The False Economic Recovery Narrative Will Die In 2017

Submitted by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

Yes, the narrative of the “new normal” has been around for so long now that many people have simply grown used to it. The assumption is that the fiscal “new normal” has become the fiscal “normal,” and though the fundamentals continue to strain under the weight of poor global demand and historic debt levitated by extraneous fiat stimulus, the masses feel far less fear than is warranted. Hey, why should they? We’ve managed around eight years skating on thin ice, why shouldn’t we expect eight more years of the same?

The banking elites have done the job they set out to do, which was to drive the economy to the very edge of the financial cliff, and then keep it suspended there until the general public became comfortable living next door to the abyss.

Why do this? Well, the greater dynamic at play here is something the average person will not understand or refuses to examine — economics today is about mass psychology. The economy is a tool, or a weapon, by which international financiers can influence the public mind and the emotions of the mob. In order to grasp the mechanics of economics it is not enough to deal in statistics and trade principles; one must also grasp human behavior and how it is manipulated. One must acknowledge that in economics we witness the transmutation of societies by word and by force, by chaos and by order. Economics is alchemy.

The globalists (in their twisted view) seek to change lead into gold, and just as in alchemy, these elements are a metaphor for psychological evolution. For the globalists, social engineering is a form of witchcraft; they see it as creation, or a grand form of architecture.

But it is not creation. The globalists are incapable of such art because true art requires wisdom and empathy. All they know is how to deconstruct existing systems generated by nature and free men and rearrange the shattered pieces into something more oppressive and ultimately less interesting than what existed before. Give the internationalists a Mona Lisa and they will shred it, reconstitute it and regurgitate a paint by numbers coloring book.

The globalists only know how to turn gold into lead.

If you do not understand the reality of globalist influence in markets and the nature of economics as a weapon; if you actually believe that the economy operates purely on some kind of free-roaming free market principles, then you will never be able to wrap your head around the otherwise absurd behavior of our financial structure.

The psychology of fiscal “recovery” is a vital tool for change and for developing false dichotomies. For example, I recently came across this article from the pervasive propaganda hub of Bloomberg. In it, Bloomberg outlines a story we are by now very used to hearing from the mainstream — that the presidential era of Barack Obama has left the economy of the U.S. in particular in “far better shape” as he leaves office than when he entered office.

Now, anyone who has been reading my analysis for at least the past six months (if not the past ten years) knows exactly what I think about the current state of the economy and what is likely to happen in the near future. For those new to my position, here is a very quick summary along with linked evidence supporting my claims:

From the 1990’s leading into the year 2007, the Federal Reserve engineered a massive debt and derivatives bubble through the use of artificially low interest rates in the housing market. Alan Greenspan, the presiding Fed chairman at the time, openly admitted in interviews that the central bank KNEW an irrational bubble had formed, but claims they assumed the negative factors would “wash out.” This is a constant meme set forward by the Fed — that they were essentially too stupid to foresee a collapse of the bubble they knew they had created. They prefer that the public believes that the Fed was “incompetent” rather than deliberately destructive.

 

The low rates fueled a machine of mortgage backed securities and derivatives based on trillions of dollars in loans to people that had no ability or no intention of ever paying them back. The Fed had aid in this program from the ratings agencies, which labeled obviously toxic debt as AAA for years, and the SEC, which refused to investigate any legitimate claims of asset manipulation and ill intent. This corrupt behavior on the part of the SEC was showcased in the testimony of SEC whistle blower Gary J. Aguirre, who warned of dangerous debt pools and manipulation within the banking industry in 2006 before the derivatives collapse and also warned that the SEC interfered with any investigation attempts into the problem.

 

This led to the well known “Great Recession” triggered in 2007/2008. The Fed along with numerous other central banks around the world had conjured a crisis and then offered their own solution to that crisis. Namely, the solution of massive fiat stimulus programs purchasing toxic debt, treasury bonds, corporate stocks and anything else that wasn’t nailed down.

