Monday, May 26, 2014

4: Provide for the Common Defense

            It seems that "common defense" has become more complex, but has not been effective during two-and-a quarter centuries. Across the globe, America is a great benefactor but its practices, including hypocrisy, are hated by many countries and many persons. Domestically, the opportunity for neighborliness beyond entertainment events seems swamped by special interest groups. Even among the most self-righteous groups---the Catholic church, Canterbury, evangelicals---there is continual discovery of sex abuse and child abuse.[1] America celebrates “freedom,” sacred military personnel, and religious tradition, but ignore civic justice. America preaches diversity but promotes disunity. America promotes democracy at the expense of republicanism but ignores civic integrity.
            Federalist 41, by James Madison, January 19, 1788 puts “provide for the Common Defense” in perspective. Madison would convince the people that a central government will provide better protection from foreign governments than either a State or a Confederation of States could, and that the organization and assignment of powers by the 1787 Constitution is both necessary and sufficient. He addresses two assignments: authorization of Union powers and limitation of State powers. Any governance left to the people is limited by their opportunity to vote for representatives (who are of the elite) or to remove bad performers. In other words, Madison either did not imagine or took for granted the issue of self-discipline. Perhaps Madison actually believed that the people would behave only by force. Governance starts with either self-control or, for the infirm, assistance until self-control is feasible or there is relief.
            Madison addresses the needs for defense from foreign attack, to discourage foreign ambitions, and to discourage division by States or Confederacies of States. For these purposes, the Union needed control of the military, authorizations for recovery of property outside the country’s borders, and control of funding, including borrowing. To limit military powers, Congress renews funding every two years; representatives face election every two years; and the President is the Commander in Chief.
         Since this country cannot control timing of foreign dangers, these powers must be effective in peace. The danger to offenders, with our readiness to defend, will assure peace, and it makes no sense to arbitrarily limit our relative military power. Pacific nations face repetitions of attack.
A wise nation will combine all these considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its liberties.
However, no State or group of States should forget they must “continue a united people.” Disunion by States would be more disastrous than historical examples such as enmity between Great Britain and Europe or among European countries, because the States are contiguous.
In America the miseries springing from her internal jealousies, contentions, and wars, would form a part only of her lot. Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America, and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.
This warning, addressing the union of States, seems miss-guided in light of neglect since 1788 of the duties stated in the preamble. Emphasis on each citizen’s civic goals, which are stated in the preamble, would have placed America in a better condition; it is not too late for reform.
            Congress created the US State Department and War Department (the Army) in 1789. State is led by the Secretary of State, who is nominated by the President, is a member of the Cabinet, and is confirmed by the Senate. State is responsible for international relations. In 1798, Congress created the Navy Department. On July 26, 1947, Truman signed the National Security Act, which set up a unified military command known as the "National Military Establishment. Under the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1958 . . . channels of authority within the department were streamlined, while still maintaining the authority of the Military Departments. [It was] written and promoted by the Eisenhower administration."[2]
            Military action abroad is under the direction of the Department of Defense. Since the 9/11 attack, a cabinet function, the Department of Homeland Security, protects the United States within its borders, territories and protectorates and responds to terrorist attacks, accidents, and natural disasters. Immigration is also under DHS.
            Together, these activities involve the largest employment in the world. It is a well known, large burden that often does not win friends, despite the sacrifices. There is no greater sacrifice than a life. Total American deaths[3] in 1000s attributed to the top ten wars are listed by end date, number of states[4], and population in millions[5] below:
1783    25        13        3.13     Revolutionary War
1815    15        18        8.35     War of 1812
1848    13.3     30        21.8     Mexican War
1865    625      36        34.8     Civil War
1902    4.2       45        79.2     Philippine War
1918    116.5   48        103.2   World War I
1945    405.4   48        139.9   World War II
1953    36.5     48        160.2   Korean War
1975    58.2     48        216.0   Vietnam War
 ?         6.7       50        318.0   War on Terror 
The total for all wars is 1.32 million deaths, and I regret the neglect of any person. Recently, deaths in the Civil War have been estimated at 750,000, or 53% percent of the adjusted total. Proportioning to today’s population would amount to 6.9 million deaths! Our losses in foreign wars pale before our internal conflicts, which should be avoidable: neighbors should not kill neighbors.
            I was na├»ve to religious terrorism beyond pre-revolutionary events such as the Salem “witch” executions (twenty of 200 accusations) in 1692 and murders during recent decades over abortion services. Noah Feldman, in his book, Divided by God, 2005, cites religious terrorism, such as the Philadelphia “nativist” riots of 1844. Here’s information from other sources:

