The Failure of Global Guerrillaism: Democracies Withstand Economic Pain

Economic Chaos and the Fragility of Democratic Transition in Former Communist Regimes,” by Raymond M. Duch, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Feb., 1995), pp. 121-158, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-3816%28199502%2957%3A1%3C121%3AECATFO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-5.

A Halt to Iraqi Oil Exports,” by John Robb, Global Guerrillas, 23 October 2005, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/10/journal_a_halt_.html (also at Strategy Unit).

Under the rubric of systempunkt, John Robb has been pushing the idea that successful guerrillas will go after the schwerpunkt (center of gravity) of Western countries and their allies: money.

The combination of a bad weather and a storm have halted all Iraqi oil exports. Guerrillas hit a systempunkt — a pipeline gathering point for four fields — of the northern Iraqi oil network today with four bombs. This has totally shut down production from northern Iraq and the repairs will likely take a month to accomplish. In parallel, bad weather has shut down loading at the Basra offshore oil terminal completely shutting down the only remaining export point for Iraqi oil. It is important to note that not all damage from system disruption occurs as a direct result of attacks. Much of it happens when a stressed system is confronted with additional system perturbations. This incident a classic example of this (so was Katrina on a stressed US oil system).

Not only is this bad strategy generally: wise leaders go after their enemies’ weaknesses, not their strength, it is statistically unlikely to produce regime change (bold mine, italics the author’s, footnotes removed for clarity):

In the early reform period, perceptions of a declining economy promoted support for both free markets and Democracy in the former Soviet Union. And while there is some evidence in Latin America supporting the association of economic crisis and coups d’etat, the recent wave of democratization in Latin America during a period of economic crisis challenges this economic determinism argument). Political experience of the 1980s indicates that, even in Latin American countries facing serious economic and political crises, citizen attachments to democracy institutions are not undermined by acute economic crisis. Also challenging conventional wisdom, Zimmerman in Sallfeld present European historical evidence for the 1930s suggesting that economic chaos had little direct or indirect effect on the survival of democratic regimes in that period. And while many students of Eastern and Central European democratization have argued that political and economic reforms are seriously threatened by the economic chaos that has accompanied the reform process, the reforms are proving resilient.

Certainly countries with corrupt governments that do not reform might see their public turn against them, but “systempunkt”-style attacks would not be the cause: pre-existing general government paralyze would be.

Global Guerrillaism is the application of 3G ideology to guerrilla wars. It is built to fail.

Speaker Hastert Attacks Oil Company Record Profits (Blog Network Attacks)

Welcome to my Blog,” by Dennis Hastert, Speaker’s Journal, 27 October 2005, http://www.speaker.gov/journal/051027_firstblog.shtml.

Speaker of the House Denny Hastert has a new blog. But that’s not the news: an attack in three paragraphs from his first post is.

The attack:

Speaking of the Hurricane season, renewed attention has been brought to the way we refine gasoline in this country. Today, energy companies started reporting their 3rd quarter earnings, and while Americans paying were record prices at the pump, energy companies were making record profits.

That’s odd… a Republican leader attacking oil companies for making too much money? What’s going on?

Visually:

hastert_0
The Republican Party (blue) attacks Oil Companies (red) — but why?

But this isn’t a legislative attack — which Hastert could launch, if he wanted to. He is using a blog, so it is an attempt to convert at least some members of the public. This just deepens the mystery — why launch a pseudo-attack to get people mad at oil companies?

hastert_1
The Republican Party (blue) rallies the People (Dark Grey) Against Oil Companies (Red) — the mystery deepens

Hmm… let’s take a look at the remaining two paragraphs that mention oil companies:

This is America. And Republicans don’t believe in punishing success. But what are these oil companies doing to bring down the cost of oil and natural gas? They haven’t built a refinery here in America since the 1970’s. They’ve built refineries overseas, but nothing here at home.