 

The “bailouts” and quantitative easing projects, however, were actually cover for a far larger program of untold trillions in overnight loans to corporations, domestic and foreign.  A never-ending river of dollars created out of thin air and pumped into companies for near zero interest. It was these free overnight loans that allowed international conglomerates to sidestep the monstrous black hole of derivatives debt they were circling and purchase their own stocks through stock buybacks, thus reducing the number of existing stocks on the exchanges and artificially boosting the price of the remaining stocks. This caused stock markets to skyrocket from near death to historic highs.

 

In the meantime, government bureaucracy has worked tirelessly to manipulate statistics to falsely reflect an overall recovery. The stock market is much easier to manipulate than the fundamentals, so, the fundamentals must be misrepresented.  While some numbers slip through the cracks and issues of true supply and demand continue, the vast majority of the populace has little clue that the collapse of 2008 never actually stopped, it was just shifted into a state of slow motion.

 

The Fed’s low interest rates, specifically on overnight loans, has allowed the economy to sputter along for eight years, and has greatly enriched the top .01% in the process. But now, their strategy is changing.

 

The problem is that stimulus has a shelf life, and while certain stats can be skewed and the stock market can be inflated for a time, eventually, consequences must be accepted in the real economy for attempting to defy gravity for so long.

 

The initial collapse was designed to foster an even greater event. Without the derivatives bubble, the central bankers never could have convinced the masses to accept the idea of a fiat stimulus bubble which would eventually put the dollar at risk, along with the overall U.S economy. Taking the brunt of the 2008 crash would have been painful, but not insurmountable. But with eight more years and tens of trillions in added debt along with increased geopolitical tensions and an equities bubble for the ages, the scale of the final stage of collapse will be truly unprecedented.

 

The purpose of this final event will be to generate so much chaos and desperation that the public will be compelled to search for extraordinary solutions. The globalists will be ready with those solutions, including those they have openly outlined decades in advance in publications like The Economist.

 

The end game? The formation of a single monetary and economic authority under the management of the International Monetary Fund, and the establishment of a single global currency using the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights as a “bridge” for locking national currencies into a harmonized exchange rate until they eventually become pointless, interchangeable and replaceable.

 

The problem is, the globalists cannot possibly initiate this end game in a vacuum, otherwise, they would take the blame for the inevitable collateral damage to people’s lives as their “great global reset” is undertaken. The globalists need a scapegoat.

 

Enter Donald Trump, the Brexit Referendum, and the rise of “populist” movements. For the entire first half of 2016, globalists were “warning” non-stop that a rise in populism (conservatives and sovereignty champions) would result in international financial catastrophe. It was as if they KNEW that the Brexit would succeed and that Donald Trump would win the election…

This has been my position for the past half year — that globalists were planning to allow conservative and sovereignty movements to take the reigns of power, that they would allow the passage of the Brexit and the rise of Trump, just before they pull the plug on the system’s life support. The Federal Reserve in particular has already launched the final phase by beginning a series of rate hikes which will remove the safety net of free and cheap overnight loans to companies, thereby sabotaging equities markets. I specifically warned about this over a year ago when most analysts were stating that negative rates and QE4 were “just around the corner.”

And this is where we are today. As noted above, Bloomberg writes an interesting bit of propaganda starting with a bit of truth. Here’s the beginning quote from their article:

“Research suggests factors beyond the control of any U.S. president, not their actual policies, set the course of the economy. Yet with voters, President-Elect Donald Trump will secure much of the praise or blame when it comes to the impact of his agenda over the next four years.”

The recovery narrative from 2008 to today was imperative to the globalist’s greater agenda. For a considerable portion of the public must be made to believe that under a socialist and decidedly globalist president (Barack Obama) the general trend in the economy was positive and that “things were getting better.” The rise of conservative movements today sets the stage for the final collapse and the IMF’s great reset, in which conservatives and sovereignty activists will be blamed, whether there is any evidence of culpability or not, for the crash that the globalists have spent the better part of two decades setting in motion.

