Changing the Context

As President Trump knows well, he has not been very successful in getting the measures he wants through Congress.  One way to improve his chances of doing so is to change the context.

Relations with Russia provide an example.  The president knows our hostility towards Russia makes no sense.  Communism has fallen, we have no interests that should lead us to oppose Russia and Russia is resuming her 19th century role as the most conservative of the great powers.  Russia should be our ally, not our enemy. 

The Washington establishment wants a hostile relationship with Russia because it is still thinking in the context of a world of states in conflict.  Any other powerful state (including China) that does not bow to American hegemony must be seen as an enemy.  The purpose of all the clucking and squawking about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia is to scare the administration away from improving relations with Moscow.  Unfortunately, that trick seems to be working. 

But what if the administration responded by changing the context?  President Trump could easily explain to the American people that the real threat we face is not any other state (except perhaps North Korea) but “terrorism” (really 4GW) from non-state entities, of which ISIS is only one.  To beat the terrorists, we need an alliance with Russia and China, because they are the other two great powers.  In fact, that alliance would only be the beginning.  We should work with Moscow and Beijing to create an alliance of all states against violent non-state entities.  If we want a relatively peaceful, ordered, and safe 21st century, that is what we have to do.    

The public can understand that logic.  And with it, they can see why we need good relations with Russia.  President Putin has suggested several times that Russia and America work together against terrorism.  Once the people see past the obsolete conflict among states and accept the new context created by 4GW, the establishment is left high and dry.  Its desire for a hostile relationship with Russia will be perceived as senseless, as it is.  In the new context, the president’s preferred policy can move forward.

      Another area where the President could change the context to his advantage is the fight against Political Correctness.  Most of the public has come to hate Political Correctness and its attempts to play censor, telling us what words we may or may not use and what thoughts we may and may not think.  Part of the reason Mr. Trump was elected was because he rejected and attacked Political Correctness, as he has continued to do.

But his efforts to combat it would be far more powerful if he explained to the American people that Political Correctness is really Cultural Marxism, Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms.  Once the Left and its endless cries of “racism, sexism, and homophobia” are exposed as a form of Marxism, their legitimacy will crumble.  People know that other varieties of Marxism killed tens of millions in the 20th century.  They see that “PC,” cultural Marxism, is equally tyrannical on college campuses where it has taken control.  If President Trump changed the context of the cultural debate from “social justice” to “cultural Marxism,” he would sweep the Left from the board.

Every time Trump changes the context of the political debate on an issue, he will open the door to creating the new, enduring coalition of the anti-establishment Right and elements from the antiestablishment Left (i.e., Sanders voters) that should be the conservatives’ goal.  It is difficult or impossible to get voters to change sides in the current political trench warfare.  But if you move the debate out of the trench lines by putting it in a new context, the battlefield becomes much more fluid.  New alignments become possible.  And the agenda President Trump campaigned on can win.

The View From Olympus: The Hezbollah Model Wins

When we think of ISIS’s enemies, we usually list religions other than Islam, Islamics who reject Sunni puritanism, local states, Western states and so on.  But from the perspective of Fourth Generation war theory, ISIS’s most important competition may be with Hezbollah.  These two Islamic Fourth Generation entities represent two different models of 4GW.  Hezbollah’s model hollows out the state where it is based but leaves it standing.  The ISIS model does away with the state and creates a replacement in the form of a caliphate, which is a pre-state type of government.  (Ironically, the ultra-puritan ISIS proclaimed a caliphate that, under Islamic law, is illegitimate, because the legitimate caliph is still the head of the house of Osman; the Ottoman sultan was also a caliph). 

The competition between these two approaches to Fourth Generation war is ending, and the verdict is clear: the Hezbollah model wins.  This does not come as a great surprise, except possibly to ISIS.  By seizing territory and proclaiming a caliphate, ISIS opened itself up to defeat by state militaries.  Those state militaries could fight the way they are trained and equipped to, in a war of firepower and attrition where the goal is to seize and hold ground.  Whenever 4GW forces take on state armed forces in that kind of fight, they are likely to lose.  They are pitting their physical weakness against their opponents’ greatest strength, which lies in the tactical/physical box on the grid.  (For the grid, see the Fourth Generation Warfare Handbook.)

