Winning the war against totalitarianism

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Winning the war against totalitarianism is a matter of life and death, or, at the very least, a matter of freedom versus slavery. Terrorism is one of the methodologies used by totalitarians of all stripes, but it is not the only one. The totalitarians frame the discussion in terms of "our glorious nation against the evil allied opposition." From the standpoint of Nazi Germany, the communist nations were the enemy and the capitalist democracies were equally the enemy. From the standpoint of Stalin, the Nazis were the enemy and so were the capitalist democracies. Currently we still face the traditional sources of strife -- the competing interests of nations and of national leaders. The People's Republic of China, for example, will continue to pursue its own interests including feeding its growing appetite for oil and other resources, and the interests of its ruling elite such as removing the thorn of a democratic and economically successful Taiwan from its side.

Keep clearly in mind that the map is not the territory, and the ideology is not the heart of the opponent. "Global jihad" is a rallying cry used by people who are not necessarily true followers of Islam. People could derive the same satisfactions of corrupt needs by using a "Global Crusade to Defend Christianity" as their rallying cry. What we have to combat in order to protect all of the people of the world is the use and perversion of any value system to bring power to one group to the detriment of another.

For the sake of preserving ourselves as a free and democratic nation, we must maintain our awareness of the nature of our opponents without any subjective bias. Our opponents are not limited by national boundaries. With the post World War II changes in transportation and munitions, totalitarian forces can function as the darkest of the multi-national organizations. Their cells and multi-cellular organizations can be stationed in any nation where they can escape government suppression, and they can float fairly freely from location to location and nation to nation.

Protection of our own country from attack by weapons of mass destruction is absolutely vital for the preservation of life and for the preservation of liberty. Make no mistake, al-Qaida has not ceased to search for means and opportunities to attack, and al-Qaida will not die with bin-Laden. Keep the focus clearly on totalitarianism vs. freedom and it will be clear that a victory for totalitarians acting against country A can imply a victory for totalitarians acting within country A. Extremists recruit extremists for the other side.

In single combat, one tried and true technique is to train one's opponent to fight in a certain way. If, during combat, one can succeed in conditioning one's opponent to fight in a determinate way, then one has an advantage in the over-all battle. One is, unbeknownst to him, controlling one's opponent.

During our long cold war with the Soviet Union it was frequently observed that the longer one fought the more one became like one's enemy. It was even sometimes argued that only a dictatorship could stand up to a dictatorship. But seeing the advantages of one's opponent should not be permitted to blind one to one's own advantages.

William R. Corson argued from both ample personal wartime experience and considerable academic training against the way our war in Vietnam was pursued. If the Viet-cong were the villager's monsters of the night, the Americans became the monsters of the day. The Viet-cong killed American troops from ambush and assassinated the occasional honest and effective village official who was not cooperative in providing the taxes of the night. Who could the Americans kill? The wily Viet-cong would not stand and fight, would melt into the social background during the day. When innocent bystanders got killed by our troops, we recruited for our enemies. We were playing checkers when we should have been playing go (圍棋).

The Salafist enemies of religious and political freedom have many of the advantages of any guerrilla organization. They have no uniforms, no settlements of any size to retaliate against. They can send suicide bombers out of nowhere into a populous city, set off a weapon of mass destruction, and depart into oblivion. To what will we deliver a counter-attack?

Retaliation that falls upon non-combatants is massively counter-productive. The Soviets learned this lesson in Afghanistan. For every Afghanistan defender that they killed one or two more rose in his place.

Here is a fair and serious question: Why has the Bush administration left huge holes in the defense of our territory against weapons of mass destruction? Every bale of marijuana that makes it up from south of the border could just as easily be a compact weapon of mass destruction such as a mubtakkar binary cyanide gas generator. Containers on ocean liners cannot currently be effectively searched. How can the Bush administration tolerate a situation that could permit the destruction of an American city?

