Terrorism and the New American Republic

Terrorism and the New American Republic

In 1786, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with Arab diplomats from Tunis, who were conducting terror raids and piracy against American ships.

History records them as the Barbary Pirates. In fact, they were blackmailing terrorists, hiding behind a self-serving interpretation of their Islamic faith by embracing select tracts and ignoring others. Borrowing from the Christian Crusades of centuries past, they used history as a mandate for doing the western world one better. The quisling European powers had been buying them off for years.

On March 28, 1786 Jefferson and Adams detailed what they saw as the main issue:

“We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretensions to make war upon a Nation who had done them no Injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our Friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Thomas Jefferson wanted a military solution, but decades of blackmailing the American Republic and enslaving its citizens would continue until the new American nation realized that the only answer to terrorism was force.

“There’s a temptation to view all of our problems as unprecedented and all of our threats as new and novel,” says George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. Shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, Turley advised some members of Congress who were considering a formal declaration of war against the suspected perpetrators. He invoked the precedent of the Barbary pirates, saying America had every right to attack and destroy the terrorist leadership without declaring war.

“Congress did not actually declare war on the pirates,” Turley wrote in a memo, “but ‘authorized’ the use of force against the regencies after our bribes and ransoms were having no effect. This may have been due to an appreciation that a declaration of war on such petty tyrants would have elevated their status. Accordingly, they were treated as pirates and, after a disgraceful period of accommodation, we hunted them down as pirates.”

Because of their outlaw conduct, pirates — and modern-day terrorists — put themselves outside protection of the law, according to military strategy expert Dave McIntyre, a former dean at the National War College. “On the high seas if you saw a pirate, you sank the bastard,” he says. “You assault pirates, you don’t arrest pirates.”

Shoot first, ask questions later. Wanted: Dead or alive. Such is our official policy regarding Osama bin Laden, the most infamous outlaw of the era.

One of the enduring lessons of the Barbary campaigns was to never give in to outlaws, whether you call them pirates or terrorists. In the late 1700s, America paid significant blackmail for peace — shelling out $990,000 to the Algerians alone at a time when national revenues totaled just $7 million.

“Too many concessions have been made to Algiers,” U.S. consul William Eaton wrote to the Secretary of State in 1799. “There is but one language which can be held to these people, and this is terror.”

Michael G. Leventhal
Editor & Publisher DOJgov.net

Advertisements

>>> The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund <<<

CHECK OUT THE NEW

INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND

and the AMERICAN LIBERTY QUOTES

LINK

AT THE VERY TOP OF THE PAGE

 

The Recovery of the Constitution

Overview

Statesmanship, for Franklin D. Roosevelt, entailed the “redefinition” of “rights in terms of a changing and growing social order.” Fulfilling the promise of Progressivism, President Roosevelt’s New Deal gave rise to unlimited government. In contrast to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his ideological successors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan sought the restoration of limited government. Today, our choice is clear: Will we live by the principles of the American Founding, or by the values of the Progressives?

Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his campaign for the presidency in 1932 by emphasizing the Progressive understanding of history and by calling for the “redefinition” of the old idea of rights. His “New Deal,” a series of economic programs ostensibly aimed at extricating America from the Great Depression, vastly enlarged the size and scope of the federal government. Unelected bureaucratic agencies—“the administrative state”—became a fact of American life.

Roosevelt’s call for a “Second Bill of Rights” sought to add “security” to the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Describing the “old rights” of life and liberty as “inadequate” without underlying economic security, Roosevelt called for new economic rights for all, including the right to a job, a home, a fair wage, education, and medical care. With these rights guaranteed, Roosevelt argued, real political equality finally could be achieved.

Following President Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” and Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” continued the transformation of the relationship between the American people and their government. President Johnson redefined the government’s role by redefining equality itself: equality must be a “result” rather than a “right.” Expanded federal control over education, transportation, welfare, and medical care soon followed.

