Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Critique and Analysis of my 'Confronting Empire' course

The false predication divulged throughout the class of “Confronting Empire” has circulated a wide misnomer of the actual meaning of ‘empire.’ From Winthrop to Horsley, this course has brought forth a very original and confounding hypothesis which essentially suggests that America has grown into its “imperial” place in history due to the seeds of “Christianity” and its divine mission for greatness. From Chris Hedges illuminating the malignant precepts of America’s imperial condition and its addiction to war, to David Harvey demonstrating the inevitable failure of the capitalist neo-liberal policies abroad, the conclusion of this course was reached before it began. That is to say not once in this course was their ever a goal to disseminate the growing need for the US policy abroad as it stands today. An empire, by nature, suggests negative connotations where one political entity dominates another political entity; a belief I do not hold about the United States. I believe fundamentally that we are in fact a global superpower, with vast influence beyond our borders.

The moral structure of America can be traced back to when our country was first set in motion by the Puritans and the utopist ideals of John Winthrop. Yet what is the current state of affairs within America in terms of religion? While the current politicians in the White House actively seek to endorse and utilize religion as grounds for many domestic policies, I see no distinction in the framework of Bush’s foreign policies that have led me to believe we are embarking on a religious crusade in the Middle East. Even as our “national project” sets its course to determine the fate of some countries, is it not something which can be looked upon as altruistic, even if it does fail?

My own understanding of liberal values falls in accordance with where our society is currently; a free market, representative democracy, while not perfect, yet exactly what our Constitution outlined our state to become. Who and when did people decide that the American situation looked bleak? Through optimism and a restriction on laissez-faire economics, we overcame the Great Depression, which at the time was spoken about as if it was the end of our republic. Today, Harvey is espousing this same nonsense, even when our country is in the process of attaining more and more amounts of wealth and higher percentages of GDP than any other country in the world (with possible exception of China). The alternative of this national project laid forth by Barbara Epstein is a nonviolent resistance to US policies and advocated for “peace, non-intervention, ecological preservation, feminism, and gay and lesbian rights.” She is described as being “driven by a vision of an ecologically balanced, nonviolent, egalitarian society, [that] engaged in political action through affinity groups, made decisions by consensus, and practiced mass civil disobedience.”

Yet what are these resistant groups, like Epstein’s, essentially driving for? They are in essence driving a selfish political agenda, just as the politicians in power strive for their agendas, to shape or mold the world in their own moral clarity. In Epstein’s case, she seems to be confused that we do not live in a socialist country and that if she wanted to change anything, she would only be successful were she to overthrow the government in a violent manner. Tocqueville so eloquently distinguishes between these two philosophical systems as he states “while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude." Whether or not you agree with the national project’s continuing goals and aspirations for promoting liberal values here and abroad, we all must agree that it is in fact a machine and the only way to take it down is by force. Non-violent resistance, as Professor Block proclaimed, is in fact almost completely hopeless.

The moral lens which we propose for other countries to view through as well is a worthy attainable mission. The messianic and pretentious accusations of America’s liberal ideals proliferated throughout the globe is stale and unfounded. How has Bush justified Iraq based upon religious grounds? The basis of war was on moral superiority and a notion of a threat deemed imminent to the American people, which had garnered support and effective analysis from CIA Director George Tenet who claimed they did have WMDs. We will not go around setting up democracies in other parts of the world, with Wolfowitz out of the administration, Rumsfield wielding no power, and Bush leaving office in 2008 (not to suggest Bush is a neo-conservative, just that he is heavily surrounded and influenced by them in his cabinet).

Tocqueville argues in “Democracy in America” that the US will eventually face a democratic despotism somewhere down the road. He also goes on to say “It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild.” It seems as though Tocqueville defines the very heart of what democracy is as the reason it will one day become despotic in rule over the people. He says “Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd…” His analysis seems to overlook one major aspect of our Constitution; that no where in the supreme law of the land does it say ‘democracy,’ as we were founded upon a republic. In Federalist Paper #10 Madison proclaims “…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." If you juxtapose both of these statements it is clearly evident that they are strikingly similar.

