Green Lantern Watch, Part XXIV

by John Holbo on December 5, 2006

Josh Marshall links to a Michael Novak piece in the Standard – a piece that is surely the apotheosis of Green Lantern foreign policy (well, until next week); complete with vulnerability to the hideous yellow streak that is the MSM.

It begins … horribly:

Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical. The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war.

Read those two sentence again.

Other bits (in which our author is pretending to speak in the voice of an Islamist terrorist/insurgent, but I think he’s just being bashful):

The weaker political will yielded to the stronger will …

Yet, as always, will followed storyline. First comes narrative, then the acts that give it flesh in history …

In such wars … whichever party maintains the stronger will, along the most durable storyline, always wins …

I really don’t know what to say. War is a continuation of punditry by other means? Have I got that right? It’s looking increasingly like sheer intellectual inconsistency on the part of the neocons and warbloggers that they have not marched on – and levitated by force of will – the New York Times building. What’s stopping them?

For background reading I suppose you could try Mailer’s Armies of the Night [amazon]. But, frankly, it isn’t silly enough. Looney Tunes Golden Collection (vols. 1-3) are 50% off. A very good deal. And you can get all of season 1 of Robot Chicken for an astonishing $8.99. I’ve never watched Robot Chicken. Is it funny?

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{ 62 comments }

1

Matt 12.05.06 at 10:57 am

Do you think that he even believes this? It’s so obviously crazy that one hopes not. I’d guess that the best one can hope is that what he’s thinking is something like, “well, word count met, now it’s Miller Time!” I suspect he knows it’s crazy but thinks that somehow this craziness will either send a coded message to those who need a message or else will keep the populace behind the nonsense for a bit longer. Sigh. And how could a robot chicken not be funny?

2

Steve LaBonne 12.05.06 at 11:09 am

As has often been remarked, these guys are just laying the groundwork for the inevitable Dolchstosslegende they’ll soon be promoting. Watch for it at a conservatard magazine or blog near you. And yes, I think he believes it- he’s been flagrantly insane for a hell of a long time.

3

abb1 12.05.06 at 11:10 am

Sounds like they (the neocons) are terrified that their propaganda crap might have become less effective. The answer is obvious – more fear mongering.

4

JerryHeller 12.05.06 at 11:11 am

No, Robot Chicken isnt particularly funny

5

sglover 12.05.06 at 11:17 am

On a somewhat related note, today’s Diane Rehm gasfest is about Rumsfeld’s presumed replacement, Robert Gates, and among the talkers was old David “Axis of Evil / An End to Evil” Frum himself. Frum was his usual dissembling, well-spoken ignoramus self, but it was only about halfway through the thing that a caller brought up the obvious question: Since Frum’s been spectacularly, incandescently wrong about practically everything, who the hell cares what he has to say, and why the hell does he of all people appear on the show? Sadly, everyone sidestepped this, and only responded to some other points the caller made. Civility, I guess.

6

anon 12.05.06 at 11:17 am

It’s all very Clausewitz/Nietsche, but the man does have a point that will is important if you are fighting an actual war against an enemy with a will and political goals of his own.

The WoT is very unlike that sort of war. There is no single solid enemy against whom a battle of wills is possible; there’s a series of destructive and murderous acts committed by disparate groups and individuals with loosely related motives.

7

LowLife 12.05.06 at 11:27 am

War is a continuation of punditry by other means?

That is a very good call

8

Jonathan 12.05.06 at 11:49 am

Did you and Belle ever watch Aqua Teen or Sealab 2021? I believe those were part of a general Adult Swim sale at Amazon recently and are consistently entertaining, with a high reviewability factor, higher even that Haldane’s The Last Judgment.

9

Peter 12.05.06 at 11:55 am

There is a Robot Chicken / Calvin & Hobbes parody floating around on YouTube. If other parts of the show are like that, then it sure is worth the $9. I think it is this one (blocked by websense at work). Mars is cool!

