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“Love the people, hate the government”

You often hear people say things like, “I hate the American government, but it’s just the government—the people are fine, I’ve no problem with them.” There are many variations on this statement for different countries, but America is commonly mentioned.

Here’s the problem: if you oppose the American government, the American state, you basically want to disrupt its activities. Usually, you want it to stop some foreign policy objective—and if the American state were frustrated as you wish then the American people would suffer (albeit to a small degree, perhaps just a blow to their prestige—but, then again, politics is all about prestige).

Further, if you mean, for example, that the American state should cease to exist as it exists now then that would entail economic disruption and disruption to day-to-day security for Americans—something akin to the collapse of the USSR.

This would be bad for ordinary Americans, hateful in fact. Anyone who wished that to happen would want a hateful thing to happen to Americans.

Even if you just want America to lose in Ukraine and Israel, you still want to damage the American people—those wars may or may not be in their interests, but insofar as you are in a conflict you are “in it to win it”. If you lose, you will suffer a degradation in status, in power on the international stage, and there will be a lack of confidence in the country (consider the repercussions from America’s withdrawal from Vietnam).

Hence even to wish America to fail in her foreign policy objectives is to wish ill upon the American people.

So this idea “no problem with the people, it’s just the government” is a ploy to remain socially acceptable—to wish the government to fail is to wish the people to fail. Except that seems like an anti-social thing to say, even if you never meet or interact with people from that country—it makes you seem “a bit monstrous”.

The same could be said as regards Iraq. It’s pretty easy, from a distance, to say, “I’m for the Iraqi people, it’s just this beast Saddam we need to deal with”. It’s easy to say at a distance, but in practice, when your tanks are in Fallujah, you are bombing and maiming the Iraqi people—who, like the Russians under Stalin, wish to reserve the prerogative to be misused by their own and not some weirdo outsider (no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how delectable his Burger King).

Well, the neoconservatives, people like Christopher Hitchens, used to say “liberate the people of Iraq”. But when you were being bombed by white phosphorus in Fallujah it probably didn’t feel that way, it just felt like Americans wanted to maim and kill you. It’s why people, in rhetorical mode, post pictures of Iraqi body bags and add the sardonic tag, “More liberated Iraqis”.

So to be against the government is to be against the people—the two are synonymous in a de facto way. Imagine if the Americans invaded your country—flattened, say, Swindon, but in the ruins you meet an American civilian, a journalist, and he says, “I’m a journalist, I’m actually against this war, I’ve written against it, campaigned against it—I’m here to tell your story, I hate Biden.”

Now, you may give him the benefit of the doubt, as so often happens in those circumstances—but, really, you shouldn’t; because he is protected and sustained by the whole system that wants to kill you—sure, he says, “I’m against Biden,” but he pays his taxes and hangs on to his passport. So his loyalty is really “my country right or wrong” (government notwithstanding).

Hence the Islamist groups that execute journalists in those circumstances are consistent and not deluded. It could be said that they observe the journalist’s revealed preference, not his virtue signal (to use economics jargon).

When Enoch Powell said he’d fight for Britain even if Britain were Communist he understood this fact—the nation carries on whether Muslim or Communist; and it’s better that it wins even under “the wrong flag”, as many Russians felt about Stalin. People who say otherwise are hypocrites.

What this position “hate government, love people” really conceals is the free-rider; it’s the person who wants to have their cake and eat it—to be against a country but pretend that doesn’t really hurt or offend anyone…except it does. The implicit position is “we’re one human race, despite our various governments”—which is a form of anarchism, it’s leftism.

In actuality, if your country beats my country, even if I dislike my government, it’s worse for me than vice versa. “My country right or wrong”.


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