After the dust has settled, the argument will be that the world was "on course" before the Brexit, before Trump and before populism. The argument will be that globalism was working and conservatives screwed it up with their selfish nationalist endeavors. After the final crash and perhaps numerous deaths from poverty and violence, the argument will be that the only conceivable solution must be a return to globalism in an extreme form; or total global centralization, so that such a tragedy will never happen again.

Bloomberg helps to set up the scenario, by claiming that Trump is “inheriting” a stable and improving economy compared to the economy that Barack Obama inherited:

“While today’s economy is a mixed bag by historical standards, one thing is clear: Obama has left Trump a 2016 economy in a better state, by many measures, than when he was first elected president in 2008 in the middle of the worst downturn since the Great Depression.”

Of course, Bloomberg fails to mention that the standards and statistics by which they measure economic “improvement” are entirely fraudulent.

For example, real GDP is at -2 percent, not +2 percent as Bloomberg claims, when one calculates for distortions such as government spending, which is counted towards GDP even though government does not actually produce anything. Government can only steal productivity from citizens and reassign that wealth elsewhere.

Bloomberg also cites a vastly improved unemployment rate. They once again refuse to bring up the fact that over 95 MILLION Americans are no longer counted as unemployed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics because they have been jobless for so long they do not qualify to be included on the rolls. This lie of reduced unemployment has been pervasive through the entirety of the Obama Administration.

Bloomberg then mentions a greatly improved housing market that Trump will enjoy when he takes office. They certainly do not include the fact that pending home sales are now plummeting and home ownership rates in the U.S. are so low you have to go back to 1965 to match them.   They do not mention that the majority of the boost in home sales during Obama’s two terms was due to corporations like Blackstone buying up distressed mortgages and turning the homes into rentals. The housing market is NOT being supported by individuals and families seeking home ownership, but corporations snatching up real estate on the cheap and driving up prices.  Wall Street is now America's landlord.

And there you have it. The globalist setup continues with mainstream outlets telling Americans that the economy is in ascension as Trump and populists move into positions of power, when in truth the economy is as dire as it ever was if not worse off. To add to the theater, Donald Trump has ventured to take credit for the sharp rise in stocks and the impression of improving economic stats.  In one of his latest tweets just after Christmas, he had this to say:

"The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!"

Now, if you know anything about the true fiscal situation, you would think this statement is a severely idiotic move by Trump.  No incoming president with any sense would try to take credit for the largest equities bubble in history.  But, take credit is essentially what he did.  That said, if you ALSO understand that the globalist narrative is engineered so that conservatives take the blame for the coming crash, AND if you believe that Trump is knowingly participating in this narrative (as I now do after he lied about "draining the swamp" and front loaded his cabinet with banking elites), then Trump's statement makes perfect sense.  Trump is playing the role of a future bumbling villain, the populist maniac who gets too big for his britches and brings disaster down on people's heads.

The false recovery narrative will indeed die in 2017, and it will be because the globalists WANT it to die while nationalists are at the helm. This is perhaps the biggest con game in recent history; with conservatives as the fall guy and the rest of the public as the gullible mark. One can only hope that we can educate enough people on this scenario to make a difference before it is too late.

 

The High Life: Here Are The States Where The Most People Are Tokin’ Up

After a slew of states across the country have decided to legalize medical and/or recreational use of marijuana, the Washington Post decided to take a look at the impact this new legislation has had on weed consumption by state.  Ironically the map looks a lot like the 2016 electoral college map with the highest levels of consumption per capita coming from the liberal strongholds of New England and the West Coast.  Meanwhile, Montana seems to be the one conservative outlier where people love both their individual liberties and tokin’ up on the reg.

Overall, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 22 million Americans like to light up on a monthly basis with closer to 37 million admitting they partake at least once a year.

According to one estimate by ArcView Group, a marijuana industry consulting firm, the legal marijuana market rang up $6.7 billion in sales in 2016.

 

Legal or not, millions of Americans already use marijuana regularly. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.3 percent of Americans age 12 and over — 22 million people — used marijuana on a monthly basis in 2015. And close to 37 million people used marijuana at least once that year.

