By Martin Love

Woe to leaders mired in the "credibility trap"

February 8, 2018

What’s really going on in the U.S.? Why is there internal political and social turmoil and division? Why are groups and so-called leaders at each other’s throats and why is the general populace so apparently discontented?

Why do things seem to be falling apart in some respects and the finger of blame has been improperly pointed at other countries and their leaders such that the U.S. vilifies Russia and Iran and Syria and North Korea, to name four, and other countries and sometimes with deadly military consequences? And woe to other countries that finds themselves in the same straits, for it will have landed there not because of some twist of fate, but rather because internal systems of checks and balances have been badly abused and compromised in the U.S.  And interestingly, there is a name for this state of affairs, when reform and healthy change become virtually impossible. It’s called the “credibility trap”.

So what is this, this “trap”? It exists when the regulatory, political and informational functions of a society have been so badly damaged by a long term, lambent corruption in vital spheres that they can no longer address any meaningful correction or reform without also, at least incidentally, implicating those who point it out. The status quo in such a society has at the least and for too long tolerated the corruption and fraud, and probably those in power also profited and continue to profit from it, such that the society’s power brokers have become susceptible to blackmail. The net result of this is that failed or failing policies are often sustained, because the admittance of failure is just not an option, and it has become almost impossible to dislodge the perpetrators even if, on the surface anyway, there still exists “democratic” or other mechanisms that ought to be capable of ridding the society of them.

If this concept called the “credibility trap” seems like a lot to take in, read the above paragraph again. It makes sense, and it is precisely where the U.S hangs now, and maybe some other countries, too, that have lost their way.

Consider, for example, U.S. military engagements in various foreign countries. As “powerful” as the military may seem, with some 800 or more bases spread all over the planet, and U.S. defense all told costing $1 trillion a year of printed, fiat currency generated with piles of debt, no “wars” have been won, and not even the Vietnam War decades ago. The war in Afghanistan has dragged on for almost two decades, and nothing has been “won” but enmity. If, say, a top U.S. military person were to come right out and declare the failures, that person would essentially be indicting themselves as a failure strategist or commander. So the Pentagon literally pretends and claims that military progress is being made to justify the costs. (It does keep a lot of people employed.) And the mainstream media goes along with this, with many of the top mainstream journalists extolling the false successes. It’s a vicious circle. Washington depends on creating enemies to sustain the fear necessary to justify the so-called “defense” budget of about $1 trillion annually.

And Trump, campaigning in 2016 for the Presidency, promised differently. He literally claimed the U.S. was going to back off from hostile engagements overseas, that there may be a “peace” dividend almost three decades after the end of the original Cold War. The Nunes memo suggesting FBI abuse and the corruption of the surveillance system in the U.S. was not an issue, until it became one for the Republicans for political reasons, and war hawks on both sides of the aisle in Congress used the (by and large false) charges against Russia to create animosity among average Americans to keep the money flowing into “defense” coffers and, ultimately, to some extent, into their own pockets. But without a complicit mainstream media (New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, etc), the U.S. might have been on the road to reform.

Last week I sent a note to the top foreign policy international columnist at the Washington Post, one David Ignatius, whom I have known marginally for decades. I suggested that he retire eventually (he’s approaching 70) in a blaze of glory by writing his final book: an expose of why and how he and others, especially the so-called Neocon pundits and writers, have often been in thrall to government, rather than serving as effective checks and balances to corruption and misdeeds in government, as was the case during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. Such truth telling, as he could accomplish, given all that he has seen and knows, would make him a rich(er) man with huge sales, too. Sadly, he snubbed the idea. But this snubbing is the “credibility trap” in action. Because if this writer exposed as much as I suggested in a personal memoir, he’d have at the same time discredited some of his past work as dishonest and partisan. Meanwhile, the Washington and Wall Street gravy train rolls along without a hitch, until it doesn’t. And someday it won’t.