We want some answers and you folks out there in the blogosphere do too. When are new refineries going to be built here in America? When is the Alaska pipeline deal going to be signed so we can get natural gas to consumers quicker? Conoco Phillips has reached an agreement with the state of Alaska on the pipeline. Exxon Mobil and BP need to do the same. These companies need to invest in America’s energy infrastructure and resources. Until they do, we’re going to be asking some tough questions.

Ah ha! It becomes clear: Hastert is upset that new refinaries haven’t been built, and the force stopping this is the environmentalists. Clever of the Speaker not to mention them by name — learning is better remembered when the learner has to do some thinking himself. So like a teacher that makes his pupils think so they will remember the lesson better, Speaker Hastert is counting on the reader to figure out the enemy is the environmentalists:

hastert_2 The Republicans (Blue) launch a pseudo-attack on the Oil Companies (Red), while encouraging the People (Dark Grey) to be hostile to the Environmentalists (light grey)

Of course, the Republican-led attack on environmentalists is not unprovoked. The reason it is needed in the first place is that the Environmentalists have been hostile to the oil companies for years, preventing them from fully serving the people

Visually

hastert_3
The Republican-led attack on the oil companies forces the Environmentalists to fight a two-front war

This is very clever. The heart of war is reinforcing your strong points, not your weak points The oil companies already have little popularity, so instead of foolishly trying to bolster them directly, he transforms public hostility to oil companies into public hostility toward the enemy of the oil companies. Master strategists like Sun Tzu and John Boyd would be proud.

So what is the goal? What is the Republican/Oil Company “future worth creating” — their “happy ending”? Simple: the neutralization of the environmentalists so both the oil companies and the Republican Party can fully interact with the People without that interference. Visually:

hastert_4
A Harmonious Internet

I have written about net attacks and counterattacks before. And also real-world internets, also called seas of friction.

Local Government And Democracy

Everything is Meaningless [Chapter 1:3,8-11],” attributed to King Solomon, The Book of Ecclesiastes, circa 300 BC, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes%201:3,8-11;&version=31;.

The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued) [The Federalist No. 10],” by James Madison, New York Packet, 23 November 1787, http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm.

Environmental Influences on Democracy: Aridity, Warfare, and a Reversal of the Causal Arrow,” by Manus Midlarsky, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 39, No. 2. (Jun., 1995), pp. 224-262, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-0027%28199506%2939%3A2%3C224%3AEIODAW%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2 (from tdaxp).

Local Government and Democratic Political Development,” by Henry Teune, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 540, Local Governance around the World. (Jul., 1995), pp. 11-23, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-7162%28199507%29540%3C11%3ALGADPD%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V.

Democracy and openDemocracy,” by Isabel Hilton and Anthony Barnett, openDemocracy, 12 October 2005, http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-opening/barnett_hilton_2792.jsp.

Dangerously Naive,” by Mark Schulman, American Future, 18 October 2005, http://americanfuture.net/?p=637.

Agitating for a Hermetically Sealed “Democracy”,” by Mark Safranski, Zen Pundit, 18 October 2005, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/10/agitating-for-hermetically-sealed.html.

Debating our debate,” by Anthony Barnett, oD Today, 23 October 2005, http://opendemocracy.typepad.com/wsf/2005/10/debating_our_de.html.

What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.

Ecclesiastes 1:3,8-11

In spite of my occasionally griping about the leftist, closed-minded, economically dubious, and intellectually redundant nature of the University, sometimes it is useful for blogging. Consider the evolution of a debate on globalization and democracy. Hilton and Barnett of the Sorosistically named openDemocracy journal first attack the idea that globalization helps democracy:

The end of the cold war in 1989 opened the way for the extension of democratic government to many countries around the world. Now, terrorism, fundamentalism and the imposition of the neo-liberal form of globalisation threaten to halt and even reverse this process. Democracy is under attack from without, and, even more insidiously, from within.

The way in which globalisation has undermined peoples’ belief in democratic self-government is familiar. This is the age of democracy, yet the democratic claim of universal equality of worth is mocked by the intensification of global inequalities that marked the end of the 20th century.