Weed Use

 

Meanwhile, it’s readily apparent that the highest marijuana use per capita comes from states where the drug has been legalized for medical and/or medicinal purposes.

In the 2014-2015 period (years are paired for state-level data to provide bigger sample sizes), nearly a quarter of people in places where recreational pot is legal — like D.C. and Colorado — used some form of marijuana at least once a year.

 

That’s nearly double the national average, and it’s close to three times the rate for the most pot-abstinent states, like Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa, where around 8 or 9 percent of people age 12 and older use pot yearly.

 

Generally speaking, the Northeast and the West Coast are the two major marijuana hotbeds in the country. Marijuana use between the coasts is generally lower, with the notable exception of Colorado.

 

The state-level data shows that places with the most marijuana use generally have some form of legal medical or recreational marijuana available. This is likely a two-way street: places with lax attitudes about marijuana use are more likely to approve legal marijuana, and marijuana availability probably leads to more lax attitudes about use.

Weed Legal

 

Finally, for our entrepreneurial readers, we just wanted to highlight that we see staggering opportunities for new KFC and Taco Bell franchises in parts of Montana, Colorado and New England.

Fast Food

The Case Against Fed Reform

Submitted by Tho Bishop via The Mises Institute,

This week the 115th Congress was sworn in, and there are some indications that Fed reform may be on the agenda. The combination of populist anger fueled by Ron Paul’s Presidential campaigns and the 2008 financial crisis coupled with the repeated failings of the Federal Reserve to meet their projections has created a rare window for monetary policy to be both politically advantageous, as well as so obviously needed that even politicians can see it.  

The question now is what sort of reform is on the table.

Congressional Reforms

Last Congressional session saw proposals from both the House and the Senate.  

From the House we have the FORM Act, which would require the Fed to adopt a monetary policy rule and explain to Congress whenever they deviate from that rule. The FORM Act also calls for an annual GAO audit of the Federal Reserve, doubles the number of times the Fed Chairman testifies before Congress, and makes some other tweaks to the makeup and protocol of the Federal Reserve Board. Since the FORM Act passed the House in 2015, there is a good chance we will see it resurrected in 2017.

On the Senate side, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby has pushed for the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act. Not only does it lack a catchy acronym, but its reforms to the Fed are far more modest than the FORM Act. The meat of the bill focuses on changes to the Fed board. The head of the New York Fed would no longer be appointed the banks board of the directors, but would instead be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate – just like the Federal Reserve Chairman. It would also grant powers to the Fed’s regional presidents that currently only reside with the board of directors.

Though early drafts of the Senate bill called for the Fed to adopt rules-based monetary policy, this ended up being stripped from the final proposal due to Democratic opposition – largely because much of the Hill focus has been on the Taylor rule, which many Fed advocates fear is too restricting.

The Battle Over the Taylor Rule

Recently this debate has played out in the pages of the Wall Street Journal with Neel Kashkari and John Taylor exchanging op-eds on the virtues of rules-based policy.

Though Kashkari begins with a broad attack on monetary rules, it quickly devolves into a focused attack on the Taylor Rule which he argues “effectively turn[s] monetary policy over to a computer, rather than continue to let Fed policy makers use their best judgment to consider a wide range of data and economic trends.” Of course Kashkari ignores that the “best judgement” of Fed policy makers has been widely criticized – and not just by Austrians who oppose any sort of Fed policy at all.

Kashkari’s allusion to a computer-guided monetary policy is may be an attempt to get readers to conflate recent monetary rules proposals to the views of Milton Friedman that have not aged particularly well. In Taylor’s response, he criticized the portrayal for being dishonest while pointing to various analysis critical of the Fed behavior since the crisis.

What’s more interesting than the finer details of the debate over the relative virtues of the Taylor rule is how that specific proposal has largely been the single focus of those critical of rules-based policy. Though support for the Taylor rule has become largely split on partisan lines, there is another monetary rule that has growing support from across the ideological spectrum.