So how then can Tocqueville critique something which was never created and in fact dismissed by our creators themselves? The fact of the matter is that our country is not headed towards ‘democratic despotism.’ If we are merely sheep, as Tocqueville seems to conclude, then why do politicians seek re-election by pandering to the masses and taking positions due to public opinion polls? The evolution of our democracy has indeed generated a form of ‘imperial presidency’, yet I have a difficult time accepting that the American people do not dictate the policies of this country, in some form or another. Our moral liberalist standards are cohesive with a responsive government which establishes the will of the people and the notion of legitimacy through fair and equal elections.

The model in which I have continued to argue is the sustaining status quo. America is not in an oppressed and oblivious state in my mind. Horsley’s Jesus and Empire confounds me in the deepest way. He’s main argument is that many Americans today think of us as the new Rome. According to Horsley this should be unsettling to Christians because Jesus was among those who the Roman Empire subdued. He traces the roots of America back to our founding and equates the covenantal principles with something that could be in accordance with Jesus’ covenant, and that we are steering from our path of social justice. What still bewilders me is his need for equating Rome to America. They are not even remotely the same, besides the fact that they are superpowers of their time. Horsley writes, “Since September 11, 2001, however, we can no longer rest comfortably with such domesticated pictures of Jesus. We can no longer ignore the impact of Western imperialism on subordinated people and the ways in which peoples whose lives have been invaded sometimes react." How can he say “subordinated people?” America does not acquire lands for the sole purpose of riches and territorial superiority. America does not subjugate and colonize overseas to enslave masses and culture. America does not shun away at a disaster half way around the world because it’s not in our interests; we give humanitarian aid, medicines, supplies, progress, technology, and higher economic standards of living with countries that open barriers of trade with us.

One major reason why we are not like Rome can be seen in mere statistics. America spends roughly 4% of it’s GDP on military expenditures. The Roman Empire spent close to 25% on its military dominance. America does not have a culture which embraces the propagation effort of our ‘imperialism’ rather you have the antithetical sentiment coming from writers, actors, and musicians of our day. According to Horsley, just because the US has military bases stationed in another land for control of potential foreign threats, that we somehow are “imperializing” the nation we have a mere presence within. We do not dictate the policy of Japan, like Rome did to Macedonia. We do not rule Germany like Rome ruled Judea. It is beyond irresponsible then to compare and contrast these two empires without first, defining empire, and then distinguishing the natural differences.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Little Democracy That Never Could

For the past three years of my life, I have given my unwavering support for the Bush Administration in conducting its war in Iraq, which essentially was waged for national security purposes. Yet, a revelation today would lead me to not only become disenfranchised with the current situation, but also lead me to face a sad fact of reality in which I believe I was wrong for supporting democracy in the Middle East. Hear me loud and clear liberals, this is not a confession about Bush’s misguided foreign policy, but more of a cultural awareness which I believe many of my conservative colleagues should take note of in today’s political climate of Iraq.

What has American foreign policy been advocating for the last two and a half years since its tenure in Iraq? It has been promoting a stable, democratic Iraq which holds true the freedoms and human rights of all people; a republican form of government that espouses ideals and principles of the civilized world. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of the situation. Iraq recently adopted and ratified a national constitution which has all the proper tenets of a theocracy. The dissolution of Saddam has created an Islamic state, something which the US does not endorse.

The definition of a theocracy from wikipedia is thus: “a form of government in which a religion or faith plays the dominant role. Properly speaking, it refers to a form of government in which the organs of the religious sphere replace or dominate the organs of the political sphere.” Article II of the Iraqi Constitution says the following: “First: Islam is the official religion of the state and it is a fundamental source of legislation. A) No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.” The clear evidence suggests to all around the world that Iraq is now an official theocracy.

How can a country pride itself on democratic ideals and religious tolerance, when the Constitution itself proclaims that the legislature can use the Koran to dictate laws, and furthermore the Federal Supreme Court will now be able to adjudicate cases under Islam? Freedom of religious practices and an established state religion cannot ever be juxtaposed within a constitution. Those two components are fundamentally a paradox. Is the Supreme Court in Iraq going to mandate that a Christian woman living in Kirkuk must cover her face in public because it’s a law under the state’s official religion of Islam? Religious freedom and theocracy does not coincide, period.

