Tag Archives: World War II

Read This and Then Tell Me How Much We Should Be Focusing on ISLAM

 

War Is Not Far from Us and Is the Midwife of the Chinese Century

Leading CCP official argues for exterminating U.S. population

Aug 08, 2005

The following is a transcript of a speech believed to have been given by Mr. Chi Haotian, Minster of Defense and vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. Independently verifying the authorship of the speech is not possible. It is worth reading because it is believed to set out the CCP’s strategy for the development of China. The speech argues for the necessity of China using biological warfare to depopulate the United States and prepare it for a future massive Chinese colonization. “The War Is Not Far from Us and Is the Midwife of the Chinese Century” was published on February 15, 2005 on http://www.peacehall.com and was published on http://www.boxun.com on April 23, 2005. This speech and a related speech, “The War Is Approaching Us” are analyzed in The Epoch Times original article “The CCP’s Last-ditch Gamble: Biological and Nuclear War.”

Text of the speech:Comrades,

I’m very excited today, because the large-scale online surveysina.com that was done for us showed that our next generation is quite promising and our Party’s cause will be carried on. In answering the question, “Will you shoot at women, children and prisoners of war,” more than 80 percent of the respondents answered in the affirmative, exceeding by far our expectations [1].

Today I’d like to focus on why we asked sina.com to conduct this online survey among our people. My speech today is a sequel to my speech last time [2], during which I started with a discussion of the issue of the three islands [3], mentioned that 20 years of the idyllic theme of “peace and development” had come to an end, and concluded that modernization under the saber is the only option for China’s next phase. I also mentioned we have a vital stake overseas. Today, I’ll speak more specifically on these two issues.

The central issue of this survey appears to be whether one should shoot at women, children and prisoners of war, but its real significance goes far beyond that. Ostensibly, our intention is mainly to figure out what the Chinese people’s attitude towards war is: If these future soldiers do not hesitate to kill even non-combatants, they’ll naturally be doubly ready and ruthless in killing combatants. Therefore, the responses to the survey questions may reflect the general attitude people have towards war.

Actually, however, this is not our genuine intention. The purpose of the CCP Central Committee in conducting this survey is to probe people’s minds. We wanted to know: If China’s global development will necessitate massive deaths in enemy countries, will our people endorse that scenario? Will they be for or against it?

As everybody knows, the essence of Comrade Xiaoping’s [4] thinking is “development is the hard truth.” And Comrade Jintao [5] has also pointed out repeatedly and empathetically that “development is our top priority,” which should not be neglected for even a moment. But many comrades tend to understand “development” in its narrow sense, assuming it to be limited to domestic development. The fact is, our “development” refers to the great revitalization of the Chinese nation, which, of course, is not limited to the land we have now but also includes the whole world.

Why do we put it this way?

Defense Minster Chi Haotian (Jonathan Utz/AFP/Getty Images)

Both Comrade Liu Huaqing [6], one of the leaders of the old generation in our Party, and Comrade He Xin [7], a young strategist for our Party, have repeatedly stressed the theory regarding the shift of the center of world civilization. Our slogan of “revitalizing China” has this way of thinking as its basis. You may look into the newspapers and magazines published in recent years or go online to do some research to find out who raised the slogan of national revitalization first. It was Comrade He Xin. Do you know who He Xin is? He may look aggressive and despicable when he speaks in public, with his sleeves and pants all rolled up, but his historical vision is a treasure our Party should cherish.In discussing this issue, let us start from the beginning.

As everybody knows, according to the views propagated by the Western scholars, humanity as a whole originated from one single mother in Africa. Therefore, no race can claim racial superiority. However, according to the research conducted by most Chinese scholars, the Chinese are different from other races on earth. We did not originate in Africa. Instead, we originated independently in the land of China. The Peking Man at Zhoukoudian that we are all familiar with represents a phase of our ancestors’ evolution. “The Project of Searching for the Origins of the Chinese Civilization” currently undertaken in our country is aimed at a more comprehensive and systematic research on the origin, process and development of the ancient Chinese civilization. We used to say, “Chinese civilization has had a history of five thousand years.” But now, many experts engaged in research in varied fields including archeology, ethnic cultures, and regional cultures have reached consensus that the new discoveries such as the Hongshan Culture in the Northeast, the Liangzhu Culture in Zhejiang province, the Jinsha Ruins in Sichuan province, and the Yongzhou Shun Emperor Cultural Site in Human province are all compelling evidence of the existence of China’s early civilizations, and they prove that China’s rice-growing agricultural history alone can be traced back as far as 8,000 to 10,000 years. This refutes the concept of “five thousand years of Chinese civilization.” Therefore, we can assert that we are the product of cultural roots of more than a million years, civilization and progress of more than ten thousand years, an ancient nation of five thousand years, and a single Chinese entity of two thousand years. This is the Chinese nation that calls itself, “descendents of Yan and Huang,” the Chinese nation that we are so proud of. Hitler’s Germany had once bragged that the German race was the most superior race on Earth, but the fact is, our nation is far superior to the Germans.

