E-Ring Hubris

Byron King

“But the more damage a president does, the more the voters love him. Bush has not yet equaled America’s biggest catastrophes – Lincoln’s war between the states, or Wilson’s entry into WWI – but if he keeps going at the present pace, he might still get his mug on Mount Rushmore.”

— Bill Bonner, the Daily Reckoning

The present U.S. effort in the Middle East may be the high water mark of America’s post-WWII effort to make and keep a world order suitable to its liking and national interests. In the future, we may look back at the receding tide of American primacy, traceable to the fall of Baghdad on 10 April 2003 and the toppling of the statue of Saddam. Had we packed up the Army and left, handed the keys to the kingdom to some assemblage of Learned & Wise Men, and applauded ourselves for a job well done, the future of the world might be quite different…even favorable to the U.S. But that is not what happened.

Post-conquest, the U.S. stayed in Iraq to occupy the place. But it was inevitable that we would have to fight the occupants. U.S. leadership, caught up in the heady rush of initial military success of its half-baked political science experiment, spoke of a “50-year occupation” of Iraq. Mars, the God of War, split his sides laughing at the E-Ring hubris… I can hear him now, speaking to Jupiter…

As if the U.S. could possibly make such a thing occur absent scorching the Mesopotamian earth of its inhabitants and sealing the borders in a way that even the East Germans could never have envisioned.”

And the namesake of the Red Planet – red for the color of blood – set about his efforts. A year later, and 10,000 heartbreaks beyond, the U.S. is fighting a counterinsurgency war. The U.S. can concentrate combat power against its opponents, and in consequence some days bring success. But U.S. forces and power cannot be everywhere, all the time.

And hence some days bring bad news…

A loss of face by the U.S. in the Middle East, through death of a thousand cuts at our people and interests, could end the willingness of the American people to go abroad “looking for dragons to slay,” in the words of John Quincy Adams. After 90 years, G.W. Bush might preside over the undoing of the Wilsonian drive in American foreign and military policy.

And what of the future of the U.S. economy, suffering from its advanced-stage national strategic maladies of debt, depletion, decline and demographics? What if even some of the predictions of the Daily Reckoning’s host of writers prove to be true? What if – under the stewardship of G.W. Bush, he at the helm of the USS Ship of State – the economic bubbles begin to pop? The dollar crashes, housing tanks, stock markets tank, costs of goods and services skyrocket…all in a debased popular culture, where politics has been poisoned by the battle of blue state values versus red state values.

Imagine Al Qaeda managing to hit the U.S. “financial economy” so hard and so bad that it crumbles, and the U.S. dollar loses its position as the world’s reserve currency. Imagine the Fed doing what it does best, pumping credit into the economy and wrecking the value of the U.S. dollar (96% loss of purchasing power over 90 years, 1914-2004…hmmm…looks like it already has…but there’s always that last few percent to extinguish…) Imagine the U.S. tax base evaporating in a matter of months as the dollar crashes…(so much for the 16th Amendment).

Imagine faith in popular governance in the U.S. vanishing in the face of national economic calamity.

With the U.S. dollar badly wounded, and possibly no longer a nationally accepted means of exchange and settlement, the nation would be back to its pre-Hamilton colonial roots, settling debts by using a variety of specie for money… pounds, francs, pieces of weight, gold nuggets, whatever people would accept in trade…”Goods-producing” states would be reluctant to export real things (grain, electricity, water, minerals, you-name-it…) to “consuming” states without payment in hard currency. Here is the end of national commerce, and the national unity-myth as well…after 140 years, G.W. Bush might preside over the undoing of the Lincolnian effort of saving “the Union.”

Preposterous? Science fiction? Impossible? Or is this a future waiting to be revealed?

Byron King is a graduate of Harvard University and currently serves as an attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.