In the long term, trying to seal our borders is bound to fail occasionally, so we cannot let internal security be our sole guideline -- especially since we would thereby risk making a fatal silent contract: You leave the United States alone, and we will not work against your interests in the rest of the world. Such a bargain might hold until we had no allies left abroad, and then it would be our turn at a time when our opponents had its greatest resources ever.

While guarding our borders we must stay engaged with the rest of the world and work to diminish motivations for recruitment while diverting potential recruits to organizations that are more geared toward the betterment of the world than is al-Qaida.

What are the requirements for self-preservation? There is nothing new about them. They only seem new or strange to some people because they do not appeal to those who want simplistic solutions and who misunderstand the fundamental nature of the game that they so badly play. Our leaders are currently like the little boy whose parents have taught him that it is good to kill flies with a fly swatter. He gets a penny for each fly he eliminates, and a word of approval to go along with it. He has a brainstorm and drags a dead dog under the front porch to breed flies for him to conveniently swat. "Got trouble with terrorists? Do a better job of killing terrorists. How is your body count today?" The real requirements for defending freedom are as follows:

  • Know the battlefield.
  • Know the enemy.
  • Know yourself.

Subsidiary principles:

Conduct government by straightforward means; conduct warfare by not being predictable.

Contents

Characteristics of the battlefield

  1. Global warming
  2. Population increases
  3. Environmental degradation
  4. Facilitation of epidemic transmission
  5. Decreased available resources heighten perceived inequalities among the various population groups.
  6. Would-be leaders each choose a group as their "constituency.
  7. Within each geographical region, class, religion, language, race, etc. influence the creation and maintenance of contending groups.
  8. Fighting and/or the preparation for fighting puts more power in the hands of leaders.
  9. Existing international organizations cannot deal very well with international conflicts (a heritage of cold war brakes put on the U.N. by both sides in that standoff), and are even less adapted to dealing with transnational problems.

Characteristics of our opponents

Cultural

Some cultural differences are superficial in two senses of that word. They can be striking differences such as the styles of clothing considered appropriate to men and women, the languages spoken, the degree to which speech is typically restrained or free with regard to affective display, etc. But there can also be striking differences involving core values and core ways of conceptualizing the world -- elements so deep and so consistent across all members of a group of people that some of them escape conscious awareness and others of them are universally understood to be the ways that one is expected to behave, even by those who choose to behave differently for their own reasons.

In The Silent Language, Edward Hall has detailed some of the ways that socialization in various cultures can produce differences in ways of behaving, e.g., body language differences, that can create many opportunities for misunderstanding. There are books that go into the very different ways that individuals are socialized in traditional Chinese and Japanese societies, but this field has not been well researched in the case of groups that currently may be the most prolific sources of transnational guerrilla fighters.

Some of the factors that draw guerrilla groups together across national boundaries are language, ethnicity, religion, etc., but similarities and differences in such areas do not necessarily function as causes for violent reactions against other groups. The motivations of guerrilla fighters and their general stance toward the world can vary widely across different populations and various areas of the world. The significant differences seem to be in the emotional attitudes toward their opponents. For instance, even though the Viet Cong were in general motivated by their nationalistic feelings and reacted against the French and, later, the Americans and their allies, they were not particularly hateful. They were efficient, ruthless, and very competent opponents. And, in victory, they were remarkably magnanimous and forgiving even with the history of massive losses on all sides during the Vietnam War.

There appear to be strongly irrational factors in much of present-day conflicts involving transnational guerrilla groups. There appear to be motivations so intense and so frustrated that a significant portion of their aggression is redirected by individuals against the self. Suicide is very frequently not a symptom of perceived helplessness. Aggressions that cannot be expressed against one's tormentor can become redirected against one's self. There is something clearly pathological when one prefers to die in a bomb blast rather than to deliver the bomb and detonate it from a safe distance.

