Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Sean LaFreniere
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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Will Americans Ever Tire of War?

AAmericans have been tired of war since 1776. America does not go looking for wars. Wars come looking for us. And the world should be GRATEFULL that we respond.

The US is not a warmonger nation. It just isn’t. The people who have settled in our country came from all over the world to escape the hardships of tyrannies, dictatorships, and police states. The last thing they want is to find themselves in yet another. The majority of US citizens just want to drive a nice car, go out to dinner and a movie once in a while, and work at a job of their choosing. That is it. That is the extent of “what we want”.

The US has never before engaged in a “Pre-emptive War”. We have always responded to a “causes belli”, some aggressive act by another nation. This idea of attacking Iraq BEFORE they have done anything really bad to us is really causing us a lot of concern at home. This is why both the UK and the US have high poll numbers showing that we prefer UN “cover” to “going it alone”.

It used to be that for a nation to develop weapons they had to run up factory production of tanks and planes, and that was fairly obvious. Then they had to truck these to the border and that took awhile. In the meantime you could negotiate your differences and try to avoid war. Also, wars took their tolls on both sides, no matter who won. Building an army was expensive and so was using it.

Today America faces a quandary…our enemies refuse to go to war with us openly. And they use weapons that are not produced openly but in secret. These weapons may not even be very expensive. And they don’t take months to set up on a border or frontline, but only require an overnight shipping via Fed Ex. Today we can be taken by complete surprise and the first attack could be the last. Worse, we might never be able to respond! Therefore today we have placed all our rules on the table. Those that cant work anymore will be discarded and those that work will be relied upon more and more. This is a very important time for the US and for the World.

* * *

America is not a military state. Our past military success was due to the benefits of our democratic society, advanced technology and willing citizen soldiers. Our soldiers are the best equipped, best trained, and best motivated in the world. This is why we win wars.

Actually, the US is a relatively new nation and historically we have not been very strong militarily. Up till the 20th century the US didn’t even have a standing army. For more than a century America was defended by poorly armed and badly trained state militia units. These men provided their own clothing, weapons, and transportation. They would agree to meet to “drill”, or practice, a few times a year each year. But they rarely showed up and were rarely called upon by the States.

However, these militia units could be called up by the Federal government for national defense, for short periods of time, and about every 20 years or so they were. The militia made up 70% of the U.S. Army that fought the Mexican-American War in 1846 and 1847. In the American Civil War, 1861-1865, the Federal government had only 16,00 “regular” Army officers out of 400,000 state militia. During the Spanish-American War the Navy largely finished the fighting before the regular Army could even call up enough volunteers.

The Spanish-American War was the first war in which the US competed head to head with a European power. And when we won this war we were left with de facto control of the entire Pacific and Caribbean remnants of the Spanish Empire. Although we put these territories on a fast track to independence -Cuba in 1905 and the Philippines in 1907- the maintenance of the independence of these territories required that we be able to fight at the same level as the European “Great Powers” and this required a reform of our military to international standards.

In 1903 the US Congress put state militias under Federal control for the first time. The militias were renamed The National Guard in honor of the 18th century French friend of the US, Alex De Toquiville, who commanded the French “Garde Nationale”. In 1916 Congress made the National Guard the primary reserve force of the Army.

Even up to WWI, as in the civil war, the troops largely returned to civilian life after the war. But, the end of WWII saw America’s defensive responsibilities encompass the defeated nations of Germany and Japan, as we rebuilt them and oversaw their transition to democracy. And during the Cold War nations in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia looked to the US for defense or support.

This is why we had a large standing army during the last 50 years. When the Cold War ended, around 1991, the US began to immediately cut its standing army. The US went from a million regular Army to only 400,000. Today all branches of the Armed forces, including non combat personel, total about a million... out of 300 million citizens, that is only 3%.