In contrast, the Hezbollah model uses a hollowed-out state to shift the conflict away from the tactical/physical box to 4GW entities’ greatest strength, the box marked strategic/moral (Col. John Boyd argued this is the most powerful box, while the tactical/physical box is the weakest in determining the ultimate outcome.)  The Lebanese state protects Hezbollah strategically and morally because it is impossible to attack Hezbollah’s base without also attacking the nominally sovereign state of Lebanon.  Because the international ruling elite regards attacks on other states, especially weak states that themselves pose no threat, as morally wrong, the attacker quickly finds himself condemned and isolated.  This, more than Hezbollah’s tactical strength, is why ((((((((((Our Greatest Ally))))))))))’s attempts to attack Hezbollah on Lebanese soil have resulted in defeat, although Hezbollah is much better tactically than most other 4GW entities.

ISIS may now attempt to revert to the Hezbollah model, but I think it is unlikely to succeed.  That model requires years of patient development and serving rather than oppressing the local population, and I doubt ISIS is capable of either.  The fall of its illegitimate caliphate will erode its ability to recruit and to secure funding, and like Al Qaeda it will become a wraith of its former self. 

But just at this point of success the West’s inability to understand Fourth Generation war will set it up again for failure.  Western governments fall into the trap of defining their enemies as this or that particular 4GW bogeyman:  al Qaeda or ISIS or Hamas or whatever.  In doing so, they miss the forest for the trees.  4GW entities, Islamic or otherwise, come and go.  Each particular entity matters relatively little.  What matters is that they can generate themselves endlessly so long as we miss the real threat, in the form of the ground from which they all spring.  That ground is the crisis of legitimacy of the state.  As Martin van Creveld said to me many years ago, everyone can see it except the people in the capital cities.

The origin of the crisis of legitimacy, in turn, is the emptying the state of its content, something the Globalist elite demands.  This “internationalist” view has been dominant among the global elite since the end of World War I, and you cannot now dissent from it and remain a member of the elite.    That is why the elite so fears and loathes President Trump, who represents the return of state sovereignty – and with it a resurgent legitimacy of the state.  Such a resurgence is the only thing that can defeat not this or that 4GW entity, but 4GW itself at the decisive strategic/moral level. 

Does this make 4GW and the Globalist elite de facto allies?  Draw your own conclusion.

The View From Olympus: The North Korean Threat to China

America’s fixation on the threat from North Korea’s missiles and nuclear weapons evinces the usual American dive into the weeds.  If we instead stand back a bit and look at the strategic picture, we quickly see that the North Korean threat to China is far greater than its threat to us.

North Korea is unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.  However, if North Korea retains its nuclear weapons, it is likely to lead South Korea, Japan, and possibly Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam to go nuclear themselves.  From the Chinese perspective, that would be a strategic catastrophe. 

China has never sought world domination, nor is it likely to do so.  Its distaste for barbarians, who include everyone not Chinese, is such that it wants to maintain its distance from them.  However, maintaining that distance requires a buffer zone around China, which historically China has sought and is seeking again now.

At present, the main obstacle to creating that buffer zone of semi-independent client states is the United States.  That is a strategic blunder on our part.  Such a buffer zone is no threat to the U.S. or to its vital interests.

However, China knows American power is waning and the American people are tired of meaningless wars on the other side of the world.  Despite America, China’s influence on the states in her proximity is rising.  She can afford to be patient.

In contrast, if the states on China’s periphery get nuclear weapons, her quest to dominate them is permanently blocked.  An American presence is no longer required to balk her ambitions.  Even weak states such as Vietnam can stop her cold if they have nukes.  Her border states, instead of serving as a buffer, become dangerous threats sitting right on her frontiers.  Even if she should defeat one of them, the damage she would suffer in a nuclear exchange would knock her out of the ranks of the great powers and might cause her to come apart internally, which is the Chinese leadership’s greatest fear because it has so often happened throughout her history. 

