Race or Culture?

Several people associated with traditionalRIGHT recently attended the National Policy Institute conference in Washington, D.C. (I did not go). The conference raised a question they asked me: can America be successful as a multi-racial society?

To answer that question, and many others, conservatives turn to history. History tells us America was successful—well-ordered, safe, and prosperous—in the past, despite being multi-racial and multi-ethnic. However, that America also had something we have lost: a highly successful common culture.

America’s historic culture reflected the origin of its people. It was, from broadest to most specific, Judeo-Christian, white, northern European, and Anglo-Saxon. Most of our early settlers came from Great Britain or Germany. They brought the historic culture of those areas with them, and it became ours.

The United States was highly fortunate, because Anglo-Saxon culture is a functional culture. Despite the blatherings of “multiculturalism,” very few cultures work well over time. Outside the Western tradition, only Chinese culture makes the grade. Even within the West, not all cultures are equal. Northern European culture has created order and prosperity better than southern European culture, at least in the modern period. That is why North America has had a happier history than South America. Even within northern Europe, some cultures work better than others. The top position is occupied by exactly the culture we got: Anglo-Saxon culture. Again, thanks to some accidents of history—North America had little gold to draw the Spaniards—we were lucky.

If our early ethnic origins formed our culture, a development that began in England in the 18th century refined it: the adoption by society as a whole of the values of the middle class. That triumph was marked by the huge success of Richardson’s novel Pamela around 1750; Fielding’s satire written in response and in defense of upper-class values, Shamela, (a far better read), could not stem the tide. Lower-class values held their physical if not moral ground until the Victorians came along. One of their many great achievements was bringing the lower classes to embrace middle-class values and, eventually, behavior. If we look at America in its most successful years, roughly 1890 to 1960, we see a country that was culturally overwhelmingly middle class and, at least in the public square, Anglo-Saxon.

That country was also multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Then as now, America had a substantial black minority. It took longer to adopt middle class values and (again, at least in the public square) Anglo-Saxon behavior, but it did. By the inter-war years, and up into the 1960s, the black urban community was not a bad place. It was safe, for blacks and whites alike. In the 1950s, 80% of black children belonged to families with a married mother and father. Those families’ incomes came from work, not welfare. Most of them kept their houses and yards neat and tidy. They gathered two or three times a day for home-cooked meals. Black women knew how to hold jobs and be good homemakers at the same time. Especially for women and children, the black church played central roles. You will never meet better Christians (or cooks) than the black “church ladies.”

America was also multi-ethnic. Beginning with the Irish and the Italians in the 19th century, Americans’ origins broadened out far beyond their original British and German sources. The process was fraught with difficulties, and beginning in 1920 we limited the number of immigrants to ensure we could acculturate them adequately. But acculturate them we did. So successful were the New York City public schools as agents of acculturation that even in that babble of many tongues, immigrants from places as different from Britain and Germany as the ghettos of Poland and the mountains of Amenia were acculturated in two, sometimes one, generation. At home, in their churches, and in their clubs they might maintain their ethnic traditions, but in the public square most became middle-class Anglo-Saxons. If they wanted to get ahead, they had to.

What has turned America into an increasingly dysfunctional country has not been race or ethnicity, but abandonment of the common culture. “Multiculturalism,” which is a tool cultural Marxists use to destroy their hated enemy, Western culture, has wrecked the place. The virtually unanimous consensus of American elites on the need for all citizens, regardless of race or ethnic origins, to “Americanize,” i.e. to adopt middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture, has been replaced with a doctrine intended to fracture the country. Regrettably, it has succeeded. No one has suffered more from its loss than America’s blacks, where a disastrous culture of instant gratification now holds wide sway.

Conservatives know that what worked in the past can work again. We can again become a well-ordered and prosperous country if we again embrace the common culture we used to share; middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture. Our success was a product of that culture. The first step in brining it back is to overturn the intellectual and political hegemony of cultural Marxism and break “multiculturalism,” its sword.

The View From Olympus 14: The Power of Weakness

One of the most important contributions made by the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld to Fourth Generation war theory (he calls it “non-trinitarian war”) is the power of weakness. It is also one of the most difficult for the US military to understand.

