Samantha and the Lone Sheriff
Published on: May 25, 2011
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  • Rick Ellwanger

    I wonder how many times we can continue to act as the lone Sheriff. We are now fighting three wars (one for over 10 years) and have a big deficit.

  • To use the term ‘sheriff’ in ancient context is to suggest a feudal thug under the employ of an acquisitive monarch. In American context, the term ‘sheriff’ suggests the presence of a rule of law, that the sheriff is sworn to uphold.

    Thus, the gaping lacuna in Pweter Berger’s lengthy discussion of Samantha Power and her quixotic quest is that almost every one of the hundreds of U.S. military foreign incursions over the past 125 years have been illegal.

    If the sheriff operates in clear contravention of the laws himself, he is no sheriff in the American conception of that term; he has assumed the feudal role instead, of hired thug.

    Can an armed force, in contravention of its own nation’s laws, ply the world’s seas and storm the world’s fields and cities as ‘sheriff’ for all those (presumably either unwashed or at least powerless) masses? Certainly, as U.S. deployments from Hawaii in the 1890s to Iraq in 2011, prove.

    But make no mistake: those troops are *not* a sheriff with the white hat.

    The fact is, *pace* the Neocons, that the U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. Article I Section 8 thereof stipulates the limits of Congress’ powers, and Article II stipulates the limits of any American president’s powers. World police is nowhere listed.

    Machiavelli? Imperialism ain’t in it. Since the overthrow of Hawaii, congresses and presidents have offered free mercenary services first to American, later to multinational corporations. The serendipitous side benefit? Johnny, Jamal, and Juanito are taken off of Main Street USA and out of the neighbors’ daughters’ undergarments, and turned onto the streets of hapless foreign communities instead.

    When the Lincoln administration gave birth to the unconstitutional monster (a national military was nowhere in view in the framers’ era), genocide was the result: almost a million American casualties, and a total reversal of federal creature and its creators, the sovereign States.

    Since that original U.S. deployment against the ‘insurgent’, formerly sovereign, States, the U.S. military has never included genocide as grounds for deployment.

    However, Congress and the Joint Chiefs have considered every imaginable goal of the petrochem, strategic metals mining, arms production, and banking industries in these destructive forays “into harm’s way”.

    Business is business; President Eisenhower was a decorated general before he was president, and warned in 1961 that the day would come when the “Military-Industrial Complex” would sunder American liberty and render itself invincible against the American people themselves.

    That day came a generation ago, dragging easy jobs and free education in its train…deifying American ‘warriors’ as no culture since Sparta had done before. Now, it takes the most violent, unemployable youth off our streets to provide free mercenary services for expanding corporations. This has been the role of the U.S. military for at least five generations.

    National defense — the only lawful purpose of an American military — is the *only* role that the U.S. military has *not* filled in any foreign deployment.

    David M. Zuniga
    Founder, AmericaAgain! Trust
    Author, “This Bloodless Liberty”

  • It seems to me the analogy, being based in the fictive notion of “the lone sheriff”, may suffer at some points.

    Of course this is to be expected with any analogy, and for that reason it’s incumbent upon us to consider just such cases where the analogy breaks down.

    Whether Libya is such a case is unclear. Our current action may very well be the appropriate exercise of such power.

    (And while it is a function of law enforcement to keep the peace, more often than not it is the bringing to justice of those who have already committed crimes that make up the majority of law enforcement activities. In such cases, overwhelming power may be inappropriate. If I may stretch the analogy, I’d ask, “Are we torching the neighborhood to solve a domestic dispute?”)

    The United States’ status as military superpower doesn’t confer upon us the role of the world’s policeman, rather we are acting as its militia, and what we are doing in Libya is far more than breaking up a domestic, or even a gangland, dispute.

    Power always and everywhere seeks its own exercise.

    The nation that first sacrifices the salvation of its collective soul for “humanitarian good”, will inevitably find itself tempted to employ that power in increasingly questionable exercises – not because prudent reasoning dictates such action, but merely because it can.

    That may not be an a priori truth, but it is certainly a lesson history has made abundantly clear.

  • michael k power

    hello america
    When have things not been difficult and perplexing? When have things not required that men (and women) of good conscience, stand up, — and be criticised! The planet has become a global village; with well off parts of town, broad middle class sprawl, poorer communities, a commons (here think the Ocean), tragic figures scattered among the classes, a megalomaniac or two, a few gangs (some merely kids, others dangerous), crime, a village idiot or two, etc., indeed…the problems confronting man are unquestionably different in scale, but not different in kind, than have existed always and everywhere.

