Friday, July 23, 2010

Industrial Espionage in World War II

This morning I got to contemplating World War II and how the world changed at that point in history. The United States became perhaps the greatest economic power in the world at that point, largely be default. The war was massive, global in scale, and demanded a lot of resources. Being distant from the fields of battle, and being an advanced industrial nation, we were in a position to become the supplier of wartime goods to the rest of the beleaguered world.

I got to thinking on the strategies necessary to defeat the United States under those circumstances. Germany was its own source of production, drawing on the resources of conquered lands. However, the industries of Germany were in constant danger, as that nation was quite in the middle of the fighting. They may have established the fronts far from home, but air warfare eventually brought the battles home.

Japan was isolated,  being an island nation, and so able to remain distant from most of the fighting. England less so, being within striking distance of missiles and aircraft. Japan, however, had little ready access to resources and so had attenuated supply lines, making that nation vulnerable.

Our own isolation was more significant. Nobody was within easy striking distance, and as a nation we were huge. We had a lot of resources within our own nation. Industries were spread out and not easy targets. So, how to attack the United States? Large scale industrial espionage. Slow, stop or destroy the industrial infrastructure to halt the production and distribution of war materials.

The Germans had established groups of people in the United States who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Some of them did, indeed, act as agents of destruction and committed acts of espionage. Since I am only recently entered into this line of thought I do not yet know the degree of their success.

The other threat was the body of Japanese in America. More recently come to the United States than the Germans, and more easily identified, they were suspect as a people. Their culture in America was also a factor. Not having assimilated yet in large numbers they remained in clannish groups, huddled in identifiable Japanese neighborhoods. The prejudices of those already established worked against the Japanese in America in many ways.

Additionally, it was a practice of many Japanese families who could afford to do so to send their children back to Japan for part of their education. This at least implied an incomplete loyalty to the United States of America. How many of those children might have been indoctrinated and trained to perform organized espionage in the United States?

Now, if I can come to this conclusion so many years later, what might the intelligence community of the United States waging a war of undetermined outcome have concluded? That they rounded up the Japanese in America and isolated them might more easily be understood in this light. It certainly changed my perspective.

That does not make it any less terrible, taking people from their homes and confiscating their property. It was not, however, without precedent. Look at the Trail of Tears. In retrospect, some policies enacted by the United States have been far from ideal. Had the German people in America been less assimilated and more easily identified, a similar policy may have fallen on them, as well.

I was born slightly after the end of World War II. The United States had been less damaged by the trial, and perhaps made stronger for the discipline of wartime production. As the only industrial nation of significance still standing we had the advantage. I have enjoyed growing up in a rather prosperous era in a nation of great wealth and opportunity.

Many made sacrifices over the years to create that prosperity. Many were sacrificed, to include Negro slaves, displaced Native Americans, and displaced Japanese Americans. I am grateful to all who contributed to the freedom and prosperity I have experienced, whether they gave willingly or unwillingly.

I am not faced with the circumstances that led the decision makers in the United States to rob citizens and resident aliens of their freedom to protect the nation from industrial espionage. However, after contemplating the matter, I am perhaps a bit less inclined to judge them for their actions. Halting a likely enemy from committing an act of war is not a bad decision in times of war.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fear of Socialism-

When I was just a lad, ever so many years ago, I thought how wonderful it would all be if we worked together to create the things everyone needed and just gave them to each other. I am sure my vision was not particularly sophisticated, but I shared it with my father. "Oh, that would be Communism." he said.

I was shocked. I was old enough to know that Communists were evil, the enemy of all that was good. In those days sirens would blare each month to test the warning system that would tell us the evil Communists were raining nuclear fire down upon us and that it was time to duck, tuck and cover.

How could my idealistic (though simplistic) way of living together be associated with something as evil as Communism?

In the passing years I learned that seeming evil was not quite so evil as painted. I also learned that seeming good was not quite as advertised, as well. Yet terms like communism and socialism are still freighted with that burden of generalized evil. Much as capitalism seems to have a more positive spin, at least in many parts of this country.

Oh, I have seen real evil. I worked for twenty years in a jail. You can't work in an environment like that for so long without confronting evil. However, even in jail evil was not common. I have met in that time only a handful of people who were so fundamentally evil that they were as an embodiment of that nebulous term. Most inmates were either mentally ill or given to a bent toward misbehavior. Sometimes extreme misbehavior, but not essentially evil.

Generalized and great evils such as communism are actually more fabrication than fact. The communists expressed a real intent to undermine capitalist regimes and replace those regimes with communist orders. Of course, from the communist perspective the capitalists were painted as evil. Had any of the communist states held to an idealized communism such as I had imagined as a child, I would find them quite attractive and far from evil. Unfortunately, they have not. At least none of which I am aware.

Indeed, the great flaw of Communism, more specifically Marxist Communism, is that it requires an evolutionary step away from human selfishness. Recognizing that selfishness may not die an easy death, Marx admitted the likely necessity to compel people by force to adopt the communist ideals. Most of the regimes which have claimed communism as their doctrine of order have been rather stringent managers and little interested in individual rights and desires.

The great flaw of Capitalism is the very same thing. Selfish humans can and will acquire power with wealth, and unregulated capitalism does not promise much for those who lack the drive and opportunity to capitalize on such an open system. Indeed, it is to the benefit of those few who have the wealth and own the means of production to control and hold down the masses, to maintain a cheap labor pool.

I am not expert, but it appears to me that the great consumer market that marks the present era in much of the world is the consequence of a regulated capitalism. One of my former professors observed that modern communist states act more as a state capitalism than anything like true communism. As such they could participate in a consumer driven capitalist market and still maintain their delusions of being communist.

 I don't know if our current  great consumer market is a particularly good thing, but I do enjoy ready access to affordable technology and communication. My current life is pretty good, so whatever is happening seems to be working well enough from a subjective and self-interested perspective.

Human cultures ebb and flow, and exist in a state of flux. Many Communist states take away freedoms to insure stability and security. Capitalist states, or more correctly market driven states, seem to allow more freedoms, but still gravitate toward levels of regulation that constrict individual freedoms to such a degree that some citizens consider it excessive.

Increased security requires the sacrifice of freedoms. The exercise of freedom requires the acceptance of some degree of insecurity. I have seen no model or example of any social order that allows for the increase of both. I am not convinced that any ideal social order can be brought into being by humans. The ebb and flow and continual flux is the only thing that can be expected as a constant.

Should we fear socialism? I can't see why. I do not see it as a tenable system, if taken to excess. The state just cannot find sufficient resources to simply "take care" of every human need. However, I don't see anything to fear in this. An unregulated capitalism offers little more freedom to the working class individual, since those acquiring capital can use that capital to gather more, and possessing most of the resources means denying them to the rest of the people.

Indeed, fearing socialism or capitalism or anything else with a label sets you up for being manipulated by people who will sling those labels just to fire up your fears. More often than not, they will offer their position as the solution. Pursue your own interests no matter who is in power, whether Socialist, Capitalist, or Lobotomist.

Fear is a terrible foundation for your life. Do not choose fear, even if there are Socialists nearby. They rarely bite, and generally just want to meet your needs. Most often, with somebody else's money.