30 December 2009

How Dare They!


Is there anywhere a democrat that actually believes in democracy? Is there anywhere a supporter of democracy that will not complain sullenly when too many votes are found to be for a candidate not sanctioned by the democrats in chief?

This Sunday the first round of presidential elections were held in Croatia, a measly 44% of the electorate bothered to turn up. Just over 50% of them threw in their votes for party candidates. The other half went for independent candidates, that were running without the backing of any party with a foothold in the parliament. This spurned political analysts to get busy explaining how this amounts to something of a crisis of parliamentarism.

The low turnout and low support for their candidates certainly robs the parliamentary parties of some of their cover of legitimacy. Their claim to be representing the people rings hollower. However the much more interesting thing this election showcased is just how much democrats hate elections – if they do not like the results.

As soon as the results were published the opinion pages of many a respectable paper came out with expressions of shock and disbelief that the candidate to place second and secure the participation in the second round could be one Milan Bandić. His sin? Why his winning would devalue the presidency!

You see, Milan Bandić is a crude, unsophisticated, uneducated, occasionally vulgar, openly crooked mayor of Zagreb. He does not comprehend there is a certain aura the people people in power are supposed to project. Just last month ago this urban hillbilly found himself ridiculed in the papers for hanging sausages and bacon for some air drying — on the balcony of his luxury apartment located in the centre of the city.

Amusement quickly turned to horror as he results of the first round came in indicating the 300,000 votes he received was going to be just enough for him to qualify for the two man runoff that will take place in a fortnight. Who are these people who voted for Bandić thundered the columnists! How simpleminded voter does it take to vote for such an illiterate, corrupt politician was the implication! He had been photographed picking his nose in public and fell asleep in the National Theatre! What utter disaster of a country where somebody like Mr.Bandić can be a viable presidential candidate they concluded!

In reality the people who voted for him are among the saner in the country. Indeed he is corrupt, the scandals surrounding him are many and well documented, but so are all politicians. People voting for him had demonstrated they understand this, they have understood that to be a politician is to be a crook. Thus they are unfazed by the scandals surrounding him. He stole, but everybody steals. What else is new?

Also they are clearly detached from the thinking that those with power are the betters of themselves. Not a single person who cast a ballot for Milan Bandić did so thinking he was casting a vote for someone brighter, wiser, more capable than himself. The man is so clearly an uncultured dolt that it precludes the possibility. Which means they understand that politicians or the ruling class are not the betters of the ruled. Bandić voters are the people who are of a low opinion of who politicians are and of low expectations as to what betterment they can deliver.

This is what truly enrages the columnists, for they on the contrary are the believers. They want to believe that only if the right person would come around all could be bettered! So they need offices neat and tidy, placed on a pedestal and safeguarded from devaluation until He arrives. To preserve the belief that if the ruling elites are not the betters, that they could and certainly should be!

How dare the Bandić voters mock their faith!

26 December 2009

Write Up

What will we include into the write up of the year? Maybe just this that the current head of the empire Barrack Obama has achieved in a year what it took Bill Clinton seven to accomplish. He has had US military kill people in five different countries. His targets were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. A question here, does bombing five different countries make you an interventionism ace?

Barrack H. Obama?

Imperialism - The Culprits

Power is enslaving. Those possessed of it invariably place themselves into the service of expanding it further. The crudest way for rulers in which to do this is to grab more territories for themselves to rule. It is also the method which in the short term carries the greatest amount of risk. Outcome of any war is determined by so many factors that it is seldom a foregone conclusion. However we can in general determine what sort of realms will in the long term tend to be more successful at attempts at territorial expansion and also more likely to attempt such expansion for that hinges on only a few factors.

The first determinant is geographic position. A realm surrounded by more powerful neighbours is unlikely to attempt or succeed at expansion. A realm surrounded by weaker neighbours is likely to attempt and succeed at expansion. A landlocked realm has less outlets for potential expansion and is less likely to expand. A realm with a wide access to sea routes has many more outlets for expansionism and is more likely to expand. A realm in a geographically strategic region or a region geographically susceptible to invasion is likely to find itself locked in a constant struggle against invasion itself and is less likely to develop to a point where it can launch mayor expansion of its own. On the contrary a realm in a geographically secure location, such as an island, is likely to be granted longer periods of peace which are a boon to development of every sort including of the potential for expansion.

The second determinant is orientation of the sovereign inwards or outwards. A sovereign who spends his resources internally, on controlling and enslaving the populace within his realm is left with less resources to spend externally. Obviously wealth that is spent on building prisons can not be spend on raising an army. The third factor is the ability of the sovereign to appropriate the resources within his realm for his own use. All other things being equal a sovereign which can appropriate a great portion of the resources within his jurisdiction will obviously in the immediate have an advantage over a sovereign who can succeeded in appropriating only a small portion of resources in his jurisdiction for his own use. The forth factor is the absolute amount of resources within the realm. This means the aggregate of availability of strategically important natural resources, the number of population and most crucially the level of wealth within the sovereign's jurisdiction.

23 December 2009

Saakashvili's Turkmenbashi Moment



As Mikheil Saakashvili`s rule in Georgia is becoming more dictatorial, the empowerment of his persona`s lunacy is reaching absurd levels. Initially marketed as a modern, slick, clever and educated politician it soon became clear he was not quite all there when he threw his military of 35 thousand into a war against the largest country on Earth.

Recently, in his the most bizzare act jet, he decreed the parliament be moved away from Tbilisi to Georgia`s second largest city Kutaisi. Choosing for it from all the sites in and around the city - one already taken by a 46 metres tall monument to the memory of eighty thousand Georgians who fell in the ranks of Red Army in the Second World War.

To avoid announced rallies against this state vandalism interfering with his reprehensible plan the demolition of the imposing monument was carried out two days ahead of schedule and was so rushed that it resulted in deaths of two people, mother and daughter, that were hit by debris.

In the end Saakashvili desecrated the memory of Georgian WWII fallen to send a message, what message and to whom only he knows, and caused deaths of a woman and a child in the process, jet it has been barely reported on in the West and then only in carefully chosen terms. Too embarrassing for them that their vassal is becoming more and more like Saparmurat Niyazov "Turkmenbashi" or perhaps Idi Amin. An erratic, authoritarian lunatic.

In the mean time official Russia has declared willingness to recreate the monument in Moscow, so the Georgian Red Army fallen may be honoured there if under Saakashvili they can no longer be honoured in Kutaisi.

PS, I should thank Stanislav Mishin over at Mat Rodina for writting about this event or I would have surely missed it.

Of Meek Words

One hindrance when writing about the state from the libertarian point of view in English is that words having to do with the state are just not sinister enough. Lets take a closer look.

First the word government. Such a meek word. One can govern the people, but one can also govern his ranch. So the word means to rule but can also mean, to administer. Well it is much harder to rile up against administrators than it is to rile up about rulers. There is no such lack of clarity in Slovene. The word for the government is vlada, stems from vladati, to rule. With vladar being ruler. No other meaning to it. Much more menacing. Much easier to hate.

Lets take authority. It can mean coercive political power, but one can also be an authority on cocker spaniel breeding. There is no such confusion in Slovene. Authority in the political sense is oblast. Oblastnik or one who wields political power is another word for a despot. There is no oblastnik on cocker spaniels. Furthermore it is a word that shares the root -last with the word for property, lastnina, implying that all those under the oblast are akin to property. Much better, a term simply inviting you to hate it!

