On War #267: Running the Narrows

By William S. Lind
July 15, 2008

The war as in life, the secret to success is having a wide range of options. That was the basis of von Moltke’s approach to operational art, as opposed to the Schlieffen school’s myopic focus on one option. The list of commanders and nations whose single option failed is a long one.

Regrettably, whoever takes over as America’s President and Commander in Chief next January will face a rapidly narrowing range of options. With the fall of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, America was given an almost limitless range of options. A series of bad decisions since that time have reduced that range to a paltry few, none of them particularly attractive. Running the narrows with a ship of state is a perilous enterprise.

In foreign affairs, most of the rest of the world is now hoping to see America take a fall. We have alienated the Russians, irritated the Chinese and dragged the Europeans into a “war against terror” that finds little support outside ruling elites. Virtually every European public would vote to pull out of Afghanistan tomorrow if given the chance. The elites go along only because of a residual fear of “losing the Americans,” much as Berlin feared “losing the Austrians” if she did not support Vienna in 1914. Both were allied to a corpse, which at some point even the wizened moles who govern Europe may discern.

Militarily, the US has managed the contortionist’s feat of getting various body parts stuck in different pits of quicksand. Washington counts on Iraq gaining stability, but the absence of a state means it can go unstable again overnight. The Afghan war is going the way Afghan wars do, as the Pashtun slowly get their act together to push the occupier out. Spillover from the war in Afghanistan is de-stabilizing Pakistan, with Washington accelerating the process by putting impossible demands on that country’s leaders. Finally, the likelihood of an attack on Iran by the US or by Israel acting as a proxy grows, which would in turn pitch Iraq back into chaos as all the Shiite militias ganged up on us.

More, the money is about to run out. We seem to have forgotten that no activity the state can undertake is more expensive than war. If a tanking economy cuts off the money flow, what comes next? The Sunday, July 12 Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes a local investment advisor saying, “A year ago, I would have discounted the scenario of the next depression. After what I’ve seen this year, I don’t discount anything anymore.” The Fed is trying to head off a full-scale financial panic by turning itself into a pawnshop, but no one knows how long that trick will work. The whole Ponzi scheme that is the current US economy still depends on an inflow of $2 billion in foreign, money daily. What happens if, or when, that flow ceases?

Were American politics as sensible as the average flock of turkeys in a thunderstorm, the public would be asking those running for President just how they expected to steer through this narrows filled with rocks and shoals. Instead, all the public wants are more nostrums, more empty promises that somehow Big Brother will enable them to party on. Senator Obama and Senator McCain vie in proposing programs that cost more billions, to come from … where? Why, from the printing presses of course. Those presses are churning out dollars so fast already that we can feel the rumble all the way across the country — and the world.

The bottom line reached by printing-press money is always the same: runaway inflation. Inflation is almost always one of the consequences of war, and it can be the worst, worse even than losing. If it impoverishes the middle class, the country has little if any base from which to recover.

For America to run the narrows successfully, it needs to act boldly, not to find the one course through, but to widen its range of options while it still can. That means getting out of at least a few of the quicksand pits — certainly not entering any new ones — while lowering our foreign policy ambitions, cutting government spending until the budget is in surplus, improving our balance of trade to bolster the dollar and getting unhooked for foreign oil. It will hurt, but not nearly so badly as a combination of defeat, depression and hyper-inflation.

Would anyone happen to know Count Witte’s home number?

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

To interview Mr. Lind, please contact (no e-mail available):

Mr. William S. Lind
Free Congress Foundation
1423 Powhatan Street, # 2
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Direct line: 703 837-0483

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Filed in Uncategorized | 11 responses so far

11 Responses to “On War #267: Running the Narrows”

  1. Duncan Kinderon 15 Jul 2008 at 12:41 pm 1

    The only response in this context that I know of would be Farragut’s “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead.” That is, that we concentrate whole heartedly on such options as we do have left.

    But that would require that we have at least some options and that we be able to identify them. Sometimes this works, the Battle of Salamis Bay probably fits this “camel through the eye of a needle”scenario.

    The first order of business, therefore, would be to specify such options as may still exist.

  2. […] Jul.15.2008 On War #267: Running the Narrows […]

  3. judasnooseon 16 Jul 2008 at 5:24 am 3

    A potentially productive course of action is to assume that America will *not* run the rapids successfully, and then to work out contingency plans for the various scenarios.

    I usually start from the assumption that the American elites will quickly notice several big crises and break many laws covering them up. E.g., if hyperinflation is the first crisis, I consider what would happen if the Federal Reserve noticed hyperinflation and committed massive acts of forgery in order to cover up illegal banking acts that would hide the situation temporarily. Then I try to extrapolate from history:


  4. senor tomason 19 Jul 2008 at 6:01 pm 4

    ” which would in turn pitch Iraq back into chaos as all the Shiite militias ganged up on us.”

    Only because of our rules of engagement. If we did not care about collateral damge the Shia militias would be no threat to us at all.

  5. Cheton 19 Jul 2008 at 6:06 pm 5

    Yeah, true. But we do care — one of the things that separates us from people like Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

  6. Maxon 20 Jul 2008 at 11:02 am 6

    “we do care — one of the things that separates us from,”

    I’m really begining to wonder about that.

    Individualy most Americans have a moral
    compass, a concience, and can be trusted.

    Collectively, it’s another story though,
    all together.(pun)

    Now, if you want to cling to the notion that
    the agenda has been hijacked, that raises
    serious issues about individual responsibility.

