April 16, 2007

Laws Are Anarchy

When President Bush announced the creation of the Department of Homeland Security I was mildly irritated at the policy – “coordination” of multiple federal bureaucracies has proven to be not particularly effective with regards to drugs and creates a forum for turf wars rather than the effective implementation of unified strategies.  And besides, wasn’t there already a National Security Advisor to coordinate national security issues already?  Why do we need another high-level bureaucrat governing another high-level bureaucracy?  But my bigger gripe was not with a few million dollars being wasted to add another layer of top-level bureaucracy on top of an already-inefficient system.  What bugged me was the nomenclature.  “Department of Homeland Security” seems so Orwellian, so totalitarian.  Couldn’t the bright people who make political decisions have found some way of describing what this new agency was supposed to do without sounding so… Soviet?


Now, it turns out that Republicans are not the only ones with a taste for Orwell in their nomenclature.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants to create a Federal Department of Peace and Nonviolence.  This distills into a single bill nearly everything that repels me about the left wing of American politics – it is wasteful, silly, dangerous, and either criminally naïve or downright deceptive in its intent.  Kucinich wants to create a cabinet-level position which will do nothing of any use or importance other than consume money and provide a platform for the pronouncement of high-minded dissenting opinions from within the White House.  There is nothing that this new entity would do that is not already being done by other, already-extant, entities within the government.  If there are to be any policy-making or policy-enforcement teeth in this new cabinet-level department, it can exist only to hamstring our efforts to use our military as part of our foreign policy.


It’s bad enough that there are turf wars and policy disagreements between different branches of the government as it is.  These sorts of things should be inputs to the debate, not the products of them.  What we would see from this new entity are a series of regulations, studies, pronouncements, proclamations, and other governmental activity that is explicitly intended to undermine the ability of the United States to make war.  To the extent that this new Cabinet position is given real political power, it would not just undermine but obstruct implementation of military policy – it would create a rogue actor within the government itself.


Peace and nonviolence are obviously good things.  No one likes war – least of all the soldiers who fight them and sometimes die in them.  But the fact is that sometimes we need to use our military.  Sometimes we need to defend ourselves against those who will not strum their acoustic guitars along with us while we sing songs of peace and brotherly love.  Not everyone shares our liberal view about the world – there are people out there who think that an open, democratic society where individual rights are meaningful checks on the power of the government, and in which people are free to choose the kinds of politics they espouse and free to follow the religion their consciences guide them to are bad things.  From those sorts, we need protection and since they use guns and bombs to implement their will on others, we need to have guns and bombs to use back against them.


It’s all well and fine to talk about how economic and cultural exchanges can promote mutual peace and understanding.  But that sort of thing is not the top priority of the government – finding and neutralizing the bad guys is.  Ultimately, peace is not obtained in our dangerous world through nonviolent diplomacy.  That diplomacy will not work unless the parties to the diplomacy have some measure of power.  Power requires the ability to implement our will be force.  Wisdom is the knowledge of when it is necessary to use that power – you might argue that our current exercise of military power was unwise, but that would not mean that the answer is to create another wasteful bureaucracy; it would mean that the answer is to pick leaders who are wiser than those currently in charge.

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