National security is our nanny. And she ain't Mary Poppins.
"There is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security, but it can bankrupt itself morally and economically in attempting to reach that illusory goal through arms alone.
"'Dwight D. Eisenhower
It's easy to find pundits or politicians railing against the "nanny state" that wants to dictate how we live, what we eat and generally limit our freedom.
What most nanny state critics miss is that the real government nanny is the national security state and military industrial complex. It's the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA and the contractors cheerfully sucking up billions of taxpayer dollars to work for them.
National-security doesn't seem like a nanny because it's such manly, macho tough stuff. Fighting the enemy. Blowing people to pieces. Locking people up and throwing away the key. It's playing hardball, it's taking the gloves off. It's declaring we can ignore the Constitution because it's not a "suicide pact
" and you don't think Nanny should let America commit suicide, do you?
Under the tough talk, though, the Nanny State is about fear. It's about allowing Nanny to do whatever she wants as long as she keeps America 110 percent safe.
Is it bad if Nanny wastes billions of dollars on wars we don't have to fight? Of course not! She's protecting us!
Is it wrong for her to spy on people with warrants, lock people up indefinitely without trial or assassinate them without evidence they're a threat? Of course not! Nothing the Nanny Security State does is objectionable to her worshippers if it guarantees there are no terrorists hiding under our beds.
Take Dick Cheney's 1 percent doctrine, the idea we had to go in and wage war on Iraq if there was even a 1 percent chance Saddam could attack us. Sounds tough, but in reality it was timid. If we'd followed that policy during the Cold War, the USSR and the USA would be nuked-out radioactive ash by now, but fortunately our 20th-century leaders were made of sterner stuff. Cheney's one little Nanny-State war left us with billions of dollars wasted, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead and a higher American body count than 9/11.
Not that Nanny-State Cheney is an outlier. I've heard the same safety-is-everything arguments made about releasing innocent detainees from Gitmo (what if they attack us after all?), spying on Muslims purely because of their religion (what if they're plotting something and we miss it because we respected their rights?) and every new security procedure someone wants to impose, however over the top and onerous. In 2010, when a mastectomy survivor objected to removing her artificial breast at an airport checkpoint, TSA spokespeople insisted that not checking fake breasts would give terrorists a massive loophole in national security. And Nanny can't stand for keeping us anything less than 100 percent safe.
Of course, if government doesn't have absolute power to spy on everyone and lock up everyone, we do face an increased level of risk from criminals and terrorists. There's always a good, rational excuse for Nanny to chip away at our freedom for our own good. But that's why we have all those restrictions on government in the Bill of Rights: Our Founders thought there were some rights that shouldn't be chipped away.
For Nanny State supporters there's no such thing.
I know some of the fans of the Nanny Security State think they're pretty tough. I've read columns where they pat themselves on the back for their courage in advocating for war rather than peace, more intrusive government power rather than less. They're the strong ones. The realists. Like Chuck Norris in an action film, they're doing the dirty work that has to be done (or more truthfully, calling on other people to do it), rules be damned. Doesn't that make them the hero?
I think they're more like kids hiding from the bogeyman in the closet.