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Pendulum

by on April 17, 2015

                                                                       Pendulum

                                                                by Marco M. Pardi

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The comments sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments.

Doubting everything or believing everything are two equally convenient solutions, both of which save us from thinking.” Jules Henri Poincaré (1854—1912)

In 1961 Roger Corman adapted Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum to film, starring Vincent Price and Barbara Steele.  Like all Corman/Price films, the value was not so much in the horror as it was in the presentation of a deranged and wealthy man exacting vengeance or just seeking to flex power.  Of course, the leading ladies were reason enough to inspire patience with the films. 

But perhaps these films, likely unbeknownst to Corman, became metaphors for the balance and use of power on an international scale.  We who were pawns in the 1950’s diligently took cover under our school desks as the specter of the Soviet pendulum swung over our heads, wondering how many more such swings would pass before they became a slice.  As intercontinental missiles replaced slow moving bombers, shortening “early warning” from hours to minutes the obligatory clamber-under-the-desk routines faded to nothing.  Or, to some kind of subliminal recognition that we were strapped with the situation as surely as the hapless man strapped on his back beneath the descending pendulum.

Yet, although the air raid siren drills of the 1950’s quickly became ignored nuisances, the tactic of instilling fear lived well into the ’60’s.  One of the all time successful televised political ads was that which was run against Barry Goldwater during the 1964 Presidential campaign; a pretty little girl in a field, picking petals off a daisy, and a nuclear flash obliterates the screen. Not to be outdone, Hollywood gave us “Dr. Strangelove: or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb” followed quickly by 7 Days in May. (The former Personnel Director for CDC, with whom I worked closely on inter-agency matters, insisted for some reason on introducing me at meetings as Dr. Strangelove.) Broadening the message into a greater threat,  the “Domino Theory” emerged in the late ’60’s, assuring us that if South Vietnam “fell” to the “Communists” the entirety of Southeast Asia would quickly follow.

That Laos and Cambodia did fall was briefly touted by the war hawks as proof.  But the facts on the ground spoke otherwise.  Although these facts seemed not to have arrived in the general American psyche, which had turned away from any deep thoughts about Vietnam since these could lead to acknowledgment of guilt in the massacre, the reality of the “fall” of Laos and Cambodia can be largely traced to the frustrated thrashing about of a U.S. president who ordered the illegal bombing of both those countries. The  Hồ Chí Minh trail, or Trường Sơn trail as it was known in Vietnam, ran west of the Mekong river and was the main supply and force movement conduit for the PAVN – People’s Army of North Vietnam.  U. S. intelligence sources grossly exaggerated the traffic along this trail, leading Nixon to bomb it.  Unfortunately, the trail ran through the prime farmland of Laos and Cambodia.  The farmland was then rendered useless through the cratering, the unexploded cluster bombs, and the danger of being anywhere near the area.  As the surviving farmers evacuated in massive numbers to  capitol cities unable to absorb them food production ceased almost entirely, compounding the problem. The governments, presiding over massively asymmetric haves/have-nots societies, collapsed.  The Pathet Lao and the Khmer Rouge simply stepped into power not because South Vietnam fell but because the U.S. kicked over the dominoes.  But, by definition, fools don’t learn – as we are now seeing with the emergence of al qaida القاعدة ) from the U.S. supported Afghan mujahideen (المجاهدين‎) and of ISIL (الدولة الإسلامية في  العراق والشام)   from the U. S. devastation of Iraq.         

For the past several months, and promising to extend deeply into the season for the 2016 U. S. Presidential race, we have been in a re-run of the controversy over Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions.  Odd how it seems to re-ignite around significant American election cycles.  Equally odd is how this fire is kept alive by highly flammable kindling, not by long burning and therefore (thoughtful) hardwood.  Yet, there have been contributions of hardwood to this burning issue; they are just not read by the general public.  One example is the 2005 book Blueprint for Action by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Ph.D.  Dr. Barnett (Harvard Ph.D. political science) is a long term advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Special Operations Command, the Joint Forces Command, the intelligence community, and Congress.  In his dense and exhaustively documented book he reviews the Iranian position on nuclear power, noting their statement that they see no logic in consuming their primary resource (oil) for domestic use when it can be a source of needed world market hard currency.  Thus, development of nuclear power, as has been done in numerous other countries, should be their right. Throughout the detailed consideration of whether this capability could translate to weapons production he reviews the (then current) IAEA inspection regimen and considers it adequate to prevent such development.  He further proposes that even if successful cheating occurred and a weapon were produced it would simply balance the decidedly unbalanced equation now in place in the Middle East, to wit: Israel, supported for decades by billions of American tax payer dollars and protected from all U.N. sanctions by American veto has amassed a nuclear weapons stockpile estimated at between 50 and 200 readily deployable weapons.  He scrupulously avoids the illogical trap of connecting an If (If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon) to a Maybe (Maybe they will use it against Israel).  He also disavows the ever more shrill cries that emergence of such capability in Iran will set off a new nuclear arms race across the region, a current rehash of the long discredited Domino Theory.  And this is in 2005, a full decade before the current negotiations of the 5+1 (United States, Britain, France, China, Russia + Germany) with Iran involving far greater means of intrusive monitoring, overflight surveillance and well coordinated instant punishment of infractions.

