May 3, 2016

Free Excerpt: Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Where_Do_Conservativ_Cover_for_Kindle

CONTENTS

Chapter One: Something is Wrong with the World

Chapter Two: Where Do Conservatives Come From?

Chapter Three: Where Do Liberals Come From?

Chapter Four: Where Did the Founding Fathers Come From?

Chapter Five: Defending the Creed The Conservative Tide

Notes

Chapter One:

Something is Wrong with the World

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.”

 – Morpheus to Neo in the motion picture “The Matrix” (1999)[1]

 

Back in 2010, I was invited to speak at a conference sponsored by Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning organization founded by former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Arriving at the hotel the night before, I discovered the political conference wasn’t the only convention there. The same hotel was also hosting a huge Star Wars convention.

Everywhere I looked, characters from the hit movie franchise adorned the lobby. I got a picture with Darth Vader. As it was the end of a long day, I headed to the bar for a beer. A man dressed as young Obi-Wan Kenobi sat down next to me.

“How’s the convention going for you?” he asked.

“I just got here,” I replied, “but I’m not here for the same convention you are. I’m here for the Campaign for Liberty event.”

“What’s Campaign for Liberty?” he inquired.

I looked around for a moment and replied, “Well, it’s an organization everyone at your convention should want to join.”

“Why is that?’ he asked.

“Because they want to end the American Empire and restore the Old Republic,” I replied.

The young Obi-Wan looked at me for a moment with an expression that read, “Do I really want to get into this?” Then, as if acquiescing to his own curiosity, he said “Tell me some more.”

I explained the organization as briefly as I could. Occasionally, he would interject, “I actually agree with that.” He seemed to agree with more than he disagreed with. Then, it was his turn.

“I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal,” he told me.

When I asked him what that meant to him, this was his reply:

“I believe if you can afford a $400,000.00 house, then more power to you. Enjoy it. But what’s wrong with this country is the idea that people feel entitled to houses they can’t afford, vacations they borrow money to take and two or three cars. People need to start living within their means.”

This is what a “dyed-in-the-wool liberal” thinks?

Believe it or not, I hear statements like this from people who self-identify as liberals all the time. Yet, less than a year before my new friend made this statement, President Obama had called for and then signed into law an $800 billion “stimulus package” designed to subsidize people who couldn’t afford to pay their own mortgages. Obi-Wan didn’t seem to notice the irony.

Liberals aren’t the only ones who sometimes fail to see the difference between what they and their representatives believe.

That same year, I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for the first time. CPAC is an annual rally held in Washington, D.C. where “anybody who’s anybody” in conservative politics gathers to speak, promote books, launch political campaigns, etc.

In addition to an all-star cast of conservative speakers, the event also features an exhibit hall where mostly grassroots conservative organizations set up booths and ply their wares. I was as interested in what these “regular folks” had to say as in the featured speakers. I asked each of them why they identified as conservative.

Their answers weren’t surprising. I heard a lot of affirmations of the free market, small government, individual liberty and religious freedom. These are the principles nearly every one associates with “conservatism.”

What was surprising was how little these positions resembled those taken by the conference’s speakers. On the big stage, attendees were warned that President Obama’s “socialist” healthcare program, which subsidizes private insurers, threatens Medicare, a healthcare program run completely by the government.

They heard passionate cries that Obama was “gutting the military” by not increasing military spending as fast as they deemed necessary. They heard that Obama was “soft on radical Islam,” and even implications he was a Muslim himself.

They heard little or nothing about rolling back regulations on business or reducing government spending. They heard no criticism of the federal government spying on their phone calls or e-mails. They heard nothing about reducing the size and reach of government at all.

Then, there is what liberal and conservative politicians actually do.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected to do one thing: to not be George W. Bush. The electorate voted against Bush’s wars of choice, civil liberties abuses, executive power grabs and government secrecy, all in the name of national security.

Rightly or wrongly, they also blamed Bush for a bad economy. He certainly hadn’t done anything to help.

During his campaign, former constitutional law professor Barack Obama promised to end the wars, restore constitutional protections of civil liberties, and run a “transparent” administration. He promised to review every one of Bush’s executive orders and overturn any that “trampled on liberty.” He promised to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

For the liberals, he promised to fight against the cozy relationship between multinational corporations and Washington, D.C.

Obama did wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he started several new ones, with results even more disastrous.

Siding with rebels in Libya to overthrow former U.S. adversary-turned-partner Muammar Gadhafi, the Obama administration allowed the country to be taken over by much more radical Islamists. Ditto for Egypt.

Siding with rebels in Syria to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime, the administration has inadvertently armed and trained thousands of jihadists who subsequently joined the Islamic State (IS), if there was ever a distinction between the two groups to begin with.

On one occasion alone, over a thousand rebels, carrying U.S.-supplied arms and equipment, defected from the rebellion in Syria and joined IS in Iraq.[2]

Where Bush was accused of misleading Congress to gain its support for the Iraq War, Obama hasn’t asked Congress for authorization at all. So much for the constitutional law professor.

Every dollar borrowed to fund these wars is a dollar that can’t be lent to a business to expand and create new jobs. It’s not just a dollar that is paid to a soldier instead. There’s a lot more waste when the government spends money than when private employers spend it. Since 1996, there has been $8.5 trillion in funds sent to the Pentagon that they can’t account for at all.[3]

At home, Obama hasn’t fared much better at not being Bush. Thanks to Edward Snowden, the American public now knows that government spying goes well beyond what they understood was occurring under Bush. Instead of rolling it back, Obama has expanded it.

He built a massive NSA data center in Utah to store phone, e-mail and other data belonging to American citizens, all obtained without probable cause or warrants. The center inspired so much public outrage that a Utah legislator actually introduced a bill to cut off its water supply.[4]

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

The prison camp at Guantanamo remains open. Despite his frequent condemnations of the use of torture, his administration continues to employ it.[5]

As for transparency, Erica Werner at the Huffington Post notes the irony that Obama accepted an award for transparency “behind closed doors with no media coverage or public access allowed.”[6]

On corporatism, Obama has consistently poured gasoline on the fire. The Dodd-Frank legislation he signed into law allows too-big-to-fail banks to become even bigger and more of a threat if they fail. His forays into “investing into green energy” have been nothing more than typical crony capitalism, ending in disasters like Solyndra.

Then, there’s the Affordable Care Act.

Hardcore liberals wanted a government-run, single payer healthcare system. They wanted “Medicare for everyone.” What they got was another crony capitalist scheme that showered hundreds of billions on corporate health insurers, made healthcare more expensive for everyone, and may not have decreased the net number of uninsured at all.