Then there is the state, a neutral term, albeit one that is also neutral in Slovene. Država, comes from drža or stance. Nothing sinister about it. However we can look for help in Russian, a different language from the Slavonic branch, where the state is gosudarstvo. Gosudar being master or lord. No pretence of harmlessness here. Marvellous!

The next word to take issue with, albeit for different reasons, is the noun rules. How terrible that a word like that should share a root with ruler. It can mislead into believing that rules come from rulers. In Slovene rules are pravila coming from -prav or that which is right. Incidentally also the root for pravda and pravice, justice and rights respectively.

On a similar note, the word anarchy in English can mean absence of rulers but it can also mean lawlessness. The native Slovene terms for anarchy have this kept apart. Absence of rulers is brezvladje, absence of laws brezzakonje.

Apaprently whatever else has, being at the forefront of liberal thought and having Rights of Englishmen done for the Anglo-Saxons, it has apparently made a great mess of their language, making it a bummer to argue against political authority in it.

22 December 2009

What "Regulation"?

There are few words more tiresome than "regulation"? Is there anything more tiring that listening to declared enemies of the market supposedly only desiring the market be regulated? Or declared friends of the market energetically combating the regulation of non-market entities?

To regulate means to order. But when using the word to regulate nobody actually means to order, to make orderly, what they mean is to restrict.

Parties engaging in market interactions are - because neither wields power over another - capable of establishing the terms under which they interact without the need of a third party. But when opponents of the market scream for the need to regulate voluntary interactions they do not mean that rules of such interaction should be established. What they mean is that the ability of entities to engage in such interactions should be restricted. However a policy actually stated in such terms would not find much support.

Simultaneously phony free marketeers scramble to the defense of governmental and semi-governmental institutions disingenuously screaming about the evil of their being regulated. What they actually fear are not rules under which the government will do this or that. What they fear is that restrictions would be placed upon these entities in terms of what they can do and when. Naturally they can not state so openly, for only among very few would a policy of permitting the government free reign find support.

Regulation is a word whose meaning has been so obscured that the would be enslavers can promote their stance either as being for regulation or for being against regulation. The real issue is not more or less regulation, the issue is what should be restricted and what should not be restricted. Obviously enough, all that which is voluntary should not be restricted in any way, and all of which is forceful should be restricted in full. Therefore while the market should be left unrestricted, the coercive government should be restricted as much as possible. Ideally so many restrictions would be placed on the government that it would find itself unable to do anything at all and be therefore effectively abolished.

16 December 2009

There Is An Easier Way To Do This

In the news today, between 26,000 and 56,000 hirelings (camp followers?) are to accompany the 30,000 reinforcements Obama has ordered into Afghanistan. This is going to take their number in country to somewhere between 130,000 and 160,000. With the projected number of occupiers in state issued uniforms after the new 30,000 Americans and additional 5,000 NATO auxiliaries land, at almost 140,000, this means that the occupation is going to be made up of a staggering 270 to 300 thousand bodies.

This is an overkill. It should be possible to lose a war with much less troops and at a far lesser cost.

15 December 2009

Who Won the War Anyway?

Not the USA that is for sure. Russia and China join the Iranians and the Shias as the big winners of the Iraq War as their oil companies buy up oil fields before the noses of their American counterparts.

05 December 2009

More Broken Veterans

In the news today, a 20-year old Iraq War veteran stabs to death two of his friends, also soldiers. If some of these troops can snap to such a degree stateside, then just what exactly are they capable of doing in Iraq, to the civilians there, where they will get away with it.

It is a tragic story for everyone involved, but for none more so than for the people under occupation to where wrecked soldiers like these are sent and given power over the populace there.

04 December 2009

Imperialism - The Fundamentals

Originally an emperor was a ruler who recognised no limitations to his power. Besides proclaiming his word law and claiming a unique connection with the divine an emperor by definition recognised no other ruler as his equal. He was above mere kings and recognised no imperial title but his own. In fact since technically there could only be one emperor under the sun, in as much he did not rule over the whole of creation this was only a consequence of a certain barbarian part of the globe being unworthy of his attention or alternatively a slight against his person and a strictly temporary condition.

Therefore technically an empire is a state which recognises no other realm as its equal and, provided it sees them worth the hassle, seeks to incorporate them all. In practice this definition is too narrow to be useful. In Europe it is only meaningful until the end of antiquity when the emperor, ceasing to have divine properties, progressively became just another title a ruler could claim up to the point when even Simeon I of Bulgaria, a powerful ruler but only in regional terms, could style himself an emperor (tsar).

Another definition of what makes an empire can be looked for in the etymology of the word. In Latin imperium means power, in the sense of possessing coercive authority over someone. This is a tempting definition of imperialism – to rule over anyone but yourself – for a libertarian to adopt, but is too broad to be practical. From a libertarian viewpoint any claim to right to rule over anyone at all is illegitimate no matter what. However if the claim is perceived to be legitimate, most of all by those subject to the rule themselves, then the claim for all practical purposes carries with it the same consequences as if it would indeed be legitimate.

Rather an empire is a state whose claim to power is in some part, no matter how small or large, illegitimate not just philosophically (as every state is) but also illegitimate in practice because it is not lent legitimacy by a critical mass of people. Sometimes this crisis of legitimacy can be present over the whole geographic extent of the empire, but usually it is present only in certain regions.

02 December 2009

Spokesman Obama

Most educational to observe reactions to the Obama performance at West Point. Barrack H. Obama needed a long-winded speech in front of hundreds of grey coated military bureaucrats-in-training to officially announce that USA is going to escalate the bloodshed in Afghanistan.

FOX News quickly concluded it is a sound policy, but a terrible speech. He was not enthusiastic enough. They resent Obama for not delivering a more energetic performance, for not acting like he is really hot for the idea. Bill O'Reilly even found himself wondering, "where is the table pounding". They got all they wanted in the way of policy, jet they were unhappy because they have not gotten a more bloodthirsty speech.

Perhaps they are in the right. Perhaps instead of concentrating on the policy that had just been announced the real news was the performance. Perhaps that is the real role of presidents. Not to direct the state bureaucracy (theoretically on behalf of the people), but to act as its spokesmen and sell its policy to the populace.

That would mean the elections are more like pop idol contests. There not to choose the next supreme ruler, but to provide some amusement and for the part of the populace that can be bothered to help pick a face they would most like to see on television for the next few years.

It would not be that shocking to discover presidents are mere captives to the cogs of the bureaucratic state. Even the supposedly absolutist monarchs of the 18th century frequently felt that their power had been taken hostage by the bureaucracies they themselves had created. And they were appointed by God. Compared to that what is the 70 million votes in a semi-free election that Obama has for a sanction?

The phenomena is all the more likely now with still more expansive bureaucracies of the present day. Albeit Obama's electoral programme included the notion of an Afghanistan surge, once in office it often seemed as if additional pressure to actually go through with it was being applied, even openly through the media, by the state's top military bureaucrats who seemingly wanted it a lot more than he did.

In fact as far as we can tell his whole mode of operation consist of trying to please everyone and of making concessions on his every step, even when there was seemingly no reason for him to do so. Let us just recall the assurances given to AIPAC, the hiring of superhawk Hillary, reversing himself on the torture photos, renditions, trials and other issues concerning the prisoners of the terror war.

