Friday, June 15, 2007

The Fortress America Mentality

It seems like every time I turn on talk radio these days -- which is only when I drive -- I hear the words “secure the borders.” Secure the borders! We’re at war and the enemy is sneaking in to sabotage us.

Are people serious about this? Have they looked at a map? America is more or less a continent-wide rectangle with two long borders and two long coasts. We are proud to boast that our border with Canada is the longest peaceful border in the world. Our long, unguarded borders are the result of -- and the symbol of -- all that is best about capitalism. Free countries do not live in hostility or fear, but in peace and free trade. As Bastiat said, when trade does not cross borders, then soldiers do.

This Fortress America mentality is something new and something bad. I believe it is the psychological result of America’s inability to wage proper war against totalitarian Islam. Specifically, this mentality is the result of creating the Department of Homeland Security. As Robert Tracinski wrote in 2002,

The War on Terrorism is over. It ended when President Bush pushed to the top of his agenda the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. This is the climax of a trend that has been building for the past month: the only action the U.S. government is now taking in response to terrorism is purely defensive.
There was no creation of a Department of Homeland Security in WWII. Instead, America waged war -- real, serious, all out war -- against our fascist enemies and destroyed them within four years. We understood then that the only defense is offense; that American security could be achieved only by destroying the enemy.

When he created the Department of Homeland Security, President Bush’s action told the American people and the world that we would not wage a war to destroy the enemy, but would go on defense. The American people got the message that we would just have to learn to live with terrorism as the Israelis do. The enemy is out there, plotting to destroy us, aided and abetted by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and our government has thrown up it hands and said, “Sorry! We will not destroy the enemy, so you’d better prepare for future attacks at home.”

Since the day I heard about the Department of Homeland Security the name has struck me as un-American. "Homeland" sounds European. It sounds collectivist, statist and mystical, like the words "fatherland" or "motherland." Furthermore, it sounds imperialist; only a nation that constantly gets entangled in foreign wars needs a separate concept for defending itself at home. There is nothing in America's individualist past like it. Maybe this is what William Graham Sumner meant when he said in 1899 that America was defeated by Spain.

Bush’s neoconservative policy is suicidal negligence of the President’s duty to protect and defend the Constitution. I do believe, although this is speculation about the future, that one day Bush and the neoconservatives will be held by historians as treasonous in their failure to defend America.

Our government is saying to us, in effect, you can no longer live entirely without fear of being killed by a foreign enemy. Now we must look to the state for colored alerts to tell us the likelihood of our being incinerated. As our government fails to strike fear in the hearts of its enemy, it settles for keeping its own citizens in a permanent state of fear. Such are the fruits of America's altruist foreign policy.

This is a radical new way of living for Americans. The psychological effects of living in fear are still unknown, as is how this new mentality will affect the American character in the long run.

I would guess that the intensity of the emotion about illegal immigrants and the fight to “secure our borders” is in part the result of our new defensive mentality. It is yet another ominous development, but a problem that could be solved if we would just get serious about waging the war and winning the war.

Curtis LeMay, where are you? America needs you.

UPDATE: Revision.


madmax said...


Thanks so much for that essay by Sumner. I have to call attention to this:

"The first principle of Mohammedanism is that we Christians are dogs and infidels, fit only to be enslaved or butchered by Moslems. It is a corollary that wherever Mohammedanism extends it carries, in the belief of its votaries, the highest blessings, and that the whole human race would be enormously elevated if Mohammedanism should supplant Christianity everywhere."

But I thought it was a religion of peace?

How far we have fallen.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Sumner's essay and the Spanish-American War:

Sumner's piece is interesting but I can see how liberals and libertarians can manipulate it to suggest that the Iraqi War is American Imperialism. You would have to counter by distinguishing between genuine wars of self-defense and imperialistic wars (which the Spanish American War was but with an altruistic spin).

Also, I notice something else by reading Sumner's piece. The Spanish-American War was entirely justified by altruism. You can think of it as "Operation Cuban Freedom". But notice what America did.

