THE DARK ART
Intelligence, Counterintelligence, and the Mind of the State
Charles S. Viar
Although the origins of intelligence have been lost in the mists of time, the practice is at least as ancient as warfare. In what is perhaps the oldest written reference to an intelligence operation, The Book of Numbers recounts God’s command that Moses dispatch a reconnaissance team to scout the Israelite advance upon the Promised Land:
Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the Children of Israel. Of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, everyone a ruler among them…
Had the Canaanites possessed an effective counterintelligence capability, the story of the Israelite assault might have ended differently. For even a minimal foreknowledge of their intentions and capabilities would have made it possible for the Canaanites to organize a more effective defense. But as may be inferred from the Bible, they failed to detect the operation directed against them.
For that, they paid a fearsome price.
Narrowly defined as “evaluated information,” intelligence is a dynamic process that involves the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data to national policymakers and other government officials of lesser rank. Intelligence serves to forewarn them of likely actions, events, and developments within their sphere of responsibility; and aids in matching available resources to threats and opportunities alike. As such, it is the sine qua non of effective statecraft.
More broadly, intelligence also serves as a force-multiplier. Much as Archimedes Lever makes it possible to magnify mechanical force transmitted across space, covert and clandestine intelligence operations make it possible for states to enhance the power they project beyond their frontiers. History is littered with examples of small and middling states exercising disproportionate influence through the deft application of secret intelligence.
Given the enormous – and occasionally decisive – advantages conferred by effective intelligence in the Great Game of Nations, well-governed states seek to maximize the effectiveness of their own intelligence services and to protect themselves against hostile services deployed against them. Domestic security typically provides one level of defense, and counterintelligence another.
Although counterintelligence has been recognized as an integral component of state security since the Chinese military scholar Sun Tzu published The Art of War in the Fourth or Fifth century BC, the concept remains muddled. For almost two and a half millennia, the term itself has defied definition.
According to James Angleton, the legendary former Chief of CIA Counterintelligence, the term is ineffable. Although Angleton’s Deputy Chief for Operations generally concurred, he believed counterintelligence could nonetheless be described in terms of core functions. Angleton’s Deputy Chief for Analysis, however, disagreed with both. According to Raymond G. Rocca, counterintelligence is self-defined: it applies to any action undertaken to counter, i.e., negate, the efforts of hostile intelligence services.
Having studied under all three of the practitioners listed above, the writer of this paper eventually concluded Rocca’s understanding is more nearly correct; and has since argued that counterintelligence can be best illustrated by contrast. Where counterespionage – or security – seeks to neutralize individual spies and spy rings, counterintelligence attempts to neutralize hostile intelligence services as a whole.
In a more perfect world, intelligence services would aspire to comprehensive coverage of their targets. But in actual practice, physical, organizational, political, and budgetary constraints have traditionally forced them to limit their collection activities to data pertaining to the targeted state’s organization, capabilities, and intentions. More recently, intelligence services have been tasked with gathering financial, economic, and technical data as well; and with the development of remote collection techniques, the amount of raw data collected by major intelligence services has become staggering in both scope and volume.
From a theoretical standpoint, intelligence collection and analysis should not be especially difficult. But given the fact that intelligence services routinely devote a substantial portion of their resources to deception operations designed to deceive their adversaries, the task is far more difficult than it first appears. Tables of organization and orders of battle can be faked, deployment patterns and readiness indicators manipulated, and communications traffic played for purpose. Indeed, almost any sort of intelligence data can be fabricated and fed to foreign intelligence services through sacrificial spies, dangles, false defectors, and dispatched agents.
This inherent vulnerability to hostile deception operations lays bare what Angleton formally referred to as the Epistemological Problem:
Given the fact that foreign intelligence services routinely mount large and carefully crafted deception operations against us, how can we know what we believe to be true is actually so?
In less guarded moments, he called it “That damnable question.”
As intelligence practitioners will attest, it is a damnable question indeed. Nonetheless, there are two solutions to the problem – one partial, the other complete.
The first solution is to look at intelligence data in terms of a jigsaw puzzle extending across time. After fitting together as many of the pieces as possible, one may flag those that are known to be true beyond doubt. Subsequent pieces that fit with those may be presumed true, in the absence of contrary evidence.
Although this approach has considerable merit – including especially the way it facilitates intuitive judgments – the results it generates are both probabilistic and tentative. The likelihood that new data may significantly alter the pattern is high.
