By Bruce Fein – – Thursday, September 18, 2014
An axis of evil threatens the liberties of the United States from within: the warfare state; the surveillance state; the bail-out state; and, the welfare state.
A natural extension of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 1 percent doctrine, the axis feeds on an effete quest for a risk-free existence — the opposite of the risk-taking philosophy that gave birth to the nation.
The greatest threat to our liberties is the warfare state. Alexis de Tocqueville presciently noted in “Democracy in America,” “All those who seek to destroy the liberties of democratic nations ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it.”
War makes legal what is customarily first-degree murder. It subordinates transparency to secrecy. And due process, privacy, free speech, and the separation of powers bow to shouts of national security.
The warfare state is earmarked by endless gratuitous wars unjustified by self-defense, i.e., wars of aggression according to the international law principles championed by the United States during the post-World War II Nuremberg trials. Our wars against Iraq, Libya, ISIS, Afghanistan, and the perpetual global war against international terrorism are illustrative. The U.S. “pivot” to Asia is a precursor to a gratuitous war against China over the South or East China Seas, uninhabited islands, or otherwise.
No nation or non-state actor credibly threatens U.S. sovereignty. Any would-be aggressor against United States territory would be instantly crushed by our brave and unexcelled armed forces. No one goes to sleep here worried about a foreign invasion. We are safer from that danger than any other country in the history of the world.
But warfare states like the Unites States fight for the sake of domination or control in imitation of adolescent bullies on a high school playground. They create self-fulfilling prophecies. They preventively attack invented enemies, who predictably fight back in retaliation, which in turn is said to justify the preventive attacks.
ISIS is a perfect example. It was initially confined to fighting tyrannies in Syria and Iraq with no motivation to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to attack the United States. Then we preventively commenced war against ISIS to prop up a sectarian dictatorship in Iraq and the non-moderate moderate armed opposition in Syria. The ranks of ISIS predictably swelled to defend against the attacks. The United States has given ISIS a motive to respond in kind, which will be said to have justified our preventive war.
The surveillance state is first cousin to the warfare state. Willing to crush liberty in hopes of diminishing risk, it exposes all citizens to surveillance on the hunch that some may be connected to international terrorism. Unlike the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, a secret terrorist watch list has been created without due process safeguards for listing or de-listing.
In addition, the National Security Agency tracks the domestic and international communications of every citizen of the United States in hopes of discovering an international terrorism link. The NSA’s tracking persists despite more than eight years of futility. Additional suspicionless surveillance programs of the NSA undertaken pursuant to an executive order of the President remain cloaked in secrecy.
The risk-free surveillance state betrays the right to be let alone which gave birth to the American Revolution. Its spirit was voiced by William Pitt the Elder in an electrifying 1763 address to Parliament: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, but the King of England cannot enter — all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”
The bail-out state and welfare state are also fueled by risk aversion. They protect corporations and individuals alike from the economic risks of free and open competition — the locomotive of wealth. They perversely diminish the rewards of skill, foresight, and industry, while eliminating or reducing the penalties of corruption, recklessness, incompetence, or sloth. A stagnant economy, however, cannot sustain the stupendous costs of a warfare state.
We should be jolted by the teaching of all human experience. A country that makes liberty subservient to fears of risk will soon be a museum piece.