    In the village are firemen, policemen, judges, jailers, journalists, merchants, teachers, entertainers, bartenders, doctors and nurses (for the sick of mind and body), hoteliers, and priests (mainstream and otherwise).
    There are threats external, and threats, internal. What has changed? When an accident occurs, or a crime is commited, or an outrageous event takes place, clearly the first response by men of good conscience is to name it; call it what it is.

    Next…charge the appropriate institutions with the task of stopping, curbing, or preventing occurence and re-occurence; proactive institutions. If crime is permitted it is sanctified. If low expectations are tolerated even lower ones can be expected. If thuggery is negotiated it redounds to all; thuggery prevails. Things either evolve or they devolve. Stasis is an illusion.

    Communities appear when problems are seen as common threats. When all agree, that a disease, say smallpox, is a threat to all, and must be eradicated, we cannot pick and choose to eradicate it in some places and not others.
    To solve smallpox the disease prevention community saw a common threat and eradicated it.

    When we call a thing by it’s proper name, not a euphemistic one, communities appear because by it’s proper name
    it stands naked. Gadaffi is a thug; send in the police! Genocide is murder; arrest and try the killers! Institutional corruption is thievery; arrest the individuals, try them, and jail them! If action is impossible, still, name the crime and the criminal; isolate them and give them no euphemistic cover. Religious cover is euphemistic cover; female genital mutilation is an outrageous practice, a crime against the individual, and thus intolerable.

    Priests who invade the private space of young boys and bugger them should be named; criminal abusers. They should be charged with the crime, tried, and when found guilty; jailed! When officials accept bribes; call bribery a crime; charge them, try them and if found guilty; confiscate their assets at a predetermined rate, say, three times the bribe.

    Politicians lie often; call them liars; and recall them; stage another election. Throw the bums out.

    The right to strike by public servants is wrong; the foxes should not be in charge of the henhouse; repeal the right to strike. Percent wage gains, compound; money is thus unfairly redistributed in the economy; call it thievery…name it, and change the practice. Publish the comparables in the newspapers. Tender the work to bid…the costs will go down! This will provide the necessary elasticity in wage rates within the government sector. Call anything else institutional hijacking of the public purse; call it thievery … hold the politicians to account.

    If direct action is impossible, name the crime; institutional thievery. Call it what it is; give it no euphemistic cover. When the wider community gives institutional collusion the name it deserves; collusion, we will recognize it for what it is, collusion; rather than ‘private sector comparison’, a term preferred by unions and government barganing units.
    Abram Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time”. … Sometimes some of the time is too long; but long enough to loot the treasury. When the treasury is being looted, call it what it is; looting the treasury.

    If the thing is named it can no longer hide.

  • WigWag

    “In 2003 she published the book that made her well-known: A Problem from Hell…” (Peter Berger)

    I haven’t read the book so I don’t know anything about Ms Power’s conception of hell; perhaps Professor Berger will inform us whether she argues for against the doctrine of double predestination.

    Jacob Heilbrunn’s allusion to the debates between Gladstone and Disraeli is quite interesting. Neither of them were what we would today call a foreign policy “realist.” While they were both hard-headed advocates for Britian’s interests, they shared a belief in the civilizing nature of the British Empire; their idealism takes them out of the sphere of the “realism” practiced by statesmen ranging from Bismarck to George Kennan.

    As far as I can tell, they differed more on tactics than ambition. Certainly the idea of limiting foreign intervention was an anathema to both men; each in his own way was doing everything possible to prolong the vitality of the British Empire because they were convinced that the Empire was a major force for good in the world. That in the end they were right about this, is amply demonstrated by the fact that most of the nations colonized by the British in the 18th and 19th centuries have gone on to become prosperous in the 20th and 21st centuries or are developing at a rapid rate. Compare the economic status of the former British colonies with the former colonies of the Hapsburgs, Romanovs, or Ottoman Turks to see what I mean.

    Gladstone and Disraeli were probably the two greatest political rivals of the 19th century, at least in the English speaking world; they were men of extraordinary accomplishment. There’s a story about them that may very well be apocryphal but sums up the difference in their personalities in a quintessentially British way.

    A female reporter for the Times of London is extended the honor of interviewing each of the two candidates for Prime Minister on sequential nights. She interviews each of them over dinner.

    During dinner with Gladstone, he was so erudite that she is convinced that he must be the most brilliant person in Great Britain.

    During dinner with Disraeli, he was so charming that he convinced her that she must be the most brilliant person in Great Britain.

    Brilliance and charm in abundance; if only we had leaders with those traits in the United States today. Certainly neither Ms Power nor the President she served can claim ample supplies of either.

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