In contrast, the second solution can provide definitive answers – but only rarely, when two relatively unlikely events occur simultaneously: 1) a high-level penetration agent confirms the validity of specific intelligence data, and 2) a code break “backstops” the veracity of the confirming agent. In the world of intelligence, certainty depends upon serendipity.
The recruitment of high-level penetration agents is rare, and code breaks are even more so. They occur together perhaps once a decade, and when they do intelligence analysts emerge from their garrets to enjoy a brief moment of clarity. But when the agent is lost or the codes are changed, they are condemned to wander once more through what Angleton termed “The Wilderness of Mirrors” – an Epistemological Hell from which neither truth nor falsehood may be surely obtained.
Determining the validity of intelligence data thus depends in part on recruiting from the enemy’s ranks senior political office holders or high-ranking government officials, and in part upon breaking their codes. But once affected, these unlikely circumstances open a window to other intriguing possibilities – including, specifically, offensive counterintelligence operations designed to penetrate, infiltrate, and suborn the target’s intelligence service in order to play it back against the state it serves. The ultimate goal of such operations is to entice or provoke the targeted state into undertaking ruinous and self-destructive actions.
As Angleton observed, successful politicians and senior government officials are a remarkably homogenous lot. For the most part, they derive from roughly comparable social circumstances and share core formative experiences in common. They attend the same schools – or at least the same types of schools – and are imbued with the same canon. They also hold remarkably similar beliefs and values, and share certain characteristic attitudes regarding the larger world. Together these form something akin to a collective psyche, or what Angleton termed the “Mind of the State.”
If states have minds, they also have states of mind – and as with individuals, it is their state of mind that makes them most vulnerable to deception. For a state of mind is a predisposition to belief or action; and if that predisposition can be accurately gauged, tempting or provoking the targeted decision-makers to ruin becomes a plausible exercise in perception management.
If there is a single failing common to decision-makers throughout history, it is an excessive faith in intelligence. For reasons that remain obscure, decision-makers seem unable or unwilling to grasp the implications of the Epistemological Problem Angleton described. Despite ample warnings, they almost invariably place far more credence in intelligence reports than they deserve; and it is upon this most basic failing that offensive counterintelligence plays.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote “Supreme excellence is to subdue the enemy without fighting” and argued this end may best be achieved by manipulating the “Golden Threads” of intelligence – that is, the lines of communications that connect agents recruited from within the enemy’s camp to one’s own. The first Golden Thread may be activated by sacrificing deliberately misinformed low-level agents for capture, dangling double agents for enemy recruitment, and dispatching false defectors to the enemy’s camp. The second is brought into play by querying the agent-in-place to determine how the enemy decision-makers have interpreted the false information they delivered. If the information evokes the intended state of mind, the false message can be reinforced by repeating the process in different ways. If not, it can be modulated until it does.
By these means offensive counterintelligence operations can create a false picture of reality in the minds of targeted decision-makers, much as an artist paints an image upon a sheet of canvass. Brush stroke by brush stroke, the attacking service can exploit the enemy intelligence service it suborned to systematically manipulate the Mind of the State.
The many critics of offensive counterintelligence argue that strategic deception operations of the size and scale suggested above are far too complex and complicated to be practical, as they are doomed to eventually collapse under their own weight. The criticism is true at least in part, but nonetheless disingenuous. Intelligence operations of any sort have a relatively short shelf life; and unless shut down by those who initiated them or uncovered by their intended targets, they will ALL eventually collapse for similar cause.
Perhaps more to the point, modern history is strewn with examples of successful strategic deceptions including the TRUST operation of the 1920’s, which saved the nascent Soviet state from ruin; the Soviet-sponsored WIN operation that forced the United States to abandon its post-war efforts to liberate Eastern Europe; and the Anglo-American deception operation that made possible the successful invasion of Normandy in 1944. All of these operations were conducted in the manner outlined above, and each inflicted massive damage upon the states they targeted.
