A primary consequence of a free society is vulnerabilities to attacks. Autocracies are the antithesis of free societies and are expert at hiding their vulnerabilities by denying their citizens the basic freedoms of an open press and unrestricted speech and mobility as well as hiding it from the outside world. There are many political conservatives here who would like more of that here. But vulnerability, respect, and unobstructed openness are at the very heart of a free society.
Freedom is a sign of strength because it sets one free to be creative and unhindered enabling one to reach their potential. A truly free society is open, vulnerable, and transparent as well as respectful of other societies whether they agree with them or not. The greatest defense a free society has against vulnerability is having no enemies. So a free society is based upon trust and respect, which need not be immediately reciprocated, so as not to pose a threat that makes enemies. This is as true of people as it is of nations. But this must be done wisely and consistently to be credible and avoid being taken advantage of. Fortunately people in a free society are also non-aggressive so pose the least threat to others thus are not considered hostile and worth attacking.
How does the US stack up against these characteristics of a free society? Edward Snowden’s release of classified information from the National Security Agency reveals how secretive the US government is. We even spy on our allies, confirming how extensive US intelligence is world-wide. This is a relic of the Cold War when spying was a way of life. But spying and secretiveness do not end at our borders. After 9/11 the Patriot Act was implemented as an emergency measure. This Act gave license to the US government to spy on all our email and cell phone messages without our knowledge. Trillions of messages and phone calls were intercepted and information extracted from all of us in violation of our rights. So our country egregiously fails the transparency test.
How about being respectful of other nations? Our hostile actions in the Middle East speaks volumes of our disdain for many foreign nations and political/religious groups. We open ourselves up to foreign terrorism because of our long-standing foreign policy of military aggression that makes many enemies, a relic of imperial expansion hundreds of years earlier. Just because we are more respectful, less secretive and more transparent than other autocratic nations does not mean we are a free society. It only means we are freer than those societies.
I have always advocated a free society. But there must be a strategy for counteracting vulnerability. The best defense against vulnerability is not to have enemies wanting to do us harm. The best that can realistically be done is to have as few enemies as possible. But the very way the US engages foreign nations to exploit oil, such as in the Middle East, is by military intimidation. This results in continued terrorist threats. Consequently Home Land Security and US military presence abroad cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually while our freedoms slowly continue to erode.
We need to change our attitudes towards foreign policy. We do not operate in a vacuum. If a nation poses a threat to the free world other nations will take proper actions and we can simply add our voice to the conversation. We do not have to make ourselves the target of actions from hostile nations. We have an antiquated sense of being the Leader of the Free World, a relic of the Cold War.
Had we applied more of the principles of a free society perhaps we would have come out with far more friends and alleys. That was the hope I and others had when electing Barack Obama overwhelmingly for President in his first term. It is now six years later and not much has changed. The hostile traditions of foreign policy run very deep. So the errors of history keep on repeating. But there is far more to gain as a free nation engaging positively and respectfully with other nations than with current foreign policy.