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War What is it Good For March 29, 2013

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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The President of Afghanistan, the man we installed and the leader of a land that is a nation in name only recently accused the United States of colluding with the Taliban to keep the war going. According to his spokesman, “The people of Afghanistan ask NATO to define the purpose and aim of the so-called war on terror… (They) consider this war as aimless and unwise to continue.”

I am a supporter of our troops.  I believe they are patriots and America’s best.  It is not the bravery or skill of our troops that I question; it is the imperial foreign policy which sends them as sacrifices on the altar of political ambition that I question.  The cruel calculations of political elites using our service men and women as pawns on their partisan game board are shameful.  The most shocking example of this is President Obama’s announcing a surge in troops at the same time he announced the exit strategy for leaving the country.  What could be more counterproductive than telling an asymmetrical partisan enemy that if they hang on long enough we leave and you win?

Look at Iraq.  We went to war to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction which even President Bush eventually admitted were never there.  We went to war because our leaders intimated that Iraq had a hand in the sneak attacks of 9-11 based on a rumored meeting between an Iraqi agent and Mohamed Atta another claim that has since been repudiated.  Did we go to war to correct the partial victory we gained in Gulf War I under George I?  Did we go to war as George II later claimed to make the Mideast safe for democracy?  Whatever the reason for invading Iraq, a nation we supported for years, a nation which had not and was not planning to attack us, what did we accomplish and what do we have now that we are gone?

What about Afghanistan?  After the sneak attacks on 9-11 we had every legal and moral right to attack the nation that harbored and protected Al-Qaeda.  However, to keep faith with the Constitution a declaration of war should have been obtained.  Our armed forces waged a brilliant campaign that dismantled the Taliban regime in short order.  Then instead of saying, if it happens again we will come back again, and leaving we have stayed for more than ten years squandering hundreds of billions building a nation for people who don’t see themselves as a nation.  They are a collection of tribes grouped together by the necessities of international politics surrounded by a porous border and a history of ungovernable conflict.

Does anyone doubt that after we leave Kabul the Taliban will return?  Does anyone doubt that the training and weapons that we have given to our Afghan allies which are turned against us on a regular basis will form the bedrock of future Taliban strength?

The Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war.  This limitation on the prerogative of our chief executive to commit America to war without the consent of the citizens was considered one of the most important strengths of the document.  The founders of our nation came from a society in which autocratic kings had often plunged their nations into wars based on their own desires, whims, and political machinations.  Those who wrote the Constitution to be the framework for a new type of nation were determined that we should never go to war unless it was the expression of the people through their elected representatives.

There hasn’t been a declared war since World War II and yet our sons and daughters have fought and died in countless battles around the world.  With the war in Afghanistan set to wind down the Neocons and Progressives are beating the war drums daily for intervention in Syria and war with Iran.

I believe once the truth is known America, in keeping with the Obama Administration’s on-going policy of supporting Islamic Radicals, has been supplying weapons to the Al-Qaeda led Syrian rebels for years.  I contend that the Mission in Benghazi and its satellite CIA Safe-House was in reality a conduit for transferring untraceable weapons from the captured Libyan arsenal through Turkey to the rebels.  So when it comes to Syria we are already there, and now our Neo-con cheerleaders want us to directly intervene.

The same goes for Iran.  There is a shadow war that has been raging for years between Israel with American support and Iran.  This shadow war consists of assassinations of nuclear scientists, bombing nuclear facilities and uploading computer viruses into computers used to control the cyclotrons used to enrich uranium on the part of the allies.  The response has been attacks against Israeli citizens around the world and even a bombing attempt in Washington D.C.

This is not enough.  America has been goaded into imposing draconian sanctions against Iran.  Sanctions which if imposed on us we would be consider acts of war.  Once again this is not enough.  The Neocons are working day and night to get us to deliver some shock and awe all over Iran all in the name of peace.

Iran has not attacked another country in the memory of anyone who is alive today.  Or in the lives of the ancestors going back hundreds of years.  America’s intelligence agencies unanimously tell us, Congress, and the Administration that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.  Iran is a signer of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and as a part of that treaty it is guaranteed the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful means.

As part of the big push to get us into another war we are told “Containment is off the table.”  Usually soon after we are told “All options are on the table.”  Why is containment off the table?  It worked during the Cold war when we faced off with an enemy many times larger with thousands of nuclear weapons on delivery systems aimed at our cities.  Why won’t it work against a nation that at this point has no nuclear weapons?

Why is it acceptable for North Korea to have nuclear weapons but not Iran?  Does anyone think the Ayatollahs are crazier than the new boy dictator of the Kim dynasty?  There is no doubt that the United States military has the ability to destroy Iran’s conventional defensive and offensive resources within a short time.  It is obvious we could, “Bomb them back to the stone age” as the saying goes.  However that wouldn’t necessarily mean that some of the stones thrown later in the contest might not hurt.  Iran has an unknown asymmetrical war capability.