President Trump will soon be visiting China.  If he and those around him ask the all-important question, “What would Bismarck do?”, they should be able to motivate China to finally do what is necessary with North Korea, namely give it an offer it cannot refuse.

The script runs roughly like this.  President Trump makes the case about the need to restrain North Korea’s nuclear program.  Instead of threatening trade or other measures if China refuses, he simply says, “If North Korea retains its nukes and delivery systems, we can no longer advise our allies in Asia not to go nuclear.  We will of course regret such nuclear proliferation, but we will also understand why they have to develop their own nuclear weapons.  In some cases, we may find it necessary to assist them with delivery systems such as missile-equipped submarines.  Of course, nuclear weapons in the hands of our allies are not a threat to the United States.”  He need not add that they will be a threat to China.

Nation’s foreign policies are not motivated by other nation’s needs.  Beijing does not care about the threat North Korean nukes pose to the U.S.  But nations are motivated by their own interests, and if we put North Korea’s nukes in this context, the context of the strategic threat reactions to them pose to China, that is a different kettle of fish.

In turn, we need to remember Bismarck’s dictum that politics is the art of the possible.  North Korea is unlikely to give up all its nuclear weapons.  However, at the demand of Beijing, Pyongyang can probably be brought to limiting their number and the range of their delivery systems.  Beijing could also offer to put an anti-missile system such as the Russians’ S-400 on North Korea’s border to shoot down any South Korean first strike.  North Korea could still use its few nukes to deter an American first strike, even if they could not reach beyond South Korea.

Are the Pentagon, State Department, and White House capable of Bismarckian Realpolitik? President Trump’s own instincts lead him that way.  Whether his administration can follow is open to doubt.

President Trump’s Fateful Choice

President Trump ran as a Republican, but he did not win as a Republican.  He won as a populist.  If he is to be a successful president and win re-election, he needs to make a fateful choice: will he govern as a populist or as a Republican?  If he chooses the latter, he will fail.

Unfortunately, the president seems to be leaning more and more towards governing as a Republican.  The tax reform proposal he recently offered is classic Republican:  it may benefit the middle class indirectly by creating more jobs, but its direct beneficiaries are high-income people.  One simple change would transform it into a populist measure: a high tax rate, say 75%, on earned incomes over $1,000,000 annually (indexed for inflation).  The people who elected Mr. Trump would cheer.

On the vexing problem of health insurance, the president’s latest action, cutting government subsidies to insurance companies to subsidize low income people, may hurt Trump voters.  Many of his supporters have modest incomes. They are not Republicans with money to burn.  The populist answer to health care is Medicare for all, with Medicare’s ability to control prices.  The origin of the health care affordability problem is grossly excessive prices for anything labelled “medical”. Any policy that does not deal with those prices is a band-aid.

In foreign and defense policy, Trump voters do not want more unnecessary wars halfway around the world that kill our kids and waste our money.  That is the populist position: America first.  If we are attacked, we fight, but why should young Americans die in the centuries-old war between Sunni and Shiite Islamics?  Here again, President Trump seems to be governing as a Republican, not a populist.  Continuing the futile war in Afghanistan, re-involving ourselves on the ground in Iraq, putting “advisors” in Syria, spooling up the long-standing and strategically meaningless war of words with North Korea—none of this is populist.  It all comes from the playbook of Republicans such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who cannot stand the thought that there is a quarrel somewhere in the world in which the U.S. is not involved.

I suspect President Trump knows the Republicans have taken over his administration and pushed the populism that elected him to the side.  Unfortunately, he seems not to know what to do about it.  There are sources of ideas and people from which he could assemble a different, populist-conservative agenda and set of advisors.  I write for one of them, The American Conservative magazine.

