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The Libertarian Party Will Never Have Political Power

The Libertarian Party Will Never Have Political Power

Just give it up already. Those who are holding onto the dream that the LP will be able to wield any significant political, or cultural power have not thought this through. An ideology of non-aggression and voluntary interactions has no place in the political sphere unless they are willing to become like the other two parties. Their message is that we are not like them. It is one of incompatibility when it comes to Machiavellian power structures.

The purpose of politics is to seize power and centralize it to your party. The Left knows how to do this even when they aren’t in power and the Right fails even when they hold all the cards. As Curtis Yarvin puts it,

“Progressives see power as an end; conservatives see power as a means to an end. As soon as conservatives get even a sliver of power, they start trying to use this power to create good outcomes. This is irrational.

The rational way to use power is the progressive way: to make more power. Your power grows exponentially. Eventually you have all the power, and can get all the outcomes you want.

There is not one progressive idea which does not yield a power dividend. I cannot think of a conservative idea that does. If one did, the progressives would steal it. Then the conservatives would persuade themselves to oppose it, and all would be well.”

Anyone paying attention knows this. In our lifetimes the Left has grown their power – especially over the culture – to an insurmountable level. The Right has become what the Left was 25 years ago, and they always play catch-up. I hear echoes of Michael Malice saying, “Conservatism is Progressive driving the speed limit.”

What does this all mean for the Libertarian Party? It should be obvious. What is described above IS politics. It is the dirtiest, slimiest, most reprehensible way of gaining power over mankind. To argue against that is to be naive beyond measure. An ideology promoting the Non-Aggression Principle entering into the American political realm is like a kindergartener entering a UFC match. The outcome is inevitable.

And don’t think I’m just talking about the 202-area code. No, local politics is just as bad. If you’re walking in there as “the good guy” the inevitable “bad guy” will rear their head and take you out. And if you’re a Libertarian and you are “consistent” in your ideology, you won’t fight dirty because once you do you are out of the realm of libertarianism. You’ve just became “The Swamp” (even the local Swamp).

Once you understand this you realize that the old argument about whether the purpose of the Libertarian Party is one of “education” or “getting people elected” to institute political change is easily answered. You are a party of education. And one that will always be a joke in the eyes of those who understand the Machiavellian nature of politics. But is education even possible if you won’t do what it takes politically to even get on a debate stage ignoring the inability to centralize all power to you if you do get elected?

Maybe there are better ways to spend your time rather than tilting at windmills.

How Donald Trump Is Closing the Door on the Afghan War

How Donald Trump Is Closing the Door on the Afghan War

The lame duck period has always been something of a dull, transitionary state in American politics. We’re more accustomed to presidents using their last moments of authority to pardon powerful friends and other unpopular favors. Contrary to these expectations, however, President Donald Trump is going into overdrive to end the longest war in American history.

In 2016, Donald Trump promised that he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Four years after his historic victory, 4,500 U.S. soldiers (and even more contractors) remain in Central Asia. Now, in a last-minute attempt to fulfill his promise and rebalance our obsolescent foreign policy, he has fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper along with the Secretary’s Chief of Staff and Undersecretaries for Policy and Intelligence.

This was the swiftest attempt at draining the swamp performed by the president in his four-year term, and it’s something he should have done much sooner. Donald Trump’s greatest mistake will always be not scouring Washington, D.C., clean immediately after his election.

Even prior to his inauguration in January 2017, the national security state’s permanent bureaucracy began to sour the possibility of ending America’s forever wars in the Middle East. This subversive effort was so brazen, and so widely acknowledged, that then-anonymous Homeland Security Chief of Staff Miles Taylor felt comfortable writing in The New York Times in September 2018 “that many of the senior officials in (Trump’s) own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda.”

The latest iteration of this sabotage was revealed when James Jeffrey, the White House’s point man on Syria, admitted he and other diplomats regularly lied about how many soldiers were deployed in the Arab nation. “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey told Defense One last week. In 2019, President Trump had agreed to leave a small presence of 200 men, but according to Jeffrey there are “a lot more than” that in Northeast Syria.

For four years, we have seen a democratically elected government be undermined and disrupted by career pencil-pushers who remain unaccountable to the American voter. And why are they so opposed to the presidency of Donald Trump? It’s not because of tweets or some superficial personality flaw. It is because he is the first Commander in Chief in forty years not to initiate a war of choice.

For decades, our country has been on a permanent war-footing, engaging in numerous conflicts and regime change operations around the world. This continual foreign policy of crisis enhances the power and prestige of national security officials, while financially benefiting the military-industrial complex that pays those officials’ retirement funds.

Donald Trump was the first substantive threat to their racket in a generation. That is because he listened when the American people said they were tired of endless war. Two-thirds of our citizens consistently tell pollsters they want a full withdrawal from the Afghan quagmire, while majorities say they also want to leave Iraq and Syria.

So when Mark Esper insinuated he would not comply with orders to depart from Afghanistan, Trump gave him the boot. This is the responsible course of action when an appointed functionary refuses to obey lawful policy directives. Esper and his underlings have been replaced by individuals who realize we ought to listen to Middle America more than the CEOs of Raytheon and Boeing.

Christopher Miller has been selected as the new acting secretary of defense, and he seems more than capable of carrying out his assignment. Addressing our armed forces for the first time, Miller said, “We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.” That is a message that resonates with Americans and accomplishes what they’ve been demanding at the ballot box for years.

And to assist Secretary Miller, President Trump has appointed as his senior adviser Col. Douglas Macgregor, a Gulf War hero, the U.S. Army’s finest intellectual, and someone who has been advocating for over a decade that we must excise ourselves from the troubles of the Middle East.

As the clock ticks towards Jan. 20, Donald Trump is ready to put a stop to the shell games and restore a foreign policy demanded by working-class Americans. He’s bringing our troops home.

Dan McKnight is the chairman of BringOurTroopsHome.US, a veteran of the Afghanistan war and 13 years of service in the USMC Reserves, U.S. Army and Idaho Army National Guard. This article was originally featured at the Idaho State Journal and is republished with permission of author.

The Australian Special Forces’ Culture of Death

The Australian Special Forces’ Culture of Death

Australia has a culture for war, and that culture breeds atrocities.

The Australian government’s own inquiry has confirmed many of the allegations leaked by journalists regarding war crimes in Afghanistan, stemming from the execution by Australian special forces of prisoners and civilians. Those same journalists had previously been threatened with prosecution for exposing those war crimes. But faced with a mountain of evidence and already public revelations, the government had no choice but to find that its armed forces had been involved in such atrocities. And those crimes were a consequence of the culture promoted in Australia’s elite special forces, the SASR.

The public reaction to the admission of guilt has varied. While Australians may hate the political administrations that wield them in war due to partisan politics, they tend to love their military. War itself is often bipartisan. Many now blame the politicians for the atrocities, as though the political masters themselves were on ground, in the kicking boots and pulling the triggers on frightened civilians. It is the tall poppy syndrome that simplifies warfare, with only trying leaders with crimes, as if ‘simply following orders is defense enough. But in this case, there were no orders to follow.

That however does, however, make the Australian government innocent of waging war and reaping the inevitable misery it brings.

Whether or not these soldiers are being made out as scapegoats does not change the fact that they themselves executed prisoners and civilians. The exact number of victims will never be known, just as the true depth of atrocities committed by all sides in the ongoing Afghanistan war will be unknown (and most other wars for that matter). Australia’s head of government wrote a letter of apology to the head of the Afghani goverment as an act of apology. Such out of touch gestures reveal the widespread arrogance of national governments. They are not representative of the suffering people, but the ones distributing the suffering. The victims are often vastly disconnected from the regime in Kabul. And Australian soldiers would have been operating inside of Afghanistan regardless of who the prime minister was at the time.

What of the justice for the victims and their families? A payment will likely be made and an admission of guilt. That is something more than many others have received but ultimately it is token. It does not remove the pain, anguish and terror experienced. Or the fact that the people of Afghanistan have suffered an endless brutal war as numerous foreign actors intervene and kill and while domestic warlords and terrorists exploit this invasion for their own devious ends. Insurgencies are manured in the blood and bones of dead loved ones. Especially when the foreigners kill indiscriminately and brutally.

For the people in Afghanistan they know the true nature of the war. They know the devastation from the air as helicopters, jets, drones and gunships devastate from above with reckless murder. The Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz mass murder from the US military in 2015 showed just how callous the allies could be, as a gunship blasted from above killing at least 42 doctors, staff, women and children patients. The rules of war never matter to those waging it, especially when they are often the rule writers.

On the ground where the terror is more personal, soldiers from other nations have been involved in torture, rape, executions and murder of civilians. The recent inquiry just reveals that the Australian soldier is no different. The nature of the intimate murder on the ground is viewed differently by the public and law makers. It is why bayoneting a baby is considered atrocious while napalming a school of children from afar is deemed collateral. The war from the air has netted numerous civilian deaths, including those by the RAAF as was admitted in Syria when civilians were killed by an Australian strike. In some minds this is not a war crime. To the victims and those fermenting terror and the insurgency it most certainly is. Perspectives change when you are related to the people who were murdered.

For Australia and its allies, the rules are often bent. Australia, an island continent far removed from Afghanistan geographically and culturally, acts with impulsive urgency in any crisis. Its government is able to impose laws that involve both war and domestic policy as it pleases. The lawless law making is a characteristic of many nations that wage endless wars, in the name of their own passing self interests. Australia is no different. The Australian soldiers conducting operations in Afghanistan likely found themselves in a perpetual state of confused objectives. After all, what now is the end game in Afghanistan? It likely will change with the incoming new US political administration. And what was it a decade ago? It does not matter, Australians are there to fight, who? Mostly the people of Afghanistan.

The admission that Australian soldiers had committed war crimes by its own government does show the depth of seriousness of the culture that exists within a war weary few. The Australian special forces community has been deployed and wielded by the government for decades with reckless disregard to war fatigue. From interdicting refugees to numerous deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq and perhaps Syria the SASR is thrown about by the government with the assumption that the men are superhuman beings there to serve policy. On top of the wars the special forces community have no doubt been involved in the training of local allies, exercises to integrate them in a wider multi-national coalition and any other covert operations. And now as the sabres are rattled in the direction of China another pivot has been given to the ADF. The elite few are now trapped in a state of service for the Australian government and its ill defined wars, that always has terrible outcomes. The soldiers may not be able to decide where they are sent, they however can decide how they conduct themselves.

Despite the dirty fingers that this revelation gives Australian government officials, the institution of aggressive Australian foreign policy will remain. The next season of cricket will start and the Australian appetite for war, limited and discreet, will return. For many of the Australian public the role and function of the military is without doubt. They are keeping Australia safe and free. In Afghanistan perhaps from terrorists, and maybe illicit drugs. Or to stop bad regimes from terrorising their populace. Only foreigners may do that. And in the case of limiting freedoms in Australia, only a domestic government may do that too. In any case, the wars will go on for Australia. The Aussies will always be there.

A great many Australians in public and on social media are less than impressed with the government’s criticism of their soldier’s conduct. Civilians are siding with the SASR; the love for the military and the men who do the bloody deeds runs for the nation run deep in Australia. The ANZAC is celebrated, like a national knight above criticism. When they do come under fire, it is redirected at the officer class or the politicians themselves. It should be the Prime Minister from Howard, or the many coup-appointed leaders of the Australian government that should face trial, the claim goes. But those leaders likely never killed anyone. As difficult as it was for the soldiers, they made those decisions themselves without orders. And given the whistleblowing, clearly not all of their fellow soldiers agreed with the decision to commit murder.

In his May 22, 2020 interview with Scott Horton, former SAS member Braden Chapman explains his experiences in Afghanistan:

OK. I just witnessed an execution. And you kinda just move on, like we were pretty busy. You just kind of move on. I am sure that it was discussed behind closed doors.

It’s one of those units where it is very hard to come forward to say stuff, these things are investigated and they get away with it at the time so you kinda don’t want to really ruin your career I guess.

The fact that you know that they are getting away with this stuff, even when it is officially investigated by the military, you know it is not going to change anything.

Some have argued that this is no where near as devastating as the My Lai Massacre or the Japanese military’s rape of Nangking. No one claimed it was. But for the victims, those moments of terror were still very real. Even one murder is still wrong. It is with abstract morality and the majesty of nationalist obedience that one can swish numbers around to calculate just how much suffering and death is tolerable. Or the fact that the Australian military—again—is fighting overseas, involved in another war that has no virtuous outcome. It is a war against a population that had done nothing to Australia, or had any intention in attacking Australia. But neither did the Boers, Turks, Vietnamese or Iraqis.

It is not merely a culture within the SASR itself or even the military at large. It is Australian culture; an entitled one that feels it has a right to go abroad and wage war. No matter what the law or policy is, Australians have a duty to see it through, to follow the rules. This bushranger convict mentality may be one that is celebrated by a shrinking percentage of the population, but the majority continues to love their government or are at least impotently accepting its many intrusions. And far too many now depend on it. No matter how many examples to the contrary, people believe these actions are done in the name of the abstract greater good or a meandering ideal of freedom.

As the new decade rolls in, it is safe to say that we shall see more revelations as whistleblowers feel safer in coming out. They may reveal not just the conduct that occurred in Afghanistan but other Australian military deployments. And as Australian citizen Julian Assange is held as a political prisoner, our government and wider public are silent on his status as a human being and journalist. Instead, because of his part in the revelations of murder in Iraq by an allied military, he is forsaken. His condition is deteriorating and his future is unknown, but for Australia more wars await. The government and populace will add to the growing list of misery it calls a foreign policy. And most Australians seem alright with that, or at the very least indifferent.  That is the culture. It is Australian.

To quote Major Thomas from the Australian film Breaker Morant:

The fact of the matter is that war changes men’s natures. The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations. Situations in which the ebb and flow of everyday life have departed and have been replaced by a constant round of fear and anger, blood and death.

America’s Mistakes In Syria Must Be Declassified

America’s Mistakes In Syria Must Be Declassified

How many Syrians did you vote to kill on Election Day? Thanks to our perverse political system, the answer will be revealed over the next four years if the Biden administration drags the U.S. back into the Syrian Civil War. But there are steps that Trump can take in his final months in office to deter such follies.

Syria was not an issue in the presidential campaign and there were no foreign policy questions in the two presidential debates. That won’t stop the Biden team from claiming a mandate to spread truth and justice via bombs and bribes any place on the globe.

The Biden campaign promised to “increase pressure” on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad – presumably by providing more arms and money to his violent opponents. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris declared that the U.S. government “will once again stand with civil society and pro-democracy partners in Syria and help advance a political settlement where the Syrian people have a voice.” Northeastern University professor Max Abrahms observed, “Every foreign policy ‘expert’ being floated for Biden’s cabinet supported toppling the governments in Iraq, Libya and Syria, helping Al Qaeda and jihadist friends, ravaging the countries, uprooting millions of refugees from their homes.”

Syria policy has long exemplified the depravity of Washington politicians and policymakers and the venality of much of the American media. The same “Hitler storyline” that American politicians invoked to justify ravaging Serbia, Iraq, and Libya was applied to Assad by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013. Once a foreign leader is irrevocably tagged with the scarlet H, the U.S. government is automatically entitled to take any action against his nation that would purportedly undermine his regime. Every side in the Syrian civil war committed atrocities, but the Obama administration acted as if there was only one bad guy.

Trump attempted to extract the U.S. from the Syrian conflict, but his sporadic, often unfocused efforts were largely thwarted by the permanent bureaucracy in the Pentagon, State Department, and other agencies. Considering the likelihood that the Biden administration will rev up the Syrian conflict by targeting Assad, recapping how America got involved in this mess to begin with is worthwhile.

President Obama promised 16 times that he would never put U.S. “boots on the ground” in the four-sided Syrian civil war. He quietly abandoned that pledge and, starting in 2014, launched more than 5,000 airstrikes that dropped more than 15,000 bombs in Syria.

Lying and killing are often two sides of the same political coin. The U.S. government provided cash and a massive amount of military weaponry to terrorist groups seeking to topple the Assad regime. The fig leaf for the policy was that the U.S. government was merely arming “moderate” rebels—which apparently meant groups that opposed Assad but which refrained from making grisly videos of beheadings. U.S. policy in Syria became so bollixed that Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels openly battled CIA-backed rebels. The U.S. government spent billions aiding and training Syrian forces who either quickly collapsed on the battlefield or teamed up with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or al-Qaeda-linked forces.

