Tuesday, January 03, 2017
How to Make America Great Again with Other People’s Money
And so Trump’s plan to “make America great again” through infrastructure spending, repatriating manufacturing jobs and other great quests will have to wait, possibly forever. All of these things would require taking on even more debt, even as around the world everyone tries to unload US debt as fast as possible, leaving the Federal Reserve as the debt-buyer of last resort. This would have the effect of turning US sovereign debt into a pure Ponzi scheme, and Ponzi schemes don’t go on for too long. But if the requirement to “make America great again” is nonnegotiable, what alternatives are there?
In such circumstances, history often serves as a good guide. What made America great before? Some people might want you to believe that it was hard work, pluck, gumption, honest dealing and innovation, but such preening and self-flattery are most unbecoming. No, what made America great before was Americans going after low-hanging fruit on somebody else’s dime. Let’s look at a few examples.
1. It all started when the US decided to leave the British Empire. This event is often portrayed as a tax revolt by rich landholders, but there is more to it than that: it allowed the former colonies to loot and plunder British holdings by funding and outfitting “privateers”—pirates, that is. This went on for quite some time.
2. Another major boost resulted from the Civil War, which destroyed the agrarian economy of the south and by so doing provided cheap labor and feedstocks to industries in the north. Plenty of people in the south are still in psychological recovery from this event, some 15 decades later. (The idea that this war had something to do with human rights is negated by the following full century of official, overt racism and the ongoing, covert racism in the form of the fake "war on drugs." There are now more black slaves toiling in American prisons than there were slaves in the antebellum south.) It was the first war to be fought on an industrial scale, and a fratricidal war at that. Clearly, Americans are not above turning on their own if there’s a buck or two to be made.
3. Early in the 20th century, World War I provided the US with a rich source of plunder in the form of German reparations. Not only did this fuel the so-called “roaring twenties,” but it also pushed Germany toward embracing fascism in furtherance of the long-term goal of creating a proxy to use against the USSR.
4. When in 1941 this plan came to fruition and Hitler invaded the USSR, the US hoped for a quick Soviet surrender, only joining the fray once it became clear that the Germans would be defeated. In the aftermath of that conflict, the US reaped a gigantic windfall in the form of Jewish money and gold, which fled Europe for the US. It was able to repurpose its wartime industrial production to make civilian products, which had little competition because many industrial centers of production outside of the US had been destroyed during the war.
5. After the USSR collapsed in late 1991, the US sent in consultants who organized a campaign of wholesale looting, with much of the wealth expropriated from the public and shipped overseas. This was the last time the Americans were able to run off with a fantastic amount of other people’s money, giving the US yet another temporary lease on life.
But after that the takings have thinned out. Still, the Americans have kept working at it. They destroyed Iraq, killed Saddam Hussein and ran off with quite a bit of Iraqi gold and treasure. They destroyed Libya, killed Muammar Qaddafy and ran off with Libya’s gold. After organizing the putsch in the Ukraine in 2014, shooting up a crowd using foreign snipers and forcing Viktor Yanukovich into exile, they loaded Ukrainian gold onto a plane under the cover of darkness and took that too. They hoped to do the same in Syria by training and equipping a plucky band of terrorists, but we all know how badly that has turned out for them. But these are all small fry, and the loot from them is too meager to fuel even a temporary, purely notional rekindling of erstwhile American greatness. What’s a poor bankrupt former superpower to do?
What President-elect Trump needs is a shovel-ready project to redirect meaningful amounts of imperial loot toward the homeland—enough to make some number of shiny baubles and fancy gewgaws to hand out to people as symbols of rekindled greatness. The problem is, what is there left to loot? The global debt to GDP ratio is somewhere around 300%, and one bankrupt nation robbing another bankrupt nation does not meaningful booty make. The non-bankrupt nations, which have low debt and plentiful reserves of foreign currency and gold—Russia and China—are not exactly soft targets. Attack Russia, and you end up on your back not remembering what just happened. Attack China, and you get a decade of extremely expensive acupuncture of the extremely painful kind. Iran might seem like a softer target, and Trump did make some belligerent noises in its general direction, but the Persians are very tricky too, and have been perfecting the art of being tricky for close to 26 centuries now. Plus China, Russia and Iran understand this game extremely well and are now all holding hands, daring the US to try anything fresh. Against them, Tump’s team would be as babes in the woods.
And so, by a process of elimination, we arrive at the only obvious choice: the Persian Gulf monarchies, with Saudi Arabia as the big prize. Of course, Saudi Arabia is a US protectorate, and owes its existence to a deal struck in 1945 by King Abdulaziz ibn Saud and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But that’s no problem: the antebellum south was America’s through and through but that didn’t prevent the north from attacking it. All it would take is a dramatic foreign policy change announcement: “Saudi Arabia not good. President Trump very disappointed.”
