Author Archives: Cameron Macgregor

Could Syria be another intervention to no-where?

As many as ten thousand people have been killed since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar-al Assad began roughly 14 months ago. But the newly discovered massacre in the village of Houla this past weekend could be a game changer. It unleashed some of the worst violence yet, killing over a hundred people and sparking international outrage. In a uniform show of protest nations across the world, including the United States, expelled Syrian diplomats.

Who actually carried out the massacre is unknown, but as the death toll rises, pressure to take more action builds. From the campaign trail in tones reminiscent of “Dubya”, Romney is calling “for more assertive measures to end the Assad regime.” On the Hill, Senator McCain has criticized the President’s “feckless foreign policy” for punting on Syria. On the Left, UN Ambassador Rice, after months of tabling the military option, now believes the international community may have to take “action outside” the failed UN peace plan. Anxious to stay in the public eye, Secretary of State Clinton entered the fray this week insisting that with each passing day the case for military intervention looks stronger.

Sadly, despite the series of disastrous, self-defeating interventions over the last twenty years from Somalia and Haiti to Iraq and Afghanistan, most inside the US government are convinced American military power is always the “global force for good,” regardless of the outcome. The idea that US national interests are not furthered by more interventions in the Middle East or anywhere else in the third world does not seem to matter. It’s time America’s warmongering policymakers took a short trek down memory lane.

The list of botched US overseas missions is long, ignominious, and tragically for many, not memorable. It includes America’s bungled operation in Somalia in 1993, when a humanitarian intervention to referee a civil war Somalia is still fighting degenerated into urban combat, killing over a thousand Somalis, 18 US troops, and resulting in public embarrassment for the United States.

Our foolishness continued in the Balkans in the mid-nineties. Under the NATO umbrella US forces intervened in Bosnia to stop ethnic cleansing and build democracy. So we deployed peace keeping troops, bombed the Serbs, and tried Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes. Thanks to our efforts, Douglas Hague, the British Foreign Minister warns Bosnia is on the brink of relapsing into chaos and ethnic conflict.

Haiti makes the list too. Remember the mission to Haiti in 1994? “Operation Uphold Democracy” was just one of many US humanitarian missions to establish order in a country with no fire department. Again the results are similar, Haiti remains the same as it was before we intervened –backward, poverty stricken, and systemically corrupt.

For the moment, however, US interventions are focused on the Middle East, a region rapidly succumbing to Islamist rule aided in some measure by US air power, armaments, and no fly zones. Here too, America’s abysmal record hasn’t deterred us. US occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan set the bar high in terms of wasting US blood and treasure, inciting hatred against America, and leaving countries in worse shape than we found them.

After occupying Afghanistan for over a decade, the US is so unpopular amongst the local population that aid packages are stripped of any US markings to ensure Afghans will actually accept them. US military advisors training the Afghan army are constantly on alert, fearing that the people they are training may instantly turn and kill them. Just a few months ago US forces came under attack across the country and angry mobs gathered in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to vent their rage after US troops burned already defiled copies of the Quran.

The US debacle in Iraq is only just now beginning to materialize. After installing a “democratic” government in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki thanked us for our efforts and said goodbye, rejecting the Obama Administration’s request to permanently station several thousand US troops in the country. With US forces completely out of the picture, Maliki and the Shia population he represents have consolidated control of the government, making Iraq ripe for civil war and extending the Iranian sphere of influence at the same time.

Fortunately, since the Arab Spring began last year the US has refined its involvement in mid-east affairs, now focusing on replacing secular authoritarian regimes with Islamist ones. Let’s recount some recent events.

First, it was Egyptian President Mubarak who had to go – so we sided with the protesters in Tahrir Square and encouraged democratic elections, putting the Muslim Brotherhood in charge. Next came Libya, but this required more direct action. Leading an international coalition, US air power set up a no fly zone and bombed Muammar Gaddafi’s forces into submission. Victory was secured when rebel forces reclaimed the capital Tripoli, killed Gaddafi, and declared Libya an Islamic state governed by Sharia Law.