“Obamacare” was originally the Republican answer to Hillarycare in the 1990s. Republican governor Mitt Romney implemented a version of it in Massachusetts. Whether they’re right or wrong about what they want, Obamacare is nothing like what the hard left elected Obama to give them.

Everyone else likes it even less. 2014 Gallup polls show Americans disapprove of Obamacare by a clear majority.[7]

Heading into the 2014 midterm elections, a majority of Americans, including 59% of those not affiliated with either of the two major parties, disapproved of the job President Obama was doing.[8] Like Bush in 2006, the president was a liability on the campaign trail for his own party, which lost control of the Senate in that election.

Thank goodness the conservatives are different, right? Wrong.

In 2000, George W. Bush campaigned on the usual Republican platitudes of free markets, smaller government and individual liberty. He even harkened back to Old Right values, including “a humble foreign policy.” He said that it was not America’s job to be the policeman of the world.

How did that work out?

On promoting the free market, Bush and the Republican Congress couldn’t have been worse. They only enacted two significant economic policies: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the TARP Bailout.

One was a massive increase in regulation and the other an equally massive government subsidy to Wall Street.

On both occasions, Bush evoked one of the most anti-free market presidents in U.S. history. He called Sarbanes-Oxley ”the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.’[9]

On TARP, Bush claimed he “abandoned free market principles to save the free market,” something liberals routinely credit FDR with in making their case for even more regulation.

Bush consistently endorsed the misconception that economic crises are the result of free markets, rather than the government interventions that really caused them. His explanation for the housing crisis was “Wall Street got drunk.”

Before the first vote on TARP Americans of all political persuasions bombarded their representatives with angry phone calls, e-mails and demonstrations. Congressmen were visibly scared. They voted it down the first time.

But they eventually passed it, with Bush, Obama, and Republican nominee John McCain all in support. Bush helped cool grassroots opposition with a passionate speech designed to scare the daylights out of us. Enough people believed him to allow Congress to ram it through.

As for “small government,” Bush and the Republicans increased federal spending 50% over Clinton’s last year in office in just six years. It was $2.7 trillion by 2007. It would top $3 trillion before Bush left office.[10] “Big spending liberal” Bill Clinton only increased it by 25% over all eight years of his presidency.

One might offer 9/11 as an explanation for Bush’s failures either to curb spending or to execute a humble foreign policy. After all, a military response to 9/11 was necessary and wars cost money.

That makes a nice story, but it just doesn’t jibe with the facts. Of that $2.7 trillion spent in 2007, only $70 billion was spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.[11] That leaves $800 billion in increases to account for.

Moreover, the majority of that $70 billion was spent in Iraq, a war virtually everyone acknowledges was unnecessary, unrelated to 9/11 and a mistake. The Iraq war and the very un-humble foreign policy it represented was the single biggest reason Republicans lost Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

Then, there is individual liberty. Bush broke new ground in trashing the Bill of Rights with his warrantless wiretaps, surveillance of financial data and expansions of executive power. Between the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act of 2006, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments went out the window.

You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to know there’s something very wrong with the government eavesdropping on your phone calls without a warrant and being able to arrest and hold you indefinitely without charges or any appeal to a judge.

Didn’t we used to make fun of the Soviets for this?

The policies enacted by Bush and the Republicans couldn’t contrast more with their rhetoric or the reasons conservative voters say they elect them. It’s insane.

We’ve tried every possible configuration within the two party system. We’ve given the Republicans control of the White House and Congress. Then, we gave Congress back to the Democrats. After that, we gave the Democrats the White House and Congress. Now, we’ve given Congress back to the Republicans.

We’ve tried it all and Washington, D.C. is as broken as ever.

The economy continues to falter. The government tells us unemployment is decreasing, while at the same time acknowledging they don’t count people who’ve given up looking for work.

Does anyone really believe unemployment is really down?

They tell us what they call “inflation” is under control, while at the same time acknowledging they play tricks with those numbers, too.

Does anyone really believe prices haven’t gone up?

There are some things Washington doesn’t even try to deny. The wars go on. The federal debt continues to increase. The unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare continue to explode, unaddressed. Young people know they won’t be getting the benefits. Why should they continue to pay?

Regardless of our politics or what Washington tells us, we all have a sinking feeling that won’t seem to go away. Something is wrong with the world. We just don’t know what it is.

Often, we’re told the representatives we elect aren’t “real liberals” or “real conservatives.” Grassroots conservatives have even come up with a clever acronym for this phenomenon: “RINO.” It stands for “Republican in Name Only.” It’s meant to describe a Republican who campaigns on conservative rhetoric but acts more like a liberal Democrat when in office.

Both liberals and conservatives believe their representatives don’t truly believe in liberal or conservative principles, respectively. If only they could elect genuine liberals or genuine conservatives, the government would get back to representing the people, the economy would revive, and Washington, D.C. would “work.”

This book is going to challenge those assertions.

What if the conservatives in Washington are the real conservatives? What if they actually do what they say they will, if you listen closely enough? What if conservatism isn’t really what most Americans think it is? What if the “RINOs” are the real Republicans?

What if all of the above is true for liberalism as well? What if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the real liberals?

There are a few basic principles that virtually all Americans still claim to believe in. They are summarized in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

There are few, if any, Americans who would disavow that short passage. It is so universally accepted that we’ll call it the American Creed.

Jefferson had a gift for conveying enormous ideas in very few words. This was one of his finest moments. In those one hundred thirty-four words, he captured all of the elements of the political treatises of his time. It’s worthwhile to take a moment and break it down.

First, the Creed talks about what philosophers back then called “the state of nature.” The state of nature is the condition man would find himself in if there were no government. Critics sometimes mistake this to mean some ancient time when we all wore fig leaves and ate only what we could find on the ground or club over the head. They misunderstand the term “state of nature” to mean a time before government ever existed anywhere on earth. That’s not correct.

The state of nature can occur anywhere and anytime, wherever and whenever there is no effective government to enforce law and order. Think “Lord of the Flies.” But it doesn’t have to be on a desert island, either. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke observed that all princes existed in a state of nature relative to each other, because there was no government over them.

The Creed says that in the state of nature we are all equal and have certain rights. These rights come from our Creator and are inherent. They aren’t granted to us by any government. These rights are also “unalienable,” meaning they cannot be taken away. Neither can we surrender them ourselves. Unalienable rights are as much a part of us as our own skins.

The Creed then tells us the purpose of government: to secure these unalienable rights. That’s a very limited purpose that necessarily precludes other things some people believe governments are supposed to do. But the Creed is unambiguous. Government’s purpose is to secure these rights, period.

The Creed concludes by reminding us that whenever the government becomes “destructive of these ends,” meaning it fails to protect or itself violates our unalienable rights, we have the right to alter or abolish the government and construct a new one.

