How Much Does Freedom Matter?
An American Foreign Policy for the 21st Century
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Political Science and International Relations departments
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA USA 24401
Delivered April 10, 2002, 7 pm, at the Staunton VA
Public Library Published in Virginia Review of Asian Studies IV
(Fall 2002): 101-114.
Delivered April 10, 2002, 7 pm, at the Staunton VA Public Library
Published in Virginia Review of Asian Studies IV (Fall 2002): 101-114.
Seven months ago, on September 11, 2001, the party that was the 1990s finally came to an end. Though stock market downturns as early as Spring 2000 were harbingers of the end of sunny days, the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon that day brought definitive conclusion to an era. Not just the popularity of refurbished red white and blue clothing signifies this change; the change is larger than no interest loans on cars. What Sept. 11th truly means for us may remain opaque, but we must try to see clearly, for misunderstanding our past can obscure the road to our future.
How fully is the darker world in which we now proceed "new"? How guiding are U.S. experiences and American nostrums of earlier ages? Must we abandon our ways to win the war on terrorism, or should we now be guided by our earlier modes of conduct? These concerns roil us as a people.
Our uncertainty now is not a new problem. Throughout American history, we have been divided about our role in the world. Some have counseled withdrawal behind the wide moats of our oceans, security seen in isolation. a doctrine of policy called isolationism. Others have implored us to engage, to promote commerce, to retard the threat of systems unlike our own; we call this view internationalism. This view of American security has demanded we promote America's status actively. While internationalists have differed over whether America's material interests or its values should be our primary emphasis, each tent in the internationalist camp has been pitched based on the shared notion that this dangerous world becomes more so if we withdraw.
Consensus on which of these ends to follow always has been elusive, for we are a divided, pluralistic people. We have divided, and now divide still more, over whether to act alone (or unilaterally) or primarily through international institutions (or multilaterally). Our system of republican and representative institutions reinforces this division.
To act now, we need to sort out these disparate impulses. Hovering behind our quarrels about ends, and about our means to pursue them, has been a larger question: "How much does the American experiment with democracy, how much does freedom still matter?" This is my topic tonight.
Freedom. For whatever end, American leaders long have engaged us with a rhetoric pointing to a positive response: freedom matters quite a lot. The original intent of the Founding Fathers may prove this point. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, found it to be "our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world" (Paterson: 51-52). While "temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies" were permissible to him, permanent commitments were seen to endanger our freedom, setting a founder's imprint on the sentiment favoring isolationism. Yet, many of his peers found American security to require more active engagement, and some demanded we be the trumpet through which Universal truths could be heard the world over. Thomas Jefferson first identified our purpose in this light: it is all men, not just North Americans, he declared, to be endowed by their creator with rights, including the promotion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in our widely read Declaration of Independence. His friend, James Madison, thought our new message exportable and relevant to policy, urging us to "commend to the nations" our vision. James Monroe took it a practical step further: he drew a line to declare European colonial ways barred from our whole hemisphere, in his Monroe Doctrine. For the Founders, freedom could be the basis for several different foreign policies.
In the last century, the career of Staunton native and seminal thinker Woodrow Wilson merged these influences. With Washington, he saw dangers to our unique mission in too close an involvement with Europe, and twice urged non-involvement in European rivalries as he won the presidency. But, America alone would not determine or choose. When unrestricted German attacks on U.S. commercial vessels continued, Wilson then found the need for action, and he stirred us to join the first Great European War not for some narrow American advantage, but as a mission on behalf of humanity. In Europe we would mount a crusade to "make the world safe for democracy."
All the while, another sort of freedom was the mundane stuff of Americans' roles in the world. American merchants sailed the seas, traded for what we lacked, and found markets for our bountiful harvests. From sea to shining sea, as we built a North American farm and foundry, we expanded our commerce beyond these shores. We invested in, developed resources for, and assisted financially other nations to do the same. We were in our first two centuries, and are now, a commercial republic and that form of our freedom required a strong hand to protect it. We long have acted to protect the sea lanes for both our own and the world's commerce: from the Barbary Coast of North Africa early in the 19th century, to the isthmus of Panama early in the 20th century, to the Gulf of Sidra in the 1980s, to the Persian Gulf today.