Now US attentions are fixed on Syria. The interventionist drum beat began months ago when the usual bi-partisan coalition of the willing to bomb anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason, consisting of Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman, called for direct US involvement.

McCain said that assuming Assad would ultimately be overthrown is a “convenient way to abdicate responsibility.” Responsibility to do what exactly? McCain’s answer – launch air strikes or arm the rebel opposition. Of course, who the opposition is and what US forces would achieve by intervening on their behalf are questions that go unanswered, but these are trivialities that don’t concern McCain’s triumvirate.

This brings us to the most important question –after all of these ruinous interventions under our belt and no sign we are letting up what is the end game? When will the interventions to no-where stop? Will interventionist supporters be content when the Middle East is dominated by democratically elected anti-Western Islamist governments? Will they rejoice when Assad’s regime is ousted, an outcome that will almost certainly plunge Syria into a full blown sectarian civil war?

Or will sober minded Americans remember that America is a republic not an empire, and compel Washington to invest in America, a country fast resembling the failed states we are desperately trying to fix?

Cameron Macgregor is a former naval officer and USNA graduate. He is writing his first book, America Resurrected.

Winning in the courtroom could be more important than winning the Presidency

As conservatives rack their brains about how to take back the White House in 2012 two likely courtroom victories may eclipse the importance of a Romney win this fall. Supreme Court hearings on the Personal Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) codename Obamacare, and SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law could define the nature of our political system for decades to come.

The controversy surrounding both cases attracted large crowds gathered outside the courtroom, showing a level of excitement and interest in the Supreme Court not seen since the sixties. By choosing to hear these cases the judicial branch has launched itself into the political fray, sharing in the intense polarization of America’s public square. In a sense, the Supreme Court embodies America. It composes 9 justices – 4 conservative, 4 liberal, and 1 wild card (Justice Kennedy), the conservative leaning independent that tends to render the decisions.

SB 1070 and PPACA are about two completely different topics (immigration and healthcare) that boil down to a singular issue, federal versus state power. PPACA centers around the individual mandate, the right of the federal government to require citizens to buy health insurance, while SB 1070 focuses on the preemptive clause, the supremacy of federal over state immigration law.

Interestingly, after both hearings a common theme has rapidly emerged – a legal sea change may just be underway, something President Obama hinted at when defensively urging conservatives not to press for the kind of judicial activism they often bemoan. Of course the President, an erstwhile constitutional law professor, seems to be conflating activism with judicial review, the primary function of the Supreme Court.

President Obama’s malarkey has extended to the courtroom. Whereas government attorneys made inconsistent and at times incoherent arguments under scrutiny from justices unsatisfied with their positions, the other side seemed to quickly gain the upper hand.

Last month government lawyers came under fire from Justice Kennedy who argued pointedly that compelling Americans to buy health insurance “changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.” Indeed, justices expressed overall concern about the expansive authority PPACA grants the federal government, possibly outstripping constitutional limitations.

Government attorneys fared even worse during Arizona v. United States hearings this past week. One of the memorable highlights occurred when Justice Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice, remarked “You can see it’s not selling very well” to Solicitor General Donald B. Vorrilli Jr. And for good reason, the federal government is arguing that the states cannot enforce federal law because they aren’t enforcing it themselves, a completely untenable position.

The importance of winning these cases cannot be overstated. Presidents and lawmakers come and go but laws endure. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted almost two hundred years ago “There is no country in the world where the law has a more absolute voice than in America.” The linchpin of liberal dominance in American politics since the sixties has been the “rights revolution” that lay at the heart of it; what Democrats could not win at the ballot box they won in the courtroom. However, if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare and upholds Arizona’s immigration law it would decisively halt the relentless growth of federal power unimpeded for almost a century.

Predicting a Supreme Court decision is always precarious business. Both hearings seemed to favor the states but decisions will likely break along partisan lines. Plus Kennedy is well known for his unpredictability, meaning he could lean either way. That being said, there is the sense that the federal government and its advocates are losing momentum, embattled not just in the courtroom but fiscally, administratively, and in the minds of the American people.