The Appeal of NGDP Targeting

Following 2008, NGDP targeting has grown from a topic of conversation largely limited to blogs such as Scott Sumner’s The Money Illusion, to something discussed openly among central banks, prominent publications, and even Presidential candidates. The proposal would require a central bank to set a nominal goal for GDP – without taking into account inflation or deflation – and allow it to use a variety of tools to reach that goal. Since the policy gives Fed critics a black and white standard to measure its performance, without putting too many restrictions on the Fed as to ruffle the feathers of Fed proponents, it has been able to build a broad coalition of support. As a result, you have progressives such as Christina Romer and Brad DeLong on the same side as the Cato Institute and the Mercatus Center.

Of course widespread appeal is not the same thing as sensible policy. As Shawn Ritenour sums up his brilliant refutation of the proposal:

NGDP targeting advocates end up fostering the monetary illusion that scarcity can be overcome and prosperity can be achieved via monetary inflation.

Unfortunately policy does not have to be sensible to become reality.

Should the House succeed in creating pressure on the Senate to act on a version of the FORM Act, it would not be surprising to see the discussion move away from the Taylor rule to NGDP targeting – with advocates selling its broad appeal as its leading virtue. The Fed Audit, which has consistently been fought by the Senate, could easily be dropped – with Republican legislators being able to point to the endorsement of the beltway’s leading libertarian think tanks as evidence of being tough on the Fed.

The Real Problem with Rules-Based Monetary Policy

Of course no matter if it is NGDP targeting, the Taylor rule, or even a rule that would have the Fed tie itself to gold – the entire debate about rules-based monetary policy ignores the obvious: rules are meant to be broken.

We’ve already seen this play out routinely at the Fed, with both sides of the isle usually accusing the Fed of not upholding one side of its current dual mandate. History is littered with examples of government financial institutions ignoring and modifying rules whenever they directly conflict with the judgment of current leaders. As recently as 2015, the IMF arbitrarily changed a long-standing policy on loan requirements so it could help Ukraine. The US government changed long-standing monetary policy rules when faced with a crisis, such as when it cut the dollar’s connection with gold for both domestic and international payments.

Be it Constitutional rights, contractual obligations, or its own self-imposed rules, when push comes to shove the government officials have proven they will side with their own judgment – no matter what the rule is.

So while there are certainly arguments to be made in favor of a rules-based Fed over the pure discretion of the current PhD standard, such reform should not be viewed as a solution to the real issue, which is a central bank having a monopoly on money at all. Instead of a Fed reform, we need Fed competition: eliminate legal tender laws, remove the burdensome taxes placed on gold, Bitcoin and other potential currencies, and give Americans a true alternative to Federal Reserve notes for those who want it.

Anything short of that continues to let the Fed’s monopoly on money continue, and is therefore no real solution at all. 

In Stunning Last Minute Power Grab, Obama Designates Election Systems As “Critical Infrastructure”

In a stunning last minute power grab by the Obama administration with just 14 days left in his Presidency, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement this evening officially declaring state election systems to be “critical infrastructure.”  The statement from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson defines “election infrastructure” as “storage facilities, polling places, centralized vote tabulations locations, voter registration databases, voting machines” and all “other systems” to manage the election process…so pretty much everything.

I have determined that election infrastructure in this country should be designated as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector. Given the vital role elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law.

 

I have reached this determination so that election infrastructure will, on a more formal and enduring basis, be a priority for cybersecurity assistance and protections that the Department of Homeland Security provides to a range of private and public sector entities. By “election infrastructure,” we mean storage facilities, polling places, and centralized vote tabulations locations used to support the election process, and information and communications technology to include voter registration databases, voting machines, and other systems to manage the election process and report and display results on behalf of state and local governments.

Of course, it’s likely not a coincidence that the DHS made this announcement just hours after the “intelligence community” declassified their “Russian Hacking” propaganda which basically noted that RT has a very effective social media distribution platform while once again providing absolutely no actual evidence.

Jeh Johnson

 

Johnson’s statement goes on to note that while many “state and local election officials are opposed to this designation” he went ahead with his decision anyway, because that’s just what the Obama administration does.

