America: Before Condemning Putin, Heal Thyself and others report that U.S. officials say they believe that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in the Ukraine, was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, probably a Russian one.

President Barack Obama should go on national television and call Russian President Vladimir Putin a killer, much like President Ronald Reagan did in 1983 when Russians shot down a Korean airliner, says Judge Andrew Napolitano.

“President Putin is a killer. This is more evidence of the fact that he’s a killer,” Napolitano said.

What did President Reagan actually say back in 1983? He called the Soviet action,  “an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations.” [emphasis added]

Notice the phrase “individual rights.” Obama cannot say what Reagan said, and he probably would not want to. In order to say — and mean — such a thing, you have to actually subscribe to the view that individuals have rights.

Obama probably would say that “individuals have rights,” but he would only mean that individuals have a right to obtain a livelihood, health care and all kinds of things from a government who will always be providing it for them. This means, in practice, that those who labor and produce will be paying for the benefits of those who cannot, or will not, labor, think and produce. In short: Some individuals have rights, and some do not.

Therein lies the problem with the United States, and it goes beyond Obama. We’re no longer a country which upholds the actual individual rights of its citizens to be left alone. That drift has been going on for some time, and it was present under the terms of Reagan, as well. But the drift has accelerated in a more decisive direction in the last decade or two, and it’s a tremendous contradiction in the citizens of the United States who seem both unconcerned with and unaware of it.

It appears likely that Russia is turning into a variation of the monstrous dictatorship it once was under the Soviet Union. To that extent, the world will become a more dangerous place. How can the United States survive in such a world where dictatorship again seems on the rise?

Pretty much by doing the exact opposite of everything we’re doing now. Instead of downsizing and weakening the military, we ought to be upgrading it. But even more important: We ought to be protecting the individual rights of our own people. Instead of using government as a means to subordinate the lives of some to others, forcing them into health care, educational and all sorts of other government monopolies and collectives, we ought to be liberalizing and privatizing the economy on as dramatic a scale as possible. “Individual rights” means government stays out of everything, other than criminal initiation of force or fraud. That’s more than enough for any government to do, and it’s the only moral justification for a government in the first place. The Soviets did not believe this; Russia’s President Putin does not believe this; but Barack Obama does not believe it, either. So by what standard are we to condemn the Russian government for the way it acts?

You don’t defeat enemies and dictatorships by adopting some of their own premises and principles. You don’t stand up to a dictator by starting to become one yourself. The reason Russia and other countries keep succumbing to authoritarian regimes or dictatorships is because the great majority of the people are afraid. They’re not merely afraid of the dictators; they’re afraid of exercising the independence and self-assertion to live on their own, without a government to cater to all of their needs. The United States, like Russia both then and now, is full of people who look to government to “take care of me, do things for me, make sure I’m provided for.” Like most Americans today, they expect the government to provide economic growth and human survival. Putin is happy to play that role in Russia, and Obama is happy to do the same in the United States. They may differ in tone and style, and Obama might not cross over all the lines Putin does, but it’s all based on the same attitude and premise: Not individual rights, but “take care of me-ism.”

Dictators like Putin will sometimes win in destroying countries and actual lives. But they never have, and never will, succeed in actually creating anything sustainable. They base their rule on fear, control, coercion — the exact opposite of what human beings require in order to think, produce and achieve. Study history. Nations with the greatest degree of freedom — including economic freedom — are the ones who produce the most. The more authoritarian the government control, the worse off the country is.

Many Americans don’t want dictatorship and smugly believe it can’t happen here. But sadly, most fail to realize that there’s only one alternative to dictatorship: Individual rights. And if we won’t vote for people in our own country to uphold individual rights at home, then how in the world do we expect to stand up to blatant violations of them across the globe?

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