Both liberals and conservatives claim their philosophies are the true basis for the American Creed. In the chapters ahead, we’re going to examine the foundational conservative and liberal philosophers to try to confirm or deny those claims.

Along the way, we’re going to meet some interesting people, like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. But don’t worry. We’re not going to spend hours analyzing the categorical imperative or rubbing our chins and asking “Why am I here?”

We are going to revisit what these writers and thinkers said about the nature of man, the purpose of government, and the extent of the government’s power and compare their ideas to the American Creed.

In other words, we’re not just going to rehash what conservative and liberal politicians have said and done. We’re going to try to figure out why they said and did those things. We’re going to try to figure out how they think.

The results are going to surprise you.

 

Chapter Two:

Where Do Conservatives Come From?

This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!””

–          Attributed to Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt[xii]

 

Conservatives get their name from their desire to “conserve” the socio-political structure as it is. If change must occur, it should be gradual and as undisruptive as possible. Rather than “liberal,” the true opposite of conservative is really “radical,” as in “radical change.” That more than any specific policy is what the conservative fears most.

American conservatives are divided into two groups, as were their British forebears. They generally agree on most things. They share the same vision of the nature of man, the purpose of government, and the extent of the power invested in government. They disagree on the form of government or how that power should be distributed.

We’ll call the first group “centralizers,” because they seek to centralize government power, both in a national government and in the executive branch. That’s something liberals accused George Bush of trying to do with executive orders, signing statements, and other “unilateral” executive policies.

We’ll call the second group “constitutionalists,” because they seek to divide power between national, state and local governments and between separate branches within those governments. These would be more like “Old Right” conservatives Robert Taft or Barry Goldwater. A resurgence of Old Right conservatism is emerging today out of the Tea Party movement, with its emphasis on constitutional checks and balances.

While these two groups of conservatives have fought some epic internal battles over the course of American history, they have also worked together just as often. As they agree on most things, they tend to close ranks to resist perceived threats to their shared principles.

The literary traditions of British and American conservatism are rich. One could name hundreds of works as important in understanding conservatism. However, there are two men who are very much foundational: Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke.

Hobbes plays the larger role in developing the philosophy of conservatism. Living a century before Burke, he develops the tenets of conservatism from “the ground up,” articulating conservative ideas that Burke would echo later. Their chief differences are on the form of government. Hobbes was a centralizer and Burke a constitutionalist.

Conservatives on the nature of man

All conservatives agree on man’s nature. In a word, we’re bad. Very bad. So bad that life without government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”[xiii]

Hobbes lays out this view in his massive work, Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, generally referred to simply as Leviathan.

First, he discusses man’s condition in the state of nature:

“Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.”[xiv]

That sentence was written over three hundred years ago. We’re going to be looking at passages like this from time to time to demonstrate just how long some of these ideas have been around. Don’t let the “haths” and “thereupons” throw you. We’ll provide translations in 21st century English wherever necessary.

In this passage, Hobbes is just saying “all men are created equal,” just like in the American Creed. But then he says this:

“From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore, if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies, and in the way to their end, which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only, endeavor to destroy or subdue one another.”[xv]

Where the American Creed says that man’s natural equality is the source of our rights, Hobbes says it is the source of all human conflict. Talk about a glass half empty kind of guy! It gets worse:

“Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man.”[xvi]

Hobbes actually believes that man’s natural state – meaning his condition in the absence of any government (whether twenty thousand years ago or tomorrow) – is a state of war. That’s pretty grim, but it is the basis for all conservative thinking. Not only does man need a government, but one powerful enough to “keep him in awe.” Otherwise, he is in a de facto state of war with every other man.

This isn’t just a 17th century idea. If you’ve seen the movie Apocalypse Now, it conveys the same message. It was based on a book called Heart of Darkness by lifelong conservative Joseph Conrad. Conrad’s novel was set in colonial Africa, while Francis Ford Coppola resets the story in the Viet Nam War, but the message of both is identical. As the main character, Marlowe, travels farther up the river and into the unsettled interior, he gets farther from the confines of society and government. The farther from these confines he gets, the more savage and insane the people become. The journey ends with Kurtz, who embodies man’s true nature when unrestrained by government. Man literally has a “heart of darkness.”

Whether you agree or not, both the movie and the book convey the idea brilliantly. Coppola also weaves in the insanity of war as a theme, without losing Conrad’s original message.

Burke and the constitutionalists are in lockstep with Hobbes on the nature of man. Russell Kirk, the 20th century intellectual leader of Burkean conservatism, says this in his own introduction to Leviathan:

“What must strike the reader with especial force, in this cold and relentless book, is the almost diabolical truth in Hobbes’ interpretation of human nature.”[xvii]

He also presents Burke’s view of man’s nature as indistinguishable from Hobbes’:

“Burke knew that just under the skin of modern man stirs the savage, the brute, the demon. Millennia of bitter experience have taught man how to hold his wilder nature in a precarious restraint; that dread knowledge is expressed in myth, ritual, usage, instinct, prejudice.”[xviii]

Now that you’re really feeling good about yourself, let’s go a bit further. We’ve established that man is bad and that it’s unfortunate that we are all created equal, because it brings out even more badness in us. What about those “inalienable rights?” Are we endowed by our Creator with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Not quite.

“And because the condition of man (as hath been declared in the precedent chapter) is a condition of war of everyone against everyone (in which case everyone is governed by his own reason and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies), it followeth that in such a condition every man has a right to everything, even to one another’s body.”[xix]

Hobbes takes a completely different approach to the concept of rights than does the American Creed. Where the Creed describes rights as moral principles, Hobbes is more mechanistic. Forget “what ought to be,” Hobbes is only concerned with what goes down when the rubber hits the road. And what really goes down is killing, looting, pillaging, cars turned over and burning…You get the picture.

Again, Burke agrees here with Hobbes. He quotes Hobbes directly in Reflections on the Revolution in France,

“Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it; and exist in much greater clearness, and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection: but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection.”[xx]

The idea that man has “a right to everything” in the state of nature completely contradicts the American Creed. The Creed assumes rights are negative. They describe what other people should not do to you.

For example, the right to life is not the positive right to live under any circumstances. When someone is killed in an earthquake, we feel bad about it, but we do not say his right to life was violated. The right to life is specifically the right not to be killed by another human being.

Similarly, the right to liberty is the right not to have someone forcibly interfere with your peaceful actions. You might want to fly. That you can’t does not violate your right to liberty. Only violent interference by other people constitutes a violation of your right to liberty.

Implicit in the American Creed is the existence of these rights in the state of nature. They are not endowed by government, but by our Creator. That governments are created “to secure these rights” confirms that they must exist before government.

