Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
They Said It:
If such an institution, which gave the people an interest in their own government, had been universally established by Trajan or the Antonines, the seeds of public wisdom and virtue might have been cherished and propagated in the empire of Rome. The privileges of the subject would have secured the throne of the monarch; the abuses of an arbitrary administration might have been prevented, in some degree, or corrected, by the interposition of these representative assemblies; and the country would have been defended against a foreign enemy by the arms of natives and freemen. Under the mild and generous influence of liberty, the Roman empire might have remained invincible and immortal; or if its excessive magnitude, and the instability of human affairs, had opposed such perpetual continuance, its vital and constituent members might have separately preserved their vigour and independence. But in the decline of the empire, when every principle of health and life had been exhausted, the tardy application of this partial remedy was incapable of producing any important or salutary effects.
Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, Chapter 31, Volume II, 1781.
DATA MINING AND THE FUTURE OF THE WEST.
Like many of you, we have spent the last several days learning as much as we could about the federal government’s efforts to fight terrorism by surveilling every man, woman, and child in the United States who doesn’t live under a rock and aggregating every piece of data available on each of them. We have read everything we could get our hands on, from the original leaked stories about phone and internet data mining, to vast collections of both conservative and liberal analyses of the programs, their necessity, and their efficacy. And we have arrived at a few conclusions.
The first of these is that there is no unassailable position on the justification for this this type of surveillance of Americans. On one side of the argument, you have those who find it a serious transgression of justice. This crowd includes the editorial of board of the New York Times and Glenn Greenwald, a generally hysterical leftie who spent the last decade warning of a Bush-Cheney dictatorship and more recently broke the current stories in London’s Guardian, attacking Barack Obama and his “police state.” On the other side, you have those who are, ironically enough, defending Obama. They include the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who put away the “Blind Sheik” and who today writes for National Review.
All of which is to say that this is a complicated and confusing issue that has turned traditional notions of partisanship and ideology on their proverbial head. In our estimation, George Will probably came closest to expressing the average American’s uncertainty and trepidation about the programs and their purported ability to help stop terrorists:
We’re threatened by needles in a haystack.
Very few needles and a large haystack. We’re threatened not by a nation but a network. Network of terrorists to be invisible until there’s an attack.
When there’s an attack we talk about who didn’t connect the dots. In the data they’re collecting the dots . . . the sophisticated algorithms. They try to reveal the dots . . .
[T]he problem is, we’re using technologies of information gathering that didn’t exist 20 years ago, that are terribly important but terribly invasive. They require reposing extraordinary trust in the executive branch of government, which some of us think has recently forfeited.
That last line there is the key bit, isn’t it? This all may be necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. But it’s a little scary, given the men and women whom we are trusting to behave decently and legally with this fount of data. Does anyone, anywhere really believe that Eric Holder is honest and honorable enough to have access to this much information about American citizens? Do we even need to ask?
Along these same lines, Mark Ambinder, another leftie writer and editor who works for The Atlantic, among other publications, wrote over the weekend that the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs provide “all the infrastructure a tyrant would need,” even if they haven’t been used tyrannically yet. This, he argues, poses a serious risk for the future.
The American people have no idea who the president will be in 2017. Nor do we know who’ll sit on key Senate oversight committees, who will head the various national-security agencies, or whether the moral character of the people doing so, individually or in aggregate, will more closely resemble George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John Yoo, or Vladimir Putin.
What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants — to use power oppressively and unjustly – to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could’ve scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we’re counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after.
This is all well and good, we suppose. But as we noted just a few short weeks ago, the idea that we are “counting on having angels in office” is just plain crazy. The American people – with help from both major political parties – gave up caring about the “character” of their elected officials long ago. Saying today that we trust Holder, Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and the rest with this amount of power and information is a little like saying that you would have no need to worry about your pretty 22-year-old daughter’s safety while she works her summer internship in Harlem, because you know, ultimately, that she’ll be okay because she’s working for the Clinton Foundation and Bill assured you himself that he’d keep an eye on her. Fox, henhouse, and all that . . .
