Monday, 19 February 2007

8:8 The war on terrory and liberty.

This anti-democratic tendency applies most strongly in continental Empires and States where a constant fear of invasion by one’s neighbours is ever present. The fact that England, Japan, and for several centuries the U.S.A., could be conceived of as separate ‘islands’, not threatened by neighbours, gave them a respite from this fear.

In the case of England, the country was very often at war. Yet much of the fighting was an optional activity, taking place on other people’s territory (for a long time in France). When extra taxes were needed for such activity, it gave the moderately powerful subjects a chance to bargain for more rights and freedom from their rulers (who had no standing army). Hence wars tended to increase liberty. This is part of a wider pressure; warfare from the time of Napoleon onwards has been a powerful instrument in widening the franchise because of the state’s dependence on mass armies and conscription.

The U.S.A. in the nineteenth century did not need to be afraid, so its inhabitants could not be blackmailed into suspending their liberties. September 11th 2001 symbolized the start of an era when the United States became virtually joined to the continent of Eur-Asia. Or so it feels to many Americans. So America, used to peace, is now perpetually at war, even if that war is against a nebulous enemy.

In this new war, democracy is felt to be constantly under threat. America now has a huge and expanding standing army and navy. It feels it must make pre-emptive strikes against threatening neighbours, even if they are thousands of miles away. There is a temptation to dismantle the sets of checks and balances, the rights to freedom of speech and thought, the jury system and other processes that protect the rights of individuals. We are almost all the losers in this new perpetual war.

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