The tragedy in the Middle East and Ukraine: canaries in a coal mine

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A canary is sensitive to coal dust. When it dies, the miners realize that they must take action or die themselves. The Middle East and Ukraine are our canaries. We must take action or the same coal dust that is killing our fellow human beings in those countries will kill us as well.

What coal dust?

The “coal dust” that is poisoning these and other small countries (and threatening the quality of life in America) is generated by our plutocratic form of government. The few very wealthy Americans who dominate our elected and appointed civil officers are using their wealth to control US domestic and foreign policies. The militaristic policies that serve their needs are not in the best interests of ordinary Americans. Instead of serving our best interests, they are eroding our freedom and quality of life at home and creating hatred, terrorism and civil wars abroad.


From Constitution Sesquicentennial 1937 Issue-3c
Constitution Sesquicentennial 1937 Issue-3c
(image by Wikipedia (

mage)Why mention Ukraine especially?

First and most important, Ukraine’s geographical and geopolitical positions make it the intervention most likely to lead us into a nuclear conflict.

Second, it is still “early days” in Ukraine, We can still back off from or avoid some of the mistakes we have become committed to in the Middle East. For example, we can still withdraw our support from the authoritarian Kiev regime in Ukraine.

Finally, our intervention in Ukraine is different from our other “nation building” experiences in that we cannot claim to be intervening in order to defend the Ukrainians from ISIS. There is, as yet, no ISIS or other independent enemy force in Ukraine. We should take care not to create one.

Why is our interventionist foreign policy especially dangerous in the 21 st C.

Weapons technology. The availability of nuclear weapons to potential combatants makes 21 st Century US intervention a risky business. While our 20 th Century interventions in Korea, Vietnam and Nicaragua created a great deal of human suffering and death, our present interventions, especially the one in Ukraine, have the potential for leading to the destruction of civilization. .

General political discontent. Our interventions, past and present, have created a new and terrifying force in world affairs. Many of the world’s disadvantaged are organizing around a religion and seeking recompense for past and present occupations, invasions and air attacks. It appears that, since these independent enemies aare able to recruit new fighters as quicky as the old ones fall, defeating them by warfare is problematical.

Energy status and use, War is not an environmentally sound activity. The more wars we promote or engage in. the greater the pollution. Further, war diverts our resources and our energies from the development of technologies for producing clean energy. Our interventions are delaying clean energy from becoming our number one national priority. The longer we wait before we concentrate our resources on the environment, the less likely it is that we will successfully deal with climate change.

Our plutocracy is the root cause of our predicament

Our plutocracy, not our corrupt federal government, is the cause of our problem. Our federal government is only a symptom and an instrument. However, it is an instrument geared to respond to money and corporate influence — rather than to the American people. This means that it can best be reformed by weakening our plutocrats and strengthening our civil officers’ dedication to our interests. We can do this by making the giving and accepting of money unpleasant and the abstaining from these activities satisfying and rewarding in positive ways. Our civil officers’ present rewards (money, celebrity and elite life styles) instead of joining their interests with ours, set them apart from us.

Our plutocracy is the natural consequence of our failure to amend our Constitution

Our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and the federalist papers establish us, in principle, as a self-governing country. As Hamilton pointed out in Federalist 80, however, principles are not enough. He wrote every principle established by the Constitution should be supported by constitutional provisions giving it “efficacy.” [1] The right to self-government granted us by the Declaration and the Constitution (as interpreted by the federalist papers) is not given “efficacy” by either statutes or explicit constitutional provisions In order to restore our democracy we need, as a minimum, to prohibit the use of private money in federal elections, establish strict impeachment criteria (and provide the resources necessary to enforce them) and establish term limits strict enough to make the continued existence of a professional political class impossible. Explicit provisions to these effects, had they been included in our Constitution, might have prevented our shift from democracy to plutocracy.

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Neal Herrick is author of the award-wining After Patrick Henry (2009). His most recent book is (2014) Reversing America’s Decline. He is a former sailor, soldier, auto worker, railroad worker, assistant college football coach, (more…)

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