America’s Most Dangerous Enemy

Summary:  This essay examines the most dangerous enemies of America.  Two little known dangers appear far most serious than the usual suspects.  Appropriate responses are discussed.

Threat definition is the key phase when developing a grand strategy. Especially today, as America faces many dangerous enemies.  Who are our most dangerous foes?  China?  Islamofascism?  The “gap nations”?

(1)  China

Billions of people, a rapidly growing economy that will inevitably replace America in both economic and geopolitical importance. One of our largest creditors, its technological theft and unfair trade practices are destroying America’s industry. A military confrontation over Taiwan is inevitable in the near future.

(2)  Islamofascism

This mutant version of Islam combines traditional Islam, nostalgia for a long-gone age of Muslim supremacy, and Fascism. Motivated by hatred of western culture, if not stopped it will control not only the vital Middle East oil producers, but also important States such as Pakistan and Indonesia. Large minority populations of Muslims will destabilize other States (e.g., India and the EU). Even small Moslem enclaves, such as those in the US, can act as fifth columns.

(3)  The “Gap” Nations

As Thomas Barnett explained in his March 2003 Esquire article “The Pentagon’s New Map“: “Disconnectedness defines danger.”

… show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and — most important — the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. … My list of real trouble for the world in the 1990s, today, and tomorrow, starting in our own backyard: (Haiti, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, former Yugoslavia, Congo, Rwanda/Burundi, Angola, South Africa, Israel-Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Indonesia).

However terrifying you find these foes, we face two much greater dangers:  paranoia and hubris.

I.  Paranoia

To the Greeks, παράνοια meant simply madness (para = outside; nous = mind). Early psychologists described it as a delusional condition, but without any deterioration in intellectual abilities. In modern popular use it describes

  • excessive concern about one’s own well-being, and
  • persecutory beliefs concerning a threat to themselves or their property.

Anyone reading the major American media daily sees the first element. Our reaction to 9-11 illustrates the second.

Many States have experienced terrorist attacks since the anarchists of the 19th Century. As the anarchist Johann Most said, “The existing system will be quickest and most radically overthrown by the annihilation of its exponents. Therefore, massacres of the enemies of the people must be set in motion.” Most’s preferred tool of social reform earned him the nickname “Dynamost.”  But only 21st century America has responded to terrorism with a global war.

Paranoia is an especially dangerous illness for a superpower. We tend to see enemies to be fought, not potential allies to be won over. Our aggressive actions and hostile worldview can only incite fear and accelerate the natural tendency of other powers to ally against us in self-protection.

Paranoia has a long history in the American polity. American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. … I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. … It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.

— “The Paranoid Style in American Politics“, Richard Hofstadter, Harpers Magazine, November 1964

We saw the effect of this excessive emotionalism about threats during the Cold War. In his Long Telegram of 1946, George Kennan recommended a “Grand Strategy of Containment” to counter Russia’s expansion. This mutated to virulent anti-communism in the overheated imaginations of senior US policy makers, another instance in the long history of US leaders selective, often ignorant, misuse of their experts’ advice.  The results were terrible.

  1. McCarthy’s witch-hunts followed the “who lost China” mania, resulting in a virtual lobotomy of the State Department — from which it has never recovered.
  2. We embraced the insane policy of Mutual Assured Deterrence (MAD), playing dice with the survival of the human race.
  3. We failed to distinguish anti-colonial movements in the Third World — with whom we should have sympathized — from expansion of the Communist global conspiracy.

The last deserves special note, as we are now repeating this mistake. Seeking to fight communism, we allied ourselves with doomed feudal and puppet regimes. We made enemies of immature regimes that we might have befriended with our vigorous culture and wealth. The history of Indochina 1945 – 1975, from French colony to unified new State, illustrates these errors.

Fear of the other, the unknown, of change– these are natural. As is it natural for a great power to see change as threatening. But political and social evolution cannot be prevented. We cannot freeze the world in a mold of American supremacy.  America should not fear change. Large, rich, with the most innovative culture this planet has seen for millennia — we should of all people face the future with confidence, not anxiety.

Unfortunately, these fears are neither accidental nor quirks of fate. Perceived enemies feed the economic and political needs of our elites. The military-industrial complex converts the public’s fear into defense contracts. An array of shadowy fears encourages us to surrender our freedoms in exchange for our elites� promises to protect us.

Accompanying our paranoia is a second affliction.

