Thursday, January 9, 2020

There Is Only One Sovereign Nation

The Trump Administration’s decision to almost start a war with both Iraq and Iran only make sense in light of the belief, shared by many in the foreign policy establishment, that the world only has room for one sovereign nation.
It’s a bit unsettling to make your New Year’s predictions, insist that they be taken more seriously than everyone else’s because they work from the assumption that the most mundane outcome is the most likely one, and then, the very next day, find that one of your predictions is on the verge of being dramatically disproven.

But that’s what happened last week when, among other things, I ventured to foretell that the Trump Administration would continue to avoid war with Iran.

Then, on the evening of 2 January, I heard that news that American forces had killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad.

Conservative pundits rejoiced. “President Trump has killed a notorious terrorist, avenged American blood, and made the world a safer place.”

Whether General Soleimani is a terrorist is debatable. The man had a long and illustrious career of travelling around the Middle East arming and training various Shi’a militias to fight in the endless proxy wars that dominate that part of the world. Sometimes, these militias fought on the same side as the United States; sometimes they fought on the opposite side.

Though don’t expect to get that impression from American news sites. Ever since last Friday, I keep going back to SputnikNews because it has offered detailed, day by day coverage of both sides of this controversy, unlike a domestic news source, which will usually give you one or two heavily biased articles before turning its attention back to football, or the Golden Globes, or what have you.

Back to the killing of General Soleimani: it was ostensibly done in relation for an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad by a Shi’a mob, in which nobody was killed. The mob attack was in retaliation by airstrikes on various targets in Iraq that killed 25 members of that country’s leading Shi’a militia. The airstrikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack on an American base that killed an American contractor. You get the idea.

A lot of Democrats are upset with what President Trump did because assassinating an Iranian general is a good way to start a war, something which the President is not supposed to do without Congressional approval. Few Republicans share that point of view. Ron Paul does, but Ron Paul was going to stand up for the Constitution no matter what.

But this gets even more disturbing when you look at the details. America is supposedly in a military alliance with Iraq against ISIS, which is why we have troops in Iraq in the first place. But we didn’t have the Iraqi government’s approval to assassinate Soleimani in Baghdad, or even to carry out the bombings that killed 25 Iraqi militiamen in the previous round of tit-for-tat.

Soleimani was in Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraqi Prime Minister. People who know a lot about the Middle East weren’t surprised by this, since the Iranian Quds Force and the local militias which it supports have been Iraq’s biggest allies in the fight against ISIS. And the fact that a senior Iraqi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed in the airstrike alongside Soleimani only makes matters worse.

When Iraq’s parliament responded to the crisis by voting to expel all Americans from the country, Donald Trump insisted that his men would never leave, but if they did, Iraq would pay for it with even worse sanction than those under which Iran is suffering. Then he tried to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condoning what he did; Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif (another terrorist, according to the US) was prohibited from coming to New York to speak for his side. Nevertheless, the other members of the Security Council vetoed the hell out of Trump’s resolution.

I could keep on giving details of what has transpired over the last week, though there’s hardly any need. It’s already clear enough that these events only make sense once you have realized that the core doctrine of American foreign policy is that there is only one sovereign nation.

Just one sovereign nation – the world doesn’t have room for two or three or four.

Our nation is the greatest nation on earth. (And it’s also the freest nation.)

When we feel threatened, we strike back. We have no need to get the approval of our own Congress to go to war. And why should we even try? If we declare war, then we have to follow certain rules; if we don’t declare war, then whoever we’re fighting against is simply a terrorist, and terrorists have no rights.

We can kill them wherever we find them; there is no such thing as neutral soil. It doesn’t matter if our target showed up to Baghdad to meet with the head of government in a nation that we’re supposedly allied with. In fact, it doesn’t even matter that most of the anti-ISIS coalition – the Iraqis, the Syrians, the Russians, the Kurds, etc. – consider General Soleimani and his Quds force to be valuable allies.

If we said Soleimani was terrorist, then that was the last word anyone needed to hear. We didn’t even need to consult with Britain and Germany, both of which stand to lose lives if a new war breaks out, and both of which were quite upset that we proceeded unilaterally.

The one sovereign nation gets to regulate internal commerce, among its several constituent states, just like its constitution says it can, and just like any sovereign nation is expected to be able to do.

And it also gets to regulate commerce between all the other nations in the world. If citizens of two foreign nations do business with each other against its wishes, then no matter where in the world they happen to be, they will always be at risk of arrest and extradition to the one sovereign nation.

This is not going to end well for the nation that has set itself up as the world's overlord. Blindness to the rights and interests of other countries is a good way to isolate oneself and turn allies into foes, while adversaries who were once hostile toward one another are driven into each other's arms. Russia had bad relations with China for most of the two countries’ history, but over the last two decades, American imperialism has driven them into close friendship. Iraq and Iran have experienced much the same thing.

Now I am sure that some of you, after reading all this, will be thinking about what an anti-American screed I have just written, and wondering how someone who calls himself a “patriot” could reveal his true colours as a terrorism apologist. Why doesn’t this man care that American lives were lost?

Well, I have friends and family in the US armed forces. And the events of the past few days are terrifying to me, because I don’t want to see any of them die in a war with Iran, a scenario which has just become a lot more likely.

Why do you suppose that a good friend of mine, raised in a family of lifelong Republicans, would join the military and, soon afterward, find himself admiring Tulsi Gabbard? Is there no reason for this, or is it because seeing the situation up close makes you realize that looking at the Middle East in the traditional way – where everyone can be classified as either a subservient vassal, or the villain of a James Bond movie – is a good way to get a lot of your comrades killed?