    Not withstanding the US Constitution, it
    turns out we’re not so different from
    other cultures based on ideology who imagined themselves to be moraly superior, throughout history that have taken a bad turn, most of which
    ended in oblivion.

    Behond the moral premis,
    The argument against the indescriminate infliction of collateral and non-combatant casualties is quite practical !

    That is for every non-comp. you kill, there’s
    a brother, son, daughter, sister, neice, nefrew, cousin, uncle, friends, etc, who are now your sworn enemies for life.

    As we experienced in Vietnam, and more-so in the middle east, these pepole will now stop at nothing,
    and pay any price, make any sacrifice, to get back at us.

    I find it utterly astonishing, how increadibly inane to the concept so very many Americans apparently are, and incapable of putting themselves in the reciprocal situation.

    If 9-11 demonstrated anything, it’s when simiarly agreived, how far we’ll go, in getting “even” even if it’s clearly not in our best interests.

    Now Here’s a perfect example right here.
    What re-procussions can you imagine ?
    Look for continued American & NATO casualties
    in the coming weeks.

    This cycle will never end,
    and we will never decisively prevail.


  7. buckshoton 21 Jul 2008 at 9:38 pm 7

    I believe Mr. Lind believes what he is saying. I also think Mr. Lind and his contemporaries of the Fourth Generation theory of warfare are quite correct with respect to the war in Iraq. Unfortunately very few others in the USA don’t have the slightest idea what Fourth Generation Warfare is about and could care less. The only thing that will bring America to its senses is when the money runs out. Makes no difference if it’s a 1930s number of busted banks and no jobs, or the more modern version of hyperinflation. Fat people and dogs will become scarce.
    As for Count Witte, his telephone is never busy, but if anyone would bother to call him for advice, the Count would remind you that once we were the world’s factory and then we gave it away.
    Senor Tomas mentions rules of engagement and collateral damage. Has he forgotten our dropping of two and half times as much tonnage of bombs on Vietnam as we did in all of WWII? Maybe Senor Tomas can tell us what we aimed them at?
    Come on Chet, yes, you are entitled to think as you please about USA military action and rules of engagement and collateral damage – I think your are in denial. But to lump a couple of bad boy scouts like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao – you are historically wrong.

    [CR: Suppose Osama had a nuclear device. Would he have used it on 9/11?]

  8. Dr_Vomacton 28 Jul 2008 at 4:47 pm 8

    [CR: Suppose Osama had a nuclear device. Would he have used it on 9/11?]

    That’s an interesting question. You seem to be thinking that there is a sort of historical Damage Club. Anyone who aspires to membership must have a very large damage total—specifically, killed a huge number of people and broken a large number of things. You seem to think that Hitler and Stalin are top-rankers in the DC for this reason, and that if some schmoe were to get his mitts on a nuke and blows up Manhattan, then he goes right to the top of the list.

    Sure, we could look at things that way. But I humbly submit that this is not an illuminating perspective. Hitler and Stalin were key figures in 20th Century history. They achieved their status (yes, even the demons in Hell have rank) not merely by killing people, but by making them do their will. Hitler and Stalin enslaved millions; they turned entire peoples against one another; they twisted the course of history to their terrible will—making the world a much worse place than it had been. How is it in any way helpful to compare these two to the guy who (hypothetically) blew up New York? I guess one could call this the “body count” school of history. As for Saddam Hussein…I can only assume that you weren’t being serious when you mentioned that little pissant in the same sentence, Chet.

    [CR: Saddam did the best he could with what he had — attacking Iran and then Kuwait; gassing Kurds; destroying the ecosystem of the marshes (a crime against humanity for which he richly deserved to swing at the end of a rope). Can’t blame the guy for not having the Wehrmacht at his disposal. You didn’t answer my question, by the way, so let me state it more simply for you: If Osama gets his hands on a device, will he use it?]

  9. Mycophagiston 31 Jul 2008 at 11:00 am 9

    Hi Chet

    Your question needs no answer – Kind of obvious no?

    But Dr. Vomacts point remains valid, although I sincerely wish he had used the Name Chicago, instead of Manhattan.

    But I ask, if Osama did blow up East 7th Street, would America surrender?

    Whereas there was a measurable chance of losing either WWII or the Cold War. And there lies the point. Osama is just a terrorist, not capable of taking over a City Block anywere in America, Even if America had No armed forces and No police. That he is thinking in terms of the Second (Third, Fourth?) Caliphite is simply part of his delusion of grandeur.

    Nor is it meaningful to point out that we don’t measure evil by the success of evil. Saddam WAS a bad man. Saddam Did deserve to hang. Hitler? Stalin? Without wishing to haggle over the numbers there’s a good chance we are responsible for the death of more Iraqi’s then he was.

    And yes, it’s obvious also that we DO care. Why else are we discussing this? It seems to me the success in deminising our enemies into the entire Muslim religion has unhinged some Americans, who in their fear are prepared to murder millions of people. Of course, they are a small minoirity.


  10. Barryon 01 Sep 2008 at 5:27 am 10

    “The secret to success is having a wide range of options”

    No, the secret to success is seeing the best option for what it is while it still exists.

    Often the best option is long gone by the time it is realised (if it ever is) how good an option it was.

    Case in point; Germany could have attacked Russia in 1905 but never seriously considered doing the only thing that could have given them victory.
    Addressing the Obama nuke nuclear power stations could have been attacked.

  11. Barryon 01 Sep 2008 at 5:50 am 11

    Correction; should be Osama instead of Obama.
    Sorry about that , I will try to be more careful.