Simple aggression is goal directed, and the causes of aggression are usually easily discovered and (theoretically at least) remedied, but many cases of aggression are motivated by things like childhood abuse and internalized negative judgments against the self. Anticipation of yet another attack from one's tormentors can result in preparatory and defensive aggression directed toward targets that may not have an easily perceived connection to any actual threats. When the motivations for aggression are compounds of early learning experiences and current challenges, the total picture can be difficult to understand.

Condemnation of the infidel is not restricted to people beyond "the Book," but can be directed toward potentially any follower of Islam as well. "Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of this world, and in the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doomed" (2:85) Perhaps this threat is one of the reasons that some followers of Islam are so sensitive to opinions of people outside their community of faith.

General

  1. Internal antagonists are formed when factions are not mediated in a fair and rational process. (See Federalist Papers, No. 10, James Madison.) We ought to know these groups who are already something more than potential enemies of each other because they have been present in this country since its founding. We already have the terms "class warfare" and "the culture wars," both of which point at some of the inadequately mediated factions existing today.
  2. External enemies are formed by processes analogous to the above. Each nation may stand as one or more factions among the factions of the world. Would-be leaders, leaders such as bin-Laden, can put themselves forward as having the overall vision and expertise to requite the iniquities committed by those who hold sway by reason of power and wealth.
  3. While nations with great power and wealth, such as the Peoples Republic of China, will gladly take advantage of America's involvement with the Tar Baby to rake in a few chips of their own, such as Taiwan, they will not fail to remain aware of the law of Mutually Assured Destruction and will move only at times and in ways that will accrete chips on their side of the table at an imperceptible or at least tolerable rate. Nixon went to China thinking that he could cash in on "normalizing" relations with China while duping the mainland Chinese at the same time he sold out Taiwan. His own pathologies prevented him from seeing into the immobile poker face of Mao, let along seeing the depth of the Chinese game. Now we face a very hungry competitor, but it is anything but an irrational opponent. Even in a coming time of drought it, like the Masai, may be willing to bleed the cow for a daily cup of blood rather than killing it for a one-time feast of as much meat as can be consumed before it rots. The ghost of the Soviet Union is not quiet either.
  4. The stateless combatants, unlike China, Russia, and other state actors, do not have a captive population; instead, they are like the Chinese guerrilla fighters who softened up the KMT state prior to any actual takeover of territory. As guerrillas whose field of battle is world-wide, the fighters of today share many of the characteristics of the communist guerrillas in China, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Thailand. To defend against them we must understand the Principles of guerrilla warfare. Repugnant as it may be to us, we need to study the methodology of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi-Minh -- if only to know what the manure spreader headed our way is loaded with.
  5. Guerrilla fighters have one principle that is higher, to the individual soldier at least, even than self preservation: Do not do injury to the indigenous people. As Mao put it, the ordinary people are as water and our guerrillas are as fish. Fish that poison the water against them do not survive.
  6. Besides being unattached to any nation and unobtrusive wherever they operate, the guerrilla force must continually add members, and to do so they must arrange for uncommitted people to change and to give allegiance to them.
  7. The guerrilla leader will fan the flames of ill feeling among the ordinary people to the best of his/her ability.
  8. The guerrilla leader will use religious authority and other forms of ideology to cause people to believe what the leaders want them to believe.
  9. Actions that create ill feeling by causing collateral damage to non-combatants, insults to religious sensitivities (such as claiming that Allah is a false god), etc. are counterproductive.
  10. The U.S. must keep both competitor states and guerrilla groups in mind to avoid fostering one conflict while trying to quell another.

Characteristics of ourselves

Cultural features

As a cultural melting pot, America is threatening to some segments of its population. When threat is felt, aggression is frequently mobilized as a protective mechanism. There probably are few groups or few individuals who do not feel some measure of threat from ideologies, religions, or other systems of belief that challenge their mental and moral foundations. Therefore it may be useful to examine some of the most prevalent classes of culture that are operating in the U.S. today.

