A Letter to a Friend- The Greatest Threat to the Republic


You told me that in a class of yours, the question was posed- what is the greatest threat to the United States of America today, the biggest issue? You answered, “foreign policy,” implying that the decaying strategic situation around the globe poses the biggest threat to our republic.

I would both agree and disagree.

In my view, the biggest threat to America- both the physical polity and the cultural way of life- is not any combination of outside powers or even the global situation as a whole. Rather, the thing most dangerous to us is our own inability to handle and manage the global situation- our greatest weakness is our weakness. If a crisis with the proportions of 1812, 1861, 1917, 1941, or 1945 beckoned, we would be unable cope. That weakness is the single greatest threat to the Republic and to the American Way of Life.

American strategic weakness is a multifaceted problem whose components are internal. It boils down to this- Our governing institutions have grown dysfunctional, preventing meaningful strategic action. We are unable to reform our institutions of governance into something modern and functional because of an entrenched plutocratic elite interested in maintaining the system as it currently stands. And we do not have the will to take on the plutocracy or reform the bureaucracy because culturally, we have lost our sense of national identity, mission, and purpose.

Institutional dysfunction, elite decadence, cultural malaise- these three factors combine to preclude our leaders from being able to articulate strategic goals and carry them out. The military, economic, and political levers of power are there, but they are stalled and sluggish because our system is in disarray and, at the moment, unreformable.

We are dying of decadence, and that is weakening us against the prowling threats abroad. Should another crisis flash in the Old World, another World War or Cold War, we would be unable to respond quickly, and at the moment we are unable to prepare for such an event. We have some of the tools we need to manage crises; we just don’t have the system to operate those tools, or, frankly, the wisdom and craft to use them properly.

Shocks to the system usually fix this strategic dearth. If a nuclear weapon detonated in a major U.S. city, if Russian tanks rolled into Poland, if Chinese fleets drove American ships from the South China Sea, we would spring to action. The Arsenal of Democracy would get humming again, and with crisis on our hands, we’d rediscover that the first purpose of government is keeping the nation safe.

But let’s not have that happen. It’s imperative that reformers and nationalists with the true interests of their country at heart articulate and bring to the public discourse a new creed- a creed composed of innovative new governing methods, prudent checks on the power of the elite, and a new sense of national purpose- to steer our country through the difficult times just ahead. We have not seen the worst of human nature, and we need the tools, system, and mindset to bear through the worst.

I’ve written elsewhere about what, precisely, this new nationalism would look like in various fields. Essentially, it would be a government and civil society capable of marshaling America’s cultural and economic resources in the service of key and discrete strategic ends. Think the war efforts of Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Cold War presidents. Mass production in the homeland, technological innovation, gargantuan public projects, a civic identity- all this contributed to the war efforts, and to the general prosperity of the republic in each case. And in each case, the crisis made the country better than it had been before.

We know crisis is on the horizon. It is imperative that we prepare ourselves before it comes, rather than after it hits us. Our greatest weakness is that we are not doing so- and that is the greatest threat to the republic.

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