In retrospect, my weekend was predictable.
I took advantage of dry weather to catch up on yardwork and house maintenance. I gave my motorcycle an overdue service. My daughter and I rode our bikes down one of Atlanta’s many forest trails. The family attended a neighborhood pig roast.
And, as on too many previous weekends, I watched as people across the world reacted precisely as desired in response to skillful manipulation.
These are times that try the souls of those of us who try to lead sovereign lives. The key thing is to remember that freedom and individual sovereignty start in your own head.
A Familiar Trap
The perpetrators of Friday’s attacks in Paris intended to start a four-part cascade: (a) Prompt an extreme response that will (b) alienate moderate Muslims who will then (c) throw their lot in with the lunatics running ISIS, so as (d) to cause a final apocalyptic war between Islam and everyone else. This is explicitly what ISIS has said it wants to achieve.
This is the same script that Osama bin Laden wrote and produced on 9/11. Regardless of what one thinks of the justice of the response to that outrage, it is impossible to say that things are better as a result. The world is more dangerous and the enemies of freedom are more numerous than in 2001. If the goal of invading the Middle East was to procure safety and sanity, the strategy failed miserably.
And yet, by Saturday morning, tens of thousands of Facebook profile pictures had acquired a tricolore overlay, echoing ISIS’ desired “us-vs.-them” worldview. Calls rang out for an aggressive military response to the latest “biggest threat we face.” (Lost in the rush to arms were the dozens of victims of Thursday’s bombing attack in Beirut.)
Today, it’s clear that ISIS’ script is unfolding with admirable precision. In the last 72 hours, pundits and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have proposed closing Europe’s borders (making my Thursday article sadly prescient), banning all forms of encrypted communication, drastically increasing military spending and mass deportations. Based on news flashes that pop up as I write, we can add long-term suspension of civil liberties to the list.
All weekend, people instinctively rallied around such measures, losing their metaphorical heads in the process. They forget what happens every time they do.
President Obama’s first Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is famed for his response to the market collapse of 2008: “Never let a crisis go to waste.” He certainly didn’t in that case! The result was skyrocketing deficits, massive inequality and draconian assaults on our financial liberties. And we’re all familiar with the Bush Administration’s domestic-spying response to 9/11, which employed similar “crisis” logic.
Even now, demagogues are trying to use the Paris atrocity to divert our attention to other agendas. What other reason could there be for using the tragedy to call for more impunity for trigger-happy U.S. police?
In What Kind of World Do You Want to Live?
So here’s my challenge to those whose knee-jerk response to Paris is to go along with more “War on Terror” logic: What do you want the world to look like after the struggle is over?
Are the choices you’re making now likely to achieve it?
After all, to achieve it, we’d have to send massive armies to occupy ISIS-held territory indefinitely. We’d need to fund and staff a long-term occupation bureaucracy much larger than the one in Iraq. We’d need thousands of Abu Ghraib-style prisons, and be willing to overlook Nazi-style occupation methods. We’d have to forcibly remove radical preachers from mosques and madrassas across the Middle East and Europe. We’d have to pay taxes toward another massive program of foreign economic development and physical reconstruction. We’d incur more veteran-related debts far into the future. And we’d have to unleash surveillance and police action on a scale that would make everything that’s transpired since 9/11 seem like a model of restraint and accountability.
Make Yours a Sovereign Response
Marc Trévidic, France’s top anti-terrorism judge, said in September, “The politicians take a martial stance, but they have no long-term vision.” And on Saturday, French Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tweeted to his followers, “Ne vous laissez pas manipuler.” (“Do not allow yourself to be manipulated.”)
I agree completely with both sentiments. As a sovereign individual, my own long-term vision in moments of crisis such as these has two possible versions.
One is of a world in which the majority has succumbed to the propaganda and embraced endless war. Our own freedoms are long gone, since they have been deemed “too risky” for wartime. We are all prisoners in a cage we approved and paid for. Being sovereign has become much harder, but some of us still try against all the odds.
The other is of a world where enough people have seen through the manipulation to realize that provocations like Paris are intended to draw us into an unwinnable conflict that only empowers governments and ultimately destroys our liberties. To achieve this understanding, they’ve gone beyond the nightly news to learn the real story behind our relationship to the Middle East, and sworn not to fall for it again.
If you want to be truly sovereign … ne vous laissez pas manipuler.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor