August 11, 2005

Deport. Radical. Foreign. Muslims. Now.

Should we be following the example of the Brits and deporting foreign nationals that support jihad? Steve Chapman says no. Stephen Green the Vodkapundit says yes. Dale Franks of the QandO blog agrees, and takes Chapman to task. And Goldstein agrees. All four are important essays. Read them all.

Which side is right, though?

We are at war. What is lawful action in a time of peace is defferent in a time of war. Hobbes made the interesting and important observaton that war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known and nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.

What Hobbes meant by that was that while we usually think of war as taking place in a physical location, it is much more accurate to think of war as taking place in a time frame. World War II happened between 1939 - 1945. It was a period of time, not a single location.

It may seem like an unimportant and abstract distinction. What does it matter whether or not a 'state of war' exists everywhere or only in Iraq? But distinctions, even when they are only made by assumption, are absolutely critical to the way we think. The distinction between war and peace is very crucial, because moral actions depend on context. If the context is peace, then moral beings are compelled by conscience to behave in one way. If the context is war, then the same moral being must act in another way.

The war that we are in sets the context by which our actions should be judged acceptable or unacceptable.

Normally, in times of peace, we allow a great deal of dissent. In fact, our tolerance for dissent is one of the hallmarks of Western liberalism. However much we value dissent, though, we never allow absolute dissent. Violent revolution, after all, is a form of political dissent and protest. Even in times of peace we do not tolerate that kind of dissent. In times of war, however, that tolerance must of necessity be much more limited.

Although I love the right to speak and cherish the liberty of the press, such liberty is meaningless without life. All of my rights and liberties are secondary to the need to protect my life. Governments are not founded to protect speech, rather, governments are instituted to protect life.

Free speech is an instrumental value--or it is a means to an end. We want freedom of speech and press because these things are necessary to a functioning democracy. However, a functioning democracy is secondary to some amount of order so that neighbors do not settle disputes on their own--a state of War according to Hobbes and an inconvenient state of Nature according to Locke.

When the secondary value of free speech conflicts with the primary value of protecting life, the secondary must be discarded. We ought not discard such things lightly, but sometimes they must be sacrificed. We do not let the body die to save the limb.

In a state of war, people die. In a state of peace, it is tacitly understood that you can say anything so long as your words are not a "clear and present danger" (See Schenck v. United States, 1919). Holmes' maxim seems to me a simple attempt at putting to words what we all kind of know deep down: only sticks and stones may break your bones, but words sometimes do hurt you.

You cannot say something that will incite someone to kill me. In a state of peace, people aren't normally incited to murder. In fact, yelling fire in a crowded theater rarely yields a riot. However, change the context and the result changes. In a state of war since some amount of anarchy is already present and there is an understanding that it is o.k. to kill, then the likelihood for words to lead to death is greatly multiplied.

Chapman's position is the kind of dangerous pre-9/11 absolutism that does not distinguish between war and peace. It sees all speech as an absolute. It relies on a maxim without context, an ideal without any basis in reality.

The context of war also affects the way that we treat non-citizen guests in our country. In times of peace, we are very tolerant of the kinds of political views that immigrants bring with them. This is why Germany had an active fifth column in the United States known as the German-American Bund. This group worked right up until the start of hostilities between the U.S. and Germany. After the start of the war, though, the group was outlawed. It's leaders, all American citizens, were rounded up and put into internment camps.

What was legal and acceptable behavior changed in a single day. On one day crying heil Hitler was Constitutionally protected speach, on the next it was an act of treason. War does that.

I am not advocating here that we round up American citizens and put them into internment camps. Just as war, in general, sets the overall context of moral action, a specific war sets the specific context of specific moral actions. That is just another way of saying, it was probably the right thing to do in that war, but it does not seem like the right thing to do in this war.

But just because we do not need to go to the lengths that the World War II generation went to, does not mean that we can act as if the war is over there and not here. We are in a state of war. War is not a place, it is a state of being.

The state of war is the medium in which all of our lives are lived. We are the fish, it is the water. All of our actions must be constructed with this in mind. We cannot escape the state of war by somehow denying we are in it. Can the fish suddenly sprout lungs and breathe simply because it does not recognize that his environment is water?

So, what should we be doing differently now that we are in a state of war?

Let's begin by adopting Blair's deportation policies here. If you are a foreign national, who believes in the adoption of sharia law, you are invited to leave. Thanks for the visit, now go home.

Goldstein makes this cogent proposal:

The Bush Administration should take note and begin drawing up aggressive plans of its own to clamp down on Wahhabi mosques and Islamic Centers preaching jihad and inciting violence against the West. There is simply no reason—including our near-religious commitment to the First Amendment, which allows for restrictions against incitement—to allow avowed enemies, who have formally declared war on the US, to abuse our freedoms as a way to operate without scrutiny in our midst.

Presently, U.S. law forbids citizenship being granted to any one who has membership in the Communist Party or any other totalitarian organization. Certainly, most Islamist political movements count as totalitarian, since they seek to replace democratic governance with absolutist Sharia law. Why do we allow foreigners with ties to these Islamists movements in our countries, if the law already excludes them from becoming citizens?

The war we are engaged in is a war of ideas. Why should we tolerate those who espouse the ideas of our enemies?

Such tolerance might be acceptable in a time of peace, when abstract ideas are not presumed to lead to acts of aggression, but in a time of war things change.

We are fighting a war here. Will somebody please remind civil-libertarians about that?

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 05:42 PM | Comments |