Prior to reaching this determination, my staff and I consulted many state and local election officials; I am aware that many of them are opposed to this designation. It is important to stress what this designation does and does not mean. This designation does not mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections in this country. This designation does nothing to change the role state and local governments have in administering and running elections.

 

The designation of election infrastructure as critical infrastructure subsector does mean that election infrastructure becomes a priority within the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. It also enables this Department to prioritize our cybersecurity assistance to state and local election officials, but only for those who request it. Further, the designation makes clear both domestically and internationally that election infrastructure enjoys all the benefits and protections of critical infrastructure that the U.S. government has to offer. Finally, a designation makes it easier for the federal government to have full and frank discussions with key stakeholders regarding sensitive vulnerability information.

 

Particularly in these times, this designation is simply the right and obvious thing to do.

Of course, one of the most vocal opponents of this move has been Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp who recently told Politico it is nothing more than an attempt to “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.”

During an earlier interview with the site Nextgov, Kemp warned: “The question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.” Kemp told POLITICO he sees a “clear motivation from this White House” to expand federal control, citing Obama’s health care law, the Dodd-Frank financial-reform legislation and the increased role of the Education Department in local schools.

 

To some election officials, this sounds like the first stage of a more intrusive plan.

 

“I think it’s kind of the nose under the tent,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat. “What I think a lot of folks get concerned about [is] when the federal government says, ‘Well, look, we’re not really interested in doing that, but we just want to give you this,’ and then all of a sudden this leads to something else.”

Meanwhile, Kemp continued on by noting that “this administration only has 15 days left in its term” and to make such a critical decision during the 11th hour “smacks of partisan politics.”

But we’re sure it’s nothing, Obama doesn’t really strike us as the type to play the “partisan politics” game.

Worst. Recovery. Ever.

As the champagne glasses clink in Washington over a record-breaking streak of job growth on record (as the percent of the population employed slumped), and the fastest wage growth since the start of the recovery (for managers), we just wanted to remind a few blinkered media types that Obama’s “recovery” has officially been the worst recovery in US history (despite adding almost $10 trillion to the national debt)

When ‘fake news’ and ‘peddling fiction’ meet fact…

Source: JPMorgan

Not quite as rosy an economic handover to Trump as The White House would like everyone to believe.

John Harwood Asks “Who Do You Believe America?” – Gets Surprising Answer

CNBC Political reporter, friend of Hillary, and Democratic Party sycophant John Harwood took to Twitter last night to ask:

“Who do you believe America? Wikileaks, or US Intel Officials?”

The response, which emerged from his immediate following which one would surmise, should gravitate toward Harwood’s liberal ideology and thus respond in a way Harwood expected, was yet another slap in the face for the establishment’s perspective on how the world should really run.

And that Mr. Harwood is why Donald Trump is about to become President! When will you and your ilk wake up to this?

As Trump tweeted earlier in the week: “It is for the American people to make up their minds as to the truth.”

This merely confirms Lou Dobbs’ survey from earlier in the week.

The Fourth-Generation War

Submitted by David Galland via GarretGalland.com,

For most people, the term “4GW” will conjure visions of a new and improved data service for their mobile devices. For members of the military and intelligence community, 4GW means something entirely different: Fourth-Generation Warfare, a form of warfare where the lines between civilians and combatants, political and military goals, and even the weapons to be used in fighting the war are blurred.

Smudged to the point where even identifying the warring parties is difficult.

To understand the 4GW, look no further than last month’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany.

  • Instead of using a bomb, gun, or even a knife, the attacker used a commercial truck.
  • The attacker was from Tunisia, a country with no clear grievances against the Germans.
  • He was an adherent of Islam (natch). Given the attack was directed against innocent bystanders at a Christmas market, we assume—but don’t know—that it was motivated by a religious goal. But to what end? We can have no idea.
  • And why Germany, the country that had provided succor to the man and his family as refugees? Was the attack part of a broader strategy to complete the Islamization of Germany? All of Europe?
  • Or was it to force the Europeans to withdraw from the Middle East—even though the European footprint in the Middle East is barely visible compared to the US and Russia?
  • Perhaps it was just a target of convenience—in which case, what’s the point(s) the attacker was trying to make?
  • And who, exactly, is the enemy the “West” is fighting against? Is it ISIS, which took credit for the attack? We think that’s right, but really can’t know. Maybe the ISIS spokesperson was just being opportunistic in taking credit for an act of an individual who had become overly emotional as a result of indoctrination by a radical mullah?
  • Who does Germany retaliate against? They could lob missiles into ISIS strongholds, but as those strongholds are not citadels, but rather cities populated by innocents—captives even—how effective can that be?
  • Alternatively, whom does Germany negotiate with to bring an end to the hostilities?

