Chapter 12 - How the present world is ruled. Print
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Chapter 12. How the world is ruled.

1. Axel Oxenstierna on rulers’ lack of wisdom.

2. Rule or manipulation?

3. Power, perspective and intelligence.

4. Three cases.

     A. Global economic warfare.

     B. The Israel Lobby.

     C. The importance of an individual.

5. The results or do rulers really rule?

     A. Economic warfare.

     B. The Israel Lobby.

6. The illusion of power.

1. Axel Oxenstierna on rulers’ lack of wisdom.

As a schoolboy in Sweden I learned the famous saying of our statesman Axel Oxenstierna some 350 years ago: “My son, if you knew with how little wisdom the world is ruled.” My hope is that the Capri Philosophical Park in an infinitesimal way might increase that little but much needed wisdom.

This count Oxenstierna lived between 1583 and 1654. In 1612, at the age of  29, he became “rikskansler”, that is the closest advisor to the king, Gustav II Adolf. As such he remained until the king was killed in the battle of Lützen in 1632. We are in the middle of the religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. It can be seen not only as the “Thirty Years War” but as a war that started with Luther in 1517 and didn’t end – if ever ? - until 1648, with the Peace of Westphalia 131 years later.  For 36 years Axel Oxenstierna, as an active participant, could observe the leading statesmen in it.

In a letter to his son he wrote the famous conclusion: “My son, if you knew with how little wisdom the world is ruled.”

Today the world is engaged in a war in West Asia. Its active part can be said to have started with the founding of Israel in 1948. Its today passive part can be drawn back in history to the European colonialism or to the Crusades or to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The active war has been going on for soon sixty years. Will this war, too, continue for 131 years?

Isn’t this another good example of Oxenstierna’s observation: “My son, if you knew………”

But let us be somewhat less philosophical and put another question to ourselves.

2. Rule or manipulation?

We use the word “rule” for what the “rulers” do. But are these people at the very top of our societies and Superbrains really “ruling”?  Are they not, much more, only manipulating? Or, even, only trying to manipulate? To what extent are they successful?

Dictators, tyrants and despots, are supposed to have power enough to rule their subjects. But in so doing, doesn’t history show that in one way or another, the subjects fight back and reality does in no way develop as the dictators wanted?

Cannot both Napoleon’s and the Bolshevik’s attempts to subdue Russia illustrate this thesis? Napoleon could force over half a million young Frenchmen to walk towards Moscow, which surely is an example of ruling over the masses. But he got very few of them back to Paris again, and that without the scalp of Moscow.

The Marxist Bolsheviks, infinitely more tyrannical than Napoleon, wanted to create a paradise with equality between all human beings in Russia. They ended up with an extremely unequal tyranny and heaps of corpses, infinitely bigger even than those of Vereschagin’s Apotheosis of War.

However much power these rulers had, they were not able to rule reality in conformity with their dreams.

With the help of “functional socialism” and reformism, social democrats, with less wild dreams, have to some extent succeeded in creating decent societies in northern Europe. Obeying some rules of democracy they have devoted themselves to small manipulations with rather good results.

At this very moment, the rulers of Europe are engaged in one of history’s most important manipulations, to substitute a peacefully united Europe for a few thousand years of internal warfare. They try to get rid of borders instead of enlarging and insisting on them. So far, they have been surprisingly successful.

 But for how long? That question carries us over to another:

3. Power, perspective and intelligence.

The shorter his perspective, the bigger is his power, an unintelligent ruler believes. The longer his perspective, the greater are the doubts of the intelligent one. But are rulers permitted to doubt what they do?

Intelligence, measured by IQ-tests, is by experts mostly defined as the capacity for abstract thinking. Rulers, who sometimes have more adrenalin than IQ, have a tendency to celebrate short term success.

The Bolsheviks were as happy after their takeover of power in Russia in 1917. As most Jews were after the creation of Israel in 1948. In the short run their success was seen as great, very great. But in the long ……???