It is possible he is the first American president who is truly nothing but a facade, a performer. With Obama one gets the feeling the head of the state is somebody who went to school for presidential doubles. True, Bush was also an actor. But Dubya was playing the role of a cowboy. He was pretending he was a rancher from Texas who throws in grill parties for his neighbours. Obama actually looks like someone who is pretending he is the president. He says he is, but he is not quite sure whether he believes it himself.

27 November 2009

Once More Unto The Breech

So it is a done deal. The Empire is escalating once more in Afghanistan. Sending additional 34,000 imperials to hook up with some 180,000 imperials, auxiliaries and hirelings making up the occupation now. 34,000 reinforcements to help bring out the inner American out of the 13 million Pashtuns of Afghanistan.

I will make the claim this is making some cave dwelling inhabitants of Afghanistan very happy right now. First there are the strategic considerations. The denser the occupation, the more legitimacy the Kabul bunch loses, the more legitimacy the Mujahedeen (that is how they call themselves, not "the Taleban") gain.

On the ground the additional 34,000 have no chance to dislodge the resistance in tactical terms. The number is much to small to put them under a serious strain. The fighting is bound to escalate but the Mujahedeen can find the necessary recruits to match far easier than Washington can. Pentagon had just turned over every rock looking for available manpower and the most they could come up with was 34,000 more. This means this will almost certainly be the last escalation. The Empire can raise no higher.

Despite this raising of the stakes there is already subdued talk of possibility of negotiation with "the Taleban" and their eventual accommodation. Such whispers reveal with just how low expectations Washington is going forth with its escalation policy. Why carry on with it at all then? Who even knows at this point. But it certainly has nothing to do with the actual situation on the ground, the actual conditions in Afghanistan.

But there is a another reason the Mujahedeen may be very happy about the soon to be announced escalation. It turns out fighting this particular occupation is actually very profitable. The Mujahedeen have been shaking down convoys hauling in supplies for the occupiers, extorting money from the "hearts and minds" construction projects and even getting some auxiliaries to pay protection money directly.

The occupation is raising the level of violence making life more dangerous for the populace at large. It has to know how to present itself, which colours to show to whom lest they suffer reprisals by the resistance, or be dragged off to Bagram prison complex by the occupation or the collaborators. And then there is always the danger of getting zapped by some moron playing with a joystick in Nevada.

But if you are any good with an assault rifle then this is apparently bonanza time. By Afghan standards the country is awash in cash. There has simply never been as much green in the country and it is all there for the taking. Provided you happen to be a large enough band packing guns of course. But this is Afghanistan, guns are plentiful and everybody has a band if they want it - the tribe.

It is not as unlikely as it sounds. Afghanistan is not like Iraq. Iraq is a modern country. Even after the hardships of the 1980s wartime and the 1990s blockade it was still a country with modern infrastructure. There was still plenty that could be destroyed. The 2003 invasion and the occupation heavily propped up from the air wrecked enormous havoc on the country setting it back years and years in economic terms.

In Afghanistan however already after a few days of bombing in October 2001 the Imperial military had gone onto CNN to announce they had ran out of things to destroy. Afghanistan had simply never had much in the way of modern infrastructure in the first place. It is one of the poorest countries on earth. The proportion of people with a stationary telephone, running water, access to a doctor etc in every such indicator Afghanistan is trailing behind just about everyone else, but for some African countries. This nation of 30 million consumes about as much electricity annually as a small Caribbean island.

But now all of a sudden there are all these income sources. And it is about to get even better with the arrival of 34,000 new money magnets. The more occupiers on the ground the more supplies that need to be hauled in, the more convoys for the resistance to shake down.

Mayhap the Empire could yet succeed in negotiating with the Taleban to let them stay. Perhaps they too are not crazy about a unilateral withdrawal. After all if the Americans leave, where are they going to get their money from? Freedom from the Empire is good and all, but even the Taleban have families to think of, brats to put through college...

26 November 2009

Ronald Reagan and the Brotherhood of Man

Writing the Independence Day review-turned-recap reminded me of a quirk of Ronald Reagan's. While president he on multiple occasions in his speeches went on to say that if humanity came under attack by an extraterrestrial specie our "local" differences would quickly evaporate.

In the midst of all the embarrassing and cringeworthy speeches Reagan ever made, the alien attack pitch was a sole example of something that, albeit overly optimistic, actually made sense. Yet it is the one thing he said he still gets ridiculed for. Figures.

Then again it is a condemnation of Reagan's like no other that the most sense he ever made was when worrying about an alien invasion.

25 November 2009

Independence Day: When a Cable Repairman Saved the World



Independence Day
is an often belittled summer blockbuster from 1996. A major complaint that was raised against it was that placing Americans at the forefront of the effort to repel an alien invasion come to exterminate all humanity was self-absorbed, even propagandistic on the part of the Hollywood. In reality, however, that merely speaks of the bias of its critics. Actually if Independence Day is propaganda it is not of the sort official US would ever commission. If anything the film, portrays official the official United States of America as utterly hapless, and instead assigns the credit for saving the humankind to a few named individuals.

The movie portrays two parallel efforts at repelling the aliens. There is the effort of the state, which is seen to be enormously costly in resources and in lives yet an utter failure all the same. And the improvised, individual effort that is cheap and based on self-sacrifice rather than the sacrifice of others, and ends in a resounding success. This is what makes the film not just an entertaining pop corn flick but, I dare say it, a libertarian classic.

To present the movie's tagline: "On July 2nd, they arrive. On July 3rd, they strike. On July 4th, we fight back," is all that needs to be said of its straightforward premise. When the aliens first arrive on July 2nd the state and the president at its helm are, despite all the resources at their disposal, clueless as to the intentions of the arrivals. It is instead up to the real hero of the movie, David Levinson, a satellite technician with a private cable TV company, to warn the government. Levinson guesses the intentions of the aliens after he discovers a signal in satellite transmissions and has his father drive him to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in order to save his ex-wife, who is a spokesperson at the White House.

The warning provided by Levinson gives the government just enough time to escape on Air Force One as the aliens launch their devastating attack. In the meantime the air force is faring poorly and is decimated in a frontal attack on the alien crafts – giant levitating saucers. It is the case that the alien craft possess powerful energy shields that the ordinances the taxpayers were expropriated for can not penetrate.

Meanwhile back on the Air Force One there is a scuffle about how to proceed. Levinson's father makes a case they should fly to Area 51 and examine the Rosswell ship. Upon hearing this nearly everyone who is present initially gives a resigned look of bemusement, but it turns out this retiree knows more about the workings of the state than any of them. The secretary of defense comes forward to admit that the Area 51 does in fact host the Rosswell alien, but that this has been kept secret from the public and the president.

As Levinson and the president arrive at the Area 51 base it becomes immediately that the government kept an alien craft under lock and key for 50 years, but despite extensive efforts failed to learn anything about how to take advantage of this technology and merely impeded the access of anyone else who might have done better and thus better prepare Earth for its future encounter with the hostile aliens. The record of the nutty, lead scientist on the base is revealed to be horrendously feeble, but fortunately Levinson takes to the alien artifacts there as fish to water, causing the the lead scientist in military employ to exclaim begrudgingly that he is making them look bad.