Federal law prohibiting providing material support to terrorist groups was not permitted to impede Obama’s Syrian crusade. Evan McMullin, a 2016 presidential candidate, admitted on Twitter: “My role in the CIA was to go out & convince Al Qaeda operatives to instead work with us.” Most of the media outlets that shamelessly regurgitated the Bush administration’s false claims linking Iraq to Al Qaeda to justify a 2003 invasion ignored how the Obama administration began aiding and abetting terrorist groups. The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan lamented last year that those who warned that the U.S. government “providing money and weapons to such rebels would backfire… were smeared as genocide apologists, Assad stooges, Iran supporters.” A Turkish think tank analyzed the violent groups committing atrocities in Syria after the start of the Turkish invasion in 2019: “Out of the 28 factions, 21 were previously supported by the United States, three of them via the Pentagon’s program to combat [ISIS]. Eighteen of these factions were supplied by the CIA.”

American policy in Syria has been incorrigible in part because most of the media coverage of the conflict has been like a fairy tale that sometimes showcased our national goodness. Trump’s finest hour, according to the American media, occurred when he launched missile strikes on the Syrian government in April 2017 after allegations that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons. MSNBC host Brian Williams gushed over the video footage of the attacks: “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan groused that “praise flowed like wedding champagne—especially on cable news.”

That wasn’t the only time that top-tier media celebrated carnage. Later in 2017, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius proudly cited an estimate from a “knowledgeable official” that “CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years.” Ignatius did not reveal if his inside source also provided an estimate of how many Syrian women and children had been slaughtered by CIA-backed terrorists.

Capitol Hill has been worse than useless on Syria. When Trump announced plans to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, the House of Representatives condemned his move by a 354 to 60 vote. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blathered, “At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who was elected after lying to voters by claiming he fought in the Vietnam War, said he felt “horror and shame” over Trump’s action. Congress showed more outrage about a troop pullback than it had shown about the loss of all the American soldiers’ lives in pointless conflicts over the past 18 years.

Foreign policy “experts” are Washington’s most respected con artists. It will be no surprise if Biden appointees repeat the same too-clever-by-half routine of the Obama years, bankrolling terrorists to torment a nation ruled by someone who Washington disapproves of.

If the Biden administration commences bombing Syria to topple Assad, Americans would be naive to expect to learn the facts from cable news or their morning newspapers. Syrian children who die in U.S. airstrikes will be as invisible as Hunter Biden’s laptop in the vast majority of American media coverage. The media will also continue to ignore the slaughter of Syrian Christians, one of the largest and least recognized victims of the civil war.

The best hope to prevent a new round of mistakes, lies, and atrocities is an epic disclosure of prior U.S. mistakes, lies, and crimes in Syria. There is an old saying that sunshine is the best disinfectant. For U.S. policy in Syria, what is needed is an acid burn that permanently sullies the reputations of any government official involved in creating, perpetuating, or covering up debacles. Any U.S. Government official involved in arming the “moderate” rebels deserves to be ridiculed in perpetuity.

The vast majority of records on U.S. intervention in Syria are likely classified as military or national security secrets. But the president is authorized to disclose as he chooses. Perhaps what is needed is a Wikileaks-style massive dump of documents with only the names of innocent Syrians redacted. Almost 20 years ago, Washingtonians were riveted by the last minute pardons that Bill Clinton uncorked until almost the final moment of his presidency. Trump could do the same thing with deluges of disclosures on Syria and other quagmires until the moment that Biden leaves his basement for swearing-in.

Photo by author

If blanket revelations are not possible, then selective disclosures with high entertainment value would include the cozy ties between federal agencies and journalists and think tanks who won official favor by shamelessly recycling official lies.

Revealing the strings that foreign governments pulled to propel or perpetuate U.S. intervention could vaccinate Americans against similar ploys in the future. The Israeli government admitted last year (after years of denials) that it had long provided military aid to radical Muslim Syrian groups fighting Assad. With the Obama administration’s approval, the Saudis poured massive amounts of arms and money into the hands of terrorist groups fighting the Assad regime. Both the Israeli and Saudi military aid made the Syrian assignment more perilous for American troops. Other governments helped sow chaos and carnage in Syria while the Obama administration pretended that the main or sole problem was Assad.

Sweeping disclosures could also enable Trump to settle scores with appointees who subverted his policies. Trump appointed a Never-Trumper letter signer, Jim Jeffrey, as his special envoy for Syria. Last week, Jeffrey explained how he and others thwarted Trump’s efforts to disengage in Syria: “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.” The actual number was far higher than the 200 Trump thought would be left in the country. The charade on troop deployments was a “success story” for Jeffrey, Defense One noted, because it “ended with U.S. troops still operating in Syria, denying Russian and Syrian territorial gains.” But denying “Syrian territorial gains” to Syrians was not the policy Trump touted. Washington Post reporter Liz Sly savored the charade: “US officials have been lying to Trump – and the American people – about the true number of US troops in Syria in order to deter him from withdrawing them, according to the outgoing Syria envoy. Trump thinks it’s 200.” Sly added two laughing emojis after that line. (No word on whether the Post will add laughing emojis to its “Democracy Dies in Darkness” motto.)

https://twitter.com/LizSly/status/1327137565288378370?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1327137565288378370%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theamericanconservative.com%2Farticles%2Fdeclassify-americas-dirty-secrets-in-syria-to-stop-a-biden-war%2F

Opening the files on Syria would provide the ammo for activism by vast numbers of Americans who vehemently
oppose new wars. In August 2013, Obama was on the verge of bombing the Assad regime after allegations it had used chemical weapons. A vast outcry against intervention, including a dramatic protest outside the White House while Obama was making a Saturday speech on his Syrian plans, temporarily deterred further U.S. escalation (beheading videos were the Aladdin’s Lamp for interventionists). There is far more evidence of the folly of U.S. intervening in Syria now than there was in 2013 and probably more folks today ready to raise hell.

America can no longer afford to cloak its foreign carnage in the shroud of good intentions. There is no transcendent national interest that justifies pointlessly killing more Arabs in Syria or elsewhere. Americans need to scoff at those who portray keeping U.S. boots on foreign necks as a triumph of idealism.

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with permission.

The Elite’s Horrific Transhumanist Future

The Elite’s Horrific Transhumanist Future

If one takes the publications of the World Economic Forum (WEF) as an indication of how the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” will change society, the world is facing a massive onslaught against individual liberty and private property. A new kind of collectivism is about to emerge. Like the communism of the past, the new project appeals to the public with the assurance of technological advancement and social inclusion. Additionally, ecological sustainability and the promise of longevity or even immortality are used to entice the public. In reality, however, these promises are deeply dystopian.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to Klaus Schwab, the founder and current executive chairman of the WEF, the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (2016) represents a new stage of the disruptive technological advances that began toward the end of the eighteenth century with the textile industry and the use of steam power. The Second Industrial Revolution took place in the decades before and after 1900. It created a plethora of new consumer goods and production technologies that allowed mass production. The third Industrial Revolution began around 1950 with the breakthroughs in digital technologies. Now, according to Klaus Schwab, the fourth Industrial Revolution means that the world is moving toward “a true global civilization.”

The fourth Industrial Revolution provides the potential “to robotize humanity, and thus compromise our traditional sources of meaning—work, community, family, identity.” Schwab predicts that the fourth Industrial Revolution will “lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness.”

Transhumanism is part of the transformation that comes with the fourth Industrial Revolution, as artificial intelligence (AI) will surpass even the best human performances at specific tasks. The new technologies “will not stop at becoming part of the physical world around us—they will become part of us, Schwab declares.

In the foreword to Schwab’s latest book, Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018), the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, states that the evolution of the new technologies “is entirely within our power.” Microsoft and the other high-tech companies “are betting on the convergence of several important technology shifts—mixed reality, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.”

Satya Nadella informs readers that Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and IBM will cooperate in an AI partnership that will work to develop and test the technology in fields such as “automobiles and healthcare, human-AI collaboration, economic displacement, and how AI can be used for social good.”

All-Embracing Transformation

In the preface to his latest book, Klaus Schwab predicts that the fourth Industrial Revolution will “upend the existing ways of sensing, calculating, organizing, acting and delivering.” He states that “the negative externalities” of the present global economy harm “the natural environment and vulnerable populations.”

The changes that come with the new technologies will be comprehensive and will topple “the way we produce and transport goods and services.” The revolution will upset how “we communicate, the way we collaborate, and the way we experience the world around us.” The change will be so profound that the advances in neurotechnologies and biotechnologies “are forcing us to question what it means to be human.”

Like Satya Nadella’s foreword, Schwab’s text reiterates several times the claim that the “evolution of the fourth Industrial Revolution” is “entirely within our power” when “we” use the “window of opportunity” and drive for “empowerment.” The “we” that both authors speak of is the global technocratic elite that calls for central control and state interventionism (called “shaping the future”) in a new system that is characterized by intimate cooperation between business and government, or, more specifically between high tech and a handful of key states.

The World Economic Forum’s webpage about the “Great Reset” proclaims that “the Covid-19 crisis” presents “a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery.” At the present “historic crossroads,” the world leaders must address “the inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions” ranging from healthcare and education to finance and energy. The forum defines “sustainable development” as the central aim of the global management activities.

The “Great Reset” calls for global cooperation to attain goals such as “harnessing the fourth Industrial Revolution,” “restoring the health of the environment,“ “redesigning social contracts, skills, and jobs,” and “shaping the economic recovery.” As thematized at the October 20–23, 2020, “Jobs Reset Summit,” a “green recovery” from the covid-19 crisis promises a “green horizon.” The WEF summit in January 2021 will specifically address the transformations that are to come. The main topics include “stable climate,” “sustainable development,” a “zero carbon” economy, and agricultural production that would reduce cattle farming in tune with the global reduction of meat consumption.

The Alternative

The rise of living standards together with the growth of the world population became possible because of the Industrial Revolution. Those who want to bring down capitalist society and the economy must necessarily opt for declining living standards and depopulation. The promoters of the plans to bring about a new world order with the force of the state negate that radical capitalism could much better provide the means to move to a better world, as has been the case since the inception of the First Industrial Revolution.

What brought about the industrial revolutions of the past were free markets and individual choice. As Mises explains, it was the laissez-faire ideology that produced the First Industrial Revolution. There was a spiritual revolution first that brought an end to “the social order in which a constantly increasing number of people were doomed to abject need and destitution” and where the manufacturing activity “had almost exclusively catered to the wants of the well-to-do” and their “expansion was limited by the amount of luxuries the wealthier strata of the population could afford.”

The ideology of the World Economic Forum is that of the preindustrial era. While the website of the forum (WEF) teems with terms like “power,” “organization,” and managed “sustainable development,” concepts like “freedom,” “market coordination,” and “individual choice” are blatantly absent. The forum hides the fact that instead of human progress, impoverishment and suppression is the future of humankind. The implicit consequence of the planned “ecological economy” is the drastic reduction of the world population.

With the abolishment of markets and the suppression of individual choice, which the collectivist plans of the WEF propound, a new dark age would come. Different from what the planners presume, technological progress itself would come to a standstill. Without the human creativity that springs from the mindset of individualism, no economic progress has ever been possible.

Conclusion

The new technologies that come with the fourth Industrial Revolution can be of immense benefit to humankind. The technologies per se are not the problem but how they are used. A dystopian future awaits us if the global elite of the World Economic Forum has its say. The result would be a technocratic terror regime masked as a benevolent world government. Yet there is an alternative. As widely proven over the past two hundred years, free markets and individual choice are the sources of technological advancement, human progress, and economic prosperity. There are no rational reasons to presume that the fourth Industrial Revolution would require collectivism. Free markets are the best way to cope with the challenges that come with new technologies. Not less but more capitalism is the answer.

Dr. Antony P. Mueller is a German professor of economics who currently teaches in Brazil. Write an email. See his website and blog. This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Defense Secretary Miller Announces Partial Withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Miller Announces Partial Withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller formally announced troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq on Tuesday. Miller said that by January 15th 2021, there will be 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and 2,500 troops in Iraq. There are currently about 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq.

Miller’s announcement confirmed a story published by CNN on Monday that said the Pentagon was preparing for the order. Other reports suggested President Trump was also planning to withdraw troops from Somalia, but that was not mentioned in Miller’s announcement.

The announcement comes after President Trump’s Pentagon shake-up that started with the firing of Mark Esper. The overhaul was rumored to be related to disagreements over troop withdrawals. In October, President Trump said all US troops in Afghanistan “should” be home by Christmas but the declaration never turned into an order.

The U.S.-Taliban peace deal paved the way for all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by Spring 2021, but U.S. officials regularly stress the withdrawal is “conditions-based.” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has previously said the plan was to bring numbers down to 2,500 in Afghanistan by early 2021.

The announcement squanders any hope of President Trump actually ending the war in Afghanistan before January 20th, when Joe Biden is expected to be inaugurated. Miller said the drawdowns do “not equate to a change in US policy or objectives.”

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

H. R. McMaster Is a Damned Fool

H. R. McMaster Is a Damned Fool

When President Donald Trump took office, his aides promised there would always be adults in the room. Especially when it came to foreign policy, learned, stable professionals would ensure responsible and intelligent actions.

Except the adults turned out to be idiots. They fought the president at every turn when he sought to withdraw from endless wars. They insisted that Washington remain allied to the worst of the worst, supporting the vile Saudi regime in its aggressive and murderous war against Yemen. They urged policies that treated Russia as a permanent enemy. They backed American dominance of every existing alliance and relationship, infantilizing America’s friends and maximizing Washington’s obligations.

Now former national security adviser H.R. McMaster has reminded Americans that many members of the infamous Blob, the foreign policy elite, are brain dead. Their thinking about the world ended decades ago. They mouth hypocritical platitudes while seeing everything through an antiquated prism.

For instance, McMaster recently charged that Tehran, a political, economic, and military wreck, has “hegemonic designs.” He made this claim after serving at the center of foreign policymaking in the world’s dominant power which is determined to be the global hegemon in control of every region on earth, essentially imposing the Monroe Doctrine on every continent. Supportive policymakers insist that the U.S. should intervene everywhere while no one else can intervene anywhere. Indeed, in their view America is entitled to meddle at any time for any reason.

Within the administration, McMaster orchestrated American support for Saudi Arabia, which did far more than Tehran to play regional hegemon. The antediluvian royals invaded one neighbor, deployed troops in a second, supported jihadist rebels against a third, kidnapped the prime minister of a fourth, launched a diplomatic/economic offensive against a fifth, and are promoting a civil war in a slightly more distant sixth. Riyadh’s behavior is reckless, dangerous, criminal, and, yes, hegemonic.

But it is in deploying the Munich comparison that McMaster, once thought to be an innovative military thinker, demonstrated that his time in government apparently killed off some of his once-abundant gray matter. In this he is not alone. Virtually every minor dictator in the most distant and underpopulated lands has been compared to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler at least once. If we avert our glance for merely a moment, we are warned, Dictator X in Country Y is likely to launch a campaign of conquest across Continent Z. Or something similar. Thus only American intervention can prevent the onset of a new global dark age.

McMaster has been on a book tour promoting his latest tome with its utterly conventional demand for a harder line against, well, everyone. And why not? After all, surely America has money to burn after running a $3.1 trillion deficit during the 2020 fiscal year. With the federal debt already over 100 percent of GDP. Another $2 trillion or more in red ink expected in 2021. And the total “COVID deficit” predicted to run between $8 trillion and $16 trillion. But why worry: it’s only money!

Anyway McMaster was asked about President Donald Trump’s negotiation with Afghanistan. Is it America’s “Munich agreement” and “a policy of appeasement with Taliban”? Yes, replied McMaster.

It is hard to believe that McMaster doesn’t understand the concept of appeasement or know Munich’s circumstances. More likely, he doesn’t care about the facts and preferred to take a cheap shot at Trump, always an easy target.

First, appeasement is a time-tested and oft-successful strategy. It usually is better to make a deal than go to war. A little more appeasement before World War I involving Austro-Hungary and Serbia, which armed the gang that assassinated the Hapsburg heir, an obvious casus belli, might have forestalled a global conflict that consumed around 20 million lives and ultimately led to the Munich agreement and the far deadlier and more destructive World War II.