But conservatives don’t believe that. They believe that man has a right to everything in the state of nature, even to one another’s bodies, meaning there can be no rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness in this state. Since these rights do not exist without government, then the purpose of government must be something other than what the Creed says it is.

Hobbes goes on to say that none of the benefits of civil society are possible in this state, because man’s entire life is dominated by the constant fear of violent death. Without a government “to keep them in awe,” men cannot acquire property or benefit from the division of labor, because other men will immediately attack them and steal whatever they produce.

He goes so far as to say that death of natural causes is rare in the state of nature. Yikes!

So, as far as the state of nature goes, both Hobbes and Burke reject the tenets of the American Creed, as do the schools of thought they founded within conservatism. Russell Kirk sums up the conservative position on the Creed when discussing John Randolph:

“John Randolph of Roanoke wholly repudiated the common interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, denounced Jefferson as a Pied Piper, and turned his back upon political abstractions to seek security in prescription and in an unbroken vigilance over personal and local rights.”[xxi]

Conservatives on the purpose of government

Burke summed up well what conservatives see as the purpose of government. Government exists to “thwart” man’s natural inclinations and to take him out of the state of war and into a state of relative peace.

Burke gets this idea from Hobbes as well, who said that men form government for the purpose of “getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war, which is necessarily consequent (as hath been shown [ch.xiii]) to the natural passion of men, when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants and observation of those laws of nature set down in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters.”[xxii]

This idea that only the awesome power of government can keep our dark nature at bay explains quite a bit about the way conservatives react to the world today. While non-conservatives have a natural instinct to resist what they think is a bad law, even to practice civil disobedience, this scares the living daylights out of conservatives. They believe it’s better to follow a bad law until it is changed than to undermine the authority of the government in any way. Once the idea of resisting a law is introduced, we’re on our way back to the state of nature, which is a state of war.

It also explains why conservatives generally support law enforcement officers no matter what the circumstances. Rarely will you see conservatives side with an alleged victim of police brutality. Their first instinct is always to side with the police officer. That’s because they see the “thin blue line” as more than just functionaries who enforce the law. To conservatives, they are literally all that stands between civilization and the inherent state of war that exists wherever there is an absence of government force.

End of Excerpt

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Notes

Chapter One Something is Wrong with the World

[1] The Matrix (1999) Warner Bros. Pictures

[3] Paltrow, Scott J. “Unaccountable: The high cost of the Pentagon’s bad bookkeeping” Reuters November 18, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/investigates/pentagon/#article/part2

[6] Werner, Erica Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/31/obama-accepts-transparenc_n_843195.html

[9] “CORPORATE CONDUCT: THE PRESIDENT; Bush Signs Bill Aimed at Fraud In Corporations” by Elizabeth Bumiller New York Times July 31, 2002 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/business/corporate-conduct-the-president-bush-signs-bill-aimed-at-fraud-in-corporations.html.

[10] http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=200 Note: The U.S. government fiscal year runs October 1 – Sept. 30, meaning that outgoing presidents actually propose the budget their successors will operate under during their first nine months in office.

[xii] Bolt, Robert A Man for All Seasons

[xiii] Hobbes, Thomas Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil Hackett Publishing Company Indianapolis, IN 1994 pg. 76

[xiv] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 74

[xv] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 75

[xvi] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 76

[xvii] Kirk, Leviathan, I, pg. 5

[xviii] Kirk, Russell The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot Regnery Publishing; Seventh Edition (November 30, 1953) Kindle Edition Location 707 of 6718

[xix] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 80

[xx] Burke, Edmund Reflections on the Revolution in France Second Edition London Printed for J. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall 1790 pgs.88-89

[xxi] Kirk, Conservative Mind, Location 2144-2148

[xxii] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 106

Obama’s NSA speech proves government can’t prevent terrorism in a free society

obama911TAMPA, January 18, 2014 – President Obama outlined his proposed reforms of the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities in a speech on Friday. The speech was at times eloquent and the president’s intentions appear genuine, but his recommendations for reform are inadequate. As long as the government is trying to prevent crime or terrorism in the future, it’s going to trample liberty in the present.

The president stated the crux of the problem during his speech:

“So we demanded [after 9/11] that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.”

Freedom requires that the government not attempt to prevent anything. All powers granted to the government relate to crimes committed in the past.

The Bill of Rights rests upon this assumption. Rooted in what is now called the “libertarian” principle of non-aggression, the Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from using force against an individual until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual has committed a crime in the past.

The Fourth Amendment goes even farther, prohibiting the government from even searching an individual or his papers (e.g., phone records, e-mails, etc.) without probable cause that the individual has committed a crime in the past.

The entire Bill of Rights supposes that you are beyond the reach of government until you have actually committed a crime. That logically excludes the possibility of the government preventing anything, because the government must employ force against the innocent to do so.

Read the rest of the article at Communities Digital News…

Washington’s Al Qaeda doesn’t exist and never did

al qaedaTAMPA, December 11, 2013 — For twelve years, the Bush and Obama Administrations have promoted a narrative about the War on Terror. It has changed slightly in superficial ways, as when President Obama gave it a new name, but the crux of the narrative has not changed. The United States is fighting a war against a worldwide terrorist organization called al-Qaeda, formerly headed by über-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Americans are led to believe that this organization has a single mission against the United States and is directed by a hierarchy of terrorist leaders, all reporting up to a senior command located somewhere in Afghanistan. Many of the lawmakers and cabinet personnel who promote this narrative likely believe it themselves, at least to some degree.

Washington sees al-Qaeda the way it sees itself, a centralized, top-down hierarchy with a chain of command reporting up from every corner of the earth. It makes for a good story, but it’s not even remotely true. Virtually every incident involving this fictional organization refutes the narrative.

Veteran reporter Eric Margolis never did. He’s been reporting on the true nature of the Islamic militant groups from the very beginning. He should know what he’s talking about. He was embedded in Afghanistan in the 1980’s when bin Laden and what is now Al Qaeda and the Taliban were U.S. allies, fighting the Soviet Union.

For what it’s worth, bin Laden and other Islamic militants apparently regarded Margolis’ reporting as accurate. He was named as one of a small group of reporters who “fairly and accurately reported on the region” in alleged Al Qaeda letters released last year. Commenting on that release in “Osama’s Almost Letter to Me,” Margolis wrote,

“Al-Qaida was not founded by Osama bin Laden, as many wrongly believe, but in the mid-1980’s in Peshawar, Pakistan, by a revolutionary scholar, Sheik Abdullah Azzam.

I know this because I interviewed Azzam numerous times at al-Qaida HQ in Peshawar while covering the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Azzam set up al-Qaida, which means “the base” in Arabic, to help CIA and Saudi-financed Arab volunteers going to fight in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. In those days, the west hailed them as “freedom fighters.”

