"War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them."
~ Randolph Bourne
War is the health of the state. Randolph Bourne arrived at this conclusion near the beginning of the 20th century. Smedley Butler later wrote in War is a Racket about the baleful special interest vectors that drive us to war. We hear again and again that we owe our freedoms to the conduct of overseas adventures in other countries whether the wresting of Spanish colonies into our possession or the invasion of Europe during the War to Save Joseph Stalin (1939—45) to the modern era of American armed dominion over the planet. I would suggest these are poor assumptions. The next time someone makes one of these specious claims, simply ask them how the defeat of one totalitarian regime while aiding and abetting another noxious regime made America free? Is the Cold War representative of the halcyon days of American individualism?
Most libertarians agree that the American government is colossal, oppressive and a slayer of freedom and liberty. There are certainly domestic influences and causes for the enormous growth in the statist tilt of American governance and concentration of power. The metamorphosis of an agrarian republic birthed in the violent dismissal of British rule to the Sovietized monstrosity we labor under today is the result of both domestic dynamics and the creation of the national security/garrison state to project power and influence overseas. I would submit that war is the unacknowledged silent partner of the leviathan state.
How does a militarized foreign policy create a less free nation at home? Let’s begin with a conflict most Americans can name but few can even place a date to: World War One. I would recommend Niall Ferguson’s book Pity of War as a signal starting point to rip asunder the veil of historical illiteracy and propaganda that has surrounded that sordid conflict. Woodrow Wilson, one of the worst and most evil Presidents to grace that august den of thieves in the White House, promised in 1916 to never enter the European conflict and promptly started the machinations to steer us into the conflagration and militarize American society. The more you learn about Wilson, the more you see he is the point of origin for so much of our national grief. I have previously mentioned the American Protective League and its un-American activities in stifling, fining and jailing dissidents against Wilson’s war. Wilson also inaugurated the Committee on Public Information which even gave instructions for cartoonists and signed into law the Espionage and Sedition Acts.
Among the many notorious achievements Wilson managed was the Americanization of a fairly decentralized and devolved society. This was the perennial missing link in formalizing the ultimate project of the Hamiltonian ambition: the establishment of a permanent central government for whom the individual states were mere agents and bureaucratic subsidiaries.
State and regional pride in the absence of a national highway system and a fairly localized culture dominated the discourse of the then loosely knit united States. It still took nearly a week or more to travel from coast to coast. The government in DC did not have the consensus or the reach to influence the minor and major muscle movements that each state and its subset elements exercised and therefore the flavors and nuances of the regions retained localized habits and customs. WWI ended that with the unifying message of an America in peril from the German threat to European stability and the need to make the world more like America. In the process, these united States made the same critical error the Confederacy made in the War of Northern Aggression; by centralizing the war effort, any state sovereignty soon was lost to the overweening tendency to dictate top-down command economy nostrums and the resulting loss of subsidiary integrity at the lower echelonments. For the first time in American history, state-originated troops deployed overseas en masse as American-flagged forces in a unified organization representing the "forces of democracy."