It is believed that their allies in Gaza and Lebanon would immediately attack Israel.  The Iranians would also do all they could to interrupt the supply of the oil upon which we continue to allow ourselves to need.  They would attempt to attack the oil fields of their neighbors, to close the Straits of Hormuz, attack nearby American bases, and possible stir up rebellions in Sunni ruled countries with either sizable Shiite minorities or in some cases majorities.  We might even face terrorist attacks here in the Homeland.  This war would not be a cake walk.  The military and economic consequences would be immediate and they would be dire.

However, as dire as these consequences would be these are not potentially the most troubling. War opens the door for domestic changes that would not be possible during normal times.  While we have been and are engaged in a multi-generational seemingly endless series of wars this war might be different.  While all our other wars have been fought over there the civilian population continued to live as if Americans were not in harm’s way even though they were.  In other words we managed to have both guns and butter, war overseas and peace at home.  In the case of a war with Iran we might face a situation that could bring the war home to America in multiple ways.

Economically gas could skyrocket causing dislocation in our fragile economy.  On the military front terror sleeper cells could be activated in America or terrorists could come in through our porous southern border.  Both the economic impact and terrorist activities would open the door for drastic government action which could well negatively impact our lives.  Rights are often curtailed in times of emergency.   The cost of war is often seen in the growth of government power and the loss of freedom at home.

Our worldwide military presence is not keeping us safe and in many ways it is provocative.  Peace and equitable trade with all is the course recommended by our founders.  It was the foreign policy of every administration until McKinley and the default position until FDR.  Let us return to our traditions and reject these endless wars for peace.  Let us quit supporting other economies with our foreign bases.  Let us end the many entangling agreements that bind us to fight for others who should instead fight for themselves.

With real peace we could perhaps deal with the domestic issues that are tearing us apart and driving us into bankruptcy.  Every patriot should recognize the danger new fronts in our never-ending war will have on our current battle to maintain personal liberty, individual freedom, and economic opportunity here at home.  Consequently patriots should do everything in their power to stop the stampede to war.  Stand up for real peace and not for more wars for a peace that never comes.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

Is America a Republic or an Empire? March 22, 2013

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Over the years in this column I have written about the American Empire.  I have advocated jettisoning the Empire to save the Republic.  This topic has sparked debate and controversy even among the most dedicated readers.  Usually the argument runs like this, “America is not an Empire, never has been and never will be,” or “America’s far-flung military deployments are not the garrisoning of an empire it is instead a forward defense of the homeland.”

In my most recent column along these lines, aptly entitled, “Republic or Empire?” in several publications there was spirited debate about whether or not America could be called an empire.  Some people seemed to take offense at the very idea.  Others who usually agree with my political stands find this and my other foreign policy positions such as bringing our troops home, concentrating on defending America, and equitable trade with all unacceptable.  I present and promote these foreign policy positions as requirements for restoring limited government. It is my belief that as long as we are involved in endless war there is no real possibility to re-gain control of our government, our budget, or our future.

What I propose to do in this column is examine the hallmarks of empire and ask my readers to honestly ask themselves, “Is America a republic or an empire?”

First, it makes no difference whether it is the President, the Paramount Chief, an Augustus, the First Citizen, the Dear Leader, the Great Helmsman or der Fuehrer.  It doesn’t matter if it is an executive branch, a Politburo, a Central Committee, the Cabinet, or the collective leadership.  Whatever form it takes, an empire is always dominated by a highly centralized executive power.

America was designed not to be an empire but instead to be a federal republic made up of a central government and state governments which were the precursors and creators of the central government.   This central government founded upon and constrained by a written constitution originally presented the world with something new, a national government made up of divided co-equal powers.  The Congress to make the laws, the executive to enforce the laws, and the judicial to judge if the laws conformed to the Constitution: the guiding light and touch-stone of American limited government.  This worked well to establish and maintain a republic but it would not foster nor perpetuate an empire.

Thus the Constitution established the framework of what became known as the system of checks and balances.  Only congress could make laws, but the President could veto them.  Congress could over-ride a president’s veto, but the Supreme Court could declare laws unconstitutional making them null and void.  The president is in charge of foreign policy and is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, but the Congress controlled the purse and could cut off funding.  Upon petition the Supreme Court could declare the actions of the president unconstitutional yet the president could appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

Did this work perfect?  No, there were always swings one way or another.  There have been powerful Supreme Courts such as under Chief Justices Marshall or Warren that changed the complexion of the country.  There have been powerful Congresses such as the one from 1865 to the mid 1870’s that virtually ignored presidents and set policy.  There were powerful presidents such as Jackson or Lincoln.  However the pendulum always swung back and forth.  If you examined all three institutions there was one thing missing.  Where was the sovereignty?  Who was the nation?

