Is the Patriot Act Unpatriotic?

Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had an interesting exchange at the National Security Debate hosted by CNN on November 22nd. Not surprisingly, Gingrich supported the Patriot Act, going so far as to say that it should be “strengthened.” Paul argued that “the Patriot Act is unpatriotic,” because the legislation undermines American liberties. He thinks it should be abolished. Both men did well making their points and each got enthusiastic applause from their supporters. But who was right?

At first glance, it might have seemed as if Paul had stumbled into a “gotcha” by bringing up Timothy McVeigh. In supporting his assertion that one must never give up liberty for security, Paul argued that Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, was prosecuted, convicted, and executed under the existing laws, without the “tools” that the Patriot Act provides to law enforcers. Gingrich replied:

“Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.”

Paul responded:

“This is like saying we want a policeman in every house, a camera in every house, because we want to prevent child beating and wife beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So, if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms and we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly.”

It is likely that uncommitted observers – those not passionately for Paul or Gingrich – thought that both men made good points and that the right answer is “somewhere in the middle.” To be moderate is always viewed as being more reasonable. But is that really true? I believe that the question debated here between Paul and Gingrich is a fundamental question and compromise is impossible. To use a well-worn but appropriate cliche, Gingrich wants America to cross the Rubicon. Once we do, there is no going back.

The crux of the matter is preemptive government. Not just preemptive war, but the ability of the government to act preemptively in any situation. Paul takes the libertarian position that is based upon the non-aggression principle. Government force may never be employed against anyone until that person has invaded the person or property of another. Gingrich takes the more Hobbesian-conservative position: if the government is not all-powerful, we will all be killed.

If “patriotic” means the love of one’s country’s ideals, the highest being liberty for Americans, then you have to agree with Paul. That’s because not only is non-aggression the libertarian position, it’s the founding principle underlying the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. The meaning of the word “liberty” is to be free from coercion, which is free from other people initiating force against you. Once the government or anyone else is legally empowered to do so, rather than limited to responding with force in defense against an aggression that you’ve already committed, then liberty as Thomas Jefferson understood it is gone.

Non-aggression is the concept expressed in the statement that “no person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In other words, the government can’t use force against you until it is not only asserted but proven that you have committed an aggression against the person or property of someone else.

If you’re reading this to mean that the government is powerless against individuals until after they’ve committed a crime, then you’re correct. That is the price of liberty and there really is no way to compromise it. Force must always be initiated by someone. To be free means that it is never initiated against the innocent, at least not with the endorsement of the law. A person is innocent until they actually commit a crime. You cannot prosecute someone for what might be in his mind – at least not in a free country. As Paul argued, once you throw out the principle of liberty, you have invited the police state, complete with ubiquitous surveillance, unwarranted searches, curfews, and the rest. It is astounding how much of it is already in place in a nation that calls itself “the land of the free.”

The obvious concern with this line of reasoning is that it would seem that to be free, one must set oneself up as a sitting duck for criminals and terrorists, powerless to resist them until it is too late. Ed Meese cited the “42 terrorists attacks, amied at the United States…thwarted since 9/11,” and went on to say, “Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.”

I don’t know how Meese arrived at that number, but it doesn’t jibe with reality. I suspect that it includes all of the entrapment schemes that have been perpetrated by federal law enforcement officers, whereby an undercover agent poses as a terrorist and approaches a mentally unstable person for the purpose of convincing him to participate in a phoney terrorist plot. Once the hapless “terrorist” agrees, the undercover agent arrests him and charges him with a crime.

All of the attempted terrorist attacks that the American public know about since 9/11 have defeated the Patriot Act and other security “tools” insituted since that crime was committed. The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were both overpowered by private citizens acting in their own defense, after the would be terrorists had defeated the security measures within the Patriot Act and the TSA. Even on 9/11, with the federal government already in charge of security, albeit without the “tools” of the Patriot Act, the only crime that was prevented was the one that would have been perpetrated using Flight 93. Again, it was private citizens acting in their own defense and defense of their neighbors that thwarted the attack. While they were unsuccessful in defending their own lives, they prevented the loss of many, many more.