A recent event, the US assassination by drone of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, illustrates both points. The American government hailed the killing as a victory. But in Pakistan, the response was outrage. An article in the November 4 New York Times, “Death by Drone Turns a Villain Into a Martyr,” reported that

Virtually nobody openly welcomed the demise of Mr. Mehsud, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians…

The problem, some analysts say, is that hostility toward the United States may be clouding Pakistanis’ ability to discern their own best interests. In the conflagration over Hakimullah Mehsud’s death, (Boston University professor) Mr. (Adil) Najam said, the government has failed to distinguish between opposition to drone strikes and to the removal of a homicidal, militant enemy.

It’s very destructive that we can’t untangle these two things,” he said. “The reaction has become absolutely absurd.”

Actually, if we understand the power of weakness, the reaction is inevitable. The problem is, almost no one—perhaps no one at all—in the American national security establishment does understand it.

To do so, you must start with Col. John Boyd’s three levels of war: physical, mental, and moral. These do not replace the three traditional levels of war; tactical, operational, and strategic. Rather, Boyd’s three levels and the traditional three levels interact. The best way to think of how they may interact is through a simple nine-box grid, with physical/mental/moral on one axis and tactical/operational/strategic on the other (You will find this grid in the K.u.K. Marine Corps Field Manual FMFM 1-A, here).

The US military focuses virtually all its efforts on one box, the physical/tactical box. This is typical of Second Generation militaries, which visualize war as putting firepower on targets in a contest of attrition. That is why we see killing enemies with drone strikes as victories.

But the physical/tactical box is the weakest on the grid. The most powerful box, where actions decide the outcomes of wars, is the moral/strategic box. That is where intelligent Fourth Generation entities focus their efforts, which is why they usually win, despite being far weaker physically than their state opponents.

In fact, they win at the moral/strategic level not despite the fact that they are physically weak, but at least in part because of it. To onlookers, the two sides appear to be David and Goliath. As can Creveld emphasizes, most Fourth Generation forces are physically very, very weak. They are mostly made up of guys in bathrobes and flip-flops armed with rusty AKs and bombs made out of chicken manure. State armed forces, in contrast, are armed with things like drones.

Drones may be the weapon with the most moral boomerang effect. A drone strike puts no American in any danger. The operator sits in an air conditioned office on American soil, puts in his shift, then goes home for dinner. If a drone is lost, it’s no big deal. Fourth Generation forces have no weapons that can reach the drone. Drones fly over their heads all the time, and they can do nothing about it. A drone-armed Goliath is enormous, and the Fourth Generation David is tiny, so tiny his situation seems hopeless—as it is at the physical level.

Which is what makes him powerful morally. That is the power of weakness, and one question makes that power clear: in the 3000 or so years the story of David and Goliath has been told, how many listeners have identified with Goliath?

Once we understand the moral level of war, we can easily understand why virtually all Pakistanis now view Mr. Mehsud, a mass murderer, as a martyr. He was killed by Goliath in a fight where he had no chance at all. Not just this drone strike, but all drone strikes have the same effect. We win physically and tactically at the expense of making ourselves a hated monster and thus losing morally and strategically. The drone calls forth its nemesis, the suicide bomber, because people will do anything, including kill themselves, to get back at Goliath.

We may still find it difficult to grasp why Pakistanis would rally to the cause of someone who had murdered thousands of them. Again, van Creveld offers the answer: at the moral level, the weak and the strong face different sets of rules. The weak can kill thousands of civilians without generating outrage because they are so weak. They have no “precision” munitions, they can make no claims of an ability to target him but not her. We boast all the time about how “precise” our weapons, including drones, are. So obviously when we kill civilians, we intended to. Just as a child can get away with behavior an adult cannot, so the weak can get away with actions the strong cannot.

The American military understands none of this. Nor, for the most part, is it interested (SOF may be one exception). It does what it does, namely putting firepower on targets. If that doesn’t work, it loses again, shrugs, and goes on to do the same thing someplace else. So long as the money keeps flowing in, defeat does not seem to concern it, and military theory is irrelevant to it. So the weak keep winning, as around the world, the state withers away.

Racism

“Racism” is one of cultural Marxism’s favorite boogeymen. The accusation is thrown about so loosely that it has effectively lost most of its meaning. It now signifies little more than something or someone cultural Marxism does not like.

