Doing What Our Enemies Want

By Victor O'Reilly

September 9, 2006

© 2006 Victor O'Reilly.
Special to Defense and the National Interest

Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to do what your enemies want you to do. Nonetheless, we seem to be doing it.

Learned scholars have written a truly exhausting quantity of books and prestigious articles on Osama Bin Laden and his motley crew’s career objectives, and there have been TV, radio and other investigations galore.

Such is the price of fame, you might say, or you could try "infamy."

It is so much a matter of perspective. Truth to tell, in most Arab counties, the man has superstar status. Whether he is alive or dead no longer matters. The man is already a myth and the inspiration and focus of a terrorist franchise.

It is vital to understand that Osama takes the long view, so years, even decades if necessary, between spectacular, but primarily symbolic attacks is fine by him. Symbolic attacks do not exclude massive destruction – a nuclear event would be regarded with favor – but, even then, the primary purpose of such actions is to send the message that the U.S. is vulnerable, not the destruction in itself.

Within that conceptual framework, but much summarized, Osama’s game plan boils down to destabilizing this country psychologically, undermining the US economy, splitting away international support, and uniting the Arab world against us in a global jihad – whereupon we will be driven from all Arab lands and generally weakened though a mix of terrorism, our excessive and economically disastrous response to it, and the oil weapon.

The U.S., as we know it, will then wither and fade away and Native Americans will once again roam the plains – probably on horseback, given the price of gas these days.

You have got to admire the man’s ambition in addition to his screen presence. You have also got to admit that, with our help, he is getting results.

Osama knows he cannot defeat us in a head-to-head Donnybrook, and frankly why should he bother? So his focus is on playing with our collective heads with the objective of getting us to do most of his work for him. If shaken, prodded and poked effectively enough, his idea is that we shall, in effect, self – destruct. Our own actions will cause our downfall.

The irony is that the man could be right. Realize that he does not need to reduce the United States of America to a smoking hole in the ground, though that would be nice for him and the boys. He merely needs to weaken us sufficiently so that we are forced to accept that the U.S. global dominance game is no longer worth the candle if, indeed, we can still afford the candle.

He wants us to spend and borrow ourselves into a massive economic depression. He wants to destroy our credit. He wants to wreck our economy. He wants to bankrupt us.

Above all, he wants us to become weak where once we were strong.

Osama really, truly, and absolutely does not like us very much, but he seems to have a real understanding of how we think and operate.

The American economy is the largest in the world, but the grim reality is that it is not in good shape despite a reasonably good growth rate on paper. The unpleasant truth is that all that much touted growth is unfortunately substantially funded through debt.

But, we are not just living on borrowed time. Our economy has other flaws.

As economists like to say, "the fundamentals" are not sound, though how many good citizens get up in the morning and ponder "the fundamentals" is another matter. They are, so to speak, our economic entrails – normally invisible but rather important. They include things like our assets, prospects (education comes in here), how much we earn, how much we save, how much we have borrowed, how much we can rely on our friends, and so on.

This is all straightforward stuff for a household, and a nation is little different even though a nation’s economic fundamentals tend to be described in more obscure jargon (because otherwise why would we need economists?).

Let’s examine a few of these fundamentals.

First, I would recommend sitting down armed with an open mind, a glass of water and the legal (not that I’m judgmental) tranquilizer of your choice. This is grim stuff if you really think it through, which is the last thing President Bush and Congress seem to want you to do. They appear to operate on the principle that if you don’t look down you won’t realize that you have fallen off the cliff and are due to be smashed to pieces in gravity’s good time.

Fine for cartoons; positively does not work in real life. Tends towards the terminal.

Let us start with the fact that the US is spending more than it earns to the tune of $300 billion a year, and possibly a great deal more (Government figures tend to be squirrelly and we are actually borrowing more than twice that amount, which is alarming). Worse, this situation looks like continuing for the indefinite future with no more than lip service being paid to solving the problem. Another way of looking at that is to think in terms of having to borrow about a trillion dollars every couple of years on top of the many trillions of dollars you owe already (about $8.5 trillion, and climbing, if you are counting). Sooner or later something has got to give, you might say, and you would be absolutely right; and later is coming sooner than you may care to contemplate.

