Sunday, January 02, 2005

I've been thinking about writing something about this for a long time and haven't, mainly because I don't want to take a lot of time to do it. I finally got that wild hair, so here's what I came up with.


I love America. I was born here, always lived here, always figured I'd stay here all my life and die and be buried here. There's no better country anywhere, at least when you add everything up. However... all is not well here. Many of the liberties our forefathers fought to establish have been disregarded, and exercising certain of our God-given, unalienable rights is becoming more dangerous all the time -- purely because the state (by which I mean any governmental entity, not just one of the 50 union states) is ever more jealous of what power remains vested in the people (and thus not in itself). This process, which we could call the de-Americanization of America, has occurred gradually over many decades. Without arguing about exactly when it started (many would say Lincoln, others FDR, others would pick other dates), most of us, with a bit of thought, will agree that it is happening, and has been for a long time.

Most of us liberty-loving Americans would rather it weren't happening. We argue about it quite a lot, mostly in attempts to affix blame (establishment of blame being seen as a precursor to implementing a remedy). As a Republican, I had formed the opinion that it was due to Democrats and liberalism. If we could just reduce them/that, we'd be on the path back to our constitutional republic, and full respect for everyone's God-given rights. That view worked for me, until George W. Bush came along and made a laughingstock out of it. Now I realize that the problem is broader than one party, or one section of the American political ideology. There's a human nature problem here. Human beings want power (the root of all evil is the love of money, and money is power). When they see power, they want to control it, and they want to prevent others from controlling it. This is not a characteristic of just one or another party, but rather a weakness in all human beings! We won't get rid of it by eliminating either party, or even the ideology underlying it. Even by eliminating both parties we will not solve this one. It's part of who we are.

The only way to deal with an element of human nature is with something capable of altering human nature (God) or else by implementing some means of countering it with some other aspect of human nature. The Founding Fathers called such means "checks and balances", and they wisely designed them into our Constitution. Today, we're woefully far from adherence to the Constitution, and few press for such. To do so right now is to risk the wrath of those who insist "we're at war!" and demand that we yield up whatever BushCo wants, in order to "win" that "war". But what is that war? Are we being told the truth about it? How have our ideas about it been formed? From whom do we get updates about how well it's going? What will victory look like? Who exactly is the enemy? What makes that enemy an enemy? How do we know that a given individual, having been declared an enemy, really is one? We're essentially told to trust BushCo about this; that they will make those determinations on our behalf. When that in turn is dissected, what we find is that George W. Bush personally is regarded as having the power to "lead us" in this war, and make all necessary decisions about it.

Now consider that at Bush's disposal is the most unstoppable military force in the history of the world. That makes George W. Bush arguably the most important human being not just now, but in the entire history of the West. It is no exaggeration to say that he holds in his hands the power to alter literally any country and any relationship on the planet. At his word, whole cities could be erased. (The Congress has essentially declared it so, by purporting to grant him authority to do whatever he says he needs to do, post-9/11.) Is it reasonable to put that much power in the hands of any man? The conservative, American viewpoint is certainly that it is not at all reasonable; that no man is to be trusted with vast power. Madison tells us that "all men having power ought to be mistrusted". American writing ever since has echoed that sentiment, and I've always felt that way. Up until 9/11, I think most Americans would have agreed. But even prior to 9/11, that attitude was changing, and we were becoming increasingly comfortable with an imperial presidency -- not so much comfortable with the idea in the abstract as willing to tolerate the reality of it combined with a fervent, almost religious, belief that "our guy" would inevitably be the one to wield the scepter.

The first problem is that there is no such guarantee. The second problem is that such a guarantee wouldn't matter even if it did exist: as Lord Acton warned, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So, this course must be changed. The imperial presidency must be scaled back down. But will that ever be done willingly by any holder of the office? Not if that holder is another in the line of corporate-sponsored, Council on Foreign Relations-friendly, Establishment front men. Only an outsider would do such a thing, and no outsider can win with the game set up the way it now is. However, as the madness leads us further astray -- further away from limited, constitutional, republican, liberty-oriented government -- it will inevitably lead us into increasingly dangerous problems. Problems like Iraq. The arrogance manifested in invading Iraq with no clear plan for occupation after deposing Hussein is colossal, and terrifying. We Americans who love our country find ourselves reduced to hoping that the Iraq adventure will somehow work out alright, even as it keeps not doing so. But... what if we get our wish? What if it does work out alright?

If Iraq turns out well, its instigators will be emboldened to try the same thing again. Will they learn from how bloody and dangerous this was? I for one doubt that they will. They don't seem to have learned from the rest of human history; why would they learn from their own, short of clear failure? Perhaps I'm too pessimistic on that point, but what assurance can you provide me that that is the case? It seems to me that to trust these power-mad world-tinkerers with the responsibility of learning from their own mistakes, sans an overall defeat, is a bad gamble. Thus, I can't help coming to a conclusion that some will hold against me:

We'll be better off if the U.S. loses in Iraq.

The reason has absolutely nothing to do with me hating America, or being a blood dancer, or any of the other utterly vapid knee-jerk responses so often regurgitated by zealous Bush loyalists. In fact quite the opposite. As I've argued briefly above, a win in Iraq will likely lead to further actions, and those will have even less chance of success than this (unless something is learned, which, as I said, I doubt will happen). The Bush administration does not deserve to "win" in Iraq, because they should never have gone there at all; certainly not without a well-crafted plan. If they do somehow "win", it will validate, in their minds and those of their supporters, the Bush doctrine of "pre-emptive war" (formerly known as "hostile aggression"). There's nothing American about that doctrine, and nothing American about wanting it to become an established part of our national thinking. What is American is to defend ourselves and be friendly -- but not entangled -- with others. The only way to that stance from here lies through repudiation of the Bush doctrine, and the sooner that happens, the fewer lives (American and other) will be sacrificed to it. It is because I want America to learn the lesson sooner rather than later that I find myself "rooting against America" -- at least in the eyes of those for whom America and Bush are virtually indistinguishable from one another.

I know there are many others who hold this same view. It is a conservative, pro-American view. It is not a leftist view. It does, however, put me somewhat closer to the camp of the leftists than to the camp of the Bush loyalists, at least on this issue (and what issue eclipses it, lately?). So, for the time being, I'm sure I'll continue being mislabeled as a leftist, Osama-lover, etc. etc.. While wrong, those insults don't bother me nearly as much as my conscience would if I were to root for America in Iraq, because I would be rooting for an expected outcome of America learning nothing and continuing to go further wrong. I regret not being able to stand with my fellow Republicans on some things (too many things, at the moment), but that is their error, not mine. I remain committed to the same conservative principles I've always held. They haven't budged an inch, and nothing -- even a terrorist attack -- is going to dislodge them, because I believe they are right.

I love America, but I hate the twisted thing the George W. Bush presidency has made (and is still making) of it. I will not root for that thing. I will root for its demise and repudiation, and then I will root for -- and do all I can to promote and assist -- the reformation of true American conservatism: love of God, republic, and family.

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