But it is nonetheless worthy of some exploration, because there is both a false and a true racism. To understand the difference, we must first grasp what cultural Marxists mean with all their “ism” words. To take a word such as race or sex and add an “ism” to it is to say that the thing itself is a construct, a castle in the air with no foundation in fact. Thus, according to the cultural Marxists, differences between races or between the sexes are not real. Either they do not exist, or they exist only because they are “socially determined,” i.e. created by psychological conditioning. In the Rousseauian state of nature all leftist ideologues believe in, there are no differences between sexes, races, or ethnic groups.

Here we again see one of the defining characteristics of all ideologies, namely their demand that certain aspects of reality be ignored. As everyone knows from personal observation, differences between races and ethnic groups within races are real, when speaking of groups as wholes. Does anyone pretend there are no differences between, say, Swedes and Italians, or Irishmen and Russians? How many people, looking for a good time on a Saturday night, go to a Russian bar? Similarly, does anyone who knows West Africa suggest there are no differences between Hausas and Ibos? When differences among ethnic groups within races are so plain, how can anyone grounded in reality think there are no differences between races? Again, our own observations, and the observations of many generations before our own, make differences clear when speaking of races or ethnic groups as wholes.

Thus we see that cultural Marxism’s charge or “racism” is inherently wrong. By definition, something cannot be simultaneously a fact and a construct. The two are opposite in nature. Since differences between races and ethnic groups are facts, the statement that they are constructs, which is what the word “racism” itself says, is false.

There is, however, a real racism, one that is contrary to fact. Real racism is believing that all members of a race or ethnic group must share the characteristics of the group. Why is this counter-factual? Because individual variation is wider than group norms.

Here is a quick example. Let us say you have two tasks to be performed. You need someone to cook a dinner, and you also need someone to drive a train. You have two people, one for each task. One is a Swede, the other an Italian. That is all you know about them. Which person will you assign to which task? Anyone, including cultural Marxists, who know anything about either Swedish cooking or Italian trains knows the obvious answer. The Swede drives the train and the Italian cooks the dinner. This offers the greatest chance of arriving at your destination safely, on time, and without indigestion.

However, we all also know that there are fine Swedish cooks and safe, responsible Italian locomotive engineers. As we come to know more about our two choices as individuals, we may find ourselves choosing this particular Swede to cook dinner and this particular Italian to drive our train. In other words, we recognize that individual variation is wider than group norms.

If we want to avoid real racism, we will want to do our best to judge people as individuals rather than as members of this or that group. Often, this is not possible. Self-preservation may dictate we act on the basis of group behavior. But when and where we can, we should desire to know more about someone than just their race or ethnic group before we make judgments about them.

The irony here is that cultural Marxism, at the same time it squawks “racism” like the parrot says “Polly want a cracker,” demands we consider people not as individuals but as members of groups—race, ethnic group, sex, etc. Cultural Marxism is all about “privileging” one ethnic group over another—blacks over whites, women over men, gays over straights, and so on. It has no room for individual differences.

Conservatism does, because conservatism is based on observation of reality over time, not on ideology. As Russell Kirk wrote, conservatism is the negation of ideology. Unlike Marcuse, we embrace the reality principle, we don’t reject it. Reality says differences among races are real. It also says we should be wary about giving them more importance than facts warrant.

The View From Olympus 13: Two Parallels

Historical parallels are simultaneously risky and useful. The risks are two. First, events seldom, if ever, follow exactly the same track twice. Two situations that look very much alike at the outset may reach entirely unlike destinations. Second, parallels may be applied to situations that are entirely dissimilar, either from ignorance or out of a conscious effort to deceive. The neocons’ repeated spotting of “Munich in 1938” in circumstances that have nothing whatever in common with Munich is a mixture of both.

But historical parallels are also useful, which is why we continue to draw them. While they cannot give us answers, they can spur us to ask the right questions. They alert us to look for factors and dangers we might otherwise miss. They can help us avoid making the same mistake twice, though we can always make new mistakes.

