We’re often told that wars are fought for “freedom.” But when a wealthy nation fights a war against a poor (if often resource-rich) nation halfway around the globe, among the goals is not actually to prevent that poor nation from taking over the wealthy one, after which it might restrict people’s rights and liberties. The fears used to build support for the wars don’t involve such an incredible scenario at all; rather the threat is depicted as one to safety, not liberty.
In close proportion to levels of military spending, liberties are restricted in the name of war — even while wars may simultaneously be waged in the name of liberty. We try to resist the erosion of liberties, the warrantless surveillance, the drones in the skies, the lawless imprisonment, the torture, the assassinations, the denial of a lawyer, the denial of access to information on the government, etc. But these are symptoms. The disease is war and the preparation for war.
It is the idea of the enemy that allows government secrecy.
The nature of war, as fought between valued and devalued people, facilitates the erosion of liberties in another way, in addition to the fear for safety. That is, it allows liberties to first be taken away from devalued people. But the programs developed to accomplish that are later predictably expanded to include valued people as well.
Militarism erodes not just particular rights but the very basis of self-governance. It privatizes public goods, it corrupts public servants, it creates momentum for war by making people’s careers dependent on it.
One way in which war erodes public trust and morals is by its predictable generation of public lies.
Also eroded, of course, is the very idea of the rule of law — replaced with the practice of might-makes-right.