People who know the Middle East fairly well, like General Mattis, under whose watch the present events could never have happened, understand that neither the Sunni-Shi’a conflict, or really any of the ancient and venerable ethno-religious  rivalries that divide the middle east, has clear good guys or bad guys. If we choose to engage in proxy wars where that rivalry is at issue, then we’re looking at morally dubious ground as far as the eye can see.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and one man’s warmonger is another’s liberator. One of the details of Soleimani’s death that you won’t hear on American news is that, the Sunday after he was killed, Christians in churches across Syria held masses in honour of the martyrdom of the man who saved them from being exterminated by ISIS.

America certainly has the right to defend its people, but if the goal is to preserve American lives, then we need to do so within the framework that Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and most other players in this conflict are working under – that is to say, we must act with the understanding that there is more than one sovereign nation whose interests are at stake here.

The sporadic attacks on America’s bases and embassy, by various Iraqi militias throughout the years, should not be taken lightly. They probably weren’t ordered from the top, but if the Iraqi government proves unwilling or unable to defend American lives from the rogue elements within its own armed forces, then we have certainly had the right to end our right to end our so-called alliance with Iraq, withdraw our troops, and leave the Iraqis to fight ISIS without or help. (Or without our hindrance, if that’s how they choose to see it.)

Because that’s the kind of thing that happens in a world with more than one sovereign nation. And I sure hope that it’s what will happen now, once tempers have cooled – after all, it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Predictions for 2020

The beginning of a new year is a traditional time for pundits to test their mettle by forecasting future political events. My predictions will be less flashy than what most sites offer, but they’re also likely to be more accurate.
The beginning of a new year is a traditional time, among political commentators, for predicting the future. This task is often easier than one might think, especially when it comes to forecasting the outcomes of elections. Nevertheless, the internet is littered with the wrong predictions of even the most respectable pundits: you may remember how nearly everyone in the media, Karl Rove and Nate Silver included, thought that Donald Trump was going to lose back in 2016.

Accurate predictions rely on an understanding and acceptance of some basic facts: history isn’t linear, it usually moves either chaotically or in cycles, yesterday’s winners tend to rest on their laurels and become today’s losers, what can’t be sustained won’t be sustained, and proving your own righteousness to people who already like you isn’t what political victories are made of.

Also, the events of the upcoming year probably won’t be any more dramatic than those of any other year.

Granted, you won’t hear much of that perspective in the mainstream news, either right wing or left wing. People like to think that the present is a uniquely important time and that we’re all living just moments away from some sort of happening. Just what it is that will happen depends on who you ask: perhaps the President will be removed from office merely because one party doesn’t like him, or maybe America’s right-wingers will rise up en masse to make good on fifty years of talk about restoring the Constitution. Then again, the whole American experiment could just up and come to a fiery end under a rain of Iranian or North Korean warheads.

My predictions, on the other hand, will be less exciting. I refuse to fill the pages of my blog with talk of brokered conventions, unprecedented electoral landslides, sudden economic crashes, wars between nuclear powers, and other flashy events that don’t get around to happening in real life. But if you want a more mundane (hence more realistic) portrait of the future, then read on.

Normally, I would begin this post by evaluating last year’s predictions. But since I created Twilight Patriot in February of 2019, the current post is my first on this theme. Nonetheless, I must admit that if you look at my one serious attempt so far to foretell the future, my record is mixed.

Last March, I successfully predicted that the British parliament would find excuses to dodge multiple Brexit deadlines, and I explained this in terms of a larger trend, ongoing for a century or so, where the intelligentsia across the English-speaking world has exercised a newfound freedom to roundly ignore election outcomes, secure in the knowledge that spurning the voters will no longer spark civil unrest the way it did in the past.

What I didn’t expect is that the Tories would win again in the 2019 elections, with a bigger majority than they’ve had at any time since 1987.

Perhaps Brexit will still get scuppered. Donald Trump’s weasel Congress, even when it was officially controlled by his party, refused to pass most of his agenda; for all we know Boris Johnson’s new parliament will do the same thing. Even so, I think the odds are slightly in favor of an independent Britain by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile in the United States, Joe Biden is probably going to win the Democratic nomination for President. He’s a weak candidate, but he’s always held the lead in the polls, and none of the men or women running against him have shown any capacity to unite the progressive wing of the party.

Bernie Sanders comes close, but he has a big problem. Despite his voodoo economics, Bernie is ultimately a patriot who believes in his ideals and refuses to serve monied interests. The dirty secret of the Democratic party is that, despite all its talk about being the party of the poor, every policy it pursues is ultimately catering to the interests of affluent coastal liberals. And this class of people, which forms the spine of the American left, will make sure that Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the nomination in 2020, just like they made sure he didn’t get it four years ago.

Joe Biden will then lose the general election to Donald Trump. Actually, it’s a forgone conclusion that anyone the Democrats nominate will lose to Trump. History shows that it is very difficult to win against a party which has only been in the White House for four years. It has happened only once in the modern (post 1900) era, when Reagan beat Carter in 1980. (Other presidents who failed to get re-elected had just succeeded someone from their own party, i.e. Taft, Hoover, Ford, and Bush I).

Ronald Reagan, the one guy who did pull off a win under this adverse condition, did it by reaching out to forgotten middle Americans and convincing them that his party wouldn’t let them down the way the other party had. Today’s Democrats, on the other hand, seem to think that the key to success is to call the other side’s voters a bunch of racists. You don’t win elections by doing that.

