It’s been a while, and I apologize for my lapse, but I’m back, at least for now. There’s been a lot for me to think about, and I just had to hit the keys to get some thoughts out there.
In my work lately I have encountered many active duty military personnel lately. Sterling men and women who seem to shrug off the incredible danger they are facing. Most recently I had a conversation with a Marine, who had completed three tours in Iraq, including one during the siege of Faluja. He is preparing to deploy once again, this time not to the deserts but the mountains of Afghanistan. He discusses the upcoming events as calmly as an accountant might discuss a balance sheet. However the balance will not be numbers but lives. His job is not to sort debits and credits but killers and those in need of protection. He is clearly frustrated by the intervention of bureaucracy and politics into warfare, but seems to have reconciled himself to the modern restrictions on warriors. As for me, I find it outrageous that we are on the brink of introducing Miranda warnings to the battlefield, and US Constitutional protections to battle field opponents.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading and thinking lately, about government, freedom and the role of the citizen in protecting liberty. There is a significant conflict right now, between those who believe that government should have the ability to do whatever it must and those who believe the sole purpose of government is to guarantee ordered liberty. Those who generally embrace limited government and maximum liberty have tended to be more civil and more calm during most of this debate. Those who embrace activist government and enforced civilization have tended to be more outspoken. Look to the Global Climate Change crowd. They have shouted and made films and staged demonstrations to push their agenda of action items. Proponents of liberty tend simply to just want to be left alone. They try to live their lives privately, with as little disturbance or offense to others as possible. There is a fundamental conflict between these viewpoints.
Those who would advance a statist agenda will simply not tolerate someone who wishes to be ‘left alone’. Such a person is a threat to those who wish to have an all encompassing state controlling every aspect of life. In order to prevent others from simply opting out from control, myriad laws and regulations are created, forming a nearly inescapable web. We are told over and over again that the legal system, as complex and dense as it is, is simply the only way to hold society together. By imposing law we impose civilization. And that civilization is the only way to ensure our survival. Legal networks and webs of regulations are not the foundation of civilization.
John Ford made a movie many years ago(1962), which brought John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart together on stage.In ” The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” Wayne plays a tough as nails man with a gun, the archetypical western man named Tom Doniphan He encounters Ransom Stoddard, an eastern lawyer after he has been attacked on the highway by a brutal gang led by Liberty Valance. Stoddard recuperates in the town of Shinbone. There he encounters Valance again, and swears to bring the dangerous man to justice, using the law, not the gun. While there he also meets Hallie who believes in his dream. She eventually transfers her love from Doniphan to Stoddard, whom she eventually marries.
Stoddard has several encounters with Valance, and eventually Valance ‘calls him out’ promising to kill him in a gunfight. Stoddard goes against his pledge, and faces off against the gunslinger. After toying with him, shooting all around him, Valance shoots Stoddard in the arm. Finally he raises and aims, but this time he is hit, killed by the newest wild west hero, Ransom Stoddard: The man who shot Liberty Valance. Stoddard goes on to marry the girl and become the first senator from the State which emerges from the wild territory as it is settled by civilization and civilized by law.
What we learn, only at the very end of the film is that the legend is false. Stoddard did not fire the fatal shot. Tom Doniphan, foresaw the danger and hid in the shadows. He fired the fatal shot and vanished leaving Stoddard to claim the fame and hero’s mantle.
Doniphan died alone. But he had the satisfaction of allowing the woman he loved, Hallie, to be happy, and seeing that those he wished to protect are saved from the likes of Valance. He did as he wished, lived his life his way and survived.
The lesson cannot be more clear. Legal society can only work when real strength is behind it. We cannot simply waive legal briefs and subpoenas at violent enemies and expect them to surrender. Surely the world needs men like Ransom Stoddard to keep order and civility. The problem is that we have forgotten that we have also always needed Tom Doniphan to bring that very order and civility into a chaotic and dangerous world. Once the Wild West is tamed, the eastern lawyers can take over, but they could not step into the field until it was tamed.
Right now, we can see this very problem and the lack of understanding each night on our TV screens and read it on our news sources.
We have leaders who insist that if only we get one more international tribunal, or multilateral communiqué we can conquer those who mean to destroy our civilization. Our nations are being led by an array of Ransom Stoddards who are attempting to face down an even greater array of Liberty Valances. Only problem is there seems to be no Tom Doniphan hiding in the shadows this time. The Stoddards have driven him away, and this time unless somehow Stoddard learns to shoot Valance may just be able to shoot first. And he doesn’t miss twice.
We managed to defeat Germany and Japan in less than five years. This was NOT done with long legal memoranda. It was accomplished by firebombing Dresden, Berlin and Tokyo. It was accomplished by dropping not just one but TWO nuclear bombs in the Japanese Empire. It was done through the death of more than four hundred thousand Russian soldiers who were killed in the campaign to pacify Germany.
We are still shooting in Afghanistan eight years after they attacked and destroyed our Twin Towers and did nearly the same in the Pentagon. We have not succeeded simply because we are fighting with the legal strategies of Ransom Stoddard instead of the military tactics of Tom Doniphan.
We need to learn the lesson that we cannot install civilization until we have defeated anarchy and chaos. We know that America is home to thousands of Ransom Stoddards.
We have to ask, over and over:
Where is Tom Doniphan?
We need him.
Keep the Faith!