II.  Hubris

To the Greeks, Υβρις meant a reckless disregard for others, resulting in one’s own degradation. In modern usage, hubris means an exaggerated pride or self-confidence resulting in fatal retribution.  Our centuries of success and great wealth have led to a belief that we dominate the world.  It’s a state of mind not conducive to clear thinking.  Rather than describe it in abstract, the remainder of this essay will examine how it drives the thinking of our geopolitical strategists.

Paranoia + Hubris = Thomas Barnett

The writings of neo-conservatives “Pax America” advocates, and 4GW experts all offer examples combining paranoia and hubris, but space allows analysis of only one in this article. So we will consider the proposals of Thomas Barnett. (To critique the neo-conservatives is too easy, almost cruel. The 4GW literature has nothing so well developed as Barnett’s work).  Barnett outlines his proposal in two brilliant and provocative books: The Pentagon’s New Map (2004) and Blueprint for Action (2005).   (His 2009 book, Great Powers: America and the World after Bush, is not discussed here.)  These set forth three key propositions.

First, that globalization — and military interventions by America and its allies — will remake the world into something like our image (more precisely, that of the developed “Core” nations).   Nations must join or be considered part of the “Gap” nations — subject to preemptive strikes at our pleasure, acting as the “system administrator in the realm of international security” (New Map, p 168).

“So we cannot be safe until everyone has been invited into a global economy in a deeply integrating manner that reflects not just order but likewise (our) justice.”
Blueprint, page 208, bold emphasis added

Second, offensive war is a legitimate tool to achieve national goals. He refers to a “Benevolently Warring America” (Blueprint, p 140) and says that “pragmatism isn’t just warranted, it should be ruthlessly applied wherever circumstances demand” (Blueprint, p 140).   We will often act unilaterally as we need no UN approval (New Map, p 177).

Third, preemptive war is a legitimate tool for America as the “global cop” in the Gap regions, beyond the traditional justification of immediate self-defense. (New Map, pp 167-179).

These are the most radical recommendation for use of American power since the Air Force adopted nuclear genocide (up to and including suicide) as our preferred form of combat (also know as Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD).  Like MAD, these proposals violate a thousand years of western moral codes from the medieval definitions of a “just war” to the UN Charter.

The moral dimension of Empire

Perhaps it is appropriate that the birth of the American Empire begins with adoption of a Roman practice, that of inter arma silent leges (in time of war, the law falls silent). More recently this has been expressed as Kriegsraison geht vor Kriegsmanier (“the necessities of war take precedence over the rules of war”). At Nuremberg we hung quite a few people claiming this as a defense.

These proposals ignore the moral dimension of warfare. This should have generated much discussion by 4GW experts, as the 4GW literature places great emphasis on the moral aspects of war. But in practice it appears difficult for 21st century America strategists to go beyond the basic considerations of military morale. Americans raised on moral relativism, trained to be non-judgmental, might be ill suited to understand or even apply this aspect of 4GW theory.  For example, the 4GW expert Chet Richards’ presentation Conflict in the Years Ahead, which briefly reviews Barnett’s recommendations. In its 164 slides the word “moral” appears 89 times, but with no discussion of the morality of Barnett’s proposals.

In his review of Barnett’s books William Lind goes the heart of this: “What Barnett’s books end up revealing is the combination of moral blindness and international political hubris that characterizes the whole quest for American world empire.”

However, there is a positive moral aspect to Barnett’s proposal: many Gap Nations need our help.

Colonialism, the Gap Nations and a Pax America

The great “isms” never disappear. They fade away, only to reappear in new form. So it is with colonialism. Who among us has not wondered, secretly, if some African State might not be better off if run by a benign colonial regime — like Great Britain, at its peak?  Their suffering encourages this well-meant dream. We see their pain from recurring cycles of wars, plagues, famines — and the repeated failure of our efforts to help. Surely our wealth and power should be more directly applied to their needs.

But it is a dream. We are not the British Empire, and the time of colonialism has passed. If these nations want our help, they will ask. If we force help upon them, they will fight. As we have seen in Iraq, even a medium-sized nation is too large for our forces to pacify. Worse, 4GW methods make untrained insurgents the equals of our Knights — despite their body armor, armored mounts, high-tech sensors and weapons.

It always was a dream. Barnett and all other neo-colonialists should read Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.” It was written for us, after our conquest of the Philippines. Look through the racist attitudes of his time to the enduring wisdom, dearly purchased.

“The savage wars of peace bring all your hopes to nought.”

Hubris at Work: Imagining a New World Order

Barnett proposes a loose form of global government, the most important and visionary aspect of his work. It was summarized as follows by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. in his Washington Post review of Blueprint on 15 January 2006 (Nye only sketches our Barnett’s thinking. For example, the first step is wrongly stated. On page 177 in New Map Barnett clearly says that UN approval is not needed before military action.)

