Is a Perfect Storm Hitting America?
Are too many storms hitting America all at the same time? A common definition of a 'perfect storm' is a simultaneous combination of bad events with each adding to the effect of the others. Does that describe our current situation? Perhaps this is too pessimistic a question to ask but here are the political storms that concern me.
1) Our secretive administration
John Dean chronicled in his recent book 'Worse Than Watergate' how the Bush-Cheney administration is so secretive and is so resistant to scrutiny that there is no accountability. There is little, if any, public investigation into the decisions and scandals of this administration.
There have been many actions taken by this administration that should be known by the public but instead the administration operates with no oversight. The second term cabinet seems to have conformity as the primary requirement, rather than intelligence or expertise.
2) Our imperial presidency
The inaugural address and the state of the union that followed have set the tone for the American government. We (i.e., our government) now have an official aggressive foreign policy because our national security is directly related to the behaviors of foreign governments.
We invaded Afghanistan with the expectation that we were bringing to justice the
perpetrators of the attacks on 9/11. However Osama bin Laden remains at large and is of little concern to our government.
We helped the removal of the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti.
We invaded Iraq with no provocation. All justifications for the war have been shown to be false. We are now in the process of apparently supporting the creation of a theocracy, a democracy based on Islam: "having Islam as the main and only source of legislation and we reject any article that runs contrary to the Islamic legislation."
Now we are rattling our sabers again, threatening both Iran and Syria.
I am reminded too often of Hitler when reading of this administration's actions. First, Adolf Hilter always made sure his public appearances went according to plan (with his 'brownshirts'). After the Reichstag was rendered impotent (1933), he proceeded on his plan (for a 'new German Century' though he did not call it that) with his emphasis on a state religion (the denial of Jewish rights in 1935; the Nazi speeches were characterized by loud chanting and noise, similar to a fanatic religious ritual) and his intolerance for civil rights (Gestapo is above in the law, in 1936). He continued developing his Third Reich by taking one country at a time in the initial conquests, with Austria first (1938), Czechoslovakia (early 1939), Poland (later 1939), 1940 (France and the Benelux in one campaign), then the Balkans, etc. Perhaps seeing these parallels are somewhat paranoid but they are disconcerting.
3) Loss of the constitutional checks and balances
Our constitution was set up by our Founding Fathers to be a limited government, since they knew from their experience that a government can become too oppressive on its people. The checks and balances were intended to prevent a 'popular' tyranny (as defined in the Federalist Papers) - but that form is tyranny is now what we have in the United States. The checks and balances are no longer in place.
The courts, including the Supreme Court, have been willing to allow the executive branch to set its own rules during a 'time of war'. We are holding in prisons many innocent civilians (from Afghanistan and Iraq) who have not been charged with anything but who are being tortured in hopes of discovering something (even though anything obtained during torture must be suspect). Now an attorney, Lynne Stewart, defending a terrorist suspect who was prosecuted with fabricated evidence, has been convicted of a crime because she provided legal defense to such a 'bad' person accused by the government.
Congress is no longer interested in keeping the executive branch in check. The administration committed an act of treason with its revelation of a CIA agent's identity, Valerie Plame, and yet there seems little interest in prosecuting those responsible for such actions. In the 1970's, both political parties in Congress were aware of the dangers of letting Nixon get aware with such 'high crimes and misdemeanors' and yet our present Congress has heard a multitude of lies by the administration, including the rationale for the war in Iraq, and nothing has happened. Finally some Democrats have used the Rice and Gonzalez nominations for some speeches but nothing more than words have been exchanged between the two branches of government.
According to our Constitution, war is supposed to be declared only by Congress, never by the Executive branch. The authorization from Congress for the administration to use force in Iraq required the administration to prove its case. As John Dean described in his recent book, since there was never any proof for its case to invade (according to the reasons given in the authorization, bringing democracy to Iraq was not an issue in 2002), this lie is an impeachable act.
Our budget deficits continue to climb. The 2005 budget recently revealed is missing many known or planned expenses, including the billions required for the ongoing war in the Middle East.
4) Our budget and trade deficits
The IMF released a report in January 2004 that indicated the possible danger of the shaky fiscal foundation of the United States. The United States' net financial obligations to the rest of the world could be equal to 40 percent of its total economy within a few years - "an unprecedented level of external debt for a large industrial country," according to the fund, that could play havoc with the value of the dollar and international exchange rates. Our deficits continue to climb even after that alarm was sounded.
