I saw —yet again—one of those bumper stickers the gist of which is “Like your freedom? Thank a veteran.” These things drive me nuts.
Let me see if I can parse this whole thing. First of all, I find the sentiment to be a snide bit of conservatism. (Hold that thought.) The implication is that without our armed forces deployed in Iraq, we would soon find ourselves without freedom of the press; that unless we use our soldiers to invade and occupy somewhere, we will no longer be able to hold free elections.
Such thinking is of course incredibly bad thinking. Our armed forces have not been engaged in any kind of conflict the outcome of which would have affected our system of government since 1865. Everything since then has been wars of empire or wars of strategy. Even the invasion of Afghanistan, which could be justified in terms of self defense, was not occasioned by any threat to our actual constitutional structure, nor would we have lost any of our rights had we decided not to tackle the project. I will say nothing of Iraq.
I think it likely that the teabagger on the other side of that bumper would offer the rejoinder that, in our current two wars at least, we’re “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” To which I would reply, that’s not freedom you’re worried about, sweetheart, it’s safety. Those are two different things. You know, the things Patrick Henry was quick to distinguish one from the other: “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
And even that kind of thinking is ludicrous, not to mention cowardly. No one in their right mind suggests that any of the Islamic extremists are prepared to invade us. What are the teabaggers thinking is going to happen, Baghdad Dawn? I suggest those people check under their bed every night, and then sleep tight and leave the rest of us alone.
Yes, certainly, the extremists are constantly plotting to harm us. No question. But it’s also true that all such plots have been foiled by careful police work, not by armed incursions either “over there” or here. And it’s also true that our military response to the problem has served as our enemies’ greatest recruitment tool. So thanking a veteran for keeping us safe is offbase as well.
So does this mean I hate our military? Of course not. The men and women who choose to serve in our armed forces are mostly people with a vision of service. I respect that more than a teabagger would believe possible.
However, I distrust our military, and in that I don’t think I am alone. It seems to me, from my reading of Max Farrand’s Annals of the Constitutional Convention, that most if not all of the founding fathers were of the same opinion. And certainly our greatest general-Presidents believed as I do. Can you imagine George Washington or Dwight Eisenhower suggesting that patriotism required us to, in effect, idolatrize our army?
Our founding fathers were clear on the subject: funding is to be restricted and controlled by the Legislative; the armies and navies are to be commanded by the Executive, a civilian. There is no independent military, and this arrangement is the source of our liberty, not the use of firepower. One only has to think of places such as Turkey, Pakistan, Chile, to realize that our liberty excludes our army from our freedoms. And that is why we remain free.
Oh, and how am I so sure that it’s a conservative bumpersticker?