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Belmont Club

Engagement Queue

April 23rd, 2010 - 6:47 pm

The Tea Parties have until recently received scant coverage from the media. But flying even lower under the radar have been the post Tea Party summits. Although the Tea Party events themselves draw the most attention, it is how the leaders who emerge from these efforts consolidate themselves that will make the biggest difference. It’s the leadership development that comes after the rallies that is strategically important. The Post Party Summit has this precise goal in mind.

The Post-Party Summits represent the beginning of the new American Revolution, one in which we organize for liberty and take back our communities from the political class. Each event is designed to maximize your time and provide you with real-world strategies and tactics that you can apply immediately. We have brought together some of the country’s best in messaging, political organizing, leadership training, new media, etc. to offer each of you the opportunity to move beyond protest to implementing freedom. Now is your time, what will you do with it?

But despite those efforts the summits and similar efforts are probably always going to be playing catch-up. Events are moving not only with great rapidity, but at an accelerating pace. For both the left and the conservatives the problem will be keeping up.

In the past 24 hours a number of stories have hit the top news. Some are purely political: Arizona’s new law declaring it a crime for people to be in the state illegally (and the President’s criticism of it as “misguided”); the leak from a Chicago court of redacted documents in which former Governor Blagojevich names President Obama as having been involved in negotiations to name his successor to the Senate Seat. Most are money related. Goldman Sachs and financial “reform”; the now-revealed mongo costs of Obamacare. Some are foreign policy wildcards: the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Hezbollah. Life comes at you fast, as the insurance company said. And there are some things there is no insurance for.

As the Tea Party Summit site says “we are in a fascinating time. One in which rising deficits, bigger government, and the threat of new taxation when there is clearly no representation threaten to divide and ruin our country.” What they forgot to add is the context.  The internal American political issues are are coming to a head at a time when worldwide events are ripening and there’s a chance that they’ll start to converge, run together and possibly to cascade.

The question is whether there is the capacity to handle cascading events.

One of the metaphors of anti-aircraft fire control was the “engagement queue”. This was a ranking of incoming bandits that had to be shot down in a certain priority. Anti-air warfare officers realized that a ship’s defense depended not only on how many missiles it carried, but how quickly they could be targeted onto the arriving threats.

The number of directors a ship possesses governs the number of intercepts that may be simultaneously prosecuted. Thus, as a rule, director assignments are more limiting than launcher cycle rates in evaluating engagement potential.

One of the problems that both the administration and the opposition are encountering is that their systems are getting “saturated”. More bandits are inbound than can be classified and engaged. Things are happening too fast for the systems to handle. Ironically the administration may be even more seriously hampered than its critics. Hierarchical Washington means that nobody moves until the go-ahead from above is given. On  major issues, Washington behaves like a ship with thousands of missiles and only one director. That’s great when only one big, slow missile is inbound at a time. On the other hand the critics are much more loosely coupled and can pursue dozens of issues, but with far less force. They are like a little ship with dozens of directors but only a few weak missiles. That’s great if you’re fighting lots of gnats.

But what happens when a lot of big, fast crises come in at the same time?  What does it mean for the Tea Party summits? Are they exercises in futility?

No, because when a discontinuity occurs such as through the 2010 elections,  an opposition with a lot of potential leaders get to move their “directors” quickly over to the ship with the bigger missiles. The significance of the shadow political exercises is that it is a school for future leaders, a discussion ground for what ifs which are now hypothetical, but which may someday become real.  And it would be a mistake to think that grassroots activism is primarily geared against the administration. The interesting thing about grassroots opposition is that they presents a challenge to both Parties. One way to analyze the current activism and its subsequent summits is not in terms of the outsiders versus the government, but the outsiders versus the party.

This is most evident in its effect on the Republicans. Although the Tea Parties are partly a threat against Democrat incumbents, they are also and perhaps more significantly an influence on the nature of the Republican candidates. Their summits will, if they are successful, renew the conservatives. When  you come to think of it, a grassroots activism is a challenge to the status quo across party lines. What is interesting is to see whether any comparable grassroots movement can emerge on the Left to free them from the shackles of public service unions, the leftist policy shops and the party hacks. Amazing as it may seem, you can fight City Hall from two sides: the left and the right. One of the main strategies on the left has always been to clog and pre-empt the traditional channels for bottom-up dissent by stuffing it with their own hacks. At the moment, the more loosely coupled conservatives are better place for reform to flourish, not because conservatives are any better, but because their ramparts aren’t manned as thickly with thugs.

Yet with events coming at a fast and furious pace it will always be problematic whether the response will be quick enough; or whether a “leaker” will get through to change the game even faster than is happening now. Emergence tends to throw curve balls.  They also tend to speed up the ball-throwing machine. In some things people must trust to luck, not just to avoid dangers but to seize opportunities. But luck favors the ready.


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