“You Deserve to Be Hanged for Treason”

“You are sick… You deserve to be hanged for treason.”

This, reader I.W. has informed us. He elaborated his case no further, alas.

His charges therefore lack the legal warrant for an official hanging. Upon this slender hope we hang… if you will indulge the expression.

Yet the question dangles: Why would I.W. have us hanged? What have we done to rate a hanging?

I.W.’s laments attend our recent articles on the Ukrainian unpleasantness — articles in which we called United States involvement into severe question.

Put simply: We argued against United States involvement in the Ukrainian war. That is because we fear it opens the roadway for direct United States conflict with Russia itself.

Thus we are a Putin “apologist.” Thus we sanction, bless and enable the man’s multiple evils in Ukraine. Thus we are an agent of Satan and against every human decency.

Thus we must hang for treason — by the neck — until dead.

Tread Carefully

Yet we might remind I.W. that nations can stumble into war… as easily as men can stumble into love.

War’s dogs are willful and excitable hounds. They are forever plotting to break the leashes.

The June 1914 assassination of an Austrian archduke did not by itself fire the guns of August. War was not an inevitability.

But blunders were made… and miscalculations. That is, human beings were at their normal tricks.

Two months later the guns were roaring. They roared for the next four years.

We would avoid a nuclear-age sequel — a sequel with a far less lengthy conclusion.

We fear that the distance from initial clash with Russia… to nuclear clash with Russia… may be nearer than most imagine…

That the howitzers of June that led to the tanks of February could lead to the aircraft of April and the troops of September and the atoms of October.

How many homicides escalated from a simple shove? The graveyards and the jails crowd with examples.

What Would Adams Think?

America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” said Adams (John Quincy) in 1821. More from whom:

She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings…

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be…

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit…

[America?s] glory is not dominion, but liberty… She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

Adams Says No to the Early Neoconservatives

In the early 1820s the nation of Greece was at war with the Ottoman Empire. It was a war for Greek independence — similar to America’s own war for independence from the British Empire.

The Greek government formally solicited aid and assistance from the United States.

Many Americans, including prominent politicos, were hot to jam their snouts into the thing. They believed the Greek cause was in essence the United States’ cause.

And so they were for the Greek proposal. They were out to aid Greece materially — even to dispatch a squadron of the United States Navy to those distant, contested waters.

Yet Secretary of State Adams did not think “quite so lightly of a war with Turkey.”

Thus he put out a very stern rebuke against the Greek request:

While cheering with their best wishes the cause of the Greeks, the United States are forbidden by the duties of the situation from taking part in the war, to which their relation is that of neutrality…. Their established policy and the obligations of the laws of nations preclude them from becoming voluntary auxiliaries to a cause which would involve them in war.

Incidentally, Mr. Adams references the United States in the plural form — “the United States are…”

That is because the United States was not yet an “it.” It remained a “them.”

What Would Adams Say About War With Russia?

Would Secretary of State John Quincy Adams counsel war with Russia in 2023?

Or would the fellow not think “quite so lightly of a war” with Russia?

We do not presume to speak for the dead. And so we shall not presume to speak for Mr. Adams.

Yet we can draw certain… inferences… based on his written declarations. And we believe he would be against war with Russia — for the very reasons he cited in 1821.

Must the United States of 2023… the “it”… cling to the doctrines of the “them” United States of 1821?

No, it is under no such bonds.

The world of 2023 is vastly different from the world of 1821. And the contemporary United States is free to chart its own course, to blaze its own path, to do as it pleases.

It need not — must not — be devoted slavishly to the old ways.

Even old Tommy Jefferson argued that the nation’s Constitution should be written anew every 19 years.

And who are we to dispute old Tommy Jefferson? No one whomsoever.

What if Adams Was Right?

Yet we must consider this possibility: The Adams admonitions of 1821 maintain their value in the year 2023. They may transmit a vast and enduring wisdom worth a good hard listen.

Yet the living so rarely listen to the dead. The living believe they inhabit unrivaled times. That they confront unrivaled circumstances — and challenges.

“This time is different” is their eternal refrain.

These unrivaled times, circumstances and challenges lead some to conclude that Russia constitutes a unique menace to global tranquility. And that the world’s civilized nations must scotch it before the menace grows… like a cancerous growth

They further believe that war with a nuclear-armed Russia is a tolerable risk in pursuit of this greater good.

And some even believe that a man should hang for treason if he is against it…

The Daily Reckoning