Whenever you go to an airport, you hear an announcement about the “terror alert”: it’s yellow, it’s red, it’s orange, whatever. The color code is linked to “intelligence” flowing into Washington at the moment, whatever alleged plot is being hatched by our enemies abroad. But the reality is that America’s deadliest enemies aren’t hunkered down in some cave in Afghanistan: they’re right here in our midst, in the Imperial capital itself, Washington, D. C. Because the biggest threat to our national security isn’t military – it’s economic.
Our economic terror alert, if such a thing existed, ought to be at the brightest red, because what we’re facing is the biggest threat to our national security ever: I’m talking about the spiraling national debt, and the ongoing destruction of the dollar.
People realize this, albeit in an indirect way: that’s what all this “tea party” noise is about, although the tea partiers themselves, for the most part, don’t realize the enormity and immediacy of the threat. Somewhere in the background, just below the level of consciousness, a time-bomb is tick-ticking away. Some people hear it, in various degrees of loudness, while others are deaf to this ominous sound.
The day after the election, the Federal Reserve made a little-noticed announcement that it’s printing up another $1 trillion. Go here for a fuller explanation of how and why it happened, and what it means. Suffice to say here that what goes up must come down: a bubble, inflated, must eventually pop. That’s simple enough, but let’s take it one step further: the hubris that inspires the Fed to print up more play money, which will drive up inflation, increase the cost of imports (i.e. everything), and make goods more expensive for average Americans is in the same league as that which inspired George W. Bush and his minions to declare a “war on terrorism,” invade the Middle East, and imagine they would prevail.
The irony is that the former will be the undoing of the latter: the destruction of the dollar means the implosion of the American empire, and the relegation of the US to what used to be called – in more politically incorrect times – a “Third World” nation.
The economic crisis is the biggest single threat to our national security: this is something that both the US State Department and Osama bin Laden agree on. A few years after the Evil One chortled that America is bankrupting itself going abroad in search of monsters to destroy, Lehman Brothers fell and took AIG, and a good chunk of the US economy, along with it.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was the Gen. Petraeus of his time, champing at the bit to have an unfettered go at the enemy, but Obama is no Truman, and lacks the strength to rein in the pushy self-promoting commander. Yet MacArthur saw, back then, what his modern day successor is no doubt blind to, and I quote:
"Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense…. Indeed, it is a part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.”
Let us turn to Garet Garrett, the prophetic voice of the Old Right – a prophet without honor in his own time and country. Yet his astonishingly prescient words ring down through the years and haunt our waking dreams:
"The bald interpretation of General MacArthur’s words is this. War becomes an instrument of domestic policy. Among the control mechanisms on the government’s panel board now is a dial marked War. It may be set to increase or decrease the tempo of military expenditures, as the planners decide that what the economy needs is a little more inflation or a little less – but of course never any deflation. And whereas it was foreseen that when Executive Government is resolved to control the economy it will come to have a vested interest in the power of inflation, so now we may perceive that it will come also to have a kind of proprietary interest in the institution of perpetual war."
That was written sometime in 1950 – see, I told you Garret’s prescience would astound you.
Think of war as just another “stimulus package,” one that stimulates the military-industrial complex and keeps the production lines humming – for the moment. Wars are financed by inflation, by the printing of Federal Reserve Notes (otherwise known as “money”), as is the whole panoply of government programs and “entitlements” designed to keep the people dumb and happy. This was a “progressive” “reform” that was pushed through at the turn of the last century, and supposedly immunized us from the depredations of the business cycle. Yes, they really believe that, even as the cycle returns with a vengeance.
Now here come the tea partiers, asking: but what about the growing government debt? “Progressives” answer: there is no debt, because, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt — their family god — once put it: “We owe it to ourselves!”
That was no kind of answer, at least not one overseas investors in our debt would today find reassuring, but that doesn’t bother our Keynesian geniuses, the economic planners who think their edicts are weightier than the immutable laws of economics.
Given the course we have been on and are continuing on – in which the government printing presses are seen as the path to recovery – we are headed for hyper-inflation and economic catastrophe. There is, however, a growing awareness of the cause of the crisis – the Federal Reserve system – and a burgeoning movement to rein it in, and eventually abolish it. That would be like driving a stake through the very heart of the War God – and the whole pantheon of self-imagined deities who populate the Mount Olympus of official Washington.
This election season, the tea partiers stormed the halls of Congress and took several key positions, but were outflanked by the Federal Reserve, which announced that very day that we’d be spending another trillion – and it was done without congressional approval. Since the Fed is a “private” agency, it doesn’t have to answer to Congress — even though it was created by Congress which passed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913.
Opposed by many at the time, the Fed was nonetheless rammed through by the Eastern financial establishment, which clearly benefited from creation of a government-sponsored central bank. It passed with the full support of President Woodrow Wilson – who would need it in order to launch his war to “make the world safe for democracy” a mere four years later.
