Sunday, December 6, 2009


The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight Committee (Delahunt: D, MA) announces in an Op-Ed that he is introducing a Bill to deal with an “epidemic” of ‘physical or sexual abuse’ of women; this is a Bill aimed at making ending violence against women “an integral component of American foreign policy”. *

A couple of thoughts.

The reduction of violence in any form in this world – and around the entire world – is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Every human being should be alert to the possibilities of contributing to that hugely valuable goal, starting with his/her own life and actions and whatever possibilities his/her political placement affords.

So let it be established for the purposes of this discussion that such a goal is genuinely noble and worthwhile, urgently to be embraced, and vigorously to be pursued.

However, that’s the easy part. Just how to go about achieving such an objective – vague and general as it may be – is where the hard thinking and figuring come in.

And that’s not where the Congressional competence shines, if its record over the past few decades is any indicator.

He describes the problem of violence as being – for his purposes here – one of violence against women. And OK to that. It’s not the only violence out there, but it’s certainly one component of humanity’s awful burden.

But he cites a statistic and uses some elastic definitions – and the SO community knows precisely what happens when that sort of thing starts getting thrown around the Beltway ballpark. “The United Nations reports that one of every three women worldwide will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime”, he reports.

That’s an awful lot of human beings and an awful lot of ‘abuse’. But it would help to clarify just what ‘abuse’ means – We recall that ‘battering’ can include not-speaking over a telephone at this point. And what constitutes ‘physical’ abuse? ‘Sexual’ abuse?

I’m not being coy here. On the basis of this statistic and this kind of fuzzy terminology he asserts that violence against women is a world-wide “epidemic”. That’s a term from medical science, generally taken to denote a sudden, large-scale, virulent outbreak of some serious disease. Yet if any thought be given, this type of thing is what feminist history claims has been going on since not long after the beginning of human history; so unless there is some sudden spike in it, then this is a long-standing situation.

Which doesn’t make it right, but it also doesn’t make any old solution – the dangerous Whaaaatevvverrrr approach – the thing to erect into a national policy.

Especially since this Bill will be entitled “The International Violence Against Women Act”. I haven’t seen the text of the Bill anywhere yet, but the ‘International’ part certainly gives pause.
Given what We have seen in the various 1990s legislation passed in this country, I’m not sure it’s a wise idea to simply start trying to enforce such things on the world’s nations … and their governments. After all, at this point it appears with increasingly lurid clarity that the US can’t even get such an undeniably good thing as ‘democracy’ accepted and functionally established by this or that targeted nation and people and culture and sovereign government.

My concern is intensified as he continues, burbling that “this act would build on our success with the Violence Against Women Act”. That’s the 1994 Act – parts of which were soon found to be unconstitutional – about which Joe Biden brayed that “it may be a bad law but it sends a great message”.

Congressman Delahunt focuses on the good things: the Act “created a key national network of programs, including domestic violence shelters, rape crisis programs, and other support services”.

That was the ‘educational’ and ‘consciousness-raising’ aspect of it, yes. Although it has to be recalled that the Act thereby created national stature and government funding for a genuine panoplium of eager and angry ‘therapies’, including ‘repressed memory’ and ‘all men are rapists’ and ‘if you think you were then you were’ and ‘embrace your rage’ and ‘make them pay’ therapies, administered by that catch-all category of cadre ‘therapists’ who may have had solid training but quite possibly simply read ‘The Courage to Heal’ and reely reely want to ‘help’.

While this development is not totally negative, its downside has wrought far more damage to female as well as male maturity and to civic society and the American polity than any elites or the media care to acknowledge. Do We really want to unleash this on some foreign culture and society?

And can We back it up? Money is famously tight – to put it charitably – and surely We don’t expect the military to do the same type of enforcing ‘over there’ (wherever ‘there’ is) that the police have been doing over here.

Possibly the Act will deploy the same strategy as We have seen in the sex-offender laws: the feds will declare themselves ‘partners’ of the States and then threaten to cut off funds if their wishes aren’t complied with. Al Capone and his immediate predecessors fine-tuned this sort of thing quite some time ago.

But again, the Congressman (and he’s hardly alone) manages to not-mention the ‘enforcement’ consequences of the 1994 Act: domestic violence laws copied the assorted police-state tactics of far less reputable regimes of the world’s recent and unhappy past: arrest merely on the word of a complaining citizen; deprivation of property, resources, and children; ‘special courts’ that almost always seem to consider their warrant to be the severe handling of the accused; and registries. And all of this paved the way for the initiatives and impositions of the sex-offender mania.

The consequences of the 1994 Act have to be seen for what they truly are. Because if they are not – and they are not – then Congress may very well gallop gallantly and pridefully into an even worse situation than currently exists ‘here’.

While I am not happy with cultures and societies that enshrine any sort of violence, I can’t think that Congress and such few blunt instruments as it commands is going to have any more success “using law to eliminate gender” and “changing the discourse” and “altering the social imaginary” anywhere else in the world than it has had here. In fact, it will have even less success. And if We and the Honorable Congress have not examined carefully, clearly, and deliberately all of the consequences that have now taken up residence here, then We are going to wind up making a lot of people and societies and governments around the world rather mad at Us. And can you say Iraq War and Af-Pak?

