*UNRELATED, THIS IS FREE ON AMAZON: Whom the Gods Love.*
In Times of Peace
I feel, as yet, that some do not understand a basic aspect of modern politics. I get this sense every time I read a comments section. Let me try, to the best of my ability, to elucidate the order beneath what may seem like an increasingly chaotic system.
There is a concept called “battlespace preparation”. Many have heard of it, but I’m not sure it is generally understood why it works. In its broadest sense it refers to the practice of choosing the time, place, and… most importantly… the circumstances of a conflict. This is the real meaning of the expression “in times of peace, prepare for war”. Though the expression is often mistaken as a simple restatement of “expect the unexpected”, that misses the point entirely. Control of the circumstances of a battle is the key to winning, and the proverb reminds us that our ability to control such things is much greater if we do it well in advance… in times of peace… than when they are immediate needs… in times of war.
Commonly in politics, we see it applied when someone (99.99% of the time a Democrat, which is not to our strategic advantage) accuses an opponent of a crime preemptively in order to excuse their own malfeasance later. The crime is often a generalized one that’s difficult to disprove, such as being an -ist. Obama bought practical immunity from questions about his otherwise extremely questionable past in two elections, simply by accusing opponents of being racist. Such general accusations of prejudice are very useful. Any sufficiently well-known public figure will be opposed for reasons both philosophical and prejudicial. The accusation gives followers sanction not to even attempt to differentiate the groups, however prominent the prior and insubstantial the latter. The accusation becomes a kind of magic word, spoken to protect the user from the conflict of ideas.
Sometimes, should the threat be more grave, the accusation will be more specifically tailored to the threat. Republicans are accused of wanting the economy to fail before economic numbers are released, in order to cast aspersions on conservatives who then criticize the administration’s approach to the economy. Romney is accused of being stuck in the cold war, so that when Obama handles relations with Russia like an utter imbecile, pointing it out can be called a continuation of the same attacks. The Obama administration is even now simultaneously crying about Obama’s potential impeachment and toying with the treasonous act of executive amnesty, which would more than justify such impeachment. This last item we will return to in a moment. It’s important.
This trick works because politics is, at its heart, applied psychology. Battlespace preparation plays on a prominent weakness of the human animal, responsible for many problems: heuristic reasoning. Generally, when you accuse an opponent of an extraphilosophical reason to oppose you, you frame any argument they make, regardless of how well-reasoned, as an extension of that underlying motive. And people will do it willingly, because following the heuristic is easier than working through the philosophical background. Heuristics, in essence, evolved to save energy, and the same tendency of people to do what comes most easily is a very exploitable political tool. Because deceit is the bread and water of politicians and because an opponent must de facto have a reason to disagree with you, it is functionally impossible for the opponent to shift the heuristic once it has been established. The only sure way a heuristic is destroyed is if the person using it comes to direct harm by doing so… as might happen to an Obama voter who became unemployed and had to let the electricity go unpaid because its price “necessarily skyrocketed”.
This explains much of the insanity of politics. If you pay attention to most political battles, the actual issues are practically irrelevant. What matters is who can establish what heuristics in the minds of voters. Because Democrats have a stranglehold on most media, most issues where people feel few immediate, direct, adverse consequences for assuming Democrats are right go to Democrats. These include budgetary decisions and complaints of a war on women. This is also why social benefits are a singularly intractable issue. It is much easier, and nicer, to suppose that Republicans are evil, than to work through the ugly and unpleasant mathematics that show money is not free. Immigration is a much tougher nut for Democrats to crack, on the other hand, because many Americans have had to live with the effects of a leaky border for years while the federal government merely sneered at their problems… if it doesn’t actively intervene to make them worse, as it did in Arizona. Fracking and domestic energy development is likewise flowing in the direction of Republicans because no one is particularly interested in paying more money for gas and electricity except diehard disciples of Gaia. That’s also why the Obama administration is careful to phrase things such that an unfairly despised minority, “millionaires and billionaires”, is stuck with the unspinnably unpleasant things they do. Forget policy or philosophical arguments. The country would have tossed Obama in a landslide, cheating or no cheating, if he’d come out saying he would tax everyone through the nose. But as long as unpleasant things happen to a scapegoat who “probably deserves it”, rather than to the voter themselves, the heuristic stands.