  1. the U.N. Security Council acts as a grand jury to indict countries
  2. the Core’s biggest economies issue ” ‘warrants’ for the arrest of the offending party”
  3. the United States leads a “warfighting coalition”
  4. a Core-wide administrative force (with the United States providing 10 to 20 percent of its personnel) puts things back together with the help of the fifth element
  5. a new International Reconstruction Fund;
  6. followed by a sixth step, criminal prosecution of the apprehended parties at the International Criminal Court in The Hague

“That’s it, from A to Z,” Barnett notes cheerfully. “Bad states go in, better states come out.”  Is this pure hubris or just vigilantism? America and its allies become judge, jury, and executioner for all the peoples of the world. Wielding our economic and military force, our verdict of “failed state” justifies its invasion and massive murder of women and children. Our values, however alien to other societies, become dominant over the entire globe.

That assumes we succeed. The Iraq Expedition, launched with Barnett’s praise, does not create confidence in our ability to conquer other states, failed or otherwise.  Also note the ludicrous picture of American social engineers, whose efforts at home have consistently failed, successfully re-making other societies. To rephrase Barnett, “Show me a mature A-to-Z rule set on how to process politically bankrupt states and I will show you (its creator, a super-genius greater than Newton).” (Blueprint, page 208)

Another detail: imagine the potential for this well-intended machinery to become a corrupt servant of western economic interests.

Barnett’s vision is not bleak for all. Manufacturers of weapons will enjoy booming sales in Barnett’s new world.

In effect Barnett challenges Gap nations to “Arm yourselves, or grovel before us!”  Some people will reply to us, “Live Free or Die.” If we follow Barnett, by 2020 each Gap nation’s embassy and consulates in America will house an array of WMDs — second-strike weapons ready to fire if America decides that they need our “help.”

What advice would Washington give us?

No need to guess. Consider Washington’s timeless advice to us in his Farewell Address.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that in the course of time and things the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.

Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation prompted by ill will and resentment sometimes impels to war the government contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes � makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim.

Let us look again at one of the threats described above, but this time in the light of Washington’s advice.

Islamofascism

Many Americans see large elements of the Islamic community as implacable enemies of America. Must this be so?  The role of Islam in our world is complex and subtle. Unfortunately, many of the articles describing Islamofascism are works of imagination, unsupported by either strong evidence or scholarship.

Few experts see evidence of a global anti-western Islamic conspiracy. Note the diversity of thought among the real centers of Islamic scholarship and authority: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Equally diverse are the practices of the Sunni and Shiite groups in the Middle East, with an even larger range between their practices and that of the largest Muslim State — Indonesia. As with the spread of communism to different nations, it is likely that these groups will each evolve in their own way.  Just as we did when fighting communism, we are allying ourselves with fading elites of other peoples and making enemies of their most dynamic elements.

“Under Mr. Rumsfeld’s plan, special-operations forces would work in small teams, fanning out to remote corners of the globe to live with, train and advise indigenous security forces battling terrorists. Troops also would gather intelligence and build relationships with locals over the course of months and years.”
— Wall Street Journal, 19 February 2006

Mr. Rumsfeld sends out our best military forces in the hopeless task of preventing the natural evolution of these societies. We can use more imaginative and likely-to-succeed strategies.

Islam is probably the future for many of these peoples. It is the most vital part of their societies and hence growing rapidly. From an Islamic perspective, they are establishing a new and better order, and making considerable progress along many dimensions. Considering this as “disorder” misses its significance, a major strategic error.  Let us find a way to deal with the rise of Islam with both strength and respect. We do not have to like Islam, but what religion others follow is not our decision.

Why do they hate us? Who is the aggressor?

Islam is in fact under attack by western culture, perhaps the most dangerous enemy it has ever faced. We — by our existence, the normal working of our societies — undermine the basis of their religion, devaluing what they consider highest. We are the Pied Piper, stealing their children. Is it a surprise that they do not like it?

We need not change to accommodate Islam. This is their problem, not ours. But our strategies might prove more effective if made with greater understanding of the other cultures on this globe. What we call a “failed state” others might consider a revolution in progress, which they hope will create a better society.

Conclusion

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
— Pogo, from a 1970 poster made for the first Earth Day by Walt Kelly.

