Constitutional Lawyer and Author
House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, should resign.
He has flouted his constitutional oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. He has surrendered the supreme national security and oversight powers of Congress to President Barack Obama without fighting a single battle.
Exemplary was the speaker’s embrace of the House Republican Task Force Report on National Security released on June 9, 2016. The report concedes limitless presidential authority over national security.
It concedes unchecked executive power to initiate gratuitous trillion dollar wars; to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to kill American citizens based on secret, uncorroborated evidence; to conduct dragnet surveillance of the entire population for foreign intelligence purposes; to circumvent the Treaty Clause through executive agreements; to thwart congressional oversight by classifying congressional documents; and, to prevent judicial redress for unconstitutional executive branch assassinations, torture, or kidnappings.
The limitless executive power endorsed by Speaker Ryan is more alarming than King George III’s oppressions that provoked the American Revolution in 1776.
Philosopher George Santayana instructed that, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Speaker Ryan, like most members of Congress, is clueless about the past — and thus is facilitating its repetition.
In 44 B.C., the Roman Senate surrendered its constitutional powers to Julius Caesar, making him a dictator. Domestic convulsions, permanent war, bankruptcy, the death of liberty, and the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths ensued. The decline and fall of Republics triggered by limitless executive power has repeated itself for thousands of years. James Madison, father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist 47 that the combination of legislative, executive and judicial power in a single official was the “very definition of tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson amplified, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
The Executive Branch sports a kinetic, belligerent personality that dominates the personality of any White House occupant. The executive constantly concocts justifications for war by logarithmically inflating danger for ulterior motives: to aggrandize power; to substitute secrecy for transparency to evade accountability; to bloat military and intelligence budgets; and, to leave a legacy of world domination or control. The result is a foreign policy that routinely employs bayonets to smash hornets’ nests abroad and then expends trillions to fight the angry hornets the military attacks created.
The Executive Branch’s perpetual, global war against radical Islam is illustrative. For two centuries, the United States and the Muslim world enjoyed at least peaceful co-existence. The Barbary Wars over the payment of tribute to Muslim rulers as a condition of trade in the Mediterranean was the exception.
Chronic conflict emerged after World War II when the United States sought to manipulate Middle East or North African Muslim nations in furtherance of an American Empire. Our gratuitous interventions over decades in supplying material support to hated regimes provoked popular anger and resentment in the Muslim world that we are now witnessing, i.e., blowback.
We orchestrated the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. We helped organize the Central Treaty Organization in 1955 whose members included Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Great Britain. We sought to undermine Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956 by withdrawing support for the Aswan Dam. We dispatched troops to Lebanon in 1957. We sided with Libya’s King Idris over Col. Muammar Gaddafi in 1969. We became an arsenal of Muslim dictators, including the Shah of Iran and Saudi Arabian Kings.
We aided Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in his 1980-1988 war against Iran. We deployed marines to Lebanon in 1982. We fought the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 to reinstate a dictatorial Kuwaiti dynasty. We maintained troops in Saudi Arabia until 2003 to fortify a religiously bigoted and tyrannical regime. At present, we are engaged in military conflict in Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and against al Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Speaker Ryan’s task force report ignores this arrogant and belligerent history of Executive Branch provocations in the Middle East and North Africa which Congress could end at any time through the power of the purse or otherwise.
All that is necessary for the triumph of executive tyranny is for Congress to do nothing. That is why Speaker Ryan needs to depart.
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Original: Huffington Post
Constitutional Lawyer and Author
They are all begotten from the DNA of the species that craves power for the sake of power—an evil that has persisted unchanged since Adam and Eve.
The United States has predictably followed the model of its Roman precursor. First we fought in self-defense against the British. Then we fought in defense of allies in World War I. Then we invented allies to defend, for example, Vietnam, Kuwait, or Somalia. And then we began to fight for the sake of fighting unable to define victory over international terrorism or otherwise beyond Justice Potter Stewart’s memorable definition of obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”
Like its predecessors, the American Empire refuses to entertain the idea that our endless, gratuitous foreign interventions have created enemies that would not otherwise have attacked us. Upton Sinclair explained the fierce resistance to the truth: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Trillions of dollars of wealth, great power, and social status lie behind our military-industrial-terrorism (MIT) complex. It thrives on perpetual war and concocted fears of danger and existential threats. Since the Americana Empire took hold after World War II, none have dared to insinuate that our chronic, objectless, military interventions in the Middle East in support of brutal, corrupt, oppressive regimes have provoked retaliation by the oppressed. We have provided material assistance to state’s featuring repression, torture and extrajudicial killings, for example, the Shah of Iran, the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, or Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. Two fatwas issued by Osama bin Laden before 9/11 protested the presence of our troops in Saudi Arabia near the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, not our freedom of speech or religion, elections, due process, or gender equality.
Think of the analogy of a bayonet and a hornet’s nest. The nest will not harm you if you leave it undisturbed. But if you smash it to bits with a bayonet, the hornets within will sting you.
The United States would be vastly freer, wealthier, and safer if we withdrew all our troops from the Middle East for redeployment at home to protect our borders, our shores, and our skies. Israel commands more than enough power to fend for itself. With vastly less military might in 1948, Israel handily defeated Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Palestinian Arabs combined. And we should cease selling arms or providing non-humanitarian aid of any type to the region.
Our warfare state, nursed and fueled by the military-industrial-terrorism (MIT) complex, is the great destroyer of liberty. Its malignant children have been the surveillance state, national bankruptcy, secret government, and the evisceration of constitutional checks and balances.
Abraham Lincoln said it best in 1838 as we began our descent into Empire riding the militant wave of Manifest Destiny:
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?— Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
...If [danger] ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Follow Bruce Fein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brucefeinesq
Original: Huffington Post
Constitutional Lawyer and Author
Since climbing to the apex of global power, the American Empire’s foreign policy has been earmarked by stupidity on steroids.
