Perspectives: Why endless war doesn’t keep us safe

OPINION – James Madison said it best: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

His words ring true in light of the testimony before the Senate last week regarding expansion of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. As Wired Magazine reported, an assistant secretary of defense and an Army Colonel both testified that the global war on terror, already in its 12th year, is expected to continue for at least another decade or two.

The AUMF that Congress handed to the executive branch has turned out to be a blank check for ever-expanding conflict. What began as an effort to avenge 9/11 and punish those responsible has since expanded to include what U.S. officials are calling “associated forces.” This is significant in that the words “associated forces” do not appear in the AUMF.

The geographic limits of the war on terror have also been extended to include American soil. With our government’s continual use of indefinite detention, torture, and extrajudicial assassination by drone strike, it appears Madison was right.

Glenn Greenwald, one of the few remaining truth-seekers in journalism, explains the significance of this development, “It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.”

Greenwald points out that those who profit from such conflicts have learned how to avoid the kind of sentiment that arose during the Vietnam War. He notes that the burden for fighting the war on terror falls primarily on a tiny fraction of the American public who are volunteers for military service.

This, combined with high tech weaponry and little to no dissent in the national media, has kept the fighting out of sight and out of mind to most Americans.

The costs, of course, are immense. Greenwald wisely notes that the Pentagon is the single largest employer in the world and that the U.S. continues to far outspend the rest of the world militarily. He asks a highly relevant question: “The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?”

There are some costs of endless war that are being keenly felt here at home. Again, Madison foresaw what endless war brings: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.”

Our national debt continues to soar as the U.S. government spends far more than it takes in each year in tax revenues. Government spying, in the name of national security, scrutinizes our communications, finances, and our lives.

Agencies like the TSA and Homeland Security are now considered to be the new normal. The militarization of our domestic police forces continues to accelerate. Some leaders still are seeking ways to create a government monopoly on force through gun control. All of this is being done under the guise of making us safe. All of it comes at the cost of freedom.

It’s common to hear power seekers dismiss the wisdom and foresight of the founding generation as outdated. This is especially true as it pertains to their wisdom regarding limited government.

But Madison’s words are as true today as they were in his lifetime.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • My Evil Twin May 20, 2013 at 11:58 am

    The more power the federal government has, the more it wants. It is a never ending cycle, until we have become a totally totalitarian state. And we are so close to that now, that it is scary.
    It doesn’t seem to matter which party is “in power,” this thing just keeps growing. We are in deep doo-doo, and I don’t see any way out.

    • Guardian May 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Don’t you mean the Utah government? It’s closer to a Totalitarian State than any other state in the US. For example, just look at how a few in your local city government control many other aspects of your life. You have no input to their dictatorship decisions.

  • Ron May 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Why can’t we set aside the controversies (gay marriage? abortion? gun control?) and unite to get something done on issues most of us–left and right–agree on? Like the one Bryan identifies here. Or like term limits. Or tax reform. Why do we let the politicians and party hacks keep us fired up and fighting one another over the other stuff?

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