The the national security state is the biggest threat to American liberty, but the tea party is blind to the danger -- and so's the Obama left
War is the health of the State.
-- Randolph Bourne
In the United States, there is a collective myopia about war and its effect on the power of the state. Ten years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the most vocal faction in American politics, the tea party, insists that the steady increase in the size and scope of the federal government puts us at risk of tyranny. On those grounds, it opposes President Obama's health care bill, stimulus spending, and financial industry bailouts (all positions I share at least in part). But most tea party partisans are either silent or (more often) uncritically enthusiastic about the War on Terrorism, the policy that has aggregated more power to the state in the last decade than any other.
Since 2001, we've created a new cabinet level super-agency, the Department of Homeland Security. We've waged foreign wars whose ultimate cost will easily reach into the trillions of dollars, all of which will be born by taxpayers. Fourth Amendment protections against government searches without due process have been significantly weakened, as has the expectation of privacy enjoyed by the average citizen. Traveling on an airplane is now deemed just cause for agents of the state to look underneath our clothes and to feel our genitals, making thousands deeply uncomfortable. The president himself now asserts that he possesses the unchecked power to put American citizens on assassination lists if he deems them to be a terrorist.