What the Republicans in and around the White House do not understand, in addition to the bankruptcy of the Republican “we serve the rich” agenda, is that populism is the wave of the future, both here and in Europe and on the Left as well as the Right.  Establishment Republicans and Democrats alike fear populism.  But to a president elected because he was seen as a populist, the populist wave of the future is one he should seek to ride.  If not President Trump then someone else will combine the Trump and Sanders voters into a new, enduring political majority that will shape America’s future agenda.  In the end, it is not President Trump or Senator Sanders who is important.  It is the people who voted for both.

The View From Olympus: Korea and Iran

North Korea and Iran now appear to be the two trouble spots most likely to drag the United States into another war.  Seen from the State Department and the Pentagon, both cases seem somewhat alike.  But if we look at them through the lens of Fourth Generation War, they could not be more different.

North Korea offers one of the few situations where we could, at least in theory, win a war.  That is to say, if North Korea were defeated, we would not end up creating another stateless region that would quickly become dominated by Fourth Generation entities.  Why is this the case?  Because a defeat of the current North Korean regime and its subsequent collapse would almost certainly lead to immediate union with South Korea.  That would be an economic disaster for the South, at least in the short term.  But it would not spread the plague of statelessness that is the main threat to the U.S. and every other state in the 21st century.

That is not to say that war with North Korea is desirable.  No war’s outcome is predictable.  If the North Korean regime collapsed immediately after our first blow, we might well win.  If it did not, then our chances of victory would diminish sharply.  An infantry fight with the North Korean army could easily turn into a disaster, and the longer the war went on, the greater would be the probability of other countries intervening.  As I have argued before, the U.S. has no real strategic interests at stake on the Korean peninsula.  But China, Russia, and Japan do.

The Iranian case is entirely different.  The Iranian state is relatively fragile.  Persians are not an ethnic majority, and Iran has long faced a variety of separatist movements.  A war with Iran, even if the U.S. defeated the current state of Iran, could easily create the same chaos we authored in Iraq, Libya, and (as a bit player) Syria.  The result would be a greater threat to American interests in the region than that now represented by the Iranian state. 

This is the conundrum presented to our foreign and defense policies in most of the world: Fourth Generation war means war with other states offers only a lose-lose proposition.  If the other states defeat us, we lose.  If we defeat the other state we also lose because it disintegrates into stateless disorder.

In general, President Trump’s instincts lead him in the right direction.  But that does not appear to be the case with Iran.  It is important both the President and Congress understand that if we renounce the current agreement with Iran curbing its nuclear program, we are deciding to go to war.  It is possible that Iran would take opportunity to isolate the U.S. diplomatically by upholding the agreement with the other signatories.  But Iran would be more likely to resume its nuclear program and thus dare the U.S. to respond.  Almost any response with a potential to halt Iran’s nuclear program would mean war, with the lose-lose outcome I have already pointed out.

In both cases President Trump would do well to remember Bismarck’s description of preventive war as “committing suicide for fear of being killed.”  The Pentagon can put together a razzle-dazzle first strike plan that seems a sure thing.  But “shock and awe” has been seen before, and in the long run we were the ones who ended up shocked if not awed.  None of the perpetrators of the disastrous invasion of Iraq expected that war to be going on in 2017, with many twists and turns and more yet to come.

The View From Olympus: On the Nature of Fleets

Four recent incidents in the Pacific Fleet, including two in which destroyers collided with merchant ships, killing U.S. Navy sailors, have brought a rash of consequences.  Careers have been terminated, the basics of navigation have received new emphasis (including a wise return to pencils and paper instead of electronic devices) and the Navy’s on-watch/off-watch cycle has been altered.  But one of the most basic reasons for our overworked, overstressed Navy has received no attention.  We seem to have forgotten the nature of fleets.

Fleets are mobile.  This is why navies are so important to would-be world powers.  Moving an army to some distant part of the world and supplying it there is a massive and therefore slow operation.  Fleets, in contrast, can move quickly over long distances.