And if the Talibaddies and their agitated excitements are not enough of a hornets’ nest, what will happen if We start profoundly irritating lots of the currently less-radicalized folk on the planet? And will their governments be able to maintain legitimacy among their own cultures and peoples if they try to placate Congress?

And when you step in and insist that such and such a long-established and deeply inculturated pattern be rooted up right now the chances are better than good that you are going to destabilize a lot of lives and diminish the local government authority. By now that has rather clearly proven to not-work, I would say.

After all, the original model for such radical intervention was the federal government’s rather sustained intervention in the South of the civil-rights era – especially from 1955 to 1965. But that was a purely domestic American matter and the federal government could muster sufficient influence and brute military force - recall Little Rock as well as the squadrons of FBI and other government agents that were poured into the South – and follow up with a vast matrix of profoundly cultural-changing laws and administrative policies. The US government has no such options (unless as I said they’re thinking of the Marines and the Mountain troops and Delta Force enforcing sex-offense laws) in other lands, on the turf of some other sovereign nation.

I am going to hazard the guess that there are ‘thinkers’ and ‘theorists’ even now who are assuring the Beltway movers and shakers that any sovereign government that permits such violence to continue has forfeited the right to exist, and that any culture targeted for such ‘reform’ deserves it.

And those assertions will be capped, as Congressman Delahunt implicitly reveals, by the cheerible certainty that it all worked so well ‘here’.

But it hasn’t quite done that over here.

And it is yet another hell-hot historical irony that just as some feminists*8 and even the staunchly progressive ‘American Prospect’ magazine*** are suggesting that it’s time to cool off and let the dust settle here, yet the Congress is planning to set the same fires elsewhere.

Perhaps, as happened with the entrenched military-industrial complex after the fall of the USSR, the established advocacies must be given employment and room to continue their quests … somewhere on the planet. And it’s the outrageously squandered 1990s all over again again.


Of course, it may also be that among the Beltway types it’s all about the ‘domestic value’ of passing such a law: it will play well in the Identity and Gender Politics’ equivalent of ‘Peoria’.

But Bush the Egregious misfigured the same thing about Iraq and Afghanistan, and the entire Beltway misunderestimated the costs and consequences of what looked at the time like the proverbial ‘nice little war in the Far East’ that would spackle up a national unity deeply corroded by decades of government-sponsored ‘culture and gender war’. But it didn’t.

And here We are.

And the current President, upon whom many had set such high hopes, is now planning to commit what are in effect the ‘last reserves’ of a staggering Army, although, he promises, only for a short time and then it will all be ‘won’.

In the immortal word of Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Yah."

It’s clear that nobody is willing to have the buck stop where they are presently sitting. Maybe the stopping of all the bucks – and We are indeed financially in deep doodoo – will solve the problem that nobody seems willing or able to stop.

But that comes at a terrible cost. As has so much other ‘progress’ over the past decades.

For that reason, I not only differ with the Congressman but wonder if he can possibly be serious when he asserts in his peroration that “passage of this act will not only save lives, but will improve US security at the same time”.

Congress and the President have proven incapable of saving lives and improving US security by taking effective measures in (including, possibly, effectively getting out of) the wars in Southwest Asia. Being thus in so unimpressive a position, does Congress now propose to start up another set of invasions, albeit this time not the occasionally successful military type but rather the spectacularly frakked culture and gender wars?

This may seem a little far afield for the SO community, but I would say that such a first impression is not accurate. The same mindset that drove the culture and gender wars and the assorted sex-offense and sex-violence manias and their matrix of laws is now pushing to actually internationalize the whole mess, again on the hugely overestimated power of the Congress and the government to impose profound change quickly and ‘surgically’, and on the hugely underestimated power of bad and predictable consequences to wreak havoc and weaken not only this country but other cultures and governments.

We might well suggest with John Adams that the best thing America can do is to refine her society and culture and politics and citizenry into a model that the other governments and peoples of the earth might be attracted to imitate if they wished.

Rather, as Adams said in the next sentence, than “going forth into the world seeking monsters to destroy”.

And the SO community knows only too well what happens when the Congress is persuaded to go after ‘monsters’, even if it has to create those very monsters through wildly inaccurate ‘Findings’ and short-sighted politicking that panders to the passions of a deliberately misinformed public.

That, I think, is what is at stake here.

But let me say in conclusion that Lincoln’s stated national objective at the end of his Second Inaugural holds my complete support: “To achieve a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations”.

The only devil We face is in the details. Not in ‘the other gender’ or any selected ‘monsters’ that it may seem convenient to create.


*I seem to recall this title from a while back. It's possible this is a re-introduction of a Bill that failed to gain passage or consideration in an earlier Congress. I'll look for the text and see.

**See my Post on Janet Halley dated 11/23/09 on this site.

***See my Post on my other site here.

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