There are few things more dangerous than a collection of bureaucrats willing to stop at nothing to keep the bureaucracy alive for their own benefit. We’ve seen that here in America. Obama’s bureaucrats, knowing that the good times roll better for bureaucrats under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones, have abandoned their obligation to be impartial civil servants and, instead, weaponized themselves against conservatives.
The diligent Tax Professor reminds us that, five years after being caught actively discriminating against conservative groups, something grossly illegal that ought to have seen many heads roll, the IRS is still at it. We’re also learning, thanks to Wikileaks and a subterranean chorus of voices ,that a corrupt DOJ is working hard to get Hillary Clinton into the White House, despite her manifest violations of America’s national security laws. The list of corrupt Obama bureaucracies that are functioning as legislator, judge, jury, and executioner is a scary alphabet soup: IRS, DOJ, EPA, DOE, DOD, etc.
Here’s some new information for you to consider when it comes to bureaucrats run amok: Did you know that it was British bureaucrats, determined to keep their jobs at all costs, who sparked Arab nationalism in Palestine, creating the dangerous Middle East that consumes the world today?
This story comes from Pierre van Paassen’s The Forgotten Ally, published in 1943. The book’s primary purpose is to describe the role Jewish Palestinians played in defeating Rommel – a task Britain could never have accomplished but for these Jewish troops. Before he gets to World War II, though, van Paassen tells how the British Mandate in Palestine came into being and how the Arabs, who had once welcomed the thought of Jews making that wasteland a more inhabitable place, came to be the fanatic Islamic nationalists the world now faces. Because van Paassen was a foreign correspondent in the 20s and 30s, the book has the virtue of being the recollections of a contemporaneous witness, who traveled widely in the Middle East, met many of the power players, and was privy to original documents. (He even interviewed both Hitler and the Mufti of Jerusalem!)
Because of the myriad details van Paassen provides about the creation of the modern Middle East in the years during and immediately after WWI, it’s quite easy for someone like me to get lost in the weeds. (My first draft of this post hit 5,000 words before I was even a quarter of the way through.) I’ll just touch upon a few highlights here.
Between the Roman conquest in 70 AD and Israel’s re-birth in 1948, the territory known as Palestine (or Syria-Palestine) was never a nation. It was not even an independent substate in the vast Ottoman Empire that eventually controlled it. Instead, it was simply the southern most end of Ottoman controlled Syria. During all those centuries, nobody cared about Palestine because it was a desolate, swampy, disease-filled wasteland. Here’s van Paassen’s description of Syria-Palestine in the years before, during, and immediately after WWI:
It was a wilderness strewn with ruins. Its inhabitants, half a million or so poverty stricken peasants and Bedouin, were of all the Arabs held in lowest esteem by the Turks. (Page 78)
The Arabs are the world’s original and most determined home rulers. Five families make up a nation. They have no conception of a common task or a common future. Life is disfigured by a universal poverty of unimaginable ugliness. Everywhere in the settlements we saw the same unkempt, black-smocked women around the wells and hordes of naked children; the same seemingly aimless and hopeless existence. We ate their meals occasionally, at the risk of being covered with lice and fleas from the sheepskins and rugs in their tents: boiled mutton in rice was the greatest feast the wealthiest could offer. Among the humbler people the staple food is dates and unleavened bread, both scarce in the year we traveled about because of the drought and a bad harvest. In some villages the inhabitants, emaciated by starvation, were sitting quietly in the doorways of their huts waiting for death, yet without despair or protest. Inshallah! If God wills, it must be! To speak with these people of empire, of federation, of political ideas, is a waste of breath and puerile nonsense, unless it is dished up with a prospect of riches and loot. (Pages 98-99)
[I]n order to succeed the Jews first had to clear the ground for their national home, that is to say: drain the swamps, reforest the soil-denuded hillsides, combat disease (especially malaria, tuberculosis, and trachoma) by establishing hospitals and medical centers, build roads, dig wells, layout new plantations, and generally clean up, in all of which activities the Arabs were to share and to be paid for. (Pages 135-136)
Israel was not a prime bit of real estate. It was a backwards, disease-ridden wasteland whose inhabitants were sick, passive, and reviled by their own kind.
What dragged these lands from the Dark Ages into modern history was the law of unintended consequences. Russia entered WWI on the British and French side. It then worked hard and successfully to drag the Ottoman Empire into the war on Germany’s side, because Russia believed it could then use the excuse of the Great War to defeat the Ottomans and lay claim to Constantinople. When Russia’s revolution pulled it out of the war, the British and the French were left to fight the Ottoman Empire. This was a more difficult task than they expected, because the Ottoman Empire was not quite as sick as rumor had it.
Part of Britain’s problem was that, when the British tried to rouse an Arab nationalist movement to join in the fight against the Ottoman Empire that had controlled the Arab lands for 500 years, they struck out. While certain Arab leaders made the right revolutionary noises in return for bribes and promises of power, and while their tribal followers would be in the rear of every successful battle collecting the spoils, the Arabs would not fight. Nevertheless, even without Arab help, Britain eventually drove out the Ottomans, allowing the British and the French to divvy up the former Ottoman Empire between the two of them. (Russia was originally part of this negotiation, but the Revolution meant that she was unable to benefit from the resulting spoils.)
This divvying up, via the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, was the starting point for modern Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Armenia, Turkey, etc., all of which were created with artificial borders that were unrelated to tribes and Muslim religious schisms, resulting in disastrous consequences for the people living there and for the rest of the world. In this post, I’ll focus only on the part of the Sykes-Picot agreement that resulted in the British Mandate in Palestine.
While Britain got the lion’s share of the Middle East, the agreement explicitly reserved Syria for the French. However, and significantly, that reservation was explicitly subject to a sub-reservation: Britain would keep the southern most edge of Syria’s territory — Palestine. Because British leadership had been nurtured on a Protestantism that drew deeply from the Old Testament, highly-placed people in the British government were receptive to the Jews’ desire, which Theodore Herzl had revitalized in the late 19th century, to return to the land of their fathers.
At the time, everyone understood that the British were reserving Palestine for the Jews. No one objected, especially the Arabs who saw an influx of Jewish money and Jewish energy as something that would benefit them:
Sir Henry McMahon, then long since retired from government service, wrote two letters to clarify the earlier understandings. In the first, dated March 12, 1922, addressed to the British government, he said he had intended to exclude Palestine from the area of Arab independence as fully as the Syrian coastal regions to the north. In a second letter, addressed to the editor of The Times and published by that newspaper on July 23, 1937, he wrote: “I feel it my duty to state, and do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge (of independence) to King Hussein to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein.”
Sir Ronald Storrs, who as Oriental Secretary to the High Commissioner (Sir Henry McMahon) handled the Anglo-Arab correspondence, write in his Orientations: “Palestine was excluded from the promises made to the Arabs before those British (military) operations which gave freedom [from the Ottomans] to so large a proportion of the Arab peoples.” (Pages 115-116)
Of course, as the British well knew, Jews had always been in the Palestinian lands that the British took from the Ottomans and intended to return to the Jews. The Jews went to the Holy Land with Abraham about 3,800 years ago. Since then, no matter whether the Jews ruled the land or nations hostile to the Jews were in power, the Jews have kept a continuous presence there for the entirety of these 3,800 years. They are the original indigenous people.
At some point after the Jews became a permanent presence in the land, the Bedouin wandered through, but they never laid claim to the land. They were, indeed, wanderers. The last I heard, the modern Bedouins, who are Israeli citizens, have a good relationship with Israel, which provides them with modern medical care and lets them live their lives without much interference.
When World War I ended, who else occupied the land that the Romans, having destroyed the Jewish kingdom, denominated as “Palestine”? Ironically, those residents who are most fervid in their Jew hatred are also the most recent arrivals.
The oldest continuous inhabitants other than the Jews were the Druze, whom other Muslims consider to be heretics. The Druze, incidentally, have an extremely good relationship with modern Israel, including serving in the Israeli army. They have resided in the Holy Land for around 1,000 years.
The other inhabitants in the beginning of the 20th century had a history going back at most 100 years. There were the despised Algerians who left North Africa when France conquered Algeria in 1830, to settle in what is now mostly modern Jordan.
In the region around Jericho, one would find Circassian immigrants from the Russian Caucasus, whom the Turks settled in Syria-Palestine in the second half of the 19th century. The Circassian “Arab” Muslims were easy to spot because they had platinum blond hair and blue eyes. Indeed, they still do. Many years ago, at the home of a Muslim friend (back in the days when Muslims and Jews could be friends in America), the hostess’s brother came to visit from Israel. He looked Swedish and spoke Arabic. He was a very nice young man. Here’s another girl, not so nice, who is probably a descendant of the imported Circassians.
Lastly, there were a few Senussi Muslims from Tripoli who trickled into Syria-Palestine after WWI to escape persecution in their own land. (By 1934, Italian Governor Rodolfo Graziani had reduced their population from around 2,500,000 to about 60,000.)
