Ronald Ernest Paul, the nation's last best hope for internet gambling and the gold standard, responded to the murder of a Navy SEAL by saying, "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." But the question is whose sword is it?
The far left and the far right agree on few things, but they both agree that America's wounds in the War on Terror are self-inflicted. America creates terrorism through its foreign policy and fights terrorism thereby perpetuating terrorism. Islamic terrorism is just a figment of our foreign policy. Put down the sword, is the implication, and the fighting can stop. Keep fighting back and eventually more planes will fly into your skyscrapers as blowback for all the fighting back that you did before.
Moral equivalence would have it that all swords are created equal, much as gun control advocates insist that a rifle in the hands of a hunter is no different than a rifle in the hands of a serial killer. A gun is a gun and a sword is a sword. If you own one, you're likely to use it. And if you use it, then you are utterly evil, regardless of the reason you use it and the purpose that you use it for.
But not all swords are created equal and neither are all wars. There are swords of conquest and swords of peace. Swords of war and swords of last resort. To the left, the size of the sword is all that matter. The party with the larger sword is always the bully and the party with the smaller sword is always the victim. A police officer who carries a bigger gun than a mugger is more culpable in any confrontation between the two because disproportionate firepower carries with it disproportionate responsibility and disproportionate guilt. The sole exception to this broad moral standard is when a government of the left is the one wielding the bigger guns.
Whose sword was it then? In the school of thought embraced by such students of history as Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Ron Paul and the rest of the gang, the sword is the massive steel blade of empire that is borne by the strongest power. Like white privilege, it is one of those things that exists and acts even when the wielder is unaware of it. Like a car left parked outside for a month, its foreign policy continues accumulating terrorist tickets even when it isn't aware of it. And the terrorist tickets are eventually cashed in for a terrorist attack, which it richly deserves because though it may seem as if it came out of the blue, it's actually blowback for the crime of having the bigger sword.
Followers of this school of thought style themselves realists. Their sword of empire realism however fails to encompass the history and ambitions of over a billion people, their theology, their dreams and their internal conflicts. To the realists, over a thousand years of Islamic history hardly carries any weight compared to the doings of ARAMCO and the CIA. There is a certain unrealism to such realism. The realist may be a cynic, but if he, like the World War II Trotskyist labor unions in the UK who told their members that the American soldiers weren't coming to fight Hitler but to break up labor strikes, follows a realism mired in petty cynicism that cannot see past last week, then his realism is really ignorant cynicism masquerading as history.
History does not begin with Standard Oil or the Crusades. A view of history as ethnocentrist as that might have been forgivable for a manifest destiny conservative, but is a rather surreal offering from self-proclaimed realists who want us to consider the views of the other side, but refuse to consider the history and the past of the other side.
The revisionist history of the realists blames America by beginning with America. America is the axis around which the world revolves. There was no Islam before America and if America sinks into the ocean, the realists must assume that Islamic terrorism will go with it, unless the Zionist Entity sticks around and continues infuriating the otherwise peaceful peoples of the Middle East whose brief history of violence only commenced in 1948 or 1917.
But what if the sword is not the red, white and blue rhinestone spangled sword of Americanism, the steel-forged blade of manifest destiny, with a bald eagle on the hilt and the blood of the oppressed gushing like oil from its blade? What if history does not begin with America and what if the sword that is held above the wall is not America's sword to put down?
Anti-war activists, like anti-gun activists, cannot spend too much time contemplating the other side. The anti-war position automatically picks the other side and because of the innate whiff of treason in such a choice, it must justify that treason by utterly damning and demonizing its own side. It cannot afford nuance at home, though it often calls for it abroad, because to concede complexity is to endanger its own moral standing. The only thing standing between the anti-war movement and treason is its ceaseless effort to demonize its own government, soldiers and people as monsters. If it lowers that sword of invective for a moment and accepts that they are less than monsters, then its moral standing falls apart.
The anti-war movement can only maintain its moral standing through extremism and hate. Its activism is an eternal war fought against an endless war whose existence justifies their existence.