This illustrates another fundamental element of liberty – the right of each person to be allowed to provide for their own defense. The right and duty of each individual to defend themselves to the best of their ability replaces absolute power in the hands of the government. Consistent with this idea, Paul has been a staunch advocate of the 2nd amendment, while Gingrich, although he supports the right to bear arms in rhetoric, also voted for the Lautenburg Gun Ban and the Criminal Safezones Act, sponsored by Nancy Pelosi.

Gingrich tries to qualify his position on the Patriot Act by drawing a conceptual line between criminal law enforcement and national security. He says that “criminal law – the government should be on defense and you should be innocent until proven guilty. National security – the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.”

In other words, if the government decides that “national security” is threatened, you are  no longer innocent until proven guilty. He also says that Americans must “build an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.”

Do the math.

This exchange between Paul and Gingrich represents a fundamental choice that the American people have to make. They can take personal responsibility for their security and take power back from the federal government or they can hand unchecked power to the federal government along with their liberty. There is no “centrist” or “moderate” position, because once the principle is conceded, liberty is gone.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, the choice between liberty and security is a false one. No, there were not nuclear weapons in 1755, but to think that the existence of nuclear weapons changes the principle is counterintuitive. Franklin spoke those words in 1755 because the same choice existed then as now. Those who sacrifice liberty in the hopes of greater security deserve neither and will get neither. The most immediate threat to one’s security is always the closest one – the government itself.

In deciding who was right in this debate, Americans are really deciding whether liberty is something they cherish or whether Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the rest were wrong. If they were wrong or if we’ve decided that there is something fundamentally different today that trumps those timeless principles, let’s at least dispense with the notion that we live in the “land of the free.” At the next sporting event, let the singer end with “o’er the land of the secure, and the home of the safe.” It may not be pleasing to the ear, but neither is Gingrich’s plan for a “secure” America.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011

26 thoughts on “Is the Patriot Act Unpatriotic?

  1. William Schooler

    Very well stated Mr. Tom Mullen,

    I totally agree and it really comes down to knowing our own foundation and principals doesn’t it? Deciding from something well known versus some unknown. Pretending to know who will attack you is hardly possible if someone is intent, defending yourself in such an attack is what is left for us to do for ourselves and not to leave up to some other to do for us. No one can be standing where you are at all times and we are capable of defending ourselves shall we choose to do just that.

    It is not about who is right and who is wrong and all about the acts of support for ideas. Some ideas are bad and we know this to be true without being told. Ron Paul has stood on Principals and a solid foundation and his integrity of acts unquestionable. Newt Gingrich has provided us acts of bigger Government which we all know full well is the opposite of Liberty. This is not even in question at this time, now it becomes the recognition of the acts.

    Who stands upon what principals and do these align with yours? I only have one choice because I am sure as I sit here who holds my principals by their actions. Ron Paul does not sway and for this reason him and I are in alignment to restore a Republic. I cannot speak for others because I am the only one who knows my principals and I could only hope others know theirs.

    My responsibility to stand upon such principals is all mine and I am only thankful there are others who carry and apply such principals. Thank you Tom for sharing yours and with this I do find agreement to such terms.

    I am a patriot because I carry values of America as A Republic independent from tyranny by implementing our constitution to have and achieve Liberty in this nation. To be free from all such tyranny including the acts of Gingrich who acts in opposition to said principals.

    Tyranny is not the act they are going to, it is the act that has already taken place and the results of such acts lay staring at us, Debt being the largest one of all and those who perpetuate it are thieves and criminals and we should work to stop all those in support of such a bad effort including Gingrich.

    Yep so many are not willing to go there are they but why not, our nations needs to know the truth by the acts and not the promises.

    1. Honorable David B. Maynard

      Dear Tom,

      Ron Paul sucks. I would like to see all our friends research his record. Paul does not have a clue. He does not know whether he is a Tea Party Republican, a Libertarian or what.

      Dave Maynard
      District 1 Hillsborough County Soil and Water Consevation Board

      1. Joyce

        Oh, he definitely has a clue. He is first a citizen of this great Republic and a Constitutionist. Enough with labels. Either you are for liberty or tyranny. There is no middle ground.