This is not something new, or a consequence of modern technology.  It came in the 16th century with the displacement of galleys by large sailing ships.  By the time of Sir Frances Drake and the Spanish Armada, ships and fleets could get to any part of the globe accessible by water.  The strategic mobility of fleets was actually undermined by new technology in the form of steam propulsion.  Because steamships had to coal frequently, they were more dependent on the land than were ships driven by the wind.  The replacement of coal by oil for fuel and then of steam by fuel-efficient diesels for propulsion restored most of the strategic mobility ships and fleets had in the day of sail.  Both can now move quickly from home ports to any sea where their presence is required.

What this means, and has meant for centuries, is that most of the time ships and fleets are in their home ports.  Small detachments may be stationed around the world, the gunboats of gunboat diplomacy.  But gunboat diplomacy worked because the gunboat was a reminder of the powerful fleet that could come quickly if the gunboat needed support.  Other than these gunboats and small detached squadrons, the rest of the navy was comfortably at rest in its home harbors.  There was, and is, no need for it to be anywhere else, not only in peacetime but often also in war.  It can go where it needs to when it needs to.

The U.S. Navy seems to have forgotten this central aspect of the nature of fleets – and not only the Navy, but policy-makers who direct the Navy as well.  The incidents in the Pacific Fleet are being ascribed in part to the exhaustion of officers and sailors whose ships are deployed virtually all the time. The Navy claims this shows it needs more ships.  What it actually needs is to remember it is a Navy.  It is by its nature mobile.  Those ships do not need to be deployed, most of them anyway. 

In the past, when navies had to deploy most of their strength over long periods, they had great difficulty sustaining themselves.  The Royal Navy, by the time of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, had developed a unique ability to maintain large fleets on duty blockading French ports for years on end.  Individual ships, not just fleets, found themselves blockading Brest or Toulon for months or sometimes years, touching land only to obtain fresh water and fresh food.  Again, this was easier with sailing ships than with ships powered by engines, and also with crews who had no fixed term of enlistment.

In 1914, when that same Royal Navy had to keep the sea for several months until Scapa Flow could be made into a secure anchorage, the strain on both ships and men was enormous.  That is the same strain now afflicting our Pacific Fleet and perhaps the rest of the Navy as well.  The difference is that it is not necessary.  It is a consequence of forgetting the nature of fleets.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who is very well read in military history, should understand this.  He should not wait for the Navy to remember the nature of fleets.  Nor should he allow the State department or the White House to make demands on the Navy that reflect ignorance of navies’ inherent mobility.  Most of the time, most of the U.S. Navy’s ships should be in home port.  It is Secretary Mattis’s job to put them there.

The View From Olympus: President Trump is Right About Sovereignty

On September 19, President Donald Trump addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations for the first time.  To the horror of the Globalist elite, the focus of his speech was sovereignty.  In a front-page “analysis” the hyperventilating New York Times reported that he used the term 21 times: “But more important than how he defined sovereignty was Mr. Trump’s adoption of the word itself.”                                                     

Mr. Trump . . . used the words sovereign or sovereignty 21 times.  “Our success”, he said, “depends on the coalition of strong, independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.”

Strong, sovereign nations, he said, keep their citizens safe and enable them to prosper economically.  Strong, sovereign nations, he said, can join together to fight common threats and constitute the irreducible building blocks of world institutions like the United Nations.

Mr. Trump is right.  But to understand just how right he is, we need to look at his stress on sovereignty from the perspective of the new realities created by the rise of Fourth Generation War. 

As I have said many times, Fourth Generation war is above all a contest for legitimacy.  On the one side is the state and the international state system.  On the other side is a vast array of alternative primary loyalties ranging from God through gangs to “animal rights”.

Since World War I, global (and now Globalist) elites have sought to transfer people’s primary loyalty away from the state to supra-national entities: The League of Nations, world peace (the Kellog-Briand Treaty), The United Nations, The European Union, world federalism, etc.  The idea was that by replacing nationalism with internationalism, we could put an end to war.  This was of course a utopian quest; as Martin van Creveld has written, war exists because men like to fight and women like fighters.  But global elites’ feet tend to be anchored in the clouds, not on earth.