Unfortunately, the United States abandoned its national counterintelligence capability in December of 1974 – and with it, the ability to mount large-scale strategic deception operations. Redefined and re-envisioned by successive administrations, counterintelligence had been reduced to little more than a security function until the Clinton Administration partially resurrected it after disastrous and overlapping penetrations of the CIA and the FBI were uncovered in the 1990’s. Expanded and reorganized in the aftermath of 9-11, a National Counterintelligence Executive now exists as a semi-autonomous supervisory agency. And yet despite the many long overdue reforms that have been undertaken since 2001, U.S. counterintelligence remains hobbled by an obtuse and legalistic definition, conceptual confusion, tangled jurisdictions, and – above all – by institutional timidity. For while offensive counterintelligence operations are now officially recognized, they remain tightly controlled and rarely sanctioned. They are tactical operations, most often mounted in reprisal.
Despite ample modern precedents, strategic deception operations of the sort advocated by Sun Tzu and refined by Angleton remain beyond the pale. This is unfortunate and – for those that seek to limit the suffering caused by armed conflict – deeply disconcerting.
For in the Great Game of Nations, offensive counterintelligence remains the only plausible means for achieving victory without war. For if only in theory, it is the primary offensive instrument of state.
Published by the Center for Intelligence Studies.
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Copyright 2009. This paper may be reproduced in part or in whole for civic or educational purposes, provided that context is preserved and full attribution is given
Robin Hood, Barack Obama
And the Norman System of Elite Perpetuation
Barack Obama’s election as the 44th President of the United States has been widely hailed as a watershed in American history. Among the general populace there is a widespread sense that Obama’s victory has brought one era to a close, and opened another. But for many black Americans, the election holds an even deeper and more poignant meaning: four centuries after their ancestors were first brought to these shores in chains, 143 years after the emancipation of their descendents, and 44 years after achieving lawful equality, Obama’s victory heralds the success of a centuries long struggle for acceptance by the larger and predominantly white society. For as one black commentator remarked, “Having the legal right to apply for membership is one thing. Being accepted by the Membership Committee is quite another.”
Within the context of the American experience, this interpretation is doubtless true. But when viewed from the larger historical perspective of Western Civilization, the African-Americans’ struggle for acceptance reveals a system of elite co-option and perpetuation far more deeply rooted in history. For beyond the tragedy and eventual triumph of the Civil Rights Movement stands the ghostly apparition of William the Conqueror.
Centuries of relentless strife followed the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. According to historians and archeologists, not single book was penned nor a single stone structure erected for more than two hundred years; and it was not until Charlemagne consolidated his power as King of the Franks in 771 AD that a semblance of political authority was restored. After successful campaigns in Saxony, Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, Spain, Poland, Hungary and beyond, on Christmas Day of 800 AD Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Imperator Romanorum in St. Peter’s Basilica. Having checked the Saracen advance in Spain and subdued the East, Charlemagne laid the foundations for Europe’s Carolingian Renaissance by imposing sweeping and far-reaching reforms of currency, civil administration, military organization, education, and even the ecclesia. Had the Fates not turned against him, Western Europe might well have experienced a Golden Age of peace and prosperity.
But it was not to be. Even before Charlemagne claimed the purple, Norse raiders landed upon the tidal island of Lindisfarny in 793, and sacked the abbey there with such ferocity that it shocked a world accustomed to casual brutality. Apparently emboldened by the success of the raiders, Danish King Godfred built a rampart across the length of the Schleswig Isthmus seven years later, and – from the safety of the 30 kilometer earthwork – launched a series of devastating attacks upon Frisia and Flanders. Although Godfred was assassinated before he could fulfill his boast of marching upon Charlemagne’s capital at Aachen, scores of other Norse warlords and kings-presumptuous stepped forward to take his place. For the next 255 years, the orderly and peaceful world that Charlemagne had imposed was recast by the relentless and savage attacks of the Vikings.
The two and a half centuries of war that began with the sack of Lindisfarny Abbey not only altered the course of European history, but transformed European society, governance, and geography as well.
The first of these transformations involved the hyper-militarization of Europe. Throughout his reign, Charlemagne had relied upon massed formations of infantry drawn from free-holders. But a generation after his death, Charlemagne’s Empire was divided amongst his grandsons, who found that the slow moving infantry formations they inherited could not respond to Vikings’ sea borne attacks. In response to the Viking challenge, fortifications manned by permanent garrisons were constructed along Europe’s coasts and estuaries, and a new emphasis was placed upon armored cavalry as a repaid-reaction force. Because the cost of horses and armor was beyond the means of most free-holders, some were awarded large land grants in exchange for lifetime, hereditary service in the heavy cavalry.