In the following sequence the first cracks in military discipline begin to appear on the base above the underground Area 51 complex and reason begins to take over. Captain Steven Hiller, the Will Smith character, confronts a military guard and demands to take a helicopter in an unauthorized flight and go search for his girlfriend and other possible civilian survivals. After brief resistance the guard relents. We see that the state despite its obvious ability to help is sparing no thought for the civilians, but is at most, standing in the way of the individuals who are determined to do something immediately useful for the common people.

What is more, just after we have seen state resources being used to save and evacuate civilians in an unauthorized, rogue flight by Captain Hiller, we immediately thereafter witness state resources being used by the state itself in a way that ends the lives of other civilians, as the president decides to target the giant alien saucer over the city of Houston with nuclear weapons fully aware this will entail civilian deaths among his constituents. The plan fails as alien technology proves immune even to atomic weapons.

Having seen the nuke plan that he had argued against fail, the cable technician comes up with a plan of his own. He intends to infect the alien mothership with a virus in order to disable their shielding technology. Unlike the plan of the state Levinson's plan requires no civilians be incinerated. It does, however, require that he himself goes on a bold mission and takes his life in hand. Immediately the hawkish secretary of defense discovers a dovish streak within himself and finds reason to object vehemently to the plan proposed by the non-state individual, because... well because.

Levinson's plan gets the green light and soon a word is dispatched across the world telling surviving fighter squadrons of the upcoming counter-attack. It is here that we are treated to a beautiful scene on a runway in northern Iraq where British, Israeli and Iraqi pilots have all taken refuge. It is certainly nice to see elements of the RAF, presumably in the region from the units enforcing the 1991-2003 no-fly zone, doing something non-criminal for a change, even if just in a movie.

It is just as nice to see Iraqi pilots featuring in the same role as Western pilots without distinction. The movie premiered in 1996, five years after the first war on Iraq and seven years before the second. In the middle of an economic blockade and media satanization of that country, six years after the incubator lie. It is not an insignificant thing for the movie to without a second though portray Iraqi military personnel as human beings, fighting on the right side and providing refuge in their country no less. Sure it is a corny scene, but no less appealing because of it.

All too predictably this was also the section of the film that was most criticized. It left critics complaining that the movie features America leading the counter-attack and everyone else doing nothing until they hear from the Americans. Interestingly enough the loudest objections of this sort came precisely from countries such as Britain that are deepest in Washington's pocket and least likely to act without American approval.

Actually the counter-strike as portrayed in the movie could scarcely be said to have been spearheaded by America. Instead it is led by two individuals, piloting an alien aircraft, who happen to be Americans. A Jewish cable repairman from New York and an African-American marine aviator from Los Angeles who had earlier crashed his state plane. The only real reason they need permission of the state is a practical one the state is guarding the alien aircraft they require for their plan. The movie actually shows American military aviation, objectively the most potent in the world, just as unable to do anything about the aliens as the others and in no way elevates it about the rest.

Additionally, before the counter-strike commences television tells of military forces in hiding, and of the consequential shortage of pilots to partake in the attack. Independence Day may be a popcorn flick, but instead of placing the military on the pedestal as is customary in American culture, it instead dares envision a scenario where US pilot desert their jobs out of cowardice and refusal to sacrifice. It is left to civilians with piloting skills to come forth and fill the void left by military pilots in hiding. Among them is an elderly crop duster with a drinking problem, who was earlier shown to had been a much ridiculed conspiracy theorist, and will become important later.

The president Whitmore, who is a former military aviator, does the same proclaiming that as a pilot he belongs in the air. This was again criticized as flattery to American presidents but is anything but that. A greater condemnation could scarcely be imagined. Whitmore deservingly comes out as a hero in the end, but not in his role as the president.

As the president of the United State Whitmore proactively manages to do absolutely nothing with any beneficial results, but comes out as useless and possibly a war criminal. It is only when he acts to restrain the state that we see his good presidential moments. First of in calling off futher nuclear attacks after the first, despite opposition and later in dismissing the hardline, "sniveling weasel", of a defense secretary. But it is only as a pilot commanding an aircraft, not the machinery of the state, that he truly shines. The clear moral, intended or unintended, is that trained pilots bold enough to fly against giant extraterrestrial saucers are something that we may yet have a use for. But presidents on the other hand will always be useless.

During the first probing strike against the alien saucer in Nevada all but one plane expend their ammunition without bringing the enemy craft to the ground. The one remaining plane with missiles on board is flown by the troubled, but likable, crop duster, who then realizes that his weapons have malfunctioned and may not be fired. He decides to turn his whole plane into a missile and carry out a kamikaze attack against the aliens thus salvaging the strike mission. Again the self-sacrifice of one individual civilian flier save the day where the state can not.

In the end Levinson even gets one over the state in the competition for the affections of his ex-wife. The movie reveals early on that she left him in order to pursue a career in the corridors of power. But the final scene of the movie has the two leads, the cable repairman and the marine aviator being embraced by their love interests, presumably with the implication that the repairman's ex-wife is now reunited with him for good.

The message of the movie is clear: if one day genocidal and technologically superior aliens arrive we better have some brilliant cable guys and lovable crop dusters on standby to save the day. Because the state is likely to do little but get in the way of our efforts. It is one bold message for a summer popcorn flick, but then Independence Day is a boldly entertaining movie.

12 November 2009

Today's LRC

A fine piece today by one Ron Holland at LewRockwell.com explaining the greater extent of freedom in Switzerland than in the USA as a result of Switzerland's direct democracy mechanism that acts as an additional check on the government.

There is an ethical problem with direct democracy as there indeed is with any form of coercive government, but I did always think that as a matter of practicality it has to on balance produce a more libertarian outcome than rule by representationist elites. I am glad to discover I am not alone in thinking so.

However this most recent referendum initiative to prohibit the building of minarets is pushing for what is clearly an illiberal measure.

As a side note I quote a worried paragraph from a different article this one by Lew Rockwell:
"It gets even worse. While most Europeans and Americans think it was a good thing for the Soviet Union to disintegrate, people in India, Indonesia, Ukraine, Pakistan, Russia, and Egypt mostly think it was a bad thing. Yes, you read that right: millions freed from socialist slavery: bad thing."
At least on this point Lew should rest easy, people around the world are nostalgic for the USSR as a lost counterbalance to the USA, not for its economic system.

As for the Russians and Ukrainians, the orgy of plunder in the 1990s made the stagnation of the 1980s in many ways look like a golden age in comparison, but it did not turn the affected into Socialists. It turned them into disillusioned cynics. For a long time to come few in that part of the world are going to be wooed by any ambitious ideology, the least of all Socialism.

01 November 2009

Can There Be Foreign Liberators?

It is clear the US military in Iraq is a far cry from a liberating army. The US propaganda machine packed the "freeing" of Iraqis from a ruthless tyrant into its extensive collection of rationales for invading Iraq, but that was not a line they expected anyone to actually swallow. At most it was thrown out there so it could be taken up as the publicly stated excuse for support of the war by the more squeamish types who need a humanitarian spin to justify getting behind carnage of war to their progressive friends.

In reality nearly everyone on either side of the divide understood the war was actually about power, empire, Israel, oil, attacks on WTC, unfinished business, "islamofascism" and blowing shit up. A far greater number of people got behind the invasion due to erroneous and ridiculous belief - carefully nurtured albeit never expressed clearly by the propaganda machine - that Iraq had something to do with the attacks on WTC in 2001 than was the number of people who got behind it because they expected the invaders to be greeted with flowers and kisses.

