Admittedly, "8" is a somewhat unusual title for a column. But Federico Fellini established the precedent with his film "8½."
The number in the title of this column has double significance. The event to which it refers took place on the 8th day of June, 1999. More importantly, the appearance of the number 8 in a certain context signals a major change on the world stage.
In the middle of an address delivered on the South Lawn of America's Executive Mansion, discussing developments in Kosovo, the president of the United States made reference to agreements just concluded among officials representing the G8 nations.
Now, for some time, we have gotten used to periodic meetings bringing together leaders of the most affluent nations, commonly known as the G7, to discuss the affairs of the world. While it may have been unseemly for some to observe this huddle of the rich, it did make sense for countries more or less living by the rule of law and exemplifying the free enterprise system, to form their own club.
Ever since Russia has emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union, previously known simply as the Russian Empire, its leaders have demanded a seat at the table of the G7. The reason? Russia's size, former power, and continuing ownership of ICBM's. The purpose? To have a say in the affairs of other nations. Where the Red Army and the KGB had failed, they figured the suggestion that the Russians themselves were victims of communism might carry the day.
For the time being, the attempt didn't go anywhere. Though the victorious West decided to dispense with any semblance of calling the Russian equivalents of German war criminals to account, it stopped short of rewarding Russia with a seat among the nations whose destruction it had openly sought for decades.
Why Germany was treated one way after World War II, and Russia in another at the end of the Cold War, no one will ever know. Why victims of German socialism have their memorial in Washington, D.C., while victims of Russian socialism are rarely mentioned, no one will ever know.
But Russia was not about to give up. True, its economy has been going from bad to worse, and the establishment of a legal framework is not even considered a remote possibility. But Americans appear to have money to burn. Why sweat, as long as America delivers the cash?
Of course, Mr. Gorbachev is unhappy. Recently, he voiced his disappointment with America because of the arrogance of wanting to have another "American century," before even completing the first one. It does not occur to him that such matters do not happen by proclamation, but as the result of very hard work. In order to have a Russian century, it might be nice to manufacture something - anything - that people of other countries would be interested to purchase for money.
Well - all of the above notwithstanding, President Clinton spoke the magic word, G8. Indeed, research reveals that Russia has joined as a full partner last year in Birmingham, England. (That would be the same time and place where President Clinton chose to sign the infamous Executive Order 13083.) The Russians now sit at the table where they can contribute precious little, but create mischief in reverse proportion.
To the best of my knowledge, there was no public discussion, no formal announcement, no genuine awareness in our land - only the sudden reality that a vast country noted mostly for its inability to run its own affairs now has a voice in ours.
Yet, that reality simply reflects a larger and more ominous reality. When our leaders intend to make changes that, in their opinion, would elicit serious resistance from Americans, they find ways to make it happen bit by bit, almost unnoticeable if need be, in slices so thin that they would not register on an ordinary scale.
It is known as "incrementalism."
And therein lie the seeds of our destruction.
Momentous changes occur day-by-day in our land. Vast alterations are undertaken to the model established in blood and faith 223 years ago, defended in blood ever since. Executive orders transfer control of land and water from owners to commissars. Political crime has been ushered in under the pseudonym "hate crime." Marx's prescription of uniting education with industrial production proceeds at breakneck pace. The appointment of high officials without advice and consent by the U.S. Senate has become routine. The cataloguing and monitoring of citizens under a variety of guises, from immunization to banking, concentrates ever more power in the hands of the executive branch.
Yes, the awesome lesson of the secret health care commission of 1994 has been learned in the White House. Why commissions, even in secret? Let's just do it, then say it. Or let's say it and see if anyone dares to oppose it?
Is all this the doing of a couple of cunning politicians? Do not kid yourselves, members of Congress, whatever your party affiliation.
The voters may be forgiving, uninformed, or otherwise engaged.
But history will record the names of everyone who countenances the abandonment of our constitutional order and sits in waiting for someone else to sound the trumpet.