It should be noted that the greatest goal of America’s wars has not been territorial expansion, but peace and freedom. The Mexican-American War did not alter our original purchase offer for California and Texas, we still paid them the same amount that we offered before the war, even though we occupied their capitol –which we then quickly left, and Mexico remained independent of the US. After the Spanish-American War we also paid the Spanish for their lost colonies, even though we then gave them their independence. WWI and WWII gained us nothing but expensive post war bills to rebuild and defend Europe and Asia. Vietnam and Korea also gained us nothing but dead bodies and a continued defense responsibility. The first Gulf War, Somalia, and Kosovo also gained us not one penny of economic or territorial benefit.

America has always looked at each war as “the last war”. What America keeps waiting for is the “Peace Dividend”. That is we wait for the day when we don’t have to spend 12% of our GDP to maintain a military that provides defense from the Sea of Japan to the Mediterranean, for a largely thankless world population.

The scary truth that America faces today is the reality that there is no “end to war”. National independence and defense is not a one-time battle. You don’t fight off a colonial master and then turn your swords into ploughshares -we tried this. There is always someone else with guns pointed, or uranium enrichment plants working, making threats and demands. So long as one nation, one people, remains unfree and unsatisfied, ALL nations are at risk, and war is unending. This was the reminder of 9-11.

* * *

On Dear Raed’s blog Riverbend linked to an article about Iran. Her comment was “have you seen this… will the US ever tire of war?”

What is strange, is that the article is not about the US announcing a new target in the “War on Terror”, which is what I expected. Instead it is an article that details how Iran has broken the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it signed, by developing nuclear facilities and programs to enrich uranium for use in atomic weapons. And it clearly notes that US spokespersons have not announced a new front in the war, but have stated their desire to have Mr. El Baradei, of the IAEA, take a look at the situation.

Iran might try to deny that the plant has a military use… claiming that the facilities are designed to make fuel for nuclear power plants. But, as White House spokesman Ari Fleischer noted: they live on top of a vast oil and natural gas reserve and have plenty of unemployed young men willing and able to help them pump the fuel. In fact, nuclear power is capital rather than labor intensive and is therefore actually MORE EXPENSIVE to them. The only logical conclusion is that they are on a nuclear weapons program similar to Iraq and North Korea. One has to smile when the Axis of Evil earns their name, eh?

And of course, the real reason why they admitted to this program in the first place (recall that the US did not point the finger on this one, Iran ADMITTED to their program) is that the Ayatollah hopes that by suggesting that they might ALREADY have a bomb, they will get “direct negotiations” (read: we will pay them off), just like N Korea. Furthermore, he hopes that this will avoid his being deposed and Democracy brought to the Iranian people -as may well happen in Iraq soon.

Expansion of the nuclear genie, to nations that are not superpowers and are not democratic, or even civilian controlled, is a threat to the world, to our allies, and to the United States of America. You might ask “Why?” You might point out that the US, and even the old Soviet Union, maintained similar weapons with no ill results… why not let “the little guys” have the same weapons?

The answer is simple. First, during WWII all the major players, east and west, developed chemical and biological weapons and were on the path to nuclear weapons as well. Thus the “super powers” gained these weapons out of necessity, that of not losing the war. And they kept them after the war to maintain the “balance of power” which kept the US and Russia from a head on war.

They did so through MAD… mutual assured destruction… that is each side possessed the technical ability to annihilate the other even after having been struck first, via shielded missile silos and command bunkers, and the knowledge that if they attacked first then the other side would destroy them as well in response. Thus these weapons actually guaranteed world peace for more than 50 years.

Second, small “rogue” nations, or nations controlled by un-elected (no one, not even the French, believe in Saddam’s 98% election results) dictators, do not participate in MAD… because WE don’t hold their people accountable for the actions of their leaders. The truth is that if Baltimore were destroyed tomorrow by a nuclear weapon we would not really know who did it. Even if we could pin the blame on the Ayatollah, we would never strike Tehran in response, because we don’t hold Iranian citizens responsible for their regime.

This is why they have a high likelihood of actually using these weapons –whilst neither the US nor the Soviets ever had the same probability. Nuclear proliferation drastically INCREASES global insecurity by increasing the likelihood of the USE of nuclear weapons. This is why big states, with civilian controlled governments, are not a threat when armed with WMD, but petty tyrants are. Anyone on the Left who claims not to understand this is either ignorant or disingenuous.

