A nation can survive its fools, it is said — but not its traitors.
Yet we begin to suspect the opposite…
That is, a nation can survive its traitors — but not its fools.
That is because a nation’s fools infinitely outnumber a nation’s traitors.
Answer this question:
How many traitors roam within your range of acquaintances?
But how many fools roam within your range of acquaintances?
Being a fool is no crime of course.
We would be rotting behind the bars if it were. Much of the population would be with us.
But their legal status makes fools no less dangerous. And the damage they work often ranges beyond calculation.
A fool with a bad idea in his head is like a baby with a loaded gun in his hand…
Woodrow Wilson, Fool
Was Woodrow Wilson a traitor for meddling in a European civil war?
We would never suggest it.
He may have meant the best in the world. He wished to make the world safe for democracy — and by extension safe for America.
But was he a fool for hurling the nation into a European civil war?
The warring parties had nearly bled themselves white by 1917. Neither side could shatter the other.
They would have likely exhausted themselves, come to terms… and walked home, honors even.
“Never again!” they would have cried.
But Mr. Wilson dispatched the doughboys over there in 1917. It shifted the battletide against the kaiser.
And the allies “won.”
Yet the Versailles Treaty that closed the war to end all wars… spawned the peace to end all peace.
Mr. Wilson’s fool crusade did not make the world safe for democracy.
It rather made the world unsafe for democracy by making the world safe for fascism… and communism.
And WWI was “The Great War” until an even greater war broke loose 20 years later.
All Roads Lead Back to Wilson
Here our former colleague David Stockman hauls Wilson into the dock… and indicts him for every crime on the 20th century’s calendar:
Had Woodrow Wilson not misled America on a messianic crusade, the Great War would have ended in mutual exhaustion in 1917 and both sides would have gone home battered and bankrupt but no danger to the rest of mankind.
Indeed, absent Wilson’s crusade there would have been no allied victory, no punitive peace and no war reparations; nor would there have been a Leninist coup in Petrograd or Stalin’s barbaric regime.
Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazis, no Holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan and no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Nor would there have followed a Cold War with the Soviets or CIA-sponsored coups and assassinations in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil and Chile to name a few. Surely there would have been no CIA plot to assassinate Castro, or Russian missiles in Cuba or a crisis that took the world to the brink of annihilation.
There would have been no domino theory and no Vietnam slaughter, either.
Nor would we have had to come to the aid of the mujahedeen and train the future al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Likewise, there would have been no Khomeini-led Islamic revolution and no U.S. aid to enable Saddam’s gas attacks on Iranian boy soldiers in the 1980s.
Nor would there have been an American invasion of Arabia in 1991 to stop our former ally Saddam Hussein from looting the equally contemptible emir of Kuwait’s ill-gotten oil plunder — or, alas, the horrific 9/11 blowback a decade later.
Nor would we have been stuck with a $1 trillion Warfare State budget today.
Does David simplify events? Do we simplify events? Perhaps so.
A Fool, Not a Traitor
We do not propose an entirely quiet 20th century absent Mr. Wilson’s botchwork.
The world was — as it always is — to its neck with fools. And these fools would have certainly gotten themselves up to mischief.
Yet we believe the hottest hells of the 20th century would have been averted had Mr. Wilson sat wisely upon his hands in April 1917.
But it was not treason that sent Mr. Wilson stumbling into Europe’s war… and the world subsequently into the 20th century’s hells.
It was foolishness.
Of course Wilson was not the only fool to ever sit down at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.…
Never Fight a Ground War in Asia
Never fight a ground war in Asia, warned Douglas MacArthur. This was the counsel of a fellow who had fought two.
But fool Lyndon Baines Johnson soon had the United States fighting a ground war in Asia.
Eventually it came straggling home, bandaged, beaten, broken.
58,000 of its sons came home flat.
Was Johnson a traitor? It has never been suggested, to our knowledge.
But a fool?
This time the “domino theory” was the fool idea that fetched an American president…
But old Gen. MacArthur — no pacifist — toppled the domino theory. “Ridiculous,” he labelled it.
Furl the calendar back to April 1961…
MacArthur had met freshly minted president John Kennedy at New York’s Waldorf Astoria.
MacArthur, said Kennedy aide Kenneth O’Donnell:
Implored the president to avoid a U.S. military buildup in Vietnam, or any other part of the Asian mainland, because he felt that the domino theory was ridiculous in a nuclear age.
MacArthur instead advised the youthful president to battle communism with America’s greatest weapon — its economy.
A free economy would triumph ultimately over a communist economy.
But the youthful president would forever remain the youthful president.
Kennedy vastly respected MacArthur’s experience.
Would he have taken aboard the advice… brought home the advisers he had dispatched to Vietnam… and quit the country without further escalation?
We will never know.
The fool idea won the day… and America lost its way.
Combining Two Fool Ideas
A half century later another fool idea was loose in the White House, lodged between the ears of President George Walker Bush.
And the United States once again shooed aside MacArthur’s advice against Asian ground wars.
Only this ground war was not in southeast Asia — but southwest Asia.
The United States combined a variation of Wilson’s fool idea… with the fool idea of a reverse domino theory.
It would not make the world safe for democracy — but the Middle East safe for democracy.
It would begin by making Iraq a democracy, an America on the Euphrates.
Saddam Hussein would go out and Thomas Jefferson would come in.
Iraq would then become the initial democratic domino that proceeded to topple — one after the other — the region’s autocratic tyrannies.
But what happens when you combine one fool idea with another fool idea?
Could there be any doubt?
The Greatest Blunder in the History of United States Foreign Policy
Some have labelled Mr. Bush’s adventure the greatest blunder in the history of United States foreign policy.
Over 4,500 Americans perished attempting to transform Iraq into Kansas. Many thousands more were injured.
And this Asian ground war’s ultimate financial costs may near $2 trillion.
Like Messieurs Wilson and Johnson, Mr. Bush was no traitor — except perhaps a traitor to the good senses.
Yet he was a fool to believe he could transform the Middle East… if not a dunce.
Fools, Drunks and the United States of America
We only wonder what fool idea will next prevail.
War with China?
In the economic realm, perhaps Modern Monetary Theory? Or the Green New Deal?
We know only that the fools are busy. Principal among them are the fools of the Federal Reserve.
“God has a special providence for fools, [drunks] and the United States of America,” said Germany’s Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.
He has in the past. Yet will He always?
Managing editor, The Daily Reckoning