Our chronic gratuitous interventions abroad at staggering expense under the delusion of spreading democracy and peace have diminished our security and spiked the world’s misery index.
Yet the architects of these failures have paid no price. They have been neither punished nor professionally ridiculed.
The establishment treats them like Montessori School students with grades based on effort irrespective of the catastrophic results.
Our race towards self-ruination will accelerate unless we begin to hold the authors of foreign policy debacles accountable and create disincentives for stupidity.
In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency engineered the overthrow of democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq on behalf of the megalomaniacal, brutal, and corrupt Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlevi. Prime Minister Mossadeq was unthreatening to the United States. His democratic dispensation was the first in the Middle East. His agreement to pay compensation for nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company satisfied international law. There never would have been an Iranian Revolution if the United States had left Iran’s democratic dispensation unshipwrecked.
The 1979 Revolution was provoked by our support for the keenly execrated Shah.
On December 31, 1977, in Tehran, President Jimmy Carter effused: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.”
Then came Ayatollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the hostage crisis, Hezbollah, and Iran’s decent into a theocratic, tyrannical, terroristic state with nuclear ambitions.
No official or advisor has been held accountable for this foreign policy calamity.
In 1954, the C.I.A. orchestrated the overthrow of democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. He was an unthreatening socialist like Norman Thomas. We next supported four decades of Guatemalan military, genocidal dictatorship featuring hundreds of thousands of unspeakable atrocities. We made Guatemala a failed state that fuels illegal drug trafficking and immigration across our borders.
No official or advisor has been held accountable for our stupendously stupid and wicked Guatemalan interventions.
The Vietnam War was a fool’s errand from its beginning in 1955 to its conclusion in 1975. Indochina posed no threat to the United States. The domino theory was bogus. We engineered the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem, and then supported a phalanx of unpopular, corrupt, and brutal military dictators in tandem with the C.I.A.’s notorious Phoenix assassination program. The war cost more than $1 trillion in current dollars, and more than 58,000 American soldiers were killed. The boundless stupidity of the Vietnam War is confirmed by our current support for Vietnam in its disputes with China over the South China Sea or otherwise; our 2001 extension of permanent normal trade relations with Vietnam; and, out inclusion of Vietnam in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Why no professional ignominy for the officials or advisors who engineered the Vietnam non-natural disaster?
We initiated war against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1991 to undo his occupation of Kuwait to restore the 300-year-old Al-Sabah dynasty marginally less tyrannical but more religiously extremist. The war weakened Iraq’s capacity to contain Iran at zero cost to us, and was superfluous to deterring Saddam’s WMD ambitions. Israel had destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, and was poised for a repeat performance if necessary. Oil would continue to flow through the Persian Gulf to the United States—directly or indirectly—irrespective of Kuwait’s fate as it did throughout the Arab OPEC oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War. Force does not defeat the law of supply and demand as the failed trillion-dollar War on Drugs corroborates.
Operation Desert Storm was taken to a new level of stupidity twelve years later in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2003, Iraq was a cost-free Chinese Wall against Iranian regional hegemony. Our no-fly zones and sanctions had eliminated Saddam as a danger to the United States. To believe that Saddam could be replaced with a democratic dispensation featuring freedom of religion, the rule of law, and separation of powers required doltish hallucinations.
The post-Saddam government predictably became an appendage of arch-enemy Iran. Iraq splintered on religious, ethnic, and tribal lines creating an opening for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. To date, the United States has expended $1 trillion in Iraq and sacrificed the lives and limbs of thousands of brave American soldiers over thirteen years to make Iran and ISIL stronger and Iraq convulsed.
No official or advisor has been stigmatized for complicity in our Iraqi follies.
Since we haven’t taxed foreign policy stupidity, we have gotten more of it in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, West Africa, South Sudan, the South China Sea, ad infinitum.
We have entrusted foreign policy to persons without any theory of man necessary to avoid catastrophes born of mistaking God for Mephistopheles.
They will not expend the intellectual labor to acquire that mastery without strong professional disincentives for failing to do so.
Follow Bruce Fein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brucefeinesq
Original: Huffington Post
Has the United States sacrificed its founding and traditional values in its conduct of foreign policy?
The Democratic and Republican parties have gotten out of step with the public. Neither of the major parties is serious about solving the nation’s fiscal crisis. Republican candidates won’t reduce military spending. Democratic candidates won’t reduce entitlement spending.
To protect their respective priorities and constituencies, the parties go along with both the welfare state and the warfare state. Hence, Democratic and Republican exceptionalism guarantees fiscal irresponsibility.
Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that America’s number one national security threat is debt. Rasmussen polls show that eight out of ten Americans believe that economic threats are greater than military ones. Two out of three voters want a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes. Four out of five voters think Americans are overtaxed.
Only a third of Americans share the Republican view of exempting the military from budget reductions. The public only supports a dozen of the United States’ standing commitments to defend 56 nations.
Only 11% of Americans want to be “global policeman,” 75% think no troops should be stationed overseas except for “vital national security interests,” and only 28% want to keep troops in Europe. Most Americans favor “Protect America First” — rather than “Send Americans First.”
The Democratic and Republican parties serve different constituencies and identity groups, yet both are beholden to Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, AIPAC and other major special interests.
The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protest the corruption of the two-party system. Campaign finance reform isn’t popular with politicians whose job is raising money. The left feels betrayed by the Democratic Party. The right feels betrayed by the Republican Party. And the American people are betrayed by both parties.
Democratic and Republican exceptionalism has failed the country. We are in the midst of the greatest constitutional crisis the nation has faced in 225 years. The imperial Presidency must be ended and the executive brought back into balance with Congress and the courts.
