The American Animal Farm

January 17, 2012

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill 

George Orwell wrote his famous Animal Farm allegory about the corrupting potential of socialism in 1943. The novel was not published for two years because the liberal Bloomsbury establishment did not want to offend the new Labor Party majority inLondon or Stalinists allies inMoscow. After WWII, Orwell defended his fable, saying that his intention was to illustrate how easily otherwise intelligent people could be “misled by propaganda in a democracy.”

Political ideology in America has devolved to forms that would make Orwell cringe today: socialists (nee Marxists) and democratic socialists (nee Keynesians). The former views government as an all-purpose solution and the latter views government as a “stimulator,” a kind of economic and social Wizard of Oz. The two are more alike than they are different. The fatal flaw of both is the chronic inability of voters and their elected representatives to distinguish between wants and needs. Elections are now confused with democracy; and the majority seldom votes for the common good – or their own best interests.

Neither debt nor deficits are national security crises. Both are just two symptoms of civic decline, a bloodless coup in slow motion. The end may come slowly or catastrophically, but collapse seems inevitable. And the solution isn’t Democrats or Republicans; both parties are now “democratic” in name only.  Neither major party represents the will nor the best interests of the people.

Before the turn of the 21st Century, Francis Fukuyama wrote a provocative essay for National Interest where he argued that the fall of the Soviet Union represented the “end of (authoritarian) history” as we knew it and a triumph of “liberal democracy.” Fukuyama didn’t have much to say about the advent of totalitarian Islamism or the spread of virulent socialism in the West. Indeed, Frank might have been more candid had he called the 20th Century a triumph of “social” not liberal democracy. Fascists and old school Communists may be gone, but socialism has metastasized in every Western democracy under the tutelage of “progressives.”

Socialism, with the able assistance of Islamism, is now poised to do to Europe, the British Commonwealth, and America what Nazis, Fascists, and Communists could not. The threat from social democrats may be more subtle than the naked aggression of Islamists, but the end game might be the same. The illusions of socialism and the worst instincts of democracy are now joined in a death spiral.

The fatal flaws of social democracy include but are not limited to promises that can not possibly be kept; outlays that might always exceed income; the necessity for Orwellian mendacity; the absence of all moral hazards; and ultimately, a terminal erosion of the electoral process and democracy itself.

Promissory Default

Social Democracy is a kind of piñata politics, a system where special interests seek like-minded politicians who will cater to a host of creative dependencies. Few distinctions are made between real needs and simple cupidity. Once established, mmany federal programs quickly outlive their usefulness. Results become immaterial.

Once funded, the legislature might be lobbied by bureaucrats from within and beneficiaries from without.  Social democracy is a perpetual motion machine where the prime function of government is spare parts – spare parts for itself.Mission statements for most social agencies are adorned with adjectival admonitions like “better” or “improved,” yet few if any measures of effectiveness are ever established or enforced. The “wars” on poverty, illiteracy, drugs, and terrorism and their associated federal departments are all examples of dismal, yet expensive failures. The only function that most federal agencies do well is write checks – checks against funds which must be borrowed from folks that may not have our best interests at heart.

The liberal or progressive proposal for solving the deficit/debt dilemma is “more of the same;” tax and spend. The strategy is aptly defined as “leading from behind.” Four in ten spending dollars must be borrowed today to keep America afloat. Paul Krugman tells us we must spend now, cut later. Later, unfortunately, never comes.

Double “D” Economics

For the first time in history, the specter of sovereign default stalks the wealthiest nation on Earth. The wealthiest was also, heretofore, the most successful democracy. Democratic capitalism, once thought to be the engine of post agrarian American success, has been undone by a socialist revolution without guns.

Debt and deficit, or double “D” economics, assumes that growth and proportionate tax receipts will always compensate for imprudent spending. Like Fitzgerald’s green light, this elusive future is always visible but never near. Spending your way out of debt is an oxymoron, a kind of logic that only thrives among civic knaves, politicians, and public employees. No prudent banker will raise the credit limit for an insolvent card holder. Assumptions about ever growing revenues are similar to public employee expectations about pay and raises. Apparatchiks and dependents see the public trough as a bottomless pit.

In a rare bit of candor, journalists have christened European insolvents as “PIGS” (Portugal,Ireland,Italy,Greece, and Spain). The acronym does not yet include America, but well it might. Some pigs are more equal than others. The Yankee boar, like Orwell’s Napoleon, has the power to wreck the international barnyard.