Some denigrate this purpose of American statecraft and military preparedness. To them, "interests" like open sea lanes appear inferior as a purpose to the loftier goal of promoting American values: democracy, human rights, and so forth. But the route to a more secure American liberty at home never was distinct from the route to secure American commerce; indeed, the two remain as closely intertwined now as in any earlier time.
We were throughout modern history and are now more than just the world's food supplier and granary, more than just Fords and F-16s, more than a navy to protect merchants' wares. Those sea lanes were highways for humanity's progress, too. As immigrants were drawn to this magnet of opportunity, ideas moved in both directions along the sea highways we guarded. We were once, and are now, the repository of humanity's hope. Not just that great statue in New York harbor, Lady Liberty, called the tired and weary to these shores. So, too, did the genuine opportunity to pursue happiness found here beckon, and by that Jefferson meant, and I mean, the right to acquire material property is a central American freedom. It is a freedom now under siege, but it remains in our times a fundamental freedom worthy of protection now and in the future.
The vision that propelled Italians and East Europeans, Greeks and Turks, Japanese and Chinese, Mexicans and other Latinos, to this once Anglo and German filled land was opportunity. The freedom to choose a life of one's own design, not the one assigned by class or caste, region or religion, this is central to the American dream, and is the bridge uniting a foreign policy built around securing both American interests and American values.
The land of opportunity has shone bright because the chance to make a better life found here knows such dim light elsewhere. The despair of so much of the Muslim world is not principally a function of the psychic blow to some sense of lost dignity made by Western culture; it is the daily absence of opportunity borne of economic structures that block individual initiative and favor threadbare state run bureaucratized failed states. This is what is so revolutionary in the American message: "Give us your tired, your homeless," pair them with a fair chance to compete, stir with hard work, and the American recipe flourished to produce the miracle of the American economy. Ten trillion dollars strong this year, our prowess remains unmatched anywhere. But it shone bright not just because we give all a fair chance; it shines because we protect and preserve the nation.
Now all is threatened. Suicide bombers want us out of the Persian Gulf, out of Arabia, want us to abandon our allies, withdraw, cease guarding the sea lanes. and those are just their current demands. States with programs to build weapons of mass destruction actively seek to link themselves to the terrorist threat. Indeed, they finance it.
Clearly, if our response is guided by the isolationist impulse in our national psyche, a reduced American life lies ahead. There are those, eco-absolutists and anti-globalization people, who would be elated at that prospect. They represent less than fifteen percent of Americans, have no influence in either political party, Congress or on the President. Put bluntly, that card is not in the deck of American Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, much to the lament of many of my campus colleagues.
The genuine alternative courses for our nation seek not to hasten our demise. Our present best may be understood as a choice between staying atop the chaotic world by embracing and extending our primary leadership role (the view associated with Paul Wolfowitz of the Dept. of Defense) and the view held by Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker, and many others that the U.S. must accommodate to guiding influences of powerful others like China, Europe, and maybe even to the rage of the so called "moderate" Arabs.
Interestingly, both of the deeper traditions, the tradition of believing in America's exceptionalism --the first democratic nation-and the tradition of viewing America as a commercial entity, inform and support a policy choice today of winning the war on terrorism. But how the 85 percent of us who believe we have a vital interest in stopping terrorism go about doing that makes quite a lot of difference.
We first must acknowledge the barriers to clear thought on this question that impede us in making the choice. For two generations, Americans have been taught to devalue, to question, to deny, the importance of their values in understanding their past.
First, from the right, we were cautioned that our crusader tradition had led us to misunderstand our history. Guided by European émigrés Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger, foreign policy analysts and statesmen of the 1950s through 1970s were tutored in what is called "realism." Discounting American ideals, this view held that all there is in the struggle among nations is power, hence all America ever was doing had no moral purpose. Thus, it was explained, America opposed the German militarists, then the German Nazis, and finally the Soviet communists simply because they were strong, not because they were evil, not because their dark visions of utopia menaced our conception of being civilized and humane.
