Monday, November 16, 2009

War weariness strikes the right

Prediction which rests on the assumption that recent trends will continue in perpetuity are often fallacious. For instance, while presently the political right is undeniably more likely to clamor for war, this has not always been the case. Indeed, as Justin Raimondo details in his book, Reclaiming the American Right, there is a long tradition of opposition to war by non-leftists. Today, the libertarians--led by Ron Paul--and many, though not all, of the paleo-conservatives-- exemplified by Pat Buchanan--have made principled stands against recent wars. Regrettably, most right-wingers have failed to follow these shining examples.

But if the wars continue for long enough under leftists, a backlash will eventually emerge. This opposition will not be as principled as those taken by members of the anti-war right, or rather, it will probably stem from different principles--though in many cases it will be purely pragmatic. But it will come. As Obama continues to dither over his decision as to how many troops he will send to Afghanistan, it is possible that we will see a swell of dissent, not from the left, which has been lamentably AWOL on the anti-war effort, but from the heretofore imperialist right.

Two cases present themselves, both courtesy of WorldNetDaily. Now, I frequently disagree with many of the columnists who write for WND, and while I appreciate their genuine journalism, a not insignificant number of their stories bear too close a resemblance to pieces in the Weekly World News for my taste. Nonetheless, they publish three of my favorite columnists, and they refuse to debase themselves in the manner of the sycophants of the mainstream press.

In any event, here are Pat Boone and Joseph Farah demanding the troops be brought home.

First Boone:

I want to emphasize that perhaps 75 percent of American Muslims don't necessarily approve of suicide bombings and jihadist activities – but it's in the nature of the religion and culture not to expose or repudiate the extremists. And so it grows. The problem is not just Islam; it's the jihadist ideology that has infected it.

And so, as a lifelong staunch conservative and active supporter of our brave military, I call loudly: BRING OUR TROOPS HOME – AND NOW!

You can't fight or change an ideology with guns or bombs; in some ways, you fuel and inspire it. These warped jihadists, like Maj. Hasan, are the reverse of God-fearing patriotic Americans. They have been brainwashed to believe that their concept of God will honor and reward them for killing as many innocent men, women and children as possible! We've never faced anything like this before. Never.

His insistence that we cannot "change an ideology with guns or bombs" is basically correct, assuming we refuse to go down the Roman route of enslaving everyone. Still, he misses something which actually helps his argument. Our very presence in the region has been cited by Osama Bin Laden as a reason for his jihad. Every time U.S. forces mistakenly bomb another wedding party, or accidentally kill a civilian, Bin Laden has an easier time finding recruits. This is not to say that merely leaving the region will dispel all hatred for the Great Satan. It's too late for that. But the longer we remain in the region, the further Bin Laden's poisonous ideology will spread.

Second, Farah:

I do not believe Barack Obama is capable of achieving anything remotely resembling victory in either Iraq or Afghanistan – at least not victory for the United States of America.

A president incapable of recognizing that war came home Nov. 5 at Fort Hood is certainly incapable of waging foreign wars.

A president incapable of recognizing that terrorists are among us could never be counted on to do the right thing in remote places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

A president whose own worst enemies are the Republican Party, Fox News Channel and the tea party movement couldn't possibly ever understand the nature of real combat.

It's time to bring the troops home now!

I understand, to an extent, Farah's anger. I have not seen any evidence that Obama is capable of making difficult decisions. He is a tolerably good--if wildly overrated--speaker, and he shows signs of political acuity--though these two have disappeared, or at least diminished in recent months. It may be argued that given the record of The Decider, the mere ability to make choices is not enough; we only profit if the decisions are good ones.

Anyway, Farah's mistake is in assuming that presidential leadership is capable of stealing victory from the jaws of defeat in that graveyard of empires. The reality is that it doesn't matter how many troops we send. Shooting jihadists is an achievable goal for the U.S. military. Building a civilization in the desert, with most of the population either opposed or indifferent to the endeavor, simply isn't a practicable goal.

Given that victory is impossible, it is absolutely imperative that Obama brings the troops home as soon as possible. Here's hoping this sentiment sweeps through the rest of the right.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Next Great Depression

Interest in economics appears to be inversely proportional to the strength of the economy. When wealth seems to be expanding—when houses can be bought, flipped, and resold quickly and at great profit, or when IPOs of Internet startups make everyone involved filthy rich—only contrarians and pessimists question the soundness of what is universally regarded as a good thing. But when the boom turns to bust, it becomes imperative to understand where things went wrong. Doe-eyed economists, who were as blind-sided by the downturn as those who foolishly followed them, scramble to retain credibility. Meanwhile, more skeptical commentators are provided with an opportunity to make their case against a system built on debt—at least until credit expansion brings about the next boom.

Vox Day is a self-described contrarian, whose prognostications of doubt about the health of the global financial system go back to at least 2002. In The Return of the Great Depression (RGD), Day cautions against “the consensus view that the economic contraction of the last eighteen months is essentially over.” This optimism fails to take into account the actual state of the economy, and is instead built on “definite hope.” He presents six economic scenarios for the coming decade which merit contemplation, ranked in order of decreasing likelihood to occur as follows: Great Depression 2.0, The Great Recession, Whiskey Zulu India or Hyperinflation, The Jobless Recovery, Fallout 4 Live or Doomsday, Saint Bernanke and the Greenshoots or Immaculate Recovery. His case for a second Great Depression is regrettably convincing, as are the ten reasons he gives as to why the current depression will be worse than the first.

RGD begins with a look at the Japanese recession of 1989, which is about to enter its second decade. The reason this recession is relevant for those trying to come to terms with our present economic crisis is that the actions taken by the Japanese Government in an attempt to stave off recession are disturbingly similar to those taken by the Bush and Obama administrations. “In nineteen years, neither monetary nor fiscal policy has managed to pull the Japanese economy out of the crater created by the Heisei boom.” The implementation of demonstrably inadequate policies portends a prolonged and painful recession for the U.S., and, indeed, much of the world.

For the most part, RGD is easy for the layman to follow. Some knowledge of economics would be useful, and is in fact provided by a helpful glossary of terms, but Day intends for his book to be read by “economic actors, not the economists who study them.” The sheer number of statistics and charts may prove overwhelming, but they also help illustrate one of the author's points. In attempting to accurately grasp the state of the economy: No One Know Anything. This doesn't make econometrics worthless, but it does mean that we need to be skeptical about facts and figures bandied about by talking heads—especially when these come courtesy of government bureaucrats.

To give just three examples from the book: Consumer Price Index (CPI), GDP, and unemployment figures are very unreliable. The formula used to compute CPI, which is used to determine inflation, was changed in the early 1990's. The new figure may understate inflation by as much as seven percent. GDP, too, possesses dubious utility as a statistical metric, since a decrease in imports causes the GDP to rise. Similarly, unemployment figures fail to take into account those who have ceased seeking employment. Paradoxically, a rise in unemployment may be seen as good news, since those who had given up looking for a job have resumed their searches, increasing unemployment numbers.

If Saint Bernanke and his fellow central bankers have actually ended the current recession, government intervention will see a boost of popular support, while the doomsayers, Day among them, will be justly ignored. On the other hand, if Day is correct, the coming depression presents an opportunity to diminish the role central bankers, bureaucrats, and politicians play in the economy. A freer, more prosperous world depends on radical adjustments to the structure of our economic system. Although the picture it paints is rather dark, RGD ultimately provides a useful blueprint for a better economic future.