Cowardly New World

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March 11 was the day the War on Terror celebrated its six-month birthday, and a day for the pundits to comment on how the war has been going. We’ve now destroyed the Taliban government, which we helped to create, and destroyed the fighting ability and most of the soldiers of al Qaeda, which we didn’t help to create. It has been a swell war so far.

The few casualties we’ve had have pretty much-been accidents, and there’s been lots of good television, thanks to precision bombing (not quite as sharp as the stuff on a teen- ager’s X-Box, but still pretty cool) and all those pictures of Afghan women grateful to walk with naked faces after years of hiding behind Taliban-imposed veils.

Our airports feel a lot safer, now that the National Guard’s weekend warriors are standing next to every security checkpoint with machine guns and cammies. Sure, it’s a little more difficult to fly (not to mention to go to a football game), but it’s worth it to know we’re secure. Meanwhile, people who look as if they might be Arabs are stopped, searched, and even held by the police at whim. There have also been a few incidents of, well, murder of innocent foreign-looking people. It’s a small price to pay.

President Bush – the same president who was seen by the media and most of his fellow citizens as a so-so leader and, well, perhaps, a little slow – now polls out as one of the three greatest presidents in American history. Congress also enjoys new esteem, thanks to its willingness to pour money into the war and to give new powers to the police.

If press reports are to be believed, we are now ready to go into extra innings and attack Iraq, as soon as we can manufacture enough smart bombs. (We used up our inventory in Afghanistan.) And after Iraq, we’ll go for Iran, then North Korea. Or maybe North Korea and then Iran.

The war that was born with the outrageous attack on Sept. 11 is now a robust baby boy, bursting with testosterone, ready to conquer the world as soon as he grows UR.

Welcome to Pax Americana. Enjoy yourself.

If you value human liberty, however, this is not a good time for you. War has always been conducive to the growth of government power and the War on Terror is no exception. At every level, government officials have used the war to rationalize increases in their revenue and power. Three days after Sept. 11, the University of Washington announced that to prevent terrorist attacks at football games, people attending them would no longer be permitted to possess political pamphlets. Last week in San Fran- cisco, armed federal agents moved in on a medical marijuana garden, arresting the people who were growing the herb for free distribution to cancer victims. California voters legalized medical marijuana five years ago, but until last week federal authorities were reluctant to overrule state law by violent means. But the War on Terror provided an opportunity. “History teaches us that in a time of national emergency, and we have seen that since Sept. II, a nation’s moral values are clarified.” Thus drug czar Asa Hutchinson, explained his philosophy of human life.

And it’s not just cancer victims who are now the enemy. It’s every American who values freedom – as Attorney General Ashcroft reminded us: “To those . . . who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorism, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends.”

The enemy is also every member of America’s productive class. Government spending in the name of the War on Terror has been tremendous, and it will increase still further as the war goes on. It’s an open secret – so open that it’s been published on the front page of The Wall Street Journal – that a huge portion of the increased military spending is pork, plain and simple, and fights terror no more than do the restrictions on free parking at airports.

How long will the War on Terror last? Members of the governing class, aware of the opportunities that war offers for the aggrandizement of their own wealth and power, hope it will last forever. America’s destiny, they seem to think, is to rule the world, eradicating governments that they themselves don’t like, installing new ones that they do, arresting people on the high seas and even in other countries.

This is a new kind of imperialism. The United States has no desire to bring the world under its direct government. In this democratic era, doing that would mean letting people in other countries vote in our elections, which would certainly threaten the job security of the governing class. And it would mean extending the “safety net” of welfare benefits to everyone, something that Americans could afford only at the price of a huge reduction in their standard of living. Americans are merely to be the world’s privileged elite, and they will pay for this exalted status merely with the coin of liberty. And – with the exception of a few bad people, like me, who “give ammunition to America’s enemies”- they will pay that price willingly and even happily.

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