People talk about collapse like it’s a bad thing. The Department of Homeland Security flags the word collapse itself for surveillance. But collapse makes the world go round. Anyone trained as a technocrat can tell you it’s a simple matter of oscillation, damping and convergence — a spiderweb pattern on a phase diagram, neutral as can be. For anthropologists, it’s a process called cycling. They can make it happen in the simplest of toy worlds, with a tessellation automaton with stochastic conflicts. In fact, that’s the fun of the old board game Risk.
Catastrophe is just a kind of change, a quick transition to a new equilibrium — and didn’t America recently vote for change? The discontinuity that marks collapse is simply the point at which prevailing fallacies are reduced to absurdity by life. Yeats saw war and British dominion reduced to absurdity, and wrote The Second Coming to make sense of it. It strikes me as a very cheerful poem: the unborn sphinx, a precious little bundle of joy.
Collapse is the obverse of renewal. Gibbon’s magnum opus, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is equally the story of the rise of Europe in all its centripetal glory. At the close of Volume VI, modern Europe has taken shape. The collapse of the Soviet Warsaw Pact has freed several subject peoples. As nations unite, states naturally come and go. Peace requires self-determination, as the UN Charter tells us, and self-determination is advanced as states fail in gross or subtle ways. Sometimes a state loses its reason to exist, and deserves to collapse.
We in America have weathered the collapse of commercial and financial integrity, property rights, and government legitimacy in an orgy of elite looting. We’ve seen legal and Constitutional protections collapse in oligarchic repression. What of any value is left in our state? Life in America is already nasty and brutish, and short, by rich-world standards, at 78.3 years, a state of nature with institutional predators and human prey. The yammering fury of public discourse gets more insistent as it’s clearer that the centre cannot hold. Here in America, who will decide when it’s time to retire our failing state? And as state failures cascade and compound, how much suffering will result?
States fall apart in various ways but rights and rule of law limit the discomfort — at least in the civilized world. Developed countries can handle their fissiparous tendencies:
Scotland plans a referendum on independence in the Autumn of 2014. Consultation with the Scottish public has begun. A final referendum bill and implementation plan is to be in place by the end of the year. The Scottish parliament considers the referendum bill for planned passage in October, subject to royal assent. The English government is mounting a bureaucratic defense in depth, maneuvering behind the scenes to rig the options, to strip Scotland of its natural resources, and to cultivate support for the half-measure of home rule. Partly in reaction to that heavy hand, the Scottish majority now backs independence.
When the Velvet Revolution displaced a crumbling Soviet client state, trouble started early on. The first Slovak cause célèbre was a bid to drop the word socialist from the country’s name. Then the revolutionary Civic Forum tore itself apart, sidelining pinkos to form the Civic Democrats. Slovaks jibbed at the misery of the economic shock treatment imposed by Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus. Co-prime ministers and power sharing failed to heal the growing rifts. The majority Czech party turned down proposals for a looser union modeled on the Maastricht Treaty, and in July 1992, the Slovak National Council resolved:
We, the democratically elected Slovak National Council, solemnly declare that the thousand years’ struggle of the Slovak nation for independence (“self-standing”) has been fulfilled.
In this historical moment, we declare the natural right of the Slovak nation for self-determination, as embodied by all international agreements and treaties about the right of nations for self-determination.
Recognizing the right of nations for self-determination, we declare, that we also want to freely create the way and form of national and state life, while respecting the rights of everybody, all citizens, nations, national minorities, ethnic groups, and the democratic humanist legacy of Europe and the world.
By this declaration, the Slovak National Council declares sovereignty of the Slovak Republic as a basis for a sovereign state of the Slovak nation.
Concisely ticking all the boxes, self-determination, rights, and rule of law, the Slovaks broke away. The Czechs let them go. Klaus and his Slovak counterpart negotiated terms and in less than six months, Parliament dissolved the federal state.