Second, on its face, Munich was a sensible attempt at appeasement. It redressed the World War I injustice of treating millions of ethnic Germans as pawns in a global chess game. At the Versailles Treaty conference, the oh-so-moral allies grabbed territorial plunder here, there, and everywhere, while prattling about self-determination. Hitler did not arise in a vacuum; allied avarice and myopia helped bring him to power.

Munich was a tragedy because the allies sought to appease the one person in Europe who could not be satiated. The pact transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany the Sudetenland, which was taken by Prague from the long-gone Austro-Hungarian Empire against the wishes of its ethnic Germans residents. Berlin won, yet Hitler was irritated that the settlement denied him the war he desired. He invaded Poland the following year. However, Germany was not as well prepared for conflict in 1938 and Hitler might have been removed by his own military, which was contemplating a coup because of his apparent recklessness.

The short lesson of the agreement: the problem was Hitler, not appeasement. Most Europeans probably believed that preserving the continent’s peace warranted shifting to Germany territory filled with people who should not have been given to Czechoslovakia in the first place. In the abstract, Britain and France had good reason not to back Prague in a war over what were frankly ill-gotten gains. Unfortunately, London and Paris didn’t understand who and what they were dealing with—but they were not alone in sharing that delusion.

As for Afghanistan, one must hope that McMaster is not confused by the difference between Nazi Germany and the insurgent Taliban. A generation earlier, the Germans demonstrated their ability to wreak continental and even global murder and mayhem. In contrast, the Taliban’s motley mix of Islamists and opportunities at most threaten to gain control over additional territory in an impoverished, isolated land, located thousands of miles from America, which never had a strong central government to begin with.

Nevertheless, McMaster declared that “We will pay the price, and we’ll be back. We’ll have to go back, and at a much higher cost.” Why? Central Asia has no intrinsic value for America. The Taliban want to rule their villages and valleys, not threaten the U.S. at home.

Moreover, Afghanistan has no inherent connection to terrorism; the link was Osama bin Laden, who was initially involved there fighting the Soviets. After the U.S. intervened, he fled to and operated from Pakistan, a nominal American ally. And of course, he now is dead. Al-Qaeda’s remnants could operate anywhere, as do many of its spin-offs today. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, located in Yemen, has long been viewed as the most dangerous affiliate.

In any case, the region matters far more to the powers nearby, which have an incentive to promote a reasonably stable if not liberal Afghanistan. They do not want to see the return of terrorism. In fact, Christian Russia, Hindu India, and Shia Iran all have been targeted by Sunni terrorists. Communist China, busy locking up Sunni Uyghurs in reeducation camps, could be next on the terrorists’ target list. This gaggle of states has the makings of a good coalition to guard against growth in the Islamic State and revival of al-Qaeda, neither of which is in the Taliban’s interest, which would not want to trigger another round of U.S. retaliation.

As for humanitarian considerations, America has spent more than 19 years at war trying to create a liberal, centralized government where none previously existed. That is more than enough commitment of American lives and wealth.

McMaster’s strategic judgment is no better than his historical analysis. He complained that Trump’s exit plan “renders the war unjust, because we no longer have defined a just end.” It’s not clear why he believes leaving makes the conflict unjust. The U.S. got in for good reason, to retaliate against both al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the 9/11 attacks, sending the clear message that attacking America and hosting terrorists that strike America is a very bad idea. Washington foolishly stuck around for another 18-plus years trying to make Afghanistan into a better place, a theoretically moral but highly imprudent objective. And now, years late, an administration is finally trying to stop wasting American lives and wealth.

In the end, McMaster sounds like just all the other policymakers who misled the public over faux progress in Afghanistan year after year. As the Washington Post reported in its devastating “Afghanistan Papers” project nearly a year ago: “U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.” Yet upon these claims, Washington wasted thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

That is the true immorality, the shocking injustice, the criminal misconduct.

President Trump has gotten much wrong. But on Afghanistan he is far closer to the truth than the faux adults who surrounded him throughout his time in office. During McMaster’s next PR event for his book, he ought to be asked why purported leaders like him have so much trouble confronting their own failures.

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with permission.

What Americans Should Have Learned from the Korean War

What Americans Should Have Learned from the Korean War

This year is the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, a conflict from which Washington policymakers learned nothing. Almost 40,000 American soldiers died in that conflict that should have permanently vaccinated the nation against the folly and evil of foreign intervention. Instead, the war was retroactively redefined. As Barack Obama declared in 2013, “That war was no tie. Korea was a victory.”

The war began with what Harry Truman claimed was a surprise invasion on June 25, 1950, by the North Korean army across the dividing line with South Korea that was devised after World War Two. But the U.S. government had ample warnings of the pending invasion. According to the late Justin Raimondo, founder of antiwar.com, the conflict actually started with a series of attacks by South Korean forces, aided by the U.S. military: “From 1945-1948, American forces aided [South Korean President Syngman] Rhee in a killing spree that claimed tens of thousands of victims: the counterinsurgency campaign took a high toll in Kwangju, and on the island of Cheju-do—where as many as 60,000 people were murdered by Rhee’s US-backed forces.”

The North Korean army quickly routed both South Korean and U.S. forces. A complete debacle was averted after Gen. Douglas MacArthur masterminded a landing of U.S. troops at Inchon. After he routed the North Korean forces, MacArthur was determined to continue pushing northward regardless of the danger of provoking a much broader war.

By the time the U.S. forces drove the North Korean army back across the border between the two Koreas, roughly 5,000 American troops had been killed. The Pentagon had plenty of warning that the Chinese would intervene if the U.S. Army pushed too close to the Chinese border. But the euphoria that erupted after Inchon blew away all common sense and drowned out the military voices who warned of a catastrophe. One U.S. Army colonel responded to a briefing on the Korea situation in Tokyo in 1950 by storming out and declaring, “They’re living in a goddamn dream land.”

The Chinese military attack resulted in the longest retreat in the history of America’s armed forces — a debacle that was valorized by allusion in the 1986 Clint Eastwood movie, Heartbreak Ridge. By 1951, the Korean War had become intensely unpopular in the United States — more unpopular than the Vietnam War ever was. At least the war, which Truman insisted on mislabeling as a “police action,” destroyed the presidency of the man who launched it. By the time a ceasefire was signed in mid 1953, almost 40,000 Americans had been killed in a conflict that ended with borders similar to those at the start of the war.

Disasters

Perhaps the biggest disaster of the Korean war was that intellectuals and foreign-policy experts succeeded in redefining the Korean conflict as an American victory. As Georgetown University professor Derek Leebaert noted in his book Magic and Mayhem, “What had been regarded as a bloody stalemate transformed itself in Washington’s eyes; ten years later it had become an example of a successful limited war. Already by the mid-1950s, elite opinion began to surmise that it had been a victory.” Leebaert explained, “Images of victory in Korea shaped the decision to escalate in 1964-65 helping to explain why America pursued a war of attrition.” Even worse, the notion that “‘America has never lost a war’ remained part of the national myth, and the notion of having ‘prevailed’ in Korea became a justification for going big in Vietnam.” But as Leebaert noted, “in Vietnam, [the U.S. Army] had forgotten everything it had learned about counterinsurgency in Korea as well.”

When the American media noted the 70th anniversary of the start of the war this past June, they paid little or no attention to the war’s dark side. The media ignored perhaps the war’s most important lesson: the U.S. government has almost unlimited sway to hide its own war crimes.

During the Korean War, Americans were deluged with official pronouncements that the U.S. military was taking all possible steps to protect innocent civilians. Because the evils of communism were self-evident, few questions arose about how the United States was thwarting Red aggression. When a U.S. Senate subcommittee appointed in 1953 by Sen. Joseph McCarthy investigated Korean War atrocities, the committee explicitly declared that “war crimes were defined as those acts committed by enemy nations.”

In 1999, forty-six years after the cease fire in Korea, the Associated Press exposed a 1950 massacre of Korean refugees at No Gun Ri. U.S. troops drove Koreans out of their village and forced them to remain on a railroad embankment. Beginning on July 25, 1950, the refugees were strafed by U.S. planes and machine guns over the following three days. Hundreds of people, mostly women and children, were killed. The 1999 AP story was widely denounced by American politicians and some media outlets as a slander on American troops.

The Pentagon promised an exhaustive investigation. In January 2001, the Pentagon released a 300-page report purporting to prove that the No Gun Ri killings were merely “an unfortunate tragedy” caused by trigger-happy soldiers frightened by approaching refugees.

Bill Clinton announced his “regret that Korean civilians lost their lives at No Gun Ri.” In an interview, he was asked why he used “regret” instead of “apology.” He declared, “I believe that the people who looked into it could not conclude that there was a deliberate act, decided at a high-enough level in the military hierarchy, to acknowledge that, in effect, the Government had participated in something that was terrible.” Clinton specified that there was no evidence of “wrongdoing high-enough in the chain of command in the Army to say that, in effect, the Government was responsible.”

But the atrocities against civilians had been common knowledge among U.S. troops 50 years earlier. As Charles Hanley, Sang-Hun Choe, and Martha Mendoza noted in their 2001 book, The Bridge at No Gun Ri, the Pentagon in 1952 “withdrew official endorsement from RKO’s One Minute to Zero, a Korean War movie in which an Army colonel played by actor Robert Mitchum orders artillery fire on a column of refugees.” The Pentagon fretted that “this sequence could be utilized for anti-American propaganda” and banned the film from being shown on U.S. military bases.

In 2005, Sahr Conway-Lanz, a Harvard University doctoral student, discovered a letter in the National Archives from the U.S. ambassador to Korea, John Muccio, sent to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk on the day the No Gun Ri massacre commenced. Muccio summarized a new policy from a meeting between U.S. military and South Korean officials: “If refugees do appear from north of U.S. lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot.” The new policy was radioed to Army units around Korea on the morning the No Gun Ri massacre began. The U.S. military feared that North Korean troops might be hiding amidst the refugees. The Pentagon initially claimed that its investigators never saw Muccio’s letter but it was in the specific research file used for its report.

Slaughtering Civilians

Conway-Lanz’s 2006 book Collateral Damage: Americans, Noncombatant Immunity, and Atrocity after World War II quoted an official U.S. Navy history of the first six months of the Korean War stating that the policy of strafing civilians was “wholly defensible.” An official Army history noted, “Eventually, it was decided to shoot anyone who moved at night.” A report for the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge justified attacking civilians because the Army insisted that “groups of more than eight to ten people were to be considered troops, and were to be attacked.”

In 2007, the Army recited its original denial: “No policy purporting to authorize soldiers to shoot refugees was ever promulgated to soldiers in the field.” But the Associated Press exposed more dirt from the U.S. archives: “More than a dozen documents — in which high-ranking U.S. officers tell troops that refugees are ‘fair game,’ for example, and order them to ‘shoot all refugees coming across river’ — were found by the AP in the investigators’ own archived files after the 2001 inquiry. None of those documents was disclosed in the Army’s 300-page public report.” A former Air Force pilot told investigators that his plane and three others strafed refugees at the same time of the No Gun Ri massacre; the official report claimed that “all pilots interviewed … knew nothing about such orders.” Evidence also surfaced of massacres like No Gun Ri. On September 1, 1950, the destroyer USS DeHaven, at the Army’s insistence, “fired on a seaside refugee encampment at Pohang, South Korea. Survivors say 100 to 200 people were killed.”

Slaughtering civilians en masse became routine procedure after the Chinese army intervened in the Korean war in late 1950. MacArthur spoke of turning North Korean-held territory into a “desert.” The U.S. military eventually “expanded its definition of a military target to any structure that could shelter enemy troops or supplies.” Gen. Curtis LeMay summarized the achievements: “We burned down every town in North Korea … and some in South Korea, too.” A million civilians may have been killed during the war. A South Korean government Truth and Reconciliation Commission uncovered many previously unreported atrocities and concluded that “American troops killed groups of South Korean civilians on 138 separate occasions during the Korean War,” the New York Times reported.

Truth delayed is truth defused. The Pentagon strategy on Korean War atrocities succeeded because it left facts to the historians, not the policymakers. The truth about No Gun Ri finally slipped out — ten presidencies later. Even more damaging, the Rules of Engagement for killing Korean civilians were covered up for four more U.S. wars. If U.S. policy for slaying Korean refugees had been exposed during that war, it might have curtailed similar killings in Vietnam (many of which were not revealed until decades after the war).

Former congressman and decorated Korean War veteran Pete McCloskey (R-Calif.) warned, “The government will always lie about embarrassing matters.” The same shenanigans permeate other U.S. wars. The secrecy and deceit surrounding U.S. warring has had catastrophic consequences in this century. The Bush administration exploited the 9/11 attacks to justify attacking Iraq in 2003, and it was not until 2016 that the U.S. government revealed documents exposing the Saudi government’s role in financing the 9/11 hijackers (15 of 19 whom were Saudi citizens). The Pentagon covered up the vast majority of U.S. killings of Iraqi civilians until Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks exposed them in 2010. There are very likely reams of evidence of duplicity and intentional slaughter of civilians in U.S. government files on its endlessly confused and contradictory Syrian intervention.

When politicians or generals appear itching to pull the United States into another foreign war, remember that truth is routinely the first casualty. It is naive to expect a government that recklessly slays masses of civilians to honestly investigate itself and announce its guilt to the world. Self-government is a mirage if Americans do not receive enough information to judge killings committed in their name.

This article was originally featured at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished with permission.

It All Goes Back to ‘Russiagate’

It All Goes Back to ‘Russiagate’

How did the Russiagate hoax feed into the Covid hoax and then feed into the Election hoax? Ron Paul Institute Director Daniel McAdams ties them all together in this speech to the Mises Institute‘s recent Lake Jackson Seminar with Ron Paul. “All of a sudden the tweets are gone, the Facebook is gone, the media is gone. Only crazy people are questioning the most pristine—the most perfect—election of all time.” Watch it here:

This article was originally featured at the Ron Paul Institute and is republished with permission.

Hey Mr. President, End Some Wars On Your Way Out

Hey Mr. President, End Some Wars On Your Way Out

Donald Trump may or may not be president much longer. But he has an opportunity to actually follow through on the better promises he’s teased his base with for years. Namely, he could end some “endless wars.”

Since he launched his campaign five years ago, Trump has been rhetorically good on various foreign policy issues, albeit very sporadically. Yet as early as the 2015 primary debates, it was nearly always obvious that he had a fondness for surveillance, torture, “bombing the shit out” of ISIS, and Fox News style jingoism.

Commendably though, a key difference between Donald Trump’s base as compared to the Biden camp, or even the Bernie Sanders types, is that they seem to really respond to and even demand that the president stand against the establishment. Other rightful objects of their contempt include the Bushes, the Clintons, “stupid wars,” “endless wars,” the military industrial complex, and even NATO, the anachronistic, war seeking military alliance.

Trump’s talking points may seem supremely disingenuous to those that judge him by his actions and his rhetoric as a whole. But those aforementioned aberrations mean a lot to a great many Americans.

It’s true, Trump has been loyal and servile to war profiteers, his Israel firster benefactor Sheldon Adelson, his Saudi allies, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the anti-Iran, anti-China neocons.

But impressively, more than any other President in memory, he has won himself the support of regular people for his nominal stance against the war party. That the new right tolerates this mostly oratorical position from Trump, and often supports him for it, is a massive, positive shift in political and cultural values from the Bush II, Obama years. Though it leaves much to be desired, this development should not be taken lightly. It’s more than we can say for the bulk of the American left who accepted, without a fight, Sanders’ long history of hawkishness, Zionism, ties to the military industrial complex, and support for anti-Russian sanctions.

In the last few months, with election day nearing, Trump talked more and more about taking the troops out of Afghanistan. In February, a peace deal was signed between the United States and the Taliban for a complete withdrawal by Spring 2021. On Twitter, Trump has hyped the possibility of having all American troops in Afghanistan back home by Christmas.

In 2017, Trump doubled the troop deployment in the Central Asian country. He loosened the rules of engagement and set records for the numbers of bombs dropped there in 2018 and 2019. There were approximately 15,000 munitions dropped in the two-year span, likely causing high civilian casualties. But troop numbers are now roughly half of what they were when he came into the office, about 4,500.

