My recent post (In Case You've Forgotten) demanded defeating and utterly discrediting Islamofascism, ending with
The questions of how far we go to defeat them, and with which of our own ideals we will temporarily part to do so, I leave to another day.I suppose it is a bit of an open question whether we need to temporarily set aside any of our ideals. Things temporarily set aside have a way of becoming lost, of course.
But in an odd twist on the ad hominem buteo gallus argument, what sacrifice will those of us not on the front lines make to preserve our own liberties? Who will demand, despite all reason and human history, both freedom and peace without the sacrifice of blood in their pursuit?
Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein wrote "You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. But don't ever count on having both at once." Conversely, as Franklin is quoted, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety". But how do we decide whether a liberty is essential or the safety temporary? In an age in which transnational jihadists and hyperthyroidal governments may use instant global telecommunications and the infrastructure of civilization against one another and us, how can we know whether the freedom we seek from the latter will compromise the peace we desire from the former?
In short, how far will we go to defeat Islamofascism?
Many say that there is no peace without freedom and justice, that an occupied or enslaved people is not at peace. But Heinlein and I use "peace" in its classical meaning, as the absence of war. A conquered people is at peace, having surrendered their essential liberties to an invader. And it is this conquered peace which the Islamofascists desire -- over us.
In I Know My Rights, we saw that there are many kinds of rights, but those rights are at once layers of protection for and mere shadows of more fundamental ideals. For instance, the right to travel, assemble, and speak are both practical requirements needed to ensure our ability to control our own governance and a necessary consequence of the ideal of personal sovereignty: we own ourselves. No person should own another, and if a group can control where a person comes and goes or says when he gets there, the group would have effective ownership of the individual.
I do not mean to imply that the rights of travel, assembly or speech are limited solely to issues of sovereignty, nor that sovereignty can be maintained by their exercise alone. Ideals are in the end dependent on the maintenance and defense of all rights. American ideals include
- Personal Sovereignty - we own ourselves, and not each other
- The Golden Rule - Treat others as you would have them treat you
- Nondescrimination - neither the government, nor increasingly an individual, should discriminate between individuals based on their group membership
- Majority rule - this one smacks the other ideals around
- The Rule of Law
- Honor in War
- There are many others, but I have to move on.
We find the use of nuclear weapons repugnant, because it violates our ideal of Honor in War -- civilians should be excluded from military threat. Yet we know that the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to the end of the Second World War in the Pacific. It was an example of a terrible cost to be paid, stepping back from pursuit of some of our ideals in order to defeat a threat to all of them.
Similarly, if a child has been abducted or a bomb threat issued, we either grudgingly or willingly consent to a search of our vehicle, home, or person. Some might stand on principle and refuse to be searched without reading a bench warrant, and to them my only comment would be "consistent fool". Yet at some point the Amber Alerts and Terror Threat Levels may elicit the measured response to the baying of an imaginary wolf.
Ideals are as much or more a part of culture as art, language, or religion. Americans, for instance, have an innate cultural insistence on freedom generally and to our cherished liberties specifically. In fact, I would go so far as to define culture as a shared set of ideals. I don't think it's trading too much in ambiguity to say then that if a culture is a group with shared ideals, preserving the culture will necessitate preserving the ideals.
While charges of theocracy and dictatorship abound, the real and perhaps more ominous trend in the last several decades is toward populism and rule by opinion poll - the tyranny of the majority. It is therefore counterintuitive that our elected officials would take a break from their prostrated supplication to refuse pursuit of cultural ideals held by even the slimmest majority. And if an ideal is not held by the majority, is it our ideal?
So there is a line to draw somewhere between the situation on one hand in which we are sure the threat is real enough and the rights we are surrendering will come back to us, and on the other that the threat is too ephemeral to fear and the rights to fragile to lose. Heinlein's peace and Franklin's security require the citizen to be vigilant against his own government, but just as mindful of the threat posed by outsiders. There is in the end no magic formula for deciding when liberty should be ceded, except that we do it only when we must, and as little as we can. Let the soldier not doubt that he is defending a free country.
But that free country has enemies, and those enemies need to be treated as such. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that those who do not share our ideals mean us no harm. They do mean us harm, and when we find measures to defeat them which impinge only theoretically on our liberty, we should ignore the theory and destroy the enemy.
When conditions return to their natural order, we may then stand on our shared ideals and demand either our liberty, or the head of him who dares violate it.
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