      2. Mark Are

        Hey “Honorable” PSYCHOPATH David Maynard…Ron Paul has forgotten more then you will ever learn in your miserable butt kissing existence. People like you make me ill.

        1. Vae Victus

          Lets see… starts off with an inflammatory slur, makes baseless claims or expresses dismay with no evidence, then makes some pathetic reference to Two-Party Paradigm dogma.

          Definitely a troll response.

          These type of comments are unfortunately becoming more common. They are authored either by rival candidates’ shills or by people who are so myopic and brain-dead from the status quo propaganda factory that they wouldn’t know if they should draw breath or not unless O’Reilly or Maddow told them they should.

          The trick is to not let them rile you.

          Ron Paul 2012 all the way!

          1. smillsbc

            I agree! Ron Paul 2012! It is because of men like Ron Paul, that our freedoms may one day be restored to us.

      3. Vishrut

        1) “Dear Tom, Ron Paul sucks” : Well, Its because you have individuals like Ron Paul fighting for your Liberty and freedom of expression that you have the freedom to write this. Now if dear old Newt got his way, things might change rather rapidly, and you might find your self legally unable to express your inner thoughts with such zest.

        2)”He does not know whether he is a Tea Party Republican, a Libertarian or what” : Does it matter what political party he affiliates himself with? or is the message he’s trying to spread more important. I know I don’t speak for Ron Paul, but considering the free thinking individual that he is, I doubt he would like to be labeled as “Tea Party/Republican or Libertarian” or anything else for that matter, other than, in his own words, “Champion for the constitution”.

        3) “I would like to see all our friends research his record” : Well in the words of another great American Legend/Icon/ and Patriot – Go Ahead…..Make my day !!

        PS : I would strongly urge the District 1 Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation Board to re-evaluate those on their staff. Anyone who starts a sentence with ” So-n-So Sucks” obviously didn’t go very far in school. And by adding the word “Honorable” as a prefix to ones name, doesn’t necessarily make it so. I would suggest Mr. David B. Maynard look up the word honorable in the dictionary before he attaches it in a rather flippant manner to his name.

        1. William Schooler

          Well said Vishrust, but lets look at this from a completely different view. Since ding dong David responded to my post while talking to Tom surely shows his vivid intelligence of himself. This is what I love about comments, the Display, in this case stupidity could not be shouting out any louder and is the direct reflection of how little the man actually knows.
          Since many in society are just like him we can get a lot to compare with and to be careful of.

          Since my comment was solely on the Principals in the Declaration of Independence and his remark is all about the labeling we can certainly get a visual no principals exists and by using the word honorable only compounds the self ignorance. I am sure he has a college degree and assures himself all the time he knows everything with no further investigation and for this reason he is the perfect display of what not to be in a free society. Knowledge is power and ignorance tyranny and he is the beacon for tyranny, learn to recognize it as well as he displays it.

          William Schooler
          A Producing American

        2. Republic Reminder

          🙂 How fun! You let him have it on every point and left me laughing to boot! Laughter doth the heart good like a medicine.

      4. D. A. Scholefield

        Looking at Ron Paul’s voting-record: In each and every one of his 11 congressional terms, never even once did he vote unconstitutionally. Looking at his personal record, he has been married to the same woman for over 40 years; he has raised 5 children, every one of which is at least a college gradute (most are doctors); and has lived a life of impeccable integrity. And he “sucks”…?

        1. Windy

          So true, I’ve been keeping up with Ron Paul’s record since his first run for the presidency (under the libertarian banner, in 1988). I have researched him thoroughly and I like what I see. I disagree with him on abortion, but in the scheme of things that is a small thing and his stance on Constitutional governance prevents him from imposing that belief on everyone. If we want a return to sensible government, an end to all the “wars” (foreign and domestic), a sound economy, and individual liberty then Ron Paul is the only candidate which offers that. If he doesn’t win the nomination our nation will go the opposite direction to the detriment of most people around the world.

