Monday, December 2, 2013

Restoring Freedom in the United States: Dismantle the Welfare-Warfare State and Reform the Patriot Act

"Well, the truth is, there are simple answers, they just are not easy ones." ~ Ronald Reagan

end-the-wars Despite trillions spent on defense, terrorists on September 11, 2001, murdered 2,977 men, women, and children on US soil. The US military was only able to put two jets in the air to protect the entire Eastern seaboard and the two planes did not have live ammunition. Popular Mechanics, in a report debunking 911 myths, reports that on that day "there were only 14 fighter jets on alert in the contiguous 48 states" in a year when the military had a US$400 billion dollar budget and hundreds of military bases in 130 countries around the world. Frederick the Great's observation that “He who defends everything defends nothing.” was once again proven true. Major Heather Penney, of the first District of Columbia Air National Guard, was one of the first two warriors to take to the air on September 11, 2001, to defend the United States from a terrorist attack. In a 2011 interview on C-Span, she reflected on September 11 a decade later, observing:
I often wonder if we have forsaken some of what it means to be Americans . . . to try to assure our citizens of security. There is no such thing as perfect security. . . . Have we been overzealous? Has the pendulum swung too far? Such that we are abdicating our value set . . . ?
What led this courageous pilot to such a dire reflection? A month after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed and George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into law that expanded state power while undermining individual freedoms. Since then, the United States has been at a turning point, and the options are clear: continued arbitrary rule in a bankrupt police state or the restoration of accountability and limits. The first seems ominous, since history is littered with the wreckage of states, including democracies, that overextended themselves both domestically and internationally. If we are to address root problems in the policy realm and save the United States from "abdicating its value set", we will have to end the welfare-warfare state. Murray Rothbard, a US American economist, historian, and political theorist, noted back in 1973 that the emergence of the permanent welfare-warfare in the United States was first observable following World War II with the Cold War.

The underlying premise of the welfare-warfare state is that the radical expansion of the size and scope of the government and its intrusion on privacy can resolve challenges to security. This has been demonstrated to be flawed. Paul Cianca's shooting rampage at LAX airport and simultaneous terrorist bombings in totalitarian communist China in early November 2013 reveal once again that giving up freedoms does not translate into a guarantee of security. The welfare-warfare state did not protect American lives and property on 9/11 and a further expanding security and surveillance under the Patriot Act did not stop one lone gun man from successfully killing a TSA official and wounding at least one other or two young Muslim men on April 15, 2013 from bombing the Boston Marathon killing three and seriously wounding many more.

It did not have to be this way.

When the Cold War ended, Patrick Buchanan announced his candidacy for president in 1991, calling for a national discussion to, in effect, end the welfare-warfare state. Two decades later, and with the problem only ballooning, Buchanan summed up the policy he had wanted to see implemented at the time: "After the Cold War we should have downsized the empire dramatically and returned to become a more normal nation in a more normal time."

There are consequences to the path taken, and Buchanan has outlined the cost in treasure. At the same time the military footprint overseas while expensive and unsustainable also leads to more terrorists targeting the country. Buchanan offers an explanation of the terror attacks on the United States that the "mainstream" fails to make:
Evil though they may be, Islamic killers are over here because we are over there. They are not trying to kill us because they dislike our domestic politics, but because they detest our foreign policy. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. . . . As Osama bin Laden said, they want us to stop propping up the Saudi regime they hate, and to get off the sacred Saudi soil on which sit the holiest shrines of Islam. They want our troops out of Saudi Arabia – and if we don’t get out, they are coming over here to kill us any way they can.
Reforming the Patriot Act and making defending the lives, liberty and property of American citizens the main priority of American foreign policy not advancing the narrow interests of what President Eisenhower described in his farewell address as the military-industrial complex. There is still time to turn things around both restoring freedom and increasing security by dismantling the welfare-warfare state.