It took over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines and attempted to administer them. It gave Cuba independence immediately and ultimately gave the Philippines independece in 1948, but it established the notion of occupying and administering foreign peoples for *altruistic* purposes (and look at the history of Cuba and the Philippines - that doesn't portend well for Iraq). It seems to have established a blueprint which is still being used today; witness Iraq.

I wonder if you could date the Spanish American War as the point which altruism/Kantianism came to dominate foreign policy? Think of the years of the war, the 1890's, the same era that the Progressives were starting to dominate America. Think of what else we got in the 1890's - anti-trust.

I do think Sumner was right in this sense, the legacy of the Spanish-American War is the abondonment of America's self-interest as the defining principle of American foreign policy. WWII might be seen as an exception to this but perhaps it is better seen as the nation coming to its senses long enough to fight for its survival. Immediately after the end of WWII, the US went back to its altruistic ways; witness Korea and Vietnam... And Iraq...

John Kim

Anonymous said...

Here is an example of libertarians totally missing the point about the Spanish-American War as they argue for "non-interventionism":

They don't state it explicitly, but libertarians like this oppose all war including self-defensive wars. They are abject pascifists.

John Kim

Myrhaf said...

I think the progressive era in general and the Spanish-American War in particular mark the turn toward collectivism and statism in American history. The major influence, I would guess, is Hegel's worship of the state.

The Libertarians do get it wrong: they conclude that any assertion of American power abroad is imperialism. If we're to have free trade and global capitalism, then America must be free to defend its interests abroad. When foreign countries threaten us, we have every right to destroy them.

Sumner was right that we should stay away from Theodore Roosevelt's ideas of national glory and the ennobling nature of war.

It is interesting that on page 172 of Letters of Ayn Rand she writes to Isabel Patterson, "Personally, I am very much impressed with the quotations by William Graham Sumner and Max Hirsch, two authors I had not discovered for myself."

madmax said...

Here are examples of typical conservative attitudes toward immigration:


* "Reduces Job Opportunities for Working Class Americans"

* "It is my belief that America's illegal immigration crisis is happening because large corporations have used their influence on the Bush administration to open our borders and practically suspend the existing immigration laws of the United States."

* "I believe that corporate America and their puppets in Washington have been intentionally opening the borders and under-enforcing our existing immigration laws to try to prevent the full collapse of the American economy, which is due to their actions."

* "These big corporations as well as many smaller companies are addicted to illegal immigration because of the increased consumerism and cheaper labor the illegals bring to them. To hear them cry about immigration enforcement, they speak as if their companies would die and the crops would rot in the fields without the illegals."

And the conservatives are considered defenders of capitalism. If this wasn't so tragic it would be funny.

"If something bad happens, blame the liberals. If something terrible happens, blame the conservatives." - Ayn Rand

Galileo Blogs said...


I agree with all of your comments regarding the Dept. of Homeland Security, both the creepy sound of its name (Homeland is an un-American term for our country; it sounds like Fatherland), and the implications of this turn inward in the face of the terrorist threat.

As for Curtis LeMay, he is the kind of hero we need. He would have ended Vietnam before that foolish war began by bombing North Vietnam into the Stone Age (his words), in the same manner he carpet-bombed Japan into submission in World War II.

I wish to highlight this portion of the article you cited:

"The first pathfinder planes arrived over Tokyo just after midnight on March 10. Following British bombing practice, they marked the target area with a flaming 'X.' In a three-hour period, the main bombing force dropped 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs, killing more than 100,000 civilians, destroying 250,000 buildings and incinerating 16 square miles of the city. Aircrews at the tail end of the bomber stream reported that the stench of burned human flesh permeated the aircraft over the target.

The New York Times reported at the time, "Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, commander of the B-29s of the entire Marianas area, declared that if the war is shortened by a single day, the attack will have served its purpose."


That is the kind of leader we need today. Instead, Christian leaders force each of us to turn the other cheek.

Myrhaf said...

Sadly, LeMay's tactics are probably impossible today. Our Christian/socialist leaders would rather sacrifice Americans than fight a war right. And the more collectivist they become, the easier it is for them to let Americans die for the cause of altruism.

Anonymous said...

Mark Steyn is proving your point. His essential argument is immigration was responsible for 9/11.