The Irrationality of Patriotism

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history, warmongers and statists have utilized patriotism to prevent
ordinary people from thinking rationally. The current incumbents
in Washington provide us with a perfect example. They have used
patriotism to ridicule their opposition, hide the truth, and justify
wasting the lives of America's soldiers.

warmongers used patriotism and flag-waving to convince Americans
that we were attacked on 9-11 because terrorists hate our freedom
and prosperity. Americans fell for this lie hook, line, and sinker.
Those who dared suggest that something besides jealousy, such
as, perhaps, US support for Israeli atrocities in Palestine and
murderous dictators like Saddam Hussein, were dismissed as "unpatriotic"
and "un-American." This was a true success for the statists,
since, without their massive propaganda campaign, some Americans
might have wondered just why thousands of young Muslim
men are willing to kill themselves and thousands of American civilians.
If people knew the real reasons, they might ask the government
to stop meddling in the internal affairs of other nations: an
unacceptable proposition for statists.

the lead-up to the Iraq war, warmongers followed the same pattern.
Critics of the war, like the Dixie Chicks, faced boycotts and
smear campaigns. Congress patriotically poked fun at the French
by changing "French fries" to "Freedom fries"
on its menu and encouraging the American people to blast the French.
They never bothered to tell us that France opposed the war largely
because a great majority of its population did. Therefore, while
claiming to be bringing democracy to the Iraqis, the warmongers
were criticizing another democracy for actually following the
wishes of its people. As Noam
Chomsky has said
, such hypocrisy and irrationality takes true

the warmongers use patriotism to justify staying in Iraq. We would
lose national credibility, they say. We must finish the work of
the fallen, they say. These lines of reasoning, based on patriotism,
strike a chord with the American people. However, whenever we
step away from patriotism and rationally analyze these arguments,
they make no sense. Saying that we must stay in Iraq to preserve
national credibility is saying that we should continue to waste
the lives of our young people in
a war that, even according to military experts, is already lost
To say that we must not allow those who have already died to have
lost their lives in vain is to say that, to prevent them from
having lost their lives in vain, more people should die in vain.
How rational is that?

has been demonstrated, patriotism promotes irrational behavior,
encourages people to avoid speaking the truth, and motivates people
to kill and be killed in wars for which there is no justification.
Today, even as we fight a "war on terror," military
recruiters admit that they rarely invoke patriotism to entice
recruits, focusing instead on financial incentives
. Hopefully,
since my generation is more responsive to economic incentives
than patriotic ones, this is a sign that Lew
is correct in his prediction that we are moving toward
libertarianism, which promotes individual freedom, and away from
statism and patriotism, which promote despotism and war.

7, 2004

Young [send him mail] is a
junior history major at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro,

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