Work and Days

Not With a Bang

How Will the War End?

There is only one of two ways that America’s role in the Iraq war will come to an end. Either Lt. Colonels and Full Colonels in Iraq—who best feel the daily pulse of the battlefield—will report through their superiors to Gen. Petraeus that they cannot stabilize the country, or at least cannot do so at a price in lives and treasure worth the effort. Petraeus, being intellectually honest, would then report that to the President and Congress.

Or, enough moderate Republicans at roughly the same time would fear running on a platform in fall 2008 perceived as supporting the Iraq war, and thus a year in advance (i.e., this fall) would join an anti-war Democratic Party to provide a veto- and filibuster-proof Congress. That coalescence would shut down the funding in the manner of 1974-5. I don’t see the former happening, but am not sure about the latter.

Moral Equivalence to the Nth

I gave a lecture and moderated a panel at a prominent graduate school of business yesterday. It was a reunion of MBA execs now in their 50s and 60s at the pinnacle of their globalized success. I add this experience as well to recent talks with quite wealthy international bankers, insurance people, and general CEOs of all nationalities.


After exchanges with some of the most successful on the panel and some in small talks later on, I was reminded that the ultimate logic of globalized business is simply profit, period—but with a postmodern twist.

From that notion all politically-correct logic follows. Thus came criticism of Israel for having the bomb while Iran didn’t. Criticism for America’s preeminent role in the world as haughty. No sense that perhaps China and others might play hardball in foreign affairs as well. No admission of European culpability in selling Iran and anyone else anything they wished. No worry that the UN’s human rights committees are inhuman. But plenty of worry that we had demonized Islamists.

And the most disturbing thing about all this was that such business realpolitik was cloaked under the therapeutic veneer of “the world is flat” thinking: A disappearance of borders; a new “paradigm” brought on by the radically unifying Internet; a necessary increase in the power of the UN.

Nowhere in these recent encounters with execs, both formal and informal, was there any appreciation of the exceptionalism of the United States Constitution, the inability of the UN or the EU to stand up to real evil in the world, the notion that the greatest violator of international accords were China (patents, copyright, etc), the fumes of the Soviet Union (attacks on dissidents at home and worldwide), Mexico (a policy of sending millions across the border of its neighbor in violation of sovereignty), the Middle East petro-nexus, etc. Instead, I heard Kerryisms ad nauseam: we are arrogant, we are not liked abroad, we must listen to (fill in the large blank), we are doing everything wrong, China will soon pass us (make the necessary adjustments therefore)…

The Rant Goes On…

I could go on–and will. One does not have to embrace Buchananism, to see that a growing challenge in this century will be the smiley international corporation, not in the sense of a handle-bar moustache and black-hat villain stealing third-world resources, but with the face of Birkenstocks, polo shirts, and an I-pod, run by the man who believes in no affiliation other than as an alumnus donor to his business school, has no moral principle, has no knowledge or sense of history, much less the tragedy of history, no real anger, no real enthusiasm other than for a new angle globalized to the nth degree—and who is pledged to nothing other than the notion of profit and the dangers to globalized profit that are posed by those who stand for ideas and values which get in the way of Kumbaya hedge funds and tranbordered consortia.

So the old rapacious Kurtz who sought to exploit the resources of the Heart of Darkness is now to be replaced by the hip, aging yuppie, who sees the gym in a Shanghai luxury hotel, the spa in Barcelona, the veranda on Mykonos, and the board room in London as essentially the same new world culture.

Right-wing, illiberal, and dangerous Kassandras supposedly threaten to overturn this mega-profit world by shrilling warning that Iran would nuke Israel, that Russia might blackmail energy-hungry Europe, that Mexico should not cynically export human capital, that the United States should keep insisting that others follow international agreements. How messy, how untidy, how mean are those who rain on my global parade.

A Pleas for CEOs to Read History

Give these new globe-trotting capitalist hipsters a new more efficient pump and they claim they have reinvented water itself. What comes out of the ground, thanks to their genius, at 1000 gallons a minute surely cannot be the same that used to come out at 10.

I support globalization, and see that at its essence it is Westernization, and that bright people make the world better by allowing an exhange of ideas and life-saving appurtenances. But I want no part of the necessary globalized CEO, who believes in nothing, says nothing, knows nothing other than a sort of adolescent watered-down Gorism. Every MBA program should have one, just one introductory class in Western Civ to introduce to these historically illiterate that the basis for their present globalized system was the West, so that they might not so often preen that it was cobbled together from the Middle East, the Orient, Africa, in some sort of alaphabet soup concoction. And if global warming is a ‘must’ concern, then please, a commensurate class on the carbon footprints of Citations and Gulfstreams.

The Left rails about Enron and Halliburton and Blackwater; but their sins are at least identifiable and thus monitored and correctable. These new avatars of ‘can’t we all get along while I get fabulously rich’ are more insidious and ultimately the real amoralists of this new century. Global warming and not overreacting to somebody with a suicide vest are their Mark and Luke.

With a Whimper

The world as I knew it in southern Fresno County will end not with a bang, but with a smile and a blackberry.