I could go on, but I think the point is clear: 4GW warfare is so distributed—between weapons, tactics, cultures, places, ideologies, and leadership—that dealing with it requires an entirely different approach.

Trying to get a handle on how one counters such an amorphous enemy, because it is unlikely the attacks will stop anytime soon, and maybe not in our lifetime, I reached out to Scott Taylor, publisher and editor of Esprit de Corps magazine. Scott has extensive experience in the Middle East, as a soldier, author, and war correspondent.

He is also one of the few people to have been kidnapped by Islamists and lived to tell about it. Here’s a biographical sketch from the Esprit de Corps website.

For more than 25 years, Taylor has reported from numerous global hot spots, including Kuwait, Cambodia, Western Sahara, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Iraq, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Libya and Afghanistan. In 1996, Taylor won the prestigious Quill Award and in 2008 he was named Press TV’s “Unembedded Journalist of the Year.” In 2011, Taylor won a Telly Award for the CPAC documentary Afghanistan: Outside the Wire.

On September 7, 2004, while reporting on the U.S. occupation, Taylor was taken hostage in Northern Iraq by Ansar al-Islam Mujahadeen. Taylor and his Turkish colleague were subjected to torture and severe abuse before being released five days later. That harrowing ordeal was recreated by National Geographic Channel in an episode of the popular series Locked Up Abroad.

With Scott’s bonafides established, here are my questions and his answers.

Q. Are there any historical precedents for the current conflict being fought between the Islamists and the Western world?

First of all, we need to stop misidentifying the current conflict as Islam versus the West. The vast majority of the blood being spilled in all of these theatres (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Turkey) is Muslim vs. Muslim.

The simplistic division of sides is Sunni versus Shiite, but that further divides into secular versus fundamentalist, and then again into ethnic factions (example: Kurd versus Turk, Arab versus Kurd). Much like the Crusades of old, it is the West’s interference in their territorial squabbles that makes us a target for retaliation.

Q. Is there any sort of prevailing theory about how a government can fight back given the lack of any clear enemy or even stated objective for the attacks?

The current tactic of Western security forces appears to be the mounting of large shows of force after a terrorist attack has taken place. Hordes of heavily armed police with armored vehicles appear at all major transit hubs and public spaces to present the appearance of an armed camp.

However, given the randomness of the targets, the variety of weapons employed (simply driving a truck into a crowd, for instance), and the apparent willingness for the attackers to die for their cause, makes these attacks all but impossible to defend against.

Q. The Israelis, which arguably have the most experience in fighting a 4GW conflict, have used retribution against family members of the terrorists— including the controversial policy of destroying family homes—as a countermeasure. Any thoughts?

If the Israelis and Palestinians were presently cohabitating in a state of mutual bliss, I would say that they were on the right track. However, as Israel remains in a state of perpetual threat of attack, I would say that employing retaliatory attacks against a culture steeped in revenge (an eye for an eye) is not a smart move.

If Trump starts attacking terrorist families, the violence cycle will only accelerate… and become far more personal.

Q. Any sense of how this all ends? Or is this conflict likely to be with us for the foreseeable future?

Humankind is the most self-destructive species on the planet. Historically, we continue to invest in ever more creative ways to kill our fellow humans… and to protect ourselves from evolving threats.

