Tactics, Not Strategy, in the Antiwar Movement

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The war in
Iraq will not go away until George W. Bush goes away. If there is
one fact of Bush’s personality that should be obvious to everyone
by now, it is this: he does not learn — not from mistakes, not
from political polls, and not from reading.

Antiwar critics
should accept this and plan in terms of it. He will not bring the
troops home by Christmas — any Christmas.

Unless Congress
cuts all funding for the war in Iraq, there will be a war in Iraq.
The day that I put my faith in Congress to do the principled thing
prior to polls indicating that the voters back home will remove
them, one by one, for not doing the principled thing, is the day
a staffer wheels me into the Alzheimer’s care unit.

The war a year
from now may be today’s size, or perhaps a tad smaller if Bush’s
advisors persuade him that he will still be perceived as the Mission
Accomplished President after he pulls some of them out. But there
will be 100,000+ uniformed targets in Iraq next Christmas, 2006.

Antiwar journalists
can write all the articles they want about the illegitimate war
in Iraq. They can fill the Internet with reminders of “no WMD.”
None of this is going to change the war in Iraq until Bush’s term
ends in 2009. The war will go on.

The tactical
question today is this: What can critics do to persuade the voters
that (1) this war is a colossal mistake, (2) our troops’ continued
presence in the Middle East is an equally colossal mistake, and
(3) American troops must get out of the region and stay out?

This means:
(1) letting the international market for oil determine the allocation
of oil (Arab states as the main sellers, the rest of us as buyers),
(2) letting Osama bin Laden declare “mission accomplished,” and
(3) letting the State of Israel defend itself by itself.

This will be
a tougher marketing job than it sounds.

A VERY
COMPLEX COMPLEX

American non-interventionists
have faced an implacable public opinion ever since December 7, 1941.
Public opinion can be controlled by controlling the flow of information.
Until the advent of the Internet, this flow of information was systematically
and self-consciously controlled by an inherently internationalist
American Establishment.

The elite that
has long controlled American foreign policy has also controlled
the government-regulated and government-funded media, especially
state-accredited higher education. This elite is committed to the
ideal of American empire, but always in the name of pragmatism.
Its primary academic manifesto set forth the Establishment’s worldview
over half a century ago: Robert E. Osgood’s book, Ideals
and Self-Interest in American Foreign Relations
.

In his final
speech as President, Dwight Eisenhower labeled this elite “the military-industrial
complex.” This was only 40% of the complex. The banking-oil complex
has always been part of the larger complex. This co-partner is uniquely
international.

Until May 15,
1948, when Truman recognized the newly formed State of Israel, the
American Establishment had been overwhelmingly WASP. Yet the Establishment
was divided over this issue in 1948. The incarnation of the older
Establishment, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, told Truman
a few days before the recognition that he would not resign in protest
if Truman recognized the State of Israel, but he would surely vote
against Truman in November, if he voted, which as a military man,
he didn’t. Somehow, this threat did not stop Truman. The Middle
East from that day forth became a permanently divisive issue inside
the American Establishment.

This five-part
complex constitutes the largest concentration of capital in the
world, and therefore is the most influential special-interest group
in the world.

This special-interest
group has its headquarters in New York City, but it rests on the
cooperation of the political heads of oil-rich Muslim states. If
the flow of oil stops because of a series of radical Islamic revolutions,
the entire complex goes down, and with it the West’s economy. Fractional
reserve banking is lubricated by oil.

All sides understand
this, including Osama bin Laden. All sides of the Establishment
have a special interest in keeping the oil flowing. No side trusts
the free market to allocate oil, for oil is not strictly a free
market commodity. It is controlled at the wellhead by civil governments.
Problem: the civil governments of Arabia are no more stable than
the tribes and sects of Islam.

This is why
we are in Iraq. All other explanations are subordinate. If the American
foreign policy establishment were not committed to keeping the oil
flowing, it would have cut short President Bush’s adventurism. His
father’s adventurism had borders. His New World Order rhetoric was
based on the existence of an old boy network that recognized the
importance of the pacification of Saudi Arabia and Iraq as a counter
to Iran. His son’s version of the New World Order does not.

