"Setting the realm at rest" through foreign wars: How many of the honored dead whose remains are interred at Arlington really died on behalf of freedom -- rather than for the greater glory of the State?
The true means of setting the realm at rest is by keeping up a foreign war, towards which one can direct, like water in a gutter, all the turbulent humors of the kingdom. --
Duke of Sully, chief minister of France, to King Henry V; cited in Bruce D. Porter, War and the Rise of the State
Behind Ron Paul's facade of genial decency, warned a reader dissatisfied with the guarded enthusiasm for the candidate expressed by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic Monthly, lurks a movement catalyzed by hatred – a seething mass of untutored Middle Americans in the thrall of partially digested conspiracy theories and badly sublimated prejudices.
Don't be beguiled by Paul's insistent talk about his campaign being focused on “Liberty, prosperity, and peace,” continued the correspondent – an individual whose hair-trigger paranoia makes him a dubious diagnostician of the hidden hang-ups of other people. After all, some favorable things have been said about his campaign by the likes of David Duke and other denizens of the neo-Nazi netherworld. This isn't because Paul embraces racial collectivism – or collectivism of any sort – but because some elements of that movement share Paul's his opposition to the Iraq war, although for very different reasons.
Is this the face of "hate"?
Sullivan's increasingly agitated reader, who denounces Rep. Paul's opposition to the war as “ignorant and unreasoned,” insists that the Paul phenomenon “isn't some innocent eccentric Congressman riding a popular wave, it is tapping into a very sinister side of the US electorate."
“He is not your friend, not a friend of this country,” concludes the admonitory note to Sullivan.
So ... Ron Paul's views are now to be considered literally anti-American?
Of his brightly defined positions on matters both foreign and domestic, which of them reveal him to be someone who seeks to do injury to the United States?
Is it his consistent opposition to the debasement of the currency, which is destroying the embattled remnants of the middle class? His forthright defense of the Bill of Rights, including all of the troublesome stuff about the inviolable individual right to armed self-defense, and the unconditional necessity of a search warrant as a precondition to government surveillance? His opposition to a National ID card, which would turn us into a “Your Papers, Please” society?
To authoritarian pseudo-conservatives of the sort that make up the neutronium-dense core of the Bu'ushist movement, Dr. Paul's determination to make the government accountable to the Constitution is nothing less than sedition. Their view is best summarized by a statement uttered by the greasy illiterate Andrew Johnson, who became president following Lincoln's assassination: “Whenever you hear a man prating about the Constitution, spot him as a traitor.”
But the real source of animosity toward Ron Paul on the part of the retread Trotskyites called neo-conservatives and those who follow in their train is the congressman's unflinching opposition to the Iraq war and the sanctified “bipartisan foreign policy consensus” that dictates our endless involvement in overseas conflicts.
Despite his enthusiasm for genuine free trade (as opposed to the corporatist/internationalist counterfeit offered through pacts such as NAFTA and organs like the World Trade Organization), Paul is denounced as an “isolationist” -- solely and simply because he would neither subsidize nor slaughter foreigners. In similar fashion, Paul's willingness to pursue a foreign policy based on the peaceful mitigation of disputes in the interest of freedom will be depicted as inspired by “hate.” His most “hateful” act was one of unabashed truth-telling: He has dared to call the regime ruling us an empire, and to insist that this is a bad thing.
Write this down in ink: Ron Paul, who harbors no detectable rancor toward anyone of woman born and goes to exceptional lengths to treat everyone with respect, will be smeared as a “hater.” This is chiefly because of the genuine hatred – born out of fear – he inspires in many who have made their peace with the Power Elite. Their reasoning – if we can torture that word into applying here – would be this: “Obviously he's a hateful man, or else we wouldn't hate him so.”
What is so “sinister” -- to use a word flung at Andrew Sullivan by his frantic correspondent – about a movement seeking “Liberty, prosperity, and peace”?
Well, if that kind of thing catches on, people won't submit to the rule of their betters. Most importantly, they wouldn't support the wars so thoughtfully arranged by their rulers. And without the benign influence of a war to channel and regulate the passions of the hoi polloi, who knows what hideous things will descend on our country? After all, no true friend of this country would seek to deny its inhabitants the opportunity to die in a fruitless and unnecessary foreign war!
Reading the comment about the Ron Paul Revolution representing “a very sinister side of the US electorate” reminded me of Philip Roth's 2004 “alternate history” novel The Plot Against America.
That book represents a perverse accomplishment for Roth, which is the only kind of accomplishment of which he is capable: It is so bad that it eclipses Portnoy's Complaint as the worst offering in Roth's oeuvre.