During our long history, our people have disseminated throughout the Americas and the regions along the Pacific Rim, and they became Indians in the Americas and the East Asian ethnic groups in the South Pacific.

We all know that on account of our national superiority, during the thriving and prosperous Tang Dynasty our civilization was at the peak of the world. We were the center of the world civilization, and no other civilization in the world was comparable to ours. Later on, because of our complacency, narrow-mindedness, and the self-enclosure of our own country, we were surpassed by Western civilization, and the center of the world shifted to the West.

In reviewing history, one may ask: Will the center of the world civilization shift back to China?

Comrade He Xin put it in his report to the Central Committee in 1988: If the fact is that the center of leadership of the world was located in Europe as of the 18th Century, and later shifted to the United States in the mid 20th Century, then in the 21st Century the center of leadership of the world will shift to the East of our planet. And, “the East” of course mainly refers to China.

Actually, Comrade Liu Huaqing made similar points in early 1980s. Based on an historical analysis, he pointed out that the center of world civilization is shifting. It shifted from the East to Western Europe and later to the United States; now it is shifting back to the East. Therefore, if we refer to the 19th Century as the British Century, and the 20th century as the American Century, then the 21st Century will be the Chinese Century.

To understand conscientiously this historical law and to be prepared to greet the advent of the Chinese Century is the historical mission of our Party. As we all know, at the end of the last century, we built the Altar to the Chinese Century in Beijing. At the very moment of the arrival of the new millennium, the collective leadership of the Party Central Committee gathered there for a rally, upholding the torches of Zhoukoudian, to pledge themselves to get ready to greet the arrival of the Chinese Century. We were doing this to follow the historical law and setting the realization of the Chinese Century as the goal of our Party’s endeavors.

Later, in the political report of our Party’s Sixteenth National Congress, we established that the national revitalization be our great objective and explicitly specified in our new Party Constitution that our Party is the pioneer of the Chinese people. All these steps marked a major development in Marxism, reflecting our Party‘s courage and wisdom. As we all know, Marx and his followers have never referred to any communist party as a pioneer of a certain people; neither did they say that national revitalization could be used as a slogan of a communist party. Even Comrade Mao Zedong, a courageous national hero, only raised high the banner of “the global proletarian revolution,” but even he did not have the courage to give the loudest publicity to the slogan of national revitalization.

We must greet the arrival of the Chinese Century by raising high the banner of national revitalization. How should we fight for the realization of the Chinese Century? We must borrow the precious experiences in human history by taking advantage of the outstanding fruition of human civilization and drawing lessons from what happened to other ethnic groups.

The lessons include the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as the defeats of Germany and Japan in the past. Recently there has been much discussion on the lessons of the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, so I will not dwell on them here. Today I’d like to talk about the lessons of Germany and Japan.

As we all know, Nazi Germany also placed much emphasis on the education of the people, especially the younger generation. The Nazi party and government organized and established various propaganda and educational institutions such as the “Guiding Bureau of National Propaganda,” “Department of National Education and Propaganda,” “Supervising Bureau of Worldview Study and Education,” and “Information Office,” all aimed at instilling into the people’s minds, from elementary schools to colleges, the idea that German people are superior, and convincing people that the historical mission of the Arian people is to become the “lords of earth” that “rule over the world.” Back then the German people were much more united than we are today.

Nonetheless, Germany was defeated in utter shame, along with its ally, Japan. Why? We reached some conclusions at the study meetings of the Politburo, in which we were searching for the laws that governed the vicissitudes of the big powers, and trying to analyze Germany and Japan’s rapid growth. When we decide to revitalize China based on the German model, we must not repeat the mistakes they made.