This contorted reading of the meaning of the 20th century known as realism finds all there has been to America's mission to be a continuing chapter of the same struggle that all mankind has been undertaking since time immemorial. Dominate or be dominated. Nicollo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes said it little differently. Believing America to lack moral purpose, and dazzled by the simplicity of realism, postwar sophisticates -especially in the universities- retold our saga. While generating a clever basis to critique our mistaken overreach in Southeast Asia, realism's larger legacy was to drain from a generation any connection to the American purpose that was central to their forebears. The sense that can emerge from understanding our central role in the advance of human freedom, a value not just for America but for mankind, was lost.
If the amoralism of realism polluted our understanding of ourselves from the right, a more pernicious barrier to clear thought was the spawn of the left. It had two forms. First, in the social sciences, an alternative set of values, one that devalued individuals and individual rights in favor of group identities shouted its way into the curriculum on the heels of the protests of the later 1960s and early 1970s. Not only was American commerce severed from its clear link to American ideals; both were vilified as evils to be vanquished in battle with the forces of anti-racism, anti-sexism, group consciousness, and every other impulse which could produce the desired anti-American outcomes.
The academy became a battle zone; American culture the target; and American ideals the forgotten texts, gathering dust as a new canon of "voices of the oppressed" supplanted the received legacy of two hundred years' struggle to realize human freedom. Young people simply stopped reading Lincoln, stopped memorizing Jefferson, learned to mock the Wilsonian goal of making the world safe for democracy. Second, in the humanities, the very idea of true facts came under attack: all there could be would be competing narratives, not even seen as versions of truth or lies. Schooling in the American tradition became imbedded with new meanings to be located by knowing not if a saying is true but by the class, race, and gender of the speaker.
The resulting decline in common understanding of our purpose surely was abetted by the adolescent tendency to recline. Peeled of the firm timber provided by statistics, dates, and even the names of our heroes by our teachers, recline we did. Reading heroic literature became both passé to assign and no route to tenure, either.
As a national community, and as a people, these trends permeated outward from the universities, and corroded us all. The belief that American values didn't matter trickled down into mass consciousness through the high schools. Let us take a local example. The key historic text employed at RE Lee High when my daughters endured the process of learning history there was Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." This is the same Howard Zinn (of Boston University) who during the middle of the Cold War, a time when freedom most was challenged by Soviet tyranny, this is the Prof. Zinn who then insisted that there was little difference between a one and a two party political system. No difference between being able to vote the rascal out and the Gulag!! Our saga, to Zinn, was one long chronicle of racism, sexism, classism, and so forth. So much for the triumph over totalitarianism; to Zinn, we differed little from our enemies. This is the elevation of sentiment over substance; the political philosophy of the comic strip Pogo "We have met the enemy and he is us" posing as serious analysis. A community disarmed of self awareness seems the intended goal of Zinn and of those adopting books like this.
At the universities, too, this jaundiced view, this view that America has no special, distinctive message in its experience, now is not merely among the "voices": it leads the academy. At UVA, today, heading the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the main heart of that wonderful university founded by Thomas Jefferson, is Mel Lefler, a man whose most famous work argues that it was the U.S., not the aggressive Russian Soviets, who caused there to even be a Cold War. Tell that to a Pole, Dean Lefler. Tell it to the Czechs. These captive peoples now free know better. If the best and brightest today must learn that our great triumphs over the enemies of freedom were but misguided enterprises from the start, can anything but skepticism guide us in the struggle with today's enemies of freedom?
Indeed, the veneration of Americanism seems the sole voice whose absence goes unlamented on campus today.
