The American Empire is engaged in one of the greatest rhetorical cons of the past century, one that involves an endless differentiation and deferral of meaning. Its “post-colonial” warfare is therefore downright postmodern.
Many conservatives believe there is a plot to destroy Western Civilization emanating from the French Parisian Postmodernists. Jacques Derrida is their central villain, corrupting the youth with obscurantist nonsense.
For example, Derrida wrote:
“Contrary to the metaphysical, dialectical, and ‘Hegelian’ interpretation of the economic movement of différance, we must admit a game where whoever loses wins and where one wins and loses each time.” [emphasis added]
To be charitably and perhaps irresponsibly indulgent of Derrida, we can observe that différance is a word he coined by swapping an “a” for an “e” in the French word “différence.” This allowed him to visually symbolize différence’s twofold meaning: differ and defer.
It is a clever rhetorical speed-bump, forcing our cognition to slow down and ponder the point being made. It’s the same reason the film theorist J. Benjamin Wagner uses the word “oneiric” instead of “dreamlike,” why many libertarians say “employee of the police” instead of “police officer,” why the philosopher Kendy Hess coined the term “corpopolis” to critique the corporate firm, and why the philosopher Mark Ajita coined the term “sophophilia” in his Nietzschean attack on Plato.
To be more Nietzschean ourselves, we might observe that Derrida’s work is taught by elite, credentialed professors whose inherited wealth allows them to dress like corporate executives and visually mislead their students about the financial profitability of academic life. These students often borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend a university where professors interpret Derrida for them, just to wind up demanding a government bailout.
Much more interesting is that the above passage on différance has the same style as the Pentagon’s 1992 Defense Planning Guidance:
“An unavoidable challenge for defense planners is that we must start development today of forces to counter threats still so distant into the future that they cannot be confidently predicted.”
Derrida derived his theory of différance from a philosophical tradition that viewed language with radical and anxious suspicion. Cognitive Psychologist Steven Pinker said:
“Famous quotations from two philosophers capture the anxiety. ‘We have to cease to think if we refuse to do it in the prisonhouse of language,’ wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein.’”
Derrida portrayed humanity imprisoned within its own language-driven symbolic order, endlessly and circuitously deferring meaning. A species enslaved by différance. Pinker empirically rejects this view, but apparently the American foreign policy establishment has embraced it.
Consider the American-provoked Russo-Ukrainian War. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. This was about six months after the disastrously implemented U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was catastrophic, but we could redeem ourselves in Ukraine! Never mind that the 9/11 attacks which authorized the “War on Terrorism” were primarily motivated by our redemption for the Vietnam catastrophe: the First Gulf War and its murderous aftermath. Or that America’s “Desert Storm” itself was a deferral of the Great Cold War Confrontation that never came:
“Desert Storm was, in effect, the NATO–Warsaw Pact war that never was, pitting largely Soviet weaponry, doctrine, and tactics against a Coalition, which reflected NATO strategic thinking.”
But that’s all ancient history. Benjamin J. Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, told The New York Times:
“[The Russian invasion of Ukraine] gives Washington a new and nobler sense of purpose” and “I think Putin’s invasion has necessitated an American return to the moral high ground.”
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens declared, “This is a Moment for America to Believe in Itself Again.”
The geopolitical theorist Robert Kaplan spoke of the “9/11 head fake,” arguing that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 “deluded the United States into thinking that Islamic terrorism was the chief geopolitical danger, when in fact Russia and China were already back on the rise.”
Hoover Institution senior fellow Stephen Kotkin argues:
“The horror of the Ukraine war delivered a bounty to us on China policy. And so what some people are calling expenditure is actually an investment in our prosperity and security.”
We’ve been treated to such articles as “The Future of American Warfare Is Unfolding in Ukraine,” “How Ukraine became a testbed for Western weapons and battlefield innovation,” and “Winning the Air Battle for Taiwan: Lessons From Ukraine’s Drone Operations.”
So you see, citizen, although America’s Ukraine adventure will end in disaster (just like Afghanistan and Yemen and Syria and Libya and Somalia and Iraq and Iran and Vietnam and Korea) it’s all good. We’ve learned so much for the next war. With China!
During the early days of the War on Terrorism, historian Niall Ferguson wrote, “The reality, which dawned only slowly on policy makers in Washington, was that Vietnam did not really matter.”
Vietnam sure mattered to the people who got killed and maimed and raped and displaced and starved. But not so much to the peddlers of imperial différance. They do nothing to ensure our national security, only their job security.
As Derrida said “…we must admit a game where whoever loses wins and where one wins and loses each time.”