The cultural variation within this region is so drastically different, that a republican form of government, one in which the US prides itself on, is virtually unattainable. Unfortunately for Bush, his idealistic vision and commendable, altruistic foreign policy objectives will ultimately fail. This is not to say that the initial justifications of the war were unwarranted; only it is an observation and analysis of the results of intervention in Iraq. Is the world better off without Saddam? Of course it is. Yet why are we hearing President Bush use rhetoric such as “democracy” when in all reality Iraq is now the direct antithesis of such a form of government.

What is the future of Iraq? The benign precepts of Islam have been soaked into the Constitution, thus creating a natural rift between those of Islamic faith and those who are not of Islamic faith. If this schism is not sorted out in the courts, or in the will of the legislature, then I fear the ultimate price for Iraq; a 21st century civil war between the Kurds and the Shiites. This hostility can only grow deeper unless this constitution is amended in some form or another.

Theocracy in Iraq may be an evolutionary method of a form of hybrid form of democracy, but at its elemental core, it is not. A democracy was never, not once, achievable with the religious distinctions in the region; at least a democracy which adhered to Western principles. America now unfortunately may have created exactly what it wished to eliminate; a growing desire for legislating Islam in a state which was once secular. The future indeed looks grim for Iraq, and all the rest of the world can do is sit back and watch it unfold.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Who is Mike O'Shea?

Since coming to DePaul University four years ago, my political beliefs have always been in accordance to basic conservative principles. I would characterize myself as a ‘philosophical conservative,’ which could be described as a hybrid form of classical liberalism. As a freshman in college, I was very much attached to the party lines of the Republican platform, yet soon discovered that ideology was more pure, and less hypocritical than party politics. For instance, I tend to be turned off by gotcha games in the political arena. I am more interested in assessing problems, debating, and writing or finding solutions to those problems; most solutions have nothing to do with government in my mind.

I am currently the Editor-In-Chief of a new conservative newspaper at DePaul entitled the Lincoln Park Statesman. The transformation of ideology from thought to paper has broadened my conservative prose and has enhanced my arguments three-fold. I am a firm believer that research is the essential foundation for coming to acknowledge what you espouse politically. It is my assertion that if you are uninformed about a particular subject area, you not only should refrain from speaking upon that subject, but you also have failed your duty as an American citizen to participate in the fostering of debate; the indispensable groundwork for a democracy to remain intact.

There are a number of different issues I feel relatively passionate about. First and foremost is my undeniable belief in personal responsibility. The bedrock of conservatism is founded upon this principle. Government intervention is almost never a good thing. It is my belief that the more a government adopts social programs or policies that regulate an entire industry, that the more you will see personal responsibility and individual freedom diminish significantly. Besides the fact that virtually all governmental programs are ineffective, the philosophy behind such intervention is faulty at its core. Why should government be able to take money out of my pocket and give it to someone who made poor, inadequate decisions early in life that ultimately disabled them from getting a job and making an honest living? The answer is that government should not have that authority. Government is here because as Madison claimed, men are not angels. Government is alive to protect its citizens from foreign threats and to protect individual liberty.

Another doctrine I hold very close to my heart is the belief in a free trading world. Countries with a liberalized market show higher economic standards of living than do countries with protectionist policies that uphold hindering trade barriers. To put a restriction on someone from selling goods in a land where they didn’t manufacture the product or grow the commodity strips man away from the primordial aspects of survival. Besides the fact that it’s the “law,” what grounds does someone have to disable or restrict one to sell goods and services in a foreign land?

I like to think I have a wide range of political knowledge, yet I am always eager and willing to learn more. I have an intense interest in history, as it is my other major, particularly presidential history. I truly believe that we are living in a moment in time that will never be forgotten. The litmus test for the success of the current implementation of freedom and democracy around the world will ultimately be in fact history.