The foreign
policy Establishment is internally divided. The hawks in 2001 feared
Iraq more than they feared Iran. Because of this division, President
Bush got his war. The pro-Israel hawks are behind him. So is the
military-industrial complex, which is reaping untold billions.

The banking-oil
complex is out of the loop. The old timers in this segment of the
Establishment worry that an overly aggressive American nationalism
will threaten the stability of the Middle East, and hence threaten
the flow of oil. These are the grand old masters of the complex.
They are being ignored, just as they were ignored in 1948. They
accepted a fait accompli in 1948. I do not think they regard the
present Bush administration as a fait accompli. It is a temporary
disruption that will go away in 2009. Their job is to find a replacement
candidate in each party who will bring most of the troops home.

How many troops?
Here, the Establishment has no unified opinion. They do not trust
the free market to allocate oil. They also know that the region
will likely become less stable after the troops leave.

George W. Bush
broke the pottery. “If you break it, you own it,” Colin Powell warned
him. He will no longer own it in 2009. It will remain broken.

Who will pick
up the pieces?

THE
INTERNET

The rise of
the Internet has become the unexpected event of the twenty-first
century. It is rapidly redistributing wealth from the Goliaths of
the Establishment’s complex, which rests on physical production
and fractional reserves, to a bunch of fast-moving Davids, who are
involved in the production of ideas and entrepreneurial opportunities.
If you want a slogan, I recommend this one: the transition from
atoms to electrons
.

The key economic
fact that governs this transition is this: a vast reduction of
transaction costs
. This has dramatically reduced most barriers
to entry. It is also taking place beyond the regulatory powers of
the state. This also is reducing the barriers to entry.

This reduction
of transaction costs is driving today’s antiwar movement. Without
a reduction of transaction costs, there can be no successful antiwar
movement. We have seen this before.

The antiwar
movement of 1967—70 was based on political shock troops: college
students. The state had created a huge concentration of millions
of young men through tax-subsidized tuition. This brought self-interested
people in contact with each other: low transaction costs. The threat
of the military draft gave them an incentive to march. Their marching
orders were provided initially by five college-age men who met in
a hotel room in 1967 to design the national protest strategy. I
know one of them, who later defected from Marxism to Christianity.
Someday, he ought to write their story. He has told me a few of
the details.

That antiwar
movement ended in May, 1970, at Kent State University. Protestors
were gunned down by the local National Guard. The following September,
the antiwar movement ended on campus, as did the visible signs
of the counter culture: dogs. There were no more dogs roaming on
campus. The whiff of grapeshot had worked. That was because the
protest was focused in one geographical area: the campus. Guns could
control the campus. The Vietnam war dragged on for another five
years.

Today, the
Internet is serving as the institutional equivalent of the university
in 1967. But this time, there is no geographical location of the
protest movement. Guns therefore cannot control it. Nothing can
control it.

The foreign
policy Establishment remains divided. Its primary mouthpieces are
print media, which are rapidly losing market share. There is no
way for this process to be reversed. The revolution was.

Years ago,
Peter Drucker observed that any new technology which reduces the
costs of production or distribution by 90% will inevitably replace
the existing technology. The Internet has reduced the cost of distributing
information by more than 90%. The cost of our time has increased,
but we volunteer this time, either as producers (website owners)
or consumers of information (readers).

Add to this
the incredibly low cost of the Forward button.

Have you ever
considered the threat to the American Establishment posed by the
Forward button? Someone should write a book on the demise of the
Establishment: Fast Forward.

The Internet
is serving as a termite nest to the frame houses of the Establishment
in every nation. It is providing facts and editorials that undermine
the reading public’s confidence in the official sources of information.

There is no
unifying voice on the Internet. There is no all-encompassing worldview.
Most important of all, there is no centralized group to buy off.

In 1948, Aneurin
Bevan was asked by a Labor Party member how he had persuaded the
leaders of Great Britain’s physicians to lead their followers into
the National Health Service. His answer remains the touchstone of
the Establishment: “I stuffed their mouths with gold.” No longer.

There are far
too many termites for the Establishment to deal with successfully.
Too many of them are ideologues. Too many of them have ideals. They
are attracting their own complexes.