The longer the perspective, the less seems any short-run human success. Somebody who is impressed by genetics knows that evolution doesn’t plan or design, it simply tinkers with trial and error. Doesn’t that seem to be true also for our social development, when we take the big and the long perspective? Are also our societies, we are tempted to ask, subject to some long-term biological determinism? Is human “ruling” nothing but trials that often end as errors. All our big dictators, kings, presidents, archbishops and Chief Executive Officers, are they only tinkering with reality?

4. Three cases.

Let me try to illustrate this suspicion with the help of three examples. The first is intended to show how extremely few individuals who can initiate global policies that in one way or another affect everybody on the globe. The second is chosen to demonstrate how a well organized group of people can have a great influence on those very few individuals who formally are our rulers. And the third wants to illustrate that any young person of good capacity might well have the ambition to help rule the world – or tinkering with it - as even one single individual may have an inordinately great influence on the decision making at the very top.

I will first present these three cases and the most likely intentions behind them. But when that is done, I will also discuss to what extent these intentions were or were not realized.

  1. Global economic warfare.

In late 1949 a decision was taken that directly influenced the behaviour of a considerable amount of foreign trade in the world and that indirectly might have had effects on every single individual living in it. It was taken by only a handful Americans in Washington, illustrating the tendencies towards concentrated global power, more than half a century ago.

This handful of men decided that no Western or other non-communist nation would be permitted to export anything to the Soviet Union, China or any other communist nation. They divided the world into two big lumps. Every single businessman in “our” lump was forbidden to export anything that “we” listed as forbidden to any nation in the other lump.

This was the essence of the American aggressive economic policy in the Cold War. It was the American response to the aggressive political and mental imperialism of international communism, then led by Stalin’s Soviet Union with Mao’s China just coming into the picture. This part of the Cold War has been surprisingly forgotten in most of the huge literature on that subject. Or, perhaps, it is not so surprising, considering the opportunism of grant-dependent academic workers.

In order to administrate this decision for an economic warfare, members of NATO founded a special organization with the most innocuous name of Cocom, meaning something so simple as the “coordinating committee”. This committee was secret. It was hidden in an appendix of the U:S. embassy in Paris. Its job was to decide which goods were to be forbidden for export from all non-communist nations to all communist ones.

There was some West European opposition to it. But we are now talking about a period only a few years after the Second World War. Poverty was still great both in Europe and elsewhere. The Marshall Plan aid was crucial for the rebuilding of Western Europe. To get full cooperation from reluctant nations, the United States threatened to withdraw both aid and trade of all sorts for those who broke the rules. It even made a number of laws about Trade with the Enemy and, especially for this problem, a “Battle Act” in 1951.

Businessmen who violated the rules were put on black lists or grey lists. American embassies in many nations had a special “economic defence officer” who was authorized to walk into any production unit in foreign nations that used patents or licences from the United States, where this secret official was authorized to check the obedience to the American rules.

As this policy was secret, the Western nations could not openly enact the necessary rules in their own nations. They were handled in various secret ways, for instance, by licensing requirements, giving export licenses to the just but not giving them to suspected sinners. Foreign exchange controls over all payments were also used for warfare purposes.

Some knowledge, but not very much, about this policy started to leak to the media towards the end of the 1950’s. In one way or another, this policy continued long after the fall of the Berlinn Wall.

The remnants of a parallel committee, called Chincom, the Chinese coordinating committee, is still creating quarrels between the United States and Europe about which arms can and cannot be exported to the still politically communist China.

This policy changed the flows of goods and capital in all nations, in both of the global lumps. Thus it can be argued that the indirect effects of the decision by a handful of individuals in Washington, if only in a marginal way, influenced not only those active in East-West trade, but also the living standard of almost every single person in the world.

About all this you can read in my fat book from 1968, called Western Economic Warfare 1947-1967 [i], still sometimes mentioned as a “classic”[ii]

B. The Israel Lobby.

My first example illustrates how few formally legitimated individuals around a president who actually rule the truly important decisions in the world. My second illustrates how informal but well organized groups of individuals, lobbies, can affect serious policy. As serious, for instance, as if the United States should go to war with Iraq or not.

As a result of ages of European pogroms and persecutions of  Jews in Europe, a considerable amount of them have moved to the United States. They are estimated to make up around two percent of the total U.S population.

