Thursday, August 17, 2006

Identity Versus Survival

Wow! So many posts in two days! Now if people were just reading this...

So I saw how the federal judge struck down the warrantless wiretaps, not too terribly long after the SCOTUS ruled against the government in the Hamdan case, in which it applied Geneva conventions to terrorist which, by any fair reading of those conventions, are not applicable. And that hot on the heels of the NYT spilling the beans on the SWIFT program to track terrorists' financial transactions!

Without delving too deeply, let us, temporarily, give the benefit of the doubt to both the judges and the media involved in all these (and related) developments (please, stop laughing and just keep reading). Let us suppose, for the moment, that these individuals are not motivated by a hatred of George Bush (again, no laughing), or a cowardly fear of Islamic Fascism (and the giggling), or a self-loathing of all things Western and Capitalistic (yes, you in the back, contain yourself), or even sympathy to those who would destroy us (fine, laugh, but laugh on the inside).

Let us suppose, rather, that these people genuinely have an ideal for this country, in which the government is completely transparent, honest, and uncorrupt; that in no way attempts to torture, coerce, or otherwise denigrate our enemies except on the lawful field of battle; that we value personal freedom, privacy, freedom of association, and equal rights for all "citizens of the world" regardless of nationality; etc., ad nauseam. Let us also assume, for the sake of argument, that all of these positions have merit.

Thus, again following this line of logic, and again with the above assumptions in place (perhaps requiring an almost insurmountable suspension of disbelief), these people might argue that they are struggling for the maintainence of America's identity in which all of these things hold true, and that is why they expose these government programs, or make these judicial rulings, etc.

Of course, fair-minded people would also argue that, yes, these programs do indeed make us safer from terrorism. Keeping known and undisputed terrorists and enemies of the country locked up keeps them from killing us. Coercive interrogation helps us stop their plots better. Tracking their finances enables us to catch them. Ditto for warrantless wiretaps. The list goes on. The above-mentioned individuals, however, are (as my specious argument goes) weighing this security with less importance than maintaining our unique "American Identity".

This brings me to my point: suppose this is a true dichotomy: "maintain" and die, or adapt and survive. If this is the true belief of the judges, the media, and the Bush-haters (but I repeat myself), they would have us stay "the same" (in their perhaps naive and false world view), as an idealized "Free Society", which puts us at considerably greater risk, and may ultimately destroy us. On the other side of that coin, we sacrifice some of our freedoms, but we live to debate the merits of that strategy.

*** Disclaimer ***: I am not saying "we must sacrifice our freedoms or die". I recognize that I have set up a false dichotomy. Moreover, I also do not ascribe to these individuals the motives I have given them above, at least as a whole. I am just trying to stimulate some discussion and thought on the issue, as my title suggests, of identity versus survival.

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Anonymous Marty said...

The story in the paper this morning was that 'legal experts' think the latest decision will likely be overturned. But, even so, the immediate question (rather than the overarching one about identity versus survival) is "When will we finally rein in these judges?" Their power far exceeds that of a co-equal branch.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

You're preaching to the choir there. It seems to me that most leftists and judicial apologists ignore this whole "co-equal" thing. There was an article within the last couple months in National Review (sorry, too lazy to paw through my stack of back issues to find the date, title, or author) that addresses what it really means for the Executive Branch to be "co-equal". It looks as if any attempt for the President to assert his own authority is always viewed by the left as "over-reaching", and I'd challenge any leftie to provide me with a counterexample.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I have faith that the government, under Bush, is acting reasonably in this situation. They're not checking out what books I get from the library. I may be naive, but I don't feel my freedoms are being infringed.

I'd rather have this happen, than have to get accustomed to frequent suicide bombings or terrorist attacks in this country (like Israel has). We've really come a long way in 60 years. Back then, interring Japanese-Americans or killing tens of thousands of civilians was more understood to be necessary evil in the fight against a greater evil.

It's interesting that liberals want to count on government for everything else, but become wary when it's for security. Must have something to hide...

4:46 PM  

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