Political competition has become a destructive zero-sum game for the nation. Democrats pay taxes for the welfare state, and are willing to raise taxes to pay for the warfare state. Republicans pay taxes for the warfare state, but refuse to pay more taxes for the welfare state. Trillion dollar annual deficits are covered through unsustainable borrowing. Republicans and Democrats compete to be fiscally irresponsible.
With trillion-dollar annual deficits, the time is approaching fast when credit downgrades will force significant reductions in government expenditures. By not cutting spending, Republican and Democratic inaction sets the country on a path where annual borrowing costs will be the largest individual cost in the federal budget.
In 2011, annual interest payments climbed to $400 billion. When all-time low interest rates (currently about 3%) move up, interest payments on cumulative federal debt will exceed the Pentagon’s budget.
America’s financial crisis will redefine the meaning of “strong defense.” The Founders were very clear on this subject. The Constitution doesn’t require a large military to protect the nation. In fact, the Founders were afraid of the military. They believed that liberty and war were incompatible. They established constitutional government to make the state work for the individual. War, however, makes the individual subservient to the state.
Since the Cold War ended, the United States has been at war two out of every three years. None of these wars were declared by Congress as required by the Constitution. Consequently, few Americans can name every war the President is fighting.
The United States is currently engaged in many clandestine military operations around the globe. There is no end in sight, with war aims not clearly stated or understood. President Obama, as a war president, is no longer under the law, he is the law.
A plague on both political houses! The glory of empire is taking false communal pride in telling other countries what to do. The glory of the Republic is each individual’s opportunity to do what you want to do and become what you want to be.
The price of the Republic is accepting personal risk and failure. The price of empire is the loss of personal freedom and the collective failure of the nation.
The Founders believed that “strong defense” meant defending our borders and active diplomacy. America must not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy and must avoid entangling alliances. Global military dominance destroys constitutional government.
So what can be done? A place to start is heeding the words of John Quincy Adams, in his famous address to Congress on July 4, 1821. Adams explained why the preservation of American individualism — the essence of American exceptionalism — demands a noninterventionist foreign policy:
[America] has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart… Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit… [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty.
How did Democrats and Republicans both become the parties of war and the purveyors of an interventionist foreign policy?
The disintegration of American exceptionalism was a long time coming. The idea that government is a devil at home and the country is an angel abroad originates in the American Civil War. The idea that government is an angel at home and abroad originates in the Progressive Era.
The Civil War was horrific. New scholarship estimates that 752,000 men died, significantly more than the 618,000 previously thought. One in three Southern men of military age died. The country’s GDP was cut in half. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and increased the power of the federal government and the executive branch. Limited government would never be the same after the Civil War.
While the North prevailed on the battlefield, the country remained bitterly divided. For Southerners, the Civil War was a second war of independence. Southerners developed a split personality about the federal government. At home, they fought it every step of the way. Abroad, they embraced it, becoming the backbone of the American military. Southern exceptionalism embraced limited government at home, but led Big Government abroad.
Southerners saw no inconsistency in their reaction to the Civil War. Northern soldiers were given pensions (government programs) and Squibb drugs (healthcare). Confederate soldiers didn’t enjoy these positive rights. The South would rise again by finding strength in self-reliance (guns and religion). The Southern warrior class vowed never to lose another American war.
Following on the heels of the Mexican-American War — as a war of choice , the first crack in the idea of American exceptionalism — the Civil War fractured American exceptionalism and sowed the seeds for competing exceptionalisms based on political parties. It would take almost a century for the Republican Party to adopt Southern exceptionalism.
After the Civil War, the Republican Party allowed special interests to run the federal government. Crony capitalism was another deadly assault on limited government. The Democratic Party — representing the South — responded with the Progressive Era. Big Government — not the Constitution — would shield the citizen against robber baron excesses.
Woodrow Wilson, the first Southern President after the Civil War, transformed the Democratic Party into the war party. With far-reaching consequences, Wilson took the country to war against Germany. Repackaging Manifest Destiny, Wilson told the American people that it was our duty to save the world for democracy.
War no longer was defending our borders. War was now justified as promoting democracy around the world. America was now a force for good in the world. Big Government abroad paved the way for Big Government at home. From Wilson to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party led the country into (and in) World War I and World War II. Republicans called them “Democrat wars” and clung to the Founder’s noninterventionist foreign policy.
Bipartisan embrace of WilsonianismIn 1952, Republicans threw in the towel. When Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, defeated Ohio Senator Robert Taft for the Republican presidential nomination (and later defeated Adlai Stevenson in the general election), Republicans joined Democrats in a bipartisan embrace of Wilsonianism. Never again would Republicans be accused of isolationism.
The government was still a devil at home but now — with Republican patriots leading the charge — America was a force for good in the world. For a half of a century, Republican exceptionalism ran the White House for 36 years — and government spending increased every year.
During the Cold War, American exceptionalism was redefined by Republicans and Democrats into something the Founders would not recognize. America was no longer exceptional because of our unique form of self-government. Limited government no longer existed to protect the sovereignty of the individual. The government now expanded to promote democracy abroad. (Never mind that the American Republic was never a democracy. Never mind that the Founders rejected a strong executive.)
Southern exceptionalism captured the hearts and minds of Republicans. Over the course of a century, the North moved South, the South switched parties, Southerners moved West, and political segregation replaced racial segregation. By embracing Southern militarism, Republicans replaced the Democratic Party as the war party.
Republicans found political advantage in casting national security in terms of love of country. Republicans positioned themselves as the true patriots because they hated communism more than Democrats.
Democrats, they argued, couldn’t be trusted with national security because they hired communists in the executive branch. Democrats were attacked for losing China. Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam War out of fear of being accused of losing another country to communism.
The Republican Party remained the war party in the decades after the Cold War. Democrats remain vulnerable to the charge of being weak on national security as long as America is leader of the free world. As the party of the namesake of Wilsonianism, Democrats are hoisted by their own petard.
Since Republicans oppose the welfare state, they can focus their energy exclusively on the warfare state. Democrats care more about the welfare state but, to be politically competitive, they support Republican wars and, not to be outdone, invent their own wars.
After 9/11, Republican neoconservatives upped the ante, falsely claiming that militarism is American exceptionalism. Neither party dares tell the truth: Citizens are taxed to pay for the biggest military in world history — and they are expected in the future to pay public debts that were run up in support of that military.
How are the Democratic and Republican parties both complicit in turning the United States into a warfare/welfare state?
The American experiment has failed. American exceptionalism and the Republic are dead. As in Communist countries before, the Constitution isn’t observed. The warfare state and the welfare state have replaced the citizen state.
The moral and philosophical character of American culture is depleted. Americans no longer prize or enjoy the same rights under the Constitution as they once did. The Founders mistakenly assumed that future generations would place the same value on limited government as they did.
The warfare state uses the two forms of government the Founders rejected: democracy and a strong executive. Political protection has replaced legal protection. As a result, American citizens no longer govern themselves and currently live in a halfway house between the rule of law and the law of the jungle.
The two-party system rejected the liberty of the Republic in favor of what the Founders called empire. Democrats see government as a force for good in America and the world. Republicans see America as a force for good overseas. “Bad guys” must be stopped from doing terrible things to their people. Supporting “good guys” spreads democracy and makes the world a safer place for Americans. By assuming global dominance, both parties hold America responsible for the fate of the world.
Democrats sell heaven on earth (the government can solve any problem). Republicans sell hell on earth (the world is a dangerous place). The Democratic Party sees government as an angel at home and abroad. The Republican Party sees the government as a devil at home and the country as an angel abroad.
In Republican exceptionalism, America abroad can be either an avenging angel or a beneficent angel. The avenging angel is the preferred mode of behavior, but, in the right circumstances, it is permissible to give hard-earned American tax dollars away to foreigners. The military isn’t seen as being part of Big Government. Republicans are reluctant to see the symbiosis between the warfare state and the welfare state.
In Democratic exceptionalism, government is a benign angel dispensing benefits to citizens and foreigners alike. Social engineering is the preferred mode of behavior. Since more government makes America strong, nation-building is good for foreigners too.
Democrats don’t suffer from a split personality. For them, government is good. Big Government abroad strengthens Big Government at home. If pushed to choose, Democrats care more about domestic programs and, therefore, are more apt to admit mistakes abroad than at home. There is less reluctance to acknowledge the synergy between the welfare state and the warfare state.
Republicans see Big Government in every domestic benefits program. Democrats should apologize for all of their willful interventions and repeated mistakes. Abroad, Republicans see their country (rather than their government) as the actor. This makes apologies intolerable.
In a world of avenging and beneficent angels, there is no place for mistaken interventions. Republican schizophrenia casts government as a devil at home, but America — via the military — as an unquestioned force for good in the world.
Democratic and Republican exceptionalism is antithetical to American exceptionalism. By seeing America as “a force for good in the world,” the two parties have become a force for bad at home, promoting the state at the expense of the individual.
The warfare state and the welfare state have replaced the citizen state of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The citizen no longer controls the government. The government now controls the individual.
The unchecked warfare stateFor half a century, government spending has risen every year, creating a $15 trillion federal debt — larger than our annual GDP. While emphasizing individual opportunity and responsibility at home, Republicans shower the military with taxpayer money.
The federal government spends $1.2 trillion every year on “security,” which includes multiple wars, more than a thousand overseas bases, a military nation-building capability of almost a million troops, 11 aircraft carriers each housing 5,000 personnel, an unaudited Pentagon bureaucracy, 16 intelligence agencies, black budgets for special ops, 5,000 nuclear weapons, open-ended commitments for disabled Veterans, and homeland security.
Since the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, neither party has exercised effective civilian control over the military. Five percent of the world’s population spends half of the world’s military budget. Democrats vote for the warfare state to protect the welfare state. Republicans go along with the welfare state to build the warfare state. The two parties are locked into assigned roles, like a bad marriage.
In the process, the American economy has steadily declined as manufacturing moved overseas. Today, 40% of U.S. manufacturing resides in the unproductive federal jobs program Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex.
Contrary to what one might expect, Democratic presidents (or would-be presidents) also cannot be trusted to keep us out of war. Al Gore supported the first Bush war against Iraq. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton supported the second Bush war against Iraq.
Barack Obama expanded the war in Afghanistan out of fear of being labeled weak on national security. Not content with that, Obama has become the first “drone war” president — and, like Bill Clinton in Bosnia, attacked Libya without a declaration of war in the name of humanitarianism.
Democratic and Republican administrations have jumped at the chance to interfere in the affairs of other nations. The same question is always asked: What are we going to do about Iraq? What are we going to do about Afghanistan? What are we going to do about….?
Once we put troops on the ground, discussions always begin and end with the statement: “We can’t lose…!”
Both parties wrap themselves in the flag and compete for starting new wars and policing the world. In the name of freedom, Democrats and Republicans eagerly search the globe for monsters to destroy. Democrats and Republicans champion liberty abroad, while stealing it from our citizens at home.
The role of citizens and government has been reversed. Citizens no longer control their government, citizens are beholden to their government. The Constitution no longer guides the actions of the United States nor defines the existential purpose of Americans in the world.
The American government runs a global welfare system for military contractors. Democrats and Republicans have committed America to defend 56 countries. Democrats and Republicans are no longer content to lead the world by example. By enlisting under banners other than her own, America is engaged in a permanent war, with no apparent way to stop it.