America has many enemies, but our greatest danger comes from ourselves. Superpowers often die of self-inflicted wounds, as did Rome, Spain, Napoleon’s Empire and Hitler’s Third Reich.  A strong defense is essential, but let us also strive to master our fear, pride, and rashness. After doing so, we might find the world a less threatening place — or at least one we can more easily manage.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Some posts about 4th generation warfare:

  1. A solution to 4GW — the introduction
  2. How to get the study of 4GW in gear
  3. Why We Lose at 4GW – the two types of 4GW
  4. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
  5. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
  6. Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
  7. 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
  8. 4GW: A solution of the second kind 
  9. 4GW: A solution of the third kind – Vandergriff is one of the few implementing real solutions.
  10. Theories about 4GW are not yet like the Laws of Thermodynamics

28 thoughts on “America’s Most Dangerous Enemy

  1. “Perceived enemies feed the economic and political needs of our elites. The military-industrial complex converts the public�s fear into defense contracts. An array of shadowy fears encourages us to surrender our freedoms in exchange for our elites� promises to protect us.”

    Thus paranoia is just the symptom, whereas corruption and profiteering are the underlying diseases.

  2. I just wish there were a way that more of the American people could hear and see the wisdom in what you have written. That’s not just a matter of having a larger audience, e.g., publish in the New York Times. Most would not read beyond the beginning paragraph or paragraphs. Many of those who did would not see or hear what you are saying.

    It’s very difficult to break through a current paradigm. We need to learn how to better communicate, i.e., how to choose the proper audiences, how to use the proper words, and, particularly, the proper stories.

    None so blind as those who will not see, nor so deaf as those who will not hear.

    Keep working at refining the message and the venue. Thanks for the work.

  3. “Islamofascism” .. .come on, that’s misleading BS.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand your comment. Do you dis agree with the first version, the second version, or both?

  4. ‘ “Islamofascism” .. .come on, that’s misleading BS. ‘

    Perhaps it is an inherently meaningless propaganda term made up to counteract accusations of a similar structure. “Judeo-Bolshevism” had been used already, and this time the enemies were Islamic. So the Project for a New American Caligula probably had a meeting and said, “We need a new slur, like ‘Muslimo-Bolshevism,’ that teaches people to ignore economic and political realities.”

    And thus the buzzword “Islamo-fascism” was born.

  5. “Islamofascism” does not exist, Fabius. That’s a non-sense buzzword. It’s being used for something that has no relation to fascism.

    I pointed this out months ago – it’s misleading and deceiving, a cheap and manipulating tool to gather cohesion against a foreign foe at the cost of truth and clarity. See “Buzzwords” (26 August 2007)

    Btw, I agree that paranoia and hubris are terrible problems – in several nations. I’d call that a democracy failure; it should simply not happen … or at least not last for long.

    “radical-violent Muslims” is a better description.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand your comment.

    Some call it “Islamofascism”. You prefer “radical-violent Muslims”. Perhaps we should assign a neutral label, like “QXCV” or “ramsbottle”. Moses wanted to know God’s name, perhaps to magically invoke His power. Three millenia later we know that “the name is not the object, the map is not the territory.”

    Moving on, I discuss QXCV as follows:
    — “articles describing QXCV are works of imagination”
    — “Few experts see evidence of a global anti-western Islamic conspiracy”
    Followed by a more general analysis of Islam in the world. What is your objection to this, an absurdly brief analysis about a point peripheral to the primary point of the essay?

  6. “Islamofascism” is our century’s version of the protocols of the elders of zion.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That, I believe, is clearly wrong. The protocols were an invention, with no basis in fact. There is a real phenomenon here. “Jihadists”, “radical-violent Muslims”, Islamo-whatever — the debate is about the name. A related debate is its size, potential to spread, and threat to the US.
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    As I said, I have little interest in the name (but consider “Islamo-fascist” absurd). I doubt that the name will greatly influence American’s attitude one way or another. I am sceptical about the alarmists’ belief about its size, potential, and threat — although all are non-zero.

  7. That is a fabulous essay. Even if I disagreed with you (which I don’t), I’d applaud your writing. I concur with William RAISER (comment #2) in saying “I just wish there were a way that more of the American people could hear and see the wisdom in what you have written.” I think if more people could read (and I mean *really* read) what you’ve written — well, I think we’d all be better off. Or, at least, we’d all be a bit more educated!

  8. We’ve met the enemy and he is US.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: For those to young to know, “We have met the enemy and he is us” was first said by Pogo, the lead character in a comic strip by that name written by Walt Kelly, in a 1970 poster made for the first Earth Day.

  9. Judasnoose (comment #1)- Respectfully, might it be better said that corruption and profiteering are just the symptoms and that fear and hubrus are the underlying diseases? (Fear can only be paranoia if it is misplaced).

