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RE: <nettime> Homeland Security: The Untold Story
Kermit Snelson on Wed, 3 Oct 2001 09:20:34 +0200 (CEST)


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RE: <nettime> Homeland Security: The Untold Story


> the hart-rudman report has been getting a lot of play recently, but i have
> to admit it strikes me as just a little bit strange watching liberals and
> progressives deploy it.

As the US re-examines its national security policy, it is certainly of vital
importance that liberals and progressives be vigilant and vocal about
potential flaws in the Hart-Rudman proposals.  Any effort to improve the
government's ability to attract qualified employees, for example, should
certainly not be at the expense of safeguards against conflicts of interest
and, even more importantly, of the constitutional separation of powers.

Equally important, however, is that liberals and progressives understand the
big picture.  These proposals were not made in a vacuum, but rather within
the context of a ongoing power struggle within the US conservative
establishment based on competing visions of US military doctrine,
civil-military relations and ultimately basic principles of political
theory.  Aspects of this battle have recently been highly visible in the
press as a result of the current crisis, for example William Kristol's
September 25 op-ed "Bush vs. Powell" in the Washington Post. [1] They were
also visible during Bush's electoral campaign last year, an astonishing
example being arch-conservative Lawrence F. Kaplan's article "Guess who
Hates America? Conservatives." in The New Republic. [2] As Ronald Reagan
once said about his own administration, "The right hand doesn't know what
the far right hand is doing."

Kaplan states the basic issue in this conflict very well, but I'll venture a
concise summary.  Should society be based on freedom or virtue?  Democracy
or authority?  Creativity or tradition?  Liberty or security?  For those who
have read Thucydides, are we Athens or Sparta?  Of course, any society must
find a balance within these sets of oppositions, but its fundamental nature
reflects the end of the scale to which it has chosen to aspire, or at least
thinks to be primary.  Conservatives like Kaplan (like most liberals and
progressives, I'd expect) aspire to freedom, democracy, creativity and
liberty.  Others, whom I'll let Kaplan name, cherish virtue, authority,
tradition and security.  In other words, the garrison culture of Sparta.
Both sides agree that fighting for a Spartan world-view in America is an
uphill battle, and it's no accident that some of these modern Spartans have
identified themselves on many levels with the "Lost Cause" of the
Confederacy.  But they continue that struggle to this day, even as a new war
is at hand.

To the conservatives who are struggling against these "false prophets in our
midst," as Kaplan calls them, I think liberals and progressives owe their
help, especially since these conservatives are now guiding the defense of
our country.  And true help will include an insight that even these
conservatives do not grasp, which is that Kaplan's own view of US military
power hardly differs from the "false prophet" premise that the only possible
purpose of the military is war.  Since its founding in 1947, the US
Department of Defense has focused not, in fact, on national defense, but on
imposing a global Pax Americana.  The tragic result is a bloody legacy of
mass murder and mayhem that has finally reached our own shores.  However,
those charged by Congress with the first-ever re-examination of this mission
have recommended that US military doctrine rather focus primarily on
defending American lives, territory, infrastructure, and freedoms.  How?
Largely by strengthening and coordinating exactly what we've all seen work
so heroically and well in NYC:  Fire departments.  Police.  Hospitals.
Emergency medical response teams.  Public health professionals.  Civil
engineering.  Isn't this new development something that liberals and
progressives should encourage, especially by constructively participating in
the debate?

Links:

[1] Kristol:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19878-2001Sep24.html
[2] Kaplan:  http://www.thenewrepublic.com/062600/kaplan062600.html

Kermit Snelson

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