Norman Angell, a famous author and Nobel Prize winner wrote a brilliant book, The Great Illusion. Angell argued that war had become obsolete due to the intense level of interconnectedness in investments, trade, and finance. He postulated that war would be devastating simply because of the disruption it would cause. Therefore, war was impossible.
The argument was brilliant and greatly appealed to the financial elite, not only because they believed in the economic relationships but because it elevated the financial elite into masters whose interests drove history. They believed these economic interdependencies rose above the base political and militaristic instincts, creating webs of relationships that protected the world from itself.
Norman Angell wrote his book in 1909. Just a few years later from 1914 to 1945, the world engaged in a war that took over 100 million lives from the Iberian Peninsula to central Russia. Ironically, similar sentiments cloud today’s thinking, especially in halls of power that are sliding away from the great truths that made our nation great.
Watching the news and Internet, we see a deluge of information that makes it difficult to pick which lie is the most relevant in a time when All Lies are Equally True. The new domain of war is the Cyber Domain and it happens 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. War INSIDE the cyber domain involves hacking banks, the recent ATM debacle, criminal activities, and nation states taking each other on in seemingly bloodless penetrations. War FROM cyber extends into the other domains of war (Land, Air, Sea, Space) and involves taking down power grids, hiding movement of forces, and taking down a government’s ability to communicate with its people.
On the surface, we seem even more interconnected today than Europe on the eve of the great world wars. That drives a lot of hunky-dory liberalism and its sprint toward one world unity. Two problems rear their ugly heads. First, in a world where All Lies are Equally True, life is cheap. Even to the point where weapons of mass destruction become viable tools of war. The second problem is that asymmetric warfare in the cyber domain provides our enemies the tools they need for exploiting effects that ride those interdependences. Victims range from Estonia, Georgia, and the Ukraine to Sony and starlets who fail to secure their iPhones.
The reality is that interdependencies are a brittle fabric. Some seem to rely on the ability to order stuff on the Internet. Others straddle international boundaries. As they grow stronger, suspicions increase that one side or the other will exploit the relationship, undermining the good will that might have kicked it into existence. At one time, defending NATO was something in which the United States put a lot of skin. 350,000 U.S. troops, an arsenal of strategic weapons on the continent, and determined Presidents did more than give mouth service to that relationship. Today, fewer than 75,000 U.S. troops based in Europe and few, if any, strategic weapons give NATO serious pause. On the other hand, it is supreme irony that Germany is very close to achieving the level of dominion over the European peninsula, politically and economically, that it failed to achieve in two world wars.
Stepping into the darker asymmetric realms of groups accumulating high levels of lethality that are not classic Nation States, many of these groups are reaching for the ability to destroy Nation States. They will not care about the destroyed interdependencies. Science, technology, the Internet, and the achievements of our day are enjoyable and handy. Yet, those relying on various interdependencies to make policy decisions and find protection are fooling themselves if they think our financial juggernauts and liberal thought somehow makes our world immune to the kind of bloody excesses the world experienced from 1914 to 1945. The only difference will be that it will happen much faster with far more deadly and lethal force. You see, the hearts and minds pulling triggers and making poor decisions believe All Lies are Equally True.
If the Interdependencies, waved about like magic wands, will not save us, what will? Hard, violent men, reaching into the dark to destroy those who would destroy us. Financial wizards like Norman Angell won Nobel Prizes but could not stop the thirty-one years that destroyed Europe and took the world to much darker places. As our technology and capabilities increase, it is probable that behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz is actually a Jihadist with the ability to destroy cities and interdependencies in the blink of an eye.
That means we must raise up those hard, violent men who still believe in the truths that made our nation great and release them to chase our enemies into the dark with such determination that our enemies cannot stop long enough to login and unleash hell. In other words, to save our people, we must be more determined to protect life, liberty and pursuit of happiness than the Jihadists are in their efforts to kill our nation. The State department blonde kid who said we could not kill our way out of the current mess was wrong in so many ways but primarily because there is no other way out.
(This column included more analysis from George Friedman’s book, Flashpoints. Highly Recommended reading).