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APRIL 2014

CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE

A recent study funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) concluded that civilizations collapse for two core reasons: The first is environmental stress caused by societies exceeding the carrying capacity of their ecologies; the second is social stratification into Elites and Masses, and the economic and political polarization that ensues. The study further argued that that the Elites invariably grow too large and consume too much, beggaring the Masses and eventually causing catastrophic famines. By implication, the only way to avert social catastrophe is by redistributing wealth - presumably, through government programs.

This simplistic approach is standard fare among Leftist academics, but poorly supported by historical evidence. Not surprisingly, a firestorm of criticism forced NASA to retract the study.

In actual fact, civilizational collapse is a poorly understood phenomenon. Here the Western Roman Empire is a case in point: Historians have studied Rome's failure for centuries, and at least a half-dozen plausible theories have been put forth to date. In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon attributed Rome's collapse to the subversive effects of Christianity; Oswald Spengler attributed it to the natural "exhaustion of possibilities" inherent in civilizational life-cycles; and Arnold Toynbee attributed it to the decline of the "creative minority" that permits civilizations to over come society-threatening challenges. More recently, military historians have argued that Rome's collapse was due to the failure of Roman Grand Strategy - the Roman political elite simply could not accept the advice of senior military commanders to abandon Italy and concentrate their remaining forces in what is today France. Had they done so, the military historians argue, the Romans might have held out for centuries.

More recently, James F. Rickards has advanced an entirely new theory of civilizational collapse based on a meld of  behaviorial (i.e., real world) economics, complexity theory, and physics. Interestingly, Mr. Rickards is not an historian - he is an attorney, an economist and an investment banker who rose to public prominence after winning a Pentagon-sponsored war game without employing or even threatening force, by simply manipulating currencies and gold reserves.

According to Rickards, aspects of the three disciplines listed above account for Rome's failure. Behaviorial economics played a critical role because Roman policymakers simply didn't understand the implications of their fiscal and economic policies - most specifically, the adulteration of Roman coinage, which dropped from a rate of 97% silver under Augustus to a mere 3% toward the end of the Empire. The result was rampant inflation, followed by price controls, and eventually by stifling regulations. The result was a form of (military) socialism that strangled the Roman economy.

Complexity Theory, which was first applied to the problem by Dr. Joseph A. Tainter in a 1988 volume entitled The Collapse of Complex Societies. played a major role as well. In an analysis of 27 failed civilizations over a 4500 year period, Tainter found the core problem was scale: Societies grow larger and more complex in an additive fashion, but the resources required to sustain them increase exponentially. Compounding an already bad situation, the larger a society becomes, the lower the return on resources invested. A simple way of understanding this is to imagine a group of cavemen just banded together, with no initial defense capability at all. In that case a very small investment in clubs and spears provides a huge increase in their ability to defend against wild animals and human marauders – but over extended periods of time, the returns from each additional investment in spears and clubs grows smaller and smaller. Barring a game-changing technological breakthrough which would create a new investment curve, such as the invention of bows and arrows, the cavemen of this example will eventually bankrupt themselves. 

This is an example of the Law of Diminishing Returns in practice. As a society becomes more complex, its return on government expenditures for defense, infrastructure, education, social welfare, etc., first levels off and then turns negative. At that point, further spending weakens the society by sapping the economy - and unless it adopts a radical change of approach, it is doomed to collapse. Apply Tainter’s thesis of Additive Scale and Exponential Costs to the militarized and bureaucratized Western Empire, and it becomes obvious why the Rome eventually collapsed. Apply it to the US Government today, and it becomes equally obvious that we are careening toward a comparable disaster.

That leaves one question still unanswered: Having successfully muddled trough one crisis after another for more than 200 years, why did Rome collapse so suddenly, in the short span  of eight years, between 468 and 476 AD?

According to Rickards, the answer is revealed by modern physics. Complex Systems, natural or otherwise, arise spontaneously, behave unpredictably, exhaust resources with abandon, and collapse catastrophically – with little or no warning. A good example is an avalanche: A normal snowfall accumulated on a mountainside will remain there, more or less unchanging, until a single snowflake begins to slide against the others. At point the slide will sometimes halt on its own, and sometimes increase to avalanche proportions. The key variable is not the last snowflake, but the underlying state of the accumulated snow. If the snowflakes are assembled in such a way that they are only marginally interactive, the slide is arrested. But if they are arranged in a critical state, i.e., one in which they are highly interactive, an avalanche results. Physicists call this a phase shift, and it applies to manmade systems as well. It was a phase shift that caused the sudden collapse of the Western Empire: The totality of Roman power happened to be arranged in such a way that a single military defeat in 468 AD caused the entire system to unravel.

The similarities between Rome Before the Fall and the United States today are obvious, or at least they should be. This is implicitly recognized by the NASA study referenced above, but their proposed solution - in essence, government-mandated redistribution - won't solve the problem. It will merely substitute a Bureaucratic Elite for the present Financial Elite.

A far better solution, apparently developed independently by Rickards and CFIS Chairman Charles S. Viar, is to radically descale and decentralize American society and governance. Both also argue in favor of restoring sound money, as the financial system, based on fiat money of no inherent value, is most vulnerable to an initial, sudden and catastrophic collapse. Rickards argues in favor of returning to the gold standard; Viar advocates a "basket currency," which would include gold, coupled to a deliberate effort to return to a society that resembles, as closely as possible, Early Republican America - or in the jargon of modern business theorists, a "flat society" characterized by decentralized and distributed decision-making, based on emergent technologies like 3-D printing and ubiquitous, small-scale "green energy" production.

As far as environmental damage is concerned, due caution is in order. But resource depletion is a phantasm: Economists agree that there are substitutes for everything; and in any event, high tech society is trending away from resource-intensive production toward resource-conserving manufacture.



SOCIETY KILLING ATTACKS

The great British historian Arnold Toynbee once remarked that civilizations perish from either suicide or murder. Having rejected the beliefs and values that first brought it into being and then propelled it to greatness, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Western Civilization is bent on self-destruction. Still, the possibility of murder cannot be ruled out.

Unfortunately, the Congress has never been inclined to seriously address this possibility. During the 1980's, President Reagan fought valiantly for his Strategic Defense Initiative, which was intended to protect the United States against a Soviet missile attack, but Congress was only willing to fund a limited research program. In the end, the Pentagon was able to end-run Capitol Hill's resistance by persuading Israel to request funding for the development of short and medium altitude interceptor systems. The fact that Congress was willing to defend Israel, but not the United States, speakes volumes about Congressional dereliction, Israel's lobbying skills, or both. It was not until 9-11 that a limited anti-missile system was approved.

But a missile attack is only one of several "society killers." Far more likely, and almost as devastating, would be an attack against America' electrical grid. If this were successfully assaulted, parts of the country could be thrown back into the 19th century.  Depending on the type of attack, it could take weeks, months, years or even decades to fully restore power.

An attack against the electrical grid could take any of three forms: A cyber attack, capable of dropping the system for days or even weeks; physical attacks on substations, transformers, and generation facilities, capable of knocking out power for counties or even states; or an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, accomplished by detonating a nuclear device at high altitude. The electromagnetic pulse from even a tiny nuke could destroy the electric grid covering a third of the country or more, by re-arranging the molecular structure of any copper and/or aluminum wires carrying a current at the time; frying transistors; and - likely - burning out any computer chips within range. The damage would be catastrophic, and it could take a decade or more to repair.

But after two shocking incidents, Congress has at long last awakened to the danger. Last year, a person or persons unknown almost succeeded in shutting off electrical power for Silicone Valley by knocking out transformers at a remote, unmanned substation with long-range rifle fire; and more recently, the owner of a small high tech firm in North Carolina succeeded in staging mock cyber attacks against major power providers. After realizing how simple it was to penetrate their computer networks - and drop their systems - Adam Crain contacted the companies he had targeted and the Department of Homeland Security. A veritable firestorm followed - the utility companies went off on a mad scramble to fix the vulnerabilities Crain identified and, according to one Washington insider, Homeland Security went "bonkers."

Protecting "The Grid" is has now emerged as the Number One domestic security priority, and Congress has fast tracked legislation mandating major security upgrades. The problem, however, is that the system is inherently vulnerable to attacks - and those vulnerabilities will only increase as the new "Smart Grid" technology takes root.

Although the proposed security upgrades will help, they will not and can not solve the problem of systemic vulnerability, which is inherent to centralized power systems. As with so many other problems that confront us today, the only real solution is to descale and decentralize - ideally, by moving toward an electrical production system in which each house, apartment block, and commercial building generates its own power. Although the technology does not yet exist for this type of individualized power generation, a major research and development effort should be mounted to achieve it.

