The Bush Inaugural: Faith and Force

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Ayn
Rand seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years but I couldn't
help but notice that Bush's inaugural speech is a nice example of
her insight that "faith and force are corollaries." True,
the actual religious wars of past and present are bloodier examples,
but still Bush the man, his beliefs, words and actions offer sparkling
confirmation of the connection.

Bush
repeatedly invoked the divine ("the
Maker of Heaven and earth
," "the Author of Liberty,"
"the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of
the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people," "Abraham
Lincoln" – just kidding) in his speech, though he tactfully
sidestepped the bad vibes associated with the word "crusade"
in laying out his "ultimate goal of ending tyranny" to
be won by "the concentrated work of generations."

Nobody
questions Bush's adherence to his Christian faith or his willingness
to initiate the use of physical force. Bush has stated, in almost
so many words, to hell with what the rest of the world may think,
I'll attack whom and where I please. Yea, yea, yea, cheered his
adoring campaign crowds. On this more solemn occasion, his words
were more circumspect: "My most solemn duty is to protect this
nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats.u201D
Put heavy emphasis on the word u201Cemergingu201D and you'll understand
neocon foreign policy. There's the key to preemption and global
preeminence, anointing Bush and his crowd with the dispensation
to kill resisters anywhere they like. On to Teheran! Or is Damascus
next? A rogue superstate has that marvelous unpredictability.

It's
become abundantly clear – despite initial, insincere promises to the
contrary – that Bush's force is no longer addressed at bringing the
alleged attackers on that "day of fire" to justice. Criminal
convictions in the United States for participating in the 9/11 attacks
are zero so far and the prospects for convicting any guilty "Islamist
extremist" are slim to none. A serious problem in a real court
of law would be the fact that the United States government committed
the atrocities of 9/11 for its own evil purposes and prosecutors
have no real evidence for the PR theory that the pain "was
inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the behest of Islamist extremists
headquartered in distant Afghanistan."
OBL supposedly has
been "marginalized," al Qaeda is on the run and Bush has
bigger fish to fry, like ending tyranny as we know it, across the
globe and galaxy forever and ever. So move on, would ya? Nothin'
to see here. Just forget about the original justification for the
central government's response to 9/11, OK?

A
slice of Ayn Rand's discourse on mystics pegs Bush but good: "His
feelings become his only guide, his only remnant of personal identity,
he clings to them with ferocious possessiveness," "power-lust
is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind,"
"anyone who resorts to the formula: u2018It's so, because I say
so,' will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later." Sooner,
much sooner, for brother Bush.

Bush
is big on the word, "evil." OK, let's bring in Ayn again:
"Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of
evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others
and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live
together, no man may initiate – do you hear me? no man
may start – the use of physical force against others."
Most everybody, including Bush, would agree: initiating violence
is a no-no (And, what about taxation? Hmmm.).

Iraq
is a four-letter that presents something of a problem for Mr. Bush
if he genuinely believes in no initiation of violence. OK, so under
what circumstances can the righteous use violence? "Men have
the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only
against those who initiate its use," writes Rand. "The
ethical principle involved is simple and clearcut: it is the difference
between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value,
wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by
killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values
from others by resorting to physical force."

Whew!
That puts Bush in a heap of moral trouble, even though we've had
that great moment of accountability called the 2004 election. Judging
by their rhetoric, Bush, Cheney and their retinue of liars (a harsh
word but truth is an absolute defense against a libel suit) implicitly
embrace the same principle as Rand. That's why they argue that their
military invasions of distant lands, past and forthcoming, are purely
defensive – "our intelligence" shows the evil doers
have got WMD, they're working on WMD, they're gonna acquire WMD,
they might dream of WMD and so on. Or, our enemies harbored some
terrorists, funded 'em, or dreamed of harboring u2018em. Look at all
the reliable intelligence we've got on it, cooked up and delivered
by our political appointees. Emerging threats are everywhere! Well,
not everywhere, but concentrated in nations with lots of petroleum
or valuable real estate for transporting it. Those "regions
of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies
that feed hatred and excuse murder." Yup, must be some kind
of interaction between oil and ideology over there that makes people
hate our freedom. Maybe it escapes from the ground into the air.
Maybe we should send some inspectors over to discover how it works.
Ahem.

The
blame for today's sad state of affairs goes far beyond Mr. Bush.
Edmund Burke famously wrote, "The only thing necessary for
the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Ayn Rand
explains that the spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. "Whenever
evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those
who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles."
People like Bush are a very small minority, and "it is the
appeaser who unleashes them on mankind; it is the appeaser's intellectual
abdication that invites them to take over." In this dark era,
of course, cowardice is enhanced by elevated risk of encountering
weaponized anthrax in the mail, dying in a mysterious plane crash
or falling off a bridge no matter how high its guardrails might
be.

Chaucer
asked, "If gold ruste, what shal iren do?" And Ms. Rand
wrote that when intellectual leaders do little to foster the best
in the inchoate and vacillating character of people at large, "the
thugs are sure to bring out the worst. When the ablest men turn
into cowards, the average men turn into brutes." Et tu, brute?

January
22, 2005

Morgan
Reynolds [send him mail],
retired professor of economics at Texas A&M University and former
chief economist, US Department of Labor, lives in Hot Springs Village,
Arkansas.

Morgan
Reynolds Archives

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts