Top Billing! Bruno Behrend –So This Is How Democracy Dies
How is this for a headline?
“Key Democrats call for Ending Democracy”
Some people subscribe to the idea that politicians are stupid. They shoot from the hip until reined in by their consultants during election season. There is probably a great deal of truth to that. On the other hand, the use of the “trial balloon” is a well-tested technique for gauging public reaction to an idea.
With that in mind, I submit today’s WSJ’s “Notable and Quotable” into evidence to let the jury decide.
“Most Americans complain that government is unresponsive to their wishes. But not everyone feels that way. In the space of two days, two prominent Democrats have called for less responsive government that ignores public input.
One of them, former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, penned a piece this week in the New Republic arguing, as the title says, “Why we need less democracy.” Orszag wrote that “the country’s political polarization was growing worse-harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing.” His solution? “[W]e need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” . . .
[S]imilar comments by Gov. Bev Perdue, D-N.C., are far more troubling. “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue told a Rotary Club gathering in suburban Raleigh this week. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”
Gaffe or Trial Balloon?
I’m in the trial balloon camp. I think the “Ruling Elite” (aptly described by Codevilla) wants to literally cut governance from “the consent of the governed.”
Democrat or Republican, inside government or outside, these rulers are in the process of turning most important decisions over to “depoliticized commissions,” and they simply don’t want any pesky citizens or constitutional barriers in their way. This class of people has a simple goal – to turn America’s “government of laws, not men,” on its head. They want to govern by edicts issued by commissions. I may be wrong, and I don’t want to appear overwrought, but I think this is (or should be) a big deal.
I am with Bruno. This generation of elite, which have shown themselves to be remarkably less competent and far more corrupt than their Cold War or WWII predecessors, are wistful for a velvet-gloved authoritarianism to help insulate themselves from democratic or legal accountability or even from hearing contrary opinions and criticism. It is amazing how our very best universities – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – produced so many alumni, in so short a period of time, who are disdainful of democracy and hold their fellow citizens in contempt. Do the spirits of Carl Schmitt and Antonio Gramsci hold sway over undergrad education there or what?
Rethinking Security –Spectrum of Intervention and the Indirect Approach
In each step of the ratchet, actions proposed as cheap and risk-free end up pulling—through dynamics of public pressure and commitment—the political leader deeper and deeper into a military operation her or she did not originally intend to carry out. The process is similar to the famous microeconomic concept of the “dollar auction“—in which players bidding cents to get a dollar end up overbidding because they refuse to see the total sum of their sequential investments (which are deceptively cheap) as a sunk cost. The danger of the R2P spectrum, thus, is that even small investments in prevention can morph into commitment.
Why does prevention often fail? Clausewitz’s injunction about the necessity of defeating the enemy’s main army often applies here. CvC was perfectly fine with using influence to defeat an enemy without fighting—however, his reading of military history suggested that this was very rare and required an exceptional ability to know and manipulate opponents (and an unhealthy amount of luck). Strategic bombing and the idea of systems targeting is an attempt to bypass the enemy’s main army and target a state’s parts in detail, hoping to cause a cascading collapse. I have already dealt with indirect approaches and strategic paralysis here.
I welcome Adam’s keen intellect to the R2P arena.
Joseph Fouche-Attrition on the Cheap
In a recent post, I speculated that zombie military doctrines like the “revolution in military affairs”, “effects based operations”, or “network centric warfare” could bloom afresh in the debris left by the ravages of policy doctrines like “responsibility to protect”. I deliberately refrained from framing the negative consequences of such resurrections as solely a bad retread of past schools of military thought that advocated what author James Kiras called “strategic paralysis”.Military doctrines in the strategic paralysis tradition advocate winning quick, cheap, and easy victories by targeting the enemies critical centers of gravity. Fellow FHI blogger Adam Elkus pointed out in his recent Small Wars Journal article on The Rise and Decline of Strategic Paralysis that the embryonic 20th century version this military doctrine first formulated by the occultist J.F.C. Fuller in his Plan 1919 were based on a crude analogy to the human body. No wonder they required a special type of magick.