Announcing that “with the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Ronald Reagan appealed to the principles of the American Founding in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Maintaining that Progressivism and the consent of the governed are incompatible, Reagan called for a return to individual self-rule and national self-government.

 

The Progressive Rejection of the Founding

Overview

Progressivism is the belief that America needs to move or “progress” beyond the principles of the American Founding. Organized politically more than a hundred years ago, Progressivism insists upon flexibility in political forms unbound by fixed and universal principles. Progressives hold that human nature is malleable and that society is perfectible. Affirming the inexorable, positive march of history, Progressives see the need for unelected experts who would supervise a vast administration of government.

Progressivism is rooted in the philosophy of European thinkers, most notably the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. Progressivism takes its name from a faith in “historical progress.” According to the leading lights of Progressivism, including Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Dewey, human nature has evolved beyond the limitations that the Founders identified. Far from fearing man’s capacity for evil, Progressives held that properly enlightened human beings could be entrusted with power and not abuse it.

The Progressive idea of historical progress is tied to the idea of historical contingency, which means that each period of history is guided by different and unique values that change over time. The “self-evident truths” that the Founders upheld in the Declaration of Independence, including natural rights, are no longer applicable. Circumstances, not eternal principles, ultimately dictate justice.

If human nature is improving, and fixed principles do not exist, government must be updated according to the new reality. The Constitution’s arrangement of government, based upon the separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism, only impeded effective government, according to Progressives. The limited government of the Founding is rejected in favor of a “living Constitution.”

 

Abraham Lincoln and the Constitution

Overview

Abraham Lincoln’s fidelity to the Declaration of Independence is equally a fidelity to the Constitution. The Constitution takes its moral life from the principles of liberty and equality, and was created to serve those principles. We are divided as a nation today, as in Lincoln’s time, because we have severed the connection between these two documents.

Lincoln’s “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union” contains the central theme of Lincoln’s life and work. Drawing upon biblical language, Lincoln describes the Declaration of Independence as an “apple of gold,” and the Constitution as the “frame of silver” around it. We cannot consider the Constitution independently of the purpose which it was designed to serve.

The Constitution acts to guard the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. As the embodiment of the Declaration’s principles, the Constitution created a frame of government with a clear objective. The Constitution is not a collection of compromises, or an empty vessel whose meaning can be redefined to meet the needs of the time; it is the embodiment of an eternal, immutable truth.

Abraham Lincoln defended the Union and sought to defeat the Confederate insurrection because he held that the principles of the Declaration and Constitution were inviolable. In his speeches and in his statecraft, Lincoln wished to demonstrate that self-government is not doomed to either be so strong that it overwhelms the rights of the people or so weak that it is incapable of surviving.

 

Crisis of Constitutional Government

Overview

At the heart of the American constitutional crisis of the mid-nineteenth century stood the moral, social, and political evil of slavery. At stake in this crisis was the future of republican self-government.

Abraham Lincoln saw the dilemma facing the nation as the “crisis of a house divided.” While the American Founders worked to put slavery, as Lincoln said, “on the course of ultimate extinction,” the institution had instead flourished in the first half of the nineteenth century. By the 1850s, efforts to expand slavery threatened to tear the nation apart.

Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas championed the idea that Americans living in the territories should choose whether or not slavery should be legal there. “Popular sovereignty” eventually became the law of the land with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

For Lincoln, “popular sovereignty” was an abandonment of moral principle. Man does not have a moral right to choose a moral wrong. Self-government cannot mean ruling other human beings without their consent. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, although disguised in the language of liberty and self-government, was in fact at odds with the core principles of the American regime.

The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision marked a further departure from the principles of the American Founding. Writing for the majority in 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney declared that the Founders never intended for the principles of natural right enunciated in the Declaration to apply to blacks—whether enslaved or emancipated. Furthermore, Congress had no right to ban slavery in the territories. For Lincoln and the opponents of slavery, this decision was not only constitutionally and historically wrong, but it also further enabled the legal expansion of slavery nationwide.

