Monday, May 18, 2015
Richard Fernandez: Fighting the Next Fight
Fighting Entropy Part 2Most of us have watched movies where a mysterious threat attacks an unsuspecting community. They may be vampires ravaging an Alaskan town or a blob-like being swallowing a town. Typically the defenders, at first confident, are rapidly dismayed when they find that police firearms have little effect against the creatures. With that realization the characters go from complacent to desperate in a few minutes of movie time until the hunted survivors are forced by desperation to try an outlandish theory from a crackpot who has a peculiar insight into the nature of the monsters.
But like the monster in the movie, it’s taken “three billion electro-volts of energy and it’s still coming on”! Why have none of the previous heavy blows slowed ISIS or any of the affiliated rebel groups down? Why is the jihadi organism inexplicably resistant to leadership disruptions, whether caused by drone strikes or the murderous work of rivals from other factions? How can it stand against the Olympian thunderbolt? This is an important question to answer.It’s resistant because it is not a state.No it’s not made of “solid nuclear material”. But unlike a state, headed by an Emperor of Japan or Fuhrer, Islamic militancy has the apparent ability to reconfigure itself on the fly; to find energy from catastrophes that would delegitimize ordinary state institutions. The Syrian rebel scene is a case in point. It’s a constellation of merging and splitting groups with fanciful names like “Defenders of Jerusalem”, “Knights of Justice”, “Shields of Revolution”, “Sham Legion”, “Knights of Constantinople” and “Euphrates Volcano”. It’s a regular Legion of Doom.In this environment a damaged Al-Qaeda evolves into ISIS or spawns an al-Nusrah, like a Hydra sprouting heads or water groping a path down a slope. Groups are constantly dividing, consolidating and taking each other over. Instead of dying under the blows of the administration, the collective organism mutates; it has now acquired the unnerving capacity to engage in “united front” tactics with governments and rival armed groups in Iraq and Syria.Part of the reason why the state-killing bullets of Obama don’t work is because they’re designed to kill something ISIS is not. The error is instinctive. Calling Abu Sayyaf a “chief financial officer” or ISIS “oil-minister” is a case in point. He’s nothing of the sort. The man is probably just a glorified border smuggler. Mike Giglio of Buzzfeed described the oil smuggling business on the Syrian-Turkish border in great detail. It’s a million dollar a day business for ISIS at best, conducted with drums, plastic cans transported in vans and pickup trucks or pumped over buried pipes to Turkey. On the scale of world affairs, a million dollars a day is hardly even a major oil business; it is something more suitable for a Turkish gangster than an energy mogul. Yet we think of him as a “minister” because ministers can think in no other way.But non-states can operate on chump-change, and Obama doesn’t fully grasp this. Cities, elaborate bureaucracies, constitutions — all of the paraphernalia of a Westphalian state that Obama cherishes — are irrelevancies to ISIS-like organizations. Armin Rosen notes that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hiding out in a hick town in Iraq with a population of less than 5,000. When president Obama described ISIS as a “jayvee team” he was being entirely candid, unable to imagine how a bunch of big beards in a few SUVs could possibly stand up to the might of the One Who Rides Around in Air Force One and Dances with the Stars, making the classic mistake of mirror imaging.
The reason the press has been trying to corner interviewees into “admitting” that George Bush made erred in toppling Saddam Hussein is the need to reassure themselves that catastrophe in the Middle East isn’t really their fault. The constant need to be told it’s not their doing is a form of denial. The more certain they are of their blunder the more they will need to tell themselves that the sounds they hear aren’t the footfalls of doom.Because the alternative is to admit the truth and accept that to reverse the tide, 20th century Western liberalism has to die or radically reform itself. None of the people who have built political and establishment media credentials want to hear that, but all the same …Putin is preparing anew offensive in the summer. Aden is under siege. Syria has returned to using chemical weapons and the Christian Science Monitor’s editorial board says its time to face the fact that very soon the country will implode. China is pushing into the South China Sea. ISIS has routed security forces in Ramadi who are fleeing pell-mell leaving large quantities of US supplied weapons to swell the armories of the jihad, as Hugh Naylor of the Washington Post reports.The last Belmont Club post asked: what can defeat ISIS? The answer is a civilization that can adapt faster than it; which can seize free energy more quickly than the current masters of the Jihad; a society that can seize the initiative and not simply be content to reactively “lead from behind”. That eliminates the Western status quo ideology, based on 1930s socialist ideology, from the running. That’s never going to change.Yet the only way to survive the challenges of the coming years is to change the existing political status quo. The good news is that change is going to happen come what may. The bad news is that the Left, because it is the most mobilized, will probably initiate it.The classic leftist defense mechanism against a threat is to morph into fascism. It is highly probable that as the West comes under pressure in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East the status quo ideology will become increasingly repressive. This is probably unavoidable. But it is what comes after the eventual collapse of liberal fascism that will either save the world or drown under the surging tide of barbarism. The phase after the collapse of Western fascism will either tend toward a new “dark age” or lead to a new era in prosperity and creativity.Therefore the solution set consists of those actions that will maximize the exit from the fascist phase on the best possible terms.Things are not hopeless, nor even gloomy. Not in the historical sense, anyway. Be any of these three things: politically involved, a monk or a frontiersman and have some assurance that you are contributing to your children’s survival. Do any of these things and you will help build a civilization that can out-evolve ISIS or failing that, quit this sad old earth and head for the stars.