If the Supreme Court upholds SB 1070, a host of new states will implement tougher immigration laws based on Arizona’s model. If Obamacare is repealed, the most celebrated achievement of Obama’s administration will have been refuted and another unaffordable entitlement averted. In the end, winning in the courts could do more to arrest the expansion of federal power now and in the future than a moderate Romney administration will.

Cameron Macgregor is a USNA grad and former Naval Officer. He is writing his first book America Resurrected.

First stop Greece, next stop Spain

The austerity express may have already left the station in Greece but the pain train bringing massive fiscal cutbacks arrived in even greater force in Spain this past week. Unsurprisingly, austerity is just about as popular in Spain as it was in Greece – inciting violence, riots and general strikes in Barcelona and other major Spanish cities last Thursday. Protests erupted just before the announcement in Madrid of the biggest public sector cutbacks since Franco, Spain’s erstwhile right wing caudillo.

The Spanish government introduced a mix of spending cuts and new taxes amounting to roughly 27 billion euros in public sector cuts. The Spanish government plans to raise corporate tax rates, which will augment higher income and capital gains tax rates already implemented in December. Civil servants will see pay increases stop and consumers will pay higher fees to use electricity and gas. To be sure these are tough pills to swallow, especially in a weak Spanish economy suffering unemployment levels above 20% – the highest in the eurozone.

Tensions flared Thursday between the estimated 800 thousand protesters and riot police, causing injuries, detentions, and burned trash containers. Despite these disruptions Spanish officials have remained steadfast in their commitment to austerity.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, commenting from Copenhagen, said “Spain is going to stop being a problem, especially for the Spanish people but also for the European Union.” The new conservative government, less than 100 days old, has put concerns over the debt at the top of their priority list.

De Guindos and his government’s main concern is averting a financial disaster. The danger of rising interest rates on government bonds threatens total economic collapse. The bond yield on ten year Spanish bonds was at 5.4% last week though it was only 4.96% just a month ago (the US is about 2.2%). If investor confidence is shaky borrowing costs soar, something already witnessed in Greece where rates on government bonds exploded. When borrowing costs go up financing becomes very difficult if not impossible, particularly in times of sluggish economic growth and falling revenues.

But Spain’s situation, like that of Greece, is soon to be repeated throughout the Eurozone. Like it or not the austerity express is scheduled for trips to Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and even France and Germany. Even said, the eurocrats continue to discuss still more bailout funds with plans to combine ESFS (European Financial Stability Facility) and ESM (European Stability Mechanism) funds while others are pushing for greater IMF lending capacity all in the hopes of strengthening the euro “firewall.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic conservative lawmakers in Washington continue to fail to make any headway with major budget reform. House Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan and Congressman Jim Jordan of the Republican Study Committee have put forth viable proposals that could prevent a financial crisis in America, but none of them have any chance of passing.

Plus, as long as prominent Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman and Larry Summers continue to demote budget problems as “long term,” many Americans will remain convinced that Washington’s fiscal problems are remote from what is happening in Europe – an utter fallacy.

Ironically, instability in the Eurozone has been a source of strength for America’s bond markets thus far, making them a safe haven for investors fleeing Europe. However, that blessing won’t last long. What very few people in the Eurozone and in the US realize is that the game is over, the markets have already decided. As such the developed countries of the world face a very difficult choice: painful austerity now or financial catastrophe later.

Cameron Macgregor is a USNA grad and former Naval officer. He is writing his first book America Resurrected.

Positive economic news masks worsening crisis

Positive economic numbers touted this week conceal the inevitable crisis soon to strike the United States. Indicators like unemployment, job creation, and stock market valuations are showing signs of recovery, according to many experts. Official unemployment numbers are down, stocks are up, and more jobs have been created in recent months than predicted. Plus, some financial analysts are claiming that US markets are less exposed to Europe than previously thought, meaning the mess in Greece soon to be the mess in Italy, Spain, Portugal and eventually the rest of the euro zone, will have much less of an effect on the US economy than feared.

On the surface, this may appear to be good news, but America’s economy remains in terrible shape, plagued mainly by enormous debt that no one – neither Republicans nor Democrats – are prepared to deal with, yet. So what?

