Bush's War of All Against All | The Nation


Bush's War of All Against All

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President Bush promised in his State of the Union message, "We will deliver justice to our enemies."

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The Obama administration may renew aid to the Indonesian army's notorious special forces--which have been implicated in a recent assassination campaign.

We can blame the Burmese government for the unfolding tragedy in the wake of the cyclone. We can also blame ourselves.

So does that mean that it's dependent on our enemies to deliver justice to us?

That's the way people like Bin Laden think, and Bush apparently shares his mindset.

A leader chooses his definition of justice and goes out and kills--or does whatever--to the culprit.

That's the way things theoretically work by default in the absence of a strong society, in the condition of something like what Thomas Hobbes called "the war of all against all."

But if we didn't have a strong society, Bush wouldn't have a $2.8 trillion budget for FY 2007. He wouldn't have Secret Service bodyyguards, so he'd have to wear a holster to the podium, as Yassir Arafat--who had a smaller budget--once did.

Without a strong society there wouldn't be any effective inheritance laws, so Bush would be out there scrambling for work and food like everybody else.

In other words, you can't have it both ways.

You can't luxuriate in huge social entitlements while ignoring society's most basic laws and taboos: the ones regarding killing other people, the ones that say that society defines justice on these matters--not individual leaders, or even establishments--and it defines it by consensus and law (i.e., murder laws), made laboriously over time.

So if Bush wants to go out and kill somebody with a sword, as he might in a Hobbesian world, that's up to him.

But he shouldn't be surprised--or complain--when he's arrested by society's law-enforcers.

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