Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How Glenn Beck Works

I'm not all that interested in spending a lot of time using contemporary notions of argumentation theory to analyze a figure like Glenn Beck, who by all accounts exists in order to demonstrate that the possibility of using something like a typical rubric to "grade" his performance will be a task forever in search of anything more than a failing grade. Clearly, Beck is not interested in completing arguments in a way that would make Stephen Toulmin deliver something like the worlds driest golf clap. And I want to say, the left is no great shakes in this regard at all times (Kos and certain contributors to the Huffington Post, I'm looking in your direction). But to ignore him seems risky, given that plenty of arguments that don't supply premises and work off an affective force have done lots of naughty (and good!) work in the realm of politics.

So, surprise surprise, Beck operates like a conspiracy theorist. No earthshaking revelation there. But he is not just a conspiracy theorist--he is a victimized one. Today's episode, which focused on unions, was a great example through and through. Beck opens the show by tearing into labor unions for being exclusive and power hungry organizations. He then quite carefully notes that he is mostly targeting the leaders of the labor unions, as those are the one who are most likely to be communists and power hungry (he easily conflates these two perspectives together in a way that's easy to follow for anyone who understands either Jonah Goldberg's fascism enthymeme or the history of any number of leftist regimes in the 20th century as a proper tale of the failure of socialism).

Beck dedicates the entire show to unions. First he does some armchair labor history, tracing the relationship of unionization to two negatively valenced phenomena--race and violence. He traces the terrible history of racial exclusion that underlied the rather protectionist sentiments espoused by labor unions (he's particularly fond of people from 1877 in this regard). And indeed, not much to argue with--plenty of unions did plenty of incredibly racist things, especially to the Chinese to name just one example that Beck really likes. Beck also shows some classic American art and renderings of labor struggles from the late 19th century, mentioning the death and destruction that accompanied the agitation of these workers.

What makes Beck's theories run is that he does not provide the viewer any pause as he talks to consider the important question of "whose" violence and racism. His performance stipulates very limited and conventional (we might say conservative, in the Richard Weaver sense) understandings of these phenomena. Take, for example, his argument about the racism of the labor union. He's not wrong--but it would be nice to see him square the brutal rhetoric he aims at the labor unions with the fawning and love he directs towards America generally, a country whose history of racism, even conservatively defined, is damning at worst and troubling at best. Surely slavery is not a lesser offense than a labor unions attempt to disrupt the workdays of Chinese cooleys. What's more, labor unions are non-governmental organizations. The history of private discrimination in this country is extensive as well-yet Beck seizes on unions. Again, unions did racist things. Then again, so did basically most every institution in America at one point or the other. Beck's selection of the union as the site to articuate his arguments about race tell us something interesting.

So to do his claims that the danger of unions is that they risk violence. His descriptions of the violence wrought by unions rely on the abilities of image to short circuit the capacity for rational argumentation in an engaged audience--he shows some renderings of beatings and riots and then says, to paraphrase "unions caused this violence, violence!" never mentioning that quite often the victims of the violence were union members themselves who were beaten to death by strikebreakers hired by such non-union friendly folks as Henry Frick. In this was Beck produces the violence of the time as an illegitimate effect of the labor union's agitation, pushing aside the content of the claims made by the laborers in favor of an outcome based assessment that delegitimates their efforts.

Both his major points about racism and violence fold into the last part of the show where he makes the claim that contemporary labor unions in America are actually shadow organizations for the great stalking horse of "multiculturalism", that hegemonic formation of difference that seems to know at every step just how to destroy white privilege, and, by the commutative property of crypto-fascist Fox news shows, America. In this movement Beck's argument shows its savvy because it produces an injured America as the victim of the same history of labor movement racism. Rather than understanding labor unions as organizations bent on helping people get a fair share of what they produce, labor unions are power hungry organization's whose somewhat naive belief in th fatuous notion of "equality" empowers them to assert the necessity of giving in to "other" people to the point that the current status quo will one day be unrecognizable. So the history of the labor union's racism is not just some bizarre enthymeme but rather carefully and quietly encourages the audience to read what movements are doing today as another form of exclusion rather than equality. Of course, what Beck needs the audience to insert is the notion that something like "Americanness" exists in the status quo, that is properly rewards hard work, and that it is a bedrock of stability and goodness. Audiences, of course, do a good job of inserting these premises, as 1994 and the year of the Angry White Male do a good job of demonstrating.