      5. Johnny Haley, MD

        You have GOT to be kidding me. Ron Paul is a Constitutionalist and his record is ALREADY well researched and well defined. If it is unConstitutional or increases spending he votes against it. To call him clueless is truly laughable. You sheeple are really getting scary.

    2. Republic Reminder

      Thank you again, I really appreciate your “Schooling”. But, when you said, “Newt Gingrich has provided us acts of bigger Government which we all know full well is the opposite of Liberty. ” It occurred to me that this is not necessarily true for most Americans any more. The majority of Americans have been educated by public schools who have teachers trained to socialism. Their idea of freedom is for the government to provide safety against any and all “harm (as defined by the government)”. That is one of the biggest lies circulating in this mass of confused ideas.

      I do not disagree with your schooling. I greatly appreciate it. I just think the depth of blindness to the danger of big government has been greatly underestimated. Our grade school teachers are teaching children welfare and big government principles and have been for decades. These “nice” teachers are not engaged in learning about the Constitution, the reasons for wars or war strategies. They are busily making our children “citizens of the world” and their world is a socialist world.

      1. Windy

        This also is true, I have 8 grandchildren (5 of whom are still in school) who have very little knowledge of the Constitution, or their Rights and Responsibilities as citizens of these united States of America aside from what I have been able to teach them (not as much as I’d like, I don’t get to spend that much time with them). They get absolutely no information in school on these subjects and couldn’t even name one of our Founding Fathers when I asked them about what they knew about our history.

        The oldest I was able to teach even tho she lived 350 miles away, because she had an email address and when she got to high school I would send her articles that educated her, she is now a Ron Paul supporter. The next oldest has no interest in politics and wouldn’t read political emails if she had an addy and I bothered to send them to her. And the youngest of those three does have an interest in many things that interest me, including politics, we have great conversations, tho he is not yet old enough to vote, he is in college and will be able to vote next year.

        As for the ones still in school, I’m trying, when I get the opportunity, and here’s hoping some of what I say sinks in.

  2. Wolfgang

    I ONLY TRUST RON PAUL on every issue as it is not his ego nor is fears nor judgement to make our country’s decisions but relies on the CONSTITUTION. Everyone else is a parrot saying what they believe to right or what will get them elected.

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  4. don duncan

    Yes! The Patriot Act is unconstitutional and treasonous. When this is possible in American without public outcry we are in deep trouble. No challenge came from MSM. Only the net. And soon that may be silenced. Little time is left. The government gets more tyrannical every year. And still no major protest. I fear we are lost. What has happened to America? Have we slipped into a police state where the majority support it? Or are the majority just too cowardly to speak up?

  5. Claire M

    Tom, you seem to be arguing that although individuals may use force to defend themselves and others against attacks– that is, to prevent themselves from being injured or killed if an attack appears imminent, a government may only use force in retaliation against attacks already committed. Yet with regard to the non- aggression principle, isn’t the government an extension of the individual, that is, endowed with the same rights to defend life and property from imminent threats?

    If that is the case, then the argument is over what constitutes an imminent threat, rather than whether prevention of attacks is the right and just function of our government.

    1. Vae Victus

      The Non-Aggression Principle does not condone preemptive attacks, or the use of force if an attack “appears imminent.”

      Force is either initiated against an individual, or it isn’t.

      You are correct, that the government is supposed to operate on this same principle, and to defend life and property of its citizens.

      But the Non-Aggression axiom applies the same: force is either initiated against a government, or it isn’t.

      The “prevention of attacks” by imminent threats, among states, is to be had through diplomacy, fostering of trade, cultural exchange, and by maintaining a strong national defense capability.

      Initiating force, especially against a state’s own citizenry, is not congruent with the Non-Aggression axiom.

    2. Vae Victus

      To add on to this, it might be useful to use an analogy of two citizens.

      If person A carries a pistol for self defense, and one day while walking the street, person B produces a switchblade and demands A give up his wallet or else, then A is justified in protecting both himself and his property by using his pistol.

      What A is NOT justified in doing, however, would be the following: he sees B every day as they live in the same apartment complex, he notices from B’s demeanor, dress and the people he associates with that he might be a “shady character.”

