Special To The Caldwell Journal (By Daniel B. Rundquist – 02/19/2017)…I’m not a warmonger by any means. Quite the contrary; while I have nothing but the deepest admiration, respect, and gratitude for those Americans who serve in the military, I despise war and I hate even more the notion of sending our fine troops into harm’s way. In the broadest sense, the act of war itself is the least productive activity for mankind. It consumes men and materials, demands our time and energies which might otherwise be used to advance our nation, spends the treasure and labors of the people, orphans our children, and is the source for unspeakable violence, tragedy, sorrow and waste. My view of war can be summed up in five words: Destructive. Wasteful. Expensive. Inflationary. Bureaucratic. In this opinion, I am certainly not alone, nor is it likely I am the first to make this observation.
As an American, I am also a pragmatist who understands that we should and must always defend our nation and its interests, but I would much prefer that our military to be so well trained, so well equipped, and so intimidating that its existence alone serves as deterrent enough. When we absolutely must engage, ending a conflict as soon as possible with decisive and thorough action is not only wise and humane, but a must to maintain our liberty at home. At home? Yes, allow me to explain.
This notion of maintaining a large, intimidating military was once known as, “peace through strength”–a concept dating all the way back to the Roman Empire under the emperor Hadrian. Although a popular phrase used into the twentieth century, and its firm application responsible for ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union, no one hears this phrase uttered today as it seems to have been totally eliminated from the American vernacular. For the past eight years America has practiced appeasement instead, and we end up fighting defensively rather than decisively, if we even fight at all. This timid position is probably more dangerous for our armed services over time than engaging in battles to win them outright.
As a result, America has been “fighting” the war on terrorism for a decade and a half now or longer, depending upon how far back you look. It is obvious to me, and a lot of other Americans, that we are not really winning; that we are not fighting with the resolve and strength required to win this war. It always seemed illogical to me for America to be able to seriously prosecute a war after 9/11 when Congress refused to declare war and President Bush implored average Americans to “get down to Disney World” What did that mean? Was the Pentagon being relocated to Orlando? No, the Administration wanted Americans to just continue on living normal lives while “others” would fight the war.
Did we win World War II by sending “Rosie the Riveter” to enjoy a five-year vacation in Florida while everyone else around the globe was supposed to fight Imperial Japan and the Nazis? Of course not. The way I see it, if at last we must fight a war, then let us all fight as hard as we can to win it—and end it—as soon as possible.
Today we are still “fighting the war” well into fifteen years now. President Bush did not see an end to the war. President Obama campaigned on ending the war, which of course years later he did not. But after election, he merely “declared” it over while it raged on. The peculiar traits of war that differentiates it from other contests, is that it only takes one side to engage in it, one side to set the rules (or choose not to) and one side to continue it. This is usually the challenger or aggressor seated in this role. The other side cannot simply opt out, unless, of course, they surrender outright.
So why America would go to war in 2001 and not fight to win decisively as quickly as possible was a mystery to me. What was the purpose in that? I would discover the answer to that question a year later, written by a ghost of our colonial past; Thomas Paine who wrote in 1791:
“War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries. It is the art of conquering at home: the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretense must be made for expenditures. In reviewing the history of the English government, its wars and its taxes, a stander-by, not blinded by prejudice, nor warped by interest, would declare, that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.”
Suddenly an event from my past finally made sense. In the late 1990’s, I was traveling on business and stopped to make a call home from a pay phone near Denton, NC. We did not carry cell phones in those days. I left home on each trip with a folding paper road map, a compass, and a special phone credit card to bill long distance calls to our home phone rather than carrying around ten dollars in quarters.
I placed a one-minute call and left a message. When the bill came, I was charged just .25 cents for the call, but $2.50 in federal tax for that one call. I decided to send the bill to my federal representative with a letter asking why a .25 cent call is taxed by 1000 %. The written reply was that the tax in question was being collected to pay expenses from World War II! Thomas Paine was correct and I began to wonder just how many other “war-related” taxes we were still paying.
The federal telephone excise tax had been in place since 1898 for the purpose of paying for the Spanish-American War. It was renewed in 1914 to start funding World War I. In 2006, it was partially repealed; a very small, final victory for taxpayers before the U.S. government supersized itself, fully doubling the national debt just over the past eight years alone.
Revolutionary War era writer Thomas Paine called war “…the art of conquering at home.” He was talking about the heavy burden of an additional increase in taxation on the people.
I concede that building and maintaining an impressive military as I have described earlier will cost money and will take taxes to pay for it. However, if all military spending was to be eliminated from the federal budget today, the sum saved would amount to little more than a rounding error compared to the total budget. We spend so little on our military now that presently we have families of our soldiers and veterans on foods stamps while the government freely gives away billions of dollars in aid to people in other countries. Our navy has the smallest operating fleet since 1916, I am told. And nearly half of the American military aircraft is grounded—either not flyable or lacking trained pilots. As a citizen and taxpayer I find this the most deplorable act of our politicians.
Indeed, most of the money the federal government spends has absolutely nothing to do with its primary constitutional function which is national defense. Can anyone alive deny that the modern system of taxation is now simply a mechanism used to reduce the liberties of the American citizens by degrees? Again, according to Thomas Paine, “…taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.” The fledgling American Continental Army of 1775 was woefully understaffed, poorly trained, hardly equipped, and half starved –and they still managed to defeat the most efficient and well trained superpower of the day, England, in only seven years. So you will forgive me if one might get the notion that keeping a war going for fifteen years might serve a specific purpose for government. It seems to come down to money.
The currency of America, the dollar, is used as money. What is money? Money is the labors of the people converted to a portable and divisible trade unit. Your money then represents your time and labor of course, and the more of that government demands from the people, the less freedom Americans have at home. So your money equals your freedom.
The basis of American free economy, which differs from most other nations, is that the people possess property rights; they can earn money and use it to do the things they wish as they see fit. Instead today we see it is government that has positioned itself as the clearinghouse for all money as they decide what you should spend and what they believe you should spend it on. Have you bought any tobacco or alcohol products lately? Big Government doesn’t not want you buying those and so cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed. Did you buy a new tankless water heater? Then Big Government rewards you with a $150 tax credit. On and on the behavioral manipulation goes using taxes as the tool, but ultimately taxes are always higher and rising. They never go down, and never will in the long term. They can’t because of the $20 trillion-dollar debt hung around the necks of the citizenry. And so much of this debt is war expense.
As government grows itself in spite of the Constitutional constraints the Framers placed upon it, the bureaucracy they feed grows to oppose this entire notion of free economy. Milton Friedman would agree with this principle as he stated:
“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”
So if we are to continue to engage in the present war, let us pray for the safety of our servicemen and servicewomen; for a swift and decisive victory at last—to protect them abroad as well as our own liberty at home; something I have been hoping for now for fifteen years.
Dan Rundquist is a Caldwell Journal Contributor.
Copyright 2017 Caldwell Journal on behalf of Dan Rundquist. All rights reserved.