In And Out ...
OF BOXES AND BUSINESS
By William Westmiller
Probably by accident, Washington think tanks occasionally drop a little nugget of insight. The occasion that caught my attention was a Brookings Institution seminar on the Future of NATO. The panelists exercised their academic prowess on a variety of scenarios (that's their forte). But it wasn't anything they said that caught my attention. Rather, it was a question from the audience. Or rather, the pretext for a question.
A lower echelon perfunctory of the State Department explained that there had been a "virtual mantra" among government policy wonks over the past year. The mantra was "Go out of the box, or go out of business." This slightly ungrammatical phrase had been the nub of NATO policy thought leading up to the Kosovo intervention. Since the question was innocuous, it's fair to assume that the pretext was a truthful observation. An observation with profound implications.
NATO has indeed gotten "out of the box" in mythical proportions, challenging the horror of Pandora's own container of demons. The "box", of course, is the restraining set of objectives established by NATO almost fifty years ago. Mutual, cooperative defense against the threat of aggression by the Soviet Union. A worthy box, carved with a set of principles that brought peace and enough good will to reassure Russians that we were not intent on their destruction. Any member who wanted to enter "the box" had to forsake all military adventures outside their borders. Rather than an instrument of domination, military power would be applied to a common pursuit of peace among neighbors and an untempered resolve against aggression. This was a very good box, even after fifty years.
|The NATO Box
Preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty:
"The Parties to this Treaty ...
are resolved to unite their efforts for
and for the preservation of peace and security."
Adopted April 4, 1949
The NATO box had one minor problem. People who peeked out of the box noticed that the threat that brought them there had simply vanished. The world outside the box wasn't quite as cold as it once had been. The box was no longer necessary. Besides, such noble principles of restraint didn't suit the exercise of power for less noble objectives. Some of those in the box urged their fellows to build a larger box to allow new members into the box club, even those old enemies who had brought them into the box at the beginning. But, the most powerful box members weren't satisfied with a larger box. They insisted on getting "out of the box" to exercise their power and impose their superior will on all the non-box people. So, they opened the lid, and all the passion, power, whims and wants of the former box people were unleashed upon the earth. NATO was now "outside the box."
But that's only half the fable from the think tank story. Remember, the mantra was "go out of the box, or go out of business."
The people in the box had a very lucrative business selling gizmos that stopped. Not only did the gizmos stop when you used them, but they could stop almost anything they touched. There were big gizmos and little gizmos, air, land, and water gizmos, gizmos that could stop nearly anything and gizmos that could stop nearly everything. And there were new gizmos. Gizmos that were smart enough to know wherever you wanted them to stop.
The most wonderful thing about gizmos that stopped is that they could stop some things without ever being used. Everybody wanted gizmos that would stop. They were easy to sell. People who manufactured gizmos made lots of money. The box was filled with gizmos that would stop and the box people were exceedingly pleased that they had profited so well from buying and storing gizmos that stopped. But, when the box people peeked outside their box, they saw that the gizmos had stopped the most evil empire ever. Why would anyone want gizmos that would stop if there was nothing to stop? So, they crawled out of the box and lo! There was evil everywhere to be stopped! Business would be very good outside the box. NATO could use the gizmos that stopped and more would have to be made and sold and all the former box people would be happy.
The moral of the story is that think tanks are good for making you think about gizmos that stop. Without think tanks, I would neverhave thought much of box people that get out of their box. Nor, that gizmos that stop might make you stop and think about box people who couldn't stop.
©1999, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24 CA) Congress
Former National Secretary and California Chairman, Libertarian Party
inandout.c46 ~760 Words
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