  10. Islamo-fascism is a far more accurate term than Clerical-fascism, but I think many who object to the former have little trouble using the latter. Almost 3 years later, this post holds up very well. Thanks.

    But at what probability of a nuke being used by a terrorist does paranoia become more justifiable fear?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What about poison (chemical or bio) in the drinking water? What about …. We can spin fantasies all day, or wreck our nation in futile attempts to prevent them.

    Perhaps terrorists will get a nuke and destroy a city. Perhaps the Yellowstone super-volcano will explode, or the San Andreas fault rip and toss LA into the Pacific. Only a finite level of preparations can be made for such things. America will survive whatever happens.

    For more on this see We are so vulnerable to so many things. What is the best response? (30 December 2008).

  11. Superb essay. Maybe the best thing you’ve ever written, FM.

    Nuclear threats, whether from homebrew atomic warheads or dirty bombs, seem greatly overstated. For example, this recent incident in which a cat that got radiotherapy for cancer triggered a radiation detector on I-5, shows that the authorities are not sitting around sucking their thumbs. We can reasonably assume, based on this info, that very effective radiation detectors are currently in use on all major U.S. highways and in all ports of entry into the United States.

    A nuclear weapon requires such exotic materials (refined enriched isotopic uranium, or Plutonium, an element which does not occur in nature and must be produced in a nuclear reactor) and such extraordinary fabrication techniques to produce a device small enough to deliver discreetly (including, among other things, a very special type of lathe operated in an inert noble gas atmosphere, using CNC machining to create a shape whose surface boasts tolerances smaller than a wavelength of visible light), that home-made nuclear weapons are simply out of reach for non-state actors.

    A much greater threat, and one that genuinely scares me, involves DNA synthesizers. Molecular biologists can now assemble entire viruses from databases by synthesizing protein fragments and sticking them together. Unlike nuclear technology, DNA synthesis technology is neither exotic nor very expensive. Today’s state-of-the-art DNA synthesizers run around $250,000. In another 5 years, they’ll cost 1/8 of that and be 8 times more powerful — they’re following the same cost/capability curve as computers with Moore’s Law.

    If a terrorist got hold of a DNA synthesizer and cranked out, say, a virus with a lot of the RNA sequences of Ebola or Marburg virus, but wrapped in a coat like a rhinovirus so that it was communicable by airborne infection, like the common cold… That might result in something like the scenario in the SF film Twelve Monkeys.

    Of course doing that would be insane since the terorists would die too. But, as the Batman film points out, some people just want to see the world burn. Or, as some terrorists themselves have proclaimed, “We love death more than you love life.”

    I don’t see any obvious defense against something like that. Even a Stalinist police state couldn’t defend against that kind of attack. Load some martyrs up with your synthesized virus, put ’em on a plane into La Guardia, and it doesn’t matter if they get turned back at the arrival gate — they’ll still infect enough Americans to turn Manhattan into a morgue within a month.

    And viruses represent the very tip of the iceberg. We are on the brink of a whole new world of nanotechnology, and the potentially lethal misues of that kind of tech is simply mind-boggling. No one yet knows whether it’s feasible, but a weaponized nanomachine could theoretically disassemble any type of matter (armor, steel, neutronium, anything) and turn into more weaponized nanomachines that in turn would wreak more damage. The human race has no experience in the kinds of weapons likely to be unleashed in the 21st century. We lack the vocabulary to describe it or the imaginative capacity to think out the consequences of its use, just as 19th century cavalrymen had no capacity to imagine a nuclear blast.

    Neither paranoia nor hubris prove useful in facing such challenges because these kinds of weapons literally fall outside our capacity to envision. As Bruce Sterling pointed out, When you can’t imagine how things are going to change, that doesn’t mean that nothing will change. It means that things will change in ways that are unimaginable.

  12. The nice thing about scarcity, and the ramping up of global poverty, is that what seems cheap now soon won’t be. Meaning that only elites will have access to their global supply chains, and more and more people will fall into something worse than serfdom, literally living on the excrement of the industry that supports the advancement the elites live off.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You might be correct, but my guess is that once this is over the emerging nations will resume their rapid rates of growth. This is primarily a crisis of the developed nations (Japan, US, Europe).

    Some have said (I don’t know if this is correct) that structurally this is a typical “emerging nation crisis” but taking place in the developed nations.

  13. Electrophoresis (comment #11): Good points about the threat of nanotech and the coming revolution in cheap, easily-accessible genetic manipulation. Your doomsday senario is indeed frightening, but consider that the new technologies will also most probably allow counter-measures to be developed. I am no nanotechnologist, but isn’t that technology so expensive and specialized that it is still within the pervue mostly of the upper tier nation-states?