The map of the Middle East will need to be redrawn to recognize the existing ethnic divisions (as opposed to the arbitrary colonial boundaries drawn up by Britain and France in 1917). The abject poverty and illiteracy of Afghanistan will condemn it to decades more bloodshed, and countries such as Libya will need to be reunified by force and subdued for a generation before they can once again enjoy stability and prosperity.

Q. Do you believe the US should stop meddling in the Middle East? Having read a fair bit on the history of the Crusades, it is revealing that so many cities regularly under attack back then are again under attack now. And, per your comments, invariably by other Muslims. Given that history, one can only ask, "Why would any outside nation want to deal with that mess?"

If the US could divest itself of the need to import oil, they could afford to ignore events in the Middle East. It may sound crazy, but a huge opportunity was missed in the aftermath of 9/11 when Americans might have accepted (or been forced to accept) wartime rationing of fuel. This would have hurt the automobile industry but at the same time created a massive boom for alternative modes of transportation, such as production of e-bikes and mass transit systems.

America, like Canada, is protected by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Our “defense” departments should be correctly called “war departments.”

So, what’s the new administration to do?

Carry On

Per Scott’s comments, I think it behooves us to accept the reality that there may be little, and maybe nothing, the nation-states with all their intelligence services and blunt military power can do to stop the 4GW enemies.

Repurposing the prescient words of John F. Kennedy on the topic of assassins, "If anyone wants to do it, no amount of protection is enough. All a man needs is a willingness to trade his life for mine."

Time and again, the Islamic terrorists have shown a willingness to trade their lives to carry out their dastardly deeds. That’s just how they roll.

If there is good news, it is that the damage these terrorists do is typically limited. Returning to the Christmas attack in Berlin, that attack took the lives of 12 people. Approximately the number of people who die every day and a half in German automobile accidents. So while the attack was unsettling, especially for the victims or someone close to the victims, it poses no existential threat to the German nation.

Even 9/11—the apex of success as far as these attacks go—adds up to just 31 days of traffic fatalities in the US.

Could the jihadists someday succeed in getting their hands on nukes? Or blow up a liquid petroleum depot near a population center? Anything is possible. However, governments around the world are acutely aware of the threats and take measures to guard the targets with the potential for causing mass destruction. It will take more than a maniac driving a truck or wielding an AK-47 to breach one of the more sensitive installations.

As a consequence, the path of least resistance suggests the 4GW will continue to unfold mostly as low-level attacks that, in the overall scheme of things, do little physical damage.

Keep in mind that, on average, 43 people are murdered every day in the US and 93 die in car accidents. By comparison, in the 16 years since 2000, there have been a total of 3,064 people killed by terrorists in the United States, but of that number, 2,997 died in the 9/11 attacks.

Doing the math, outside of that horrific event, there have been a total of 67 people killed in the US by terrorists over the past 16 years. Which means that over the period, death by terrorism in the US doesn’t add up to even a single day of automobile fatalities.

To be clear, my purpose here is to provide perspective about the fourth-generation war. That perspective is necessary given how energetically the mainstream media sensationalizes every attack, even if it only involves a single stabbing. By doing so, they have effectively turned the entire nation into fear-biters.

That’s not to say that terrorism isn’t a concern. It’s just, per Scott’s comments above, that most of it involves fighting between Muslim sects in a very limited number of countries. This from a comprehensive report on global terrorism by the US State Department:

Although terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically. More than 55% of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria), and 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan).

Here’s a tip: Don’t live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, or Pakistan.

While incidents like the truck attacks in Nice and in Berlin get a lot of media attention, when viewed from an actuarial perspective, they are gnats on an elephant. And it’s important to keep this in perspective, because overblown fears within the population provide license to the state to expand its powers and trample the rights of the individual in pursuit of a perfect level of security that simply cannot be attained.

It is worth noting that since 9/11, the United States has spent over $7.5 trillion in defense and homeland security, much of which cannot even be accounted for.

And that tally is just the thin edge of the cost of overreacting to the terrorists, a cost that includes the loss of personal freedom and the creation of indelible bureaucracies that grow in power every day.

Remain vigilant, sure. But above all, as the Brits like to say, “Keep calm and carry on.”