All of this, we think, leads to three further conclusions, one of which is fascinating, while the other two are disturbing to say the least.
The first of these has to do with the general direction of American political currents and the specific direction of the 2016 presidential race. For what seems like an eternity, but especially for the last five years or so, there has been a great deal of discussion about the Republican Party’s inability to woo young voters. The Millennial Generation voted overwhelmingly for Obama in both of his presidential contests and indeed likely provided his margin of victory in the first, if not both. Young voters loved Obama. And they hated the GOP. Indeed, a recent survey of “winnable” college age voters by the College National Republican Committee found that Millennial voters are not necessarily averse to Republican policies, but detest the party itself. Or as a Business Insider column put it:
In January, the CNRC asked identified “winnable” young people who had voted for Obama, the words that came to mind when hearing the words “Republican Party.” Four of the most common responses: “closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”
This, we think, is likely to change. Already, the young, libertarian-oriented members of the GOP seem to be leading the broader discussion of the party’s future direction. Over the last two election cycles, those few Millennial voters who found their way into the Republican tent, were, more often than not, lured there by Congressman Ron Paul, the paleo-libertarian crackpot from Texas. Paul’s son Rand – the Senator from Kentucky who is very much like his father, only sane – seems to have decided to pick up where his now-retired father left off and to take the lead in forging the newest iteration of the Conservative-libertarian fusion. In so doing, he has moved in a more practical and mainstream direction from his father on a great many economic and foreign policies, but kept his old man’s libertarian edge and his irresistible distrust of government power. In the age of the “surveillance state,” it strikes us that guys like Rand Paul will appeal to a great many Americans, particularly those who, like the Millennials, have grown up online and who therefore have more at stake in the government’s data-mining operation.
As we and countless others noted earlier this year, Rand Paul has already endeared himself to a great many Americans by challenging the Obama administration on its drone policy. In March, you may recall, Paul conducted a 13-hour “talking” filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s confirmation in protest of Obama’s policy. The substance of both the filibuster and Paul’s victory were largely superficial, but the drama was compelling. And surveys showed that Americans overwhelmingly agreed with the Senator and his tactics.
Now, in the wake of the new revelations about data-mining, Rand Paul is at it again. The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that he plans to file a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration for its “unconstitutional” surveillance programs.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Paul said he wants to get the support of 10 million Americans.
“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said, according to a rush transcript. “I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington.”
You take Paul’s position on drones, his position on surveillance, his position on the drug war and marijuana, and his penchant for creating drama and appearing to be the last man standing up for the American people, and you may well have your 2016 frontrunner. Certainly, you have a candidate who will give the Republican party establishment a run for its money. You likely also have a candidate who will challenge the Democrats’ hold on young voters.
The first of the two disturbing conclusions is one that we in this business need to ponder at length. Consider, for a moment, the “Prism” program, which was designed to monitor and mine the online content of emails and a vast variety of stored files and data. It specifically targets foreign communications. And cooperating firms include virtually every single large tech firm that most people can name, including Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google.
Now think about that from the perspective of foreign or multinational companies. They know that Apple, Microsoft and the rest are actively collaborating with the U.S. government to monitor the content – including emails – of all of their foreign communications. And they know that everyone in their company, and their buddy’s company, and . . . well . . . every company they can think of uses one or more of the tech services provided by these collaborators. They also know that these tech firms and their executives are big supporters of Barack Obama; that they donated to his campaign, campaigned on his behalf, and have publicly advocated for his vision. Moreover, they know that these tech firms are proud of being at the center of Obama’s economic vision for America going forward. They know that Obama sees these firms as “the future” and consequently showers them with praise and favorable policy and regulatory treatment. Quid pro quo, as they say.
Does anyone think that the global corporate movers and shakers are going to be okay with this? That they will feel comfortable using these companies and their products going forward? Or will a great many of them worry that their online content has or will be compromised? Do they wonder how Uncle Sam will make use of the extensive inside knowledge that he has about their business, their employees, their marketing strategies, their opinions of the global economy and the strength of their competitors. After all, isn’t Uncle Sam a player in the venture capital business today?
Glenn Derene at Popular Mechanics fills in the blanks:
If you lived in Japan, India, Australia, Mexico, or Brazil, and you used Gmail, or synced your photos through iCloud, or chatted via Skype, how would you feel about that? Let’s say you ran a business in those countries that relied upon information services from a U.S. company. Don’t these revelations make using such a service a business liability? In fact, doesn’t this news make it a national security risk for pretty much any other country to use information services from companies based in the U.S.? How should we expect the rest of the world to react?
Here’s a pretty good guess: Other countries will start routing around the U.S. information economy by developing, or even mandating, their own competing services. In 2000, the European Union worked out a series of “Safe Harbor” regulations mandating privacy protection standards for companies storing E.U. citizens’ data on servers outside of the E.U. For U.S. companies, that means applying stronger privacy protection for European data than for our own citizens’ data. And now there is considerable reason to believe that Prism violated our Safe Harbor agreements with the E.U.
Now, we’re pretty sure that Barack Obama doesn’t know or care much about the stories and fables that, once upon a time, most children in this country were told, read, or taught. After all, he had a unique and diverse childhood. Multinational, if you will. Rex the Wonder Dog was a menu item.
Still, you think someone, at some point, might have busted out old Aesop and read the guy the tragedy of the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs. But we doubt it. Aesop, after all, was Greek – which is to say Hellenic – and that means that he is part of that composite of thoughts, ideas, notions, and beliefs that we call Western Civilization. And as any schoolboy knows, Western Civilization is not exactly revered among the folks who were responsible for Obama’s early, late, and higher education. Nor for that matter is it terribly popular with the company he has kept since reaching adulthood. Indeed, Western Civilization is, in Obama’s intellectual and political milieu, an oppressive one, the cause of most, if not all of the world’s greatest tragedies.
And this brings us to the final disturbing consequence of the discovery of the extent of the national security apparatus’s surveillance of Americans. That being that is doesn’t make any difference.
How can that be, you ask? Well, let us explain.
Yes, there are some very real and very serious concerns about the government data mining. Yes, there are also some rather frivolous and unserious concerns about same. And yes, there are a host of politicians in both parties who are “outraged” and who plan to “do something” about this. As we noted, the junior Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul has announced that he plans to pursue a class-action lawsuit. Moreover, he has introduced “The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act,” legislation that purports to curb “abuses” of government surveillance.
And none of this matters one whit.
It doesn’t matter if Paul’s legislation passes. It doesn’t matter if his class-action lawsuit is the hit of the summer. If doesn’t even matter if he is elected President on the basis of a promise to end all the NSA’s surveillance programs. Nothing is going to happen. No one is ever going to stop the surveillance programs that are designed to prevent terrorist attacks. The aforementioned Andrew McCarthy explains why:
By gathering massive amounts of telephone traffic information, the government is able to establish phone call patterns, which is vital for mapping terrorist organizations. Without this, you cannot have preventive, intelligence-based counterterrorism – i.e., counterterrorism whose goals are to identify terror cells before they strike and to stop atrocities from happening. To be sure, Congress could deny the government this kind of information by statute. If lawmakers did that, however, we would be in a September 10 counterterrorism paradigm – i.e., rather than prioritize prevention, we would be contenting ourselves to investigate and prosecute only after attacks have occurred and Americans have been killed.
It short, as Obama has learned first-hand over the last five years, it is easy to criticize the “police state” that someone else has established. But it is something quite different to take responsibility for dismantling this police state and thereby to take responsibility for the lives that might be lost in a terrorist attack that could, at least in theory, have been thwarted by greater surveillance.
Is President Rand Paul going to be the guy who sits down and explains to the American people that they need to suck it up and quit whining about dead seven year-olds and a few blown-up buildings? Is he going to tell the American people that the loss of a few lives is a small price to pay for the “right” to privacy, a right, by the way, that a great many constitutional conservatives insist doesn’t really exist?
Don’t bet the farm on it. It is far more likely, in our opinion, that the next President, no matter how “libertarian,” will come to the same conclusions about the Constitution that the Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson reached way back in 1949, when he wrote: “The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.”
No one – not Rand Paul, not Ted Cruz, not even Ron Paul himself – would want to be the guy who signs the “suicide pact” and then watches as that pact takes effect. It’s not going to happen. Period.
In its harangue against Obama and his surveillance state, the editorial board of the New York Times wrote that “Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.” This is, as the ponderings of the editors of the Times often are, overwrought and silly. It is unlikely that Obama saw the power and decided to abuse it. It is much more reasonable to infer that, once in office, the former critic of these policies discovered that they’re actually quite useful – necessary even – to track potential terrorists and to keep them from becoming actual terrorists.
Here’s another truism for the folks at the Times: With great power comes great responsibility. And whether you attribute this truism to Spiderman, his Uncle Ben, or Voltaire, the fact remains: it is far more likely that President Obama realized that the things said by Senator Obama were stupid, shallow, and ill-informed and that the infrastructure established by the Bush administration was not only responsible and measured, but necessary as well.
And it is equally likely, in our estimation, that any future president – even a President Rand Paul – will realize the exact same thing.
What all of this means, then, is that the surveillance state is not going away. Or at least it’s not going away as long as the threat from Islamist terror remains. Which is to say that the only way to end the surveillance state and to stop the “spying” on Americans is to end the war. And the only acceptable way to end the war is to win it. And that’s not going to happen any time soon.
Two weeks ago, you may recall, we wrote that Barack Obama is hopelessly confused about the “war on terror.” Indeed, he appears to believe, based on his public statements, that this war is over simply because he’s decided that it’s over, never acknowledging the fact that the West didn’t start this war, which is to say that the West can’t stop it, unless it defeats the enemy.
Obama, as is his wont, prattled on endlessly about how wars can’t go on forever and how every war must come to an end. He makes a point, we suppose, but that point is lost unless he acknowledges that the way wars end is by DEFEATING THE ENEMY. How did the Civil War end? Lee surrendered; Richmond fell; and the Union was saved. How did World War I end? The Kaiser surrendered; the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles; and “guilt” and reparations were imposed. World War II? Hitler shot himself; the Reich crumbled; Truman dropped the bombs; and Hirohito surrendered. Even the Cold War, which saw its fair share of “hot” stalemates, ended. The Berlin Wall fell; the Czechs launched a “Velvet Revolution,” and the Soviet Union itself collapsed. All wars, in short, must end, as Obama said. But they end only when one side or the other is victorious.
This war – the “war on terror” – is a long way from being over. And it’s a long way from being over because the people fighting it on the American-Western side refuse even to name the enemy, much less to defeat it.
In the United States, we’re battling “terror” or “extremism” – when we’re still fighting, that is. In Great Britain, they worry about “extremists” as well – but not those who hack soldiers to death on the street, but rather those who dare to criticize said hackers too virulently on Facebook. In Sweden, France, and elsewhere in Europe, “youths” are the enemy, though no one ever has the courage to say exactly what kind of “youths” are lighting up cars at night, making parts of town “no-go” zones for police, and assaulting women not wearing proper head coverings. Interestingly, those same, nameless “youths” are beating up gay men, attacking prostitutes, and making the “world’s most tolerant city,” i.e. Amsterdam, manifestly less tolerant.
Let us take as just one example the story of Major Nidal Hasan, better known as the “Fort Hood Shooter.” As you may recall, on November 5, 2009, Hasan, an active-duty Army psychiatrist, opened fire at Ft. Hood, where he was stationed awaiting deployment to Afghanistan, killing 13 fellow soldiers and wounding 30 others. Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” while he shot and, as it turns out, had printed up business cards that listed his position as “Soldier of Allah.” Back in 2009, not long after Hasan’s attack, our friend Daniel Pipes summarized some of the other “hints” that the military might have had that this guy was an Islamic-terrorist-in-waiting:
He delivered an hour-long formal medical presentation to his supervisors and some 25 mental health staff members in June 2007, the culminating exercise of his residency program at Walter Reed. What was supposed to be on a medical topic of his choosing instead turned into a 50-slide PowerPoint talk on “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military” that offered such commentary as “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims” and the “Department of Defense should allow Muslims [sic] Soldiers the option of being released as ‘Conscientious objectors’ to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events.” One person present at the presentation recalls how, by the time of its conclusion, “The senior doctors looked really upset.”
Hasan informed at least one patient at Walter Reed that “Islam can save your soul.” . . .
His supervisor, Captain Naomi Surman, recalled his telling her that as an infidel she who would be “ripped to shreds” and “burn in hell.” Another person reports his declaring that infidels should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats . . .
Hasan contacted jihadi web sites via multiple e-mail addresses and screen names.
He traded 18 e-mails between Dec. 2008 and June 2009 with Anwar al-Awlaki, Al-Qaeda recruiter, inspiration for at least two other North American terror plots, and fugitive from U.S. justice. Awlaki had been Hasan’s spiritual leader at two mosques, Masjid Al-Ribat Al-Islami in San Diego and the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center outside Washington, D.C., and he acknowledges becoming Hasan’s confident.
Awlaki, you may recall, was one of Obama’s “most wanted” terrorists. He was also the first American citizen to be killed by an Obama-authorized drone strike (while in Yemen).
Despite all of this, no one did a thing to stop Hasan before he launched his attack on Ft. Hood. No one, apparently, took him seriously. Worse yet, after his terrorist attack, the U.S. Army and the federal government went out their way to insist that his attack was unrelated to Islam or to his fundamentalist beliefs. In the aftermath of the shooting, General George Casey, then Chief of Staff of the Army, declared, “What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.” This, to put it gently, is insane.
The Obama administration labeled the shooting a case of “workplace violence.” The Army determined that Islam and “jihad” were not sufficient motivations for the attack. Hasan was ordered held in custody for trial by court martial. He continues to receive Army paychecks and free military health care. And as of last week, Hasan has been granted permission to represent himself at trial, and declared that he will defend both himself and “the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban.” For the record, that is an admission not only of guilt, but of guilt ON BEHALF OF THIS NATION’S ENEMIES. Workplace violence indeed.
As we have noted countless times in these pages, and as others have noted even more often and far more eloquently in other places, the intellectual and political classes that dominated the West today have absolutely no use for and no appreciation of their own cultural and civilizational heritage.
They favor “diversity,” but only so long as diversity means “anything but the West.” “Dead White Males” are the enduring antagonists in this global historical narrative. The West destroys all that is good, and different, and quaintly indigenous. Never mind that the West was the first and thus far the only civilization to end slavery, promote equality between the sexes and equality of all races and even equality among all sexual preferences. Never mind that in many Muslim countries they execute gays, or that women are essentially chattel, owned by their fathers and then their husbands, or that female “circumcision” is the “medical” procedure performed more often than any other. Never mind that in India, there are still “untouchable” castes of men and women. Never mind any of this. Anywhere in the world that there is conflict between the West and “the other” the fault lies with the West.
Which is to say that the fault does not lie with “the other,” in this case Islam. And that in turn, means that a war on Islam is one that not only cannot be won, but should never be fought. Islam, after all, “means peace,” as we have been reminded time and again in the nearly twelve years since a gang of “peaceful” Muslims slammed jumbo jets loaded with passengers into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania.
Back in April, after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the inimitable Mark Steyn synopsized the entire attitude of the Western political class for us, staring with a quote from the Boston bombers’ mother:
“They are going to kill him. I don’t care,” she told reporters. “My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest son is going to be killed today. . . . I don’t care if I am going to get killed, too . . . and I will say Allahu Akbar!”
You can say it all you want, madam, but everyone knows that “Allahu Akbar” is Arabic for “Nothing to see here.” So, once you’ve cleared the streets of body parts, you inadequate Americans need to redouble your efforts.
There is a stupidity to this, but also a kind of decadence. Until the 1960s, it was assumed by all sovereign states that they had the right to choose which non-nationals were admitted within their borders. Now, to suggest such a thing risks the charge of “nativism” and to propose that, say, Swedes are easier to assimilate than Chechens is to invite cries of “Racist!” So, when the morgues and emergency rooms are piled high, the only discussion acceptable in polite society is to wonder whether those legless Bostonians should have agitated more forcefully for federally mandated after-school assimilationist basketball programs.
As with General Casey above, this is insane.
Of course, insane though it may be, that’s the way our ruling class – Republican, Democrat, and others – feel about it. And until they change their minds or see enough carnage as a result, this is the way they’ll continue to feel about this “war” for the foreseeable future. Nothing to see here. A religion of peace. So what if they were Muslim? The war is over; Hooray!
Now, a smart person, a normal person, an Israeli, for example, would look at all of this and say that the way to win this war is to name the enemy, to identify the enemy, and then to destroy the enemy. Of course, naming the enemy would violate the dogma of multiculturalism. Identifying the enemy would require profiling. And destroying the enemy would mean making it more painful and damaging to be a jihadist than not to be one.
No one in the American political class has the courage to do any of these things or even to defend them in the abstract, which means that the war cannot be won. And that, in turn, means that the surveillance state will endure.
There are, we think, other reasons to believe that the war will not be won – or at least won to the satisfaction of the government and its close collaborator, the military-industrial complex. Recall that that phrase, “military-industrial complex,” comes from President Eisenhower’s farewell speech to the country, given on January 17, 1961:
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction . . . .
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total inﬂuence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every ofﬁce of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted inﬂuence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Unfortunately, this prescient warning came only three days before Eisenhower left the White House, to be replaced by another, much younger president, who had his own vision of the world and the “responsibilities” of the American people, which he outlined so very immodestly and grandiosely in his inaugural address:
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge—and more.
The nation has been on a war-time footing ever since, Eisenhower’s warning be damned. And even when the great existential twilight battles are won, the military-industrial complex finds new enemies and new reasons to fight. We don’t want to sound like peacenik conspiracy nuts here, but you may recall that when the Soviet Union fell, and the nation was without an enemy, suddenly a new threat emerged in the bizarre little kingdom of the Kims, North Korea. This nation that could barely keep its lights on was, in an instant, an enemy about which we – and the rest of the civilized world – needed to worry.
What this suggests, we think, is that even if our ruling elite somehow, some day musters up the courage to fight and win the “war on terror,” a new war will take its place, which is to say that a new justification will be found for the continuance of the surveillance state.
We have neither the time nor the space to get into this now, but we think that all of this has serious and long-term ramifications for the future of this country and indeed for the future of democratic governance.
We have, over the past couple of years, quoted liberally from Walter Russell Mead’s work detailing the death of what he calls “Liberalism 4.0.” Mead believes that “liberalism” has undergone four iterations up to this point, and that the latest version – 4.0, the Depression-era “Blue” model – will be replaced in time by a new and different version, just as the three previous versions were replaced by newer models better suited to the times. Great social disruptions necessitate great social revolutions. And since the 17th century, those revolutions have all been “liberal” in some definition of the term.
We agree wholeheartedly with Mead that we are in such a period of great social upheaval in which the “old model” is slowly but surely crumbling. We’re just not so sure that the next model will be as “liberal” as he hopes. In fact, we worry that it will be anything but.
The Industrial Revolution, you may recall, killed monarchy and made modern democracy both possible and, in many ways, necessary. We worry that the current revolution, the micro-technological revolution, will kill democracy, replacing it with something different entirely.
We hope we’re wrong. But we fear we’re not. And that, we’re sorry to say, is one more conclusion that we came to over the last few days as we read about the U.S. government’s “benign” and “necessary” data mining operations.