Sunday, April 30, 2006

Jefferson on War

The Left likes to cite the Samuel Johnson quote "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" to delegitimize the call of patriotism to support the troops in the field so they may achieve victory. The Left neglects that the full context of the quote clearly applies to "false patriotism" as the last refuge of a scoundrel. Simply displaying traditional patriotism is not evidence of lack of patriotism. True patriots can truly be supportive of the war.

On the other hand, wanting to claim the mantle of patriotism when they don't support victory in our war in Iraq (and some think this about Afghanistan, and some about the general Long War.), they have begun to cite a Thomas Jefferson quote that "dissent is the greatest form of Patriotism."

I don't understand why the Left belittles patriotism on the one hand while trying to claim the title for themselves alone, but I'm a knuckle-dragger so what do I know of nuance?

But Mark Steyn notes that there is no Jefferson quote that states what so many on the Left claim:

According to the Jefferson Library: "There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "

Apparently, some ACLU official penned this bit of trite pseudo-wisdom even before 9/11. It does have the benefit of fitting on bumper stickers, right next to the "Impeach Bush" and "I Brake for Tofu" stickers.

But the value the Left places on Jefferson is to be commended, I guess--he who waged an undeclared war on Moslem piracy based out of North Africa. So what did Jefferson have to say about unavoidable war?

"Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it. But the temper and folly of our enemies may not leave this in our choice." --Thomas Jefferson to C. W. F. Dumas, 1786. ME 5:310

"I am ever unwilling that [peace] should be disturbed as long as the rights and interests of the nations can be preserved. But whensoever hostile aggressions on these require a resort to war, we must meet our duty and convince the world that we are just friends and brave enemies." --Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Jackson, 1806. ME 19:156

"It should be our endeavor to cultivate the peace and friendship of every nation, even of that which has injured us most, when we shall have carried our point against her." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XXII, 1782. ME 2:240

"'Reparation for the past, and security for the future,' is our motto." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1807. ME 11:279

"It is our duty still to endeavor to avoid war; but if it shall actually take place, no matter by whom brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to extinguish it." --Thomas Jefferson to James Lewis, Jr., 1798. ME 10:37

"To draw around the whole nation the strength of the General Government as a barrier against foreign foes... is [one of the] functions of the General Government on which [our citizens] have a right to call." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Vermont Address, 1801.
Words to live by whether one is talking of pirates, Baathists, or mad Iranian mullahs.

I leave it to you readers to weigh whether it is more patriotic to support troops and victory in war or to undermine our troops (oops, I mean "support" them) and support retreat (oh, excuse me, "redeployment") and defeat (again, very sorry, that should read "real security.").

Scoundrels are indeed to be found in this debate somewhere.