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Things Not Said: Homeland Security and Official Ideology

by Joseph R. Stromberg
by Joseph R. Stromberg

Long Article.
here's the Conclusion:

Under the Open Door conception of trade, every place in the world must be open to American business, and this arrangement is ours by right, for if we cannot have access everywhere, we shall wither on the vine and sink into economic nonfeasance. It is hard to square this vision with Richard Cobden’s and John Bright’s notion of free trade, but no matter, we are all right-wing Keynesians and Chicago School Hobbesians now. If defending this particular vision of global “openness” and (alleged) “free trade” requires the effective creation of empire, that outcome is acceptable to advocates of the Open Door.

But, as the Hart-Rudman Reports make clear, to sustain this policy, we shall have to adopt domestic police-state methods to confront the dangers the policy itself has generated. Thus, “we” need a mild police state at home so that “we” can go on having an informal, overseas empire that “we” don’t need in the first place – at least on other readings of economic theory and the facts of world politics. If the going gets tougher abroad in the long haul, the supposed mildness of the domestic security organs could become quite academic.  

The Hart-Rudman people were essentially saying that, yes, we have been putting Americans in danger, but it just can’t be helped. Their meditations on homeland security combined an amazing complacency with palpable panic, a mixture that Garet Garrett once called “a complex of vaunting (show off) and fear.” And what was the ground of the panic? Taking their writings at face value, it was the fear of a terrorist attack on American soil; but it was also the fear that if the peasants, shopkeepers, and other rabble ever noticed why America has enemies willing to attack us at home, they might want to discuss the empire, the Open Door, and other such items.

So the Hart-Rudmanisti say, in effect, “Leaving all the background noise to one side, give us more money and power so we may protect you at home, with only a modest reduction of your liberties, from these dangers that someone has created.”

This is just not good enough. We want a discussion of precisely those things that are normally left to one side. We shall not get it from anyone within the Establishment, whose main alternatives right now are the nice, moderate (Rockefeller-sponsored) imperialism of the CFR types and the armed-for-bear, “invade the world” program of the Neo-Conservatives.

The United States Commission on National Security, or Hart-Rudman Commission, came into its well-earned own recently (April 18) with the re-airing on C-SPAN of a program originally seen on January 31, 2001. Co-Chairman Warren Rudman introduced the festivities, saying that the Commission’s goal was cohesive and coordinated strategic planning (in more or less those words). He then summarized the Seven Points of the Commission’s Credo.

His partner in rhyme, Senator Gary Hart, averred, that a Homeland Security Agency was needed to meet “inevitable” terrorist attacks on US soil. Senator Pat Roberts said that such attacks were a matter of “not if, but when.” And Senator Ike Skelton recalled that DCI Tenet had reported, the previous year, that attacks were “imminent.”

Pride of place at this confab fell to Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, and chief sparkplug of the whole project. Gingrich noted the support of President Bill Clinton for the endeavor, as did other speakers. Indeed, one of the first meetings mentioned had consisted of Clinton, Gingrich, General Charles G. Boyd, and Erskine Bowles.

We must be grateful to C-SPAN for showing, once again, this interesting bit of political theater. For one thing, the program establishes a timeline for that controversial word “imminent,” much as it shows, once and for all, that high-toned Establishment figures expected – or said they expected – “attacks” on US soil, well before 9/11, the day the Defense Department failed to defend anything. Coming in the wake of the 9/11 hearings, the Clarke testimony, etc., C-SPAN ought to have had quite few viewers for this re-run.

The Democrats will be losing a safe bet, if they don’t get some mileage out of this bit of old TV footage. Or maybe not: according to an old joke, you can’t convict a thief in a certain state, because you can’t find twelve people there who think that stealing is wrong; and it may be that not too many prominent Democrats think that empire – and the “soft” police state that comes with it – are wrong. I hope I am wrong here, even if John (“I Was Just A Kid in 1971”) Kerry has given us little comfort, so far, in this department.

There are some good pieces about the Hart-Rudman Commission archived on the worldwide web, most notably a three-part series, “Homeland Security Act: The Rise of the American Police State,” by Jennifer Van Bergen, of the radical website truthout, and “Rise of the Garrison State” by William F. Jasper of the John Birch Society. [1] This is the kind of Left/Right alliance that we should encourage!

Last weekend’s C-SPAN coup is only one of many recent disclosures which raise an awkward question: if all these high-placed, clandestine, in-the-loop, top-top, secret-secret people “knew” and said there would be “attacks,” how is that so little was done about the matter, except for saddling us – after the fact – with yet another post-constitutional federal bureaucracy? I think the moment has come for an ideological interrogation of the sundry reports issued by the Hart-Rudman outfit in the years 1998-2002.

 II. Biographical Sketch of the Hart-Rudman Commission

The active life of the US Commission on Homeland Security (Hart-Rudman) ran from 1998 to 2001. The ever-watchful Council on Foreign Relations helped inspire it and a cadre of Congressmen and Senators, including Newt Gingrich and Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman were central figures. On its own evidence, the Commission was “chartered” by the Secretary of Defense (William S. Cohen). It held its first meeting in October 1998.

In addition to the Co-Chairs Hart and Rudman, the commissars – I mean Commissioners – were Anne Armstrong, Norm Augustine, John Dancy, John Galvin, Leslie Gelb, Newt Gingrich, Lee Hamilton, Lionel Olmer, Donald Rice, James Schlesinger, Harry Train, and Andrew Young. The Commission’s work came forth in three phases. Phase I dealt with global changes bearing on post-Cold War US foreign policy, and is enshrined in the September 1999 report, “New World Coming.” Phase II resulted in the paper, “Seeking a National Strategy: A Concert for Preserving Security and Promoting Freedom.” [2] Finally, Phase III’s “Road Map for National Security,” issued on February 15, 2001, spelled out a mob of institutional changes needed to achieve American security, happiness, global prosperity, and the lot. 