Discrete power generation has many virtues, chief amongst them being the fact that they could be more easily shielded from EMP attacks, and the statistical impossibility that a physical attack that could knock out more than a handful of power generation units at a time. Should this approach be successfully developed and widely employed, it would remove the present, "society-killing" vulnerability that terrorists will sooner or later exploit.  




THE DEBT-BASED ECONOMY

Every now and then, the Left gets someting right. This article about the Debt-Based Economy is a stunning example. In the words of Lord Stamp, "If you want to be slaves of the bankers, and pay the cost of your own slavery, then let the banks create money..."

For the full article, please click on the link below:

THE DEBT SCAM


BORDER INSECURITY

Einstein is often quoted as saying "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result."

America's southern border is a case in point: 13 years after 9-11, the larger part of the 1951-mile long frontier remains open and undefended. The much vaunted border fence, authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which provided for a 700 mile physical barrier, has never been completed and probably never will be. Apologists claim the reason is cost, but a more realistic explanation is the across-the-board foot-dragging by the Federal Government: Congress passed the law as an election-year gimick to defuse border control as a political issue; it was never intended as a serious measure.

Although neither party wants to deal with the border problem, both want the public to believe they are serious about securing the southern frontier. Hence the appeal of the "Virtual Fence," and its many incarnations. Never mind that it doesn't work, as long as it gives the appearance of doing so.

The concept of a Virtual Fence has a long an undistinguished history. The first experimental effort appears to have been made by the French during the Algerian War, in a failed effort to seal the border with Morocco. The United States made a more comprehensive and sophisticated attempt with the ill-fated "McNamara Line" in Vietnam between 1966 and 1968, by placing chemical "sniffer units" and electronic sensors  along the Demilitarized Zone from the South China Sea to the Laotian border, backed by mines and manned, fortified positions. The effort was a miserable failure: North Vietnamese troops destroyed many of the sensors, and Vietnamese farmers stole some of the rest. As one wit remarked at the time, "Every pawn shop from Danang to Hue had two or three [sensors] sitting in their windows."

Undaunted by history, the United States launched a pilot program to secure the southern border 2005, intended to develop and test technology for a comprehensive electronic barrier known as SBInet. After squandering more than a billion dollars, the Department of Homeland Security finally conceded defeat in 2011 and halted the program. Part of the problem was the effort was overly ambitious in seeking to create a single, integrated border control system with new and untested technology. But another part of the problem was the concept itself: Cameras and electronic sensors are weather-dependent, and easily fooled. More to the point, as one senior Border Patrol officer remarked, is the fact that "Cameras don't climb down off the poles and grab people by the ankles..."

Despite its unbroken record of failure, the Obama Administration is attempting to bring the Virtual Fence back once again, in an effort to rally congressional support for its "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" plan. This time, Administration officials claim it will work because it will use proven, off-the-shelf technology and be designed with local weather, geographic, and environmental conditions in mind. Rather than an integrated system running the length of the border, it will be zoned.

As an additional selling point, the Administration is highlighting the fact that it will be modeled on a similar and more successful effort in Israel, and will be buttressed by two additional unmanned drones and an extra 1500 Border Patrol agents. Conveniently overlooked is the fact that the Israeli border-control system relies heavily on physical barriers...

The odds of success? The plan will probably pass in Congress and fail in the field. But this time, the Administration is only going to spend $700 million - so as far as Washington is concerned, what the heck?

It's only money...



FOOLED AGAIN...

Two days after the disputed referendum in which the Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin and the self-proclaimed leaders of that peninsula signed a treaty formally incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation.

The annexation provoked howls of criticism in Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, and dark criticism of the United States in Europe. Although barely mentioned in the press, Russia's successful invasion of the Crimea has shaken the confidence of America's NATO allies in the ability of US intelligence to accurately forecast threats to their security.

They have good reason: This is the fourth time Moscow has surprised the West with "Cold Start" invasions. The first was the 1956 invasion of Hungary; the second was the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia; the third was the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. As with the most recent invasion of Crimea, US intelligence failed in each case to either detect or to anticipate the Soviet/Russian moves.

There are two problems here. The first is the Red Army's "Operational Art," which places heavy emphasis on "cold start" attacks covered by what they call Maskirovka, or military deception. The second is the US intelligence community's failure to learn from past mistakes. Have been repeatedly burned by Soviet/Russian "cold start" attacks, one would think that US intelligence would have addressed the problem by now. But as yet, they have even to acknowledge it.

A big part of the problem is America's over-reliance upon high-tech intelligence gathering, especially satellite imagery and electronic intercepts. But Soviet - and now the Russian - Operational Art take both into account when planning an attack. In Afghanistan, for example, the Soviet's relied upon an overnight call-up of local reservists along the Afghan border to conduct the initial thrust. Massed troop formations didn't show up on satellites images for the simple reason that they weren't there, and electronic intercepts failed to reveal Soviet intentions because the attack plan was hand-carried by couriers to the reserve commanders, and their troops were called up by telephone and by local police loudspeakers.

There is a lesson here that American intelligence seems unwilling or unable to grasp: Satellites cannot substitute for a "Spook on the Street," and electronic intercepts are no substitute for a mole burrowed deep within an enemy's decision-making apparatus.

Assuming that the US government is serious about correcting its intelligence shortcomings - a dubious assumption, given the history - it will take a change of mind-set at the highest levels of the US intelligence community, and a sea change in the institutional culture.

The place to start is with a rigorous analysis of Russian Operational Art, and an honest assessment of our demonstrable inability to cope with Russian Maskirovka.



MR. PUTIN'S NEW ARMY

When Peter the Great assumed sole power in 1696, Russia was mired in feudalism. By the time he died in 1725, that country had assumed the trappings of a modern European Power. Chief among them was the new Russian army.

Likened to a steamroller for centuries, the Russian army Peter built was slow to mobilize but enormous in size. Once set in motion, its forward momentum was almost impossible to stop.

The basic organizational structure of the Russian army remained largely unchanged throughout the Russian Empire, the Soviet Era, and into post-Soviet times, until Vladimir Putin rose to power in the late 1990's. First appointed by then-President Boris Yeltsyn to oversea Russia's national security in 1999, Putin actively pursued military reform first as Yeltsyn's prime minister, then as president, then as prime minister to Dimity Medvedev, and now as president again.

Focusing on readiness, special operations forces and mobility, Putin abandoned the division organizational structure the Russian military had inherited from the Soviet Union in favor of more nimble, heavily armed brigades, slashing the total number of all-service military units from 1890 to 192 today. And since 2008, he has spent heavily on advanced, Western high-tech weapons and communications gear.

The Russian army today is smaller, leaner and far more mobile  than at any time in the past. Under Putin, it has become a rapid-intervention force capable of projecting overwhelming force into the adjacent, former Soviet republics that line Russia's periphery with little or no warning.

The downside is that Mr. Putin's new army has little staying power: it is neither designed nor equipped to conduct sustained, high-intensity combat operations - and therein lies the danger. If the Russian army gets into trouble, current doctrine provides for the first use of nuclear weapons.

Given that doctrine, it is easy to imagine a situation like the Crimea invasion spiraling out of control. But it also provides the United States and its NATO allies with strategic leverage. With the Russian economy sputtering, the once planned and since cancelled deployment of anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe would impale Russia on the horns of a dilemma: They would be forced to either divert an enormous amount of scarce resources to developing a sustained combat capability, or adopt a new and far more cautious approach to armed interventions along their periphery. Either way, the Kremlin would lose.

The question, then, is whether the present Administration has the wit and the will to play missile defense card. Given the President's pronounced lack of affinity for international affairs, that seems unlikely at present. But if Mr. Putin increases pressure on the Baltic states, as expected, Mr. Obama's reluctance to confront Russia could change with the blink of an eye. The Baltic states are, after all, NATO member-states, and America is obliged by treaty to defend them.

What better way to do so than by deploying an anti-missile screen in Eastern Europe? As the Chinese military scholar Sun Tzu counseled 4000 years ago, "What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy."

Put differently, why fight when you can win by maneuver?



CRIMEA: REFLECTIONS OF A COLD WARRIOR

For a superbly well-argued analysis of Russia's seizure of the Crimea, and the Administration's colossally stupid response, please click on the link below:

The West's Ukranian Folly


 
SHOCK IN WASHINGTON

Aside from the fact that US intelligence is unable to detect Russian "Cold Start" invasions, another more serious problem lurks in the background: American analysts have consistently erred in assessing Russian intentions.