While the Fed is the central issue here, and the tea partiers who have recently enjoyed such electoral success seem amenable to taking up this fight, what they don’t yet get is that all government spending – including military spending – must be put on the table. The “big government conservatives,” such as Bill Kristol, fully understand that this is where the logic of the tea partiers is leading the movement – and they’re determined to head them off at the pass by scaring them into silence.
The tea partiers, however, don’t seem like the types who are easily scared, and it seems to me they are likely to react by going where they are told only angels fear to tread. Well, no tea partier is an angel, but perhaps a good many of them are contrarians who will dare to go against the “conventional wisdom” in Washington, and the so-called conservative movement, and begin to ask some basic questions. Starting with: why are we spending more on our military than the defense expenditures of all other nations on earth combined? Why is this untouchable? Because if they don’t ask these kinds of questions, their entire effort is futile and their movement is doomed to fail.
The politicians who lead them, or who have jumped on the tea party bandwagon without being rudely pushed off, have a political and moral responsibility to … well, lead. And leading, in this context, means raising the “defense” issue, and questioning why a bankrupt nation such as ours thinks it can afford an empire.
Ron Paul makes this point at every opportunity, and now that his son is in the Senate, one hopes he’ll raise the issue, too. Progressives are rightly challenging the tea partiers and demanding to know: okay, now that you’re in power, what specifically are you going to cut? On election night, as the Republican wave rolled over the country, Chris Matthews asked one newly-elected tea party-type Republican, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, if cuts in the defense budget are part of her vision. “No,” she said, “you don’t cut defense and you don’t cut Homeland Security.”
So we must maintain our empire of bases, all across the face of Europe, Asia, and the rest of the globe – as we sink into the double-quagmire of bankruptcy and unwinnable overseas wars.
Marsha Blackburn is a problem for the tea partiers, such as Ron and Rand Paul, who imagine they are going to lead a movement to return our republic to the path of fiscal solvency and economic sanity. How they intend to overcome this obstacle is the key to their success – or ultimate failure.
I was a little hard on Rand Paul when he showed signs of caving in to pressure on foreign policy-related issues in general, but now that he’s elected he may feel safer in taking a bolder stance. Be that as it may, it’s not just a matter of taking up a side issue, as a favor to libertarians: it is quite simply a fact of reality that the debt cannot be controlled as long as uncontrolled military spending is on autopilot.
Rep. Blackburn babbles on about how “Homeland Security” cannot be cut – when we inspect a minuscule portion of the tremendous flow of cargo that comes into this country each and every day. What kind of homeland security is that? Meanwhile, we’re fighting two unwinnable wars, and inching into Pakistan – and, back in the homeland, there is neither security nor prosperity.
The crisis of the state-capitalist system is ripened to the point of bursting, and the objective conditions for a popular revolt are similarly overripe. What this means, in operational terms, is that the crisis is reduced to one of leadership. As Garrett put it at the very end of his scintillatingly prophetic pamphlet, Rise of Empire:
“When the economy has for a long time been moving by jet propulsion, the higher the faster, on the fuel of perpetual war and planned inflation, a time comes when you have to choose whether to go on and on and dissolve in the stratosphere, or decelerate. But deceleration will cause a terrific shock. Who will say, ‘Now!’ Who is willing to face the grim and dangerous realities of deflation and depression?
“When Moses had brought his people near to the Promised Land he sent out scouts to explore it. They returned with rapturous words for its beauties and its fruits, whereupon the people were shrill with joy, until the scouts said: ‘The only thing is, this land is inhabited by very fierce men." Moses said: "Come. Let us fall upon them and take the land. It is ours from the Lord.’
“At that the people turned bitterly on Moses, and said: ‘What a prophet you have turned out to be! So the land is ours if we can take it? We needed no prophet to tell us that.’”
“No doubt the people know they can have their Republic back if they want it enough to fight for it and to pay the price. The only point is that no leader has yet appeared with the courage to make them choose.”
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
The Antiwar.com Autumn tour is far from over. Next up:
NOVEMBER 10, 6:30 p.m. Western Connecticut State University (Westside Classroom Building, WS Room 218, 43 Lake Avenue Ext., Danbury, CT 06811). Hosted by the Ridgefield Liberty Co-op. $1,000 prize essay contest encourages students to submit a thoughtful essay after the talk. Free admission.
On November 11th, the Boston Chapter of Come Home America will be hosting my talk on “How We Can Organize a Left-Right Alliance Against the War Parties — and Why We Must.” The event will be held at the Arlington Street Church (351 Boylston Street, Boston, MA) at 7 p.m. Free admission.
NOVEMBER 18, 7:30 p.m. University of California at Berkeley (20 Barrows Hall, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704). Hosted by Students for Liberty. Free admission.