Many people involved in politics will hide their true feelings about any number of subjects, so that public opinion does not disqualify them from participating in government. Often, however, there are ways to dig beneath the politically correct surface of a politician or bureaucrat, and get a feel for their real world view. John Brennan currently serves as President Obama’s national security adviser, and has been nominated by the President to head the Central Intelligence Agency. With that kind of power at Brennan’s fingertips, some opinions of his expressed in his graduate thesis in 1980 at the University of Texas at Austin, are quite concerning. This Daily Caller article exposed his thesis.
First of all, democracy seems to be the ultimate good according to Brennan, because throughout the thesis, arguments against inalienable rights abound in order to preserve democracy–or in the case of the papers’ subject Egypt, attain democracy. I have explained in the past that democracy is not synonymous with freedom, liberty, or inalienable rights, and that the system has many pitfalls, such as mob rule–the 51% dictating to any minority. We do not live in a democracy–if we did we would all have just voted on whether or not to approve the “fiscal cliff” deal–we live in a representative republic. Politicians try to introduce more democracy into our political system to further their own ends, and retain political power.
“[I]f democracy is a process rather than a state, the democratic process may involve, at some point, the violation of personal liberties and procedural justice”, Brennan wrote. That alone is a good enough reason not to have democracy as a political system. Who cares about preserving democracy if the rights of the people are violated? That should be the ultimate goal of any political system or government, to protect humans’ natural, inalienable rights against violations by other individuals or groups, including governments. Yet Brennan bizarrely concludes that “I don’t feel that the possible forfeiture of rights under certain circumstances precludes their inalienability”.
Well, seeing as the word inalienable means “not to be separated, given away, or taken away”, I must disagree with John Brennan; inalienable rights preclude any possibility of them being forfeited–unless Brennan meant that someone’s rights could be taken away only if they first violated another’s rights. But Brennan wasn’t talking about taking away an individual’s right because he violated another person’s rights, he was talking about a country like Egypt violating the people’s rights on the whole, in order to bring about democracy–which is apparently considered an ultimate good in and of itself.
“[I]f democracy is a process rather than a state, the democratic process may involve, at some point, the violation of personal liberties and procedural justice,” he wrote. “[Anwar] Sadat’s undemocratic methods, therefore, may aim at the ultimate preservation of democracy rather than its demise.”
Brennan justified Sadat’s use of emergency powers to crack down on protests from communists because Egyptian citizens’ “exercis[e] of democratic rights would have an adverse affect on stability and even on democracy itself. This implies that too much freedom is possible and in the end, even detrimental to the cause of democracy.”
“Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship”, wrote Brennan. This means that the perceptions of the masses will be dictated by government, instead of by press. Lately we have seen this come to fruition with Obama’s Justice Department coordinating with Media Matters to attack anyone who criticized the Justice Department, and Eric Holder over the failures regarding the botched gunrunning operation “Fast and Furious”. It looks like an independent media is attacking the Attorney General Eric Holder’s political foes, but in reality it was a directed attack from the government–John Brennan has got his wish.
So far we have learned a few things about the opinions of Obama’s national security adviser; democracy is the ultimate good, it is okay for governments to violate the rights and freedoms of an individual or whole groups of people if it will preserve stability, preserve or advance democracy, or prevent the provocation of “mass opposition [to the government] and possible violence”. It is also okay for governments to use censorship of the press in order to shape public opinion. It seems to me that Brennan is writing more about how to hold onto power and preserve one’s rule, rather than set up a positive system of government for individuals living under the system.
Brennan then admits that his argument for why human rights can sometimes be violated “can provide a convenient excuse for any authoritarian leader in any country of the world.” So the opinions of Obama’s national security adviser, and possibly the next leader of the C.I.A. could be used as a convenient excuse to violate individual inalienable rights. But we all trust the C.I.A. and the American government enough to know that they would never abuse their power, or do anything which is in opposition to the greater good of humanity… right?
Human rights, therefore, does [sic] not take precedence over all other political goals,” Brennan concluded. “Since absolute rights do not exist, any attempt by a nation to apply a human rights test to another nation (e. g. Carter administration human rights policy) is extremely difficult. Such a policy would be full of inconsistencies and therefore its implementation would be onerous.
What a scary person to have in a position of power, especially one of the most powerful positions on earth, the head of the C.I.A. Human rights don’t take precedence over political goals? Actually this makes a lot of sense when you consider the actions of this administration. I can see Brennan whispering in Obama’s ear before killing Bin Laden, who cares about trials, think of the political praise you will get for executing this criminal before anyone has a chance to hear what he has to say, before public opinion can be influenced by anything but the government story. Or how about when the September 11, 2012 attack on Benghazi happened and the marines who were boarding a plane to respond to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, were told to first change out of their marine uniforms, causing a 90 minute delay in aide. Do the political benefits of having marines change their clothes outweigh the deaths of 3 Americans? Based on Brennan’s political philosophy, yes, anything can be justified because human rights do not take precedence over all political goals. This is also why the public was misled on the true nature of the Benghazi attack, so that Obama wouldn’t have to deal with tough questions going into an election.
No doubt Brennan would enjoy more government censorship of the press, so that embarrassing things like Benghazi can be re-tuned, and the public won’t be stirred into “mass opposition and possible violence”. Wholly ignored is the possibility that mass opposition has its place in a healthy political system. But mass opposition does not fit into Brennan’s ideal political goal where the people control the government through democracy, and the government controls the people through censorship of information. When government censorship over the press is included in Brennan’s political system, then we see the true reason for his love of democracy. Government controls the media, which controls the masses, which control the government. All that has to be done is correctly control the media so that our democracy delivers the correct kind of government, according to those who are already in power. Again, Brennan seems far more interested in how to retain political power, than how to organize a beneficial political system.
And this is probably why Brennan has the favor of the Obama administration–he knows how to hold onto power. The government and people currently in power just need to exert enough control over information and the media in order to shape the views of 51% of the public. This 51% of the public will then translate their government controlled ideas into votes that will keep the current government in power. The closer we get to direct democracy, the wider the door is opened to this kind of abuse of power, and the influence on our system by people like John Brennan. We should not allow people like John Brennan to run our government, because we will be dragged into this circular system where the government feeds the masses lies, and the masses then vote for the government’s prescribed solution. Unfortunately once the government controls 51% of the population, it may be too late.