Unfortunately, violence in the country is on the rise and the Doha talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban are reportedly faltering. To continue the war, this situation can and will likely be exploited by the incoming Biden administration, and other hawks both in Kabul and D.C.

Biden has said he does not intend to withdraw, claiming the situations in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, are too ‘complicated,’ indefinitely prohibiting our extrication. This must be “normalcy’s” great return.

However, this week Trump fired his War Secretary, the Raytheon lobbyist and arch anti-China, anti-Russia hawk, Mark Esper. The acting Secretary is now Christopher Miller, formerly the Counterterrorism Chief, who seems to be signaling “it’s time to come home.” What’s more, the antiwar, retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor has been appointed as a senior advisor to Miller. For anybody who wishes to end the endless wars, that is undoubtably a good sign.

Macgregor is on the record opposing the war in Syria. And as for the 19-year-old war in Afghanistan, he advocates a running not walking, immediate withdrawal.

Dave Decamp, assistant news editor at Antiwar.com, covered the personnel change and quoted the retired Colonel:

In January, Macgregor told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that President Trump should fulfill his promise to end the war in Afghanistan:

“There is one man, only one man who can take decisive action and end this. His name is Donald Trump. He promised to do that a long time ago. He’s disappointed a lot of us because he hasn’t,” Macgregor said. “He could stand up tomorrow and pull us out, but he needs to send everyone out of the Oval Office who keeps telling him, ‘If you do that and something bad happens, it’s going to be blamed on you, Mr. President.’”

Trump should heed Macgregor’s advice and thwart the hawks.

Additionally, Trump has said he wants to finally take the troops out of Iraq. As the indispensable, former congressman and presidential candidate, Ron Paul wrote back in August,

Earlier this month, while meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister, President Trump reaffirmed his intent to remove all US troops from Iraq. “We were there and now we’re getting out. We’ll be leaving shortly,” the president told reporters at the time…Over the weekend, the Administration announced it would be drawing down troops currently in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,500. That’s a good start.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi has since confirmed that, at least, 2,500 troops have been removed. Regrettably, this is apparently part of a three-year long withdrawal process. While he is still able to, Trump should jettison the protracted policy and bring the remaining troops home immediately.

Trump kicked off 2020 with the brutal and illegal drone strike assassination at the Baghdad International Airport of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the mastermind of the anti-ISIS war. The general was a top Iranian political and national figure. Soleimani, who was reportedly in Iraq on a diplomatic mission, wasn’t alone when he was murdered. Among others, also bombed were Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces deputy. Had the Iranians been less restrained in their retaliation, Trump could have easily started a new war.

Following Soleimani’s extrajudicial killing, the Iraqi parliament voted unanimously to end the nearly 18-year-old U.S. occupation. Trump responded by threatening to block the Iraqi government’s access to their Oil Ministry’s bank account at the New York Federal Reserve. This account holds 90% of their revenue. Trump’s threat, if seen through, would have instantly obliterated the country’s economy. He further menaced Iraq with the possibility of sanctions “like they’ve never seen before ever.”

The infamous U.S.-backed, 1990s UN sanctions regime doubtless already slaughtered Iraqis by the hundreds of thousands.

Iraq War II, Biden’s war that followed, was not a mere “blunder,” as so many pundits casually lament. It was an illegal, aggressive war, based on lies, that killed a million Iraqis, most of whom were civilians. Experts say when Biden championed the war, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he knew full well Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was known more than a decade prior to the “Shock & Awe” bombings that Saddam Hussein’s government destroyed what so called WMD they had, mostly chemical weapons supplied by the U.S. and their allies during his 1980s war with Iran. Incidentally, the Iran-Iraq war killed a million people, half on both sides. Saddam fought the war with ample support from the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan administrations, part of the anti-Iran containment strategy. Paul has discussed, at length, the lasting reverberating effects, the “blowback,” our government’s long war with Iran has had, and continues to have, throughout the region and on U.S. policy at large.

After the Iraqi parliamentary vote, the Trump administration refused to leave, absurdly describing the unwanted U.S. military presence as a “force for good,” in the region. Predictably, the usual spiel followed; we must stay to defeat ISIS anyway. Of course, Iraq’s ISIS problem was directly caused by Obama’s treasonous CIA program backing al Qaeda and their affiliates in Syria in the first place. As for that flimsy excuse to remain, here’s, Antiwar.com news editor, Jason Ditz:

The U.S. troop presence in Iraq, as U.S. officials are so often eager to remind us, is at the voluntary request of the Iraqi government. Currently, that is predicated on fighting ISIS, even though ISIS isn’t really active in Iraq anymore. There had already been talk, before the U.S. started attacking the Baghdad airport and assassinating people, that the invitation had worn out its usefulness.

The popular Iraqi nationalist, Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held a million-man march demanding that all U.S. troops leave the country. After successive decades of unprovoked U.S. proxy war, occupation, sanctions, and devastation, as a people, the least we can do for the Iraqis is to listen to them and get out now.

Trump has also expressed a desire to remove hundreds of troops from Somalia. These are troops he largely deployed in another decades long, undeclared war in another country that poses zero threat to the U.S. population. When Trump inquired with his War Department as to why we even need to be there, former Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis lied to Trump. He claimed that we are involved there to stop Times Square bombing attacks. The truth is the 2010 attempted Time Square bombing was blowback, from a well to do Pakistani American who witnessed the aftermath of a drone strike in his home country. He was attempting to avenge deaths caused by Obama’s drone war in Pakistan, which killed civilians by the tens of thousands. Trump has bombed Somalia more just in the first seven months of this year than the entire Bush II and Obama administrations combined. And in 2019, Trump bombed the country 63 times, the most in a single year so far. One of the alleged reasons for the shake up between the Pentagon and Trump was a disagreement over the pace of his planned withdrawal there. Trump should promptly end the deadly air war, as well as order all troops and Special Operations Forces back home from Somalia.

The unconstitutional U.S. wars waged against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia epitomize the legacy of the Bush II neocons and Obama/Biden’s coalition of neoconservative, neoliberal hawks. These endless regime change wars and terror wars have been with us for almost twenty years. To finally rebuke that shameful legacy, the absolute best thing that Trump could do now would be to decisively end these unconstitutional, bankrupting, bloody, no win, and totally unnecessary disasters. These conflicts have killed or caused the deaths of millions, while many millions more have been displaced. While at home, our economy continues to suffer, tens of veterans commit suicide daily, and the American people have been, and continue to be, criminally mulcted to pay for these multi trillion dollar mass murder sprees.

Enough is enough. Trump should listen to Macgregor and get to work ending the endless wars such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan before it’s too late. We know President Joe Biden won’t.

Trump knows these unprecedented moves would cement his legacy as a hero to his antiwar base and beyond. Contrarily, if he doesn’t follow through here, he’ll always just be another war criminal who lied his way in and out of the Oval Office.

New Defense Secretary Says ‘All Wars Must End’ (Even Afghanistan)

New Defense Secretary Says ‘All Wars Must End’ (Even Afghanistan)

President Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller sent a memo to his Pentagon staff that signals he could have been appointed to carry out troop withdrawals in places like Afghanistan or Iraq.

In the memo, dated November 13th, Miller addresses his staff for the first time and makes a strong statement against “perpetual war.”

“We are not a people of perpetual war—it is the antithesis of everything for which we stand and for which our ancestors fought. All wars must end,” the memo reads. “Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”

While Miller did not call for an end to a specific war, President Trump recently expressed his desire to bring all US troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas. Douglas Macgregor was appointed as Miller’s advisor this week, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has been outspoken in his belief that the US should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan.

President’s Pentagon shake-up that started with the firing of Mark Esper is rumored to have been done because of disagreements concerning troop withdrawals. Trump administration officials have told multiple media outlets that the president is still determined to bring home troops before leaving office.

This article was originally featured on Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Biden’s Transition Team Shows Deep Connections with the Military-Industrial Complex

Biden’s Transition Team Shows Deep Connections with the Military-Industrial Complex

On Tuesday, Joe Biden released a list of transition teams for the various departments in his future White House. The Pentagon transition team for Biden consists of 23 people, many of whom hail from hawkish think tanks.

The team is led by Kathleen Hicks, who worked in the Pentagon under the Obama administration. Hicks most recent employer is the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (CSIS), a think tank that receives contributions from arms makers like Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, to name a few.

CSIS also receives contributions from governments. The think tank’s top government donors are the U.S., the UAE, Taiwan, and Japan. Two other CSIS employees are on the transition team; Andrew Hunter and Melissa Dalton, who both worked in the Pentagon under the Obama administration.

CSIS employees author policy papers and Op-Eds that generally call for more U.S. involvement around the world. In August, Hicks co-authored an Op-Ed in The Hill titled, “Pentagon Action to Withdraw from Germany Benefits Our Adversaries,” a piece that slammed Trump’s plan to draw down troops from Germany, which Biden could to call off.

Two members of the transition team come from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Susanna Blume, a former Pentagon employee, and Ely Ratner, who served as deputy national security advisor to then-vice president Joe Biden from 2015 to 2017.

CNAS is another think tank that enjoys hefty donations from weapons makers, major corporations, and governments. From 2019 to 2020, CNAS received at least $500,000 from the US State Department and at least $500,000 from Northrop Grumman. Other donors include Google, Facebook, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin.

Three more team members list their latest employer as the RAND Corporation, Stacie Pettyjohn, a wargaming expert, Christine Wormuth, who held a few roles in the Obama administration, and Terri Tanielian, a behavioral scientist.

RAND is another hawkish think tank that receives the bulk of its funding from the US government, including the US Army, Air Force, and Department of Homeland Security. RAND is also funded by the UAE, Qatar, and NATO.

A report from In These Times found at least eight out of the 23 team members come from organizations that receive funding from US weapons makers (not including RAND). Besides the CSIS and CNAS employees listed above, In These Times includes Sharon Burke, who works for New America, Shawn Skel­ly, from CACI International, and Vic­tor Gar­cia, from Rebellion Defense.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Booms & Busts: An Analysis of Easy Money

Booms & Busts: An Analysis of Easy Money

According to the popular way of thinking, various economic data can provide an analyst with the necessary information regarding the state of the economy. It is held that by inspecting various economic indicators such as the gross domestic product or industrial production, an analyst could ascertain the state of the economic business cycle.

Following the experts from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), business cycles are seen as broad swings in many economic indicators, which upon careful inspection permit the establishment of peaks and troughs in general economic activity.

Furthermore, according to the NBER experts, because the causes of business cycles are complex and not properly understood it is much better to focus on the outcome of these causes as manifested through the economic data.1Quoted in Allan P. Layton and Anirvan Banerji “What Is a Recession?: A Reprise,” Applied Economics 35, no. 16 (2003): 1789–97, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0003684032000152853.

If the driving factors of boom-bust cycles are not known, as the NBER underlying methodology holds, how could the government and the central bank introduce measures to counter them?

Contrary to the NBER way of thinking, data does not talk by itself and never issues any “signals” as such. It is the interpretation of the data guided by a theory which generates various “signals.”

By stating that business cycles are about swings in the data, one says nothing about what business cycles are. In order to establish what business cycles are the driving force that is responsible for the emergence of economic fluctuations needs to be ascetained.

Why We Have Boom-Bust Cycles

Contrary to the indicators approach, boom-bust cycles are not about the strength of the data as such (for instance, for the NBER a recession is a significant decline in activity spread across the economy lasting more than a few months). It is about activities that sprang up on the back of the loose monetary policies of the central bank.

Thus, whenever the central bank loosens its monetary stance, it sets in motion an economic boom by means of the diversion of real savings from wealth generators to various non-wealth-generating activities that a free unhampered market would not facilitate.

Whenever the central bank reverses its monetary stance, this slows down or puts to an end the diversion of real savings toward activities that do not generate real wealth and that undermines their existence. The trigger to boom-bust cycles is central bank monetary policies and not some mysterious factors.

Consequently, whenever a looser stance is introduced, this should be regarded as the beginning of an economic boom. Conversely, the introduction of a tighter stance sets in motion an economic bust, or the liquidation phase.

The severity of the liquidation phase is dictated by the extent of distortions caused during the economic boom. The greater the distortions, the more severe the liquidation phase is going to be. Any attempt by the central bank and the government to counter the liquidation phase through monetary stimulus will only undermine the pool of real savings, weakening the economy.

Again, since the central bank’s policies set the boom-bust cycles in motion, these policies are what leads to economic fluctuations.

Whenever the central bank changes its monetary stance, the effect of the new stance does not assert itself instantaneously—it takes time.

The effect starts at a particular point and shifts gradually from one market to another market, from one individual to another individual. The previous monetary stance may dominate the economic scene for many months before the new stance begins to assert itself.

Economic Slowdown versus Recession

As a rule, the symptoms of a recession emerge after the central bank tightens its monetary stance (there is a time lag). What determines whether an economy falls into a recession or just suffers an ordinary economic slowdown is the state of the pool of real savings.

As long as this pool is still expanding, a tighter central bank monetary policy will culminate in an economic slowdown. Notwithstanding that various non-wealth-generating activities will now suffer, overall economic growth will be positive, the reason being that there are more wealth generators versus wealth consumers. The expanding pool of real savings reflects this. As long as the pool of real savings is expanding, the central bank and government officials can give the impression that they have the power to undo a recession by means of monetary pumping and artificially lowering interest rates.

In reality, however, these actions only slow or arrest the liquidation of activities that emerged on easy monetary policy, thereby continuing to divert real savings from wealth generators to wealth consumers.

What in fact gives rise to a positive growth rate in economic activity is not monetary pumping but the fact that the pool of real savings is still growing. The illusion that through monetary pumping it is possible to keep the economy going is shattered once the pool of real savings begins to decline. Once this happens, the economy begins its downward plunge, i.e., falls into a recession.

The most aggressive loosening of money will not reverse the plunge. In fact, rather than reversing the plunge, loose monetary policy will further undermine the flow of real savings and thereby further weaken the structure of production and thus the production of goods and services.

In his writings, Milton Friedman blamed central bank policies for causing the Great Depression of the 1930s. According to Friedman, the Federal Reserve failed to pump enough reserves into the banking system to prevent the collapse in the money stock.2Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc, 1980), p. 85. The collapse in the money stock according to Friedman was the key factor in plunging the economy into economic depression.

For Friedman, the failure of the US central bank was not that it caused the monetary bubble during the 1920s but that it allowed the deflation of the bubble.

An economic depression, however, is not caused by the collapse of the money stock, as suggested by Friedman, but rather by the collapse of the pool of real savings. The shrinkage of this pool is set in motion by the preceding monetary pumping of the central bank and by fractional reserve banking.3Murray N.Rothbard, America’s Great Depression (Kansas City: Universal Press, 1972), p.153. The monetary pumping sets in motion an exchange of nothing for something, i.e., consumption without preceding production—this undermines the pool of real savings.

Moreover, a fall in the pool of real savings triggers declines in bank lending out of “thin air” and thus in the money stock. This in turn implies that previous loose monetary policies cause the fall in the pool of real savings and trigger collapses in economic activity and in the money stock.

Declines in the prices of goods and services follow declines in money supply. Most economists erroneously regard this as bad news that must be countered by central bank policies. However, any attempt to counter price declines by means of loose monetary policies will further undermine the pool of real savings. Furthermore, even if loose monetary policies were to succeed in lifting prices and inflationary expectations, this could not revive the economy while the pool of real savings is declining.

Lastly, it is erroneous to regard a fall in stock prices as causing recessions. The popular theory argues that a fall in stock prices lowers individuals’ wealth, which in turn weakens consumers’ outlays. Since it is held that consumer spending accounts for 66 percent of GDP, this means that a fall in the stock market plunges the economy into a recession.

Again, we hold that it is the pool of real savings and not consumer demand which permits economic growth to take place.

Furthermore, the prices of stocks mirror individuals’ assessments regarding the facts of reality. Because of monetary pumping, these assessments tend to be erroneous. However, once the central bank alters its stance, individuals can see much more clearly what the facts of reality are and scale down previous erroneous evaluations.

