David Hines
By David Hines
May 7, 2011

"(T)he only thing we have to fear is fear itself." — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Uncertainty can be stressful. People are generally more content with a status quo, even an unsatisfactory one, than with unsettled conditions. Currently a lot of people in the Middle East are not. Many Americans find this disturbing.

People are demanding democracy. Shouldn't that make us happy? After all, we were told that they hate us for our freedom. If they are free they have no reason to hate us, right? But if they continue to hate freedom, then they hate themselves; wouldn't they commit suicide rather than bother us?

Let's first recognize that most people aren't protesting for freedom; they're protesting the rising cost of food. Most of these places import the bulk of their sustenance. Socialist tyrannies don't produce well. The Soviet Union, despite controlling the Ukraine — a fertile region that fed many people from ancient Greece onward — had to import grain.

It is far from clear what sort of regimes shall succeed tumbling dictators. Several possibilities exist, and most of them cause more nightmares than a bad meal.

Democracy can easily devolve into ochlocracy. The French Revolution did, as have others. Blood could flow profligately in the streets. Such a humanitarian crisis can be difficult to countenance, even if the victims are perceived as potential jihadi soldiers.

The nations might revert to military dictatorship. This would be a return to the norm of the past decades, with one exception: the US might not control those dictators as we did Mubarak and others.

The outcome generating the most fear is that they will exercise their freedom to institute totalitarian fundamentalist regimes They may relinquish new-found freedom for another dictator, albeit one claiming divine mandate.

Overlooked in the imagined scenarios is economic reality. Having accepted the Keynesian fantasy, many Americans seem to believe that the entire world is unrestrained by economic forces. The terrifying vision involves hordes of unfed and ill-clothed fanatics crossing the ocean to subject us to Sharia law. This is logistically unlikely.

Even Egypt, the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, relies upon imported grain, much of it bought from the US with US-supplied foreign aid. The first order of any government wishing to retain power, whether democracy, militocracy, or theocracy, is to stabilize a food supply.

Humanitarian crisis is perennially cited as reason to intervene. It shall be used so again. But when US forces enter, we become the scapegoat. People blame us for their problems, obscuring the more fundamental causes. In this they are egged on by power seekers within their own society.

In most places the military has been an economically preferred entity. They tend, therefore, to support the old version of stability even while giving lip service to revolutionary fervor. Persons with vested interests are not fond of boat rocking. It messes with their income stream.

Military establishments seek to maintain an exalted position within their own societies, gleaning financial benefits therefrom. Our foreign aid has enabled this; the dictator who doesn't play ball with the US shall see himself challenged by officers who don't want the gravy train to stop running. The US is not the only government that is fixated on building a national military-industrial complex; we are just the only ones who consider the entire world fuel for that machine.

Control of oil is a major factor in the concern over instability. Yet no oil producer can long ignore the income stream to be derived from that trade. Whatever regime succeeds in controlling oil fields, it shall seek to fund itself. They must trade what resources they have. Freed from the US-dominated control mechanisms — the World Bank and the IMF — the price might be higher, but freed from oligarchs, prices tend to achieve their proper market-determined level. High oil prices might well achieve what politicians cannot: viable alternative energy solutions.

For the duration of the Cold War and afterward, much foreign aid has been expended to bolster stability, propping up strongmen in numerous nations. That system is crumbling. Our CIA may try to re-establish it, but one must wonder whether a government that couldn't find bin Laden for a decade can really engineer a satisfactory return to a system of subordinate dictators.

Americans have forgotten that economic law is inexorable. We think we can evade it ourselves by printing money. Naturally, then, we can be sold the notion that others can evade it as well. The fears of such events blind us to other threats, closer to home. In an effort to manage what we cannot control, we are going broke. Our native warmongers believe that all it takes is the will to win, and logistics be damned.

This fantasy places us in more danger than the scenarios dreamed up by talking heads. In destroying our economic base, we weaken both our military preparedness and the ability to rent friends such as Mubarak. The strategy of past decades shall soon be unaffordable.

When the growing burden of imperial and interventionist government brings about a hunger crisis at home, the rioting that will concern us will not be in their streets, but in our own.

© David Hines


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David Hines

Note: David Hines passed away on April 1, 2017.

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)


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