Jonah Goldberg

 

President Obama's State of the Union address was disgusting.

The president began with a moving tribute to the armed forces and their accomplishments. But as he has done many times now, he celebrated martial virtues not to rally support for the military, but to cover himself in glory -- he killed Osama bin Laden! -- and to convince the American people that they should fall in line and march in lockstep.

He said of the military: "At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach."

That is disgusting.

What Obama is saying, quite plainly, is that America would be better off if it wasn't America any longer. He's making the case not for American exceptionalism, but Spartan exceptionalism.

It's far worse than anything George W. Bush, the supposed warmonger, ever said. Bush, the alleged fascist, didn't want to militarize our free country; he tried to use our military to make militarized countries free.

Indeed, Obama is upending the very point of a military in a free society. We have a military to keep our society free. We do not have a military to teach us the best way to give up our freedom. Our warriors surrender their liberties and risk their lives to protect ours. The promise of American life for Obama is that if we all try our best and work our hardest, we can be like a military unit striving for a single goal. I've seen pictures of that from North Korea. No thank you, Mr. President.

Of course, Obama's militaristic fantasizing isn't new. Ever since William James coined the phrase "the moral equivalent of war," liberalism has been obsessed with finding ways to mobilize civilian life with the efficiency and conformity of military life. "Martial virtues," James wrote, "must be the enduring cement" of American society: "intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command must still remain the rock upon which states are built." His disciple, liberal philosopher John Dewey, hoped for a social order that would force Americans to lay aside "our good-natured individualism and march in step."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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