No longer is America the ruler of her own spirit. The glory of American exceptionalism was liberty. The glory of Democratic and Republican exceptionalism is dominion. Force has replaced liberty.
As a result, American exceptionalism is dead. Republicans and Democrats no longer share the founding view that the government is fallible both at home and abroad.
Has the United States lost the set of civic values that made it exceptional among nations?
Today is the 236th anniversary of America's declaration of independence from the British monarchy. Parades, celebrations and fireworks will mark the occasion in cities and towns throughout the United States. The Globalist marks the occasion with a new "Thomas Paine" series on the meaning, evolution and demise of American exceptionalism.
In the beginning, American exceptionalism was a simple idea: Citizens are sovereign. "We the People of the United States" are the most electrifying words of the Constitution.
"We the people" were captains of our fate and masters of our souls. We governed ourselves. We weren't governed by the military, special interests or political parties. We weren't governed by the left or the right. We were governed by the Constitution. The Constitution created a republic to promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Americans held this truth above all to be self-evident.
The federal government had limited power over citizens in the American Republic. The Founders rejected democracy because it didn't go far enough in protecting the individual from the tyranny of the majority. And they rejected a strong executive because it would give one citizen too much power over all other citizens.
American exceptionalism — a government tailored for the rights of the individual — was threatening to governments based on monarchy, ruling classes, tribes and colonial occupations. Europeans regarded America as a dangerous nation.
Oliver Wendell Holmes called self-government the American experiment. The Founders knew the republic was the most vulnerable form of government.
Benjamin Franklin expressed this succinctly when he was asked at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention what kind of government the Founders had just established. "A republic," Franklin said, "if you can keep it."
The Founders were ambitious and set a high a bar for themselves and subsequent generations. While providing individuals more legal protections than a democracy, a republic demands greater citizen involvement.
As citizens, we have a sacred duty to conserve government by the active — not passive — consent of the governed. A people of sheep will beget a government of wolves.¹ The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom is a brave heart.² There's no free lunch in a republic.
Americans aren't exceptional because we were born in or immigrated to America. Americans aren't exceptional as a nation-state. Americans can only be exceptional as individuals. And Americans can only be exceptional if we are well informed and willing to make hard choices and take risks. Apathy, ignorance and risk aversion are the death sentence of the American experiment.
Democracy can exist by electing strong executives and rubber-stamping their decisions. A republic can't. A republic tries the soul of every citizen. A republic can't tolerate summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who shrink from the hard work of self-government.
That is why the idea of American exceptionalism begins and ends with the individual citizen. The price of the Republic is the acceptance of risk and tolerance of failure by citizens.
An antidote to militarism
History taught America's Founders that war is the surest path to a strong executive. That is why the Founders went to great lengths to make it so difficult for the nation to go to war. More than half of the Constitutional Convention was spent debating the proper role of the three branches in war. Because war increases its power, the executive could not be trusted to keep the nation out of war.
The Founders gave Congress the power to declare war, fund war and impeach the president. The Founders gave the judiciary the power to protect individual rights during war and see that the executive lived within the limits of the Constitution.
George Washington warned against "permanent alliances" and "passionate attachments" to foreign countries because they increased the likelihood of war and the size of government. Thomas Paine mused that "taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes."
The Founders didn't create a standing army out of fear it would become a constituency for war. Large banks were also viewed as a special interest that would undermine the republic. But no threat outside the republic would ever rival the existential threat of ignorance and apathy among it citizens.
The state of civil liberties and national security in the United States is alarming.
In the American Empire, the former are routinely crippled or lacerated in the false name of the latter. Trust in government plunges. Dangers are magnified manifold to wound constitutionally venerated freedoms. International terrorist suspects who have never attempted to kill an American are treated as existential threats to U.S sovereignty. Predator drones employed off the battlefield in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen are spawning more enemies than are killed. Habeas corpus is suspended. Military commissions denuded of due process and which combine judge, jury, and prosecutor in a single branch of government are substituted for independent civilian courts. Time-honored privacy rights are trampled. Torture or first cousin enhanced interrogation techniques are endorsed. Congressman Peter King (R. N.Y.), slated for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, insists that prosecutions of alleged international terrorists in civilian courts are intolerable because guilty verdicts are not guaranteed. The worst violations are dared by few, willed by more, but tolerated by virtually all.
The nation needs a new birth of freedom dedicated to the proposition that the life of a vassal or serf — even in absolute safety — is not worth living.
At present, procedural safeguards against injustice are jettisoned for the counter-constitutional dogma, “Better that many innocents suffer than that one culprit eludes punishment.” A craving for a risk-free and comfortable existence fuels the nation’s war on individual freedom. Acceptance of risk, however, is the lifeblood of a free society. Every human sports DNA capable of anti-social behavior — even the saintly. The United States is headed for the same ruination as Athens for the same reasons penned by historian Edward Gibbon: “In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all — security, comfort, and freedom. When…the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.”
Contrary to longstanding orthodoxies, civil liberties and national security are more aligned than opposed. Scrupulous respect for freedom works hand-in-glove with national security by evoking unbegrudging loyalty among citizens eager to risk that last full measure of devotion to foil opponents and to maintain government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Patriotic soldiers are superior to mercenaries. Hessians were no match for the Minutemen in the American Revolutionary War. A military that fights more for love of country than fear or money will triumph. And love of country is elicited by the government’s securing unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Crushing civil liberties may enhance immediate safety, but future calamity is likely to ensue. The British believed that Writs of Assistance, denial of jury trial, quartering soldiers, and impressing American seaman to fight against American colonists would make them safer. And then came the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the end of the British Empire.
Prevailing legal doctrines and practices in the United States bear the earmarks of tyranny deplored by the Founding Fathers and hauntingly evocative of The Soviet Union or The People’s Republic of China.
