IT COULD (NEVER) HAPPEN HERE

Posted in Rants on August 4th, 2011 by Ed

An old Soviet-era joke:

Svetlana works at a factory that makes the finest beds in the Soviet Union, more comfortable than any bed in the world. But neither she nor any of the workers have a bed. At the end of a long shift they return home and sleep on the floor. The correct application of socialist principles dictates that the beds first go to the hospitals, then to the army, then to the universities, then to the collective farms, and so on. The workers understand that they must wait their turn and none are bitter.

One day Svetlana's sister Olga visits and is stunned to see that she sleeps on the floor. "Svetlana," she said, "you work in a bed factory! How can it be that you have no bed?" After hearing the explanation, Olga says, "But you are missing the obvious answer. You're strong and good with your hands. Steal one small part from the factory every day and smuggle it home. In a few weeks, assemble them and you will have a bed."

"We tried that several times," Svetlana said, "and every time when we finish we find that instead of a bed we have an AK-47."

I don't expect much out of a guy like Joe Lieberman. Watching him take the Senate floor to tout his legislation (cosponsored by Tom Coburn) proposing to reallocate money from Social Security and Medicare to prevent the Pentagon budget from seeing any cuts, the ignorance of history is a little stunning even for him. When a nation is at the point of liquidating its domestic infrastructure to maintain its grotesque, bloated war machine, some historical parallels should be apparent.

When the USSR was doddering through its twilight years, it poured money and resources into a pointless war because saber-rattling and military hubris were futile efforts to stay the irreversible decline of an unsustainable system. The Roman Empire rotted from the inside and collapsed under the weight of the barbarian horde it paid to enforce Pax Romana long after it ceased to be able to afford it. That the U.S. could be in the terminal stages of empire, blindly shoveling money into an outsized military to combat boogeymen both real and imagined, seems impossible for our political class to comprehend let alone consider. Sure, analogies are fun. But people like Lieberman understand that there's a difference here: Muslims are scary and America is goddamn awesome.