While the whole thing looks, on the face of it, like a lot of Center/Center Right, Cold War Liberal/Neo-Con jobbery, it is well worth studying the details, if only to find the various devils. I shall begin with the Phase III report and come back around to the ideological foundations buried in the longer of two 1999 documents.

It bears remarking, that the Commission’s chief recommendation – establishment of a federal Department of Homeland Security – became law in the wake of 9/11, and other proposals made in the Phase III document may be coming to life one by one. But Homeland Security plans abounded in the 1990s, [3] and it does not seem that the Homeland Security Department now in existence owes more to the Hart-Rudman proposals than it may to other, competing models. Indeed, Hart-Rudman fans have said – and are saying today – that the administration of George W. Bush failed to heed their good counsel in timely fashion or in detail, etc., etc. [4] Homeland Security is a many-headed monster with many forebears.

Most notably, the post-Hart-Rudman Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations issued a report in late 2002, “America – Still Unprepared, Still in Danger,” [5] that states in its very title that not enough has been done by the Bush administration to address the concerns of the Homeland Security folk.

My purpose in this essay is to tease out some characteristic ideological hallmarks of the post-Cold War “moment” as concretized in the Hart-Rudman reports. The themes we shall find are broadly shared by those dwelling within the US Establishment.

III. The Hart-Rudman Wish List of Early 2001

The Phase III report, “Road Map for National Security,” [6] announced flatly that, “mass-casualty terrorism directed against the U.S. homeland” had become a “serious and growing concern.” It followed, that there was a pressing need for a cabinet-level National Homeland Security Agency to provide for defense of American soil, “as the U.S. Constitution itself ordains”! (See pp. vi, viii-ix.) In 112 pages of sustained text, the writers of the report set out an ambitious, full-bore plan of “institutional redesign” in the now hallowed tradition of the National Security Act of 1947 and NSC-68.

More federal R&D funding was needed, the writers said, along with budget trimming to be achieved, in particular, through “outsourcing.” In addition, the writers wanted  “fast-track” weapons procurement and greater “expeditionary capabilities” Cynicism about government service should be met head-on with a National Service Corps and a “pure entitlement” G.I. Bill (xvi). (See pp. x-x, xii-xvi.) Reforms aimed at creating a more supine Congress were aired. (See pp. xvii ff.)

Now comes a sudden interest in “defense” of actual Americans and their property at home, tied up in a bundle with a lot of Tofflerite, futurist waffle and much invocation of the less-than-believable democratic peace theory (democracies never attack democracies – and So what? one might well ask). (See pp. 2-9).

Since “attacks against American citizens on American soil, possibly causing heavy casualties, are likely over the next quarter century,” actual defense “should be the primary national security mission of the U.S. government.” Well, if memory serves, Messrs. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay already sang that song in 1787-1788, and if the US government and its advisors only learned the tune in early 2001, what exactly have they been doing in between? (See p. 10.) One wonders why the writers even bother with their hand waving in the general direction of the Constitution. Something about legitimacy, I guess.

The writers continue: “in many respects, the Coast Guard is a model homeland security agency given its unique blend of law enforcement, regulatory, and military authorities that allow it to operate within, across, and beyond U.S. borders” (p. 17). Stop and let that sink in: Law enforcement, regulatory, and military authorities – within, across, and beyond U.S. borders. I think we can forget about all those silly old limits on power deriving from Magna Charta and other unimportant traditions.

The writers are soon off and running with demands for better cooperation of post-constitutional federal agencies with state and local police, as well as the “better human intelligence” (p. 22) – of which we now hear so much. “The National Guard, whose origins are to be found in the state militias authorized by the U.S. Constitution, should play a central role…” (p. 25). I have italicized a phrase illustrating the seeming constitutional indifference and historical ignorance of the reportisti. (Pssst! fellows, the states and their militias existed before the Constitution.)

The writers wish to fix Congress, much as one “fixes” a household pet, so that the Executive – with the acquiescence and help of Congress – can fix national security and thus the whole world (pp. 26ff). Rumsfeld, Deutch, Bremer Commissions are mentioned in footnote 19, p. 27. Two of those names are of interest these days.

The next section calls for “Recapitalizing America’s Strengths in Science and Education.” In language recalling the vintage corporate liberalism of Clark Kerr, we hear much of human capital, the “capacity of the U.S. government to harness science in the service of national security,” and a “knowledge-based future”! But, alas, unless Uncle Samuel regains his rightful share of Research and Development, tragedy awaits (pp. 30-31).

(I’m sorry, but I thought the feds had enough to do already, what with their outcome-based foreign policy.)

Anyhow, more money is needed and we must “rationalize R&D investment” (pp. 32-33). Showing, perhaps, the influence of the Tofflers on Newt Gingrich and others, the report dwells much on new technologies, said to be as big a deal as atomic energy was in 1945-46 (p. 37). To meet the future, fraught with peril and bright with promise, we shall need “more scientists and engineers, including four times the current number of computer scientists” (p. 38). Naturally, we need a National Security Science and Technology Education Act on the Cold War model (p. 41).

We need more math and science, more money for teachers, more public-private partnerships, “incentives to choose science and math careers,” and more infrastructure support (pp. 42-45). It’s 1959 again, and the moral equivalent of Sputnik menaces our Radiant Future. All these programs require capital, human and otherwise, and right here in Free Enterprise America we have long since realized that only Federal accumulation of capital can hope to save the day. It is the Occidental Mode of Production.

