An interview with internet-based commentator Fabius Maximus.
(1) On your about page (and previously at Defense and the National Interest) it states that Fabius Maximus “was the Roman leader who saved Rome from Hannibal by recognizing its weakness, the need to conserve and regenerate. He turned from the easy path of macho ‘boldness’ to the long, difficult path to rebuilding Rome’s strength and greatness. His life holds profound lessons for 21st Century America.” However, there is no Hannibal at America’s borders. What is America’s greatest enemy at this moment?
If the American political regime fall, we will be responsible. The most serious threat lies within us. As an intangible threat, each person will explain this differently. I express this as our hubris and paranoia being the greatest threats. Looking at our actions, rather than our thought processes, our passivity is the greatest threat.
Note that the American political regime, based on the Constitution, is not America. I have faith even then we will pick up the pieces and try again.
For more about this see Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006.
(2) You have been asked on various occasions where you reside, what citizenship(s) you hold, what occupation or position you held, if any, within the US government or related organizations. Care to share anything with us?
Just that I am an American. Nothing else should matter.
The “About” pages explains why: About Fabius Maximus and this blog.
(3) You share with me the dubious distinction of raising the ire of the Small Wars Council. Why? What is it about you that irritates others? Or, assuming that you are correct, why don’t they ‘get it’?
The SWC and the FM websites both discuss things of great importance that are on the edge of the known – on the edge of what is knowable. Passions run high, which is a good thing in my book. Out of the hottest fires come the strongest metals.
The mainstream media serves to keep us dozing. Dampen our sense of wonder, our passions, and our attachment to what makes us what we are. And above all to keep us feeling mildly fearful and impotent. It provides a steady stream of trivia, carefully crafted to confirm the establishment’s worldview.
The alternate view is that we’re in a vast universe, standing in a small lit circle amidst mysteries. Fearful challenges lie I the dark, somewhere in which is our true future.
The problem is not finding material to write about (I have a file drawer stuffed with material), but finding the time to write. I try to focus on a small number of themes, focused on geopolitics.
(5) You call for a new humble grand strategy on the basis of respect for differing belief systems. Like Edward Luttwak, who said that great powers “see everything in forms of force and power, and not in term of knowledge,” you have mentioned the appalling lack of HUMINT among the US intelligence community. You have also advocated for an American foreign legion. Along these lines, what shifts in thinking and operation would be necessary to build an intelligent intelligence community and military? What would it take for them to come to pass?
Great question! The answer lies in structural reform on a scale difficult to even imagine happening. Our intel apparatus exists to confirm the view of senior leaders. So we have as analysts legions of well-educated academics. People who are (to over-generalize) not only incapable of understanding the fantastic events on the margins and in the depths of civilization, but incapable of forcing these insights on their superiors. On the other hand, their reports are neatly typed, politely expressed, with excellent spelling and grammar.
Military reform is simple — requiring a long, hot war, forcing us to develop an effective force. Or the military might find a great leader capable of forging a sharp weapon from DoD’s bureaucratic morass. The cures are worse than the disease.
I’m no fan of the dualisms on which most of modern thought rests (such as sacred and profane). Rousseau and above all Nietzsche attempted to move us beyond these dualisms, back to a more holistic view of humanity.
(6) You have criticized advocates of ‘Anthropogenic global warming’ as relying on inadequate or unproven science. Why, in your opinion, is global warming such a hot button issue for so many people?
It fills a need for many people. Following the decline of Christianity and Judaism as meaningful faiths for large sections of the public, something must fill the vacuum. To be marketable it should be compatible with our superstitions, easy to understand, and undemanding in its prescriptions. The green religion fits these requirements.
It fits the bastardized notions the general public has of science. Offers redemption without the necessity of substantially altering our behavior (i.e., how we treat our spouse, children, friends, coworkers, clients). Feeds our deeply held love for apocalyptic eschatology. And allows everyman to be in the chosen.
Like all good religions, once adopted it is immune to disproof. Hearing a heretic or infidel questioning the authorities (IPCC, the Pope) reveals only their ignorance. The obvious response is to read them a tract. It’s like telling a country priest during the dark ages that Jesus is not in the host. There is no place for debate.
For more about this see A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America, 17 March 2009.
(7) You have cited the Batman saga (http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/batman/, http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/alfred/) as an accurate description of our current predicament. Are there any other artistic works you feel are especially relevant to the present moment?
Yes. Our myths should be a source of insight and strengths in the coming days. In our age of an impoverished imagination, mythology has retreated to and concentrated in our comics. Some examples in addition to Batman:
Spiderman’s motto is a great lesson for a hegemonic power – “with great power comes great responsibility.”
The tagline of Full Metal Alchemist (slightly paraphrased) provides a powerful lesson for a society that wants to have it all, ideally for free:
“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To gain anything, something of equal value must be given. That is life’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange, and applies to thing tangible and intangible — matter, energy, and spirit.”
(8) You stated in 2006 that Israel appears to be on the road to disaster. Is there anything in the intervening time that would cause you to modify this view? Is there anything that Israelis can do to prevent this?
As Lawrence of Arabia said in the movie, “nothing is written.” Israel could radically change course by giving the West Bank back, starting a Marshall Plan-like effort to build it up, and attempting to forge an alliance with the Palestinians – who are among the most vital of the Middle East’s people, and in many ways so similar to the Jews. It might not be too late.
(9) You have commented that the American public is like sheep. What would they be doing if they weren’t so sheepish?
Just as we have always done when faced with a challenge. From the days before the Revolution, through the long anti-slavery campaigns, the “penny auction” and private relief efforts during the recession, and WWII (after which we lost our way). Organize, work together, and ignore the blandishments of those who seek to divide us for their own political advantage.
We all know what to do. We just lack the will.
Photo courtesy of David Ball.