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Monday, July 04, 2005

quote of the day

I found this quote over at the Independent Institute's Center on Peace and Liberty. It's from John Quincy Adams in 1821:
“[America] has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.... [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty.”
I'm still often astonished at how the early leaders of this country understood so well the problems we face two hundred years later. Consider the war in Iraq. Even if we believe the neocons are totally well-intentioned and want nothing but freedom for the people of Iraq and the Middle East, Adams clearly foresaw how "[America] would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom." It is not enough for us to have good intentions. We need to have a humble foreign policy and not imagine that our intentions and might are sufficient to change the nature of war itself. As James Madison said,
“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 dominion of the few.... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
War makes it harder for us to preserve our liberty. It always has and always will. That's what the founders understood better than anyone in the Federal government does today. This is not about Bush's bungling of the war in Iraq. No one can do war well. The problem with the Democrats is not that they are anti-war (they aren't), they just imagine that if they were in charge, they could intervene abroad competently and that is a lie.

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