10

abb1 12.05.06 at 12:24 pm

There is no single solid enemy against whom a battle of wills is possible…

Enemy is always the same: anyone who wouldn’t submit and obey.

Project for the New American Century

A neoconservative organization supporting greater American militarization, challenging hostile governments, advancing democratic and economic freedom, and promoting American hegemony in the 21st century.

11

Uncle Kvetch 12.05.06 at 12:29 pm

Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical.

Not crazy at all–he’s just mirroring the perspective of about 80% of the American public, for whom war is something that happens on TV.

12

Mike S 12.05.06 at 12:31 pm

It also sounds like a touching made-for-TV movie, one about an impoverished high school football team, all misfits, with a blind quarterback and a one-legged place kicker, who make it all the way to the regional championship when they finally learn to believe in themselves. A key scene is Coach Novak’s motivational half-time speech in which he relates the crucial life lessons he learned while observing war from a great distance.

13

The New York City Math Teacher 12.05.06 at 12:59 pm

This smells so much like Der Untertan it’s unbelieveable.

Roger Chickering wrote a beautiful book about 20 years ago entitled We Men Who Feel Most German: A Cultural Study of the Pan German League about the genesis and development of the chickenhawk, rumptious-bumptious thwarted angry white men of Wilhelmine Germany.

The sub-cultural parallels are nearly seamless, once adjusted for 100 years of historical and cultural development. And you gotta read chapter four, about the gatherings of local, regional, and national groups. It’s like pajamas media with the serial numbers filed off and “cat” written over in crayon.

Too bad the book so out of print you never see it on abebooks (let alone amazon). But I checked, and NUS library has a copy>/a>

14

Consumatopia 12.05.06 at 1:19 pm

Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical. The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war.

Following this logic to it’s conclusion, what success has America had in dominating the way Iraqis imagine and think about the war? I think it’s actually true that war is more political, psychological (or rather sociological) than military–the insanity is in thinking that this psychological war was lost over here rather than over there. That’s true in both Iraq and Vietnam–the American people lost faith in both of those ventures because both of those efforts turned out to be absolutely hopeless.

I suppose that it’s theoretically possible that the media could sap the public’s willingness to fight a winnable war that should be fought, especially if we lived under a parliamentary system, but there simply hasn’t been any instances of that actually happening to America–we tend to err on the side of optimism, sometimes tragically so.

15

Russell Arben Fox 12.05.06 at 1:31 pm

Steve,

I worked with Michael Novak years ago, when he was writing his book On Two Wings and workshopping some of it at Catholic University. this was back around 2000. He wasn’t, I think, “flagrantly insane” then. Wrong, and obsessive in his wrongness, but not insane. (Though I wish I could have known more about his, er, interesting ideological history–which Damon Linker dug up for his book on the theocons–back then.) His craziness has increased since then. Call him another victim of 9/11, or something.

I’ve fallen in love with Mailer’s The Armies of the Night, by the way. Brilliant stuff. Mailer’s account of his own failed attempt to establish some rapport with Noam Chomsky while they shared a jail cell is unintentionally hilarious.

16

SamChevre 12.05.06 at 1:33 pm

Isn’t the purpose of war always “political, not military”?

That sounds like von Clausewitz to me–and also seems obvious. Almost no one supports “war” exclusive of the aims of a particular war. (Even if the aim is just “national prestige”–that’s a political/psychological goal.)

17

Steve LaBonne 12.05.06 at 1:44 pm

Well, Russell, maybe my standard of sanity is too demanding, but in my book a guy who evolves from a new left (figurative) bombthrower, into an ultra-Catholic theocrat who would make de Maistre proud, is in fact flagrantly insane. But perhaps that’s just me. ;)

18

Bobcat 12.05.06 at 2:04 pm

I only watched the first two episdoes of Robot Chicken; it wasn’t funny. Or at least, the funniness to crappiness ration tilts heavily in favor of crappiness (and I like Seth Green!).