The reach of multinational corporations; the influence of a few powerful states and of opaque international financial institutions; the weakness of the United Nations as a force for positive government; the remoteness of the governance of the European Union; the mendacity, cynicism and populism of the global media; the awesome threats of climate change – all combine to undermine the citizens’ faith in the efficacy of democratic government.

Globalisation as part of the everyday experience of life has been part of human history since the16th century, when the marketplace that was the Netherlands stretched to the Spice Islands of what we now call southeast Asia. Historically it has sharpened differences rather than creating homogeneity. The development of markets across the world and the separation of law from the state permitted hideous exploitation under colonial empires, but also laid the groundwork for independence and national democratic constitutions.

Sadly, Schulman has no true response to these claims. He accuses Barnett and Hilton of blaming America first. He does accuse them of selective reporting of evidence, and the best he throws is mentioning that the anti-War protests are put on by some bad people.

No mention is made of the anti-democratic organizers of these demonstrations: ANSWER and the British Socialist Workers Party. Nor is mention made of the absence of demonstrations against the tyrants of our day.

Barnett seems to grant Schulman’s concrete criticisms…

As for the leadership of the anti-war demonstrations, I agree.

…because they do not effect his major point: globalization is bad for democracy.

Mark from ZenPundit joins in by defending globalization’s effects on liberty, but let’s the claim that globalization attacks democracy go uncontested:

I have to add that there is a definite incongruity between advocating political freedom to make choices in terms of one’s government while wanting to preclude or restrict the economic freedom to make choices in every other area of one’s life – work, lifestyle, access to information, travel, religion and culture. Denying people the latter ultimately makes a mockery of the former; a farmer chained in perpetuity behind his water buffalo by the state casts a ballot only to decide which hand is going to hold the whip over his head.

” In the general course of human nature, A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will. “

What’s interesting is that the original article makes two claims, globalization hurts democracy and lack of local power hurts democracy, that have been discussed for decades. On inequality and the origins of democracy, Manus Midlarsky writes:

Although the impact of land inequality on democracy was discovered independently, this relationship is consistent with that implied in Wittfogel’s work. He emphasized the contrast between early modern Europe and despotic hydraulic civilization. As Wittfogel (1957) put it,

In late feudal and postfeudal Europe the state recognized a system of inheritance for the landed nobles which favored one son at the expense of all others. And in the modern Western world the state by and large permitted the individual to dispose over his property at will. The hydraulic state gave no equivalent freedom of decision either to holders of mobile property or to the landowners. Its laws of inheritance insiseted upon a more or less equal division of the deceased estate, and thereby upon a periodic fragmentation of property. (pp 84-85).

Thus, as a result of continual subdivision, a basic land inequality was prevented from emerging in hydraulic society. A nobility with large holdings and, in consequence, an independent power base to challenge despotic authorities could not come into being, in contrast to the Northern European experience.

Midlarsky then goes on to cite some conflicting literature. To sum up, Barnett and Hilton are oversimplifying a complex subject.

Ditto for the words on local control and democracy. Barnett and Hilton essentially echo Teuene from 1995:

The linkage between local government and democracy is based on the proposition that political participation if meaningful insofar as it deals with the familiar, a tenet of the Federalist Papers. Another aspect of tis argument is that the incentives for participation are stronger locally than nationally in that visible consequence are more visible and immediate on the local level. There are two supporting propositions for this part of the argument: the larger the political unit, the longer it takes to form a democratic political coalitions; and the larger the unit, the greater the diversity of eeh groups and individuals required for compromise, the less likely decisive action will be taken at all, frustrating the collective aspirations of the many.”

Here, the refutation is more than two hundred years old

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

So to correct Mr. Schulman, Barnett and Hilton aren’t anti-American: only anti-Federalist. (Of course, those arguments have been made before, too).

As some man of old said, there is nothing new under the Sun. Or something like that.