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June 26, 2002

JIM HENLEY WRITES that he'd rather see the occasional American city nuked than give up on freedom and establish a police state.

I agree with this, actually: if you're willing to make sacrifices for freedom, then it follows logically once you set up the choice. But I don't really see this as the choice. (Henley also quotes another writer as saying that democracy won't last out the century -- but that's a pretty presumptuous statement to make in the year '02). If you buy the whole unstoppable-slippery-slope-to-tyranny worldview then, sure, you've got a problem. But if that worldview were true, the Alien and Sedition Acts would never have been repealed, slavery never would have ended -- and for that matter, neither would Prohibition, or the draft.

That doesn't mean that Henley's worries are entirely misplaced, only that I don't see things as being quite that grim. My nightmare scenario, in fact, is one in which the "war on terror" starts looking like the "war on drugs." Which is why I'm in favor of invading Iraq, giving the al-Sauds the boot, and in general fighting a genuine war rather than settling into long-term chronic-illness mode. The bureaucrats naturally favor the latter, as it involves less accountability (you can't really "lose" a "war on" as opposed to a "war" -- you just need more money!) and long-term funding. But in opposing honest-to-goodness war in favor of law-enforcement techniques, you make the police-state aspects of a "war on" (like the War On Drugs) far more likely to materialize.