    Coming from a biochemistry and molecular biology background myself, I’ve been brooding over the threat of uncontrolled genetic and other manipulations for many years now. Cheap gene sequencers are, as you suggest, probably not far over the horizon.

    Far as bioterrorism attacks using the scenario you suggest, it might indeed rival the societal effects of the flu pandemic of 1917-1918. John Barry’s book, “The Great Influenza” suggests that the pandemic came perilously close to destroying the fabric of American society, certainly more than any war in national history. Read the book, and you’ll see what I mean {see the Wikipedia entry for more info}. Some sort of re-enactment of that sort of scenario is unpleasant to contemplate, to say the least.

    Any recommendations, folks, on good general interest readings on recent developments in nanotechnology? Still trying to wrap my mind around what this new technology is going to mean for all of us.

  14. FM writes: “The protocols were an invention, with no basis in fact.

    That’s a bold and presumptuous statement. Certainly the statement was not originally written as it was publicized, but whether or not it was a total invention or re-editing of a previously existing document for political purpose is questionable and probably impossible to ascertain.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Why must we treat with respect the writings of the Professors in the Czar’s Secret Police, or presume their propaganda is false unless there is evidence otherwise? I believe the opposite is appropriate: assume false unless we have evidence otherwise.

    I wish we had a nonsense filter in addition to the spam filter.

  15. I would add that your diagnosis of the cancer at the heart of our “War against Islam” is that a brief review of history shows that usually the most efficient way to engorge the most virulent and toxic aspects of a religion is to convince it that it is in danger.

    I will be the first to argue that, although you state (with some justification) that the future of much of south and southwest Asia and north Africa lies somewhere in Islam, that the best hope for these regions is not so much in Islam but in a relaxed and nontheocratic Islam, the Islamic equivalent of post-Enlightenment Christianity. But to “fight” against the most radical elements of Islam is to convince them, and those around them, that the Western powers – the very heart of what many in the postcolonial Third World probably see as the attempt to recolonize and Westernize their world – see Islam as their natural enemy. And, in their attempt to live free or die, this then makes Islam, radical Islam, theocratic Islam, their natural ally.

    Had the Europeans of the Enlightenment followed this model; actively warred on the churches, conducted a concerted rattissage against conservative priests and preachers…well, they DID that, and we call it the Thirty Years’ War and it was a disaster for Europe. Only AFTER the European powers stopped making war based on denomination was Europe able to escape the political difficulties inherent in theocratic politics.

    So for us to stomp around trumpeting our noisy enmity towards “Islamofascism” and make the radical mullahs our public enemy #1 allows them, in turn, to substantiate their status as dangerous and important, rather than a bunch of raggedy-ass peasant preachers. Bombing their dusty little villages and killing them makes them martyrs instead of remnants of the early Iron Age.

    As Talleyrand would have said – that’s worse than a crime; it’s a mistake

  16. The twin towers did not fall by themselves, nor were they toppled by Bush. That way lies paranoia far worse than anything FM describes. So the radical Islamic fundamentalist jihad is rather a danger, actually.

    A war against the radical mullahs is only a mistake if you fail to win. The question is: how do you win? The US has taken the wrong approach to winning. Equating interrogation to torture is a mistake. Expecting war to be civilized is a mistake.

    As for whether the third world is better off under colonizers, that is a moot question. We call them the IMF, World Bank, NGOs, UN agencies, People’s Republic of China, Chevron Oil company, and so on. The third world cannot run itself, other than into the ground. Why not? Ignore the elephant in the drawing room, if you please.

    All of these threats you mention are, of course, greatly overblown. Until they occur, of course. After that, “they should have been obvious long before”. Humans! Anyone who claims they are rational is a liar.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: And the Oklahoma City bombing did not occur by itself. A few episodes of terrorism does not prove that this is the vast threat alledged by the pro-war agitators, or that a “war against the radical mullahs” is required. I discuss this in more detail here:
    * America takes another step towards the “Long War”

    Calling “colonizers” the “IMF, World Bank, NGOs, UN agencies, People’s Republic of China, Chevron Oil company” is absurd, pretending that words have no meaning, any more than Silly Putty has fixed form. This arguement by assertion (inspired guessing about the world) has become a primary form of reasoning in America, one reason I say that we have a broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop.

  17. “After doing so, we might find the world a less threatening place — or at least one we can more easily manage.” I’m pleased to see that you can put hubris aside when we can more easily manage the world.

