Bad news: national security train wreck!

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As a result of the deeply damaging Snowden leak, I am reminded of the principles that make me more of a security hawk than my libertarian compatriots.

Dan Mitchell at International Liberty staked a respectable position regarding the still-unfolding NSA surveillance story.  But some of the comments from his more ardent libertarian readers are real forehead-slappers.  Like the proposition that our military should consist solely of a Coast Guard and maybe an army reserve.

It seems to me that civil liberties advocates tend to have it half-right.  Judeo-Christian tradition informs the concept of Natural Law in many ways: we are equal in dignity before our Creator because we bear His image.  We ought to be suspicious of those in authority because they, like all created persons, are sinful.  Even the best of us are blinded by pride or tempted to abuse.  Indeed, this is the clearest argument from the Christian worldview against centralized, progressive technocracies.

But the forgotten half of Judeo-Christian anthropology is that there are and will always be actors–states, individuals, movements–bent on destroying our government, killing our people, and weakening our society.

On this myopia, I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Its villains, who would wreck American civilization, were either bumbling bleeding hearts or  homegrown totalitarians.  Socialism and central planning were alive and well in Rand’s imagination, but the threat of international communism was nowhere to be found.  Rather strange for a book released in 1957, the year Sputnik was launched, the year after Khrushchev barked “We will bury you!” and four years after the Soviets acquired the hydrogen bomb, thanks of course to the traitorous Julius Rosenberg.

There is no Soviet Union today, but between Putin’s desperately declining Russia, the unscrupulous authoritarians running the People’s Republic of China, the bottomless supply of Islamist terrorists, and the Pandora’s box of asymmetric capabilities at everyone’s disposal, today’s world is hardly Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Big data is everywhere, and we sure as well better have the good guys using it, because the bad guys definitely are.

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey couldn’t have put it better when he wrote in a recent op-ed :

The Constitution and U.S. laws are not a treaty with the universe; they protect U.S. citizens. Foreign governments spy on us and our citizens. We spy on them and theirs. Welcome to the world.

I’ve given a piece of my mind on intel leakers in the past.  Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are the bratty poster children for a grave generational defect. The simple reality is that our nation’s security is in the hands of Millennials, whose self-defined attributes include a sharply liberal political bent and “superior intelligence” according to a 2010 Pew poll.

Snowden’s affinities, as revealed in a Guardian interview, gel with his cohort.  He’s more cosmopolitan than patriotic:

“There are conflicts between the United States government and the Chinese PRC government, but the peoples inherently… we don’t care, we trade with each other freely, we are not at war, we’re not in armed conflict and we’re not trying to be. We’re the largest trading partners out there for each other.”

Cue Lennon’s Imagine. The view is gravely misinformed.  Acts of conscience don’t do much good when the premisses are flat out wrong.

And speaking of China, how did President Obama’s California summit with President Xi go?  I’m sure we made a sterling show of strength, unity, and integrity.  Peace through Strength, and the Shining City on a Hill.  That’s Reagan, not our bumbling Obama.

Then again, China may have had a hand in this surveillance program compromise all along.  Or, with publicly aired allegations of US hacking, maybe US-China relations will be severely set back.  Certainly, terrorists have gotten a little wiser about avoiding detection.  Any which way you cut it, nothing good comes out of this fiasco.  There is no way Snowden could possibly be a hero.

It’s beyond frustrating that such undisciplined, uninformed flunkies stumble into treason.  Who knows how many more Mannings and Snowdens have access to secrets and are all-too-willing to spill the beans?  That, not any NSA surveillance overreach,  is what should keep us up at night.

Theocracy from the Left; or, Other people’s money

At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, President Obama played up his Christian faith, declaring “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” Attempting to marshal scripture in support of his idea of fairness, he ended up inserting a theological foot into his political mouth by conflating God and government.  In this, Mr. Obama managed to betray an aloofness from mainstream churches as well as raise a troubling portent for civil libertarians.

With the words “much shall be required,” what else did the Central-Planner-in-Chief mean but to put the tax man’s moral authority on par with God’s?  Christians understand that God doesn’t compel anyone to obedience, but leaves each of us to our free will and our conscience.  By contrast, human government must compel its citizens.  Taxes are collected ultimately at the barrel of a gun.  That’s why the founders saw it as essential to limit what is “required” by the government.

During the Bush years, a handful of agitated liberals spawned a new book industry, warning of theocracy arising from the Religious Right.  If history’s any predictor, President Obama’s statement should launch a new wave of dire tomes warning against a theocracy of the Religious Left.  The social justice crowd that rallies behind Obama’s fairness push is out of touch with America’s exceptional ethos and experience: that a people, under the guidance of God and conscience, and free from a central meddler, have built for the world a Shining City on a Hill.

Besides conflating God and government, the President and his tax-the-rich allies have committed another type of unforced error in their moral reasoning.  Mr. Obama, investment wiz Warren Buffett, and retired Google exec Eric Schmidt have each, in recent times, implored that their own taxes be raised.  Their advocacy sweeps up all the fellow earners in their tax bracket, both the willing and unwilling.  How is this kind of appeal sensible?  It’s a perverse, inverted golden rule.  Like saying you personally don’t mind being bludgeoned, so it’s okay to bludgeon your peers.  It seems as if these folks are hoping your brain isn’t turned on.  Or maybe that you won’t notice theirs aren’t.  There’s a certain kind of arrogance in volunteering other people’s money.

So in a couple of ways Obama and company’s moral arguments are really lacking.  But don’t forget the facts about our nation’s recent Great Society redux.  Stephen Moore’s op-ed challenge to the White House fairness narrative provides us with a rich inventory of ways our big government has failed us to date .  Among the more salient is the mounting concentration of national wealth in the suburbs of Washington DC; the top three median income counties in the nation are clustered in the DC metro area.  Such a backslide of civilization would give any shameless, caviar-chomping commissar of Soviet-era Moscow a run for his money.  And we know that whatever part of our nation’s economic lifeblood that does not end up feeding a Falls Church jumbo mortgage tends to get lost in legislative backscratching or bureaucratic head-scratching.

Anyway you dice the tax dollar, Washington isn’t justified in its spending increases.  Given President Obama’s deficit deafness, and Democrats’ contorted fairness distractions, voters need to just say “No!” and oust the tax-grubbing big spenders this November.

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