Everyone agreed that, if the Jews really wanted a swampy, malarial, desolate wasteland, with a small population of indigenous Jews, and slightly larger populations of resettled Muslims, they could have it. Indeed — take heed — the Arabs were on board too. When the British issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, there wasn’t a peep from the Arab world. As van Paassen explained, and I quoted above, many Arabs on the ground thought it was a good thing to have Jewish and British money come into Syria-Palestine, bringing with it a more stable infrastructure that would benefit Arabs as well as Jews.
The man who would become Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi, the king of Syria in 1920, and over Iraq from 1921 to 1933, thought it was a good idea too. After WWI ended, Faisal and Chaim Weizmann, who was then President of the Zionist Organization, signed the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement for Arab-Jewish Cooperation. Faisal was on board with the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine:
We Arabs… look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organisation to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best, insofar as we are concerned, to help them through; we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home… I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of the civilised peoples of the world.
To repeat: At the time of the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot agreement, there was nary a peep from the Arabs and the Muslims when they learned that the crazy Jews wanted a desolate, diseased land for themselves, especially because the Jews brought with them the promise of money, knowledge, and energy, all of which might benefit Palestine’s downtrodden residents.
Given that everyone — the British, the French, the Arabs — was on board with the creation of Jewish state, or at least a Jewish homeland, in Palestine, which was the historic and continuous home of the Jews for almost 4,000 years, what the Hell happened to change all that? According to van Paassen, the bureaucrats happened.
Once Britain gained actual control of Palestine from the Ottomans, she did what she always did — she brought in civil servants to set up a British style administrative infrastructure. I’m going to quote van Paassen at some length here, because I can’t summarize his point without losing important nuances:
However, opposition of a most violent kind to the political reorganization of Syria by France and to the settlement of Jews in the Holy Land was soon to manifest itself in a most tragic manner. But that opposition, strange as it may seem, did not spring up as a spontaneous reaction in Arab nationalist circles, although Arabs were subsequently to give expression to it in word and deed. It originated and was carefully nurtured in the milieus of the newly arrived British civil and military administration. Most of these men had been hastily drawn from the British civil and military services in Egypt. Some came from the Sudan, some from Kenya and Rhodesia, others from India. They were nearly all juniors in the colonial service or had held subaltern positions in the army. None of course had any experience in the administration of a territory that was marked fro some sort of a special international dispensation as was involved in the term mandate and as distinguished from the old colonial system in which the relationship of governors and governed is simply that of overlords and natives.
Nor were they all of the high moral and intellectual caliber of the old-type British colonial functionary. In fact, some of them with whom I was personally acquainted fell far short of an elementary public-school education. One man in particular who, immediately upon his arrival in Palestine, was placed in a high administrative position, in recognition of some conspicuous act of bravery performed on the Mesopotamian battlefield, had been a butcher’s assistant in what corresponds to the Commissariat Department in Cairo till 1917. He could scarcely read or write. Yet a large, densely populated district was placed under his control.In conversation he revealed himself an inveterate and vulgar xenophobe, expressing himself in terms of contempt and hate for everything and everybody not British. That he designed to speak to me at all in his new exalted position [van Paassen was born in Holland], I owed, no doubt, to the fact that he knew me to be a British subject. He knew neither Hebrew, Arab, nor French and disdainfully rejected suggestions to familiarize himself somewhat with the history of the two Semitic peoples over whom he was to rule or acquaint himself with the rudiments of Turkish law which remained valid in Palestine.
Another British functionary, Sir Ronald Storrs, the first Governor of Jerusalem, on the other hand, was a fanatical arabisant. He idealized everything Arabic, much like those writers about foreign folkways who idealize the peasants no matter how backward in culture, crude in manners, and unappetizing in appearance they may be. Storrs spoke all the languages of the Near East. With his amazing versatility, he combined an affectation of scholarship and a mask of geniality to hide a haughty condescension for lesser breeds such as Frenchmen and Jews. That man had a great deal to do with the shaping of British policy in the early days of the British occupation of Palestine, when the building of the Jewish national home got off to an uncertain start. He more than anyone else was responsible for laying the foundation of that anti-Zionist policy of the successive British administrations in Palestine. (Pages 121-123.)
Following the above quotation, van Paassen goes on to name several other people, a combination of low-level functionaries and passionate Arabists, as being responsible for creating the virulent problems that still plague the Middle East today and that Obama’s and Hillary’s policies seem designed to bring to America.
