PVE (preventing violent extremism) , then, is first and foremost a narrative device: a tool used, largely unconsciously, to inject fresh legitimacy into a war on terror that by 2008 had fallen into disrepute. More specifically, PVE appears to dampen the queasiness felt at pursuing a course of action that quite obviously conflicts with Western liberal values, wrapping hard-edged counterterrorism in gentle language. In that sense, it renovates a long-held tradition.
Indeed, the roots of PVE and the broader war on terror date back to a centuries-old tendency among most societies—Western and non-Western alike—to forge their identities in an almost perpetual state of conflict, aiming to control resources or counter rivals. Such war footing demands a positive, legitimating narrative—an understanding that we fight to reclaim, defend, pacify, stabilise, illuminate and liberate. Rarely do eradication and predation announce themselves unabashedly. Rather, virtually all forms of conquest and colonisation hinge on the notion of an enemy to defeat and, alongside it, a population begging for deliverance…
Today, it is difficult to pin down even the healthy pretense of moral standards in Western foreign policy. Barack Obama, his motto of restraint notwithstanding, presided over not only the vast expansion of borderless warfare via killer drones, but also the redeployment of all-out aerial campaigns that have destroyed entire cities in Syria and Iraq. In the meantime, America and its allies have lied shamelessly about civilian casualties, thus denying victims even meager compensation; slammed shut their borders to refugees, and been complicit in the latter’s forced return to warzones; and broadcast almost satirically poisonous, jingoistic narratives regarding the “enemy.” In other words, Western societies have not only ceased to exert meaningful pressure on abusive regimes abroad—they have also, increasingly, emulated some of these regimes’ worst practices.
– From: The West’s War on Itself
The political space I inhabit isn’t very popular because it fails to make anyone particularly happy. Although I’m stridently against the U.S. status quo and its predatory and corrupt paradigm, I do not embrace Donald Trump’s vision. At the same time, I won’t allow my distaste for him to propel me into the duplicitous and toxic arms of a dishonest resistance movement manufactured and led by the corporate media, intelligence agencies and hack politicians.
There are all sorts of important critiques of the Trump administration that aren’t seeing the light of day because “the resistance” insists on diverting all our collective energy to Russiagate. While the hordes of people buying into this nonsense are being ruthlessly manipulated, the manipulators know exactly what they’e doing.
Blaming Russia for all the nation’s problems serves several key purposes for various defenders of the status quo. For discredited neocons and neoliberals who never met a failed war based on lies they didn’t support, it provides an opportunity to rehabilitate their torched reputations by masquerading as fierce patriots against the latest existential enemy. Similarly, for those who lived in denial about who Obama really was for eight years, latching on to the Russia narrative allows them to reassure themselves that everything really was fine before Trump and Russia came along and ruined the party.
By throwing every problem in Putin’s lap, the entrenched bipartisan status quo can tell themselves (and everybody else) that it wasn’t really them and their policies that voters rejected in 2016, rather, the American public was tricked by cunning, nefarious Russians. Ridiculous for sure, but never underestimate the instinctive human desire to deny accountability for one’s own failures. It’s always easier to blame than to accept responsibility.
That said, there’s a much bigger game afoot beyond the motivations of individuals looking to save face. The main reason much of the highest echelons of American power are united against Trump has nothing to do with his actual policies. Instead, they’re terrified that — unlike Obama — he’s a really bad salesman for empire. This sort of Presidential instability threatens the continuance of their well oiled and exceedingly corrupt gravy train. Hillary Clinton was a sure thing, Donald Trump remains an unpredictable wildcard.
I recently came across a fantastic article titled The West’s War on Itself, which I highly recommend everyone read it. It helps put into context much about the current position the American empire finds itself in, and shines a light on the origins of our dysfunctional and increasingly insane national political dialogue. The authors use the term PVE (preventing violent extremism) throughout, which is described in the following manner:
PVE, then, is first and foremost a narrative device: a tool used, largely unconsciously, to inject fresh legitimacy into a war on terror that by 2008 had fallen into disrepute. More specifically, PVE appears to dampen the queasiness felt at pursuing a course of action that quite obviously conflicts with Western liberal values, wrapping hard-edged counterterrorism in gentle language. In that sense, it renovates a long-held tradition.
In other words, it’s just a linguistic way to justify policies of imperial aggression abroad using palatable terminology. The authors go on to note:
Indeed, the roots of PVE and the broader war on terror date back to a centuries-old tendency among most societies—Western and non-Western alike—to forge their identities in an almost perpetual state of conflict, aiming to control resources or counter rivals. Such war footing demands a positive, legitimating narrative—an understanding that we fight to reclaim, defend, pacify, stabilise, illuminate and liberate. Rarely do eradication and predation announce themselves unabashedly. Rather, virtually all forms of conquest and colonisation hinge on the notion of an enemy to defeat and, alongside it, a population begging for deliverance.
This is precisely why the powers that be in the U.S. are always trying to sell the public on a new enemy. The 21st century alone has seen us seamlessly transition from being terrified of al-Qaeda to ISIS, and now Russia, in less than two decades. Such external enemies are needed in order to justify the overseas military action required to hold together an increasingly shaky global empire. Same as it ever was.
The article goes on to explain why Obama was the perfect salesman for U.S. imperial ambitions.
In the Western sphere, the war on terror originally was associated with the conservative right-wing. That linkage crystallised throughout the half-decade following the 11 September 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on US soil, as self-identifying liberals came to identify the war on terror with President George W. Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, and with a host of practices deemed antithetical to Western values, including ramped up domestic surveillance, torture euphemistically dubbed “enhanced interrogation,” extrajudicial killings and “extraordinary renditions” (that is, outsourcing the interrogation of terror suspects to cooperative authoritarian regimes).