The president is empowered to target American citizens off the battlefield for assassination abroad who have not engaged in hostilities against the United States on his say-so alone.
Citizens and non-citizens may be detained indefinitely without accusation or trial at Bagram prison in Afghanistan or in undisclosed locations abroad on the president’s say-so alone.
Predator drones kill civilians off the battlefield in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. The protocols for targeting decisions are secret.
Military commissions are established for the trial of alleged war crimes that may be equally prosecuted in civilian courts, for example, material assistance to a foreign terrorist organization. Military commissions combine judge, jury, and prosecutor in a single branch — the very definition of tyranny according to the Founding Fathers.
State secrets are invoked by the president to prevent victims of constitutional wrongdoing, including torture or kidnapping, from judicial redress for their injuries.
Telephone calls and emails are intercepted by the government without probable cause to believe the target is connected to international terrorism.
Lawyers who defend alleged international terrorist organizations are vulnerable to prosecution under the material assistance law.
The Patriot Act authorizes the FBI to obtain business, bank, or other records by unilateral issuance of national security letters alleging a relationship to a terrorist investigation.
Extraordinary rendition is employed to dispatch detainees to countries notorious for torture.
Individuals or organizations are designated as “terrorists” and quarantined from human intercourse based on secret evidence.
Government crimes — including torture, illegal surveillance, obstruction of justice, and war crimes — go unprosecuted despite the President’s constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
The United States was founded on the idea that the individual was the center of the nation’s universe; and, that freedom was the rule and government restraints grudging exceptions. The right to be left alone was cherished above all others. The national purpose was not to build an Empire by projecting military force throughout the planet, but to revere due process and the blessings of liberty at home.
These ennobling ideas have been abandoned for the juvenile thrill of domination for the sake of domination and a quest for absolute safety that elevates vassalage to the summum bonum.
Where are the leaders to awaken America to its philosophical peril? Who has the courage to preach, “Better free than safe,” “As we would not be tyrannized, so we shall not be tyrants,” and, “due process is a higher life form than vigilante justice?”
If not us, who? If not now, when?
By: Bruce Fein
Would that our leaders today understood and embraced the American spirit and understood the meaning of Republic as Pres. William G. Harding did in his 1921 Inaugural Address, our work to restore our country would be halved and halved again.
Warren G. Harding
Friday, March 4, 1921
WHEN one surveys the world about him after the great storm (WW I), noting the marks of destruction and yet rejoicing in the ruggedness of the things which withstood it, if he is an American he breathes the clarified atmosphere with a strange mingling of regret and new hope. We have seen a world passion spend its fury, but we contemplate our Republic unshaken, and hold our civilization secure. Liberty—liberty within the law—and civilization are inseparable, and though both were threatened we find them now secure; and there comes to Americans the profound assurance that our representative government is the highest expression and surest guaranty of both.
Standing in this presence, mindful of the solemnity of this occasion, feeling the emotions which no one may know until he senses the great weight of responsibility for himself, I must utter my belief in the divine inspiration of the founding fathers. Surely there must have been God’s intent in the making of this new-world Republic. Ours is an organic law which had but one ambiguity, and we saw that effaced in a baptism of sacrifice and blood, with union maintained, the Nation supreme, and its concord inspiring. We have seen the world rivet its hopeful gaze on the great truths on which the founders wrought. We have seen civil, human, and religious liberty verified and glorified. In the beginning the Old World scoffed at our experiment; today our foundations of political and social belief stand unshaken, a precious inheritance to ourselves; an inspiring example of freedom and civilization to all mankind. Let us express renewed and strengthened devotion, in grateful reverence for the immortal beginning, and utter our confidence in the supreme fulfillment.2
The recorded progress of our Republic, materially and spiritually, in itself proves the wisdom of the inherited policy of noninvolvement in Old World affairs. Confident of our ability to work out our own destiny, and jealously guarding our right to do so, we seek no part in directing the destinies of the Old World. We do not mean to be entangled. We will accept no responsibility except as our own conscience and judgment, in each instance, may determine.3
Our eyes never will be blind to a developing menace, our ears never deaf to the call of civilization. We recognize the new order in the world, with the closer contacts which progress has wrought. We sense the call of the human heart for fellowship, fraternity, and cooperation. We crave friendship and harbor no hate. But America, our America, the America built on the foundation laid by the inspired fathers, can be a party to no permanent military alliance. It can enter into no political commitments, nor assume any economic obligations which will subject our decisions to any other than our own authority.4
I am sure our own people will not misunderstand, nor will the world misconstrue. We have no thought to impede the paths to closer relationship. We wish to promote understanding. We want to do our part in making offensive warfare so hateful that Governments and peoples who resort to it must prove the righteousness of their cause or stand as outlaws before the bar of civilization.5
We are ready to associate ourselves with the nations of the world, great and small, for conference, for counsel; to seek the expressed views of world opinion; to recommend a way to approximate disarmament and relieve the crushing burdens of military and naval establishments. We elect to participate in suggesting plans for mediation, conciliation, and arbitration, and would gladly join in that expressed conscience of progress, which seeks to clarify and write the laws of international relationship, and establish a world court for the disposition of such justiciable questions as nations are agreed to submit thereto. In expressing aspirations, in seeking practical plans, in translating humanity’s new concept of righteousness and justice and its hatred of war into recommended action we are ready most heartily to unite, but every commitment must be made in the exercise of our national sovereignty. Since freedom impelled, and independence inspired, and nationality exalted, a world supergovernment is contrary to everything we cherish and can have no sanction by our Republic. This is not selfishness, it is sanctity. It is not aloofness, it is security. It is not suspicion of others; it is patriotic adherence to the things which made us what we are.6
