Dr. Karen Kwiatkowski (USAF, Ret.) / MilitaryWeek.com – 2006-10-18 00:30:59
(October 11, 2006) — Libertarian-leaning Reason.com recently outlined the legacy of George W. Bush for future generations .
Author Jonathan Rauch wrote, originally for The Atlantic, that we have suffered over five years of amazing and unrelenting foolishness in both national and international policy, and that this administration will leave four serious “headaches” for the United States of America. Furthermore, two more years, possibly as dreadful as the last six, still remain.
Simply put, these four headaches are: moral destitution; financial destitution; security destitution; and reputational destitution, or a dearth of goodwill for Americans wherever they may be found.
In an age of Congressional–and particularly Republican–malfeasance and corruption, a majority of Americans of all parties wait for a cooling November breeze to freshen the air in Washington, D.C.  That this breeze will come is almost a given.
But a change in Washington political associations will do little to correct our course.
Here’s why. Bush policies at home have led to the maturation and general acceptance of the extraconstitutional idea of the so-called unitary executive. This trend began before the Civil War, was accelerated under Lincoln, Wilson, both Roosevelts, and every Cold War President, and has come to full bloom in George the Younger.
And this extreme increase in the fundamental power of the American presidency brings to mind the Big-Man Syndrome  of newly independent post-colonial nations in the 1960s and 1970s.
Perhaps instead of employing knee-jerk comparisons to Hitler, critics of the current US administration should think of George W. Bush as they watch Forrest Whitaker acting in the new movie, The Last King of Scotland . Or when they recall Lord Acton’s famous observation concerning absolute power .
Americans do not think about their government or their leaders in historical terms. Without this historical perspective, we are not capable of recognizing the imminent end to our once proud history of individual liberty. We may blame the last president, or the one to come, but the already-widespread American acceptance of an ostensibly “legal” and “appropriate” unitary executive has put several heavy nails into the coffin of the Republic.
Rauch points out that the fiscal mess created by the current administration is going to be a tough nut to crack. The Bushites and their media minions tell us we have a large and robust economy, even as we recognize that our financially-overextended government is populated by possibly the most indebted households in the world.
Aging households, as noted by Fed Chief Bernanke last week , in a country with an economic growth pattern that is overwhelmingly dedicated to the ongoing health care of that aging population . With the other area of job growth being governmental, under massive federal and state programs related to “homeland” security and military manufacturing, one might perceive something more problematic than the last two, or even three, presidencies.
Two broken legs of the American disaster are already defined: a peculiar type of Big Man Syndrome in Washington; and the pervasive–and strangely popular–policies that have encouraged mass pauperism  both at home and abroad in our occupied territories, plus the nationalization and militarization of the economies we control .
The third broken leg is the most problematic, even if, to paraphrase an old J-Lo song, it “don’t cost a thing.” The American founders recognized that freedom from oppressive and militaristic governments would only be sustained if citizens were well-behaved and self-disciplined. They favored the private religious establishments and communities to cultivate and develop the necessary degree of good citizenship for a Republic: a temperate, non-aggressive, rule-based, and law-biding individual.
Whether we examine the personal and political behavior of past and present Presidents, or that of past and present Congressmen, or that of Americans at home and abroad, we see the same pervasive absence of self-control, and predictable contempt for the accepted rules of moral behavior. Hence, former Congressmen Mark Foley’s homosexual pedophilia is just another ripple in the tide of public figures indulging their baser desires while feeding at the public trough.
George W. Bush wishes to torture, and so he proceeds to do so with Congressional consent, and even with pre-loaded pardons for himself and his staff for war crimes . Congress seemed more than pleased to present their Big Man with retroactive immunity for legally-valid criminal charges based on his violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Our infantry, marines, sailors and airmen–many without a sturdy moral or intellectual upbringing–creatively rationalize and conform to the ongoing degradation of the soldier’s code on the battlefield. When they are on a battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq, and maybe even Iran, if they know only one thing, it is that these particular fights in the Middle East truly do not matter to the average American, and are ultimately irrelevant, or even detrimental, to American well-being. This understanding will lead to destroyed lives and slow suicides for decades after these young men and women have returned home.
In terms of military officers, former Army Times contributor Fred Reed painfully-but-accurately observes that the American officer corps has long since been transformed into “armed Moonies,” who are unable to act on moral or factual evidence, and thus unwilling to save either their men or their country .
The fourth broken leg on the American experiment is our fundamental moral ambiguity. This is a country where a publicly “saved” evangelical President proceeds to proudly violate domestic law, ignore the Constitution whenever it is inconvenient, and launch destructive wars of aggression on non-Christians and Christians alike, in the name of “what is right.”
A tragedy occurred not long ago in an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Five young girls were murdered in their one-room schoolhouse by a disturbed man. The Amish reaction — a now-archaic authentically Christian reaction — has been one of extreme sadness, and also one of forgiveness .
The fact that there is no violent response, no demand for blood and vengeance, surprises no one more than the average American.
And so it has come to pass that the modern American standard is financial, Constitutional, moral and reputational bankruptcy. George W. Bush may be our Nero-like standardbearer, but we cannot completely blame him, or his presidency, for what we have welcomed, embraced, ourselves become, and promoted.
That is why America won’t change in November, even as Congress begins to awaken from its slumber. America will regain her honor and her liberty ONLY when Americans themselves recover their original distrust for oppressive government, their practice of thrift, their moral decency, and their basic good neighborliness.
•  Jonathan Rauch’s 9/11/06 Reason.com essay, “Unwinding Bush: How Long Will It Take To Correct The President’s Mistakes?”: http://www.reason.com/rauch/091106.shtml
•  Yahoo News’ 10/08/06 article, “Lawmakers Face Scrutiny in House Probe”: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061008/ap_on_go_co/foley_ethics_probe
•  Wikipedia’s definition of “Big Man Syndrome”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_man
•  Yahoo News’ movie information on “The Last King Of Scotland”: http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&id=1808762866&cf=info
•  Quotations Page provides Lord Acton’s famous quote, “Power tends to corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”: http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/27321.html
•  USA Today‘s 10/4/06 article, “Bernanke: Savings Situation Getting Worse”: http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/fed/2006-10-04-bernanke-retirement-progr ams_x.htm
•  Business Week‘s 2006 article, “What’s Really Propping Up The Economy?”: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_39/b4 002001.htm?campaign_id=nws_insdr_sep16&link_position=link1
•  Richmond Times‘ 2006 Builder Online article, “More Americans House Poor: Larger Portion Of Personal Income Is Going Toward Housing In Almost Every State”: http://www.builderonline.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=30&articleID=375260
•  Thomas DiLorenzo’s 11/23/04 Lew Rockwell essay, “Economic Fascism”: http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo85.html
•  View this Cafferty File video clip “What Are We Becoming?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoRjbIQMXGQ
•  Fred Reed’s 10/2/06 Lew Rockwell essay, “Awaiting The Rebellion”: http://www.lewrockwell.com/reed/reed110.html
•  Bart Jones’s 10/7/06 Bradenton Herald article, “Amish Faith Helps Move Past Tragedy”: http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/local/15698055.htm
Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power.
Archives of her American Forum radio program can be accessed at: http://mp3.rbnlive.com/Karen05.html ; and http://mp3.rbnlive.com/Karen06.html
This article originally appeared on MilitaryWeek.com.
She can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org