Long range strategic innovation:
Globalization, the financial crisis, environmental planning, and getting out of Afghanistan
By Ray Reece / The Rag Blog / November 5, 2009
Call this a lesson in how to ensure your mail to the White House won’t be answered. The following proposal was originally drafted in response to a call for submissions on the Obama Transition Team website. That was back in December, after Obama’s election but before his inauguration. “President-elect Obama wants to hear from you,” said the website. “Send us your ideas for change.”
So we did — we being the motley band of scholars, activists and free-thinkers scattered worldwide who constitute the nucleus of the organization named below. Ten months later, we’re still waiting for a green light from the White House, or at least a form letter. We’re not twiddling our thumbs, though. We plan to have a website of our own online by the time Obama delivers his State of the Union address next year. Stay tuned.
Like hundreds of millions of other people around the world, I’m excited by the prospect of having Barack Obama in the White House. I’m a Texas journalist currently working in Italy and Hungary. I’m also a researcher and activist in several spheres of policy and politics, including energy-environment, urban and regional planning, transportation, and, to put it bluntly, the runaway train of globalization.
I have recently joined the board of a new organization of like-minded activists in the U.S. and Europe called the World Coalition for Local and Regional Self-Reliance. In future dispatches, if you are receptive, I will spell out the specific implications of that. For now I want mainly to advance a pair of policy suggestions that arise from the premises of our coalition.
One is based on our conviction that the current approach in Washington to resolving the so-called financial crisis and “getting America back on its feet” is grounded in faulty, obsolete reasoning that will cause it to fail and even be counterproductive in the long run.
We contend that the financial crisis is functionally intertwined with other national and planetary crises, led by global climate change, or GLOCCH, and Peak Oil, the imminent depletion of the fossil fuel resources on which the entire 21st century “global economy” is based. The financial crisis is likewise inextricably bound up with the hyper-suburbanization of American cities, the egregious loss of farmland and other productive capacity, and, yes, globalization and its evil twin, international terrorism.
The latter, we argue, is nothing more or less than a violent response by the oppressed of the world — oppressed culturally as well as economically — to those perceived as their oppressors, meaning, above all, the purveyors of economic and cultural globalization on Wall Street and elsewhere, in league with their national governments.
The banking crisis is thus not merely a symptom of lax regulation of financial markets and greedy investors in recent years. It is systemic in nature, and a systemic crisis requires a systemic response. The trillion-dollar stimulus package recently approved by Congress is not a systemic response, since it purports merely to restart the sputtering engine of the failed larger system itself. Rather, or perhaps we must now say in addition to the stimulus package, the whole matrix of primary socioeconomic assumptions and institutions in the United States — as a starting point and global model — must be examined, assessed and, over time, fundamentally changed.
Toward that end, as our first policy suggestion, we urge President Obama to establish and fold into his brain trust a new Office of Long-Range Strategic Policy Innovation. This would be the place in the White House where staff would be recruited to “think outside the box,” where vision, boldness and creativity would be prized over technical jargon and obeisance to America’s dying corporate mammoths and their powerful defenders in Washington. It is here that independent in-house thinkers, with appropriate input from real-world experts, would incubate the brave new concepts and paradigms the nation and world will need to survive and supercede not only the “financial crisis” but the web of corresponding metacrises mentioned above.
We dare to hope, indeed will strive to ensure, that among the big initiatives generated by a presidential Office of Policy Innovation would be the following:
- a greatly expanded and modernized national rail system for passengers and freight alike, similar to the European system;
- transformation of the urban/exurban population grid to a revised geography of small and mid-sized cities and towns that are largely autonomous and self-sufficient in the production of food, energy and other life-support resources;
- promotion of small organic family and community farms as the mainstay of American agriculture;
- at the macro level, encompassing all of the above and more, a liberation of human society from its self-defeating enslavement to the imperative of “growth” in favor of sustainability, sharing and reverence for the planet and its threatened wealth of species.
Our second policy suggestion would necessarily be implemented first, partly in order to redirect funds from the military budget to the crucial and expensive federal initiatives implied heretofore. We urge President Obama to make good on his promise to withdraw American military forces from Iraq. We further urge him NOT to nullify the positive effects of that decision by enlarging and prolonging the American-led NATO military presence in Afghanistan. Such a move, we believe, not only would not save Afghanistan from its own Islamic militants, nor strengthen the security of the U.S. and its allies.
It would have the opposite effect — in fact might well produce a catastrophe on the scale of the wars in Iraq and Vietnam — while diverting critical funds and other resources from the task of redesigning and rebuilding our own beleaguered society. To buttress our case, we refer you to a pair of recent articles in The New York Times, one a column by Bob Herbert, “The Afghan Quagmire,” the second an essay in the Times magazine, “The Worst Pakistan Nightmare for Obama,” by David E. Sanger.
Other references, to name but a few, include two books by James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency and World Made By Hand; Kunstler’s blog; E.F. Schumacher’s timeless classic, Small Is Beautiful; two books by Kirkpatrick Sale, Dwellers in the Land and Human Scale; Bill McKibben’s End of Nature; everything published by David Morris and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance; everything published by Pliny Fisk and Gail Vittori at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems; La Decrescita Felice by Maurizio Pallante and his website.
[Ray Reece is affiliated with the World Coalition for Local and Regional Self-Reliance. He is a former columnist for The Budapest Sun and author of The Sun Betrayed: A Report on the Corporate Seizure of U.S. Solar Energy Development, among other published works. His most recent book is Abigail in Gangland, a novel. He is currently based in Cagli, Italy.]
Here’s another guy with no experience in global affairs or actually running anything significant, with a prescription. LOL I wonder how many companies Ray has operated, how many divisions of government he has led, does he have any military experience or training? He seems eager to pontificate on such things.