Today, better than ever before, we know the aspirations of humankind, and share them. We have come to a new realization of our place in the world and a new appraisal of our Nation by the world. The unselfishness of these United States is a thing proven; our devotion to peace for ourselves and for the world is well established; our concern for preserved civilization has had its impassioned and heroic expression. There was no American failure to resist the attempted reversion of civilization; there will be no failure today or tomorrow.7
The success of our popular government rests wholly upon the correct interpretation of the deliberate, intelligent, dependable popular will of America. In a deliberate questioning of a suggested change of national policy, where internationality was to supersede nationality, we turned to a referendum, to the American people. There was ample discussion, and there is a public mandate in manifest understanding.8
America is ready to encourage, eager to initiate, anxious to participate in any seemly program likely to lessen the probability of war, and promote that brotherhood of mankind which must be God’s highest conception of human relationship. Because we cherish ideals of justice and peace, because we appraise international comity and helpful relationship no less highly than any people of the world, we aspire to a high place in the moral leadership of civilization, and we hold a maintained America, the proven Republic, the unshaken temple of representative democracy, to be not only an inspiration and example, but the highest agency of strengthening good will and promoting accord on both continents.9
Mankind needs a world-wide benediction of understanding. It is needed among individuals, among peoples, among governments, and it will inaugurate an era of good feeling to make the birth of a new order. In such understanding men will strive confidently for the promotion of their better relationships and nations will promote the comities so essential to peace.10
We must understand that ties of trade bind nations in closest intimacy, and none may receive except as he gives. We have not strengthened ours in accordance with our resources or our genius, notably on our own continent, where a galaxy of Republics reflects the glory of new-world democracy, but in the new order of finance and trade we mean to promote enlarged activities and seek expanded confidence.11
Perhaps we can make no more helpful contribution by example than prove a Republic’s capacity to emerge from the wreckage of war. While the World’s embittered travail did not leave us devastated lands nor desolated cities, left no gaping wounds, no breast with hate, it did involve us in the delirium of expenditure, in expanded currency and credits, in unbalanced industry, in unspeakable waste, and disturbed relationships. While it uncovered our portion of hateful selfishness at home, it also revealed the heart of America as sound and fearless, and beating in confidence unfailing.12
Amid it all we have riveted the gaze of all civilization to the unselfishness and the righteousness of representative democracy, where our freedom never has made offensive warfare, never has sought territorial aggrandizement through force, never has turned to the arbitration of arms until reason has been exhausted. When the Governments of the earth shall have established a freedom like our own and shall have sanctioned the pursuit of peace as we have practiced it, I believe the last sorrow and the final sacrifice of international warfare will have been written.13
Let me speak to the maimed and wounded soldiers who are present today, and through them convey to their comrades the gratitude of the Republic for their sacrifices in its defense. A generous country will never forget the services you rendered, and you may hope for a policy under Government that will relieve any maimed successors from taking your places on another such occasion as this.14
Our supreme task is the resumption of our onward, normal way. Reconstruction, readjustment, restoration all these must follow. I would like to hasten them. If it will lighten the spirit and add to the resolution with which we take up the task, let me repeat for our Nation, we shall give no people just cause to make war upon us; we hold no national prejudices; we entertain no spirit of revenge; we do not hate; we do not covet; we dream of no conquest, nor boast of armed prowess.15
If, despite this attitude, war is again forced upon us, I earnestly hope a way may be found which will unify our individual and collective strength and consecrate all America, materially and spiritually, body and soul, to national defense. I can envision the ideal republic, where every man and woman is called under the flag for assignment to duty for whatever service, military or civic, the individual is best fitted; where we may call to universal service every plant, agency, or facility, all in the sublime sacrifice for country, and not one penny of war profit shall inure to the benefit of private individual, corporation, or combination, but all above the normal shall flow into the defense chest of the Nation. There is something inherently wrong, something out of accord with the ideals of representative democracy, when one portion of our citizenship turns its activities to private gain amid defensive war while another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying for national preservation.16
Out of such universal service will come a new unity of spirit and purpose, a new confidence and consecration, which would make our defense impregnable, our triumph assured. Then we should have little or no disorganization of our economic, industrial, and commercial systems at home, no staggering war debts, no swollen fortunes to flout the sacrifices of our soldiers, no excuse for sedition, no pitiable slackerism, no outrage of treason. Envy and jealousy would have no soil for their menacing development, and revolution would be without the passion which engenders it.17
A regret for the mistakes of yesterday must not, however, blind us to the tasks of today. War never left such an aftermath. There has been staggering loss of life and measureless wastage of materials. Nations are still groping for return to stable ways. Discouraging indebtedness confronts us like all the war-torn nations, and these obligations must be provided for. No civilization can survive repudiation.18
We can reduce the abnormal expenditures, and we will. We can strike at war taxation, and we must. We must face the grim necessity, with full knowledge that the task is to be solved, and we must proceed with a full realization that no statute enacted by man can repeal the inexorable laws of nature. Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little. We contemplate the immediate task of putting our public household in order. We need a rigid and yet sane economy, combined with fiscal justice, and it must be attended by individual prudence and thrift, which are so essential to this trying hour and reassuring for the future.19
The business world reflects the disturbance of war’s reaction. Herein flows the lifeblood of material existence. The economic mechanism is intricate and its parts interdependent, and has suffered the shocks and jars incident to abnormal demands, credit inflations, and price upheavals. The normal balances have been impaired, the channels of distribution have been clogged, the relations of labor and management have been strained. We must seek the readjustment with care and courage. Our people must give and take. Prices must reflect the receding fever of war activities. Perhaps we never shall know the old levels of wages again, because war invariably readjusts compensations, and the necessaries of life will show their inseparable relationship, but we must strive for normalcy to reach stability. All the penalties will not be light, nor evenly distributed. There is no way of making them so. There is no instant step from disorder to order. We must face a condition of grim reality, charge off our losses and start afresh. It is the oldest lesson of civilization. I would like government to do all it can to mitigate; then, in understanding, in mutuality of interest, in concern for the common good, our tasks will be solved. No altered system will work a miracle. Any wild experiment will only add to the confusion. Our best assurance lies in efficient administration of our proven system.20