While individuals can change their evaluations of the facts, they cannot alter the existing facts, and the latter influence the future course of events.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

How the War in Yemen Is Destroying America’s Constitution

How the War in Yemen Is Destroying America’s Constitution

While Americans obsess over election results, the U.S. government’s war machine has helped destroy millions of lives in the small desert land known as Yemen.

Many have lauded Donald Trump as the most “anti-war president” in decades. But early in his presidency, Trump loosened the rules of engagement in both Somalia and Yemen. The result was a bombing campaign that eclipsed anything seen during even the Obama and Bush years.

President Trump ramped up the war in the small impoverished Middle Eastern nation within days of taking office. According to Business Insider, Trump ordered commandos to carry out an early morning raid in Yemen that Obama had nixed. A U.S. official told NBC News, “Almost everything went wrong.”

A U.S. Navy Seal died along with an 8-year-old girl—Nawar al-Awlaki—a U.S. citizen and the daughter of an “extremist preacher” who was killed in a targeted drone strike during the Obama administration. The U.S. military conceded that “civilians were likely killed” during the botched raid.

That was just the tip of the bloody iceberg. The U.S. government admits to killing between four and 12 civilians in Yemen since 2017, although the number is likely higher. According to the monitoring group Airwars, the U.S. operation have killed as many as 154 civilians—86 at the very least.

Like the war in Somalia, Trump didn’t start it, but he escalated it significantly.  According to the Business Insider report, the US admitted to carrying out 133 attacks in Yemen in 2017 alone. The vast majority of the attacks were airstrikes. That compares to just 150 confirmed strikes between all of 2002 and 2017. But the U.S. also conducted ground operations in the country, including the botched raid ordered by Trump.

According to Airwars, U.S. boots on the ground led to proportionately more civilian deaths than the airstrikes. They accounted for about 3 percent of the U.S. military actions in the country but over 40 percent of the civilian casualties.

The carnage directly caused by U.S.combat operations in Yemen pales in comparison to the humanitarian disaster caused by the broader war. But American involvement goes far deeper than direct military intervention. The U.S. has supplied billions in funding, equipment and logistical support so the Saudis could prosecute the war.

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), more than 112,000 people have died as a direct result of the violence, including over 12,600 civilians killed in targeted attacks. More than 25,000 fatalities were reported in 2019, ranking it as the second deadliest year of the war. The ongoing war has destroyed the country’s infrastructure and pushed millions to the brink of starvation. In 2018, the United Nations warned that Yemen could produce the worst famine in 100 years as 13 million people face starvation.

President Trump has tried to position himself as a more non-interventionist president. He recently took credit for ending the war in Afghanistan. But it’s hard to take his anti-war rhetoric seriously when he escalated both the war in Somalia and Yemen. In fact, Trump had several opportunities to end financial and logistical support for the war in Yemen and refused to do it.

In April 2019, Trump vetoed a congressional measure that would have ended U.S. involvement in the genocidal war. He followed up by vetoing three measures that, as jourmalist Dave DeCamp put it, “Would have prohibited arms sales to Saudi Arabia and disarmed the U.S.-backed coalition that has been raining hell on Yemeni civilians since March 2015.”

The bottom line is that his reputation as a slightly less military interventionist president and some progress toward deescalating some of America’s foreign military adventurism, Donald Trump continues to run unconstitutional and illegal wars.

There is absolutely no constitutional authority for the President to bomb Yemen, or Somalia, or any other country. Congress has not declared war on any country in decades, and the president’s role as commander-in-chief does not authorize him to initiate offensive military action.

Constitutionally, Congress must “declare war” before the president can engage in offensive military action. But, instead of a declaration of war, Trump, along with Bush and Obama before him, relies on the authorization to use military force (AUMF) passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11 to justify military action across the globe, but this stretches the president’s constitutional authority far beyond the breaking point.

In practice, these resolutions authorize the president to decide if and when he wants to take military action. The AUMF passed after 9/11 to authorize the invasion of Afghanistan remains in effect today. Bush, Obama and Trump have used it to justify their independent decisions to take military action across the globe, including Yemen.

But congressional AUMFs simply don’t pass constitutional muster.

No constitutional provision authorizes Congress to transfer its delegated powers to another party, including the president. In fact, doing so violates basic legal rules of construction. In contract law, when a principal (the people) delegates power to an agent (the federal government), the agent cannot transfer its delegated power to another party without specific direction within the contract. No such authorization exists in the Constitution. So, Congress can’t legally give the president a blank slate to make decisions about war at his own discretion. Congress must make that call and make it specifically before the initiation of military action.

Congress has never authorized military action in Yemen. In fact, it tried to end it and the president vetoed the measure.

It’s easy to look the other way as the U.S. wreaks havoc in faraway lands. Sadly, most Americans don’t worry too much about people dying in the country’s unconstitutional wars unless they happen to come home in coffins draped with the stars and stripes. But even if you’re so callous as to discount tens of thousands of dead, American’s wars exact a significant cost at home as well.

And we’re not just paying for it in dollars.

James Madison warned about the dangers of endless wars, calling them a threat to our liberty. We’re seeing his fears play out before our very eyes.

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” [Emphasis added]

As the American war machine grinds on, our liberties turn to dust within its gears. America needs to end the wars—for everybody’s sake.

This article was originally featured at the Tenth Amendment Center and is republished with permission.

Do Mass Firings at the Pentagon Signal a Troop Withdrawal?

Do Mass Firings at the Pentagon Signal a Troop Withdrawal?

A major overhaul at the Pentagon that was started with the firing of former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper could be part of President Trump’s plan to carry out last-minute troop withdrawals from countries like Afghanistan, sources have told several media outlets.

A Trump administration official told The Washington Post late Tuesday night that President Trump is still determined to withdraw troops around the world before leaving office. “He sees the Pentagon as the leader of the resistance to his agenda,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another administration official told the Post that the shake-up that was ordered by the White House coincided with debates about the pace of troop withdrawals from places like Afghanistan and Somalia.

The Intercept published a story on Wednesday that cited a Trump administration official who made similar claims. The official said the overhaul was planned for months, and more firings are expected. “The president is taking back control of DoD. It’s a rebirth of foreign policy. This is Trump foreign policy,” the official said.

Lee Fang at The Intercept writes: “The personnel changes, the official claimed, would help clear the way for a more loyal Pentagon apparatus to carry out Trump’s goals, including the last-minute withdrawal of troops from foreign conflicts.”

Sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the firings could have happened because Esper and his team were pushing back on a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In October, President Trump said on Twitter that all U.S. troops in Afghanistan “should” be home by Christmas. But so far, the tweet has not turned into an order. Current troop numbers in Afghanistan are around 4,000, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has said the US is on track to have 2,500 troops left in Afghanistan by early 2021.

Bloomberg reported in October that President Trump wants to bring hundreds of U.S. troops from Somalia. According to the report, the Pentagon began drafting plans for a withdrawal, and high-level discussions over the potential move took place. But so far, like Afghanistan, no orders have been given to remove troops from Somalia.

Axios confirmed on Wednesday that Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor has been hired as a senior advisor to acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who replaced Esper. Macgregor is outspoken in his belief that the US should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan. In a 2019 interview, he said the US should “run” not walk out of Afghanistan.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Elections Are Becoming Coffin Nails for Legitimacy

Elections Are Becoming Coffin Nails for Legitimacy

This year’s presidential election is the fourth since 2000 to be marred by either widespread allegations of voter fraud or of foreign interference. Politicians and pundits have long counted on elections to wave a magic wand of legitimacy over the reign of whoever is designated the winner. But Americans are increasingly wondering if the endlessly-trumped “consent of the governed” has become simply another sham to keep them paying and obeying.

Twenty years ago, America was in the throes of a fiercely disputed recount battle in Florida. Democratic presidential nominee Vice President Al Gore won the national popular vote but the Electoral College verdict was unclear. Florida’s 25 electoral votes would give either Gore or Republican candidate George W. Bush the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. Six million votes were cast in Florida, and Bush initially had a winning margin of 537 votes. But the count was a complete mess.

Some Florida counties had antiquated voting equipment while others had harebrained ballot designs that confounded voters, resulting in “dangling chads,” “butterfly” ballots, and other unclear preferences. After the Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount of disputed votes in all counties, the Bush campaign legal team quickly filed briefs with the Supreme Court seeking to stop the process.

In a controversial decision, the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 ruling, stopped the recount because it could result in “a cloud upon what [George W. Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented: “The Florida court’s ruling reflects the basic principle, inherent in our Constitution and our democracy, that every legal vote should be counted.” No such luck. Two days later, the same Supreme Court majority blocked any subsequent recounting because it was “not well calculated to sustain the confidence that all citizens must have in the outcome of elections.” Sustaining confidence” was more important than counting votes. Justice Stevens again dissented: “We have never before called into question the substantive standard by which a State determines that a vote has been legally cast.”

The 2000 election results seemed almost as shaky as the story of the Lady of the Lake giving the Excalibur sword to Arthur, thereby signifying his right to rule England. At a minimum, the outcome of the 2000 presidential election was decided by lawyers and political appointees (justices), not by voters. Former President Jimmy Carter observed in 2001, “As we have seen in Florida and some other states… the expected error rate in some jurisdictions is as high as 3 percent of the [vote] total.”

Four years later, George W. Bush narrowly won reelection after a campaign that was boosted by numerous false terror attack warnings that helped frighten voters into giving him another four years. Ohio was the key state determining the outcome that time, and its results appeared tainted by numerous decisions by Republican election officials who favored Bush. Democrats also charged that the electronic voting machines used in much of Ohio had been manipulated to produce misleading vote totals.

In January 2005, Democratic members of the House of Representatives launched a brief challenge to the legitimacy of the 2004 presidential election. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) complained that many states used more sophisticated technology for lottery tickets than for elections: “Incredibly even in those few jurisdictions that have moved to electronic voting… we do not require a verifiable paper trail to protect against vote tampering.”

Republican Congressmen went ballistic. Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) accused the Democrats of seeking to “obstruct the will of the American people.” Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) bewailed that the protest “serves to plant the insidious seeds of doubt in the electoral process.” Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the House Majority Whip, sought to put the entire government above questioning: “It is the greatest democracy in the history of the world and it is run by people who step forward and make a system work in ways that nobody would believe until they see it produce the result of what people want to have happen on Election Day.” Blunt’s “nobody would believe” phrase was more prescient than he intended.

For tens of millions of Americans and for convention halls full of editorial writers, the 2016 presidential election results were forever tainted by allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to score an upset victory. Those allegations spurred a Special Counsel investigation that haunted most of Trump’s presidency and helped Democrats capture control of the House of Representatives in 2018. In 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally admitted that no case of collusion existed. But we have since learned that there was pervasive collusion between Obama administration officials and federal agencies to target Trump’s 2016 campaign. And, as George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley observed, the media ignored “one of the biggest stories in decades. The Obama administration targeted the campaign of the opposing party based on false evidence.”

Instead, the media cheered secretive federal agencies that had interfered in American politics. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson captured the Beltway’s verdict: “God bless the Deep State!” The media’s veneration will make it easier for the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency to meddle with if not fix future elections.

This year’s presidential election may be the most fraud-ridden event since 1876, when four states had disputed results and Congress gave the presidency to Republican Rutherford Hayes despite ample evidence of conniving. Earlier this year, some states mailed ballots to all the names on the voting lists, providing thousands of dead people the chance to vote from the grave. More than 92 million people voted by mail.

President Trump warned that the shift to mail-in voting could result in “the most corrupt vote in our nation’s history.” A 2012 New York Times analysis concluded that “fraud in voting by mail is… vastly more prevalent than the in-person voting fraud that has attracted far more attention.” But that blunt admission vanished into the Memory Hole as the media endlessly derided any apprehension of electoral foul play.

Shortly before Election Day, Democratic candidate Joe Biden boasted, “We have put together I think the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.” A Reuters “Fact Check” analysis revealed that Biden’s comment was a “slip of the tongue” and that he likely meant “voter protection.” Since Election Day, the same media outlets that insisted that there was no corruption in the Biden family now assure Americans there was no significant voter fraud.

The 2020 election controversies are being fought out by lawyers and judges. The media is hoping that hailing Joe Biden as the rightful ruler will speedily restore legitimacy to the political system. But 70 million Trump voters are unlikely to be swayed by the same media that endlessly belittled both the president and his supporters.

Perhaps the real problem with the current American political system is that elections are practically the last remaining source of apparent legitimacy. Presidents take an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” But this has long been a nonbinding throwaway gesture – if not a laugh line for Washington insiders. Elections failed to prevent every recent American commander-in-chief from expanding and exploiting the dictatorial potential of the presidency. 

Should we expect anything different from Biden? When he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he co-authored numerous oppressive drug laws and forfeiture laws that helped obliterate much of the Bill of Rights. His political philosophy never went beyond his famous utterance: “Lock the S.O.B.s up!” He supported expanding federal power whenever there were votes or campaign contributions to be pocketed.

Biden has said he would dictate a national mask mandate and could impose a national lockdown if Covid infection rates rise. The same media outlets that served as Biden’s Basement Barricade during the campaign – helping him avoid challenges that might have raised questions about his positions and mental capacity – will cheer any restrictive Covid policy Biden imposes. In lieu of constitutionality, we’ll hear that it is the “will of the people” or some such pablum.

Nor will there likely be any way to constrain Biden if he follows the advice of his bellicose foreign policy advisors. Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair asked: “Which country will Biden bomb first in order to ‘restore America’s place in the world?’” The Biden campaign promised to “increase pressure” on Syrian president Bashar Assad – presumably by providing more arms and money to the terrorist groups that Obama began aiding almost a decade ago. Biden will sanctify his foreign bombing campaigns with the same lame legal tautology that the Obama administration used to justify killing Libyans in 2011. The Justice Department announced that Obama “had the constitutional authority” to attack Libya “because he could reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest.”

The more power presidents capture, the more facts they can suppress. The federal government is creating trillions of pages of new secrets every year, effectively making it impossible for average citizens to learn the truth about foreign policy until long after U.S. bombs have dropped. Biden is unlikely to end the pervasive secrecy that makes a mockery of self-government. 

In his victory speech last Saturday, Biden pledged to “restore the soul of America.” But Americans were not voting for a faith healer; they were selecting a chief executive for a federal government. Only 20 percent of Americans nowadays trust the government to “do the right thing” most of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The election results will likely further erode federal legitimacy at a time when Uncle Sam has no trust to spare. How many more election debacles and brazen abuses of power does Washington believe the American people will tolerate?

This article was orginally featured at the American Institute for Economic Research and is republished with permission.

Why Elections Do Not Represent the ‘Will of the People’

Why Elections Do Not Represent the ‘Will of the People’

As lawsuits are being filed to challenge the results of this year’s “most important election of our lifetime,” the pundits and talking heads of the political class will repeatedly remind us that election results reflect “the will of the people.”

They couldn’t be more wrong.

There are several reasons why, beginning with the fact that there is no such thing as a singular will of “the people.”

The United States consists of more than 330 million unique individuals with different preferences, priorities, and goals in life. There is no singular “will” of such a large and diverse group of people. The only way a singular “will” of the people can be achieved is if it is imposed from above—by force and threats of violence—in which our overlords override our personal decisions and force compliance to their chosen outcomes.

Moreover, voter turnout—even in this year of projected record turnout—is estimated at about 70 percent for president, with lower totals for down-ballot races. That means that at least 30 percent of the voting-age population did not even vote, either due to apathy or an objection to the available choices. There is no plausible explanation for maintaining that election results somehow reflect the “will” of those that didn’t vote.

And what about the tens of millions of people who voted for a losing candidate? Whether it be president, senator, governor or town council, it is transparently obvious their will is not reflected by the winning candidates they voted against.

Indeed, in politics, a 60% to 40% victory is considered a massive landslide. Such a vote outcome would endlessly be described as giving the winning candidate a “mandate” to carry out his agenda. But in such a case, a full 2/5 of those who bothered to vote are rendered voiceless and impotent over their rights. Their “will” will clearly be ignored.

Thirdly, what about those who did vote for the winning candidate, but that candidate ends up breaking his campaign promises while in office? Votes for candidates promising X but delivering Y can hardly be considered expressing the will of the people. If you vote for a candidate promising to eliminate Obamacare, for instance, and once in office that representative ends up instead voting to expand Obamacare, that politician’s actions could hardly be described as reflecting the will of his own voters, let alone the will of “the people” as a whole.