So intense was the backlash that Americans, in 2008, turned to a presidential candidate explicitly framing himself as the liberal antithesis to Bush’s approach: Barack Obama was expected to wind down the wars and generally rein in the illiberal excesses of the preceding era. The rest of the Western sphere, which had almost universally come to decry the war on terror as undermining global stability, acclaimed a leader poised to redress that legacy.
It is striking, therefore, that by the end of President Obama’s second term, the war on terror was alive and well. The US remained engaged in a series of shadowy wars across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, albeit with Bush’s predilection for regime change swapped out for a deepening reliance on airstrikes and killer drones. Most other Western governments either joined in or, in the case of France, took the lead in military operations of their own. To paper over their interventions’ obvious shortcomings, all chimed in around a growing rhetorical emphasis on redressing “root causes” of extremism. In sum, the fundamental contours of a timeless, borderless military conflict endured, but received an eight-year makeover salving uneasy Western consciences.
Obama said all the right things while methodically doing the bidding of oligarchy. He captured the imagination of millions, if not billions, around the world with his soaring rhetoric, yet rarely skipped a beat when it came to the advancement of imperial policies. He made bailing out Wall Street, droning civilians and cracking down on journalists seem progressive. He said one thing, did another, and people ate it up. This is an extraordinarily valuable quality when it comes to a vicious and unelected deep state that wants to keep a corrupt empire together.
Trump has the exact opposite effect. Sure, he also frequently says one thing and then does another, but he doesn’t provide the same feel good quality to empire that Obama did. He’s simply not the warm and fuzzy salesman for oligarchy and empire Obama was, thus his inability to sugarcoat state-sanctioned murder forces a lot of people to confront the uncomfortable hypocrisies in our society that many would prefer not to admit.
Here it bears noting that the “West” is a relatively recent, highly ideological and generally ambiguous construct. The concept revolves around a similarly loose value-system broadly qualified as “liberal,” which combines representative government, rule of law, individual liberties, private property, free commerce and regulatory states—albeit with national and partisan varieties. The liberal worldview is inherently elastic, prone to a host of discrepancies and double-standards—not least when it comes to international affairs. Liberalism has frequently been invoked, for example, to justify violence in one place while denouncing precisely the same violence elsewhere.
The notion of liberalism has nonetheless proved profoundly structuring in how “Western” countries conceive of themselves, organise internally, interact with the rest of the world, and are intellectualised by their counterparts. Indeed, these concepts underpin an expansive set of international norms consecrated by the UN, even though such norms are often implemented selectively. In other words, the liberal agenda is as influential as it is aspirational—a symbolic lynchpin in the edifice of Western identity, all the more vital given its inconsistency.
Bush-era foreign policy pushed this tension to breaking point, as the US and various allies increasingly flouted core tenets of precisely the liberal order they purported to uphold. This dynamic was all the more uncomfortable for the blatant reality that the war on terror had incurred immense financial, human and reputational costs, without approaching anything like victory.
At first, Obama—the youthful, cosmopolitan president with a message of humility and restraint—stepped in to right this wrong. He withdrew troops from Iraq, downsized the mission in Afghanistan, and scaled back—though never closed—the infamous penitentiary of Guantanamo. Yet Obama and his advisors, along with defense and intelligence careerists, invested in the lingering, politically-supercharged spectre of Jihadism, all but guaranteeing that the war on terror would endure and evolve.
Obama allowed oligarchy and empire to expand and flourish with little-to-no resistance from the segments of society that would typically push back against such polices. So-called “liberals” failed to live up to their self-professed values so long as Obama was President, thus exposing themselves as frauds in the process. This resulted in widespread disillusionment across large swaths of the U.S. populace, and ultimately led to a resounding rejection of the status quo preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton. Some went for Trump, others went for Bernie Sanders, but the key message is enough people were sick and disgusted of business as usual to swing the election. Russia didn’t do that, the U.S. establishment did with its destructive, corrupt and anti-human polices.
This why establishment frauds to this day can’t admit their beloved Hillary Clinton lost fair and square. Admitting this would mean accepting that they too were rejected, which would invariably lead to some unwanted introspection and a radical restructuring of domestic and foreign policy. They don’t want to do this for obvious reasons, so blaming Russia lets them absolve their own responsibility for the unfolding disaster they created. This is why neocons and neoliberals are totally united in this fraud resistance. It seems crazy on the surface, but it actually makes perfect sense. It was the short sighted policies of neocons under Bush and then neoliberals under Obama that led us directly to Trump, yet neither side will ever admit this. So they manufacture a super enemy to distract the public away from their well documented and catastrophic failures over the past two decades.
Russia’s provides the perfect scapegoat for some of history’s most corrupt, incompetent and bloodthirsty elites. Disgraced villains get to preen around like heroes as the corporate media works overtime to reinvent their tarnished images. George W. Bush becomes popular with Democrats. Trump conveniently becomes the root of all our problems, versus a mere symptom of our longstanding national decline. Tens of millions eagerly embrace a comically Orwellian “resistance” manufactured and led by intelligence agencies and corporate media talking heads. Problems remain unsolved and oligarchy continues to entrench, but this time the mask is off and establishment frauds can smell that the end is near.
As our previously slick salesman for empire kitesurfing with Richard Branson in the Caribbean, the neocon/neoliberal alliance panics that Trump can’t keep the ship afloat. They’re not worried about the wellbeing of the American public, they’re just deeply fearful that Trump threatens their imperial gravy train thanks to his uncouth demeanor. They like it when he drops bombs, they’re just concerned he’s not particularly good at selling war to the rest of the world. This fraudulent “resistance” has nothing to do with ethics or Russia and everything to do with money and power.
Same as it ever was.
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