Two current situations bring two different historical parallels to mind. The first situations is the growing friction—it is not yet a crisis—between Japan and China over the islands the Japanese call the Senkakus. The parallel is the crisis of July 1914, which led to World War I. Now as then, no Great Power’s vital interests are at stake. The islands are uninhabited and occupy no geographic choke point. Russia received no benefit from Serbia, and the House of Hapsburg had no shortage of archdukes (though Franz Ferdinand was especially able and would have made a fine emperor). Now as then, what is at stake is pride. China wants to show the world she can no longer be humiliated, and Japan is no longer willing to play the role of defeated power. In 1914, Austria (with good reason) was fed up with Serbia tweaking her nose, and Russia wanted to avenge her humiliation by Austria in the Bosnian Annexation Crisis of 1908 (a humiliation Russia actually inflicted on herself through her foreign minister’s incompetence).

The warning the 1914 parallel offers is to us, as an ally of Japan. Just as it was madness for Europe to go to war over the death of an Austrian archduke and Vienna’s resultant ultimatum to Serbia, so it would be insanity for the United States to go to war with China over three islands. Japan is no more a strategic asset to us than Serbia was to Russia; now as then, the “ally” is a strategic liability, not a benefit. Unfortunately, now as then, Washington is allowing a useless alliance to drag us toward a potential war where we have no real interests at stake. Washington has said that if fighting erupts over the Senkakus, we will act militarily in support of Japan. Could this be viewed in Tokyo as a blank check similar to that Berlin gave Vienna, and Paris had already given St. Petersburg? Indeed it could. One hopes Washington understands that this is one parallel we very much do not want to play out any farther than it has already gone, which is to say too far.

The other interesting parallel is that between the war in Syria and the Thirty Years’ War. Like the Thirty Years’ War, the war in Syria is spreading. It is drawing in outside powers. It is driven by a mixture of state and religious motives. It has let loose forces that make a compromise peace extremely difficult. As in 1648, it may be that when peace finally comes, it will be peace of exhaustion. And there may be a whole lot more war to come before the combatants reach that point.

The caution that the Thirty Years’ War parallel raises is for outside powers, including the United States and Russia. The warning is, let this burn out locally, however long that may take. Do not get directly involved, because doing so will not shorten the conflict but lengthen it. Syria and its surrounding region will suffer more, not less, if outside powers use it for their battleground. “Humanitarian intervention” today has its parallel in intervention in support of co-religionists then, and it is no more likely to benefit those it is intended to benefit. By some accounts, the Thirty Years’ War reduced Germany’s population from 16 million to 6 million.

From a Fourth Generation war perspective, he Thirty Years’ War parallel points to something else as well. The Thirty Years’ War began as a contest between religious sects and ended up as a war between states acting on the basis of national interests. The war in Syria began as a war to control a state but has already morphed into a fight between religious sects. Just as the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 established state dominance, so could it be that the war in Syria will end by sweeping away the region’s states in favor of entities based on religion, such as caliphates? As I said, historical parallels help us ask questions, not answer them.

Hate!

If cultural Marxists have not already accused TraditionalRight of “hate,” they will. Why is it inevitable? Because in the vocabulary of cultural Marxism, “hate” is any open defiance of cultural Marxism. And TraditionalRight exists in part to defy cultural Marxism in as many ways as it can.

Most, if not all, ideologies have their own vocabularies. They take existing words and give them their own definitions, thus creating a code through which they can send two different messages simultaneously; one to other believers in the ideology and another to unsuspecting average citizens. When cultural Marxists accuse someone of “hate,” they tell most people “these are nasty, violent individuals or organizations,” while to other cultural Marxists the label means “this or these are dangerous enemies.” Cultural Marxism will tolerate a certain amount of criticism, but it is terrified of open defiance because it threatens to undermine the psychological conditioning that is the basis of its power. If someone can walk up to their clay idol and break off its nose, why should anyone fear it?

An example of the use of this kind of code by ideologies occurred at Dartmouth College a few years before I arrived there as a freshman in 1965. The college sponsored a debate between the famous socialist Norman Thomas and Dartmouth history professor J.C. Adams on the subject, “Does the Soviet Union want peace?” Thomas quoted one Soviet document after another calling for peace. J.C. Adams demolished him by opening the official Soviet dictionary and quoting its definition of peace: “The state of affairs prevailing under socialism.” In Soviet coded speech, “peace” had become another word for conquest.

