Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Barons' Hour

One can pooh-pooh the foretellings of even the best traveled and most erudite prognosticators. One can wave aside the predictions of dark consequences to this or that alteration of standing policies or institutions. One can even say, once the darkness creeps over the lintel, that "it would have been worse" had we followed another course. The only thing one cannot say is that "It isn't happening."

Russia has invaded Ukraine and seized the Crimea.

Barack Hussein Obama's statement on the matter appears to have been engineered precisely to avoid any hint of a threat of consequences for this violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity. He tied the U.S. to European consensus as regards any "costs" Russia might be compelled to bear for its aggression. That alone constitutes a guarantee that nothing will be done, as Europe fears the Russian Bear even more greatly in these years of Vladimir Putin's satrapy than it did in the years of the Soviet Union.

If you need a crowning irony, a cherry to top the sundae of international chaos that's developed during Obama's tenure in the Oval Office, here's one for the ages:

In 2008, Sarah Palin predicted it all.

And of course, the media mocked Governor Palin for saying so.

Many elegant, penetrating things have been said about power, by many perceptive and intelligent men. Some of them are even true. However, no assessment of power is adequate if it doesn't address two attributes:

  • The aggregate ability to inflict death, suffering, and destruction upon a target;
  • The willingness to do so when one's interests make it appropriate.

(How good for you that your favorite Certified Galactic Intellect is on the job, eh? All part of the service, Gentle Reader. Our servers really appreciate your generosity. Don't forget to fill out your Customer's Evaluation Card before you leave.)

America's international power -- its ability to bend world events to its liking by inflicting, or threatening to inflict, unpleasant consequences for noncompliance -- peaked in the Sixties. Except for a brief resurgence during the Reagan years, it's been sliding ever since. Today it's very nearly gone.

Until recently, our shortcoming was mainly a lack of will. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Jimmy Carter proved absolutely unwilling to inflict any cost upon the aggressor power beyond boycotting the Moscow Olympics scheduled for the following year. The sting of that "penalty" fell entirely upon American athletes who had trained long and hard for their opportunity; it affected the Soviets not at all. It's unclear, and largely immaterial, whether Carter was paralyzed by fear of reciprocal consequences or felt that a nation so far away was not worth the expenditure of American blood and treasure. His stance found substantial echoes in those of Bill Clinton and, most recently, Barack Hussein Obama.

The Obamunists' disdain for the military and their emphasis on "smart diplomacy" and European-style "soft power" has led to catastrophic developments in both hemispheres. Our loss of influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Iraqis' descent toward Iranian puppet-state status, can be traced directly to the Obama regime's unwillingness to use force. Thanks to the Administration's disengagement from Syria and Egypt, both nations have become bubbling cauldrons of violence and fear, from which no man can predict what might emerge. The Palestinian irredentists scent victory, thanks to John Kerry's promotion of a "peace framework" and the pressure Obama has mounted on Israel to accept it. Nor is it a coincidence that the Obama regime's repudiation of the Monroe Doctrine is contemporaneous with the emergence of socialist dictatorships in Central and South America.

The enemies of freedom, having noted that our will to wield our forces has slackened so greatly, have been on the march. They've largely gotten what they sought.

But what was the chant as we approached November 2012? Something about Bin Laden being dead but GM is alive, wasn't it?

Virtually no item of news has terrified me quite as much as Chuck Hagel's announcement of the regime's intention to emasculate the U.S. military.

It's bad enough that our political elite has become unwilling to use force internationally. The maintenance of the ability to overwhelm any imaginable opponent or coalition thereof still exerted some deterrent effect upon aspiring aggressors. Should Hagel's insanity be put into practice, such that America will be rendered effectively incapable of intervening overseas, the world will destabilize even further than it already has. The good guys will have put the bad guys on notice that not only are we unwilling to impede them; we're no longer even capable of doing so. The international order will devolve from its usual, moderately orderly anarchy into true chaos.

I wrote in the Foreword to Freedom's Scion that:

    The States of Earth exist in an anarchic relation to one another. Each has its own regional code of law, which might differ markedly from all the others. Despite several thrusts at the matter over the centuries, there is no "super-State" to enforce a uniform code of law over them all. More, they view one another as competitors in many different areas; their populations and institutions are often in sharp economic competition with one another. Thus, they are often at odds. They resolve important disputes among them through negotiation or warfare.
    Yet individuals manage to move among them with a fair degree of facility and (usually) little risk. Cross-border trade is commonplace, in some places torrential. Though wars are frequent, they seldom result in major alterations to the overall political pattern. The uber-anarchy of Terrestrial society exhibits more stability than one would expect from two hundred well armed, quarrelsome States, each of which perpetually schemes at snatching some advantage at another’s expense.

In retrospect, that assessment of the stability of international anarchy depends upon a rough equivalence of power among the more important players: a military balance that makes aggression unlikely to be profitable to the aggressor. In our time, given the enervation of the militaries of Europe under the North Atlantic Charter, much has depended upon the "benevolent hyperpower:" the tempering and restraining effect exerted by the existence of an unopposable power strongly and openly inclined toward peace and general liberality. There's a certain symmetry in this. America's military guarantees to the NATO nations, which encouraged them to scamp their own militaries in favor of massively inflated welfare states, brought the condition into being. In consequence, our enormous military became essential to the maintenance of international good behavior: we imposed upon ourselves a quasi-moral obligation to become and remain the "world's policeman." The blood of our sons is the price for our beneficence toward others.

From that perspective, America's victory in the Cold War looks more and more like a consolation prize.

In a realm where the king's might has kept the ambitions of the barons in check, the king's fall will release those ambitions and whatever amount of power and ruthlessness might lie behind them. There will be war. Ultimately a form of stability will return -- people desire stability quite as much as anything else -- but the duration and savagery of the interregnum will be inherently difficult to predict.

We have entered the barons' hour. For a time they will rage unchecked. And no one can say how long that time will last -- or who will remain standing at its conclusion.


Martin McPhillips said...

There was no victory in the Cold War, by America. It lasted from 1917 until 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt surrendered unconditionally. What followed was a decades long successful effort to break down American society. The federal government was occupied and used, quite formidably, in that effort, which was a stunning success, culminating with the election of a KGB laboratory experiment as U.S. President in 2008.

emdfl said...

My hope is that WHEN the Iranians decide to test their bomb(s), they test at least one in a conex being driven down Penn Ave. while the parties of treason are in session listening to Barry spount his latest state of the coup speech.

There is no doubt in my mind that when the Iranians do get a couple of funtioning bombs built - this year or next - they will be set off in this country. The only question is which cities will disappear.

Martin McPhillips said...

The Iranians, left enough leash by the Russians so that they can't quite be called clients (the way the Syrians can), will nonetheless do only what the Russians tell them to do with respect to the use of nuclear weapons. The Russians don't worry about the feelings of the mullahs, or any other sheik, imam, or supreme leader in the middle east. And the Russians have far less love for us than the Iranians do.