The arsehole theory of politics

Obama, if there is a hell (which there is isn’t, luckily for him), is headed there. His drone war in Pakistan is truly dystopian, and his other infringements of civil liberties would make even Blair blush, as Conor Friedersdorf describes:

1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.

2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama’s kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.

3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.

Aside immediately from stripping him of his Nobel Peace Prize – boy must the Norwegians be feeling silly now – we should ask “why Obama is doing this?” I wouldn’t argue that he is an arsehole. He doesn’t seem like an arsehole, he has done nice things for lots of poor Americans. I’ve also seen the point made innumerable times that Romney would be the same, or worse, but why?

Will Wilkinson seems to imply that the system of democracy in America is broken. You can vote for Obama and passively approve these attacks. You can vote for Romney and very likely end up with the same, or worse. Romney’s aides have suggested that if Romney were elected, one of his first acts would be to give back ‘mericans their right to torture people. Alternatively, you can offer a protest vote to a third party candidate like Gary Johnson, who actually opposes these attacks (imagine a third party more ineffectual and irrelevant than the Lib Dems and you begin to see how silly this last option is).

I disagree that democracy is broken. People are broken. How can you fix the fact that a lot of people are arseholes? Similarly to my analysis of Ian Cowie, as somebody who simply hates poor people, this analysis lacks a certain subtlety. But that is its strength. It is unsubtle because arseholes are unsubtle. Democrats are painted as weak on warmaking defence, and so Obama must appease the arseholes or face potential political annihilation.

This isn’t a feature of a failed democracy or of a failed republic or a failed anything. It is a feature of a democratic empire. One of the advantages of democracy is that people get what they vote for, good and hard.

Domestically this normally stays the hand of those with the most ludicrous ideas because people actually have to deal with the consequences of the actions. However, intrigue and murder are the rule internationally not because these policies are good, but because people don’t have to deal with the consequences of their own arseholeness. The same people who will refuse to starve their poor because they’ll riot will happily watch the poor starve abroad because they can deny them a visa.

Acting as a democratic empire the US has no choice but to sporadically accede to the demands of its arsehole faction. Sometimes, it will just be their turn to be appeased. Arseholes have no natural restraint on their actions because their victims are abroad. The US has the capacity for total destruction anywhere it likes. Eventually, inevitably, somebody is going to start bombing children in Pakistan.

The only way to prevent people dying in war is to throw hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, pilots, mechanics, engineers, consultants, etc. out of work. Give me an off switch and I’ll flick it in a heartbeat. However, while the technological ability remains to kill people, people will be killed. Arseholes don’t kill people, but armies do, so get rid of the army.


This is the week he won: two faces that won Obama re-election

On Tuesday, in the wake of the tragic death of US embassy staff in Libya, Mitt Romney slurred president Obama as a terrorist sympathising anti-colonial Kenyan Muslim (I paraphrase). Afterwards, showing all the political nous and weight of a daddy long legs, he smirked to himself as he thought “those dead Americans really helped my election chances.”

On Thursday, Ben Bernanke announced a round of open ended QE which sent markets up and which might just feed through to improved labour market conditions through September and October. Some would call this political interference. I call it beginning to take their job seriously, they don’t choose the political cycle.

Today, Obama is the incumbent, presiding  over an accelerating economic recovery and is faced with an opponent disliked by the press and who smiles at dead Americans. Smells like victory to me.