So it is with “hate” in the mouths of cultural Marxists. “Hate” is any defense of Western culture, the Christian religion, the white race, men, or heterosexuals. Why? Because cultural Marxism labels all of these as evil, the equivalents of “capitalists and landlords” in the vocabulary of the old, Soviet Marxism. A member of one of the inherently evil groups need not do anything wrong to be condemned; they are damned simply by what they are. The only acceptable behavior from any member of a condemned group is endless, groveling apologies for daring to exist. Anything else is becoming “an enemy of the people” in economic Marxism or “hate” in cultural Marxism.

There is a wonderful irony here. Cultural Marxists themselves are haters of the first order. They hate the West, religious faith, white men, heterosexuals, non-Feminist women, conservative blacks, any ideology or set of beliefs different from their own, all of history (“oppression”), sexual morals—the list is endless. But none of this hate qualifies as “hate,” because it proceeds from cultural Marxism. On the contrary, it represents virtue. If this all sounds like Newspeak from 1984, it is.

When cultural Marxists accuse TraditionalRight of “hate,” we open a bottle of champagne. It means we are doing our job—and yours. We are defying a hideous ideology, one that seeks to overturn every natural relationship and destroy all that is true, good, or beautiful. And we really, really hate that.

The View From Olympus 12: States and Gangs

The spread of Fourth Generation war means that as we watch states exit the world stage left, we will see gangs entering from stage right. This phenomenon is visible to some degree almost everywhere.

El Salvador is a country where the process has gone so far that in many areas, the gangs are more powerful than the state. The Sunday, October 6 New York Times carried a story on how El Salvador successfully dealt with the gang problem, at least for a while. It made a deal with the gangs.

“Making a Deal With Murderers,” by Oscar Martinez, tells how gang violence virtually destroyed the life of the people of El Salvador:

“The year 2011 was one of the deadliest since the end of El Salvador’s civil war in 1992. There were an appalling 4,371 murders—11 people killed every day. With 70 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, it was one of the most violent countries in the world…

The cause of the bloodshed was no secret: the war between the rival gangs Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha.”

Both gangs, interestingly, got their starts not in El Salvador, but in southern California. Of course, the American answer (for other countries as well as itself) was and remains more effective law enforcement.

That is the best answer to all Fourth Generation threats—where it is possible. But in El Salvador, as in a growing number of countries, it was not possible. The state was simply too weak relative to the gangs.

So, the Times reported, the government did the next best thing: it negotiated with the gangs. It denied doing so, but the Times reporter is quite confident it did. The main thing the government seems to have offered to gangs, in return for lowering the level of violence, is better prison conditions. The Times story stressed how important that is:

“The prison issue is hugely important to the gangs: sooner or later gang members end up there, and gang operations are largely run by the leaders inside, where the conditions are truly filthy and inhumane.”

In return, the gangs did lower the level of violence. El Salvador remains a violent place by our standards, but the Times piece estimates that the partial truce had saved more than 2000 lives.

As states continue to weaken, more and more of them will confront rising gang violence and consequent declining civic order. The state’s first responsibility is the maintenance of order. It was for that purpose the state arose, and if it cannot do the job its legitimacy will vanish.

The question then becomes how to restore order. The only possible answer is, by any means that will work. If the state is still capable of it, bloody repression has much to recommend it. But a growing number of states will not be capable of it, either because they are too weak physically or because the state leadership is too weak morally. At that point, the Salvadoran answer may be the right one: cut a deal.

Making a deal with powerful gangs is what the late Roman Empire had to do. That did not end entirely well, but it had no alternative. Modern states, some of them, will also have no alternative. It is better to make a deal that reduces the violence than to let it rage unchecked. The latter course merely results in the emergence of another stateless region. A weak state is better than none.

The View From Olympus 11: How Raids Can Work

Last weekend’s raids in Libya and Somalia by US special operations forces raise a question that has long bedeviled similar raids in Afghanistan. Can they work strategically? That is to say, can they bring us closer to a favorable outcome in our war with the Taliban and al Qaeda?

The answer, at present, is almost certainly no, at least so far as the Taliban is concerned and probably not against al Qaeda. The reason is that operational art, the key linkage between the tactic of raiding and the desired strategic result, is missing. As a result, we have defaulted into the usual approach of a Second Generation military, a war of attrition. The Taliban has too much depth in personnel to be vulnerable to a war of attrition. Al Qaeda, as a much smaller organization, has less depth, but so far it has had enough to make up its losses, including that of Osama bin Laden. We are left playing what the troops call a game of whack-a-mole.