What struck me so forcibly was the prime motive van Paassen exposes for these bureaucrats’ determination to squelch a Jewish homeland: it was job security. Yup, with the exception of the romantics, the British civil service in Palestine was worried that the Jews would become self-ruling and, by shrinking the empire, make the bureaucrats’ jobs unnecessary. The bureaucrats’ mindset was, let the Jews bring in their money plus a few energetic people to clean up the place, but God forbid the motivated Jews should create an independent nation that rendered British civil servants superfluous:
Between these men . . . between all those people, the chief actors in the Palestine drama, there grew up a remarkable community of spirit on the subject of the building of the Jewish national home. They constituted themselves into a more or less secret brotherhood or society of watchdogs. They had no instructions. No official declaration had ever been made on an eventual Jewish majority. Yet they early decided for themselves that their main task was to see to it that such a majority would never be attained. They were the genuine imperialists, for their opposition to the eventual erection of a free and independent Jewish Commonwealth was predicated upon fully warranted apprehensions that the freedom of one people, the Jews in this instance in the traditional area of colonialism would in the course of time, as a small flame lighting a huge pile of wood, set the whole colonial world afire and ring down the curtain on the imperialist episode of usurpation and spoliation. In their anti-Zionist policy they were loyal to the supreme interests of British imperialism. (Pages 123-124.)
The threat of the Empire’s loss of control in Palestine was not really serious, since Palestine had only joined the Empire a few years before. Instead, the real threat was the end of job security for those civil servants shipped out from lowly positions in other parts of Britain’s empire to flatteringly high positions in the British Mandate:
The predominant sentiment in British administrative and military circles in Palestine and Egypt in the first years following the war was against the Balfour Declaration. The issuance of that document, the Magna Carta of the Jewish people, was deemed an unfortunate and regrettable wartime expedient. True, it had answered the purpose of its framers in that it had caused world Jewry to throw its weight into the scales on Britain’s side. Therein lay its value. But what would be its consequences if its spirit was to be upheld in the postwar years? It was one thing to gain the support of the Jewish intellectuals and business men in time of war, but quite another matter to introduce, by virtue of the Declaration’s implications, so heterogeneous and turbulent an element as the masses of eastern Europe into the but recently pacified Arab world.
The Jews had apparently taken the Declaration at its face value; they came streaming into Palestine from the four corners of the world. With the Arabs one could deal. They were not very different from other colonial peoples with whom onc had experience. They were on the whole a submissive people. They had been taught their place and station in life for six hundred years by their Turkish masters. Their notables were polite and affable to the point of subserviency. They had picturesque manners. They were good sportsmen. They did not bother their heads about abstract questions of philosophy and economics, so long as the income from their feudal estates flowed in regularly. It was a pleasure to spend a week end in the home of an Arab prince, something to write home about. Britain wanted the Arabs as friends, didn’t she? Well, they were her friends if Britain would just leave well enough alone. Why should she then want to play up to the whims of Mr. Balfour and a few other eminent statesmen who had no experience in dealing with Oriental peoples and to inject into the but recently tranquilized Arab world these hordes of young Jews and Jewesses from Europe?
Did they think in London that this was going to improve British interests? The status quo had just been re-established with infinite pain and trouble. Englishmen occupied all the positions of authority formerly held by Turks. But those Jews, they were the eternal challengers of the status quo. They came with the definite intention to kill the status quo and make a new start. They had ideas about building a new life, a new society, a new world. They were eager, enthusiastic, zealous. They wanted to do things, change things, improve things. They would inevitably, if allowed to come in unchecked, acquire a voice in the running of affairs by the sheer volume of their numbers. They were bound to question and upset the old medieval property relations between the Arab landlords and their serfs. They would put notions of freedom, of a living wage, of popular representation in government into the heads of the fellahin. Not necessarily by agitation and propaganda, but simply by their example. (Pages 127-129.)
And so, says van Paassen, the British civil servants on the ground in England, proceeding circumspectly so as not to counter directly British policy under the Balfour Declaration, worked zealously to fan the flames of a violent Arab nationalism that would keep the Jewish residents of Palestine in check and, more importantly, ensure that these low- to mid-level functionaries kept their cushy jobs in a British imperialist outpost to the end of time.
I now want to drag all of this back into 21st century America and, to do so, I’m going to start with a short quotation from Scott Adams’ latest post, fittingly titled “I don’t want a government job.” The government job Adams rejects is not direct employment with the government. Instead, it’s the promises of ever higher taxes, including Hillary’s proposed estate tax, which will take Adams to the point at which 75% of every dollar he earns will go to local, state, or federal governments. From that starting point, he travels to the larger choices facing Americans today:
By the way, Clinton supporters can stop telling me about Trump’s flaws. I am aware of them. Both of the leading candidates are flawed. You don’t get to pick the unflawed option. But you do get to pick more of the same versus something probably different. That’s a rich choice, and we should be grateful to both candidates for what they have done to give us that choice.