Despite the fact that there was ample reason to suspect the Russian attack on Georgia in 2008, and even more to suspect the invasion of the Crimea, American intelligence analysts dismissed both possibilities out of hand. The core problem, according to Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA under President Bush, is the [Globalist] mindset that has taken hold in Washington.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, American policymakers and intelligence analysts alike persuaded themselves that a new era of international cooperation had aborned. But that view was not shared in Moscow, which saw the implosion of the Soviet Empire as heralding a return to traditional geopolitical rivalry.

Put differently by another senior intelligence official, Washington is suffering from the "Self-licking Ice Cream Cone" syndrome - ain't no such thing, but despite all evidence to the contrary, those inside the Beltway insist on believing there is.

There are three core problems here.

One is cultural: As Oswald Spengler famously argued, cultures are self-contained and therefore virtually impenetrable to outsiders. Only rarely can a foreigner come to grips with an alien culture, and then only after a lifetime of immersion. Although Russia seems superficially "Western," it is not - it is a hybrid culture formed from Mediaeval Russia (Kiev) in the crucible of the Mongol Conquest. As such, it has an "Inner Logic" all its own.

The second problem is that many and perhaps most of America's intelligence analysts have been imbued by the belief in "rational actors" by the social sciences. But there are many kinds of rationality; and in any event, the pressure of events, political constraints, and the limited information available to policymakers means they are only rarely able to calculate their best course of action. Only recently have social scientists addressed the problem by modifying the presumption of rational behavior with the concept of "bounded rationality," i.e., rational decision-making within the context of the specific situation and taking into account the decision-maker's personal, political and institutional limitations.

The third problem is that in an effort to integrate Russia into the post-Cold War international order, the United States has entered into a series of agreements with the Russian Federation that sharply limit its ability to respond to Russian provocations. The thus-far successful nuclear arms reduction treaties with Russia, American reliance on Russia's heavy-lift capabilities to supply the International Space Station, and America's desire for Russian diplomatic support in dealing with Iran, N. Korea and Syria have made American policymakers reluctant to take the Russians to the woodshed. The lack of penalties attached to Russian provocations has encouraged the Kremlin to believe that it can act with impunity within its self-proclaimed sphere of influence.

In the wake of the Crimean invasion, a new approach must be found for dealing with Russia - and in this, two reassessments are key.

The first is that Russia is not a country in any traditional sense of the term. It is a strategic artifact, deliberately created in the frozen north by Russian refugees from Kiev, in a desperate effort to preserve what freedom and independence they could after their country and culture were crushed by Mongol invaders.

The second, which flows from the first, is that power and position are central to the Russian psyche. To understand, one need only reflect this old Russian proverb: A fool deserves to be beaten, even in Church...

The one thing we can be sure of in dealing with Russia is they will beat us as long as we insist on playing the fool.



MARCH 2014

THE PUTIN DOCTRINE

The infiltration of Russian combat troops into the Crimean Peninsula during the first days of March has become a de facto military occupation, providing armed support for the pro-Russian faction there. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1783, Crimea remained a part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev transferred territorial jurisdiction from the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as a political reward to his Ukrainian political base. Sixty years later, approximately 33 percent of the Crimea’s population is linguistically and/or culturally Russian; Ukrainians make up slightly less than 12 percent, and Crimean Tartars the rest.

The Russian intervention was motivated by two compelling interests. The first was to guarantee Russia continuing access to Sevastopol – a warm water port – and the naval base it retains there by treaty with Ukraine. The second was to support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing effort to cobble back together Russia’s historic buffer zones that lay astride the major invasion routes that lead to the Russian heartland. It was Putin’s effort to secure the Ukraine as a southwestern buffer by coercing that country into his planned Eurasian Union that sparked February’s revolution.

As of this writing, the pro-Russian faction that has seized control of the Crimean government with Putin’s support has scheduled a referendum for March 16, to decide whether the peninsula will remain under Ukrainian control or rejoin Russia. The pro-Russian faction is expected to prevail.

The real significance of the Russian invasion extends far beyond sovereign jurisdiction, however. First, the Russian invasion has struck at the heart of America’s post-World War II policy of stabilizing Europe and Asia, based in part upon setting national boundaries in stone. And second, Putin’s asserted right to intervene on behalf of Russian-speakers in the Crimea has implicitly cast a chilling, carte blanche claim over the territories of the Former Soviet Union, as all 14 of the former Soviet Republics have large, Russian-speaking minorities.

 

JAPAN:
REVERTING TO FORM?

The leading American authority on Japan, former Harvard professor and US Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer, once observed that Japanese culture was almost unfathomable to outsiders because it is unique. Although influenced by both China and Korea, Japan developed independently, and for the most part alone. Perhaps as a result, Japan has never come to grips with the rest of the world, and its attitude toward outsiders can change in the blink of an eye.

According to many historians, the West's failure to comprehend Japan made the Pacific War all but inevitable. Negotiations preceding the war were a dialogue of the deaf: The United States simply could not believe the Japanese would launch a suicidal war of aggression; the Japanese could not believe that a rich and satisfied country like the United States would wage total war to preserve its position in the Pacific.

Following its comprehensive victory over Japan in World War II, the United States reinvigorated the democratic political system that had failed in the mid-1930's; and through a multi-generational military occupation, forcibly re-opened Japan to Western ideas and influences. After more than a half-century of quiescence, most Americans assume Japan has become a stable, peaceful democracy.

Perhaps so, but Japan's neighbors are unconvinced - and the recently resumed debate over Japan's war time history has hardened their suspicions. Japanese public opinion has been drifting right - which in context, roughly translates as Fascist - for decades, and over the past several years it has become increasingly common for ordinary Japanese to challenge the official orthodoxy, established in a 1995 statement by then-Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, that Japan had waged an illegitimate war of aggression. Most recently, current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's partial repudiation of his predecessor's statement has raised alarm bells.

Perhaps more ominous still is a growing public movement led, or at least symbolized, by Japanese fashion model Junko Amo who, in 2002, led some 180 people on a pilgrimage to the Yasukini Shrine that memorializes Japan's war dead - and, perhaps coincidentally, denies Japan's responsibility for the war. Ms. Amo's movement has grown with each passing year, and the number of ordinary Japanese making annual pilgrimages to the shrine now numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

Japan's most abused neighbors, S Korea and China, are understandably alarmed. Japan has never fully come to grips with its role in starting the Pacific War, and has consistently denied or glossed over the atrocities the Japanese armed forces committed in the course of the conflict. Japanese textbooks, for example, minimize, deny or omit altogether the 1937 Rape of  Nanking, where Japanese forces slaughtered somewhere between 40,000 and 300,000 innocent and unarmed Chinese civilians, even though the massacre was documented by German military observers attached to the Japanese army, who desperately tried to stop the horror. Similarly, the Japanese mistreatment of Allied Prisoners of War is downplayed and excused. The Bataan Death March, for example, is routinely attributed to the Japanese Army's lack of trucks; the massive die-off of British Commonwealth and Empire POWs forced to labor on the Burma railroad, immortalized in film The Bridge on the River Kwai, is generally glossed over in favor of commentary describing the railroad as a brilliant example of Japanese engineering.

Given Japan's unwillingness or inability to come to grips with its war time history, it should come as no surprise that China, particularly, is reportedly developing contingency plans for a "short, sharp naval war" with Japan.

Growing tensions in East Asia and the China Sea has put the United States in an uncomfortable and precarious position. As a member of the war time alliance against Japan, China was a signatory to the peace treaty that ended the war and established the present status quo. That treaty, unfortunately, left a number of loose ends, including the status of rocky outcrops in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea, claimed by both China and Japan. As a war time ally, the United States should support China, but more than a half-century of history has placed America's interests with Japan's.

Compounding the problem is the fact that North East Asia is a geopolitical tinderbox, which could ignite at any moment. Russia, China, and N. Korea share land borders there; S. Korea borders on the North; and S. Korea, Japan, the United States, and Canada share sea borders with all of the above. For that reason, a "short, sharp naval war" between China and Japan is unlikely to be either short or geographically limited. One shot fired in anger could set off a regional conflagration that would inevitably involve the United States and, perhaps, set in motion yet another world war.


SOUNDING RETREAT - OR STRATEGIC REPOSITIONING?

