Friday, February 26, 2016

War endangers our freedoms! (Didn't you know?)

I can hardly wait to see Michael Moore's latest opus, Where to Invade Next, his first film in six years. Here's the trailer.

Where to Invade Next received much critical acclaim at TIFF and other film festivals, and is being much talked up by the lamestream media for being "funny" and not as dark and disturbing as his best earlier works. That got me thinking again about Fahrenheit 9/11, recommended here a few days ago in a message to Republican voters who might have been thinking about supporting JEB! in the primaries.

One of the main themes of Fahrenheit 9/11 is the way in which Dubya and his war-hawk cronies engineered the "War on Terror" and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to gain more and more power over the American people through the Patriot Act, Homeland Security and so on. The result is that now, more than ever before, the Paranoid States of America is a police state!

Which brings us to Democracy in America, by Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian. De La Démocratie en Amérique is a classic text, published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840, in which M de Tocqueville examines the democratic revolution that he believed had been occurring in Europe and then America over the preceding seven hundred years. He had something to say about the relationship between war and freedom. Here's a quote from a 1945 translation.

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.... War does not always give over democratic communities to military government, but it must invariably and immeasurably increase the powers of civil government; it must also compulsorily concentrate the direction of all men and the management of all t hings in the hands of the administration. If it does not lead to despotism by sudden violence, it prepares men for it more gently by their habits. All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it.

I found that quote in The Ordeal of Total War, by Gordon Wright (Harper & Row, 1968). Here's Mr. Wright's commentary.

Tocqueville's dictum, appropriate enough in his own day, is even more applicable in the twentieth century. When nations must mobilize their total resources for a long struggle, the normal tensions between authority and liberty are intensified, and the trend toward dictatorship affects even the most democratic of nations. Where parliaments survive, their usual functions are sharply restricted; decision-making becomes increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small executive group, or even in those of one man.

That was in 1968, before Americans learned the truth about Vietnam, before Nixon, before the Clintons and the Bushes. If Mr. Wright is still alive, he could justly say, "Don't say you weren't warned." Although it seems he doesn't stress the point in Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore can say the same thing.

1 comment:

  1. Funny you should mention that. The FBI is trying to compel Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the Muslim terrorists responsible for San Bernadino. Today Apple calls it a 'pursuit of dangerous power'.