James Madison on war and the threat to public liberty

A jumble of thoughts here after reading an article last week about China’s missile development.

I can’t deny that there’s often wisdom in the words of America’s founding fathers, but I find it difficult to embrace the founders fully.  This is so because many of the nation’s founders along with twelve of America’s presidents were slave owners.   As a result, there’s a glaring inconsistency between what they said and their behavior.  Behavior always trumps one’s words as it is prima facie evidence of deeply held beliefs.  The behavior of America’s founding fathers confirms that these men in no way subscribed to the concept of the equality of men notwithstanding their soaring rhetoric to the contrary.

Talk about the founding fathers and liberty has been very popular of late and I ran across this quote from James Madison that resonates with me.  The very last sentence in the quote below is frequently used by the tea parties,  militia types and secessionists as their call to arms.  Rarely is the full quote used.  It describes directly our situation with the military industrial complex (MIC) and their paid media and congressional sycophants:

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. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people…. [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and … degeneracy of manners and of morals…. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

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.

Oppressors can tyrannize only when they achieve a standing army, an enslaved press, and a disarmed populace

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.”

Let’s keep that quote in mind as we explore the excerpted news article below about China developing a “game changing” missile that supposedly can threaten US carriers.  This article is from the Huffington Post, but the same article was published in a wide spectrum of publications, both conservative and liberal:

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON — Nothing projects U.S. global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America’s virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas.

China may soon put an end to that.

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China – an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles)….

..The weapon, a version of which was displayed last year in a Chinese military parade, could revolutionize China’s role in the Pacific balance of power, seriously weakening Washington’s ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea. It could also deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China’s 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

..Funded by annual double-digit increases in the defense budget for almost every year of the past two decades, the Chinese navy has become Asia’s largest and has expanded beyond its traditional mission of retaking Taiwan to push its sphere of influence deeper into the Pacific and protect vital maritime trade routes.

“The Navy has long had to fear carrier-killing capabilities,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the nonpartisan, Washington-based Center for a New American Security. “The emerging Chinese antiship missile capability, and in particular the DF 21D, represents the first post-Cold War capability that is both potentially capable of stopping our naval power projection and deliberately designed for that purpose.”

Setting the stage for a possible conflict, Beijing has grown increasingly vocal in its demands for the U.S. to stay away from the wide swaths of ocean – covering much of the Yellow, East and South China seas – where it claims exclusivity.


Again, this story got wide distribution in a variety of newspapers.  It’s almost as if the military industrial complex put out a press release that was picked up everywhere.  The significance of this story has little to do with the danger posed by China’s missile as that can easily be avoided by staying out of their waters and assuming a non threatening posture.  This story has everything to do with filling the MIC’s coffers with more money so they can figure out a way to neutralize this “threat” and the articles being run everywhere are simply the means used to prep us all for either additional defense appropriations or to avoid a cuts in them.  The administration’s debt commission is due to come out with a report shortly and it’s a certainty that one of the recommendations will be to make substantial cuts in military spending and that translates to less money for those corporate entities lined up at the government trough.  Hence, they will do what they must to avoid that even if it comes to overstating threats via the press.

Madison is wisely prescient here as a prominent feature of our economy is war and weapons.  Our nation not only leads the globe in military spending, but we lead the world in exports of arms:



This occurs somewhat quietly.  Most folks are aware that we export technology, automobiles and things like that, but most Americans have no idea that we lead the globe in weapons exports, which directly supports conflicts elsewhere.  It’s bad enough that this occurs, but what’s even worst is the fact that much of the research and development behind weapons development is actually funded by the US taxpayer.  Clearly, that R&D funding serves cross purposes in the sense that whatever is developed from it is retained by the manufacturer to sell to whomever.  Hence, we have a situation where the taxpayer is effectively subsidizing the R&D that supports private profits and no one says a peep about it.  Not one word.

When it comes to military spending, everything is couched in terms that belie what’s actually going on.  Even the use of the term “defense spending” is deceptive as it implies that everything being  spent is being done is to protect us.   Of course, it never hurts to run up the red, white and blue as a marketing ploy as well.   One almost has to speak reverently of service members who have their lives on the line.  All of this combined is an effort to squelch any sort of discussion about any of this on the pain of be declared “unpatriotic”.  Yet at the same time, we can discuss all manner of things that lack the import this issue has. Hence, we have people ready to revolt about healthcare being “jammed down their throats” and raising all manner of hell about out of control government spending, but we hear nary a peep from them about this.  We no longer have the “liberty” to even discuss this forthrightly without recrimination.

Part of this comes from the fact that our congressional representatives are vying for military contracts for their districts, so they and their constituents are caught in a situation where their economic interests are aligned with those of military contractors, but this is foolish and short sighted.  Does it really make sense for someone’s economic situation to be a function of supporting death, destruction and interventions else where in the globe?  Do we as a nation really want that?

The developed nations have their own weapons programs, so they have no need to import weapons from us.  This means that most of our exports are to the developing world with Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa being the main recipients.  So, one of the few manufacturing jobs that still exist in America is predicated on conflict in another part of the world.  So, we find ourselves in the position where our economic interests around conflict and misery trump the development needs of these nations.  I’d argue that the development of these nations doesn’t figure prominently in our interests because that requires peace and an absence of war for an extended period of time and there’s not much money made from that.

Once one realizes how uneconomic peace is and where the developed countries are selling their weapons, then it’s easy to understand why we see the conflicts where we do in the world.  It also easy to see that those exporting the weapons enjoy relative peace in their own lands.  It also becomes apparent that there’s an economic system in place based on the misery and exploitation of others and it is in fact rapacious as it always needs fresh prey, whether its slavery, resource theft or weapons sales.

That’s a hell of a thing once one stops to really think about it.

Of course, this is all on top of the immediate issue of threatening China.  Here’s a nation where drugs were forced into it by European powers hence necessitating the Opium Wars and a humiliating takeover of the country and now we expect that sailing our fleet in areas where it claims exclusivity is not going to result in some sort of response.  If the situation were reverse, we wouldn’t hesitate to respond.  What makes this the height of insanity is that China is effectively financing our war machine and they only need to dump a few US Treasuries on the open market to bring us to our knees.  Yet, we want to put a stick up into the hornet’s nest.

Madison has his own guilt with slavery, but he was onto something with his statement, but didn’t hit the point directly.  The design of war and militarism revolves around a rapacious economic system.  Such a system will ultimately devour itself after destroying the liberty of the people.

Page 1 of 11