It is also true that "multiculturalism", as a movement, must not include white people for the argument to work. So rather than allowing for the possibility that "white" is one category included under the multicultural umbrella, Beck's argument demands that multiculturalism operate in an exclusive and dichotomous relationship with whiteness--we are presented with a forced choice--one or the other. References to socialism, Marxism, the socially conscientious work of Piven and Cloward, and violence all act to implicitly prop up this argument--after all, we defeated socialism/Marxism in 1989, and we do politics rather than allow violence to exist in our public sphere. These references produce multiculturalism as an antagonistic and threatening formation rather than as something which is potentially inclusive and consistent with democratic aims.

So we have Glenn Beck (no accident that he often cries and wails, with much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments) here making arguments to protect American values from a dangerous socialist multiculturalism embodied in labor unions. These unions are out to make America into a victim--to derail its greatness by levelling of all people under the "benign" sign of equality, which, in Beck's formulation, is dangerous because, to quote nearly verbatim "people are not equal. Get used to it!" He then rattles off a number of jobs where the workers make more money than most of his audience members. He does not, of course, mention his own. It is, however, at this moment that I found Beck his most persuasive--because he anticipated a potential counter to his argument, and then responded preemptively (everyone is not equal!). At least he is honest about his exceptionalism in this instance. What he ignores is that unions typically don't claim that they will make everyone fabulously rich--they generally agitate for living wages, reasonable increases in standards of living, and measures that make something beyond mere subsistence (but not radical luxury) obtainable.

Forms of privilege repeatedly exist because people declare that the reality that we inhabit is a reality not structured by forms of power and luck but instead is a reality that is the product of some sort of invisible hand that produces certain life situations as proper indexes of the worth of certain humans. For Beck's argument to work, the place where multiculturalism and labor unions want to take us must be unnatural, a zone where the distortion of "real value" is so great that we would find ourselves not free to realize our own dreams and potentials but instead subjugated to values that demand we conform to external impositions of what is right and wrong. This assumes that where we are now is also not the product of such a power relation, and the arguments of Beck (and his Tea Party bretheren) often strain so hard to make this point that it becomes easier to think that the strength and conviction of their position derives not from a certain sort of metaphysical correctness, but rather from a deep seated anxiety that the idea of "America" which they are protecting is something that is fleeting, if it ever existed at all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Politics of "Breaking Bad", Or, How I Learned to Love Victimized White Masculinity

I've been riveted by the AMC series Breaking Bad since last spring. This post will address plot developments, many from this season, so, if you are still planning on watching the show but haven't yet, stay away for there be spoilers here, ye matey.

We are, it seems, in a television era of the anti-hero. HBO helped start and perfect the trend--Tony Soprano and Jimmy McNulty were two of the most seductive and yet simultaneously troubled leading characters of recent memory. Showtime's Dexter is not centered on what you would call a "good" guy although there is a perverse morality there, an even darker shade of what we see from McNulty in the fifth season of The Wire. Mary Louise Parker's character on Weeds stands out as one of a few female anti-heroes in this mold. AMC boasts two contenders for this anti-hero mantle: the womanizing, dapper, and self-interested Don Draper of Mad Men and Breaking Bad's Walter White. White stands out to me from the other men on this list because, when the series begins, he seems perfectly average--he is a science teacher, rather than a mob boss, an advertising executive, or a cop.

Walter has a pretty and smart wife, Skyler, a good kid struggling with MS, named Walter Jr., and a brother-in-law in the DEA. Oh, and cancer. To make a long story short, Walt's family is struggling to make the payments, so Walt does what any high school chemistry teacher with an exceptional background would do--he starts making meth with one of his old students, Jesse Pinkman. Initially Walt does it to make ends meet, and to provide for his family once he is gone. But a funny thing happens once Walt's body beats the cancer--he doesn't stop making meth. He, in fact, becomes obsessed with how "cooking" is his own art form, a way for him to make his name in the world, to take his exceptional education and mix his labor with goods to really produce something. This decision is contextualized by some backstory we receive in the first two seasons about Walt's involvement with what is now a highly successful company, which he apparently left on bad terms and before it made it big.

