Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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America Doesn’t Need a National-Security State


The American people are absolutely convinced that they need the U.S. national-security establishment, namely, the military, the CIA, and the NSA. Without this totalitarian-like apparatus that was grafted onto America’s governmental system after World War II, it is commonly believed, Americans wouldn’t be safe. It’s the national-security state, the story goes, that is America’s last bastion against the terrorists, communists, North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, and other supposedly dangerous entities that supposedly pose a potential threat to “national security,” the most important two-word term in the lexicon of the American people.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As I point out in my new ebook, The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State, it’s the exact opposite. The national-security state actually makes Americans less safe, less prosperous, and less free.

Let’s begin with the obvious. There is no nation-state anywhere in the world that has the military capability, money, resources, troops, armaments, ships, or planes — or even the interest — that would be needed to cross the ocean and invade, conquer, and occupy the United States.

If a nation-state ever began mobilizing to undertake such a massive undertaking, it could not be hidden for very long. The U.S. government, which would now be devoted solely to fortifying defenses rather than bombing the Middle East, would easily and quickly be able to mobilize a free people to come to the defense of their country. By the time the invaders were to cross the ocean, the Americans would be ready for them.

Therefore, America doesn’t need a standing army, a military-industrial complex, the CIA, or the NSA to defend against an invasion of the United States because the possibility of such an invasion is non-existent for the near future.

What about the “terrorists?” Don’t Americans need the national-security establishment to protect themselves from them?

First of all, the terrorists present no existential threat to the United States. They are never going to take the reins of power in Washington, D.C., run the IRS and the welfare-warfare state, and subjugate the American people. At worst, the most they can do is blow up some buildings or infrastructure and kill hundreds of people in a terrorist strike. Acts of terrorism cannot bring a violent takeover of the U.S. government by the terrorists.

Second, and much more important, the only reason that the United States is faced with a constant threat of terrorism is because of the U.S. national-security state itself. Dismantle the national-security state and the threat of anti-American terrorism evaporates. Without the threat of terrorism, that justification for the national-security state disintegrates.

Recall the Cold War, when communism and the Soviet Union were the big official bugaboos. The national-security state inculcated a deep and abiding fear of communism and Russia into the American people. Americans were certain that the communists were coming to get them and subjugate them. That’s what the Korean War and the Vietnam War were all about—to prevent the dominoes from falling into communism, with the United States being the big, final domino. That’s what the anti-communist crusade here in the United States was all about. That’s what the embargo and other acts of aggression against Cuba were all about. That’s what the regime-change operations against Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Congo, and others were all about.

Did Americans ever hear anything about the threat of terrorism during the entire Cold War? For that matter, did they ever hear about the threat that Muslims and Islam, another big bugaboo today, supposedly posed to the American people? Were Americans scared that the Muslims were coming to get them, cart them from their homes, and force them into mosques to study the Koran as part of their supposed effort to establish a worldwide caliphate?

Nope. Not a peep about any such things. In fact, when the U.S. national-security establishment partnered with Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, when it was the Soviet Union doing the occupying of that country, Americans cheered.

It was only after the U.S. national-security state lost its official enemy — communism and the Soviet Union, with the end of the Cold War — that Americans transferred their fear to, first, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and then, later, terrorism and Muslims, after the 9/11 attacks.

After the 9/11 attacks, Americans were told, “Unfortunately, terrorism has finally come to the United States. The terrorists just hate us for our freedom and values. It’s time to transfer your fear to the terrorists, even more so than the communists. And prepare yourselves: the war on terrorism will last longer than the Cold War.”

In actuality, hatred for America’s freedom and values had nothing to do with it. Instead, it was the U.S. national-security state’s Death Star in the Middle East that ultimately provoked the 9/11 attacks and brought us the “war on terrorism” and the deep-seated fear of terrorism, which, in turn, was then used to justify the continued existence of the national-security establishment and its ever-increasing budgets and power.

First, there was the Persian Gulf intervention, by which the Death Star massacred untold numbers of Iraqis, both military and civilian. Then came the national-security state’s intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants, with the specific intent of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi populace. Then came the deadly sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Then came U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it,” which was in fact the official U.S. policy. There were the deadly no-fly zones, which killed more Iraqis, including children. There was the stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands, knowing full well how that would be received among Muslims. There were the partnerships with brutal Middle East dictatorships, such as those in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and others. And there was the ongoing military and financial support of the Israeli government, support that was unconditional.

When all this interventionist provocation brought the 1993 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, on the USS Cole, on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials played the innocent. “We are shocked that so many people hate is for our freedom and values. We now need to wage an ongoing, never-ending war on terrorism, which unfortunately will last longer than the Cold War, which means that we need the national-security establishment more than ever.”

It is the national-security establishment that is itself responsible for the very threat that it now uses to justify its continued existence. Get rid of the national-security state and you get rid of the threat of anti-American terrorism at the same time.

We also must remain mindful of the destruction of liberty of the American people at the hands of the national-security establishment — in the name of keeping us safe, of course. Secret surveillance schemes, including against Americans, Formal assassination programs, including against Americans. Torture and indefinite detention, including against Americans. All of these programs, which are inherent to totalitarian dictatorships, have become an inherent part of American life, thanks to the national-security establishment.

What about North Korea? Isn’t it trying to acquire a nuclear missile that can reach the United States? Of course, but only to deter a U.S. regime-change operation in North Korea that would include an assassination of North Korea’s leader. Today, the U.S. military is engaged in its annual giant military exercises in Korea, with the sole intention of provoking the North Koreans. Why wouldn’t North Korea try to protect itself from a U.S. regime-change operation by using nuclear weapons to deter a U.S. attack? Isn’t that what Cuba did when it got the Soviet Union to install defensive nuclear weapons in Cuba? And given that the strategy worked for Cuba, why wouldn’t the North Koreans believe that it would also work for them?

But the point is that it’s the U.S. national-security establishment that is provoking the crises, in order to show Americans how necessary the national-security establishment is to keeping America safe from the enemies the national-security state produces.

It’s no different with Iran. U.S. officials would like nothing more than to do to Iran today what they did to Iran back in 1953 — initiate a regime-change operation that replaces the current Iranian regime with a pro-U.S. regime. That’s what the sanctions against Iran have been all about, just as with Saddam Hussein and Iraq — regime change. Why does it surprise anyone that the Iranian regime would do whatever it can to deter that?

China? The situation is no different. Realizing that Americans might be tiring of the Death Star’s never-ending killings in the Middle East, the U.S. national-security establishment is now pivoting toward China, provoking crises in that part of the world.

Ukraine? A crisis provoked by the U.S. national-security state, which used NATO, whose original mission was to protect Western Europe from a Soviet invasion, to gobble up former Warsaw Pact nations so that the U.S. national-security state was almost on Russia’s borders.

Did I mention that the governmental systems in the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Cuba, Iran, and Russia are also based on national-security establishments?

If Americans want a society of freedom, privacy, peace, prosperity, and harmony, there is but one solution: dismantle, don’t reform, the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA. If they want more fear, more crises, more provocations, more loss of freedom, more war, and more financial and economic difficulties, then they should keep this Cold War totalitarian-like dinosaur, along with its Death Star, in existence.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.