Beyond Young Men and Mayhem
So now it looks like the disappearing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 was hijacked or diverted, maybe by young Muslim extremists, and all the world is in a tizzy.
What is wrong with these young men that seem to want to tear the world down?
Nothing is wrong with them. The normal behavior of young men is mayhem. It is not remarkable that Al Qaeda and the Moslem Brotherhood have created a corps of terrorists and suicide bombers. The amazing thing is that so many young men in the world are boringly peaceable and productive.
Anyway, the young men committing the mayhem are not the problem.
Let us remember the time young men from Northwest Europe were the problem and were running all over the world creating mayhem. Leave aside Columbus and Pizarro and stout Cortez. Let's talk about the young piratical Brits sacking Nombre de Dios and Portobelo on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Again and Again.
There the Spanish were, peaceably transporting the silver and gold mined down in Peru across Panama for transit to Europe. In 1572 Francis Drake, slave trader, attacked them and sacked Nombre de Dios. In 1601 William Parker attached Portobelo and in 1668 Henry Morgan sacked Portobelo and Panama City on the Pacific. Morgan subsequently became governor of Jamaica. In 1739 Admiral Vernon attacked Portobelo and was made a national hero. And that's just the attacks on Panama!
The piratical young men weren't really the problem. The problem was the dream of empire in their elders.
Back in the really good old days young men were regularly employed on dawn raids on the neighboring village. It was bloody work and the death rate from violence back then is reckoned at 500 per 100,000 per year according to Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of our Nature, but the young men were willing to do it. Then came the dawn of agriculture and those dawn raiders got domesticated into peaceable plowmen with an annual violent death rate of 50 per 100,000.
Today we have tamed our young men even more. The annual violent death rate in the U.S. is down at about 5 per 100,000 among the young men operating power equipment, writing cool software, and starting radical new web-based businesses.
Really, the only time today's biddable young men get feisty is when some powerful man wants them that way: gang-bangers in the inner city, street protesters for some community organizer, Occupy activists to beat up on the 1%, soldiers in the armed forces.
So of course today's young Moslem men, encouraged by their elders, are racing towards the sound of the guns for the chance to explode a bomb in a crowd or take over a jet airplane. If Flight MH370 has indeed been hijacked and flown to a secret island or secret -stan airstrip, what could be more dangerous and exciting? Weren't Western boys' adventure stories all about that sort of thing?
The challenge for us is to look beyond the foreground of youthful mayhem to the strategic question. Is Islamic terrorism a strategic issue for us, one that requires an existential response, or is it a summer storm that will collapse into distant mutterings once evening turns into night?
Back in the 1940s to the 1980s the ruling class determined to contain the virus of global communism that threatened Europe and had infected the Third World. That amiable dunce Ronald Reagan deployed a three-part strategy to finish the job: first, a roaring economy; second, a defense buildup; third, a collapse in oil prices, courtesy of the Saudis, that devastated the Soviet economy.
In the early 2000s the old men of our educated ruling class decided against the war against terror and sent their angry young men out to say it was all a Republican lie.
After Obama's locust years we are going to have to look beyond the latest news of mayhem in the air or in Russia's near abroad and get serious about a proper strategy for America in the world. What are the threats and what are our goals? What do the old men want, and what shall be ask our young men to do?
For government always needs a war.
President Obama wants us to make war on each other. He wants to make war on conservative political groups, on global warming, on inequality. Forget all the foreign stuff.
Conservatives look for a different kind of mayhem. We'd like to unleash the young millennials to create economic mayhem with jobs, jobs, jobs to make America strong. And we'd like to unleash Harold Hamm and the frackers to create mayhem on global energy prices and make the Vlads and the mullahs of the world weak.
Which kind of war shall it be?
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism. Get his Road to the Middle Class.