The Slovaks have not lost their independent spirit. Just this February an anti-corruption protest drew 15,000 citizens who lobbed bananas, eggs, bottles, firecrackers and a flowerpot over the fence of their Presidential Palace. They are an inspiration to us all.
Quebeckers have been restive since at least 1837, when they rebelled as Lower Canada. In the 1960s Quebec spawned various independence movements encompassing a spectrum of tactics, from party politics and illegal nonviolence to violent rebellion. As proper leftists, they bombed the stock exchange, but rural rightists were on board too. They felt like Frantz Fanon was talking to them, and even if he wasn’t, Charles de Gaulle was, when he yelled, Vive le Québec libre! Technocratic dithering bought time.
In 1995, at the Royal Commission on the Future of Quebec, the Marxist-Leninists emptied the stands by proposing that Quebec declare its independence. The ensuing referendum barely kept Canada together. The movement seems to be in remission now, subsumed by recent immigrants and ambivalent indigenes.
When the end of Soviet-style multinational rule uncorked the immemorial hatreds of the Balkans, Slovenia saw what was coming and determined to get out. The Yugoslav government planned to assert control of Tito’s decentralized armed forces, but before it could happen the Slovenes secretly mobilized a home guard command structure. They got to work on a war plan and a Tienanmen-themed media strategy. In December of that year, 88 per cent of Slovenes voted to secede from Yugoslavia. The Slovene people were on their own — the US and its European satellites could see no point to self-determination, and for NATO, ethnic tensions promised exciting new threats to bomb.
When the Yugoslav People’s Army took over in Slovenia, they found that no soldiers reported to them: the chain of command now took its orders from the new Slovene capital, Ljubljana. The Slovenes sat their Yugoslav border guards down and tactfully put them out to pasture. A bewildered Yugoslav army invaded itself. The tentative Yugoslavian Blitzkrieg featured desertions, mass surrenders, and serendipitous mechanical breakdowns, and was aborted by the Serbs, who didn’t really care. Forty-four Yugoslavs and 18 Slovenes gave their lives.
Collapse is a continuum linking devolution, autonomy, secession, disintegration, internecine warfare, and forcible dismemberment. When the government is evil, it’s all good — that’s US foreign policy, in essence. America’s ruling class has helped most of the world dissolve its governments again and again. The US government showcased its foreign-interference skills in Greece, Italy, Iran, Guatemala, North Vietnam, Hungary, Laos, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Bolivia, and Uruguay. Also in Cambodia, Chile, Australia, Angola, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Panama.
Our government’s enthusiasm for therapeutic collapse runs afoul of international norms, particularly UN General Assembly A/RES/36/103: Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States.
The resolution points out that economic and political pressure tactics are subject to UN authority just as war is subject to UN authority, under Chapter VII. As required by the supreme law of our land, A/RES/36/103 limits national security policy to the two poles of self-defense or pacific settlement of disputes. The risky middle ground of graduated pressure requires the concurrence of the world, under UN rules.
UN Charter Article 39 reads:
The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Article 41 reads:
The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.
In the United States, economic or political sanctions without UN supervision are illegal under the supreme law of the land.
Yet the principle of non-interference, if applied, would paralyze US foreign policy. The US government would be lost without disruption, overthrow, armed intervention, subversion, occupation, destabilization, mercenaries, great-power confrontation, defamation, vilification, economic coercion, blockade, distortion of human rights, sabotage, or terror. The resolution rules out America’s favorite unilateral trick, use of transnational and multinational corporations as instruments of coercion. Our unilateral denial of the SWIFT banking network to Iran: illegal under US supreme law. US agents “striking at Egypt’s stability” with distorted selective claims of right: illegal, in the US as in Egypt.
When our Mideast puppet rulers began to collapse naturally, without us, the state’s urge to meddle swept away any notion of law. In Libya our government relied on traditional star-spangled carnage to topple the Libyan state, dispatching the CIA’s tame revolutionary, Khalifa Hifter. When routine interference failed, our government tried gun-running , direct reinforcements, and finally aerial bombardment in illegal support of civil war.
