Why the US Can’t Change, Part 2

Posted on 16/01/2011 by

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In part 1 I laid out the basic thesis that WikiLeaks represented a do-or-die watershed for the US government. Here I’m going to look at why the US government chose ‘die’, and why it could make no other choice.

Governments are by and large highly conservative organisms. Their first interest is to preserve themselves as institutions. Once they have chosen, for whatever reason, certain methods of self-preservation, the institution becomes more and more entrenched in the chosen methods.

In the US government, the self-preservation methods are secrecy for its own sake, and force for its own sake. This, I think, is made clear in the reactions to WikiLeaks, as well as US action across the world: secrecy is the ichor which sustains the US global hegemony, and force is applied to both preserve and expand this hegemony. Succinctly put, Cablegate has revealed this for all to see.

To recap: the US government is constructed to depend upon secrecy and force, but it also evidences cast-in-concrete antiquated and clumsy institutional thinking. This generates a government which will not change no matter what. It has locked itself institutionally into that programme, and will select against any person or policy which threatens that programme. Any attempts to move away from secrecy and force, are attempts which would change the organism so completely, that the organism regards those changes as death.

It seems like a contradiction, but I assure you it is not. The “do” side of the US government’s WikiLeaks watershed would have meant the end of the bedrock methods of the US government; from the government’s point of view, this meant death. The “die” side of the watershed means that the US government can defend its bedrock; from the government’s perspective, this is life.

The US government chose to die, because that choice was, institutionally, the only option for self-preservation. Anything else would have required drastic alteration of the institution, which is no option at all: self-preservation for the government means preservation of the status quo.

In part 3, I will talk about how the US government will likely fall apart.

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Posted in: WikiLeaks