Mike Gemmell is the founder and president of Restore Our American Republic (ROAR). Prior to founding ROAR, he was a geologist specializing in groundwater resource development, a technical writer, and a freelance writer addressing environmental and other cultural issues. For more information on his professional background please see: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelmgemmell.
Following the brief discussion below concerning free speech is the main essay for this issue of “The Week in Review.” The Roots of War discusses the ideas presented in Ayn Rand’s seminal essay and why they are relevant in today’s world more than ever. – Mike Gemmell December 9, 2016.
An incisive article by Steve Simpson, “Free Speech is a Right, Not a Weapon,” (http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/308870-free-speech-is-a-right-not-a-political-weapon) discusses recent articles highlighting the media’s concern of President-elect Trump’s apparent disdain for free speech. Simpson notes Trump’s criticism of the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN among other negative statements about the press, and points out that Trump does not appear to regard free speech as a right to protect speakers regardless of their views.
Thankfully, Simpson does not stop his analysis with Trump but also reviews the statements of a number of prominent politicians from both sides of the political aisle including Hillary Clinton’s attempt to stop distribution of a documentary film critical of her, John McCain’s statements concerning negative political advertisements, the Obama administration’s attacks on Fox News, and perhaps the most ominous case of all the Federal Communication Commission and its investigations of news broadcasters to determine if their coverage was “biased.”
Free speech is one of the cornerstones of liberty, and if we lose sight of that fact the effort to restore the republic in the U.S. will be in deep trouble. For that reason, I urge those concerned with the future of the U.S. to read Simpson’s article as well as those of any others on the subject of free speech that might come their way.
The Roots of War
A rational foreign policy is something we have not had in the U.S. since the end of World War II. And the last eight years of what has passed for foreign policy of the Obama administration have been an unmitigated disaster causing much death and political instability around the world. (For details on Obama’s foreign policy, please see the section: Obama’s Plan To Destroy America, of my essay, “A Time for Action: Syrian Refugees Flood the U.S.” (https://restoreour.wpengine.com/time-for-action-syrian-refugees/) It is time to examine why our foreign policy has gone off the rails and what needs to be done to bring it back into the realm of the rational.
The novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand consistently analyzed cultural issues, including defense and foreign policy issues, in terms of broad, fundamental principles. One of her best essays on defense and foreign policy was “The Roots of War,” first published in 1966 (https://fee.org/articles/the-roots-of-war/). In that essay she stated:
“Statism is a system of institutionalized violence and perpetual civil war. It leaves men no choice but to fight to seize political power — to rob or be robbed, to kill or be killed. . . . There can be no peace within an enslaved nation.”
If we look at the history of countries such as Nazi Germany, France under Napoleon, the Roman empire, the Soviet Union, and the Islamic totalitarianism of Iran we can see the truth of this statement. But what does this have to do with the United States, a relatively free country? Rand’s answer to that is the following:
“In a full dictatorship, statism’s chronic “cold” civil war takes the form of bloody purges, when one gang deposes another — as in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. In a mixed economy, it takes the form of pressure-group warfare, each group fighting for legislation to extort its own advantages by force from all other groups.”
Rand’s description of pressure groups fighting for legislation sounds very much like the U.S.’s political landscape of today. In the U.S. the growth of statism has crippled our foundation of individualism via reference to the “public interest.” The roots of this gradual growth of statism and displacement of our individualist roots goes back to the beginning days of the U.S. (https://restoreour.wpengine.com/lead-essay-part-1/)
John David Lewis summarizes how this thinking infects America’s current approach to defense and foreign policy:
“To fight for our own benefit—to elevate our lives over those of our enemies—is almost universally condemned today as selfish and thus “immoral.” . . . Even restrained, limited military action is wrong, if taken for our own benefit. In this view, a strong power is good only when it recognizes the moral claims of those in need—even enemies and their supporters. . . Again, their freedom must be our goal—their prosperity must be our mission—if we wish to be ‘good.’”
We can see the crippling effect of this moral viewpoint by comparing the actions of the U.S with Japan during World War II vs. how the U.S. has conducted the “War on Terror” since the attack of 9/11. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was inspired by the militaristic religious-political ideology of Shintoism. However, due to the full commitment of the U.S. government and its people, less than four years after that attack the Japanese surrendered unconditionally. Since the end of World War II, Japan has been a free, economically productive nation, and friendly to America. America did not ask them to renounce their militaristic ideology but rather forced them to renounce it as evidenced by the article 9 insertion into their constitution:
“[T]he Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation. . . . The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
In the war with Japan, the U.S. asserted itself, i.e., its self-interest and said in effect that militaristic aggression is morally wrong when fueled by religious ideology or otherwise.
Contrast the approach of the U.S. in the war with Japan with America’s actions in “The War on Terror.” In this case, even though the religious ideology of Islam was known to be the source of inspiration to the terrorists who destroyed the Twin Towers, President Bush’s speech following the attack said nothing of that ideology but defined victory for the U.S. as creating democracy in the nations that attacked us. As further evidence of his lack of understanding of the role that Islamic ideology had played in the attack, two months after 9/11 he invited Islamic leaders to the White House for a prayer meeting as an attempt to show that the U.S. did not hold Islamic doctrine as a factor in the 9/11 attack. The wars that subsequently ensued in Afghanistan and Iraq were established with rules of engagement that used “proportional force” and required our soldiers to be put in mortal danger to protect enemy civilians, even though those civilians were often aiding and abetting enemy fighters.
The results from this approach have been abysmal. After more than a decade of troops on the ground in Afghanistan the country continues to be a hotbed of insurgency with no end in sight for the commitment of U.S. troops there, and according to the chief of America’s National Counterterrorism Center the world 15 years after 9/11 faces more threats in more places and against more individuals than at any time since Islamic jihadists commandeered four jets and flew them into the Twin Towers. (http://www.wnd.com/2016/10/counter-terrorism-expert-obama-failed-to-reduce-threat/)
Summary and Conclusions
The War on Terror should have been named the war against Islamic totalitarianism. The fact that it has not been, in addition to the fact that victory has not been defined as the unconditional defeat of Islamic totalitarianism, is a reflection of the moral uncertainty of U.S. leaders toward the U.S.’s assertion of its own self-interest. The rejection of self-interest and the embracing of a morality of self-sacrifice has crippled America’s response to the growing threat of Islamic totalitarianism. Islamic totalitarianism is the merging of statist power with religious belief, and it must be identified and treated as a threat to civilization just as the militaristic doctrine of Shintoism was when Japan was defeated at the end of World War II. What happens strategically and tactically necessarily comes after the totalitarian ideology is categorically rejected in moral/philosophical terms. In other words, the battle is first and foremost philosophical and ideological. Strategy and tactics are vitally important, but secondary to challenging and defeating the enemy’s inspiration, i.e., its ideology. To be successful in fighting the war against Islamic totalitarianism and thereby securing America’s safety, the incoming Trump administration will need to understand the role of ideology something previous administrations have not.
For more information on this subject I highly recommend the works of John David Lewis especially his speech “The Jihad Against the West,” delivered at the Ayn Rand Institute conference on Oct 21, 2006, Boston, MA, his book Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, 2010, and the essays of Sebastian Gorka (http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/264989/sebastian-gorka-how-we-defeat-global-jihad-frontpagemagcom). – Mike Gemmell