Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2003 / 8 Adar I 5763
I'm looking at a full page advertisement in Sunday's NY Times by the celebrated counter-culture author Wendell Berry called "A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America." The strategy is known as the Bush Doctrine, and was adopted in September of last year (it is available on the White House website). In my view, this is the most important strategy statement made by our government since the Truman Doctrine of 1947. Its salient features are a recognition that the nation's present war crisis is caused by the fact that we have arrived at a historical crossroads where radical ideologies and modern technologies of mass destruction meet, and that this requires us to 1) maintain a military supremacy that cannot be challenged; 2) pre-empt terrorist revolutionaries both fascist and Communist like Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, who will strike us without warning; and 3) reserve the right to act unilaterally in our self-defense, i.e., be the masters of our political fate.
The first thing that struck me about the Berry ad is how rich the querulous left has become -- the same left which pretends to be the voice of the powerless and the poor. A full-page ad in the NY Times costs close to $100,000. I have personally seen half a dozen of these since 9/11, which attack corporate America and the American government and find ways to sympathize with our nation's enemies. (Cheap, second-hand Marxism seems to be the only paradigm available to leftist critics of the President and the war.) Since the Times and the mass media generally have been critical of the President's war policy, and the allegedly "unilateralist" nature of official United States policy, one has to conclude that these leftists with their deep pockets are so radical and so unhappy with the loyal critics of the war, that they are willing to squander prodigious amounts of cash to gain a platform for their extreme screeds.
Like his political peers, Wendell Berry is wildly unhappy with American democracy and with the American people because they have ratified through two congresses, presidential requests to go to war with Iraq (I am speaking here of the Clinton request for war powers in 1998 and the Bush request last year). Of course he does not say this in so many words. Like his peers Berry ignores these ratifications and pretends instead to speak in behalf of the allegedly silent people, and in the fatuous phrase favored by radicals "speak truth to power," as though the power in this country were illegitimate and did not flow from the people themselves.
Radicals with this perspective are what I call the "secessionists" over the war. They want to make a separate peace as though the terrorists have not condemned all Americans regardless of race, gender, age or political viewpoint for that matter. They want to disown the courageous acts of their own government in defending the world's peoples against tyrants like Saddam Hussein. They have a loathing -- which is really a self-loathing -- for their own country. In the end, their secessionism is really a form of anti-Americanism, because they are self-declared revolutionaries against the America we all inhabit, and therefore share an agenda with our enemies, which is the destruction of the American system as we know it.
Now to Berry's complaint. Berry singles out the following passage from the Bush strategy paper as "its central and most significant statement."
"While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively against such terrorists..."
A reader of these words who does not harbor intense feelings of hostility towards the United States cannot fail to be impressed by their reasonableness. "While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community," we will defend ourselves against attack, even if it means not waiting for terrorists who have declared their intention to do us harm to actually carry out those intentions.
Berry, on the other hand, cannot contain his outrage. "A democratic citizen must deal here first of all with the question, Who is this 'we,'? It is not the 'we' of the Declaration of Independence, which referred to a small group of signatories bound by the conviction that 'governments [derive] their just power from the consent of the governed. And it is not the 'we' of the Constitution, which refers to 'the people [my emphasis -- WB] of the United States.' This 'we' of the new strategy can refer only to the President. It is a royal 'we.'" A dictator's "we." This is because under the strategy the President "will need to justify his intention by secret information," and will have to "execute his plan without forewarning." This leads Berry to conclude: "The idea of a government acting alone in pre-emptive war is inherently undemocratic, for it does not require or even permit the President to obtain the consent of the governed."
Forget the impracticality of submitting complex geopolitical decisions based on sensitive intelligence reports (which dreamers like Berry of course can't be bothered with.) The President already has that consent through two votes of Congress. Berry doesn't seem to understand the most basic fact about our constitutional democracy -- that it is a representative democracy -- it doesn't require Wendell Berry's direct consent or a referendum of the population before the President acts in our defense. Indeed, the Constitution gave the war-making powers to the Senate, in those days an un-elected body. Could the founders have known something about democratic passions that Berry doesn't? Perhaps Berry regards Sean Penn's walk-on role as a weapons inspector in Iraq as the vox populi in action.
I will not bore readers with Berry's descent into communist bathos, with his argument -- familiar from bilious screeds of Noam Chomsky and Edward Said -- that there is really no difference between the terrorist acts of terrorists and the military acts of the United States. ("The National Security Stategy wishes to cause 'terrorism' to be seen 'in the same light as slavery, piracy or genocide' -- but not in the same light as war. It accepts and affirms of the legitimacy of war." Well of course. And what's the alternative except surrender?
Berry takes strong exception to the Bush Doctrine's declaration of indpendence from the rule of the world's tyrannies, slavocracies and kleptocracies through international instrumentalities like the UN and the World Court. The Bush Doctrine: "We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court [i.e, the court that would prosecute a Pinochet but not a Castro -- DH] whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept."
Berry: "The rule of law in the world, then, is to be upheld by a nation that has declared itself to be above the law. A childish hypocrisy here assumes the dignity of a nation's foreign policy."
Here we have the problem defined. Delusional radicals like Berry would like to place the security and freedom of Americans in the hands of international bodies that make a slave state like Libya, the chair of its human rights commission; in the midst of a war in which their country is under siege, they seek to taint it as an outlaw state rather than to defend it as the beacon of freedom it so obviously is. Their hatred of America and ultimately themselves is that intense. The rest of us have a charge to keep and a debt to pay to those who died for our freedom in many wars before this one. We must reaffirm our birthright and acknowledge the great bounties we enjoy as Americans by defending this country not only on its military battlefields, but here at home on the cultural war front, where a hostile movement of the political left seeks to sap its confidence and destroy its remarkable achievements by attacking it from within.
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JWR contributor David Horowitz is editor of
Front Page Magazine and the author of several books, including,
The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits,
Hating Whitey, Art of Political War, Radical Son : A Generational Odyssey . To comment, please click here.
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