A blog called The Legal Satyricon has an excellent essay on the demise of Senator Russ Feingold. I am compelled to chime in and second the motion. Feingold understands the social equilibrium principle of civil liberty. But a growing population of voters apparently do not. Feingold’s opposition to the Patriot Act was truly an act of integrity. He understood the ratchet-like progression of governmental power and saw the Patriot Act, a piece of legislation that seemingly appeared overnight, for what it was. An overreach into the lives of American citizens. An overreach that involves weapons, surveillance, and more rigid control over citizens.
But fearful citizens wielding felt tip markers filled in the ballot bubble for the other candidate and Feingold is out. The fearful imagine they are for basic virtues like liberty, but in fact they pull the covers up to their eyes and vote away civil liberties.
Fear of terrorism is fear of an idea. The “War on Terror” is a blindingly stupid and misleading slogan. This kind of sloganeering betrays a basic educational deficit on the part of elected officials. The same applies to the “War on Drugs”.
Al Qaeda and the extremisms born of Islamic fever are actions based on a philosophy. There are no armies to fight. There are no uniforms and no enemy insignia’s to put the cross-hairs on. Only the civilian believers in a notion carry this fight forward. You can’t hope to win a war on an idea by military invasion. The War in Afganistan is a bug hunt. As soon as the lights go off, the bugs come back out. The Soviets discovered this the hard way.
Al Qaeda, then based in Afganistan, slams civilian jets into architectual symbols of American power. The US responds by lavishing massive invasion forces upon Iraq and sending modest forces to Afganistan. America’s leaders, lead by that vacuous symbol of virtue, George Bush II, seemed bent on knocking somebody down . So we went and knocked somebody down.
We tipped the hornets nest of Iraq and unleashed a pornographic orgy of fratricide. Perhaps the tragedy of Iraq’s expression of rage was inevitable no matter how its evolution played out. Political outrage fueled by inconceivable injustices and inhumanity brought into sharp focus by Iron age religious doctrines lead to a suicidal conflagration of Iraqi society. In truth, as a Russian colleague once suggested while we sat in my living room drinking vodka and watching Gulf War 1 unfold on CNN, westerners have no business meddling in that part of the world because we do not understand it. Its history and rythms are alien to us. He was right. Meanwhile, Afganistan continues to produce most of the worlds morphine which, when acetylated, gives heroin.
America’s ability to project power is a wondrous thing to behold. We are genuinely good at it. Ask us to solve the problem of poverty or drug abuse and we’ll come up with some rheumatoidal public apparatus to throw money at some of it while the smug and secure bitch about socialism.
But ask us to deliver a missile payload of high explosives into a window from 12 thousand miles away, we’ll spare no expense and put the best minds on it. We’ll put DARPA on the trail and devise new materials and electronics. Hell, we’ll even put up satellites just so’s we can watch a million dollar explosion on TV. At least a part of the tragedy of 9/11 is the unleashing of our reflex to make war. There is a dubious future in armed conflict and we should hold elected officials more accountable when they make war in our name.