Additionally the last people who imagined the invasion force is going to be an army of liberation were the soldiers that were going to make it up. Not only did they not presume they would play the role of liberators, but they would not want to in the first place. They had not signed up to be shipped half way across the world to liberate Muslim foreigners, they had signed up to blow away America's enemies. Therein lied one of the most basic problems for the prospect of the US military as a liberating force in Iraq. The troops did not want to be liberators. They did not want to be heroes of Iraq, they wanted to be heroes of America. Understandably they did not care for the Mesopotamia Arabs enough to want to be shot at for their benefit.

The helm understood this all too well and anyway privately felt the same. It also understood it it is far easier to dispatch troops with an unspoken agreement that they would not actually have to behave as altruistic liberators and put lives of liberated Iraqis before their own safety. So instead they would be given every conceivable leeway and room to use deadly force whenever they perceived themselves to be in any amount of danger, regardless of what hazards that brought upon ordinary Iraqis for whose benefit they were supposedly there.

Therefore regardless of Saddam Hussein being an unpopular dictator and the US invasion resulting in his removal the US military could never be labeled a liberating force. But can foreigners in theory be liberators and be seen as liberators?

In some cases the answer would have to be yes. In the instance of the Philhelenes for example. During the Greek Revolution of 1821, hundreds of Germans, Frenchmen, Italians and Britons came to the aid of the Greeks in their struggle to overthrow the Ottoman Empire and continue to be revered by them for their contribution. But the Philhelenes being private citizens were in much different position from an eventual interfering foreign army.

Firstly, being volunteers they had proved just by coming that they care about Greeks sufficiently to risk life and limb for them thus they would have never contemplated putting their own safety before the lives of the populace and were not going to be the cause of any "collateral damage". Also being there of their own accord they were free to leave had they discovered that actually they were not welcome. Lastly they were not a part of a bureaucracy controlled by a government abroad, they were not agents of a foreign government. Instead they joined with Greek formations and subordinated themselves to Greek commanders. They were not interested in imposing nor could they thus impose on the Greeks their own vision of how Greece should be organised after the war. They subordinated their fighting wholly to whatever the Greek agenda for when freedom comes.

On the contrary it is exceedingly hard to find examples where a military of a foreign government rather than private individuals were welcomed as liberators. Certainly no case can be found of the populace showing gratitude to a foreign military for deposing a local home grown government and then establishing a client regime in its place. Even where the home grown government was deeply criminal and unpopular there is a fundamental contradiction that in this respect makes regime change a failing proposition from the start. A government can not be seen legitimate as long as it owes its existence to foreigners, and a government seen as illegitimate requires some form of occupation to maintain.

Crimes of the previous, homegrown regime could not result in the subsequent foreign installed government enjoying any amount of legitimacy even in Cambodia, where the preceding rule was by the murderous Khmer Rouge who were deposed in 1979 in a war they had started with Vietnam. The guerrilla resistance to the Vietnamese was always overstated, on the ground it consisted of a few ten thousand Khmer Rogue remnants animated by aid from the United States and China with the former playboy king Norodom Sihanouk representing their public relations front. The tired nation had no taste for another war. However the Cambodians who were more than glad to see the backs of the Khmer Rouge did not in the least appreciate the imported government of the opportunistic Heng Samrin which was therefore unable to create any meaningful power autonomous from Vietnam. A situation that did not change until 1989 when the Vietnamese left and largely left the government they had installed to its own devices

The only real examples of foreign militaries being seen as liberating forces are when they expel a different set of foreigners, provided the other foreigners were even worse and that the new foreigners do not overstay their welcome. This indeed seems to be the decisive factor in judging whether a foreign military will be seen as a liberating force. Anglo-Americans invading France in 1944 despite clearly not being primarily concerned about the wellbeing of the French populace, as thousands of civilian deaths in France due to allied bombing can attest to, were except in places directly affected by the carnage of allied ordnance welcomed as liberators of sorts for driving away the Germans who had dismantled the independent French state.

Not interfering with a home grown government arising uninterrupted and uninfluenced as important factor as it is however does not always seem to be a prerequisite to be seen as liberators if the evicted foreigners had been sufficiently unpopular and if the new status grants the people in question significantly more independence than they could enjoy before. Eg the Soviets are still honoured for liberating Czechoslovakia from the Germans in 1945 even after they had influenced Czechoslovak politics to transform Czechoslovakia into a communist state and even if their later presence was resented. Similarly the Russians are still revered for freeing Bulgaria from the Turks in 1878 despite the tsar's meddling in the aftermath of the war meant independent Bulgaria would be a conservative monarchy and not a republic as were the aspirations of Bulgarians.

Finally we should mention cases where foreign armies expelled a different set of foreigners and moved in at their expense bringing new foreign authority without being seen either as liberators or occupiers but instead being met with ambivalence. Such cases however while numerous in number are confined to pre-modern societies. Societies before mass literacy, mass media and mass politics. Confined to time and place where the populace is not permeated with democratic spirit and does not see itself as the entity upon which it rests the ability to grant a government its stamp of approval and legitimise it, but instead being unable to conceive of such thing as government from the people perceives all government and potential government as essentially alien and - having no expectations of freedom from government - inevitable. For example the French taking over the Austria`s Adriatic coast in 1809 which found the populace indifferent, seeing French rule and Habsburg rule as interchangeable and equivalent.

20 October 2009

A Government Licensed Fortune Teller?

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of a show on Croatian public TV, a segment of which complained about "there still being no [state] regulation as to who can foretell the future". It was in relation to TV fortune tellers in the context of having to protect "more and more people" who are "in these troubled economic times" turning for advice to seers. I could not believe my ears.

Public television is actually implying that one set of fortune tellers can be more proficient at foretelling the future(!) than the other. We live in some very surreal times.

19 October 2009

The Liberators

Months ago an important story broke about how the members of a 3500 strong Colorado-based US Amy unit perpetrated a high number of crimes between their combat tours in the ongoing wars of the Empire. Wrongdoings that include murder, beating and rape. The crime rate among these soldiers has been twenty times higher than the average for males in their age bracket in America.

The original article, and most of the subsequent coverage, focused on the difficulties many veterans have functioning in a civilian environment, and on the toll the violent ways of some of them are taking on civilian America. What caught my attention was an admission from a few of the veterans that they had been perpetrating similar and worse horrors while occupying Iraq.

Occupation troops committing crimes in Iraq is nothing new in itself. Altogether there have been hundreds of reports about checkpoint slayings, firing on unarmed protestors, convoys opening fire on everything that moves after being hit by remotely triggered bombs, snipers killing Iraqis for using a cell phone, carrying a shovel or being out after the curfew and so on:
"'Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,' Freeman said. 'You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.'"

"If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and 'just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.'"

"Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians."

"'It was just a free-for-all,' said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. 'You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off.'"
What a picture of the supposed liberators of Iraq this makes. Running over people with armoured vehicles, shooting up cars at random, kidnapping people and dropping them off bridges. Just the sort of people you would love to set up base in your neighbourhood.