In the highly centralized state, which is an empire whether personal or national, the leader or leadership operates according to the sentiments of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France who said, “I am the State.”  During the birth of the American system, our Founders had spent more time debating this than any other aspect of the government, who would be the sovereign power.  They had just fought and defeated one tyrant and they did not want to exchange one for another.  They didn’t trust the sovereignty of the nation in the hands of an executive because of the long and bloody history of Europeans with absolutism and divine right.  They didn’t trust an assembly after their recent history with the tyranny of the British Parliament and their Stamp Act, Quartering Act and other attempts to bring the colonies to their knees.  They couldn’t place it in the hands of the Supreme Court for that body would be merely judicial.

Instead they came up with a new idea in the world.  They placed the sovereignty of the nation in the hands of We the People.

The Constitution is designed to empower the people not the government.  Though today it is stretched and interpreted to give the government the power to do whatever it wants whenever it wants originally it was constructed to limit government.

We the People could vote the Congress in or out, we could choose our own president, and if the Supreme Court said something was unconstitutional that we wanted we could change the Constitution using a mechanism embedded within the document itself.  For the first time no leader or oligarchy owned the state, instead the state belonged to the citizens.

What do we see in America today?  We have a president who says, “We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.”  When Congress after deliberation decides not to pass the Dream Act giving amnesty to millions, the President uses an executive order to make it law by decree.  When the Congress refuses to pass a cap-and-trade law that many believe will hamstring our industry and hobble us in the race with other nations, the president orders his EPA department to enforce it anyway.  Without consulting Congress the President takes us to war against Libya and deposes a government.

These are the actions of an executive out of control.  Under the original American system if anyone would have asked, “Who speaks for the people?” the answer would have been the House of Representatives because they were elected every two years and were thus closest to the people.  It wouldn’t have been the Congress as a whole because under the original system the senate was chosen by the various state legislatures and was designed to represent the states.  It was the House which spoke for the people.  Today it is the President who uses the bully pulpit magnified by a subservient press and a thousand government media pressure points and outlets saying in effect, I have a mandate from the people.  I am the embodiment of their will.  I am the state.

The next hallmark of an empire we will look at is that domestic policy becomes subordinate to foreign policy.  The American President is constitutionally in charge of foreign policy so there is no better place for the holder of that office to act without any restraint.  Treaties must be ratified, so our presidents began in the 1940’s to forge personal agreements with the leaders of other countries that had all the force of treaties with none of the messy Senate confirmation required.  Using their power as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces modern presidents have also used their authority to start wars as in Kosovo and Libya, to sign cease fires as in Korea, and to commit America to the support of dictators and tyrants through deployments and equipment transfers, all without any Congressional oversight.

If we ask ourselves, has domestic policy really become subordinate to foreign policy think about whose infrastructure are we being taxed to rebuild?  In Afghanistan and Iraq our money and our companies are building new schools while ours fall apart, we are building new roads in Afghanistan while we watch our own bridges crumbling.  We give billions to countries and governments that despise us.  We borrow money to give it away and then sometimes borrow it back all in a bizarre dance balancing foreign interests at the expense of We the People.

Another hallmark of an empire is that the military mindset becomes ascendant to the point that civilians are intimidated.  Think about the Defense budget.   In 2012 it was over 600 billion dollars.  Does anyone believe Congress or anyone else really knows where all that money is going?  The size, scope, and unbelievable waste in the defense budget stagger the imagination.  However, to even question the defense budget will immediately get someone labeled as an isolationist who wants to gut our defense and surrender to the enemy.

Many people will argue that we are in a war and that during war of course the defense budget will be bloated.  Can you remember any time since 1942 that we haven’t been in a war?  Yes, there were the brief days of the “Peace Dividend” under Clinton after the Soviet Union dissolved which actually became the rational for increased defense spending.  And during those brief days of peace back in the 1990’s we fought a war and enforced a decade long no-fly zone in Iraq, attacked Serbia, sent troops, planes or other assets to Zaire, Sierra Leone, Bosnia (numerous times), Herzegovina, Somalia, Macedonia, Haiti, Liberia, Central African Republic, Albania, Congo and Gabon, Cambodia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, and East Timor.  And this was our only decade of peace since the 1940’s, and to question any of this is considered tantamount to treason.  We must ask ourselves, “Has the military mindset become ascendant to the point that civilians are intimidated?”

Perpetual war for peace has led the peaceful American people to be ensnared in the clutches of the military-industrial complex as president Eisenhower warned it would in 1961.

All empires develop and maintain a system of satellite nations.  When we hear of this we immediately think of the old USSR and their slave states in Eastern Europe.  Advance the idea that America has satellite nations and people become irate.  “How could you say such a thing about America?”  Look at our so-called allies.  Do they fit the description as satellite nations?  A satellite nation is one that the empire deems is necessary for its own defense.  It is also one that feels it cannot stand alone and wants the empire’s protection.