19

Henry 12.05.06 at 2:23 pm

I took two grad classes and a directed reading course with Roger Chickering; he nearly got me to switch my Ph.D. to history. I’d never thought about the relationship between the Pan-Germans and the chickenhawks, but it’s surely there …

20

perianwyr 12.05.06 at 2:24 pm

Martial spirit has been a losing proposition for a very long time- but somehow, those who win like to attribute their victory to it, instead of better organization, better supply, or more focus on achievable goals.

21

Matthew Gordon 12.05.06 at 2:26 pm

The correct way to watch Robot Chicken is on YouTube. All the funniest bits are posted there, pre-screened for your enjoyment. My favorites are here and here.

22

dave heasman 12.05.06 at 2:55 pm

“Martial spirit has been a losing proposition for a very long time- but somehow, those who win like to attribute their victory to it, instead of better organization, better supply, or more focus on achievable goals.”

How true that also is for English football teams.

23

Matt 12.05.06 at 3:05 pm

Roger Chickering…Robot Chicken… it’s all geting to confusing for me. Which one can you watch on youTube?

24

Jay Conner 12.05.06 at 3:10 pm

Contemporary American philosophy develops in its comics, and I think I see it here. It grows out of 2 facts;

1. We can’t “defeat” them.

2. They can’t kick us out.

So, we redeploy to Fortresses. Our guys are no longer being killed. At the same time, we offer our protection to whomever wants it, on condition that they completely disarm, and submit to total electronic surveillance.

Enclaves of our protectees grow, attached to our Fortresses.

Meanwhile, outside, our enemies fight it out, under our constant promise to get out as soon as they stop their civil war and establish a proper unified peaceful government. Somehow, they never quite create a polity up to our standards.

Over the next 100 years, we win. Triumph of the Will.

25

Skapusniak 12.05.06 at 3:19 pm

What’s stopping them?

Probably the fact that a Feric Jaggar has yet to emerge and prove himself worthy of wielding the legendary The Great Truncheon of Held

26

dsquared 12.05.06 at 4:32 pm

Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical. The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war.

yup, “credibility”. It is the “if something is not worth doing, it has to be done at ruinous cost” theory of deterrence.

27

reuben 12.05.06 at 4:52 pm

Dave,

You may well know this already, but James Hamilton’s More than Mindgames blog is quite good on the english footballing obsession with will over tactics and technique. Well worth a visit if you don’t read it already.

He’s not posted in about a month, unfortunately, but the videos in his most recent post are worth at least four weeks’ worth of mere words.

28

kid bitzer 12.05.06 at 5:43 pm

Don’t know much about Wilhelmine Germany. (okay, match that rhyme, Sam Cooke!)

But what this reminds me of is the worst of po-mo literary theory from the 80′s and 90′s (and maybe they still do this but would they please stop?).

Instead of saying that slavery was bad and that slave-owners beat the shit out of slaves, they would say that the narrative of slavery produced problematic narrative of violence between the narratives of slave-ownership and slavehood.

There was no bubonic plague; there were thematic appropriations of the plague-trope, surfacing in medieval literature.

I never studied this crap closely. Is it all due to Lacan and his obsession with language? What was wrong with these people?

Anyhow–we got a version of it a few years ago when we were told that the Gulf War never happened, because the Gulf War was a media construct that was constructed from narratives of narrative media construction or some crap.

This is what so weird about the direction that the flight-from-reality right wing is going in–they’re getting to sound more and more like Baudrillard.

Wasn’t there a time when Novak didn’t really want to be French?

29

Grand Moff Texan 12.05.06 at 5:51 pm

Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military

Yes, and you pursue your political ends via military means, which keeps you from your political goals.

Moron.
.

30

Chris Wren 12.05.06 at 5:53 pm

Wow. Once you start believing that war is just a narrative, you’re in the same phantom zone as the “reality can be hacked – the Matrix is REAL” crowd.

31

The Cunctator 12.05.06 at 5:58 pm

This is all Baudrillard’s fault. Seriously.

On the Gulf War.

Damn semioticians.

32

john 12.05.06 at 6:05 pm

Obviously the George Bush and the neocons “will” was insufficient to dominate the country ideologically, so by his standards, the whole thing is their fault anyway.

