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Monday, October 30, 2006

Back in the USSR, two more times

I've been reading David Satter's Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union very slowly over the last several weeks, having finished several other books while getting about halfway through it. Here are two more choice excerpts:
The Soviet border was no ordinary barrier but a line of demarcation between two different states of conciousness, generated, in the West, by a world in which reality is given and, in the Soviet Union, by a universe in which reality is made. In this situation, Soviet citizens became interlopers in normal life.
-- pp. 195-196.

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out.
-- A senior Bush adviser, quoted by Ron Suskind in 2002.

Here's the second quote from Age of Delirium:
The KGB created a public relations department headed by General Alexander Karbayinov, who told a Western journalist that his department existed to explain to the world that "The purpose of the KGB is to serve society and not the other way around."

In this way, the KGB tried to alter its image in the eyes of the Soviet population, doing so not by undertaking real change but rather by creating a mirage.
-- page 214.

Former White House counselor Karen P. Hughes will take over the Bush administration's troubled public diplomacy effort intended to burnish the U.S. image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world, where anti-Americanism has fueled extremist groups and terrorism, a senior administration official said yesterday.

Hughes, 48, who has been one of President Bush's closest advisers since his tenure as Texas governor, plans to return to Washington soon to rejoin the president's team after a three-year absence and set up shop at the State Department, where she will work with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reinvigorate the campaign for hearts and minds overseas.
-- Washington Post, March 12, 2005

And this, from today:
The Pentagon is buttressing its public relations staff and starting an operation akin to a political campaign war room as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld faces intensifying criticism over the Iraq war.

In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said new teams of people will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and "correct the record."

The memo describes an operation modeled after a political campaign -- such as that made famous by Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential race -- calling for a "Rapid Response" section for quickly answering opponents' assertions.

Another branch would coordinate "surrogates." In political campaigns, surrogates are usually high-level politicians or key interest groups who speak or travel on behalf of a candidate or an issue.
I'm starting to believe Henry Ford was right when he said "History is bunk." Common wisdom would have it that the U.S. lost the war in Vietnam, but, as Chris Floyd points out, Vietnam has become a low-wage sweatshop for American corporations--that is, "we" won. Meanwhile, the fans of Ronald Reagan will never cease bragging about how he won the Cold War, but as the U.S. daily becomes more and more like the USSR, can we really say that's true either?