This led to the second great transformation, in which a military aristocracy displaced the quasi-democratic system of free-holder infantry commanded by officers that were – generally – elected by the soldiers they led. As Charlemagne’s successors mobilized their nations for war without end, a new form of feudalism characterized by an increasingly rigid and hierarchical social structure inevitably arose.
But arguably, the third great transformation was the most consequential. For it was the Viking occupation of North Western France that set in motion an ironic chain of events that gave rise to the English-speaking nations of the world, and the system of elite renewal and perpetuation that governs them still.
The European mobilization took more than a century to complete, and by then Vikings had gained control over the entire length of Europe’s coastline and established sizeable settlements in England, Scotland, Ireland, and North West France. Aided by shallow-draft boats that could be operated with equal ease in the white waters of the European littoral and the continents’ rivers and larger streams, the Norsemen began moving inland. In 885 the Vikings marched upon Paris; and had they mastered siege equipment, they might well have taken the French capital. But the Vikings lack of military engineers saved the city on this and other subsequent occasions, and increasingly effective French defenses began exacting a heavy toll upon their ranks. Wearing of the game, the invaders signed a treaty with the French in 911. In exchange for French recognition of their conquests, they agreed to convert to Christianity, acknowledge the King of France as their master, and to defend the French coast against their still warlike kin. Thus did the Duchy of Normandy arise.
According to most historians, the Normans were quickly assimilated. Few in numbers and overwhelmingly young and male, they intermarried freely, adopted the French language, and raised their children as Frenchmen. Yet even after the passage of a century, they remained distinctive. As Geoffrey Malaterra observed, the Normans were:
Specially marked by cunning, despising their own inheritance in the hope of winning a greater, eager after both gain and dominion, given to imitation of all kinds, holding a certain mean between lavishness and greediness, that is, perhaps uniting, as they certainly did, these two seemingly opposite qualities…
They were enduring of toil, hunger, and cold whenever fortune laid it on them, given to hunting and hawking, delighting in the pleasure of horses, and of all the weapons and garb of war.
Flexible, adaptive, and innovative, the Normans won reknown as exceptionaly able soldiers and – more importantly – as supremely competent governors.
All these traits were still in evidence 156 years later when William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066. The illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, William asserted a tenuous claim to the English throne after the death of Edward the Confessor. Opposed by the Archbishop of York – who had crowned Harold Godwinson as King – but supported by Pope Alexander II, William landed an army of 7000 men at Pevensey Bay in Sussex before marching upon Hastings. There on the 14th of October, William imposed his claim to the throne by defeating Harold’s English army in a hard-fought battle. Coroneted in Westminster Abby on Christmas Day, King William spent the next fourteen years quelling the land.
Prior to the Normans, conquerors frequently employed various types of genocide to subdue the conquered: the defeated males were most often slaughtered, the females were either taken as slaves or sold into slavery, and the forcibly vacated lands were distributed amongst the victors. Although King Clovis had eschewed the tactic in order to create a unified French nation, Charlemagne employed it against the Germans three centuries later. But annihilating the enemy was not an option for William – for like his progenitors in Normandy, he lacked the demographic resources to colonize the lands he had conquered. With perhaps 5000 knights drawn from an estimated 2000 aristocratic families, William’s only option was to establish a modus vivendi with the two million English he had subjugated.
Driven by necessity and design, William adopted a policy of conciliation. The civilian populace went unmolested, and in exchange for an oath of allegiance the surviving English nobles were permitted to retain their lands and titles. A series of bloody revolts, however, compelled him to adopt a more forceful strategy. As he despoiled the rebellious countryside in a deliberate effort to starve the English into submission, William also initiated a massive program to fortify and garrison strategic sites. Between 1068 and William’s death eighteen years later, the Normans are believed to have built more than 500 motte and bailey castles across the English countryside. But unlike similar fortifications the Normans had constructed in France, they were not designed to defend against foreign invasion. Their purpose was to ensure Norman rule through a policy of intimidation and reprisal.
By the time William died in 1086, Norman rule was complete. But while subdued, the English countryside remained sullen; and rebellion was an ever-present possibility. With an estimated 92 per cent of the English aristocrats stripped of their titles, lands, and governmental responsibilities for either rebellion or treason, the native population looked upon the new regime as an alien occupation. It was within this context of seething anger and resentment that the legends of Robin Hood first arose.