Ironically, we have the two “worst” candidates of all time, according to their favorability ratings. But those two worst candidates have given us two of the best (clearest) choices we have ever had as a country. Thomas Jefferson and the other founders did a good job. Their system allowed us to do just about everything wrong and still end up with two clear choices that make perfect sense.
Sure, both candidates are flawed, but both have the capability to deliver on their main propositions. Clinton probably can give you a third term of Obama(ish) and Trump probably can drain at least some of the swamp. If you step back from the negativity of the election for a moment, you can be grateful that our Republic served up these two options. That’s how it is supposed to work.
(Read the rest here, including Adams’ point about our obligation to participate in a Trump government.)
So, what does Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” entail? Well, for purposes of this post, one of the things it entails is dramatically shrinking American bureaucracy (emphasis mine):
[O]n the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:
- FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;
- SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);
- THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;
- FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;
- FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
- SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.
The Washington Post immediately took umbrage at the fact that Trump links the freeze, not to saving money, but to stopping corruption:
A federal hiring freeze is a top item in Trump’s contract, and his call is revealing. It is the second of 28 points, but it is not listed as a budget savings strategy. Instead, it is among the first six points that are designed “to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” Trump apparently thinks that “a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health),” as the contract says, will help stop fraud.
What does that say about his views on the Civil Service, federal employees and those who hope to be? A Trump campaign statement said the workforce has “many great and committed people” and “in the long term, a smaller federal workforce will mean a more honest and effective government, in which it is harder to hide corruption.”
How dare Trump malign civil servants?!
Contra the Post’s feigned outrage, Trump, of course, didn’t need to detail the proof for his thesis that a huge bureaucracy is inherently corrupt. Ordinary Americans, outside of affluent Blue enclaves, know that he is referring to the way in which the IRS, the EPA, the DOJ, the DOE, the EEC, the DOD, and the whole alphabet soup of government agencies have become unelected legislatures and vicious executioners in their lust to exercise their power over ordinary American people and to punish those who threaten their power — a power that they have determined, as the IRS demonstrates, flows best from Democrat, not Republican, administrations.
Power corrupts and unlimited bureaucratic power corrupts absolutely. Moreover, as the story of the British civil servants in Palestine demonstrates, when bureaucracies refuse to follow their democratically-elected government because they want to ensure and expand their own power base, their selfishness can result in decades of corruption, violence, and global destabilization.
I’ll wrap up this post with two things. First, here is economist Walter Williams reminding us of the bureaucrats’ power (Hat tip: JK Brown):
Let’s look at the power of the rich. With all the money that Gates, Bezos and other super-rich people have, what can they force you or me to do? Can they condemn our houses to create space so that another individual can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run — and doomed — Obamacare program? Can they force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Can they force us to buy our sugar from a high-cost domestic producer rather than from a low-cost Caribbean producer? The answer to all of these questions is a big fat no.
You say, “Williams, I don’t understand.” Let me be more explicit. Bill Gates cannot order you to enroll your child in another school to promote racial diversity. He has no power to condemn your house to make way for a casino parking lot. Unless our elected public officials grant them the power to rip us off, rich people have little power to force us to do anything. A lowly municipal clerk earning $50,000 a year has far more life-and-death power over us. It is that type of person to whom we must turn for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and do myriad other activities. It’s government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce us and rip us off. They have the power to make our lives miserable if we disobey. This coercive power goes a long way toward explaining legalized political corruption.
Second, the great Milton Friedman, in the course of discussing invitations to immorality, explains that the smaller the bureaucracy, the smaller the corruption:
There are truly good people who work in government at all levels. The reality, though, is that the bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the opportunities for self-serving conduct that destroys democracy and, indeed, can have world-shattering implications. I urge you to vote in this election for the candidate who promises to shrink the federal government, both through a hiring freeze and, if one can believe the bureaucrats’ promises, through the mass departure of those government employees who recognize that, with Trump’s hiring, the gravy train just stopped running.
[Correction: Someone was kind enough to tell me that I consistently misspelled Pierre van Paasen’s name, a mistake I’ve corrected.]
UPDATE: Here’s something interesting from van Paasen’s Wikipedia page (which does not mention The Forgotten Ally):
In “To Number Our Days” published in 1964, after viewing the plight of Blacks in Atlanta and after discussing President Franklin Roosevelt sympathetically as introducing “creeping socialism” (in the context as that term was understood in 1964), he notes that he made a prediction sealed in a vault at Oglethorpe University in 1942: “My prediction ran this way:…In AD 2042 when Oglethorpe’s vault is opened, there will be a socialist president in Washington. He will be a Negro!” (p. 248).