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America the Home of the Brave?

An excellent op-ed in the Washington Post by Small Wars Journal editor and author of War, Welfare and Democracy,  Peter J. Munson 

An America Cramped by Defensiveness by Peter J. Munson 

….Since I returned home, a darkness has grown in me as both I and our nation have failed to live up to the sacrifices of these young men and women. I had no expectation of “victory” in Afghanistan or Iraq, whatever that would mean. Nor did I expect some epiphany of strategic insight or remorse from the nation’s brain trust.

I just found that I could not square the negativity, pettiness and paranoia in the discourse of our country’s elders with the nobility and dedication of the men and women I had seen and served with in Afghanistan.

Over time, as I listened to the squabbling, I realized that about the only thing Americans agree on these days is gratitude bordering on reverence for our military. It troubled me that the sum total of consensus in our discourse is deference toward the defenders of our nation.

Eventually, it dawned on me that the focus on defense was the root of our problem.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States sent its military off to war and fretted about post-traumatic stress disorder — but paid little attention to the fact that America itself was traumatized. Americans became angry and withdrawn. We are fearful and paranoid because after a strike on our nation we chose to focus on defense rather than the resilience and vitality that made America great. In our defensive mind-set, we bristle at every change in a world undergoing an epochal transformation.

We have little reason to be so negative. Certainly the rest of the world is gaining on us, but this represents the success of explicit U.S. policies. After World War II, the United States sought to create a world of economic interdependence and prosperity, hoping to banish the malaise that helped precipitate a global conflict. The prospect of rapid growth in the developing world was not viewed as a threat but rather offered the promise of robust markets for American goods and ingenuity. We were confident and focused on the positive tasks of expanding our economy rather than fearing change…..

If you go back and look at news coverage of September 11, you will be struck by the calmness of ordinary citizens in New York in the face of carnage, their lack of panic and firm determination to help. The bravery and sacrifice of firefighters, EMT and police, the dogged resolution of rescue workers digging for victims, the sheer heroism of the passengers of  United Airlines Flight 93 who, led by Todd Beamer, stopped the al Qaida hijackers from ramming another plane into another skyscraper or perhaps the Capitol Building.

All of the security theater, the attacks on liberty, the surveillance state machinations, creeping normalization of government thuggery, bureaucratization, centralization and paternalism that have since been justified in the name of 9/11 were not needed on that day nor wanted by the overwhelming mass of American citizens afterwards.  It was wanted by our “leaders” – who were largely irrelevant to events on September, 11 – because it conformed to their worldview and overweening personal need for “control” of a democratic citizenry they would prefer to be less autonomous and more passive, docile, compliant and disengaged.

We need to revive the American spirit and the first steps are rolling back much of the illiberalism of the past decade.

24 Responses to “America the Home of the Brave?”

  1. Nathaniel T. Lauterbach Says:

    Yup, agree.
    I generally blame the elites for this.  Such a shame that a country with formerly solid citizens has come to where we are at now.  If only there were a meaningful opposition…

  2. morgan Says:

    Or a responsible press that isn’t the propaganda arm of the elites.

  3. slapout9 Says:

    I agree with morgan our so called free and responsible press is flat becoming nothing more than a vast propaganda machine for the elites.

  4. larrydunbar Says:

    Step 1.Know yourself; Check.

  5. joey Says:

    It is a worrying development that the Police and the Military are the only institutions that still retain the broad support of the the people.
    Starship Troopers anyone?  I wonder how many people saw that movie (rather than than book) as a satire.

    On a side note, the first thing you need to do is stop blaming the “elites”,  you live in a democracy, start acting like it.  All this us and them reminds me of the crap the fascists used to come out with,  how do you think they got elected? by sticking up for the little guy, and lambasting the cozy/corrupt elites.     
    In a democracy you get the government you deserve, you guys need to grow a set.

    Apologies for the curt tone. 

