NSA’s Prism And The Virtual Wall


June 13, 2013 by Anders Ingemarson

It has been said about the inhabitants of ancient Rome that the first time they felt insecure was after they built a wall around the city. The wall kept them physically safe (at least for a while) but its constant presence served as a mental reminder of the looming threats of the barbarians.

Rome turning from dealing offensively with its enemies on their own turf to taking defensive measures at home slowly eroded the confidence of the citizens in the strength of their empire and eventually contributed to its fall.

Whether you think the NSA’s Prism program is a flagrant violation of our individual rights or a necessity to keep America safe, or some of both, it is undeniably part of the virtual wall that we’ve tried to build around America since 9/11. The constant presence of the Department of Homeland Security and its affiliated agencies and programs serve as a mental reminder of the looming threats of the barbarians of our time, the Islamists of the fundamentalist kind. And it is slowly eroding our confidence in our ability to defend ourselves.

How did we get to this point? I’ve argued here and here that the cornerstone of a rational foreign policy is the self-interest of individual Americans. This includes consistently and confidently promoting the principle of individual rights—the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—our country was founded on in our relations with other countries, friends and foes.

Unfortunately, over the past 100 years, we’ve neither been consistent nor confident in promoting our founding principles abroad.

Here are a few of the more obvious violations:

  • Allowing Middle Eastern countries to nationalize oil assets in the 1950s and 60s that had been developed by Western oil companies instead of defending the property rights of those companies. As a result, Arab and Iranian regimes have been flush in money for half a century. Funds that have been used to promote fundamentalist Islamic movements: Saudi Arabia’s support of Wahhabism, and Iran’s export of radical Shia Islam, both the intellectual fuel for terrorist activities against the U.S. and other Western countries.
  • Arming the Taliban in the early 80’s as part of the Cold War effort to force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan when it didn’t matter one iota to American self-interest who ruled that most backward corner on earth. The “unintended consequence” was to provide training for the kind of terrorists that eventually brought down the twin towers.
  • But the Cold War would probably not have happened in the first place if FDR had taken a stand for America’s founding principles and refused Stalin Eastern Europe after WWII.
  • And Stalin’s Soviet Union would most likely not have lasted long enough to be a power to reckon with during WWII if the U.S. hadn’t provided financial and material support after the Russian Revolution to a country that was the antithesis of everything American.

And it continues today with our refusal to deal decisively with our current main enemy, Iran.

As in Rome, the barbarians will only get to our gates if we allow them. It’s only our unwillingness to assert our self-interest on the world-stage and our lack of confidence in our founding principles that will allow them to win.

Don’t be afraid of standing up for your self-interest and individual rights and advocate for a rational foreign policy that takes care of the enemy abroad. Then we won’t need virtual walls at home.






5 thoughts on “NSA’s Prism And The Virtual Wall

  1. iskeen says:

    Excellent points about the wall, 9/11 and defensive posture. The fact that you tied it to the will of Rome is even more perceptive.

    I have one disagreement with you however, on the subject of Arab oil. The Arabs nationalized the oil fields and my understanding is that the companies tried to get the US to act militarily and were rebuffed. This was a correct stance for the US because the companies were on Arab soil and were subject to the vagaries of Arab governments.

    If an action is proper for an individual, then it is proper for an association of individuals. The proper action would have been for the companies to destroy the property they developed and leave only wreckage to the Arabs. The US should have protected the people who blew up the wells, given them sanction, and lauded them as heroes, which they would have been. Let the Arabs reclaim the oil without the US. Let them have the desert in the condition in which had persisted in the Middle East since human kind first settled there 100,000 years ago.

    Yes, the companies and the stock holders would have taken a loss (which they did any way). Yes, the world would have had less usable oil. Yes, prices would have gone up. But no, the world would not have ended and the world might have learned the lesson of who brings prosperity to the world and who is merely a hanger-on or a looter.

    The Arabs let the US companies develop the resource, and it wasn’t as if they weren’t getting paid for that. To suddenly, unilaterally nationalize was a breach of contract. The US was probably afraid that the Arab people would hate us. Oops, isn’t that what happened when we appeased them?

    No dice, not nice, in the future, think twice.

    Destruction is the proper reaction to attempted confiscation that cannot be thwarted. Elias Wyatt knew it. Francisco D’Anconia knew it. Napoleon found that out in Moscow.

    Impractical? No, moral, principled and value affirming.


    • Thanks, Ilene. Great comments. I have to remember “No dice, not nice, in the future, think twice.” Since corporations are extensions of individuals, they should have the same right to protection as individuals, at home and abroad, which includes protection of their property. That being said, I agree that many gray areas exist and to the extent cronyism is involved, our government should not step in. The details of a rational foreign policy in this regard would most likely develop over time.
      I admittedly don’t know all the details of the history of Arab Oil, but I think an argument can be made that the U.S. oil companies entered the Middle East under the assumption their property rights would be protected. The U.S. had diplomatic relations with the Arab countries at the time, which under a rational foreign policy should be conditional upon a mutual respect of the property rights of the citizens in the respective countries.
      As for blowing up ones property, soon we may all need that tool in our self-defense kit.


  2. iskeen says:

    BTW, separating the state from economics means that taxpayers are NOT on the hook to support businesses who make deals with shady governments which do not respect individual rights. Those businesses make crony deals with slave states and then expect to get bailed out when their business deals collapse and they see their “trading partner” for what it really is, a slave state. Nope. I think they get what they deserve. Crony deals should be suspect the world over. There is no role for the US in bailing out failed business deals no matter whether they concern major commodities like oil or minor items like kumquats.


  3. No US business should ever develop a foreign resource or asset without built-in means to blow it up in the event of nationalization!


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