The forward course of the business cycle is unmistakable. Peoples are turning from destruction to production. Industry has sensed the changed order and our own people are turning to resume their normal, onward way. The call is for productive America to go on. I know that Congress and the Administration will favor every wise Government policy to aid the resumption and encourage continued progress.21
I speak for administrative efficiency, for lightened tax burdens, for sound commercial practices, for adequate credit facilities, for sympathetic concern for all agricultural problems, for the omission of unnecessary interference of Government with business, for an end to Government’s experiment in business, and for more efficient business in Government administration. With all of this must attend a mindfulness of the human side of all activities, so that social, industrial, and economic justice will be squared with the purposes of a righteous people.22
With the nation-wide induction of womanhood into our political life, we may count upon her intuitions, her refinements, her intelligence, and her influence to exalt the social order. We count upon her exercise of the full privileges and the performance of the duties of citizenship to speed the attainment of the highest state.23
I wish for an America no less alert in guarding against dangers from within than it is watchful against enemies from without. Our fundamental law recognizes no class, no group, no section; there must be none in legislation or administration. The supreme inspiration is the common weal. Humanity hungers for international peace, and we crave it with all mankind. My most reverent prayer for America is for industrial peace, with its rewards, widely and generally distributed, amid the inspirations of equal opportunity. No one justly may deny the equality of opportunity which made us what we are. We have mistaken unpreparedness to embrace it to be a challenge of the reality, and due concern for making all citizens fit for participation will give added strength of citizenship and magnify our achievement.24
If revolution insists upon overturning established order, let other peoples make the tragic experiment. There is no place for it in America. When World War threatened civilization we pledged our resources and our lives to its preservation, and when revolution threatens we unfurl the flag of law and order and renew our consecration. Ours is a constitutional freedom where the popular will is the law supreme and minorities are sacredly protected. Our revisions, reformations, and evolutions reflect a deliberate judgment and an orderly progress, and we mean to cure our ills, but never destroy or permit destruction by force.25
I had rather submit our industrial controversies to the conference table in advance than to a settlement table after conflict and suffering. The earth is thirsting for the cup of good will, understanding is its fountain source. I would like to acclaim an era of good feeling amid dependable prosperity and all the blessings which attend.26
It has been proved again and again that we cannot, while throwing our markets open to the world, maintain American standards of living and opportunity, and hold our industrial eminence in such unequal competition. There is a luring fallacy in the theory of banished barriers of trade, but preserved American standards require our higher production costs to be reflected in our tariffs on imports. Today, as never before, when peoples are seeking trade restoration and expansion, we must adjust our tariffs to the new order. We seek participation in the world’s exchanges, because therein lies our way to widened influence and the triumphs of peace. We know full well we cannot sell where we do not buy, and we cannot sell successfully where we do not carry. Opportunity is calling not alone for the restoration, but for a new era in production, transportation and trade. We shall answer it best by meeting the demand of a surpassing home market, by promoting self-reliance in production, and by bidding enterprise, genius, and efficiency to carry our cargoes in American bottoms to the marts of the world.27
We would not have an America living within and for herself alone, but we would have her self-reliant, independent, and ever nobler, stronger, and richer. Believing in our higher standards, reared through constitutional liberty and maintained opportunity, we invite the world to the same heights. But pride in things wrought is no reflex of a completed task. Common welfare is the goal of our national endeavor. Wealth is not inimical to welfare; it ought to be its friendliest agency. There never can be equality of rewards or possessions so long as the human plan contains varied talents and differing degrees of industry and thrift, but ours ought to be a country free from the great blotches of distressed poverty. We ought to find a way to guard against the perils and penalties of unemployment. We want an America of homes, illumined with hope and happiness, where mothers, freed from the necessity for long hours of toil beyond their own doors, may preside as befits the hearthstone of American citizenship. We want the cradle of American childhood rocked under conditions so wholesome and so hopeful that no blight may touch it in its development, and we want to provide that no selfish interest, no material necessity, no lack of opportunity shall prevent the gaining of that education so essential to best citizenship.28
There is no short cut to the making of these ideals into glad realities. The world has witnessed again and again the futility and the mischief of ill-considered remedies for social and economic disorders. But we are mindful today as never before of the friction of modern industrialism, and we must learn its causes and reduce its evil consequences by sober and tested methods. Where genius has made for great possibilities, justice and happiness must be reflected in a greater common welfare.29
Service is the supreme commitment of life. I would rejoice to acclaim the era of the Golden Rule and crown it with the autocracy of service. I pledge an administration wherein all the agencies of Government are called to serve, and ever promote an understanding of Government purely as an expression of the popular will.30
One cannot stand in this presence and be unmindful of the tremendous responsibility. The world upheaval has added heavily to our tasks. But with the realization comes the surge of high resolve, and there is reassurance in belief in the God-given destiny of our Republic. If I felt that there is to be sole responsibility in the Executive for the America of tomorrow I should shrink from the burden. But here are a hundred millions, with common concern and shared responsibility, answerable to God and country. The Republic summons them to their duty, and I invite co-operation.31
I accept my part with single-mindedness of purpose and humility of spirit, and implore the favor and guidance of God in His Heaven. With these I am unafraid, and confidently face the future.32
I have taken the solemn oath of office on that passage of Holy Writ wherein it is asked: “What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” This I pledge to God and country.