“Foreign policy is always village policy” #### an American Congressman said a few years ago. Which is a very true observation.  With one important exception, the Jewish community. What is that?

Sergio Romano is the name of a man who might be characterized as the most influential ambassador of Italy in the post-war period. In 1992 he published an analysis of one of the most widely spread books during the interwar period. The Italian title is I falsi protocolli. il “complotto ebraico” dalla Russia di Nicola II ai giorni nostri, or The false protocols. The “Jewish complot” from Russia under Nicolai II until our days.

If you take away all the lies and rubbish about, and the references to Jews and their organizations, this Protocols of Zion the Weise gives a very interesting analysis of how ruthless power politics is done. As Sergio Romano points out already in the title, this is a falsification, done by the strongly anti-Semitic Russian Secret Police under Nicolai II.

This falsification, however, is not made out of thin air. It is based upon a book with the challenging title Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu ou la politque de Machiavel.  The author was Maurice Joly. But when the book appeared in 1865 it was anonymous. It gives a description of the ruthlessly cynical policy of Napoleon III, too honest to be good for the health of the author. Anybody who wants to understand how policy can be made by aggressive and cynical imperialist states should carefully study this book.

What here is of interest is that Sergio Romano, as any good European today, is very critical against any discrimination of the Jews. But he does have one reservation. To give justice to his reasoning, a long quote is justified, here in his own beautiful language:

 “…..gli ebrei sono un’aristocrazia metanazionale, consapevole del suo antico lignaggio nella storia dei popoli, orgogliosa della propria ‘primogenitura’ religiosa. Devoti o laici, bigotti o riformati, sionisti o fedeli cittadini del paese in cui vivono, ricchi o poveri, essi non possono e non debbono rinunciare alla loro nobiltà storica. Pretenderlo significa in realtà esigere la mutilazione della loro identità: un sacrificio che nessuno ha il diritto di chiedere. Né ha senso chidere agli ebrei, quando non siano sionisti, di scelgiere fra due patrie e dichiarare apertamente la loro lealtà, giacché le due patrie – quella di cui sono cittadini e quella storico-religiosa a cui appartengono per nascita e tradizione – sono incomparabili e non possono collocarsi su uno stesso piano.”[iii]

Note the reservation in the middle, with my italics. The excellent Italian ambassador has a reservation about his liberal standpoint when it comes to those who are “Zionists”.

The trouble is that after the creation of Israel, after the declaration of war against Israel by its neighbours, and after soon sixty years of continuous war and terrorism, a great many Jews, who well keep alive all their ugly memories, have turned Zionists. In a recent book the leading Jewish-American humanist, Harold Bloom, uses the Norwegian concept for a few “Jewish Quislings” of the Romans.[iv]  The risk is now rising that Jews who now live with a split loyalty between their two nations, - the one in which they are citizens and Israel – by growing groups will be considered potential Quislings.

This risk was in 2006 seriously enhanced by a study produced by two American professors, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.[v] Among much else, the two authors made it more than probable that the war with Iraq would not have been started, had it not been for the intense efforts of this media and intelligence dominating Israeli Lobby in the United States. That was one of the key conclusions by John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Wall of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, thus two sources which normally are considered extremely good.

This study gives a nice example, showing how a small but extremely active and goal-directed ethnic group, without any formal power or responsibility, successfully can manipulate those who are formally responsible for the policies of one nation to the presumed benefit of another nation. In the Quisling case of Norway, it was to the benefit of Germany, in this case of the United States, it was supposed to be to the benefit of Israel.

C. The importance of an individual.

We have now seen how few it is that formally take important decisions of our societies and how a well organized lobby in informal ways can affect their rulings. But can also a single individual, without any formal political role, get much power? Let us look upon David S. Addington.

In my favourite weekly, the cartoons of which provide me with a necessary weekly laugh in this dishonestly serious world, The New Yorker, you often find articles on individual behaviour of the sort that never enter the big scientific papers, such as Nature or Science.

One such article was Jane Mayer’s “The Hidden Power” of David S. Addington, “Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff and his longtime principal legal adviser”.[vi]

Legal adviser, please note! In no way politically chosen in elections.