Why such a policy change? Because it’s very necessary, and time is of the essence. Saudi Arabia still has plentiful financial reserves, but they are quickly dwindling as the country burns through its wealth in an effort to maintain its population of useless eaters in relative comfort. It has plentiful oil reserves (although of gradually decreasing quality and net energy due to high water cuts and other problems) but it is also burning through them faster than would be optimal. You see, Saudi Arabia is a crude oil pusher, but it also is a crude oil addict, and it has gradually been using more and more. This is known as the Export Land Effect: oil-producing countries tend to invest their oil revenues in economic growth, and this drives up energy consumption. Destroying the Saudi economy while preserving its oil industry would liberate quite a lot of oil for export again.
What makes this project shovel-ready is that Saudi Arabia is a very soft target. First of all, it is stocked with imbeciles. People there marry their first cousins all the time, and after a few generations of such inbreeding one’s IQ can be counted on one’s fingers and toes—if one can still count that high. The Saudi educational system doesn’t help either: it’s focused largely on rote learning of the Koran and related texts, with precisely zero emphasis on critical, independent thinking and the sort of strong-minded rebelliousness that makes countries hard to conquer and control. The economy is almost completely dependent on foreign labor, since the Saudis themselves don’t like to work too much, and this pool of foreign labor can be easily spooked and sent packing. Lastly, the Saudis are miserably weak militarily, as has been shown during their ongoing failure to make any headway in Yemen (besides causing a humanitarian crisis). All of their weapons systems are US-made and can be disabled in short order by cutting off the flow of contractors, consultants and spare parts. (Unlike Russian-made stuff, which can operate autonomously for decades and can usually be fixed with a hammer and a screwdriver, American weaponry tends to be high-touch and finicky.)
But what could serve as the rationale for such a drastic change? Well, there has been this item on the American agenda for quite some time now, called “the war on terror.” Bush W. started it, and Obama continued it nolens-volens during his ridiculous caretaker presidency. Trump could of course declare it “a disaster” and abandon it, or he could point out something simple: the actual locus of global terrorism is not in any of the countries attacked to date, but is, in fact, in Saudi Arabia. From there its vicious, totalitarian Wahhabi ideology spreads far and wide, and it has supported and continues to support terrorists in numerous places, including among the Chechens in Russia and the Uyghurs in China, Al Nusra in Syria, ISIS in Syria and Iraq and in numerous other places around the world. Thus, it should be easy to get the Russians and the Chinese on board with the plan to neutralize the Saudis, while the Iranians would not just agree to go along with it but would also do a bit of dancing in the streets.
Beyond ridding the world of Islamic terrorism, neutralizing Saudi Arabia would serve a less practical but even more important purpose: to convert Islam from a totalitarian ideology of social and political domination back into a traditional religious practice. Yes, the Koran has some very funky passages, such as Sura 4:89: “Those who reject Islam must be killed.” Well, the Old Testament of the Bible has some very funky passages too, and you might even read them aloud in a Bible study class, but you know better (I would hope) than to go out preaching in the streets about the virtues of rape, forced circumcision and mass murder just because that’s in the Bible somewhere. Democracy and pluralism demand that civil law take precedence over religious law (which can be allowed very limited scope) and that all law must be based on reason, not faith (no witch burnings; no stoning of adulterers). Islam can be made sociable, and there are examples of how that can be done, but first must come a repudiation of its totalitarian ideology and system of law. A good place to start is in the homeland of that ideology—Saudi Arabia—which has unfairly enjoyed a special dispensation from these basic standards of civilized practice until now.
The first volley could consist of a few simple demands. Saudi Arabia must join the community of civilized nations and guarantee equal rights for women and sexual minorities, freedom of religion for non-Moslems and Atheists, the right of different religious groups to intermarry, a roadmap toward achieving constitutional order, representative democracy and the renunciation of the principle of applying religious doctrine to civil matters. Things can easily escalate from there: a bit of bombing here, a bit of rioting there, and after a while all the guest workers go home, Saudi oil consumption crashes, the oil industry goes back under foreign control and wealth is expropriated and put to work “making America great again.” This last bit may not sit well with everyone, but the overall plan has so many positive features that most people would go along with it anyway. The Europeans especially, groaning under a flood of Islamic migrants, quite a few of them radicalized by Saudi teachings, would welcome a way to defang and socialize Islam, making it into yet another religion whose practitioners avoid using the word “infidel” like a punch in the face and know better than trying to foist their religion’s atavistic dictates on the surrounding largely secular community.
If Trump doesn’t crack open the chocolate egg that is Saudi Arabia and run off with the toy inside, then somebody else will. Saudi Arabia’s days are numbered. For now, it is still rich in money, oil, sand and imbeciles, but it is burning through the first two faster and faster. Just wait a decade or so, and the sand and the imbeciles will be all that’s left. Somebody will try to get to them and snatch what’s left of the prize well before then. It might as well be the Americans: they started this shambolic desert kingdom; they might as well be the ones to put it out of its misery.