Whenever the debt issue is mentioned people react in one of two ways: they either grimace in pain, knowing financial calamity will befall us sooner or later, or they blithely dismiss it as a non-issue, attacking those who fear the worst as ignorant reactionaries unfamiliar with central banking or macro-economics. So what is the truth, which view is correct?

The truth is that debt matters, and has throughout history. Just ask the Greeks right now. Or ask the Argentinians and Mexicans, countries that defaulted within the last 20 years. To find examples of default we don’t even need to look beyond American borders. This past decade alone cities like Harrisonburg, PA and Vallejo, CA have declared bankruptcy, and yet another California city Stockman, is on the verge of bankruptcy as we speak. Even Orange County, CA defaulted, though that happened almost twenty years ago in 1994.

Of course, many of these defaults like the bankruptcies on Wall Street can be quickly salvaged by higher level government support. As long as some level of government can come to the rescue and infuse credit where it is lacking, perhaps things will be ok. Unfortunately, going forward this is less and less of an option. After years of overspending, whether for pensions, union contracts, healthcare, or to combat the recession, America is systemically in debt. Basically, every level of American government and society is in the red.

The mountain of debt piling up in Washington is only part of the story. Everyone knows that the federal government has amassed trillion dollar debts, and is on the hook for tens of trillions more in unfunded liabilities. But the real crisis is at the state, local, and private levels. States are in bad financial shape, strained by rising pension and operating costs coupled with falling revenues. Municipal finances may be the worst. Municipal debt has doubled over the last ten years, which means cities and towns are facing huge cutbacks state governments will be unable to cover.

Then there is consumer debt. Consumer debt is nothing short of gigantic. Since the 1980s US wages have been relatively stagnant, so families across America financed higher standards of living by going into debt, using credit cards or taking out loans. It is hard to estimate the exact amount of consumer debt but some studies report numbers as high as 100 trillion and some say higher. Again, this means that consumers have to save not spend to deleverage, and standards of living will drop as a result, probably for a decade, if not longer.

So if debt matters, and America’s debt is so huge, why hasn’t there been a crisis yet? Part of the answer, ironically, is debt. The only reason America has not fallen into a deep depression is because the US government and to a lesser extent states and municipalities continue to find markets for their bonds, enabling them to continue borrowing. To support this effort the FED has maintained extremely low interest rates, keeping credit cheap. So America’s sluggish economy continues to crawl forward, using debt to finance its debt.

Nevertheless, taking out more debt to finance debt only increases the amount of debt. This is a game that always ends badly. At the moment, let’s refer to the end game as the “Keynesian endpoint,” the point at which America’s revenue will be entirely devoted to paying down debt service (making interest payments), sending investors running for the hills. This idea has been coined by Kyle Bass, a hedge fund manager famous for seeing the subprime mortgage crisis ahead of time and betting accordingly. His sober analysis leads him to conclude that Americans should invest in “Guns and Gold.”

This may sound ridiculous, but it isn’t. There is a massive debt crisis coming, one that has only been worsened by more government spending and the FED’s easy credit monetary policy. Be prepared for a situation worse than Greece. America’s dependency is at an all-time high. According to a recent Heritage Foundation report welfare rolls, public housing assistance, healthcare and retirement, and overall spending on dependency programs accounts for 70% of Federal spending. Meanwhile, states and cities are laying-off government workers, cutting back on police, and reducing basic services. And millions of people are out of work, in debt, or both, making them particularly vulnerable when the crash comes.

To be blunt, America is headed for tough times ahead, something that can no longer be averted, only softened or worsened. The silver lining might be that default leads to recovery, however difficult. But the longer Washington and FED Chairman Bernanke delay the deleveraging process to preserve the status quo, the more painful the recovery period will be.

Cameron Macgregor is a former naval officer and USNA graduate. He is writing his first book, America Resurrected.

2012: Obama’s Balkan Strategy

Four years ago, Barack Obama promised an end to red states and blue states and an end to economic decline and social injustice.  America’s economy is instead not only stagnant – it is structurally unsound. American jobs are still “off-shored” with devastating consequences for America’s once robust middle class and Washington DC is committing fiscal suicide by printing money faster than you can say FED. Meanwhile, criminality and chaos continue to pour into the US from Mexico and Red and Blue States are becoming “White States and Non-White States.”