Margolis goes on to report that neither Al Qaeda in Afghanistan nor the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11. Their raison d’etre is fighting foreign troops within their borders. When the invaders were Soviet, they fought the Soviets, using similar but updated tactics to those previously used against the British. When the invaders were American, they fought the Americans. That’s what they do. Thus Afghanistan’s ominous nickname, “Graveyard of Empires.”

According to this alternate narrative, the “extremists” in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 nor any tangible connection to the group that perpetrated the attacks. Those were mostly Saudi Arabian nationals who planned the attack in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid. The only thing the attackers had in common with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan was hatred of the United States. But they hated the United States for different reasons.

The 9/11 attackers, being Saudi, most likely hated America for precisely the reason Osama bin Laden stated: U.S. bases in the Muslim holy land and (secondarily) its support for Israel. Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan hated America because the United States invaded, ignoring the Taliban’s quite reasonable request for the U.S. to produce evidence of bin Laden’s guilt before demanding his extradition.

What Washington is calling “Al Qaeda in Syria” is also a completely different group. They exist to overthrow the Assad regime. Since that regime is a longtime ally of Russia’s, the U.S. has actually supported these rebels, amidst heavy criticism from within Washington’s ranks that the Obama administration is supporting Al Qaeda. This was apparently confirmed when Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri.

However, the pledge of allegiance actually supports the alternative narrative, not Washington’s. It is apparent from the reports on the pledge that the Syrian group had no previous connection to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It came immediately following an announcement by the Islamic State of Iraq that al Nusra was part of its network.

The ISI is one of many militant groups that filled the vacuum left after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and which had no active presence before Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. ISI similarly pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004 while fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

According to The Telegraph’s April 10, 2013 report, Syria’s al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda,” al-Joulani (al Jawlani) was quick to clarify the relationship with ISI:

“We inform you that neither the al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement [the announcement by ISI]. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted,” Jawlani said…We reassure our brothers in Syria that al-Nusra Front’s behaviour will remain faithful to the image you have come to know, and that our allegiance (to al-Qaeda) will not affect our politics in any way,” he added.”

In other words, the Syrian rebel group al Nusra was a group organized around toppling the Assad regime in Syria. It pledged allegiance to what Washington calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” but which is really the ISI. The ISI in turn was a group organized to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, with the long term goal of establishing an Islamic state there after U.S. forces withdrew.

None of these groups were part of a worldwide, centralized organization to fight the “Great Satan.” Instead, they are all disparate groups which formed for different, localized reasons and discovered after the fact that they all had a common enemy, the United States. The one exception to this is the group in Syria, whose western, industrialized enemy is Russia. That is why “al Qaeda in Syria” has sought to work with the United States instead of fight against it. The United States is useful in its goal of toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.

All of this leads to one, inescapable conclusion. The United States has accomplished nothing in twelve years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq War actually expanded the presence of Islamic militant groups and led to a fundamentalist Islamic state there, with strong ties to Iran.

Rather than waging a war against a centralized, top-down organization with divisions in several Middle Eastern countries and agents embedded all over the world, Washington is actually playing a deadly game of “whack a mole,” with new moles popping up out of new holes every time Washington swings its mallet.

That means that triumphant announcements about killing “the number three man in Al Qaeda” mean absolutely nothing. That Al Qaeda hierarchy doesn’t exist. Instead, independent groups all over the world discover a kinship with each other all centered around one phenomenon: U.S. intervention in their nations. Intervention could be military, covert or merely aid to a local dictator.

Iranian militants hate America because the CIA helped overthrow their democratically-elected government in 1953 and then maintained the hated Shah as dictator there for almost three decades afterwards.

Militant groups in Saudi Arabia hate America for maintaining the Kingdom of Saud and for the additional insult of previously garrisoning troops in their holy land.

Militant groups in Iraq hate America for first supporting Saddam Hussein over the wishes of the Shiite majority and then destroying their country when Hussein became troublesome for the United States.

Militant groups in Afghanistan hate America merely because they are the latest western empire to invade their homeland. It will soon be apparent that they have expelled the United States the same way they did the Soviet and British empires.

The Tsarnaev brothers took direction from no one overseas. They just dreamed up their horrible crime and executed it. Their stated reason? U.S. military interventions in the Middle East.

That doesn’t mean the terrorists are justified. If a wife catches her husband with another woman and shoots him, no reasonable person would conclude that she “hated her husband for his freedom.” Acknowledging that cheating on her was the reason she shot him is not the same as condoning the murder. If she confesses to the murder and states her motive, nobody questions it.

Given the complete failure to accomplish anything in twelve years of war, the true, decentralized nature of the various Islamist groups and the likelihood that new ones will emerge wherever Washington intervenes, nonintervention seems to be the only effective way for Washington to reduce the risk of terrorism in the United States.

Washington should have learned this from the Cold War. Wherever nations succeeded in establishing communism, including in Viet Nam after the U.S. withdrawal, communism eventually died of natural causes. The only places it still exists is Cuba and North Korea, both still under siege by the U.S. military. The U.S. military presence in and sanctions on both countries have kept communist regimes in power long after their shelf life, solely because the people rally around their leaders in the face of a foreign threat.

History is repeating itself. Islamic fundamentalism is the new communism. The difference is that the U.S. is no longer capable of squandering its resources for decades whacking moles. It’s time to start playing the game smart, before America loses it for good.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

The War on Terror has not made us freer or safer

Enduring FreedomTAMPA, December 5, 2013 — There has been predictable bluster about President Obama signing a deal with five other nations to begin the process of lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for commitments by Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. Neoconservatives have howled that it abandons U.S. ally Israel and endangers the entire planet.

Regardless, it is a harbinger of things to come. Economic reality is forcing the United States to change its interventionist foreign policy. Normalizing relations with Iran is just one part of that puzzle. Without a realistic political solution to crushing entitlement liabilities, the only place to make meaningful cuts is in military spending.

As the U.S. government comes to grips with the inevitable, Americans should expect to hear quite a bit about the end of a decade of war and of the sacrifices so many have made to “accomplish the mission.”

There’s no doubt about the sacrifice, both in blood and treasure. It’s the accomplishments that should be evaluated with a high degree of skepticism.

A good percentage of the public seems to regard the Iraq War as a colossal mistake. President Bush took the fall for that, as did the Republican Party in two straight elections. President Obama campaigned successfully on the argument that Iraq was “the wrong war.” The United States should be concentrating on Afghanistan, he argued, from whence the 9/11 attacks and other terrorism supposedly originated.

Americans seem to accept this premise implicitly, but it is far-fetched justification for a decade of war and $5 trillion in additional debt.

