Fear: The Motivating Force in Politics and Policy

“A little bit of fear is a good thing.” Those words were spoken to me by a relative just after he warned his 5-year old son of the dangers of stepping one foot into the woods behind the family home. The father, acting on his fear of the unknown, used that fear to control the behavior of his son by over-exaggerating the possible dangers of the suburban Connecticut forest.

Fear, one of the most primal of human emotions, is the overwhelming motivation for President Barack Obama’s Drone Strike Memorandum on the killing of American citizens without due process, charges or evidence. The Obama administration is terrified of repeating the blunders that led to the deadliest attack on America since the start of World War II. Mr. Obama clearly is of the mindset that he must protect America any way he possibly can — but someone, including any American who is in association with known terrorists, may be executed based on the opinion of the Attorney General of the United States.

America changed on September 11, 2001; it went from being a country with the moral tradition of the Geneva Convention to the country that condoned enhanced torture. And now it has moved on to the executing of American citizens without so much as a hearing to determine if the target of a drone strike has any culpability in any crimes against the people of the United States. And now we have John Brennan at a senate confirmation hearing — and he’s the man Barack Obama has selected to run the CIA. He’s the same man who believed the Bush administration had the right to torture and detain hundreds of people both American and non-American without any precedent in constitutional law.

American military and foreign policies are predicated on fear and the American people are made to believe everything is at a dire junction, whether it is a financial crash or a potential threat from a rogue nation half way around the world. The anxiety builds as leaders use fear to manipulate and influence the citizens into believing things are worse off than they are creating tension and fear — and that builds into the need for judgments based on the opinions of a select few behind closed doors, hidden from the view of the public with the intent to shield like a father protects a child.

FearFear was the driving force behind the color-coded warning system implemented after the attack on the World Trade Center; the Pentagon sent a visual reminder to all that we are a vulnerable country with many maniacs seeking to destroy each and every one of us. In every instance the tension level grew as the media was fed information that helped create a static state of fear and agitation. Fear was created for the purpose of having horror rule the minds of Americans around the country and the world. Like the terrorists who want every American to live in fear, there are elements of the military industrial complex that desire the same  affect.

The use of fear is not new to the American public; the fear of communism and the threat of world domination was implanted in the minds of people in the years that followed WWII thus setting the stage for both the Korean and Viet Nam wars. The Pentagon and the military industrial complex came up with theories suggesting America was in danger of communist both foreign and domestic and countless numbers of Americans were subjected to intimidation, ridicule and incarceration.

This fear was resurrected by many after 9/11, but this time the fear was not communism but that of Muslims living both in and outside America. This fear has not gone away and, just recently, the attacks on a Sikh center in Wisconsin and a subway attack in NYC were blamed on Islamaphobia.

Fear will continue to be the motivating force for our domestic and foreign security as long as many in the federal government have the indiscriminate unchecked power to do so. The Obama administration has fallen prey to the power of the military industrial complex and, in doing so, has allowed the fear mongers the Pentagon control the morality of the nation.

Preemptive strikes on countries, kidnapping of suspected terrorists and the execution of Americans by drone attacks without due process are acts of a country beset by fear and, like the fear generated by the people who do hate Americans, immoral for a democratic country.