Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Do Our Freedoms Make Us Weak, Or Do Our Freedoms Make Us Strong?"

One of the best comments posted at Glenn Greenwald's site is the following challenge to Bush supporters: "Do our freedoms make us weak, or do our freedoms make us strong?"

It is an excellent challenge to pose to people who forever treat our freedoms as a source of weakness. Obviously, there is only one politically correct answer; our freedoms make us strong. But it is not sufficient to be politically correct; to prevail one must also be factually correct. Supporters of the "unitary executive" have their reasons why our freedoms make us weak:

* The warrant requirement keeps us from wiretapping possible enemies;
* We lose valuable information because we can't torture it out of suspects;
* The press reveals important secrets to our enemies;
* Debate and dissent give our enemies and impression of weakness;
* Laws tie our President's hands and keep him from doing what has to be done.

Such are the arguments for why freedom makes us weak. The best factual argument that freedom makes us strong is to compare us to un-free societies such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or, for that matter, the former Soviet Union. Consider, then, the following ways freedom makes us strong.

Un-free governments have to use much of their armies' strength to curb popular unrest at home. We do not need to use any military force to curb domestic unrest.

Un-free governments often need much of their armies' strength to guard their borders against hostile neighbors. We do not need to use any military force to guard our borders.

Rulers of un-free governments live in fear of military coups or mutinies. They therefore dare not allow the armies that keep them in power to be too well equipped or trained, and they have to choose military officers based on loyalty rather than ability. Our military poses no danger of coup or mutiny, so we can make it as high-quality as possible and promote officers based on ability.

Un-free governments have great numbers of angry and dissafected people who serve as potential recruits for revolutionary movements. We have almost insignicant numbers of would-be revolutionaries. (Keep in mind one reason the 9-11 hijackers went unnoticed was that they were 19 people out of a population of 300,000,000. And not one of them was an American).

In un-free countries, disagreements take place in secret and often lead to political murder. Our disagreements take place openly and lead to nothing worse than lost elections.

As for the complaints of so many Bush supporters:

Un-free governments do so much domestic spying they overload themselves with useless information. Our warrant requirements limit surveillance to real threats.

Un-free governments learn a great deal from torture, much of which is not true. By refraining from torture, we miss a little truth and much falsehood.

Un-free governments, by controlling the media and punishing anyone who deviates from the party line, develop severe reality deficits. Our free press makes it much harder to ignore reality (although George Bush has made heroic attempts).

In un-free countries, open displays of dissent are considered dangerous because they mean the people are losing fear of their government. Among us, open displays of dissent pose no danger because the government does not fear the people.

When un-free societies have rulers unrestrained by law, their rulers invariably abuse their power to their own private advantage instead of the public good. We have abuses of power, too, but they do not go so far.

And finally, un-free societies do not have a good mechanism for getting rid of rulers who bring ruin. We do.

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