06 January 2007

Barbarians At The Gates

This is the greatest country in the world. No doubt the British thought the same of Britain in the last century, no doubt ancient Romans thought the same about Rome, no doubt the Athenians thought the same of the city state of Athens. Each was right in his day. This is America's time, and now this is the greatest country in the world.

Other scribes and scribblers spoke tales of woe about Athens, about Rome, about Britain, all while at the height of their powers. Today some do the same about America. The sad truth is that the doomsayers will likely be proven right, given time. It is the nature of the world that one civilization comes to dominance and then falls, collapsing under it's own great weight, being replaced by another.

Today our future is foretold in the reluctance we show to protect our borders or use force. Two articles capture my attention in the writing of this screed. The first is here, a story about the National Guardsmen on our southern border. The other is here, a blog piece from The Yankee Sailor on nuclear deterrence in the age of terrorism.

In the first article is a story about four armed men coming over the Mexican border, causing the National Guardsmen there to abandon their post. The Guardsmen were under orders to call for backup and retreat...excuse me, "advance to the rear", rather than engage.

The blog article discusses the role of deterrence in the Cold War, and how it's effectiveness as a strategy depended upon our mutual desire to keep our own skins in more or less one unscathed piece. The Yankee Sailor points out in this piece that before the Nuclear Age, the tactic of pre-emptive war was a common practice - do unto others before they get a chance to do unto you. Since the dawn of the nuclear era, however, the sheer frightfullness of these weapons make them unsuitable for such an option. The answer was Mutually Assured Destruction.

He further demonstrates that such a policy worked fine between powers that showed an equal reluctance to rely on these devastating weapons, but now that we have small states and rogue nations pursuing them the policy of MAD becomes mad indeed. For such a strategy to work you have to assume that the OPFOR has at least as much rationality as you yourself do. This is, sadly, not always the case in today's world. This calls for, at the very least, a shift in strategy.

Our battle against Islamic extremists has been called a "clash of cultures" and a "clash of civilizations". Others deny this is true, saying it is instead a clash of barbarians against civilization. If this is so, it is troubling for one very good reason. Civilization, by it's very nature, is reluctant to revert to uncivilized behavior. Barbarians, by their very nature, have no such compunction.

Historically, the barbarians always win.

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