Trump, China, and the rising reign of terror

[Originally published at The Naked Hedgie] Commenting about Nancy Pelosi‘s provocative recent visit to Taiwan in my last week’s article I questioned the point of provoking an unwinnable conflict against China:

But what could be the point of provoking China? Do American Congressmen, think tanks, and sundry Admirals and Generals think they can defeat China? Obviously, they can’t possibly think that, they just spent 20 years trying to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and failed. Even the Pentagon’s own war simulations came to the conclusion that their Pacific fleet would be destroyed in short order in a war against China. So the risks are clear. What benefits could possibly justify taking such risks?

The important bit to realize here is that the primary target of the war against China would not really be China. It would be the American people. The shiny new world war in the Pacific would deflect people’s attention from the metastasizing crises at home, deflect people’s anger at a foreign enemy, and for the same high price also provide the ideal smokescreen for a radical crackdown on dissent against the racists, nazis, enemy sympathizers, deplorables, domestic extremists, insurrectionists and all other kinds of thought criminals. As James Madison warned us, “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

Thankfully, other than posturing and saber-rattling nothing much happened in the South China Sea thus far. But in just the past few days we saw very chilling developments in the US including the political show trial of journalist Alex Jones, this week’s FBI raid of former President Trump‘s private residence, as well as the tax collecting agency, IRS seeking to recruit 87,000 new agents. There are “only” 724 billionaires in the US at present, and the IRS certainly wouldn’t need that many agents to shake down the ultra-high-net-worth cohort. Instead, the swelling army of IRS agents will be unleashed on ordinary Americans. It takes only a cursory reading of history to understand that none of this is random.

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There is necessarily an organizing principle and an agenda behind these events. If their actions today are as brazen as raiding a former President’s home, what might they be willing and able to do behind the smokescreen of a major war? In that event, the news media would be saturated 24/7 with highly emotional war stories (real and fake) and any kind of abuse of power against any individual or group would get little notice and perhaps even enthusiastic approval from a large segment of the society.

In yesterday’s interview on Fox News, Senator Marco Rubio of all people offered a valid explanation of what’s going on. Referencing the experience of Latin-American dictatorships over the last century, he said: “Here’s what happens: a group takes power; one of the first things that group does is that they begin to persecute and go after their political opponents, and then when the supporters of their political opponents begin to complain about it, they begin to target them and they criminalize opposition.

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Since the FBI raid, social media have in fact exploded with calls for a crackdown on Trump supporters and conservatives in general. The sentiment was captured well by the popular author and „anti-racism activist“ Tim Wise in a (now deleted) Tweet: „Any MAGAt who advocates violence in response to Trump facing justice should be arrested now. Free speech does not give you the right to advocate violence. Arrest them. Crush them. Make their children functional orphans. End them.“

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of comments have echoed Wise’s comment – many of them in even more extreme terms. This is indeed the language of political extremism, the kind that gave rise to the reigns of terror of sorts that have emerged many times through history, from revolutionary France, Bolshevik Russia, and China during the Cultural Revolution. That history should be required reading for any would-be defender of liberty today. We should not complacently assume that our affluent, hi-tech societies are in any sense immune to succumbing to such episodes.

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Liberty is that one spice of life that gives meaning and value to everything else. It is the basic prerequisite of gratification in everything else we do. But today liberty in the western world is at a far greater risk than it has been in generations. It is time for us all to pay attention, guard against manipulation and groupthink, and be on alert. It is time to be brave. The lessons of history show that neither wealth nor status, and not even zealous party affiliation affords protection against the rising reign of terror if we allow it to metastasize.

What happens in the United States could largely determine the course of history for the rest of humanity. Long ago, Georg Friedrich Hegel prophesied that “America is, therefore, the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World’s history shall reveal itself.” Or, as in addressing the American people Ernesto “Che” Guevara put it, “I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the belly of the beast.”

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