Almost all families (unless restrained by religious or ideological factors) employ praise and other forms of reward to promote what they regard as good behavior on the part of their progeny.

Almost all communities in the world, and certainly all communities in the United States come under the legal jurisdiction of local, state, and federal government. If families depend solely on the legal entities to secure and maintain control of the behavior of their children, then the ordinary consequence will be that no control is exerted until such time as the child runs afoul of the legal system.

Some families take the motto that is derived from the Holy Bible, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," as a commandment to and a rationalization for the use of corporeal punishment as the primary methodology for the control of the behavior of members of society. This methodology may work during the period when the child is smaller than the parent(s) and dependent on the parent(s) for food and lodging.

Some families have a heritage that is frequently labeled as a "shame culture," i.e., the primary modality for social control is the threat of withdrawal of parental and/or community affection and regard, the actual shaming, shunning, or ostracism of the child, and in extreme cases may also involve the deliberate humiliation of the child. The perception that one might become regarded as a shameful individual can be a strong negative motivator for the individual and may encourage sensitivity toward any kind of behavior that might draw negative attention from the group. One needs, therefore, to protect oneself from drawing such negative evaluations. One may internalize negative evaluations of oneself as a "shameful" individual and engage in behavior that functions to fend off awareness of this self evaluation or to deny its validity.

In keeping with its predominantly Christian population, a large number of families participate in what is labeled as a "guilt culture," i.e., children are taught that certain acts are bad (evil, sinful, "abnormal," etc.), are taught to monitor themselves for the performance of those behaviors and for motivations that tend toward the performance of those behaviors, and to anticipate or even seek out punishment for those tendencies and behaviors. Paradoxically, the individual may push the feelings of guilt below the level of conscious awareness and seek to externalize the threat of guilt-deserving motivation and behavior where it can be attacked in others.

Where the self-image of the individual becomes threatened by external factors that challenge core values and fundamental assumptions about the nature of one's social reality, aggression may be mobilized to meet this perceived threat.

When one is under the sway of powerful emotions it is difficult to mount a rational and appropriate response to external challenges such as those presented by transnational guerrilla groups, the Salafists, etc.