The potency of this politically incorrect reality is beginning to sink in with Americans as they gear up for the 2012 presidential election, an election that promises to be one of the most divisive in American history. In contrast to his previous campaign that at least promoted a post-partisan and post-racial America, Obama’s 2012 election strategy is unambiguously designed to divide America not by class, but by race.

People who thought Obama’s 2008 win would re-unify America should have seen this coming. Take one of the key battleground states in 2008 – Ohio. In 2008 Obama won a huge majority, over 80%, of Ohio’s minority vote while he lost the white working class vote by 10 points. The rest of America’s key battleground states followed a similar pattern. Basically, political divisions were synonymous with demographic ones.

Four years later, the Obama campaign derives its main strength from ethno-centric groups. As New York Times writer Thomas Edsall noted in his revealing editorial “The New Obama Coalition,” Democrats have given up on the white working class vote. Obama’s coalition now consists overwhelmingly of blacks and Latinos with a sprinkling of socially-liberal, self-described “progressive” whites. And, despite Obama’s alleged determination to tax the wealthiest among us, the super-rich that live remote from the realities of everyday life in America are likely to be some of Obama’s most ardent supporters come election night.

To achieve victory Obama will stay on message. He will depict the poor as victimized by the rich in a fantasy land where for every one American to be rich millions more must be poor. Obama’s divisive narrative is catching fire in American cities, where pugnacious radicals like Cornel West are urging protesters and paupers to fight for their “entitlements” in the streets.

Obama’s program for victory in 2012 is pretty clear, as are the dividing lines between left and right. The left essentially advocates more of the same, supporting bigger government, amnesty, and higher taxes to redistribute wealth. On the right, the Tea Party continues to set the agenda, demanding less government, reduced Federal spending, tougher border controls and immigration laws, and lower taxes.

As sharp as these political divides are the groups coalescing on either side are perhaps even starker. Minority groups backing the Left are not just racially distinct from their opponents on the right; they are also economically divergent. Obama’s coalition of Latinos and blacks is heavily dependent on government. Tough economic times have hit these groups the hardest. While white un-employment is still under 10 percent, blacks and Latinos experience unemployment rates approaching 20 percent, and higher among youths. Even after years of redistribution, many in these groups regard unemployment insurance, food stamps, and countless other federal programs as the only lifelines keeping them afloat.

The only good news is that both sides are united in their aim to fix America’s broken economy, something indispensable to softening these festering divisions. But they are diametrically opposed about how to do it, and so are the voters they represent.

It would be a stretch to declare the 2012 election a contest between socialism and capitalism, but not much of a stretch. Obama and the progressives who support him are committed to the radical agenda of the 1960s embodied in the confused and extremist views expressed by the Occupy Wall Street crowd. The New Right has already begun its surge, merging into the pro-market and rabidly anti-government Tea Party Movement.

Meanwhile, race looms uncomfortably beneath the surface with 2012 likely to be much more racially divided than 2008. Obama’s electrifying presidential run in 2008 is transforming into a tinder box of economic, cultural and racial conflict. He’s betting that America will succumb to ethnic tribalism at the ballot box, a dangerous tactic that could take America down a potentially destructive path of no return. But if demography is destiny, the Obama team’s agenda of amnesty and redistribution could well prevail. Demographic changes are dramatically changing America’s political landscape, but if Obama’s politics are any indicator they may also destroy it.


Cameron Macgregor is a former Naval Officer and US Naval Academy graduate. He is writing his first book The New American Nationalism.

To Rebuild America Understand its Decline

To Rebuild America Understand its Decline
By Cameron Macgregor

Talk of American decline is widespread. High employment numbers, wild fluctuations in the stock market, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the S&P downgrade of US treasury bonds are all cited as evidence of our weakening power. This matched with America’s waning influence overseas prompts many to ask what a post-American world will look like. But few are asking why?

