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Constitutional Neoconmen

December 13, 2011
Thomas J. DiLorenzo,

“The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and for people, equally in war and peace, and it covers with its shield of protection all classes of men, at all times and under all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of men that any of its great provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government.”

– Ex Parte Milligan (1866)

The above statement was made by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1866 in the context of its ruling that the Lincoln administration’s suspension of Habeas Corpus was unconstitutional. As long as the civil courts were operating (which they were), the Court ruled, it is unconstitutional for either the president or the Congress to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus. What this statement says is that it is precisely in times of national emergencies, such as war, that civil liberties must be most jealously protected. If not, then governments will be encouraged to generate crises, or perceptions of crises, in order to grab more power for themselves by diminishing individual liberty.

This profound truth gives the lie to the notion that one can be an advocate and supporter of the American state’s unconstitutional and aggressive wars on the one hand, and a “constitutionalist” on the other. War is the enemy of constitutional liberty. The current poster boy for this contradictory outlook is the radio talking head Marc Levin (“The Grate One,” as Lew Rockwell calls him) who bloviates endlessly about how devoted he supposedly is to the Constitution while aggressively supporting the neocon agenda of endless war in the Middle East and elsewhere – and all of the accompanying assaults on civil liberties at home. So as not to appear to be sexist, I should also point out that Congresswoman Michele Bachman is the current poster girl for this position, claiming that of all the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination she is the most devoted to the Constitution, while rabidly supporting the never-ending expansion of the warfare state.

Neocons like Levin, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh who now fancy themselves as constitutionalists since there is a Democrat in the White House are hypocrites of the first order. All during the eight years of the Bush regime their standard response to anyone who would object to the PATRIOT Act and myriad other attacks on constitutional liberty was to proclaim that “9/11 changed everything.” Translation: the hell with the constitution; we’re engaged in a never-ending “war on terra,” as George W. Bush called it. We need to destroy our constitutional liberties in order to protect our constitutional liberties, they told us. It is the hatred of those liberties by people in the Middle East that caused the terrorists to attack us on 9/11, they ludicrously proclaimed (and still do).

And now… the rest of the story. …..

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 11:19 am

    I really enjoy articles like this. They make me think.

    DiLorenzo is a Libertarian. In and of itself, there’s nothing especially misguided with that. But, we must understand that Liberatians, like other ideologues, are absolutists. And no mortal can be absolutely right or otherwise above reproach all the time. My guess is that to maintain their ideological purity in 1861, Libertarians would have ignored the plight of slaves. So, ideological purity in and of itself is not necessarily 100% virtuous; in its pure form Libertarianism is not without fault and shortcoming.

    As a counterpoint to DiLorenzo’s ideological purity, a couple things: 1) “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” (Barry Goldwater, conservative icon). Would DiLorenzo characterize Goldwater as a neocon?; 2) “Energy in the executive is a leading character of good government.” (Alexander Hamilton, founder). Neocon?

    Also, Eisenhower, like Lincoln before him, beiieved in mixed governmental intervention vs pure laissez-faire, and, very importantly, both understood that Congress had the right to impeach if they felt the Prez overstepped his constitutional authority. Congress didn’t impeach when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, nor did they impeach Ike when he implemented the building of a USEFUL interstate highway system. Even Thomas Jefferson, my hero of limited government, slipped the bounds of Libertarian orthodoxy in 1803 when he purchased the Louisiana Territory. Were these folks heretics? Thoughtless destroyers of the Constitution. Gee, I don’t think so.

    My point is that, yes, we must defend the original intent and meaning of the Constitution, but, clearly, there has to be some wiggle room to accommodate unforeseen exigencies. I don’t know what that perfect formula is, nor do I believe Libertarians know either. I guess all we can hope for is that this natural conflict of ideologies, this ideological polarity, will act to safeguard our essential liberties without imperiling our ability to approrpriately deal with exigencies occasioned by unforeseen crises or special needs in war and peace. Extremism on either end of the political spectrum should never be allowed to command full sway. If that’s being a neocon, then count me in. In any case, I don’t believe Libertarians, the Progressives, the Republicans, the Green Party, et. al. are without sin. Maintaining clearly identifiable constitutional order and balance should be the goal. Extremist solutions are just that.

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