As soon as our government stubbed out its war in Libya, it lit another one in Syria. Again, our subversion conformed with American tradition. We dusted off Kermit Roosevelt’s old plan, with its paramilitary insurgents, assassinations, coup de main, and sabotage. Recognizing the growing importance of humanitarian law, our insurgents weaponized it, making up casualty numbers with whimsical abandon, posing executed soldiers in rubble as civilian victims of government bombardments. Our government fabricated crimes against humanity by cribbing old satellite photos, like term papers, right off the Internet.
But this time, when Uncle Sam offered to put the Syrian state out of its induced misery, the UN Charter tripped us up. Our government’s shaky grasp of the non-interference precept led Russia and China to cast unusual Security Council vetoes. Our great-power counterparts had been acting in accordance with UN reform principles, refraining from vetoes on votes involving human rights, but our fake atrocities and real slaughter were too much. Perhaps our Libyan mass-rape tall tale was the last straw. Like some greedy producer of action films who squeezes in one product placement too many, our spooks couldn’t resist the implausible propaganda flourish of Viagra as a rape aid.
Our government’s gotten away with it, so far. Libya’s a bestial bloodbath thanks to us. US proxies and paramilitaries are still gnawing like termites on Syrian society. Amateur revolutionaries in Congress are trying to cut Baluchistan loose from Pakistan. American bigwigs overtly support Kurdish terrorists in overthrowing the government of Iran, notwithstanding that’s a felony offense in the US.
There’s one slight adverse side-effect. Our spooks proved that you can topple a government anywhere — even here at home. Sauce for the Syrian or Libyan goose is sauce for the American gander. At some point a regional power or bloc will get tired of US spooks hiring traitors in their sovereign states, and decide to give our government a taste of its own medicine. After all, for every Ahmad Chalabi or Khalifa Hifter there must be a thousand dodgy Americans on the make, ready to fabricate intel, tug heartstrings, and organize resistance for the most treasonous designs. And why not? Everyone hates this government, patriots most of all. Public rage at pervasive state corruption and crime is barely contained by partisan divide-and-rule manipulation.
Caught red-handed throwing stones in front of its glass house, our police state is panicked to see its revolutionary social-justice weapons proliferating all the way back home. The National Defense Authorization Act is based on a world-view of a global state of siege with ubiquitous malefactors skulking behind every tree, striving to undermine and destroy America. The see-no-evil gumshoes of the FBI, having slept through the greatest financial crime in history, are mobilizing the public to combat terrorists including beauty terrorists, home-improvement terrorists, and body-art terrorists. The threat of accountability scares our government even more. The Defense Intelligence Agency fears “lone wolves” in its ranks, “radicalized” into complying with US supreme law such as the Geneva Conventions or Article 19. The security state is even afraid of its old soldiers.
But as the Beltway death merchants know, one man’s existential threat is another man’s booming market. So in the spirit of traditional American FREE MONEY! seminars and infomercials, let us ask: If you as a domestic subversive want a piece of that foreign belligerent funding and training, how should you go about knocking over your tottering American kleptocracy?
First, let’s dispel the major misconceptions. There’s a lot of unhelpful nostalgia for the imagined golden age of the American Revolution. Our patriotic brainwashing seems to take hold when we try to face totalitarian encroachments by our state. The resulting historical conceit can take the sophisticated formulation of Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who predicts that with one bad break, “…you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence.” Or it can take the form of rattlesnake flags and silly buckskin costumes.
In fact, there is no going back. The American State Papers are as much use to you as the Dead Sea scrolls. They do not apply any more. They cannot help you with the forcible overthrow of the Government of the United States. Our state has set its founding documents aside. Besides, you do not need a war of independence. Independence is the last thing you want.
The key is to avail yourself of John L. Hargrove’s “web of living law.” Just leap and it will catch you like an acrobat’s net. Customary and conventional international law aligns the world with your self-determination goals.