Most assuredly, political representatives, even after elected, can not represent our interests in any meaningful sense. To be considered a person’s true representative, at minimum these three conditions would need to be met. The representative 1) would be chosen by that person 2) can be dismissed at any time, and 3) can’t act contrary to that person’s wishes (or risk being fired).

When it comes to political representation, none of these conditions hold. A majority vote—not your personal choice—chooses your political representative, you have to wait years before the next opportunity for your political representative to be dismissed, and elected representatives can regularly act contrary to the wishes of up to 49% of voters with little risk of being voted out of office.

Why is this so important?

In his book “Anatomy of the State,” Murray Rothbard pointed out perhaps the more insidious misconception of the State. “With the rise of democracy, the identification of the State with society has been redoubled, until it is common to hear sentiments expressed which violate virtually every tenet of reason and common sense such as, ‘we are the government,’” he wrote.

The use of the collective we, Rothbard noted, has “enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life.”

The slogans declaring election outcomes to represent the “will of the people” go hand in glove with the misguided notion of “we are the government” Rothbard warned us about.

No ballot box can conceal the glaring contrast between the rulers and the ruled. Voting merely induces the ruled to believe in the legitimacy of their own servitude.

On the bright side, maybe with so many now questioning the process of counting votes more people will become skeptical of democracy itself, and in turn perhaps rid more people of the misguided notion that “the government is us.”

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and author of the book “Tweeting Liberty: Libertarian Tweets to Smash Statists and Socialists.” He is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics. Follow him on Twitter @erasestate.

Robert Fisk, Foreign Correspondant

Robert Fisk, Foreign Correspondant

Robert Fisk was a journalist, a historian, and a foreign correspondent reporting on the world’s wars. But as a man, he was a witness. He would go into battle armed only with his eyes, and the ammunition he carried were his words. His courage was not just that he put his body on the line, but that he would defy the safe opinions that other journalists made careers of repeating. Robert Fisk would write on the side of the innocent when they were all but forgotten. To him conflict was not about national interest or ideology, but only evil and its victims.

In a rather poignant way, Robert Fisk talked about his father’s war and how in its aftermath, the victors etched out maps across ancient lands for a new world that suited their imperial interests. This new world from Ireland to Yugoslavia and the Middle East would become regions that he would spend his life reporting on wars and other horrible moments of human desperation caused in many way thanks to the outcome of his father’s war.

As a journalist he sat across interviewing statesmen, generals, and insurgents, most of them murderers and terrorists. He asked them with honesty, “Why?” They often answered with either prepared statements ready for the history books or passionate words dripping with romantic self validation. Regardless, the innocent often suffered. And it was for a man like Robert Fisk to remind them and us of their misery and plight. He would give the victims of war a voice. He would interview them and share their agony and experiences with an often indifferent wider world. That did not deter him from getting their story out to any who would hear them.

As a man he risked his own life to report on the deaths of so many innocent lives, relaying what he witnessed to those insulated by comfort and distance. As a journalist he would insist the photos went with the words, so that the public could see the realness of war. At times the editors were more concerned with the stomachs of those who may be eating their dinner as the news came on, as though distant misery was a form of entertainment and not a call for help or a cry to end it all.

He would talk about how many of his journalistic colleagues would dress in military costumes, desperate to be soldiers, something that he never did. And conversely he noticed, especially during the first war on Iraq, that many of the U.S. soldiers were writing poems and keeping journals of their experience. It was here that he noticed that many of the war fighters wanted to be writers while journalists wanted to play soldier. Perhaps it was this fascination for war and in reporting on it with pornographic lust that we see so many journalists no longer question the wars and the means of killing, but instead support it eagerly. And those who are the killers—the soldier or insurgent—sacrifice their youth, health, and at times lives for politics conceived at a distance or as a reaction to such policy.

He once said that “journalists are a projection of power,” the nature of being embedded unifies the journalist with the war fighter. Those reporting become a powerful voice and force multiplier for those at home whose opinions do matter. Whereas for him, and journalists of his nature, he would be riding into war with the Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians and so on and invariably he would retreat with them too. He would, as he put it, “always be in their Stalingrad’s.” For him they were never ‘us’ but only them, those others doing the war that he could only witness.

Many journalists, especially in the West, would mimic the official language, avoiding any words that would suggest failure, defeat, set backs, or even atrocities. Words such as “surge,” “spike,” “collateral,” and even “terror become the not so passive instruments of perpetuating wars. “By accepting this language we are part of the lie, the lie is ultimately there to cover up the catastrophe.” The one word that Robert did not shy away from was “Justice.” It is a word that many of the victims and the angry would use, a word that he no doubt heard often among the wailing mothers of loss and the screaming yells of the wronged. Justice.

Men like Robert Fisk are contrarian, always questioning, but above all they do not repeat the accepted lies. It is hard to do this when you are among the blood and gore, when you witness the hungry dogs tearing a child’s corpse to pieces. It is hard to repeat the words used inside the air conditioned offices of policy makers, those spoken by starched uniformed generals and recited by mainstream media bobble heads, when he, unlike them, smelt the stench of a massacre. There is no ultimate justice or truth when lies are used as blankets to suffocate away the pain of others. It is why a voice like Robert Fisk’s was important to those of us removed from the chaos, because he told us how it was honestly, and with sobering frankness.

By having lived for many years in Beirut, he was among the people of the near East who are often misunderstood by the outsiders that influence their world. He was friends with many inside the multicultural city, where he would have his Muslim driver wish him a ‘Merry Christmas’ and he would wish them “Eid Mubarak” at the end of Ramadan. He explained this with a common sense that is now lost in the West, a culture he claimed had “lost its faith” and divides instead of includes. “I know my driver is a Muslim in the same way that I know that he has grey hair. It is part of him. It is not part of a wall between us or a division or a clash of civilisation.” These are truths that are understood by those who live there and not by those who devise from the outside. This was the truth that a man like Robert Fisk lived and celebrated.

“I think that we have become normalised to injustice,” he said, and it is because of this that a voice who continued to remind the greater world of such injustices was important. He was a man who was passionate about justice for the innocent, about recording the events that he had seen and come to know in all of their terrible details. He had authored books that will stand tall for future generations who seek to understand the events of the past, with records of honesty and without the bias of academic filters or political re-contectualization. His critics challenged his version of events at times but as the years go on and the fog of politics washed away, he was often proven honest and correct.

“I was thinking the other day whether I have enjoyed the life I’ve had and I think that I haven’t. I might have been passionate about it but I don’t think that I have actually enjoyed it. I was sitting on the boulevards of Paris and watching the families walking down the street in the sunlight and I went back to Beirut and sat on my balcony over the Mediterranean and thought to myself, ‘Did I really want these last thirty years of war, couldn’t I have lived a safer more happier life and seen something else?’ And I wondered if I had perhaps just wasted it.”

Such were the thoughts that he had shared in a 2006 interview with Kirsty Young. For much of his life, he knew only war, witnessing the evils of policy and terror. Perhaps now in his death he will have a peace that he never saw on this Earth. He did not waste a moment of his life—though he did perhaps sacrifice his happiness—and the rest of us can only be grateful.

We Need To Talk About the National Defense Strategy, Part I: Syria

We Need To Talk About the National Defense Strategy, Part I: Syria

Who remembers voting for all this brinksmanship with China and Russia?

It’s time we had one of those “national conversations,” we’re incessantly admonished to have by teachers, feds and talking heads. Only this conversation should be about the National Defense Strategy.

Indeed, Trump’s new war, namely against Beijing and Moscow, has been declared, though not by the proper authority, yet declared nonetheless. Worse, this war of all wars has bi partisan support.

Way, way back in 2018, the Donald Trump administration announced it was shifting overall defense priorities over from what they call “counterterrorism” to “great power competition,” with Russia and China.

So many relish saying Trump hasn’t started any new wars but this isn’t that kind of a war. This is a Cold War, this war was already being waged; Trump, since taking office, has been ceaselessly heating it up in various unprecedented ways.

The disorienting smoke grenade thrown by the intelligence community to obscure this plain reality, and compromise people’s judgment on all sides, is the baseless myth of Trump as Putin’s puppet, the White House dwelling sycophant to assorted, targeted “dictators.” (the “dictator” smear is never applied, however, to his pal Bibi Netanyahu who presides over an imperialist, apartheid state, and has been shown far more deference by Trump than even previous administrations).

Russiagate consumed the liberals’ souls and regrettably, it got over on much of the so-called left. It’s customary to hear songs of praise for a new right wing that’s ostensibly seen the light on the war issue, and yet they have not substantively opposed MAGA’s unprecedented military buildups and aggressions against China and Russia; (let alone the escalations and unspeakable brutality towards Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, a global drone policy more deadly than Obama’s, etc.). There are many libertarians too who look at Trump’s foreign policy through rose colored glasses and still paint him as an “anti-neocon.” This notion deserves to be debunked.

Syria

Syria was virtually destroyed by the American hegemon. This was done with ample support from the British, the French, the Turks, Israelis, Saudis, Qataris, etc. in a devastating proxy war, attempting to overthrow the Assad government. The aforementioned states sent and backed al Qaeda death squads there to wreak unimaginable havoc. The US, namely the CIA under Operation Timber Sycamore, and its allies spent more than a billion dollars, getting half a million people killed, and creating millions of refugees.

Russia decided to intervene, to defend an ally, Syria, where they have maintained a base for decades, and thankfully prevented Obama’s would’ve been invasion and bloody, Iraq style war.

Thus, Putin defiantly short-circuited the neocons’ and Charles Krauthammer’s Unipolar Moment.

Consequentially, this treasonous US regime change/proxy war policy, benefited Iran, along with Hezbollah, as they were further empowered having formed a great bulk of the fighting force that defeated the infamous ISIS caliphate. The so called “Islamic State” was knowingly cultivated by the U.S., and its allies. In 2012, the DIA was well aware, of this latent byproduct of the CIA’s al Nusra mujahedeen strategy. Together with the Russians and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), they pummeled and drove the assorted al Qaeda affiliates into their ultimate retreat into the Idlib province. ISIS still exists, though to a much lesser degree. However, in pockets south of Idlib and Aleppo there’s recently been some heavy fighting between the remaining ISIS and the SAA.

The fact that the neoconservatives’ war on Assad, and his Shi’ite allies, blew up in their face, and really benefited Iran and further battle-hardened Hezbollah, in and of itself, shouldn’t phase Americans one bit. The less al Qaeda and ISIS around, the better. We don’t need to be involved at all in that war, on either side, for or against Ayman al-Zawahiri’s men. In any case, we shouldn’t have provoked the Axis of Resistance’s reaction by launching the covert war in the first place. Those who did ought to be held accountable.

However, this development, viewed as a failure by the war party, is a major stick in the craw of the neoconservative, foreign policy establishment. Robbie Martin, the neocon researcher, has shown this cabal is all too adept at infecting the broader journalistic culture with propaganda. They have become increasingly capable of adapting to cultural changes and exploiting them to turn collective, domestic screws. They are the “Blob’s” radical imperial extremists. The “Blob,” is now a  commonly used term but it was originated by Ben Rhodes, a former Obama advisor. Daniel Larison, foreign policy critic, has said the phrase, “…refers in part to the tendency towards groupthink, aggression, and interference in other countries’ affairs among foreign policy pundits and think tankers.”

Trump essentially ran against the war in Syria, and is still viewed largely as opposed to it, though he has escalated the war during his whole term. He did officially end Operation Timber Sycamore, after it became so unpopular, in contrast to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s Afghanistan mujahedeen Holy War (which culminated with possibly one million dead). Although after Trump’s decision, reports began cropping up soon afterward that showed the collusion and support for the terrorists shifted from the CIA elsewhere. Israel certainly continued to back al Qaeda in the south for years, Saudi continued supporting their favored terrorists, as NATO member Turkey still does in the northwest in the Idlib province of the embattled country.

Trump and Obama carpet-bombed ISIS there illegally, in civilian populated areas too. Trump has bombed Syria over Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attacks which turned out to be false flags; such as in Douma, where OPCW elements orchestrated a cover up since exposed by whistleblowers.

He’s put troops on the ground, about 600, in fact, embedded with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. These US troops still illegally occupy the northeastern part of the country to “secure” and “keep” the Syrian people’s oil. The deployment is designed to deprive Syrians of their desperately needed reconstruction funds that could come from the modest oil production of which Syria is capable.

Biden says he’d do much the same but with some faux humanitarian, pro regime change, pseudo justifications and more anti-Russian hostility, rhetoric.

Trump actually bombed and killed dozens, maybe hundreds, of Russians there, in a sovereign nation where the former has been invited and where we, the Americans, are the invaders. There are countless confrontations, close calls, and sometimes violent conflict between the US military and the Russian and Syrian troops. At least one SAA soldier has been killed and multiple US soldiers injured in these attacks.

Retired U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, former West Point history professor, and antiwar author has blasted the way US troops have been deployed in this endless war. Trump has them stealing Syria’s oil and risking their lives in unfriendly territory where they’ve illegally invaded and squatted. Sjursen incisively summarizes the chaotic nature of the ill-defined and hare brained mission:

So back to that inevitably future dead American soldier(s). Let us review just what he or she will die for exactly when his or her vehicle accidentally rolls over, aircraft crashes, patrol is bombed, or a futile firefight goes south. Well there’s always the ISIS—defeat sub-mission (disingenuously billed as Inherent Resolve’s inherent resolution raison d’être)—but the caliphate is kaput and the pervading presence of America’s infidel crusaders only justifies the jihadis lingering terror campaign. Then there’s the mission that speaks Trump’s language—protecting the corrupt and illegal concessions of Delta Crescent Energy. In other words staying on in Syria, “only for the oil”—according to the president. Of course, it’s not much oil—only an anemic 24,000 barrels per day—something like 1/500th the daily output of Saudi Arabia. So that by itself won’t do.

Netanyahu has illegally and constantly bombed Syria. In 2019, the BBC said, “Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.”

Israeli bombings have been killing people, including in Damascus, repeatedly throughout the entire MAGA run. Jason Ditz, veteran Antiwar.com news editor, reported back in June that, “Israel attacks targets in Syria almost weekly, though they rarely discuss it publicly. The official narrative is that they’re hitting Iran, even when they aren’t, and that more attacks are to be expected.”

These Israeli attacks are never retaliated against. Here’s Ditz again, “Early on Syria often threatened to retaliate for such attacks at a time of their choosing. This has never happened, and in general Syria no longer threatens retaliation as Israel’s attacks have gotten even more frequent.”

Israel gets away with murder, and breaking international law, presumably because Syria, and her allies, are afraid that any retaliation, while justified in national self-defense as well as by traditional just war criteria, would trigger the wider regional war Israel is fostering. For the Israeli and neocon hawks, a longstanding desire for a war pitting the US versus Iran is the goal. Gareth Porter, the great investigative reporter, has written at length on this larger campaign to start said war before Trump leaves office.

In July, Muhammad Sahimi, a Professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, reported on 2020’s long, hot summer of protracted U.S./Israeli covert terrorism against Iran. There were cyber-attacks and sabotage carried out against, among other targets, the Shahid Rajaee Port, the Parchin military complex, and Natanz uranium enrichment facility, “Iran’s main center for manufacturing centrifuges and enriching uranium in Iran.”

On the incessant bombings of Syria during the MAGA reign, Sahimi has said:

For over two years Israel tried to provoke Iran by attacking Iranian-backed Shiite forces in Syria, but Iran has opted not to retaliate. Since the attacks did not provoke Iran to retaliate, and also failed to dislodge Iran’s military advisers and the Shiite forces that it trained, armed, and dispatched to Syria, Israel has seemingly turned to attacking Iran directly within its borders.

Additionally, in keeping with Trump’s characteristic servility to Israel, the U.S. has recognized Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, which Tel Aviv has militarily, illegally occupied since 1973.

As Dave Decamp, Antiwar.com news editor and columnist, wrote recently,

President Trump has arguably been the most pro-Israel president of all time, recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, changing US policy to no longer consider Jewish settlements in the West Bank illegal, and the so-called “Vision for Peace” that would essentially formalize apartheid rule over Palestinians.

Trump had the gall to send the vapid, rabid neocon, “ambassador” Nikki Haley down to the UN to practically be a diplomat for ISIS, al Qaeda in Idlib, and elsewhere, covering for their false flags, on numerous embarrassing occasions.

