On Entitlements II

Many are the reasons that people give in support of their preferred entitlements, which the guarantee of such by government necessarily entails the violation of other people’s liberties. “Without retirement entitlements, old people will be forced from their homes by medical bankruptcy.” “Without welfare entitlements, poor people will be forced to beg on the streets.” “Without schooling entitlements, nobody will be properly educated and our democracy will fail.” “Without law enforcement entitlements, people will be robbing, raping, and murdering each other all day, every day.” “Without national defense entitlements, other countries will invade us and slaughter our children.” There is no end to the number of reasons people can find to violate other people’s liberties. I said it before and I’ll say it again: entitlements are antithetical to liberty. Pick one, abandon the other, and be honest about it. And that’s today’s two cents.

Continue Reading

Time to Break Government Addiction

When an addict’s supply is cut off, it’s usually an agonizing journey through withdrawal to the other side of the addiction; where the poison finally loosens its grip on the person, giving him a new chance at life.

I’m not talking about a chemical dependency this time, but a far more deadly condition: government addiction.

If you are feeling effects from this imaginary government “shutdown,” even as simple as having noticed it, you are most likely somewhat addicted to government.

Do you feel as though you are suffering because you don’t have enough government? Are you buying into the hysterics coming from the government extremists wanting the shutdown to end?

Other signs of addiction can include a desire to see taxes increased, a call to build border walls, the obsession to outlaw tools of self-defense while saying that’s what police are for, and many other things.

Those aren’t the cravings of a healthy mind or spirit.

If you’ve ever wanted more government than you have, you are addicted and on a self-destructive path. Are you suffering any discomfort or emotional distress at all? If so, you are feeling the effects of withdrawal caused by your government addiction.

I’d love to help you kick your habit. You may think I’m joking; I’m not.

Like all addictions, breaking the addiction to government is going to hurt. Withdrawal is never fun. It is so much easier to chase after one more hit; one more law to ease the pain for the moment. If someone offers you a hit of government, and you take it, you’ve fed your addiction. You’ve kicked the can down the road. You’ve delayed healing rather than facing the problem and dealing with it in a responsible manner. It’s your choice.

Addicts are responsible for their choices. No one is obligated to bail them out or save them from themselves. Yes, it is hard to watch someone hurt themselves. Worse, irresponsible behavior always has innocent victims; those who never asked to be a part of the sickness, but who get dragged down with the junkie.

This unique chance to break your addiction won’t last forever. When it ends, and someone offers you a hit of your old vice, I hope you’ll be strong enough to say “no.” To say you don’t need the poison anymore. If you need someone to talk to, to help you through the pain of withdrawal, I’m here for you. I’m completely serious.

Continue Reading

Syria: In the History of Bad Excuses, This One’s Top-Tier

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thinks — I’m using the term “thinks” very loosely here — that Americans dying in Syria is a compelling reason to continue exposing Americans to the danger of dying in Syria. So do Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Jack Reed (D-RI).

Ever since US president Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw US troops from Syria in December, “hawks” in Congress have been looking for an argument against the withdrawal.

And this is the best they can come up with? If the troops don’t stay in Syria, they can’t keep getting killed in Syria? Wow, that really shows Trump, doesn’t it?

At issue:  The single deadliest Islamic State attack on US forces in their nearly four-year US invasion and occupation of Syria, on January 16 in Manbij, in which four Americans (two members of the armed forces, a contractor, and a civilian Pentagon employee) died.

When former president Barack Obama authorized the invasion and occupation of Syria in 2015, he did so in complete defiance of both US and international law. Congress had not then declared war on Syria and has not since then offered any formal legal basis for Obama’s actions. And since Syria is a United Nations member state which has never attacked the US nor indicated any intent to do so, the invasion/occupation constitutes a war of aggression — “the supreme international crime,” as Nuremberg Tribunal judge Norman Birkett called it.

Despite the complete absence of any compelling military or political reason for invading and occupying Syria, and despite the complete illegality of that invasion and occupation, these Senators believe that Trump should reverse his decision and keep US troops at risk in a land whether they’re neither needed nor welcome.

After all, if US troops aren’t there, US troops can’t be killed there, and US troops need to be killed there every once in a while to justify keeping them there in perpetuity. The Senators’ campaign donors in the “defense” industry need them kept there. Government contracts and stock dividends depend on it!

That’s the caliber of mind and morality the voters of South Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island send to Washington, DC.  Can’t say I blame the voters for wanting those guys to go somewhere, anywhere other than South Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, or Rhode Island. If nothing else it probably raises those states’ average IQs and reduces their petty crime rates.