In The Plot Against America, Roth posits a triumphant America First movement carrying the heroic Charles Lindbergh to the Presidency in 1940, with Montana Senator Burton Wheeler as his Vice President. Lindbergh succeeds in keeping the US out of World War II, thereby depriving the government of a productive outlet for the murderous impulses that Roth and his ilk just know lurk in the bosom of common Americans.
So Lindbergh makes the US a satellite of Nazi Germany, and a benign-sounding, but unmistakably sinister (that word again!) federal program called “Just Folks” is set up to bring about the forcible assimilation of American Jews. The Klan and related groups are turned loose to terrorize Jews and other minorities, and prominent Jewish Americans begin to disappear quietly. The persecution intensifies even further when President Lindbergh disappears (it turns out the Nazis had kidnapped Lindbergh's infant son, using him as blackmail leverage), leaving Wheeler to ascend to the presidency.
Eventually, Lindbergh's wife sides with a group seeking to hold a special presidential election in 1942. FDR is reinstated, and reason – as Roth would see it – is restored to her throne. The Japanese do their part, tardily attacking Pearl Harbor and dragging America into the war that domesticates Middle America by placing it decisively under government's yoke while killing or maiming just enough of its sons to keep that stratum's anti-social tendencies from coalescing into something awful.
One of Roth's characters gives voice to the author's authentically hateful contempt for Middle America in a description of a typical Kentucky farmer. This unassuming figure was depicted as a vulgar specimen of the “Anglo-Saxon Protestants who ran America and would always run it ... [the kind of man who is] able to make a living right out of the earth ... eat only food that he himself has raised.”
Unless reduced to abject dependence on government, or used as the raw material for the State's mission of redemptive violence through warfare, people of that sort are dangerous, at least from the perspective of people like Roth. This is why, from time to time as our rulers see fit, they must arrange a war and use it to bleed out all of the “turbulent humors” of the union
And there's more than a hint of that attitude in the views and policy positions espoused by leading neo-cons, people produced in the same intellectual spawning grounds as Roth (who, although thoroughly wretched, is decidedly not a neo-con himself; that movement hasn't cornered the market on wretchedness).
As I wrote about Roth a number of years ago, his is a genuinely isolationist perspective – the bigoted insularity of a certain variety of Manhattan intellectual who looks westward with a mixture of fear and contempt. And his treatment of pre-WWII Middle America as a population primed to carry out pogroms unless they were shackled to the machinery of foreign war probably prefigures the coming smear campaign against the Ron Paul Revolution.
We will be told that if Americans embrace “Liberty, prosperity, and peace,” we will be shirking our “historic responsibilities” to pacify and democratize the world. Paul's supporters will be reviled as “appeasers,” “defeatists,” or perhaps even “fifth columnists” in the service of the global Jihad. All manner of invidious racial and religious motives will be imputed to the movement, despite the fact that Ron Paul's campaign is a net drawing of every kind. It wouldn't surprise me to see the random provocateur materialize at a Meet-Up somewhere, and become the focus of media attention for a day or two.
Go ahead -- call him a wussy "appeaser," Sean: WWE performer Kane, Pro Wrestler and eager enlistee in the Ron Paul Revolution.
When all of this fails – and it will – I suspect that things will take a still nastier turn.
I write the following at the risk of sounding a bit like a mirror-image of Andrew Sullivan's clinically disturbed correspondent:
If the Ron Paul Movement reaches critical mass, Dr. Paul might find himself in mortal peril. There are too many powerful people deeply invested in a permanent war economy to permit that movement to succeed without making a serious effort to silence its most compelling spokesman. And “lone gunmen” generally don't spontaneously arise from the general population; they tend to be recruited and deployed by murky interests dimly but plausibly connected to those powerful people.
Dr. Paul entered this presidential race knowing that he would be traduced by people paid to assassinate the reputations of honorable men. He's certainly intelligent enough to know that those who orchestrate needless wars are perfectly capable of retaining the services of literal assassins, as well.
This is why Ron Paul's decision to make Peace the central focus of his campaign is the bravest act of statesmanship we'll ever see.
I don't know if the Ron Paul “Love Revolution” has an unofficial anthem, but the 1968 classic “People Gotta Be Free” by the Rascals would be a good choice. The live clip below from 1970 suffers terribly from the lack of a bass player (why didn't they have a bass player?), and the tempo is a bit frantic. And of course, the song just isn't the same without the killer horn section. But the energy of this live performance is infectious. For the much slicker studio version, go here.
Dum spiro, pugno!