Monday, January 26, 2009

Recent coups - some reflections

One of the meanings of the word coup is 'a stroke or move that one makes especially a notable or strikingly successful move'. Even the word 'coup d'etat' has meant 'any sudden and decisive stroke of State policy'. Why this reflection on what a coup may or may not mean? Well I was reminded yesterday by arguments in an article by Guy Rundle (Morning in America) about the nature of the Bush, or more precisely, the neo-conservative ascendancy. He says, for example that:

'The plain fact about the Bush/Cheney — more exactly, Cheney/Bush — era was that it represented the most substantial counter-revolution against the principles that America understands itself as living by that has occurred since the Republic was founded.

Torture, detention, illegal wars, lies were simply the surface effect of the Cheney/Bush era's deep and abiding aim — to realign the separation of US powers sufficient to give the executive arm of government, the presidency, an overwhelming authority that effectively destroyed the checks and balances of the three branches of government.'

I was somewhat amazed to read, for the first time, that this was largely achieved through:

'the use of "presidential signing statements" and restrictions on information flow'.

The obvious question is why had I not seen this reported before? Certainly I may have missed it - but if it was just not reported then it raises some pretty profound questions about the journalist profession.

Having been a close watcher of the happenings of Downing St in the Blair years and the rise of New Labour I have for sometime held ...and occasionally espoused ... an analysis that argued that the rise of New Labour could be considered as an internal Labour party coup mounted and maintained, even in government, by a small group around Blair. In office they maintained the sort of group think that gives rise to a 'coup' - and ultimately this was their undoing. The same dynamics appear to have been played out in the rise and fall of the neo-cons in the USA. For this reason the transparency and lobbying restrictions imposed by Obama are to be welcomed - they are key checks to the unfettered powers that can be assumed by the executive in our still very flawed democratic forms. As Rundle notes, Obama's changes 'for those wanting to contest such a policy' .... 'changes the nature of what is to be contested to a realpolitik, more open in its aims and motives, more open to criticism, challenge and dissent, and less bound up with grand schemes of dominance and global transformation, less need to make Mosul into Missouri.' This may not make for easy politics but the reward that can be reaped is genuine transformation.


Anonymous said...

The reason you haven't seen it reported before is that it is typical gross exaggeration by a journalist! Worst since the founding of the republic! Puleese! What about Nixon?

Don't you risk confusion between a true coup and the situation where the executive is testing its powers, but is subject to the rulings of an active and independent Supreme Court?

Unknown said...

Interesting… I might try some of this on my blog, too. It’s quite interesting how you sometimes stop being innovative and just go for an accepted solution without actually trying to improve it… you make a couple of good points.

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