  6. zen Says:

    ” On a side note, the first thing you need to do is stop blaming the “elites”,  you live in a democracy, start acting like it.  All this us and them reminds me of the crap the fascists used to come out with,  how do you think they got elected? by sticking up for the little guy, and lambasting the cozy/corrupt elites.  ”
    Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister by the King of Italy after he threatened to “March on Rome” with his blackshirts. He did not win an election.
    The Nazi Party won the largest percentage of any party in the Reichstag and in 1932, Hitler came in 2nd in the Presidential election but the Nazis never secured a majority of the electorate. Hitler was made Chancellor by the junker class President, Field marshal von Hindenburg, who had assembled a series of cabinets by presidential decree under the Weimar constitution. The Nazis were in partnership with the Nationalists, a party comprised of wealthy conservative industrialists and right-wing Catholics who did not find the Center Party’s program appealing. Hitler was then subsequently but nonetheless deomocratically voted dictatorial powers by the Reichstag under the Enabling Act.
    I criticize the elite in this country because they evince authoritarian and oligarchic tendencies and an aversion to democratic accountability. It would be my strong advice to vote against such ppl, like Mike Bloomberg, when they run for office or against politicians who seem unduly responsive or compliant to cliques of secretive billionaires whether they come from the Left (Soros), Right (Koch) or center (Gates). I have done other things, not reported here, in organizations of which I am a member in the same spirit. The more active ppl become, the better in my view so long as they stop to think rather than let themselves be stampeded by the meme of the day from FOX or MSNBC 

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  8. joey Says:

    Zen, I was talking to the other guys posting, you are doing something I can see, (this website!).  As in the top comment “I blame the elites…ect”
    That just winds me up, as if the guys at the top are our alien overlords or something,  we elected them, and generally they have done what there focus groups have told them we want them to do, the guys at the top are slaves to public opinion.  We are the root of the problem.  This is not a dictatorship or oligarchy, yet anyway.  But if it ever does become one, its because we allowed it to become one, or stood passively by while it happened.

  9. morgan Says:

    Joey, you mean the press is “responsible” and “fair” treating both sides of issues? If so, you are amply demonstrating your liberal bias. How about vote fraud Re: electing people? Not even Stalin or his Warsaw Pact stoogies received a 100 percent tally in their rigged elections, yet Obama did in some districts in Philiadelphia, for example. Fraud was evident in a lot of races yet our “responsible” and “fair” press ignored it.

  10. joey Says:

    “Joey, you mean the press is “responsible” and “fair” treating both sides of issues?…. ”

    I’m not sure what a liberal bias is, or how you inferred that from my comments.
    Or even how I am to address your comment, I’m bewildered, sorry. 

  11. carl Says:

    We must roll back the ‘liberalisms’ that have been inflicted upon us, but can we?  All of the levers of cultural power, the print and broadcast media, academia, popular entertainment, primary and secondary education are largely in the hands of liberals.  Another very strong tool is also in their hands, most of the federal, state and local gov bureaucracy.  The superzips who aren’t in the aforementioned groups, and who have considerable cultural influence, toe the same political line.  All these groups and people have are motivated by the same quasi-(and maybe not so quasi)totalitarian ideology and they act upon that ideology.  Focus groups don’t matter to them, their outlook, shaped by themselves, for themselves is what matters and they act, always, to further it.  Shoot, if focus groups mattered a lot more of them would be NASCAR fans.
    What concerns me most is so often in history strongly entrenched but flawed systems are only overthrown by external powers, ie the country governed by that system gets whipped in a war.  We may get beat.  Perhaps then the superzips will be discredited, but it also may be that the defeat will only further entrench and exacerbate their repressive tendencies.  It is a terrible thing to contemplate.  They can’t lead.  They aren’t really for the country, only themselves.  Nobody will follow.  Geesh all this depresses me.
    Joey:  Observe closely, Zen, Slap, Larry Dunbar, Morgan and N.T. Lauterbach are all lined more or less together.

  12. joey Says:

    So, the press, the local government, the upper classes, the federal government ect, are motivated by a totalitarian ideology.  Have you any idea how insane this sounds?
    The depressing thing to me is you don’t know what liberalism means, nor what totalitarianism is.
    I feel sorry for you, I’m guessing you live in an echo chamber of righting and libertarian blogs which by constantly referencing each other only serve to confirm your warped world view.  This is sad, ignorance like this is what is making America increasing vulnerable to propaganda, as people like yourself withdraw from public life into a fantasy world.
    You do realize that there is an ecosystem of left wing blogs out there who exist in there own fantasy world of right wing fascism which seeks to destroy the America they grew up in?  

    Personally I’m a conservative, and have grown to loath the fringe right wing, as much as I loath the fringe left.
    I fear what they my do in future, as there imagined world grows increasingly dark, and they ever more desperate.  
    I’m the kind of guy who reads Fabiusmaximus, not Lex,  who reads Pragcap, not zerohedge.
    I understand now why Fabius turned off comments, you cannot fight the dismal tide.