Katrina has certainly not helped though its costs are not the essence of the problem. When you are in debt to the extent of trillions of dollars already, what’s a couple of hundred billion more in borrowings? A billion is not perceived as real money by the politicians these days. A trillion dollars might be, though I would not bet on it. Congress has a thick hide when it comes to spending other people’s money. They also overlook the fact that if you borrow a trillion at a modest 5% (close to the rate we are paying at present – and interest rates have been a great deal higher) and don’t pay it back for ten years, you now owe $1.629 trillion and change. Compound interest is sneaky. It also makes wars financed through borrowings vastly more expensive than politicians like to admit. In fact right now, America’s Iraq enterprise, given that we won’t be able to repay our borrowings for decades, has already cost us over a trillion dollars, and may well cost us multiple trillions.

Although it’s true that nations tend to be able to borrow more money for longer periods than individuals, lending institutions still get nervous about countries too, because the fact is that countries do go bust (look at Argentina and work on through the alphabet)  – or else they pay you back in de-valued currency (look at most countries some time or another).

Either way, the lender is in deep doodoo, which is a swimming environment that no banker enjoys. And bankers hate swimming. Too much effort, and the downside is drowning. Bankers dislike effort even more than they abhor risk.

Nervous lenders tend to respond by demanding ever higher interest rates to offset the lending risk and then by – unpredictably  – refusing to lend entirely. They pick the time to shut off the tap and it is rarely structured for the debtor’s convenience.

High and ever increasing interest rates alone are prone to hit an economy with the delicacy of a tsunami. Since so much of the US economy is financed on credit, businesses will close, house and automobile sales will plummet, bankruptcies will soar and recession followed by depression will follow close behind. Standard stuff, really, but de-motivating if you are on the receiving end.

As to the “refusal to lend entirely” phase, you don’t even want to think about it. Reality will explain, or you can try lying on a busy railway line and thinking positive thoughts. Same difference.

Is this nightmare scenario automatic?

Not quite, but it is what tends to happen either when your bankers lose confidence in you and/or they have a political agenda that dictates that it might be a good thing to take you down a peg or two – or maybe do something much nastier.

Here we have to consider the fact that a disconcerting amount of American debt is held by such lenders as China, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia and various other Arab States, and an array of European institutions including those owned by the French and the Germans.

Some of those are a sobering bunch to be in hock to up to Old Baldy’s eyebrows. Others just have long memories and dislike being referred to as “Old Europe.” Either way, America’s propensity to overspend has put it into hock to some less than friendly loan sharks. It all adds up to a financial predicament that sounds as if it must have come from the pages of a thriller.

No such luck. We are talking about current reality here.

But surely massive borrowing and massive debt are not that serious if you are talking about an economy of the size of America’s? Our GDP is over $13 trillion. We are too big to go down.

That is what Goliath said before David started being anti-social, and look how that worked out.

Unfortunately, the situation is serious precisely because of the sheer scale of our borrowings (though other factors are involved also). In the finest American tradition of everything being bigger and better here, we have overspent and borrowed on a truly super-sized scale, and we are continuing to do so. But what is increasing the problem vastly is a growing feeling that America’s future prospects are suspect and that this country may be in trouble for a variety of fundamental reasons – there is that word again.

Another way of putting that in the language that makes lenders sweat is that America may be losing the ability to repay its debts. They, those foreigners we are in hock to, are losing confidence in us, and confidence is the magic word in the lending business. Mind you, being hated by our lenders does not help.

Still not persuaded! Well, let me throw some figures at you.

Growth economy or not, the national debt has increased by an average of $1.73 billion a day since September 30, 2004. Each citizen's share of this debt (and there are plenty of other debts such as state, corporate, mortgage, personal and so on ) is over $28,400. The total comes to $8,512,018,551,875.88 as of August 31 2006. It’s higher now and growing as you read down the page. Interest is a 24/7 business and it doesn’t even take a break on Thanksgiving. [Source: The U.S. National Debt Clock]

Those kind of numbers constitute a level of indebtedness one can scarcely feel relaxed about, even if one is the citizen of a superpower. Could it be that our interest rates alone are crippling us?

Perceptive thought. Interest payments on our National Debt this fiscal year look like amounting to some $336 billion, or thereabouts. If we were not borrowing, we could afford one major invasion and a Hurricane Katrina each and every year; and we could probably handle a pandemic too and double teachers’ pay. Interest rates can be a real pain.

Recall here that the shelf life of superpowers is dwindling. The Roman Empire lasted for a good proportion of a millennium and still took hundreds of years to fade away completely if you factor in the Byzantines. In contrast the Soviet Union lasted for about three quarters of a century and vanished in less than half a decade.

Fast forward a bit and superpowers may enter the famous Andy Warhol “Fifteen minutes of fame category.”