When people talk about will, it means they have nothing to say. He sounds like a pro athlete. “We didn’t want it enough…” etc. No dumbshit, there are actions and there are consequences and how you deal with each determines success. Using “will” as some catch all means you have no argument and are attempting to evade responsibilty by shoving it off on some unmeasureable thing you get to define.

Besides why should the American people throw good “will” into a bad situation? Maybe there is a finite amount of “will”. Sounds like an Heritage Foundation paper is in there somewhere. Like “How many stabs in the back does it take to kill a nation’s will?”

33

Ed H. 12.05.06 at 6:23 pm

I’m glad that the purpose of war isn’t physical, and that dominating the way I think about the war is more important than the war. I’m thinking about a non-physical way that pundit idiots can be dominated as they think about the war psychologically. In sharply political terms, I’m thinking about the non-physicality of the domination of the war. I’m glad the purpose of the war is to dominate the way the enemy thinks about the non-physicality of the way the enemy thinks and imagines about the war. The main purpose of the sharply political non-physicality of the war is to dominate the way the enemy thinks and imagines about the war instead of thinking and imagining about the war psychologically to dominate the way the enemy thinks about the war.

In sharply political terms, of course.

And by the way, Robot Chicken is often funny as hell.

34

nickpdx 12.05.06 at 6:28 pm

Robot Chickin is frickin HILARIOUS. The only thing preventing anyone from finding it so is lack of will to comprehend the funny.

35

Septentrionalis 12.05.06 at 6:36 pm

Thank you for The Men who Felt Most German; it sounds very like a more accessible portrait: Gerda in Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, who felt she was owed everything because she was German.

36

flavor13 12.05.06 at 6:40 pm

The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war.

By “the enemy” he is obviously referring to the American public.

37

tikistitch 12.05.06 at 7:00 pm

Do you find humor in the premise of ethnic cleansing perpetuated by Care Bears? If so, then Robot Chicken is da sh*t. Otherwise, well, I’m sorry.

38

Jason 12.05.06 at 7:09 pm

Robot Chicken is hilarious. But you have to have a bit of ADD and an already plenty addled mind to think that.

And I still think “Green Lantern Foreign Policy” is one of the funniest phrases ever coined in the blogosphereistan.

39

edub 12.05.06 at 7:28 pm

Contemporary American philosophy develops in its comics, and I think I see it here. It grows out of 2 facts;

1. We can’t “defeat” them.

2. They can’t kick us out.

So, we redeploy to Fortresses. Our guys are no longer being killed. At the same time, we offer our protection to whomever wants it, on condition that they completely disarm, and submit to total electronic surveillance.

Enclaves of our protectees grow, attached to our Fortresses. . .

Over the next 100 years, we win. Triumph of the Will.

Or, Triumph of the Undead. This sounds like an early draft of Max Brooks’s World War Z more than anything else.

40

The Oracle 12.05.06 at 8:19 pm

I believe the sequel to Robot Chicken is called (drum roll please)…Robot Chickenhawk.

“A stirring tale of all the Robot Chickenhawks, sitting at their computer in their mom’s basement, munching on Cheetos, and fighting the “spin” war over here so they wouldn’t feel compelled to enlist and fight for their Glorious Leader in the war over there.”

41

sara 12.05.06 at 8:36 pm

But what this reminds me of is the worst of po-mo literary theory from the 80’s and 90’s (and maybe they still do this but would they please stop?).

They haven’t stopped, but in historical studies the fad for this is waning. Not least because such studies made good fodder for Right-Wing Reverse Engineering.

The left-wing academic jargon merely signifies: None of this is true, but we will tell you, in clunking analytic terminology, just why the Germans [British, etcetera] believed in their Will.

The right-wingers reverse-engineer their propaganda from analyses of this sort, not least because it points them to the original sources, in very old books. Somewhere in the depths of the Heritage Foundation, the interns are kept busy trawling through Postcolonial Studies and Queer Studies to reverse-engineer paeans to colonial domination and nineteenth-century Anglo-American manliness.