Once Walt's wife finds out he's a drug producer, she immediately takes steps to expel him from her and his children's life. Quite legitimately, I might add. He has brought all sorts of potential legal trouble to his home, not to mention the violence and risk associated with the drug trade. Yet persistently, on message boards, Facebook statuses, casual conversations--there is a coterie of the shows fans who continue to identify with Walter White, and cheer his drug dealing alter ego ("Heisenberg", one of the shows funniest gags). Moreover, even if you are not someone who actively roots for Walter, there is certainly an element of identification with Walter White that enables people to continue to enjoy the show even once Walt has really "broken bad".

But really, what is noble and ok about what Walt has done? He has a chance to stop cooking once he is cancer free. It is carefully and clearly revealed that "I'm doing it for my family" is really just another excuse for Walter to continue to adopt his Heisenberg persona, and stroke his own ego in the process. Walt is repeatedly confronted with the collateral damage of his decision (the threats to his marriage, the preposterous plane crash to end season 2, Combo's death, Jesse's traumas) yet continues to cook.

I contend that we should be completely revolted by Walter White's actions. Yet our ability to consume the show and enjoy it testifies to something like Walter in many of us. Let me give an example--you would probably not be that interested in watching a movie about a serial killer told from the serial killer's point of view. Something like the story of John Wayne Gacy told from his perspective presumably would offer little to us for two reasons: 1) the "simple" pathologies of serial killers are the sorts of things we prefer to experience externally, and probably can only understand externally because we ourselves are not serial killers and moreover, defines ourselves positively over and against "that sort" of being--we're very serious about the importance of categories like killer and criminal have in defining our own normalcy or something like it (though the upcoming film version of The Killer Inside Me has some potential to operate inside and outside these categories), and 2. a serial killer's world would be extremely boring, all pathology and no grey area or nuance--at best anyone who enjoyed consuming it would be a fan or Hostel or some such torture-porn drivel.

Back to our friend Walter White. He has blood on his hands. He has violated his family's trust. He is wanted by the Mexican cartel. He is continuously complicit in enabling Jesse's abusive behavior. His actions indrectly lead to Hank's paralysis in season three. "Mr. White", as Jesse calls him, is a bad dude. Sure, he drives a nifty Pontiac SUV, has a neat house, cute baby, had to beat cancer, all that stuff. But at the end of the day, his actions are indefensible to even a light, relative morality. Killing criminals is one thing, but not his only crime.

I contend that Walt as a character is only intelligible to the viewer within the frame of the American Dream. There have been some interesting studies done on the opinions that people have about tax policy. One reason why tax increases on the upper class remain somewhat unpopular is because a lot of people imagine that even if they are not currently well off, they will be one day, and they don't want the government taking their wealth. Moreover, American culture is very, very bad at teaching people to be happy with what they have. And hey, thats's capitalism--one needs to not be satisfied with one's position because that lack of satisfaction is what produces the drive to innovation and ingenuity that ultimately underwrites advances in technology and civilization. We need to be dissatisfied because that dissatisfaction produces the motivation for more labor to occur. I'm not saying its bad or good--just trying to map that model for a minute, to show how Walt's actions might only make sense to us through that frame.

Walter White is not wealthy, but once he beats the cancer he should be able to go back to work and the family could make it. His continual insistence that Skyler not be the family breadwinner reeks of a kind of lingering idea of a masculine hero capable of providing for his family (notwithstanding Skyler's affair with her boss, the status of which in the anterior is unclear). Walt's son, Walt Jr., has his name but not his working legs. One of the most depressing moments in the show is when Walt is trying to show his son how to drive with only one foot, even though the MS makes it very difficult to do--Walt is insisting that his son be "normal" even in the face of that impossibility. Walt's condescending rants to his high school students, about how he was a world class scientist, indicate a dangerous narcissism. His refusal in season one to take his former partner Elliott's money reflects a debilitating heap of pride and indignance. Walter had an exit strategy that did not involve making meth and he kept doing it.