Now that last reference may be an exaggeration, but the point here is that America’s economic strength is far from guaranteed, especially if a significant portion of America’s much touted economic growth rate is based on borrowings – particularly if much of the borrowed money is used for unproductive purposes like increasing the size of the federal government and fighting a war, or a series of wars.

If you borrow you have got to add value in excess of the cost of the interest, or the whole business is the financial equivalent of putting a rope round your neck, an activity which is scarcely confidence inspiring.

But enough of the fact that every man, woman and child is being put ever increasingly into debt by the U.S. Government for no sound productive purposes. What else is keeping all these foreign Shylocks awake?

The loss of our manufacturing base and the balance of payments deficit are two good places to start from. We seem to be losing our ability to make things that Americans want, let alone foreigners. As a result, we have been importing more goods than we can sell abroad for about twenty-five years and now the whole business has reached crisis point. The gap between what we sold abroad last year and what we bought was a staggering $725.8 billion, and growing.

That's $725.8 billion, not a misprint. And you don’t want to know about the Chinese share of that loot, or what they are spending it on.

No, I do not think war with China is inevitable. But yes, they are a nuclear power. And, by the way, they seem to produce an extraordinary number of truly bright kids, the kind who excel at inventing things, so the day may come in the not too far distant future when they will outdo us technically. Reflect that Hong Kong, an economic power house in its own right, is now Chinese. Consider also that it is highly probable that Taiwan, an absolute bastion of research, may well go the same way.

What about American aircraft and American food? The world flies American and this country is known as the "Breadbasket of the World."

We live in changing times. The Europeans are now major rivals in the aircraft market and, as of very recently, the USA has become a net food importer. We have lost ground in just about every other field from textiles to computers to furniture. Further, the high quality manufacturing jobs that are being lost are being replaced, not infrequently, by lower paying jobs, or minimum wage jobs in such places as Wal-Mart. A not insignificant side effect of all this is that American manufacturing workers are being de-skilled. They are losing the ability to generate high value, through doing clever things, in favor of learning how to keep Wal-Mart shelves full of Chinese manufactured goods and peddling fast food. Then again, there are those who argue that we now have to have Chinese manufactured products because the average American worker cannot afford American ones or to eat much else than fast food (with disastrous health consequences).

Let me throw in a final insult: That ultimate symbol of the American will to succeed regardless of setbacks, Viagra, is made in Ireland, part of the European Union.

But Americans are the richest people in the world on a per capita basis!

Just about still true – we are losing ground – but the kicker is that American wealth is very unevenly distributed. That means that eighty percent of the U.S. population is, in fact, less well off than those perfidious Europeans; and those wretched Europeans get free medical, take six weeks of vacation a year, attend school and college courtesy of the state and receive both generous unemployment and retirement stipends. Total that lot up, and add in the fact that European infrastructure is generally kept in better shape, and that their state subsidized cultural life is thriving, and you may just experience an epiphany to the effect that the American Way of Life may not have all the answers.

Well, we Americans have always been extraordinarily good at re-inventing ourselves. We’ll just re-capitalize our economy and leap-frog over all these pesky foreigners. The U.S. has always been unsurpassed at raising capital and financing innovation.

Frankly, it will have to be foreign capital. You see the embarrassing fact is that the American public has practically stopped saving. Whereas those dreadful Europeans still save about ten percent of their incomes – more in places like Switzerland – the American savings rate has dropped like a stone over the last decade and now is close to zero. All those extra charges which both the governments corporations have sneaked in over the years have finally squeezed the American consumer to the point where there is no margin except that resulting from spiraling consumer credit card debt. But credit card debt has to be repaid, with interest  – another tsunami in the making, given the extraordinarily levels of American indebtedness in this, and other, areas. Let’s not forget mortgage debt, student loans, automobile loans and so on.

Up until 1999, U.S. households showed a surplus, but then the rot set in and, as of end 2003, the average level of debt per household – excluding mortgage debt, a very important qualification – was $18,700, not as much as the $28,000 plus the government has borrowed on our behalf, but still no small figure. And consider now that the government borrowing figure is per citizen. On that basis a family of two adults and two children, if you add household debt and government debt together, owes over $125,000 – excluding the mortgage; and, of course, it’s more by now.

Both the U.S. Government, and us U.S. citizens, have been living beyond our means for some years.

