As I was finishing up my liberty entertainment article a few weeks ago, I checked lists that other people had made, just to see if I had forgotten something. As I did, I was dismayed to find that in most of these lists, pro-liberty really meant pro-military.
So I think it’s time to take a quick look at the myth that military power gives us liberty.
The Fantasy of the Foreign Oppressor
There is a plot that lies behind this “military power equals freedom” belief. It says that the enemy of liberty is a foreign invader. So, if the outsider is afraid to approach, we are free.
It implies that “local rule equals freedom.”
This is simply a lie. But it’s a lie that works very well in fiction.
Back in the real world, the hometown of an oppressor – whether it be near or far – makes him no better or worse.
Are we free because the people who rule us reside within local borders? Does that remain true even when it’s the “inside our lines” people who oppress us?
May only foreigners be oppressors?
Consider these recent cases:
- No people suffered more to defeat Hitler than the Russians. So did killing the foreign invader make them free? Hardly – it kept Stalin, who killed far more people than Hitler ever did, in power.
- What about Southern blacks in 1950? Almost everything done to them was “under the law,” and they were protected by a massive military and a nuclear arsenal capable of reducing any invader to ashes. Were they free?
- And what about their great-grandparents who were slaves? They were militarily protected, after all. And their local oppressors operated fully under the rule of law. The Supreme Court approved. Did that make them free?
- The people of Eastern Europe were protected by a Soviet arsenal that included thousands of atomic bombs. They were further protected by constitutions and courts, all of which were locally administered. Were they free?
I could go on, but I think the point is made: The vast majority of human oppression comes at the hands of locals, not foreigners.
That’s a fact, whether or not it works as a movie plot.
I know that many good men and women have spent time in various military capacities, but the fact is this:
Foreign invaders abuse far, far fewer people than do local bosses.
And here’s another fact: Once a foreign invader takes control of a new place, he usually tries very hard to keep the populace happy. The foreigner does not murder civilians by the millions… but local rulers do. (Think of Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc. They each killed millions of locals.)
The Flip Side of Xenophobia
Xenophobia is fear of the foreigner and usually applies to things like hating immigrants. But it’s not always “fear.” It’s more often a need to keep the foreigner beneath us.
In any case, classic expressions of xenophobia involve punishing immigrants, Jews, or some other outsiders (justified by whatever facts can be conveniently assembled).
It seems to me that the myth we mentioned above, “military power equals freedom,” is the flip side of this xenophobia phenomenon:
- On one side of this “xenophobia coin,” we have outsiders whom we need to keep beneath us.
- On the other side, we have outsiders whom we must prevent from putting us beneath them.
Both of these fears come from a dominance instinct:
We must allow no one above us.
We must keep those below us in place.
Both of these impulses are irrational, and they tend to travel together.
Perhaps I’m missing something, but my experience tells me this:
The people who love the “military equals freedom” fantasy are the same people who oppose immigrants.
That’s not just an American thing, by the way. You see it more or less everywhere.
I know that there are many exceptions to this statement (we’re talking about millions of individuals, after all, many of whom DO analyze their own minds), but I think this statement holds up:
“Military equals freedom” grows from the same impulse as xenophobia.
The Case of America
Since the majority of my readers seem to be Americans, I’ll devote a minute to the US’s fear of the “foreign devil.”
Should Americans really take an “alien invasion” seriously? Even when surrounded by two huge oceans and friendly people to the north and south? (The trouble in Mexico exists largely because the US government created it.)
There is no potential invader who takes invasion seriously. Here’s what Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto said during the hostilities of World War II:
You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.
No foreign power would seriously consider invading America, where there are 270 million guns in the hands of ordinary people. Everyone, not just boys in uniforms, would be a deadly threat.
The US can be taken by stealth, but not by an open invasion. If the American people ever paid attention to what was being done to them, no oppressor would survive it.
To close this discussion, here’s a quote from General Douglas MacArthur, who knew something about America and war:
Our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.
We need to let go of fear and think rationally.
Very seldom do foreigners oppress us. The vast majority of oppression comes from within.