      Let’s say that even a couple of times, B has verbally abused A at the post box on the first floor, threatened A’s dog if it doesn’t shut up, and A even saw him one night in the alley across the street involved in drug dealing with some rough guys.

      One day when B is out, A picks B’s lock, goes into his room and finds illicit material and some weapons in his room, confirming his suspicions about the type of character B is.

      He decides that based on all of this, and his earlier verbal altercations, that B is an imminent threat.

      When B comes home that night, A is standing in front of his door and says, “I don’t like you: you obviously deal with dangerous people, you have illicit stuff in your room, and you are verbally threatening to me and my dog, plus I am 99% sure you are armed right now.”

      A then takes out his pistol and says, “I’m taking you to the police,” whereupon B says “no way” and makes a move for his weapon: then A shoots him dead.

      Did B deserve it? Depends on what way you approach the argument, morally speaking. But were A’s actions JUSTIFIED? According to the Non-Aggression axiom, no.

      No matter how threatening A may have perceived B to be, the bottom line is that no actual conflict took place until A initiated it. Weapons were not drawn until A presented B with a zero-sum choice, and even then only after he had violated B’s privacy without his knowledge.

      1. Claire M

        This is an interesting discussion. In the US, conspiracy to commit murder or robbery is illegal, and I believe that laws against conspiracy are not unconstitutional– at least I have never heard libertarians complain about these laws… What would Jefferson have said about conspiracy?

        As for the neighbor scenario, here’s another one: Your neighbor’s wife has confided to you that her husband is building a bomb in his back yard, which he plans to detonate by remote control sometime in the near future, and which is powerful enough to take out everything within the radius of a city block. She shows you evidence of this (eg, plans to use the bomb, written in his hand etc…), and tells you that she is too terrified to confront him herself, but feels morally obliged to warn you. Your neighbor’s yard has a high fence, so that you cannot see into it unless you climb the tree in your own back yard and look down into it (in other words he has a reasonable expectation that his back yard is private). What do you do? Assume for the sake of argument that we are in a society where law enforcement is carried out by individual citizens rather than a police force, so the law is in your hands.

        Personally, I would climb the tree with a pair of binoculars to take a look into the back yard, and if what I saw confirmed the wife’s story, I would go and arrest the neighbor. There would be a trial for the crime of conspiracy, and a jury would decide what to do next.

        According to your interpretation of the non-aggression principle, you, on the other hand, would have to disregard the wife’s warnings, and you would have respect your neighbor’s right to the privacy of his back yard… In fact, you would also have to look the other way when the wife showed you the her husband’s plans, which she certainly obtained without his permission. You would just tell the wife to mind her own business, tuck your kids in every night, and hope that you all get to wake up in the morning, right?

        1. Vae Victus

          Conspiracy to commit murder is of course a crime, but it still has to be proven: the burden of proof lays at the feet of the accuser. The PATRIOT Act, and the recent provisions of the Defense Authorization Act, presume guilt first and allow for detainment and punishment prior to conviction. We have precedent now that allows for even torture or assassination of a citizen. The 4th, 5th and 6th amendments can all be readily usurped now.

          And that is the problem. The issue is not whether or not people who desire to do harm can be prosecuted or not, the issue is on what principle does government presume to treat people as criminals with no requirement for evidence and with no opportunity for trial?

          That is why the A and B citizen analogy applies. While it could be argued that B was a shady person, he had not done anything to actually jeopardize life or limb UNTIL confronted by a busybody A. A had to violate B’s rights under the law in the name of accomplishing something ‘good,’ he had to break moral imperative to save moral imperative that was not in fact actually at stake.

          In your example, you say “There would be a trial for the crime of conspiracy, and a jury would decide what to do next.”

          This operates on the same reasoning as the aforesaid: you are establishing the husband’s guilt before you even arrest him. It assumes total infallibility on the part of the wife and yourself in gathering your information, not to mention presupposes that you should in fact be spying on your neighbor.

          You are in effect dragging the husband out, who hitherto has done nothing wrong, and demanding that he prove his innocence, rather than requiring that you prove his guilt.

