"Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb or the wolf who does not."— Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Barack Obama - "Præses Lupus" - The Wolf-Leader

On February 1, 2008, Harpers' blog, The Stream, published a brief four paragraph essay by Scott Horton on Plato's famous allegory on tyranny* from Book VII of The Republic. The dialogue makes clever use of an ancient Greek myth, in which Laecon is turned into a wolf by Zeus for eating human flesh, to describe the process by which a war-time leader hailed as a “protector” invariably turns into a “tyrant.”

Horton's analysis of Plato's allegorical ontogenesis of the tyrant is very insightful:
When the “protector,” that is, the leader who assumes dictatorial authority in times of war, tastes human flesh, he is transformed into a wolf, that is, a tyrant. The human flesh that works this transformation is arbitrary power over the community. It is, he tells us, addictive. Having tasted of it, there is no turning back. Thus, the noble, virtuous spirit becomes power-crazed and unrestrained. The image chosen is of a ferral creature, the wolf, a creature that thrives in violence and does not know the rule of law. He is præses lupus, the wolf-leader, and he is not an outcast, but a bloodthirsty tyrant over men. It’s a tale of obvious relevance to developments in Washington today.
Horton's essay, written a little more than a year before Barack Obama became President, was also very prescient. While George W. Bush may have taken on the mantle of protector after 9/11, Barack Obama took office in the minds of many as a saviour. He was gong to set the foundering US ship of state right. A Constitutional law professor, he would  follow the rule of law.  A multi-racial internationalist who lived overseas as a child, he would restore America's fading reputation and declining influence in the world.  Five years later, Obama has become just another bad actor on the world stage; a disgraced former child star who has become an inept laughing stock on an obscene international reality TV show.

The obvious relevance of Plato's allegory as a tale of caution during the Bush administration, is fast becoming a grim reality under Obama: U.S. tax dollars are now openly funding the training of child soldiers throughout the world. in flagrant violation of the Federal Child Soldier Protection and accountability acts  Hundreds of women and children have  been and continue to be slaughtered in "signature" drone strikes that murder 50 innocent civilians for every terrorist killed. American citizens have been targeted for extra-judicial assassination under a program run by CIA attorneys. Executive Branch agencies have been used to investigate and prosecute White Hose enemies, including legitimate whistleblowers and journalists. Obama has vastly expanded Bush's domestic surveillance program which now collects and stores 75% of domestic internet traffic - including emails and VOIP voice calls of American citizens - all of which can be accessed by intelligence analysts with little more than an email address or username.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of President Obama's love affair with the national security establishment is that the extra-judicial violence abroad, and nascent police state activities at home, have been accomplished with the legal imprimatur of the U.S. Department of Justice.  If you listen closely you can hear the Preases Lupus scratching at the door.


*The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness.

Yes, that is their way.

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.

Yes, that is quite clear.

How then does a protector begin to change into a tyrant? Clearly when he does what the man is said to do in the tale of the Arcadian temple of Lycaean Zeus.
What tale?

The tale is that he who has tasted the entrails of a single human victim minced up with the entrails of other victims is destined to become a wolf. Did you never hear it?

Oh, yes.

And the protector of the people is like him; having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; by the favourite method of false accusation he brings them into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear, and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow citizens; some he kills and others he banishes, at the same time hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands: and after this, what will be his destiny? Must he not either perish at the hands of his enemies, or from being a man become a wolf—that is, a tyrant?


This, I said, is he who begins to make a party against the rich?

The same.

After a while he is driven out, but comes back, in spite of his enemies, a tyrant full grown.

That is clear.

And if they are unable to expel him, or to get him condemned to death by a public accusation, they conspire to assassinate him.

Yes, he said, that is their usual way.

Then comes the famous request for a body-guard, which is the device of all those who have got thus far in their tyrannical career—'Let not the people's friend,' as they say, 'be lost to them.'


The people readily assent; all their fears are for him—they have none for themselves.

Very true.

And when a man who is wealthy and is also accused of being an enemy of the people sees this, then, my friend, as the oracle said to Croesus,

'By pebbly Hermus' shore he flees and rests not, and is not ashamed to be a coward.'

And quite right too, said he, for if he were, he would never be ashamed again.

But if he is caught he dies.

Of course.

And he, the protector of whom we spoke, is to be seen, not 'larding the plain' with his bulk, but himself the overthrower of many, standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.

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