Time to reverse course: America is being corrupted by its own power

On April 15, the US, in conjunction with the UK and France, deployed 105 weapons against targets within Syria that the US government claims were part of the Syrian government's chemical weapons program. The stated objective of these strikes was to impede future Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and send a signal to the Syrian regime that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Even though this strike is practically ancient history now, thanks to the warp speed of our news cycles, the way in which an act of war has been so quickly replaced in the news reflects on the unserious and frivolous attitude with which Americans approach our wars.

Despite the shock and awe of the missile strikes, the entire premise of the US involvement in the Syrian Civil is rather unclear. The Syrian government is widely recognized as winning the war, and even if it were to somehow be defeated it would be inevitable that the myriad of rebel groups would simply continue the war amongst themselves. This leaves few if any options for constructive US intervention into the conflict, a reality recognized by even hardcore advocates of US intervention abroad. After the airstrikes, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Obama State Department official and well-known interventionist tweeted, “I believe that the US, UK, & France did the right thing by striking Syria over chemical weapons. It will not stop the war nor save the Syrian people from many other horrors. It is illegal under international law. But it at least draws a line somewhere & says enough."

The United States is able to engage in frivolous bombing that its own supporters say is symbolic and meaningless on a practical level because it is so secure and powerful. Our military might and power projection capabilities exceeded by several orders of magnitude any other power on earth. Our neighbors in the Western hemisphere are all weak, and to the east and the west, we are protected by vast moats in the form of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that no other state has the power projection capability to cross in force. Combined with our large population and productive economy, the United States does not face any external existential threats.

While such security is obviously beneficial, it is both a blessing and a curse as it effectively removes many of the practical effects that check the exercise of American military might. America can go and wreak chaos and destruction in its wake across the Middle East in places like Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, and not suffer many large immediate consequences in return. There is, of course, the danger of terrorist blowback, but the risk of dying from a terror attack in the US is astronomically low (Cato's Alex Nawrasteh reports that there is only a .00003 percent chance of being killed by a foreign-born terrorist in the US). Millions of refugees and displaced people fleeing from chaos are not crossing the Atlantic Ocean, they are crossing the Mediterranean and disrupting Europe, not America. Aside from tangling with Russia and China in a serious way, the US is pretty much free to do what it wishes around the world and need not fear much in the way of immediate consequences.

Attempts to remake the rest of the world by force of arms have unfortunately not dampened the enthusiasm for trying again and again.

Unchecked power corrupts, and unfortunately, America has fallen into this trap on numerous occasions due to the moralizing and crusading nature that has taken hold of both our domestic and foreign affairs over the course of the past century. In his 1988 book The Present Age, sociologist Robert Nisbet captures this attitude well, saying that “ever since Wilson, with only the rarest exceptions, American foreign policy has been tuned not to national interest, but to national morality."

If one starts with the premise that the United States is a “shining city upon a hill," it is not a huge leap to the idea that the US should sally forth to bring enlightenment to the benighted peoples of the world. What changed around the turn of the 20th century was the realization that, unlike before, America now had the might to undertake such a crusade, the first such foray being the entrance into the First World War --- with the lofty goal of ending war altogether! The abject failure of that goal and all other attempts to remake the rest of the world by force of arms have unfortunately not dampened the enthusiasm for trying again and again.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien gives us a clear exposition of the mind affected by power in the form of Saruman of Many Colors. Saruman began with good intentions, as nearly everyone in the world does, but along the way fell prey to what Eric Voegelin calls the libido dominandi, or the will to power. “We must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see," Saruman tells Gandalf. The advocates of intervention who favor perpetual US meddling abroad clearly consider themselves to be ordering all things for the good that only we here in the US can see. In the words of Madeline Albright “if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future."

Americans must develop internal checks in the form of restraint and self-discipline.