Mandated Mendacity

The proper Orwellian state requires a language of euphemisms. Discretionary and non-discretionary spending are two of the best. The latter term is designed to protect sacred cows; as if any spending is ever “mandatory.” Taxes are never taxes; words like “investments,” investments that never pay, mask the pain. Keynesian deficit spending masquerades as “stimulus.” If a stimulus package doesn’t work, clearly it wasn’t big enough. A corruption of language is necessary for any successful fraud. Mendacity is a standard kit for grifters and social democrats.

The most egregious deception turns rhetoric and logic on their heads. Those who argue that spending should not exceed income are libeled as immature, radical, insensitive, and dangerous. Those who would end the spending bender are labeled as right wing “nuts.” Somehow a balanced budget threatens the future, full faith, and credit of  America. In the bizarre world of social democracy, all facts and logic are subverted by compulsive spending and fiscal deficit disorders. Blaming the thrifty for impending default is a little like blaming fire on the alarm.

Moral hazards

There are no moral hazards in the world of social democrats. Indeed, Government is not required to produce goods, nor does it necessarily deliver services. In spite of decades of Keynesian stimulus, government at all levels has become a net consumer, not a creator of wealth.  And most programs and departments are vampires, they can not be killed. Failure always looms, yet there are no penalties for poor performance.  No-fault politics is a value that crosses party lines. Of 15 cabinet departments, six have been in default for decades. All are immune to reform or the axe.

Consider just three: Defense, Welfare, and Education.  America has waged a host of wars since WWII. Few have been unambiguous successes. Indeed, among four ongoing wars in the Muslim world, the word “victory” is the most notable casualty. At home, two cabinet departments now service the welfare state. Even progressives argue that misguided federal largess has created a host of pathologies and dependencies that never existed before the advent of the “nanny” state. And American education is a domestic and international joke. The technology sector, that is supposed to be America’s economic salvation, must go abroad to India and China to find qualified employees.

Default democracy

In the 18th Century, the founding fathers restricted the voting franchise to the landed gentry. The idea was to restrict governance to the successful and accomplished citizens. If nothing else, successful and enterprising men were thought to serve as role models. No one anticipated a 20th Century oligarchy of venal lawyer/politicians without term limits.

Like the wise men of 5th Century Athens, early American political philosophers were aware that even a representative republic could be hijacked – where cupidity and self-interest could thrive at the expense of the common good. It’s no accident that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

The original vision of an entrepreneurial, capitalist republic has devolved now to a social democratic nightmare where government programs actually suffocate initiative and enterprise. Literal, and figurative, industry is now vilified from the Oval Office. At the local level, especially in urban areas, social democrats thrive in dysfunctional, one party towns. These urban blights can not afford incompetence even; it must be subsidized.

Fifty per cent of the population pays no taxes, but they do have the vote. This constituency has no skin in the game except, maybe, to collect a government check. There‘s no incentive for fiscal prudence when deadbeats can be bought with other people’s money.

The American crisis was not created by reformers or conservatives. It was created by a bovine electorate and a porcine federal government – a horrible model that actually cultivates social pathologies for political purposes. More than four out of ten dollars spent by Washington must be borrowed to finance what now amounts to an American “Animal Farm.” Indeed, George! The pigs have taken over again. Napoleon and Squealer are back.

 

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What is to be done?

May 20, 2010

“The most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.” –  George Orwell

At the start of the 20th Century, Vladimir llyich Ulyanov penned a short polemic called “What is to be done?” In this essay, he laid the intellectual foundation for a rebellion and a future that was to become the Soviet Union. Lenin argued that while revolution might be made in the name of the proletariat, the heavy lifting was actually done by an elite “vanguard” of intellectuals. This oligarchy would latter bloom into such institutions as the Politburo, Central Committee, the Congress of People’s Deputies, Committee for State Security (KGB), and other euphemisms for nomenklatura. Lenin also rejected moderation; setting the stage for the Bolshevik/Menshevik split, a long civil war, and a delusion of world revolution – the Internationale.

Ironically, while tilling the ground for revolution, Lenin was also sowing the seeds of internal contradiction that would eventually bring down the Soviet Union and put the lie to Communism.  His brand of socialism made all the right noises about equality, pluralism, and democracy; yet, the truth became the face of Joseph Stalin – a dictator. For fellow travelers in the West, the first doses of reality therapy came from two quarters; a British author and a minor American Foreign Service officer. In 1945, George Orwell lampooned socialism as an Animal Farm where some critters would inevitably be more equal than others. And George Kennan argued, in a 1947 Foreign Affairs essay, that if the spread of Communism were “contained” by means short of nuclear war; it and the Soviet Union would implode from the weight of contradictions. Oddly enough, Kennan couldn’t overcome his background as a diplomat; he spent the rest of his life complaining that “containment” didn’t mean military force.