5) Lack of an unbiased press
The mainstream media seems so reluctant to keep the administration's acts under scrutiny. The view of the administration seems to be accepted as valid only until there is backlash elsewhere in the American culture (e.g., bloggers).
As a big fan of the Daily Show, I have seen far too many cases of the nonsense expressed by our leaders but then, even worse, the press will often parrot the administration views and so rarely question their validity. I am amazed that the MSM does not recognize this situation and make its reporting more impartial and more accountable. The press should keep the public informed and should monitor our leaders for bad decisions or unethical behavior. This travesty in the MSM actually indicates such a poor level of journalistic integrity has become tolerated, if not also acceptable.
Now there are even revelations that the administration has paid several supposed journalists to expound the desired policies without revealing that relationship. The supposed liberal bias in the media is becoming instead a bias toward the government view, so that the MSM becomes a part of a propaganda machine.
6) Our industrial infrastructure
For most of my career, I have been involved in industrial automation. I have seen our industrial and technological expertise wilt away in just a few decades. Our American economy is moving toward services rather than production, with many products coming from overseas, from the cheap stuff to the more expensive products having more technological content. The CEOs of the big companies have become rich by shifting their labor expenses from the American workforce, with our higher standard of living, to the plentiful inexpensive foreign workers (where environment rules are also much more friendly, at great risk to the global ecology).
This shift makes it hard for me to imagine how this American economy can ever rebound to effectively address our mounting debt. The manufacturing sector provides a foundation for a service sector. Our economy has become 'lean and mean' like a popular management slogan but that level of its health also means our economy cannot take on the task of lifting our country out from under its burden of debt. The reconstruction of our economy is probably possible but attempting to do it under these current circumstances (perhaps hampered by one or more of the other problems noted here) would be difficult.
7) Our war on terrorists
Many have recognized that the terrorist acts on 9/11/2001 were a reaction to our foreign policy in the Middle East. Osama bin Laden has even said as much in his speech just before our elections. The attacks were not the result of fanatics hating our freedoms, though that claim has been made several times in the intervening years.
We have attacked and are currently occupying a country, Iraq, that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack on 9/11. We have killed and injured many thousands of Iraqis, whose families also know that we invaded their country on false pretenses.
Our 'war on terror' is really a war on a military tactic. Terrorism is conducted by those that are unable or are unwilling to settle their anger/disagreement/score in a political venue. By conducting our war on the terrorists ('by smoking them out of their caves') rather than by addressing their reasons for such behavior, we can win this war only by removing all such people and hoping that others do not take up similar actions, perhaps based on the same reasons. That is not a promising plan given our handling of the insurgency in Iraq.
We have not had a verified terrorist threat on American soil since 9/11. That is either due to our security measures or, more likely, because our American troops in the Middle East have become a magnet for such anger against America. However, that will probably not remain the case forever. The political situation in Iraq is changing, with the installation of a Shiite dominated government (which could lead to an Islamic theocracy supported by American troops in Iraq). Perhaps that new government will stabilize the violent situation in Iraq though the first two weeks after the election have shown little change.
How long before another attack will occur in America? It could be a mad-man, perhaps a single person like the shoe bomber Richard Reid. Such an attack would be very difficult to prevent. The shoe bomber was prevented more by accident than by any security measure. It seems impossible to imagine how we can prevent a person with 'bad thoughts' from being in our country.
We have ruined the lives of thousands in Iraq. The actions by Israel have ruined the lives of thousands of Palestinians. We are fostering the development of people that have reason to hate America. How long will it be before one or more of them decide to unleash that hatred on American soil?
Whether a future terrorist act is an act of one or an act of many, the American people will have to deal with it. Our reaction to 9/11 was played out by this administration attacking two countries in the Middle East, without ever dealing with the reasons for the attack. How will our administration react the next time? Will the American people seek revenge, again, or will the American people demand an investigation in why terrorists might attack us?
Over the last few years, we have slowly heard that there were signs of possible plans for terrorism prior to 9/11. With this secretive administration, it is difficult to determine how well any such findings were handled. Unfortunately, I am reminded of a recent book that revealed how FDR manipulated the Japanese, almost forcing them to take action against us, resulting in their attack on Pearl Harbor, which FDR used to justify our entry into the world war. The Project for a New American Century had indicated that a Pearl Harbor event would help bring about the changes required for our foreign policy to move toward a global American empire. There has been a little information revealed, indicating that there were warnings about possible terrorist attacks. With so little investigation of the events prior to 9/11 it might take many years before we know the real story of the beginning of our war on terrorism. It is incredible today to envision that someone would allow a terrorist attack so that it could be used to implement a plan for more state power and an imperialist foreign policy. Perhaps this is paranoid to suggest and yet FDR allowed Japan to attack so that he could bring this country into the world war and that was not revealed until many years later.
