Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 20, 2012

George Washington: A few words, Sir!

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 20, 2012

Today we recognize President Washington’s birth (February 22 is his actual birthday). Following are a few quotes of our first president loosely relevant to homeland security.

Few people know the predicament we are in, on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows.

We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate & prevent disasterous contingencies would be the part of wisdom & patriotism.

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.

Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.

Avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.

When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.

It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it.

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Comment by Michael Brady

February 20, 2012 @ 12:04 pm


Thank you for the fine and timely quotes. Especially:

“When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.”

Any leader wise enough to understand, and brave enough to explain, “confirmation bias” to his countrymen is a better and kinder president than we deserve.

Be well, Michael

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 20, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

As Gary Wills wrote “The Indispensable Man”! Interesting to me that in the 2012 election so far few want to talk about the costs of the National Security State including Homeland Defense and Homeland Security to our USA. Why? Perhaps just ignorance or more likely paid for by its contractors?

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 21, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you” Lyrics from Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel.

Americans are a nostalgic lot.

I often wonder if it’s our immigrant roots that have us wax nostalgic or simply a national disposition to reflect on our past and wonder what’s going on.

I’ve heard the question several times and I’ll pose it to the forum; Where are our George Washington’s Thomas Paine’s. John Adams’, etc? Are they here among us or are they distilled, distorted images of heroes in a time gone by?

Is that why we have become so bitter and disillusioned with the leaders we have; because we hold them to this standard, a standard, rarified by history, time, and selective pruning?

With so much going on about the Congress, the President, the leadership, the debt, the cost, and the future, I have to wonder if our plight and demise is a function of leadership or a lack thereof.

Are our leaders’ performances a reflection of our desires or our ambivalence? Once they were all revolutionaries and driven to fight oppression and excessive taxation… what would happen if a group of like minded people did the same thing now?

It troubles me that we are so heavily monitored and insecure in our fellow citizens. Or are we? I guess it depends on your perspective and point of view. There are often very poignant and deep, intricate thoughts on this blog. I’d be curious to here what the thoughts are on how are revolutionary leaders would stand up in today’s world.

“…It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it…”.

Are we freer now then 25 years ago? Are we freer now than say, 235 years ago? Are freedom and security opposing views, vying for life and sustenance in a turbulent world?

There appears to be a fiscal reckoning ahead and I am befuddled on how this current lot of elected officials will lead this Nation through it.

Are we in our long slow burn of post America Industrialization, shackled by debt and commitments that we will not be able to maintain?

In his farewell address Washington attempted to warn future generations about history and human behavior and how it could be cancerous in undermining liberty.

He was aware of and told us to beware the hyper partisans or extreme ideologues “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community.”

A prescient series of thoughts don’t you think?

We are paralyzed by these camps or ideologues with no sign of conciliation or progress.

Washington knew that we must…”cherish public credit … avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”

Where have the “Washington’s” gone? We turn a lonely and tragic eye to opportunities gone by and wonder how we are going to get out of this mess.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 21, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

Well DAN depends on how you view “where have they gone”? I believe many still around but unlike Washington who was one of the very wealthiest Americans of his time, if not the wealthiest, most are not wealthy and therefore lack political power. MONEY IS THE MOTHER’S MILK OF POLITICS! Ask how the political class is doing? The Clinton’s by most accounts have a net worth now in excess of $120M. How did LBJ end up with so much money when almost continuously in public service. No self dealing is not policed so elective politics seems to be a highly rewarding profession for those good at it and who are able to buy elections.

I would argue that “noblis oblige” once dictated elected officials doing what they could for others. Hey did you ever read the book based on GW expenses since he turned down a salary as Command-In-Chief of the Colonial forces? His expenses were not de minimus.

And of course as ProfessorCharles Beard revealed GW and other founders often were disgruntled debtors to English bankers.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 21, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

BILL; Good point. Money may be the mothers milk of politics…

But in terms of exceptional leaders, wealthy or not, I just don’t see them.

You are correct with regard to Washington and wealth. In a recent ranking, Washington was ranked #1 or the most affluent American to hold the Presidency.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 21, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

Bill, Dan, and Michael:

A potentially heretical thought I have been mulling for awhile on which I would value feedback of any sort.

From the colonial period to the mid-19th Century our educational method was more analogical than analytical. (Can I support this claim? I think so, but not here and now.)

This is not to say analysis was absent, but analogy was dominant — especially for the elites. So education involved studying history, literature, classics, etc. for various lessons to be applied to contemporary problems. As one piece of evidence I would submit James Madison’s record of the debates of the constitutional convention.

Since the last half of the 19th century analogy has consistently lost ground to analysis, until today we as (more?) often “analyze” a piece of literature as think of it analogically. I am told all the professions — and especially the law — are taught and practiced much more “scientifically” than even two generations ago.

If there is truth to any of this, I wonder if it helps explain our sense of having lost something fundamental? It seems to me that analogy is inherently creative and tends to grow (inflate?) aspirations. Meanwhile analysis is mostly about taking apart and tends to encourage further criticism.

I’m not trying to explain a cultural shift with this alone and I am certainly not wanting us to give up analysis. But I have not seen this issue raised by historians or cultural critics. Have you? What do you think?

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 22, 2012 @ 9:01 am

Phil; I think you are on to something. In the context of analogy, perhaps it does shape an expectation of expectation or performance whereas analysis is too binary and driven to not find solutions but linear relationships.

This could be interesting!

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 22, 2012 @ 11:38 am



Its all fascinating, but the point we are descissing is enhanced by MCCollough at 18:43

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 22, 2012 @ 11:49 am

And another;


Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 22, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

Dan: Great find. Thanks. I perceive that just as the Founders’ understanding of history was different than ours, so was their understanding of literature and, perhaps, even thinking itself. Where our thinking tends to break apart, theirs seems to have been much more additive. How much is this a reflection of what they read and how they read it?

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 22, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

Clearly an assumption on my part and perhaps a bit naive, but there may have been less nuance or additive to think of.

An an education in the classics and literature and your point of view of analogy vice analysis may have shaped the idea of a gentlemen, statesman, and thinker.

If you recall some time ago you had postulated on what kind of education may be best suited for the intelligence community(I think).

There has to be some weight given to philosophers and theologeans primarily because they live in the analogy and allegory.

And, leaders do not lead spread sheets and derivatives…they lead people and we are best captured by analogy, metaphor, allegory, and our collective pasts…in my humble opinion.

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