          They have a term in the law for when one person tells another something: HEARSAY.

          You cannot arrest someone, let alone convict, on hearsay. Even if you peer over the fence and see the bomb being made, all you have attested to is that the husband is building something: it is impossible to establish INTENT or MOTIVE or CONSPIRACY from that alone.

          This scenario of yours is very typical of the “would you push the button?” kind of thought problems. It is often used for questions on torturing, thought crime, and preemptive war.

          In your case, it falls under thought crime. You never explained in this hypothetical society of yours whether or not people could arm themselves. If they can, then the husband building explosives is not guilty of any crime other than the IDEA he may use the explosives to harm others. Again, based upon hearsay.

          As Ron Paul said in a recent debate, if you advocate for the police state, you could theoretically prevent crime by putting a camera in every room (including bedroom) and having a snitch network where hearsay rules, but you will have lost the total moral imperative for a free society.

          In a free society, you have to presume innocence of the husband until he actually does something against the law.

          In a society that cares only about security, you can presume guilt and try on hearsay.

          You may ask,, “well wouldn’t the security focused society save lives on the block?”

          Potentially yes. But, it is just as valid to say that the security focused society is also most liable to abuse. If people like the husband could be tried and convicted in such fashion, the floodgates are open for the snoopy neighbor to be found guilty of next week. Everyone is suspect for any behavior based merely upon suspicion, hearsay or the prevailing attitudes of the month.

          In the end, such a society would not be able to guarantee anyone’s immutable rights to privacy, self defense, property, protection from defamation or slander. People in such a society would live under mutual suspicion and this would hamstring cooperative activity, undermining both social and economic life.

          In the end, such a society would therefore not provide any real security at all.

  6. Republic Reminder

    Tom, I would like to hear your position on the Hitler/Chamberlain scenario. My position is that Hitler had already demonstrated his willingness to destroy anyone or anything that got in the way of him taking over the world. Churchill had been telling people for years about his build up of power. It is in this build up of power, combined with his openly stated policies of annilation that I hold to the position that no reasonable person would have sat at the table and had peace talks with him. He had already broken his agreements with others and had proven is treaties were the preface to his takeover of a nation. Chamberlain was wrong and was weak. Chamberlain aided and abetted Hitler in his quest to take over the world and he did it under the flag of peace. I have not found an adequate reply to this issue in my search through Libertarian and Ron Paul principles.

    You have adequately addressed how to maintain peace without threat of imminent danger. But, I don’t find an adequate portrait of what constitutes imminent danger and what constitutes a strong defense in the face of the type of imminent danger that is covert rather than overt.

    1. Vae Victus

      “Chamberlain aided and abetted Hitler in his quest to take over the world and he did it under the flag of peace. I have not found an adequate reply to this issue in my search through Libertarian and Ron Paul principles.”

      The libertarian position should be obvious: the British and the French were wrong when they colluded with Hitler by offering Czechoslovakia on a platter. To a libertarian, this is an act of aggression in and of itself. So the problem is not that Chamberlain and company did too little aggression in seeking peace, but that their respective governments did too much. They played with the destiny of not just the Czechs, but the Ethiopians, Eritreans, and others. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Britain, France and even the U.S. would have been just fine with Hitler had he invaded the Soviet Union instead of France. They were not against war, they simply wanted to make sure it conformed to the world order they had in mind. Churchill was a staunch imperialist, and both him and FDR were eugenics adherents.

      As I have stated on these boards before, nothing in World War II should lead us to assume a policy of preemptive or anticipatory aggression would have worked out for the better, for the simple reason that the Axis powers adhered to such polices themselves.

      “Imminent dangers” were cited by Mussolini, Hitler, and the Japanese Militarists in their attacks and used as pretext for their expansionism.

      -Pearl Harbor was a preemptive attack based upon the “imminent danger” the U.S. Pacific fleet was felt to pose to the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

      -Attacks into Poland and support for the Fins in their war were deemed necessary by Hitler to ‘buttress against the dangers of Bolshevik encroachment (i.e. Soviet Union).”