That is the deal.  The empire commits to protect the satellite and the satellite agrees to stand with its back against the empire facing a common foe.  Add to that the fact that we supply money and material to build the national defenses of our satellite/allies as well as economic aid and a preferential trade system.  Think about these ideas and decide for yourself whether or not America has satellite nations ringing the heartland of the empire.

Another hallmark of empire is that a psychology or psychosis of pride, presumption, and arrogance overtakes the national consciousness.   We are all familiar with the twenty-first century incantation of “Too big to fail.”  That was applied by our bailout happy leaders to their pet banks and companies during the opening days of the Great Recession.  It is also an apt description for the way in which most Americans view our position as the most powerful nation on earth or as the silver tongued talking heads like to say, the world’s sole superpower.  Since the end of World War One the United States has been the unchallenged mega power among the western block of nations.  Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union we have towered like a colossus over the rest of the world.  In the memory of most people now alive it has always been this way.

To most people the way it has been is the way it shall be.  We speak of embracing change and of realizing that change is the only constant but few can really think that way.  The familiar seduces us into thinking that the momentary circumstances of today are the unshakable foundations of tomorrow.  To the children and grandchildren of the greatest generation the world will always gaze in awe at the great American eagle soaring above the world.  Our navies rule the waves, our masses of fighters, bombers, and drones can reach out and touch any corner of the globe, our troops are the best trained, best equipped, and best led armies the world has ever seen, so such a mega power could never fall.

So it seemed to the inhabitants of Rome the eternal empire.  So it seemed to the British when the sun never set upon the union jack.  And so it seems to us.  Even though a rag-tag group like Al Qaeda defies our attempts to destroy them and continues to grow and multiply around the world.  Even though the Taliban not only have withstood more than a decade of war they stand poised to reclaim their country as soon as we leave.  Even though our deficit spending and the national debt it creates is leading us to a financial collapse that our own military leaders have identified as the greatest threat to our security, and our leaders only answer is more spending.  This pride, presumption, and arrogance blinds us to the enduring truth of what comes before a fall.

Finally an empire is the prisoner of history.  A republic is not required to act upon the world stage.  It can pick and choose its own way seeking its own destiny as a commonwealth of citizens.  An empire must project its power for fear that if it doesn’t another leviathan will arise to take its place.  A free republic that has maintained its independence is able to decide where and when it will become involved.  An empire is always the leader of a center heavy coalition comprised of the imperial core and the associated or satellite nations.  As such it is the collective security against the barbarian, the other that drives the actions of the empire.

In the parlance of our day it is our turn.  It is our turn to be the policeman of the world, our turn to keep the peace, to guard civilization from the unwashed hordes who seek to turn back the clock and bring darkness into the world.  We are a vanguard of stability in a world beset by chaos, and so were the British and the Romans before them.

Other writers may say something has been left off these hallmarks while others may say some of these don’t apply.  To all I would recommend a study of former empires to see if they agree these properties are found in all of them.  Then ask ourselves, “Are these properties present in America today?”  Once we have completed this process we will be able to answer the question for ourselves, “Is America an Empire?”  If we decide, yes it is, we have to realize that there is a trajectory all empires follow: they rise and they fall.

We might decide that,we as the first empire that is not set-up to plunder wealth but instead to distribute wealth, are different, and therefore we will break the mold.  We will stand while others have fallen.  One look at our debt should persuade anyone that what we have built is as unsustainable as the British, the Roman, or any other empire we wish to use as a standard.

Do you say, “We can’t be an empire because our president is elected.”  So were the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, so were the kings of Poland. It is the empire that empowers our executive.  Do you say, “We can’t be an empire because we have a Congress.”  So did Athens, Rome, and Britain.  Do you say, “We can’t be an empire because we have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, why we even have the freedom to own weapons.”  So did Athens, so did Rome, and so did Britain.

While we are yet on the glory side of the fall let us abandon the empire to save our republic.  Let us resign from the great game of thrones, rebuild America, secure our own borders instead of those of Korea, or Afghanistan, and reaffirm our dedication to be the last best hope of mankind: a federal republic operating on democratic principles, securing our God given liberties, providing personal freedom, individual liberty, and economic opportunity to all its citizens.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

A Slow Motion Revolution Gathers Speed March 15, 2013

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The Progressives in both parties may be the establishment now but they have always been and continue to be revolutionaries seeking to turn the American dream into a socialist nightmare.

Since the 1890s the Progressives have worked to change our American Experiment from a federal republic operating on democratic principles that recognized our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness into a democracy where the government grants rights and pursues its own happiness.

Inch by inch, step by step they have worked to change one aspect and then another until today the cacophony of minute changes has become a centrally-planned federally orchestrated symphony playing Hail to the Chief.