Unfortunately, I have not got close to explaining all the flaws and fault lines in the American economic model.Consider, for example, our complete absence of an energy policy in favor of depending upon imported oil; or our neglect of high speed rail or our infrastructure in general; or the appalling state of secondary education; or our dependence on foreigners in higher academia; or our shortage of scientists and engineers; or the fact that health costs are spiraling out of control.

That said, let’s get back to Bin Laden for a moment.

The man may hate America, but he is not a fool, and he certainly seems to know which buttons to press to get the U.S. Government to do much of his work for him.

Remember, his purpose is not to destroy the U.S. economy personally but to get us to do the heavy lifting for him. He is, so to speak, the Tom Sawyer of terrorists.

The Bin Laden targets were not chosen by accident. The World Trade Center was just about the ultimate symbol of America’s economic might and, of course, the Pentagon symbolizes U.S. military strength. The man was being deliberately provocative. That, in itself, should have given us pause for thought, but it didn’t. Instead we reacted just as he must have hoped and thus commenced spiraling into a level of debt which, particularly when combined with President Bush’s agenda  –  whatever that is at present  –  is unsustainable.

Bin Laden started with one extra advantage – a U.S. based ally which we rarely consider. One might think of this terrorist ally metaphorically in terms of a badly leaking stopcock which only had to be turned a little further for America’s financial resources to be drained, at a frighteningly rapid rate, into oblivion; or into the mountains of Afghanistan; or the sands of Iraq; or the bank accounts of oil rich nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

One might call that leaking stopcock, or terrorist ally, ‘The Defense Establishment’ – a convenient term for the alphabet stew of organizations from the Pentagon to the CIA involved in our National Security; and, regrettably assisted by Congress who have got into the bad habit of regarding the Defense Budget as, primarily, a vote buying mechanism whose details are far too complicated to understand. Most members of both the Senate and House just call it "pork."

The Defense Establishment was already operating on the basis of money being no object before Bin Laden’s set piece, so it was well primed, after 9/11, to run financially amok when presented with a valid excuse to justify its existence. Lest that seem too extreme a view, consider that the Pentagon can never balance its books or account for all its assets (to the great distress of the Comptroller General who is helpless to do much more than moan if neither Congress nor the Administration will act).

Consider that the Air Force was engaged in buying fewer and fewer aircraft for more and more money to fight an enemy which no longer existed. Consider that the Army was busy neglecting its fighting force to finance the purchase of armored vehicles which failed virtually all the originally stated requirements while also spending billions a year on a fighting system which was neither defined nor understood and whose deliverables receded ever into the uncertain mists of the future. Consider that the CIA and other intelligence services – somewhere between fifteen and seventeen according to how you count  –  despite being armed with a budget in excess of $40 billion (the exact figure is classified) were scarcely stellar in tracking Al Qaeda, albeit they excelled at PowerPoint; and the CIA Daily Presidential Briefings were very neatly bound.

This is not to decry the bravery and dedication of many individuals, or indeed the competence of various component parts of The Defense Establishment, but merely to make the point that the structure as a whole, when considered in terms of cost effectiveness and its truly massive misuse of the hard earned funds of American taxpayers, is no small threat to National Security in itself.

Destroying the U.S. financially in order to save it is not an attractive option – especially when that is precisely what your enemies want you to do. But that is what we are doing.

The fact that the Defense Establishment of the United States may be used against this great nation by an intelligent enemy is a hard concept to grasp at first, especially when Americans are so fiercely proud of their armed services, but if you imagine your family spending itself into bankruptcy to prevent the occasional intruder breaking in, you will get the general idea. We all want security, but not at an unlimited price.

You may also care to know that a very deliberate campaign of economic war was mounted by us (the good guys) against the Soviet Union during the declining years of that superpower – and it succeeded like a charm. Economic war works – which is why we truly do not want it used against us.

The point is not that we don’t need a Defense Establishment – of course we do – but that we need to focus much more closely on the results we are getting in relation to the expenditures.

Some would call that commonsense.

We also need to focus on the scale and scope of the threat and the capabilities of our enemies. Normally terrorists can do very little to a major power unless that power over-reacts. The trick is to keep one’s response restrained and specific. Hyping up the threat to the inconvenience of every citizen is counter-productive.

One of the objectives of our enemies is to distract us from such intelligent analysis and from subsequent balanced judgment. Terrorists hate fighting people who think, but they positively adore people who over-react. They want us to keep spending and to keep borrowing, and we seem to be only too happy to oblige them.