      -The idea that Norway and the Low Countries would inevitably side with France and Britain, or at least just be in the way, was enough reason for Hitler to invade all of them in addition to France in 1940 and ’41.

      -The Nazi’s fears (to what degree they actually felt them is debatable) of a ‘war mongering Jewish cabal’ that was directing the governments of the U.S, Britain, and others into a ‘conspiracy against Germany’ was felt to justify the war on the Allies more broadly. As Hitler often repeated, it was not ‘the English or French people we are against,’ but ‘their Bolshevik-Jewish masters’ who were covertly planning to wage war on Germany and had been responsible for all of Germany’s pitfalls, including Versailles.

      The parallels between this type of reasoning, and what we hear today about a ‘conspiracy of global Jihadists,’ whom wage numerous proxy wars ‘secretly funded and orchestrated from Tehran’ is startling to say the least.

      Whatever the case, the Nazis posed a clear and overt danger when they declared that they would back Japan in its offensive against the U.S. They declared war on us three days after Pearl Harbor, if I remember correctly.

      I am not sure what covert activities they were engaging in that were in the lead up to the war, at least as regards to the U.S.

      While we are on the subject, I would submit that we have to distinguish between a nation’s military build up and an “imminent danger.”

      If a military buildup is perceived as a danger to other nations, than the logic would have to apply to the United States in the 1930’s as well. FDR reinstated the draft (on exec order), trebled the production of arms and ammunition (also on exec order), and increased the contracts to be awarded for new war weapon designs. All of this was during a time of peace in the late 1930s, and much of it done by executive order without Congress.

      Did the U.S. constitute an imminent danger to anyone by doing these things? Most Americans would say “No, FDR was simply trying to better prepare the U.S. for potential war.”

      The bottom line, is that especially in the age of the nation state, there is always a threat of danger. And yes, some of those dangers may appear imminent. But the best defense against them is to be prepared to receive them, or even better to negate their underlying strategies, not by embarking on our own provocative and aggressive misadventures. And most certainly by not committing aggression against our own people, a la the PATRIOT Act, TSA abuses, and NDAA.

      Even as early as the 5th century B.C., in ancient China, philosopher and military strategist Sun Tzu understood that nothing is to be had by waging preemptive attacks or, as Rumsfeld would call it, “anticipatory defense.” Killing the enemy or blowing up their stuff doesn’t cut it, pure and simple.

      Sun Tzu said:

      “So to win a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; the highest excellence is to subdue the enemy’s army without fighting at all.”

      “Therefore, the best military policy is to attack strategies; the next to attack alliances; the next to attack soldiers; and the worst to assault walled cities.”

      To put this into modern context, Sun Tzu would say that the first thing to U.S. defense lays in our FOREIGN POLICY: not interfering in other nation’s self determination or affairs, and not provoking them with trade wars, sanctions, assassinations, or tearing their governments down. It means removing the incentive from our enemies to become our enemies in the first place. Iran is a good example: is what we are currently doing minimizing the potential for conflict, or simply speeding it toward that realization?

      Sun Tzu would say the worst thing we could do is what we are in fact doing: engaging in urban warfare against insurgents, garrisoning troops all over the place, and providing countries all over with free money and military hardware (“foreign aid”). Just like laying siege or garrisoning forts throughout enemy country in Sun Tzu’s time, our current policies of military interventionism are costly in terms of lives and logistics, and ultimately make us weaker strategically, while ruining the economy on the home front.

      Considering that Sun Tzu was around during the Warring States Period of Chinese history, when each realm was beset by more imminent dangers than we can even fathom today, this should be instructive.

      The ruler Sun Tzu advised went on to great success by adhering to his axioms, actually surviving the other neighboring states and becoming dominant. In light of fact that the entire period was defined by war, we should be able to see that our own modern situation should allow for peace and war should be relatively easy to avoid. Especially in the United States, with the two great oceans of the world and no real need to grow resource dependent on others, we should be in an enviable position to interact peacefully and avoid war.

      Instead, people act as if the barbarians are at the gates to the one city that is America, and at any moment, if the walls are not manned, we will all be killed or enslaved.

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