On Monday, February 24th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced major cuts in ships, aircraft, and troops as part of a large-scale reduction of America's armed forces. These cuts will reduce the Army to its lowest level since the run up to World War II, and will include major reductions in the Navy's shipbuilding program and the purchase of combat aircraft by the Air Force. In addition, several new weapons systems will be reduced and older systems retired.

According to former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, President Obama views defense cuts as a means of freeing revenues for domestic social programs. Secretary Hagel has acknowledged that the cuts are so severe that the United States faces the prospect of losing its position as the world's dominant military power. According to Hagel, the cuts pose some risks in a world where the diffusion of advanced technologies and weapons means the US can no longer take for granted its "dominance on the seas, in the air, and in space." Cuts planned for 2016 are even more severe.

The underlying assumption is that having blundered and been burned in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States will avoid major ground combat for the foreseeable future. The problem with that is the US made the same assumption after World War II, then again after Korea, and again after Viet Nam - yet despite a clear consensus in Washington to avoid major ground conflicts, the US got sucked into them anyway. Why should this time be any different?

Harvard historian Naill Ferguson has described the defense cuts as part of a "fundamental shift" in US national security policy, a "geopolitical taper" that he attributes to President Obama's lack of strategic competence. But as usual, Professor Ferguson's analysis is superficial, at best.

The fundamental shift is real, but it has little to do Obama's competence or lack thereof. It is a recognition that the United States is badly overextended abroad; it is a repudiation of the fantastical notion long held in Washington and on Wall Street that the US is "the indispensable nation;" and it is an implicit acknowledgement that the US blundered catastrophically when it abandoned, in 1967, the post-1870 National Policy of Eurasian Denial and the profoundly defensive Grand Strategy that supported it. In a nutshell, the post-1870 National Policy was intended to safeguard the United States by preventing "Any single Power, or any single group of Powers, from achieving hegemony over the Eurasian Landmass." In practice, that meant keeping the littorals on either side of Eurasia, from which we could be subjected to commerce raiding, naval blockade, or invasion, in friendly hands.

But that deeply defensive strategy was abandoned in 1967, in favor of a new National Policy of Deliberate Energy Dependence/Global Oil Control, and the supporting Grand Strategy of Armed Mid East Intervention. It was not a coincidence that Arab terrorist attacks against the West began only months after the new National Policy/Grand Strategy was adopted; nor was it a coincidence that we became ensnared in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both fiascoes followed logically, almost inevitably, from the 1967 revision.

Although President Obama's execution of foreign policy has been truly miserable, the basic concept guiding his foreign policy is inspired: Having recognized a catastrophic failure, he is attempting to instate a revised and updated version of the defensive and geopolitically sound post-1870 National Policy and its supporting Grand Strategy. If Obama succeeds, we will fight only when necessary, and then only in areas of the world that actually matter.

The Mid East is at best a strategic side-show, a region that matters only because of the oil beneath its sands; the Eurasian littorals are essential to our national survival.


AUTHORITARIAN DEMOCRACY

Following the successful popular revolt that toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, protests continue in Venezuela. Although separated by half a world, the two uprisings reflect popular discontent at the rise of "Authoritarian Democracies."

After a failed 2004 bid for Ukraine's presidency, Yanukovych finally won the office in 2010 in a close and hotly disputed election, after twice serving as Prime Minister. He was impeached by the Ukrainian Parliament on February 22nd, after three months of increasingly bloody protests that brought the country to the brink of civil war. The protests were sparked by Yanukovych's decision to reject a political and trade deal with the European Union in favor of Russia's Eurasian Customs Union; looming in the background were widespread challenges to Yanukovych's
personal and political integrity. Since his removal from office, Yanukovych has disappeared and is presumed to be on the run from criminal charges since filed against him.

As Vice President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro assumed the post of Acting President following the death of President Hugo Chevaz on March 5th. Narrowly elected in a special election on April 14th, 2013 Maduro vowed to continue the socialist policies of his predecessor. Those policies have dislocated the economy, resulting in widespread shortages, skyrocketing inflation, and an upsurge in violent crime.  University students and middle class Venezuelans have been engaged in large-scale public protests since January, which have claimed the lives of 13 victims thus far. According to Maduro, Venezuela's problems  are caused by "capitalism" and "speculators," and the protestors are "Fascists." 

Although the differences between the revolt in the Ukraine and the uprising in Venezuela are great - especially in terms of the numbers killed - they share a common denominator: In both cases, ordinary citizens have rebelled against elected governments wedded to deeply unpopular policies. In the Ukraine, rejection of the EU and alignment with Russia; in Venezuela, economic measures that are financially ruinous to the young and to the established Middle Class. And rather than back down when challenged, the governments of both Ukraine and Venezuela resorted to violent repression instead.

There are parallels with the United States. On a wide range of issues, the Obama Administration is pursuing deeply unpopular policies, ranging from "ObamaCare" - which was, apparently, sold to the American people through deliberate fraud - to the Administration's arguably illegal domestic surveillance programs, to its ongoing efforts to undermine or at least limit the Constitutional protections provided by the First, Second and Fourth Amendments; to President Obama's openly declared intention to bypass the Congress with Executive Orders of questionable legality; and to the most recent effort by Attorney General Eric Holder to override the 10th Amendment reservation of powers by imposing federal gay marriage policies on the states. Looming in the background is the Obama Administration's policy of militarizing America's local and state police forces by equipping them with military weapons of war, and the ongoing build up of federal police, under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security - also equipped with military-grade weapons, billions of rounds of hollow point ammunition, aerial surveillance drones, and at least 3000 armored fighting vehicles.

Why federal police agencies need 50 caliber machine guns, armored fighting vehicles, drones, and a larger stockpile of ammunition than the US Army's war reserve, is a mystery. But on the basis of the publicly available evidence, the Obama Administration seems bent on joining the ranks of the Authoritarian Democracies - and for that reason, equally intent on acquiring the capability to violently suppress public dissent as well. 



AUTISM AND ELECTRONIC INTELLIGENCE

Autism is a neural development disorder characterized by impaired social skills, impaired verbal and non-verbal communications, and repetitive, stereotypical behaviors. Although poorly understood, autism effects information processing in the brain. There is no cure, but intensive support and interaction sometimes produces marked improvement. About 12 per cent of autistic children become self-sufficient adults; about 19 per cent achieve some level of independence; and about 46 per cent require residential programs with a high level of supervision and care. The rest require permanent hospitalization. Somewhere between 3 and 25 per cent of autism victims seem to recover.

As devastating as autism may be, the disorder sometimes confers special abilities. Some, such as the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rainman, are savants who display astonishing but limited skills such memorizing long columns of numbers or, as with Hoffman's character, "counting cards" in Las Vegas. Others, amazingly, have special abilities that make them ideal for specialized military intelligence units.

According to The Algemeiner, a Jewish newspaper published in the United States, Israel's Intelligence Unit 9900 - an electronic intelligence group - has successfully employed autistic Israelis to monitor real-time satellite and drone imagery. The autistic analysts can reportedly sit in front of monitors for hours on end, picking up on subtle changes that slip past their non-afflicted counterparts.

According to Israeli sources, military service is a "Two Fer" for the autistic soldiers: They are engaged in important (and paid work), and they benefit from being placed within the highly structured military environment. They are also provided with extra training in their off-duty hours to acquire additional life skills, such as how to read a bus schedule, in order to enhance their independence and mobility.  




NAFTA ORIGINS:
THE ARCHITECTS OF FREE TRADE REALLY DID
WANT A WORLD GOVERNMENT OF CORPORATIONS

By Matthew Stoller

It’s amazing what you find in the Congressional Record. For example, you find American political officials (liberal ones, actually) engaged in an actual campaign to get rid of countries with their pesky parochial interests, and have the whole world managed by global corporations. Yup, this actually was explicit in the 1960s, as opposed to today’s passive aggressive arguments which amount to the same thing.

Here’s the backstory.

As I wrote in part of this series on the origins of modern American trade policy, the first real mention of NAFTA in the Congressional record that I could find came from a hearing in 1967. This was a Joint Economic Committee hearing conducted just after a major series of global trade talks known as the “Kennedy round”, from 1964-1967. The Kennedy round went quite far in reducing explicit tariffs, and was a capstone to the trading regime of tariff reductions that FDR and Cordell Hull put in place in 1934 after the Smoot-Hawley tariffs.

 

After the Kennedy round ended, liberal internationalists, including people like Chase CEO David Rockefeller and former Undersecretary of State George Ball, began pressing for reductions in non-tariff barriers, which they perceived as the next set of trade impediments to pull down. Ball was an architect of 1960s U.S. trade policy - he helped write the Trade Act of 1962, which set the stage for what eventually became the World Trade Organization.

