Sunday, February 13, 2011
Fortune Tellers, Tarot Readers, and Me
On the day Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s president and the crowds in Tahrir Square were going bananas over the news, I paused to post a comment on my blog saying that Egyptians, ten years or less into the future, might look back at his thirty years of dictatorship as “the good old days.”
This rather casual approach to what is, in Vice President Biden’s words, is a “big f-ing deal”, so far as Egypt and the Middle East is concerned, gave me cause to reflect on how difficult it is to make any predictions about the future except in the most general way. Even then, the prospect for being wrong is constant.
When one looks back in history, the temptation is to say things like “Of course America was going to win World War Two”. That's pure 20-20 hindsight. America was very late to the party; the war in Europe had begun in 1939 and we didn’t get in until December 1941 when we were attacked by Japan. Americans were hugely opposed to getting into another European conflict, nor eager to take on one in Asia. After Pearl Harbor, however, we could not wait to get into the field and kick some butt. Sort of like after 9/11, eh?
It is unlikely that those Iranian students back in 1979 had any idea that the Ayatollah Khomeini would return from his exile in France a month after it started and impose one of the cruelest regime imaginable. The Shah, of course, was no choir boy, but he did try to modernize Iran, not drag it back to the seventh century. Despite pronouncements by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, most Iranians have a great affection for America.
I doubt any one of the victorious parties who signed the Treaty of Versailles after World War One had any idea they were handing an unknown malcontent called Adolph Hitler the red meat he needed to (1) build the National Socialist party in Germany into one that (2) won a democratic election, (3) catapulted him into the Chancellor’s job, and imposed a totalitarian regime that (4) jailed all of its opponents and (5) enjoyed a lot of support among the common folk.
The same treaty divided up the Middle East when British and French diplomats, Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, took out a map, used colored crayons to create new nations, partition others, and set in motion everything we have been living with ever since 1919. Back then, President Woodrow Wilson wanted to create an international organization, the League of Nations, to ensure no new wars would occur. He was, of course, a liberal. By the 1930s Hitler and Japanese Emperor Hirohito had other plans.
A liberal like Wilson, Roosevelt set about to create the United Nations after World War Two and now we have a huge, corrupt, totally ineffective organization that hasn’t stopped a single war since it came into being in 1945. It was and is an exercise in futility and pure evil. Its interim first Secretary General was Alger Hiss, a Soviet spy who, like many others, held high level State Department posts in the FDR and Truman administrations.
Which, for no particular reason, brings me to the Central Intelligence Agency that I seriously doubt could predict tomorrow’s weather. Reportedly, the news of Mubarak’s decision to step down came to the current CIA Director, Leon Panetta, from CNN. This is on a par with the former CIA chief, George J. Tenet’s pronouncement to then-President George W. Bush that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Few were found after the invasion.
We keep being told that we only hear of the CIA’s failures and never of its successes. I am old enough to recall they were taken completely by surprise when both Pakistan and India achieved nuclear weapon parity. I can even recall the debacle of the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a happy surprise. In fact, I keep searching my memory for any reports of its successes. But of course they are a SECRET.
I would love to sit in on one of those daily CIA briefings for the President. I suspect I might find myself laughing out loud much of the time. Some of our spies gave their lives to protect us, but as patriotic they and the folks over at the National Security Agency are, predicting crises and events is not their forte, probably because they are unpredictable in any but the most general terms.
For example, largely unreported is the news that, since 2006, Pakistan has increased its nuclear arsenal to more than a hundred atomic bombs. It is one of the most unstable governments in the Middle East. The U.S. has given Pakistan billions despite the fact that a large portion of the country is controlled by the Taliban, it is generally anti-American, and it is bankrupt. More jihadists come out of Pakistan then anywhere else.
The Obama administration has banned the use of terms such as “jihad”, “Islamic terrorism”, and “radical Islam” in U.S. documents. This is a self-inflicted, ideological blindness on a galactic scale.
So it is left to imbeciles in the news media to tell us what is happening, why it is happening, and what is likely to happen.
That’s how we ended up with Walter Cronkite reporting from Saigon that Tet was a huge defeat for the American forces when it was, in fact, a huge victory or Dan Rather’s utterly false report about George W. Bush’s National Guard history. We end up with a rabid anti-Semite like Helen Thomas reporting from the White House since shortly after the Lincoln assassination (okay, she’s not that old).
Since the late 1980s, this mush-for-brains crowd has been telling us that global warming was real and we had to all switch to riding bicycles, driving electric cars, and whizzing around at a huge 60-miles-per-hour in so-called “high-speed” trains instead of taking a plane. When people start getting their genitals fondled by TSA agents in order to get on Amtrak, all travel in America will revert to automobiles and horses.
All of which leads me to believe that those in the White House, in the past and the present, have no more grasp of events than your dentist.
When I make a prediction—and it is very rare—it is almost always based on history and, in case you haven’t noticed, history is speeding up thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
I suspect ideology, uninformed speculation, ignorance and fear are the basis for most “strategery”. You will understand then why I lean toward the Latin admonition, “Si vi pacem, para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war.
Ronald Reagan reminded us, "Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong"
© Alan Caruba, 2011