May 12  . . . Kensington riots . . . : seven dead on site with two more to die later, and at least 20 wounded. [S]outh Philadelphia in early July . . . rioters clashed with the militia. During three days of disturbances 10 were killed and at least 20 wounded.[6]

Feldman, intentionally or not, makes a good case that America is and always was a factional Protestant country; citizens are merely subjects in the battle for civic power that continually favors Protestantism. As always, the 1844 Protestant strategy was to appropriate a word on which to pretend the more noble argument, despite the US Constitution. In this case, “nativist,” would correctly refer to Native Americans, but nativist was used to define “Americanism,” the practice of inculcating Bible in public schools, as a substitute for morality. Feldman did not promote the preamble, which is what citizens should hold in common. Here’s Feldman’s recommendation:

All this brings us to our present predicament, and the failings of both values evangelicalism and legal secularism. In short, both are self-contradictory: they fail precisely where they want to succeed, because neither successfully reconciles religious diversity with national unity. Values evangelicals may not like it, but they must recognize that government funding of religion will, in the long run, generate disunity, not unity. The answer is to allow public religion where it is inclusive, not exclusive, and to allow religious displays and prayers so long as they accommodate and honor religious diversity.[7]
About 23% of the population or 74 million Americans are excluded by civic religion, public display, or prayer: non-theists have no representative in the civic god competition. Sometimes, recognition of meaning requires thought beyond tradition, which Feldman fails, in his neglect of the preamble. He carefully points out that the constitution for the USA breaks the mold when it does not reference a god, then tries to justify unconstitutional national conduct on the false assumption that religion is required for morality:

If the state was to be a moral agent, its morality must be grounded in religion, and that grounding must be acknowledged in the constitutional text. Otherwise a man like Ingersoll, “the most notorious scoffer and atheist in America,” would be right when he insisted that “the government of the United States is secular. It derives its power from the consent of man.”

Felder could have noted that the constitution for the USA is neutral to religion and thus not secular (secular means “non-religious, and therefore is defined by religion). He could have corrected Ingersoll’s poor word choice, suggesting that “the consent of man” comes with compromise on civic government, leaving no-harm religion a responsibility in each person's privacy, separate from both state and federal governance.
            Ingersoll is also erroneous in extolling "the consent of man." The preamble offers each citizen a civic agreement to develop the self-discipline to discover and practice fidelity to the-objective-truth. Thereby, the people may be governed by benefits from actual reality rather than dominant opinion:  The-objective-truth allows Felder and Ingersoll to settle their differences if they collaborate. 
         Semantic failure begets unintended consequences, usually bad. If, in his Second Inaugural Address, 1865, Abraham Lincoln had said, “Both [sides] read the same Bible and pray to the same god," it would have been clear that he was blaming the warring parties, not higher power (whatever that is, I think physics and its branches). Following Lincoln's iconoclastic example, Feldman might have chosen a title like, Divided by personal gods, to place the blame where it belongs: This country’s failure to accept that no-harm religion as a private affair for each adult believer in the world. Similarly, with Lincoln's iconoclastic example, the United States Supreme Court might recognize the dire need to end the tradition of protecting the civic Christianity that bemuses citizens and dilutes Christianity’s stated purpose: the salvation of souls.[8] Thereby, the Supreme Court would stop collaborating on Congress’s tradition of dismissing responsibility for their performance, for example, with an unconstitutional, religious oath ending, “ . . . so help me [my] god.” Also, they might stop supporting despots like Tony Perkins, who together with 20 US Representatives is pestering the US Air Force with the contention that officers have the right to proselytize subordinates.[9] Machiavelli disclosed Congress’s evils in 1513,[10] and the people play their role: not caring. It is not too late to reform.
         The solution to our dysfunction has been before us since Ratification Day, June 21, 1788, which our annual meetings celebrate as Individual Independence Day. Whether the signers were aware of it or not, the semantics they provided positioned every generation to recognize that American disunity may be resolved if most citizens commit-to and trust-in the civic goals in the preamble to the constitution for the USA, encouraging, by example, dissidents to the agreement to reform.
         For each Memorial Day, I cannot imagine a better remembrance of the soldiers lost to defend the United States of America from foreign attack, civil war, and domestic strife than for aware citizens to volunteer to be of “We the People of the United States,” a civic people, as defined by the preamble. Citizens for promoting that entity, each Individual Independence Day meet at an EBRP Library, under the title A Civic People of the United States. Please mark you calendar for the week of June 21, time and place to be announced.

Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised June 30, 2018

[3] Online at: and ,
[5] Online at:
[7] Noah Feldman. Divided by God. 2005. Pages 14-15.
[8] Online at:
[10] Machiavelli. The Prince. 1513, Chapter XI.