Between right and left, between amoralism and the radicalized new agenda for changing America, two generations have been cut free from learning the intellectual basis for defending America. We have been cut free from the traditional product of education earlier generations had available to lean on when American life was threatened. And we have done this to ourselves at a time of great immigration here, a time of acute need for all, for Americans new and old, to understand the American way. We have asked our young to find elsewhere the cornerstones for a new national identity, all the while remaining indifferent to the drift ever further from connecting our political rights to the economic freedoms. Yet this is the basis from which the stable, material stuff of most Americans' gradually improving existence has grown.
Apathy rises, the voting percentage of our citizenry slips. We would leave it, it seems, to our leaders to determine a course for us in the world. As long as times were good, it looked feasible to simply retreat into our private lives and let the nation run on autopilot. Yet, "It's the Economy, stupid" must be the most inane slogan of that most self-indulgent decade, the 1990s. The Founders knew that walking away from civic duty never is a safe bet: Patrick Henry did not say "give me stock options or give me death." Yet ultimately the retreat from civic responsibility in the 1990s proved viable. not because foreign policy or America runs automatically but because, for fifty years, the generation of World War II, the "Greatest Generation" as Tom Brokow has dubbed it, did its job in this area even if the rest of us did not do ours well.
Schooled less by fashions in the academy and more by the hard realities of real life, by The Depression and World Wars, these leaders knew the enduring face of tyranny to be what they saw in Soviet behavior in the late 1940s. This generation held firm the rudder as the American ship sailed on. Not in every instance with perfect proportion, but in large questions essentially with the right priorities, the Cold War was won by that generation's persistence, by its bipartisan leadership, by its instinctive moderation, and by its good judgment. Evil empires expired, and in time, so did the evil states at their heart. That we owe more than ever can be repaid to them is self-evident; that they have passed the mantle of leadership to less firmly rooted successors equally is evident.
This then, again, is our moment of malaise. The Japanese have an expression, "to see with new eyes." It suggests the basis on which age is respected in their society, for it implies that with experience comes new appreciation, that judgment is not so much schooled as acquired by being thoughtful throughout one's life. We Americans now need to "see with new eyes" our situation. Certain elements in it are abundantly obvious, if only we can transcend the blinders imposed by bad habits and intellectual fads, if only we listen anew to the whole of the American experience.
What Sept. 11 shows us is that our cause, the cause of freedom, much as in 1917 and 1941, has enemies. Not rivals. Not adversaries. Not mere opponents. Enemies. These enemies do not seek a new equilibrium, a new balancing of world power as the realists' conceit would have it always inevitably to be. Nor are they messengers unheard, lost "voices" who simply advocate some new and legitimate group's grievance, as the hyper sensitive left imagines all things. There is no placating religious warriors who wish the triumph of their one God. It is not a matter of a deal, some compromise to be discovered and offered up by us.
These modes of thinking seem perfectly rational within our society's conceptual framework, but they make little sense across the broad gulf of cultural, indeed, inter-civilizational, conflict at hand. Our enemies seek, as enemies of freedom always have, the end of our civilization.
The Founders knew these sorts of threats. How might Jefferson have responded? Do we need to speculate? Jefferson sent the US Navy "to the shores of Tripoli" to punish those states that supported the terrorists of his day, the Barbary Pirates, by providing safe harbor to those who would menace American merchants in the Mediterranean. How might Wilson have taken the news of the attack of Sept. 11? Again, we need not speculate: Gen. Black Jack Pershing was his response to the raid of the terrorists of his day, Pancho Villa and his gang of gunmen, on the town of Columbus, New Mexico.
We have known renegade armed murderers in our history. We just have been deprived of a clear narrative about them due to the tendentious, indeed, the mendacious, scholarship that has driven our academy to have only the one note chant "American imperialism is a paper tiger" to replace the glorious anthem of songs made by this free people.
We have been told force solves nothing. But so hollow a phrase should bring howls from the children of those who cauterized evil in Nazi Germany and the militarists' Japan. Some times force is the only solution. Indeed, only by demonstrating to every German and Japanese the utter ruin their old ways had produced could the new, democratic nations of Germany and Japan emerge. As former Reagan Administration official Edward Luttwak convincingly has shown, rather than "give peace a chance," lovers of freedom must see clearly that when confronting evil, we need to "give war a chance." Only wars fought fully to their conclusion, only wars that remove malignant regimes, permit their defeated people to set aside failed rulers, failed traditions and realize their potential.
