For members of the Greatest Generation, and for early-era Baby Boomers, the question of “where were you when you heard President Kennedy was shot” has long-been a standard. Every American who had formed a consciousness by that time could pinpoint their location and recall what they were doing when the news arrived. While the Kennedy assassination was before my time, the terrorist attack of 9/11/2001 was not. I can vividly recall the moment I heard that news, right down to the details of the grade school classroom in which I was sitting.
That attack caused then-President George W. Bush to launch what was immediately labeled as the “War on Terror.” The President told our nation in front of a joint session of Congress that not only would we stamp out Al Qaeda, but we would stamp out terrorism everywhere else in the world. Thus commenced a war that has led us to and from various parts of the Middle East and Africa for nearly 20 years. Is the war over? I have no idea. With a mission so broadly and generally defined, it feels like this foreign war just might be endless.
Our country has become accustomed to fighting endless wars, and not just of the military variety. Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” launched in the mid-1960’s is still underway. Richard Nixon’s pre-resignation “War on Drugs,” as near as I can tell, continues to be fought. At a glance, we would appear to be losing both wars given the state of poverty in our inner cities and the widespread evidence of drug addiction and the rise in attendant crime statistics associated therewith. I say it “appears” we are losing because it is impossible to actually know. One of the reasons that wars become endless is because they are started without an actual end in mind.
Today, 2021 America finds itself in the early stage of what is shaping up to be yet another entrance into an endless war. This time, it is the war against the Chinese coronavirus (CCV). Under the guise of needing to contain the Delta variant of the Wuhan lab-engineered disease, Americans are once again facing restrictions in their freedoms through mask mandates, threatened lockdowns, and the newest draconian restriction which is the imposition of vaccine mandates and the issuance of attendant “passports.”
Whenever America enters into what becomes and endless war, militarily or otherwise, there are four attributes that you will always find present. They are:
- The war will allow the people with power to become more powerful
- Because they will never specifically identify the true size and significance of the threat, it gets hard to debate if the war is just
- The war will necessitate massive new programs that will bulldoze individual rights
- The leaders will never specifically define what success looks like
Let’s consider each of these four elements in the context of the new endless war on the Chinese coronavirus.
Since March of 2020 the powerful have become more powerful and those who had perhaps little to no power at the start have accumulated it and wielded it with gusto. Consider the governors across the country like Whitmer, Newsom, Pritzker, and Cuomo who invoked various forms of emergency powers and then have used those power to impose freedom limiting restrictions upon their citizens that have persisted in at various levels right through today.
Consider also the elevated status and power of public health officials like Anthony Fauci who found themselves suddenly basking in limelight and being able to direct public behavior as if they are pulling the strings of millions of marionettes. Large corporations also have enjoyed the consolidation of power and strengthening of their grip over their respective industry silos. Endless wars offer endless benefits for big business. Amazon, Walmart, large banks, and big tech have all benefited greatly, and likely permanently, from the new CCV war.
In assessing the threat that was/is presented by the CCV our war leaders have been extraordinarily nonspecific when it comes to specifics. Consider the following from the Journal of American Medicine: In 2020, approximately 3.36 million Americans died (a 17% increase over 2019). Of those, 690,000 were identified as being caused by heart disease and almost 600,000 from cancer. The CCV had 345,000 attributed deaths and we know that the vast majority of those had some form of comorbidity cause attached to them. Other six-figure death causes include accidental injury (nearly 200,000), stroke, diabetes, and respiratory infections.
Should we ban McDonald’s quarter pounders? Should we ban all sugar drinks? Why on earth haven’t we banned all cigarettes? Doesn’t cholesterol need to go completely? How about all known carcinogens? The simple fact is that by labeling the CCV as this significant threat to life but never really quantifying or specifying the exact details of the threat vis a vis other threats that are part of daily life, an uniformed and fearful public will be very susceptible to government intrusions into, and limitations imposed upon, their normal freedoms.
With the various bans on activities that were common in 2020 and now beginning to reemerge, coupled with the stringent, often scientifically unsupported, prophylactic measures, and with the new rollout of vaccine requirements, largescale government programs are supplanting individual choice. Two of Aristotle’s four virtues were temperance and prudence (or reason); terms when combined can easily be aligned with the classical conservative notion of prudence. Temperance and prudence are missing when governments create massive policy initiatives to help combat endless wars. There is also little attention paid to unintended consequences of policy or, what you might call in war, collateral damage.
How much thought has been given during the war on CCV to suicides? Substance abuse? Self-harming? Death from unattended to or delayed medical procedures? Each one of these collateral issues has raised larger problems for individuals across the country. Each has generated its own crisis of sorts. Each then, in turn, adds to the overall level of crisis which increases the government’s ability to call for more massive programs. The war can’t end because there are always new battles to fight; new problems to solve. Self-inflicted problems, to be sure, but problems, nonetheless.
Finally, there is the missing element of defining what success should look like. Massive interventions and disruptions in freedom cannot be justified at any level if you cannot tell people what you are shooting for in terms of an acceptable outcome. Are we trying to eliminate all cases of CCV for at least one year? Are we trying to get deaths per day to some certain level? What level? This is the policy equivalent of having a runner take off to the sound of the starter’s pistol running full speed and having no indication as to the distance of the race. No runner would compete in such circumstances and Americans should refuse to surrender their freedom.
Correct. Americans should refuse to surrender their freedom. To be clear I am in fact calling for acts of civil disobedience. It is time for Americans to embrace the ideas developed so thoroughly by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century and embraced by Gandhi, Dr. King, and others in the 20th century. It is time for us to support the shopkeeper who refuses to check for vaccines or enforce mask mandates. It is time to boycott the companies that require their workers to be vaccinated and to “buycott” with their competitors who do not.
It is time for us to sit down at the modern-day “Woolworth’s” lunch counter, take off our mask, roll up our sleeve to show the absence of a needle mark, and demand to be served.
According to “experts” there are approximately 100 million Americans who have as yet not been to be vaccinated. This is clearly one of those “silent majority” (or close to it) set of circumstances. Here’s a question, if 100 million people in a country of about 335 million agree on something, shouldn’t it be worth listening to them? Shouldn’t their voice matter when considering whether to declare yet another endless war?
The answer is that right now their voice doesn’t matter because it isn’t loud enough and there isn’t enough political cacophony. We need to create non-violent but situationally uncomfortable unrest. This is not a time for Americans to sit back and watch this play itself out. As we have learned with terror, poverty, drugs, and other famous “wars,” sometimes things never really finish playing themselves out.
In Iceland where they have just brought back more restrictions in their war against CCV, officials have warned that restrictions could be in place for another 15 years! Sound like a long time? At least they provided a target date. Here in the United States, our war on CCV is beginning to look endless.