Charlotte, NC — Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look under the hood- “Upper Eschalanace™” Members of our ruling political classes are yapping about burgeoning fantasies about a second civil war, culminating with visions about sparring with parts of their own subject populations.
Because of the shock wave of recent conflicts culminating in the Capitol riot (we are not including the summer of riots, conflagration, and bloodletting that occurred all over the Pacific Northwest, as those were peaceful demonstrations), prominent vocal figures have been extrapolating from our seemingly violent polarization to a dystopian future of insurgency and mayhem within our borders.
Officialdom seems pretty set on fanning the sparks of existing political strife into something resembling a national house fire-one that is apparently capable of burning only one side.
“The challenge facing us now is one of counterinsurgency (emphasis mine),” Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and later director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center crows in The New York Times.
“Though one may recoil at the thought, it provides the most useful template for action.”
The danger, Grenier adds, lies in “a large, religiously conservative segment of the population, disproportionately (though not entirely) rural and culturally marginalized.” He doesn’t believe that the entire segment is violent, but it constitutes “a mass of citizens — sullen, angry and nursing their grudges — among whom the truly violent minority will be able to live undetectably, attracting new adherents to their cause.”
Side note: one might be tempted to observe that this is almost verbatim the description given the poor, misunderstood rioters and looters that were simply expressing their political frustrations over the summer months.
In a later NPR interview, he fleshed this thought out a little: “I think what is most important is that we drive a wedge between those violent individuals and the people who may otherwise see them as reflecting their interests and fighting on their behalf.”
Again, please take note that no mention of addressing their concerns is being made.
Previously, former CIA director John Brennan mentioned that the Biden administration is giving the ol’ hairy eye to “what looks very similar to insurgency movements that we’ve seen overseas,” consisting of “an unholy alliance” of “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, Nativists, even libertarians.” I notice that Dallas Cowboy fans didn’t make the cut, for some reason.
Brennan added that our overlords are “doing everything possible to root out what seems to be a very, very serious and insidious threat to our democracy and our republic.” This statement makes sense until one adds just a little emphasis: “doing everything possible to root out what seems to be a very, very serious and insidious threat to our democracy and our republic.”
I don’t think that he is referring to “your” democracy or “my” republic.
To be fair, neither Grenier nor Brennan are currently in government but it does need to be pointed out that both are still well-connected and very influential. Of further interest, the same day that Grenier’s Times line-inches appeared, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terrorism bulletin that read like a curriculum vitae for the former CIA officials’ desired domestic policies.
To wit: “The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin due to a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration…Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”
Okay, let’s not be stupid and ignore these possibilities. But I am a little concerned that this is also almost exact verbiage that was used in the minuscule Patriot Act (you might not have heard of it) -and these same words have had an unnerving tendency to be used to allow a government carte blanche to ignore its own rules and pretty much do whatever it wants.
DHS bulletin suggests worries about violence and “insurgency” are rooted in reality. Okay, you have me there: the Capitol really was stormed by Americans convinced, despite the evidence, that the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. (I actually think that evidence points to-at the very least-the need to whip out a larger detective glass to find out what was really going on).
People died in the violence. The Republican Party around which they’ve coalesced has largely become a cult of personality venerating the former chief executive, at least as far as the media would have you believe. But very few members of the rural/conservative segment of the population that is currently troubling the insurgency war-gamers are QAnon devotees, and only a tiny sliver had anything to do with the Capitol riot.
A quick Google search will actually show that the great majority were, in fact, assembling peacefully. (Although since that definition seems to now include Molotov cocktails I can certainly understand that our Kings might be a little confused on the issue). And, by corollary, if they come to support “violent individuals” because they “see them as reflecting their interests and fighting on their behalf,” it will be because of deeper divisions and resentments that brought them to that point.
News Flash: those resentments are REALLY deep. According to polling, (January YouGov) 53 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of Independents “think that the biggest threat to their way of life comes from domestic enemies.”
The best way to encapsulate those perceptions of “domestic enemies” is for a government in the hands of one political faction to start treating its opponents as insurgents. Get the media to repeat it enough times, and Voilà! The populace will begin debating WHY it is true, as opposed to WHETHER it is true. Dehumanize, don’t cha’ know. Call them deplorables, rubes, inbred bumpkins, hicks.
That will inevitably entail the excesses and abuses that come with turning the security services loose not just on those who have committed crimes against others, but on whole segments of society viewed as potential threats.
Guilt by association.
Followed by guilt by belief.
Followed by guilt by appearance.
Followed by guilt by convenience.
“Overreactions give people an incentive to become terrorists — not only by creating grievances but also by reducing the relative risks of turning to violence,” Northeastern University’s Max Abrahms, a professor of public policy, recently stated in Reason. “A standard assumption in political science is that terrorists are rational actors. Many people decide against becoming terrorists because they know that the costs to them will be severe. But if the government is going to treat innocent people like terrorists anyway, then no additional risk is incurred.”
This brings to mind an image I saw a few years ago-it depicted a grieving father, holding the lifeless body of his 5-year-old son who had just been slaughtered in an American drone strike in Syria. The caption read “He wasn’t a terrorist yesterday.” You may rest assured that he is one now.
It should be noted that before Grenier’s squeal for counterinsurgency efforts, Abrahms pointed out that John Brennan “did not distinguish between those who use extreme tactics and those with whom he disagrees politically. For Brennan, both are enemies worthy not only of contempt but action or at least government scrutiny.”
Grenierseems to want to adopt tactics used in Afghanistan and Iraq-but I notice that neither country is exactly doing spectacular 20 years after the U.S. invaded and began battling insurgents.
Iraq’s capital city recently suffered two suicide bombings and the Biden administration is poised to delay the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan because of escalating fighting in the country. Do we actually want to inflict these comparable counterinsurgency campaigns on our own country-risking similar outcomes?
It appears we have a pretty good metric on how this is gonna play out. I don’t mean that we’re helpless against politically motivated violence. Grenier rightly suggests that we “investigate and bring to account those who commit crimes.”
It makes sense to target people for harming others rather than for belonging to suspect groups. If he’d stopped there without talking about counterinsurgency efforts against whole communities (specific one, mind you), his column would have been somewhat reasonable.
I love the constant shifting of Americans’ perception of each other as “domestic enemies.” We can’t make people like each other, but we can pry their hands from each other’s throats by decentralizing governance so that decisions are made as close as possible to affected individuals,
Then, hostile communities couldn’t use the reins of power to torment each other and would have fewer grounds for conflict. But this doesn’t count when the hostile entity is the entire government. Giving Americans less reason to hate and battle each other sounds a lot more promising than whipping out the wildly successful foreign counterinsurgency.
I do, however, have to ask a pretty telling question of our elite: what happened to politicians actually redressing their constituents’ grievances instead of labeling them insurgents and laying down plans to forcibly repress them?
This is the kind of stuff that makes violent revolution a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pretty much forces it to, actually. We’ve actually witnessed this exact sort of behavior multiple times throughout history.
Spoiler Alert: When the music stops, there are not going to be enough chairs.
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