Could a truce, a ceasefire have had this effect on the militarists' Japan? On the Nazis' mad regime? No. To rid the world of malign forces, American war must be given its full chance, now as much as in the 1940s. And from this lesson flows a related axiom from the 1990s: fight the good fight once and be rid of, don't contain, the aggressor state you defeated. Had that been followed, would we now peer opaquely at a still dangerous Iraq, a state which for three years has been building unobstructed the very banned weapons it in 1991 pledged never again to own?
This point is clear, even if it challenges the "balance of power" worshipped by realists: the survival of freedom in the 20th century demanded evil aggressor states of the unfree be ended, fully defeated. Only in total defeat could the cultural barriers to freedom be broken along with the political and military ones. Only in their total defeat could their neighbors know safety and genuine peace. That we have been disarmed intellectually to the point of being unable to recognize this, and thus are unprepared for the steps needed to dispatch militarily today's pirates and their state sponsors, should be obvious.
I will be accused of favoring imperialism, of favoring the superiority of one culture over another. Let me say forthrightly: yes. I believe indifference to the survival of freedom is no virtue. Yes, I believe approaches to constructing peace that are informed by ignoring the fundamental lessons of the 20th century are flawed. And I want to bring all of you along with me on this point, for it is not a position Americans hastily accept, even when attacked.
Think with me, if you will for a moment, on the matter of when the first American was killed in the war on terrorism? It is tempting to locate that event at the moment our personal awakening, and date it Sept. 11, 2001. But what of the seventeen U.S. sailors who perished October 2000, at Aden, Yemen, when Osama bin Laden's minions bombed the USS Cole? How many Americans know that Osama then wrote a poem about that. saying: "The pieces of the bodies of the infidels were flying like dust particles" as he praised the killers of our sailors? What of 224 Kenyans, Tanzanians, and twelve US diplomats murdered by these same forces August 7, 1998 at our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam?
And some Europeans think we now over-react when we understand when our friends' civilians are attacked by these same tactics. Tell that to the families of the four American oil men shot dead in Pakistan in the mid 1990s. They were shot dead precisely because they were Americans, precisely because they were pursuing the dream of doing business in Pakistan.
We have been too patient with our enemies. For too long, we have been restrained while we, all Americans, have, in clear violation of international law, been made targets. Moreover, should our outrage be any less when our servicemen are targeted? What of US Navy sailor Robert Dean Stethem, summarily shot in June 1985 by Palestinian hijackers on TWA Flight 847 precisely because he was an American soldier? We did not respond. We must understand this war against us already has gone on long, and while it long has been waged against more than our soldiers and diplomats, it has also been waged against them. Who here remembers Leon Klinghofer, the wheel chair bound American Jew shot dead by PLO gunmen who thought civilian passenger cruise ships a new object for hijacking October 1985?
These events - and I could cite dozens of others, e.g. Yasser Arafat's order to murder the US Ambassador to Sudan-these events guide, if we will perceive what is important in them. Our enemies are clear. But today, we are also bullied by our "friends" as much as by our enemies, called to back off, to split hairs, to find "explanations" why all terrorism need not be our concern. Our non-elected Egyptian "friends" who now are quiet about suicide bombers, and whose presses question even if Arabs did the dirty deed of Sept. 11, those "friends" colors are clear in that same past. Egypt chose to release from custody every one of the hijackers who harassed those 438 tourists and who killed Mr. Klinghofer. Our sometime "friend" Yasser Arafat, then as now, publicly lied about the crimes of his minions, stating his men had not "harmed the hair on a single head" of any hostage; but Mr. Klinghofer was shot dead. We know "friends" who lie like Mr. Arafat lied, friends who take our money and stir up anti-American hate like Mr. Mubarak. The hour of decision Pres. Bush announced on October 7, 2001, nears: -"Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground."
