Tonight’s quotes are an excerpt from and link to an article by Steven Mihailovich at antiwar.com noting Thomas Paine’s remarkable prescience concerning the US government he had helped establish.
Around the globe, the United States faces more enemies than ever before.
American troops are deploying to Syria and Libya, and returning to Iraq to combat maniacal ISIS terrorists, among others.
American forces are shipping out to the Baltic States and Ukraine to contain a revanchist despot in Russia.
America’s navy is steaming into the South China Sea to curtail the territorial claims of an expansionist Communist regime.
The list goes on and on. Never in its history has America confronted so many adversaries at once. It’s unprecedented. Even World War II, with 50 times the number of US military casualties, had only two theaters of operation.
New foes pop up faster than old ones can be dispatched. An entire generation of American soldiers is fighting twice as long to liberate Afghanistan from tyranny as it took their forefathers and mothers to liberate themselves from the tyranny of a British king.
Which means George Washington couldn’t help even if he were raised from the dead. None of the Founding Fathers could have foreseen the full spectrum of threats assailing the country today to offer anything but a process and some vague principles to follow. The variety, voracity, viciousness and sheer volume of villains imperiling America on several fronts is beyond anyone’s experience – past or present – to address conclusively.
Maybe. However, in the same way one puts more faith in the words of a religion’s founder than its present practitioners, odds are if you could wake up Thomas Paine for advice on the current crisis, he’d holler at you to shut the light and let him sleep.
He wrote everything you need to know about today’s hostilities and hazards some 225 years ago in “The Rights of Man.”
“The attention of the government…appears…to have been so completely engrossed and absorbed by foreign affairs, and the means of raising taxes, that it seems to exist for no other purposes. Domestic concerns are neglected; and with respect to regular law, there is scarcely such a thing.”
“Had governments agreed to quarrel on purpose to fleece their countries by taxes, they could not have succeeded better than they have done.”
“If the miseries of war, and the deluge of evils it spreads over a country, did not check the desire of pleasantry, or did not change the desire of laughter into grief, the frantic conduct of the government would only excite ridicule.”
Yup, if good old Tom Paine were around today, he’d instantly recognize the operations against ISIS, al-Qaeda and its assorted derivatives, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and the whole panoply of America’s opponents as mere parts of a single response to a single menace toward a single end.
“It seems the government has at present fixed up posting [notices], signifying it is in want of an enemy; for unless it finds one somewhere, it has no longer any pretext for the revenue and the excessive imposts and taxes which are actually necessary to it.”
“Therefore the government appears to say to the universe, or to say to itself, ‘If no one will be so kind as to become my foe, I shall no longer have occasion for navies or armies, and shall be forced to reduce my taxes. . . .Unless I make an enemy, the harvest of wars will be terminated.’”
Makes you want to reach across the aisle to shake hands, don’t it? Throw in an “amen” for good measure.
Paine nailed it, even though he was describing conditions and issues at the end of the – ahem – 18th century!
No one ever accused Paine of being a pacifist. After arriving at Philadelphia in December 1774, Paine picked up his pen to eloquently inspire an American Revolution, but unlike others merely writing about it, he also picked up his musket to join the fighting.
Paine knew reason alone doesn’t convince the powerful to give up their plunder and privileges. It takes a little bloodshed; sometimes a lot. While some of the Founders couldn’t be bothered to get their wigs dirty, Paine was taking aim at and dodging fire from blokes whom he possibly toasted in some pub months earlier.
Paine recognized that it was ordinary people – the “nation” as they were called at the time – who do most of the bleeding on both sides of a conflict. That observation led him to appreciate an important divergence.
“It will be necessary to consider the interest of Governments as a distinct interest to that of Nations.”
Paine pitied the lot of the common soldier; fighting battles and getting maimed or killed in exotic places which had nothing to do with the daily chores of regular folk trying to make a living back home. Who’s in charge of a distant land matters only to the few who might make a ton of dough on the outcome; not to the average Joes and Josephines that pay the price regardless of outcomes.
“What inducement has the farmer, while following the plough, to lay aside his peaceful pursuit, and go to war with the farmer of another country?. . . .Does it add an acre to any man’s estate, or raise its value? Are not conquest and defeat each of the same price, and taxes the never-failing consequence? — Though this reasoning may be good to a nation, it is not so to a government. War is the card-table of governments, and [people] the dupes of the game.”
For more great insight and quotes: Tom Paine Warned About America’s Perpetual War