Mark Steyn argues that two things have happened simultaneously. America has “imploded on the world stage” while its current leaders have increased their power at home.
A couple of months back, I quoted Tocqueville’s prescient words from almost two centuries ago: Although absolute monarchy theoretically “clothed kings with a power almost without limits,” in practice “the details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control.” In other words, the king couldn’t do it even if he wanted to. What would happen, Tocqueville wondered, if administrative capability were to evolve to bring “the details of social life and of individual existence” within His Majesty’s oversight? That world is now upon us.
Steyn was referring to the NSA. But speaking of instruments of control, Michael Ledeen reminds us not to forget the Big Lever: the IRS. “Benghazi is an event, a terrible event, but the systematic use of the IRS as an instrument of oppression, the omnipresent long arm of the state-to-be, is even worse. It’s a crucial instrument for redistributing wealth, for intimidating critics, and for preventing political opponents from amassing the wherewithal to challenge the would-be tyrants.”
American weakness abroad and the establishment’s attempt at omnipotence at home are two slices of a single pie; complementary aspects of the breakdown of American democracy. Consider what they mean taken together. They raise the prospect of foreign rulers buying influence over America — and Americans — while their minions put the whole of the nation at the disposal of the highest bidder through the magnificent tech instruments Americans themselves have built. What’s going to stop them? The scruples of politicians in Washington?
No. But maybe something else.
Events in the Middle East suggest that perhaps God does bless America in a way. Checks and balances are coming in the form of rivalry between the foreign patrons of American politicians. The moneybags are fighting among themselves. The crisis in Egypt is a case in point. Washington is torn between the support for the Muslim Brotherhood (as supported by Qatar) and for the Egyptian military (read Saudi Arabia). Since this thread runs through Syria as well the Russians are trying to pull on it. If they pull hard enough the whole fabric may unravel. Foreign Policy’s Zachary Keck writes:
On Thursday afternoon President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would be cancelling a joint military exercise with the Egyptian Army over its violent crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Shortly afterwards, Egypt Independent reported that Putin had called an extraordinary session in the Kremlin to put “all Russian military facilities ‘at the Egyptian military’s disposal.’” The report, which cited several sources without providing any further details about them, also said that “Putin will discuss Russian arrangements for joint-military exercises with the Egyptian army.”
What could be a more blatant attempt than that? If true then Putin’s openly trying to grab Egypt. Breitbart reports Egypt is sending a diplomatic mission to Russia. “Sadat threw Russia out of Egypt,” the source told Breitbart News. “Peace came from that. If Russia reenters Egypt, they reenter the world.” Are the reports true? But things may have reached a crisis. The Egyptian military is planning to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood.
That would put Obama’s hand squarely in a vise. He may be forced to do what he loathes most: to take a definite, public stand that must alienate part of his international coalition. He has thrived so far by selling the same real estate to all comers; by being the blank slate who is each and every supplicant’s friend.
But now he must anger somebody. Now somebody’s asking for a refund. The web is rife with rumor that one side or the other is holding a scandal over the administration’s head. There is no proof that any such scandal exists. But given the parade of scandals already too numerous to mention it cannot wholly be discounted that some such exists.
So Obama remains hunkered down in Martha’s Vineyard, emerging periodically from his vacation home, like a cuckoo from a clock, to make a statement no one appears to hear, playing for time. No one in the Beltway seems to know what line to take. Shall they restore democracy in Egypt by supporting the Muslims Bros, knowing they too will take their revenge on the generals and the Copts? Suspend aid to the Egyptian military and open the door to Russia, who might do a hat trick and scoop up Saudi Arabia into the bargain?
Choices. Choices. What happened to the good old days when one could vote “present”? The Beltway is reading the tea leaves for a sign. And all they’re getting is Jay Carney.
The interesting thing is that these policy dilemmas have not arisen from an internal debate within the institutions of the Republic but as a consequence of a crisis caused by the conflicting agendas of foreign interest groups. It’s a war among the lobbies, and Washington knows not how to caper to which tune.
What may happen next is hard to predict other than to say that the Chinese fire drill — did I mention China? — will get worse. The apparatchiks are paralyzed because their patrons are squabbling. The Narrative priority now is probably to keep the voters distracted so they don’t notice the men behind the curtain are scuffling on the floor. But that will only work for so long. Sooner or later the voters will notice. And if they’ve got no jobs or money they may not even care about threats from the IRS. The next few weeks will probably see some kind of patch applied to cool things down. But eventually the crisis will intensify and the tension will rise again. There’s too much bad merchandise floating around for it not too. Iran’s nukes, Pakistan, Syria — to mention just a few. The cuckoo clock is broken. The Narrative is showing signs of dementia.
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