42

Liberty 12.05.06 at 8:40 pm

The offshore drilling bill is S 3711

Please find and contact your Senator via internet right now at:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

to insist that the Gulf of Mexico NOT be allowed to be turned into the next Prince William Sound disaster or worse, thus insuring yet another ecological horrorshow requiring billions more in cleanup funds, and insuring yet another 25 year setback in our efforts to undo the global mess directly created by the oil interests in their single-minded pursuit of short-term profits for themselves, which they place above all other values.

This money should and must instead immediately be going to fund the critically essential near-term development, rollout, and implementation of clean safe renewable sustainable independent American energy. That programme has been deliberately ignored, actively suppressed, and effectively thwarted for the past 50 years, which is why we are now suffering the consequences of a dead-end petrochemical/nuclear paradigm and nightmare. More of the same will get us more of the same.
It is 50 years past time to go solar/wind/geothermal/tidal/hydrogen/cogeneration/conservation/zeropoint/other clean alternatives, and develop real mass transit, real clean car, and other real environmentally sane, sensible and sustainable energy directions for the future of our nation and of our world. Thank You.

43

jackmac 12.05.06 at 8:50 pm

Ah! Looney Toons Golden Collection VOl. 1-3. Thanks for the tip. Just ordered it!! Let the neo-con bashing resume!

44

Node of Evil 12.05.06 at 9:01 pm

What’s missing from all of this is any consideration of what the Iraqis want. I bring this up because it was a major argument leading into the war — that the Iraqis wanted us to oust Saddam Hussein. It has become obvious that our presence there is no longer desired, so now the big question is what is this war of wills really about? Is it about the U.S. vs. the various militias, or is it about the U.S. vs. the the Iraqi people? If they don’t want us there, then whose will is fighting against whose? This has morphed into a colonial exercise of European proportions. I suppose we didn’t learn by example, so now we’ll have to learn by experience.

45

urbannomad2006 12.05.06 at 9:07 pm

These people are getting increasingly hilarious in their desperation. Someone should write a book about this era of belligerent chickenhawks who are willing to fight to last man to impose their necon idealogy on the world. Just so long as it is the other man doing the dying. They will happily provide the inspriration & intellectual fervor from their basements in from of the computers. I am sure there is enough materials and a market out there for such book.

46

bemused 12.05.06 at 9:07 pm

I had the privilege (?) of taking “Belief and Unbelief” from Novak as a Stanford undergrad in 1967. He spent a non-trivial amount of time describing how worried he was about his dossier at the FBI due to his anti-war activities.

47

Schwaumlaut 12.05.06 at 9:09 pm

I would like to recommend Robot Chicken’s sketch “The Darkest Television Sketch… EVER!”

48

MrBlifil 12.05.06 at 9:41 pm

I’m only commenting because I had my first exposure to Robot Chicken today. It involved Transformer style toys and monsters engaging in a break dance “cutting match.” I laughed. It was rather ingenious, and quite a technical achievement to essentially rotoscope a stop motion animation to match break dance footage.

49

Fledermaus 12.05.06 at 10:05 pm

Shorter Michael Novak: “You know, Leni Reifenstahl was really on to something”

50

kei to yuri 12.05.06 at 10:10 pm

This is perhaps the most perfect textbook example of a pencil-necked deskbound warmongerer who does not know what he is talking about cheering on mass murder with inarguable pedantry ever to be found in the non-truck tubes.

51

r€nato 12.05.06 at 10:41 pm

Robot Chicken IS funny… and in those rare cases it’s not, the skits usually last 30 seconds or less… so there’ll be something funny soon!

52

DrBB 12.05.06 at 11:32 pm

Ah! Looney Toons Golden Collection VOl. 1-3. Thanks for the tip. Just ordered it!! Let the neo-con bashing resume!

Does it include the non-bowdlerized version of “I’m the roughest-toughest, he-man stuffest hombre as ever crossed the Rio Grandi. An I don’t mean Mahatma Ghandi”? Because “An I ain’t no namby-pamby” is an insult to all thinking persons.