The classical question behind the activities of this Addington is: does might make right or right might? It is an infinitely important question since ages ago.

The origin of our societies is surely, as Hobbes stressed, a chaos out of which the first societies grew thanks to some basic legal rules. No doubt, it was the strongest who, out of their might, created the first laws. But slowly, to avoid repetition of regicides, law came to be seen as something by which even the rulers were bound, an attitude that lay the foundation for what we call democracy and a bit of stability in society.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupt absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” is the famous conclusion by Lord Acton in 1887, having deeply observed history. What he observed was what I call the desire for being Number One, getting omnipotent power. That is the desire that since ten millennia drives history to minimize A/P, tending towards 1/oo, one through infinity.

This is also the insight behind Churchill’s famous dictum that “Democracy is the worst form of government except for of all those others that have been tried.”

Out of similar observations came the suggestions by Montesquieu for that division of power which, thanks God, is at the foundation of the American Constitution. Montesquieu suggested that power should be divided into at least three parts, the executive, the legislative and a controlling system of judicial interpretations by the Supreme Court to check if the actions of the two others conform to the demands of the Constitution. 

What we have observed during the latest years, in conformity with the A/P process, is an attempt by the executive system, by the President, inside the U.S., to appropriate power from Congress and to neglect, as much as possible, the Supreme Court. At the same time we have also observed strong tendencies to disregard the weak attempts to create an international law in the United Nations and elsewhere.

A clear attempt to justify such a process is to be found in a book by one of the leading American judges and political philosopher, Richard A. Posner, who even talks about the U.S. Constitution as a possible “suicide pact”.[vii]

How one single individual can have a considerable influence on such a process is what the article in the New Yorker on July 3rd 2006 well illustrates.

The name David comes from the great defender of the tribe of Israel, who defeated the much bigger and terribly strong Goliath, and whose name has been given to the Israel flag. In this case, David has some characteristics which are truly important for a young man wanting to make a career at the very top level by fighting legalistic weaklings.

He is hard working; for years, he goes around with the text of the American Constitution in his pocket and knows it almost by heart.

He is extremely loyal to his boss, in this case the vice President, a man who is considered to guide the President, more than the other way around.

He has studied all relevant legislation from Congress, permitting or forbidding the President to do this or that.

He knows all the cases in the Supreme Court which have some bearing on the actual situation, for or against some certain action.

He is an extremely good memoranda writer, collecting all good arguments for Presidential power as well as those against Congressional or judicial power, summarizing them in a most persuasive way.

Among formally equals, debating the text of the policy memos before they are sent to the highest level, he is both very skilled and very brutal; he doesn’t suffer fools easily.

There young lady or young man with serious ambitions, you do have a case showing that it is possible, also for a single individual to gain quite a bit of  power in the world. The top of the hierarchical pyramid of serious power is extremely small, rarely more than two dozen individuals, mainly men. But not knowing that, very few youngsters are ambitious, hard working, and intelligent enough even to try to come close to these formal rulers.

But, do observe, it ain’t impossible!

5. The results or do rulers really rule?                           

Now, let us briefly look at the results of these three cases. It is always difficult to judge the consequences of one specific element inside a heap of them, all more or less affecting the event studied. I love the old Rabbi who, when asked to judge the importance of the Exodus from Egypt, answered: “That my young man is much too early to judge!”

A. Economic warfare.

In my study of economic warfare and embargoes I found that they didn’t have any serious results, such as had been intended and hoped for by the 1949 handful of policy makers in the United States.

The top priority was to prevent the Soviet Union from getting nuclear weapons. Yet, Stalin exploded his first atom bomb rather quickly, in August 1949, four years after the Hiroshima bomb. And in the competition for the development of the hydrogen bomb, infinitely more destructive, Stalin had succeeded in shortening the time span to that of the U.S. to only ten months. The first American H-bomb exploded on November 1st 1952, the one shaped by Sakharov for Stalin, on August 12, 1953. In spite of all American embargo actions.

