Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reputation in a National Crisis

As we now know, within hours after realizing that the terrorists had attacked the country on 9-11, elements in the Bush Administration were gleefully rubbing their hands whispering to each other, "We can use this."

To give them the benefit of the doubt, they had a noble cause. Their plan was to attack Iraq, be welcomed as liberators, and establish a democracy. Within months Iraq would be a happy and prosperous country. Using it as a role model, a wave of democratic reform would sweep across the Middle East, replacing kingdoms with parliaments. Free-market democracies, as we know, do not attack other free-market democracies (because it is bad for business), so we usher in a new era of peace.

A more sinister view has them using the invasion of Iraq as a way of getting tens (hundreds) of billions of dollars into the bank accounts of prominent Republican supporters through no-bid contracts to rebuild the country of Iraq.

Either way, the Bush Administration betrayed a willingness to exploit a crisis – to see it as an opportunity to exploit a national emergency in order to push through something that they want or that benefits their supporters.

Which makes one wonder.

How are they planning to use the current meltdown in the financial markets?

So far, the Bush Administration's proposal has been quite simple. "Give us $700 billion dollars and the authority to do whatever we want with it." This is quite similar to what the Bush Administration asked for in the wake of 9-11. "Give us the authority to attack whomever we want to attack." In the case of 9-11, the Administration got what it asked for (or, at least, a resolution that it could interpret as giving it that authority). In the case of the financial market meltdown, we have to wonder, what does the Bush Administration really plan to do with the money and the blanket authority to do whatever it pleases that it is asking for?

They tell us, of course, "We must make a decision now! Today! If Congress waits, they are only making the situation worse! It is all the fault of the Democrats!" They want us to rush the decision – because, once we decide, there is no turning back.

Let me apply a little bit of desire utilitarian analysis to this situation.

Because the Bush Administration has engaged in this type of exploitation in the past, we know that it is made up of members who have no aversion to this type of behavior. We know that, in the absence of such an aversion, they are even willing to exploit an emergency such as a terrorist attack in which thousands are killed for the purpose of starting a war against somebody who had nothing at all to do with the attack. This tells us something about their moral character.

We could, perhaps, trust somebody with $700 billion and a blanket authority if they have proved themselves to be trust worthy. However, this Administration has proved that it is not trustworthy – that it has no internal regulation (known as 'moral conscience' or 'an aversion to exploiting a crisis in order to get people to do or approve of something that they would not do if they had the time to think about things carefully') that will prevent them from exploiting the fact that they had been given this money and this authority.

Because they have no aversion to engaging in this type of activity, combined with the fact that people act so as to fulfill their desires given their beliefs, implies that they have nothing to stop them from exploiting this situation the instant that they see a benefit in doing so. Indeed, we can count on them to do so because, given the fact that desires are persistent entities, we can count on them to behave in the present as they have behaved in the past.

It is relevant here to note that there is one area of exploitation that members of the Bush Administration would find particularly beneficial at this time. We are nearing an election in which Republicans are predicted not to do very well. It would certainly benefit the Republican cause if those people who support Republican candidates could suddenly find themselves with a boat load of extra money. It is reasonable to assume that, among the various ways the Treasury Department might spend its $700 billion, that there are a lot of options that will tend to dump money onto the pockets of Republican supporters, which can then go to campaign advertisements and other forms of political support.

Would the members of the Bush Administration do something like this?

This is child's play for people whose moral conscience allows them to exploit a terrorist attack against the United States for the purpose of starting a war. In fact, we would be foolish to think that this Administration lacks any of the moral qualms that might stop somebody from engaging in this type of exploitation. We would be foolish to assume, with so much at stake, that this Administration has undergone some type of moral transformation in recent years – when we have absolutely no evidence to support such a claim.

It may well be that Congress does need to act fast in this situation. It may well be the case that every day we wait implies that the country will fall into a deeper and deeper recession – maybe even a depression. It may well be that this is exactly one of those times where we need to act rather than debate an issue to death.

That means that this is one of those times in which America had been better off if it had voted for an administration that had some measure of moral conscience, and that could actually be trusted to lead the nation in a direction that benefits the nation as a whole. It may be that this is a time where we simply do not need a government of the Republican Party, by the Republican Party, and for the Republican Party.

But that is the government we have, and we cannot ignore this fact merely because we would have been better off if things had been different.

It might be useful, in a given situation, if the only person available to watch your child as you go to a job interview is not a child rapist. But that does not mean that it is wise to act as if the only person available to watch your child is not a child rapist – particularly when he has a history of convictions. You must accept the fact that he is a child rapist and act accordingly.

We must accept the fact that the Bush Administration is an administration that will exploit a national emergency for the purpose of promoting private agendas, and we must act accordingly.


Anonymous said...

"As we now know, within hours after realizing that the terrorists had attacked the country on 9-11, elements in the Bush Administration were gleefully rubbing their hands whispering to each other, "We can use this.""

Wow. Bold claim. Citation, please?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Many members of the Bush administration had sent a letter to Clinton when Clinton was president calling for an invasion of Iraq.

(See New America Century letter to Clinton)

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil reports that invading Iraq (and finding a way to justify it) was a policy objective of the Bush Administration since its first days in office.

See, for example,the testimony of former Treasury secrety Paul O'Neil.

And within days after the Taliban had been beaten in Afghanistan, Bush was meeting with his military leaders to discuss the next phase of the war, the invasion of Iraq.

(See: Washington Post Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11.)

It would be incredulous to think that within hours after 9/11, with so many people wanting to attack Iraq, that it had not yet occurred to any of them that they now had a causus bellum for launching an attack.

anton said...

And the announcer said, "Point, Set and Match! Fyfe wins the Open"

Sheldon said...

I really never had you pegged as a listener of Democracy Now! or as a reader of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, although I could be wrong. But I have to ask, did you hear this episode of the program with the interview by Naomi Klein? If not, an interesting confluence of ideas.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


No, I did not. But I have had a problem with people stealing my ideas - usually before I even get a chance to tell anybody what they are.