One of the most fascinating aspects of the post-9/11 debate has been the “Blame America” phenomenon. Whenever libertarians have pointed to the role that U.S. foreign policy played in producing the anger and rage that ultimately manifested itself with terrorist retaliation on 9/11, statists have responded, “Oh, so you’re blaming America for the attacks.”
Here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, we experienced this phenomenon first-hand immediately after the 9/11 attacks. A couple of weeks after 9/11, I wrote an article entitled, “Is This the Wrong Time to Question Foreign Policy?” We have never been inundated with more nasty emails as we were then, with virtually all of them attacking us for “blaming America” for the attacks.
The phenomenon manifested itself 4 years ago during the first GOP presidential debate. Ron Paul pointed out that the 9/11 terrorists came over here to kill us because the U.S. government was over there killing them. Immediately, Rudy Guliani pounced, criticizing Paul for blaming America for the attacks.
Most recently, Rick Santorum issued the same sort of attack against Paul based on Paul’s contention in his weekly column that the 10-year deadly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were leaving America vulnerable to a permanent threat of terrorist retaliation. Santorum suggested that Paul was blaming America.
It’s hard to imagine anything so ridiculous. Why is it that these people automatically jump to the conclusion that when one blames the federal government for the consequences resulting from its bad policies, he is, automatically, blaming America for such consequences?
One reason is the collectivist mindset of statists. In their minds, the federal government and the country are conflated into one big entity. Imagine a great big bee hive. The hive is the federal government, with the structure of the hive consisting of the military and the CIA. All of us in the private sector are the drones, who exist to serve the government — the greater good — society — the collective.
So, given that mindset of the statist, it makes sense that he would conclude that a person who condemns the wrongful actions of the government is condemning his country. For him, it’s just one big hive, with the national-security state providing the framework and with the maintenance of the welfare state being the goal of the hive.
Another factor here is that statists view the federal government as a daddy or a god, one that provides them with retirement, healthcare, education, food, jobs, training, and all sorts of grants, not to mention protecting them from drug dealers, profit-seekers, entrepreneurs, the rich, speculators, big oil, corporations, greed, illegal aliens, communists, terrorists, and other such dangers.
Therefore, statists really resent it when someone criticizes their daddy or their god, much as a child resents it when one of his friends criticizes the child’s daddy. “You can’t say that about my daddy! Take it back!” is the standard reaction among the statist child-adult upon hearing libertarian criticism of the federal government.
Finally, there’s the patriotism factor. Statists have the warped concept of patriotism that has long characterized European countries — the one in which the citizen is expected to support his government, especially in time of crisis or war, regardless of whether the government is in the right or not. In fact, during such times the citizen is not even expected to make that determination, according to the statist concept of patriotism. His mindset is expected to be, “My government, right or wrong” or, even better, “My government, never wrong, at least not in foreign affairs.”
A good example, of course, is World War II, when German citizens came to the support of their government even though their government was in the wrong. Like statists here, most German citizens didn’t bother making that determination. It had been inculcated in them, especially in German public schools, that the good citizen and the good patriot come to the support of their government, especially during crisis or war.
That’s why some statists have no reservations is saying that the German people who supported their government during World War II were genuine patriots and that the White Rose Germans were bad people for taking a principled stand against their government in the midst of war.
Thus, libertarians, needless to say, view patriotism in an entirely different way from statists. We view patriotism in the way that the signers of the Declaration of Independence viewed it. Contrary to popular opinion, those signers were not great Americans but rather great Englishmen. They were as much English citizens as you and I are American citizens.
The revolutionaries in 1776 were willing to stand up against their own government because their government was doing bad things and refused to stop doing such bad things. Libertarians consider those revolutionaries to have been the real patriots because they had the courage to take a stand against the wrongdoing of their own government. Statists, on the other hand, side with those who considered Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the others as traitors or bad people for refusing to support their government in time of crisis or war.
An interesting question is whether American statists are inherently incapable of recognizing that the federal government and the private sector are not one and the same thing and that the real patriot is the person who is unafraid to take a principled stand against the wrongdoing of his government. My feeling is that many of them are incorrigible but that some of them are still able to break free of the statist mindset that holds them in its grip.
We libertarians must just continue doing what we’re doing — standing against government wrongdoing, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s the best chance we have to protect our country from the consequences of the federal government’s bad policies, both foreign and domestic.