Lebanon and
Goyette’s Second Law

When Israeli Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz said, “Nothing is safe [in Lebanon],” he was only stating the obvious. “[It’s] as simple as that,” he said. Lebanese ports, air and sea, power plants, television stations, bridges, roads, neighborhoods, and homes, even fleeing families, women and children, all came under Israeli attack. No one would assume, assuming they were thought of at all, that 25,000 Americans citizens in Lebanon would be magically spared the violence of aerial bombardment. If only for their sake, surely the president of the United States could bestir himself to call for the horror to stop.

Only he couldn’t.

Perhaps in the midst of the G-8 summit, somewhere in all the excitement of nation-building and grandiose schemes to rid the world of evil, Bush might have a moment of clarity: “Hold your fire, boys! There are Americans there!”

Only he didn’t.

A cynic might have even expected that a nationalist president would call for a halt to the war-making long enough for at least his own countrymen to find their way out, and then turn his back while the carnage played on out. Bush did turn his back, but on Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora instead, who had asked Bush to pressure Israel for a cease-fire. Bush apparently only muttered something ambiguous, that Israel should “limit the impact on civilians.”

So with Americans at risk in Lebanon, the president wouldn’t rein in his client state. He did, however, find time to tell Syria that it should rein in its client, Hezbollah. It’s a textbook illustration of Goyette’s Second Law.

In its simplest formulation, Goyette’s Second Law states that a government performs its legitimate functions in a manner inversely proportional to the degree to which it busies itself in unauthorized activities. For example, once the responsibility of defending American citizens devolves into defending American “interests,” which of course can mean everything and anything, American forces are soon spread across the globe while the people themselves become increasingly vulnerable. If the U.S. government is found lecturing foreign nations, the Chinese or any others, on how best to manage their currencies, you can bet that the value of the U.S. dollar has been in free fall. It’s Goyette’s Second Law. Is the Bush administration engaged in defining or defending the borders of Iraq? Then you can be sure our own are in a state of virtual neglect.

By extension and in practice it can be readily observed that all illegitimate government activities generate consequences that provide pretexts for still further unauthorized activities. If the U.S. government is in turmoil about public obesity, there can be no doubt that some illegitimate government program (subsidization of corn syrup production, tariffs on more efficiently metabolized sugar, the propagation of industry-driven “food pyramid” charts and diet recommendations) will be found to be complicit.

Once you begin to notice Goyette’s Second Law in action, you will be astonished at its universal application. If the government is instructing you on how to flush your toilet, floss your teeth, or frost a birthday cake (“Write to Pueblo, CO 81009”), somewhere a memo on foreign pilots who wish to learn how to steer jumbo jets – but not how to land them – or a presidential briefing on an impending attack is going unread.

You will find that Goyette’s Second Law is a great predictive device. Wonder how much confidence to place in the conduct of American elections? Are only U.S. citizens being allowed to register? Are the ballots properly secured, the votes accurately tabulated? To the extent the government is involved in “exporting democracy” and overseeing foreign elections, you may rely on domestic elections being accordingly compromised. Watch as the government assumes increasing responsibility for your financial affairs, for you can be sure that it is closing in on bankruptcy itself! And with a moment’s thought you will even discover the corollary that explains why each of America’s least literate presidents has liked to call himself “the Education President.”

Goyette’s Second Law can be prescriptive as well. That is, it describes what may be done for desired outcomes. If Americans were to come to their senses and wish nostalgically for the peace and prosperity our founders envisioned, they would acquaint themselves with the doctrine of legitimate and enumerated powers and even familiarize themselves with the 9th and 10th Amendments. Government is not improved by rearranging bureaucracies, earnest “good government” types or Washington’s endless seminars on governmental efficiency. It is improved by restricting its sphere of activity. Then the efficiencies take thought for themselves.

In the present crisis, instead of exercising such influence as he has for the safety of Americans caught in the crossfire, which at least can be considered within the sphere of national responsibilities, Bush instructs others halfway around the world about the use of their influence in regional conflicts no business of his own. His confused sense of responsibilities and priorities will diminish America’s influence and what reserves of goodwill toward America persist. As of this writing, seven Canadians are reported killed in Lebanon. Americans are too soundly asleep to note the abandonment of their fellows. But elsewhere, Bush’s cavalier dismissal of pleas for a cease-fire will not go unnoticed.

Author: Michael Tennant

Michael Tennant is a software developer and freelance writer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.