A few points:
The ‘climate change’ he uses to justify his utopian society is losing coverts at a record pace. Seems the more we know and see, the less credible the issue becomes.
With regard to “Americas dying corporate mammoths” – only one is dying and that’s GM. They’re dying thanks to union extortion and arm twisting over decades that has made them uncompetetive. In the largest money grab in my lifetime, Obama has stolen the equity from all the bond investors and given it to the unions who created the problem in the first place. Now they want to pass healthcare reform that absolves the unions from their legacy healthcare responsibilities, shifting it to the taxpayer. This provides the unions with a windfall of all the escrow money required under pension and benefit regulation. What’s the next gift to the unions? Card check to crush democracy in union organizing and destroy personal privacy of dessenting workers.
Light/heavy rail is NOT the solution as our author claims. Perhaps he should study the failure of AMTRAC as they threw taxpayer dollars into a black hole.
Ray needs to learn more about the ‘vision’ of Islamic Fundementalists. If he thinks vacating Afghanistan is going to resolve terrorism, he has another think coming. Prior to our ‘straighting out’ this country, it was under an oppresive regime, who stifled personal freedoms, imposed a hard line state church and destroyed anyone or anything that disagreed with their beliefs. Afghanistan was a sanctuary and training ground for terrorists and a center for drug production. Been there – done that. What makes Ray believe it would be any different the next time the Taliban (students of religion) gain control.
An old timer I know would has a word for Ray’s utopian vision: HOGWASH!
Well said Dospesentas! Its nice to have another voice of reason on this blog. Climate change is nothing more than a shill for a government power grab and wealth redistribution. Your analysis of the corrupt union pandering in the GM and Chrysler cases was also spot on. I will however part company with you on Afghanistan.
I was happy to see our forces go in there and kill the heck out of the Taliban in 2002. The people and government there have had eight years to grasp the chance American treasure and lives provided to establish an effective government. They haven’t done so. In my opinion they never will.
When we leave, the Taliban will return and torture and kill anyone that disagrees with them, I say that is really too bad for the Afghan people, but they have only themselves to blame. More dead American soldiers will not change that outcome.
DHS; Thanks for the kind words.
I understand your point re. Afghanistan’s failure to get their act together. However the cost of failure is unacceptable. Pakistan’s new-found resolve to eradicate ‘Islamic Fundimentalists’ (IF) from their border/tribal regions offers an opportunity to put the IF forces away. We must ramp up our force strength and sieze this opportunity. The key to the Afgani ‘freedom fighter’ success against us (and the Soviets), was sanctuary in the Pakastani border regions. We have a window of opportunity to take them on from both sides. I hope we are coordinating our efforts and that Obama stops vacillating and listens to the men with the training, experience and on-the-ground knowledge (that he frankly doesn’t have).
Afghanistan was a drug production center, terrorist training center and sanctuary for terrorist activities. The Taliban IF ‘church/state’ government was repressive, hostile, ruthless and committed to ‘purifying’ the world to comport with their religous beliefs. It stood for everything most Americans stand aganst. We cannot afford to allow this country to slip back into this condition. If we do, we’ll have to deal with the issue at some point in the future – and at a greater cost. Like my old daddy used to say: “if you are going to do a job – do it right and finish it”
I also distain the ‘loser’ Vietnam mentality that likes to (over)use the term ‘quagmire’ and compare every military encounter to Vietnam. Afghanistan isn’t Vietnam and comparisons are flawed. North Vietnam had a country, operated with impunity, and most importantly; had serious support from Russia and China. The scale of our enemy in Vietnam was magnitudes greater than that in Afghanistan. The NVA/VietCong had good supply lines from the North. NONE of these things exist with the Taliban/IF. We also need to keep the perspective that there were six month periods in Vietnam that had higher American casualties than Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the past six years.
We can’t afford to come up short in this clash of cultures.
Don’t forget a good war against Iran, North Corea, the new commies in South America, the palestinian terrorists and their supporters Syria and Lybia , and probably some others
“We cannot afford to allow this country to slip back into this condition ” The Manifest Destiny take two, alive and well….God on our side and all this shit.. Long live to the Empire
“Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people is surrounded by “a world of enemies”, “one against all”, that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others. It claims its people to be unique, individual, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the very possibility of a common mankind long before it is used to destroy the humanity of man.”
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
“In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the right of others.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US president, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933
Here are the voices of reason.
Regarding the first comment by "dospesentas" above, directed at the author of the post, I'll take the trouble to inform him that I do have "military experience." I'm still an officer in the U.S. Army Retired Reserve. As for my "experience in global affairs," I spent four years in Hungary as a columnist for The Budapest Sun, and I have lived and worked as a
now you get people who actually think it is “commie/socialist/liberal” to build technologically advanced, efficient trains and cars.
You have it wrong. Its commie/socialist/liberal whe the government coordinates with unions and eco terrorists to decide what the best technology or efficiency is and manipulates the marketplace to enforce their views. (read Detroit Auto Industry, US rail industry)
Gotta open your eyes man, you missed the computer revolution brought to you by Intel/IBM/HP/Dell. Very few unions there, no eco terrorist deciding policy there. Seems like you also missed some nifty technology brought to you by NASA and Boeing. Where is the best medical technology produced? .. right here. Its a long list. Lesson is that innovation is reduced when unions and government beaurocrats are making decisions and thrives when the free market is driving decisions.
I like this article but..
Can someone tell me about Barack Obama..
I know that he is a serious candidate for ’08, but I would like to know where he stands on the issues. I checked his site but nowhere can I find the info. i am looking for.
so please tell me…