Better education for better labor battalions! The socialist road to free markets! The centralized path to democracy!

And now we come to the detailed sketch of “Institutional Redesign.” The US lacks, it seems, a strategic-theoretical framework, and all its institutions must be overhauled, especially the stodgy old State Department. We need, for example, five Under Secretaries of State for imperial management, and a new policy network. The NSC has too much to do, and should be reined in. (See pp. 47-56.) 

Some ideological and bureaucratic scores are being settled here, of which we mere citizens are not fully aware. 

The writers want Defense Department reorganization, faster procurement, more planning, internal “competition,” reduction of infrastructure through outsourcing, more innovation, better auditing, etc. (pp. 63-74), but they could have saved themselves much time by reading Ludwig von Mises’s Bureaucracy and taking an aspirin.

Backing off from the infamous two-major-wars-at-a-time concept, the writers call for “rapid, forced-entry response capabilities,” better intelligence about everything, more “tailored” conventional forces, and better “expeditionary capabilities” in view of possible “humanitarian and constabulary operations” (pp. 75-77, my italics).

Naturally, the US cannot “without qualification” recognize space “as a global commons” (p. 79) and of course we need “deployment of a space-based surveillance network” (p. 81), which is a roundabout way of saying the US doesn’t see space “as a global commons.”

Now we come to intelligence. As might be expected, we must recruit more human intelligence and the DCI must have more authority (pp. 82-83). We shall have the best spying ever, “consistent with respecting Americans’ privacy” (p. 84). What a relief.

Alas, just when we require better bureaucrats, the US is “on the brink of an unprecedented crisis of competence in government,” for without the “single overarching motivation” provided by the much-missed Cold War, “worrisome cynicism” and a “lowered regard” for serving the state abound (pp. 86-87). Thus we must have “a national campaign to reinvigorate and enhance the prestige of service to the nation” (p. 88, their italics).

My suggestion: read Mises, Hayek, Weber, and Rothbard on bureaucracy, and spare us these Neo-Jacobin appeals. They weren’t any fun the first few times, and they aren’t much fun today.

The reportisti note with alarm, that “military life and values are… virtually unknown to the vast majority of Americans” (p. 87). There is a name for this horrible condition: it is called “peace,” or at least relative peace.

To scrape up human capital, the report writers wish to broaden the National Security Act to support “social sciences, humanities, and foreign languages in exchange for military and civic service to the nation” (p. 89) – insert martial music here.

Now, here is a worthy government program. The feds encouraged blind faith in credentialism, took over higher education, and drove up its costs via subsidy, and now they offer to “fix” it through indentured servitude to the state. As they say in the Guinness commercial, “Brilliant!” Soon the “will work for food” signs will disappear, and we’ll see disheveled guys along the Interstates sporting ones that read, “will serve empire for graduate degree.”

Anyway, it is a shame to shoot people without being able to shout, “Lie down or die” in Arabic, Pashto, Amharic, or Akkadian.

The writers call for relaxing ethics rules in federal service. One naturally wonders for whom this was included. Richard Perle? In general, hiring should be streamlined, with fewer peaks into the FBI files of importante security honchos (pp. 91-93). FBI files are just for the peasants.

The writers complain that whereas baby boomers “heeded President Kennedy’s call to government service in unprecedented numbers,” the selfish Generation X-ers have not (p. 97). It has always mystified me that so many of my generation heeded the call of Camelot, but no matter. Add twenty points for the X-ers.

Of course we need a National Security Service Corps (p. 101). The Armed Forces need more “quality people,” better incentives, more college recruitment, grants and scholarships, better military promotion and retirement, and more G.I. Bill entitlements. Someone must improve the pay scales of NCOs (pp. 102-108). We must also reinvigorate “the citizen soldier” ideal, an item which at least sheds light on Gary Hart’s otherwise inexplicable “turn” to republican theory. [7]

A short section that might have been called “Towards a More Gelded Congress,” calls for a  “bicameral, bipartisan working group,” (p. 110) which presumably can bypass all that silly business about formal declarations of war. Informing a few “key” Congressmen is as good as a declaration of war, isn’t it? It is close enough for government work.

“A final word” informs us that all the above-named program activities are necessary to “ensure American national security and global leadership over the next quarter century”! (p. 116) Naturally one wonders, Why? And the question arises, What if the two things are incompatible? This brings us to the deeper ideological foundations of the Road Map.

IV. “New World Coming,” 15 Sept. 1999: An Ideological Bonanza

The important Phase I document is not the short report, but the much longer one, “New World Coming: American Security in the 21st Century, Supporting Research and Analysis,” [8] which weighs in at about 140 pages. It is very interesting for our purposes.

The reportisti begin with the unfortunate “diffusion of power” in the world, while taking a swipe at the excessive Demo-Hegelian optimism of Francis Fukuyama. Science and technology, and global economy are mooted, along with the “prospect of an attack on U.S. cities.” Hobbes is quoted, and no doubt, rightly so. The writers take up a mighty social engineering methodology and espouse a “definition of national security [which] must include all key political, social, cultural, technological, and economic variables that bear on state power and behavior.” These “variables” will be weighed somehow. [9] History, they say, “is made” – doubtless a veiled reference to Nicolò Machiavelli, always a favorite in such musings as these, and often a clue that we are dealing with certified Straussians (pp. 1-3, my italics).

