Would I Do?
question I'm asked from time to time is, "OK, if you're critical
of current US policy in the war on terror, what would you do?"
true that it's always easier to be a critic than a performer. I
don't have any pretensions to being a foreign policy expert, so
I've never attempted to put forward an exact course of action for
the US government in response to 9/11. However, there are a few
things I do know, that seem relevant, at least to me.
know when you make a mistake you should apologize. If I bred pit
bulls, and one escaped and ate my neighbor's cat, at the very least
I'd say I'm sorry.
American government might try it. It would be nice to hear Bush
say, "Jeez, it wasn't really a very good idea to arm, train, and
fund a bunch of loony, Western-hating Moslem terrorists back in
the 80s. We're sorry about that. Oh, and it probably wasn't a good
idea to help Saddam Hussein back then either, starting up his chemical
and biological weapons programs, and all. And maybe we should have
avoided siding with Al Qaida in the Balkans, even if Milosevic isn't
the nicest fellow in the world. (Although, of course, we had been
siding with him just a few years before, and maybe that was a mistake
also know that when you make a promise, you should keep it. That
is especially true when you make a big point of solemnly swearing
a public oath to keep a promise. So it would be also nice to hear
Bush say, "You know, I can't imagine what I've been thinking, talking
about attacking Iraq. It is, of course, the job of Congress to declare
war, and a gross violation of my oath to uphold the Constitution
for me to start wars on my own. And certainly, the fact that my
predecessors have violated that oath doesn't excuse me! Nor do I
even have an 'emergency excuse' after all, we've been gabbing
about attacking Iraq for months, so it can't be that much of an
also learned that it's not very nice to relieve your anger at one
person by taking it out on someone else. It's no doubt true that
Saddam Hussein isn't a pleasant fellow, either. Why, he's thumbed
his nose at American presidents any number of times! But it can't
be right to kill Iraqi children at least 100,000, by a low-end
estimate because we're mad at Hussein, can it? And it makes no
sense to defend our sanctions by claiming that they aren't hurting
and impoverishing the Iraqi people: That is, after all, the whole
point of sanctions!
of all, I know that being in the employ of a state does not elevate
one to an alternate moral plane in which the rules that apply to
the rest of us are void. The whole gamut of arguments to the contrary,
from Machiavelli to Hobbes to the modern notion of total war against
the entire populace of any country with which a government is upset,
is a convenient series of excuses for the state to act however it
wants. If you'll notice, the Ten Commandments do not say, "Thou
shalt not steal, unless you are an IRS agent." Buddha did not prompt
his followers to "right action, except when holding a government
office." Jesus did not say, "Love your enemy as you love yourself,
unless your airforce is better." Kant formulated a categorical imperative,
not a conditional-on-government-employment imperative.
it would be nice if every government employee, even the President,
started acting like he was just another ordinary person. Because,
you know, he is.
Callahan [send him mail]
has just finished a book, Economics for Real People, to
be published this year by the Ludwig
von Mises Institute.
© 2002, Gene
Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives
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