8) Our civil rights
Over the last century, the American government has been shifting to one less tolerant of public disagreement with its policies. While any starting point would be difficult, if not impossible, to point out, it is interesting to note that, during World War I, the Sedition Act of May 1918 made it a crime to say anything 'disloyal' about the US government. It has really been all down hill since then, with its culmination in the PATRIOT act in 2001, with even worse being proposed.
We are now asked to further lose our basic civil rights as the administration attempts to deal with the terrorist threat while all these efforts to infringe on our freedom really do nothing about a threat that feeds off our foreign policy.
9) Religion in politics
Most Western religions tend to be rather polarizing. The believers assume they are the correct path, that they have chosen for whatever reason (typically a religious leader or a family member (like a parent) convinced them of its validity), to eternal salvation. Those that do not hold the same beliefs are either wrong or they are perhaps influenced by Satan, who tries to derail God's plan for the world. These religions subsequently get their followers to fall into the view of people as being in either the 'for us' or 'against us' camps.
The people having the most evangelical zeal are now getting too much influence in the political arena. I characterize an evangelical as one wanting to use force to convince others of their argument, rather than just relying on civil discussions. There are efforts to force the discussion of creation into public school science classes. There are efforts to prevent by force (like killing doctors, harassing women) those that might wish to end an unwanted pregnancy. There are efforts to prevent a legal recognition of gay marriages (which offends only a person who must see everyone behaving according to a social norm). With the 2005 administration, there is now an explicit effort by the American government to bring democracy to the 'uncivilized' world, so that the world is safer and more secure for America.
The alliance between these religious fanatics and our government leaders now have us on a path of a new Christian crusade, only the stakes are much higher than one millennium ago.
Now the stakes are much higher than they were in 1092 because there are weapons of real mass destruction that can destroy the world. America remains the only country in the world to have used a nuclear weapon in a war and that was for Truman to demonstrate to Russia our willingness to use them. It remains to be seen whether another country or perhaps a group of terrorists might choose to use them again.
10) The failure of democracy
The democratic form of government allows the common people to elect their leaders. These leaders are caretakers for the people. Since they do not own what they manage, their decisions tend to be short-term. The founding fathers assumed those elected would be responsible, having been selected by the people. Unfortunately, as Mr Hoppe's recent book (Democracy, the God that Failed) suggested, a democracy over time will tend toward more state power and economic and moral decay. The last four years have provided an example of how this decline accelerates, with these years being so much worse than previous administrations.
I call this a perfect storm because there are so many probable disasters all coming at once.
Our government is 'out of control' in that it has no public accountability and neither the Congress nor the mainstream media do not hold it responsible for its actions. Our economy is teetering. Our inept 'cowboy' foreign policy angers most of our allies in Europe and elsewhere and has worsened the terrorist threat. Our war on terror has created a worldwide frenzy of activity, with countries in North and South American clamping down on anti-government demonstrations (under the veil of anti-terrorism) while more terrorists pop up in response to our military actions that accompany such inhumane behavior as documented in our prisons for unverified terrorists.
In the words of our President, at the start of his 2005 State of the Union speech:
'Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world -- the state of our union is confident and strong.'
I see the only way to calm this perfect storm is the complete reversal of our aggressive foreign policies and the complete reversal of our corrupt fiscal policies. Unfortunately if our leadership is convinced they are on the path chosen by God such arguments will probably fall on deaf ears. I find it difficult to imagine what will be the outcome of all of these storms hitting at the same time while many of the American people think our country is fine (with the President's approval rate going up).
Mr Hoppe's book about the failure of democracy also provides a way out of the political decline - the secession of small groups from the morass. There are still a few small (in size and scope) governments remaining in the world, like Monaco, Liechtenstein, Singapore and Hong Kong. That had been the efficient form of government prior to monarchies and then democracies which both tended to seek more territory and power. That becomes the template to survive. However, seeing how secession in the 1860's resulted in a bloody suppression by a strong central government, the pattern this time must be different. The reasons are certainly different because it is becoming very obvious to many that our central government is becoming more corrupt, bankrupt and inefficient and secession from that facing imminent collapse is for our own safety, security and future.
created - Feb 2005
last change - 02/27/2005
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