Yesterday I arrived back in Chicago from Albuquerque. What a difference a few days make! I was pleased to see that Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam at The American Scene have both generously linked to Eunomia. On a less pleasant note, Richard Reeb at The Remedy has done me the honour of associating me with “fanatical obscurantism” for objecting to his apparent conviction that whole nations are deserving of extinction because of their form of government and his equally strange view that the signers of the Declaration of Independence intended that document as a declaration of independence from “all regimes, all institutions and all ideologies that stood in the way of human freedom.” In his remarkably long response, Mr. Reeb believes that I did not read his post (or the Declaration) closely enough. Unfortunately for Mr. Reeb, I read exactly what he wrote, compared it with what the Declaration actually says and identified his strange view of the signers’ intentions as the error that it was. How the colonists could declare independence from things on which they were not dependent and to which they were not subject is a puzzle that Mr. Reeb may be able to solve, but I suspect it will involve more of the same creative “reading” that led him to these original conclusions.
When I referred to Claremont wanting to “extinguish illegitimate nations,” I was, of course, drawing out the implications of the bizarre idea that nations are “deserving of extinction” because of their form of government and the Claremont bloggers’ near-mystical devotion to imitating what they believe “the Founding” represents. It is encouraging to know that Mr. Reeb does not actually want to go around extinguishing nations, illegitimate or not. The idea that nations should be extinguished because they possess the wrong type of regime is morally repugnant and odious, which should be obvious, and Mr. Reeb should be embarrassed by the formulation, assuming that he did not mean what he originally wrote. If Mr. Reeb holds that the signers believed that any nation ruled by “force or fraud” is deserving of extinction, and if he is holding up the signers’ intentions as an example of the true meaning of our independence, it is not very far from this view until you reach actually desiring the extinction of nations ruled by “force or fraud.” Perhaps prudence will dictate the circumstances of the extinction of illegitimate nations, and it is certainly not necessary that believing a nation worthy of extinction requires actually wiping out said nation. Presumably, Mr. Reeb does not actually advocate extinguishing entire nations, but used the commonplace sloppy language that identifies nations with their governments and carelessly wrote of extinguishing nations when he actually meant destroying regimes. Still, Mr. Reeb’s triumphalist roll call of the defeats of those Mr. Reeb characterises as the enemies of American self-government and independence (which includes a fairly creepy militarism that credits armies with securing freedom, rather than understanding them, as the Founders did, as one of the greatest threats to liberty) lends more than a little strength to my hostile interpretation of his other statement:
Why was independence necessary? The short answer is that the British government was a barrier to self government by three millions of Americans. That was the greatest reason for seeking independence. Succeeding generations have maintained it against European powers, seagoing pirates, Indian savages, Southern secessionists, German and Japanese warlords, Nazi mass murderers, Soviet totalitarians, and Islamic terrorists. That is why it is not entirely unfair to say that we owe our freedom to soldiers, not to civilians.
Whatever one may think of the Tripolitanian War, which is the conflict to which I assume Mr. Reeb is referring with talk of “seagoing pirates” (was there another kind of pirate in those days?), it was hardly a war to secure our independence. How Southern secessionists threatened American self-government and independence, when secession is an expression of both, is another mystery that Mr. Reeb can solve. But I should express my gratitude. Coming from a Claremont blogger, “fanatical obscurantism” is something of a compliment. I may have some time to make a more complete reply later in the week, but this week I will be rather busy at The Rockford Institute’s Summer School, hearing lectures on “The American Agrarian Tradition from Jefferson to Wendell Berry” with the other “certified paleocons.”