We have transitioned from federal republic into an imperial bureaucracy controlled by a Chicago raised Alinsky style outfit determined to reduce us to abject obedience.  This is the direct result of an education system captured by the Progressives delivering generations of uninformed voters and of the entitlement society delivering a near majority of citizens who get more than they give from the federal trough.

This should be no surprise to anyone.  A country once famous for the political engagement of its citizens has raised generations on the dictum that neither religion nor politics were the subject of polite debate.  The culture of media-hyped sports addiction and hedonistic indulgence has produced millions who know more about their favorite team or about the latest fashion than about their own government.

I don’t know about you but I’m so tired of being lectured by people who get their news from Leno, Colbert, or the Daily Show that I have all but stopped speaking of anything of substance with most people.  We have all developed ways to identify fellow patriots.  We listen for anyone to say anything that will give us an indication that here is another American who realizes where we are and from where we have fallen.  Then we have great conversations, comparing observations and trying to encourage each other that the United States as we have known it will survive four more years of America’s Chavez.

Often I wonder, are we just singing to the choir, lighting a candle in the dark, or sticking our thumb in the dyke?  Will our clandestine discussions on the fringes of a complacent society make any difference?  Or are we merely whistling in the wind as our beloved country changes forever into the dead letters of a living constitution?

We have to admit that the Progressives have out maneuvered and out organized those dedicated to limited government.  They have turned the world upside down.  They captured the Corporations Once Known as the Main Stream Media turning them into a propaganda arm dedicated to suppressing the truth and giving the government party all the cover they need to do anything they want.  They radically empowered the federal bureaucracy ceding it powers granted to Congress to set policy and make law.  This red-tape machine has grown to become the largest organization in the world.  It is ever-expanding and filled with career people dedicated to enlarging their private kingdoms and increasing the power of the nomenclature at the expense of the people.

The courts have been packed, the banks have been bought off, and the unions use legally mandated dues to support candidates and policies their unwilling members don’t want.  Check and check-mate.  The situation has become so dire and the hour so late that it appears the only line of defense we have left between the USA and the USSA is a House of Representatives controlled by Progressive Republicans.

These Progressive Republicans want the same things as their Democrat counterparts: bigger government and more power even if they may want to drive us to the poor house a little slower.

There are a few younger ones who have been elected by the Tea Party such as Rand, Lee, and Cruz who are trying to make a difference.  At every step the Progressive establishment in their own party tries to ridicule them into toeing the party line of compromise and surrender.  The old bulls talk conservative to get elected then join hands across the aisles in a marriage of despotism with deceit.

The further we get from the puzzle factory in Washington one would think the closer we would get to our American heritage of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  However, the same uninformed disengaged voters form the majority all the way down to the precinct level.  The community organizers have done their jobs very well.  Try to name a state that isn’t in debt.  Try to name a county that isn’t working to install Agenda 21, promote sustainability or cram its Master Plan down the throat of an unsuspecting public.  Try to name a city, town, or village that doesn’t have its good old boy network that manages to stay in power year after year.

Several years ago after an unsuccessful attempt to unseat an entrenched state senator from a gerrymandered district my wife and I decided to become involved on the local level to try and make a difference.  We spent several years battling Agenda 21 while watching the good old boys win by hook or by crook either ignoring or fooling the voters.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in Chicago and was raised on the milk of “You can’t fight City Hall?”  Maybe it’s because I have seen bribes work and honest petitions fall on deaf ears?  Maybe I’m just a cynic at heart?  Maybe it’s true that a pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist?

Although we shall not go gently into that good night it appears we are in the twilight of our Republic and about to enter the sunset of liberty and the dawn of an America with a living constitution, a herd mentality, and a cradle-to-grave welfare state.  If the bell has not tolled yet it is about to.  Even if the Obama Zombies don’t flock to the polls as directed and return Nancy Polosi as Speaker of the House so that a one party state can drive the final nail in Columbia’s coffin, the swelling debt will eventually bring collapse.  This is of course the end result of the Progressive’s long march towards the realization of the Cloward-Piven Strategy for forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.  After the collapse these social planners believe they can impose any type of system they want on a public clamoring for relief.

Ready or not here it comes………………………..

So what can we do now that it has been done?

First of all we have to educate ourselves about American History and the principles of limited government.  Principles which formed the cornerstone for our two century experiment with personal liberty, individual freedom, and economic opportunity so that we can educate future generations about who we were and what we hope someday to be once again.  We can’t teach what we don’t know.

Then we have to build a library of books and DVD’s that tell the story of America.  For books look for reading lists at Tea Party sites, also check out conservative media people such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck for suggested readings.  For DVD’s the History Channel has produced many great series on such things as the Revolution, the Constitution, the Founders, etc.  Individually or in local groups create an asset that our people can use to immerse themselves in the heritage of freedom.

