The Biggest Threat to American Liberty
By Jacob G. Hornberger
April 01, 2015 "ICH"
- George Washington pointed out, “Overgrown military establishments, which under
any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be
regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.
Wise words by the father of our country, but ones, unfortunately, rejected by
modern-day Americans, who love and idolize the enormously overgrown military
establishment that now characterizes our federal governmental system.
Eastern Europeans are getting a gander at America’s overgrown
military establishment. Yesterday, the New York Times
reported that a huge contingent of U.S. military forces is winding its way
through Eastern Europe as some sort of good-will tour and also to serve as a
message to Russia that the United States is ready to go to war to protect
Eastern Europe from Russia’s aggressive designs.
Never mind that it is America’s overgrown military
establishment that gave rise to Russia’s so-called aggressive designs. Ever
since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been absorbing Eastern European
countries with the ultimate aim of absorbing Ukraine, which would enable the
U.S. military to place bases and missiles on Russia’s borders.
There was never a possibility that Russia was going to let
that happen, any more than the U.S. national-security establishment would permit
North Korea to place military bases and missiles on Mexico’s side of the Rio
Grande. In the eyes of those who believe that America’s overgrown military
establishment can do no wrong, that makes Russia the aggressor in the crisis.
But let’s face it: These people are ingenious at producing
crises and then playing the innocent. The fact is that NATO should have been
dissolved at the end of the Cold War. It wasn’t dissolved for one big reason: in
order to produce endless crises with Russia so that Americans would feel the
need to keep their overgrown, Cold War-era, military establishment in existence.
Moreover, under what authority is America’s overgrown military
establishment telling Eastern Europeans that the United States will come to
their defense in a war against Russia? I thought that under the U.S.
Constitution it is the responsibility of Congress to decide when America goes to
war. The U.S. military march through Eastern Europe is just another sign of how
the national-security branch of the federal government — the most powerful
branch — calls its own shots when it comes to foreign policy.
Moreover, it’s a sign of the times when America’s overgrown
military establishment is our country’s good-will ambassador. It used to be that
the American private sector served that purpose. Not so anymore. Now, it’s U.S.
generals and other military personnel who serve that purpose, as they parade
through Eastern Europe showing off their tanks and other military equipment,
just like the Soviets did in their May Day parades.
Meanwhile, America’s overgrown military establishment is also
engaged in a massive military exercise called
Operation Jade Helm, only this one isn’t in some foreign country but instead
right here at home. With more than 1200 participants, including Army Special
Forces, Navy Seals, and Marine Special Operations, this large-scale military
operation is slated to launch in around 20 cities in the American Southwest.
Perhaps it would be wise to review America’s founding
principles regarding overgrown military establishments and the threat they pose
to the liberty of the citizenry, in addition, that is, to the sentiments against
overgrown military establishments expressed by America’s first president, George
James Madison: “A standing military force, with an overgrown
Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst.
foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the
Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was
apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of
defending, have enslaved the people.”
Patrick Henry: “A standing army we shall have, also, to
execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will
you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your
mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?”
Henry St. George Tucker in Blackstone’s 1768 Commentaries
on the Laws of England: “Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the
right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext
whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of
Commonwealth of Virginia in 1788: “… that standing armies in
time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as
far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in
all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by
the civil power.”
Pennsylvania Convention: “… as standing armies in time of
peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the
military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the
U.S. State Department website: “Wrenching memories of the Old
World lingered in the 13 original English colonies along the eastern seaboard of
North America, giving rise to deep opposition to the maintenance of a standing
army in time of peace. All too often the standing armies of Europe were regarded
as, at best, a rationale for imposing high taxes, and, at worst, a means to
control the civilian population and extort its wealth.”
Finally, let’s wrap up this piece with the warning that
President Eisenhower issued in his 1961 Farewell Address regarding America’s
new, Cold War-era, overgrown military establishment:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a
large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . .Yet we must not fail
to comprehend its grave implications. . . . In the councils of government, we
must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or
unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of
this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take
nothing for granted.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of
Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his
B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the
University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also
was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and
economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director
of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education