Frankly, that is not a good thing. In fact it is a very bad thing because winning in war is not just a matter of killing people and breaking things. Primarily, it is a matter of resolve and brainpower. We may have resolve – an issue open to debate these days – but it is highly questionable as to whether we are giving our little grey cells adequate exercise.

We started rather well when we assisted the Northern Alliance in evicting the Taliban from Afghanistan, but then made the mistake of giving ourselves too much credit and the Northern Alliance too little. Meanwhile, back at home, the Patriot Act was passed without being properly scrutinized or even read by Congress. The Patriot Act virtually guaranteed the harassment of thousands of entirely innocent Arab citizens and visitors and, as we now know, has resulted in very few successful prosecutions.

We were busy destroying freedoms in defense of freedom, a debatable strategy which was virtually guaranteed to generate more enemies that it detected. It is exceedingly unpleasant to be rousted from one’s home, then questioned and imprisoned by culturally ignorant law enforcement officers – especially when normal legal safeguards are ignored. Subsequently, history shows, such victims will either fight back or, at least, keep silent about what they know. Such behavior creates a sea for our enemies to swim in, as any student of terrorism should know.

This is not smart. It must have pleased Osama greatly. We were, as he must have expected, over-reacting. We became his allies in our own self-destruction.

We went seriously adrift when we effectively abandoned the Geneva Convention and set up indefinite internment for terrorist suspects in Guantanamo. The tragedy of 9/11 had resulted in widespread sympathy across the globe and gave us the moral high ground, something incredibly important in this kind of struggle. With the introduction of Gitmo, we started to lose it.

Then came the invasion of Iraq, a decidedly weak dictatorship by this stage in the game, at a time when Osama Bin Laden was still not captured and when much more serious threats were presented by both North Korea and Iran. And, by the way, here it is worthwhile pointing out that Iran has been the principle architect of terrorism against both us and our allies since 1979.  And just happens to be going nuclear.

Did someone get their geography a little in error here; perhaps confuse a couple of syllables?

Iran? Iraq? Did we hit the wrong place? One cannot but wonder.

Worse yet, the primary reasons given by the U.S. for invading Iraq – the elimination of weapons of mass destruction – proved to be specious.

Mind you, no one can argue that Saddam did not deserve to be removed (along with dozens of other unpleasant national rulers), but whether it had to be done in this way, almost entirely at the expense of the American economy, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars so far, is another matter entirely. It probably could have been done, if we had waited somewhat longer – until pigs started to fly – through the United Nations. Then again, perhaps a better strategy might have been to focus on strengthening the UN instead of eviscerating it.

Certainly the thoughtless and frequently brutal manner of our doing it has played into Osama’s hands. And the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq has opened the U.S. national debt stopcock completely to the extent that we are now hemorrhaging funds at such a rate that the prospects of dire economic consequences seem unpleasantly likely.

A further downside is that Iraq seems to be generating terrorists a great deal faster than we can either capture or kill them, or so says the CIA recently. Though would they know? It is hard to tell where our intelligence services are concerned. Clearly we need more intelligence on them.

The oil-rich Iranians, of course, are laughing. Not only have we neutralized one of their major enemies, and a neighbor at that, but we have then allowed them to infiltrate Shia Iraq to such an extent that the end result may well be a vastly expanded Iranian sphere of influence – or worse. And we should also be aware that the precipitate rise in the price of oil has increased still further their resources available for a further expansion of their already not inconsiderable military strength, with the nuclear option very much on the cards. Then let’s muse about the fact that the Iranians have considerable and growing missile expertise so will soon have a much longer nuclear reach than one might feel comfortable about contemplating. True, they seem unlikely to be able to hit the U.S. from Iran for some time, but they could make Iraqi, Saudi Arabian and Caucasus oil glow in the dark without excessive exertion.

Such actions, in whole or in part, would wreak havoc with the U.S. economy.

It would be hard to find a better example of The Law Of Unintended Consequences – or political idiocy.

The trouble with the neo-conservative strategy of grabbing Iraq, forcibly imposing U.S. friendly democracy on it and then expecting it to ripple all through the Middle East as if people were mindless dominoes, is that it assumes that their idea of how to live is the same as ours, and clearly it is not; and that we have near unlimited resources in both human and economic terms, which clearly we do not. And it also assumes that the Islamic world does not have the strength to hurt us badly. And we may be wrong on that too because strength is not just air power, sea power and land power, but includes economic power including control of such strategic resources such as oil, and the accumulated investments made from oil – such as their control of our debt. And then there is the nuclear wildcard.

