Presented at the tenth annual meeting of The John Randolph Club in Washington, D.C. on October 9, 1999
Normal people don’t take madmen seriously enough. This works to the advantage of the politicians â€“ an inherently insane breed â€“ and their subjects’ attitude of “they can’t be serious” allows them to sneer back “yes, we can!” â€“ usually when it is too late. And so the notions that but two generations ago would have been deemed eccentric, if not demonic, now rule the ‘mainstream.’
America’s foreign policy establishment proves the point. We could quote AlbrightÂ in extenso, but even more chilling, because more coldly coherent, are the views of her less excitable No. 2. In a recentÂ New York TimesÂ profile (Monday, September 21) Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott declared that the United States may not exist “in its current form” in the 21st century, because the very concept of nationhood â€“ here and throughout the world â€“ will have been rendered obsolete.
This must be news to those who naively assume that the purpose of foreign policy is to ensure the survival, security and prosperity of the United States within the international system, rather than its eventual absorption by the system. And please note that Talbott’s was an exultant prophecy, not an impartial analyst’s assessment. It came from the man who has defined, shaped and executed the Clinton administration’s foreign policy since the first day of this presidency. His position within the U.S. power structure is beyond doubt: this was the second in-depth feature on Talbott to be published in theÂ NYTÂ in six months.
Several months before joining the administration, while his party’s victory was still far from certain, Talbott wrote inÂ Timemagazine (July 20, 1992, “The Birth of the Global Nation”) that he is looking forward to universal government run by “one global authority”: “Here is one optimist’s reason for believing unity will prevail… within the next hundred years … nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority… A phrase briefly fashionable in the mid-20th century â€“ ‘citizen of the world’ â€“ will have assumed real meaning by the end of the 21st.”
The key ideological foundation for Talbott’s beliefs was stated bluntly: “All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary.” With this remarkable admission we are freed from the need to waste our time with the rhetoric of policy, and able to focus on its substance. To Talbott and his ilk, the United States, Serbia, East Timor, Ireland, Russia, Iran, China, Cuba… are all but transient, virtual-reality entities.
Owing allegiance to any one of them is “irrational,” and attaching one’s personal loyalty to it â€“ let alone risking one’s life for its sake â€“ is as absurd as worshipping icons, or dressing for dinner. Atavistic sentiments may have to be invoked as communication tools for the hoi polloi from the prairies that provide the cannon fodder for any given “peacekeeping” or “humanitarian” project, but this odious task is best left to the front men, such as presidents.
Like Marx’s proletarian, Talbott knows of no loyalty to a concrete country. He could serve any one or all of them if they can be turned into the tools of hisÂ Wille zur Macht. In 1792 it could have been France, in 1917 Russia.
Today the United States is the host-organism of choice for two reasons. It happens to be immensely powerful, and its political system is just as immensely susceptible to the penetration by what is a rabidly anti-traditionalist and therefore deeply anti-American world outlook and political agenda.
By treating America as an ideological concept (a “proposition nation”) Talbott and his ilk are imposing a bird’s-eye view of world affairs that makes the discussion of their policy possible only within their odd terms of reference. Try applying the traditional criteria of national interest and you’ll be labeled a Buchananite, with all the attendant “isms” that will destroy your name and career. Put on their specs and think of their project as one great moral crusade on behalf of human rights and democracy everywhere, and you’ll enter the virtual world in which all pretense to meaning is abandoned. The playful disregard for principles and order smacks of the 1960s frivolity, but comes with a big stick. The bombing of Serbian buses, hospitals, trains, and TV stations â€“ to take a recent example â€“ was a “humanitarian intervention.” The destruction of the traditional concept of sovereignty and the rule of law is a triumph of “the international community.”
That war’s chief advocates were old enemies of “the West.” Some conservatives have chortled at the ostensibleÂ volte-faceÂ of these former peaceniks but they should have grasped that, far from being an act of conversion, their war against the Serbs represented the consummation of their globalist dreams. Old systems for the protection of national liberties, legal and economic, have now been subverted into vehicles for their destruction.
On the ruins of real nations, “universal human rights” do not provide a basis for either the rule of law or morality, and that is the point. They are by definition deracinated, antithetical to the concept of national sovereignty, and demand a single global system of civil law that cannot stop short of a world government. The Serbs were a litmus test, and their collapse â€“ predictable, even unavoidable under Milosevic â€“ means that the project will march on. For that reason alone it is not just about the Balkans; but there is more. We are faced with a global problem that is a synthesis of all others, and goes beyond Culture Wars. It is the looming end of culture itself. For many millennia people lived in communities in which links were direct, and emotional. Those communities eventually merged into “society,” in which relations were measured in terms of objects, and were formalized; but the “real” human being nevertheless remained the subject of his own activity generated by his emotions and needs as a living, feeling, thinking creature.
But by the mid-20th century, when science and technology ushered in the information era and society became a vastly complex socio-technological system, from the subject of activity man was reduced to a mere element of it â€“ the ‘human factor.’ Yes, all impulses for activity still pass through the individual, but they are dictated by the System. Having been “integrated” into the network of relations as a specific reality, the man has to act in accordance with the system’s procedures. The environment, the real world outside the Beltway (or the M25, or the Boulevard Peripherique) becomes symbolic rather than substantial, the natural is squeezed out, with nature merely providing the building blocks for the artificial and relations with nature assuming a primarily functional character. Most relations between people cease to be regulated by pre- and extra-rational means â€“ by feelings, customs, faith, love, hate, considerations of good and evil, sin and punishment, beauty and ugliness. What the ruling elite would call ‘ideology,’ and what would be known as spirituality until not too many decades ago, is being substituted by ‘content,’ by information. This is why the survival of culture is uncertain.