And yes, I do think the abuse to which golden-age Warner Bros. cartoons have been put over the last 20 years is a much more significant topic than the scribblings of former lefty Novak. Let’s talk about that instead for a while.

Thanks for Robot Chicken, too. The Star Wars one had me straining my hernia.

53

Phoenician in a time of Romans 12.06.06 at 12:11 am

Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical. The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war.

Well, by that standard, Al Qaeda has won decisively over America. Well done, Osama.

54

bo 12.06.06 at 12:36 am

Miller time? With Novak, it’s Zell Miller time, all the time. What this country needs is more extra large butterflynets so the rational folk can capture the whackius novakii and put them in a nice safe place where they are no longer a danger to the rest of us.

55

baikonur 12.06.06 at 6:33 am

Michael Novak? He of “The Experience of Nothingness” fame (about 1971, I believe)? Whatever happened to fear and trembling and spiritual anguish? Guess it’s tiresome to stand around acting weak and helpless — more fun pretending to be a Wallenstein tromping down your religious enemies.

56

NBarnes 12.06.06 at 7:07 am

“Green Lantern Foreign Policy” sounds like a Robot Chicken sketch. A good one. Hal and Guy running as opposing candidates for high office, maybe Sinestro as a third party candidate….

57

John Holbo 12.06.06 at 7:27 am

I trust you didn’t miss my Guy Gardner Week photoshop efforts, nbarnes? It was just last week or so. You can check the archives.

58

ron 12.06.06 at 10:01 am

robot chicken is a highly compressed form of SNL. Instead of 5 minutes of painful unfunniness, the skits only last 10-30 seconds. and like SNL, there are the rare occasions of genuinely clever and funny moments but you’ll have to sit through lots of crap to get to them.

follow the advice above and watch the good stuff on youtube.

The weakly standard is far better comedy writing than either robot chicken or SNL. for their best stuff I recommend reading issues from a year or more ago. fricken heelarious.

59

flint 12.06.06 at 10:39 am

Enclaves of our protectees grow, attached to our Fortresses. . .

Over the next 100 years, we win. Triumph of the Will.

Or, Triumph of the Undead. This sounds like an early draft of Max Brooks’s World War Z more than anything else.

Max Brooks or Mel Brooks?

This discussion of Fortresses suddenly reminds me of ZARDOZ!

Warning! You are approaching the Periphery Sheild
of the Green Zone!

60

feckless 12.06.06 at 12:06 pm

Only in a world where a soviet “expert” like Condi Rice (who was completely wrong pre 1989 about Russia’s future) becomes secretary of state, could a fucktard like Novak claim that the soviet union fell because of “lack of will”. What an uninformed maroon.

I am willing to guess that Mr. “inside mind of the islamofascist” Novak has no academic or professional credentials in the ME, speaks neither Arabic, Pashtu or Farsi. But like others who were wrong, he is still a fuckin pundit.

DRAFT ALL THESE BASTARDS.

61

Darren7160 12.06.06 at 6:23 pm

Someone really needed to sit Rumsfeld and his AEI/PNAC cronies down before the war and explained all this to them… Wait, they did! Those damn liberals in the State Dept. and those “no nothing” Iraqis who were part of the Chalabi clique.

Everyone tried to explain to them that defeating the Iraiq military on the battlefield wasn’t the issue… that was a no brainer. The extra troops were needed to provide security and safety to the Iraqi people after the war. A chance to enforce the rule of LAW and TALK.

Instead, Rumsfled and his buddies believed, really believed that wars were ultimately won by defeating the enemy on the battlefield… and we would be welcomed with open arms… because EVERYONE treasues the values of AEI and PNAC more than nationalism, religous differences or the opportunity to gain power throught the use of force.

62

DonBoy 12.08.06 at 12:19 am

Robot Chicken is hilarious. But you have to have a bit of ADD and an already plenty addled mind to think that.

Is this punditspeak for “watch it stoned”?

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