Finally we need to stay engaged in the political process.  Become involved with likeminded people and figure out what, where, and when is the best place for you to spend our political capital.  None of us is as smart as all of us so if we all look for the way back to limited government eventually a spark will be ignited that will burn with the intensity of a thousand suns and a new chapter in freedom will begin.

Until that time do what you can do.  It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Keep the faith.  Keep the peace.  We shall overcome.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

 

Federal Reserve Constitutional or Merely Legal? March 7, 2013

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The Federal Reserve is the Central Bank of the United States.  It is in charge of printing money issuing bonds and setting interest rates for those bonds.  Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says, “The Congress shall have Power … to coin Money, regulate the Value thereof.” The Federal Reserve is never mentioned.  Has it always been this way?  Does any other country do this?  How did the Federal Reserve get its power over our currency and our economy?   And the issue that so many are interested in today: is the Federal Reserve constitutional?

Has it always been this way?

At the dawn of the Republic our first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton issued several reports which in many ways set the tone and pointed the way for the development of America in the economic sphere.  His first report on the public credit recommended that the new central government not only honor the debts contracted under the original government as established under the Articles of Confederation but that it also assume the war debts of the States.  This recommendation was followed by Congress and the Washington administration created what has evolved into a permanent national debt.

In 1790 Hamilton submitted his second report which asked Congress to charter the Bank of the United States.  Several aspects of the bank Hamilton proposed will sound familiar and it can be seen that they provided the mold for the Federal Reserve.  His plan was closely modeled after that used by Great Britain’s Bank of England.  According to Hamilton’s vision the Bank of the United States would be a public/private hybrid.  It would have an exclusive charter for twenty years.  Its initial capitalization would be ten million dollars consisting of eight million from private investors and two million from the government.  Congress would give the Bank the right to print paper money up to the ten million held in deposit.  Most importantly the central government would declare that the notes issued by the Bank would be the only notes which would be accepted in payment for taxes.  This would give the notes of the Bank of the United States credibility and value, which none of its state chartered competitors could match.  This was Hamilton’s proposal.  Now all he had to do was get it passed into law.

The report was introduced into Congress in 1790 and by February 1791 it passed both the House and the Senate and arrived on the desk of President Washington.  This is when the battle of the Titans really began.  Leading Anti-Federalists and strict constructionists such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Edmund Randolph, argued that the Constitution did not grant the government the power to incorporate a Bank.  According to their line of reasoning It was not an enumerated power and therefore it was reserved to the States or the people.  Those arguing for a strict interpretation of the newly minted Constitution, which Madison and Randolph had helped write, urged Washington in a written report not to sign the bill.

 

Ever the fulcrum between his philosophically divided advisors Washington presented Hamilton with the argument opposing his plan and asked him to present his argument in favor.  Hamilton using his excellent reasoning and communication skills presented President Washington with the original argument for the implied powers granted to the central government by the Constitution.  This report appealed to what is now known as the “Necessary and Proper” clause.  He argued that the government was inherently empowered to do whatever was necessary to implement the laws required to use the enumerated powers.  President Washington accepted Hamilton’s argument, signed the bill, and the first Bank of the United States was born.

Beginning on July 4, 1791the first thing the new Bank did was inflate a financial bubble by offering the largest initial stock offering the nation had ever seen.  Investors showed their confidence in Hamilton’s plan by quickly buying the options on the first issue of stock.  Many of these initial investors were members of Congress.  The initial price for the options was $25.  This was soon bid up to over $300.  It soon crashed to $150.  Thus within days of its first action this original central bank inflated a bubble that soon burst.  However, Secretary Hamilton setting the example for the central bankers to follow, stepped into the breach and averted a general financial panic by purchasing government securities with public funds thus stabilizing the markets and rewarding those who had initially speculated and “Too big to fail” was born.

The bank opened for business in December of 1791.  All manner of people, landowners, manufacturers, merchants, politicians, and most important of all, the government of the United States lined up to deposit money and to obtain the new Bank script.  Within months the Bank was the single largest economic enterprise in the nation.

Beginning a pattern that would be repeated over and over the bank which had been created to ensure a firm foundation for the American economy inflated another bubble and caused another crash.

First the Bank flooded the market with easy loans and a massive issue of paper dollars.  This move added liquidity pushing the new securities market into a sharp rise.  However, then the Bank reversed course and began calling in many loans.  Investors and speculators were especially affected as they were forced to sell securities to pay the loans.  When the largest of the speculators William Duer was forced to declare bankruptcy the markets collapsed.  This in turn caused the financial markets to freeze up putting a stop to much of the nation’s credit and commerce.  This is known as the Panic of 1792.  The crash didn’t last long, because Secretary Hamilton once again stepped in and bought government securities with public funds injecting much needed capital into the economy.