Section one, “Global Dynamics,” tells us the future’s ahead (who could doubt it?). It is also both familiar and enigmatic, abuzz with “human activity,” and don’t forget “social reality” with its “multiple and interactive sources.” Miniaturization, information technology, biotechnology, micro-electronics, and the Cyber Revolution take their bows, as do rising speed of communication and falling costs, “personal infospheres,” stem-cell research, clever sensors, cheap energy, and nanotechnology. On the other hand, “demand for fossil fuels will grow” and science will be “increasingly wedded” to technological innovations and the latter will be wedded more “to industry than to government labs” (pp. 5-10).

Here, shallow, pseudo-mathematical social “science” that might embarrass Auguste Comte, breaks bread with Low Church Darwinism: “Many new technological advances will be based on bio-mimicry – the deliberate attempt to capitalize on what nature has learned through millions of years of evolution” (p. 8, my italics).

The New Stuff is both good and bad and will be hard to control. Techno-stimulation may cause more ADD in kids. Women’s issues in Third World targets – I’m sorry, countries – are mentioned. Virtual communities may replace real ones and “our public sphere may contract”; but, on the other hand, “local communities could flourish in reaction….” (See pp. 11-14.)

Radical decentralization is probably not a genuine interest of the Commissioners.

The report writers expect to see more “flat, non-hierarchical organization,” less privacy, weakened borders, ethnic labor stratification, and other changes, which could be good or bad. Social leveling will threaten vested interests and new adversary ideologies may arise, as well as a “post-modern state” and new “forms of integration and fragmentation.” Human nature is mentioned (pp. 15-20). 

And now we come to “Global Economics” and such matters as human capital and education. On the down side, “capital markets and trade may well be exploited by others for purposes at odds with U.S. interests,” while at the same time, we shall see larger capital flows, more and new participants, “niche production” (this is new?), and industrial and service restructuring. This is all, as per Newt, somehow radically “different” from other periods of economic improvement. (See pp. 21-23)

All this globalwhatsit may provoke resistance by “reactionary forces” and we may see neo- protectionism, regional blocs, and “global culture conflict.” The whole thing begins to read like a Soviet-era propaganda tract, with the US leading the historic bloc of Progressive Forces toward the End of History (but on a different train schedule than Fukuyama’s). US performance is held to be “crucial to avoid a systemic crisis” (pp. 24-27).

If these things weren’t sufficiently alarming, we are told that the whole world economy hangs on “willingness of the private capital markets to continue their primary role in circulating savings from capital rich countries to capital poor ones.” This will work “unless major countries suck up too much of the world’s investment capital” (my italics). The writers quickly canvass China, India, Brazil, issues of “integration and regulation,” and the “volatility of capital markets” with “important security implications.” International monetary policy remains a bother because of “capital mobility, the existence of independent monetary policies, and an inclination to fixed or at least stable exchange rates – that seems impervious to permanent settlement.” The knowledge revolution is creating “greater disparities” of wealth between and within nations. The US and others will want to “control and regulate dual-use technology for military-security reasons” (pp. 28-34).

Given all this dynamism, so to speak, only the Great Helmsmen in Washington-on-Potomac can keep the earth from leaving its orbit and flying to a fiery death in the sun.

But just as these new challenges are arising, globalwhatsit may lessen “emotional attachment to the state” – especially where there is “no obvious physical or ideological threat.” States may become less legitimate but subject – at the same time – to greater demands for aid from interest groups or the public generally, just when states have less leverage over economic life. As the writers put it, “[t]he potential exists for millions of individual decisions to shape the future without the mediation of existing political institutions.” Here one wishes to commend the Commission for almost discovering economic science; but having flirted with a real insight, the writers turn on their heel and announce that now the state’s role “is even more vital” somehow (pp. 35-37, italics in original).

Allegiance rests on “domestic peace, economic well-being, and security from external threats”! Is state sovereignty in decline? The reportisti continue: “For some, globalization… may be a vehicle to transcend the system of state sovereignty, seen to be the font of the war-system that plagues humanity. Globalization thus represents for some the withering away of the state by the advent of other means.” And yet certain states will endure in some form (pp. 38-39).

The writers take up demographic challenges, Indonesia, US triumph in the Cold War, literacy, and mass education. They seem troubled that First Worlders are less keen these days to die for the state: “since life is no longer so ‘cheap,’ casualties have become far more expensive.” And of course all the tumult described in preceding sections leads folk to “religion or ideology to explain change”! Thus the road to much-awaited secularization has proven rockier than expected. (See pp. 39-45)

All this looming uproar raises issues of security. New wars will occur and internal violence “could reach unprecedented levels” leading to refugee crises. Terrorists will be more loosely organized. Add to this the inexplicably wrong-headed belief here and there that the US wields “its power with arrogance and self-absorption,” and we may be in for a real backlash. Thus, “the United States should assume it will be a target of terrorist attacks against its homeland using weapons of mass destruction. The United States will be vulnerable to such strikes” (pp. 46-48, italics in original).

Other states will try to acquire modern weaponry and some states will seek “to compete asymmetrically,” using “relatively inexpensive systems intended to deny the United States the advantages that naturally accrue with technological superiority” (pp. 49-50, italics in original).

Biochemical materials made at “dual-use facilities” remain a concern and, therefore, one imagines, the bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory was just a case of justifiable caution. The writers introduce “non-state actors” along with the threat of Strategic Information War (pp. 50-52).