But Ball’s idea behind getting rid of these barriers wasn’t about free trade, it was about reorganizing the world so that corporations could manage resources for “the benefit of mankind”. It was a weird utopian vision that you can hear today in the current United States Trade Representative Michael Froman’s speeches. I’ve spoken with Froman about this history, and Froman himself does not seem to know much about it. But he is captive of these ideas, nonetheless, as is much of the elite class. They do not know the original ideology behind what is now just bureaucratic true believer-ism, they just know that free trade is good and right and true.

But back to the 1967 hearing. In the opening statement, before a legion of impressive Senators and Congressmen, Ball attacks the very notion of sovereignty. He goes after the idea that “business decisions” could be “frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations,” and lauds the multinational corporation as the most perfect structure devised for the benefit of mankind. He also foreshadows our modern world by suggesting that commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies should just be and will inevitably be handled by supranational organizations.

Here’s just some of that statement. It really is worth reading, I’ve bolded the surprising parts.

For the widespread development of the multinational corporation is one of our major accomplishments in the years since the war, though its meaning and importance have not been generally understood. For the first time in history man has at his command an instrument that enables him to employ resource flexibility to meet the needs of peoples all over the world. Today a corporate management in Detroit or New York or London or Dusseldorf may decide that it can best serve the market of country Z by combining the resources of country X with labor and plan facilities in country Y - and it may alter that decision 6 months from now if changes occur in costs or price or transport. It is the ability to look out over the world and freely survey all possible sources of production… that is enabling man to employ the world’s finite stock of resources with a new degree of efficiency for the benefit of all mankind.

But to fulfill its full potential the multinational corporation must be able to operate with little regard for national boundaries - or, in other words, for restrictions imposed by individual national governments.

To achieve such a free trading environment we must do far more than merely reduce or eliminate tariffs. We must move in the direction of common fiscal concepts, a common monetary policy, and common ideas of commercial responsibility.

Already the economically advanced nations have made some progress in all of these areas through such agencies as the OECD and the committees it has sponsored, the Group of Ten, and the IMF, but we still have a long way to go. In my view, we could steer a faster and more direct course… by agreeing that what we seek at the end of the voyage is the full realization of the benefits of a world economy.

Implied in this, of course, is a considerable erosion of the rigid concepts of national sovereignty, but that erosion is taking place every day as national economies grow increasingly interdependent, and I think it desirable that this process be consciously continued. What I am recommending is nothing so unreal and idealistic as a world government, since I have spent too many years in the guerrilla warfare of practical diplomacy to be bemused by utopian visions. But it seems beyond question that modern business - sustained and reinforced by modern technology - has outgrown the constrictive limits of the antiquated political structures in which most of the world is organized, and that itself is a political fact which cannot be ignored. For the explosion of business beyond national borders will tend to create needs and pressures that can help alter political structures to fit the requirements of modern man far more adequately than the present crazy quilt of small national states. And meanwhile, commercial, monetary, and antitrust policies - and even the domiciliary supervision of earth-straddling corporations - will have to be increasingly entrusted to supranational institutions….

We will never be able to put the world’s resources to use with full efficiency so long as business decisions are frustrated by a multiplicity of different restrictions by relatively small nation states that are based on parochial considerations, reflect no common philosophy, and are keyed to no common goal.”

I’m doing this series on the origin of the modern trading regime because of the current controversies over trade policies, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s striking how, when you look into these efforts, these agreements are not and never have been about trade. You simply cannot disentangle colonialism, the American effort to create the European Union, and American trade efforts. After their opening statements, Ball and Rockefeller go on on to talk about how European states need to be wedged into a common monetary union with our trade efforts and that Latin America needs to be managed into prosperity by the US and Africa by Europe. Through such efforts, they thought that the US could put together a global economy over the next thirty years. Thirty years later was 1997, which was exactly when NAFTA was being implemented and China was nearing its entry into the WTO. Impeccable predictions, gents.

In previous research efforts, I’ve found that there was a serious elite liberal effort called “Atlanticism” to create an explicit world government, and that this effort really did influence how our current leaders think about international policy-making. By 1967, Ball wasn’t an Atlanticist, he dropped his illusions about the ability to combine the globe into one polity. But he was still a utopianist - he didn’t seek an explicit world government, he wanted to build a set of supranational institutions that could manage all the important economic questions, while national leaders got to argue about symbols.

 

I guess it turns out that the conspiracy theorists who believe in UN-controlled black helicopters aren’t as wrong as you might think about trade policy, and not just because United Technologies, which actually makes black helicopters, has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Oh sure they’re wrong, but so are the people who deny that our trade agreements are just about trade. They aren’t. These agreements are about getting rid of national sovereignty, and the people who first pressed for NAFTA were explicit about it. They really did want a global government for corporations. At the time, of course, multinationals didn’t treat American workers like disposable objects, this was the era of the “Treaty of Detroit.” So Ball wasn’t as naive as he would sound today if he used these same words; it wasn’t totally crazy then to assume that global multinationals might operate in good faith. Moreover, given that there had just been two world wars because of nationalism, it also wasn’t crazy to hope that corporations would “wash away national boundaries”.

 

But what’s interesting is more the why than the what. Ball in particular expressed his idea of a government by the corporations, for the corporations, in order to benefit all mankind.

Keep that in mind when you think you’re being paranoid.

Editor's Note: The Editors of website gratefully acknowledge the author, Matthew Stoller, for his permission to reprint this stunning essay.



AL QAEDA AND GRAND STRATEGY

Terrorist organizations can have a Grand Strategy, too. For an informative essay on Al Qaeda's Grand Strategy to defeat the West, please click on the link below:

ATTACKING AMERICA


JANUARY 2014

OBAMANOMICS:
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICAL FRAUD

Several weeks ago, in an article addressing the Obama Administration's "Rosy Scenario" interpretation of the US economic recovery, the influential and prestigious Economist magazine urged caution. Yes, the numbers have improved, but the United States isn't out of the woods just yet.

As restrained as The Economist's reportage may have been, it now seems to have been unduly optimistic. According to Nobel prize laureate Robert Wiedemer, the stark discrepancy between soaring corporate profits and persistent high unemployment bodes ill. In Wiedemer's opinion, the US economy is a "bubble economy" fueled not by tangible growth but rather by the Federal Reserve Bank's strategy of "Quantitative Easing" - financial-speak for flooding the streets with printing-press money.

As for the predicted recovery, Wiedemer said, "Don't count on it" and predicted an historically anemic rate of growth of no more than 2 1/2 percent for 2014 - assuming the reported rate of inflation is accurate.

But according to Wall Street investment counselor David John Marotta, president of Marotta Wealth Management, the White House, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve have been cooking the books to hide the dismal state of the US economy. After re-crunching the official numbers and adjusting for statistical sleights of hand, Marotta has concluded the actual actual inflation rate is 4.5 percent rather than the officially claimed 1.24 per cent; the actual unemployment rate is a shocking 37.2 per cent; and the "Misery Index" - found by adding the official unemployment rate to the official inflation rate - is over 14, rather than the 7.54 per cent claimed by government officials.

The funny numbers being bandied about by the Administration and the Fed have been generated by the misuse of technical economics measures, and deliberate legerdemain: The "unemployment rate" employed by economists only counts those actively seeking work, and not the long-term unemployed; and the Consumer Price Index used to calculate the cost of living has been tweaked to exclude the rising costs of food and fuel, despite the fact that these are major budget items. By dropping these expense categories from their calculations, the Administration and the Fed have been able to dramatically understate the real rate of inflation.

The present economy is clearly not sustainable - and in the opinion  of CFIS Chairman Charles S. Viar, it is "eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the years leading up to that country's economic implosion."

Marotta apparently agrees - although he believes a long, drawn out economic decline is more likely than a sudden collapse, he has advised his clients to prepare a "bug out bag"  and stock up on guns and ammunition.

Editor's Note: For those less sanguine than Mr. Marotta, a "Bug Out Bag" is available from Amazon.com. For details, click on the link below:

GRAB AND GO EMERGENCY KIT


FAITH IN GOVERNMENT

Given President Obama's propensity for dissimulation, it's hardly surprising that that the American people are losing faith in their government. The President either deliberately lied or is so poorly informed as to repeatedly misstate the facts on a host of major issues.

