Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bush’s Censorial Temptation

Tibor R. Machan

Does President Bush believe that by his announcing that critics of the Iraqi war dampen morale among the troops he will have managed to prevent such criticism? Does he believe his words will silence critics and heighten troop morale?

This, however, is America and if Americans share a common trait, it’s rebellion at those who wield power. Well, they used to, anyway—most of them. Because the country was born in revolution.

There is irritating stuff in some criticisms of this war. Too many critics have lost their credibility about chiding government for extending its brute powers. The Left likes big government and wants it to perform innumerable “precautionary” measures in every nook and carry of society. The Left, with its irrational enthusiasm for (even exuberance with) every government program aiming to right the wrongs of society, is hypocritical trying now to rein in government when it comes to this particular (foreign) extension.

Just like back during the Vietnam war, the Left kept complaining that we are all being taxed for something few support. Yet the same could be said about The New Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society. These statists would retort, however, that it’s all good with government intervention, redistribution, expropriation, and regulation. OK, then what’s all the fuss about a little preemptory, precautionary war in Iraq?

Still, Bush should have stayed away from his censorial lament, aired previously by his first Attorney General, John Ashcroft. It wont fly—this is not the Soviet Union (yet). I myself have been laying off the war partly because being steeped in it, the US probably should get more solid, expert advice on how to extricate itself from it. The whole thing was ill conceived, ill commenced, and should at least be well concluded. Fretting now about why this is a botched operation isn’t too useful.

But now that Bush raised the matter so unwisely, let’s see why it is a good thing all around to keep up the critical scrutiny he wishes to discourage if not outright suppress. First, everyone needs to get a very clear idea that the military forces of the United States of America are hired to do the job of defending the country from those who would—or are highly likely about to—launch an attack upon its citizenry. The military (or at least the marines) are not, as one grossly misconceived bumper sticker I saw back in the early 1990s, “The 911 of the World.” It should only be the 911 of Americans and so resist the temptation to go gallivanting about the globe involving itself with nation-building and operation Iraqi or whatever disgusting country’s freedom.

Second, once committed to the war, every bit of brain power and moral fiber is required not to succumb to complacency about it, lest the country turn into the very thing those troops have been sent to reform, a suppliant dictatorship. This is a bad war and it is time those with the know-how put their minds to answering the question of how to undo the damage and leave without provoking further tragedy.

Third, history should benefit from the ill begotten war by being taught that it was far from inevitable, that had wiser counsels been considered it could have been avoided and other policies instituted to help those Iraqis—by no means even so many—who really want to live in a genuinely free country (as distinct from wanting to take hold of power and force everyone to live by one’s creed).

No, Mr. President, it is not a wise thing to tell us all to shut up to suit your likely embarrassment from being in the midst of an impossible situation from which you will not likely emerge with a swell presidential legacy. The troops, by the way, will do just fine. They may even be proud knowing that citizens back home haven’t gone to sleep on their citizenship jobs of taking government to task when that’s justified.

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