Society’s metamorphosis into technos (or post-society, Fukuyama would call it post-history) signifies its end. With the impending revolution in genetic engineering, culture as a means for transmitting values conducive to society’s cohesion will no longer be needed. Money, success (power), and health are the only “values.” The soul, emotional experiences, personal opinions, are but burdens that distract from production or from the precise execution of instructions. Culture as a whole is a relic, too; if it is not already neutered and relegated to ‘heritage’, it is automatically designated ‘traditional’. What they sometimes call ‘the end of history,’ the transformation of society into a sociotechnological system regulated by “the market”, signifies the end of mankind’s cultural history. Will that not signify the end of mankind in general?
Yes, and it is all for the best, according to one Jon Huer who teaches sociology and philosophy at the University of Maryland; and now we come back to the Balkans. In a recent article Huer noted that the bombing by Americans and human-shielding by Serbs were symbolic of two very different worlds. The high technology “of ultimate sophistication, so logical and so rational, with little human involvement,” is countered by “the total disregard of logic and rationality.” Huer contends that this fact contrasts “two archetype societies, one future-oriented and the other past-oriented.” He claims that Americans are now entering a wholly different era of society and culture, one that the world has never seen before. It is what we might call a “Post-Human Era” where all aspects of social life are streamlined and rationalized, and all shades of human relations and nuances simplified into manageable routines and procedures.
In a Post-Human society, each individual is isolated from other individuals so that his or her self-calculation can be logically derived without distraction from other human beings. In this way, there is little energy or passion that is wasted in dealing with human relations in society, now mostly done as paperwork by paid specialists like lawyers and counselors and bureaucrats. Huer’s “historical hunch” is that “Americans are the future prototype humans, and Serbs an atavistic holdover from a bygone era” and that “it would behoove the Serbs to recognize this inevitable development of history and join up with what will be, not what was or should be.”
This gem of brutal honesty indicates why it’s not just the Balkans. We should be aware of the price of the post-human empire, and spread the word to the peoples of “the West” that need to win their countries back for the sake of their families, their neighborhoods, their schools and their eroded liberties. Unless they are educated they will not act to stop Talbott’s, Albright’s and Blair’s global dream.
The Balkans â€“ humanitarian bombings, multicultural Muslims, ‘rape camps’ and all â€“ was their exercise in counter-realism, which is the essence of post-modernism. Jamie Shea and Jamie Rubin â€“ note the use of cute diminutives in lieu of real names â€“ simply follow their peers in other genres with their exercises in unraveling meanings. On the Balkans they decisively moved beyond truth and reality, just as their more arty counterparts move beyond the limits of the aesthetic. Theirs is ‘culture’ of the artificial world, of post-historical, technological man. They are beyond conscience. The reversibility of the signifier and the signified, aggressor and victim, ethnic cleanser and ethnically cleansed, eventually eliminates the creator and, after that, the subject in general, with nothing but the subject’s ‘signature’ being left, sometimes in the form of bomb craters.
This is the culture of man that has lost his bond with nature, man that is surrounded by artificial reality, creates it himself, and is permeated with it from within. In the seamless straightjacket being tailored by America’s ruling elites this “culture” is manifested in foreign affairs in the obliteration of the ethnic identity of peoples, their special color and uniqueness, in the loss of diversity of social evolution that goes side by side with the diminishing diversity of nature.
The ideology of universal human values is promoted â€“ that is to say, of a common culture identical for the whole world. As befits the post-modern world, the proponents of politically correct “diversity” are in fact promoting its exact opposite: sociotechnological monism. They are emboldened by NATO’s bombing of the Serbs no less than by the lack of reaction to it in the heartland, and believe that the seemingly obvious futility of resistance in the Balkans will force the remaining atavistic humans everywhere to accept what they call the challenge of complexity, and merge with the post-humans through degeneration and loss of identity.
“Western” foreign policy elites, poorly educated, rootless, arrogant, cynically manipulative, and ultimately criminal â€“ smell blood, and march boldly on. But as an atavistic holdover from the human past I still refuse to believe that everything influences us while we, creatures endowed with feelings, will, and reason, influence nothing. The struggle of real people for survival and continued existence is natural, and inevitable, even if the outcome is uncertain â€“ just as the individual’s knowledge of his mortality does not stop him from holding on to life, and beauty, and truth. The strategy for survival starts with understanding that, indeed, it is not just the Balkans any more.
Srdja Trifkovic is Executive Director of theÂ Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies. He received his BA in 1977, at the University of Sussex; his BA (1987), from the University of Zagreb, and Ph.D. (1990), from the University of Southampton. He was a broadcaster, producer, and news sub-editor at BBC External Services, London, 1980-86, and then went to work for the Voice of America, and was also South-East Europe correspondent for theÂ US News & World Report. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution & Peace, in Stanford, California, 1991-2.