Is there a way we might inject operational art into raiding and thereby make it strategically meaningful? I think there is.

The answer must begin with recognizing that a “spec op” is only a real special operation if it works on the operational level of war. Otherwise, we are misusing the term “special operations” for what are merely the tactical actions of military SWAT teams.

That in turn requires understanding what “operational art” means. Operational art is that link between tactics and strategy. Its practitioner decides what to do tactically, and how to use tactical events (including sometimes defeats) to strike as directly as possible at an enemy’s strategic center of gravity, a “hinge” in the enemy’s force that, if struck, can cause him to collapse. Inherent in operational art is economy of force: ideally, you only fight tactically when doing so is operationally meaningful, i.e., it holds the potential to be strategically decisive (of course, the enemy sometimes makes you fight when you would rather not). Determining why, where, and when to fight tactically on a strategic basis is the essence of operational art.

A campaign or war of attrition is the nullification of operational art. It seeks strategic victory merely by fighting tactically wherever and whenever possible. In contrast, operational art lies at the heart of Third Generation maneuver warfare.

An excellent example of a true special operation undertaken by a Third Generation military is the abduction of Admiral Horthy, the regent of Hungary, by German special operations forces (they coined the term: Sonderverbände) in World War II. Germany had received correct intelligence that Admiral Horthy was about to change sides from the Axis to the Allies. This was a strategic threat to Germany. Not only would a number of Hungarian divisions turn from allies into enemies, Hungary’s Balaton oilfields were one of Germany’s last petroleum supplies.

The German answer was a special operation, led by the famous commando Otto Skorzeny, that kidnapped Admiral Horthy. It involved almost no tactical fighting, but it was decisive. Hungary remained a German ally.

If we apply operational art to raids against al Qaeda (and to a lesser extent the Taliban, who are rapidly becoming yesterday’s problem as we leave Afghanistan), what does it suggest we do? Again, mere attrition of random al Qaeda leaders is not likely to bring a strategic decision. However, more sophisticated targeting of our raids could.

Like all militaries (including our own), al Qaeda has a few competent leaders and lots of less competent or incompetent ones. Putting incompetent or non-competent leaders into key al Qaeda positions could well be strategically decisive because it could lead al Qaeda to destroy itself. Therefore, our raids would become true special operations if we carefully targeted al Qaeda’s competent leaders while intentionally not targeting the incompetent or non-competent ones. Our operational goal would be to create vacancies that would allow the incompetent leaders to move steadily upward in the organization.

Obviously, this requires very good intelligence to know who in al Qaeda is competent and who is not. But we would at least be asking the intel boys an operational question, not merely a tactical one, i.e., where is someone, anyone, we can go after.

Will it work? No one can ever know a result beforehand in war. But operational art at least opens the door to strategic success, whereas its absence leaves us playing whack-a-mole. We have not defeated a Fourth Generation opponent through attrition yet, and there are no signs we are about to do so. Who thinks, wins.

The View From Olympus 10: 4GW Strengths and Weaknesses

Al_shabab_soldier

Al Shabab’s assault on a Kenyan shopping mall illustrates some of the strengths of Fourth Generation Islamic forces. One, they can carry out acts of terrorism that undermine a state’s enthusiasm for war against them. Second, and more dangerous in the long run, they can push a government into responding to terrorism by moving toward a national security state. Why is that more dangerous? Because a national security state regards every citizen as a potential threat and treats them accordingly. That undermines the state’s legitimacy, and Fourth Generation war is above all a struggle for legitimacy.

I probably don’t need to point out that 9/11 and subsequent (minor) incidents of terrorism have brought a growing national security state to America. It is not a coincidence that Americans express ever-increasing detachment from and hostility toward their own government. Who can try to board an airplane without feeling like a suspect? That diminution of the US government’s legitimacy is a bigger victory for al Qaeda than the damage and casualties inflicted on 9/11.

But if we step away from the horror show generated by incidents such as that in Kenya, we can see a larger narrative of the weakness of most Fourth Generation Islamic entities (there is one exception; Hezbollah): they cannot govern.

