We are approaching the end of the Administration’s first 6 months and the overall strategy of their effort to change the structure of American society is clear:
- Reduce all non-defense spending, and most particularly those parts that support anyone who is vulnerable, poor, and has no robust political power. The proposed reductions in social security disability payments are a perfect proxy for all of the social services and healthcare cuts.
- Increase defense spending, with particular emphasis on the part of defense spending that provides money to defense contractors (corporations) of all kinds.
- Eliminate those parts of the Federal government that were created to support disenfranchised communities.
- Defang civil rights and any media that resist the offensive.
- Finally, shift the political burden for the blowback from these changes to the states, so that they absorb the long term anger that will result from success in this strategy.
For people with chronic medical conditions, disability characteristics of all sorts, and older people, these changes if successful will result in early death, increased disability, the elimination of local support networks, increasing isolation, and even less political power than exists now.
We have to fight as hard as we can to reduce the impact of the Federal government’s strategy, and I imagine that we will be partially successful. I believe that most people hope we will blunt the offensive and that we will be able to replace the current crop of politicians with others who understand the impact of such change on our lives.
I think there is an underlying naivety in this view that doesn’t see how the condition we are now in was an outgrowth of the large-scale evolution of the US and global economy, making a return to what was (pick your decade for the social situation you want to return to) very difficult. It is far, far easier to create complexity than it is to dismantle it.
Restoration would require enormous political and personal effort and would not alter those underlying forces that are driving the relentless increase in complexity that we variously interpret as political polarization, the growth of inequality, the dominance of social, political, and financial elites, the growth of corporate power, and the systematic disenfranchising of all communities viewed by elites as “takers”, as less than human.
In military theory, there is a concept called the Strategic Defensive. Typically, it becomes the strategy of a party to a conflict when they are surprised by the power of their enemy’s offensive strength. Basically, they fall into Strategic Defense because they have no other choice. We are now in the midst of a Strategic Defensive.
All Strategic Defensive responses consist of two parts:
- An initial counter to blunt the impact of the offensive
- A second strategy that builds during the course of the hopefully slowing offensive to eventually provide a basis for a counter-attack.
The value and ultimate impact of the Strategic Defensive does not usually depend on the first response of trying to blunt the offensive, but on the sophistication, depth, and patient focused preparation of the second strategy.
So, although I called this post, “Fighting on Two Fronts”, I don’t mean the traditional idea of two geographic areas of counteroffensive. I mean the two fronts as the very different strategies of blunting the current offensive and building a long-term response.
The first response is always chaotic and energy/resource wasting and its core is to counter every initiative of the offensive, in order to force enemy investment of time, resources, and money in furthering the goals of the assault, thus slowing it.
As far as I can tell, there is no way around the waste involved in the effort to blunt the offensive. Because the offensive was a surprise, there is no realistic contingency plan for the specific nature of the offensive and everybody falls back on abstract counters that are organized around the entirely unrealistic framework of getting things back to where they were before the offensive. That restoration never happens. Sometimes you end up in a worse place, and sometimes you end up in a better one, but you never return to what was once upon a time.
While we are fighting to preserve resources to support people in the first phase of our Strategic Defensive, there are also other ways of blunting we must consider in addition to the obvious ones, and we need to start thinking more about the second phase, the long-term response.
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