- By Bill Bonner
Walking along the Port Royal we came across the statue of a dashing soldier. Sword in hand, he was leading the charge - on foot. Confident. Handsome. Audacious. And there, on the pedestal of the statue was a list of all the battles and campaigns in which he participated.
It's a good thing his own people shot him when they did, otherwise there would not have been space to list all his battles. Neerwinden, Mainz, Neuwied, Winterthur, Hohenlinden - he had faced the enemy at least a dozen times, and was wounded three times, and the Napoleonic Wars hadn't even started yet. Twelve years, and a hundred battles later, at Waterloo, he had five horses shot from under him.
Marshal Michel Ney - now there was a soldier! There was a hero!
Tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of Waterloo - one of the great battles of European history. Today, we continue our look at war.
Before we begin, we pause to note that the Dow closed down yesterday 107 points. And here we give a prediction (not to be taken too seriously): the stock market will dilly-dally all summer...while trending down. Then, when the leaves turn and the sweet smell of death is in the air, it will crash.
If and when it happens, please remember that we warned you. Otherwise, do us the favor of forgetting we ever mentioned it.
But let us turn away from the gods of money and fraudulent conveyance; let us turn to Mars - the god of war.
In our DNA appears to be the desire for organized combat. Whence did it come? We don't know. But it seems likely that tribes of proto-humans had to be able to compete - violently on occasion. Those that lacked an instinct or talent for combat were probably wiped out by those that didn't. And so, we arrive in the 21st century, programmed for pre-historic warfare; ready to fight off the invader. We expect our young men to be willing and able to enter the battle; one who shirks is regarded as a coward.
Today, the martial instinct seems unnecessary. Tennessee, for example, has only been invaded once - and then it was by troops of the United States of America under Abraham Lincoln.
But people have the wrong idea about war. They think war is an instrument of foreign policy and should be used rationally - like a tool -- and conducted scientifically. But that is like saying that sex is an instrument of procreation. In fact, it is an end in itself - full of mystery and majesty all its own.
Since WWII, however, America's wars have been disgraceful. In Vietnam, the US promised to bomb peasants 'back to the Stone Age.' Instead, the 'gooks' kicked our butts. Thereafter, the warmongers targeted smaller, more defenseless enemies. Grenada, Honduras, Panama -- none were in a position to resist. And without a worthy enemy, the whole show is shameful and embarrassing. The heroes are phony and war is nothing more than a grab for more money and power by the elite who start them.
And now, we are once again bumbling around in the Muslim world, nearly 1,000 years after Louis IX. Saint Louis at least faced a real, competent army. Our opponents are amateurs, with no real professional training. Often, you hardly have to shoot them; they blow themselves up. They have little government backing, and only the weapons they have gotten from us. Yes, our war industries have hit the jackpot; they supply both sides. At huge expense, the US gives tanks, guns, and thousands of Humvees to its lackeys...who run away from the fight, leaving their weapons to the enemy. Then, US suppliers get new orders for more weapons.
Our enemy-du-jour, ISIL, was only invented a few months ago. It is so new that we don't know what to call it - ISI, ISIS, ISIL...who knows? As for its military capability, it is an ad-hoc group whose strategies and tactics are little more than improvisation.
Still, wouldn't it be a treat to see David Petraeus - who betrayed national security by giving vital documents to his mistress -- redeem himself by leading a charge against ISIL? He could ride a tank...waving a sword to direct fire...encouraging his men forward in a dramatic sweep to victory. It would be even better if he manage a wound...perhaps a patch over his left eye, like Moshe Dayan.
But rather than face its new enemies in the field, the US tries to assassinate the leaders. In today's news, for example, there is a report that a key Al Qaeda chief has been murdered. This strategy has the benefit of not putting US troops in the line of fire - especially when operations are carried out by drones. But it is obviously futile. It is more or less the same barren approach used to fight the drug trade in Colombia. The leaders were targeted - notably, Pablo Escobar. But taking out the leaders was like cutting down big, old trees - it allowed the sunlight to shine down on dozens of saplings. After Escobar was gunned down, for example, competition in the drug business increased, along with supplies of cocaine on the streets of the US.
Getting rid of the old guard merely gives the new guard - with more energy, new ideas, and innovative methods - a chance to flourish. That is how ISIL came into being; US forces first took out Saddam Hussein and his Baathist party members. Then, they assassinated Al Qaeda's leadership too. What was left -- the young turks who had learned, evolved and mutated into a more dangerous enemy.
You can best appreciate the dumbness of targeting leaders simply imagining what it would do in the US. Suppose some enemy was able to take out the President, his cabinet, and the entire US congress. Would that be a bad thing? Except for those few directly affected, it would probably not reduce the happiness or wealth of anyone. New leaders would take over. It is hard to believe they would be worse.
More on Waterloo...Marshal Ney...and war...tomorrow.
Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.