With the probability of American intervention, Syria is everywhere in the news. On this week’s Moyers & Company, Phil Donahue, filling in for Bill Moyers, speaks with National Public Radio Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos and historian and Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich about the possible repercussions of our actions in the Middle East.
As he has done so often in recent years, Andrew Bacevich is asking the important questions about America’s role in the world and specifically why we should go into Syria. Is a military response justified and if we take action, where does it stop? A graduate of West Point and Vietnam veteran, he served for 23 years in the military before becoming a professor at Boston University. His new book, Breach of Trust, asks whether our reliance on a professional military rather than a citizen's army has lured us into a morass of endless war -- a trap that threatens not only our global reputation but democracy itself.
Among its deadly side effects, the war in Syria has created a refugee crisis beyond that country’s borders -- a “disgraceful humanitarian calamity” and “the great tragedy of this century,” according to the United Nations. Deborah Amos, a veteran National Public Radio correspondent, joins Donahue for a discussion about the human toll of the Syrian fighting, and the potential impact of millions of displaced people on the region.
Chris Hedges, who has written, "The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug," is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and publishes a regular column on truthdig.com. Hedges spoke about Sheldon S. Wolin and his latest work, Democracy Incorporated.
Sheldon S. Wolin, born in 1922, is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Princeton University. He taught political theory for 40 years at Oberlin College, the Universities of California, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles, Princeton University, Cornell University, and Oxford University. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Democracy and a former regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. His books include Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Thought  and Tocqueville between Two Worlds . Wolin's propheticism about U.S. political life seeks to recognize the fugitive character of democracy in order to retain its reformative power, encouraging local and particular modes of political participation which can resist the totalizing tendencies of statist power. His newest book, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, is a devastating critique of the contemporary government of the United States--including what has happened to it in recent years and what must be done if it is not to disappear into history along with its classic totalitarian predecessors: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia. "With his fundamental grasp of political theory and restless spirit to get at the essence of what threatens modern democracy," Rakesh Khurana writes, "Wolin demonstrates that the threats to our democratic traditions and institutions are not always from outside, but may come from within."
An excerpt from "Bill Moyers Journal"
(premiered April 30, 2010)
BILL MOYERS: You've no doubt figured out my bias by now. I've hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news.
Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don't try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don't mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.
Plutocracy is not an American word but it's become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side. By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly "bang the drum on plutonomy."
And bang they did, with an "equity strategy" for their investors, entitled, "Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer." Here are some excerpts:
"Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper...[and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years..."
"...the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US-- the plutonomists in our parlance-- have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US...[and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor."
"...[and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. [Because] the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact."
And so they were, before the great collapse of 2008. And so they are, today, after the fall. While millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings, the plutonomists are doing just fine. In some cases, even better, thanks to our bailout of the big banks which meant record profits and record bonuses for Wall Street.
Now why is this? Because over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding. Remember that Citigroup reference to "market-friendly governments" on their side? It hasn't mattered which party has been in power — government has done Wall Street's bidding.
Don't blame the lobbyists, by the way; they are simply the mules of politics, delivering the drug of choice to a political class addicted to cash — what polite circles call "campaign contributions" and Tony Soprano would call "protection."
This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year.
So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.
Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs.
So along with Jim Hightower and Iowa's concerned citizens, and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own.