President Trump is being criticized for surrounding himself with tanks, armored vehicles, flyovers, and generals and admirals during his Fourth of July celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. Critics say that it was unseemly for the president to be showing off the federal government’s military process on Independence Day. Some said it conjured up images of the Soviet Union, when that communist regime would showcase its tanks and military hardware in parades in Moscow’s Red Square.
But the fact is that America is a military nation. As Trump pointed out in his Independence Day address, the United States has the most powerful military in history, one that can pulverize any other nation on earth. His critics don’t have any problem with that. They just don’t want Trump to highlight it.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way. In extolling America’s position as a military nation, Trump left out something important in his talk: America did not start out as a military nation. In fact, quite the contrary. America was founded as a limited-government republic, not a military nation.
In fact, the people who founded the United States abhorred the concept of a military nation. That’s one of the reasons they chose to revolt against their own government, which was a military nation, one whose officials extolled its military prowess, just as Trump does today with America.
It’s easy to think of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence as great Americans. They weren’t. The reason they weren’t was that they weren’t Americans. They were British citizens. They were every bit as British as Americans today are Americans.
Americans today praise the signers of the Declaration as patriots. But I will guarantee you that their government didn’t consider them to be patriots. They considered them to be terrorists, criminals, and traitors. If the government had won, the rebels would have been long forgotten,
What about the British troops? Not surprisingly, the government exhorted the British colonists to support the troops. They pointed out what Trump pointed out yesterday — that it is the duty of the citizenry to support the troops because they are protecting the nation and the freedom of the citizenry.
And in fact, it has been estimated that about one-third of the British colonists did end up supporting the troops during the Revolution. They sided with their government and cheered the troops as they tried to put down the rebellion by killing the British citizens who were doing the rebelling.
The British revolutionaries, on the other hand, absolutely refused to support the troops. On the contrary, they chose to shoot and kill the troops. They wanted the troops to surrender and return to England so that they could establish their own nation, one that would not be a military nation like the one against which they were rebelling.
So, who were the real patriots — the ones who supported the troops or the ones who shot and killed the troops? In the movie The Patriot, which starred Mel Gibson, the answer was that the patriots were those who are willing to stand up to the wrongdoing of their own government, which sometimes means standing up to the government’s troops.
When the rebels prevailed in the conflict and formed their own government, the last thing they wanted was a military nation, the type of nation that Trump extolled in his Fourth of July speech. The reason they opposed a military nation was because they were convinced that the greatest threat to the freedom and well-being of a citizenry lies with their own government, not some foreign threat. They also understood that the way that people’s own government is able to destroy their freedom is through the force of a powerful military, one that can easily put down revolts and force people to submit to the tyranny of their own government.
That’s why our American ancestors were so opposed to a “standing army,” which was their term for a powerful, permanent military-intelligence establishment. Consider, for example, the following:
James Madison: “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty….”
Patrick Henry: “A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
Commonwealth of Virginia in 1788: “… that standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty…”
Those warnings would be repeated more than 150 years later, when President Dwight Eisenhower would warn the American people in his Farewell Address in 1961 that their recently established “military-industrial complex” posed a grave threat to their freedoms and democratic values.
When the Constitution called into existence the federal government, there was only a small, basic military force, one whose primary purpose was to suppress Native Americans. At no time did it ever come close to attaining the size, power, influence, and largess of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, which are the three principal components of America’s national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto the federal government at the end of World War II.
In fact, if the American people after the Constitutional Convention had been told that the Constitution was going to bring into existence a military nation, they would have thought it a joke. They never would have approved such a deal and would have continued operating under the Articles of Confederation, a type of governmental system in which the federal government’s powers were so limited that it didn’t even have the power to tax.
Last week, President Trump stated that America’s military forces protect our “freedom.” In actuality, it’s the opposite. America’s military forces are part of the national-security governmental apparatus that has destroyed our liberty, in the name of “keeping us safe” from “enemies,” many of which have been produced by the national-security state’s policy of intervening and meddling in the affairs of other nations. After all, how can people truly be considered free when they live under a regime in which government officials wield the omnipotent, totalitarian-like powers to assassinate them, incarcerate them indefinitely in military dungeons and concentration camps, torture them, execute them, embroil them in forever wars in faraway lands, and tax and spend them into penury to fund the ever-growing military-intelligence establishment.
One of the ironies in all this is that while Americans live under the most powerful military in history, as Trump pointed out, the American people are the most frightened people in the world. They are scared to death that everyone is coming to get them — the Muslims, terrorists, communists, illegal immigrants, and drug dealers — and that it’s only the national-security establishment that is preventing this from taking place. Americans have traded their liberty for “security,” have ended up with neither, and, worst of all, don’t even realize what they have done.
Trump wants to make America great again. His mistake is in believing that he can accomplish that by making the national-security part of the federal government even more powerful than it already is. A powerful government inevitably results in a frightened citizenry and a weak nation. The way to make America great again is by making the American people free and independent, which necessarily entails a restoration of a limited-government republic, one that reflects America’s founding antipathy toward a military nation.
Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.