The Canadian truckers are ‘MAD’
The several hundred Canadian truckers blocking the roads and bridges crossing into Detroit and other parts of Michigan and the U.S. are MAD. No, not mad as in insane or angry; instead, they are the new MAD, which stands for “massive attacks of disruption.”
These types of protests are not new. Sit-ins, strikes, boycotts, marches and other disruptive tactics to seek political change are as old as civilization.
But today’s disruptions are tectonically different. The reasons are the subject of my new book, “The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Have Become the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and the World at Large.”
A curious thing happened to society as it grew more advanced and modern in terms of the sophistication and extraordinary improvements of standards of living for most citizens. For every advance driven by technology, the diffusion of power and globalization, new vulnerabilities, weaknesses, dependencies and interdependencies were created.
Take supply chains and just-in-time specifications to maximize efficiency and cut costs.
A ship grounds in the Suez Canal for 10 days, and massive global interruptions break out. A plant manufacturing computer chips experiences a slow down due to COVID-19 cases and auto production lines shut down. A pipeline carrying gasoline that supplies most of northeast America is hacked and motorists are unable to fill up their cars.
About one quarter of U.S.-Canadian trade flows over the 1.6-mile-long Ambassador Bridge, or just under half-a-billion dollars a day. Already Ford and Toyota automobile makers are cutting back for lack of parts. Given the soaring inflation and other economic issues facing America and reflected in a volatile and unpredictable stock market that appears particularly out of control, this trucker disruption is no longer a protest. It could have profound legal and economic implications if it persists.
Suppose this blockade goes on for days or weeks and other blockades spring up. But if real economic damage results – as with the steel strike in 1952 and the air traffic controllers in 1981 – the situation could become violent.
The larger problem is that MAD is potentially existential. The COVID-19 pandemic is on its way to causing 1 million American deaths — more than the number of Americans killed on every battlefield this country has fought since 1775. Or suppose the pandemic migrates to animal and plant life, threatening food supplies. Perhaps the most immediate form of MAD has to do with the U.S. government failing to provide what Americans need or demand.
A small example: Congress passed and the president signed the desperately needed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. How much has been allocated? Zero. Why? Congress had been unable to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, 2021.
The Canadian truckers’ blockade represents a far more serious threat than the disruption that will follow. Multiply the possibilities and then add other disruptors that may have even more dangerous consequences to include climate change causing extreme storms, floods, drought, fires, heat and cold; cyberattacks; social media; terror; debt; and, perhaps most interestingly, drones. Imagine the carnage last Jan. 6 had protestors flown drones armed with explosives into the Capitol.
The warnings are too obvious and numerous to be ignored or dismissed. No matter how challenging states such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea may be, as well as non-state actors, the new danger is “the fifth horseman” – complementing the four other riders of the Apocalypse: war, death, pestilence and destruction – armed with the new MAD.
Seventy-five years ago, a Cold War was about to break out between East and West. With the advent of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, a hot war was checked by the old MAD of mutual assured destruction and the Armageddon that would have destroyed much of mankind and the world. Today, a new MAD is the specter haunting us. Unlike the old one, it cannot be deterred.
If we are smart and recognize this danger and its consequences, MAD can be reduced, contained and possibly prevented. Canadian truckers are driving this point home now. But will we listen? And will we act in time?
Harlan Ullman, Ph.D, is senior adviser at Washington, D.C.’s Atlantic Council and the primary author of “shock and awe.” His latest book is, “The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and that World at Large.”