Despite its mega-colossal weapons systems, the US is vulnerable. Slipping into the passive voice, the writers say that, “weapons will be deployed in pace.” One wonders who would do that. The “irrationality” of rogue states and “misperception” could lead to “the problem of inverted deterrence ” – that unacceptable situation in which the US might have to refrain from attacking another state. Coming as we do from a higher culture, the bad actors’ “resort to extreme violence – often against civilian populations – will doubtless surprise and shock us in the future as it has in the past” (pp. 53-56, italics in original). Doubtless.

Chalk this naïveté of ours up to the work of our conformist media.

In section two, “A World Astir,” the Commission’s writers take up regional analysis. There could be Big Trouble in Europe. Russia is problematic. The best bit is how the writers define the civilized “west” (footnote 124, p. 59): “west” = “free-market democratic countries whose intellectual origins are to be found in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment” – Christianity having, apparently, played no civilizing role worth remarking. They worry that “fears” may lead to immigration restrictions in the EU and ask if Eastern and Central Europe can “rebuild the social safety nets” they had under communism (pp. 60-61).

The writers take up futurology once more. In one possible future, market-based liberal democracies do well, but NATO is uncertain and so is Russia. Of course the Balkans are trouble. In a worse future, “renationalization” sets in to protest the pain of “meeting economic targets,” imposed, one imagines, by the IMF. In this future, the EU might be undemocratic – further comment is needless. Here, too, North African refugees pour into Europe and, accordingly, the “far right” prospers. Russia falters, turns fascist or national-socialist. The Balkans get worse (pp. 62-69).

The writers turn to Asia. The usual “science-based technologies” are mentioned. China is on the rise. Asians may adjust to democracy on their own terms. Bigger Asian recession could “lead to virulent anti-Americanism” followed by US protectionism. The writers note that, China will need “5.2 million barrels of oil per day by 2020.” China needs watching; China needs to get right with “intellectual property”! China could go corporatist and nationalist and, thus, become “hostile” to the US. China would then need balancing and the US would need bases for containing China (pp. 71-78). The writers do not say this, but an improved US chokehold on world oil supplies would give US policymakers greater leverage over China.

It hardly requires saying that history and/or God has picked the United States to make sure the right future comes about.

The writers offer some thoughts on Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and North Korea. Everywhere, it seems, the US must be “an engaged balancer.” They turn to the “Greater Near East” consisting of Arabs, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and the subcontinent (India and Pakistan). Pakistan’s nukes and Iranian ambitions to have nukes are mentioned (pp. 80-83).

All over the Greater Near East there are younger, growing populations and corresponding tumult. The writers again remark that “Chinese dependence on both Persian Gulf and Caspian oil will grow sharply.” In footnote 152 (p. 85), they mention Al-Jazira as a progressive force! (Times change, I suppose.) Islam is capable of modernization, they say. A “semi-independent [!] Palestinian state” and “a regime change in Syria” are much wanted. Arab “rentier states,” whose revenues come from oil, port fees, etc., and which reward their backers with patronage, are a problem because they have never scaled the heights of modern citizenship as found in advanced western welfare-warfare states (pp. 84-93).

The writers express fear lest the US pull back from Middle East due to public unwillingness to “support expeditionary military deployments” (p. 94).

Next comes Africa with growing urbanization and possible humanitarian crises (pp. 95-101), followed by the Americas. Latin American trade with the US is growing, but societies there need the usual “accountability, transparency [!], and consistency.” The writers note that a Mexican collapse would be bad for us. Likewise, Canada’s collapse would be “alarming to contemplate” (pp. 102-115).

In section three, the writers take up “The U.S. Domestic Future.” They fret about social cohesion, our growing but aging population (immigrants and natives, respectively). They worry that healthcare “will compete with other spending” including “defense and foreign policy.” As Hispanics increase, Blacks will become irritable. The writers further fret about American higher education (too many foreign math and science majors) and single parent households. They announce that biotechnology “is rapidly developing the potential to change human nature itself in fundamental ways” (pp. 116-120, my italics).

Is this the American New Man, slated to replace Soviet Man? In rejecting Fukuyama, the Hart-Rudman commission has transcended him. Hart and Rudman look in the mirror and gaze upon Hart and Negri with their theses on immanent, omnipresent, and metaphysically annoying universal empire. [10]

The commission’s pen wielders worry that perceptions about fairness of “income distribution” may cause trouble, especially since real wages have been stagnant for fifteen years. This is dangerous because social cohesiveness, “will,” and “civic consciousness form the bedrock of national power.” Americans, still have “shared ideals,” but “fragmentation” is a possibility. The writers bemoan lower rates of voting, greater cynicism, less July 4th hoopla, and less public worship of the US state, as the World War II generation “passes from the scene” Such trends could lead to less individual self-sacrifice for the Common Good as defined by bureaucrats. On the upside, Americans see America as “exceptional” and are “positively disposed toward themselves” and most still support intervention. Even so, “isolationism” remains a menace and a return to military conscription may be required. Then again, conscription “might limit an active foreign policy.” Happily, though, Americans will “sacrifice… if they believe that fundamental interests are imperiled” (pp. 122-130).

The commissioners, for all their social science, are speculating about – and not predicting – the future, but whatever happens, they believe that more state power and greater public spending will save the day, provided the people can be kept in line.

Section four, “Worlds in Prospect,” alludes to Nietzsche and contingency (more Straussian giveaways?). A good future resting on the “democratic peace” and “transparency” is contrasted with a bad future involving nationalism and neo-protectionism, which tends to show – just as William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kolko, Immanuel Wallerstein, and others held – that Cold War “anti-communism” was actually directed at any nationalist withdrawal from the US economic orbit. Another bad future of “Division and Mayhem” might witness the rise of  “private non-state militaries,” decline of the UN, and division of the world between the democratic peace “zone” and a “zone of chronic trouble” (pp. 131-135). 