Foreign policy expert, Daniel McAdams, longtime advisor and partner to the antiwar former Congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, eviscerated Haley on many occasions while she was the UN Ambassador. From September 2017, here’s McAdams:

…she decided to opine on the utterly failed six year US regime change operation in Syria. Today, as Deir Ezzor has finally been liberated by the Syrian government from the scourge of ISIS, Nikki Haley chose to go on record defending ISIS and al-Qaeda by repeating Obama’s line that Assad must go.

Ponder this for a minute: Assad has just defeated ISIS in Deir Ezzor. ISIS is the reason the US has invaded Syrian sovereignty and initiated military action. Yet according to Nikki Haley Assad’s reward for wiping out ISIS is that he must be deposed — presumably in favor of US-backed rebels who have been in bed with ISIS for six years!

Is Nikki Haley pro-ISIS? Is she pro-al-Qaeda? Is she evil or just stupid?

You decide.

And now we have the Trump administration’s, bi-partisan supported Caesar Act sanctions, targeting particularly the construction and engineering sectors, crushing the life out of this country by targeting any individuals, of any nationality, for trading with Syria. This imperial legislation uses the big boot of the American empire to thwart the Syrian people in their attempts to rebuild their lives after nearly a decade of total war fomented within from without.

Of course, this is after Israel and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s greatest foreign allies, lobbied the hegemon to help obliterate Syria almost ten years ago. Benjamin Netanyahu, disclosed in Wikileaks’ Hillary Clinton email archive, actually blackmailed Obama into starting this war, threatening to unilaterally attack Iran’s nuclear sites and spark his long-desired war mentioned earlier. This endless, disastrous war on Syria has been one of Washington’s conciliation prizes, for itself and the above allies, for the Bush II neocons getting conned themselves by Ahmed Chalabi into the multi trillion-dollar Iraq war II. This was a war where they foolishly installed a theocratic, Shi’ite-Iranian backed government in Baghdad. Of course, all while killing a million people in the process.  This led to the infamous “Redirection” policy, where Bush and then Obama backed Saudi’s terrorist allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, etc.

It’s never enough for the neocons though, whether they’re advising Clinton, Bush II, Obama, or Trump, more American taxpayer money must always be spent, while more people always have to suffer and die overseas. And that makes sense, Andrew Cockburn has been said to have concluded that essentially the neoconservative movement can be best understood as where the military industrial complex meets the Israel lobby. Put into perspective, this characterization helps us clarify why half a million people were slaughtered. After all, Assad “must go.”

This is not what will make America great again. The broad right should use their political power to insist that Trump carries out the full withdrawal he has teased them with for years, not just in Syria but in Afghanistan as well. The left needs to start holding its fake “anti-establishment” types such as Senator, and former Presidential primary candidate, Bernie Sanders’ feet to the fire. Incidentally, Sanders’ 2020 campaign website’s Syria page still basically blames Assad for the war and for the Turkish-al Qaeda-White Helmet false flag chemical weapons attacks. He says in a world of vicious dictators, Assad “tops the list.” He supports the illegal US airstrikes against ISIS he says are “authorized under the current law,” though in violation of International Law, not to mention Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution. He then, most egregiously, insists that the duly elected President of sovereign Syria must be “phased out.”

With political “allies” like this, who needs enemies?

If the U.S. is to ever come home from Syria, a robust anti-war, anti-sanctions, anti-neocon movement is needed. Composed of a principled bunch, and hopefully a politically diverse coalition. If the Democratic Socialist left or the new right is truly antiwar and they want to be taken seriously, they should ruthlessly hold all their politicians to the Ron Paul standard: we just marched in, now let’s just march out.

When Will Americans Realize They Aren’t ‘One Nation’?

When Will Americans Realize They Aren’t ‘One Nation’?

It’s one thing for mass democracy to produce bad results, in the form of elected politicians or enacted policies. It’s another when the democratic process itself breaks down because nobody trusts the vote or the people who count it. But that’s precisely where we are.

As things stand at this writing, last night’s presidential election remains undecided and looking ugly. At least six states are still uncalled, and both the Trump and Biden camps have their legal teams claiming victory. We may be in for days, weeks, or even months of legal skirmishes, all of which can only add to our intense political (or more accurately cultural) breakdown.

Today, perhaps 140 million American voters are in purgatory, fearfully wondering what will happen to them if the other guy wins. This is nothing short of a national psychosis, absurd yet deadly real. And it gets worse every four years, despite the narrowing of any “policy” differences between the two parties over recent decades. If anything, presidential votes are overwhelmingly about tribal affiliations with our kind of person, not substantive ideology.

Yes, this is unhealthy. And yes, the psychosis manifests because the stakes are so high. It manifests because government is far too big and rapacious; lawmaking and jurisprudence too centralized in DC; the unitary executive presidency too powerful; and society too politicized. But these are unhelpful truisms. Plenty of Americans abjectly support more government, more centralized political power, an omnipotent president and Supreme Court, and the sharp politicization of every facet of life.

In Nation, State, and Economy Mises talks about a “liberal nationalism” and explains what a confident nation requires:

A nation that believes in itself and its future, a nation that means to stress the sure feeling that its members are bound to one another not merely by accident of birth but also by the common possession of a culture that is valuable above all to each of them.

What, then, is the common culture Americans possess?  What binds us together as a unifying principle? Is it language? Religion? Constitutionalism? Love of country? (What country?) Markets? It certainly is not obvious, and few of us feel optimistic about America’s future. Worse still, covid lockdowns have attenuated the ostensibly nonpolitical spheres of life—from family and work to sports, dining, movies, and travel. When we stare ourselves in the mirror all day, and read everyone’s innermost thoughts on social media, we find familiarity breeds contempt.

Regardless of how the election turns out, it’s obvious America is not much of a country anymore, much less a nation. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can get to work asserting the principles of federalism, subsidiarity, nullification, and even secession. None of the current frictions will get better over time, but they can get much worse—and our most important task must be to avoid any movement toward outright civil war.

There are workable baby steps toward this. Law professor Frank Buckley writes about “secession lite” in his sober and reasoned book on the subject of a national breakup. Buckley sees a third-way approach between our current disfunction and an outright breakup into new political entities, primarily through aggressive federalism and state nullification. This echoes sentiments from Professor Angelo Codevilla, who similarly argues that the feds simply lack the manpower to enforce federal laws and edicts on recalcitrant states. Just as blue states declared sanctuary cities as havens from Trump’s immigration policies, red states could restrict all manner of federal dictates (abortion and gun control come to mind) while simply daring the feds to interfere. At the end of the day, Codevilla reminds us, there are only a few million of them and many millions of us. And progressives too share this sentiment; even if Biden prevails, they remain shaken by the degree of Trump support. In fact the 2016 election saw the New Republic advocate nothing short of a renunciation of the hated red states.

Things don’t have to be this way. Americans are lovely people—generous, open. But politics divides them in the worst and most unnecessary ways. It’s time to break up, and millions of us sense this instinctively. So what’s stopping us?

For one, secession remains bound up with the Civil War and Confederate slavery in the American psyche, distant in time as they are. Manifest Destiny and the westward expansion resulted in a nice, round number of fifty states, a nice, big American number. Throw in a few specious Supreme Court decisions like Texas v. White, and it’s no surprise many Americans still have concrete between their ears on the subject.

But Trump may have changed all that. And if you want political liberty to retain a foothold in the U.S., if you want Misesian liberalism to show a heartbeat in the West, you should cheer this.

Americans by and large are lovely people—open, generous, friendly, and quick to forgive. A hyperpoliticized environment, where everything is existential and rooted in race, sex, and sexuality, is deeply at odds with our character and well-being. We deserve to live peaceably as neighbors, even if that means breaking up and creating new political entities. Addressing the reality of our dysfunction is not divisive; the divide already exists. Our task is to apprehend this and end the charade of one nation.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Who’s Racist? The Continuing Tragedy of American Exceptionalism

Who’s Racist? The Continuing Tragedy of American Exceptionalism

Many young liberals truly believe that by voting for Joe Biden they’re somehow helping evict racism and fascism from the Oval Office. If only it were that easy.

This columnist is thinking, in particular, of an illustrative, albeit anecdotal example. A recent conversation with a well-meaning, 20-year-old fellow pleb may help us comprehend what makes America racist. This girl is my coworker, who proudly announced, the other day, that she voted for the first time and excitedly so.

The aforementioned interlocutor was solidly convinced that the United States is a “racist country.”

She laughed with disdain when recalling an interaction, from another week, with a fellow college educated young person who dared to question, in a debate setting on campus, how America could be racist? After all, Americans elected, and reelected, a “black president?”

How stupid, another employee scoffed in the chat “…can she even cross the street by herself?…How did she get into college?”

Your columnist, attempting to find common ground with my coworkers and their stylistically vague “anti-racist” sentiments, agreed that they were, in fact, right. Barack Obama, as President, committed unspeakable genocides against some of the poorest black people in the world, namely Somalis and Yemenis. (The devastation caused by Obama’s treasonous, illegal, and callous war in Libya, and the subsequent return of chattel slavery there, would have been another obvious example.)

There was no real response; that wasn’t what they meant. The comment wasn’t dismissed so much as it was ignored, much like the majority American population and mainstream media tend to treat the wars themselves.

American Presidents committing some holocaust, big or small, against brown, black, or often yellow people somewhere “over there,” to Americans, is like background music or having coffee with breakfast. So routine, we hardly ever think about it. The “expert” class has said, repeatedly, that it can be no other way; and you’d better support the guys, gals, and trans folk dropping the bombs and doing the shooting.

Think about how little most Americans pay attention to what the troops are doing “over there” anyway, then contrast that with the ridiculous consensus that they’re essentially our society’s best, bravest, and most admirable figures.

America’s long war on Iraq throughout the 1990s—an era of yellow ribbon fascism—is a potent case in point. During those days, immediately after the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union fell, our intellectual and political enthusiasts for “full spectrum dominance,”—that is American global hegemony—attempted to purge the citizenry of our “sickly inhibitions” against massive shows of military force. Therefore, Iraq was brutally sacrificed so that the so called “Vietnam syndrome” could give way to a heartless, neo jingoist culture more hospitable to the much coveted “unipolar moment,” that was now at hand.

Right now, our politics at home seem so polarized, confusing, hysterical, dire, and hateful. It makes some sense when we realize that, dozens of years ago, Americans probably lost their collective empathy somewhere over Iraq. Mercifully and very memorably, Ron Paul alerted the electorate and broader American culture of this ugly, forgotten history back in 2007 with his famous “Giuliani moment.”

See the UN sanctions crisis, allied bombings (including from the numerous U.S. bases on the Arabian Peninsula, a major al Qaeda recruitment talking point) and the blockade on Iraq throughout the entire decade of the 1990s and beyond. Bill Clinton launched a full-scale global trade embargo on Iraq (including banning chlorine for clean water after the water and sewage systems were deliberately bombed out, prohibiting imports of spare parts to repair the electrical grid and delivery trucks, blocking medical imports, as well as oil exports, etc.). This long strangulation followed the George H.W. Bush regime’s strategic obliteration of civilian infrastructure during Iraq War 1, where estimates show maybe 200,000 Iraqis died. After that, for the rest of the nineties and into the next millennium, America bombed Iraq, regularly, three to four times a week.

Clinton’s “Iraq War I and ½,” as Scott Horton calls it, killed hundreds of thousands.

In 1996, half way through killing these  people, Madeline Albright, who served as UN Ambassador and then Secretary of State during these years, said it was “worth it.” Ironically, she’s since rebranded herself as a neoliberal, anti-fascist, even feminist icon. In this country, some people really can do anything.

Shortly thereafter, the next Bush regime lied us into a full-on invasion, the regime change war, where one million Iraqis died.

That’s the “bad war” though, Iraq war II, the one Joe Biden championed as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That’s the one everyone remembers; although most Americans are likely unaware that their government killed that many people, in, as Ron Paul has said, “an impoverished Third World nation that lacked an air force, anti-aircraft weapons, and a navy. This was supposed to be the great threat, requiring urgent action.”

Is this the old “normalcy” pined for by so many Americans?

Back to our anecdote, another coworker, attempting to comfort this newest member of the voting class, assured her that, “I’m sure Trump has been more destructive than Obama was with that stuff.”

Depending on the regions, that point has merits. As Dave Decamp of Antiwar.com has pointed out, Trump has escalated the bombing campaigns and wars on Somalia, Yemen, and, until relatively recently, Afghanistan as well.

Trump’s almost totally unjustified reputation as “antiwar” notwithstanding, Somalia has been bombed, by the U.S., more in the first seven months of 2020, than the Bush II and Obama administrations combined.

Uncle Sam’s genocide in Yemen is another example, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The U.S.-Saudi coalition’s total war against the poorest Middle Eastern civilian population (a war of famine, terrorism, treason, terror bombings, blockades, record shattering epidemics, and deliberate starvation) was commenced, in early 2015, under the Obama-Biden administration. After nearly four years of Trump executing this war, with the gloves off, so to speak, according to the UN at least 233,000 people have died; almost half were killed violently, the rest have died due to deprivation, and disease. The U.S.-Saudi axis are purposely crippling Yemen’s population, its economy, and healthcare systems. As with Palestine, Yemen’s desperately needed aid has been largely cut. Additionally, Trump has vetoed multiple Congressional resolutions, including War Powers Act challenges, demanding an end to America’s illegal/unconstitutional support for the Saudi coalition’s war there.

And despite Trump’s ostensible progress working toward a full withdrawal from Afghanistan in Spring 2021, he set records for the number of munitions dropped on the long battered country. He doubled the number of troops left there by Obama, in 2017; and Afghanistan was bombed nearly 15,000 times between 2018-2019.

Beyond these campaigns, both parties, their constituents and leadership, seem all too content to have neocon apparatchiks continually forcing our whole population further into conflict, and possibly eventual hot wars, with China and Russia. Given all the hydrogen bombs involved, this is the issue of our time and surely one that all Americans, young people especially, should be united against.

For example, how many Americans know that Trump, in an incident during the early February of 2018, had hundreds of Russian mercenaries bombed in Syria, which is still illegally occupied by the U.S.? That’s some puppet Putin has there.

At the same time, the severe lack of coverage on the U.S. military’s countless, multi front provocations of China this year, (occurring constantly in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, etc.), in the media, the debates, public discourse, etc. is highly troubling.

If racism, or fascism, are the issues we must face, we should be honest and admit that American exceptionalism has successfully blinded the voter class, young and old, from these and many other critical points. For instance, the U.S. unconditionally backs what the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow has called Israel’s “militarized apartheid” in its close to 60 year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Syria’s Golan Heights. For nearly 20 years, to the tune of more than $2 trillion, we’ve supported a coalition of communists, warlords, drug dealers, and child molesters in Afghanistan. Obama installed an anti-Russian, Nazi infested coup regime in Ukraine fighting a proxy war with Moscow for years, with more than 10,000 dead (and not to be outdone by his predecessor, Trump proudly sent them anti-tank missiles, manufactured by Raytheon, the former lobbying home of his current Defense Secretary, Mark Esper). The U.S. also backs a totalitarian, religious/gender apartheid regime in Saudi Arabia, along with their al Qaeda allies in Syria, Yemen, etc. And for decades, the U.S. has happily underwritten assorted fascist, death squad governments throughout Latin America. The list could go much further.

Speaking of Latin America, for all the criticism Trump gets for racism, one would assume now that the estimated death toll of his sanctions on Venezuela has reached 100,000 people, that we’d see quite the controversy. Evidently, these poor people will only be given the time of day when their misery—largely U.S. induced—can be intermittently exploited by CNN for regime change efforts against Maduro’s government.

In many diverse parts of the world, people are living through some version of hell because it’s profitable for our Military-Industrial-Congressional-Security Complex, it benefits their neocon think tank partners in crime, as well as their corporate and often foreign benefactors. Until we reject empire and the paper-thin propaganda it’s built on, we will be inextricably tied with this racism and fascism everybody is debating over. This racism/fascism discussion cannot remain a muddled and ambiguous partisan debate. Indeed, to be truly anti-racist, as an American, is to be an anti-imperialist.