The truth is that Nagasaki and Hiroshima HORRIFIED Americans. We still have a deep ambivalence over those bombings to this day, they sure seemed necessary to stop millions more dead from a prolonged war, but they cost tens of thousands of lives themselves… it is a tough thought to wrap you head around.

When the anti-war Left talks about “bombing Baghdad” it is the LIFE magazine photos of naked, burned children running through streets of rubble that they are calling to mind. Which is not fair, since we would never do so again, and that is my point. We would not nuke anyone, not ever again. We would simply clear the rubble, bury our dead, and weep… and then launch a conventional war to depose the culprit.

Other cases don’t even involve the US. The first threat of nuclear war was over an ideological, political difference, the worldviews of Russia and America. MAD averted the threat because neither side found their different ideas worth millions of dead and the contamination of the planet. But, the second great threat of nuclear was came just a few years ago when Pakistan and India went to the brink of war over religion and land. Each side claimed not to mind a few million dead and they didn’t see the world environment at risk from only a regional war (which is incorrect).

So, you see, small nuclear strikes by tyrants who are solely responsible for the strike do not invoke MAD. The world’s dictators have just figured this out and this why they all have been working on nuclear weapons programs. And this is why they have all revealed this at the time that the US looks serious about removing them.

* * *

So, will America ever tire of war? The world better hope not. And I don’t think we will. “No one is truly free so long as one person is oppressed”. This is an old quote well regarded here. Because of this idea any American soldier is happy as much to free another people as to defend our own, but this is a hard pill for the public to swallow. And generally politics keep our military on a short leash. But 9-11 reminded us that our interests are everywhere, just as the reasons for others to attack us are everywhere. 9-11 also reminded us that there are some ideals worth fighting for: freedom, liberty, and justice for all is certainly good enough.

Nuclear wars cause planet-wide damage. Regional instability harms the global economy. And the US is the world’s most globetrotting power, with economic and military interests through out the planet. Thus, once again, the US may find itself involved in a war far from its shores because it finds risk to the planet a risk to itself.

It is not because the US loves war, but because it desires peace. And unlike Europe, which argues for “peace at any costs”, we will only be satisfied with a “just peace”. That is, any peace that leaves Saddam in Iraq, the Ayatollah in Iran, Kim Jong Il in N Korea, and the Palestinians displaced is not satisfactory, no matter what the French think

And no, this war is not over oil… if we wanted Iraqi oil we would have long ago developed some pretext to declare Saddam disarmed and friendly, ended sanctions, and slurped up all the cheap oil we could consume. This war IS actually about principles: do you let a thug and a tyrant become a nuclear thug and tyrant? Do you risk your own life and treasure to remove him and rebuild his crushed nation? How do Iraqis really want us to answer? Do they want us to just be “tired of war” and accept Saddam’s rule, like the French?

Remember, if the US had tired of war in 1776 we would still be a mistreated British Colony and the British would probably still rule ¼ of the globe through colonies. If the US tired of war in 1846 Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California would be part of the Mexican Empire. The farmers would be downtrodden and the Indians would not have Reserves and casinos, but would be at the very bottom of white dominated Imperial Mexican society. If the US had tired of war in 1898 Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines would still be under the military boot heal of the Spanish Empire, their imported black and native laborers crushed under a racist agricultural system. If the US had tired of war in either 1917 or 1941 all of Europe would speak German, have a fondness for black leather, and an intolerance for all minorities and the English. If the US tired of war at any time in the last 50 years the world would speak Russian and we would all live in cement block towers and watch black and white movies about how our fearless leader grew up in a hut and “struggled heroically” against his fate before leading us to the glory of a future where doctors make the same as teachers and only violinists and generals have a hope of the “pursuit of happiness”. If we tired of war in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s ALL Koreans would be starving to death right now, Vietnam would be a Chinese colony, Iraqis would be a hated minority in the Persian Islamic Empire, and there would be NO MUSLIMS in Eastern Europe.

So, do you WANT the US to tire of war? Do you really fear the fact that the US has WMD? Do you really?

Sean: Tuesday, March 11, 2003 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


Copyright 2003-2009 by Sean LaFreniere