"What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven." ~ Friedrich Hoelderlin
Resistance Is Futile, Under-People!
"Under-People" is the English translation of the German word "Untermenschen," made famous by Hitler in Mein Kampf. And of course, if you've got Untermenschen, you've got to have Ubermenschen, too. At least in fantasy.
And fantasy indeed is what we're dealing with in Thomas P.M. Barnett's book, The Pentagon's New Map: Peace and War in the Twenty-First Century. Only, the Over-People are what he calls "the Core," and the Under-People he refers to as "the Gap."
If you've watched Star Trek: the Next Generation, you'll realize the Over-People Core are the Borg, and the Under-People Gap are all those unassimilated races who puzzled the Borg Queen so much. "Why do you resist us?" she complained. "We only wish to improve the quality of your lives."
Unfortunately, her idea of an improved quality of life meant everyone belonging to a hive-mind, never questioning orders (because they couldn't, having been transmogrified into unconscious Borg drones), and engaging in an Orwellian perpetual war for perpetual peace, to protect the Borg from all those war-mongering aliens who were plotting to attack the Borg Cubes, but somehow never did, except in self-defense. Obviously, a little dab'll of pre-emptive war will do ya, not only for the Borg, but the US .
The Core refers to the West, with Japan tossed in. The Gap is what Richard Maybury calls Chaostan, that section of the world--about one-third of it--that never developed Western values. It's everything that isn't the West.
Maybury, much more realistic and clear-headed than Barnett, subscribes to the views of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington: Stay out of the world's political problems and just trade with them, understanding that only the free market will improve their lot. Barnett, an unwitting believer in the old saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," thinks we should Borgify the non-West, using the Big Giant Fist against their recalcitrant Gap heads. That'll drag them into the 20th Century, all right, he tells everyone.
He considers it bringing "freedom" to them, but I prefer the much older and wiser views of Aesop and Jesus: All tyrants call themselves benefactors.
Barnett uses non-Borgian terms, but it's still the same tune, just different lyrics. He thinks the Core should invade and conquer the Gap, and force it to conform to the West's--or rather his--values.
Barnett's ideas are what Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in Leftism Revisited, called "false but clear," like Marxism. And like Marxism, Barnett's Core/Gap ideas can be taught to a ten-year-old in about five minutes. They're about as valid as Marxism, too.
For some reason I can't quite fathom, many people fall for the simplistic view of splitting things into either good or bad, with nothing in between. Of course, they always consider themselves good (Core) and other people bad (Gap). Since they consider themselves "good," all badness must lie elsewhere, with others. Then the "bad" must be eradicated or changed. In Barnett's world, the Core must assimilate the Gap, otherwise the Gap will destroy the Core, just the way all those wogs of the galaxy (say, humans), have to be Borgified, even if it's unnecessary.
This either-good-or-bad, either Hero or Villain view of things is bad enough when an individual perceives the world that way, but it's a catastrophe when it afflicts groups. While individuals can think, groups cannot. They can only feel, and given the chance, they will invariably engage in Dionysian orgies. Watch Triumph of the Will sometime.
Of course, in Barnett's mind, the Western Core is the good group, and the Gap, populated by all the Fuzzy Wuzzes of the world, is the bad group. This is a modern-day version of Kipling's "the white man's burden," jazzed up a bit with some pop-culture terminology. It didn't work in his time, either.
Since individuals can think, but groups cannot, it is one of the reasons why Kuehnelt-Leddihn said, "'I' is from God, and 'We' is from the Devil." The hive-mind "group" is the basis of fascism in all its forms, whether you call it fascism, Communism, or Nazism.
As Mussolini wrote in 1932: "The State not only is authority which governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also power which makes its will prevail abroad . . . For the Fascist, everything is within the State and . . . neither individuals or groups are outside the State . . . . For Fascism, the State is an absolute, before which individuals or groups are only relative . . . everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State."
Barnett must have read Mussolini. I hope he has. If he has, does he think the definition of fascism does not apply to his ideas? Apparently not. He also appears to disbelieve that "War is Peace" applies to his writings. Or "Lies are Truth."
In Barnett's cheerful little fantasy, the idea of the wogs fighting back doesn't really count for very much. I suspect he's as puzzled as the Borg Queen, wondering why they don't welcome us with open arms and flowers strewn in the path of our tanks. If we have to, he tells us, we can whup 'em but good with our advanced technology. We sure whupped the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians good, to the tune of 2.5 million to three million dead. Afterward, we and our technology went home.
Perhaps Barnett is just today's version of Robert McNamara, the megalomaniacal high-IQ idiot who was the architect of the Vietnam Non-War. Only in this iteration, he wants to extend war to the entire world.
Perhaps the main problem with all empires is that they are invariably welfare/warfare. They're two sides of the same coin; the first can't exist without the second, no matter how many people would like to see the former without the latter. You can't have the fascist Borg Cube/Womb without wanting to protect it, even if the threat is non-existent.
So what we're stuck with in Barnett's confabulations is bringing welfare to the world through warfare. In essence, "We're going to kill you to save you," is what he's saying. I'm sure I'm not the only one going, "Huh?" It's exactly what people are accusing those "Islamofascists" of doing: murdering us to convert (and therefore "save") us.
Of course, we're going to kill about 10,000 of them for every one of us they kill. Not that our soldiers' deaths really count, since they're drones sacrificed for the good of the Hive. I suppose that's why George Bush pays no attention to the deaths of American soldiers. As for the "enemy," they're just Under-People, so who counts how many of them we rub out?
I have for a few years thought the main problem of the human race--the main sin, if you will--is hubris, thinking one is god-like, believing one has the power to move millions of people around like pieces on a cosmic chessboard. Barnett's book has not disabused me of that notion, only confirmed it.
Barnett obviously believes he is a prophet, maybe even a messiah. But how do you tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one? Maybe true ones don't support mass murder, destruction and theft, even if it's for the "good" of those on the receiving end. Whatever happened to "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called children of God"?
The book reminds me of Pinky and the Brain. Brain is the charismatic but slightly daft--or maybe just insane--leader who wants to conquer the world, although he never said he wanted to conquer it for its own good. Then we have Pinky, his essentially brainless follower, who worships Brain. Pinky, who in my opinion represents Mass Man, is ruled by his feelings, too.
Scary to imagine a cartoon about two escaped, mutated lab mice applies so neatly to the real world. Like Barnett, Brain is eternally optimistic, always thinking that if he didn't conquer the world today because he conked his head, well, there is always tomorrow.
Or, as it was best said by Terrill, the murderous idealist Redleg in Clint Eastwood's great The Outlaw Josey Wales: "There ain't no end to doin' right."