Despite most of the 9/11 attackers being Saudi Arabian, Americans were told that Afghanistan must be invaded because Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda army enjoyed a safe haven there, where they “radicalized” new Islamic terrorists in a network of paramilitary training camps. By invading Afghanistian, Americans were told, the U.S. government could break up the camps and greatly diminish the threat of terrorism.

It all makes good sound bites, but almost none of it has any connection to reality. There is credible evidence that the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany, not in Afghanistan. Whether that’s true or not, minimal critical thinking skills are required to arrive at the conclusion that an attack like 9/11 could be planned anywhere.

The Tsarnaev brothers proved that last April. Immediately following the attacks, there were several reports of authorities trying to establish that the elder Tsarnaev had traveled to Dagestan to “become radicalized.” This was a desperate attempt to keep the narrative going. Terrorists like Tsarnaev have to go somewhere in order to become fully committed to crimes like the Boston bombing.

Otherwise, the U.S. government really wasn’t accomplishing anything by invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries.

Ultimately, authorities concluded that Tsarnaev had changed his mind about joining a militant group in Dagestan and had been radicalized right here in the USA.

Whoops.

For the second time in two generations, America has spent over a decade at war in third world countries thousands of miles away. With the Taliban officially part of negotiations and likely to be a major force in post-war Afghanistan, if they don’t return to power altogether, Americans should face some harsh realities.

The first is that twelve years of war in the Middle East has accomplished absolutely nothing. There is no cause and effect relationship between the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the risk of new terrorist attacks in the United States. There never really was. It just sounded good when passions were high and the government felt it had to “do something.”

It hasn’t made Americans freer at home, either. On the contrary, the past decade has seen American society adopt a national security state footing that bears far too much resemblance to 1930’s Germany. There might not be concentration camps or mass murders, but Americans certainly live in a “Papers, please” culture, complete with surveillance cameras on every corner and drones flying overhead.

It’s important to face these facts and learn from history if American doesn’t want to remain doomed to repeat it. America should mourn the dead, take care of the wounded and try to put its finances in order. But don’t let the government put a smiley face on this debacle.

Otherwise, our children may find themselves fighting the next unnecessary war. They already have to pay for this one.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

9/11 happens every day to victims of U.S. foreign policy

911 happens every dayTAMPA, September 11, 2013 — Twelve years after terrorists perpetrated the most deadly crime ever committed on American soil, Americans still hold vigils and other events to commemorate the tragedy.

The 9/11 attack shocked the nation in a way people outside the western hemisphere probably cannot understand. Unlike most nations, Americans have not seen a war at home in over a century.

For the host nations of hot wars, 9/11 happens every week.

NBC reports that 9-12 civilians were killed by a NATO airstrike in Afghanistan on Saturday. According to Abdul Ghani Mosamam, spokesman for the Governor of Kunar Province, four Taliban insurgents and 12 civilians died. The civilians were four men, four women and four children. NATO denies any civilians were killed, but no one denies that civilians are killed in airstrikes and offensives. Thus the term, “collateral damage.”

For the civilian victims, every strike is their own personal 9/11. Missiles raining down from the sky and destroying buildings, killing loved ones and rendering others homeless is no less terrifying than what happened in New York City in 2001. One might argue that the New York City attacks killed far more people than last Saturday’s NATO attack in Afghanistan, but that misses the point.

Attacks like Saturday’s are routine in Afghanistan, as they were for eight years in Iraq. The death toll of innocent civilians is in the hundreds of thousands. The refugees number in the millions. For the people of Iraq, 9/11 happened every day for eight long years. It wasn’t two buildings. It was whole cities and their entire civilization that was reduced to rubble.

Americans simply have no concept of what the face of war at home really looks like. Outside of Pearl Harbor, an attack by military men on a military facility, warfare has not occurred on American soil since 1865. Even servicemen who have deployed to foreign wars do not understand. For them, their combat service is performed while “in country,” meaning someone else’s country. They have no point of reference from which to understand “taking fire” in one’s own house or having that house destroyed in an instant by an airstrike aimed at someone else.

It is good for Americans to remember September 11, 2001 and how horrifying it was to see a presumably inviolate city touched by the face of war, to see loved ones running for their lives and some not making it out in time. It would be better for Americans to imagine that happening every day or every week. That is reality for the civilians “in country” when war comes to them.

Remembering 9/11 that way might change the conversations we have here about whether or not we prosecute wars of choice. Imagine if we were to see foreign governments casually discussing whether to perpetrate 9/11 on us every week for the foreseeable future, based purely on whether they had any “compelling national interests” or “clear path to victory.” We would burn with hatred and rightly so.

War is the complete abandonment of reason, as John Locke wrote in his famous treatise. It is the last resort when survival is truly threatened. It is the answer to a violent aggressor who has committed acts of war and will not relent. There is no lesser justification for unleashing its indiscriminate destruction.

Let’s hope that Congress remembers 9/11 in its debates about Syria. Each legislator should ask himself: How can I justify a new 9/11 for the people of this country?

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Obama administration makes Putin, Russians look like the good guys

putinTAMPA, September 10, 2013 – Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said earlier today that his government would accept the proposal to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction by the international community, according to the Associated Press. The proposal was made by the Russian government in an attempt to avoid U.S. airstrikes in reprisal for alleged chemical weapons attacks by its Syrian counterpart against rebels and civilians on Aug. 21.

The Syrian government has consistently denied launching the attacks.

President Obama has now reportedly changed the goal of his meetings today with Congressmen from persuading them to approve his military strikes to participating in the diplomatic solution. This begs an obvious question.

Why was it Russia that proposed a diplomatic solution, while the Nobel Peace Prize-winning U.S. president would consider nothing but war?

Indeed, Russian president Vladimir Putin has consistently been a calm voice of restraint and caution during the entire crisis, while Obama has sounded more like Khrushchev than Kennedy.

Syria is a longtime Russian ally and the home to Russia’s only military base outside its borders. The U.S. threats of military action against Syria is only the latest in a long train of provocative actions by the U.S. government towards its former Cold War adversary. As Pat Buchanan wrote in the American Conservative,

“George W. Bush sought to put an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Neither country had requested it. We said it was aimed at Iran. When my late friend, columnist Tony Blankley, visited Russia in the Bush II era, he was astounded at the hostility he encountered from Russians who felt we had responded to their offer of friendship at the end of the Cold War by taking advantage of them.”

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, chiefly for economic reasons. That’s not the same as surrendering to an adversary in a hot war. Yet, the U.S. government has treated Russia more like Germany after the Treaty of Versailles than the major First World power that they remain.

Imagine how the U.S. government would react if Russia were talking about bombing Israel in response to some alleged misdeed?

Yet, Putin has avoided bellicosity in the face of the Obama administration’s refusal to consider anything but military action, asking only that the administration at least wait for all of the evidence to be presented and examined.