At the time when this economic warfare was truly active, in the 1950’s, statistics of Soviet economic development were a bit scaring to the West. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev promised that by 1970 the Soviet Union would have “caught up with and surpassed” the United States in economic power. And then came Sputnik, the worlds first space missile, showing that there were some truth behind the good figures.

The economic embargo policy didn’t seem to help the United States very much. Why? Because it had three difficulties and one nasty consequence.

The first difficulty was the impossibility to get the allies in NATO-Cocom to agree to what should and what shouldn’t be on the list of goods forbidden for export.

The second was the availability for the communist almost always to find smugglers, contrabandists, sympathisers, or simply greedy Western businessmen who for good profit broke also the rules that may have been jointly established by Cocom or Chincom.

The third was that such parts of the embargo that did function, and that did have some usually minor cost for the Soviet economy, rarely if ever seemed to have any decisive importance for the very basic policies of the Soviet leadership.

Combined, these three difficulties, which most likely have a general validity for all economic warfare policies, even those today, tended to make the Cocom embargo into a rather empty gesture or, as a college of  mine already in the 60’s formulated it: embargo policies tell the adversary that “I dislike what you are doing, but I can’t do anything about it!”

These conclusions have been reached also in later studies of a more general type; economic warfare doesn’t seem to be very efficient!

The American attempt to rule the world in this economic warfare also had one nasty consequence, the first wave of anti-American feelings around much also of the non-communist world.

By and large, this policy must simply be judged as a big failure!

B. The Israel Lobby.

Has the Israel bobby been successful with there activity behind the war against Iraq?  Remember the Rabbi I just quoted. It may be too learly to know. And we don’t know what would have happened if Saddam Hussein had continued his rule.

What we may conclude, however, is that for the United States this war has not only been a failure but a disaster.

The basic motive behind it, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, was not only not true, but evidence are heavy that this was a lie that was manufactured by those who wanted the war.[viii]

The trust in American leadership has been seriously eroded all around the world. The anti-American feelings are blooming, while Russia, still with lots of nuclear weapons, and China, with a ten times as old history and four times as many citizens as the U. S., slowly improves their global power positions.

Worst of all, the belief in the American democracy has taken an ugly turn. The torture crimes in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, the illegal imprisonment of people in Guantanamo, the shuffling around of suspected individuals a little everywhere, and the belief around the world that the American policy is ruled by a couple of extremely wealthy and extremely reckless oligarchic lobbies has eroded the belief in democracy and, tragically and dangerously, not only in the United States.

Of course, it can also be said, in early 2007, that Israel has gained quite a bit by this war in Iraq. Instead of  one strong enemy, using Israel as the external enemy justifying a ruthless policy to keep that much divided country together, Iraq is now in a bubbling civil war between religions, ethnic minorities, and greedy oil politicians. It has, at the moment, lost all capacity to attack Israel.

Who or what got the United States to enter this war will for long be unclear. But the allegations in the study of “The Israel Lobby” are such that many will, at least, use them to find a scapegoat. Now the showers of blame are heaped upon president Bush. But was he manipulated? And by whom? These questions will remain. And the Israel Lobby will be suspected. That such an intensive lobby activity by the American Jews may come to backfire, is the conclusion by one of the very best books on the politics in Europe since 1945, Tony Judt’s Postwar. At the end of that important book, he flatly warns of such a backlash.[ix]

The activities of too intensive lobby activity and one-sided propaganda may always backfire and create the opposite attitudes to those the propagandists intend.

What is clear, however, is that the United States under the Bush Jr. leadership, with or withour Jewish inspiration, has not been able to rule the world as it wished and hoped to do. Rather it has well illustrated the Axel Oxenstierna idea of with how little wisdom the world is ruled. 

in your own nation a generation ago? Can you even remember any vice president? Or any minister of foreign affairs except Kissinger? The only vice president who comes to my mind is that of  Nixon, Spiro Agnew.  One morning he came running into his Master’s office, panting, red in the face, and heavily upset. “What’s the matter?”, asked Nixon. “Oh, my house has burnt down tonight. My hole library is destroyed. And I hadn’t even coloured my second book!”

