“Better Red than Dead.” That was the effete refrain of liberals during the Cold War heyday. In other words, if the United States were required to choose, it should ape Communist tyranny rather than accept mortal risks in defense of freedom. The United States rejected the liberal dogma. Soviet Communism died in 1991.
At present, a variation of the “Better Red than Dead” debate confronts the United States: namely, “Better Safe than Free.” The argument is that it is better to be safe in vassalage to a secret, omnipotent government in which the President is the law than to enjoy the thrill and dignity of self-government, transparency, freedom, and checks and balances because of an arguably greater risk of a terrorist attack. The debate’s background is a post-9/11 environment of permanent war with international terrorism and a planetary-wide battlefield that authorizes the United States to employ deadly military force and military law everywhere in the world—including in the United States itself. Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Security Speech at the American Enterprise Institute last May 21 illuminates the debate.
Its leitmotiv was that after the hijackings and murderous abominations of 9/11, the Bush administration was tasked to do anything the President saw fit to make the United States less exposed to a second edition of 9/11, for example, vandalizing the United States Constitution in contradiction to the President’s constitutionally required oath to defend and uphold the Constitution in all its moods and tenses.