    “At Nuremberg we hung quite a few people claiming this as a defense.” Yes, but only because they lost that war. If they’d one, the only place you might see that defense would be in their memoirs.

    “What we call a “failed state” others might consider a revolution in progress, which they hope will create a better society.” Po-tate-to, po-tot-toe. And a bit of a bromide to boot: “You go your way and I go mine and, hey, if by chance we meet, it’s beautiful.” Unless, by chance, I need to shoot up one of your shopping malls, or knock down two skyscrapers to make my society better. Societies in conflict are not required to adopt the opposing society’s self-definition. In fact, they would be wise not to.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t understand much of this.

    (1) “I’m pleased to see that you can put hubris aside when we can more easily manage the world.”

    That’s an odd interpretation of my text, seemingly incompatable with the theme. “Manage” has several meanings; in this case I believe the obvious one is “cope with, as in come to terms with”.

    (2) “Yes, but only because they lost that war. If they’d one, the only place you might see that defense would be in their memoirs.”

    My point was, IMO, obvious: this is not an adequate excuse, no matter if we get away with it.

    (3) “What we call a ‘failed state’ others might consider a revolution in progress.”

    Nicely said, very much in keeping with this post and others on the FM site.

  18. FM , be careful, eat more hamburgers and doughnuts, you risk turning into a green european, willing to discuss with terrorists what & why they want. Great post.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Talk is cheaper than bullets, cheaper than blood.

  19. The {Hindu} priests of the Chidambaram Nataraja temple in South India {see Wikipedia} are an endogenous community, now of 300, that has no known origin, except in hoary mythology. This link captures some aspects of change in this community. I think Islam will gradually adapt to the modern world. If the Islamic States are no longer the world’s only suppliers of oil, or not cartelized, their adjustment will be precipitated more quickly by financial compulsions.

  20. According to the Hindu scriptures, we have another 400,000 human years or so left before the current cycle of creation,sustenance and destruction ends. Irrespective of the Tom Barnett fears, there isn’t going to be any Armageddon before then. This may be a slight deviation but a really informative one. In this link you see the Hindu “mythological” description of the construction of a bridge between India and Sri Lanka, composed of rocks the size of elephants, uprooted trees, etc by an Army of Monkeys. Ref. Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, Book VI, Chapter 22, 87 stanzas.

    Next, have a look at the bridge from NASA’s Astronaut Photography of the Earth.

    According to the Hindu mythology the bridge was constructed in another Age, called the Tretayuga, more than 150,000 human years ago!No wonder the Government of India geologists keep insisting that the bridge is just ‘a natural geological formation’.Soon the Government of India will blast Lord Rama’s bridge to make way for ships to sail across the Palk Strait.

  21. Indian Investor : thanks for the posts on Hindu texts. I was just readin’ this earlier — “2012 and the Long Count.” Irrespective of timeline, I just hope Homo Sapiens Sapiens really can last another what, 400,000 years? The way hatred is preached in so many countries, even in asia.

  22. FM replies: “Why must we treat with respect the writings of the Professors in the Czar’s Secret Police, or presume their propaganda is false true unless there is evidence otherwise? I believe the opposite is appropriate: assume false unless we have evidence otherwise.

    First, I believe you mean ‘presume their propaganda is true.’ Second, even if we assume that propaganda is false unless we have evidence otherwise (which is reasonable), this is softer than your original claim that the protocols had ‘no basis in fact.’

    In any case, you are treating propaganda as if it can be true or false. Are we to assume that modern equivalents of the protocols, such as the widely popular Zeitgeist film, are meant to be accurate depictions of history or truth? Would you say that this also has ‘no basis in fact’ ?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: First, it is IMO a restatement of my original comment. Second, propaganda (like everything else) can be evaluated in terms of its truth. Last, I’ve been a nice guy about this stuff, but its off-topic. The “protocols” were in a brief remark in comment #6, irrelevant to the thread. I have no interest in such crude propaganda. Further comments on this will be deleted.

  23. “But it is a dream. We are not the British Empire, and the time of colonialism has passed. If these nations want our help, they will ask. If we force help upon them, they will fight. As we have seen in Iraq, even a medium-sized nation is too large for our forces to pacify. Worse, 4GW methods make untrained insurgents the equals of our Knights – despite their body armor, armored mounts, high-tech sensors and weapons.”

    You suggest the neo-colonialists read Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden”. I suggest that another poem of his is just as apt:

    Arthmetic on the Frontier

    A scrimmage in a Border Station-
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
    The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
    Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

    With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem.
    The troopships bring us one by one,
    At vast expense of time and steam,
    To slay Afridis where they run.
    The “captives of our bow and spear”
    Are cheap, alas! as we are dear.