Globalism has in fact led people to transfer their primary loyalty away from the state.  But they have not transferred it to Globalist institutions.  Instead, they are transferring their primary loyalties to those more focused, more concrete (yes, God is more real than Globalism), and often more local entities, causes, etc.  In other words, Globalism has ended up feeding Fourth Generation war.

President Trump is correct to stress sovereignty because sovereign states are better able to contest 4GW elements for people’s primary loyalty than are Globalist institutions and causes.  It is much easier to get the average American or Briton or (as President Putin understands) Russian to be loyal to his country than the EU or the UN.  States can still compete effectively for popular legitimacy.  Supra-state, bureaucratic entities, especially those that benefit primarily the elites, cannot.

So President Trump is ahead of the New York Times and the rest of the foreign policy elite that so loathes him in facing the 21st century’s main challenge, uphold the state system in the face of the 4GW challenge.  Does he know that?  Probably not.  His instincts are generally good, and they may give him a valid gut feeling that state sovereignty remains important.  I doubt if he has ever heard of Fourth Generation war, although John Kelly certainly has.  But the unfortunate fact is that almost no one in Washington gets 4GW, in part because it is useless for justifying vast budgets and hi-tech weapons systems.  In Washington, the only war that matters is the budget war.

In the real world, Fourth Generation war changes everything.  The whole foreign policy framework accepted by virtually everyone in D.C. becomes obsolete; the contrasts and conflicts that matter are no longer those between states.  The main threat the United States faces is neither Russia nor China.  It is the spreading collapse of states and the rise among their ruins of an endless variety of 4GW entities and loyalties, some of which easily reach around our vast national security apparatus and establish themselves on our soil, as some have already done.

To confront this threat, we need exactly what President Trump called for: an alliance of sovereign states, ideally of all sovereign states.  Mr. Trump gets it.  Too bad he is the only man in town who does.   

Nazism and Fascism Are Dead

On both sides of the political spectrum the words “Nazi” and “Fascist” have come in common use.  I have bad news for both the nuts carrying swastika flags and the thugs known as the “Antifa” (for the “Anti-fascists”): Nazism and Fascism are dead.

Fascism and its younger, illegitimate brother Nazism were products of specific historical circumstances that bear no resemblance to today’s America.  Both sprang from tremendous anger at the outcome of World War I in two countries that suffered heavily in that conflict, Germany and Italy.  Having agreed to an armistice it thought would lead to a peace based on Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Germany was instead handed the Diktat of Versailles, which both humiliated and impoverished the country.  Thanks to her usual treachery, Italy was on the winning side (she was allied to Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914), but the other Allied Powers treated her with contempt and she gained little at the Versailles Conference, after suffering a million casualties.  Italy had the outlook of a defeated country.

Fascism and Nazism were responses to defeat.  They worshipped strength, despised weakness, and sought to leave behind the whole Christian component of Western culture and return to the value system of the ancient world where power was the highest good.  Fatally, both turned an instrumental virtue, will, into a substantive virtue; the act of will was good in itself regardless of what was willed.  This led to such disasters as Mussolini’s entry into World War II, Hitler’s offhand declaration of war on the United States, and the Holocaust.  Italian Fascism was not race-based, but Nazism offered an ideology’s usual single-factor explanation of history in the form of Aryan supremacy.  As the joke ran in Germany, the ideal Aryan was blond like Hitler and slim like Goering.

There is nothing visible on the American political landscape that is likely to re-create either Fascism or Nazism.  More, each depend on one man, and both Mussolini and Hitler have been dead for more than 70 years.  Mussolini had one potential successor who could have kept the Fascism movement going, Marshal Italo Balbo, but he was killed at the beginning of the war, perhaps not accidentally (he opposed Italy’s entry and asked if Mussolini had gone mad).  Below Hitler, there was no one in the Nazi hierarchy who could have taken over.  The political emptiness of Nazism without Hitler was illustrated by the choice to succeed him as Fuhrer after his death: Admiral Doenitz.

So why do we now have a violent “Antifa” that pretends to be fighting Fascism while themselves behaving like Brownshirts?  The answer is another of cultural Marxism’s words that lie.  The cultural Marxists have given Fascism a new, code-word definition that is contradictory to its actual meaning.  In their vocabulary, “Fascism” is any defense of traditional society and cultural.

Where does this come from?  Actual Fascism was strongly modernist and future-focused, as opposed to “reactionaries” as the Reds.  As is so often the case, it comes from the Frankfurt School and its most creative mind, Theodor Adorno.  In a series of “Studies in Prejudice” that culminated with his immensely influential book The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno argued that all of society’s traditional institutions, starting with the family, produced “prejudice” that became “Fascism.”  His book, which pretended to be a work of sociology (now completely debunked as such), offered an “F-scale” to measure how “Fascist” a person was by determining their attitudes toward every aspect of normal life.  The more normal the person skewed, the higher was his potential to be a “Fascist.”

When the left now uses the term “Fascist” or, less frequently, “Nazi”, it is Adorno’s definition they are using.  Anyone who lives a normal life, with a married mother and father, children, the father as the breadwinner and the mother as the homemaker, going to church, not caring much about politics, is a “Fascist”.  As such, they are all under threat of physical assault by the “Antifa”.

While Fascism and Nazism are dead ideologies, cultural Marxism is an ideology that is alive, dangerous, and increasingly totalitarian.  As we see on too many university campuses, it does its best to prevent freedom of thought or expression.  Any dissent from it makes you “another Hitler”.  Ironically, the neo-Nazis cannot create another Hitler.  But the cultural Marxists might just pull it off.   

Words That Lie

All ideologies take certain words that have commonly understood definitions and give them new code word definitions with different meanings for those in the know.  When the ideologues speak, ordinary people get one message while followers of the ideology get another.  In effect, the words so disfigured become lies in themselves.

My favorite example comes from a debate held at Dartmouth College (before my years there) between the Socialist leader Norman Thomas and my favorite Dartmouth professor, J.C. Adams of the History Department.  The topic was, “Does the Soviet Union want peace?”  Norman Thomas made a long and eloquent speech arguing that it does, quoting extensively from the statements by the Soviet Union’s leaders.  Professor Adams demolished him in one sentence.  He opened the official Soviet dictionary and read its definition of peace: “The state of affairs prevailing under socialism”. In other words, when the Soviets said “peace”, they meant “conquest”.  In their mouth, the word “peace” was itself a lie.

Today’s cultural Marxists’ equivalent is the word “tolerance”.  Everyone knows “tolerance” means putting up with things you don’t like or don’t agree with.  But in their mouths it has a different meaning – one created by Frankfurt School member Herbert Marcuse in his essay on “liberating tolerance”.  There, he defines “liberating tolerance” as tolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the Left and intolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the Right.  This is why campus cultural Marxists can call for “tolerance” while physically attacking conservative speakers.  In their mouths, the word “tolerance” is itself a lie.

The same is true of their unholy trinity of “racism, sexism, and, homophobia”.  The suffix “-ism” is, as the coiners of these words explained, a statement that something is a construct, a mere castle in the air made of cobwebs, the opposite of facts.  But differences between races and ethnic groups taken as wholes are real.  Differences between men and women are real and their traditional social roles reflect their inherent differences.  And moral disapproval is not the same thing as a “phobia”, which means an unreasoning fear.  In the cultural Marxist’s mouths, the words “racism, sexism, and homophobia” are themselves lies.

Now there is a real racism and, to a lesser extent, a real sexism and homophobia.  Real racism is assuming that every member of a race or ethnic group shares all the characteristics of the group; in fact, individual variation is wider than group norms.  There is a small number of women whose wires are crossed at a point where they want to live the lives of men.  And some people who are nasty to gays do have an irrational fear of them.  But in the large majority of cases, what the cultural Marxists call “racism, sexism, and homophobia” are simply recognition of facts, not constructions.  Nothing can be both a fact and a construction; the two are opposed by definition.