In Egypt, a year of government by the Muslim Brotherhood was so disastrous that the people widely welcomed a coup. The September 16 New York Times reported of the funeral of a leading Islamist killed by the military, a funeral in a small, rural town, that

It is customary for the community to gather behind the family for the procession to the graveyard. Mr. Abdel Aal, however, was greeted with epithets—someone called him a dog, someone else an infidel. One family even held a wedding at the same time, something unheard-of.

“Pure” Islam’s failure to govern is weakening Fourth Generation Islamic organizations throughout the Middle East. The French succeeded (for a time, anyway) in Mali because the puritanism of the 4GW Islamic fighters had alienated their local allies. In Syria, that same puritanism has brought popular demonstrations against al Qaeda-allied forces in towns they control, even though demonstrators are often beaten or shot. Al Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu and other Somali cities because the locals so loathed its puritanism that they welcomed foreign troops, something that seldom happens. The American “surge” in Iraq only succeeded because al Qaeda in Iraq had alienated its local Sunni allies, again by its “pure” interpretation of Islam.

The first rule of politics—and like all war 4GW is political, though not wholly so—is “Don’t lose your base.” Over and over again, Islamic 4GW forces win militarily, but then lose because they alienate their base.

Why do they keep repeating this mistake? I suspect they do so because they cannot not do so. The kind of people they recruit as fighters are overwhelmingly puritans. Who else but a fanatic will become a suicide bomber? You cannot tell puritans to moderate their behavior, and the behavior they impose on others, because that would instantly make them “impure.” If the leadership of an Islamic 4GW organization tells its fighters not to enforce their version of Islam, they desert to another, more “pure” 4GW entity. Because of the ever-fractionating nature of 4GW, there is no lack of alternatives.

Puritanism is ever thus, and cannot be otherwise. An exchange between a Royalist and a Puritan during the English Civil War in the 17th century comes to mind. The Cavalier said to the Roundhead, “Ours are the sins of men; drinking and wenching, but your sin is the sin of the Devil; spiritual pride.”

All this is an old story in the Islamic world, and should come as no surprise to those who make American foreign policy, except that they are children who believe they can make the wold anew. In a monograph titled “Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam,” (Johns Hopkins University APL, May, 2002) Michael Vlahos laid out the age-old cycle. Islamic puritans arise, who accuse the local Islamic rulers of “corruption.” They create and lead a movement to restore “pure” Islam, and succeed in taking power. They then discover that pure Islam cannot govern, and have to compromise. That makes them “corrupt” so the cycle begins anew.

The fact that one 4GW Islamic entity, Hezbollah, has not fallen into this trap should draw our attention. Could this have something to do with the fact that it is Shiite and the others are Sunni? Not being a scholar of Islam, I don’t know. But it is a question scholars of Islam could usefully investigate.

In the meantime, repeated failures of Sunni 4GW entities to govern tells us what we should do to defeat them: leave them alone. They will alienate their base and destroy themselves, if we just give them time to do so. If we intervene, the usual result will be to push the locals toward the puritans in order to oppose us. Even where foreign troops have been welcomed, their welcome usually wears out quickly, and their support for one or another local “government” undermines that government’s legitimacy.

To borrow a wonderful phrase from Admiral Raphael Semmes CSN, we should leave be “the cockatrice’s egg that hatched forth the Puritan.” The cockatrice will foul its own nest soon enough.

The View From Olympus 9: Sea Change

by Carlos Latuff via occupyaipac.org
by Carlos Latuff via occupyaipac.org

Congress did not vote on attacking Syria, but everyone knows the Obama administration would have lost. The last whip count I obtained, on the Friday before Russia brokered a deal, showed 229 House members announced against or leaning against, 25 announced for or leaning for. In the Senate, the majority leader postponed a vote because he did not have a majority.

This marks a sea change of the first magnitude. The opposition to another war in the Mideast was led not by liberal Democrats, but by Republicans. The permanent war party headed by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham was left turning slowly in the wind. This is all the more remarkable because the feared Israeli lobby, AIPAC, was in favor. Republicans had to defy Israel, the neo-cons, and the Pentagon (a friend told me he heard a three-star Army general say a week before the deal, “I really hope this Syria operation is a go because it would help us defend our budget.”), and they did.