Over its 20 year life the first Bank of the United States functioned as the central bank.  It worked to regulate state banks, closing those that issued too much paper.  It attempted to guide the entire economy through its monetary and interest policies.  It coordinated all its branches up and down the east coast to project a united front in its economic policy by either tightening or loosening credit.

By the time it came for a renewal of the bank’s charter the Federalists were no longer in the seats of power and the newly ascendant Democratic Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, defeated its bid for another twenty years, and the first bank of the United States, America’s initial experiment with central banking, was over.

Does any other country do this?

Yes, many other countries have central banks.  Today it is considered a hallmark of an advanced economy.

How did the Federal Reserve get its power over our currency and our economy?

There were subsequent attempts to re-establish central banking in the United Sates.  There was a Second Bank of the United States chartered in 1816, but after being blamed for a series of bubbles and crashes its charter was not renewed and it ceased operations in 1836.  In 1863 in the depths of the Civil War Congress passed the National Banking Act which chartered numerous Federal Banks.  This law also taxed paper money issued by State banks but not paper money issued by the Federal Banks giving them a decided advantage.

In 1913 the Federal Reserve System was born.  It established what is known as a decentralized central bank in that it has semi-autonomous branches.  It was given the power to control the currency, issue bonds, and set interest rates for those bonds.  It was established as a public/private concern and actually owned by stock holders.  Who are these stock holders?  They are private banks, and ownership of stock is required to participate in the system.  The system was instituted to provide the foundation for a stable banking industry and an elastic currency that could be used to smooth the rough edges of the business cycle.  Whether this latest experiment in American central banking has fulfilled its mission each citizen should judge for themselves.

Is the Federal Reserve constitutional or merely legal?

The first Bank of the United States was never challenged in court as to whether or not the government had the power to create a central bank.  But the second Bank was.   The Supreme Court in 1819 ruled in McCulloch v. Maryland that it was in fact constitutional due to the implied powers clause.  Thus looking to precedent, and unless the Supreme Court reverses itself, the Federal Reserve is considered to be authorized within the confines of the broadly interpreted Constitution.

There was an important constitutional issue born with the creation of America’s first Central Bank. With the birth of the First Bank of the United States the acceptance and use of implied powers became the central government’s method to expand its powers beyond those expressly delegated in the Constitution.   This in turn paved the way for our acceptance of things that are clearly unconstitutional just because they are legal.

The argument of Madison, Jefferson, and Randolph upholding a strict constructionist view would be codified and added to the Constitution in the same year the Bank was charted, and perhaps in response to it, in the 10th Amendment, but this did not end the appeal to implied powers as a means to the government’s ends.  In theory this sounds good.  In practice it has turned our limited government into an out of control leviathan crushing the free out of our free market and sucking the liberty out of the American experiment.

As my favorite American philosopher, Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is   no difference between theory and practice.  In practice there is.”

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

 

 

 

 

Republic or Empire? March 1, 2013

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments

Historians spend their lives looking backwards.  Futurists spend their lives looking forward.  My goal has been to blend the two disciplines into one seamless panorama. For if you don’t know the past you have no context for the present, and if you have no context for the present the future appears to be whatever those who shape the present portray it to be.  Those who believed the Eternal Empire was truly eternal, those who believed the sun would never set on the British Empire, those who believed in a 1,000 year Reich, and those who believed the USSR was the vision of the future proved those who shape the present always project a future which shows their empire as the one that will never fall.

When I was studying to become a Historian I came to a point where I had to declare a field of special study. This is where my obsession with current events intersected with my love for History.  This is when I realized that current events are the forever unfolding always receding conveyor belt of reality.  This is when I first verbalized the perception that as the future slides into the present and the present slides into the past our lives are the history of the future.   Therefore in my writings I seek to frame the flow of today with knowledge of yesterday to create a window into tomorrow.

History tells us that Imperial Republics fall.  We have the examples of Athens and all the other grasping Greek republics that followed her.  We have Rome the example always deferred to of a republic that allowed an empire to stifle freedom.  The list however does not end there, we can look at Venice and the various republics of Renaissance Italy, and of course the First Republic of France which was birthed in blood and died in fire.  The siren song of empire has seduced republics down through history to trade in their freedom for power which eventually cost them both their freedom and the power.

It is time to re-think America’s international military commitments.

Though settled by European kingdoms seeking empires, the United States wasn’t founded to become an empire.  Individuals fought against the empire building tyrants until their determination and resolve won independence against all odds.  Then, although the world was filled with despotic kings, our Framers gave us a Republic.  However, it is worth remembering the exchange that took place between Ben Franklin, the elder statesman of the Constitutional Convention, and an unknown woman.  As he left Independence Hall he was asked, “Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy?”   Appealing to his legendary wit Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”   We and our ancestors have been blessed by the Republic for hundreds of years.  We’ve benefited from the liberty to live our lives and pursue our happiness.  Now we’ve arrived at the “if you can keep it” phase of our journey.