A fifth section recapitulates what is by now the only possible response to all this alarmism and speculation: US military-political control of the world. 21st century will see more “episodic posses of the willing” and fewer “traditional [!] World War II-style alliance systems.” This calls for “stealth, speed, range, unprecedented, accuracy, lethality, strategic mobility, superior intelligence, and the overall will and ability to prevail” (pp. 140-141, my italics). The report ends on the note that the US “will need to find a proper balance between activism and self-restraint” (p. 152).

Well, good luck.

V. Think Imperially, Secure Locally

The Establishment Mind At Bay

Our interest has been to find a window into the mind and worldview of a cross-section of the beloved US elite; to see how they think about the world and their role in it. This matters to the rest of us, because they claim a right to drag us, willing or not, into their projects and adventures.

As we have seen, the Hart-Rudman Commissioners warned repeatedly of attacks on Americans and their property, on US soil, attacks said to be “likely,” “imminent,” a “serious and growing concern,” i.e., inevitable. This was a rather constant refrain. But why should a commission, whose membership reflected the US official mind, show a sudden interest in actual defense, when we have had a War Department since George Washington and, even better, a “Defense Department” since 1947, which, one might think, had the defense of American soil well in hand? Indeed, the sheer artificiality of the “homeland” security concept is puzzling at first.

What the Hell else were these people ever licensed to defend? I suppose they could answer that they were so busy defending South Korea, Israel, reliable Third World despotisms, particular oil companies, and the like, they clean forgot to defend the home counties.

These people were essentially saying that, yes, we are putting Americans in danger (nudge, nudge), but it just can’t be helped. Hence the bizarre blend of complacency and alarm that can be seen in the Hart-Rudman Reports. Critics have lately raised some interesting but narrow questions – Should the Bushies, or anyone else, have twigged that something was up on a particular day? Who knew whatever they knew and when did they know it? These are worth answering but don’t go to the heart of it. The prospect of intra-elite verbal bloodbath has its appeal, but such a discussion will skirt fundamental issues.

The Liberal Corporatist Crisis of Legitimacy

While the shades of Hobbes, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Leo Strauss brooded over the outcome, Court Intellectuals of the Establishment, as represented by the Hart-Rudman Commission, wrestled with a number of issues which they saw as quite pressing: loss of state prestige, unwillingness of the people to sacrifice for the state, social or political “fragmentation,” fear of a new “isolationism,” and so on. To this was added, as we have seen, a peculiarly American form of Gnostic dreaming about changing human nature.

The Commissioners’ preferred answers to these big questions, as well as to the practical matter of terrorist attacks, serve as proof of Randolph Bourne’s famous aphorism: “War is the health of the State.” With unerring instinct, they took up the cause of managerial reform and sketched out a mammoth project of renewed state building via institutional reform, with the Coast Guard as their working model. But the housekeeping details of institutional “reform” are not as important as the underlying policy goals and assumptions.

Stealth, Speed, and Lethality

Turning to the applied side, it must be granted that these people are not stupid and their assessment of the dangers to which they have exposed their countrymen by their Griff nach der Weltmacht (“grasp for world power”) was probably fairly realistic. This is one area where we might expect them to be honest, especially when they talk to one another, largely out of earshot of the peasants and petty bourgeoisie who elect some of them.

Yes, given US demands for absolute security and for utter “openness” on the part of others, including the universal Open Door for American trade and investment, [11] and given a determination to achieve these goals by force, when needed, our leaders have in fact made us enemies that we never needed. They have also managed to give hostage to the Marxist notion that “capitalism” requires imperialism. Anyway, now that “we” have these foes, the US elite rightly fears that Total War, which they helped invent, will come home to roost.

The enemies they have found for us may not play by their rules. Hence all the talk about the grave insult of  “inverted deterrence” and the threat of “asymmetric warfare.” After Vietnam, the US Establishment learned characteristic “lessons” – not to lower their expectations of world dominance, but to develop new tools for technical problem solving very much in the American pragmatic tradition. Better bombs, better guidance systems, better human intelligence, and maybe some language lessons.

A Note on the “Economic” Causes of World Disorder

According to official – or at least semi-official – doctrine as expressed in the Hart-Rudman Reports, far-reaching “changes” and dynamism are at work and the US is out riding global fences and keeping order in the face of the “tumult” resulting from inexorable “economic” inevitabilities. This resort to a kind of economic reductionism is interesting but may not make us any wiser. If, as a well-known theorem in economics has it, both parties to a voluntary exchange benefit, then why should more trade lead to unhappiness and tumult?

Ian Roxborough, a sociologist who is himself a consultant to the US military, writes that the Hart-Rudman Commission’s “proposition that globalization will produce a backlash that will be the fundamental security challenge to the United States has little empirical evidence to support it.” “The commission might have done better,” he adds, “to examine the specific situations likely to foster extremist opposition to the U.S. Government…. [R]ather than an ‘ideological’ or ‘religious’ reaction to globalization, or a deep clash of cultures, what we may be witnessing is a nationalist response to American assertiveness in the world…. And these nationalist rages are likely to be responses to quite specific actions on the part of United States.” [12]

A palpable hit! But for the Commission to consider that anyone outside the US has a point of view, or that actions disliked by the US could ever be caused by US provocation, was clearly outside the scope of their inquiry.