As to our retaining the moral high ground – that sense of our cause being perceived as just (as was the case when we attacked Afghanistan in response to 9/11) – our ill thought-through, and worse planned, decision to occupy Iraq and then treat the inhabitants as hostile, carrying out mass raids and imprisoning and killing many, has destroyed that view, with Abu Ghraib being a disaster for us of such proportions that is likely our grandchildren will still be feeling the consequences.

Recall that ideologically driven terrorist campaigns have a tendency to last for decades. In fact, the most recent IRA campaign in Northern Ireland lasted for thirty years; and was only one of a series.

Think on the notion that we may have played no small part in creating the Iraqi insurgency through the ill judged use of force.

One has to ask whether the Bush Administration knows where it is going with all this. Instead of isolating Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and methodically tracking them down, or otherwise resolving the issues, we have created an extraordinarily expensive, yet unfocused, War on Terror, without even declaring war, as the Constitution dictates, that has delivered to Osama most of his initial objectives.

We have virtually united the Arab world against us, alienated much of the rest of the globe including traditional allies such as Turkey, seriously degraded our armed forces and their equipment, enabled China to become the fastest growing economy in the world – and this with plenty of money to re-arm – spawned a whole new rash of enemies, demonstrated that we may well be quite as bad as Osama has always claimed, destabilized the word’s leading oil producing region, caused the price of oil to shoot up to over $75 a barrel, initiated a budget deficit which looks like stretching into the indefinite future, put the dollar near imminent freefall, positioned interest rates to rise to catastrophic levels if we want to go on being able to keep our lenders satisfied, and ignored critical weaknesses from the decline of our manufacturing base to a deeply flawed educational system, to a vanishing savings rate, to a property bubble, to an unsustainable level of private credit card debt to an ever rising trade deficit of truly gargantuan proportions.

Many would argue that we have set ourselves up to be the victims of a perfect economic storm. Here we are not talking about a mild recession or a tight labor market but what Stephen Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, refers to as “economic Armageddon” – an experience which he thinks we have only a ten percent chance of avoiding (and that was before Katrina). He may be right or wrong as to the scale of what awaits the U.S. economy, but the balance of the evidence strongly supports the likelihood of some truly unpleasant economic times lying ahead.

It might be appropriate to comment that creating such a mess is quite an achievement for a little more than one presidential term, but the truth is that the U.S. leadership establishment as a whole has been extraordinarily unwilling to think beyond short term personal gain despite ever-growing evidence of the economic threat.

Congress has been particularly negligent. Not only have members of both parties had a tendency to vote for ever increasing military expenditures, with scant concern for either the details or the consequences, but they have nearly abandoned effective oversight, and the requirement for accountability, with hearings being more theatre than substance.

There seems to be something about uniformed generals, most of whose glittering medals have nothing to do with combat, that causes Armed Services Committees to go weak at the spine.

It seems a sad thing that the troops at the sharp end, the young men and women of our armed forces who are really putting their lives on the line, are being so betrayed. Their expectation, which they well deserve, is to return and live in a prosperous and growing America, not to suffer an economic meltdown.

Of course, nothing is certain in this current life except death and tax breaks for the rich and special interests – and the U.S. economy may turn out to be a veritable M1A1/2 Abrams tank, invulnerable to all normal threats – but the most probable outcome for an Administration that ignores all warnings, and marches its people off a cliff, is a hard and unpleasant landing for the Middle Class (which seems to encompass most of us these days, given that the phrase “Working Class’ seems to be out of favor). The rich, as they say, are a different country.

So much for the dreams of our warriors.

When Osama is finishing his hot cocoa at night to ward off the chill in his cave deep in Waziristan (I know these things), he drinks a final toast to the mindless momentum of the current Bush Administration and Congress, and offers up the words – not “Allah Akbar” as you might expect  –  but: “It’s your economy, stupid!”

Then he chuckles.

It might be wise for us to consider this fact. It may not quite be too late.

 Also by Victor O'Reilly:

Victor O'Reilly is a New York Times Best Selling author who, for over four decades, has both studied and experienced, at first hand, terrorism, counter-terrorism and the military world. He has advised both Congress and the Pentagon and is the author of two major reports: 'Stryker & the Reality of War,' and, 'Preventable Deaths.' An Anglo-Irishman, with a Masters (Economics, English & History) from Trinity College, Dublin, and the father of five children, he emigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and currently lives in Virginia. His web site is at  and his e-mail is   He has given numerous media interviews and was the keynote speaker at the U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Association in 2004.