The Republicans will keep the Senate, as nearly all of the seats they’re defending this year are in states which a Democrat has no realistic chance of winning. Also, they’re nearly certain to recover the Alabama seat which Doug Jones won by accident back in 2017.

Republicans will probably also take back the House of Representatives, as the party that wins the Presidential election tends to get the most votes down ballot as well. (The Democrats would have won the House in 2012 if the districts weren’t gerrymandered against them, a disadvantage which still exists today).

Nevertheless, the new Republican Congress will not build the wall, repeal Obamacare, or defund Planned Parenthood.

Officially, the US economy will probably grow somewhat in 2020. But if you replace the phoney consumer price index with an inflation estimate based on actual commodity prices, then America’s per-capita GDP will continue the downward trend that it’s been following since the beginning of the century.

Vladimir Putin will still be President of Russia at the end of the year, and Xi Jinping will still be President of China. Neither Russia nor China will go to war with the United States, nor will there be a war between the United States and Iran, or between Iran and Israel, as every one of those countries is led by a level-headed man who knows that he has nothing to gain from such a turn of events.

The protests in Hong Kong will eventually fizzle out. The Chinese government understands the commercial importance of Hong Kong, and will find a way to de-escalate the situation peacefully. Meanwhile, the western world will continue to ignore the much worse human rights abuses going on in Uyghuristan.

Nothing significant will come of Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Both sides know that America has lost too much of its domestic manufacturing capacity to function without cheap imports, so even though Trump may continue to throw a bone to his voters every now and then, he’ll be careful not to make any dents in the trade deficit.

The Yuan will continue to gain importance as an international currency, and the process of dedollarization will continue slowly but steadily throughout Eurasia. However, none of this will happen fast enough to threaten America’s trade dominance during the coming year.

 The major country which I believe runs that largest risk of collapse in 2020 is Saudi Arabia. But I would have said the same thing last year. The odds of King Salman or his son Mohammad sitting on the Saudi throne on 31 December are still better than even money.

In conclusion: electoral cycles will keep cycling, steady trends will keep steadily trending, and both America and its rivals will do their best to avoid dramatic conflicts from which they have nothing to gain. Meanwhile, most Americans will remain indifferent to the serious threats that undermine their country’s long-term stability.

Despite its near-term placidity, 2020 will bring us one year closer to the end of the present phase of our national history, the one which is known as Decline and Fall. But because Decline and Fall is typically followed by a rebirth of some sort, and because I am keenly aware of the severe injustices of the present order, I do not choose to be despondent about what the future will bring.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

I Have Proven That This Fire Can Be Put Out

When conservatives in the media spend most of their time talking about how our nation would be better off if somebody, somewhere else followed the right set of ideas, they become like the mathematician in the old joke.
In a recent post, I criticized right-wing pundits who like to harp on the supposed fact that America is a republic rather than a democracy, when in reality, “democracy” and “republic” are just Greek and Latin words for the same thing – and that modern America is not an example of that thing. Yet if you spent too much time listening to conservative media, you might come away thinking that the cause of our predicament is that young people don’t appreciate the role of representative bodies, like the Electoral College, in checking the power of the mob.

Give me a break. Nobody in the world is trying to make their country into a direct democracy. Even classical Athens, the favourite bogeyman of the “Republic Good Democracy Bad” crowd, conducted its government through elected officials. The truth is, everybody believes in checks and balances of some sort.

Now, it certainly doesn’t help when, for one of America’s political parties, “checks and balances” means that if you can’t get a policy change approved by the voters, then you can enact it through the courts instead. And it only gets worse when the other party, rather than calling for any resistance to judicial excess, just responds by publishing long thinkpieces about how this wasn’t the founders’ intention and how the country would be better of the courts didn’t “foreclose the democratic process” on the issue, but how ultimately the people who submit to the new ruling are just innocent victims whose only moral responsibility is to recognize that they were wronged and construct elaborate arguments proving it.

It all reminds me of the old joke about the mathematician in the burning building. It goes something like this: A physicist, an engineer, and a mathematician were staying in a hotel when each awoke in the night to see that a small fire had broken out in his room. The physicist went to the sink and measured out the exact amount of water needed to extinguish the flames. The engineer just poured as much water he as he could on the fire until it was out cold. And the mathematician got out a pencil and a pad of paper, worked his way through some elaborate calculations, and then went back to bed with a smile on his face, saying “I have proven that this fire can be put out.”

This, roughly speaking, is the way in which the bulk of the conservative movement has responded to the changes which have made this country unrecognizable over the last fifty years. Everybody on the right half of the political spectrum agrees that the country would be a nicer place if the tenth amendment were still followed and states law had the last word on topics not addressed in the constitution. And most of them think that merely by having the right opinion, and talking about it at great length, they have absolved themselves of any duty to actually fight for the freedoms they claim to cherish.

The founders waged a successful War of Independence against the strongest nation on earth in order to defend their right to be ruled by elected assemblies against a distant central government that wouldn’t acknowledge that right. And a few generations later, the free states proved themselves willing to risk war rather than let the Supreme Court have the final say on the slavery issue. But that was then, and this is now. Nowadays, it seems, our goal is merely to demonstrate, on paper, that there’s a better way to do things.

Now the sad thing is that when this is the attitude of a large enough majority, there isn’t any good way out. Secession and nullification are not things that isolated individuals can do. So while I vote for independence-minded candidates whenever one comes up on the ballot in some local race, and give money to Abolish Abortion Texas – a movement that lobbies its home state to treat Roe v. Wade the way that some northern states treated the fugitive slave laws – I don’t have an optimistic outlook on the ultimate success of those ventures.

Still, individuals can at least stop listening to pundits who don’t go any further than repeatedly and passionately explaining why the other wide is wrong.

Consider, for example, the recent case of a Texas which ruled in favour of a mother’s request for sole custody over her seven-year-old’ son, so she could change his gender over the father’s objections. Over the next few days, that ever-doctrinaire conservative outlet, The Federalist, published three articles explaining in detail why what had happened was awful, but not calling on anyone to do anything about it.

Matt Walsh, who for many reasons is my favourite Christian blogger, bluntly said that the morally justified response would be for the father to flee the country with his child rather than submit.

For now, at least, the case ended up being moot, because the judge reversed the jury’s decision and granted joint custody to both parents. But the appeals aren’t exhausted, and if the outcome swings back the other way, don’t expect to hear about it in the news – the judge also put the father under a gag order, because free speech is apparently just another dowdy eighteenth century anachronism that mustn’t be allowed to interfere with the onward march of social progress.

Matt Walsh is different than most commentators because he calls on his listeners to do something more than passively disagree with the government policies that are making everyone’s lives worse. And that doesn’t just apply to extreme cases like what to do when your ex-wife wants to castrate your son. Walsh is also willing to get on people’s case for sending their kids to a leftist school, or letting their daughters play sports against transgendered boys, or listening to feminist relationship advice, or watching Game of Thrones, or going to a church that doesn’t make them feel guilty for their sins.

These are the sorts of actions that make a difference. What doesn’t make a difference is when you take a few hours out of every week to listen to one of the more mainstream conservative voices – the Rush Limbaughs and Ben Shapiros of the world – talk about how what the liberals in power are doing is bad.

The curious thing, though, is that in many cases these people are capable of much more intellectual depth than they let on. The reason that you spend nine out of ten hours beating on an issue that all your listeners already agree about is that it’s what the audience wants. So while you can find nuggets of real value in these men’s output – for instance, Shapiro’s defence of private morality when liberals lampooned him as ‘Ben the Virgin’ prior to his marriage – you have to wade through reams of impotent outrage about we would all be better off if someone far away was following our ideology instead of his own.

So what should one do instead? Get out of the echo chamber!

There is a certain kind of person who can watch the flames running across the floor of their hotel room and feel them licking at his feet, and take comfort all the while in the beautiful dance of abstract figures which prove, conclusively, that the whole tragedy could be avoided if the people in charge had done things differently. Don’t be that person.

If you notice that the things that are making America a worse place in which to live are present, to any degree, in your own life, then stop doing them. If you have children, then be careful of what influences you expose them to. And instead of giving your time to pundits who rail against problems they’re never going to fix, you should find some way to really contribute to a cause that matters to you.

For example: back in April I posted a letter to the editor of my local paper about a Dutch neuro-imaging study that showed how children dependent on ADHD medication will grow into broken adults with lasting deficiencies of GABA+, the same neurotransmitter that the drug is increasing in the short term. It was the only letter about the ADHD controversy which the paper had published in at least five years.

Granted, child-drugging isn’t America’s number one abomination – abortion is – but at least the people who choose abortion pretty-much know what they're doing to their child. When it comes to putting a kid on Ritalin or Adderall, this often isn’t the case: the media doesn’t report on the matter the way it should, and the doctors who prescribe the drugs are under a strong financial incentive to downplay any harmful effects.

If this is an issue that concerns you – and it should – then you could try to put a similar letter in your own paper. Or you could, you know, just talk about how Joe Biden is corrupt and how the Democrats in Congress are treating President Trump unfairly.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Democracy is Alive in Bolivia

Coups like the one against Evo Morales are what happen when a nation realizes that a constitution that means whatever the people in power want it to mean is the functional equivalent of no constitution at all.
At the end of my last post, I promised to next address the propensity of so many conservative pundits to rabbit on about the difference between a ‘republic’ and a ‘democracy’ instead of confronting the actual problems that prevent this form of government – and yes, both these words refer to the same thing – from existing in modern America. I would be covering that subject today if it weren’t for a sudden turn of events in Bolivia which merits some commentary, and which has also demonstrated, in action, the principle which I had devoted my last post to explaining:

Namely, that democracy can only exist when mass civil unrest follows any refusal, by the governing authorities, to acknowledge limits on their power.

A quick review of the background to the situation in Bolivia is in order. Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia in 2005. He began his political career as leader of the coca farmers’ union, and has always been popular among the rural poor. Morales is a socialist, and he devoted much of his presidency to reducing foreign influence over Bolivia’s economy and curbing the power of multinational corporations. He nationalized several industries, such as Bolivia’s main power grid, which were previously owned by consortia of mostly-foreign investors.

Perhaps my readers would expect me, as a right-winger, to be bothered by all of this, but I’m not. I don’t believe in the right of one country’s corporations to own another country’s land and infrastructure. And electing someone like Evo Morales was a good move on the part of the Bolivian people, who wanted to do something about the fact that foreign financiers were hauling away so much of their country’s wealth.

Morales easily won re-election in 2009, getting 64 percent of the vote – more than twice as big as the share that went to the runner-up. That same year, Bolivia adopted a new constitution, under which the President was limited to two terms. But since Morales had served his first term before the change, the limit wouldn’t kick in until the end of his third term. Morales got re-elected again in 2014, by the same huge margin, and should have left office in 2019.

In 2016, two years into what was supposed to be his final term, President Morales held a referendum attempting to amend the constitution to eliminate the term limit. The amendment was voted down, 51.3% to 48.7%. Rather than accept the results, Morales did what modern politicians often do when they lose an election: ask the courts to impose the policy change they want anyways. Bolivia’s Supreme Court issued a hairbrained ruling that the term limits somehow violated the American Convention on Human Rights, and the way was cleared for Morales to run again.

In Bolivia, a presidential candidate can win on the first round in one of two ways: either by getting a majority of the vote outright, or by beating the runner-up by at least ten percentage points. Otherwise, the election goes into a runoff. In 2019, Evo Morales went into the election much weaker than before. His rivals, taken together, ended up getting a majority of the vote, but Morales with his 47 percent still beat out the top runner-up by the requisite ten points.

Morales declared himself the winner, but his victory was widely considered illegitimate: not only had the President flaunted the term limit, he was also dogged by rampant allegations of electoral fraud. Violent protests broke out across the country, and the police and military struggled to keep order as the President’s supporters and his enemies duked it out in the streets.

Then, on Sunday, 10 November – three weeks after the election – the police and the military turned against President Morales and demanded that he resign. That night, Morales, his vice president, and everyone else in the line of secession resigned their offices and fled the country, leaving Jeanine Áñez, the President of the Senate, to become Acting President.

The international reaction to these events was mixed. While many observers were glad to see Morales gone, they found it distasteful that he was ousted by a military coup. The whole thing seemed, to them, like an affront to the rule of law.

The trouble is that if the Bolivians had adhered to the modern, Western concept of the “rule of law” – which in practice is nothing more than the power of the courts to do whatever they want – Morales would never have been overthrown. He did, after all, get the Supreme Court to say that everything he was doing was legal.

 If Bolivia had followed the example set by the United States, that would have been the end of the story. Here in the US, the Supreme Court always gets obeyed, no matter how nonsensical its reasoning. (The last successful resistance was in 1857, when the Taney Court’s attempt to legalize slavery nationwide backfired spectacularly). But the Bolivians are wiser than that, and they realized that a constitution that means whatever the people in power want it to mean is worse than no constitution at all.

And what of the role of the military in all this? My opinion is that they did their duty. According to the Bolivian constitution, Morales had no right to be president a fourth time, and the soldiers and police owed him no allegiance. To accept him as their commander anyway would have been an attack on the constitutional order. Military subservience to civilian authorities has outlived its usefulness if formerly honorable soldiers end up becoming henchmen to a civilian dictator simply because he is a civilian.

That, at least, is the principle that the world should have learned from what happened in Germany in the 1930s. Back then, the Wehrmacht officer corps was, for the most part, very suspicious of Nazi rule, and from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 until the invasion of Poland in 1939, there were nearly a dozen coups plotted against him. In each case the men involved balked at the last minute, deciding that an attack on civilian authority was a more extreme measure than the situation actually called for.

History went on to show how wrong they had been.

Returning to the matter of Bolivia, it is my hope that what’s left of the government will be able to restore order in the country and that the new elections, once called, will produce a president who can earn the widespread respect of his or her countrymen in much the same way that Evo Morales once did, during his early years in office, before the power got to his head.

Meanwhile, citizens of the United States would do well to contemplate the lessons of the Bolivian coup: First, that revolutionary activity – be it of whatever nature – is necessary when the governing authorities refuse to abide by constitutional limits. And second, that a constitution that means whatever the Supreme Court says it means is the functional equivalent of no constitution at all.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

I Totally Called It On Brexit

In February of this year, I predicted that there would be no Brexit by the 29 March deadline. I was right. The next magic day was 31 October, which has proven equally uneventful. Now it’s time to think about how all this fits into the long arc of the rise and fall of British democracy.
Way back on February 27 of this year, less than a week after I started blogging at Twilight Patriot, I predicted that there would be no Brexit. This went against the conventional thinking on the matter: the British people had voted to leave the European Union, the May government had spent nearly two years negotiating the terms of departure, and the promise was that Britain would be out by 29 March.

In the three-years-and-change since the June 2016 referendum, the mainstream media and the alt-media have both put out a copious stream of thinkpieces expressing a dizzying array of opinions about the meaning and significance of Brexit. While these writers can’t agree on whether the outcome of the election was good or bad, they generally at least see it as something important, a sign of the ongoing populist revolt against the technocratic global elite.

Needless to say, my belief that the whole thing would end up proving to be no big deal didn’t get a lot of traction. But when Brexit day came and went, and came and went again, and is now coming and going the third time, I think that events have borne me out. Granted, the British government is, for the moment, maintaining the pretence that Brexit will happen – right now, the date is 31 January – but when Boris Johnson’s protestations that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit past today (it now being 31 October) didn’t pan out, I don’t think it’s wise to assume that the future will be any different than the past.

In my post in February, I claimed that elections, across most of the western world, now have very little impact on public policy. This is actually even more true in the United States than it is in Britain. Just consider how useless all those referenda against same sex marriage turned out to be, or the fact that, shortly after their big win in the 2014 midterms, Republicans were treated to the legalization of several million illegal aliens in the DACA program, an action which President Trump, after riding into power on an outraged electorate, has been forbidden by the courts from reversing.

