"I want you to drain them of their morale," the robed man said.
"Yes, your highness. It shall be as you say."
"I want you to take what they have purchased at great cost -- find the most precious thing they have -- and smash it, so they will never attempt such a thing again. Make fun of their victories. Make them ashamed of their traditions. May them hate their sacred places."
"Yes your majesty."
"And remember I made you. Paid for you education. Plucked you from obscurity. Smoothed your path to prominence. Do not fail me or I shall destroy you."
"No majesty. Your wish is my command," the minion answered, walking backward toward the door.
These corny lines from any pulp sci-fi drama illustrate the most potent weapon through history: betrayal and its handmaiden, demoralization. Here's what one primer advises: "Drain them of their morale so they do not want to fight ... an impassioned small force can and has, many times, defeated a much larger force that has been carefully demoralized beforehand." And it works. Look at how the Iraqi army melted away. Look at how the "International Community" which once toppled Saddam feels itself helpless before a militarily insignificant ISIS force.
ISIS/ISIL and al-Qaeda are terrifying because they've sent the message that you can't beat them. And if you try they can always sue you in the international court of human rights. Even Glenn Beck admits "I hate to say these things ... progressives, liberals, whoever on the other side, I will admit I was wrong about the war in Iraq. I really thought we could bring peace and justice and freedom and all of that stuff. ... You are never going to bring freedom there. You're never going to do it. They have to want it. When the Iraqis are just walking away, when the commanders are walking away from the fight, you can't fight for them. And I don't want to fight for them."
Al Qaeda hardly ever won a single kinetic battle against the US. But it won the fight that counted. By their brutality, obstinacy and will they have proved they will not go away before we will.
Thomas Sowell, who born in 1930, is old enough to remember World War 2 and a generation that would simply crush ISIS like a bug. In those days people wanted their culture to survive enough to pay a high price for it. America beat the Nazis and Soviets though it took them hundreds of thousands of lives and decades to do it. Just think of that. Sowell asks himself what it would have happened if the Greatest Generation had given up on Germany, Japan and the Cold War in that long, terrible struggle.
We haven't yet announced when we are going to pull our troops out of Germany or Japan, and World War II was over more than 60 years ago. Turning those militaristic countries around was one of the great achievements in human history. Their neighboring countries have been able to enjoy a peace and security that they had not known for generations.
Perhaps what was achieved in Germany and Japan made it seem that we might achieve something similar in Iraq. But "the greatest generation" that had fought and survived the horrors of war around the world was under no illusion that trying to turn our defeated enemies around would be easy, quick and cheap.
Then of course there would have been no modern Europe or Asia, no post-Cold War world. In those days people cared about things like a way of life. And while we are grateful those crazy old coots for running across machine-gun swept beaches and frozen forests -- they were considerate enough to rid the world of gas chambers and gulags and such -- the reality is we moderns can't do what the Greatest Generation did any longer.
If we were told today that the price of defeating Fascism and Communism was a million British and American lives and 40 years, we'd say f*** it. Better Red than dead, and where do I sign up for the Nazi Party? Because nothing means enough to us now to pay for such epic, multi-generational tasks. One may not like that fact; yet there it is all the same.
A confident civilization can embark upon multi-generational projects whose payoff lies in posterity. In todays multi-culti society we abort posterity. In that cultural sense the West, for all its material wealth, is less a civilization than ever. The test of a civilization is the willingness to show up. Al-Qaeda is willing to show up. Is the west able to take the trouble?
A 21st century person visiting ancient Athens by time machine would find a world not much above subsistence with animals wandering the unpaved streets. Food would be basic, unappetizing and crude. Effective medicine would be nonexistent. There would be no lights after dark apart from a few flaring torches. Yet there would be a shared way of thinking and values in common, drama, art, patriotism and belief. They would be an Athens, not just in the nominal sense, but as a way of life. And it would mean so much to them they would defend that way of of life to the death against the hordes of Persia.
By contrast modern societies are like thin clients; portals for passing influences. Being an American or Briton now means nothing more than having a passport with those words printed on the front. Like your computer Browser western societies have no inherent sense of state. There is no thing-in-itself. Data is injected from somewhere and the browser re-renders itself and morphs into something else. In that world being an American is no more different than being anyone else.
President Obama is finding to his surprise that his deconstruction of America cuts both ways. After convincing voters that America never had any strategic interests in Iraq, he can scarcely muster any argument for doing anything there. If any Mexican can come across the border to become "American" then there's no reason why said "Americans" should obey him, and not the president of Mexico. After all the president of Mexico speaks Spanish and Obama doesn't.