Walt is not a serial killer but when presented in these terms he is a figure from whom we should seemingly want a lot of distance. To the extent that we identify with Walt we suffer from this "disease of more". To the extent that we revel and cheer his badass actions as the dapper and capped "Heisenberg" we are celebrating his temporary escape from the toil and drudgery of responsibility and normalcy. When we are astonished at the potency and purity of his meth we are not "buying the magic of science" but instead are authorizing his astonishingly puerile ego trips. How far away from the "angry white male" of 1994 are we? Walter lives well above a subsistence level--by all appearances, it is a fine middle class existence, one of privilege relative to the lives of many others in the country. He is getting to live a life that many would envy. Yet Walt is dissatsified. Walt is furious that he is normal. Furious that he is unmarked, his genius unacknowledged, that his personal struggles are not the stuff of legend.

Walt would fit in very nicely at a Tea Party rally.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Gather Your Armies"

I'm inspired to post today after seeing this campaign advertisement, for Rick Barber, a conservative candidate in the GOP runoff in an Alabama district. Obviously, its all kinds of awesome, and this is in a midterm year that has already seen the rise of Demon Sheep and the unbelievably hilarious ad in the New Orleans coroner campaign, two all time greats.

Barber's ad is noteworthy, I think, for how it represents a figure really buying into everything that the Tea Party movement stands for--limited government, limited taxation, and something of a libertarian ethos. The ad mostly rails against the Internal Revenue Service, although it drops in some health care reform hating as well. Primarily, the ad is noteworthy for two reasons--in the ad, Barber is having a discussion with some of the Founding Fathers (they appears to be Sam Adams, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin), and the ad ends with one of the figures supporting Barber's rant against the government by pledging his loyalty to Barber's cause with the cry "Gather. Your. Armies."

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo and his people did some good work on this ad, and they tracked down Barber who denies that the advertisement is a call to arms--it could just be "misinterpreted" that way. I'm inclined to say that Barber is not really "lying" per se--he and his campaign staff probably don't think the ad will lead to any real violence, and instead its another attempt to capitalize politically on the happy combination of the myth of the American founding and the voting block of individuals who feel symbolically disenfranchised by the Obama administration's somewhat progressive policy agenda. In general, the unsubtle violence threatened by the ad is closer to the rattle of a spray paint can than a full force political gale. By this I mean--anti-government yahoos and Michigan militia types are probably going to continue to meet, buy assault rifles, and get steamed while watching Glenn Beck whether or not this ad exists. One caveat to this claim is that an anti-government extremist did crash a plane into the IRS building in Austin--its pretty bold of Barber to put out this ad in light of that.

What's interesting about the ad is the striking originalism (in a hyrbid historical/legal sense) that permeates the performance. We've seen explicit echoes of this throughout the right. For example, the idea of constitutional challenges to the health care bill, the persistent attempts of a few people at The Corner to claim that New Deal was both unsuccessful and unconstitutional, and the general argument that a "big government" goes against what the Founders wanted. I am not here to debate what the Founders did or did not want--that work is the job of historians, and frankly, is uninteresting for people interested in how effectively the supposed myths are mobilized within a general public.

No, what's fascinating is the implicit vision of what the Founders stood for that Barber's ad assumes to be the case. Addressing Washington et. al. about the reach and power of the IRS, and to speak to them specifically as small business owners is a rather hilarious conceit. Not to mention the details of what the IRS does that are so objectionable--you need to have records of who is hired, fired, and how much they are paid? Heavens to Betsy (Ross, in this case I'd wager)! Political ads by their very nature trade in reductio and polemic, so I don't want to single out this ad just for being those things (although it certainly is). But what strikes me about the ad, and the candidate's performance, is just how goddam sincere he is. The fact that this ad was made means some people in a campaign think it really will resonate with some people.

To review briefly, we might ask conservative rapper Polatik what the major characteristics of a Tea Party are. To quote his song "That's a Tea Party", they are fiscally responsible, stand for limited government, are "not a race thing", and echo back into the past to summon the spirit of the American founding. I jest, but essentially, what we really know the Tea Party stands for is less government and less government spending, both of which are consistent with a lower overall tax rate. These statements are too general to form much of a positive political platform--and indeed, the Tea Party is mostly into negation, writ large, as seen in the way they flooded the town halls to show their opposition to health care (and yes, I know many of them were civil--negation can be and often is civil).

Not to beat a dead horse (elephant) but the ol' Boston Tea Party and general crankiness of revolutionary America related in part to the "without representation" part of the old "no taxation" complaint. And I guess part of what frustrates/amuses me the most about this ad is that is makes an explicit call for a revolutionary solution to a problem that already has a political avenue for expression--elections allow for "the people" to change their leadership. It really assumes that the audience has little to understanding of any nuance that came out of the revolution. But even the most sanguine and cynical observer would have to admit--most history classes taught it as "no taxation without representation", rather than "only enough taxation to allow for the fulfillment of Nozick's limited state".

Typically, people revolt and protest when their demands and claims are not being satisfied by the dominant political elite. In this sense, the emergence of the Tea Party is perfectly logical and legitimate--the government is dominated by individuals who do think that the government should do things, lots of them, and the Tea Party points to how their is precious little wiggle room for the pragmatists who speak dogmatically to soothe their base (I'm looking at you, Lamar Alexander).

There is no great theoretical point to this post. But I want to make the case that right now, the conservative movement in America is, in terms of argumentative quality, at an absolute nadir not seen since Alf Landon was getting his ass kicked by FDR. We have an oil rig exploded in the Gulf. A massive economic collapse that we are not even two years removed from. Enormous natural disasters in Louisiana and Nashville. A giant volcano that basically shut down all air travel to and from Europe for a while. A housing crisis that is impacting to a great extent the country's population (not including that it also casts doubt on the ability of both the celebrated liberal individual and the bank to judge what is and is not a good investment, a pretty key bit for the whole capitalism operation). And the Tea Party has one overwhelming argument--less government. But its not the government that people fear will make their lives worse--its the prospect that shrimp might cost twice as much, the possibility that some distantly held dividends will collapse, that your 401K becomes a 200.5, in my father's formulation. We are not at the End Times, but these are certainly not the beginnings either. Perhaps not the best time to rail against the government, when plenty of bad news comes from outside the government's purview.

Barber's ad, and the Tea Party proper, is following a well worn conservative tradition--just as Nixon was able to effectively tap into the anger of Southern voters even though his politics were left of George Wallace's, these politicians are using communicative strategies to try and harness some of the anger and popular sentiment to boost their campaigns. Fair enough--its politics, after all. But to think the angry folks now number as Wallace's constituency did in the sixties seems a risky gambit. And frankly, in 1968 "I protect states rights" was a better argument than "the IRS is fascist" is in 2010, if only because racism taps into something deeper and more irrational than various libertarian strains of thought. Yet today a real revolution is truly unthinkable. People may brandish guns at health care summits, and we might yet see another Oklahoma City bombing--but the structural issues that proceeded the secession of the South in the 19th century and the American revolution of the 18th century are nowhere to be found. We instead have a political party grasping for its identity, trying to be something more than a kind of principled resentment. It had a very nice 40 year run or so, this principled resentment.

Nothing throws this into starker relief that the firestorm stoked by Rand Paul's initial claim that he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he was then forced to painstakingly walk back after it became clear that opposing such legislation was essentially to deny the importance of a serious lesson of equality embedded in American history. It was a mistake, surely, but as a colleague noted to me, for Paul and his staff only a PR mistake, not a principled one. Indeed, if you but into the very general tenets of the Tea Party movement you end up with something that looks a lot like a version of libertarianism than santizes social violence and endorses abstract equality at every step, and especially in the face of actually existing material inequality. No one is against "freedom" or "liberty" until the definitions of those goods come into conflict with an individual's already existing understanding of their content--thats one nice lesson McGee gave us with the ideograph. The Tea Party is relying upon a certain notion of what it means to be an American, one it believes is unproblematically articulated all the way back to what the Founders did. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the way in which they summon American history is a way that almost any seventh grader knows to be factually inaccurate. At some point, the Tea Party will either have to rewrite American history to present something that produces the actions of the Obama administration as something illegitimate, or it will cease to succeed in writing itself a history, and conservatism will hazard down a different path.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Haunted By Hobbes and Reckoning with Rome

Reading Hannah Arendt's On Revolution today, I was struck by her insight. I'd been turned on to the book by David Depew and a simple phenomenal chapter written by Andreas Kalyvas in his incredible book Democracy and the Politics of the Extraordinary. Arendt's book valorizes the revolutionary Americans while condemning Robespierre and his French ilk. Kalyvas follows this argument down the line to forward the notion that revolutions which maintain some sort of continuity with the existing system are less likely to end in a violent Jacobin terror.