We all recall, too, the bitter news of October 23, 1983: 241 dead U.S. Marines, killed by a truck bomb at our barracks in Beirut in 1983. Those who chide Pres. Bush about his use of the phrase the "axis of evil" must explain just what about the orders to do this given by Iran's ruling mullahs and carried out by their Lebanese Hezbollah allies, does not seem evil to them. We never retaliated, and Hezbollah is still at it, launching missiles at civilians even this week. The Lebanon Government and their Syrian masters also face a day of reckoning: are you against terrorism, or with the terrorists?
When we seek to see our enemies, the enemies of freedom, we will find clarity. When we finally find time to commemorate the victims of that evil axis we will include Malcolm Kerr, American university president slain in Beirut in 1984; James Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut (slain by torture after his abduction March 16, 1984); and U.S. Army Lt. Col. William Higgins, abducted February 17, 1988 from his U.N. Peacekeeper post in South Lebanon and murdered by Iran-sponsored, Lebanese terrorists. That this list could go on much longer is not the point. My point here is that American withdrawal, acquiescence, and unwillingness to retaliate sent the wrong message to the doers of these evil deeds. We thought the terrorist evil could be bargained with, we thought deals could be struck, and we now know that only invited more attacks against us.
There is a strongly misplaced set of messages heard now to say we need, in the face of our military success in Afghanistan, to again "turn the other cheek" and wind down this war. That turning of cheeks, already went on rather too long, and it invited only more blows. To Mr. Bin Laden, we were turning cheeks at Nairobi, at Dar es Salaam, at Aden. To the Palestinian terrorists of Achille Lauro, the Rome and Vienna airports, the Munich Olympics, and other outrages, we kept talking. and they kept hitting at us, our diplomats, and at our Israeli friends. The decades of absorbing blows, of cutting deals, and of turning cheeks ended September 11, 2001.
That we have enemies, deadly ones, always has been evident to the perceptive. But clear perception often is in short supply, most especially in times of plenty, of prosperity, times of a tranquil lull between eras of conflict which we prefer to view as the permanent state of Man, peace. The fog was lifted as we observed the man-made horror of the attacks on lower Manhattan, on Arlington. It was a unifying experience for Americans and it should be able to move us back to our first principles.
Just as in Jefferson's time, the totality of American freedom matters. As with the merchant vessels menaced in his time, so with the menace represented by the abduction and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl just six weeks ago. Our enemies seek not just to weaken our military position in one world region, or to drive us out of the Persian Gulf. They don't really care what Israel might give up to placate their Palestinian friends. Those are merely their declared, marketable goals. But slogans of our enemies, designed to divide us from our allies and hasten our decline are not the opening point for a new bargain, a new Feb. 28, 1991.
No, our enemies' real goals cannot be accepted. Their real goal is to end the American way of life. They have made obvious that they designate any American, anywhere, as their target. Daniel Pearl in this sense is just a reminder of the four oilmen killed in Pakistan five years ago, auditors for Union Texas oil company slain two days after a Virginia court convicted Pakistani national Mir Aimal Kansi of the 1992 murderous attack on CIA headquarters. (Let them be named so that they are not forgotten: Ephrahim C. Egbu, 42; Joel B. Enlow, 40; William L. Jennings, 49; and Tracy L. Ritchie, 41 died in Karachi that day; NYT 1997). Certainly, we must oppose the terrorists' tactics by waging war carefully: their violation of the most basic rule in the laws of war, the distinction between combatant armies (who are legitimate targets in declared wars) and the illegitimacy of attacks on civilian non-combatants cannot be occasion for us to do the same. But we must also be strong as we resist their stated goals, which remain incompatible with our purpose even should they change tactics and begin to conduct a lawful war. We must resist the terrorists and the states that are their friends because to pull back, to stop traveling, to forsake new business opportunities in partnership with entrepreneurs worldwide, would be to narrow the basic freedom known to Jefferson as the pursuit of material happiness.