Nonetheless, the combined pressures of containment, deterrence, and flexible response provided the policy synergy necessary to hold the line and prevail in the Cold War. By the late decades of the last century, a revolution without guns was underway. In 1987, Ronald Reagan blew on the Berlin Wall and the animal farm imploded.

A new debate about the fate of the world arose soon after. By 1989 the optimists were represented by Frank Fukuyama who argued in the End of History that the demise of Fascism and Communism represented a triumph of tolerant democracies. Like Hegel before, Fukuyama saw history as an evolving rational unity. Alas, equating the passage of time with progress doesn’t explain regressions like the Dark Ages, National Socialism, nor the irredentism of contemporary Islam.

Samuel Huntington responded to Fukuyama’s optimism with The Clash of Civilizations, a more pessimistic view of Islamism. Huntington was half right; clash yes, civilization no. Ayatollahs and Imams seldom refer to Western culture as civilization; and “civilization,” as the West knows it, is hardly the goal of Islamists. Like every other war, the clash is political, not cultural. The goal of Islamism is to replace secular with theocratic; while replacing bikinis with burkhas could still be a lesser social objective. Islam, in its most animated forms, is an aggressive political ideology.

The Afghanistan War is now nearly a decade old. The White House has concluded its “top to bottom” policy and objectives review. The narrowly focused results were announced on 1 Dec 09 at West Point. Charitably, the new plan could be described as an exit strategy with an expiration date. The problem with any extended effort in Afghanistan is its potential to obscure or encourage more dithering on existential threats – like Iran.

So what is to be done?

The first step might be a dose of reality therapy. We must recognize the conflict with Islamism for what it is – a global conflict. There are no wars of “choice” (Iraq) or “necessity” (Afghanistan) and no separate archipelagos of terror. This is a single phenomenon with unitary tactics, strategy and objectives. The enemy is not a bearded man hiding in a cave somewhere or simply AL Qaeda, as many administration sources have suggested. The foe is an extensive and remarkably effective net of decentralized proselytizing and fighting cells which have secular and theocratic state sponsors. Their reach is global and that includes domestic sleeper cells.

If we can bring ourselves to rebrand the threat, we might rethink our alliances. Oriana Falacci may have been correct about the “cicadas,” her acid characterization of the European Union. At the moment, we may have more in common with the state Capitalism of Russia, the market Communism of China, the democratic pluralism of India, and the social security state of Japan. Other partners might include South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Israel; but the big four would be a start. The US has more of a future with any of these nations than any nation in the Muslim world – and possibly much of Europe.

The recent Ali al Megrahi pandering to Libya by Great Britain is a symptom of how viral European appeasement has become. The one person convicted in the Lockerbie mass murder has been granted amnesty. If a few bombs on Spanish trains can change a government in Madrid, imagine what changes might be wrought in Europe with   nuclear weapons in Sunni and Shiite hands? We can let the Norwegian Parliament’s pandering associated with the last year’s Nobel Peace Prize speak for itself.

We might also rethink our strategy and tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every measure of effectiveness; force to force, force to population, and strategy to strategy metrics suggests that ground war can not possibly result in anything that approximates victory or even stability in Iraq or Afghanistan (see appendix below). Contrary to White House claims, save technology, the war plan for South Asia is little different from our strategy in Vietnam or the Soviet strategy in their Afghan war. Making forays against terrorists or insurgents from defensive cantonments, with extended lines of communication, then as now, cedes most of the initiative to the enemy. The imperative is to move from defense to offense and let the Ummah (Islamic world) do the nation building and stabilize their insurgents.

To this end we should gift the so called “war on terror” to Islam; their problem to solve – or else. Jihad doctrine, fighters, finances, and moral support all originate within Muslim world. All Muslims are not terrorists, but just as surely nearly all terrorists and their supporters are Muslims. If Islamism is a greater threat to Muslims, then Muslims should carry the burden of fighting.

Instead of wasting precious lives and expensive munitions on remote mountain roads, we might contemplate the occasional shot across the bow, or more if necessary, over Tehran, Damascus, Cairo, Riyadh, Karachi, or Tripoli. Surely such offensive initiatives put our energy sources and debt service in play, but Muslim autocrats have even more to lose; and we might make that clear.