This picture should not come as a surprise. The military authorities themselves directly initiate war crimes of their own. The torture at Abu Graib comes to mind, as the "free-fire zone" in Fallujah with all the consequences that entailed and finally aerial bombing, which entails using potent weapons in urban areas and has probably been the single biggest cause of violent death for Iraqi civilians in the war.

It is entirely predictable then that a command which in this way demonstrates depraved indifference for the lives of ordinary Iraqis, should hand its soldiers instructions on how to conduct themselves that are themselves criminal and place the lives of occupational troops who have contracted to be put in harms way, far above the the lives of occupied civilians who have done no such thing. It should not come as a surprise that a command which hands its troops guidelines which are already, taken just by their word, criminal, should then fail to take meaningful action to make sure their trigger men follow even these watered down restrictions on slaying non-combatants.

The command took action in a few of the more gruesome cases like the Haditha and Mahmudiya massacres. In both of these cases the brass attempted to portray the atrocities as isolated events and the perpetrators as lone bad apples. But in reality the incidents while more graphic and extreme than the norm come on the backdrop of countless other crimes passively sanctioned by the command, with which they are closely linked.

Such incidents, as well as the killings on US soil by violently dysfunctional veterans, are only blips in a much wider and denser pattern of violence and depravity. Military authorities refuse to recognise this reality, however. When graphic killings like the one at Mahmudiya manage to find their way into the press they are quick to feint shock and horror, and to reassure the viewing public that these are incidents wholly unrepresentative of the US military conduct in Iraq. The blame is placed solely at the feet of the soldiers who have perpetrated them and who are then convicted in sacrificial trials.

This is done to cloak the fact that the highest military authorities are directly responsible for bringing into life the underlying culture of depravity that results in such massacres in the first place. Instructing troops to, for example, kill Iraqis for the crime of carrying a bag or a shovel has consequences.

The consequences of dehumanising Iraqis, blurring the distinction between Iraqi combatants and non-combatants and desanitising the occupying troops to harming non-combatants. This results in a far higher proportion of troops who are prone to acts of senseless violence than would otherwise be the case. Ergo the far higher instances of criminality among combat veterans. Not every single veteran who has killed a man for the crime of talking on a cell phone, as is the modus operandi of American troops in Iraq, is going to go on to commit further deplorable acts on his own, but it is easy to imagine how it could make it many times more likely, whether in America or in Iraq.

At the same time, however, the veterans of the occupation transport only a fraction of the pattern of violence to the streets of America and give civilian Americans only a tiny taste of what the Iraqis have had to contend with for over half a decade now. Rather than an illustration of what goes on in Iraq, the overspill of violence into America via dysfunctional veterans, can better serve as the proof of the farcicality of the explanation that massacres in Iraq happen on the account of a few bad apples.

The crimes in America did not happen due to a few bad apples. The 3500 strong Colorado unit did not by some act of fate end up with twenty times the number of bad apples than could be statistically expected. Instead the immoral things the troops did and were expected to do while maintaining the occupation of Iraq left many of them scarred, violently unpredictable and out of control. It is not down to bad apples. It is down to the criminal enterprise of a bloody occupation and how it transforms people taking part in it into blood fiends.

Think just for a moment, if the criminality of combat troops in the US is twenty times the expected rate, what was the rate while they were stationed in Iraq? If members of a 3500 strong unit have slain 10 people at home in the United States then just how many slayings are weighing on their conscience from Iraq? Maybe a hint can be found in the previously highlighted quote:
"Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,' Freeman said. 'You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley.'"

"If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and 'just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ’em.'"
Gruesome massacres like the one at Mahmdiya may not be frequent, but that does not mean that they are isolated incidents. After having "smoked" people for being around when an IED hit and thought nothing of it, how much of a step up is it to massacre an Iraqi family in their home? Or commit a senseless murder at home in between tours?

So just how much responsibility should the people who signal to the rank and file that it is not wrong to "smoke" Iraqi civilians at the tiniest indication that they represent a danger bear for the consequent crimes of the troops who did so, but then did not quite stop at that, but instead went just a little bit further?

21 August 2009

Wonderful Socialism

Carlton Meyer over at The Bankrupt Empire is an excellent chronicler of the waste and inefficiencies of the biggest and most destructive bureaucracy out there - the United States military. Therefore upon gazing my eyes on the title of his post from a week ago the Wonderful Socialized American Medicine I expected it to be tongue in cheek, but it turns out that Meyer is this time actually taking the side of a bureaucracy, the Veterans Administration, calling its health care wonderful and going so far as to complain that socialism has been demonised when actually not all socialism is bad showcasing the VA health care as an example of the good variety of socialism. Basing the view on his personal experience of having received quality care from them.

There is a fallacy right there. VA health care is not a socialist programme. Socialists programmes are egalitarian and universal meaning that the costs are borne by everyone but the benefits are also received by everyone. On the contrary the VA only provides health care for disabled and low-income veterans. It is a programme whose costs are borne by everyone but the benefits are received by only a chosen class of people. As such it is an example of modern feudalism rather than of socialism. It is a scheme were the warrior caste is guaranteed quality health care and the general populace foots the bill whether it likes it or not.

This incidentally is also the secret of the programme`s apparent success (at least if we deem Meyer`s own experience to be more typical than the experience of the veterans from Walter Reed). It has ample funds but only a limited number people to treat. This is not unusual. Soviet Union had a separate chain of hospitals that provided first rate health care – to officers of the KGB. The level of the socialist, universal health care provided to the general populace on the other hand was poor so that becoming life expectancy actually decreasing slightly in the 1970s and 80s. Meyer seems to realise this intuitively since despite saying that every American deserves „free health care" he nowhere suggests that the VA model be adopted for everyone, instead the farthest he goes is to suggest a further of 3 million people, the military retirees and their spouses, be taken under its wing.

Expanding on the not-all-socialism-is-bad theme he goes on to mention that ordinary Swedes apparently have a positive view of their universal socialist medicine. Personally I make no claim to know what the Swedish public opinion is in regards to their health care system, it certainly sounds plausible that it would be positive. That however is completely irrelevant. The Swedes may be satisfied with the services provided by their hospitals but being tax plunder funded they have no way of knowing how much money is being expropriation from them in exchange for it. They have no way of knowing if they are getting their money`s worth and thus are in no position to make an actual cost-benefit analysis.

They are in a similar position to a sclerotic investor who one day remembers he still has 100 shares of ACME company. He sells them and with the proceeds buys a new automobile. Naturally he is happy about his brand new car. But what if being a sclerotic he can for the life of him not remember how much he originally paid for the shares for? He can be satisfied with the new car all he wants to be but he has no way of knowing if buying and holding those shares was actually good business.

For a more real-life example Lets take for example the Soviet Union's sports programme. To be sure nobody ever polled the Soviet citizens on the issue but It is highly unlikely that Soviet public opinion viewed it negatively. It was a programme that grew countless word class athletes that brought home medals and prestige and great amounts of satisfaction for the viewing public and the sports enthusiasts. But the trick was the public had no way of knowing how much exactly it was paying for these achievements. No way of knowing if it was getting its money worth. Absolutely, most Soviets were very pleased with their country dominating the gold medals counts at the Olympics, but was any Soviet citizen ever asked if he preferred Soviet athletes won a dozen more medals or if he preferred instead he (and everyone else) be given a set of winter tires, a case of bananas, or a pair of jeans? And what would be the answer? Can anyone claim a large proportion of people would not prefer to get some other benefits for their money?