No matter how many clever college courses claim the contrary, the American commercial republic is not our enemy. Globalism is not some danger to be rejected because clever men rail against "imperialism." No matter how often that canard is repeated, it is a lie to pose American business as the enemy of the world's people. No one coerces Saudis to buy a Big Mac, or Indians to buy Microsoft software. People buy our goods, people worldwide choose to plow their fields with Caterpiller tractors, because they do the job that needs to be done.
It is not just our stockholders' profit that is involved in globalism. With our exports, it is freedom that gets distributed, it is our commercial creativity that beckons the creative worldwide to join hands with us. Indeed, it is the American way of life that is in the cross hairs of today's pirates.
Some find this view hyperbolic. They are made so uncomfortable by the idea that garden variety evil again is the weed which only America can pull. Thus, in the pages of the Staunton Leader, we have been told, according to the columnist they freely elect to subsidize, Charley Reese, that our war on terrorism is "illegitimate." Someone needs to refer Mr. Reese to the U.S. codes, for Public Law 93-148, also known as the War Powers Resolution of 1973, specifically permits every action Pres. Bush has undertaken; and Senate Joint Resolution 23, at section 2.b., specifically locates his current authority in a manner explicitly consistent with that governing law. We are at war, and we are in for a long, fully authorized armed conflict, for the language of that neglected September 2001 enactment is sweeping. Listen to it:
"[t]he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
A tall order is before us: to prevent any future acts of international terrorism. To proceed to completion, not just the righteous nature of our first step onto this road, the defeat of the Taliban of Afghanistan, will be enough to sustain us. Strong as we are, we will need help in the coming stages of the war: intelligence sharing and arrest of terrorists by friends and allies, strategic cooperation in supplying our forces while abroad, legitimizing political support through the voices of those who will associate with us, and so forth.
But we also will need something more intangible: the steady shoulder of the American people's support on which to lean when the difficult task becomes trying for those we ask to do our work for us: our soldiers, our intelligence operatives, and their families. That nine in ten of us do say we support the cause, and that nearly that many support our President, is a heartening indication that our people understand this.
In this, it is probably too much to hope that the critics who remain will refrain from penny pinching about the dollar cost. As I prepare this, a bit more than fifty Americans have already paid the supreme sacrifice in this war. Three hundred seventy nine billion in military spending is budgeted for national defense, a sum so large as to itself be compared and found to dwarf the entire Russian GNP. Thank you, Washington Post. But so what? If 379 billion proves to be too little to achieve the legally authorized goal, would it matter if what it would take from our pockets might rival Germany's GNP? Is this a task we only pursue if it is to bought on the cheap?
No. Securing the freedom for Americans to travel, to conduct business, to be journalists gathering facts, and a hundred other things we or our children each may freely choose to do one day, this is not a matter of a value only sought if it is available at bargain prices.
As President Kennedy said in his inaugural address, the cause of liberty requires us to "bear any burden." But if no cost is too high to win this war, what of how we proceed? About that already there is plenty of doubt. Here the basic confusion about our national purpose also has produced confused advice. For example, many columnists and at times even the usually wiser editors of the Staunton Leader would have us begin by abandoning our democratic ally, Israel. Not content with the enemies we clearly have in that tough neighborhood, the Editors of the Leader at times have wanted us to handicap ourselves by dispatching some of our friends, too, declaring Israel's Zionism "a threat to world peace." Again: No, for two reasons. Not only does making common cause with other states harassed by the same terrorists who have attacked the U.S. make strategic sense.
There is also a deeper reason why the U.S. should stand with the other democracies willing to fight terrorism as we move on to win this war. As has been shown in a series of important studies by political scientists over the last decade and a half, democracies do not war on one another (see: Doyle; Russett; Weart). The "Democratic Peace" thesis can guide smart policy: the extension of democracy through our foreign policy is not mere ideological pipe dreaming. Wilson's rhetoric has more to it than mere talk. There is a way to reduce future threats to us: by enlarging the part of the world where elected governments and free markets prevail, we create greater markets for all, limiting the failed alternatives to ever smaller corners of this globe. In this project, the inter-related elements of free elections, free presses, limited governments, and vibrantly independent civil societies all provide us useful measures of our global community.