Continue Reading

America’s War Culture

For most of the opinion-making class in America today, war is the default position. Representatives of establishment newspapers and TV news operations are not likely to grill someone who favors U.S. military intervention somewhere — anywhere. He or she will have no burden of proof to sustain. But those who oppose a new war or call for an end to an existing one are sure to be treated like oddballs if not traitors. They’d better have an extraordinarily strong defense of their position because the burden of proof will be squarely on them; even a strong defense, however, won’t get the heat turned down.

Need I point out that a presumption in favor of war is toxic to a society that fancies itself free and humane? Continuing wars and readiness to intervene anywhere in the world costs money and, worse, lives. A war state cannot long coexist with strict limitations on government power and spending. Moreover, it impedes people without influence from prospering because military spending diverts resources from consumer investment and production to weapons and other things irrelevant to consumer welfare.

Let’s face it, empire is bloody expensive.

So why the presumption in favor of war? (The general population is split, but opinion seems driven by partisanship and therefore is subject to opportunistic shifts, Glenn Greenwald writes.) Part of the answer simply is Trump Derangement Syndrome. Trump has occasionally talked peace since his presidential campaign began, and therefore his opponents apparently feel they have to favor war. Whatever Trump wants, they want the opposite, even if it is something they once may have favored.

While he has pushed obscenely large increases in Pentagon spending — increases that dwarf Russia’s entire military budget — rattled his saber at Iran, and made aggressive moves in Russia’s direction (arms for Ukraine’s government, withdrawal from the INF treaty, sanctions, etc.), he has also made some welcome overtures toward retrenchment, most notably with North Korea, now Syria, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. (What’s the point of cutting the U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan merely in half?)

Alas, any overture toward peace has prompted most of the pundit class and most politicians to unload on Trump. He has been accused of being a traitor or Russian agent just for talking about exiting a senseless war. His decision to get out of Syria — although many times he said would get out — was described as sudden and erratic, not to mention as a payoff to Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen says Putin wants the small and uninvited U.S. force to stay in Syria as a partner in the battle against terrorism.)

Of course, we can’t be confident that Trump will follow through on Syria or other pro-peace initiatives — he can’t help equivocating — but we surely ought to be encouraging him to do so. The pundits and politicians, in contrast, apparently see their role in discouraging him by portraying him as disloyal, loopy, or both whenever he talks peace. The lethal attack on Americans in Syria the other day was immediately used to pressure Trump into changing his mind about withdrawing. It hasn’t occurred to the war class that the troops would not have been killed had they been removed.

When a news interviewer gets push-back from a guest who supports a Trump peace move, the interviewer typically switches gears: “But do you approve of how Trump is going about it?” No word on behalf of scaling back the war state is allowed go unchallenged. If a mainstream media representative can’t score a point against a proposal to get out of a war, he’ll go after the “process.” Overlooked is the fact that Barack Obama intervened in Syria in defiance of both Congress and the American public. When has that process been challenged by the intelligentsia?

Speaking of process, the media delight in going after Trump for not meekly deferring to allies and generals, apparently forgetting that the U.S. government is supposed to be run by elected civilians, with the military strictly subordinate. The pundits cheer whenever a war-mongering military officer or national security appointee publicly undercuts Trump’s declared intention to withdraw from or avoid a war.

The media also delight in impugning the sanity, character, or “loyalty” of the rare public figure who favors a Trump peace overture. Opponents of intervention are routinely smeared as sympathizers of whoever rules the country in question, as though it followed that if you don’t like a country’s ruler, you logically ought to favor obliterating his country. In this video, Glenn Greenwald reminds us that those who objected to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Libya were accused of being soft on Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

To see the presumption of war in action, watch this recent exchange (beginning at 1:12) between CNN’s Jake Tapper and Sen. Rand Paul, who has applauded Trump’s announcement about Syria.

Tapper says: “I do want to ask you one philosophical point and I don’t want you to think I’m being rude here, but I’m just wondering, in the last 20 years is there any act of U.S. intervention with military force abroad that you support?” The implication here is that unless Paul has supported at least one war, his support for an end to U.S. intervention in Syria is suspect.

I wish Paul had turned the question around and said, “Jake, let me ask you this: is there any U.S. war in the last 20 years that you opposed?”