09 August 2009

A Desert Called Peace

We are plagued by crusaders. Crusaders for the environment, crusaders for women's rights, crusaders for animal rights, crusaders for decency, crusaders for democracy, crusaders for Darfur, crusaders for Tibet, crusaders for Diversity, crusaders for this and that. At times it seems there is hardly a noun left without a crusade movement attached to it. But there are two crusades that are clearly the largest and the most central to the crusading phenomenon. They are the crusade for tolerance and the crusade for equality.

Tolerance and equality are in themselves worthy goals and therefore the struggle for them need not be a plague onto the world. The trouble is not in the tolerance or in the equality parts, but in the crusading part. The trouble is that like the original, the modern crusaders too fight for a word instead of for its meaning.

The original crusaders purported to fight for the Holly Cross, but conducted themselves in a way that was anything but Christian. Likewise modern crusaders purport to struggle for equality or for tolerance, but without ever pausing to examine just how egalitarian or tolerant their ideal really is.

As we once had Christians introducing Christianity to heathens by killing them, likewise today we have Liberals that would have tolerance by having us all think the same and Egalitarians that would have equality by having us all own the same amount of property. In essence what they both fight for is neither equality nor tolerance but sameness.

Liberals invoke tolerance, but they use it in place where approval would be more appropriate. They do not want society at large to simply tolerate gays, lesbians, cultists, heathens, heretics, loose women, metalheads, punks, long-haired freaky people and men with earrings. It is not enough that we not throw mud at men with earrings and refrain from calling them names when they pass us by in the street. No, we must take sensitivity classes to learn to appreciate them, to find out about all the wonderful contributions they have made to science, to learn about all the hardships they have suffered through the ages and to learn to enthusiastically anticipate the International Day of Men With Earrings. They want every last single person to approve of them, to like them, to love them. But where there is approval no tolerance is needed.

Someone who approves of smoking does not at all need be tolerant to tolerate smokers. His tolerance is as remarkable as a sandwich tolerant of baloney. To brainwash everyone into holding the same set of judgments on practically every lifestyle issue and then preach tolerance is like preaching a hippie about the dangers of soap – wholly redundant.

Like-minded people do not need to be tolerant to tolerate each other. The only people that have a use for tolerance are people that have different takes on what is proper. This is also the only time tolerance can be remarkable. When people around you find your take on life distasteful to the extreme, but let you be. And when you in turn let them be and in doing so extend the same sort of tolerance to their take on life.

Similarly Egalitarians talk about the need for equality and propose to go about it by making sure we all own the exact same amount of property. The more enthusiastic among them have figured out that would take a lot of paperwork so they propose to outright outlaw property and make sure we all own zero property. To make us equal they have to first make us all equally poor. I suppose it is only a matter of time before they figure out that is not going far enough and propose to start a thermonuclear war to make us all equally dead. That would be true equality! We could call it „equality in vaporization“.

Egalitarians barge into absurdities because they confuse equality for uniformity. We do not need to be uniform to be equal. To be equal we do not need to all live in equally expensive houses any more than we need to all be equally good at basketball, singing, or cooking. Any more than we need to have equal number of cousins, be equally literate or be equally tall. The whole point of properly understood egalitarianism is not that we should be equal, but that we are equal. Already. Despite all the variations including the difference in wealth.

It means that just because I live in a shack while another person lives in a villa it does not give him the right to tax me. In fact one of these days I am going to his place to take back all the stuff he bought with my tax money. Mayhap after I am done with it he will be the one living in a shack. That is equality. I want all my money back, I am not leaving the scoundrel some of it, so that we two may be equally wealthy. But it is not required that I do. I am an egalitarian, I do not feel myself to have rights over property of another and will therefore not tax him, so he can be my equal even if he is a lowly shack dweller.

There are those who are shrewd and there are others who are dull. But because they are equal despite this difference neither gets a claim on the wealth of the other. Equality means nobody can justly pray on another. Weather by fraud or by popular vote. Classical Liberals asserted that just because a king, unlike the peasantry, wore a crown and bathed regularly that gave him no right to hold down the peasants. That is egalitarianism. Not pretending that actually the peasants smelled as nice.

In reality any programme of redistribution of wealth is inherently non-egalitarian. Egalitarianism means treating people as equals ie under the same set of rules. But if you are taking money from one set of people to give it to another set of people then you are treating then you are not treating them the same.

It is actually impossible to be an egalitarian and hold to the Egalitarian`s basic motto: „From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.“ If to consider someone your equal you need him to work as hard as you do then frankly you are not much of an egalitarian. How come a slacker, who lives at subsistence level and prefers to work as little as he needs to, can not be your equal? Why does he need to be dragged to a reeducation camp to be turned into a workaholic who will work according to his ability? And how are you two being equal when you are forcing him into something? Does that not make him your slave? I can see how everyone working as hard means uniformity, but what does it have to do with equality?

Socialist Egalitarianism would, at its final, result in a society of uniformity and sameness. But there is nothing remarkable about recognizing equality within a set of people who are exactly alike. If it were then we would call Anglo-Saxon supremacists "egalitarians" for believing all men are equal provided they are Anglo-Saxons. That would plainly be absurd, but it is no different from Socialists who believe all men should be equal provided they contribute according to their ability. An argument could be made that the Socialists are qualitatively better because being a slacker is a choice while people can not help themselves not being Anglo-Saxons. But it would be a false argument. The issue is not of choice, but of right. A man has as much right to be a slacker, as he has to not be an Anglo-Saxon. Possibly more.

We do not need to crack down on diversity of opinion, diversity of effort in labor and diversity in consumption to bring about tolerance and equality. In fact tolerance and equality are only meaningful in diversity and freedom. Freedom of opinion and freedom of exchange. There is nothing remarkable about tolerance and equality inside an ant hive.

Jet that is the world the Liberal and Egalitarian crusaders would jointly bring about. They believe they fight for a world full of tolerance or equality, but what they really fight for is a world where there is no need for toleration and equality. A world where there is no nobility left in tolerance and egalitarianism because we all already think the same, work as hard and consume as much. I suppose that is the reason for the ever greater convergence of Socialist and Liberal parties. They would both make a desert and call it peace.

01 August 2009

Escalation Blues

What is happening in Afganistan? The past month has been, with seventy-five dead suffered by the occupation formations, the worst one for the Empire so far. But then, we know what is happening in Afganistan. And we knew it would. There is only one way an escalation can go. The guerrilla coolly matches the ante. And then some.

The new emperor promised to escalate the war on Afganistan and make it the central front in the never ending Struggle To Grow the Empire. To that purpose he would send additional troops on occupation duty to that part of the world. He did, sending 17,000 legionaries to reinforce the occupation. They arrived weeks ago and were sent on a sweep of Helmand River Valley. To a predictable result - the aforementioned record setting casualty count.

The Empire is in trouble because it is merely a state. A state with a seemingly infinitely inflatable budget, but just a state non the less. Any state is effectively powerless when its chosen subjects refuse to subject. The Empire only knows how to subdue other states. When the states fight they throw their war budgets at each other and the state with the larger war budget wins.

