In 1941 America acted unanimously and forcefully to defend its trade empire in the Pacific. Now it must do so in the Persian Gulf or fade away from the world stage.
Regimes govern by telling their peoples stories that they can buy into, at least for a while. When people stop believing the story, the regime’s days are numbered; it is already dead, though it may not know it yet. For many centuries In Russia the story was that the Tsars (Russified pronunciation of the word “Caesar”) were divinely anointed to defend Holy Russia and keep its people in God’s good graces. When most Russians stopped believing this story sometime in the early 1900’s, Nicholas II, the tsar at that time, was already dead though he was not yet aware of his demise, an unawareness that prevented him from making the necessary arrangements to save himself and his large family from the Bolsheviks’ bullets.
These same Bolsheviks, upon inheriting the throne told a different story. Their story was one of equality and continuous progress towards a better life, a progress fueled by shared sacrifice. When the denizens of the Soviet empire discovered in the 1980’s that their standard of living had been stagnating for decades, that as they have long suspected, the standard of living in the capitalist West was immeasurably higher, and that the sacrifice was nowhere near shared, the days of the communists and their Russian project were over.
In America, the story of the regime is told by a document rather than by a person or a group of people. That document is the Constitution and it tells a story of Americans as well-informed, skilled, and independent individuals who constantly thrive to better themselves both spiritually and materially. To this end they elect, through a finely tuned and balanced process, a representative government with highly limited powers whose twin purposes are the maintenance of a level domestic playing field upon which every American has an equal opportunity to succeed and the pursuit of a foreign and military policy that supports the growth of the American economy and protects Americans and American interests.
Americans who believe this story are now in a minority and the only reason that America is still (barely) a constitutional republic is that this minority is unequally spread across the country and at least for now manages to maintain majority status in a sufficiently large number of states to win in the Electoral College and
and keep it alive. However, the Electoral College was never intended, nor can it possibly, long maintain a situation in which the popular vote and the electoral vote are at odds. These events have always been considered rare outliers and the symptoms of exceedingly close elections like the year 2000 contest between H.W. Bush and Al Gore. The trend towards split decisions between the popular and electoral votes in which both are not close as happened in the 2016 election, if it is continued, will undoubtedly bring about a regime change in the United States, an outcome that will be bemoaned by the constitutionalist minority, but is inevitable nonetheless.
Since these stories, the stories that regimes tell their people are so essential to the regime survival, what happens when two stories in two different countries come into direct conflict with each other? What happens is war; war between stories and the people who believe in them. These wars are inevitable and unavoidable, because they can only be avoided by giving up on your story, which is something that people and governments are almost never willing to do without a fight.
Ever since its brilliant and unexpected victory over the Russian Empire in the 1905 Russo-Japanese war, Japan’s story was one of imperial infallibility and national destiny to become the dominant force in Asia Pacific, pushing out and eventually replacing the Western colonial forces of Great Britain, France, and the US. Unfortunately, this story ran afoul of the American one. Americans saw their own hegemony in the Pacific an absolute necessity for providing American industry with the markets it needed for its products and the necessary sources for its raw materials. With China substantially non-existent as a political entity and Russia in the throes of its Bolshevik revolution, there could be only one boss in the Pacific, Japan or America, and neither was willing to concede.
Exploiting its natural advantage over Japan as a relatively small country with meager natural resources, America endeavored to contain Japanese ambitions by starving it of strategic raw materials such as oil and iron ore. Japan, underestimating America’s attachment to its story of providing its citizens with unfettered and growing business opportunities, chose to land a painful albeit limited strike on its rival in the hopes of elbowing for itself some breathing room in what they considered their own backyard. The result was an all out war that ended only when the Japanese story was utterly defeated and replaced by one that was made in the USA. That made in America story was a good one and it still holds today. It appealed to the Japanese inherently feudal understanding of human relations and went something like this: we beat you fair and square in a one on one duel. You fought honorably, but now you must become our samurai, our servant, our vassal, in exchange for which you will enjoy our protection and will be richly rewarded by unfettered access to our markets.
