Small Wars Journal


The Crisis State: A Critical Juncture in American History

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 1:04am
What America is experiencing today is a perfect storm: the convergence of a domestic political environment that is motivated by self-interest, revenge, and sabotage; a national media that is more concerned with sensationalizing crises than reporting facts or helping solve problems; the awakening and empowerment of underrepresented and otherwise traditionally marginalized peoples; and the interference of adversarial agents who aim to not only discredit democracy, but ultimately destroy America. It is becoming increasingly apparent that American policy makers are either unaware of this crisis or more concerned with their own political agendas, either way, this political and social division represents a fundamental crisis that threatens to rip the country apart. If recent failures to identify problems and generate bi-partisan solutions are indicative of the future, this crisis will continue unimpeded.

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Fortitude Down the Stretch

Mon, 11/05/2012 - 4:27pm

Desperately searching for a new angle, the national media is now reporting that National Public Radio upset 4-year old Fort Collins, Colorado girl Abigael Evans by its political reporting on the presidential race.  In response to this latest pre-electoral crisis, NPR issued a statement:  “We must confess, the campaign's gone on long enough for us, too. Let's just keep telling ourselves: ‘Only a few more days, only a few more days, only a few more days.’"  NPR felt compelled to apologize for the national election, capturing in this glib episode the national frustration with electoral politics.  Instead of ignoring this temptation, NPR indulged it, prompting a question from this citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and registered voter:  what the hell is wrong with you?

This writer’s Facebook account is blowing up with friends who are cleansing their hands, and thus, their consciences, of the whole sordid affair, as though they are somehow above it all.  It’s messy, they proclaim, full of accusations, counteraccusations, and distortions of truth, and awash in money provided by corporations and social conservative elites (I am looking at you, Koch Brothers) on one hand, Hollywood and social liberal elites (now I am looking at you, George Soros) on the other.  There is no sense of compromise.  There’s no bipartisanship.  The other side is wrong and we cannot wait to crush them.  Et cetera.  And now I am asking all of those people:  what the hell is wrong with you, too?

This is more or less the way the system was designed.  We all signed up for it, some of us by swearing oaths to it, others by the happenstance of birth and accepting the benefits, obligations, and protections provided by the American constitutional arrangement.  Don’t like the system?  Find a different one and pack your moving van, or move to an ungoverned space like Mali or an uninhabited Pacific island and sign off from society.  Or change it.  Think the electoral system is too heavily influenced by money, and that Citizens United was a miscarriage of justice?  Change it.  Amend the Constitution.  It is an available remedy, and it has happened seventeen times post-ratification in our glorious national history.

Examine the alternatives to our supposed corrupt, unworkable system that apparently is grating on our last collective national nerve.  Russia experiences pandemic corruption in every election, and President Putin enjoys the unrestrained authority to arrest protesting musicians for exercising an internationally-recognized (at least in nonbinding “soft law” (Gersen, Jacob & Eric Posner. "Soft Law: Lessons from Congressional Practice," 61 Stanford Law Review 573 (2008))) basic human rightVenezuelan election outcomes are predetermined, Arab Spring democratic reform has enjoyed mixed returns, and meaningful self-determinative political rights do not even exist in Saudi Arabia, Burma, and dozens of other African and Asian states.  Even in France, the election of President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 resulted in localized riots and post-election violence.  By contrast, the most controversial American electoral outcome in decades was decided by a federal court (Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)).  Power was transferred without a shot fired, and perhaps only modest damage to American’s faith in institutions.  Certain ideologues may have objected to the outcome and methodology of Bush v. Gore, but in a system as stable as the American one, everyone accepted the result as binding.

Moreover, while every generation in American history certainly can claim its share of challenges, those that our nation will face over the next four years measure up in quality and quantity against the yardstick of history.  The security challenges alone are legion:  arresting the deficit, energy security, managing the challenges presented by a nuclear-aspirant Iran, Afghanistan transition, an increasingly unstable Pakistan, delicate relationships within NATO and the shadow cast by an increasingly irritable and belligerent Russia, an unpredictable China with its excessive maritime claims, narcoinsurgency in Mexico, and the consequences of the Arab Spring.  Now is not the time for lethargy, if ever it was.  Now is the time to hitch up our national suspenders, if you value our future and love our country.  Now is the time to have robust, meaningful national discussions on revenues, energy, new national security and national miltiary strategies, force structure, international engagement and alliances, and systems procurements.

I do not fault young Miss Evans for election fatigue.  Her consternation may have been borne as much of a delayed naptime and frustration over the future of Sesame Street as true political exhaustion and yielding to the challenges of the 21st century political environment.  NPR, on the other hand, ought to be ashamed of itself for folding like a house of cards and yielding to the culture of political cynicism.  So should the legions of Americans who have declared that they are tuning out of politics until after the election.  On the contrary, now is the time to tune in more than ever, as a matter of civic duty.  Our national direction depends in part on the outcome of our elections, and it remains the responsibility of people who care about America to pay attention, stay engaged, and vote our consciences.  The defeatist attitude on display by certain elements of our body politic would cause Churchill to smirk and Jefferson to roll over in his grave.  Buck up, America – elections are important, and you can let your hair down next Wednesday.

The Lost Decade?

Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:59pm

This provocative essay from Angelo Codevilla at the Claremont Review of Books has enough vitriol in it to get some on everyone's sacred cow.  He discusses everything from a revolutionary social situation, to the farce of TSA screening, to the paucity of ships for an "island nation."  Even if you don't agree with some or all of it, the issues he raises and the way he addresses them are sure to get you thinking.  


September 11's planners could hardly have imagined that their attacks might seriously undermine what Americans had built over two centuries, ... In fact, our decline happened because the War on Terror—albeit microscopic in size and destructiveness as wars go—forced upon us, as wars do, the most important questions that any society ever faces: Who are we, and who are our enemies? What kind of peace do we want? What does it take to get it? Are we able and willing to do what it takes to secure our preferred way of life, to deserve living the way we prefer? Our bipartisan ruling class's dysfunctional responses to such questions inflicted the deepest wounds.

...After 9/11, at home and abroad, our bipartisan ruling class did the characteristic things it had done before—just more of them, and more intensely. ... Ten years later, the results speak for themselves: the terrorists' force mineure proved to be the occasion for our own ruling elites and their ideas to plunge the country into troubles from which they cannot extricate it.

Wrapping Your Mind Around the Arab Spring: Recommended Reads

Fri, 04/06/2012 - 7:47am

The Arab Spring has caused a renewed interest in the political history of the Middle East, and a hunger to learn the nuances of political discourse from Islamists of various stripes to pan-Arab and secular.  It has been a challenge finding volumes that incorporate the most recent events of the Arab uprisings that began last year and what this means to America’s interests in the region.  This review essay will feature three recent books all published in 2011 and 2012 that will begin to help you make sense of the changes in the region.  The first book is entitled, “The Arab Awakening: A

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