27 May 2008

Crowd Kristol

"Crowd crystals are the small, rigid groups of men, strictly delimited and of great constancy, which serve to precipitate crowds. Their structure is such that they can be comprehended and taken in at a glance. Their unity is more important than their size. Their role must be familiar; people must know what they are there for. Doubt about their function would render them meaningless. They should preferably always appear the same and it should be impossile to confound one with another; a uniform or a definite sphere of operation serves to promote this.

The crowd crystal is constant; it never changes its size. Its members are trained in both action and faith. They may be allotted different parts, as in an orchestra, but they must appear as a unit, and the first feeling of anyone seeing or experiencing them should be that this is a unit which will never fall apart. Their life outside the crystal does not count. ...

The clarity, isolation and constancy of the crystal form an uncanny contrast with the excited flux of the surrounding crowd. ... Whatever the nature of the crowd it gives birth to, and however much it may appear to merge with it, it never completely loses the sense of its own identity and always recombines again after the disintegration of the crowd. ...

Another astonishing thing about these crowd crystals is their historical permanence. It is true that new ones continually arise, but the old obstinately persist side by side with them. They may, for a time, withdraw into the background, lose something of their edge and cease to be indispensable; the crowds belonging to them may have died away or been completely suppressed. But, as harmless groups, without effect on the outside world, the crystals go on living on their own." Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power pp. 73-74.

This passage struck me as I read George Packer's essay, "The Fall of Conservatism," in the May 26, 2008 New Yorker.

The Project for a New American Century ("PNAC") is (was) just such a crowd crystal. Essentially, PNAC formed in the void created by the fall of the Soviet Union. The members believed America needed to project its hegemony globally. To do this, the group's imperial goals must be officially sanctioned—that is to say, it must have a government/administration that adhered to its ideology—and the country must be unified behind them. Thus, a new enemy had to be created, found, articulated—the "war" on terror, Saddam Hussein, Islamo-fascists, etc. As early as 1998, the PNAC was spoiling for further war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Their chance came after the 'election' of 2000—of course, leading one to wonder if we'll ever know the true role of Justice Anthony ("Oh, just get over it") Scalia, hunting partner of Cheney, in all this. Then, after the airline attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, with PNAC members Cheney and Rumsfeld in place, they diverted America's grief and desire for justice/revenge for this 21st Century "Pearl Harbor" to an irrelevant (and disastrous) invasion and occupation of Iraq, squandering whatever "peace dividend" we would have derived from the abatement of the Cold War (does anyone remember the remarkable economy of the 1990s?). Meanwhile, the real perpetrators of these 9/11 atrocities have yet to be brought to justice. And the U.S. economy is only just now beginning to realize how costly this Mesopotamian (mis-)adventure is. This is to say nothing of the war crimes and crimes against humanity associated with pursuing a 'war' of aggression on fraudulent pretenses.

Will the individuals who constituted this (apparently now defunct) "crowd crystal" ever be held accountable for its larcenous, murderous policies? Will it reform in a few years around a similar set of hegemonic principles, mobilize around a 'leader' who either shares its aims or is a willing dupe , and attempt (again) to bring down a U.S. President that does not share its goals?

For more information, see here and here. There's tons more info available on the web, but it appears with the abject failure of both their ideology and their political implementation they are trying to slink off unnoticed and, hopefully, unremarked.

The complete list of signatories to the various documents issued by the Project for the New American Century can be found here. Recognize any of these names?

• Elliott Abrams
• Kenneth Adelman
• Richard V. Allen
• Richard L. Armitage
• Gary Bauer
• Jeffrey Bell
• William J. Bennett
• Jeffrey Bergner
• John R. Bolton
• Ellen Bork
• Rudy Boschwitz
• John Ellis "Jeb" Bush
• Linda Chavez
• Richard B. Cheney
• Eliot Cohen
• Seth Cropsey
• Midge Decter
• Paula Dobriansky
• Thomas Donnelly
• Nicholas Eberstadt
• Steve Forbes
• Hillel Fradkin
• Aaron Friedberg
• Francis Fukuyama
• Frank Gaffney
• Jeffrey Gedmin
• Reuel Marc Gerecht
• Charles Hill
• Fred C. Ikle
• Bruce P. Jackson
• Eli S. Jacobs
• Michael Joyce
• Donald Kagan
• Robert Kagan
• Zalmay Khalilzad
• Jeane Kirkpatrick
• Charles Krauthammer
• William Kristol
• John Lehman
• I. Lewis Libby
• Tod Lindberg
• Rich Lowry
• Clifford May
• Joshua Muravchik
• Michael O'Hanlon
• Martin Peretz
• Richard Perle
• Daniel Pipes
• Norman Podhoretz
• J. Danforth Quayle
• Peter W. Rodman
• Stephen P. Rosen
• Henry S. Rowen
• Donald Rumsfeld
• Randy Scheunemann
• Gary Schmitt
• William Schneider, Jr.
• Richard H. Shultz
• Stephen J. Kantany
• Henry Sokolski
• Stephen J. Solarz
• Vin Weber
• George Weigel
• Leon Wieseltier
• Marshall Wittmann
• Paul Wolfowitz
• R. James Woolsey
• Dov Zakheim
• Robert B. Zoellick

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