What suddenly put some spine into all the Republican jellyfish? The folks back home. Luckily, the run-up to war coincided with a Congressional recess, so Member of Congress were home listening to their constituents. Overwhelmingly, the people said “no more stupid wars in the Middle East that kill our kids for nothing.” Friends on the Hill told me calls and emails were very heavy and ran 96-98% “no.” Some offices received not a single call or message asking for another war.

This is a sea change because it is a major change in outlook by the Republicans’ base. The first rule of politics is “Don’t lose your base.” If you do, you’re done. The base, especially out here in the Heartland, overwhelmingly said “no.” Republican Members of Congress dared not ignore that.

Not only did the permanent war party lose its base, so did the Pentagon. If we are not going to fight more unnecessary overseas wars, why do we need the world’s most expensive military? Were our armed forces sized only to defend us, the defense budget could easily be cut by at least half.

This fact too is now on the radar screen of many Republican Members of Congress. Rightly, they see endless deficits and rising debt as more of a threat to the country’s future than any potential overseas opponent. They know we cannot balance the budget, begin to reduce the debt, not raise taxes and still pour around a trillion dollars a year into the national defense budget function (that’s Budget Committee language for all national security spending).

One big question remains: Will the public’s aversion to an attack on Syria carry over to a possible attack on Iran or war with China? Here in the Heartland, I think it will. We’ve seen too many kids come home in a box or a wheelchair, watched too many trillions (not billions) poured into the sand.

A period of peace and retrenchment could open the door to the military reform our armed services urgently require. We have a couple million good guys trapped in terrible systems, systems that drain away all thought about war, all initiative and moral courage, and reward only the institutional corruption that puts defense budgets above defending the country. Peace could give us a chance to drive the moneychangers out of the temple of Mars.

The View From Olympus 8: White House Press Release, December 7, 2016

press conference

President Barack Obama today welcomed to the White House Mr. Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda, for the formal signing of a pact of alliance between al Qaeda and the United States of America. The new alliance treaty envisions broad-scale cooperation between al Qaeda and the United States in the cause of destroying states. Following the signing of the treaty, President Obama will direct US government agencies, including the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA to work with their al Qaeda counterparts on projects of joint benefit, including generating phony intelligence to justify American military interventions, carrying out pseudo-ops to create humanitarian tragedies that can be blamed on state leaders, and generally spreading anarchy throughout the world.

In a joint news conference with Mr. al Zawahiri, President Obama said, “This new alliance formalizes the cooperative relationship between the United States and al Qaeda that began with the American missile strikes on the Syrian government and its armed forces in the fall of 2013. At the time, some Americans had concerns about finding themselves on the same side as al Qaeda. But the subsequent fall of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al Assad, followed by free elections in Syria that were won by a coalition of the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, showed that we had concrete interests in common. America’s war with Iran in 2015, after I had determined that country had also crossed one of my “red lines,” again found the United States and al Qaeda fighting on the same side. The disintegration of the Iranian state, the chaos the United States left in Afghanistan, and the fractioning of Pakistan may have benefited al Qaeda somewhat more than this country, especially in providing al Qaeda with Pakistan’s former nuclear weapons. But I feel confident that out of the stateless chaos now engulfing much of the Islamic world will emerge a more genuine and deeper democracy. I am sure all Americans agree with me that nothing is more important than democracy at home or abroad, regardless of who or what might get elected.”

Responding to a question about the probability the Senate will ratify the American-al Qaeda treaty, President Obama stated, “I know this country had some differences with al Qaeda in the past, but I am confident the Senate will join me in looking not to the past but to the future. Just as the Senate voted for the missile strike on Syria in 2013 that began this alliance, so I am certain it will support me in my efforts now to bomb and rocket the rest of the world into being more peaceful and democratic. I can think of no better partner for destabilizing other states than al Qaeda. I am sending Secretary of State Kerry to the Hill next week, where I am sure his combination of eloquence, intense conviction, and cooked intelligence will make an effective case for this treaty. He will be accompanied by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wearing a paper bag over his head.”

Invited by President Obama to state his views on the new alliance, Mr. al Zawahiri responded, “May the sand fleas of ten thousand camels infest the crotch of your firstborn.”