This approach is particularly effective when the ruling regime is shown to hold those norms in contempt. The disgraceful failure of our state is amply documented in reviews by independent institutions of international repute: the Committee Against Torture, the Human Rights Committee, and the Human Rights Council. International law exposes domestic legal cover for impermissible state conduct. The scrutiny of the international community can void totalitarian enabling acts such as the PATRIOT Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, exacting escalating costs in national prestige and diplomatic influence. The US government’s client states become less malleable. Non-aligned states and autonomous blocs gain the moral high ground.
When it’s time to abolish the government, your declaration writes itself. No need for a founding genius to think it up de novo – you can cut and paste from universally-accepted boilerplate grounded in customary and conventional international law. Not so stirring, perhaps, but just as revolutionary in effect: in current doctrine, sovereignty is responsibility. An irresponsible state has forfeited its sovereignty and has no reason to exist. The world can and must step in.
By design, a state has to screw up pretty badly to flunk its sovereignty test. It has to be guilty of particular crimes:
- Of war crimes (Check. Fallujah, and dereliction of Afghan human security in breach of Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention);
- Or genocide (Check. Cambodia, and attributable failure to prevent in Palestine);
- Or crimes against humanity (keeping the jackboot on the neck of the Gulf States while BP poisons them);
- Or ethnic cleansing (our government’s brutal cattle-drive response to Hurricane Katrina).
For a taste of modern emancipatory bumf, let’s slap together a pastiche of the World Summit Outcome Document; the UN Secretariat’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect; some foundational international law that subordinates national security to human security and rights; and just to make the old soldiers sniffle and salute, snippets of the Declaration of Independence.
Declaration of Interdependence
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for peoples to demand their birthright of peace, dignity, and a better life in larger freedom, customary and conventional law require that they demonstrate their sovereignty in reclaiming it from an overreaching state.
We hold these principles to be universal and binding on any sovereign American state: the United Nations Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to derogate core human rights and permit the most serious crimes, it is the urgent duty of nations and peoples to provide new guards for human security.
The Government of the United States (the State) has repudiated its duties under humanitarian law and human rights law. The State perpetuates an unlawful policy of official impunity with attacks on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court including threat of force. The State exploits human-rights treaty commitments as pretexts for aggression, and subverts concomitant domestic obligations with legislative obstruction and federalist neglect.
Respect for human rights is an essential element of responsible sovereignty. The State uses domestic law as a weapon against its population, abridging the peoples’ civil and political rights while conferring impunity on compliant elites. The judiciary refuses redress for violations of fundamental human rights, in breach of the supreme law of the land.
Failures of governance have imposed profound and deepening inequalities. Development has reversed, opening lasting fissures in the social and political fabric. Incapacitating social divisions and an exploitative doctrine of corporatist growth intensify contention for resources. State repression lets domestic tensions worsen with no peaceful resolution. Political leaders have made a deliberate and calculated choice to take advantage of social divisions and institutional failures, using sovereignty as a shield to inflict widespread and systematic violence with impunity. Political leaders and ruling factions suppress and subvert rights and rule of law with war propaganda and hate speech, indoctrinating the public at large along with critical actors in society including police, soldiers, the judiciary, and legislators. Our rulers undermine and attack self-correcting mechanisms that could discourage and derail the most serious crimes.
To prove this, let the facts be submitted for a candid world:
- Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 19 of the Convention: Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture – United States of America, CAT/C/USA/CO/2, 18 May 2006;
- Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America, Friday, 5 November 2010;
- Human Rights Committee, Eighty-seventh session, 10-28 July 2006, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant-United States of America, Concluding observations;
- Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 19 of the Convention: Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture – United States of America Fifth Periodic Report.2
In a mobilized military power with the privileges and unequal justice of permanent Security Council membership, this intensifying complex of repression and aggression constitutes a threat of paramount concern to the international community. The manifest failure of the state’s protective responsibilities have resulted in war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Accordingly, we the American peoples request international assistance and capacity building to avert still greater crimes and to restore human security.
