Saturday, August 06, 2011

Prophets of the new millennium

A stray link took me back in time and made me think of various chilling prophecies uttered when the millennium was young. Read them and weep.

1. February 2, 2000 
So how can those reasonable men advising George Bush think that he can offer $1.3 trillion in tax cuts? Assuming that they are neither planning to raid Social Security nor counting on favorable revenue surprises to save them (unfavorable surprises are, of course, out of the question), they must have in mind a sharp scaling back of government programs.
But that, of course, is not at all what the candidate's rhetoric suggests. He seems to be saying that he only wants to stop those Washington politicians from initiating grandiose new spending schemes. There is little hint that his ''compassionate conservatism'' can be financed only if the government sharply cuts back on what it is doing now.
-- Paul Krugman, "Trillions and Trillions

2. Jan 17, 2001 
During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?"

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts...

The speech was met with overwhelming approval from Republican leaders.

"Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close," House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. "Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton's America."

-- The Onion, "Bush: Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over"
3. September 15, 2002
Historically, mainstream American culture is conditioned to treat calamity —financial or fanatical — as an aberration, not the norm; an affront to the national commitment to singing in the rain. Confronted by breaking news of its vulnerability, only two alternative responses seem available: irrepressible up-and-at-'em chirpiness or apocalyptic hysteria, Pollyanna or Chicken Little...

Democracies, Thucydides says, are no better armed against panic in the face of adversity, nor are they necessarily more virtuous and discriminating when they exercise their power against it. During the debates over the prudence of the Sicilian expedition, the most withering contempt is reserved for the belligerence of armchair hawks whose enthusiasm for the campaign is in inverse proportion to their personal experience of combat. The warnings of the seasoned veteran, Nicias, against running "new dangers when the state of our own city hangeth unsettled" are allowed their full, cautionary eloquence. Nonetheless, the historian complains, "everyone alike fell in love with the enterprise: the old men upon hope to subdue the place they went to or that at least so great a power could not miscarry; and the young men upon desire to see a foreign country and to gaze, making little doubt but to return with safety."

In the carnage that follows it is Nicias himself who is left to watch the annihilation of the Athenian army and navy. Never suppose, implies Thucydides, wagging his finger, that any empire is invincible. Survival depends, above all, on an understanding of the economy of force.

It is only in our time, only perhaps last year, that such calamity [like that of the uprooted Choctaws, recounted by de Tocqueville]  has come home to America, and it is to be feared that it may not soon go away. In one morning the shelter of distance was traumatically obliterated, the skies made a lot less spacious. In place of the luxury of isolation, Americans have no option but to accept the necessity of connection. Sustaining their way of life and constitutional entitlement to filling up at a buck fifty a gallon demands continuing engagement in the fate of the rest of the world and not just hit and run "regime change," a euphemism that would better please the ghost of Thucydides if it were called by what it is — invasion and occupation.

As a wrecking and removal crew Americans are, for the moment, unstoppable. But whether in Iraq or elsewhere, wrecking and removal is no strategy for their own survival unless they also sign the longer, more expensive, rebuilding contract.

-- Simon Schama, "A Whiff of Dread in the Land of Hope
What better way to spend a Saturday in August than in latter-day-empire lamentation?


  1. The Onion article was downright PROPHETIC and should be read in its whole.

    Not sure what is sadder: currently climbing ourselves out of that mess or that fact that we allowed ourselves to go down that road in the first place.

    History will remember Bush the Elder as a very underrated president. For Bush the Younger... well, it's a race to the bottom with every passing year.

  2. Thanks for this. Ditto MNPipe. Loved the Onion piece.