NO ANTIWAR
STRATEGY WILL WORK, THANKFULLY

The Internet
has no strategy. That is why it constitutes a true revolution. It
is a technology, not a strategy. The nature of this technology is
counter-strategy. The cost of transmitting information is borne
by people who volunteer their time and who have Forward buttons.
This has never happened before.

The only thing
I can think of that is comparable was the system of Roman roads
in the first century. Every religious group could take its message
across the empire. The infrastructure was maintained by the state.

The printing
press was similar in the sixteenth century, but presses were expensive.
They could be targeted by censors. Paper sales could be traced.
The ideological conflicts of the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation
were conducted with atoms, not electrons. The Internet revolution
isn’t.

The Internet
is the incarnation of Hayek’s concept of the spontaneous order.
We have never seen anything like it before. The degree of spontaneity
is spectacularly high because the transaction costs are so low.
You can get your two cents’ worth into the discussion for well
under a penny. This fact is changing the world.

There is no
overall strategy . . . not in anything connected with the Internet
or to the Internet. It really is spontaneous, as far as non-Calvinists
can affirm the existence of spontaneity.

This means
that tactics are everything. Those critics who keep hammering away
at the war in Iraq are like men with jack hammers. If they don’t
quit early and their internal organs don’t fail, the highway will
soon be a shambles.

MY THREE
QUESTIONS

I wrote earlier,

The
tactical question today is this: What can critics do to persuade
the voters that (1) this war is a colossal mistake, (2) our troops’
continued presence in the Middle East is an equally colossal mistake,
and (3) we must get out and stay out?

Here are my
answers.

First, critics
can act just as termites act. They can keep chewing on the structure.
This undermines its legitimacy, and legitimacy means everything.
Without it, voluntary cooperation ceases. Public support is withdrawn,
voter by voter. This is now happening to the Bush Administration.

Second, critics
with an anti-empire vision of the Middle East can capitalize on
the failed war in Iraq as an example of the cost of empire in that
region. They can use Iraq as an ideological domino. “You want more
Iraqs? Just stay the Establishment’s course.” Putting this in one
slogan: “Bring the troops home by Christmas." This will reinforce
that other slogan: “Get the troops out by Ramadan.”

Third, non-interventionists
must produce comprehensive historical works that show that Iraq
is merely a representative example of the American Empire in general.
They must make it clear that it really is an empire, and that empires
are not only doomed throughout history, they are doomed for a reason:
they rest on coercion.

Step three
will be very expensive. Were it not for the falling costs of communication,
this program would not be plausible. It will not be easy. There
is no non-interventionist equivalent of Ideals and Self-Interest
in American Foreign Relations. That book must be written. It
must show that George Washington’s recommendation in his Farewell
Address is the only viable solution, both ideally and pragmatically,
to Dwight Eisenhower’s warning in his Farewell Address.

CONCLUSION

The American
Establishment is divided today. It resembles the Bush family. It
cannot articulate clearly what must be done. Yet something must
be done to cut our losses. Something will be done to cut our losses.

We have seen
this before. The British Establishment in 1945 was in a similar
condition. The Round Table’s experts had led the empire into bankruptcy
through two world wars. A funny looking little man with a shaved
head and a loin cloth stood up to Milner’s heirs and brought them
down. The domino process began in 1945.

There is a
scene in Gandhi
where a British official asks him, “Do you think we will just pick
up and walk out of India?” He replies, “Yes, I think that is exactly
what you will do.” In 1947, they did.

Otto Scott
surveyed the disintegration of the British Empire and the demise
of the Round Table’s influence in his book, The
Other End of the Lifeboat
. He correctly identified the cause.
Milner & Company had been too clever by half.

As the spiritual
and institutional heir of the Round Table, so is the Council on
Foreign Relations.

The Internet
provides an effective means for persuading the Establishment: article
by article, the Internet undermines the Establishment’s will to
resist. Best of all, it leaves no physical marks. Some critics might
call this a digital version of the Chinese water torture. I prefer
to call it a unique and innovative way to gain cooperation.

If
you want a slogan to describe the task that non- interventionists
have in confronting America’s foreign policy Establishment and its
self-interested empire, I can do no better than to quote W. C. Fields:
“Never give a sucker an even break.”

November
26, 2005

Gary
North [send him mail] is the
author of Mises
on Money
. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 17-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible
.

Gary
North Archives

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