Roxborough’s comments, mild as they are, find indirect support elsewhere. A team of political scientists concluded in 1981, that a good many Third World conflicts “are defensive in nature: they are all brought about by the aggressive expansionism of the state,” especially where “states are still involved in the primitive accumulation and centralization of power resources.” They suggest that, “over a relatively long period of time state expansion will generate violent conflict” and thus “it is the progression toward greater order itself that produces much of the relatively greater violence we find in new states.” And here comes the kicker: “the evidence strongly suggests that the rate of economic development is related to both the rate of state expansion and collective violence in a way that runs contrary to the way postulated by the dominant view on such matters.” Further, “state expansion seems to produce much more violence than economic growth…. Rather than state expansion being an antidote for the violence produced by economic modernization, our rather limited evidence shows that it is economic modernization which is the antidote to the violence produced by state expansion.” [13]  

In other words, state building is bad enough when left to the locals, who run the state or live under it. To the extent that the US government just can’t hold back from interfering in others’ conflicts, we are forced to ask whether or not it is US foreign policy that destabilizes the world. “Globalization” – if by that we could be allowed to mean a natural expansion of voluntary trade and the unfolding of a more complex, worldwide capital structure – hardly enters into it.

I note in passing, that the Commission’s idea that economic growth, in and of itself, causes mass discontent and violence, owes something to the ingrained suspicion of the market characteristic of US Court Intellectuals, whether they descend from Marxists, New Dealers, or Mr. Lincoln’s mercantilists. They do seem, however, to understand markets heavily regulated, controlled, and politically manipulated by people like themselves.

The Comfy Chair of Homeland Security Studies

The Commissioners wish to bring American universities even more into the service of the state than they are already. We need more math, science, linguistics, etc., they cry. Better education for empire abroad and empirical collectivism at home!

This naturally brings us to the status of Homeland Security as an applied social science. As Andrew Gyorgy noted in 1943: “a few months after Hitler came to power, a special chair of ‘National Defense Science’ was created for [Ewald] Banse at the Technical University of Brunswick, a bestowal of official approval on his theories.” Banse was a paladin of the German school of geo-strategy or geopolitics, a field, in Gyorgy’s words, “of an all-embracing character. It is a new science ignoring strategic impossibilities and willing to exploit militarily any phase of human life, any reality of the natural or man-made world.” He notes that, “all other branch sciences of Geopolitik, such as geography, economics, the study of politics, medicine, law, communications, and national psychology, converged” in “the new science of national defense.” 

He continues: “As devised and planned by German geostrategists,” modern war consists of “ideological, psychological, economic, and military warfare.” With air power added, war “became totalitarian not merely in its ultimate goal of world conquest, but even in its methods, in an exploitation of all known human sciences and technological inventions.” And thus: “Military campaigns today are the end, not the beginning, of the struggle. Ideological, psychological and economic war, as variant forms of the same power struggle, usually preceded any kind of military action. Total war has militarized peace and, paradoxically, to a certain extent demilitarized war itself.”

This style of warfare aims “to create confusion and foment uprisings.” Further: “Once this initial ‘conspiracy’ framework is laid, the power of totalitarian propaganda warfare is turned on the victim in a manner that is bewildering to local public opinion in critical areas.” In addition, “[a]n energetic press and ‘loud’ radio-propaganda campaign is helpful not only in directly threatening the enemy but also in covering up the more significant internal, fifth column activities of German agents abroad.” (Unfortunately for these theorists, the “music” of AC/DC was not available as part of the “‘loud’ radio-propaganda campaign.”)

Finally, Gyorgy notes that, “[s]ecrecy and speed are perhaps the most characteristic watchwords and features of geo-strategic argument,” along with maximum use of air power. [14]

Somehow this puts one in mind of Hart-Rudman’s “stealth, speed, and lethality,” and having taken a tour through the Reports, I think we might agree that the Commissioners and their researchers have worked on a similar scale, using similar methods, to those of the German geopolitical thinkers. Before “moral equivalence” and other complaints pop up, I concede that the German social-scientific planners of the 1930s and ’40s had different goals than their US counterparts, then or now. On the other hand, the techniques and the mindset are much the same across a range of subject matter, and techniques and mindsets have consequences that can undercut their supposed neutrality. Those who claim to have good intentions and yet adopt certain techniques – and with nothing better than utilitarianism as a moral guide – may find themselves dragged along by their techniques to unexpected places.

Since it often happens, where the American mind is at work, that technique displaces announced ends, these surprises can materialize fairly quickly. It can also be asked whether or not global “openness” to American trade and influence is of such overriding importance, that it can routinely “justify” US military excursions abroad. The answer, I suspect, is No, and that would go twice for delusional exercises like imposing “democracy” by military violence.

In any case, the embrace of Total War is much the same in the two cases under discussion, whatever the differing goals of the states involved. I do not think that the costs of Total War – in morals, politics, blood, and money  – can be brushed aside as lightly as some may think, via consequentialist speculations.

A Policy That Became an Assumption That Became a Prison

 The blurring of the war/peace distinction, noted above, erodes the line between foreign and domestic provision of security.

As the Hart-Rudman Phase III Report put it: “Notwithstanding the post-Sputnik dangers of a nuclear missile attack from afar, U.S. national security policy in the 20th century has been something that mainly happened ‘there,’ in Europe or Asia or the Near East. Domestic security was something that happed ‘here,’ and it was the domain of law enforcement and the courts. Rarely did the two mix. The distinction between national security policy and domestic security is already beginning to blur, and in the next quarter century it could altogether disappear” (p. 130).

Garrison state, anyone?