We call for concerted international suasion, education, and assistance, reinforced by parallel and consistent diplomacy, including measures in conformity with UN Charter Article 41 or Rome Statute Article 13 (b). Those contemplating the incitement or perpetration of crimes and violations relating to the responsibility to protect must be made to understand both the costs of pursuing that path and the potential benefits of seeking peaceful reconciliation and development instead.
We call for dialogue, education and training on human rights and humanitarian law to inform national agendas for institutional reform. The international community must engage with the State and the public to support a culture of peace, and to realize the educational obligations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We call for international development assistance based on human rights as an alternative to exploitative regimes based on corporatist central planning, elite looting, trading in influence and abuse of function, coercive control of peoples’ natural wealth and resources, and private debt imposed for social control.
To curb our increasingly dangerous state, we the peoples of the United States urgently need external intervention to restore lost attributes of good governance: rule of law, a competent and independent judiciary, human rights, security sector reform, a robust civil society, an independent press, and a political culture that favors tolerance, dialogue and mobility. In a climate of violent state resistance to basic obligations, the international community must support civil society, assisting and protecting associations committed to human rights and rule of law.
The Government of the United States has compromised its sovereignty with domestic repression and crimes of concern to the international community. The peoples of America have lost control over their state, and cannot preserve peace and human security without the help of all the nations and the peoples of the world.
We, therefore, the assembled Representatives of the peoples of America do, solemnly publish and declare, that as Free and sovereign peoples, they have full Power to keep Peace, contract Alliances, protect human rights, and to carry out all other duties of sovereign states, subject to the free expression of the will of individual American electors in universal and equal suffrage. And for the support of this Declaration we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
It runs on a bit, in the gabby American way — it wouldn’t suit the taciturn Slovaks — but then the world might want to know exactly what to expect of American splittists or putschists, after the psychotic carnage of the country’s postwar history. If the wrong faction, or the wrong states, broke away leaving cooler heads behind, a spate of wars would surely ensue. Imagine Texas or Arizona breaking loose — or any state, led by the bloodthirsty nationalist ghouls of Harvard or Johns Hopkins. Nonetheless, things can’t go on this way, with the United States government as outsized as it is, and as murderous. The world knows this rogue state needs to be curbed or torn apart.
The thought has occurred to people here at home, and not just to crackpots and Dixie rednecks. Cold War statesman George F. Kennan daydreamed of breaking the US up. He worried that the USA’s huge scale would lead to overweening ambitions. He supported the affable insurgents of Sovereign Vermont. Near the end of his life Kennan wrote:
All power to Vermont in its effort to distinguish itself from the USA as a whole, and to pursue in its own way the cultivation of its own tradition.
Such are at present the dominating trends in the U.S. that I can see no other means of ultimate preservation of cultural and societal values that will be not only endangered but eventually destroyed in an endlessly prolonged association of the northern parts of New England with the remainder of what is now the U.S.A.
Needless to say, a declaration’s only the beginning. Vermont’s declaration got them nowhere. The next steps would depend on the government’s response. An ace hustler like Ahmad Chalabi would hold that detail back until he clinched the deal with foreign agents. To an entrepreneur of induced collapse, the declaration is just promotional material, a teaser for his limited-enrollment seminars in dismal chain hotels.
The seminars could be packed with practical tips for aspiring American Chalabis. The art of destabilizing police states is advancing at a rapid pace. The revolutionist’s body of knowledge incorporates US foreign-subversion practices. The world learned a lot ousting America’s Mideast puppets.
In response to state repression, modern subversives have a broadening spectrum of options. As part of its Iran strategy, the Brookings Institution devised a handy manual for toppling governments with popular revolutions, insurgencies, or coups. Traditional forcible-overthrow tricks continue to be refined. The Afghans and Iraqis are continually devising ingenious new ways to discourage illegal military occupation. The classics continue to inspire new generations and new ideas.
