There's a reason that one cannot describe America and the world as chaotic. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq daily show us what chaos is. So the word for America and its place in the world as 2013 closes is, to put it charitably, "worse."
The year began with Hillary Clinton's 2012 war cry "Assad must go" still ringing in Washington's ears. In passing, let us note her declaration's punchy tag line: "The sooner the better for everyone concerned."
Thus, sooner rather than a prudent later, the Obama people jumped on those gas attacks against Syrian civilians last summer, rolling out "proof" that they were the work of Assad's army. But it turned out to be proof - la Bush, cherry-picked and air-brushed (which, as I said in my previous article, was predictable).
Seymour Hersch, that great journalist who unlike the rest of the press refuses to be "on the team" of U.S. foreign-policy salesmen, told us why they did it:
"The fact of the matter is that this president was going to go to war because he felt he had to protect what he said about a red line"It's about a president choosing to make political use of a war crime."
The year now closes with the U.S. coming full circle: "Western officials" sidling up to the few moderate Syrian rebels still standing (in excellent hotel rooms, most of them) and telling them to accept Assad as part of a new government. For the alternative isn't a new, democratic Syria, but a hodgepodge of militias dominated by jihadists, overseen by Al Qaeda, and itching to give Israel a bloody nose. "The sooner the better for everyone concerned" -- Wow! Only History could invent a joke that perfect.
History and Obama must thank Vladimir Putin, not a nice man but at least an adult, for stepping in and moving events in the direction of order.
Messes ever-worse burble in the American heartland too. The temporary agreement between Iran and the United States, among other countries, gives cause for hope, though the Senate -- yes, the Democrat-dominated Senate -- is determined to trash any agreement by imposing greater sanctions on Iran.
The Republican-dominated House, never to be outdone, trashes anything that the White House wants to do.
Though we criticize Syrians and Libyans and Egyptians for not being able to work together, it's clear that the American Congress would feel right at home in those countries. Do we need Vladimir Putin to step in and establish order in America too?
In the middle of the year Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald shone a ray of light -- or rather a big, fat spotlight -- on what the American security services are doing in the service of domestic order: watch everything and everybody.
It's an odd thing, the e-world. Imagine if we had discovered that the U.S. Postal Service was noting down all our mail contacts, occasionally opening the mail and reading it. Everyone would have been up in arms. But there is something about computers and software that makes domestic spying more palatable, more distant. It's like the average person who would feel ashamed to steal a printer cartridge from an employer, but who thinks nothing of downloading a movie or an album of music from Internet instead of paying for it.
And so the biggest uproar has come from a few members of Congress and countries like Brazil and Germany, where NSA villains filched the text messages of leaders, who most likely are really worried about indiscretions giving the guys in Langley a few jollies.
The American public, as usual, is not outraged as one about their Fourth Amendment rights being trampled, but is, instead, divided on the matter: privacy or security? And now that the hubbub is dying down, the NSA, having taken its lumps in Congress, has jumped onto the public stage to sing a lullaby and sent everyone back to sleep.
Did you see the softball 60 minutes double-segment was hosted by John Miller? He started with this statement: "Full disclosure, I once worked in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates." Of course, this disclosure wasn't all that full, was it? It turns out that he worked for both the NYPD, the LAPD, and has spent much of his career working on high-tech intelligence systems.
Poor Mike Wallace must be turning over in his grave to see what a government mouthpiece that once-worthy program has become.