What interests me is something Kalyvas addresses somewhat, and the rhetorical tradition as a whole seems very well suited to examining. Arendt argues that Rousseau's failing (and that of the French revolutionaries) was to decide that the major guiding principle of the revolution should be the general will: the "best interest" of "the people" (or le peuple, for those scoring at home with their constitutive rhetoric texts). Because there was no means for this idea of "the people" to be broken up, fractured, and fragmented within the French context, breaks between what "the people" wanted and what the government actually did could not be found--instead you had only a perpetual Terror, performed in the name of the people.

Here in America we have a republican tradition. That is to say, the government is understood to be elected by the people but not to always act in manners and means coterminus with "the people". I know this is a gross, gross oversimplification. Yet, I venture to make the claim that the contemporary emergence of the New Right (in the form of the Tea Partiers) is at least in part the result of a conflict between what is entailed by the discursive committment to democracy as an ideal (focusing on the "by the people" part of our hallowed refrain, and within a milieu saturated by what remains a fundamentally Hobbesian understanding of the necessity of sovereignty) and the abiding notion of Republicanism that informs the structure and institutions of this country. I'll attempt to explain and unpack this.

For Arendt, a major difference between the French tradition and the American one lies in the American committment to a notion of separation of powers.* That is to say, in the American tradition brakes on the power of the general will are built forcefully into the system. This is to be contrasted with the French notion of freedom, which Arendt finds anchored in something like a pseudo-pure Rousseauian idea of the "general will". The problem in the latter situation is well framed by this Arendtian quote: "Power under the condition of human plurality can never amount to omnipotence, and laws residing on human power can never be absolute". The problem, as you can probably see, is that humans tend to want to understand things in terms of absolutes. Ulrich Beck (and countless theorists of argumentation) have eloquently made this point elsewhere in arguments about risk assessment--humans want to deal in absolutes and certains, even when uncertainty is the name of the game.

A layered or textured understanding of democracy does not tend to resonate in the imaginary. Such matters much be simplified to make the enormous mass of a nation state reduceable/representable (think Burke here). For example, we imagine national borders in strict inside/outside logics (little room for flexible borders in the demos--just ask Arizona, and any number of democrats that successfully campaign on outsourcing). Similarly, we tend to conceive of any loss of democratic power as total and incredible, rather than temporary and partial. This is, I think, especially true when it comes to the Presidency, which seems to exercise a disproportionately powerful hold on the public imagination. We imagine the President as the center of the government, even though in many ways the Congress and Supreme Courts are just as, if not more, powerful. Chalk it up to the human need to simplify--singular human embodiment of the state is a neat and nifty tradition. Also divine right still haunts us--signifiers of authority ain't that far adrift.

In general, we need to deny that our system is Republican for another reason--one needs a Republican system because "the people" are untrustworthy. Otherwise we'd just let the general will run free, like some sort of junkyard dog of democracy. Essentially, the Constitution talks down to the American people. "We think you're pretty awesome...except when you're not." There are LOTS of mechanisms in place to make sure that the government does not equal the people--the Supreme Court, the electoral college, the non-proportional representation provided by the Senate--yet when we SAY we are a democracy, we think more of the Greeks than the Roman.

But never far from our thoughts is the lurking Hobbesian narrative about the state of nature. With total risk nearby, we need a total sovereign to secure ourselves from a life that would otherwise be "nasty, poor, brutish, and short." In the face of such danger, suspicions of republicanism are understandable, because republicanism mediates rather than constitutes the will of the people, especially if this will be for a strong sort of decisionism.

The Tea Party wants to "take the government back." The problem, of course, is that they want "the people" in charge, in a place that will forever be occupied by republican representatives of the people. The pure general will will not occupy the seat of power. But Arendt is right--the Tea Party does not seek a true revolution in her sense, just different representation. The virtue of a republican system is that it allows any faults in the government to be identified with the representatives, rather than finding members of the polis lacking in their committment to the general will, which necessitates purges. I suppose I'm rather more sanguine about what the Tea Party aims at after writing this post.

*Which, if violated, would leave us very much as we would be in the case of the use of nuclear weapons, in a situation where we wouldn't want to say "I told you so".