Unfortunately, the exercise of such unchecked power will inevitably lead the US down the path of its own destruction. We may not face any external existential threats, but we face an enormous existential threat in the form of ourselves. Our national debt is through the roof, thanks in no small part to the price tag on our crusading ventures, and even higher than that when factoring in the unfunded liabilities stemming from the welfare state. The Watson Institute at Brown University calculates that America has spent over $5.6 trillion on its wars since 2001. By 2056 they estimate this spending will have accumulated an additional $7.9 trillion in costs via interest on the debt accumulated to fund these wars. Such a fiscal situation is not sustainable forever.

Beyond the bleak monetary situation, America is plagued by a fraying and weak social fabric comprised of atomized individuals and an absolutist strain in our politics which incentivizes more and more heated conflict over control of the federal government --- both conditions which Nisbet considers to be consequences of American militarism. As Nisbet and many others have explained, war leads to a centralization of state power and control that does not decrease when the war is over. Now that our wars are seemingly never-ending, the slightest role back of the surveillance state and other war-time measures seems out of sight. With this wartime centralization comes the decay of the rest of society, as more and more of social life becomes centered around the government, as opposed to the historical situation in which various non-state institutions, most notably family and religion, were separate poles of power within society. In Nisbet's words “threads are loosened by the tightening of power at the center." If such centralization does not stop, our social fabric may eventually simply tear asunder.

Facing no external checks, Americans must develop internal checks in the form of restraint and self-discipline, if we are to steward our power wisely and prevent our indiscretions from bringing about our own downfall.

Zachary Yost is a Young Voices advocate and a freelance writer and researcher. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyYost.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips after he had refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. So, the Left is after him again.

Phillips says that on the same day of the Supreme Court decision, he received a call from an attorney asking him to make a cake that fades from blue to pink to celebrate his gender transition. Phillips again refused. He has also been harassed by the same attorney with multiple requests for cakes celebrating everything from drug use to Satanism. Naturally, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is going after Phillips for discrimination. Again.

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Well, Phillips has understandably had enough. This week he filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado. In the lawsuit, Phillips says his family lost 40 percent of its income due to the harassment he has received. He also says he and his employees were forced to complete a "reeducation program" about not exercising his faith at work.

In the Declaration of Independence, just before the list of specific grievances against King George III, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"To prove this [talking about the king's tyranny], let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

The Left isn't interested in liberty and justice for all.

I wonder, do candid citizens in the U.S. notice that the tyranny against personal liberty, and religious liberty is not coming from the Right? Really, you would think that the Left would be all about the anything goes, to each his own kind of philosophy. "You do you," that's the typical Leftist philosophy, isn't it? It's certainly the spirit of postmodernism.

But the Left isn't interested in liberty and justice for all. They're interested in liberty and justice only for their vetted list of oppressed groups.

The Left is also pretty confident in its ownership of the "bigot" label to slap on whomever it deems necessary. But let's just go ahead and say it since no one else will – the Left is bigoted toward Christianity. This has nothing to do with the state of Colorado defending LGBT rights, and everything to do with their contempt for Jack Phillips' religious beliefs.

You know you're in for trouble any time an article begins with the following words: "These have been challenging times to be white in America."

Oh. I see where this is going:

People who aren't white may find this surprising. After all, it has been decades since white people could feel so free about loving their whiteness, or so openly celebrate whiteness, or talk about how much they relish being white and doing white activities.

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Those are the opening lines of a recent NBC News op-ed- titled "Are 'white people' jokes racist? Let a fellow white person explain." I mean, it would make for incredible satire. I mean, if it were mocking the outrageous postmodern mental gymnastics of the modern Left, this article would be awe-inducing in its satirical prowess. Alas, it is not. It's real. The author, somehow, means what he's writing.

You know the routine: Racism against white people isn't a real thing. It's a clever mechanism which allows that racism against white people is purely linguistic, based on the idea that power determines who can say what.

You know the routine: Racism against white people isn't a real thing.

The idea is embodied by the entire article, but one sentence in particular smacks of it: "one of the great things about being white is that you'll never have to know what racism feels like (on the receiving end anyway)."

I think I know what it feels like. It feels like someone is judging based entirely on my skin color. Kinda like this entire article about how white people cannot be judged based entirely on their skin color. How does that not make sense?