The situation that developed seventy-eight years ago in the Pacific is now repeating itself in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian theocracy has been telling a story to the Iranian people. This story involves the restoration of Persia as the hegemon of the Middle East region, just like the ancient Persian Empires were. It involves “cleansing” the Middle East from the infidel stain that is the State of Israel. It involves the bringing about, finally and for all time, the victory of Shia Islam over its Sunni cousin, a victory that would, after twelve centuries, redeem the unbearable loss of Ali, the rightful (according to the Shia) heir to Muhammad. Finally, just like with 1940 Japan, the story includes a divine element, in fact it rests on a divine foundation and thus is impervious to adjustments or concessions. Iranian story MUST prevail because God wills it, just like Imperial Japan could not lose because it was led by a divine emperor, a divinity that America later insisted he denounce.
As it happens, exactly like it happened with Japan, the Iranian story cannot coexist with the American one. Iranian hegemony in the Middle East will threaten international trade in many strategic materials, first and foremost oil and subjugate important American allies on the Arabian Peninsula. American status as a superpower, which is a late addition to the American story, but one that is grounded in its original mission to provide unfettered opportunities to American citizens and companies to do business around the globe, cannot survive a Middle East that is subjugated to Iran, regardless of who is in power there. Obama’s acquiescence, in fact assistance to Iranian imperial ambitions proves the point. The 44th president of the United States had an intense dislike for America’s founding story and its “bible”, the Constitution. Obama felt that America’s superpower status was a travesty and a threat to global peace and stability and he wished for nothing more than to end it. To this end, he has made Iran his primary tool, the angel of destruction for America as we know it.
Trump, his family, and his supporters are hated so intensely by the people who lionize Obama precisely because they are the final line of defense for the original story of America, a line that now glows most brightly in the Persian Gulf. There is an inevitable and inescapable head on collision that is unfolding now between America and Iran that is eerily similar to the one that unfolded seventy-eight years ago between America and the Japanese Empire. America won that conflict so decisively because its story then was strong and enjoyed the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans. Powerful as the isolationist movement was in 1930’s America, it never intended for America to give up its overseas possessions like Guam or the Philippines, or throttle back its protection of its interests abroad. Isolationists of that vintage were American patriots first and foremost as is attested by the near unanimous support for an all out war against Japan after Pearl Harbor.
After all, these same people could have said “Wait a minute, isn’t America at fault here at least a little bit? Shouldn’t we talk to Japan and find out what they really want?” That was, of course, what Japan was counting would happen. It was wrong. Today, the situation is very different and much more dangerous. Many if not most Americans have stopped believing in America’s story and if war broke out would quite simply root for the enemy, Iran. In the camp of those who still believe in America’s founding story, there is a large group who, incredibly, ignore the historical fact that America, from its earliest days, has been in one big continuous war to establish and maintain a global trading hegemony and that it was that hegemony alone that made America great.
The ink on the Declaration of Independence was barely dry when it sent an expeditionary force to today’s Libya to tamp down the activities of North African Muslim sailors known as the Berbery Coast Pirates who disrupted shipping in the Western Mediterranean. The fat, lazy, entitled, and uneducated elements of Trump’s so-called base that, led by pseudo-intellectuals in the mold of Fox News show host Tucker Carlson, oppose any foreign military engagements are every bit as dangerous to America as the deranged communazis who now rule the Democratic Party. In fact, both groups have much more in common than any of them would like to admit. First and foremost, they are possessed of a misguided sense of entitlement to their exceedingly well-fed lifestyles and of the resulting lack of desire to do anything to defend the conditions that have allowed this prosperity to exist in the first place.
There are only three ways out of the Iranian impasse: American surrender as advocated by Obama and the non-interventionist elements of the Trump base, a half-measured, dispirited military action leading to a humiliating loss and subsequent surrender, and a robust, fully committed military action leading to victory. The fourth option, the one that involves continued economic pressure on Iran designed to make it change its story, is not a viable one. As the recent Iranian attacks by proxy on oil tankers and pipelines in the Gulf show, Iran, like Japan, will act militarily, constantly escalating its actions until it either meets with a military response or succeeds in removing the economic blockade that the US under Trump’s leadership has placed on it.
What the Tuckers of this world who profess to love America and its Constitution fail to realize, is that surrender to Iran, be it with or without a fight, will spell the final chapter in America’s story, be the last nail in its coffin. What will emerge will be an America that has a very different story indeed, a story that is written by the same people that Tucker so loves to hate, for a very nice fee, every weekday at 8 PM Eastern sharp. Cosplaying and LARPing is not going to save America; hard-nosed difficult decisions and courage on the battlefield, will. Which will it be?
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