Army at Home?

 Posted by on 29 September 2008 at 12:02 am  Foreign Policy, Politics
Sep 292008

Why is it that I’m not comforted by this “we’re from the army and we’re here to help” plan?

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.


“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said [1st BCT commander Col. Roger] Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home … and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”

Oy. Will these soldiers also be on call for “manmade emergencies and disasters” like … say … economic collapse caused by rampant government interference in the financial markets? Whoever wins the election, the answer surely would be “yes.”

I love and respect the American military, and that’s why I’m so worried about these plans to deploy the military inside the US. Soldiers must be trained to operate effectively in hostile territory amongst potentially hostile civilians. In those circumstances, every unknown person must be regarded with suspicion, and the overriding goal must be the mission at hand. In contrast, maintaining peace and security at home amongst fellow Americans is the job of the police — and the national guard, if necessary — including in times of crisis. That’s what they’re trained to do, at least in theory.

This news highlights the very real threat to our liberty of reshaping the American military into a humanititarian force abroad, as has happened since World War 2. The threat is not just that taxpayer dollars are wasted on feel-good missions without any relevance to national security. The threat is not just that soldiers must risk their lives for the sake of random strangers in foreign lands, rather than to preserve and protect American liberty. The threat is the logic of the idea: if the military help foreigners in times of disaster, why shouldn’t they also help Americans too? To the extent that the military is easygoing and friendly, thereby allowing it to operate at home with all due respect for American civilians, then it’s not an effective fighting force: it would not have the kind of detachment, discipline, and ambition to fight real wars in hostile territory. And, if it is that kind of effective fighting force, then any operation inside the US risks a ugly clash between civilians and military. Either way, it’s bad.

(Via The Agitator.)

Commemorate from Within

 Posted by on 10 September 2008 at 11:01 pm  Foreign Policy, Philosophy, Politics
Sep 102008

It’s another somber anniversary of the murders of approximately 2981 Americans and foreign nationals by Islamists on September 11, 2001.

The necrotizing pestilence that characterizes the ideology of Islamic totalitarianism is alive and well in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. And it infests places across the globe, from Indonesia to Europe.

The Islamists are unequivocal in their goal of jihad: world domination and rule according to Islamic ideology. And I doubt the radicals’ infamous leader, Osama bin Laden, has changed his mind about his virulent hatred for Americans and Jews.

Beginning with the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, our leaders have not succeeded in exterminating the threat that continues to thrive and fester like flesh-eating bacteria. So, in commemorating the anniversary of September 11, let’s also remember the other innocents who were attacked by jihadists in 2008,2007,2006,2005,2005,2003,2002,2000,1998, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1985, 1983, and 1979.

The outrageous failure of our foreign policy against this cancerous threat is perhaps a symptom of a broader illness in our society. If we look around at the erosion of freedom that’s occurring in America, maybe it won’t be such a shock to find ourselves stuck with the perpetual threat of terrorism: we’re still fighting to uphold our own Constitutionally-protected freedoms against attacks by interest groups who want to tear them down.

First Amendment separation-of-church-and-state issues continue to plague us. Preventing the religious right from ramming their biblical morality through our state and federal legislatures is a constant battle. Take the “personhood” amendment in Colorado which proposes to define the human being as beginning with fertilization. This monstrous religion-driven idea that a microscopic fertilized egg has the same inalienable rights as an actual person represents a level of irrationality right out of the Dark Ages.

Other societal mandates sought by the religious right are just as anti-life: faith-based initiatives, the teaching of creationism, anti-abortion laws, opposition to gay marriage, prayer in the schools, state-sponsorship of religious symbols, and opposition to stem-cell research and euthanasia.

Economic liberty, or property rights, as addressed in the Fifth Amendment is fundamentally important to a free society. But it has been trampled in countless ways, from the passage of the first antitrust laws in the 19th century to the sweepingly-regulatory Sarbanes-Oxley law of 2002. The bottom line: these laws have done nothing but restrict the ability of individuals and businesses to freely produce and trade with one another according to their mutually-agreed terms.

Another example of the disregard for the Fifth Amendment is the wanton abuse of Eminent Domain, best exemplified by the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Kelo v City of New London. In that case, the Court said that homes and businesses could be taken for uses that might generate more tax revenue. This affirmed that constitutional “public use” can be defined so that private property can be taken so that new private property can be taxed by the government—a double-dipping violation of property rights.

These examples–and so many others–aren’t jet planes crashing into the Bill of Rights; these are laws made and upheld by our Legislators and our Courts and our Presidents. Ultimately, its up to the People to say, “enough!” and establish grounding for our freedom using rational philosophical principles, as identified by Ayn Rand with her philosophy, Objectivism.

So on September 11, 2008, let’s commemorate not only the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, but the concept of liberty–that distinctly American institution that we must courageously protect from our enemies—and from ourselves.

Do Americans Want Victory?