The US military funds destabilization research, producing weapons that deserve to proliferate at home and abroad. At the technical institute founded by Gilded-age oligarchs Carnegie and Mellon, scholars have devised CONSTRUCT-O to pinpoint the weaknesses of socio-technical systems. CONSTRUCT-O suggests that horizontal organizations like the Occupy movement are harder to destabilize than our increasingly autocratic state. CONSTRUCT-O can measure the frustration of America’s secret police when they attack non-hierarchical groups like Occupy. Our government’s fixation on its chain of command produces befuddled apparatchiks who scurry around dissident encampments demanding, “take me to your leader.” Heel-clicking government bureaucrats cannot see why you can’t decapitate an acephalous collective.
In the US, the state’s heavy reliance on debt peonage opens new possibilities for collective action. The debt-encumbered underclass has grown to become an overwhelming majority. Secured debt exceeds the value of pledged assets. Predatory lending now regulates access to human rights like health and education, and as these basic services deteriorate, the state permits increasingly coercive collection measures. Well-coordinated debt strikes could paralyze the economy as effectively as work stoppages once did. The government is determined to purge this approach from the institutions under its control, but collective action for debtors is bound to be integrated into nonviolent resistance.
All in all, it’s got boundless potential for Multi-Level Marketing: not just training subversives, but training trainers of subversives, and training trainers of trainers in infinite regress, like AMWAY with collapse instead of soap. Free Foreign Money for Regime Change! The entrepreneurial genius that gives America its weapons and prisons and wars could paralyze America for peace. Find a need and meet it, as the hucksters say, that’s the key to success. So for any threatened nation that wants to get America’s maniacal rogue state under control, a diverse selection of subversive elements can be reached through a network of dead drops and cutouts near you. Ask for Spitball, that’s my secret agent code name.
But there’s no guarantee. It doesn’t always work. Tibet and Western Morocco continue to languish in subjection. Sometimes you cannot effect rebirth, and freedom fighters fail, however greedy or grandiose or brave. Sometimes the repressive regime is too far gone for salutary collapse. In an irrational state lost to unchecked exploitation, renewal may be impossible.
In Palestine, freedom will play out with the grim futility of classical tragic κατάδεσμος, as a curse redounding through the generations. Despite press coverage of Palestine’s UN membership bid as a climactic contretemps, Palestine is a state – an occupied state under systematic genocidal attack, but a state nonetheless. The Palestinian state has gained recognition from more than two thirds of the UN member states. When the US quashed the formality of UN membership, UNESCO accepted Palestine as a state. Palestinians completed a National Plan, backed by the mediating Quartet countries, to build institutions ready for statehood — except for what the government of Israel could obstruct.
But in the grip of what the ancients called a curse, old victims are made mad, destroying new victims. When the State of Israel carpet-bombed its frontiers with poisoned uranium weapons 3, unfavorable winds sterilized Israel’s population. Now the nation’s in a spiral toward extinction. The state’s Moslem victims are holding their own for now, multiplying against a tide of monstrous birth defects and stillbirths, but if autonomy improves development and education, fertility will quickly drop below critical levels, as it has among Israeli Jews. Within a generation, peace will come to a depopulated waste.
The corrupt and brutal government of the United States lies between world-standard governance ideals and barbarism, on a continuum from the rights and rule of law of the civilized world down to outcast concentration camps like Israel or North Korea. America’s direction of movement is easy to discern: we’ve gone far beyond the civilized pale. The American peoples can no longer rein in their fanatical police state alone. For security and protection they must have recourse to the outside world. We don’t yet know if our predator state has passed the point of no return. It may be the world can only watch in horror.
- At this writing the Department of State has released its own report but no Committee review documentation. [↩]
- US report due November 19, 2011; at this writing the Department of State has released no documentation. [↩]
- Poisoned weapons are prohibited by Rome Statute Article 8 (2b) (xvii) and may constitute a crime against humanity [↩]