careers, making more money, being promoted, and gaining more power. Henry Kissinger obviously did not devastate Indochina because he cared about the wellbeing of the 6 million people he helped kill, wound or make homeless; nor did he wish to promote democracy when supporting a savage police-state in South Vietnam which held more political prisoners than the rest of the world combined. Those who know him best say he was motivated by simple careerism – a desire not to be blamed for the fall of Indochina while in office, and to be admired - and rewarded for - being seen as a “statesman” after leaving it.
~ from America's Most Anti-Democratic Institution: How the Imperial Presidency Threatens U.S. National Security, by Fred Branfman ~
Branfman is making an argument much like that of Joel Bakan in his book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. Bakan contends that corporations are, by their very nature, amoral and anyone who enters the corporate system is forced to act amorally in order to survive. Put another way, we shouldn't focus so much attention on the individual actors in Corporate America; the system itself is structured to be anything but fair, just and humanitarian.

This is what Branfman says about the Executive Branch.  He contends that decent people enter into its web and, once entrapped, they act, think and behave indecently.

In Branfman's view, Barack Obama is one of these decent souls who has come to find himself trapped inside the Oval Office.  When Obama came into the White House, he really wanted to instill hope and change, but the nature of the institution itself plus the intransigence of conservative Republicans  thwarted his efforts. Obama is now a prisoner who can't move in the directions he genuinely wants to go.

While I will grant there is some truth to this analysis, I submit that Branfman is giving Obama far more credit than he deserves!  In my view, Barack Obama is Machiavellian and I don't write this as a Monday morning quarterback either.  Back in November 2008, I wrote,
So, I’m girding myself for the new age of Obamapology. Each time our new president does something that no bona fide progressive would approve of — like starting a new war in Pakistan or re-engaging Afghanistan or turning the federal mint over to the insurance industry — the Obamapologists will swing into action to inform us that President Barack had no other choice and how much worse it would have been under President John. The Obamapologists will urge us to turn a blind eye because the grand O is really about hope and change.
You see, I never bought into his "hope and change" gambit. Like many others on the Left, his presidency has gone much the way I expected, though in several areas, it is even worse than I ever imagined!

While I certainly agree that the institutional structure of the Executive Branch is unethical, undemocratic and immoral, my chief complaint is that too few of the "decent" people who enter into or work closely with it are willing to stand up for their supposed professed beliefs.  As soon as they see how difficult the fight will be, they cave in and just go with the nefarious flow.

For me, this is why the Obama administration viciously has gone after federal whistleblowers like Thomas Drake, Bradley Manning and now Edward Snowden.  These ARE decent people who decided to stand up to fight against the institution.  Their resolve in exposing the rampant criminality of the Executive Branch is an ever present reminder to Barack Obama that he surrendered with little more than a whimper.  These brave men are a constant reminder to the President how morally weak he actually is!

This post is part of a miniseries: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

1 comment:

  1. Switching the US to a Parliamentary system would put an end to the imperial presidency and solve this issue.


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