Yesterday, it was Putin who proposed a diplomatic solution to the crisis while Obama maintained his full court press for war. This isn’t the first time that Americans have been confronted with bizarre role reversals between their government and Russia’s. At a G20 conference in 2009, while the Obama administration was promoting its housing bailout bill, Putin lectured the administration about the evils of socialism.

“Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence is another possible mistake…In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated,” said Putin.

For the past four and a half years, the Obama administration has pursued the very interventionist economic policies it had so vehemently criticized the Bush administration for, while the Russian government advised to let the market do more of the work.

During the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, the Obama administration has demonstrated the same eagerness for war, the same rush to judgment and the same disregard for the opinions of the international community and its own citizens that it criticized the Bush administration for in the lead-up to Iraq. It has managed to make the Russians look like the good guys.

That’s because in this case, they are.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

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Does anyone really believe Assad used chemical weapons in Syria?

does anyoneTAMPA, September 6, 2013 – Public opinion polls are virtually unanimous. The American people oppose military intervention in Syria, despite poll questions worded in a way that assumes the Syrian government perpetrated chemical weapons attacks against its own people. The Washington Post/ABC News poll asked:

The United States says it has determined that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the civil war there. Given this, do you support or oppose the United States launching missile strikes against the Syrian government?”

 

Who could imagine the question being put in words more likely to elicit a favorable response? Nevertheless, Americans were resoundingly against military intervention. 59% said they opposed missile strikes. 36% said they favored them. 5% were undecided.

Results like that in a poll so obviously constructed to achieve the opposite begs the question:

Does anyone really believe the Assad government launched chemical weapons attacks against rebels and civilians?

That virtually every politician and pundit talks about the attacks as if it were proven they occurred and that Assad’s government perpetrated them is beyond surreal. U.N. weapons inspectors say that they won’t even be able to confirm that chemical weapons were used for two more weeks. Yet, the Obama administration says it is not only certain the attack occurred, but that Assad’s government launched it.

This despite strong suspicion that it was the rebels, not the Assad government that launched the chemical weapons attack earlier this year. As reported by Shaun Waterman in the Washington Times on May 6,

“Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.”

The rebels stood to gain far more from last month’s chemical weapons attack than Assad. The government had the upper hand in the two-year-old revolution. The attack would increase the chances that an outside force like the U.S. would join the struggle on the rebels’ side. Judge Andrew Napolitano is skeptical that the attack occurred at all and, if it did, that Assad perpetrated it. Writing in the Washington Times, he says,

“Never mind that the photos shown by Mr. Obama’s folks of aid workers ministering to the supposed victims of government gassing show the workers without gas masks or gloves, and never mind that the Assad regime has permitted United Nations weapons inspectors unfettered access to its materiel, and never mind that the president wants to invade Syria before the weapons inspectors issue their report. The president wants us to think that the Assad regime intentionally gassed 1,000 Syrian innocents who were of no military value to the rebels or threat to the regime…”

 

That’s not the only circumstantial evidence questioning the official story. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told Ron Paul Monday on the Ron Paul Channel that the U.S. government has been waiting for an excuse to intervene in Syria since 2011.

“Stratfor is a U.S. intelligence contractor based in Texas and we got hold of five million of their e-mails. They do consulting work for many different government organizations and private organizations. And one of those e-mails from late 2011, December 2011, is a report back from one of their agents meeting with the U.S. Air Force, members of the French military and British military, speaking about what the hopes and game plan was under various circumstances, essentially by the West, by the U.S. and NATO, if you like. And that they really felt that what they needed was for there to be some humanitarian outrage in Syria and that once they had that, that would legitimize going in with a big airstrike,” said Assange.

With no known evidence against the Assad government and strong circumstantial evidence against the rebels, the Obama administration still insists that they have conclusive proof against Assad, but cannot share the evidence. According to the Washington Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s replied,

“Claims that proof exists but is classified and cannot be shown are beneath criticism. “ He added, “If the U.S. says that the al-Assad regime is responsible for that attack and that they have proof, then let them submit it to the U.N. Security Council.”

The Obama administration hasn’t given the American public any more reason to believe it than Putin does. It’s been caught in one lie after another about its domestic spying programs, according to Forbes magazine. It’s also fighting the specter of a war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist.

The truth of what happened in Damascus last month will be known eventually. Until then, the Obama administration is trying to sell a dog that just won’t hunt to an American public that’s weary of war and has little reason to believe its government about anything.

If experience is any teacher, Americans would be wise to remain incredulous.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Is every nation on earth besides the United States “isolationist?”

kingTAMPA, September 3, 2013 – Just one day after President Obama requested a debate in Congress on military intervention in Syria, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has already trotted out the usual bludgeon against any call for restraint. Bomb Syria or you are an “isolationist.”

“Right now, I would say, if the vote were today, it would probably be a no vote. I’m hoping by the time next week comes around and hopefully the president can make his case that he will be able to get a majority of the House of Representatives. Right now, it would be very difficult and also we have an increasing isolationist wing in our party, which I think is damaging to the party and to the nation.”

Only in America is the word “isolationist” used to describe reluctance to initiate wars of choice. In every other context, that word has a far different meaning.

China had two major periods of “isolationism,” the first starting in the 14th century. For China, isolationism meant cutting off foreign trade, shipping, immigration and emigration.  China entered another period of isolationism under Mao Zedung, again closing its borders and cutting off all commerce with the outside world, other than the Soviet Union.

Japan also had its isolationist period between the 17th and 19th centuries. Isolationism for Japan meant prohibiting trade, immigration, emigration and correspondence with the outside world. It had nothing to do with a reluctance to go to war, much less with a reluctance to get involved in wars that had nothing to do with Japan.

The isolationist policies of China and Japan were considered repressive and backwards, forcibly isolating their citizens from the benefits of trade and friendship with other nations and cultures.

That’s why noninterventionists’ opponents choose to call them “isolationist;” to smear them as backwards and against “progress.” There is even a connotation of selfishness that attaches itself to those who do not support wars of choice. This is ridiculous, of course, but words can be powerful.

The UK Parliament just voted down military action against Syria. Of the other 190 nations of the world, only France joins the United States in supporting a strike.

When the Bush Administration invaded Iraq, only three other nations contributed troops.

The United States now spends more on its military than the next ten nations combined. They have 900 bases in over 100 countries. No nation on earth or in human history comes close to that military footprint.

Is every nation on earth besides the United States “isolationist?”

Despite not being attacked by another nation’s military in over seventy years, the United States has been almost constantly at war.

The active wars combined with maintenance of the massive overseas military establishment has been the single largest contributor to the federal government’s $12 trillion in public debt.

