Donald Trump, Meet Randolph Bourne

Apr. 16, 2018
by Bob Adelmann

The Founding Fathers, through their study of history, personal experience, and the Holy Scriptures, knew the nature of man. Accordingly, they did everything they could think of to, as Jefferson put it, “bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Jesus asked, “Whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.” The Apostle Paul said, “All of have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” adding “There is no one righteous, no, not one.”

George Washington put it this way: “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is both a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

But President Donald Trump, although he may be generally aware of the Founders’ distrust of man, is not likely to know anything about Randolph Bourne. That’s unfortunate because what Bourne wrote back in 1918 would certainly be helpful right about now.  Titled “War is the Health of the State,” Bourne explained:

In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself wholeheartedly into the cause of war. The impending distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out.

At war, the individual becomes almost identical with his society. He achieves a superb self-assurance, an intuition of the rightness of all his ideas and emotions, so that in the suppression of opponents or heretics he is invincibly strong; he feels behind him all the power of the collective community.

The individual as social being in war seems to have achieved almost his apotheosis. Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice and labor. Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men.

But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of “democracy,” it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.

War, in other words, strengthens the state while it weakens the individual, who generally just wants to be left alone. But progressives like Bourne saw the advantages of war: “In general, the nation in war-time attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values, culminat[ing] at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war.”

Abraham Lincoln, intimately familiar with the lusts of power and succumbing to them during the Civil War, got it right:

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose – and allow him to make war at pleasure….

Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.

The president, knowing it or not, has allowed progressive war hawks (think John Bolton) to take over his foreign policy decision making and now believes that war can be used as an instrument of punishment meted out to bad guys who misbehave. Said Trump on Saturday:

A short time ago I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now under way. We thank them both. [Assad’s chemical attack] was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.”

This was a far cry from the Donald Trump before he became president. Here are just three of his tweets BP (before becoming president):

June 15, 2013:  “We should stay the h--- out of Syria, the “rebels” are just as bad as the current regime. What will we get for our lives and $billions? Zero.”

August 29, 2013: “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.”

September 5, 2013: “To our very foolish leader [Obama], do not attack Syria. If you do many very bad things will happen & from that fight the U.S. gets nothing!”

He attacked “Crooked Hillary” for harboring the same intentions:

May 21, 2016: “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s foreign interventions unleashed ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya. She is reckless and dangerous!”

Now, thanks to Assad’s alleged chemical attack (thus proving his is a “very terrible regime”), that’s all that is needed, apparently, to launch those missiles.

None of this makes sense to several close observers of Trump’s veer away from national sovereignty and the dignity of the individual and towards the tools of war to punish miscreants. As Fox News’ Tucker Carlson asked last Thursday, where’s the beef?:

Tonight, leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress, in the media, in our intelligence services, and in virtually every over-funded think tank in Washington, have suddenly aligned tonight on a single point of agreement: America must go to war in Syria, immediately. Bashar al Assad cannot continue to lead that country, he must be overthrown!

But why? Why would Assad do such a thing? He paid a terrible price the last time he gassed his own people in 2017. Didn’t he learn his lesson? Carlson added: “Assad’s forces had been winning the war in Syria. The administration just announced its plans to pull American troops out of Syria having vanquished ISIS. That’s good news for Assad. About the only thing he could do to reverse it and to hurt himself would be to use poison gas against children. Well, he did it anyway, they tell us. He’s that evil!”

Therefore, goes the war hawk narrative, something must be done! What the U.S. did in 2017 didn’t work. The U.S. must up the ante, even if there is no hard evidence that Assad did this terrible deed: “The story,” said Carlson, “it turns out, was propaganda, designed to manipulate Americans … we’ve seen this story before and we know how it ends.”

What “turns out” is the “de-classified” French government report that claimed that Assad was behind the attack. It was based, claimed the report, on “multiple media sources, the reported symptoms experienced by the victims, videos and images showing two … bombs from the attack, and the reliable information indicating coordination between Syrian military officials before the attack.”

In her review of the attack, Pamela Geller, a political activist and co-founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (aka Stop Islamization of America), asked the same questions: “I am not quite sure on whose behalf we are launching these strikes. ISIS? To engage Iran? There is no way Assad gassed his people. To what end? To rile up the West? It makes no sense. He won. He is in place. Why gas now?”

Why, indeed? Part of the answer is because he can. There is little Constitutional constraint to his actions because most citizens couldn’t care less. The Founding Fathers deliberately and intentionally put in place the simplest command in the Constitution: only “The Congress shall have Power to … to declare war….” Not the President. And certainly not unilaterally based upon the assumption (provable or not) that the enemy is a “really bad guy.”

That’s why Congress, upon learning that President Richard Nixon had conducted secret bombings of Cambodia during the Vietnam War without notifying it first, passed the War Powers Act/Resolution in 1973. It was designed to check the president’s power to launch a war, or missiles, without the consent of the Congress in advance. It provided some little leeway, something called “statutory authorization” in the case of a “national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” Nixon vetoed the bill, but Congress overrode it.

But even that modest revision and expansion of the restraints from Article 1, Section 8 – which some deem to be unconstitutional itself – has no impact today. It is estimated that since the last Constitutionally approved war – World War II – there have been 130 skirmishes, military adventures, police actions, and interventions by U.S. forces around the world.

The only way that attack on Saturday makes sense is that the president has succumbed to the siren song of interventionism, which aids in the expansion of government so desired by progressives and those with ties to the Deep State.

Randolph Bourne is right. It’s too bad he can’t meet Donald Trump in person to instruct him about the real purposes behind phony wars.

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Sources:

FreedomOutpost.com: General Mattis Continues To Push The Narrative To “Justify” Strikes On Syria - But General Wesley Clark’s 2007 Comments Reveal The Truth

TheNewAmerican.com: Tucker Carlson of Fox News Exposes Warmongers on Syria

DailyCaller.com: FLASHBACK: Here’s A List Of The Times Trump Warned Against Getting Involved In Syria

TheBlaze.com: Declassified French government report presents evidence of Syrian chemical attacks

The Boston Globe: Pentagon says Syria strikes hit heart of chemical weapons program

War Powers Resolution

War Powers Clause

Randolph Bourne: “War is the Health of the State.”  (1918)

Background on Randolph Bourne

Background on Pamela Geller

FreedomOutpost.com: Trump orders strikes in Syria: US, France, Britain launch targeted strikes

Background on Bashar al-Assad

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