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The Cancer of the National-Security State

Suppose that after you visit your doctor for a physical examination, he informs you that you are suffering from the following ailments:

  1. A stiff knee, which requires six months of physical therapy.
  2. Being overweight, which requires a big change in diet.
  3. Kidney problems, which require you to give up drinking.
  4. A growing malignant tumor on your stomach that can be removed by surgery.

The doctor recommends that you give priority to ailment 4, but you instead decide to give priority to the first three ailments. 

At the end of six months, you have resolved your knee problem, you have brought your weight down to an acceptable level, and you have totally given up drinking. At your six-month review, your doctor commends you on your accomplishments.

There is just one big problem, however. Your malignant tumor has grown so large that it can no longer be removed. Worse, the cancer has spread throughout your body. Your doctor advises you to get your affairs in order because you only have three months to live.

That’s the situation that the American people face with respect to the society in which we live. There are multiple problems facing our nation. But the biggest one is the national-security state form of governmental structure under which we have been living for some 75 years. It is this governmental structure that is a malignant tumor on the American body politic. This political cancer is taking us down from within. That’s why it is imperative that Americans make its removal their top priority.

Consisting of the Pentagon, the vast military-industrial complex, the enormous empire of domestic and foreign military bases, the CIA, and the NSA, along with its foreign policy of interventionism, the national-security establishment is the root cause of the perpetual wars in which the United States has been embroiled since 1947, when the federal government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state. 

The Cold War. The Korean War. The Vietnam War. The Persian Gulf War. The war on terrorism. The war on Islam. The War on Afghanistan. The War on Iraq. The war on Syria. The war on Yemen. The war on China. The war on Iran. Multiple military incursions. Multiple coups and state-sponsored assassinations. And now the renewed Cold War on Russia, which has gotten us perilously close to all-out, life-destroying nuclear war, just like it did back in October 1962.

Of course, there is lots of focus on ending America’s “endless wars.” But that’s akin to focusing on our knee problem rather than on our cancer problem. Ending one forever war accomplishes nothing from a longterm perspective because always around the corner is another forever war. That’s because the national-security state apparatus is the root cause of each forever war in which they embroil America.

A national-security state necessarily depends on forever wars or, at the very least, crises, dangers, and threats from official enemies, adversaries, opponents, and competitors in order to justify its existence and its ever-growing taxpayer-funded largess. The wars, crises, dangers, and threats keep people agitated and afraid. They become convinced that without the national-security establishment keeping them safe, the nation would inevitably be conquered by the Reds, the terrorists, the Muslims, the illegal immigrants, the drug dealers, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, or some other scary boogeyman.

There is, of course, the out-of-control federal spending, debt, and monetary debauchery that comes with all this to consider. It’s not just the welfare state (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, etc.) that is taking us down from within. It’s also the warfare state, which is costing American taxpayers close to a trillion dollars a year. 

There is also the omnipotent, totalitarian-like, dark-side powers that come with a national-security state, such as assassination, kidnapping, torture, and indefinite detention. Such powers are able to be exercised against both foreigners and American citizens.

For many years, I have been recommending a book titled National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon, who is a professor of law at Tufts University and served as counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. 

Glennon’s thesis is a simple but extremely ominous one. He persuasively makes the case that it is the national-security branch of the government — that is, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA — that is actually running the federal government, especially in foreign affairs. The other three branches — the executive, legislative, and judicial — are permitted to maintain the veneer of power. But that’s all it is — an appearance. The real power, Glennon argues, lies with the national-security establishment.

That means that it is the Pentagon, not the deferential executive or legislative branches, that is calling the shots and running the show in Ukraine. Given the extreme anti-Russia hostility that drove the national-security establishment and its willingness to risk nuclear war during the Cold War, Glennon’s thesis does not bode well for the longterm future and well-being of the American people.

The national-security state is a malignant tumor on the American body politic. Although our nation faces lots of problems, the priority should be given to the removal of this cancer and to the restoration of our founding governmental system of a limited-government republic, before it is too late. 

Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.