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Me and My Family and China

April 3, 2001

The Chinese government, which has been displaying unusual belligerence lately, has committed another provocation against the U.S. Government by disabling an American spy plane over international waters, then detaining the crew incommunicado when they were forced to land on a Chinese island. Whether the Chinese fighter jet deliberately struck the propeller-driven American plane is unclear — the jet was lost, its pilot apparently killed — but the jet was certainly risking a collision in order to harass the American plane.

The incident is being described as “the first major foreign policy test of the Bush administration.” We are also hearing the usual phrases — improved relations, cooperation, firm response. The case may be resolved by the time you read this, or, if the Chinese rulers have decided to play hardball with the United States, it could “escalate” into an “international crisis.”

What is the reactionary utopian position on this situation (which, however the present case turns out, is likely to recur)? Speaking only for myself, as the only avowed reactionary utopian I know of, I appeal to the sensible question of Don Corleone: “What is the interest for me and my family?” And as Sonny Corleone adds: “Your country ain’t your blood.” More precisely, your government ain’t your family.

[Breaker quote: Your 
country ain't your blood.]In fact, your government is your natural enemy. That’s why we have so many safeguards against it, though (as the Senate’s passage of the McCain-Feingold “campaign reform” bill shows) they are being gradually removed. More and more, the government demands that we trust it, especially in secrecy-laden military affairs. (It’s fitting that John McCain exhibits a military-style authoritarianism.)

Governments begin with crime and conquest. They may be somewhat humanized over time, with bills of rights and other measures to protect subjects from rulers, but they generally revert to crime and conquest eventually. The U.S. Government is an enormous parasite on the productive sector of the American people, as the imminence of April 15 should remind us.

The interests of the government are at odds with those of its subjects. This fundamental fact is disguised by democratic rhetoric, which may lull us into thinking that whatever is good for the rulers is also good for the ruled. Nowhere is this truer than in military matters: intervention abroad is always advertised as the defense of freedom.

War with China is not in the interest of me and my family. But the enormous U.S. presence in Asia is likely to lead to war sooner or later. The Chinese and American governments are vying for supremacy in the region like two rival gangs. Thanks, but I want no part of it. Dominating Asia is not in the interest of me and my family, even if it could be done without bloodshed. Military conquest does nothing to advance our freedom and often has the opposite result.

In the present case, the American government may be in the right, just as the Corleones may be in the right when ambushed by the Tattaglias. It remains true that the interest of me and my family is to stay out of any such conflict. The last time members of my family went to war, my father was nearly killed and our ancestral country, Ruthenia, wound up in Joe Stalin’s duffel bag. President Franklin Roosevelt assured us that we were fighting for “freedom.”

Am I positing “moral equivalence” between the United States and China? Not exactly. I much prefer life under the U.S. Government to life under the brutal Chinese regime, because many of our freedoms have, after all, survived the U.S. Government’s efforts to whittle them away.

But this is not to say that we owe those freedoms to our government, whose character has become increasingly lawless and criminal. And there is no reason for us to root our current rulers on in their power rivalry with the Chinese rulers. It’s imbecilic to equate our current rulers with the precious principles of liberty and the rule of law. But the lazy (and wholly irrational) equation of the government’s interests with the people’s freedom has become a bad habit.

This was not always so. In the days when American rulers had some genuine concern for freedom, they warned against foreign wars and entangling alliances. Does anyone remember?

Joseph Sobran

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Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2001 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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