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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Killing Dissent with War


A point made by James Madison might well explain the U.S. government’s strangulation of Iran’s economy with ever-tightening sanctions: “Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended.”

What better way to rally people to the government than a war? Wouldn’t we expect many American dissidents, especially those in the Tea Party and Occupy movements, to immediately set aside their dissatisfaction with the U.S. government’s domestic policies, especially out-of-control federal spending and debt, if war were to break out with Iran?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a large segment of the American populace is starting to realize that the U.S. government’s domestic and foreign policies are at the root of America’s woes. Socialism at home and imperialism abroad have led to ever-increasing spending and debt, anti-American anger and hatred, and infringements on our rights and freedoms here at home.

Look at the support that the Ron Paul campaign is garnering from a large segment of American voters. Look at the Tea Party movement. Look at the Occupy movement. Discontent is growing. Equally important, increasingly people are correctly aiming their dissatisfaction at Washington, D.C., because they’re realizing that it’s the U.S. government’s policies that are causing the problems.

But as Roman officials understood, there is a very effective way to suppress domestic dissatisfaction with the government: Start a war. Many people, out of sense of “patriotism,” will immediately set aside their complaints and rally to the flag.

Of course, one option is simply to attack Iran first, like the U.S. government did with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The problem with that route is that it doesn’t inspire Americans to rally to the flag as much as when the United States is attacked. When officials want to go to war against another nation, the ideal is to maneuver that nation into doing the attacking. In that way, U.S. officials can exclaim, “We’ve been attacked! We’re innocent! We were just minding our own business! This is another day that will live in infamy!”

Of course, when the attack comes, people are expected to forget the maneuvering that took place prior to the attack — maneuvering that was intended to provoke the other nation into firing the first shot.

That, of course, was how FDR did it prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. He placed an embargo on oil to Japan, knowing that it would strangle the Japanese war machine. FDR also did his best to humiliate the Japanese in negotiations prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the attack came, FDR appeared shocked but he had gotten what he wanted — America’s entry into World War II, thanks to the attack by Japan on the United States.

That’s obviously what the ever-tightening sanctions on Iran are designed to do — to cause Iran into responding to the strangulation with a military strike — not against the mainland of the United States but against some U.S. Naval vessel operating thousands of miles away from American shores in the Persian Gulf.

If that retaliation comes, the U.S government will have its excuse to do to Iran what it has done to Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan — to bomb Iran to smithereens, with the aim of effecting regime change in Iran, as it did in those three countries and, for that matter, as the CIA did with its coup in Iran in 1953.

And with the exception of libertarians and possibly a small number of conservatives, liberals, and independents, the likelihood is that Americans will immediately suppress their complaints against the U.S. government and rally to the government in a display of “patriotic” wartime fervor.

Equally important, U.S. officials will be able to use such a war to continue strangling the freedoms of the American people. That’s another point made by Madison — that of all the enemies to freedom, war is the biggest, simply because war encompasses all the other threats to freedom.

As the possibility of war with Iran increases by the day, it would be prudent for Americans to ponder and reflect upon the following words of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

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.