I think any sane human being can agree that while war was never a good idea, war in the 21st century is an absolutely intolerable one. The problem we currently face is that many of the forces driving world events towards an all-out war of “Mutually Assured Annihilation” are anything but sane.
While I’m obviously referring here to a certain category of people who fall under a particularly virulent strain of imperial thinking which can be labelled “neo-conservative” and while many of these disturbing figures honestly believe that a total war of annihilation is a risk worth taking in order to achieve their goals of total global hegemony, I would like to make one subtle yet very important distinction which is often overlooked.
What is this distinction?
Under the broad umbrella of “neo-conservative” one should properly differentiate those who really believe in their ideology and are trapped under the invisible cage of its unexamined assumptions vs. that smaller yet more important segment that created and manages the ideology from the top. I brushed on this grouping in a recent 3 part study called Origins of the Deep State and Myth of the Jewish Conspiracy.
To re-state my meaning: This group doesn’t necessarily believe in the ideological group they manage any more than a parent believes in that tooth fairy which they promote in order to achieve certain behavioral patterns in their children.
While belief in the tooth fairy is slightly less destructive than belief in a misanthropic neocon worldview of a Bolton, Pompeo or Cheney, the analogy is useful to communicate the point.
Cult Managers: Ancient Babylon and Now
Modern ideology-shapers serve the same role as those ancient high priests of Babylon, Persia and Rome who managed the many cults and countless pagan mystery religions recorded throughout the ages. It is well documented that any cult could comfortably exist under Rome’s control, as long as said cult denied any claim to objective truthfulness- making the rise of Abrahamic monotheistic faiths more than a little antagonistic to empire.
Did the high priests necessarily BELIEVE in those dogmas which they created and managed?
Was it politically necessary to create them?
Because an Empire, like everything in the world, exist as a whole with parts… but since they deny any principle of natural law (justice, love, goodness, etc), empires are merely a sum of parts and their rules of organization can be nothing but zero sum (1). Each cultish group may coexist as an echo chamber alongside other groups sacrificing to whatever deity they wish without judgement of moral right or wrong bounded only by a common blind faith in their group’s beliefs- but nothing universal about justice, creative reason, or human nature is otherwise permitted. Here the a-moral “peace” of “equilibrium” can be achieved by an oligarchy which wishes to lord over the slaves. Whether we are dealing with Caesar Augustus, Lord Metternich’s Congress of Vienna, Aldous Huxley, Sir Henry Kissinger, or Leo Strauss (father of modern neo-conservativism), “Peace” can never be anything more than a mathematical “balancing of parts”.
Now it is a good moment to ask: What does this phenomenon look like in our modern age?
To answer this, let us leap over a couple of millennia and take a look at something a bit more personal: Adam Smith and the doctrine of free trade.
Smith at Her Majesty’s Service
Do Smith’s modern followers sincerely believe in the “self-regulating forces of the free market”?
Sure they do.
Did Adam Smith actually believe in his own system?
Whether he did or not, according to recent research conducted by historian Jeffrey Steinberg, Smith received his commission to compose his seminal book Wealth of Nations (published 1776) while riding with Lord Shelburne himself in a carriage ride from Edinburgh to London in 1763. The date 1776 is not a coincidence as this was the same Lord Shelburne who essentially managed the British Empire during the American Revolution and who always despised all colonial aspirations to use protective tariffs, emit productive credit or channel said credit towards internal improvements as Benjamin Franklin had championed in his 1729 Necessity of Paper Currency and Colonial Script.
Why develop Industry, asked Smith, when the new “Law” of “absolute advantage” demanded that everyone just do what they are good at for the best price possible? America has a lot of land, so they should stick with agriculture and slave-driven cotton. Britain had a lot of industry (don’t ask how that happened because it wasn’t through free trade), so they should stick with that! India had advanced textiles, but Britain had to destroy that so that India could then have a lot of opium fields so she could do that… which China could then smoke to death under the watch of British Gunships. “Free Trade” demanded it so.
Let’s look at another example: Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection
A Not-too-Natural Selection
Darwin’s theory published in his Origins of Species (1859) was based on the assumption that all changes in the biosphere are driven by “laws” of “survival of the fittest” within an assumed closed ecosystem of diminishing returns. Just as Smith asserted that an “invisible hand” brought creative order to the chaos of unregulated vice and self-interest, Darwin asserted that creative order on the large scale evolution of species could be explained by chaotic mutations on the micro level beyond a wall that no power of reason, free will or God could pass (2).
Did Charles Darwin believe his system? Probably.