 Posted by on 10 September 2008 at 9:30 am  Foreign Policy
Sep 102008

In 1941, America was attacked by followers of a vicious totalitarian ideology. But in less than four years, we went from this:

To this:

This was possible because Americans of 1941 were willing to clearly identify the enemy, stand up to it, and defeat it. Their goal was victory and they achieved it.

In 2001, America was attacked by followers of a vicious totalitarian ideology:

It is now 7 years later. Will we let the story end here?

Or will we summon the intellectual and moral courage to clearly identify the enemy, stand up to it, and defeat it?

In other words, do Americans of today want victory?

The choice is ours…

Health Care in Zimbabwe

 Posted by on 2 September 2008 at 1:00 am  Foreign Policy, Health Care
Sep 022008

The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is getting so bad, that doctors’ main advice to patient is simple — “Don’t get sick“:

The advice of doctors to Zimbabweans is, don’t get sick. If you do, don’t count on hospitals — they’re short of drugs and functioning equipment.

As the economy collapses, the laboratory at a main 1,000-bed hospital has virtually shut down. X-ray materials, injectable antibiotics and anticonvulsants have run out.

Emergency resuscitation equipment is out of action. Patients needing casts for broken bones need to bring their own plaster. In a country with one of the world’s worst AIDS epidemics, medical staff lack protective gloves.

And whose fault is this? The West’s, of course:

Health authorities blame the drying up of foreign aid under Western sanctions imposed to end political and human rights abuses under President Robert Mugabe.

Of course, given that many of these health authorities likely owe their position to Mugabe, one would hardly expect them to point their fingers at the real cause, namely Mugabe’s brutal dictatorship and his disastrous economic policies resulting in an annual inflation rate of 2,200,000%.

Aug 142008

The Ayn Rand Center is participating in an online debate with the Heritage Foundation on the question Should the U.S. Use Military Force Against Iran?. ARC should be posting more comments in response to the arguments of the Heritage Foundation over the next few days. (The interface is a bit strange, I think, but the format looks interesting.)

You can post comments. Paul submitted the following, under the title “Yes, If…”

I would support a war against Iran if they’ve committed overt acts of war against us.

For instance, if they’ve violated our sovereign territory (such as a US embassy), held Americans hostage, given state sponsorship to terrorists trying to kill Americans, and openly plotted the nuclear destruction of one of our most valuable allies in the Middle East such as Israel.

Wait, you mean they’ve already done all that?

Then why is it even a question?

Aug 042008

If a bunch of Islamic nations have their way, it will be against international law to hurt people’s feelings about their religion. The forum in which this atrocity is being pushed? Are you sitting down? The United Nations. (I know that was a big surprise — are you OK?)

Whatever the current facts on the ground, the United States is still regarded today primarily as an idea — the idea that freedom is the only proper social system. Every day the United States and other freedom-loving countries remain in the U.N. is another day dictators and violent theocrats worldwide enjoy a patina of legitimacy through association with free nations. If the free nations withdraw, the legitimacy of the violent nations will vanish and the U.N. will implode as they try to kill each other. Best thing for the U.N., really.

(Via The Volokh Conspiracy and Overlawyered, and cross-posted to ms. think.)

Chinese Surprise

 Posted by on 3 August 2008 at 11:19 pm  Foreign Policy, Sports
Aug 032008

StrategyPage reports on China’s last-minute announcement that it will monitor the internet activity of foreign visitors during the Olympics:

In preparation for the August Olympic Games in Beijing, China has installed hardware and software in all hotels, to make it easier for state security to monitor foreign visitors that use the Internet. Some foreign owned hotels leaked the documents (orders from the Chinese government to install the systems) to U.S. government officials, who made it public. The foreign owned hotels in Beijing were threatened with closure if they did not comply.

Years ago, the Chinese government promised there would be open access to the Internet during the games. This despite the fact that the Chinese Internet is designed to be easily monitored by a huge (over 30,000 people) bureaucracy that does nothing but monitor Internet use (and imprisons those who say anything the state does not approve of.)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that they are “surprised” by this decision, especially since the IOC has been telling foreign journalists all this time that they would have “free and uncensored Internet access”.

The real surprise is that the IOC would have believed the earlier Chinese government promises of “free and uncensored Internet access”, despite decades of authoritarian and repressive behaviour by that same government.

These are the problems you get when you grant undeserved moral sanction to countries like China, treating them as if they were on par with much freer countries like Japan, Australia, and the those in Western Europe.

John Lewis in Israel

 Posted by on 24 July 2008 at 11:36 am  Foreign Policy
Jul 242008

On Principles in Practice, John Lewis blogs about his recent trip to Israel. It begins:

I just returned from a speaking engagement at Tel Aviv University (pictures from the trip are on my website). My honorarium was four days of sight-seeing in Tel Aviv, Abu Gosh, Jerusalem, En Gedi and Masada, and a series of meetings with writers, policy analysts, academics and writers. I came back with one overriding conclusion, which stands for me stronger than it did before my trip: Israel stands at the front-line of the war between civilization and barbarism. As Eric Hoffer wrote over forty years ago, “as it goes with Israel, so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us all.” (“Israel’s Peculiar Position,” LA Times 5/26/68)

It’s very illuminating. Read the whole thing — and be sure to check out John’s remarkable pictures.

