Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Republic or Empire?

The founders of our nation were great students of history. Many of their friendships and bonds came from a mutual appreciation of great thinkers and great writers. The tenets of our sovereignty were forged in a manner unlike any other nation. There were great debates lasting months, even years. Great philosophies were dissected, deconstructed, and held to the light of experience, reason, history, and judicious analysis.

For more than a decade after these United States won their independence, great thinkers wrote, studied, debated and convened to set the right course for what would emerge as the uniquely democratic republic called the United States of America.

Famously [according to the notes of a Maryland delegate to the Convention of 1787], as the last day of Constitutional deliberation drew to a close and the attendees were exiting Independence Hall:

A lady asked Dr. Franklin,

"Well Doctor, what have we got: a republic or a monarchy?"

"A republic," replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it."

The ever astute Benjamin Franklin set the correct challenge before us those many years ago. Can we keep the republic envisioned by our inspired founders? Or will we fall to the natural temptation to choose monarchy and empire . . . to trade liberty for security and bondage?

This is not an outdated question. In all of recorded history there have been powerful leaders who articulately, resolutely, and logically argued for the cause of empire – and against the ennervating freedoms of the common people. Some of the most famous clashes amongst our own founders were upon this question. But they — all of them – ratified, in the end, a system which favored freedom above security and democracy above hierarchy. History is full of the regimes that decided otherwise – and the atrocious abuses of power that resulted.

Unfortunately, there is no question about it for a surprising number of our current leaders. They strongly advocate empire. If history is any guide, it is clear what path they are championing. And it is not a path I want to follow.

President J. Reuben Clark put it best, perhaps:

"For America has a destiny – a destiny to conquer the world – not by force of arms, not by purchase and favor, for these conquests wash away, but by high purpose, by unselfish effort, by uplifting achievement, by a course of Christian living; a conquest that shall leave every nation free to move out to its own destiny; a conquest that shall bring, through the workings of our own example, the blessings of freedom and liberty to every people, without restraint or imposition or compulsion from us; a conquest that shall weld the whole earth together in one great brotherhood in a reign of mutual patience, forbearance, and charity, in a reign of peace to which we shall lead all others by the persuasion of our own righteous example."

Finally, since I don't seem to be following up with my writing goals lately (lol) or moving (as indicated) to my new blog yet, here is a relevant discussion at an outstanding blog I just found last week.

Also, a website that has umpteen thousand recent articles and books on this topic: "Liberty Park, USA" . . . I especially recommend and

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Reality Disconnect

This morning I was at the dentist for a couple of hours and had the opportunity to hear a good deal of President Bush's speech to the "Democracy and Security" forum at the G8 convention.

The speech was great rhetoric but completely disconnected from reality. He tried to tackle the questions of our Iraqi occupation, for which I commend him. Somehow, however, he was trying to connect internal democratic revolutions of the past with our violent, foreign occupation of Iraq in the present. It was a pretty speech, but vulgar in its absolute disregard for truth, reality, and reason.

Lets be frank about this. President Bush talked about East Germans defying communism by praying in their living rooms and contributing to the end of the Berlin Wall. Then he talked about humble organizers amongst dock workers in Poland bringing about the democratic revolution there. Those are great stories but they are basically the antithesis of what is happening in Iraq. This was not the Iraqi people standing up to tyranny and oppression. This was an outside force coming in to depose one tyranny and forecefully impose a new order. It is about the most unwise connection you could try to make.

I would love to know how these speeches get written. Does President Bush have a hand in writing these? Do they get vetted through any aides? Does the President ever sit in the middle of his own speech and say "OK, what??" Or do his aides cringe when he adds these kind of ideas and refuses to heed advice to cut them from speeches.

In contrast, I heard a fairly rational analysis from Tony Lagouranis on the radio as I drove in to work. He discussed his book on the questions of prisoner interrogation in the Iraqi war. It was not the disconnected stories (and red herrings) that the President was dishing out this morning.

Lagouranis was one of the first interrogators sent to Iraq. He quickly discovered that the architects of this war went out of their way to say that "the detainees that they had were not covered by the Geneva Conventions". His book discusses how the events at Abu Ghraib were often the rule and not the exception (even after the PR fiasco). He was deeply disturbed by his orders and continued to be disturbed when he got back to the states. He explains that many people that got rounded up for interrogation were ultimately proved to not be involved with resistance forces – but that so much harm was done to them in trying to assess them, that they left (if they left at all) as an enemy of our occupying force.

So he wrote a book to talk about facts and ask questions. I commend that. I think there are a lot of facts that need discussion and some difficult questions that need revisiting. If we are going to promote "Democracy and Security" in the world, lets actually do it, not just give pretty speeches about it to try to obscure the reality of our current actions.

Note: I am cross-posting this at a new blog site called "Politics in Plain English". I was kinda hoping this blog would turn into a "group" of Mormons pressing for peace, but since it's more just my own silly soapbox, I'm thinking that having "Mormons" in the title is kinda mis-representative and it would be better to just post over at my new site in the future. Also, the Cheney protests at BYU showed me that there are plenty of Mormons concerned about peace and US foreign policy and that they are discovering their voices just fine as well. :] Thanks though to anybody who's ever taken the time to read my crazy musings and/or post here. :)