Lincoln and Douglas debated both popular sovereignty and the Dred Scott decision in their Illinois Senate race of 1858. Douglas maintained that self-government and slavery were compatible and mutually beneficial in certain climates, and it was up to the majority of citizens to determine whether or not the conditions prevailing in their territory or state made slavery useful. Lincoln countered that republicanism and slavery could never exist in harmony, and that self-government could never be compatible with the denial of consent. America, he held, could not long exist half slave and half free; it must become one or the other.

 

Religion, Morality, and Property

Overview

The institutional separation of church and state—a revolutionary accomplishment of the American Founders—does not entail the separation of religion and politics. On the contrary, as the Northwest Ordinance states, “religion, morality and knowledge” are “necessary to good government.”

For America’s Founders, reason and revelation properly understood are complementary. “Almighty God hath created the mind free,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Human beings are fallible, yet despite this fact, they are capable of self-government.

With careful cultivation of one’s soul, attention to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” and the uplifting assistance of family, church, and the local community, an individual is able to tame base passions and live worthy of the blessings of liberty. Virtue is vital to good government.

Among the greatest of blessings—and the most important of rights—is religious liberty. Rejecting the low standard of mere “toleration” that existed elsewhere, the Founders enshrined liberty of conscience as a matter of right. It is immoral, they held, for any government to coerce religious belief. Yet they also argued that it is advisable for governments to recognize their reliance upon “Divine Providence,” and to provide for the support and encouragement of religion.

The government of the United States (or any of the fifty states) is not a church, and the church is not a governmental entity. This institutional separation, a clear statement of which is in the First Amendment, is a boon to both religion and politics, for instead of tying man’s religious fate to the future of the state, the establishment of religious liberty frees up religion so that it might flourish. This important point is missed by the Supreme Court’s misinterpretation, repeated numerous times since 1947, of Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor.

 

Separation of Powers: Ensuring Good Government

Overview

The separation of powers helps to ensure good government at the same time it guards against tyranny. Independent in function but coordinated in the pursuit of justice, the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—must each have enough power to resist the encroachment of the others, and yet not so much that the liberty of the people is lost.

A political regime has three dimensions: the ruling institutions, the rulers, and the way of life of the people. In America, the rulers—the people themselves—and their ruling institutions—staffed by the people’s representatives—aim at securing the Creator-endowed natural rights of all citizens. The Framers did this in two ways. “Vertically” considered, our ruling institutions are defined by federalism, or the division of power between the national, state, and local governments. “Horizontally” considered, the ruling institutions of the federal government itself are separated and co-equal.

In the American regime, the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.” No one branch is superior to it; all three branches have a duty to abide by it. While each of the three branches plays a unique role in the passage, execution, and interpretation of laws, all of the branches must work together in the governing process.

The legislative branch is closest to the people. It is also the branch in which the danger of majority tyranny lurks. The passions of the people are reflected most in the House of Representatives, where the members are elected for terms of two years. The Senate, with its six year terms, was designed to be a more stable legislative presence than the House.

The defining characteristic of the executive is “energy.” The president can act swiftly and decisively to deal with foreign threats and to enforce the law, and can also provide a check on legislative tyranny through the veto.

Members of the judiciary, the third branch of government, must exercise judgment in particular cases to secure individual rights. Through “judicial review,” the judiciary is given the authority to strike down laws that are contrary to the Constitution. But judicial review is not judicial supremacy; even the Supreme Court must rely upon the other branches once it has rendered judgment.

The checks that each branch can exercise against the encroachment of the others ultimately protect the liberties of the people. The separation of powers promotes justice and good government by having each branch perform its proper function. This institutional design allows the sovereign people to observe and to know which branch is responsible for which actions in order to hold each to account. The sense of mutual responsibility built into the separation of powers is a reflection of the moral and civic responsibility all Americans share.

