Saturday, August 13, 2005

Shall We All Hang Separately?

I believe that the willingness of humans to come to each other's defense has emotional and practical roots:

1. An individual is most willing to defend those who are emotionally closest to him because of love and empathy. (Obvious examples are the parent who risks life in an effort to save a child, and the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect his comrades.)

2. An individual is next most willing to defend those who are geographically closest to him because those persons, in turn, are the individual's nearest allies. (This proposition is illustrated by the Union and the Confederacy in the American Civil War, and by the spirit of "we're all in this together" that prevailed in the U.S. during World War I and World War II. This proposition is related to but does not depend on the notion that patriotism has evolutionary origins.)

3. If an individual is not willing to defend those who are emotionally or geographically closest to him, he cannot count on their willingness to defend him. In fact, he may be able to count on their enmity. (A case in point is Southerners' antagonism toward the North for many decades after the Civil War, which arose from Southerners' resentment toward the "War of Northern Aggresssion" and Reconstruction.)

The Constitution -- in its pledge to "provide for the common defence" and its specific language enabling that "defence" -- embodies the second and third observations. As Benjamin Franklin said to John Hancock at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." A main impetus for the adoption of the Constitution, to replace the Articles of Confederation that first bound the States, was to ensure that the States and the people could indeed hang together. And so we did, in the main, through World War II (the Civil War being the exception that truly proves the rule about geographic cohesion).

What we have seen since the end of World War II is the dissipation of the spirit that "we're all in this together." Every American war has had its domestic opponents, even World War II -- at least before America joined it. But the Leftish voices of opposition to war -- and to preparedness for war -- have become louder and more strident in recent decades.

Republicans who opposed LBJ's handling of the war in Vietnam opposed it largely because they viewed LBJ's incrementalism as self-defeating. And they were right. My own contemporary, non-Republican view of the Vietnam War was that it was the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, but that we ought to try to win it or simply walk away from it. We did neither, opting instead for virtual defeat. That defeat emboldened and legitimated America's anti-defense, anti-war Leftists, who came to dominate the Democrat Party even before that Party's venture in Vietnam had ended in ignominy. And thus it came to pass that the Democrat Party's presidential nominee in 2004 was a notorious anti-Vietnam War veteran of that war.

Congressional Democrats, who mainly opposed George H.W. Bush's entry into Gulf War I, weren't granted enough time in which to beat him about the head with his "mistakes." The war ended too quickly for that. The senior Bush's real mistake was to heed the advice of those who wanted to walk away with the job half done, that is, with Saddam Hussein defeated but not unseated.

The many congressional Democrats who ostensibly supported George W. Bush's entry into Iraq felt they had little choice but to do so in the aftermath of 9/11. But many of them since have followed their instincts (and their constituents' instincts) and reneged on their initial support of the war. They have reverted to the anti-defense, anti-war posture of the modern Democrat Party, reviling President Bush for his "mistakes" (i.e., lack of 100-percent foresight) and blaming him for a fictitious "climate of oppression" in which voices against the war are stifled. They are so stifled that it is hard to be heard above the din of anti-defense, anti-war talk in the media and on the Web.

The country is divided. An important reason for that division is that half the country is unsure, for good reason, that the other half understands the value of -- or even wants -- a "common defence." It is apparent to many Americans that many other Americans (i.e., most Democrats and all unaffiliated Leftists) will not countenance the defense of a fellow American (except perhaps a loved one or a next-door neighbor) unless and until the enemy is within spitting distance -- if then.

This isn't about the Iraq War being "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time." That's merely the latest excuse for the American Left's long-standing allegiance to anti-defense, anti-war dogmas, under which lies the post-patriotic attitude that America is nothing special, just another place to live. Christopher Chantrill of The American Thinker explains:
Among the many things that our American liberals ask us to swallow in our own best interest is the idea that it is an act of lèse-majesté to call them unpatriotic even though they are utterly embarrassed by patriotism. Who has not heard the liberal across the dinner table dismissing nationalism as dangerous and aggressive? But we are not allowed to call them on it.

This power play began after World War II when it came to public knowledge that a number of people with first names that sounded like last names had been passing government secrets to the Soviet Union. We call this time the McCarthy Era.

The McCarthy Era taught liberals that their ideas of a post-nationalist world did not go down too well with the American people. By the skin of their teeth they managed to swim back into the mainstream through a successful counterattack upon Senator McCarthy. Ever since, when caught in a post-patriotic act, they have waved the bloody shirt of McCarthyism to cow their accusers into silence.

Alger Hiss and Dexter White were unpatriotic and proud of it, and so are today'’s liberals -- in their hearts. Hiss and White believed in a world higher and better than nation states. From their experience in the 1930s they knew that the age of capitalism and fractious nation states was coming to an end, and they wanted to be part of the exciting and altruistic movement that would create a new world order to replace the old, failed system. There would be no place for atavisms like patriotism in the post-patriotic world that they wanted to build.

And so it goes today.

Well, I wonder how those anti-defense, anti-war, post-patriots would feel if there weren't some pro-defense, willing-to-go-to-war patriots around to defend them before the enemy is at their throats? Would France save them? How about their precious enemy detainees at Gitmo?

The Left has, by its words and deeds over the decades, seceded from the mutual-defense pact of the Constitution. The Left has served notice that it will do everything in its power to weaken the ability of those Americans who aren't post-patriotic to prepare for and execute an effective mutual defense.

Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." And Lincoln was right, but he was able to reunite the "house" by force. That is not an option now. The Left has more effectively seceded from the Union than did the Confederacy, but the Left's secession cannot be rectified by force.

And so, those Americans who wish "to provide for the common defence" are forced to share a foxhole with those post-patriots who wish to undermine "the common defence."

If the Left's agenda prevails, we shall indeed all hang separately.