REACTION BY FORMULA
now only a complete hermit could remain unaware of the events of
September 11, 2001. A criminal attack by terrorists killed 5,000-6,000
Americans on American soil. No American likes that sort of thing,
but there was bound to be some dispute over what to do about it.
government immediately credited
the atrocity to a fellow who
is now a household word. They
did this on the basis of "evidence"
which they have not shared with
the public. Tony Blair did pretend
to share the "evidence"
with Parliament. It soon developed
that the case was a series of
conjectures and hypotheses
unless there exists further
evidence too important to be
shared with the mere sovereign
stooges the "public,"
who are said to be the source
of political power in the civilized
might not be so important by
itself. After all, there are
many things which are not revealed
for many, many years (if ever)
to the sovereign people by those
who rule in their name. But
once the problem of dealing
with the terrorist attack was
said to require a "war"
to be waged by a Homeric coalition
of everyone who is for us, against
everyone who is against us,
we might have expected that
various long-standing agendas
would suddenly be found absolutely
necessary for the success of
the "war," or whatever
and other agencies have never
really liked the Bill of Rights,
and under cover of the present
emergency they have brought
forth their entire wish-list
for blowing holes through the
first ten amendments. Congress
passed a resolution, law, or
something, so broad as to put
the famous (German) Enabling
Act of 1933 in the shade. The
President was empowered to do
whatever in his judgment he
needs to do to accomplish whatever
it is he needs to accomplish.
was not exactly a declaration
of war. That would require a
well-defined enemy, as opposed
to a sort of international John
Doe warrant. No one knows if
this is a "war," or
on whom it was declared, if
it was declared.
is perfect. It restores as a
normal state of affairs that
lovable grey zone, intermediate
between war and peace, about
Orwell had a few things
to say. The leftover Cold War
ghouls in and out of the administration
must be bubbling over with joy,
mumbling "purity of essence."
The Strangeloves are back
they never really left but
now they have a reason-for-being
so vague and indefinable as
to ensure their job security
for the rest of the century,
provided they can appear to
be getting comprehensible results.
have to do something, so they
are bombing Afghanistan. I am
not sure that this makes a whit
safer. It certainly is a show,
however. So much for the institutional
reaction-by-formula in government.
HEAVIES WEIGH IN
brave, investigative, and critical
Free Press chimed in, of course,
as predictably as if they were
actually on the government payroll.
According to Dan, Tom, and Jim,
the President grew several meters
in stature just by virtue of
having a crisis on his hands.
Government was back!
better, assailed by their inner
doubts about not being themselves
as wonderful as The Greatest
Generation, the gentlemen of
the press did their best to
proclaim the return of World
War II. World War II, most readers
will know, represents the highest-ever
achievement of human civilization.
I am not sure why that is so,
but I take it on faith.
realistic view of World War
II is not wanted, and I leave
it to one side, before I start
asking whether the righteous,
even in that war, were really
entitled to do literally anything
that came into their minds in
order to "win" it.
I might mention Dresden, Hamburg,
Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki,
and that would never do, what
with Dan, Tom, and Jim reliving
a different version of the One
HOME FRONT IS THE ONLY FRONT
war against Nobody Specific
may run into trouble. There
is no scientific way to predict
these things. Many in the press
maintain that the crimes of
September 11 were a surprise
attack, just like Pearl Harbor.
This isn't quite right. The
Japanese, at least, attacked
a legitimate military target.
The surprise part was bad form,
but the American press did not
so judge things when Japan launched
its surprise attack on the Russian
navy at Port Arthur in 1904.
That was held to have been very,
very clever. No matter.
of the two events should have
been a complete "surprise"
to anyone who paid attention
to the news, either in 1941
or 2001. But many in the press
have ordered us not to look
at anything behind that curtain.
Nothing before December 7, 1941
or September 11, 2001 has any
bearing on the events of those
days. To think every crime has
its own historical background
is to "justify" it,
or so we are asked to believe.
I quite agree. One mustn't go
around making fine distinctions.
There is a terrible danger of
indeed, far better to have ID
numbers tattooed on our noses
and do all that we are told
by the responsible authorities.
You remember the responsible
authorities don't you the
people who didn't resign when
they failed to defend actual
citizens of the United States
in their actual territory? It's
hard to account for that. Maybe
they were off defending large
abstractions or special interests.
us therefore give these failures
all the expansive powers they
now say they need to do what
they couldn't manage to do with
the ample powers they already
had. Further, let them rebuild
and run the entire economy.
They do so well in that area,
too. Indeed, I can hardly think
of anything they can't do, should
they put their minds to it.
that stands in the way is our
somewhat tired tradition of
republican liberty, constitutional
law, and local self-government.
But such things are the merest
trifles in an emergency. Justice
Sandra Day O'Connor is quoted
as saying that we may have to
judge these things more along
the lines of the international
laws of war than in terms of
that old 18th Century grocery
list. And who is better placed
than a Supreme Court Justice
to make such a call?
mustn't let 18th Century prejudices
stand in our way, especially
when those views were "antigovernment"
delusions held by terrible white
males, some of whom were doubtless
slaveholders. Still, it does
seem odd for a Justice to deliver
such an opinion odd, I mean
to deliver it, but also odd
to have it. If she does indeed
hold such views, might that
not bode ill for her ability
to fairly adjudicate cases arising
under the emergency legislation?
And does publicizing such an
opinion not perhaps go beyond
the scandal about what Chief
Justice Taney allegedly whispered
to President-elect Buchanan
in early 1857 about an upcoming
MINDS AND REALLY FOREIGN QUARRELS
someone with a pessimistic view
of political life could worry
about giving people who want
power all the power they want.
William Henry Chamberlin was
one such doubter. He wrote in
December 1940 a year
before the famous surprise and
the ensuing Good War
that "I am depressed by
the many preliminary indications
that an alleged antifascist
crusade is far and away the
most probable route to the establishment
of some kind of fascism in America."1
compounded his sins by criticizing
the strategic vision of some
of the more ardent interventionists.
am anticipating the day when
the possession of Tibet and
Afghanistan will be represented
as vitally necessary to the
security of Kansas and Nebraska.
There is no logical end to this
elastic conception of 'security'
short of the conquest of the
pessimistic as he was, Chamberlin
could never have foreseen that,
down the road, US policy-makers
could manage to create a situation
in which his example, meant
to be farfetched and absurd,
might seem plausible. But there
I go again, speaking of causation,
implying that one thing or another
took place before September
11. We mustn't worry about that.
better to "invade the world"
Rothbard once put it
in order to feel secure. To
do otherwise would be to revive
such dusty old phantasms as
an informed republican citizenry
and an ancient constitution.
Even worse, we might have to
take a critical look at fifty
years of foreign meddling. That
might be quite enlightening,
but we mustn't alarm the sort
of people who confuse understanding
Henry Chamberlin, "War
Shortcut to Fascism,"
American Mercury, LI,
204 (December 1940), p. 392.