But how about Thomas Huxley (aka: “Darwin’s Bulldog”) whose efforts to destroy all competing theories which included “purpose”, “meaning”, or “design” were crushed and ridiculed into obscurity? Huxley himself was on record saying he did not believe in Darwin’s system. So why was this theory promoted by forces (like Huxley’s X Club) who recognized its many flaws? Well, here again it helps to refer to Darwin’s own account of his discovery from his autobiography where he wrote:
“In October 1838, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on, from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result would be the formation of a new species. Here then, I had at last got a theory by which to work”.
Malthus’s ‘Dismal Science’
And here we have it! Reverend Thomas Malthus (the cold hearted “Man of God” who taught economics at the British East India Company’s Haileybury College) provided the very foundation upon which Darwin’s system stood! Thomas Huxley and the other “high priests” of Huxley’s X Club were always Malthusian (even before there was Malthus) since empires have always been more focused on monopolizing the finite resources of an age, rather than encouraging creative discoveries and new inventions which would bring new resources into being- overcoming nature’s “limits to growth” (a dis-equilibrium not to be tolerated). Whether Malthus actually believed in the system which bears his name, as generations of his adherents sincerely do, remains to be seen. However his own awareness of the needed extermination of the “unfit” by the Ubermenschen of the British Aristocracy preceded Social Darwinism by a full century when he coldly called for the encouragement of the plague and other “natural forms of destruction” to cull the herd of the unfit in his Essay on the Principle of Population (1799):
“We should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague.”
A little later, Malthus even argued for the early extermination of poor babies who were of low value to society when he said:
“I should propose a regulation to be made, declaring that no child born from any marriage taking place after the expiration of a year from the date of the law, and no illegitimate child born two years from the same date, should ever be entitled to parish assistance… The infant is, comparatively speaking, of little value to society, as others will immediately supply its place.”
The neo-Malthusian revivalists such as Princes Bernhardt, Philip Mountbatten and Huxley’s own grandson Sir Julian who birthed the misanthropic deformity today called the Green New Deal were not ignorant to this tradition. The disastrous effect of this worldview upon races deemed “unfit” in the global south should also not be ignored. It is no coincidence that those three neo-Malthusian oligarchs founded the World Wildlife Fund, 1001 Nature Trust and Club of Rome which imposed a technological apartheid upon the third world over the bodies of countless statesmen during the Cold War.
The Danger of Creative Thought to an Empire
Encouraging creative thought and cooperation among diverse nations, linguistic, religious and ethnic groups tends to result in new uncontrolled systems of potential as humanity increases its capacity to sustain itself while imperial systems lose their ability to parasitically drain their host. In Lincoln’s great 1859 speech, the martyred leader stood up against this Malthusian paradigm endemic of the British Empire when he said: “All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner. The whole earth, and all within it, upon it, and round about it, including himself, in his physical, moral, and intellectual nature, and his susceptibilities, are the infinitely various “leads” from which, man, from the first, was to dig out his destiny… Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions.”
Lincoln’s economic commitments to protective tariffs, state credit (greenbacks) and internal improvements are inextricably linked to this view of man also shared by the earlier Ben Franklin.
Today, the positive paradigm which Lincoln died to defend is most clearly represented by the leaders of such nations as Russia and China- both of whom have come out repeatedly attacking the post-truth neo-liberal order and also the win-lose philosophy of Hobbesian geopolitics (3). The folly of America’s new dance with impeachment and the neocon hand shaping Trump’s disastrous foreign policy agenda is tied to the oligarchy’s absolute fear of losing America to a new Eurasian partnership which Trump has promoted repeatedly since entering office in 2017.
Xi Jinping and Putin have not only responded to this obsolete system by creating an alternative system of win-win cooperation driven by unbounded scientific and technological progress but they have also managed to expose the Achilles heal of the empire. These statesmen have demonstrated a clear recognition that those ideologies ranging from neo-liberalism to neo-conservativism are entirely unsustainable, and defeatable (but not militarily). Xi expressed this insight most clearly during his recent trip to Greece.
Even though leaders like Putin and Xi understand this, citizens of the west will continue to be woefully unequipped to either make sense of these chaotic systems of belief, extract them from their own hearts if they are so contaminated or resist them effectively, without understanding that those who fabricated and manage these belief structures never truly believed in them.
Neoconservative founding fathers such as Leo Strauss, Sir Henry Kissinger and Sir Bernard Lewis absolutely never believed in the ideologies their cultish golems like Bolton, Cheney or Kristol have adhered to so religiously. Their belief was only that the sum-of-parts called humanity must ultimately be governed by a Hobbesian Leviathan (aka: a new globalized Roman Empire), and that Leviathan could only be created in response to an intolerably painful period of chaos which their twisted tooth fairies would usher into this world.