Whether Robin Hood actually lived remains an open question. Although some historians believe the legends are loosely based upon an actual figure, most are inclined to view them as folk tales reflecting the longings of a conquered people for a popular hero. According to the first interpretation – the one that Hollywood embraced – Robin Hood was a champion of social justice. But according to the second, he was most likely a conflation of various English resistance leaders that battled the Norman Occupation from the forests and swamps of central England. The first makes for rollicking fun and adventure; the second reveals a political strategy of elite renewal and perpetuation so subtle that it has passed almost unremarked for nine centuries.
In a 1991 film directed by John Irvin that almost revealed this strategy, Robin Hood is depicted as the scion of an English noble family that managed to retain their title, lands, and authority by virtue of their relationship with a powerful Norman aristocratic family. But after Robin clashed with his patron over the brutal mistreatment of one of his English peasants – and publicly disparaged Norman justice – he is declared an outlaw. Fleeing to Sherwood Forrest to escape arrest and execution, Robin initiates a carefully calculated and tightly controlled insurrection. His goal is not to drive the Normans from England, but merely to force them to acknowledge the rights of the conquered population. His loyalty to King Richard – and the Norman system of rule – is never in doubt.
Barely noted is the fact that Robin’s insurrection plays into Norman hands. Having failed in their initial attempt to conciliate the defeated English, and lacking the manpower to forever maintain their rule by force, the Normans are fully aware of the fact they need English support to perpetuate their power. Guided by a coldly realistic understanding of their predicament, Robin’s Norman antagonist deftly exploits the conflict to achieve William’s original goal by granting concessions the Normans would have freely made had the English not rebelled against them.
Political elites are self-defined: they are the few that make the decisions for the many. Regardless of the manner in which elites are selected – though inheritance, democratic election, or armed force – they are ubiquitous. For in every nation, the many are ruled by the few.
Although that formulation is maddening for philosophers – it is in fact a tautology – the more difficult problem posed by elite rule is biological. Because the statistical probability of lineal succession declines with each passing generation, elites based upon family, ethnicity, or even race cannot perpetuate their rule for historically meaningful timeframes without co-opting new members from those they have subjugated. This problem was well understood in Ancient Rome, where exceptional citizens drawn from every corner of the Empire were routinely elevated to Senatorial Rank, and perhaps even better in Norman England. Given their meager demographic resources, the Normans had no choice but to eventually co-opt the conquered English, and bring them into their system – perhaps not as equals, but nearly so – with the promise that their children or at least their grandchildren would one day achieve full equality. Thus by co-opting Robin and his English followers, the Normans triumphed in apparent defeat.
The fact that the Robin Hood of legend chose to fight them is of fundamental significance, for it is an appalling fact that equality means little if it is not hard-won. Indeed, it was from this perverse quirk of human nature that the Norman system of elite perpetuation arose:
Exploit the conquered for as long as you are able. But when you can no longer rule by force alone, apologize for the past, co-opt their leadership, and bring them into the system first as underlings and then eventually as equals.
Although rarely recognized and never publicly acknowledged, this system is clearly identifiable throughout the long history of England, its successor state Great Britain, and the larger British Empire; and it still remains everywhere in evidence throughout the English-speaking world. With the exception of the American colonies – an aberration occasioned by an episodically mad king of German origin – the British have never fought to retain power over those they had subjugated. After periods of more or less lengthy oppression, they invariably accommodated the demands of their imperial subjects in accordance to the formulae above: apologizing for past injustices – however insincerely – co-opting the leadership of the once conquered, and acceding to their demands for self-government. In the process, they created a global English-speaking elite whose interests are closely tied to their own.
The Norman system of elite perpetuation is a part of America’s cultural legacy, and it is likewise evident throughout our history. Like the Normans in England, British settlers tried first to achieve a modus vivendi with the Native American tribes, but when that failed they adopted a policy of control strikingly similar to that employed by William. Indeed, the wooden forts that sprang up upon the colonial landscape were almost indistinguishable from the Norman motte and bailey castles that preceded them.
The American treatment of immigrants followed the same general pattern. With the possible exception of the Dutch, each succeeding wave of immigrants was subjected to rigid controls and often-egregious exploitation. But as they organized in opposition, they were able to secure their rights in a protracted struggle often aided by war. German immigrants of the 1840’s commanded battalions of more recent Irish immigrants in the Civil War, as Irish immigrants and their descendants’ commanded battalions of Italian, Polish, and Jewish immigrants in World War I. By the time of the Second World War, the descendants of involuntary African immigrants were commanding battalions of their own; and in Korea, multi-racial formations as well. And like all others before them, they were able to parlay their support of and opposition to government policies into political success.
