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Freedom is Free

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(For context, I originally wrote this around Memorial Day, but never got around to finishing it because of school, laziness, and the Internet).



I can’t take it anymore.


I’ve been wanting to write these words for a long time, and I feel my patience is at an end. I am so eager to write them I am doing it with the knowledge that no one will be able to read them for a few days since I am still awaiting the installation of the Internet into my apartment. I am also writing them even though the timing may be in poor taste, considering the American holiday which coincides with this entry.


Let me get to the point.


I was in the US military. In the interest of full disclosure, I never was in combat, nor did I spend any time in Iraq or Afghanistan. Still, there are those Americans who, with all of the best intentions in the world, might decide to thank me for defending their freedom. But I’m afraid my guilty conscience simply won’t abide such praise, because the thing is I never defended any American’s freedom, not even for one moment.


Moreover, the million or so still on active duty aren’t currently defending any American’s freedom, nor have any of my living veteran brothers or sisters. I understand these assertions may be quite shocking, and this really isn’t meant to be provocative. I don’t want to offend anyone, simply to clear the air, or perhaps make people reconsider the state of the world, particularly with respect to US foreign policy.


Your stance on this issue largely depends on how you define freedom. If you take a rather liberal definition of it, for example freedom from attack, or freedom from death, I guess you could attempt to justify the ongoing War on Terror as defending freedom, arguing that the use of the American military to hunt down foreign terrorists provides Americans with freedom from worry about terrorist attack. I don’t think such a definition of freedom is sensible, however. Freedom from being arbitrarily killed is a basic right I have by virtue of being born a human, not something that needs to be granted to me by my government.


The quickest way for me to furnish my definition of freedom would be to simply list the Bill of Rights, which I will spare you from in the entirety, but as a brief review they give us things like freedom of expression, fair trials, etc. I would also like to take the time to challenge the assertion that the US is exceptional in having such rights, since basically every liberal democracy in the world has more or less the same values, but I digress. The task of depriving Americans of these rights would be a nearly impossible task for any foreign power or terrorist organization. Osama bin Laden was never in a position to amend or annul the U.S. Constitution, no matter how many lives he took. And whether or not you believe the People’s Republic of China is an emerging superpower, they are nowhere close to having the capability to invade and occupy the US, nor could they attempt to gain such capability without alerting the entire world to their intentions.


So I must ask the question, who has truly threatened the freedom of the average American? Recent history does not provide any good examples. Saddam Hussein’s armies might as well have planned to invade the moon as invade America, whether in 1991 or 2003. The Viet Cong and the NVA were fighting for the destiny of their own nation, their only interest in America was to kill its soldiers and drive the country out of their affairs forever (which they were basically successful at).


What about World War II? Didn’t we fight on the side of democracy and freedom against fascist powers rooted in racial superiority? Well, maybe, but don’t forget we fought on the side of some of the world’s largest imperial powers, and all of the Allies (save maybe the Chinese)had racist ideologies though perhaps not as ferocious as the Axis ones. You may be foaming at the mouth at this point, screaming at your computer screen about how Japan clearly attacked America(not only at Pearl Harbor, but in Alaska as well). Well, yes, but did they ever truly threaten our freedom? Admiral Yamamoto himself knew this was impossible, leading him to make one of his famous quotes: “Should hostilities break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, e would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians, among whom armchair arguments about war are glibly bandied about in the name of state politics, have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.” While he does not directly state he does indeed not believe it is possible to march on Washington, it is not difficult to read between the lines, especially taking into account his characteristically indirect Japanese manner. And while certainly Hitler would have loved to see Nazi flags fly from every corner of the world, it was quite clear by 1940 that he would not even be able to invade Britain, let alone the US.


I am no historian and I’m not going to attempt to analyze every major war in US history from this perspective, but I daresay you would have to go all the way back to the War of 1812 to find the last time American sovereignty was truly threatened.


Now, none of this is to say that I am not proud of my naval service, or that I regret it. The truth is quite to the contrary. For 3 ½ years I had the privilege and/or curse of straddling 9,000 tons of US foreign policy named McCampbell. I don’t feel as though I was ever asked to do anything immoral or that was to the detriment of those who did not deserve it. We reversed the course of North Korean gun-running ships sending arms to Burma that they likely would have used against their own people. In every port we stopped at, and these were sometimes incredibly poor countries, sailors painted schools or renovated buildings. We helped administer aid to Indonesia after an earthquake (though I should point out my contribution to this effort was arguing with people on other ships about tactical data links).


I’m no politician but I do have an easy plan for preserving America’s freedom. Even if we reduced the size of the military by half, but focused only on self-defense and legitimate multi-lateral interventions in the best interests of the international community for example, we would still experience no threat to freedom. Half of our military combined with our natural two-ocean border is more than enough to deter any would-be threat. Not only that, but if we reduced our massive spending on inflated numbers of personnel and equipment, we wouldn’t have to worry about canceling things like the F-22 because they were too expensive.  

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