Each war, whether it is against Communism or Islamism, tribal warlords or world powers, reaffirms their thesis that their country is a bloody monster, an empire of skulls ruled over by warlords who live by the sword and then die by it. Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Lusitania and the Maine, September 11 and the Pueblo Incident all blend together into one false flag operation; a single continuous historical event with a single explanation. And the explanation is the Great American Sword that sets up bases to extract oil, drugs and arms deals along with all the other trappings of empire. It is the answer that answers everything. Even the question of why the wars don't stop.
And what of the sword of Islam, its hilt inlaid with emeralds, its blade clotted with infidel blood, which was sweeping across the world a thousand years before some Virginia farmers got together to discuss theories of government? What was it that made that sword rise and fall, before the oil companies and the Israeli lobby, before arms dealers and neo-conservatives, and all the other crutches on which the realists hobble their lame revisionist history?
Is Islamism a toy monster, a jack-in-the-box that pops out when you turn the handle of imperialism long and hard enough, or is it a self-animating empire of its own? Are its emirates a CIA plot or the work of aspiring sultans and caliphs looking to claim their share of the wealth and women that the followers of Islam have always deemed to be their fair share for fighting Allah's wars for him? Is Islamic terrorism a phenomenon that exists only as a response to American foreign policy, or is it the work of men animated by a fervent vision of history and a love of power? Whatever the realists may say, human nature says otherwise.
If the realists are forced to take Islamism seriously, rather than as a childish response to the Gulf War, Israeli housing or French cartoons, then they will have to measure the Sword of Allah against the Colt of Uncle Sam, not just in terms of firepower, but in moral standing. It will not be enough to say that America is responsible because it fires the first shot and swings the biggest sword. It will not be enough to tear down their own country because it has the biggest guns. Not if the hate and violence of the other party predated the existence of the guns and the gunpowder and dates back to the time when the Servants of Allah made their swords by quenching them in the bodies of their slaves.
Right now it isn't so much a matter of live by the sword, die by the sword, as it is a case of live by the sword, die by the drone. While the sword-wielders close in for close combat, hoping to swarm all that superior firepower with sheer numbers, the wielders of the Colt and the drone practice a more distant form of killing, whether it is the sniper art of Chris Kyle or the truly distant kill of the drone.
When you are standing beneath the wall trying to get up into the castle, then you send out your cannon fodder up the wall angling for a foothold. But when you are holding the wall, then you do your killing from a distance, sparing the lives of your scarce men and keeping the barbarians from reaching inside your gate. That is the war of sword and colt or of sword and drone. It's a bloody and messy war, but opting out of it is not an option.
Uncle Sam did not raise the sword. Uncle Mohammed did, more years ago than anyone can count, and the sword has never been lowered since. As long as Mohammed is at the gates, Sam cannot put down the sword and spend all his time discussing monetary theory or social justice. Not if he expects to still be wearing his head by morning.
A war is not a dance, though there is some circling and some tricky steps, it is not a mutual agreement, but a historical collision. It does not take two to wield a sword. It does however take two to achieve a stalemate. It is this stalemate, a war that falls short of war, whether it is a Cold War or a War on Terror, that the anti-war movement hates and needs. It is this indefinite endless war that animates its thesis and sustains its ideology.
The Muslim world has chosen to live by the sword and the free world must learn to use the sword, if it is not to live under their swords. But there is a difference between these two swords, between the Sword and the Colt, which made all men equal, and the sword and the drone. It is the same as the difference between Sparta and Athens and between Mecca and Jerusalem.
A great nation does not live by the sword; it uses the sword to keep its way of life free from those who do live by the sword.
In such a society where many professions are possible, most free from risk of death, the man who picks up the sword, who pledges to hold the sword so that others may work, not only does not live by the sword, but also makes it possible for his entire society to live free of the sword.
The death of such a man is a tragedy for those who understand that the sword can only be opposed by a sword, and that freedom is won at the cost of resisting slavery, but is a cause for celebration to those who imagine that when the last of their countrymen who carries a sword dies, the endless war will finally end.