• The Bush Inaugural: Faith and Force

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    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

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