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They Said It… With Patrick Cockburn, Jimmy Kimmel, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Lew RockwellTHE THREE BRANCHES OF GOV’T: “The Arizona government will now force all students in government schools to pass a government civics test. One proponent complained that students couldn’t name the 3 branches of government, which is shocking because it’s so obvious: CIA, Pentagon, NSA.” — Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Civics: All Hail Government,” LewRockwell.com blog, January 16, 2015.

BLOWBACK FROM THE BLOWBACK: “Interior and justice ministers from Europe and the U.S. gathered in Paris on Sunday, calling for increased Internet surveillance and stricter border security to counter attacks like the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper. … French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that ‘fundamental liberties’ would be still respected under increased surveillance measures.” — Voice of America News, January 11, 2015.

BIN LADEN’S VICTORY: “The most important victory of Osama bin Laden did not come on the day the 19 mainly Saudi hijackers took command of the planes, but in the months and years which followed as President Bush led the U.S. into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which American troops fought Muslims. As the U.S. resorted to rendition, the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, expanded security agencies and limited civil rights for its own people it delegitimised itself and acted as recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda and its clones. If bin Laden had been hiding in the attic of the White House giving instructions to those in the rest of the building he could not have devised a cocktail of measures more likely to aid his cause.” — journalist Patrick Cockburn, “Paris attacks: Don’t blame these atrocities on security failures,” The Independent, January 11, 2015.

OBAMA-SECURITY:
Jimmy Kimmel“President Obama is focused now on cyber security. He’s pushing for new laws to protect companies from hackers. And who better to do that than the people who brought us the Obamacare website? Not only couldn’t hackers get in, no one could penetrate it.” — Jimmy Kimmel, January 14, 2015.

“Intervene globally, lose freedom locally”

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Intervene globally, lose freedom locally.” — Robert Higgs.

I’ve long written about the importance of soundbites and pithy sayings in getting people to consider libertarian ideas.

I saw this phrase at the Facebook page of the great libertarian writer and scholar Robert Higgs this week, and I think it is brilliant.

In just five words Higgs sums up arguments that many people have written whole books about.

An interventionist foreign policy leads to many domestic evils, as the Founders realized. Among them:

  • “Blowback” when angry residents of other countries retaliate
  • Restrictions on freedom of the press
  • Repression of public dissent
  • Government surveillance and loss of privacy
  • Loss of other civil liberties
  • The militarization of local police
  • Restrictions on travel, both internally and abroad
  • Domestic political strife
  • Massive taxes and subsequent loss of economic opportunities
  • Higher prices for domestic goods and services
  • Interruption of trade
  • A poorer country, as economic resources are diverted to war
  • Destruction of families, as more soldiers are sent overseas to police the empire
  • Expansion of domestic political power to deal with the consequences of interventionism

…and so on. You can no doubt add more to this list.

Higgs’ wonderful and insightful little phrase contains all that. It reworks a familiar phrase — “Think globally, act locally” — into a powerful mind-opener and conversation starter. It gets your listeners thinking.

“Intervene globally, lose freedom locally.” I love it.

It’s a great addition to your collection of soundbites on liberty. Use it in conversations. Be prepared, of course, to expand on the topics it raises, including those I’ve listed.

Word Choice: Blowback — Foreign and Domestic

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, War by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Blowback” is a term that originated in the CIA in 1954. It originally referred to the unintended consequences of a covert foreign operation — consequences that are often suffered by the civilians of the nation whose government instigated the covert operation. This “blowback” may take the form of riots, demonstrations, hostage-taking, terrorist attacks, and similar hostile actions. The civilians on the receiving end of the blowback don’t realize that it was their own government’s secret activities that caused the anger and violence being directed against them.

Blowback is a term heard more and more when discussing foreign policy. And its definition is often expanded to include overt as well as covert foreign interventions that have negative consequences.

Ron Paul helped popularize the concept of blowback, as well as the word itself, during his GOP presidential campaign runs. For example, in the 2008 Republican presidential primary debates in South Carolina, he introduced it this way:

“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’ When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore [blowback], we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think… if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

Scholar Chalmers Johnson also popularized the term in an influential trilogy of books: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2005); and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006).

Johnson defines the term and tells about the operation that led the CIA to use it:

“’Blowback’ is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided ‘covert operation’ of the U.S. government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.”

Blowback is a useful word in describing the unintended, but often terrible,  consequences of foreign intervention.

But it is a very useful term for discussing domestic policy as well.

Just like foreign intervention, domestic government intervention has many unintended negative consequences. As the word “blowback” becomes a familiar, popular, colorful pejorative in foreign policy discussions, it is also beginning to be used to describe the unintended destructive consequences of domestic government activities.

Libertarians — who are very aware of the negative unintended consequences of government domestic policy — can use the word blowback to add power and color to our discussions of domestic issues.

Some examples:

“An increase in the minimum wage would lead to blowback in the form of the loss of hundreds of thousands of desperately needed entry level jobs. This blowback would hit the most vulnerable people in our economy: the low-paid, the unemployed, the under-educated, minorities, and the young.”

“Blowback from the War on Drugs includes crowded prisons and wasted law enforcement resources, overdoses from impure street drugs, the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis B and C from shared needles, drugs peddled to children, loss of fundamental Bill of Rights civil liberties, the enriching of violent criminal gangs, the funding of terrorism, drive-by shootings by warring drug gangs… and more.”

“The blowback from government welfare programs includes the break-up of families, multi-generational poverty, dependence on government, and a weakening of the vital role that voluntarily-funded charities play in our society.”

There are innumerable further possibilities.

Blowback is a powerful, provocative word that quickly and colorfully conveys a vital concept. Many people realize its significance in the foreign policy realm. Their ears will perk up, and they may reach new understanding, when you apply it to domestic policy as well.