Within the American experience, the African Americans’ struggle for equality and acceptance is often regarded as a special case because their forbearers were brought to these shores in chains. But when one steps back and views their efforts from the broad sweep of history, the difference seems appreciably smaller. Indeed, in many respects it seems strikingly similar to that of the English struggle against the Normans. For while the legal status of African American slaves was slightly worse than that of English serfs, their conditions of servitude were virtually identical. One need only substitute a motte and bailey castle for a southern plantation manor to grasp the point.
But perhaps most importantly, both achieved equality through the same mechanism of struggle against and co-option by the ruling political elite.
Viewed from that perspective, Barack Obama’s election as the 44th President of the United States is far more than a triumph for African-Americans. It is also a triumph for the Norman system of elite perpetuation that first arose in response to English resistance and later spread throughout the English-speaking world and then far beyond.
That same system is now creating a truly global elite. For deliberately or not, it was William the Conqueror who set the process of global integration in motion almost 1000 years ago; and it is his ghostly hand that guides it still.
Elite Repositioning & Racial Antagonism in America
Charles S. Viar
Barack Obama’s election as the 44th President of the United States was widely hailed as a watershed in American history. Among the general population, there was a widespread sense that his victory had brought one era to a close and opened another. Many rejoiced.
Now nearly nine months into his Presidency, Obama remains personally popular. According to public opinion polls, most Americans regard him as bright and personable and many find him charming. But if the President remains personally well liked, the same cannot be said of his policies. Despite recent favorable economic developments, the President’s economic stimulus plan is widely regarded as a failure; and the health care plan he has championed has become mired in controversy. And while not widely reported, the President’s foreign policy initiatives have given the attentive public cause for concern.
Most of the political difficulties that confront the President are attributable to circumstance. Mr. Obama inherited from his predecessor two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; and while one may reasonably criticize his chosen remedies, it cannot be said that he has failed to act with determination and dispatch. Importantly, both his foreign policy initiatives and his economic stimulus plan were presaged by those of the Bush Administration; and if his health care reform fails, it will be through no fault of his own. Similar efforts undertaken by the Truman, Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton administrations also floundered, and for much the same reason: at the end of the day, most Americans simply don’t trust the federal government to manage their health care.
Still, the President’s falling poll numbers and an amorphous but growing sense of public unease have prompted some commentators to attribute his difficulties to residual racism – and sadly, recent events have lent credence to their interpretation. Since Mr. Obama assumed office on January 20th, gun sales have soared and the demand for ammunition has outpaced its manufacture. According to the Secret Service, death threats against the President have increased four-fold over the past administration, and membership in the Ku Klux Klan and other radical fringe groups have reportedly surged as well. More ominously, in June an 88-year old White Supremacist with Nazi sympathies shot and killed an African-American security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in a murderous effort to disrupt a planned stage play based upon the life of Ann Frank. Adding to this list of disquieting events the following month, President Obama interjected himself into the controversial arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., leading to charges and counter-charges of racial bias.
When taken within the context of the American experience, the argument that residual racism is either a contributing or causal factor in these and other related events seems compelling. But when viewed from the larger historical perspective of the English-speaking peoples, the post-election rise in racial tension seems more deeply rooted in the system of elite renewal and perpetuation that has dominated our world for nearly nine hundred years.
Originally trained as an engineer, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) enjoyed successive careers as an industrialist, a sociologist, an economist, and a philosopher. Today he is best remembered for his role in transforming economics from a branch of social philosophy into a rigorous, mathematically based discipline. Two of his observations, now known respectively as Pareto’s Optimality and Pareto’s 80/20 Rule, remain important elements of modern economic thought. Of these, the 80/20 Rule is most immediately relevant to the phenomenon of elites.