At the cost of hundreds of billions and thousands of lives we doubled-down in Afghanistan.  At the cost of over a trillion and thousands of lives we conquered Iraq and deposed Saddam.  We spearheaded the bombing campaign in Libya.  Our drones strike suspected enemies far and near including American citizens.  Troops have been dispatched to central Africa.  And the perennial war drums still beat at the very mention of Iran.  We are committed to treat any attack on dozens of countries from South Korea to Lithuania as an attack on our homeland.  In other wards we are committed to send American troops to fight and die for countries which in the case of South Korea are well able to defend themselves, and in the case of Lithuania and many others that are of no strategic importance to the United States.

We have sent our fellow citizens to fight long hard slogs in countries whose names are the very synonym for Quagmire.  As our economy was being outsourced, our debt monetized, and our infrastructure crumbled we meekly followed our leaders deeper into thankless nation-building campaigns in nation after nation including one that’s resisted and foiled every empire from Alexander to Moscow.

Instead of using our cruise missiles and stealth capabilities we fell into the trap announced and laid by Bin Laden.  Whose strategy was as Lawrence Wright told us in his seminal book Looming Towers to, “lure America into the same trap the Soviets had fallen into: Afghanistan.”  How did he plan to do it?  “To continually attack until the U.S. forces invaded; then the mujahedeen would swarm upon them and bleed them until the entire American empire fell from its wounds. It had happened to Great Britain and to the Soviet Union. He was certain it would happen to America.”

There were twists and turns on our journey from republic to empire.

George Washington warned us to avoid foreign entanglements.  Thomas Jefferson outlined the essential principles of our government which included this advice concerning foreign affairs, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations entangling alliances with none.”

For more than one hundred years we concentrated on using our liberty to build a mighty nation.  Then the temptation of empire captured the American imagination in the 1890s, a time when Europe was rushing to gobble up the last places open for colonization or carving up those areas unsuited for colonies into spheres of influence.  Under President McKinley the United States entered the scramble for colonies in the Spanish-American War winning Puerto Pico and the Philippines

Teddy Roosevelt followed McKinley walking softly while carrying a big stick in the form of the Great White Fleet and multiple intrusions into the sovereignty of Latin American countries.  After being re-elected on the promise to keep America neutral President Wilson proclaimed America must fight World War I to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.”  An adventure which cost over 300, 000 casualties and which actually expanded the empires of England, France, and Japan.  After the war, the Congress of the United States re-asserted control by rejecting the international entanglements of the League of Nations Treaty returning to the traditional American foreign policy of freedom of trade and freedom of action.

Under FDR America fought an undeclared naval war against Germany in 1940 and 41 and imposed draconian embargoes against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor.  Once we were attacked we had to defend ourselves.  However, when World War II ended not with the defeat of totalitarianism but instead with the expansion of it in Eastern Europe the guiding light of American foreign policy seems to have been permanently extinguished.  As the British Empire sailed into the sunset we filled the void taking up the role of leader of the West in the Cold War.   For forty-six years we faced the Soviets until they collapsed under the weight of their own  empire  Then instead of coming home we spread our wings even further embracing Eastern Europe promising to send young Americans to fight for Estonia and Slovakia among others, and now the sun never sets upon the American Empire.

Not only is it against the founding principles of America to establish and maintain an empire of far-flung outposts, we cannot afford to be the Policeman of the world.  We cannot afford to build nations for people who don’t want them. How did a peaceful nation of free citizens become the advocate of pre-emptive attack and endless occupation?  How much blood and treasure did we invest in Iraq, and what is the result?  A Shi’a ally for Iran.  The war in Afghanistan was obviously defensive and retaliatory in nature given the Taliban’s support for Al Qaeda.  But ten years later what’s it all about?  Are we really dedicated to building a modern nation for tribal people who have no sense of nationhood?  Or have we walked into the same trap that brought the Soviets to their knees?

Currently the United States has armed forces in over 130 countries.  We’re committed to defend most of these countries against aggression.  Where were all these allies on 9-11?  Where are they in Afghanistan?   Why do we have treaties binding us to go to war to defend those who refuse to support us when we’re attacked?  If these policies are counter-productive are there any alternatives?

Close the foreign bases and bring our troops home.  Station them on the border to protect us from the on-going invasion of illegal immigrants who’re overloading our systems.  We can seal and secure the mountainous border between the Koreas and we can secure our own borders if we have the wisdom and the will.  If we need to project American power use the carrier battle-groups designed for that purpose.  Protect America and rebuild our infrastructure instead of everyone else’s.  When asked what to do with the American Military after World War I Will Rogers said, “Get ‘em all home, add to their number, add to their training, then just sit tight with a great feeling of security and just read about foreign wars. That’s the best thing in the world to do with them.”

If we want to save the Republic we need to lose the empire, or we can cling to the empire and lose both.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

 

 

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