By Nathan Barton
In a recent article in the FFF website, Mr. Jacob Hornberger identifies the creation of the “national-security-state” as being the worst mistake in US history. He then goes on a rather wide-ranging diatribe against the last dozen US presidents and the impacts of their actions, their lies, and how the letter of law (actually many laws) violate the spirit of the law and of liberty. He describes how the concept of a national-security state warps and destroys people and their character.
I really don’t disagree much with what Jacob writes.
It is just his basic (headline) premise that bothers me.
Yes, the transformation of the FedGov – and supposedly, then, of the entire society and economy I call the “Fifty States” – into a national-security state is a very bad mistake. But it is hardly the first – and arguably NOT the worse – that this nation (or at least those who claim to run this nation) has made in nearly 250 years.
And it is not as though Harry S Truman suddenly woke up in the middle of the night a few days or weeks after Japan capitulated (and after he committed mass murder in two different cities), and said, “I know just what we need to do. We need to make the United States of America into a national security state!” Nor did a bunch of good ole’ boys in Congress sitting around in some smoke-filled caucus room in 1945 or 1946 bemoaning the end of the war – and therefore of their excuses for near absolute power – give each other high-fives and take a blood oath to convert the nation into this monstrous thing.
It was not one mistake, and it was not something that was done on a whim, or in a vacuum, or as some vast two-winged conspiracy.
Rather, it was simply one more series of decisions and actions in a very long set that stretched, even in the 1940s, back nearly two centuries. Just in what became the Thirteen, then Thirty-six, then Forty-eight, now Fifty States. And we can see, sadly and with the 20-20 vision of hindsight, the series of actions over centuries, in the British Isles, in Western Europe, in Rome and Constantinople, and for nearly two millennia, all have led to this mess we now find ourselves in.
I don’t think you can point a finger at just one event, at time X and location Y, that was the biggest, worse mistake that gave us our modern world. And I don’t think that there are any choices that were made (intentionally or unintentionally) that were unchangeable at the time. Many choices were made which were later regretted and changed. Fortunately.
Here are a few of those decisions, just in American history:
- the writing and adoption of the Constitution, replacing the Articles of Confederation.
- the decisions to ignore or break treaties and therefore a refusal to defend (or even be neutral towards) neighboring people (read AmerInd) against the lawless acts of American citizens.
- the decisions to respond tit-for-tat for AmerInd raids, killing, and theft.
- the decision to invade Canada to attempt its conquest in the War of 1812.
- the decision, not just to fight against Mexican aggression, but invade and conquer the United Mexican States in 1845-1848 (and then force annexation instead of allowing self-determination of the peoples of New Mexico, Arizona, and California).
- the decisions to fight the Barbary pirates or various AmerInd tribes without a declaration of war.
- the decisions to use the admission of new states into the Union as political pawns in various other political matters, especially Congress dictating the terms of state constitutions.
- the refusal to allow new American settlements to seek admission as states due to unrelated political matters (examples: Texas, Deseret, Oregon Country).
- the decision not to recognize individual state actions to secede (especially in the case of South Carolina) and resort to force of arms.
- the decision to “reconstruct” the seceded states of the South, rather than follow some other course of action.
- the decision to turn the Spanish War of 1898 into an opportunity for conquest and colonization instead of simply a war of defense and to liberate Cuba (and again, a refusal to allow self-determination by the people of the Philippines and Puerto Rico).
- the entry into the Great War by the Wilson administration, seeking power for the progressive cause at home by supporting empires (French and British) which deserved no support.
- the constant interventions in Latin American nations to support rapacious business and even the interests of our European “allies.”
- the despicable treatment of pacifists, German-speaking immigrants (and their children), and others internally during the Great War.
The list could be doubled or tripled. Each of these actions, to some degree, was one more step down into the sewer of massive militarism and the national-security state. Equally important, each of these was a decision to take resources that could be used to make us more prosperous, more able to control our environment, more able to enjoy liberty, and instead squander it on the destruction of war, and to support growing imperial ambitions.
Ambitions and destruction which now seem to be permanent, without even the short gaps between wars on the Frontier or interventions into various lands between 1865 and 1941.
If we concentrate just on a single decision, a single event, we all too likely will fail to properly understand and address the true causes of the trouble we (as a people) have created for ourselves, and the trouble which we have allowed our “leaders” and others to push us into.
Can we reverse these things? Yes, at least to the extent of rejecting and dismantling the national security state. That will not bring back the tragically-shortened lives, or the waste of vast treasure, or the lost opportunities for liberty of the past. But it can and will make it possible for a new rebirth of liberty, and the blessings of prosperity and peace to us and our descendants – and the world.
Mama’s Note: As I’ve written so often, the bottom line for all of this is the seriously mistaken belief by most people that any involuntary government, any form of it, somehow has legitimate authority to control the lives of those they claim to “rule.” There will be no turning from this insanity as long as that myth is accepted and even used by so many who seriously want to control the lives and property of others, by governments and individuals.
Just curious why you might thing a “declaration of war” against the Indians would make any difference. Except that it might have justified (in their own minds) even more destruction and murder than was actually carried out. As for the Barbary pirates, I don’t know a lot about that situation, but it would seem more a self defense thing for the merchants than a “war” involving the whole country. Why a declaration of war for that?