I’ve been hearing a lot lately from the conservative punditry and talk shows that Obama is just horrible for not immediately giving General McChrystal more troops for Afghanistan. The presiding sentiment from them seems to be that whenever a General says that he needs something then by god, you better give it to him. Somehow, the military is infallible in their eyes I guess, which seems very odd to me. Why is it that a staunch conservative like Rush Limbaugh, who doesn’t trust the government’s involvement in any other area is so quick to lay down and just accept the government’s monopoly over defense. Does it make sense that he totally distrusts the government’s involvement in postal delivery, yet does trust them with weapons of mass destruction? I don’t get it. Guns are for people, not governments.
But, the more disturbing part of this line of thinking jumped out at me as I was reading some more in John Chodes excellent book Destroying The Republic: Jabez Curry and the Re-Education of the Old South. He has a good section on Ulysses S. Grant’s post-war mental transformation toward radical republicanism. And in it, he quotes Adam Badeau’s book Grant in Peace:
On the 18th of December, at the conclusion of his tour, Grant reported to the President that “the mass of thinking men of the South accepted the situation in good faith”; and while he recommended that a strong military force should still be retained in the Southern States, he declared his belief that “the citizens of that region are anxious to return to self-government within the Union as soon as possible.”
Do you think that the men and women of the South would be so quick to go along with the whims of a General if it was us that he was wanting to retain occupation over? I don’t think so. The South was occupied under military rule for years after the war ended. We were in the same position that Iraq and Afghanistan is now. We wanted the occupiers out of our land so we could get back to living our lives after they destroyed them. Let me re-phrase the above quote and see if it doesn’t make my point a bit clearer:
On the 18th of December, at the conclusion of his tour, Patreaus reported to President Bush that “the mass of thinking men of Afghanistan accepted the situation in good faith”; and while he recommended that a strong military force should still be retained in Iraq and Afghanistan, he declared his belief that “the citizens of that region are anxious to return to self-government as soon as possible.”
It’s always easy to find justification for military action after the fact. We can look back now and say that we “liberated” a million Iraqi’s from Saddam Hussein. Grant could also look back later after the war and say that he “liberated” a hundred thousand blacks from slavery. But, the fact remains that post-facto justifications don’t absolve from properly justifying our actions at the outset. Our military is there in Afghanistan now, doing what? Sitting around getting killed by random insurgency and destabilizing society by our very presence. And Iraq still has car bombs going off in Baghdad. Remember all the car bombs that struck Baghdad before we invaded? No, of course you don’t. Because that kind of street terrorism didn’t start until we got there.
If you are reading this and interpreting anything I said above as some kind of left-wing nutjob craziness then think again. I’m not anti-war. I’m anti-government. I’ll say it again: if we, as conservatives, don’t trust the government to do even the simplest of tasks then why would we trust them with guns and weapons of mass destruction? When wars need fighting then it’s every able-bodied man’s responsibility to grow a chest and go into battle. But, that’s a far cry from just placing unfettered loyalty in a government-run death machine that, evidently, nobody in the world can even come close to matching. I have many friends and family that are or used to be in the military. They have my love and respect. The government that puts them in harms way for stupid reasons does not.
It’s time for us as honest conservatives – and especially Southern conservatives – to re-learn the words of Thomas Jefferson:
“The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.”