[W]hen we abandoned our principles in order to use force against terrorists and drug dealers, the answer to the question, What are we defending? started to change.More here. (Image by √oхέƒx™).
The original answer, ostensibly, was, "We are defending the peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the United States, their principles, and everything America stands for."
Then after a while it became, "We’re defending the current population of the country, but we can’t defend the principles so much anymore, because they weigh us down in the fight against a ruthless enemy who must be stopped at all costs."
Then finally it became this: “We are defending ourselves, against the citizens who insist on keeping their rights and their principles.”
UPDATE: Re- our eroded rights, Wired just posted 9 reasons for tinfoil millinery, including: warrantless wiretapping; warrantless GPS tracking; warrantless location tracking of your cell; fake cell interception towers; the 100-mi. wide, Constitution-free zone along US borders; the "6 mos. and it's the Goverment's" rule; the ironically-named Patriot Act; Government malware; and the known unknowns about what else the gummint's doing (remember, "warrantless" means they do it whenever they like, for reasons good, non-existent, or bad). Details here.