The reason that the elites get to ignore elections these days is that they can do so without facing civil unrest. If, in 1815, Federal Marshals had shown up in a small town in Kentucky in order to arrest the county clerk for refusing to marry same-sex couples, the Marshals would have gotten tarred and feathered, in an optimistic scenario. If, in 1816, Britain had voted to leave an international organization, and that organization’s officers hadn’t responded by promptly vacating their British posts, the populace would have responded by rioting and burning their offices.

And if my defence of mob violence as a necessary support for democracy seems too crass, I invite you to consider where political power, in general, comes from. Our word ‘political,’ after all, shares a root with ‘police,’ and people obey the police because they know that if they don’t, they could get arrested, beaten, or shot. They obey mayors, governors, and judges because those officials control the police. And state and local governments, with their mayors, governors, judges, and policemen in tow, obey the central government because the standing army is even more powerful than they are.

In short, we have the rulers we have because those rulers are willing, and able, to respond to disobedience with violence. Violence doesn’t have to happen often – in the United States, for instance, the federal government hasn’t had to wage war against noncompliant states since the 1860s, and it hasn’t even had to threaten them with soldiers since the 1960s. Still, the memory of violence is there, and the obedience follows.

In a democracy, revolutionary violence has to be a possibility if the dictates of the common people are spurned – otherwise, the people don’t rule, and the regime isn’t a democracy. When election results are overturned or ignored by the intelligentsia, civil unrest ought to follow. Otherwise, the whole idea of ‘power to the people’ is a sham.

The whole history of British democracy is a testament of this. All the rights that the common Englishman has gained since that day in 1215 when King John signed the Magna Carta on the meadow of Runnymede are rights that were at first given grudgingly, when the King or the nobles realized that the alternative was another uprising. Throughout the centuries, as countless Englishmen bore arms in defence of their liberties, a consensus emerged about what the people's rights were – or in other words, what lines the King couldn’t cross without having another insurrection on his hands.

The American War of Independence was an offshoot of all this. Among the most sacred of the traditional rights of Englishmen was the right not to be taxed without the consent of an elected body in which they were represented. For the first century or so of the English settlement of America, colonial governors, who represented the King, shared power with local elected legislatures, whose consent was needed to impose taxes. Americans were generally content with this arrangement, King and all, but when the distant Parliament in London decided that it could make laws for both the mother country and the colonies, the desires of the local representative houses being irrelevant, war ensued.

Nowadays it seems like this arc is coming to an end. Unlike their ancestors who fought war after war to preserve their rights of self-government, the people of modern Britain have shown that their electoral preferences have no teeth. The people being thus unwilling to hold onto political power, the right of rulership has passed on to someone else – not, of course, back to Her Majesty the Queen, but to an assortment of ministers, judges, and unscrupulous MPs who don’t feel bound to carry out the agenda their constituents voted for.

Some Brexiteers still hold out hope that the next parliamentary election, scheduled for December, will turn out a government committed enough to strike a deal before the new deadline. But they shouldn’t hold their breath; none of the previous elections did that. In any case, the vote back in June of 2016 was close; “Leave” only won by 52% to 48%. Eventually, the Tories will become disillusioned and their turnout will suffer, Labour will win a majority in one of these snap elections, and the whole thing will end up dead and buried, alongside the larger project of British democracy.

American democracy, on the other hand, is already a nonentity, having seldom reared its head since the Warren Court overthrew what was left of the constitution in the 1960s. Congress is now impotent, most policy is dictated by lobbyists, and on those rare occasions when the people get around to making their voice heard anyway – like they did in the same-sex marriage referenda – no charade of compliance is necessary on the part of the elites. Justice Kennedy delivered his ruling, the media celebrated, and the people who had voted on the winning side of the election were denounced as bigots six ways from Sunday.

Now, some of my readers are probably doctrinaire conservatives who, though agreeing with much of what I say, are bothered by my characterization of the government under which we once lived as democratic. “We’re a republic, not a democracy,” they say, seemingly oblivious to the fact that human language only has the meaning that its users agree upon, and that for the vast majority of the people who have used these two words throughout the last few centuries, they were synonyms.

And this is as it should be, because “Democracy” and “Republic” started out as Greek and Latin words that meant the same thing. That is why, for example, the Hellenic Republic (the country which westerners, going back to Roman times, have called ‘Greece’) is called in its own tongue Helleniké Demokratía.

The question of why so many conservative intellectuals make so much hay out of this imaginary distinction – a distinction which, I should add, ought to have little relevance to people living under an oligarchy – is something that I plan to address next week..

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Stop Projecting Things Onto Russia

A fair examination of Russian affairs will reveal a human rights record that is, in most cases, better than that of the United States. So why does the American media use Russia as a blank screen on which to project its image of tyranny?
Recently, one of my readers contacted me to share his lengthy train of opinions about my blog and the topics it deals with. Mostly, these opinions were positive. He especially liked my use of the Blind Men and the Elephant as a metaphor for the civilizational decline that we’re currently in – a decline so broad and multifaceted that different observers can perceive totally different causes for it, and yet all be partly in the right.

But he had a major disagreement with me regarding my inclusion of Vladimir Putin in a list of people I admire in a post I wrote back in June. “I would not use the word ‘admire’ for Mr. Putin or people like him,” this reader said. “We can ‘understand’ how Russians feel, we can appreciate the skill of a Putin in playing to those feelings and accomplishing, to some extent, his goal of Russian national regeneration – without admiring him.  The same applies to other skillful politicians: Lenin, Hitler, Roosevelt.”