It has also skewed American manufacturing towards producing weapons and armaments, rather than products that enrich the lives of American citizens.

These are just a few consequences of the decision during the last century to abandon the foreign policy of Washington and Jefferson and “go abroad looking for monsters to destroy.”

As the debate in Congress heats up, Rep. King will certainly not be the last one to call those arguing for restraint isolationist. Hopefully, the American public will be more discerning than most media and recognize that friendship and trade with all nations combined with military restraint is not isolationism. It is the opposite.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Congress is not authorized to start a war with Syria, either

congress

TAMPA, August 29, 2013 – The British Parliament is debating the U.K.’s response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government against rebels and civilians. This prompted Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to tweet a picture juxtaposing the ongoing debate in Parliament with the empty U.S. Congress building.

Cruz and others have expressed the opinion that President Obama cannot take military action against Syria without consulting Congress first.

They’re wrong. Congress doesn’t have the power to start a war with Syria, either, under present circumstances.

Most people misunderstand the declaration of war power as “permission” to start a war. It’s not.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare that a state of war already exists. This can only be true if the nation in question has committed overt acts of war against the United States.

This is supported by each and every declaration of war in U.S. history. Each declaration has followed the same format.

1. Congress cites the overt acts of war committed by the nation in question against the United States.

2. It recognizes the existence of the war because of those overt acts.

3. It directs the president to utilize the military to end the war.

The process is somewhat analogous to a criminal trial. The president “makes his case” to Congress that certain actions by a foreign nation amount to acts of war. Congress then deliberates, renders its verdict and passes sentence. The president is directed to execute the sentence.

When James Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico in 1846, he said,

“But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.

As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country.

In further vindication of our rights and defense of our territory, I invoke the prompt action of Congress to recognize the existence of the war, and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hastening the restoration of peace.

After deliberating, Congress issued the following declaration of war,

“Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That for the purpose of enabling the government of the United States to prosecute said war to a speedy and successful termination…”

Note the italicized words. The state of war already exists because of the act of the Republic of Mexico.

Most people remember FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech during which he rattled off the acts of war committed by Japan. “Last night, Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Midway Island, etc.” Roosevelt concluded,

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

The framers of the Constitution intended that the president would never initiate planned military action until this process took place. Yes, the president could deploy the military if the British or Spanish were discovered marching through Maryland, a very real possibility at the time.

Otherwise, acts of war had to be committed against the United States before the president directed a military response.

Syria’s government may or may not have used chemical weapons against its own people. It has not committed any acts of war against the United States. Therefore, there is no basis upon which to declare a state of war between Syria and the United States.

The constitution assumes that the only justification to utilize U.S. military resources is to defend U.S. citizens after another nation has initiated a state of war. The only exception is to defend a nation with whom the United States has signed a treaty establishing one of those entangling alliances the founders told us to avoid.

The Syrian conflict meets none of those requirements. Neither Congress nor the president have any constitutional authority to attack.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Syria: The U.S. has learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan

TAMPA, August 28, 2013 —  “And now we’re back where we started. Here we go round again. Day after day I get up and I say I better do it again.”

Apparently, Ray Davies’ lyric has become the U.S. government’s foreign policy. Unfortunately, they’ve added a line to the chorus that Davies left out: Make sure you learn absolutely nothing from the day before.

After twelve years of war, hundreds of thousands of U.S. and foreign civilian casualties and trillions in debt, the U.S. has accomplished nothing in the Middle East. They haven’t eradicated the Taliban or Al Qaeda. There has not been a single regime change favorable to U.S. interests. Americans are not freer. They are less free than they have ever been in U.S. history.

The Obama administration’s response? Do it again.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who does not have a strong sense of déjà vu this morning, as officials from the president on down gear up for a missile strike against Syria. The U.S. and U.K. governments have both issued statements that they have “no doubt” that the Assad government used chemical weapons against rebel forces and civilians. But U.N. inspectors have not concluded their investigation and have issued no such statement confirming anything.

The Assad government denies use of chemical weapons.

If the U.N. inspectors do conclude that chemical weapons were used, there is still reasonable doubt about who used them. There are suspicions that the rebels may have actually deployed the chemical weapons in an attempt to frame the Assad government and persuade the U.S. to enter the war.

In 2003, the Bush administration emphatically warned of the imminent threat that the Saddam Hussein Iraqi government posed to the U.S. and the rest of world. Images of mushroom clouds over U.S. cities were invoked, with the administration making the absurd claim that Hussein could strike the U.S. within 45 minutes.

No such capabilities existed. After the U.S. had invaded the country, destroyed its infrastructure, displaced over two million refugees and set the stage for an Islamic government friendly to Iran to replace the previous secular one which was hostile towards Iran, it admitted that the “WMD” didn’t exist.

The entire eight year debacle accomplished nothing. Zero. Nada.

Now, even the man who wrote up the plan for missile strikes against Syria says that those strikes won’t accomplish anything.

“Tactical actions in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counterproductive. I never intended my analysis of a cruise missile strike option to be advocacy even though some people took it as that,” said Chris Harmer, the senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who wrote up a plan for missile strikes.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been warning for months that intervention in Syria will accomplish nothing favorable to U.S. interests. He’s gone so far as to say that even if the rebels were to win, they would not likely be friendly toward the U.S. government.

There are no “good guys and bad guys” in this struggle. On one side you have an oppressive dictatorship with strong ties to Russia. On the other you have a fundamentalist Islamic coalition of rebels with many different factions, including one that just took a pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri.

These are the “freedom fighters” the Obama administration has been backing.

In Afghanistan, the “security forces” that U.S. soldiers are training to supposedly enforce the rule of law and democratic government after the U.S. leaves occasionally kill their trainers. They are restrained only by their own officers who remind them of the weapons the U.S. is supplying them.

This is what thousands of American casualties and trillions of dollars in new debt has bought us. That’s not to mention the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new terrorists that U.S. intervention has created. Every drone strike against a terrorist leader results in innocent civilian deaths. Fathers, brothers or sons of the dead then dedicate their lives to war against the U.S.

Every bomb launched against Syria will be purchased with borrowed money. Each one will take innocent lives and create new terrorists. According to anyone with any expertise, it will accomplish nothing, although the stated goal is to oust the Assad government and replace it with a fundamentalist Islamic government that is even more hostile towards the United States.

The U.S. just did that in Egypt. It did the same in Iraq. The Taliban is now negotiating with the U.S. and others for an end to the war in Afghanistan, where they may very well return to power.

Einstein is credited with defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

James Madison said that no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. We haven’t. In the past twelve years, we’ve built a frightening police state, turned federal government surpluses into $12 trillion in public debt and accomplished nothing in the Middle East or against terrorism in general.

Let’s not do it again.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.