The great censorship jihad continue'ith. And maybe one of the most bizarre developments in this war is how members of the media have formed a Caliphate to wage this jihad. There are actually beat reporters from the mainstream media, hanging on every word Alex Jones says with the hopes of catching him violating social media terms of service rules.

If these mainstream media jihadis catch Jones in the act of saying anything haram - or forbidden - they instantly charge the battlefield and pummel companies like Twitter with examples of how their rules are being infringed upon. Their strategy bared more fruit yesterday. Twitter, one of the last platforms Alex Jones still had, slapped him with a seven-day ban.

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I just can't understand where the Media Caliphate is coming from here. When you're in the business of and count on, the free flow of information, is it not counter-productive to your business model to advocate for censorship? Do you not see the slippery slope you're on? Look, I get it. You think Alex Jones is looney tunes and maybe even dangerous, but silencing ideas and information should never be the answer.

Countering crazy and dangerous speech with rational and sane speech should be your mission… not censorship. You're helping Jones get silenced and cheering it on, but what will you do when someone comes to censor you? Because that's where this is headed.

But while the call for jihad was raised for Alex Jones, and silence now falls on his Twitter account, these accounts still have full access. The Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, Beverly Hills Antifa, Antifa Philadelphia… there are more Antifa twitter accounts than I have time to mention.

The radical Left is so well represented on Twitter, you'd think they have their own private office at Twitter headquarters right next to Jack. The Revolutionary Communist Party of America is but one still posting and calling for things like - you know - just the violent takeover of the U.S. government.

I hope the advocates for censorship enjoy these early victories because it won't be long before the monster they're unleashing turns on the master.

But the Media Caliphate isn't calling for their social media heads. They just want people like Alex Jones and Gavin McGinnis to shut up. I sure it doesn't have anything to do with - no it couldn't be - this is crazy talk, but both Jones and McGinnis work for rival media outlets and deliver rival narratives to the mainstream media.

I'm sure that has nothing to do with it. If smaller outlets like CRTV and Infowars are cutting into their viewership and stealing their YouTube and Social Media clicks, would it benefit the Caliphate to come at them full bore on a digital battlefield where they're currently getting their butts kicked? You bet it would, but that's just crazy talk.

I hope the advocates for censorship enjoy these early victories because it won't be long before the monster they're unleashing turns on the master.

How could you say no to that face?

WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Do you trust your own ability to unplug from technology? Some people born before the 1990s are wearing it as a badge of honor now – that they quit Facebook, or they do a regular technology fast.

We like to think we're not overly dependent on technology, while posting on social media about how old-school we are. That's all well and good until the technology starts giving you puppy dog eyes and producing digital crocodile tears. What if your robot begs you not to turn it off? Will you still do it?

RELATED: Glenn's Predictions on Technology and AI for 2018

This isn't science fiction anymore. It's right around the corner. And if you're skeptical whether humans will treat robots like a family member, a new study might alter your view.

Researchers in Germany set up an experiment to examine how people treat robots when the robots act like humans. Each human participant was asked to work with a robot named Nao to create a weekly schedule and answer a series of questions.

What the participants didn't know was that completing the tasks was just a way for the researchers to find out what they were really interested in – how the participant's interaction with Nao would affect their ability to shut down the robot when asked.

Half of the participants were asked to shut down Nao without the robot protesting. But the other half of the participants heard Nao plead with them, saying: "No! Please do not switch me off! I am scared that it will not brighten up again!"

Of the 43 people who heard Nao's plea, 13 chose not to turn him off. Some said they felt sorry for him, others that they didn't want to act against his will.

The other 30 people did turn him off, but they took twice as long on average to do so than the group that did not hear the robot's plea.

Our 2018 problems will suddenly seem very quaint.

The experiment confirms previous research demonstrating that humans are prone to treat technology, especially robots with human-like traits, as living beings.

Now, take this human tendency, and fast-forward a few years in the future when robots will look, sound, and act human, and know everything about us. Our 2018 problems will suddenly seem very quaint.