September 11, 2006

Strakon Lights Up

Five years after 9/11
Victory through renunciation

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Five years after 9/11, all manner of sober appraisals and reappraisals of the War on Terror are appearing in print, on the air, and on the Web. Naturally I feel obliged to offer an appraisal of my own, and I am attempting to make it not only sober but unusually moderate. That is, I'm going to submit my own idea of how Americans could achieve some real success in the War on Terror, but — much against my inclination — I'm going to refrain from calling for the immediate demolition of the United State and all its works.

Instead, limiting myself to proposals of cautious, preliminary, incremental, quarter-measure reform, I'm going to call only for the renunciation of empire, both overseas and at home.

Let our rulers, then, do the following — and you should imagine all these actions to be modified by the adverb immediately:

Withdraw their military forces within the boundaries of the United State, and restrict their naval and air forces to the defense of the national perimeter. You remember defense, I trust. In becoming an overseas empire, the United State has managed to render the very idea of defense mightily obscure if not wholly forgotten.

Unilaterally cease all military aid and other subsidies to other nation-states, beginning with but certainly not limited to Israel. Among other things this renunciation would forbid the government to bail out American banks that persist in lending to foreign governments.

Declare in plain, emphatic language that the United State has no rightful business preserving any foreign regime or overthrowing any regime that has not initiated war against it, and no business plotting to overthrow regimes through the intermediary of any "friendly" regime.

Declare in plain, emphatic language that the U.S. government is not responsible for defending or rescuing any of its citizens who venture abroad and get into trouble. This would apply in spades to U.S. corporations that venture abroad; let them defend themselves.

Abolish all export subsidies, tariffs, quotas, and other measures that interfere with authentic free trade — as opposed to the counterfeit free trade managed by politically privileged elites and for their own benefit. As I have written before, true free trade is not instituted by means of thousand-page documents, unless a thousand pages are required to list all the laws and regulations that are being repealed. Elite-managed trade is a driver of empire.

Repeal all laws and regulations that control energy production and marketing, or that interfere with the private ownership, development, and management of energy resources. (This would actually horrify the more politically dependent elements of Big Oil, but ordinary Americans would be vastly better off.) Tort actions in civil court, with all reasonable rules of evidence applying, would replace environmental regulation.

Cease all Central Government involvement with highways — in fact, with transportation in general. You see how one thing is connected to another, even as I try to restrict myself to proposing timid, gradualist, technocratic reform. Seriously, only in a free economy could the natural structure of the transportation industries emerge; and only in a free economy could we measure our actual dependence on oil, foreign or domestic.

Completely rip up all laws and regulations that punish people for defending themselves and their families, and all laws and regulations that deny the freedom of association. In terms of the Terror War, I am thinking of how dodgy aliens might be integrated into our society, or not integrated. Lest my comrades accuse me of too much moderation, I will mention that I have planted a few land mines among my recommendations; and one of them is the following. Restoring freedom of association would require, among much else, the abolition of "public," i.e., state, schooling. That, in turn, would blow into bits one of the most important pipelines of government propaganda.

Stop the flow of tax money to antiwhite pressure groups and to other Red Guard outfits — such as Catholic Charities — that import nonwhite or other unassimilable aliens and settle them among us.

Restore to all criminal suspects and defendants the traditional protections of American law as formulated in the old Constitution, including the right to counsel; the rights of habeas corpus, confrontation of accusers, and speedy and public trial; the right to be immune from warrantless and arbitrary search and seizure; the right against self-incrimination; the right of due process; the right to be protected against cruel and unusual punishment; and so on. Now, as an anarchist I will not praise the formulations of the Constitution in any absolute sense; they are at best a pale and twisted reflection of the law that would emerge naturally in a free society. For example, the "privilege" of habeas corpus as described in Article II, Section 9, is fatally flawed: it can be suspended by a mere majority vote of Congress! Nonetheless, the restoration of the traditional protections, and their absolute observance, would at least accomplish a salutary retreat from the latest tyranny.

Abolish all Central Government law-enforcement agencies, certainly including the secret-police agencies.

Impeach and try all Central Government officers who have waged war that is illegal under the Constitution they pretend to respect, and all such officers who have violated the civil-liberties provisions of that Constitution. This would necessitate action by those of our rulers who sit in Congress.

My fellow moderates will be able to think of other minimalist reforms, no doubt. But I will rest on these.

Minimalist or not, the reforms I propose would amount to a renunciation of empire. I labor under no illusion that any of them will be implemented. They are not in the interest of the political and bureaucratic classes, or in the interest of the ruling class that employs them; and those people are not about to be overthrown; nor are they about to change their spots. They feed on power, and power feeds on chaos.

The American people are not about to rediscover noninterventionism, either. Certainly, they may turn petulant when a specific intervention leads to disaster, and they may "throw the bums out" — those of the bums who appear on ballots — but ten or twenty years later they will permit new bums to seduce them all over again. The principle of nonintervention is now as foreign to our people as the principle of Liberty (with which the former is closely connected). In this closing chapter of our civilization we have no reason to think a renaissance is possible.

But that doesn't make my proposals frivolous and inane. A doctor may propose that a patient quit drinking, quit overeating, and engage in more physical exercise; if the patient replies, "Doc, you and I both know that ain't gonna happen," the doctor's advice is not thereby made frivolous and inane. The doctor is honor-bound to tell his patient the truth, not fairy tales that the patient may find congenial. The burden of frivolity and inanity finds its proper place even more definitely if the patient replies, "Naa, what I'm gonna do instead, Doc, is drink more, eat more, and get even less exercise." I needn't dwell on what kind of patient George Bush & Co. would represent, within this analogy.