If our cities are at risk, then their cities must suffer the same anxiety until the madness ends. The alternative is an endless, one-sided, war of attrition against the West by Islamist rules, on their turf – all of which is designed to bleed Dar al Harb (literally “house of war” or we infidels) into submission.

Recent arguments have parsed the Afghan front into two options; a war on terror (specifically against al Qaeda) or a war on insurgency (aka “nation building”). Choices here are distinguished by troop requirements; the Biden option argued for less troops and the McChrystal option called for more. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade, neither strategy offers a clear path to victory or stability.

Afghanistan not only represents another potential graveyard for Western empire, but it is a tactical distraction from a larger strategic question. We need to ask ourselves why European and American troops need to die in any political desert to save the Islamic world from itself. If Iraq was a distraction from Afghanistan, we should ask also why Afghanistan is not a distraction from the existential threat from Iran.

We might also serve notice also on Muslim co-religionists worldwide that those who advocate or rationalize jihad of the sword, kalifa, sharia, anti-Semitism and other seditious polemics will not be welcome to America as immigrants, teachers, students, or visitors. The Bill of Rights was written to protect America not some global village. In short, kill two birds with one stone; turn the Islamic population bomb, “revenge of the cradle,” back on itself and end the oxymoronic policy of tolerating intolerance in the name of tolerance.

And finally, we need to be crystal clear on the question of future Holocausts. No theocratic state or their “non-state” actors should possess the capability to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. We can take Islamists at their word on their intentions; it’s their growing military capability, those weapons of mass destruction, which need to be neutered. The idea that passive missile defense in Europe, or in the Mediterranean, will act as a deterrent is an assumption and nothing more. There is no evidence to suggest that defensive missile technology works or that “supreme rulers” in any theocratic state subscribe to Deterrence or any other rational actor theories.

Israel can not do anything about her geography or her history; and to be candid, Israel has done more with her modest sand box in fifty years than Persia or Arabia has done in the last five hundred years with all of the Levant and North Africa. Ralph Bunche once said that “when two peoples claim the same land, someone has to lose.” Indeed! We need make it clear to Americans and the world that our immutable policy on Jews and genocide is “never again”.

There are more than a few practical advantages to adopting the foregoing policy initiatives. As a group they are deficit neutral; indeed, there is every reason to believe that there might be Mid-East and South Asia dividends if we turn “nation building” over to the natives. The new American administration ran on the slogan; “change we can believe in.” Surely, like Lenin at the start of the last century, Barack Obama is the most articulate and persuasive revolutionary of the new century. The world is still waiting to be told; “what is to be done?”

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Appendix;

The following is a brief summary of (operations research) measures of effectiveness, statistically based ways of assessing the probability of military success; success is defined as victory or stability. None of these measures comes remotely close to a positive reading for a ground war in Iraq or Afghanistan.

S. J. Deitchman, “A Lanchester Model of Guerrilla Warfare,” Institute for Defense Analysis, 23 May 1963: Lanchester models of force ratios are thought to apply best to conventional warfare. However such modeling has established a number of axioms: all other things being equal (which they seldom are), a bigger force is a better force; technology does offset the numbers; but numbers still matter in important ways.

James T. Quinlivan, “The Burden of Victory; the Painful Arithmetic of Stability Operations,” Rand Review, summer, 2003: The combined Iraqi/Afghan populations are over 50 million; suggesting more than a million trained personnel might be required just to stabilize these two countries of the Ummah. Or in the words of a mathematician: “The extremely low force ratio for Afghanistan, a country with a larger population than that of Iraq, shows the implausibility of current stabilization efforts by external forces”. This is the polite way of saying there are not enough US troops in the field to do the job – nor is an adequate force likely to be deployed. For a government contractor, Quinlivan’s candor is rare, indeed.

Ivan Arrequin-Toft, “How the Weak Win Wars; A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict,” International Security, summer 2001, pp. 93-128: Toft’s strategy to strategy findings are consistent with force to population models. Yet, it is less clear that Islamists are weak or small, but Toft’s bottom line is hard to dispute; “If history is any guide, the insurgents (Islamists) will win”.

Aside from the low probability of success, Afghanistan has the same “distraction” potential that Iraq had. For the moment, Iraq and Afghanistan are still secular states; Iran, on the other hand, is a theocracy about to go nuclear. Our inability or unwillingness to prioritize the targets in the Islamist threat matrix is the most alarming and dangerous development of the new century.

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This essay appeared in the  20 May 10 edition of Family Security Matters.