The Shape of Things to Come
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
It is to forestall any misguided souls (however dear to my heart)
from racing out and buying the book based on my "recommendation,"
that I must report -- even at the risk of appearing gratuitously
unkind -- that a book that recently landed on my desk is not, really,
There is a certain variety of "action" or "speculative war"
paperbacks which seem to be designed to be purchased by male readers
in airports. The slightly better ones can result in diverting films
starring Harrison Ford, while the rest can be downright cheesy,
concentrating on the realistic depiction of various exotic weapons
systems over such hidebound conventions as "character development."
I have nothing against Ian Slater, an Aussie who apparently
teaches political science at the University of British Columbia. I
just felt obliged to make it clear that his latest paperback from
Ballantine/Fawcett, "Showdown: USA vs. Militia" is to literature,
more or less, what the works of Chuck Norris are to serious film.
To be politically acceptable, for instance, books which portray
the militia movement in the United States today are apparently
expected to include prominently in the ranks of such groups both
clueless, neo-Nazi skinheads and brain-damaged psychopaths. So Mr.
Slater gives us one of each, constructed with all the care of a
harried seamstress on a deadline, recycling last year's Halloween
costumes by hurriedly basting on a few new ribbons and bows.
But, that said, Ms. Slater is a very smart military analyst,
making it easy for me to believe that he was, as advertised, once
employed by the Australian Joint Intelligence Bureau.
I recall that, in the 1920s, an equally unprepossessing "
potboiler" novel surfaced in this country, speculating that America
would be catapulted into the second world war by a sneaky naval
attack on the Hawaiian Islands.
While this novel quickly passed into obscurity on these shores,
apparently some copies remained in dog-eared circulation for years
thereafter ... among officers of the Japanese Navy.
Mr. Slater's insight is similarly visionary.
He projects that the most likely geographic unit to break away
from the government in Washington City -- over such issues as
firearm rights, and the excessive and arbitrary federal
strangulation of such productive enterprises as logging, mining,
fishing and ranching -- would consist of the states of Montana,
Idaho, Washington and Oregon, along with that part of California
north of San Francisco.
He projects that the main federal drive to reconquer this
breakaway region would be north through California. But a look at
the map then informs him that the most significant battle is
actually likely to be fought by a haphazard assemblage of local
militia irregulars, resisting a federal airborne (or, I would add,
amphibious) landing intended to break the rebel supply lines by
seizing the vital crossings of the Columbia River at Astoria and
This may someday be deemed prophetic.
Of course, Mr. Slater than insists on depicting a war fought
largely along conventional, "Desert Storm" lines, whereas even as
"establishment" a figure as George Washington was smart enough to
hold his small, ill-trained force back -- for years -- from any
single, decisive clash in ranks.
Also striking in their omission are the economic factor of the
huge but still "contraband" Northern California marijuana crop, and
the single coup most likely to give any such secession a chance at
achieving a strategic "Mexican standoff" -- the capture of the
Pacific nuclear submarine fleet, intact, in port near Seattle.
But most intriguing, after all, is the fact that such a civil
war can now be contemplated, with even a passing swipe at a
sympathetic analysis of the potential motives of the rebels, at the
end of their ropes with a distant, arrogant Washington government
that places the welfare of owls and salamanders over the ability of
proud men to feed their families.
# # #
My followup early-April column, explaining why I think America's
Progressives opened the Pandora's Box of our current welfare-police
state in the crucial period 1912-1919, brought two addenda.
Novelist L. Neil Smith, whose sequel to "Henry Martyn" ...
"Bretta Martyn," is due in better bookstores in August, writes from
"Vin -- You forgot the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, arranged at the
infamous Jekyll Island meeting (some say 'conspiracy.') When I
was looking for the pivotal event around which to drape 'The
Probability Broach,' several people suggested changing history by
having somebody drop a biplane load of dynamite on that meeting
From Phoenix, long-time Libertarian political strategist George
Thanks for the help, chums. It turns out I knew more than I could
"Another point about 1912 and Wilson: WWI brought the first
vestiges of central economic planning (what is now called
'industrial policy') to America.
"In the short 18 months the U.S. was in the war, the federal
government forced all the railroads to operate as if they were
one big railroad. Competition between industrial firms was
limited if not eliminated and there were huge subsidies to
"This program of cartel mercantilism was far more extensive than
anything the U.S. had ever seen before. All of a sudden, the big
businesses that were being ravaged by competition could relax.
Their tiny competitors were crushed for the sake of efficiency
and their profits guaranteed.
"Harding's 'normalcy' was a big letdown to the business leaders
who imagined they had found heaven. All that was needed to bring
back the heady days of WWI was another crisis and they could
expand industrial policy anew. In October of 1929, they got their
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at
http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the
United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box
4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.