Other factors

  1. "The public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and ... measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." (Fed., 10) True in 1787 and true today.
  2. The interests of the wealthy have been supported by ideology and propaganda to such an extent that even those severely disadvantaged by employers who use their labor and degrade their health without fair compensation seem to support tax laws and other measures that favor those already rich.
  3. It was bad enough to have been a near serf in the time of early, unregulated capitalism, but one could hope one's children might escape being parasitized. The race or ethnicity of one's children is a more indelible characteristic accorded the power to condemn one to an inferior social and economic status. Race is a "myth," a crippling misconception, but racism is real and dangerous to all.
  4. Much as privilege is institutionalized by laws that perpetuate large accumulations of wealth, the patently ridiculous setting of Congressional districts by party politics tends to give ineffective and/or corrupt legislators bastions from which they can be expelled only after the severest of abuses.
  5. Much of the tax base that formerly provided for public services has been moved abroad while at the same time workers displaced from their own economies because of the economic impact of U.S. policies on their native economies are subjected to pressures that push them to immigrate to the U.S. whether legally or not. While their labor is welcome, the wages they receive do not yield sufficient tax revenue to pay for the government services (education, public health, etc.) that they often require. Not providing these services can have a strong negative impact even though there is some lag time involved while children are becoming adolescents and former workers become old and possibly infirm.
  6. Having been largely shielded from reality since the end of World War II, and even more shielded from reality after the end of the Vietnam War and the dissolution of communism, American citizens fail to exert due diligence in the preservation of liberty, opting instead for the strained pablum of ideologies that assure them that they have a right to it all and a God that will protect them even from their own ignorance, fear, and greed. When the Vietnam War was in progress, the U.S. government at least responded to the threat of social fracture by increased surveillance of dissident groups such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (not to mention the Black Panthers and Malcolm X). Yet it would be possible to do many things to reduce internal threats to national unity and integrity. For instance, we need to screen out racial factors in criminal prosecutions and sentencing by measures such as post-trial reviews of groups of similar cases by judicial panels from whom all information about the races of the individuals would be censored. Equality under the law must be one of our central principles.
  7. Residents of places like Hong Kong are vastly more aware of happenings in the outside world than are American citizens because the Americans have long felt that what injures others cannot possibly have any impact on them, and however good something developed abroad may be it cannot hold a candle to a similar product or invention produced internally. Events like 9/11 and economic changes like the introduction of Japanese automobiles to compete with U.S. brands ought to have give us a wake-up call, but most Americans appear to have hit the snooze button. Ridiculing Japanese cameras in the 50s may have been o.k., as long as you did not own Kodak or Argus stock, but we are now metaphorically pulling the battery out of our smoke alarm. It may require severe shocks from external events to educate America to its position in the community of nations, but good leadership could help citizens become aware of significant things outside their present awareness.
  8. There may be a long lag time between American technology providers being replaced by cheaper labor from places abroad such as India, labor that does not live in the U.S. and does not buy its daily necessities in the U.S. At some point, American young people entering university may be motivated by the need to be as good in science and engineering as a comparable student graduating from a university in New Delhi. At that point more demands for educational opportunities will be placed on American colleges and universities, but some lag will occur as more teachers are trained and put into service. If American universities are permitted to degrade in the interim, those teachers might better be educated abroad. At present many Americans are dangerously complacent about their occupational futures in the false belief that they are entitled to an easy path to great wealth.
  9. There is currently a malaise affecting the educational "product" in the U.S. due to several paradoxical social currents: (1) A feeling of satisfaction with one's own abilities (whatever they are) and of entitlement to the good things of life, and (2) A feeling of hopelessness as one comes nearer and nearer to the end of one's years of learning and realizes how really poorly one has learned in comparison to one's world-wide cohort, and (3) an overvaluing of money, which makes many young people prepare themselves educationally for careers that offer the most money for the greatest amount of effort that the student feels prepared to devote to study.
  10. For many Americans the problem may begin with the attitudes and expectations of parents who have learned to fear the power of the dominant factions in society, to hate the abuses of power that members of all factions (but especially dominant factions) may commit, to believe that the deck is stacked so that it does not make any sense to exert effort in trying to better one's condition. Children of such parents may view school as a prison, and a place to suffer boredom, random acts of violence perpetrated by other students, and abuses from teachers on any level. Such students may well attempt to subvert this process of education because they perceive it as being oppressive. Then, when they start to face adult responsibilities they realize how much of their education they would have to make up in order to be able to compete on a level playing field.
  11. Giving funds for education low priority is perhaps an instance of a more general characteristic shared by a growing part of the general education -- the insistence that one should not pay for the education, the health care services, etc. of anyone else. Those who have benefited from accumulated material wealth and cultural advantages now smugly assert that they deserve their own wealth and have no responsibility to share it by paying taxes to fund the education and otherwise nurture those who have been left out. Americans need to understand the sometimes very subtle ways that the community can benefit the individual.
  12. Americans are good at specifying outcomes, but poor at determining how those objectives should be achieved. This characteristic manifests itself in formal religions perhaps most clearly. It also manifests itself in the tendency of government officials at all levels to say, "You must..."