You can also listen to the first ten minutes of the lecture, courtesy of Boaz Arad.

(Most of Boaz’s videos are in Hebrew, but I did notice that he has one by Yaron Brook. If you like these videos, remember to rate them highly!)

TSA Stupidity and the Defensive Mindset

 Posted by on 15 July 2008 at 4:39 pm  Foreign Policy
Jul 152008

Airline pilot Patrick Smith tells of the latest indignity and bureaucratic folly he had to endure at the hands of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration):

“You ain’t takin’ this through,” she says. “No knives. You can’t bring a knife through here.”

It takes a moment for me to realize that she’s serious. “I’m… but… it’s…”

“Sorry.” She throws it into a bin and starts to walk away.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “That’s airline silverware.”

“Don’t matter what it is. You can’t bring knives through here.”

“Ma’am, that’s an airline knife. It’s the knife they give you on the plane.”

The whole thing is worth reading. Smith asks, “Do I really need to point out that an airline pilot at the controls would hardly need a butter knife if he or she desired to inflict damage?”

While stories of TSA stupidity abound, the more disturbing underlying issue is that Americans are becoming slowly acclimated to this defensive posture, which we adopted in the aftermath of 9-11.

Historian John Lewis writes about this defensive mindset in his superb article, “‘No Substitute for Victory’: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism“:

Meanwhile, a state of siege is being more deeply entrenched inside America every day. We are losing the war by institutionalizing the loss of our freedoms, searching the sneakers of senior citizens in wheelchairs in order to avoid confronting bellicose dictatorships overseas. In the minds of many people, the Bush administration’s allegedly “offensive” strategy has discredited the very idea of genuinely offensive war for American self-interest, which it pledged to fight, and then betrayed to its core. Our soldiers come home maimed or dead, and military offense, rather than timidity, takes the blame. To compensate for our weakness overseas, we are building electric fences and security barriers to keep the world out, accepting the medieval ideal of walled towns under constant threat of attack, rather than destroying the source of such threats.

Lewis correctly points out that we will never defeat Islamic Totalitarianism if we maintain our current cringing, apologetic, defensive posture towards them. Instead, America must have the moral confidence to know that it is proper to take the fight to them, with the goal of destroying the threat they pose.

For more details, I highly recommend reading the entire article from the Winter 2006-2007 issue of The Objective Standard.

Islamists Owe U.S. a Thank You Card

 Posted by on 8 July 2008 at 12:05 am  Foreign Policy, Religion
Jul 082008

It’s nearing the end of another U.S. Administration–and another gross failure of leadership that has allowed Islamic terrorism to adapt and thrive.

The modern threat of Islamic totalitarianism should have ended when it began with the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, but it hasn’t.

Al-Qaeda, declared enemy number one after 9/11, has been reestablishing itself in the remote tribal area between Pakistan and Afganistan ever since U.S. armed forces failed to capture its leader, Osama bin Laden, at Tora Bora in 2001. And Taliban terrorists have resurfaced in these no-man’s lands, increasing their attacks on U.S. and NATO forces within Afganistan.

How is this possible after President Bush’s promise of Sept. 20, 2001: “I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield, I will not rest, I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people”?

An excellent New York Times article details three important factors that have facilitated the ongoing threat: (1) infighting within and between our National Security bureaucracies, the State Department and the Administration; (2) the detrimental consequences of turfing onto Pakistan much of the responsibility for fighting these brewing Islamic movements; and (3) the diversion of priorities, expertise and resources to the war in Iraq.

But our inability to prevail against Islamic totalitarianism once and for all is due to a more fundamental cause than committing bureaucratic blunders and relying on shady allies to do our dirty work:

It’s a failure of our leaders to unequivocally declare that we have the moral right to destroy those who threaten us, and do whatever is necessary and sufficient to quickly and permanently end the threat.

It means: if Iran has been identified as the founder and prime sponsor of Islamic totalitarianism, then the Iranian regime must be terminated.

It means: if Islamists are setting up boot camp with the complicity of local tribes in some wasteland, then our forces—not a third party–must wipe them out, totally, using whatever means is required.

It means: we declare to the world that we will not play diplomatic games, rely on bureaucrats with conflicting agendas, or take into account the cultural sensitivities of our enemies or their enablers.

No more holding hands and singing Kumbaya with a mortal enemy who blatantly threatens to annihilate us.

This lack of full commitment to “the war on terror” isn’t lost on the American psyche. Remember when little American flags used to be proudly displayed on millions of cars after the twin towers were attacked? You don’t see much of that anymore because maybe the Islamists have called our bluff.

It’s time to regain our pride, and claim our moral right to exist in peace as a free country defined by the principles of individual rights.

It’s time to implement our moral imperative to decisively end Islamic totalitarianism–once and for all.

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