And while we are on this topic, it is worth recalling that just as so many US interventions are now referred to as “police actions,” the logical corollary – the militarization of domestic police work - has been underway for several decades. [15]

Our rulers effectively willed this supposedly “given” erosion of the boundary between internal and external security. It is a clear case of striving for a certain results for many decades and then proclaiming, once they are achieved, that the Fates did it, and that the cumulative decisions of specific policymakers had nothing to do with it. The pretence of inevitability is ideologically necessary, but no more convincing for that.

This result is, however, perfect, if one’s goal is state building, whether for its own sake or for the sake of the goodies power can deliver. The classes who never much believed in bills of rights – the police, executive officials, including the military, and not a few legislators – can only regard this moment of creative destruction with favor. If we cannot usefully distinguish between war and peace, then Mr. Lincoln’s much-advertised “war powers” – already a conceptual muddle – apply at all times, the American Revolution was a waste of time, and we are living through the final stages of a slow-motion coup.

Critics of the radical historian William Appleman Williams used to fault him for failing to produce a document with “Open Door” written all over it, for every instance in which he said that a US policymaker had promoted that policy. He replied, quite reasonably, that somewhere between 1898 and 1938 the Open Door had gone from an interest-based policy to an ideology about whose foundations the policymakers no longer needed to think. In this, US policymakers have resembled their foreign collectivist opponents far more than they have admitted.

Under the Open Door conception of trade, every place in the world must be open to American business, and this arrangement is ours by right, for if we cannot have access everywhere, we shall wither on the vine and sink into economic nonfeasance. It is hard to square this vision with Richard Cobden’s and John Bright’s notion of free trade, but no matter, we are all right-wing Keynesians and Chicago School Hobbesians now. If defending this particular vision of global “openness” and (alleged) “free trade” requires the effective creation of empire, that outcome is acceptable to advocates of the Open Door.

But, as the Hart-Rudman Reports make clear, to sustain this policy, we shall have to adopt domestic police-state methods to confront the dangers the policy itself has generated. Thus, “we” need a mild police state at home so that “we” can go on having an informal, overseas empire that “we” don’t need in the first place – at least on other readings of economic theory and the facts of world politics. If the going gets tougher abroad in the long haul, the supposed mildness of the domestic security organs could become quite academic.  

The Hart-Rudman people were essentially saying that, yes, we have been putting Americans in danger, but it just can’t be helped. Their meditations on homeland security combined an amazing complacency with palpable panic, a mixture that Garet Garrett once called “a complex of vaunting and fear.” [16] And what was the ground of the panic? Taking their writings at face value, it was the fear of a terrorist attack on American soil; but it was also the fear that if the peasants, shopkeepers, and other rabble ever noticed why America has enemies willing to attack us at home, they might want to discuss the empire, the Open Door, and other such items.

So the Hart-Rudmanisti say, in effect, “Leaving all the background noise to one side, give us more money and power so we may protect you at home, with only a modest reduction of your liberties, from these dangers that someone has created.”

This is just not good enough. We want a discussion of precisely those things that are normally left to one side. We shall not get it from anyone within the Establishment, whose main alternatives right now are the nice, moderate (Rockefeller-sponsored) imperialism of the CFR types and the armed-for-bear, “invade the world” [17] program of the Neo-Conservatives.

Anti-Establishmentarians unite! You have nothing to lose but your conventional wisdom.


[1] Jennifer Van Bergen, “Homeland Security Act: The Rise of the American Police State” and William F. Jasper, “Rise of the Garrison State.” Two other pieces by Van Bergen deal with the broader homeland security terrain, http://truthout.com/docs_02/12.04B.jvb.hsa.2.htm and http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/12.05B.jvb.hsa.3.htm.

[3] The Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Project for a New American Century, the Anser Institute for Homeland Security, and the Center for Security Policy should be mentioned, and all these have websites. There is also the Defense Department’s National Security Study Group (NSSG), whose website houses the Hart-Rudman Reports. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

[4] Cf. remarks by Hart and Rudman in “Online NewsHour: Securing the Homeland,” October 31, 2002.

[6] US Commission on Homeland Security, Phase III Report, “Road Map for National Security,” http://fbox.vt.edu/arch/psk2/papa6224-2004/Hart-Rudman3.pdf , or http://www.nssg.gov/PhaseIIIFR.pdf .

[7] Gary Hart, The Minuteman: Restoring an Army of the People (New York: The Free Press, 1998).

[9] As Murray Rothbard points out, to speak of variables presupposes the existence of constants, something notoriously absent in human action (“The Mantle of Science,” in The Logic of Action, I (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 1997), pp. 12-13).

[10] Michael Hart and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).

[11] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: Dell Publishing, 1972) and Andrew J. Bacevich,  American Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).

[12] Ian Roxborough, “The Hart-Rudman Commission and the Homeland Defense,” September 2002, pp. 3, 23 (my italics).

[13] Youssef Cohen, Brian R. Brown, and A. F. K. Organski, “The Paradoxical Nature of State Making: The Violent Creation of Order,” American Political Science Review, 75, 4 (December 1981), pp. 904, 907-909.

[14] Andrew Gyorgy, “The Geopolitics of War: Total War and Geostrategy,” Journal of Politics, 5, 4 (November 1943), pp. 348, 350, 353-355, 357.

[15] See Diane Cecilia Weber, “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments,” Cato Institute Briefing Papers, 50 (August 26, 1999).

[16] Garet Garrett, “The Rise of Empire,” in The People’s Pottage (Boston: Western Islands, 1965 [1953]), pp. 123-125.

[17] Murray N. Rothbard, “Invade the World.

April 29, 2004

Joseph R. Stromberg [send him mail] is holder of the JoAnn B. Rothbard Chair in History at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a columnist for LewRockwell.com and Antiwar.com. See his War, Peace, and the State.

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