Instead, Paul told Tapper he supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, though he was not in Congress at the time. That’s too bad of course, but to his credit, Paul reminded Tapper that subsequent interventions have no authority under the resolution passed by Congress with respect to Afghanistan. He also added that he opposed nation-building in Afghanistan: “I would have declared victory and come home long ago.” He also schooled Tapper on the fact that as long as the U.S. military is present in Muslim hands, terrorism will be a risk.

Finally, Paul pointed out that withdrawal from Syria would not reduce the U.S. government’s ability to intervene one iota because it has military forces ready to pounce everywhere.

True, but that’s part of the problem.

Advocates of peace and liberty have no nobler mission than to overturn the presumption in favor of war.

Continue Reading

Let Others Make Their Mistakes

One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do is let people make their own mistakes.

Whether you’re seeing your child about to make a mistake, or seeing other people making pointless and unnecessary mistakes, it’s hard to watch without stepping in.

It’s even harder when you know those mistakes will hurt you or other innocent people who had no part in making the mistake. In such cases, warning people they are making a mistake is self-defense.

Most people will ignore your warning. It’s frustrating when simple solutions are rejected and the mistakes are treated as the reasonable course.

“This is how we’ve always done it” is a common excuse for doing the wrong thing.

When that happens, brace for impact. It’s going to hurt — unless you find a way to protect yourself. No one is obligated to let other people’s mistakes hurt us.

Except, apparently, when you are talking about government. The way government is structured means you are legally required to suffer the mistakes of others.

How can anyone believe this is right?

It is said people always get the government they deserve. The trouble is, the government the worst people “deserve” gets imposed on the rest of us. This is like saying some people commit murder, so it’s OK to sentence everyone to life in prison. Or to death.

If I see you jumping off a cliff and can’t reason you out of your foolish death-plunge, who believes I’m obligated to jump with you? In any realm, other than politics, no one would expect you to willingly leap to your death just because someone else does so.

People are attached to their political mistakes. They keep making the same ones over and over, for decades; often making the same mistakes their entire lives. Those of us who prefer another path are made to suffer along with those who don’t want to believe they are making mistakes.

It can be frustrating, but like the weather, it’s beyond your control. The best you may be able to do is ride out the storm in as much comfort as possible.

Notice the mistakes others are making, don’t copy them, and find ways to protect yourself — or profit if possible. If you can find ways to profit from their mistakes, after you’ve warned them they are making a mistake and they refuse to change, why shouldn’t you?

You’re not profiting from the suffering of others, you’re honoring their choice.

Continue Reading

A Tip of the Hat to the Forgotten Defenders of 1939-40

You probably don’t know about the 9-hour German invasion of Denmark on April 9th, 1940.

But like all historical events, this little “blip” on the radar of history involved real men and women. They were people, too, just like our own grandfathers and great-grandfathers who experienced the life-defining challenge and tragedy of this time in human history.

I learned about these forgotten defenders from the 2015 movie, April 9th, 1940, which is one of the finest movies I’ve seen World War II from a non-US perspective. It follows a bicycle-mounted unit of Danish soldiers through the drama of the long day of the German invasion.

With limited ammunition, manual-action rifles, and bicycles, these Danish defenders still managed a decent job of defending their home country against overwhelming odds. Were it not for those odds, the thorough blitzkreig of the German attack strategy, and the rapid surrender of the Danish government (cut them some slack – Denmark is a small and not-very-defensible country), they likely would have put up a much longer fight.

If you’re a bicyclist, you have to give them props: you try pedaling for your life – and your mates’ lives – cross-country with a machine gun strapped to your frame.

Beyond just Denmark, many of the doomed soldiers of the doomed “little” countries invaded in 1939-40 deserve credit they don’t often get. Most Americans know the American history of World War II, and perhaps some of the British story. They probably don’t know about the countries which fought Nazi Germany and/or the Soviet Union with very little certainty that they stood a chance . A good number of them escaped and fought another day.

The Poles fought a two-front defense against the joint German and Soviet invasion in 1939 and continued to participate in the fight against Germany throughout the war (see a great tribute to the Poles in The Unconquered)

The French bought time for the British to escape at Dunkirk by resisting famed German general Erwin Rommel at the siege of Lille.

The Norwegians socked it to the German warship Blucher and resisted for two months – as Wikipedia notes, the longest resistance of any invaded nation to that time.

War is an evil, but it takes some virtue to put up resistance to tyranny. So there is some virtue to remembering the people who resisted Germany on April 9th, 1940, and on all of the ill-fated defensive fronts of 1939-40.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

Continue Reading