The U.S. in world politics

Like a juggler, we must keep our eye not on "the ball" but on several balls at the same time. They include:

  1. Affecting the recruitment rate of the transnational guerilla organizations.
  2. Maintaining friendly access to needed resources, particularly oil.
  3. Strengthening relations among nations so that we do not face future firestorms with a "coalition of the willing" consisting of one and a fraction nations.
  4. Strengthening cooperation among police and intelligence organizations to meet a transnational threat with international cooperation among the nations that are threatened.
  5. Forswearing an ostrich attitude toward actions of Saudi and Pakistani political factions that give aid to transnational guerilla groups -- even as we strive to engage these nations in a positive manner. That means keeping open ears for information on the true motivations of significant figures in the Middle East and particularly in those two countries.
  6. Funding sop-up of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons grade fissionable materials at a responsible level.
  7. Funding nation building activities in Afghanistan at an adequate level.
  8. Actually leading in efforts to control release of greenhouse gasses rather than dragging our feet.
  9. Develop a methodology for building and fostering institutions that are responsive to the needs of the people of challenged nations (Afghanistan, Iraq,... even Burma if we can exert any influence there) rather than responding to the wishes of particular factions in the society. For instance, police departments need to function under the principle of equality before the law, and police recruits need to be socialized and disciplined so that at the very minimum while they are in uniform they do things according to the law and not according to their personal or group preferences. It may well be impossible to morally transform individuals, but experience, e.g., in Hong Kong, has shown that it is possible to maintain police organizations that are well ordered according to laws and the regulations of their organization.

Needed: compelling vision for the post-9/11 world

Internal security

  1. Full Constitutional guarantees will be maintained. Searches will be performed only as permitted by law.
  2. We can easily afford to and will quickly scan 100% of incoming ocean traffic. (Rep. Mel Watts, 28 July 1960 speech)
  3. We will pre-scan American cities for radiation hot spots, starting with the most vulnerable ones, to prepare us for searching and clearing cities claimed to be threatened by time bombs.
  4. We will establish biometric "pre-cleared" smart cards to facilitate normal travel for those who happen to have the same names as individuals on legitimate watch lists.
  5. We will expeditiously clear the names of individuals falsely accused or falsely suspected and maintain a clear "audit trail" establishing why the individual was originally put under suspicion, how the government responded to any ill intent in the raising of allegations against such an individual, and the details of the investigation that cleared this person.
  6. We will establish realistic criteria for the value of sites as potential targets for terrorist attacks, and we will direct resources accordingly.

External outreach

  1. We will establish ombudsman bureaus to accept, interpret, and effectively deal with the concerns of minority groups here and abroad.
  2. We pledge to maintain a clear distinction between the actions of individuals claiming the backing of minority groups, religions, etc., and the peaceable members of said organizations.
  3. In addition to scrupulously adhering to our human rights obligations under pertinent treaties, we will also respect the spirit behind our Constitutional provisions for due process and give fair and prompt treatment to all individuals arrested or otherwise detained. An independent judiciary will pass on questions of just or unjust treatment, and, upon release, each individual will be given an exit interview with an Ombudsman who will be charged with investigating and prosecuting allegations of bad treatment.
  4. We will establish an emissary for each trouble region that develops, charged with oversight and coordination of U.S. efforts in the region, cooperation with other interested governments, NGOs, etc., and making reports on a timely basis that will be directly accessible by the President on his discretion.

U.S. in context of the world

  1. We need to stop trying to dominate other nations.
  2. We need to proactively establish conditions of world prosperity -- this is not a zero-sum game.
  3. Equality before the law should apply among nations as it should apply among individuals.
  4. As we have learned the need to integrate our protective services (local and state police, FBI, intelligence agencies) we need to explore opportunities for generalizing this approach beyond national boundaries.
  5. We need to learn to lead from behind and to support from within.

Links

Outside readings

John Boyd, various publications that are currently on-line.

David Coates and Joel Krieger, Blair's War(final chapter), ISBN: 0-7456-3359-50000

William R. Corson, Consequences of Failure, Norton, 1974.

William R. Corson, The Betrayal,, Norton (Ace) 1968. ISBN 020-1405-095

Hamilton, Jay, Madison, Federalist Papers

Master Sun's Art of War (孫子兵法 Sun Zi Bing Fa) Several translations with titles like "Sun Tzu's Art of War" are currently in print. Barnes and Noble has one of them.

Relevant cinema

The Battle of Algiers

How to Eat Soup with a Knife

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