As usual, I ♡ Pierce:
No. The manifestation of "the security age" that is presently under discussion began [on 9/12], but "the security age" as we know it began during World War II, with the Manhattan Project, and it really got rolling after the war, when the Russians ended up with the bomb and there was hell to pay here. Garry Wills is right in his book Bomb Power. It was the combination of those weapons, and the military-industrial complex that produced them and against which Dwight Eisenhower was right to warn us, that embedded "the security age" in the institutions of free government, and it has operated like rot and termites within them ever since. Everything since has been just technology. The impulse toward "the security age" has been present at almost every level of law enforcement, let alone the military. A lot of The Patriot Act was made up of proposals that had been gathering dust on the shelves of the FBI for years and that then got swept into a bill nobody read before they voted to approve it, and most of those proposals were aimed at curbing drug trafficking, and what is the "war on drugs" but an elaborate performance piece of "the security age."
I will go to my grave believing that Lyndon Johnson really had no choice but to escalate US involvement in Vietnam, because in 1965 no President was going to tell America it couldn’t win a war. The fact that Johnson understood that it was, indeed, a war that couldn’t be won is what makes him my candidate for sharpest man to hold the office since FDR.
Which is why that doubly isn’t an excuse. The political “reality”—that is, the unreality of the Cold War mentality—should have been made the handmaiden of concrete reality. Instead Johnson oversaw an operation which of necessity included demonizing everyone who chose to tell the truth. And which led directly to Richard Nixon being put in charge of the thing, and if anyone’s ever untangled exactly what it was Nixon was up to in Indochina or, hell, anywhere, please let me in on the secret.
Johnson at least put principle over politics on Civil Rights; where would Barack Obama be today if he hadn’t? Not weaseling on the security state, or drone attacks.
Listen, I certainly didn’t expect the man to dismantle the Bush security apparatus, but then I'm enough of an optimist to believe that few people are as cynical as me. I’m not particularly surprised we still have Gitmo to kick around. This is the 21st century, and apparently damned near everyone of the President’s generation has faux balance for marrow. The little sidebar tale here of how the “worst” of post-9/11 “excesses” can be understood as the result of Understandable Panic is the lowest grade baloney. Americans love this crap. Americans love blowing shit up, and the further they are from harm’s way when it happens the more enamored they are. Where was the outrage here? Americans are fine with the G opening mail. They’re fine with pursuing possible criminality anywhere it leads, unconditionally, so long as it doesn’t include tax cheats. If someone had figured out a way to make airport searches actually shorten wait time, America would be demanding more anal probes, and helping undress grandma. Am I wrong? America didn’t sign over its Fourth amendment rights reluctantly after 9/11. America was half convinced Due Process was a commie plot to begin with.
No sir, I didn’t expect any particular courage or leadership from Barack Obama in the matter of the Bush-era excesses, let alone the fifty-five years that preceded it. He admired Ronald Reagan (“but not for his politics”). Admiring Ronald Reagan requires much the same thing that Orson Welles noted was required for a story to end happily: stopping it before it was over.
Okay, so by now it’s forty years too late, but what if a Democrat stood up and consistently called out the weenieness of our Chicken Little security state? Maybe then this wouldn’t be a country waiting for Rand Fucking Paul to figure something out.