There’s just one problem with this reader’s characterization of the situation – I really do admire Vladimir Putin. I am aware of his country’s less-than-perfect human rights record, but even so, the Russian Federation is far from the autocratic caricature that Western media outlets have drawn. Indeed, I think that, in our times, Russia is a greater defender of human rights than United States. In any case, the Russia of today is certainly a vast improvement over what Putin inherited from Yeltsin back in 1999. Comparing Putin to Lenin and Hitler is ridiculous. (And including a Roosevelt – either of them – in that list is also ridiculous).

The event that prompted me to finally write this article was when the Drudge Report made a top headline story – and a bright red top headline at that – out of Russia’s test of RuNet, the all-Russian version of the internet designed to maintain Russia’s self-sufficiency in the face of the American-dominated global version.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, how the media would react in an alternate world where some country other than the United States – China, perhaps – controlled the global information lanes, and America decided to build an independent backup system out of China’s reach. Nobody would question the propriety of such a project. But when the country building a local internet is Russia – the blank screen onto which Americans project their visions of dictatorship – you’ll hear all about how Vladimir Putin is trying to stamp out freedom of speech and cut his people off from the rest of the world.

Just don’t stop to wonder why Vladimir Putin would need to do that.  He won last year’s election with 77 percent of the vote, and even in his closest election – in 2000 – he got nearly twice as many votes as his closest rival. In America, by contrast, the elections are nearly all squeakers, and the most recent one has featured the defeated party trying every gimmick it could think of to reverse the result.

Some Western pundits try to discredit Putin’s victories by attributing them to fraud, but everybody who’s been on the ground in Russia knows that the President is immensely popular. In any case, the intelligent observer should ask himself which situation is more likely to be influenced by fraud: Vladimir Putin walloping his opponents by two- and three-to-one margins, or what happened in Florida in 2000?

Then you have the people who compile democracy indices for publications like the Economist, who fault Russia because its President is too powerful. What they overlook is that the reason that President Putin can make whatever laws he wants is that his party, United Russia, has won huge majorities in the Duma over and over again.

In America, on the other hand, big changes in the law usually have nothing to do with who controls Congress. Just consider who was behind DACA, or the legalization of same-sex marriage. It isn’t your elected representatives who are writing the laws. Yet America still gets sky-high ratings from the Economist, because the neo-liberal intellectuals who write democracy indices don’t care whether elected officials are making a country’s laws or not, as long as they get laws that they like.

Russia also fights in a lot fewer foreign wars than the United States. Granted, when the Russians ally with someone like Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS, the US media goes all in about how awful Assad is. But the Americans also fought on Assad’s side, except when we didn’t. And we fought for the Kurds, until we sold them out – basically, we’ve fought on nearly every side of this war. The Russians just picked a side and stuck with it until the Islamic State was stamped out, and they shed a lot less blood in the process.

Another bone of contention for Westerners is Russia’s invasion of the Crimea back in 2014; what most people never talk about is that the Russians only did this after the government of the Ukraine was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Also, the Crimea immediately joined the Russian Federation and is now represented in the Duma alongside all the other Russian constituencies. America, on the other hand, has held Puerto Rico for 121 years without giving it any representation in Congress.

Russia is nonetheless without its flaws, of which police brutality is a major one. It also has a worse-than-average incarceration rate, with 316 prisoners per 100,000 people. America, on the other hand, has 655 prisoners per 100,000, which is literally the highest incarceration rate in the world. A country doesn’t earn a distinction like that if all, or even most, of its prisoners actually deserve it. But with a combination of exorbitant sentences for nonviolent crimes, uncritical faith in the testimony of jailhouse snitches, and ignorant jurors who believe, more often than not, that it’s the defendant’s responsibility to prove his own innocence, America has managed the feat.

Also, in Russia, putting children on Ritalin and similar drugs is strictly illegal. If you were to take the Western media’s word for it, this is more evidence of how backwards the Russians are – i.e. they are ignorant of the prevalence of ADHD among children.

But the truth is that the Russians aren’t, nor have they ever been, ignorant of the fact that most children fidget and squirm in their seats, make careless mistakes on their schoolwork, and would rather be playing outside than sitting at a desk. In other words, children are more rambunctious and distractible than adults, and by definition, half of them are more so than the average child. The only difference is that the Russians have not chosen to categorize these things as a mental disorder.

The science behind child-drugging is sound: the symptoms of ADHD really do go away under medication; it is possible to make a child act less like a child by giving him a drug that suppresses his growth, makes him more aggressive and irritable, and dampens his desire to socialize with other children, play outside, climb trees, and do other things that healthy children do. And while the drugs work well for imposing conformity in America’s factory schools, research has failed to find any lasting academic benefits.

Also, drug dependency in childhood has been shown by neuroimaging to lead to permanent deficiencies in dopamine and GABA+, the same chemicals that the drug is boosting in the short term. So the upshot is that some ten to fifteen percent of the male population, plus a smaller number of girls, will grow into broken adults who suffer from depression, delusional thinking, and all sorts of mental illnesses, because some of their neurotransmitters are just missing.

In America, the authorities have decided that this is an acceptable tradeoff for a few years of improved behavior in grade school. But that is not the way that things are done in Holy Russia.

And I shouldn’t even need to get started on the advantages of living in a country where child custody disputes do not involve the question of whether the child should be raised as a boy or a girl.

Some people, after hearing about these kinds of things, like to console themselves by saying that, despite its shortcomings, the form of government that America’s founders gave us is still the best in the world. The trouble is, we are no longer operating under the government that the founders set up.