Specifically, the following are the fundamental causes for their defeat: First, they had too many enemies all at once, as they did not adhere to the principle of eliminating enemies one at a time; second, they were too impetuous, lacking the patience and perseverance required for great accomplishments; third, when the time came for them to be ruthless, they turned out to be too soft, therefore leaving troubles that resurfaced later on.

Let’s presume that back then Germany and Japan had been able to keep the United States neutral and had fought a protracted war step by step on the Soviet front. If they had adopted this approach, gained some time to advance their research, eventually succeeded in obtaining the technology of nuclear weapons and missiles, and launched surprise attacks against the United States and the Soviet Union using them, then the United States and the Soviet Union would not have been able to defend themselves and would have had to surrender. Little Japan, in particular, made an egregious mistake in launching the sneak strike at Pearl Harbor. This attack did not hit the vital parts of the United States. Instead it dragged the United States into the war, into the ranks of the gravediggers that eventually buried the German and Japanese fascists.

Of course, if they had not made these three mistakes and won the war, history would have been written in a different fashion. If that had been the case, China would not be in our hands. Japan might have relocated their capital to China and ruled over China. Afterwards, China and the whole of Asia under Japan’s command would have brought into full play the oriental wisdom, conquered the West ruled by Germany and unified the whole world. This is irrelevant, of course. No more digressions.

So, the fundamental reason for the defeats of Germany and Japan is that history did not arrange them to be the “lords of the earth,” for they are, after all, not the most superior race.

Ostensibly, in comparison, today’s China is alarmingly similar to Germany back then. Both of them regard themselves as the most superior races; both of them have a history of being exploited by foreign powers and are therefore vindictive; both of them have the tradition of worshipping their own authorities; both of them feel that they have seriously insufficient living space; both of them raise high the two banners of nationalism and socialism and label themselves as “national socialism”; both of them worship “one state, one party, one leader, and one doctrine.”

And yet, if we really are to make a comparison between Germany and China, then, as Comrade Jiang Zemin put it, Germany belongs to “pediatrics”—too trivial to be compared. How large is Germany’s population? How big is its territory? And how long is its history? We eliminated eight million Nationalist troops in only three years. How many enemies did Germany kill? They were in power for a transient period of little more than a dozen years before they perished, while we are still energetic after being around for more than eighty years. Our theory of the shifting center of civilization is of course more profound than the Hitler’s theory of “the lords of the earth.” Our civilization is profound and broad, which has determined that we are so much wiser than they were.

Our Chinese people are wiser than the Germans because, fundamentally, our race is superior to theirs. As a result, we have a longer history, more people, and larger land area. On this basis, our ancestors left us with the two most essential heritages, which are atheism and great unity. It was Confucius, the founder of our Chinese culture, who gave us these heritages.

These two heritages determined that we have a stronger ability to survive than the West. That is why the Chinese race has been able to prosper for so long. We are destined “not to be buried by either heaven or earth” no matter how severe the natural, man-made, and national disasters. This is our advantage.

Take response to war as an example. The reason that the United States remains today is that it has never seen war on its mainland. Once its enemies aim at the mainland, they enemies would have already reached Washington before its congress finishes debating and authorizes the president to declare war. But for us, we don’t waste time on these trivial things. Comrade Deng Xiaoping once said, “The Party’s leadership is prompt in making decisions. Once a decision is made, it is immediately implemented. There’s no wasting time on trivial things like in capitalist countries. This is our advantage.” Our Party’s democratic centralism is built on the tradition of great unity. Although fascist Germany also stressed high-level centralism, they only focused on the power of the country’s executive, but ignored the collective leadership of the central group. That’s why Hitler was betrayed by many later in his life, which fundamentally depleted the Nazis of their war capacity.

What makes us different from Germany is that we are complete atheists, while Germany was primarily a Catholic and Protestant country. Hitler was only half atheist. Although Hitler also believed that ordinary citizens had low intelligence, and that leaders should therefore make decisions, and although German people worshipped Hitler back then, Germany did not have the tradition of worshipping sages on a broad basis. Our Chinese society has always worshipped sages, and that is because we don’t worship any god. Once you worship a god, you can’t worship a person at the same time, unless you recognize the person as the god’s representative like they do in Middle Eastern countries. On the other hand, once you recognize a person as a sage, of course you will want him to be your leader, instead of monitoring and choosing him. This is the foundation of our democratic centralism.