Precisely because they are so useful, such appeals are a natural outgrowth of a political system that is working. To the extent they are intrinsically unpleasant it is only because the human animal is a little unpleasant. Our remarkable feature as a species is the part of us that works hard to tame the animal, and it rightly rebels at such thoughts. Nevertheless, because politics is essentially a perpetual drumbeat wherein factions constantly wrestle to establish heuristics about the other side, and discussions of the actual correctness of policies have little effect on the outcome, it begins to take on a certain understandable sameness. We are often conscious that politics has some underlying theme even if we cannot place our finger on it precisely. This jadedness presents a certain danger, however.
The health of a society is not determined by whether politics proceeds by the psychological rules dictated above. That is simply a sign of political contention happening. But danger can be sensed in what a society is arguing about. The reason why should be familiar to us. Old married couples may argue vehemently for hours about the correct amount of time to boil an egg, and only the terribly innocent would fear for the integrity of their marriage. Another, probably younger couple may have an argument about whether to abort their first child which, superficially, may be more restrained. It may, at the very least, lack the inventive flair the older couple has developed after fifty years of back-and-forth. Yet the argument of the younger couple is just the kind of argument that can destroy a marriage.
But the arguments we are having now are only about what is happening today. In battlespace preparation you can see, essentially, announcements of what people expect to happen tomorrow. Awareness of these two aspects of politics can give a better general feel for society than discussion of the nitty-gritty issues does. Now, I freely admit that I can say nothing definite about the state of American society. Our exact conditions are unprecedented by the history of which I’m aware. Our system of government, the attitudes of our populace, the state of our nation, our status in the world, have all been approximated, but the factors that don’t fit are always arguably too significant to be ignored. Indeed, our arguments even for the status of these basic facts are contentious. But I can tell you that, by my lights, I am troubled by what we are arguing about as a nation.
In foreign policy, we are arguing with the Obama administration about whether the US has a right to defend its interests. We are, in fact, arguing about whether there is a significant difference between an ally stretching back decades or centuries, such as Poland, Israel, or England, and an enemy stretching back almost as far, such as China or Russia. We are arguing about whether nations should have meaningful and enforceable borders… essentially, in both cases, whether the US has a right to exist. That these are the battle-lines across which people strive to win support worries me almost more than the actual state of the battles. I can guess the outcomes of most battles. What I cannot guess, because we are in uncharted territory, is how long a society can survive when it is discussing whether to permit itself to function and exist.
And in the midst of all this, the Democrats are already accusing us of plotting impeachment, and even revolution. These things worry me greatly. Things that are now whispers in the background are clear and present dangers to the Democrats. If the mechanics of battlespace preparation are anything to go by, they are supplying the other piece of the puzzle themselves. They see in their plans a serious enough potential for these dangers that they feel the need to begin fighting them now, while they have a chance to establish in the minds of constituents heuristics favorable to themselves. But if indeed they fear these things, it should give us pause that they are the two most extreme and final recourses of a society endangered by its own leaders. That said leaders would want to nip opposition in the bud and solidify their own power is unavoidable, but what kind of power are they contemplating taking, what danger do they mean to place society in tomorrow, that they think these are worthwhile dangers to prepare against today? That I cannot tell you, and until they either have been removed from a position where they are able to act on their base instincts, or unfortunately, until they have acted on them and clarified exactly what reaction is justified, I doubt I will be satisfied on the point.
If there is a silver lining in all this, the very fact the Democrats are attempting to prepare this battlespace shows they, themselves, use heuristics without understanding their weaknesses. In the old saw about boiling a frog it is not the metaphor but its endpoint that is mistaken. While people will tolerate an amazing amount without responding, they will not tolerate an infinite amount. I cannot tell you how severe the abuses of power will get, nor how long it will take until people have had enough. I can tell you that someday they will have had enough… but the factors dictating when are the unknown and largely unknowable things mentioned above. We could begin to wake from our national nightmare and get back on the road to arguing about trivialities as soon as November. Or, depending on which issues are foremost in people’s minds and how fair our electoral process still is, we could be just beginning a very long road of suffering and death that will undoubtedly leave us, as a nation, much wiser… supposing it leaves us existent. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Sooner or later, the heuristics will run up against the reality experienced by individuals. A state that grows unchecked, becomes more obtrusive without bounds, will eventually dispel the glamour it casts over those it enslaves. The greatest danger a Democrat faces is not rebellion, but reality. And rail as they may against the immune reactions of society, it is wasted breath. If they make people sufficiently upset, they will resist, whatever their masters say.
Sarah is right. Because we stand with reality, we will indeed win, and they will indeed lose. I only pray the stars will align such that we can win now, on the heuristics being destroyed by unemployment and a poor economy, rather than later, on heuristics destroyed by a lack of food and by endless crass, uncaring centralized dictates.