 

Separation of Powers: Preventing Tyranny

Overview

Separation of powers is the central structural feature of the United States Constitution. The division of power among the three branches—legislative, executive, and judicial—is necessitated because human beings are imperfect. The imperfection of human nature means that well-structured government is necessary, though not sufficient, to prevent tyranny.

The United States Constitution is structurally designed in part to prevent tyranny. Separation of powers is the means by which power is divided and its accumulation in the hands of any single entity denied.

During the 1780s, most states had constitutions that formally divided the government’s power, yet in practice the legislatures dominated. The state constitutions required separation of powers in theory, but failed to deliver it in reality. As a result, the constitutions were little more than what Publius called “parchment barriers.”

In order for separation of powers to work, each branch of government must have the “constitutional means” to resist the encroachment of the other branches. This is what today we call “checks and balances.”

In addition to institutional checks and balances, there exist also the “personal motives” of people that will lead them to resist the encroachment of the other branches. Human nature is constant across the ages, according to Publius, and human beings are naturally ambitious. Instead of ignoring or attempting to suppress ambition, the Framers sought to channel it through the Constitution, so that it might serve the cause of liberty and justice rather than threaten it.

The Framers understood that human nature has noble characteristics that are essential to self-government, but also that it contains baser features, for which government must account. The Constitution’s structural separation of powers recognizes this truth, and in preventing tyranny makes self-government possible.

 

The Problem of Majority Tyranny

Overview

America was governed under the Articles of Confederation from 1781 to 1789. Unable to redress the problem of “majority tyranny,” the Articles were abandoned in favor of the Constitution, which created a “more perfect union.”

The creation in the Constitution of “a more perfect union” did not mean that the union—or its people—would get more and more perfect with time. Rather, this phrase meant simply that the Constitution marked an improvement over the Articles of Confederation.

The majority tyranny that prevailed under the Articles meant that instead of strong but limited government, the nation labored under weak and ineffectual government.

The Founding Fathers featured in this week’s readings—George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson—were united in their fear that America’s future under the Articles of Confederation would be short-lived. The Articles, they agreed, not only failed to solve the problem of majority tyranny, but in fact made that problem worse.

In Federalist 10, Madison outlines how the problem of majority tyranny is best solved by enlarging the republic. Factions, or groups acting adversely to the rights of citizens and the interests of the community, can thereby be multiplied, and in their multiplicity counterbalance the pernicious effects they produce. This solution is realistic but not cynical, for it is based on the idea that even though human beings are imperfect, they are still capable of self-government.

 

The Declaration of Independence

Overview

The soul of the American founding is located in the enduring political principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. The meaning of these principles, especially equality, is decisively different than the definition given to those principles by modern progressivism.

Equality means that nature ordains no one to be the ruler of any other person. Each human being is also equal in his natural rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are inalienable and possessed simply by virtue of being human.

Equality, liberty, and natural rights require that legitimate government be republican. The truth that all human beings are born free, equal, and independent means that a just government must be based on the consent of the governed—a consent which must be expressed through ongoing elections. The political theory of the Declaration of Independence requires that government secure the natural rights of the citizens through adopting and enforcing criminal laws; adopting and enforcing civil laws regarding property, family, education, and provision for the poor; and providing for national defense.

If the regime fails to operate according to these principles, the people have a right and duty to alter or abolish the government and establish a new government which will secure rights through the consent of the governed.

The people thus play a vital role in protecting their rights. They must be educated in “religion, morality, and knowledge.” A people that is not virtuous will not be able to perpetuate free government.

Modern liberalism uses the same language of “equality” as the Declaration of Independence. Yet modern liberals mean something altogether different than what the Founders meant by those words. For the Progressives, “equality” means that government must redistribute wealth to provide equal access to resources. This idea necessitates government programs that help mankind liberate itself from its “natural limitations.”

The Declaration of Independence and modern Progressivism are fundamentally opposed to each other. The modern misunderstanding of “equality” threatens the whole of the American constitutional and moral order.