But the democratic peace is not a shallow measure. Genuine change, not cosmetic, false-front electoralism, will be needed. If Iran, for example, is to move from being the axis of evil it now so clearly is, more than a ballot box will be needed there. Freedom in all its forms will be. As with Germany and Japan in 1945, a stick more than a carrot will be the effective tool, and the sooner that is realized in Tehran, the sooner change can begin there. More proximate still is the pending change of regime in Iraq. No friend of the United States will obstruct that project, but sorting out those facts will prove useful in identifying who our friends are.
So, as I bring this tour of our critical moment to a close, several key points can be extracted and underlined. First, American values matter. They may have been derogated by clever trends infecting too many impressionable young people over the last two generations. But the clear vision of evil before us clears the foggy air, and redirects our vision to see anew the importance of our first principles. Second, Democracy matters, but democracy is not all that matters. The freedom to choose a life of one's own design, valued by some only at personal levels, is the American experience writ large. American business abroad is an organized form of the American dream, and it too is worth protecting. Third, it may be tardy, but the American response now, the war on terrorism, is not an over-reaction. Our anger is not a therapeutic problem to be medicalized: a people aroused to recognize that its way of life is on the line is a key part of our national strength. That arousal reflects decades of too much patience with those whose threat now can be ended only by force.
Fourth, under both U.S. and international law, this war on terrorism is fully legal, and legitimately authorized by elected officials. It deserves the broad support that we have given so far, for that support can elevate spirits within our troops, and within our people; both remain in danger. Flying your flag is not just about being faddish; it might spur on a young man or woman who truly is doing battle for you. If we cannot do it continuously, then let us do it on the 11th of each month to remember why we are fighting. And let us start tomorrow.
For too long most of us have been too modest in praising our virtuous system. Now, in our time of national need, we must speak up against those who would tear down that system. Pragmatically, we should do so because amply America has benefited us while asking so little from us. But on principle, too, we should stand anew against America's detractors. Instead, we doubt ourselves. We listen to enemies, we contemplate their demands, we seek compromise with them. And by such attitudes we invite only more aggression against us.
September 11 shook much in our civic faith, and as an independent and skeptical people, we remain prone to be amused by ditties such as the one enunciated by Winston Churchill to the effect that "democracy is the worst system of government, except all the others." But democracy is not in any sense a system unworthy of protection against its enemies. Freedom is the heart of a foreign policy to that end. As Churchill said in another context about his nation, "this is our finest hour." Let the chroniclers of our moment say as much of us.
Let us not lose the vigilance we sought last Fall: remain alert to suspicious activity near power and water supplies. Cooperate with law enforcement. This, my fellow Stauntonians, is war. It is necessary. It is right. And we will win.
Michael W. Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs," in Debating the Democratic Peace, editors Michael E. Brown et.al. (Cambridge MA: M.I.T. Press, 1996): 3-57.
Nicholas Lemann, "Letter from Washington: The Next World Order," New Yorker (April 1, 2002): 42-48.
Edward Luttwak, "Give War a Chance" Foreign Affairs (July/August 1999): 36-44.
NYT 1997: John F. Burns, "4 Americans Slain in Pakistan; Link to Killing at C.I.A. Is Seen," New York Times (November 13, 1997): 1
Thomas G. Paterson et.al. American Foreign Policy: A History to 1914 third edition (Lexington MA: D.C. Heath, 1988): 51-52.
Bruce Russett, "The Fact of Democratic Peace," in Debating the Democratic Peace, editors Michael E. Brown et.al. (Cambridge MA: M.I.T. Press, 1996): 58-81.
Washington Post: "379 Billion Dollars," Washington Post (January 27, 2002): B3.
Spencer R. Weart, Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another (New Haven CT: Yale U.P., 1998).
Spencer R. Weart, "Peace among Republics," International History Review 23, 4 (December 2001): 767-775.
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: From 1492 to Present Revised, updated edition (NY: Harper Perennial, Sept. 2001)
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