Still, although many in the U.S. have canonized St. Ronnie (Reagan) who espoused “Trust, but verify” and have lived through decades of Detente based on assurance of MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction, there are many who call for preemptive bombing of nuclear development sites even though success could only be assured through precision use of massive ordnance in highly populated areas.  In effect, all out war on Iran.  I will not say I completely accept Barnett’s argument. But at the same time I do not accept the national or even world security argument of the war hawks. I see at least two intertwined agendas in the “Conservative” position. Since the advent of the Falwell evangelical fundamentalist take-over of the Republican Party it has become increasingly clear that “End Times” lunatics are wielding power over formerly sane policy makers, in some cases replacing them completely.  That these people are too dim witted to understand they are being used as pawns for funding, votes, and cannon fodder goes almost without saying.

The primary agenda of the “Conservative” power players, however, is money.  War is big business. Even the threat of war is big business. Against the counsel of every member of his administration Harry Truman signed the paperwork for the creation of Israel.  Why?  In the post WWII reorganization of the Middle East the colonialism of Western state powers contracted.  But the vast oil reserves, being developed by British and American consortiums, were suddenly in play.  As America and the rest of the Western world have seen since, nothing justifies price hikes as much as regional instability, even the hint of instability.  The forced and contrived insertion of a destabilizing factor – Israel – is the lever through which that instability can be triggered for profit at any time.  Ironically, any who opposed this creation, at the time and forever after regardless of Israel’s actions, was branded “anti-Semitic”, a thoroughly spurious allegation when as much as 85% of the Israeli population is of Eastern European descent and not Semitic at all. The true Semites include the entirety of the Arab populations and the indigenous Jewish minority.

I would not pretend to know if Iran does or does not intend to obtain nuclear weapons.  I do know that, with the help of billions of American tax dollars and multiple American vetoes of U.N. actions Israel has amassed a formidable nuclear arsenal.  Demonstrably, the other rich nations in the region, whether Arab or Persian, have not.  But clearly they could have bought the scientists, the technology, and even the weapons from States such as Pakistan or North Korea had they wanted to, Libya being the sole example of one that tried. 

Those who resurrect the Domino Theory and apply it to a “new arms race” seem to have no knowledge of the cultures involved; they see them only through their ethnocentric eyes.  They fail to see that living under the power umbrellas of sponsor States – the U.S. and its allies and, now, certain former Soviet bloc States and their allies, frees these oil rich States to pursue their own development.  They also fail to see that the power elites in these States recognize their own tenuous grip on power; developing and holding nuclear weapons is, for them, like leaving loaded guns around the house in the presence of rebellious and aggressive teen-agers – the dissidents within their societies.

Finally, a core element of the “Conservative” agenda is the denial, by any means, of any opportunity for a Democratic administration to achieve an advancement in social conditions, economic conditions, international conditions, and even planet saving environmental conditions.  It seems Republicans would rather our young people die in war than achieve in peace.

I grew up in an era when the Pendulum was a Soviet bomber, coming to slice me in half.  I’ve come to realize the Pendulum is actually the apocalyptic fundamentalist lunatics, edged weapons in the hands of power brokers consumed by greed and willing to sacrifice the planet for their short term joy.

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9 Comments
  1. Interesting, well written, informative and thought provoking; well done, sir. I don’t think there is much I have to offer. I am just old enough to remember the “red scare”, and the duck-and-cover mentality of the early sixties. We had “bomb drills” when I was in elementary school, where we climbed under our desks and covered our heads with our arms. I remember wondering, even at that young age, what good that could possibly do against a direct hit. The domino theory, made famous in speech by Eisenhower in 1954, was the buzz word during my teen years.

    Nothing really changes, I guess, except the name of the enemy, and his methodology. Mind sets stay the same; there’s little logic to it beyond greed. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” (FDR); not so much! The political agendas of today make for some pretty frightening thoughts.

    BTW: Dr. Strangelove? Hilarious!

  2. It seems to me the pendulum has been swing backwards for far too long. When does it start to swing the other way bringing peace and progress globally?

    • Thank you, Mary. Good question. I recall brief mention of Pax Americana. Or maybe that was just a dream.

  3. Thank you, Rose. It is a frustrating situation. Of course, we can always fall back on the advice of a Republican lawmaker to potential rape victims: “Lie back and enjoy it.”

    There are sick people on this planet.

  4. Gregg permalink

    I remember the good times of the 90’s when Clinton bombed a pharmaceuticals plant in Sudan to get the press off of his marital problems. I think he bombed Iraq once or twice as well when the news remembered his infidelities.

    • Thank you very much, Gregg. Wasn’t the film, Wag the Dog about this kind of thing?

      • Gregg permalink

        That’s what I’ve heard but I haven’t seen the movie yet.

  5. Well said – another bit of deja vu – sad stories all of them but it is something for those of us who lived in the period. Thanks Marco.

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