But in Afganistan the Empire is not fighting a state. It is fighting a people, the Pashtuns. A people does not work with a budget. It works with sacrifice. The more force is thrown against it, the more it is stomped on, the more sacrifice it is willing to bear in order to drive an iron spike through the stomping boot and bring the repression to an end. The more violence aligned against a people the more it makes sense for them to bear sacrifice in order to destroy that force which is descending on them. Provided the people resisting has a sufficient demographic base this dynamic can and will match any budget, any escalation.

The Pashtun fight because they do not want the Americans there. They have proven they consider it a fighting offense. If there is more Americans in country they will fight that much more, not less. Maxi-occupation is more objectionable than mini-occupation. For the state to hope to win by making what is objectionable even more objectionable is absurd. Imagine a king who having increased taxes faces a revolt so to avert the revolt increases the taxes still further. That is what the Empire is doing in Afganistan. The Pashtun tribesmen clearly demonstrated they do not want 80,000 imperial and auxiliary troops in their country, so the Empire raises the number to 105,000 to see if that proves more acceptable.

It is plain as day the Pashtuns are not going to resign themselves to the occupation at its current level of objectionability or they would have done so long ago. The Empire can not make them accept it. It could theoretically exterminate them or bribe them, but it can not force them to consent. 70,000 imperials can help here no more than 50,000 or 500,000 could.

The more foreign troops there are in the country the truer rings the cry of the guerrillas for the urgent need to expel them. The more sweeps they go on to, the more households they search, the more of their countrymen they snatch to be locked up at Bagram air base, the heavier weights the pressure to do something about it on the shoulders of every fighting age Pashtun. The more checkpoints they man, the more buildings they raze, the more unidentified but "suspicious" individuals they zap from drones the more the households that feel the need to shelter the fighters. The more bombs they drop on their the hamlets and the villages, the more weddings and funerals they wipe out from the air, the more opium crops they burn the more villages that feel duty bound to feed them.

To escalate the violence and beef up the occupation only drives more people to do more for the resistance. There is 13 million Pashtuns in Afganistan and twice as many in Pakistan. Sufficiently irritated they can commit a few million to the fight. Can the Empire in turn send a few million troops to subdue them? To ask is to answer. American insistence on escalation is playing chicken with a brick wall.

The most the occupiers can achieve in such wars is to not look utterly ridiculous when they finally retreat. But the way to do that is by deescalating not escalating. The best way being a deescalation on steroids. An abrupt and complete evacuation that leaves no doubt that the imperial legions retreated on their own terms rather than being driven out. Of course that would be the smart thing to do and smart things are not in the nature of empires. They do it the dumb way. Retreat after being made into a broken, dysfunctional army by the war. As the dysfunctional legions did from another central front in 1972. And in 1989. From just this place. So far they are on track for seconds.

17 July 2009

Nothing To Offer: A Bad Novelist And An Ageing Stripper

When the Soviet Union fell it did so with a whimper. The union republics experienced tumultuous years, but for countries which had been within the Soviet sphere of dominance the fall was fairly uneventful. It passed by uneventfully because it turned out Soviet power had largely been a mirage. The Soviet Union had a massive army but increasingly lacked the means to finance it.

A key point then that even empires must earn their keep. An economy is needed to fuel military might. But in economics no cheating is possible and force will get you nowhere. As in the markets nobody owes anybody anything you are only as worth as much as you can offer. Have a world to offer, and you can gain the world. Have nothing to offer, and you can have nothing from anybody else. The problem for the Soviet Union was it had nothing to offer. As that Nicholas Cage character from Lord of War said; "Nobody was lining up to buy their cars."

You could not fault the Soviets for a lack of effort. There were giant factories churning out smoke, long lines of rail were always being laid down, massive amounts of coal being mined... But at the end of this nothing really useful was coming out. Nothing anybody would want to buy. Nobody outside the Soviet Union was lining up to buy Soviet Lada automobiles, Ekran television sets or Karl Marx hardcovers. (And after a while even inside the Soviet Union nobody was lining up to buy Karl Marx hardcovers.)

The Soviet Union had been akin to a devoted novelist writing bad prose. A justifiably unappreciated writer, writing psychological realism. Hard-working, ascetic. Lived in an attic, with no electricity, secluded, working on his novels 16 hours a day. Died at 35 from a bad liver, dirt poor, unpublished and bitter. It was not that there was no effort. There was plenty of effort. It was just that he had nothing to offer. No one would voluntarily buy his novels. In the first place it was psychological realism and in the second place it was not very good.

But the other empire of the Cold War, The Empire of today is it any different? Is anybody lining up to buy their cars? The answer is increasingly no. US exports are increasingly lagging behind US imports, increasingly the Empire and its military might is being funded by debt. The US empire is to a dramatic extent only propped up by an arrangement where productive and viable economies send the United States useful products that you would want to buy and the US sends back newly printed paper money the rest of the world then holds into infinity. The US, once an industrial powerhouse with a bright future ahead now has seemingly nothing to offer to the world but its paper currency.

If the USSR was akin to a bad novelist then America is an ageing stripper. Her story is that of a pretty college grad turned erotic dancer. In the beginning she had much going for herself. A useful degree, the looks and a good albeit stressful starter job at a mayor company. But after a few months she got bored and realised she could actually earn more while working less by performing in a nudie bar three nights a week.

She switched over to the brass pole. And it was great. Not a demanding job, plenty of free time, good money. If she needed more, she could always just book more nights. With money came the good life. Cocaine, a housemaid, Mercedes-Benz, a holiday house in Aspen. Sure over the years she had to do a job or two on herself, a plastic surgery here and there. But it was no problem, there were plenty of bankers - hardworking but somewhat geeky Asian fellows - among her regular customers in over their ears for her. They were happy to hook her up with a loan for the surgeries. After that she had not actually paid off those loans, but it did not matter because she was earning so much she could repay them anytime she wanted to. She would just have to cut on her spending a bit. But she never did. There was never the right time.

Now she is pushing 40, she finds it is much harder to negotiate a good pay or get large tips and the loans are coming due. Maybe she could repay them, but she would have to fire the housemaid, sell the Mercedes-Benz and the holiday house in Aspen, kick the coke habit. But what would she do then? No job skills, her looks largely gone, her degree since made worthless. She would have to take up waitressing at a truck stop. Naturally instead of repaying the loans she takes out another loan and decide to worry about the future later.

It is not a sustainable situation. It is only a matter of time before the US power is revealed as a mirage. If the history is a guide when the US falls down from its imperial heights while the colonial metropole itself is likely to experience turmoil, the fall is unlikely to be a very eventful for the rest of the world. It is more likely to be something to be shrugged off than lamented. The US already has nothing to offer to the rest of the world. There is no reason for the world to do anything else but to go on with its business.

There is irony to all of this. The same way as we can in retrospect always see that rather than spending money to gaze at firm breasts we would have been better served reading psychological realist novels, no matter how bad. The same way the world would have been better off had it hoarded Lada cars and Ekran TVs rather than giant reserves of fiat Dollars. At least they had some value. Jet it would have sounded so ridiculous at the time... Call it the revenge of a bad novelist. Or of the Soviet Union.

05 July 2009

Start

The name for the blog is from Firefly, an entertaining American TV series that got killed off before its time, several years ago now. The blog is going to be what it says on the cover. A place for me to post commentary on topics that interest me. It is bound to offer some mix of posts on the state, current politics, history and the region. From an anti-statist and anti-imperialist position.