While studying the Italian economy, Pareto was struck by the fact that 80 per cent of Italy’s wealth was owned by a mere 20 per cent of its population. Curious, he undertook a study of other countries and found the 80/20 ratio appeared to be a universal approximation. Although an interesting observation, it might have remained no more than a curiosity if business theorist Joseph M. Juran hadn’t noticed a similar ratio applied to problems that arose in the manufacturing process as well. Calculating that 80 per cent of these result from about 20 per cent of the possible causes, he named the phenomena after Pareto. After publicizing his observation, other analysts noticed the 80/20 Rule applies to almost every form of human endeavor. Indeed, it seemed to apply particularly to the distribution of the skills, talents, abilities, and motivations that determine success.
A simple way to illustrate the 80/20 phenomenon is to take a large high school as an example. In this institution of 1000 students, half the students are male. Of the 500 male students, roughly 20 per cent will have the necessary skills and attributes to play high school football; and of this subset of 100, about 20 percent will have what it takes to play college ball. Of these twenty, about twenty percent will also have the skills and abilities for major league football; and of these four, about twenty percent will possess the ability to become NFL superstars. In contrast to teammates that are paid some hundreds of thousands of dollars per season, this top eight-tenths of one percent will be paid millions.
The fact that this 80/20 selection pattern reoccurs over and over again in virtually every field of human endeavor provides compelling evidence that elites are a natural phenomenon. It is in the nature of things that the “Vital Few” dominate the “Useful Many.”
If elites are a natural phenomenon, systems of elite perpetuation are not. They are social constructs that vary from time to time and place to place; and this is especially true with those systems that seek to maintain control of wealth, privilege, and power. Historically these systems have most often been based upon familial claims, however implausible, and sustained by violence.
But systems such as these tend to be both unstable and short lived. Because the likelihood of lineal succession declines with each passing generation, systems of elite control based upon family, ethnicity, or even race cannot maintain themselves for historically meaningful time frames without co-opting new members from the ranks of those they rule. This problem was well understood in Ancient Rome, where exceptional citizens drawn from every corner of the Empire were routinely elevated to Senatorial Rank; and more recently in the microcosm of modern monarchies, where royals now routinely wed commoners.
More relevant still is the example provided by the Norman conquerors of England, for it was they who they had subjugated. Given their meager demographic resources, they had no choice but to eventually accommodate the conquered, and co-opt their leadership – a daunting task, given that an estimated 92 per cent of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy had been killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, or in the Rebellion of 1068. Unable to make peace with a sullen and leaderless population, the Normans adopted a strategy of formative repression that compelled the Anglo-Saxons to organize against them. Over the next century and a half the brutal oppression the Normans inflicted upon the conquered – and the resistance it deliberately provoked, molded, and shaped – eventually produced a new Anglo-Saxon elite, the necessary precondition for the modus vivendi they sought to preserve the social and political structures that ensured their posterity. It was through this process that modern England was forged.
The success of the Norman system of formative oppression can be traced through the evolving legends of Robin Hood. Originally a common thief who had won popular acclaim by robbing Normans on the Great North Road, by 1100 or so he had risen in status to become a renegade Yeoman. During the reign of Henry I – arguably, the last of the Norman Kings – at least some claimed he was of noble birth. After the Third Crusade of 1189 Robin Hood was elevated once again, this time to the status of an Anglo-Saxon Earl – a celebrated war hero, and by some accounts, the commander of the King’s Guard. After suffering grievous wounds in battle against the Saracens – the common foe of Normans and Anglo-Saxons alike – King Richard ordered him to return to England for rest and recuperation. It was there that he clashed with the brutal Sheriff of Nottingham, by some accounts, or the Baron Daguerre by others, for the cruel mistreatment of an Anglo-Saxon serf – and then as the conspiracy came to light, for plotting against the King. In the final version of the legend we know today, it was also there that he wooed and wed the Lady Marian, a Norman aristocrat.
Although perhaps based in part upon actual events, the legends of Robin Hood are in fact folk tales that reflect the gradual and often-brutal process that eventually produced the fusion of the Norman conquerors and the Anglo-Saxon elite they molded, shaped, and ultimately co-opted. For the common people, the final version that recounts Robin Hood’s courageous service to England, his devotion to the King, his commitment to justice, and his eventual marriage to the Norman Lady Marian symbolized the end of their enforced tutelage. But for the emergent Anglo-Norman elite, it provided a proof of concept that begged for broader application.
