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The NSA Scandal and Syrian Intervention

Syrian InterventionPresident Obama says that the reason he has finally decided to intervene in Syria by providing weaponry to Syrian rebels is because the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons in the conflict. Never mind that Obama has provided no evidence for his claim. Hey, if George W. Bush could get away with a bogus WMD claim for invading Iraq, why can’t Obama do the same with an intervention in Syria?

There’s another possible reason for why Obama has suddenly decided to intervene in Syria. It’s found in the following quote by James Madison:

The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

What Madison is saying is that whenever Roman citizens became disgusted with the machinations of the Roman welfare-warfare state and threatened a revolt against taxes, regulation, and control, Roman officials would simply stir up some sort of foreign crisis. In that way, they could say to the Roman citizenry: “We’re under great danger from foreigners. We need to set aside our domestic differences and come together to defend our nation.”

The idea was that Roman citizens would then dutifully defer to authority, rally to the support of the government, and set aside any critiques until the crisis was over. It’s important to keep in mind that it was the Roman government itself that would incite the crisis.

Isn’t it interesting that Obama’s decision to intervene in Syria occurs at the same time that people are learning about the massive secret surveillance scheme that the U.S. national-security state has had on the American citizenry? While there are, of course, plenty of Americans who love the surveillance and believe that it’s what living in a free society is all about, the fact is that multitudes of Americans are now questioning, discussing, debating, challenging, or opposing what the national-security state apparatus is doing to our country and to the freedom and privacy of the American people and the people of the world.

What a great distraction from all this the Syrian intervention can provide, especially if there is the potential for conflict with Russia, which is providing weaponry to the Syrian regime.

Also, consider the possibility that some Syrian sympathizer retaliates with a terrorist attack against U.S. government personnel or on American citizens. Aren’t we going to hear the same thing that we hear today about anti-American terrorism? “We’ve been attacked! We were just minding our own business. The terrorists just hate us for our freedom and values. This has nothing to do with the fact that we were helping one group of Syrians to kill another group of Syrians. Don’t justify their actions by pointing to our intervention. Be a patriot and rally unconditionally to your government. ”

We will then hear all the standard exhortations in which Americans are called upon to silence their critiques in the interests of the nation, at least until the crisis is over.

Meanwhile, the national-security apparatus will continue to expand its control and domination over the American people. That’s the way the system has worked ever since the national-security state was grafted onto our constitutional order after World War II. Crisis, followed by more domination and control, followed by new crises, and on and on, until we’ve finally gotten to the point where the national-security state—i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA—are effectively the fourth branch of government and the most powerful branch at that.

It’s important that we pay mind to another point that Madison makes in his quote. The means by which the government purports to defend the nation from the foreign danger it has incited becomes the instrument of tyranny at home. It’s an old story, as Madison points out. Enormous standing armies that are maintained under the pretext of keeping the people safe have ended up enslaving them. If Madison could have foreseen the CIA and the NSA, he would have included them as well.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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