We've Lost Our Mindset

by poputonian

Back in September I wrote a post about the Revolutionary mindset and the conclusions it drew about institutions, power, and tyranny. If you are interested in this subject, please read the post along with the excellent contributions made in the follow-up thread. Both the post and the comments (see hv's historical overview) serve as background and prelude to this one.

In connecting the prior post to this one, there are a few points to highlight. One is the Samuel Adams quote posted yesterday in which he lays down his opposition to the concept of a standing army. Hullabaloo regular pseudonymous in nc picked up on the point:

It's actually important to take Samuel Adams' words literally, too.
In fact, the cricket-chirps on Walter Reed from the right suggests it's already happened: they're supporting the concept of the standing army more than they support the people who are part of it. 'Troops' as abstract.

Another revolutionary era statement on the resistance to standing armies is timeless and gives a perfect description of the Cheney-Bush regime. This was written in a Philadelphia newspaper circa 1774 by the pseudonymous Caractacus:

History is dyed in blood when it speaks of the ravages which standing armies have committed upon the liberties of mankind: officers and soldiers of the best principles and character have been converted into instruments of tyranny by the arts of wicked politicians.

War as an abstraction is exactly what the Founders wanted so deeply to avoid. It's why they put the military under civilian control. Another regular here, benmerc, mentions this James Madison quote:

Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies. From these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Pseudonymous in nc goes on to another important and connecting point:

The Mutiny Act was introduced in 1689 as part of the Williamite settlement, on a one-year sunset, to ensure that parliaments would remain in session. That set the precedent for the Constitution's enumeration of legislative authority over military regulations, and for the one-year military budget.

The suspicion of standing armies in the hands of the executive, funded without annual legislative approval, is bound into the structure of American governance.

But reader Charles sends in this link to Raw Story (original source Reuters), in which Joe Lieberman seeks to accomplish the exact opposite of everything the revolutionaries fought for. Lieberman demonstrates how the power now extracted by modern politicians allows the complete defiance of popular will:

Lieberman said on Tuesday that Congress should consider a tax to fund the U.S.-declared war on terrorism and reduce the need to cut domestic programs to pay for security spending.

A former Democrat who supports the Iraq war and backs President George W. Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, Lieberman said the proposed increase in the Pentagon's budget for next fiscal year will squeeze funding for critical domestic programs.

"I think we have to start thinking about a war on terrorism tax," the independent Connecticut lawmaker said. "I mean people keep saying we're not asking a sacrifice of anybody but our military in this war and some civilians who are working on it."

Clearly there was a mindset among the revolutionaries that led them to safeguard against America becoming a warring empire. But today, politicians contemplate a standing tax, to fund a standing army, for a standing war.

It's abundantly clear that we have lost our revolutionary mindset.