  24. You are spot on: we are destroying ourselves. Our wounds are self inflicted. Paranoia and hubris are more of a danger than anything else we face. ‘Islamo-fascism’ is mostly an enemy we invented. More accurately, our elites invented to serve their own interests, which are not our interests. China? Why should China be our enemy? They are killing us right now. They will own us, all they have to do is keep doing what they are doing.

    The American Empire is falling in slow motion. It’s eating itself from inside. Chalmers Johnson had it exactly right in ‘The Sorrows of Empire’. We will see four Sorrows: Militarism, Endless Gov’t Lies, Erosion of the Rule of Law, and finally Bankruptcy, moral, spiritual and economic.

  25. “One of our largest creditors, its technological theft and unfair trade practices are destroying America’s industry. A military confrontation over Taiwan is inevitable in the near future.”

    I think a larger danger to US industry is the business “of business” itself. In order to chase cheap labor, lots of manufacturing packed up & moved to China. It wasn’t Chinese techno-theft that did that. I submit that many companies that did so — and they pleased their boards and share holders. Consumers benefited (lower cost goods).

    I am not sure there will be a US/China confrontation over Taiwan. As China grows stronger (missiles) it may become impossible for the US to alter any Chinese designs on Taiwan. However, the Cold War scenario of Taiwan being a fortified outpost of democracy and freedom is outdated. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Taiwan go the way of Hong Kong, I think that is more likely (and inevitable).

  26. We humans or carnal minded beings haveing to come to terms with reality as we know it today. All things happening in the world have already warned us about in the K.J.V. Bible. Revelations is being fulfill as I type this comment. Our carnal mind will try to explain things without the presents of God, and as history wither in the Bible or in our own history has shown us that when we leave out God things turn bad. The anti-christ is about to rise to POWER, Obama has set up in the U.N. the New World Order (back up frame work of the one world Government) to take over when the U.S. government fails. One World Money will be the one money the true spiritual Christian’s won’t touch.Nor will they follow a system that is written about and forewarned in Bible Scripture.( Revelation’s) So many are going to be so caught up with a weak attempt’s to understand what’s going on without the help of their God they are going to miss their chance to save them selves. It was like this once before in the days of Noah when he tried to warned the people of the wraith of God destroying the world with water and a great flood. Well, from one who follows the true Christ in Spirit know’s that the anti-christ is going to soften up most for the great fire that is coming to clean the face of the earth from the foolishness and poising we have done to HIS world of beautiful nature. Soon the pointless comments that are made just to be right will soon be taught of as foolishness and the conversation about life beyond the grave and eternity is much more important to those who fear and worship God in Spirit and Truth, ref to K.J.V. John 4 v 23-24 Jesus to worship the Father in Spirit and Truth are the one’s God seeks to worship Him.” That’s all I need to read”. The worldly worshiping christians that don’t know the Spirit of God ,, don’t know God nor can they love that which they don’t know.. The voice of the Good Shepard will sound soon through. His Elect and the Spirit will deliver this truth to the called and those that know his voice will follow the Shepard to safer pastures and away from the worldly worshippers of this world. His true sheep know His voice and will “FOLLOW”. This is the falling away in Revelation’s. Contact me if you hear His voice of truth in this comment , if not then Good Day to all. SO BE IT.

  27. I’ll add some musings to a post so well and maturely written.

    1) Islamofascism. It is an ideological concoction made out of Islam+nationalism, which are indeed two powerful enemies of globalization and secularization, both of which US policy in effect enforces all over the world. The (false) label of “fascism” comes out the main ideological legitimation of American Empire, i.e. victory on Fascism and Nazism in WWII. The same for the serial hitlerization of any enemy of US policy.

    2) Hybris, paranoia. Here, things get more complicated, because the definition is right, but needs, I’m afraid, a little more elaboration. The explosive quality of hybris and paranoia in US’ foreign policy after the fall of USSR (which worked as a balancing power, a “kathecon”, in St. Paul’s words, to US hybris) comes from the historically unique mix between American exceptionalism AND unbridled capitalism.

    3) Capitalism in its essence (an essence which we begin to seriously, personally meet only after its crushing defeat of its twin brother/enemy, socialism) is a) the first kinf of civilization which spares any kind of religious and philosophical legitimation b) the less conservative form of civilization in all the history of mankind: as the communist manifesto said, with capitalism “all that is solid melts into air”.

    4) Mix American exceptionalism and unbridled (i.e. unopposed) capitalism = Boom!

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