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I have been racking my brain trying to figure out why some people whom I respect, who are colleagues of mine-- good limited government types--come out in favor of this War in Iraq. Usually the argument boils down to an emotional reaction against atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein. Their usually rational faculties armed against intervention fail when presented with the vision of tortured children. “Something should be done.” “Why on God’s earth . . .?”
And then it occurs to me. What happens is this: they see a failure in what they perceive as God’s inaction. And then what follows is the use of the biggest trap the Devil has in her bag. (Those of the female persuasion, don’t get offended–I just love thinking of my devil as the “Bedeviled” embodiment of Elizabeth Hurley.) The power to play God.
Now, those of us who have allegiance to the principles of limited (or no) government do understand that lure. We denounce it all the time in opposing the myriad of taxes and regulation that engulf our rather unfree state. But somehow, there is a magic transfer, a perplexing disconnect, an irrational leap of faith into a surreal justification for the most interventionist of all interventions, that of war.
The thing that clouds the issue is the matter of self defense. Any rational view of morality holds that violence is acceptable, sometimes necessary, and maybe required in situations of self defense. However, one has to practice all sorts of cerebral ledger domain to look at the situation in Iraq as one that is threatening to citizens in the US. After all is said and done, the justification is one of pre-emption, “Saddam might have weapons of mass destruction and he might use them on us, therefore we must get him first.” If that argument was used against my good limited government friends concerning some licensing regulation, well, they would be up in arms railing against the state, and justifiably so. But because of their emotional reaction to tortured babies, all of a sudden, pre-emption becomes an acceptable concept.
What does the concept of pre-emption do? It looks into the future and decides ahead of time what will happen, so, justifies an action to prevent the future action from happening. But mortal man has no ability to see the future. And, “History isn’t kind to those who want to rush it,” as the professor, played by John Gielgud, admonishing his prize pupil, said in the great movie, “The Power of One.” But the lure to play God is too great.
“To help out all those tortured babies let’s bomb Saddam into submission,” torturing and killing other babies. Never mind the contradiction.
“Look into my [William Kristol] ball. I can see the future. Even more babies would be tortured and killed if we let Saddam stay in power. How do I know? I can see the future.” But a just war kills only enemy combatants not innocent civilians.
“They aren’t innocent civilians, they are collateral damage.” Yep, so were hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Collateral damage.
It takes the hubris of a deluded drunk inebriated on power to look upon rampant civilian carnage as collateral damage. To decide ahead of time, who lives and who dies; to have no moral qualms about it; in fact, to rejoice in it; .to look on oneself as morally superior in completing the act-- this is an act of someone who has deluded himself, one consumed by the fatal flaw of hubris, an Oedipal act that has blinded him from the moral law.
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and there is no power on earth as intoxicating as the power to decide who lives and who dies. If such corruption consumes even the best limited-government activists amongst us, then maybe it’s time to reconsider a premise. If the federal government’s sole function is for national defense, and when that function is so corrupted into international god-playing adventurism by even the best among us, then what does a federal government have as a function, valid?
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