Conservatives should respond to the Left’s charges of “racism, sexism, and homophobia” by accusing them in turn of “ismism”.  Ismism is a totemic belief that facts can be nullified by calling them names ending in “-ism”.  It is magical thinking, divorced from reality but enforced by the cultural Marxists where they can, which is mostly on college campuses (under the Trump administration, dare we hope that the federal government will cut off all funding including research grants to colleges and universities that enforce cultural Marxism?). Should the cultural Marxists ever take power nationally, God forbid, they would do what we have seen in Europe and in Canada and make any factual correction of their ideology “hate speech”.  In cultural Marxists’ mouths, “hate” is another word that lies; it means any defiance of cultural Marxism.

The history of the 20th century is a vast pile of skulls and bones, made up of the victims of ideology.  As Russell Kirk wrote, conservatism is the negation of ideology.  Let us hope the 21st century sees conservatism vanquish all ideologies and give us peace – real peace, not peace as the Soviets defined it.

The View From Olympus: A 4GW Opportunity for the National Guard

We are accustomed to thinking of the reserve and National Guard as back-ups for the regular armed forces.  In Fourth Generation war, those roles reverse: the regulars are back-ups to the home guard.  Why?  Because in a contest for legitimacy on a country’s own soil, the home guard is made up of local people, while active duty forces can seem like invaders.  More, the home guard’s usual function is to help people in times of disaster, so citizens see the guard through that lens.  Who is not going to welcome a couple of guys in uniform who show up at their flooded house to take them to safety?

We have seen this at play out in the flooding in and around Houston.  But we have also seen something that is in some ways more interesting, and that also offers the National Guard an opportunity to strengthen its legitimacy.  Many of the rescues and resupply missions have been carried out by ordinary citizens.  Some, such as the Cajun Navy of shallow draft boats, had organized and planned beforehand to respond to flooding.  Many other efforts have self-organized, as individuals with useful abilities have reached out to others, come together, and brought what they can do to Houston.

Because these volunteers get no pay, often incur major costs (including time off at work), and sometimes put their own lives on the line, their legitimacy is off the charts.  If the National Guard could tap into that, it would gain legitimacy itself.  In 4GW, legitimacy is the bitcoin of the realm.

How could the Guard do that?  Not by trying to take over the volunteers’ efforts — that would turn many ordinary people against the Guard — but by offering them helpful support.  The Guard could usefully undertake a study of how it could best support volunteer’s efforts in time of emergency.  But it is not difficult to identify some capabilities the Guard could offer.  In return for volunteers simply signing up on some kind of register, either beforehand or when disaster hits, the Guard could give them:

  • Legal immunity.  Some states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect ordinary people who are trying to help in an emergency from being sued for injuring someone in the process. But not all do, and a certain type of lawyer may be following the rescue boat.  People on the Guard register could be protected from that.
  • Communications and coordination.  The Guard could put volunteers in touch with others offering similar capabilities, help them coordinate and tell them on a real-time basis where the help is most needed.
  • Nationwide notice of need.  While many volunteers will be local, some specialized capabilities could usefully be mobilized on a nationwide basis.  For example, in the Houston flooding, floatplanes could be highly useful.  Given airplanes’ speed, the Guard could notify floatplane owners on the register across the country that they were needed, and even reach overseas (The Japanese Navy still has big flying boats, and Russia has excellent aircraft for fighting forest fires).

As 4GW grows on American soil, which regrettably seems likely, keeping our nation together will require national institutions that still have legitimacy as the Federal government as a whole loses legitimacy.  I cannot think of another institution that could fill that role as well as the National Guard.  In turn, any steps we can take now to further strengthen the Guards legitimacy are of strategic importance (including separating it completely from the regular army, with “National Guard” rather than “Army” on the uniforms, and giving the Guard its own budget).  One such step would be for the Guard to help and support the volunteers who are making so much of a difference in the Texas floods and will in disasters yet to come.