In the run up to the 2012 election, he falsely claimed that unemployment had dropped sharply and blamed the Al Qaeda terrorist attack on America's diplomatic mission in Benghazi on an obscure, low budget film that depicted the Prophet Mohammed in a poor light. Following his re-election, he repeatedly claimed the cost of medical care and insurance would drop with his Affordable Care Act, and that Americans could keep their existing health care plan (and their doctor) if they liked it (him). Adding insult to injury, he more recently has made public statements defending his domestic security and surveillance programs that have proved false. Indeed, President Obama's misstatements of fact have been so many and so egregious that it has become difficult to escape the conclusion that he is either a habitual liar, or that he is so poorly informed as to be unfit for office.

To paraphrase former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, President Obama lies, then lies about his lies, then apologizes for lies he claims were never lies, and then lies about his apologies. Though the Speaker's criticism is perhaps a bit overstated, the unfortunate fact is that President Obama has given the American people cause to doubt both his veracity and his character. No surprise, then, that according to Reuters News Service, the Edelman Trust Barometer (of government) reveals a massive shift in attitudes among young Americans: Just 37 per cent now say they trust the US Government, down a shocking 16 points from just one year ago, and seven points below the global average.

But the real shocker is that collapsing trust in government isn't limited to the United States - it's tanking all over the world.

As surprising as all this may be, the reason is simple: Government qua government cannot deliver as promised. They cannot adequately defend their countries, they cannot manage their economies, and they cannot efficiently provide promised  social services. And with few exceptions, they cannot live within their means.

Simply put, modern governments have turned sharply dysfunctional. They are too big, too maladroit, and too expensive. As James Rickards has argued in his seminal work, Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis, they will collapse under their own weight absent a radical effort to descale and decentralize. 


DOOMSDAY PREPPERS

For the past three years, the National Geographic Channel has been running a series called "Doomsday Preppers," documenting the lives and activities of ordinary Americans who, having lost faith in the US Government's ability to protect them, are preparing for Doomsday.

Now there are increasing rumors that former national security officials are doing the same, and for precisely the same reasons. According to a report from Dave Hodges, host of the Common Sense Show, scores of recently retired intelligence and domestic security officials have relocated their families to remote locations, where they have established a series of self-sufficient security enclaves built around defensible bunkers stocked with large quantities of emergency rations, medical supplies, arms, ammunition, solar panels and generators, and communications gear, and equipped with air and water filtration systems.

Noting that a large portion of these enclaves are located near a federal facility in Colorado, rumored to be an alternative government command post, Hodges suggests the effort has been prompted by insider information pertaining to a New World Order conspiracy that involves the deliberate and total  disruption of American society as a preface to imposing a global dictatorship. This, presumably, ties into reports that the Department of Homeland Security has purchased more than 3000 armored fighting vehicles and approximately one billion of rounds hollow-point ammunition

The actual reality may be a great deal less sinister than Mr. Hodges believes - but nonetheless, just as frightening. Every reasonably well-trained intelligence and/or security analyst is aware of how vulnerable America is to cataclysmic disruption - an open though unsettling fact that has long been ignored by the Establishment Media: In her farewell address, former Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano stated it was only a matter of time before terrorists took down America's electrical grid.

In this new era of asymmetric warfare, the United Sates and other advanced societies are at a profound disadvantage as their critical infrastructures were designed with economics rather than security in mind. Poisoning the water supply of a major metropolis could inflict massive civilian casualties and inflict incalculable damage on the national economy, while a cyber attack disrupting the communications net could inflict even greater economic harm. One that dropped the electrical grid would be catastrophic.

Most threatening of all is an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, carried out by detonating a nuclear warhead at very high altitudes over the United States. The pulse from even a small nuclear explosive would "fry" any electronic device then in use and re-arrange the molecular structure of any wiring then carrying an electronic current in such a way that they would no longer be able to do so. Even though physically undamaged by the blast, the electrical grid and everything connected to it would be reduced to scrap.

If that were to happen, at least half the United States - and likely more - would be thrust back into the 1870's. Electric lights, refrigerators, water pumps, TVs, radios, and cars, trucks, buses, planes and computers would cease to function for many hundreds of miles in all directions. Society would collapse within a matter of days, urban dwellers would starve, and martial law would inevitably result. 

Given the astonishing vulnerability of the United States and other advances societies to these sorts of "society-killing attacks," it should come as no surprise that former public officials who have spent a lifetime thinking about, planning for, and attempting to guard against them would be headed for the hills - especially given the fact that neither the Executive Branch nor the Congress has seen fit to address these clear and present dangers.



NATIONAL SECURITY,
SPECIAL INTERESTS, AND POLITICAL INERTIA

The unwillingness of the governments of the United States and other advanced countries to take even basic defensive measures to guard against "society-killing attacks" may seem puzzling to those citizens that have taken the time to puzzle out the threats. But there are reasons, although none of them are good.

One is the commercial orientation of advanced societies: Even after 9-11, the Bush Administration refused to take even rudimentary precautions to safeguard America's 300-plus ports and harbors, which are the most likely and most vulnerable targets for an improvised nuclear explosive device. That would inconvenience business and commerce, reduce profits, and cost money - far better, in that Administration's view, to let the problem slide. It probably wouldn't happen on their watch...

Another is the reactive nature of (formally) democratic political systems. By their very nature, they respond to threats and challenges after they have already happened, or been made.

A third, and in this case, determinative reason is the ability of Special Interests to block obvious and necessary change. At the end of the day, the vulnerability of the United States to "society-killing attacks" is rooted in the deliberate, 1967 decision to maintain an oil-based economy and a centralized power grid rather than follow the dictates of common-sense and national security by converting to alternative energies and creating a decentralized power system. Enshrined in the real but never publicly stated National Policy of Deliberate Energy Dependence and the supporting Grand Strategy of Global Oil Control/Armed Mid East Intervention, this decision was imposed by a political coalition comprised of the international oil companies, the international banks that "recycled" the petrodollars they generated, and domestic utility companies; and set in stone by Henry Kissinger's 1974/75 agreement with Saudi Arabia to impose global dollar hegemony through a Saudi-sponsored OPEC requirement that all international oil sales be paid for in US dollars. 

The result has been the half-century long rolling catastrophe in the Mid East, the needless expenditure of American blood and treasure, a ruined economy and a society that remains extraordinarily vulnerable to asymmetrical, society-killing attacks.

It didn't have to be that way. Windmills had been used to generate electricity since the early 1900's; synthetic oil was discovered in the late 1920's, and synthetic gasoline developed in the late 1930's; and from the late 1950's onward, new energy generation-technologies made it increasingly possible to descale and decentralize energy production and distribution systems.

When viewed from this perspective, Special Interests emerge as a major but poorly appreciated threat to national security, as they use their political influence to block society's innate adaptive response to threats, challenges, and changing circumstances - so much so that economists Glen Hubbard and Tim Kane have identified it as the central factor in the decline - and sometimes, collapse - of countries and empires.

Their recent book entitled, Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America should be required reading for all politicians. But it won't be - for in contemporary America, the Special Interests trump the National Interest.


WELFARE EXPENDITURES

Since the year 2000, Great Britain has increased welfare spending faster than almost any other country in Europe. But the big surprise is the United States has increased welfare spending even faster thaN the UK.

The major reason? Aside from the incompetence of successive American administrations, the US has held corporate taxes steady for decades even as other developed countries have reduced their rates. Simply put. US tax policy has created an incentive for major corporations to relocate abroad - and to take the jobs they provide with them.

For more on this story, please click on the link below:

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL...



DECEMBER 2013

VLADIMIR THE GREAT

Russian President Vladimir Putin once called the breakup of the Soviet Union the "greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century." Although Westerners find the former KGB officer's statement incomprehensible, his sentiment is widely shared in Russia: The collapse of the USSR resulted in the loss of hard won strategic buffers, exposing Russia once again to foreign invasion.

Russian geography provides no natural defenses. The rolling plain that stretches from Germany to the Pacific Ocean is ideal tank country, and while it is cut by many large rivers, all are easily crossed. The Ural Mountains are for the most part mountains in name only, and in many areas easily traversable by jeep or other four-wheel drive vehicles. Russia's only real defenses are spatial and climatic: The huge expanse of that country permits defenders to trade territory for time, until "General Winter" arrives.

Given Russia's geopolitical reality, it should come as no surprise that cobbling back together a strategic resemblance of the old Soviet Union has been Putin's major preoccupation since he first assumed Russia's presidency in 1999. For all practical purposes, he discarded the Commonwealth of Independent States - the loose political association that superseded the USSR - in favor of geopolitically inspired regional alliances: To the East, the Shanghai Pact, which is now the world's largest military alliance, and to the South and Northwest the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union, scheduled to go into effect in 2015, which includes Belarus and Kazakhstan and now - almost certainly - the Ukraine, which Putin last month pried from the grasp of the European Union with a combination of threats and a $15 billion bribe.