C. The Addington case.

To make a top career is possible for very ambitious, gifted and hard working young men. So much is clear. Even outside of formal positions of constitutional responsibility.

But when the American electorate tells the President that he shouldn’t listen too much to his Vice President, the top advisers of this one are bound to lose power. And possibly be drowning with him? A few days before Saddam was hanged I read an article in the International Herald Tribune, 28th Dec. 2006, with a vituperative attack on “Bush’s losing team”.  On Addington’s boss and problem, it was said that Cheney has not only been extremely powerful but also utterly destructive: “His near Vladimir Putin-like obsession with beefing up the power of the executive branch at the expense of Congress and the judiciary has undermined the checks and balances upon which the republic was founded. His……principle that if a country presents even the slightest suspicion of a threat it has to be whacked, has put the United States in great peril: Cheney’s manipulation of intelligence before the Iraq war is now legend.”

My question: If  President Bush is so utterly stupid as he now is presented, and if he let his advisers manipulate him, what responsibility carry those who manipulated the manipulators, those who are now attacking the manipulated the hardest? If it at all is possible to speak about responsibility – of guilt – is this a way of trying to escape it?

6. The illusion of power.

“Of his own country he used to say to his French associates: Imagine an atmosphere of opera-bouffe in which all the comic business of stage statesmen, brigands, etc., etc., all their farcical stealing, intriguing, and stabbing is done in dead earnest. It is screamingly funny, the blood flows all the time, and the actors believe themselves to be influencing the fate of the universe. Of course, government in general, any government anywhere, is a thing of exquisite comicality to a discerning mind; but really we Spanish-American do overstep the bounds. No man of ordinary intelligence can take part in the intrigues of  une farce macabre.”[x]

It is not necessary to be as cynical as Joseph Conrad. But I guess “that no man of ordinary intelligence” can fail to realize that grand power and royal “ruling” over big empires to a very large extent is an illusion, a vain dream of excessive adranalinomaniacs.

In the short run, on smaller items, man can have some little power over this or that. For a moment he can surely give either sunshine or rain to those closest to him. But in the long run, what is called the “law of unintended consequences” normally takes care of all big and long time power policies.

Creating a communist paradise of equality, a Nazi thousand years global rule by “Arians”, an American hegemony over the present world or, what is truly scaring to some, the creation of new nations on territory that for a long time has belonged to others, such dreams are not easy to realize and, if they are reached, to maintain in life for any longer period.

The history of the failures of  rulers to rule, or to rule wisely, has been much lamented in literature, from Erasmus’  Prais of Folly, to Barbara Tuchman’s brilliant The March of Folly, from Troy to Vietnam. Soon someone will change that title to:” ….to Iraq.

But if man, time and again, is failing in his struggle to rule his world, if reality refuses to obey our dreams, if the law of unintended consequences tend to make all grand scale attempts to change the Human Condition vain and a chasing after wind, what then may be shaping our long-term history? What then may truly be ruling mankind?

That is what I will try to tackle in the next chapter.

[i]  Gunnar Adler-Karlsson, Western Economic Warfare 1947-1967. A Case Study in Foreign Economic Policy. With a foreword by Gunnar Myrdal.  Almquist & Wiksell, Stockholm 1968. 

[ii] Alan P. Dobson, US Economic Statecraft for Survival 1933-1991. Routledge 2002, p. 24.

[iii]  översätt, translation

[iv]  Jesus and Yahweh. The Names Divine. Riverhead, New York 2005, p. 175.

[v]  The full study with sources could be downloaded from  http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011 

An abbreviated version was published in the London Review of Books, 23 March, 2006. Among the intense debate that followed, the papers in Foreign Policy May/June and July/August issues 2006.

[vi]  NYer 060703.

[vii]  Richard A. Posner, Not a Suicide Pact. The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency. Oxford UP 2006.

[viii] Mark Danner, The

Secret Way
to War. The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War’s Buried History. New York Review of Books, New York 2006.

[ix]  Tony Judt, Postwar. A History of Europe since 1945. Heinemann, London 2005, p. 820.

[x]  Joseph Conrad, Nostromo. Oxford UP 1984, p. 152.























































































































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