It seems people are either missing or perhaps afraid to address the central reasons for our decline, an awareness that is critical to rebuilding America’s prosperity and restoring its greatness. In fact, three pivotal ideas are primarily responsible for the decline in American prosperity and power.

The first and perhaps, the most destructive idea is multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an outgrowth of the 1960s, an idea designed to help alleviate deep-rooted racial divisions. However, over time, multiculturalism evolved into something far more powerful than repealing segregation laws and destroying unfair racial boundaries. Eventually, multiculturalism symbolized a new American society, a “community of communities.” Multiculturalism rejected the idea that America is a nation that speaks one language, and it refuted the Western values that inspired the Republic and the free market that created our prosperity.

The results are disastrous. A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center on rising wealth gaps in America paints a bleak picture. The economic gap between whites and the rest of the population is the largest in 30 years. From 2005-2009 black and Hispanic wealth fell by over 50%, while white wealth fell just 16%. The white population is nearly 20 times wealthier than blacks and Hispanics. The Pew Research Center unveils an America society that is increasingly bifurcated – a division that is not simply economic but cultural.

America’s cultural divides run parallel to its economic ones. Essentially America increasingly has a first world population and a third world population. The values, social orientation, and community participation of these populations are fundamentally different and in some cases conflicting. Adding to these divisions are the millions upon millions of illegal immigrant populations who frequently don’t speak English, live in balkanized neighborhoods or, effectively, countries within countries.

The second idea is big government. Before the Great Depression government on every level local, state and federal was a tiny fraction of what it is today. Today, government accounts for nearly 25% of GDP, an astronomical number. Government administers education, provides health-care for the poor and the elderly, is responsible for the retirement of 300 million people, regulates everything from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, and manages (or mismanages) countless federal bureaucracies, redistributive programs, contracts, and defense.

One of the many wondrous things that struck De Tocqueville when he came to the United States in the 1830s was the invisibility of American government. For this reason he appropriately said that in America “the state governs but does not administer.” Today, it does the opposite. Thomas Hobbes’ would be immensely proud of the size, power and intrusiveness of America’s “Leviathan.”

During the infamous battle over the debt ceiling, fear of default terrorized the nation. Obama promised doomsday if the Tea Party refused to be “reasonable” and continue enabling more spending. But few outside the Tea Party are alarmed that America has become a nation systemically dependent on big government, a tyranny Jefferson dreaded and Madison hoped to prevent.

The third bad idea is empire. It’s true, today America has nearly a thousand bases in over a hundred countries around the world – no matter how you spin it we are an empire. We maintain troops in central Europe and continue to occupy Japan while we wage wars in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq for reasons no one really understands and seldom bothers to find out. Of course, the president usually executes these wars without consulting congress, an irritant most presidents usually avoid.

In addition to commanding forces around the world American policymakers and our institutions play God with the internal affairs of other nations. We pick winners and losers, and usually end up creating enemies instead of friends. America’s meddling in the affairs of others is so extreme that during a February “Jasmine” protest in China the conspicuous presence of a US diplomat – one John Huntsman – led Chinese citizens and government officials to believe that Huntsman was secretly engineering the protests to instigate chaos in Beijing.

One might say that America’s empire exists more from circumstance than intent. That may have been true during the Cold War, but it would be hard to defend that position now. It has more to do with what diplomat George Kennan referred to as “national narcissism.” Kennan was right when he said that American foreign policy was more focused on reinforcing positive images Americans had of themselves than national interests. Americans believe that America, like its Navy, is a “global force for good.”

Yes, the divisiveness of multiculturalism, dependency on big government, and the wasteful cost of empire have finally caught up with us. To recover, rebuild, and re-unify the nation these ideas must be refuted and expunged from the institutions, policies, and especially the psyche of the American people where it has done the most damage.

The reasons for US decline are less policies or political parties than the ideas that animate them. Ideas possess an endurance that far exceeds the imprint of any president or congressional policy. We must stop fighting unnecessary wars, perverting American culture and values, and growing the size of government. Revisiting American history should give us hope because it is not our country that is failing but the perverse ideas that have defiled it.

Cameron Macgregor is a former naval officer and US Naval Academy graduate. He is writing his first book, The New American Nationalism.

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