Thus without firing a shot, Putin has effectively restored most of the Soviet-era buffers, which now defend Mother Russia from attacks along the most likely axes from the West, South, and East. Although Russia still remains vulnerable to attack from Scandinavia, it is a nonetheless stunning achievement - one reminiscent of Peter the Great.

But these were not Putin's only foreign policy successes. In 2013, Putin forestalled an American attack on allied Syria by floating a diplomatic solution to the crisis occasioned by the use of chemical arms in that country's civil war, thereby all by guaranteeing the survival of the Assad regime and, by extension, virtually precluding an American and/or Israel attack on Iran. Perhaps more important in the long-run, Putin re-opened channels of communications with the Egyptian military junta, who were outraged by President Obama's decision to reduce military aid to that country, and laid the groundwork for Russia's return to that pivotal country. Thus by adroit diplomacy alone did Putin turn NATO's Southern Flank, exposing Greece, Turkey, and Italy to Russian military pressure. In the process, he made an utter fool of Obama.

The fact that Putin was able to accomplish all this with a country in the grips of economic crisis and demographic decline is astounding - and for that, future historians may remember him as Vladimir the Great.


SHIFTING SANDS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

If Barack Obama can claim any credit in the field of foreign policy / national security, it is in his decision to abandon the fatally flawed 1967 National Policy of Deliberate Energy Dependence/Global Oil Control and the supporting Grand Strategy of Armed Mid East Intervention, in favor of a strategic re-positioning to the Far East.

Made possible by the discoveries of vast new oil deposits in the United States, and the development of new extraction technologies, Obama's "Asian Tilt" has set off a scramble for power and influence throughout the Mid East as old alliances erode and new relationships are formed. Russia is attempting a return to Egypt, from which the Soviet Union was expelled in 1972; Britain is trying to revive its mid-20th Century relationships with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States, and China is eager to enter the region to ensure favorable consideration for its oil purchases.  

At stake are trillions of dollars worth of defense contracts that were once monopolized by the United States - and the smart money is on China. Britain is too closely tied to the United States and Russia is too close for comfort geographically, but China is just right - half a world away, ruled by an authoritarian regime that won't raise troubling human rights questions, and now possessed with modern, first-rate export quality weapons.


27 December 2013

A BELATED REALIZATION

Earlier this month, in a stunning reversal of his predecessor's stated position, British Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted as saying, in effect, that Britain should accommodate Muslims rather than expect them to assimilate to British society. The volte-face was clearly intended to support his government's efforts to reassert British influence in the Middle East, and to support British commercial interests there - presently at stake are billions of dollars worth of defense contracts, coupled to a Saudi assurance of "preferred customer" status for British oil purchases.

Mr. Cameron's statement may be good foreign policy, but it was not well received in Britain, a country that has been oft-victimized by home-grown terrorism, and is currently enduring a high-profile effort by Muslim vigilantes to impose Islamic law on their neighborhoods. No surprise, then, that it drew an indirect but nonetheless stinging rebuke from the Labour Party's Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander.

According to Mr. Alexander, political figures have allowed political correctness to prevent them from talking about the role of faith in public life, and particularly the mounting persecution of Christians in the Middle East - a region of the world where ethnic cleansing is moving forward with full force. With the sole exception of Prince Charles, British and other Western leaders have ignored the plight of Arab Christians, for whom attending church is an act of "life risking bravery." 

Although Alexander was explicitly addressing the growing horror in the Mid East, it took little wit to read between the lines and apply his remarks to Britain itself, where a similar "ethnic cleansing" is in progress, conducted by Islamicist thugs intent upon driving non-Muslims from "their neighborhoods."

But Mr. Cameron wasn't Mr. Alexander's only target - in a slap at the government of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, which famously declared "We don't do God," Mr. Alexander was quoted as saying "We must."



AN INK DROP STRATEGY FOR MUSLIM SUBVERSION

During the early stages of the Vietnam War, a raging debate pitted the US Army against the Marine Corps: The Army favored a strategy of "search and destroy," based on the successful British counterinsurgency in East Africa (now Kenya) while the Marines argued in favor of an "Ink Drop" strategy - that is, to position American troops in and about major population centers along the S. Vietnamese coastline, and gradually expand the area of Allied control after they had been secured. In time, the "ink drops" would connect, and spread over the entire populated area, in much the same way that ink drops into a pail of water would.

In retrospect, the Marines had it right - and while it is unlikely that Islamic extremists in the United Kingdom have studied the strategic debate that shaped the war in Vietnam, they have adopted a strategy of subversion that is strikingly reminiscent of the Marines' Ink Drop approach: Islamic thugs in Britain are engaged in a determined effort to drive Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindu from "Muslim neighborhoods" and impose Islamic law within their confines. Thus far, they have specifically targeted shopkeepers who lawfully sell alcohol; pubs and restaurants that serve beer, wine and other spirits; have threatened and sometimes beaten non-Muslims for possessing alcohol in the vicinity of mosques; and their organized foot patrols have come down particularly hard on Muslim women who wear Western dress: In an effort to shame Westernized Muslim women, they are routinely followed, mocked, and jeered as "sluts" and "whores."

The Islamic game plan is to create a series of Muslim "islands" within Britain, and gradually connect them into an "Islamic Archipelago" in much the same manner that the Marines hoped to do with the S. Vietnamese population centers.

The threat is serious, for the simple reason that a sound strategy is difficult to counter. But so far, the British Government has done next to nothing to address what is, clearly, an insurgency in the making.

After the bloody, sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, one would think they would know better... 



MR. OBAMA'S ANNUS HORRIBILIS

For Barack Obama, 2013 was an annus horribilis - a Latin phrase popularized by Queen Elizabeth II that means "horrible year." It started badly after Obama threatened to attack Syria after the government of Bashar al Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against rebel forces supported by the United States. After having been forced to back down by a Republican-led coalition on Capitol Hill, it turned out that Obama's intelligence had not only been wrong, but likely distorted for political purposes, and that Al Qaeda terrorists were probably responsible for the attacks, rather than Assad's government.

Obama's humiliating retreat gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a golden opportunity to reassert Russian influence in the region - from which the Soviet Union had been effectively expelled in 1977 - by negotiating a deal to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. Having made Obama the fool in Syria, Putin went on to successfully court the Egyptian generals who had deposed Egypt's first and only elected President, Mohammed Morsi - who was also the leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. By doing so, Putin demonstrated the bankruptcy of Obama's Mid East policy, which placed its bet on the Brotherhood as the least onerous of the available (and unquestionably poor) alternatives to a military dictatorship. 

Thus in a series of deft maneuvers did Putin turn NATO's Southern Flank, and expose Greece, Turkey, and even Italy to Russian military pressure for the first time since the late 1970's.

If that weren't enough, former CIA and NSA contract employee Edward Snowden skipped the country with four laptop computers containing at least a million and a half classified documents, many of which pertained to the unprecedented and arguably illegal US government domestic surveillance program - which targeted innocuous US citizens, rather than obvious security risks, such as Muslim immigrants. True or not, Snowden's revelations gave the impression that the US government is far more afraid of Quakers and Congregationalists than it is of Islamic extremists.

Next came the ObamaCare fiasco, which not only revealed a breathtaking degree of high-level incompetence, but gave the lie to President Obama's endless assurances that Americans who "like their doctor can keep their doctor," and that his signature legislation would lower the cost of medical insurance. Neither promise was true - and the fact Mr. Obama made them means he is either out of touch with the task of governing, or that he deliberately lied to the American people for political advantage. Either interpretation is damning...

And last but not least, Putin outmaneuvered Obama in the Ukraine - a territory that has, since the end of the Cold war, emerged as critical geopolitical "pivot point." The combination of Obama's foreign policy incompetence and Putin's masterful skill has thus resulted in the sort of foreign policy rout not seen since the days of Jimmy Carter.



25 December 2013

THE PATRIOT'S DILEMMA:
MY COUNTRY OR MY GOVERNMENT?

German-born Carl Christian Schurz is famously remembered for having said "My country, right or wrong."

Not exactly. The one time US Army general, Secretary of the Interior, US Senator and American minister to Spain actually said "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right;  if wrong, to be set right."