What of genuine foreign terrorists, especially those of the definitive species, fundamentalist Muslims? If the Washington regime were somehow to renounce empire, would peace with them ensue, or would they "follow us home," as the neocons insist? Although the Muslims are of course not "fascists" — Bush & Co. are the fascists — they are hardly saints, either. Their zest for murdering civilians sufficiently demonstrates their lack of saintliness, whether they learned their criminality from Western militarists, the Israelis, or some reading of the Koran.

We know also that even fanatics live in James Burnham's political world of "men, time, and events." The need to preserve, and the ambition to extend, their own power and influence may drive them beyond their own genuine, personal fanaticism. For example, if we were to take him at his word, Osama bin Laden's principal demand of Americans at one time was only that they cease intervening in the Muslim world. More recently, however, we have heard a demand from Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that Westerners convert to Islam or be killed. The first demand is reasonable for a non-fanatic; the second is self-evidently absurd even for a fanatic. But to preserve their own power the terrorist leaders must satisfy their constituents to some extent, and some of the latter might not be wholly placated now by a U.S. withdrawal.

Long before 9/11 our rulers declared a blood feud with the Muslims, one that has resulted in the deaths of many parents, siblings, children, and friends. Some of those bereaved have now taken the fundamentalist-terrorist path in a desperate attempt to strike back. Would they forgive and forget if the United State, on its way to rebecoming the United States, were to say, "Oh, sorry. Well, we won't be doing that again"?

I don't know about you, but I've always found one of the most aggravating qualities of the universe we live in to be the fact that time moves in only one direction: once you've done something awful, you can't undo it. And even if you really didn't do it, and it was merely done in your name, you still may have to live with it.

But if the American renunciation of empire could not induce Muslim terrorists to stay in their homelands, where henceforth they would be unbothered at least by Americans, then nothing could. Nothing would keep them away short of genocide, in view of the apparently endless line of eager suicide freaks stretching back over the horizon. And even I do not expect our rulers, evil as they are, to engage in outright nuclear genocide. One hesitates to declare what the manikin George W. Bush does or does not really desire; but our ultimate masters in the ruling class cannot desire outright victory in historical time, through genocide or any other means. They seek perpetual war in order to perpetually strengthen the leviathan that empowers and enriches them. Is that not evident to any reasonable adult? In purportedly seeking to destroy "terror" and extirpate "evildoing" in the world our rulers have promulgated millennialist war aims that are plainly unattainable in our earthly realm, even if honestly and honorably sought.

Let us suppose for a moment that, whatever happened, evildoers of the Muslim kind would continue to come among us, or try to come.

As I argue for moral action, I argue at the same time that the moral is the practical; I argue for renunciation of empire not only on moral grounds but on practical grounds, too. Without empire abroad and totalitarianism at home, the United State would be much weaker, but America and perforce the American people would be much stronger. Allah help any Muslim terrorists — and even he would have difficulty helping them — who came among a people proud, vigilant, armed, and energized by their refound liberty.

The state makes us weak, stupid, helpless, and hysterical; liberty allows us and our social institutions, including our means of defense, to be as strong, smart, efficacious, and sober as we and they are capable of being. Though I am trying not to press my anarchism in this writing, I can't resist inviting you to imagine a laissez-faire Andrew Carnegie, James J. Hill, and John D. Rockefeller at the head of free-market defense companies. What could the old American genius — in a competitive market — for invention, organization, and management accomplish in the security and justice industries?

In any event, it is highly obnoxious to see the state go abroad, not merely in search of monsters to destroy, but in search of monsters to create — as it has done, notoriously, in the cases of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine — and then assert that only it can protect us. And, worse, that it can protect us only by doing more of what put us in our present fix to begin with. The statists and imperialists are the real utopians, and no one who has read a little history can be surprised when everything they do leads to dystopia.

If the U.S. Empire were to vanish, Osama and his mouseketeers might not forgive and forget, but others in the Muslim world would find much else with which to occupy themselves. Al Qaeda might continue to advance absurd demands, but its natural constituency would surely shrink as ordinary Muslims began enjoying a new chance to live normal, productive lives, within the limits of their culture and native ability. No doubt many would continue, at long range, to despise Jessica Simpson, Jerry Springer, and American bastardy and homosexualism; but in the end they would still have families to raise and olive groves to tend.

Their sons and daughters would also have new incentives to pursue Paradise without murdering themselves — and us — but we must recognize that a U.S. withdrawal would not necessarily end the blood feuds among the Muslim tribes themselves that Washington has done so much to aggravate (to the delight of the Zionists). As one murder provokes another, blood feuds take on a deadly life of their own. I am by no means indifferent to that destruction of life, and its accompanying destruction of wealth and property; and the state criminals in Washington will have to answer to history for their part in encouraging it; but Muslim-on-Muslim feuding in their native lands is not the kind of internecine terrorism that Americans should fear. In the years to come, it will be the internecine terrorism among our own incompatible tribes that will most urgently endanger our lives and property.

September 11, 2006

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Commentators on our side of things often contrast the stability sought by the traditional multilateral imperialists with the chaos eagerly fomented by the new-style neocon radicals. I have done some of that contrasting myself. But chaos is a relative term. The old-style "moderate" imperialists may have thought they were imposing real stability, but — if I may take a page from Miss Condoleezza Rice's book — what they actually imposed was false stability. And their "stability" produced sufficient chaos at long range to provoke the attacks of 9/11 at close range. Only the present neocon chaos makes the "moderate" imperialists' chaos look like stability. That latter observation cannot, I believe, be found on any page written by Miss Rice. [Back to text]