The founders didn’t create a Congress that had no say in how the laws are made. They didn’t give the President unilateral power to wage war. They didn’t give the Supreme Court power to amend the constitution. And they set up protections for defendants’ rights which, if followed, would have kept us from having the world’s highest incarceration rate.

 And if the other human rights abuses that I just described were never factored in by the men who wrote the Constitution of 1787, it’s because the power of human beings to anticipate future madness only goes so far.

If we valued what the founders gave us, and shared their outlook on life, then we would respond to the refusal of our government to protect these inalienable rights in the same way that they did – by having a revolution.

But instead, most Americans have chosen to turn a blind eye to the evil going on in their own land, and instead project the shadow onto a nation and a man who have done far more to defend human rights than anyone on this side of the ocean.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Don’t Be America’s Client State

Back in 1776, America claimed a “separate and equal status” with other nations. But now, our alliances are usually based on an understanding that the other nation has fewer rights than we do. And in the end, America’s client states always end up getting sold out by the regime in Washington.
Foreign affairs have accounted for a larger-than-usual share of notable events this week, with newsfeeds blaring out headlines like the following:

US Withdraws From Syria With Tail Between Legs!

Trump and Syria: The Worst Week For US Foreign Policy Since The Iraq Invasion?

Trump’s Betrayal Of The Kurds Will Echo For Generations.

To make a long story short, when President Trump abruptly withdrew American troops from Syria, Turkish forces poured across the border to secure the territory and finish off the last of ISIS. Caught in the crossfire are the Kurds, the only faithful allies that America and Israel ever had in that part of the world. Kurdistan’s brief foray into self-government, which began when the regimes in Baghdad and Damascus fled ISIS’ territory and left the Kurds to fight the Islamic State alone, is now on the verge of being stamped beneath the Turkish boot.

This turn of events is certainly dismaying, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody with a memory longer than that of a goldfish. About two years ago, in September of 2017, Kurdistan held an independence referendum with 93% voting in favour. The United States, despite characterizing itself as Kurdistan’s ally, refused to support Kurdish independence, as did most other countries, the main exception being Israel.

Ever since then, it’s been obvious that, while America might have an alliance of convenience with Kurdistan, that alliance isn’t based on any concept of equal rights. The Kurds do not, for instance, have the right to self-determination that the Americans exercised in July of 1776.

And the outcries that recent events have elicited from President Trump’s political rivals should be taken for the crocodile tears that they are. Neither party’s mainstream has ever supported Kurdish independence. That the Kurds should have less rights than we do is a matter of agreement; the question is only how much less.

And now the upshot of it all is that the nation which bore the brunt of the fighting in the ground war against ISIS will learn the same bitter lesson which nations like Taiwan have already learned – that America will always sell out its client states.

No doubt the opponents of Kurdish independence have reasons for their point of view. For one thing, national identities based on ethnic heritage are considered backwards in the world of today, where the inhabitants of the Middle East and Africa are expected to instead direct their loyalty based on lines arbitrarily drawn on a map by European colonial powers. And for the Kurds, those lines point toward Baghdad and Damascus.

Another reason is simply that Turkey, which is an important geopolitical partner of the United States, doesn’t want an independent Kurdistan.

Still, if one goes back and reads the American Declaration of Independence – the piece of legislation on which our ideas about when a country has the right to become independent ought to be based – one will find that appeasing the largest nation in the area wasn’t a driving concern for us. And it wasn’t a driving concern for other countries, either: France, Spain, and the Netherlands all recognized American independence before the Revolutionary War was over.

And when General Cornwallis was surrounded at Yorktown both on land and by sea, and he tried to surrender to the French navy rather than endure the embarrassment of surrendering his sword to the rebels, the French refused the offer. Cornwallis had to surrender to Washington.

A little over a century later, America found itself in a similar situation to the one that France had been in. The Spanish-American war was near an end, and the defeated Spanish force in Manilla, caught between an American fleet and the land forces of Filipino independence leader Emilio Aguinaldo, ignored Aguinaldo and surrendered to the Americans. The Americans not only accepted the surrender, but reneged on their promise to support Philippine independence and spent the next few years fighting a brutal counterinsurgency against their former allies, at last reducing the fledgling Philippine republic to just one more American territory.

Such transparent landgrabs aren’t in fashion in the world of today, and in any case, the United States is past the phase in its history where expansionism is seen as desirable. Now, the process of betrayal simply consists of abandoning an ally to the depredations of whichever large, nearby country believes that said ally has no right to exist.

This is what happened with Taiwan, when America suspended diplomatic relations in order to appease a larger and wealthier new partner in Red China, and then bullied the Taiwanese into giving up their nuclear program. Now Taiwan is defenceless against the day when the Maoist regime finally decides that the time has come to retake a territory whose allies have already decided that it deserves fewer rights than they do.

This is what is happening to the Kurds right now, and it’s what will probably also happen to South Korea, once America no longer has the resources to keep a huge garrison in that country and the South Koreans realize, all too late, that keeping Kim Jong Un’s men out would have required a military that could stand on its own two feet.

But there is one country that is often mistaken for an American client state, even though it doesn’t actually deserve that label. A country which has a close military alliance with the United States and which, like Taiwan, is surrounded by enemies who insist that it has no right to exist. But rather than relying solely on American garrisons to protect itself, that country used universal conscription to build the strongest military in the region. And that country also refused to be bullied into not developing nuclear weapons.

The country that I am talking about is, of course, Israel. And the reason that Israel will probably continue to exist in the post-American world is because, unlike Taiwan, South Korea, and Kurdistan, Israel has avoided becoming America’s client state.