08 September 2007

Colin Powell & Ben Franklin on Terrorism

In this month's GQ, there is a long interview with Colin Powell. The single best quote in the whole article is as follows:

Q: Your hero General George Marshall, when he was secretary of state, oversaw the creation of amazing new institutions and doctrines—NATO, the Marshall Plan—to deal with the global threat posed by Soviet Communism. Now that we’re faced with new global threats, what type of creative responses would he and his wise men be devising?

A: To some extent, he faced a more dangerous threat, and it was an easier one to work with. There was one identifiable enemy that was on the other side of an identifiable terrain feature. It was state versus state. They were able to put in place state-based structures.

Q: Isn’t the new global threat we face even more dangerous?

A: What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it’s terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?


As we take note of the Sixth Anniversary of September 11, we should also take note that fear of terrorism, even the "war on terrorism" is giving it more importance than it deserves. Only we can change the United States of America. Only we can sacrifice our freedoms to fear and political intrusion.

Good ol' Ben knew what he was talking about when he said, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." A very good motto for us in this day and age of more and more government intrusion on our lives for the sake of "security" and fear of "terrorism". There is only one small problem with this noble quote: Franklin may never have said it.

This statement was used as a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania. (1759) which was attributed to Franklin in the edition of 1812, but in a letter of September 27, 1760 to David Hume, he states that he published this book and denies that he wrote it, other than a few remarks that were credited to the Pennsylvania Assembly, in which he served. The phrase itself was first used in a letter from that Assembly dated November 11, 1755 to the Governor of Pennsylvania.

Researchers now believe that a fellow diplomat by the name of Richard Jackson is the primary author of the book. With the information thus far available the issue of authorship of the statement is not yet definitely resolved, but the evidence indicates it was very likely Franklin, who in the Poor Richard's Almanack of 1738 is known to have written a similar proverb: "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as ye are dead & rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing”, Ben Franklin.


Marilyn said...

That last Franklin quote would look great on a sign.

Thank you for this post today.

Linda said...

Excellent post. I always like Colin Powell and have long admired Ben Franklin, feisty devil that he was!

ONwebCHECK said...

hmmm, whom of them I would belive?
I take Ben Franklin -