Friday, November 6, 2015

No Exit, Part 2: Coups

Last time I tackled the question of exit, we talked about the feasibility of secession, and how I thought that scenario would play out (short version: not likely, because the government will use the courts to pre-emptively squelch any peaceful way of achieving it).

But the other exit possibility is to take over some other crummy country via a coup. How might that play out?

Let's ignore the question of the logistics of the coup itself. This is hard to judge - on the one hand, there are lots of possible basket case countries out there to target. But the leaders of those countries, even if their countries are ramshackle, will likely have a lot more manpower on the ground. Taking over from the outside is likely to be hard. Just ask Sir Mark Thatcher.

The more interesting question would be what happens afterwards if you actually succeed, and set up your reactionary state in some or other Godforsaken part of earth? Could such a state survive? Would the US let it?

Like in the case of secession, it's hard to tell, because there's no direct example to compare.  One has to go off various different responses to similar cases.

Given that one is presumably limited to taking over a basket case country, the first point to note, which may seem trivial, is that the political fallout from the US would probably vary greatly with the ethnicity of the host country.

Put simply, the west would simply not stand for a white unelected leader of an African country. Just ask Ian Smith or P W Botha. The West treated Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa with a hateful vitriol that they never quite mustered for the Soviets, and those places were still partly democratic. Unless you were able to immediately turn yourself into North Korea, mostly self-sufficient and able to threaten to bring the crazy,  you could expect the full fury of the US to destroy you as soon as they could.

Unelected whites ruling over blacks simply sets off too many slavery alarm bells. Of course, if pressed nobody would say that's it's actually morally preferable for unelected whites to rule over Hispanics, South-East Asians, or Pacific Islanders. But the modern world being what it is, I somehow doubt that a coup in Fiji or Honduras would trigger quite the same visceral response.

Even better, pick somewhere dysfunctional that's  full of vaguely white people (Belarus? Turkmenistan?), or have a person of the same skin color (and ideally the same nationality as well) to lead the coup. That would help neutralise the imperialism/racism angle. The world would still be pissed, but at least you'd take away their biggest propaganda card against you.

Would that be sufficient? Hard to say, but probably not. The State Department may not actually assert control over the entire planet, but they sure as hell don't like it when you do things without consulting them first.

My basis for thinking this is the response they had to a grimly hilarious story from last December where a bunch of Ghanaian-born US citizens decided to launch a coup against the dictator of that country.

Seriously, check out this great long report on it from the Guardian. It's amazing stuff. The whole thing is like something from a Steve Sailer content generator - invade the world, invite the world. There's even a bizarre government-funded diversity angle, as one of the main financial backers of the coup made his money through getting government grants to build "affordable housing" projects in mostly white areas of Texas.

Meanwhile, the main focus of the article is about a man called Njaga Jagne, about whom the Guardian can speak more freely since he died in the coup attempt. He was a US National Guard member who served in Iraq. Iraq, as you'll no doubt remember in between the never-ending reports about ISIS, was the US's way of bringing the glories of multiparty democracy to a ramshackle dictatorship in the Middle East, as part of the crucial 'Bombing Muslims for Freedom' campaign.

Well, unfortunately Njaga imbibed the democracy Kool-Aid a little more deeply than the powers that be wanted him to. Hey, if it's such a good thing to turn dictatorships into democracies, surely the US government would be happy if I did this myself, right? After all, they've already employed me to do this once.

Yeah, it turns out, not so much.

The first problem, it seems, was plotting the coup on Facebook. Good thinking! Nobody else could infiltrate that. Things went as well as you might expect when they turned up
He and Njaga went with the team that approached the front door, while Faal went with the team taking the rear. The plan was for Njaga to fire his M4 rifle once in the air as a signal to their Gambian collaborators. But when the shot went up, the guards out front instead opened fire on him.
Afterwards, the survivors came to the bitter conclusion that they had been betrayed. But by whom? They blamed Sanneh’s moles. Some also wondered why Faal had turned himself in so quickly. But Faal told me that when he was flown back to the US and told his story to FBI agents, they indicated they had been aware of the plot all along. He claims that without prompting, they held up a picture of Njie, and asked: “Is this Dave?”
In May, the Washington Post reported that the FBI had visited Sanneh at his home in Maryland prior to his departure, asking why he had purchased a plane ticket to Dakar. The agency alerted the State Department, the Post reported, which in turn “secretly tipped off” an unnamed west African country – generally presumed to be Senegal – in the hope that it would intercept Sanneh. The coup plotters suspect that the information instead ended up in Jammeh’s [the dictator's] hands. 
Huh! It's almost like the State Department doesn't like people engaging in freelance foreign policy.

Also, how dumb do you have to be that when you're being asked questions by the FBI about the purpose of your coup-related plane trip, you aren't able to piece together the possibility that something has gone wrong in the op-sec process?
Amid the frantic uncertainty, Sigga [Njaga's sister] called the US embassy in Banjul. “They were more focused on saying, ‘If your brother is involved, it was a crime,’” she said. 
You don't say.

Talk about some stone cold diplomacy - the dead guy's sister is on the phone, and you're focused on imparting the message that the Federal Government plans to indict his corpse.

It all seems quite reminiscent of the police response to the Texas secessionists - woe be to the people that threaten the hegemony of the US Federal Government.

When the US says that it's important that all the countries of the world become democratic, what they mean is that it's important that the US make them democratic, on the US's terms.

This is very different from, say, the Russians organising a referendum for the people of Donetsk in the Ukraine to vote if they'd like to become part of Russia. THAT kind of democracy is far more problematic.

And some random pissant US National Guardsman deciding to create democracy himself in Gambia? That, my friend, simply will not fly.

I quite enjoyed the Moldbug quip that:
[T]he phrase "international community" could be profitably replaced, in all contexts, by "State Department," without any change in meaning.
I once told this line to a friend of mine who actually works for State. He laughed and said it was mostly true, in the inimitable way of diplomats in private circles who are glad to have an excuse to partially acknowledge from the mouths of others things that it would be imprudent for them to note themselves.

The international community takes coups very seriously, citizen. So if you're going to plan one, you need to think not just about how to take over, but how to resist the full might of the US government once you do. There are no partially sovereign nations. Either you have the ability to tell the US government to go screw themselves, or you don't. It would serve you well beforehand to figure out which of the two categories you fall into.

It's the US Government's world. We just live in it.

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