Never more than nominally national in character and composition, the Norman system of elite renewal and perpetuation began a slow and almost uninterrupted expansion as the Crusades came to an end. Imposed upon the Principality of Wales in 1282, and then on to portions of Ireland, it later fused with the Dutch financial elite that underwrote the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and embraced its system of monetized debt. Following the successful amalgamation of these political and financial strategies for elite perpetuation through the restructuring of subject societies, the now-hybridized system expanded once again to encompass Scotland before spreading to North America. Expelled from the American Colonies in 1783, it nonetheless spread throughout the rest of the British Empire to form the core of an international elite. After its 1913 reconciliation with the parallel and nominally independent system that arose in the United States, it has in the past half-century become truly global in nature.
Today, it stands on the threshold of universal success.
Although the Norman system of elite renewal and perpetuation had no racial component, the aristocracy it generated remained exclusively white for almost nine centuries. Save for the small numbers of Saracen and Turk prisoners taken to England as slaves during the Crusades, and the African sailors that occasionally shipwrecked in Cornwall or Wales, the inhabitants of the British Isles were entirely Caucasian. But that was a fluke of history, rather than deliberate design.
The world’s population is overwhelmingly non-white, and for that reason any elite that aspires to global dominion must be so as well. For it is a fact of human nature that people prefer to be ruled by their own rather than others, however enlightened they may be. It is for this reason that the future of the hybrid system of elite renewal and perpetuation now depends upon demographic repositioning – that is, shifting from its traditionally white base of support to one that more closely reflects the global population it aspires to rule. Inevitably, that means whites must yield their historic – but altogether accidental – pride of place.
Having served a system dominated by an exclusively white elite for almost a millennia, it is all too easy to for those of European descent to mistake the product for the process. For those that erroneously identified with the system on the basis of presumed racial preference, the progressive repositioning of that system away from its traditional base over the past half-century has been deeply disturbing. For some, the sense of betrayal is profound. For others, the sense of fear is overwhelming.
Unable or unwilling to grasp the fact that America – and the larger English-speaking world, of which it is a part – has long been dominated by an elite system of political and financial control that is now intimately allied with others around the world that it deliberately created, shaped, and molded during centuries of colonial dominion, some white Americans have mistaken symbol for substance and blamed their predicament upon President Obama. Thus the increasing number of threats against his person, and the general exacerbation of racial tensions throughout the land.
This is a mistake. For while the President may be fairly castigated for his policies by those that hold contrary views, neither he nor any other racial minority is to blame for the larger phenomenon of elite repositioning and the inevitable displacement of whites that entails. More importantly, it diverts attention from the real issue – quite specifically, the inherent contradiction that exists between powerful, influential, and self-serving elites, and the principles and practices of democratic society.
More than a half-century ago, the late Carroll Quigley – then a distinguished Professor of History at Georgetown University – was granted access to the archives of the British Round Table. Dating in various forms and guises to the fin de siecle of the Nineteenth Century, that organization had played a central role in forging the Anglo-American alliance that dominated the Twentieth; and within the musty pages of its records, Professor Quigley found clear and compelling evidence of a multi-national elite bent upon creating what is now commonly referred to as the “New World Order.” Although Quigley did not trace the origins of this elite to the mists of Norman Occupied England – he was interested only in its modern manifestations – history provides no reason for doubt.
While Quigley generally agreed with the goals of the Round Table and its various affiliates around the world – including, notably, the Council on Foreign Relations in America – he was nonetheless disturbed by their secretive manner, and by their careful and deliberate efforts to hide their dominant role in shaping government policies. For if democracy means anything at all, it means that grand issues such as global integration should be openly discussed and debated; and the likely consequences honestly and publicly explored.
Unfortunately, the political class has studiously ignored Professor Quigley’s preference for open debate. When Quigley’s most prominent student was asked about the elite he had described, then-president William Jefferson Clinton artfully dodged the question by paying a personal tribute to his mentor instead. A former Rhodes scholar and the recipient of multinational and transnational corporate largess, Clinton championed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the much heralded but ill-defined “Third Way” in politics – which according to their critics, was no more than a corrupt bargain in which the many would surrender their political rights to the few, in exchange for expansive social welfare.
Whatever the actual case, the time has come to put the distraction of race aside and focus on questions that actually matter – most specifically, the inherent conflict between the “Shadow Government” of the international elite documented by Quigley, and the democratic principles and practices enshrined in our Constitution. For we have reached a point in our shared history where the meaning of democracy and, indeed, even the survival of the United States as a sovereign entity, are both now in doubt.
The Center for Intelligence Studies