John Reilly links to Orson Scott Card’s Ornery American website in this post, which I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. When I see Card mentioned on Twitter, usually it is in combination with an adjective like “deplorable”, but in today’s context that mostly means he was insufficiently enthusiastic about gay marriage fast enough. I doubt many people mean essays like this one, which was written by a lifelong Democrat who was pretty jazzed about the War on Terror in 2006.
Which, I suppose makes sense, since the Democratic Party in practice has turned out to be as enthusiastic about projecting American power abroad as the George W. Bush administration was in 2006. Being on board with that isn’t a problem, although the timing might be awkward if anyone other than me read old stuff. Card is now beyond the pale for reasons entirely other than foreign policy.
Space Marines; Dissimulation; The Fall of Civilization
Space Marines? Very zippy. (HT to Instapundit):
The proposal, part of the Corps’s push toward greater speed and flexibility, is called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or Sustain. Using a suborbital transport—that is, a vehicle that flies into space to achieve high travel speeds but doesn't actually enter orbit—the Corps will be able, in effect, to instantaneously deliver Marine squads anywhere on Earth. The effort is led by Roosevelt Lafontant, a former Marine lieutenant colonel now employed by the Schafer Corporation, a military-technology consulting firm working with the Marines. Insertion from space, Lafontant explains, makes it possible for the Marines—typically the first military branch called on for emergency missions—to avoid all the usual complications that can delay or end key missions. No waiting for permission from an allied nation, no dangerous rendezvous in the desert, no slow helicopter flights over mountainous terrain. Instead, Marines could someday have an unmatched element of surprise, allowing them to do everything from reinforce Special Forces to rescue hostages thousands of miles away....
The Marines expect to fly a prototype in 15 years, most likely a two-stage system using a carrier aircraft that will launch a lander into orbit from high altitude....According to international agreement, a nation’s airspace extends 50 miles from the Earth’s surface, just short of low orbit. A spacecraft would allow the U.S. to step over other countries and insert forces where they’re needed.
As that article points out, there would probably be some sentiment for redefining sovereign air space upward if the technology really existed to deploy conventional force over the 50-mile limit. As for the suborbital-transport concept itself, the term "flying brick" comes to mind. This is not so different from proposing to shoot the infantry out of a cannon and hope they will meet a friendly reception at the point of impact.
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Here's a bit of fraud that is easily disposed of:
Some Muslims in Baltimore County say lessons involving Islam being taught to seventh- and 10th-graders in public schools are inaccurate....The [school] resource sheets state the Muslim prophet's "main goal was to get people to accept Allah and to spread the faith of Islam. Muhammad justified his attacks to his followers by explaining that to weaken those who opposed the spread of God's word was a virtue, and that those who fell in battle would be rewarded in heaven. Thus, the idea of the jihad became the holy war of the Muslims against 'the unbelievers.'"
This reference [says a representative of the Baltimore chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee]inaccurately portrays Islam as a religion that embraces the use of force.
"Islamic teachings explicitly forbid coercing others to adopt the Islamic religion. Suicide is forbidden. The taking of innocent lives is forbidden. Yet the curriculum would have students believing otherwise," [the representative] said.
The concept of "forced conversion" in this context does not forbid the imposition of special taxes and civil disabilities on non-Muslims. In other words, pressure to convert is not proscribed. Quite the opposite: the jizya tax [also spelled jeziya or jizyah] on dhimmis is a feature of orthodox Muslim statecraft. The point is by no means theoretical. Hamas, for instance, is keen to impose the jizya on non-Muslims in the Palestinian territories, not least in Bethlehem.
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How Our Civilization Can Fall is the title of a useful essay by Orson Scott Card. He takes his readers on a brief excursion through the twilight zone of postmodern historiography, which tried to argue, during the 1980s and '90s, that civilizations do not "fall"; they just become differently civilized. He gives that nonsense such answer as it deserves. He then goes on to consider the case of fifth-century Rome and of the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of the Minoan collapse. Neither provides a precise parallel to anything that can happen in the modern world. He does, however, find particular significance in the collapse of a society's strategic hinterland, the areas that are normally affected the least by catastrophe. Then he offers this scenario:
For a century, America has been the great cushion to absorb the shocks that might have brought down western civilization. ...As with Rome, the American military has been the wall behind which a system of safe trade has allowed an extraordinary degree of specialization and therefore mutually sustained prosperity....
Here's how it happens: America stupidly and immorally withdraws from the War on Terror, withdrawing prematurely from Iraq and leaving it in chaos. Emboldened, either Muslims unite against the West (unlikely) or collapse in a huge war between Shiites and Sunnis (already beginning). It almost doesn't matter, because in the process the oil will stop flowing.
And when the oil stops flowing, Europe and Japan and Taiwan and Singapore and South Korea all crash economically; Europe then has to face the demands of its West-hating Muslim "minority" without money and without the ruthlessness or will to survive that would allow them to counter the threat. The result is accommodation or surrender to Islam. The numbers don't lie -- it is not just possible, it is likely.
America doesn't crash right away, mind you. But we still have a major depression, because we have nowhere to sell our goods. And depending on what our desperate enemies do, it's a matter of time before we crash as well....What we don't make for ourselves anymore is ... everything else. We don't produce steel. We don't make most of our own computer equipment. We have exported our textile industry... That's when we find out just how much of our new "service" economy is smoke and mirrors, dependent entirely on the surpluses generated by the global system of trade.
And our own oil production cannot meet the demands of transportation and production at current levels...
We will go back to the rails. Only we won't have the money to rebuild and refurbish the railroad system -- it will only be able to limp along.
It will look, even inside the United States, amazingly like the shrinkage that happened at the time of the fall of Rome.
Then, and only then, will America look -- and be -- vulnerable to any kind of intervention from the south. Economies that are still somewhat primitive will recover faster than economies that are absolutely dependent on specialization.
It takes two generations for the dark ages to reach America. But they will come, if we allow this nightmare to begin. Because once you reach the tipping point, there's no turning back, as the Emperor Justinian discovered.
This is too economistic, I think, and the economic model misstates the case. It conflates depression with famine. A depression is a phenomenon of chaotic systems, essentially an information crisis. Recovery is difficult, because the control mechanisms have been corrupted. At any rate, that was the experience of the United States in the 1930s and Japan in the 1990s. In a genuine famine (as distinguished from one created as state policy) the price system is likely to convey information just fine, and the message that it conveys is "You are all going to die unless you do something clever right now." As a rule, people respond to this information with alacrity.
Let me put it this way: no civilization ever fell from lack of stuff.
Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly