David Petraeus and the Threat to US Democracy in 2012


On June 30th, 2011 the United States Senate confirmed General David Petraeus to head the CIA by a vote of 94 to 0.    After retiring from a central role in the US Military high command General Petraeus became Director of the CIA September 6, 2011.    With this step, a highly political US military commander, darling of the ultra right and suggested by some  Republicans to be "Presidential" material, consolidated command over the vast US intelligence apparatus.     While formally retired, after 37 years in the US Army, head of Central Command, Commander of the US war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a reputation as a brilliant intellectual in the command structure, his actual connections with active duty top brass will mean that, in practice, he has unprecedented power in the "iron fist" of the state.    

Combine that with his documented participation in the Pentagon's "quiet insubordination" against President Obama on the  Afghanistan policy review and General Petraeus new power at the CIA becomes more than concerning.     In his book "Obama's Wars" the famous "Watergate journalist" Bob Woodward, exposed without any serious refutation, that the Pentagon, with Petraeus on board, defied President Obama's orders to give him a policy option for Afghanistan other than the surge.   This insubordination included an unauthorized political campaign to narrow the President's options down to one, escalation.     This shows a clear willingness to defy the Constitutional principle of military subordination to the civilian Commander in Chief in the arena of Afghanistan military strategy.   What if an even graver crisis to the stability of the United States occurs throughout 2012 than the  "crisis" of President Obama's Afghanistan policy review?    Will the brilliant General Petraeus be able to resist his own self perception  as the smartest guy in the room, capable of saving the nation from civilian ignorance of the right path?   As Karl Marx indicated about the military Coup  of Louis Bonaparte in 1850's  France, the suspension of democracy in a complex capitalist state does not depend on one man but on the political economic conditions the "man on horseback" finds himself in.   If you have the conditions and the man, and the man has lots of powerful allies, beware.

One of Vladimir Lenin's central points about capitalist democracy can be summed up,  while the preservation and extension of capitalist democracy is worth fighting and dying for, even the most democratic capitalist state is, in essence, the dictatorship of the capitalist class.     This basic formulation has differentiated communists from social democrats for several generations but it is still confusing to some.     How is that Lenin says the most democratic capitalist republic is still a dictatorship of the capitalist class?    The most fundamental meaning, in my view, is whenever the capitalist system is in danger the capitalists will violate, bend or destroy democracy if it will save the system of capitalist exploitation overall.   In President Obama's Afghanistan policy review the top military brass, Petraeus included, viewed the administration as naive and inexperienced and refused to do what they were ordered to do by their democratically elected commander in chief.   They succeeded in narrowing the options in Afghanistan to one.  Escalation is all they really believed in and they politically trapped the President into that option.    Many naive leftists believe the President "should have just said no" as if the President is an isolated superhero capable of defying the entire weight of the military industrial complex by unfurling his cape.     But now Petraeus and the entire capitalist class do have a "cape" that is being unfurled to really be worried about.     The masses of working Americans have begun to wake up. 

One of the most critical elements to the crisis endangering US democracy in 2012 is the lack of a strong candidate for the republican nomination.   This is leading to a certain level of desperate feeling amongst the ultra right in the US that President Obama might win despite their best efforts because their is a growing view that the republican candidates are weak or foolish and self defeating.   Petraeus by contrast has a PHD, is a military hero, has deference and respect from many ultra right thinkers and leaders, is very popular and respected throughout the military at many levels, is a republican and is clearly political.     It is also clear that ultra right power brokers know that Petraeus was part of the military insubordination to Obama during the Afghanistan policy review.    Most ominously these same ultra right power brokers know that they themselves stole the 2000 Gore v Bush election and got away with it and the Democratic leadership barely raised a serious fuss.   The one calculation that raises serious concern amongst the capitalist class and it's ultra right sections is that the masses are aroused now and stealing the election would be more dangerous than in 2000.      The ultra right sections of the capitalist class are using dramatic rhetoric about "a national disaster if Obama wins again" and they have legions who believe this who are deeply concerned about weak republican candidates.    History has shown when the traditional capitalist conservative parties begin to collapse or decay it strengthens fascist politics.    A right wing military hero might be just the "ticket" and if the kind of election theft that occurred in 2000 is less likely to be tolerated by an aroused peoples movement then it might be useful to have this war hero be "recently retired" head of the CIA,  real experts at stealing elections around the world.

So the danger to democracy might be worse than you thought.    Only the broadest peoples unity to reelect Obama by a "theft proof" landslide that would also force a progressive agenda on the right wing democrats can be a part of saving the day for democracy.   Only an Occupy Movement of millions not thousands  can be a part of saving the day for democracy.    Only a labor movement on fire with  an "Ohio style" national mobilization can be a part of saving the day for democracy.    Only Communists willing to sharpen their Marxism,  knowing that  Marxism has been crucial in defeating fascism; and Communists willing to own the Communist name knowing that Communist means the  most implaccable foe of fascism can be a part of saving the day for democracy in 2012 in the USA.

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