Shadow of the Future

Posted by sepoy on January 19, 2005 · 5 mins read

Let's talk about wonderful phrases, today. Just before the election there was a flurry of declarations on reality-based and faith-based worlds or somesuch. There is room at the table for another one, I think. Future-based. As I was getting ready this morning, Barbara Boxer had Rice pinned on Iraq. Why couldn't you have dealt with Saddam as we dealt with Milosevic? Why did Rummy visit Saddam in the 80s when he was gassing Iranians? Why did you not tell that to the people when you claimed that we were taking Saddam out because he gassed Iranians? Why were there no WMDs? Why did you tell us the aluminimum tubes were for building nukes when that was not the consensus? Rice didn't flinch. Let me transcribe her response clearly: ???? ? ??? ?? ????????? ??? ???? ????????????. Yeah. But she did say that we invaded Iraq because the shadow of the future dictated our actions.

The shadow of the future. What a beautiful, Tolkienesque phrase. I have been rolling it around in my head all morning. The future, for millenia a sure peg to hang one's hopes and dreams on, now casts a dark, disturbing glance at the present; intimidating it, changing it, to ensure its own outcome. Or maybe it is more Borgesque than Tolkienesque: "Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past."

And there is another beautiful formulation by Rice, outposts of tyranny, stated in her testimony yesterday about which I am sure we will hear much more soon:

To be sure, in our world, there remain outposts of tyranny, and America stands with oppressed people on every continent, in Cuba and Burma, and North Korea and Iran and Belarus and Zimbabwe. The world should really apply what Nathan Sharansky called the town square test. If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment and physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society. And we cannot rest until every person living in a fear society has finally won their freedom.

Outposts as contrasted with axis gives us a more spatially pronounced effect. It distances the threat, marginalizes it and degrades it from pure evil to tyranny (any one else thinking about Pulp Fiction?). There is more about those outposts in Sy Hersch's latest in the NewYorker called The Coming Wars. Future as fait accompli:

Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeldís responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagonís control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The Department of Defense responded: "By his own admission, Mr. Hersh evidently is working on an ìalternative historyî novel.† He is well along in that work, given the high quality of ìalternative presentî that he has developed in several recent articles." Alternative present, another beautiful phrase that bifurcates our living reality into several frames. I never realized that bureaucrats were so poetic. Or inclined to fiction writing.

In this month's Atlantic, Richard Clarke writes a lecture delivered in 2011. Exhaustively footnoted, it contains the many missteps of this administration in the WoT - some already taken and some destined to be taken. A series of suicide attacks on American casinos, malls, subways, railroads and internets by Al Qaeda of North America and Iranian Quds Force causes the arrest and detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslim-Americans, the creation of the draft and the modern day Minutemen.
A future waiting to be born imposes itself on the present to bear it. So the last phrase of the day - my least favorite - the clash of cultures. Which is marginally better than the CofCiv but still off the mark. Me and farangi are hard at work trying to figure all possible permutations of the Clash of ... meme.

Aren't words fun?


rob | January 19, 2005

don't forget Clash of the Titans. that crazy owl... actually, i wonder what greco-roman mythical creature would condi be?

Sin | January 19, 2005

My vote goes for Janus (if we're talking deity-level), for obvious reasons. Otherwise, she's a Maenad (all crazy and destructive, for no particularly good reason). Were I feeling academic enough to quote my undergrad dissertation at length, I'd probably babble about Bhaba's liminal spaces, etc., but I'll content myself with observing that Benedict Anderson was so right. Watching the Bush administration(s) and its members construct these alternative, imaginary communities for themselves is incredibly instructive, albeit occasionally mind-boggling.

sepoy | January 19, 2005

I was gonna say Hera and then I saw this "which greek goddess are you?" and filled it as Ms. Rice and the answer affirmed my guess.

Nitin | January 19, 2005

Sepoy, Coincidentally, I just posted about a US foreign service blogger's claims about civilisation/cultural superiority.

Eric | March 03, 2008

It turns out that Ms. Rice was "talking over our heads," so to speak, when she chose to use the term "shadow of the future." She is a bit too intellectual, as the term comes a from a book by Robert Axelrod called "The Evolution of Cooperation." It is an economic term meaning; the likelihood and importance of future interaction, which puts Ms. Rices comments in a different light. She was trying to sound intellectual, however very few people would have understood her true intention in using that phrase.