It is impossible to oppose empire, racism, authoritarianism, or fascism in this election when the only apparently viable political alternative to such things is…checks notes…Joe Biden? We have “Israel’s man in Washington,” the author of not only the Patriot Act, but the infamous 1994 mass-incarceration bill as well. And let’s not forget, Kamala Harris, California’s top cop, who laughs about locking up poor people for victimless crimes; she’s a red baiting, neo Cold Warrior, and National Security Democrat.

If the terms mean anything, both candidates are fascist imperialists. For sure, those who would vote, this time, for either candidate because they think they’re fighting racism, authoritarianism, or fascism with that vote are likely not racist or fascist themselves. However, a culture and government that has so cynically and systematically coddled “the folks” into such delusions most certainly is.

Connor Freeman is a writer and college student, based in Arizona, primarily covering American imperial politics and foreign policy. He has written for the Libertarian Institute and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also been featured at Antiwar.com and Information Clearing House. You can follow him on Twitter at @FreemansMind96.

The False Dichotomy of Voting

The False Dichotomy of Voting

A false dichotomy is when one is presented with two options as if those were the only options. American presidential elections present voters with a false dichotomy. This election, we are led to believe that Donald Trump and Joe Biden are the only real options for the next president of the United States. Granted, one of them will win, so, conceding this circular logic, even the naysayers have to admit that “the system” has worked in so far as it will produce a president from one of the two major parties.

But this is a false dichotomy because every four years the game is rigged to give voters two pre-arranged choices, and probably two choices of which we all had little input. There are primaries and caucuses and conventions, but all of this is only about narrowing down the options to two: Option A and Option B, like a boring grade school quiz. In states where anyone can vote in primaries—i.e. open primaries—oftentimes voters will vote for the weakest candidate from the opposite party to stack the deck in their favor for when the candidate from their party eventually runs. This is relevant because it undermines democracy at every turn; which isn’t to say that most libertarians are so high on democracy in the first place, but if the rest of the country is going to hold up “fair and open elections” as the pinnacle of the free West, then they should at least be honest about how democratic democracy is.

Readers may recall the Republican field in 2015 and 2016, which included notables such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. Most voters would have been crazy at the time to predict that Donald Trump would beat any of these names and win the election. In other words, it’s fair to say that many Republicans along the way did not vote for Trump in state primaries. SNL mocked his debate performances, celebrities (and Barack Obama) arrogantly asserted again and again that “Donald Trump will never be President.” And yet, he is. Some contingency, whether private donors, self-interested corporations, or the “Silent Majority” in flyover country, managed to elevate Trump to office 2016. But it seems odd to call this process democratic when most mainstream Republicans (which is to say centrist and party-line) were working hard behind the scenes for other candidates. We might also be interested to see how many primary voters voted for a different Republican before eventually voting for Trump in the general election.

All of this doesn’t even account for the contingency on the left who believed Bernie Sanders was unfairly pushed aside both in 2016 and 2020, in favor of more “electable” and party-loyal candidates. In short, what we called democracy in 2016, and what we’ll call it this election cycle, is not really “the rule of many” at all, it is a duopoly that, as Patrick Henry said of the Constitution, “squints toward monarchy.”

Oftentimes voters think their vote is an expression of their individualism, their freedom as Americans, and their influence on an election. None of these is true. Elections present a false dichotomy. Voting may make one think that their vote does all of these things, and thus it may bring some psychic satisfaction or a sense of belonging to a group. But it’s not individualistic, it doesn’t expand their freedom, and a single vote never influences an election. What we saw in 2016 after Trump was the clear nominee, and what we see today since Joe Biden has become the Democratic nominee, is that voters bend their preferences and principles to fit the candidate, not the other way around. Maybe this is just anecdotal but when the Democratic field was wide open, I didn’t know anyone on the left who wanted Joe Biden. They wanted someone “progressive” like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, or even Beto O’Rourke.

After Biden “won” the nomination (if we can call the Democratic convention process fair given unelected “superdelegates”), most voters on the left whom I knew still didn’t like him. He’s too old, he isn’t progressive, he has a bad record on crime and voted for the War in Iraq, many liberals said. And yet, we all know they will still vote for him next week, if they haven’t done so already. For the voters I’m describing, how is voting for a candidate they never actually preferred until now an expression of their individualism? For that matter, how is doing something that at least 50 million other people will do “individualistic”? The American voter has less realistic options on a presidential ballot than their second grade kid has on a multiple choice test. This is democracy?

Voting is not about freedom. Voting confers legitimacy on the most powerful man on earth. This man can start wars, can send drone bombs to kill people overseas, can authorize domestic spying and nearby torture, can enact tariffs that just make domestic prices higher, and can appoint unelected and unaccountable judges to the highest bench in the United States. If we go back in time a bit, apparently the president can also order the internment of whole groups of Americans simply based on their race. And they can also choose to drop atomic bombs on women and children. How is voting for this office an expression of freedom?

Yes, we have the “freedom” to vote, the same way we tell our children they have the “choice” to obey. It’s presented as freedom, and as a choice, but it’s really not. It’s a false dichotomy that is self-supporting and self-perpetuating. If every election is “the most important election of our lifetime,” then we can never “sit this one out.” We can never not vote. We can never vote for a third party candidate because doing so, according to left and right, only helps the opposition. So we can and should and have to vote for a candidate that, all things considered, we don’t really like or want, but because we live in a “democracy,” he is the best we have. And this is freedom? There’s more freedom in choosing a coffee creamer than choosing a president.

A single vote does not influence an election. As I’ve suggested previously, voting incurs an opportunity cost, which, while potentially small, necessarily means we can’t do something else while we’re spending time voting or toward the election process. If one works on a campaign, or at a phone bank, or puts up signs, or anything else beyond just voting, their opportunity cost goes up even more. Maybe to some this is worth it, but if voters confronted the reality that their single vote doesn’t matter, I doubt any opportunity cost would be worth it.

The response, then, is “if everyone thought this way no one would vote.” This is true, and would happen, but this isn’t what really happens. Millions of people are going to vote in every election for the foreseeable future. But, their vote only matters as part of a group, not as a single vote. One’s vote is always on the margin, that is, negligible in terms of its influence. If 250,000 people vote for Candidate X in your county or district, and then you also vote for Candidate X, your vote didn’t do anything more to help him or her get elected. It is insignificant. Therefore we have to realize that unless we can get a whole lot of people to vote the way we do, then our single vote doesn’t influence an election.

If I went and voted for Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate, it might bring me personal satisfaction, but it won’t help her win. She’s not going to win. So we see then that unless I get millions of people in Texas to vote for Jo Jorgensen, my single vote won’t have any effect on the election. This is true of mainstream candidates as well. In most districts in Texas, for example, if I vote for Trump, I’m only doing what everyone else is already doing, and thus my marginal vote doesn’t help him win; and if I vote for Biden, knowing that in most districts Trump will win easily, then I’m also having no effect on the outcome. Voting only matters in groups, and thus the idea that our individual vote influences elections is simply not true.

As I’ve said before, if someone votes out of self-defense because they want to keep their money, or they think a candidate will not wreak as much havoc as the other, this is completely understandable. Voting doesn’t make you a bad person, and all of us live in a very undemocratic system where money and power present us with two real options and then tell us to pick one. And they call this “choice,” democracy, and freedom. So given the unfortunate situation, we can understand why many voters vote for the “lesser of two evils.” For that matter, voting for a Republican or Democrat is the only way a voter can have even a fractional (though negligible) effect on an election.

But it’s still a false dichotomy to say that we have to vote for one or the other. We can vote for a third party, we can write someone in, or we can join the largest political group in the country: non-voters. Not voting is a vote: it’s a vote of no confidence. So whether we vote or don’t vote in this year’s presidential election, let’s all admit the presence of this false dichotomy, and also the deflating reality that a single vote doesn’t do what we often think it does.

The American People’s Justified Cynicism

The American People’s Justified Cynicism

“The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism,” declared former president Barack Obama two years ago. But as we enter the final days of another demagoguery-drenched presidential campaign, it is time to give cynicism the credit it deserves. In an era of clueless voters, conniving candidates and media bias, cynicism can be one of the most effective checks and balances on political power run amok.

In modern American history, the most audacious liars have been the greatest self-proclaimed enemies of cynicism. “The only deadly sin I know is cynicism,” declared President Lyndon Johnson in a 1967 press conference on how the Vietnam War was going great. In a 1973 nationally-televised speech, President Richard Nixon declared, “I reject the cynical view that politics is inevitably, or even usually, a dirty business” prior to deluging viewers with false claims on the burgeoning Watergate scandal.

In 1994, President Clinton derided citizens who “indulge themselves in the luxury of cynicism” for betraying the American soldiers who died on D-Day in 1944. In 1997, Clinton declared that people can make America “better if we will suspend our cynicism.” This is the Peter Pan theory of public service: if only people believed government has magical powers, politicians could achieve miracles. After his impeachment, Clinton castigated “fashionable cynicism” as “self-indulgent arrogance that has no place in America.” But it wasn’t cynics’ fault that Clinton helped make presidential candor an endangered species.

Cynicism is a Natural Blowback to Deceit

George W. Bush exploited the revulsion against Clinton, promising America “a fresh start after a season of cynicism” when he launched his presidential campaign in 1999. In his first inaugural address, President Bush touted positive thinking about politicians as civic duty, lecturing Americans of their “calling” to make a “determined choice of trust over cynicism.” In the same 2002 State of the Union where he uncorked “the Axis of Evil” to pave the way to war with Iraq, Bush declared, “Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism.” Bush repeatedly rebuked the cynicism of anyone who refused to cheer his invasion of Iraq.

Barack Obama exploited the revulsion against Bush, proclaiming in 2007 that “my rival in this [presidential] race is not other candidates. It’s cynicism.” Six years later, President Obama exhorted college graduates to beware of the “creeping cynicism” and people who “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” He did not seize that opportunity to how he acquired the prerogative to order drone killings of American citizens on his own decree.

Politicians denouncing cynicism are akin to used car salesmen telling customers to ignore the clunking sound from the engine during a test drive. Cynicism is blowback from decades of deceit. Most of the major political power grabs in modern history have been propelled by official falsehoods, as have all the major wars since 1950. Perpetual bipartisan chicanery explains why only 20% of Americans trust the federal government nowadays.

Cynicism often arises because politicians judge themselves by their rhetoric while citizens judge them by their (mis)deeds. The alternative to cynicism is pretending that politicians are more honest than they sound. Are politicians, like underage delinquents, entitled to have all their prior offenses expunged?

Cynicism is necessary because the political playing field is often tilted in favor of servility. Politicians are almost never held personally responsible for their falsehoods, follies and fiascos. Thanks to pervasive federal secrecy and surveillance, rulers hold far more cards than citizens. People have been schooled and hectored to submit, to believe and to reflexively defer to officialdom. Scores of millions of people will unquestioningly obey no matter what Washington commands.

Cynicism is a form of political damage control. An ounce of cynicism can save a pound of repenting. Cynicism functions as a brake on political steamrollers. Timely doubts loudly expressed can stop presidents from driving a nation over a cliff or into a foreign quagmire.

Don’t Intellectually Disarm Yourself for Political Aggressors 

Politicians seek to banish cynicism without repenting their rascally ways. Why should citizens intellectually disarm themselves in the face of political aggressors? Why should they accept the passive obedience that was preached for centuries to the politically downtrodden? Are citizens obliged to continually cast their common sense and memories overboard as if they were seeking to placate an angry pagan god?

The derision of cynicism goes to heart of citizens’ role in a democracy. If citizens have a duty to believe, then politicians are entitled to deceive. If citizens are obliged to trust, they become sacrificial offerings for the next political con job. A cynic is often merely someone who trusts politicians as little as politicians trust each other.

Cynicism is simply a discount rate for political honesty. Even cynics should not presume that all politicians are perfidious all the time. There are decent folks in every profession. Instead, citizens should judge politicians like federal judges treat accused criminals—97% of whom are convicted.

Cynicism can be pro-freedom, spurring resistance rather than resignation. Stalwart citizens should be cynical when politicians concoct new pretexts to subvert freedom of speech and press, cynical when politicians conspire to violate the Constitution, cynical when politicians seek to drag America into new foreign conflicts, and cynical when politicians propose sweeping new federal programs to replace disgraced boondoggles. Most importantly, citizens should be cynical when politicians absolve themselves for all the damage they have inflicted on this nation.

Winning politicians often enjoy a honeymoon after Election Day, but neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve any honeymoon from cynicism. “Think well of your masters” will be the death of democracy. The more cynical Americans become, the less power politicians can seize.

This article was originally featured at USA Today and is republished with permission.

On Tuesday, Antiwar Voters Might Decide the Presidential Election

On Tuesday, Antiwar Voters Might Decide the Presidential Election

On Monday [two weeks ago], on the 19th anniversary of U.S. soldiers hitting the ground in Afghanistan, dozens of people gathered in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with the goal of ensuring that our men and women in uniform won’t be in Afghanistan for another anniversary.

The event was organized by the conservative veteran’s organization Bring Our Troops Home, founded in January 2019 by former Sgt. Dan McKnight, who served 10 years in the Idaho National Guard with an 18-month tour in Afghanistan, the organization advocates a military withdrawal from “endless wars” in the Middle East and a requirement that all future wars be declared by Congress, as mandated by the Constitution.

The borough of West Chester, the county seat of suburban Philadelphia’s Chester County, was selected for the event because it was the home and final resting place of Marine Major General Smedley Butler, who, at the time of his death in 1940, was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. Following a distinguished career – where he saw action in World War I and Central America and served a brief stint as Philadelphia’s chief of police – the two-time Medal of Honor recipient spent the last decade of his life as an antiwar advocate and lecturer. Butler is best-remembered today as the author of the 1935 book War is a Racket.

The event took place at Oaklands Cemetery, next to Butler’s gravesite, and featured speakers included McKnight, fellow veteran, and former West Point professor Danny Sjursen, and Scott Horton, author of Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan.

They were joined at the podium by the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, John Emmons. “In order to commit troops someplace, the Congress needs to declare war. So that’s one thing we’re here to reinforce today,” Emmons said in an interview. “Here we are, nineteen years later, and we’re still trying to extract our troops from Afghanistan. I’m certainly in support of that, and what’s curious is that there’s people in Washington who have been fighting President Trump to bring the troops home, including my opponent [Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan].”

Mark Griego, a Villanova University student who served five years in the Marine Corps, was unfamiliar with Bring Our Troops Home before the event. “I think that what they’re fighting for, considering that they’re focusing on the whole bipartisan aspect is really important, it’s more about America, and keeping America whole and one. I think it’s really good what they’re doing with that,” he said.

Also in attendance was Rich Schwartzman, a Philadelphia native who served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1972 and was deployed to Thailand. His message to Washington was clear. “Follow the Constitution,” he said. “I can’t even name all the places we have troops right now, fighting. None of it is constitutional. And that is wrong.”

While most voters are motivated by domestic issues, such as health care and the economy, there remains a smaller, decisive number of Americans who will cast their ballot in November based on their opposition to continued U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

That was the conclusion of Professors Douglas Kriner of Boston University and Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota, whose 2017 study determined a positive and statistically significant correlation between a community’s casualty rate in the War on Terror and its support for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, in which the candidate promised to draw down the American military presence in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Recent polling has reinforced this judgment, including a 2019 Pew Research survey that found 58% of veterans believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, while 64% believe the same about the war in Iraq.

These numbers are particularly relevant for Pennsylvania, which, since 2001, has endured the third-highest casualty count among the states. That includes 301 U.S. military casualties, 47 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard killed overseas, and over 3,000 native sons of the Keystone State wounded in action.

“Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House,” wrote Kriner and Shen.

Once again, Pennsylvania is a political battleground for Trump. Under his administration, while thousands of U.S. troops remain engaged in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, military casualties are down significantly when with the tenures of his predecessors – 63 Americans dead in Afghanistan, compared to 630 under George W. Bush and 1,758 under Barack Obama.

Bring Our Troops Home, and the majority of veterans they represent will continue to speak out, organize, and lobby until those casualty rates are down to zero. Meantime, on November 3, we will find out if Trump has done enough to reap the political rewards of peace.

This article was originally featured at RealClearDefense and is republished with permission of author.

News Roundup

News Roundup 11/23/20

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