Having proved to all that "nothing is worth dying for" it is all too easy to add "including anything Obama tells you to die for". By converting the US Ship of State into a clown car Obama made himself a clown. And that is how Obama is being treated. He's excluded from talks between Putin, Merkel and Hollande over the latest crisis in Ukraine though doubtless he's being kept informed on the golf course. Obama is out of the loop as Leader of the Free World -- a term which itself was made a running joke by the Left -- so why take it seriously?
A century that was supposed to usher in the dawn of a new international order and The End of History is instead rife with crumbling old mansions; the EU tumbling, NATO fictive, the UN toothless and Uncle Sam basically with Alzheimer's. The void is being filled by a number regional alliances in the Asia, the Middle East and Europe with largely feudal interests, that is to say limited to keeping the demesne and the surrounding environs free of bandits. But the grand old common highway is darkening and the grass is growing between the paving stones.
The west probably began to crumble when the Left arrogated unto itself the right to reset anything it wanted. When the Citizens United decision and the 2nd Amendment were declared null until formally repealed while Brown vs Board and Obamacare remained the "law of the land" forever, which when once adopted was immutable.
The same veto power was enacted for international relations. Were the NVA were beaten by the Tet? Never mind, we'll throw in the towel the next time our party takes office. Then on "no more Vietnams" will become immutable law. So what if US troops beat the Baathists in Iraq handily, why we can always throw it away when our president takes office. We'll show them that it's pointless to try, just like the Emperor Pulpine tells his minion in our leading dialog. It doesn't matter if another point of view temporarily takes power. Did Ronald Reagan win the Cold War. Silly him. Throw it away. Did a country refuse to join the EU? Ask them again and again until they agree once, and then it will be forever.
The Left decries the threat of secession, but it is the prime example of internal secession; it is a nation unto itself, willing to enter into alliance only when they are calling the tune. It lives by veto and diktat and by the motto: our way or the highway.
When they are in charge it will be CTRL-F5. Reload and override cache. Delete all cookies, erase all browsing history and erase all passwords. In fact they even called the policy Reset. This is how the West arrived at its memoryless state, the one in which civilization became a browser, with no state of its own, reflecting only what it was desirable to project on it.
There is probably no way back to the America of Sowell's memory. The American operating system is gone. We are in a Leftbook world. No local hard drive, no local culture. Just whatever. Alas the Left has found to its surprise that they are not the only ones who can hit the CTRL-F5 keys. The Islamists can do it; the regional powers can do it; and Putin can do it. And they can't object now, for the hole they opened is free for everyone to use. By destroying the operating system they have lost control over the peripherals which were once wired to the Pax Americana.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. The Left's vehicle for power is the State. But the State depends on the nation. How if the the nations are supplanted -- as in Latin America, the Middle East and even America and Europe -- by tribes. What happens to the State?
If what used to be called "America" is replaced by affinity groups based around races, beliefs or sexual orientations, the Left will inherit nothing but a broken, Balkanized world, not the shiny New International Order they were counting on.
Perhaps the only way forward is to go farther than the left has dreamed; to go right past the death of nationality into the birth of the individual. Maybe the future will belong to affinity groups. One of the most interesting responses to Obamacare has been the rise of affinity-based health care groups.
“When all this came up with the ACA, I just realized I don’t want to be a part of any of this,” said Tucker, who views the Affordable Care Act as the government meddling in her personal health care. The Christian Healthcare program is not as comprehensive as insurance — she has to pay for her preventive care, for example — but the monthly payment of $150 can’t be beat, she said.
Tucker is part of a small but growing group of Americans whose opposition to the Affordable Care Act is spurring them to seek out alternatives, choosing once-fringe methods to pay for their medical care in an effort to skirt the many requirements the law imposes on the private health insurance market.
The result is a burgeoning business among brokers, clinics and insurers that are advertising themselves as a way to avoid the sweeping federal program. The options range from Christian co-ops such as Tucker’s to membership-based primary-care clinics to insurance policies that cover specific diseases, such as cancer.
It's detractors call it "junk coverage", but one wonders if that isn't the future. Perhaps it is the collapsing state which has become junk itself. For when you are left without tribe, when the family is denigrated and country becomes equivalent to bigotry, what are you left with but yourself and your friends? President whoever becomes a distant voice on the radio and soon, you switch it off. The last thing a man loses is not his party affiliation but his name.
Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific