Saturday, July 7, 2012
From the Government, Here to Save You
From conversations, from emails, and from articles, I encounter people in whose opinion my continued existence is solely dependent on the military protecting me from the big bad world out there, a world which in their view is full of slavering homicidal tyrants. It's as if I'm a naïve and helpless puppy being guarded by wise, noble and heroic attack dogs, ones who are much smarter and far more worldly than I am.
I don't think it would be too far off the mark to call such a view "the Nathan R. Jessup Delusion," after Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men.
Jessup's courtroom explanation captures this view nicely:
"Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have more responsibility here than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. I know deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you don't want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post."
Jessup's opinion is a variation of what everyone dreads to hear: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." It's a modern version of an old observation, one that runs back to Aesop and Jesus: tyrants always present themselves to the oppressed as benefactors.
And there's the rub: when people suggest to me my (to them) soft, foolish life is solely dependent on the protection of hard men making hard choices, they are supporting, whether they know it or not, the view that tyranny – indeed murder – is acceptable if it "benefits" the public.
Is this not fascism, the utilitarian view that the individual can be involuntarily sacrificed to the group? Is that not exactly what Jessup did in the movie, and what many self-defined patriots believe they have the right to do with other's lives?
What these people are doing is making excuses for bad behavior, which is one of the main traits of criminals. As Robert Heinlein pointed out, people are not so much rational as rationalizing. And they will rationalize anything, no matter how bad it is, to make it look good and pure and noble.
When exactly was the last time the military actually defended the United States? The last time the U.S. was invaded was the War of 1812, which happened when the U.S. tried to grab Canada while England was at war with France. It was an unnecessary war.
The War Between the States, caused more than anything else by the North's attempts to economically exploit the South? The Philippines Insurrection, in which the U.S. invaded the Philippines and killed up to 200,000 Filipino civilians? All those Filipinos were going to swim the Pacific and hop that wall that Jessup spoke about?
How about the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war against the Serbs, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? In all of those, we were attacked only once by another country, at Pearl Harbor, after FDR tricked the Japanese into attacking us. 9-11 was not an attack by a country, but a group. And that was blowback, caused by U.S. meddling in the affairs of other countries.
In Vietnam we claimed the Vietnamese attacked our warships in the Gulf of Tonkin (which they didn't), then invaded their country and essentially destroyed it. Robert McNamara, who is now in a very warm place indeed, estimated the U.S. killed 3.4 million Southeast Asians. Even today, the Vietnamese are suffering greatly from birth defects from the Agent Orange we dumped on their jungles. And all of it was to defend America?
In over 200 years as a country, we've been invaded once, attacked twice. All were avoidable. Otherwise, it's been us attacking other countries. Some of those "others" have included China, Lebanon, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Grenada, Libya, and Somalia. I missed some. A lot, actually.
Our bad behavior throughout the world is either ignored in our history books or white-washed as an attempt to bring freedom to benighted and backward savages. The victors write the textbooks, as always. I wonder how our current attempts to impose "democracy" on recalcitrant wogs will be portrayed in the future in our schools?
Don't get me wrong: I'm not anti-military. Some men, the Kshatriyas, are natural-born warriors. The late Col. David Hackworth was one. They're identifiable by seeing war as a last resort, unlike the sofa samurai who see it as the first choice. As long as they don't have to make their way to the front lines, of course.
I am not so naïve and foolish as to believe that the U.S. having troops in over 140 countries has anything to do with defending America. More than anything else, it'll breed resentment and hate, leading to more blowback (i.e. revenge) against us.
From the American Revolution through the War of 1812, through the Indian Wars, the Mexican War, the War Between the States, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf, the U.S. has suffered over 652,000 battle deaths and 1,430,000 non-mortal woundings. The count now climbs daily. How many were unnecessary? Almost all? All?
Although the Col. Jessups of the world will continue to believe they are defending me, I disagree with them. I'd be happy if they really did defend the U.S., and stay out of the rest of the world. It would save more trouble than they can possibly fathom.