  13. carl Says:

    I don’t care how it sounds to you.  The groups I mentioned (and please be accurate, not the fed or local gov, the bureaucracies of the said govs) are all dominated by liberals.  Liberal ideology has a lot of totalitarian overtones, speech codes on campuses is one example.
    The “I feel sorry for you…” bit is a pretty standard device whereby you proclaim your superiority-ethical, moral, intellectual or whatever-and at the same time demonstrate your tolerance for your inferiors, further cementing your superiority.  It works better if you avoid using words like “warped” and phrases like “fantasy world.”  They tend to undercut the image of standing above it all.  The part about how you paint yourself as essentially fair minded and disinterested by loathing both the fringe right and left is good though.  You mostly recovered.

  14. joey Says:

    Ok fella, tell me what totalitarian means?  Tell me what liberalism means?  You throw those phases around but don’t understand there meaning,  you talk about campus code, but for you those are codes for something else,  not what they really stand for.  That makes it impossible to have a meaningful debate.  As I use those terms in there dictionary meaning.  For you they are code for, I’m not sure.  
    So to be accurate, your saying the permanent government(ie civil service,  not the sitting government, ie the elected government), the educational establishment, the press, popular entertainment ect are all involved in pushing a totalitarian agenda.  I say you are wrong.  But then I use totalitarian in a different sense than you.  I use it in the sense it was intended.

    If you want to understand what the transition to totalitarianism looks like read Michael Burleighs ‘A new history of the 3th reich’ .
    Liberal politics is about as far from totalitarian thinking as you can get.  But then I use the term Liberalism in its intentional form,  for you its code for something else.  
    If we cannot agree on language, then we cannot have a productive conversation.

  15. Mr. X Says:

    Per the commenters above, no, there is indeed an unelected part of the oligarchy. It’s called Congressional staffers, professional bureaucrats, and bankers who go back and forth through the revolving doors between Wall Street, tax exempt foundations that invariably push a globalist oligarchic agenda, and government. Take Timothy Geithner, for example.

  16. carl Says:

    That is a good example of a de-constructionist comeback, an invitation to step into the fireswamp of  ‘depends on what is is’ arguments.  The “But then I …” form is tricky to use.  It can work if you use it as a prelude to self-deprecation.  It doesn’t work well otherwise.

  17. joey Says:

    Totalitarian has a meaning, so does liberal, its best that we stick to the excepted uses of the words, rather than use makey uppy definitions.  


    Good Luck, good night.

  18. larrydunbar Says:

    ” its best that we stick to the excepted uses of the words, rather than use makey uppy definitions.”

    True enough, but I am sure that it’s been said here and other places that the map isn’t the thing, and when you define something with words, you are just creating a map. You are using characters to draw with, but what you really end up with is a map.

    When I say Left and Right is the structure of a society, while Liberal and Conservative are the culture inside the society, I am just using a different map. In other words, I don’t believe I am re-defining the definition, but trying to draw a different sketch of what is there. 

    Liberalism doesn’t form the structure of a country, because structure is created by the resultant force of two forces perpendicular to each other. In a society, one of the two perpendicular cultural forces are forces of Liberalism, and not the structural force that is the result of Liberalism.

    The other cultural force perpendicular to the Liberal force can be called a Conservative force. When the Conservative force is larger than the Liberal force the culture inside a society can be called a Conservative society. When the Liberal force is gone it’s called Totalitarianism 🙂

  19. joey Says:

    Unfortunately I don’t have the time to discuss the whole of Larrys post, but I strongly take issue with this
    “When the liberal force is gone its called Totalitarianism”  

    I would disagree and say that at that point when conservative forces are in control of all the levers of power you are in grave danger of Authoritarianism.  There are many examples of this throughout the last 200 years in Europe. Czarist Russia, Fascist Spain,  Imperial Germany, and there are many more less famous examples, inter war Poland, and Romania.  Those were deeply conservative societies,  some of them were on the surface democracies, but power resided in institutions outside national assemblies, which were intended to rubber stamp policy rather than make policy. 

    Totalitarianism is a revolutionary form of government in which civil society is destroyed, religion is subverted or eliminated, the family is no longer the basic unit of society.  It involves the almost complete destruction of the society that preceded it.  Lets be clear, there is nothing conservative about it,  it is revolutionary,  and requires blood to be spilled, oceans of it, as at its heart it requires humanity to be remade.   
    Totalitarianism exists outside the framework of right and left,  it is a monster of the enlightenment, rationalism fused with a Utopian religious fervor that will broke no dissent.

    America is at heart a Liberal society,  it is embedded in its constitution,  freedom of speech, assembly, the separation of powers,  equality before the law,  what every school child knows. 