Schurz statement points to the increasingly difficult quandary of patriots: In theory, a democratically elected government should pursue policies in accord with the will of their people; but in recent practice, that has become ever more rare. More often than not, elected governments have in the past half-century pursued their own agendas, often in opposition to the best interests of those that elected them to office.

Thus the Patriot's Dilemma: My country or my government?

If Edward Snowden is to be believed, it was that conflict of conscience that led him to defect from the US government to "the American people."

Says the Washington Post:

Leaks of the NSA's surveillance programs by Snowden, which the Obama administration has at times portrayed as traitorous, were actually, in Snowden's telling, acts of patriotic loyalty -- something that he suggests administration officials can't see because they themselves have lost that sense of loyalty.

He said of his nondisclosure agreement with the NSA: "The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy.... That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that [NSA chief] Keith Alexander and [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper did not."

For a nationalist, loyalty to the abstract ideal of the nation -- personified by "the people" or "the public," or in the U.S. context by the Constitution -- transcends all else. Snowden's worldview seems to fit this idea perfectly. In working against U.S. government programs, he seems to argue, he is both serving a higher fealty to the nation and helping its government to return to the path from which it's strayed.

“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he told Gellman. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”

In the nationalist's worldview, when a government strays from its primary duty of serving the nation, it becomes not just justifiable but near compulsory to challenge that government on behalf of the nation. Working against the government, in this view, isn't an act of treachery, but is in fact the highest level of patriotism, for it demonstrates an allegiance to the nation itself and calls attention to the enemies within...

For the complete text of this thoughtful article, please click on the link below:

AN AMERICAN NATIONALIST



2 December 2013

EXQUISITE IRONY:
PRAVDA CALLS OBAMA A COMMUNIST

In a case of the pot calling the kettle black, Pravda has accused President Obama of being a Communist. Long the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Pravda is now owned by and affiliated with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Somewhat perversely, Pravda is a routine critic of the Old Soviet Union, and frequently blasts Communists and Communism while praising President Vladimir Putin - a former KGB officer and one time CPSU member.

Says Pravda:

President Vladimir Putin could never have imagined anyone so ignorant or so willing to destroy their people like Obama much less seeing millions vote for someone like Obama. They read history in America don't they? Alas, the schools in the U.S. were conquered by the Communists long ago and history was revised thus paving the way for their Communist presidents. Obama has bailed out those businesses that voted for him and increased the debt to over 16 trillion with an ever increasing unemployment rate especially among blacks and other minorities. All the while promoting his agenda

The red, white and blue still flies happily but only in Russia. Russia still has St George defeating the Dragon with the symbol of the cross on its' flag. The ACLU and other atheist groups in America would never allow the US flag with such religious symbols. Lawsuits a plenty against religious freedom and expression in the land of the free. Christianity in the U.S. is under attack as it was during the early period of the Soviet Union when religious symbols were against the law...   

Let's give American voters the benefit of the doubt and say it was all voter fraud and not ignorance or stupidity in electing a man who does not even know what to do and refuses help from Russia when there was an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead we'll say it's true that the Communists usage of electronic voting was just a plan to manipulate the vote. Soros and his ownership of the company that counts the US votes in Spain helped put their puppet in power in the White House. According to the Huffington Post, residents in all 50 states have filed petitions to secede from the Unites States. We'll say that these Americans are hostages to the Communists in power. How long will their government reign tyranny upon them?

Russia lost its' civil war with the Reds and millions suffered torture and death for almost 75 years under the tyranny of the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Russians survived with a new and stronger faith in God and ever growing Christian Church. The question is how long will the once "Land of the Free" remain the United Socialist States of America?  Their suffering has only begun. Bye bye Miss American Pie!  You know the song you hippies. Sing it! Don't you remember? 

For the full text of this extraordinary story, please click on the link below:

THE POT AND THE KETTLE


EDITOR'S NOTE: The Center for Intelligence Studies strongly suspects Russian President Putin has revived the old Soviet Disinformation apparatus, as evidenced by the Chinese water-torture approach employed by Wikileaks, the organization allegedly responsible for releasing Edward Snowden's revelations about US domestic spying, and other highly classified programs. Given the fact that Russia has granted Snowden political asylum, there can be no doubt that the KGB is playing him - and Wikileaks - for all they're worth.

The revival of the Disinformation apparatus would also account for Pravda's curious habit of criticizing the Old Soviet Union and the current Communist Party - which, we believe, is no more than a public front for the KGB. This article, and others, is clearly directed at the American Right and intended to pour fuel on the fire of grass roots revolt against President Obama.

The downside to all this is that "good" Disinformation has a very high truth content - usually, about 90 per cent...



FAR FROM A SELLOUT:
THE IRAN DEAL INCREASES ISRAEL'S SECURITY

Far from the sellout Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claims, the recent 6 Power Accord with Iran has provided Israel with an astonishing opportunity to guarantee its survival.

The Arab states on and about the Arabian Peninsula are far more afraid of Iran than they are of Israel - which with an arsenal of at least 200 nuclear weapons is the region's dominant nuclear power. For that reason, simple logic dictates the Arabs make common -if temporarily  clandestine - cause with Israel against Iran.

The Saudis are clearly thinking along these lines. Still technically at war with Israel, the Saudis are reportedly engaged in secret talks with the Jewish state concerning their shared military concerns. Saudi Arabia has long stated that it is prepared to extend full diplomatic recognition to Israel, once the Palestinian issue is resolved - and just recently, ruled out a military alliance until then.

The gratuitous rejection of an overt military alliance now speaks volumes - when read between the lines, it is a clear indication that a secret alliance may be in the works.

Israel's long-term survival depends on the acceptance of its neighbors, and that depends in turn on resolving the Palestinian  issue - the resolution of which, apparently, is anathema to Mr. Netanyahu. Based on his government's observed policy, the Israeli Prime Minister seems to prefer further encroachments on Palestinian land, by way of Israeli settlements, to lasting peace - a policy preference that depends, ultimately, upon engineering an American attack on Iran.

Mr. Netanyahu's ongoing efforts to maneuver America into war with Iran has cost him what few friends he once had in the Obama White House. Now it seems that it is also costing him the support of Israel's military and intelligence leadership, which sees the Iran agreement as - potentially - a net plus for Israel.

For almost a decade now, Israel's intelligence and security chiefs have opposed the notion that the Iranian nuclear threat could be dealt with militarily, and have argued - often publicly - that diplomacy was the only possible solution. More recently, a former head of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service, described the US policy of negotiations as a "policy of wisdom."

Although still publicly unstated, it seems Israel's national security leadership believes Israel's way forward is obvious: Cut a deal with the Palestinians NOW,  and use the diplomatic credit that accrues to them to forge an entente with the anti-Iranian Arab states - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Persian Gulf monarchies.  

THE ISRAELI MILITARY ON IRAN



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For a new book from CFIS Chairman Charles S. Viar, please click on the following below: Just Before Midnight: A Tale of Love, Romance, Treachery and Treason



MARCH 2014

THE PUTIN DOCTRINE


The infiltration of Russian combat troops into the Crimean Peninsula during the first days of March has become a de facto military occupation, providing armed support for the pro-Russian faction there. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1783, Crimea remained a part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev transferred territorial jurisdiction from the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as a political reward to his Ukrainian political base. Sixty years later, approximately 33 percent of the Crimea’s population is linguistically and/or culturally Russian; Ukrainians make up slightly less than 12 percent, and Crimean Tartars the rest.

The Russian intervention was motivated by two compelling interests. The first was to guarantee Russia continuing access to Sevastopol – a warm water port – and the naval base it retains there by treaty with Ukraine. The second was to support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing effort to cobble back together Russia’s historic buffer zones that lay astride the major invasion routes that lead to the Russian heartland. It was Putin’s effort to secure the Ukraine as a southwestern buffer by coercing that country into his planned Eurasian Union that sparked February’s revolution.


As of this writing, the pro-Russian faction that has seized control of the Crimean government with Putin’s support has scheduled a referendum for March 16, to decide whether the peninsula will remain under Ukrainian control or rejoin Russia. The pro-Russian faction is expected to prevail.


The real significance of the Russian invasion extends far beyond sovereign jurisdiction, however. First, the Russian invasion has struck at the heart of America’s post-World War II policy of stabilizing Europe and Asia, based in part upon setting national boundaries in stone. And second, Putin’s asserted right to intervene on behalf of Russian-speakers in the Crimea has implicitly cast a chilling, carte blanche claim over the territories of the Former Soviet Union, as all 14 of the former Soviet Republics have large, Russian-speaking minorities.


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