The bottom line is, only China, not Germany, is a reliable force in resisting the Western parliament-based democratic system. Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany was perhaps but a momentary mistake in history.

Maybe you have now come to understand why we recently decided to further promulgate atheism. If we let theology from the West into China and empty us from the inside, if we let all Chinese people listen to God and follow God, who will obediently listen to us and follow us? If the common people don’t believe Comrade Hu Jintao is a qualified leader, question his authority, and want to monitor him, if the religious followers in our society question why we are leading God in churches, can our Party continue to rule China?

Germany’s dream to be the “lord of the earth” failed, because ultimately, history did not bestow this great mission upon them. But the three lessons Germany learned from experience are what we ought to remember as we complete our historic mission and revitalize our race. The three lessons are: Firmly grasp the country’s living space, firmly grasp the Party’s control over the nation, and firmly grasp the general direction toward becoming the “lord of the earth.”

Next, I’d like to address these three issues.

The first issue is living space. This is the biggest focus of the revitalization of the Chinese race. In my last speech, I said that the fight over basic living resources (including land and ocean) is the source of the vast majority of wars in history. This may change in the information age, but not fundamentally. Our per capita resources are much less than those of Germany’s back then. In addition, economic development in the last twenty-plus years had a negative impact, and climates are rapidly changing for the worse. Our resources are in very short supply. The environment is severely polluted, especially that of soil, water, and air. Not only our ability to sustain and develop our race, but even its survival is gravely threatened, to a degree much greater than faced Germany back then.

Anybody who has been to Western countries knows that their living space is much better than ours. They have forests alongside the highways, while we hardly have any trees by our streets. Their sky is often blue with white clouds, while our sky is covered with a layer of dark haze. Their tap water is clean enough for drinking, while even our ground water is so polluted that it can’t be drunk without filtering. They have few people in the streets, and two or three people can occupy a small residential building; in contrast, our streets are always crawling with people, and several people have to share one room.

Many years ago, there was a book titled Yellow Catastrophes. It said that, due to our following the American style of consumption, our limited resources would no longer support the population and society would collapse, once our population reaches 1.3 billion. Now our population has already exceeded this limit, and we are now relying on imports to sustain our nation. It’s not that we haven’t paid attention to this issue. The Ministry of Land Resources is specialized in this issue.

But the term “living space” (lebensraum) is too closely related to Nazi Germany. The reason we don’t want to discuss this too openly is to avoid the West’s association of us with Nazi Germany, which could in turn reinforce the view that China is a threat. Therefore, in our emphasis on He Xin’s new theory, “Human rights are just living rights,” we only talk about “living,” but not “space,” so as to avoid using the term “living space.” From the perspective of history, the reason that China is faced with the issue of living space is because Western countries have developed ahead of Eastern countries. Western countries established colonies all around the world, therefore giving themselves an advantage on the issue of living space. To solve this problem, we must lead the Chinese people outside of China, so that they could develop outside of China.

The second issue is our focus on the leadership capacity of the ruling party. We’ve done better on this than their party. Although the Nazis spread their power to every aspect of the German national government, they did not stress their absolute leadership position like we have. They did not take the issue of managing the power of the party as first priority, which we have. When Comrade Mao Zedong summarized the “three treasures” of our party’s victory in conquering the country, he considered the most important “treasure” to be developing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and strengthening its leadership position.

We have to focus on two points to fortify our leadership position and improve our leadership capacity.

The first is to promote the “Three Represents” theory [8], stressing that our Party is the pioneer of the Chinese race, in addition to being the pioneer of the proletariat. Many citizens say in private, “We never voted for you, the Communist Party, to represent us. How can you claim to be our representatives?”

There’s no need to worry about this issue. Comrade Mao Zedong said that if we could lead our allies to victory and make them benefit, they would support us. Therefore, as long as we can lead the Chinese people outside of China, resolving the lack of living space in China, the Chinese people will support us. At that time, we don’t have to worry about the labels of “totalitarianism” or “dictatorship.” Whether we can forever represent the Chinese people depends on whether we can succeed in leading the Chinese people out of China.

The second point, whether we can lead the Chinese people out of China, is the most important determinant of the CCP’s leadership position.

Why do I say this?