A quick run-down of my stance, a philosophical conservative, on current issues today: pro-Iraqi War (a strong defense is vital to a Republic which is under attack by not only terrorism, but by an ideology of Islamic-Fundamentalism), strongly against Affirmative Action, pro-gun rights (fully support the 2nd Amendment), support fiscal discipline (something which the Republicans and Bush are making a disgrace of currently), against welfare and social programs alike, support a laissez-faire economic policy, strong supporter of free trade and against trade barriers, somewhat “against” the Patriot Act (although the need for protection of liberty was essential at the time it was ratified, whether it needs to be renewed is a different story, still no documented cases of abuse have come from investigations), support strong immigration reform, pro-life, support privatization of Social Security, strong belief in a supreme being (yet should be absent of government rule), support a Palestinian state, support a flat tax (current code is too complicated and absurd), against the idea of hate crimes, support capital punishment, support school vouchers, and against gay marriage (pro-gay rights and benefits).

I do not have a set political structure in life, but I do have a strong belief in personal responsibility and individual autonomy. These two ideas are the basis for my analysis of issues in today’s world, and are my guide to developing a solution to each of the issues. Hopefully this post will help you understand what I am all about.

Friday, March 03, 2006

DePaul Conservative Alliance backstabbed by 'concerned students' organization

On Wednesday February 1st, the DePaul Conservative Alliance, along with SGA and the ‘concerned students’ at DePaul, held a town hall forum which revolved around the controversial affirmative action bake sale. The forum, as told to the DCA, was to consist of a debate around free speech, where a DCA student was to be presenting its right to have the bake sale, while the ‘concerned students’ presented their case as to why they have the right to override the Constitution and shut down the bake sale, because it offended some DePaul students.

Naturally, the DCA was extremely skeptical of the impartiality of the forum when we received word two days before the event that the ‘concerned students’ had reached out to three DePaul professors, Valerie Johnson, Howard Lindsey, and Sumi Chou to serve as “expert references” on the panel discussion. An hour before the event began I met with the ‘concerned students’ and expressed my discontent with them being on the panel for fear that they would impose their own ideology and bias against the DCA. The representatives for the ‘concerned students’ assured me, to my face, that these professors would be in the audience just providing their “expertise” on questions from the students.

Still cynical at the situation, the DCA went ahead with the forum after agreeing to the “experts” as being impartial and not on the panel. Yet the ‘concerned students’ backstabbed the DCA. Not only were they on the panel, but they also opened up the forum speaking out against our actions. The professors they had got were unanimously against the bake sale itself, and furthermore were in complete agreement that the discriminatory policy of affirmative action was justified. Valerie Johnson, from the Political Science Department, called me “troubled” and “ignorant” during this debacle. Most of the audience, with the exception of the DCA members, was extremely disrespectful throughout the forum, as they were laughing, bellowing, yelling, and making a mockery of the “intellectual” forum on free speech.

The forum was supposed to be on free speech, yet I guess Prof. Lindsey didn’t get the memo, or the ‘concerned students’ backstabbed us. His opening remarks, which the professors were not supposed to get anyways, were about how Martin Luther King Jr. wanted affirmative action, and how he is the product of such a disastrous policy, and why it’s good for America today. Prof. Johnson echoed the same illogical rhetoric. Professor Chou came wandering in late, which shows her dedication to the actual forum, and began to spout nonsense of how the bake sale is not considered “free speech.” It seems to me that Professor Chou would be better suited living under Stalin in the 1940s with her idea of censorship and total oppression of thought. But what can you expect from DePaul’s professors, being a liberal who is against free speech is a pre-requisite at this school. Maybe Chou will actually attempt to read the 1st Amendment before she adds her two cents of blatant inanity to the next forum.

The DCA was ambushed by the ‘concerned students’ “expert panel” and for that they should look at themselves as mere cowards. To be fair, we have already received an apology from one of the representatives of the ‘concerned students’ but we have yet to receive anything from the individual who actually reached out to these professors. The DCA will continue to spark political discourse on campus by encouraging free speech on campus. You can always count on us for leading the charge to reform this left-wing institution.