    I can see many thing in modern America that disturb me,  the presidential office and the legal system gathering more power to themselves, at the expense of congress.
    The lionization of the police and military.
    Warrentless wire tapping, targeted assassination of American citizens without due process.  
    Cronyism in the corporate sector, and its corrosive influence on  the political system.
    The increasing stratification of class, increasing inequality, crudely put  the 1% taking an ever larger slice of the pie.
    In this I see an increasing drift towards Authoritarianism.
    This is the real danger, as it will gradually destroy the liberal basis of the US constitution.   
    When I look at policy developments, this is the prism I look at them through.  Will a new policy mean more power bleed from congress to the President and the courts? 

    Totalitarianism is a non issue.  

  20. Mr. X Says:

    Totalitarian liberal is an oxymoron, so is totalitarian conservatism, under any definition of conservatism I’ve ever heard of (particularly dating back to Edmund Burke) and vice versa (with liberals dating back to the Whigs, though they have their anti-clerical Masonic roots which you see expressed, for example, in the Obama administration’s effort to force both Protestant and Catholic churches to accept funding of contraceptives or in widespread Anglo-American media sympathy for the P-ssy Riot).

    The real issue right now is Corporatist/globalist centralization versus decentralization and localization. Carl is right about the ‘superzips’ — if I understood correctly that super is hardly a reference to their IQs, but elite zip codes, foundational NGO/educational cartel credentials and titles.  

  21. carl Says:

    Mr. X:
    That is indeed what I mean, plus media elites, law elites, etc.  All them people.
    Don’t follow Joey into that fireswamp.  The meaning of the word liberal or progressive (or whatever they are calling themselves this week) in the context of American political discourse is plain.  You like the gov telling people how big their soda cups can be, liberal.  You like the gov telling people what kind of light bulbs they can or cannot make, liberal.  You like gov telling insurance companies they have to keep grown men and women on their parents medical policies, liberal.  You name just about any point of contention on the political scene, it is predictable what side the liberal/progressive people will take.  Dictionary definitions have little to do with it.

  22. joey Says:

    Hi Carl,

    There is no fireswamp,  using the word totalitarian when you talk about regulating light bulbs is incendiary.
    I am amazed  you think that this is somehow a defensible position,  labeling Liberal thinking as quasi totalitarian is just plain ridiculousness.  
    If you had talked about Authoritarianism, as Zen does in his original post, then I would have quietly agreed.
    Instead you called a big dog, a wolf, I called you on it, and the story was wrote.

    A quick mental game ” You like the Government assassinating there own citizens without due process? Liberal?
    Conservative?  What you seem it be gripping about is window dressing, political theater,  where the Liberial/conservative duo you and others espouse breaks down is when it involves the real issues of power.
    This is where the Democrat and and the Republican leadership move as one,  while you bitch about the little stuff, there is the slow creep of Authoritarianism.


  23. larrydunbar Says:

    “there is nothing conservative about it” (joey)

    I would agree with that. That is why I called it totalitarianism. I am not saying it is a Conservative society, I am saying it is totalitarian, because it is missing a force that is willing to push it into another direction, which, taking a page from Howard Bloom’s book Global Brain, would generate diversity. Liberalism generates diversity and is the yang to Conservative’s ying, which is enforcing conformity.

    If I have to name things, and before I think I was talking about a society that is structured as the Left, then a structure of the Right that has lost its Conservative cultural force is Authoritarianism. In other words, there is no friction between the Conservatives or Liberals, just a generation of diversity represented by the ethics of the one and only normalizing force of the Right.

    And I agree, I think that is where the US is today, authoritarianism. The Conservative cultural has pretty much taken itself out of the equation, because, as Piyush “Bobby” Jindal has said, it has align itself with the party of the dumb.

    As a Republican, you can become a false prophet and believe that the world will end in your lifetime, or you can generate diversity, as the corporate element in the Republican party does, and understand that this is really a diverse world that we live in.

    The way things are “structured” it is hard to become both, which I think is the point you and carl are making. I don’t think you and carl are so different except in the structure, which, in the end, you both see.

    Joey as a Liberal and carl as a Conservative you both together represent a single society, but pulling in two different directions Left and Right.

  24. larrydunbar Says:

    “The real issue right now is Corporatist/globalist centralization versus decentralization and localization.”

    I agree completely Mr. X, but corporatism is becoming the decentralized network of the Right, while globalist centralization is taking the form of the localized distributed network of the Left.

    These forces are at war, and the incumbent and insurgent forces are not clearly defined.

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