An Alert And Knowledgeable Citizenry
[The following is excerpted from my new book Don’t Think Of A Republican – How I Won A Republican Primary As A Lefty Progressive And You Can Too, which recounts the rhetoric and strategy of satirical candidate H.F. Valentine’s unprecedented 2022 primary run. See the whole book here.]
End of H.F. Valentine’s Humphries Memorial COGIC speech
I’d like to read you a few words from Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech.
He said, “Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.
I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.”
He said those words after he said these words.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial congressional complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Did you get that? Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry. We should take nothing for granted.
Now, some who’ve heard this before will recognize that, in the actual speech, President Eisenhower only said “military industrial complex,” and that I added the Congressional part. But actually the original speech said just that: Military Industrial Congressional Complex. And they took the Congressional part out because they wanted to make it more palatable to the Congress. And yet 60 years later, I think we can see that playing nice with the Congress has not worked. I said 60 years, trillions and trillions of tax dollars that cannot be properly accounted for, and dozens of countries unconstitutionally attacked later, any objective review of the Congress’s role in managing our “defense” efforts would be hard-pressed to limit the number of times it used the word obscenity in its summarization.
Once military spending became a measure of business and then consequently jobs, the reckless application of our war resources was inevitable, until eventually our war officials became more economists of violence than keepers of peace.
The same way business economists came up with the term “externalities” to describe things like industrial-polluted water, land, and air, our economists of violence began using words like “collateral damage” to describe families blown to pieces by US tax dollar funded missiles.
And for anyone who would even suggest that I am misrepresenting even one year of this history of U.S. foreign policy, I would challenge you to find even one instance of that policy in which we would have found acceptable the same posture taken towards us that we took towards our adversary.
All of this is to say the key guiding principle in my foreign policy will be something all my voters can understand and are familiar with. And that is the Golden Rule.
We cannot claim to be a moral nation if we cannot apply even the most basic of moral principles to our conduct on the world stage.
Neither can we claim to be a moral nation if our budget sacrifices the basic necessities of its citizenry in the name of defense expenditures so unconcerned with our actual defense that they don’t take into account the two massive oceans separating us from any enemy, imagined or real.
This does not mean we should not prepare for the worst. It means that we can’t let such preparation become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And we must no longer let the business model of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex supersede our responsibility to treat others as we would have them treat us.
To be safe, to be secure, it requires that we be an alert and knowledgeable citizenry. And that we should take nothing for granted. To be a moral nation adhering to our most basic moral principle, it also requires that we be an alert and knowledgeable citizenry. And that we should take nothing for granted.
Although it may not poll as a top dinner table issue, foreign policy is still an aircraft carrier sized discussion. As Noam Chomsky rightly explains, outside of Climate Change, nuclear annihilation is humanity’s greatest threat. And our nuclear posture on the world stage is only a fragment of the complex web that weaves our relations with other nations.
Within this web, there are so many angles and consequences that the task may seem daunting to even grasp. And yet, I do believe we can apply a couple basic guiding principles to our foreign policy vision that would keep us within the framework of being a just nation.
The first being, throw all that intention shit out the window. It don’t mean dick. The rule has to be Anticipated Consequences. If you do a drive-by on the dude’s house that beat your ass in front of your girlfriend and your mama last week, you can’t go to court talking about your intention was just to test out the latest Uzi model. (Ok, maybe that’s not the best example. But you get the picture.) You can always say your intention was something other than the actual horrific consequences of your actions. The question is not what your intentions were. The question is what were the anticipated consequences. And whether it’s foreign policy or in everyday domestic life, we have to think in terms of and must expect to be judged by what anticipated consequences our actions will bring.
Secondly, we have to be ready to apply the same principles to ourselves as we apply to other nations. If one of our adversaries started erecting military bases and storing missiles off our coast, we would shit Tabasco Sauce. And yet we think it’s completely ok if our Army Base map looks like we shot the globe with Military Industrial buckshot.
On a side note, however less eloquent my translation may be, these two principles come courtesy once again from your friend and mine Noam Chomsky. Noam’s contribution just can’t be overstated. If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and check him out. Most of the people I admire attribute a large chunk of their political education to his work. And I damn sure wouldn’t be where I’m at today if I hadn’t found his writing.