Everyone knows that without the leadership of our Party, China would not exist today. Therefore, our highest principle is to forever protect our Party’s leadership position. Before June 4, we realized vaguely that as long as China’s economy is developed, people would support and love the Communist Party. Therefore we had to use several decades of peacetime to develop China’s economy. No matter what -isms, whether it is a white cat or a black cat, it is a good cat if it can develop China’s economy. But at that time, we did not have mature ideas about how China would deal with international disputes after its economy is developed.

Comrade Xiaoping said then that the main themes in the world were peace and development. But the June 4 riot gave our Party a warning and gave us a lesson that is still fresh. The pressure of China’s peaceful evolution makes us reconsider the main themes of our time. We see that neither of these two issues, peace and development, have been resolved. The western oppositional forces always change the world according to their own visions; they want to change China and use peaceful evolution to overturn the leadership of our Communist Party. Therefore, if we only develop the economy, we still face the possibility of losing control.

That June 4 riot almost succeeded in bringing a peaceful transition; if it were not for the fact that a large number of veteran comrades were still alive and at a crucial moment they removed Zhao Ziyang and his followers, then we all would have been put in prison. After death we would have been too ashamed to report to Marx. Although we have passed the test of June 4, after our group of senior comrades pass away, without our control, peaceful evolution may still come to China like it did to the former Soviet Union. In 1956, they suppressed the Hungarian Incident and defeated the attacks by Tito’s revisionists of Yugoslavia, but they could not withstand Gorbachev thirty some years later. Once those pioneering senior comrades died, the power of the Communist Party was taken away by peaceful evolution.

After the June 4 riot was suppressed, we have been thinking about how to prevent China from peaceful evolution and how to maintain the Communist Party’s leadership. We thought it over and over but did not come up with any good ideas. If we do not have good ideas, China will inevitably change peacefully, and we will all become criminals in history. After some deep pondering, we finally come to this conclusion: Only by turning our developed national strength into the force of a fist striking outward—only by leading people to go out —can we win forever the Chinese people’s support and love for the Communist Party. Our Party will then stand on invincible ground, and the Chinese people will have to depend on the Communist Party. They will forever follow the Communist Party with their hearts and minds, as was written in a couplet frequently seen in the countryside some years ago: “Listen to Chairman Mao, Follow the Communist Party!” Therefore, the June 4 riot made us realize that we must combine economic development with preparation for war and leading the people to go out! Therefore, since then, our national defense policy has taken a 180 degree turn and we have since emphasized more and more “combining peace and war.” Our economic development is all about preparing for the need of war! Publicly we still emphasize economic development as our center, but in reality, economic development has war as its center! We have made a tremendous effort to construct “The Great Wall Project” to build up, along our coastal and land frontiers as well as around large and medium-sized cities, a solid underground “Great Wall” that can withstand a nuclear war. We are also storing all necessary war materials. Therefore, we will not hesitate to fight a Third World War, so as to lead the people to go out and to ensure the Party’s leadership position. In any event, we, the CCP, will never step down from the stage of history! We’d rather have the whole world, or even the entire globe, share life and death with us than step down from the stage of history!!! Isn’t there a ‘nuclear bondage’ theory? It means that since nuclear weapons have bound the security of the entire world, all will die together if death is inevitable. In my view, there is another kind of bondage, and that is, the fate our Party is tied up with that of the whole world. If we, the CCP, are finished, China will be finished, and the world will be finished.

Our Party’s historical mission is to lead the Chinese people to go out. If we take the long view, we will see that history led us on this path. First, China’s long history has resulted in the world’s largest population, including Chinese in China as well as overseas. Second, once we open our doors, the profit-seeking western capitalists will invest capital and technology in China to assist our development, so that they can occupy the biggest market in the world. Third, our numerous overseas Chinese help us create the most favorable environment for the introduction of foreign capital, foreign technology and advanced experience into China. Thus, it is guaranteed that our reform and open-door policy will achieve tremendous success. Fourth, China’s great economic expansion will inevitably lead to the shrinkage of per-capita living space for the Chinese people, and this will encourage China to turn outward in search for new living space. Fifth, China’s great economic expansion will inevitably come with a significant development in our military forces, creating conditions for our expansion overseas. Even since Napoleon’s time, the West has been has been alert for the possible awakening of the sleeping lion that is China. Now, the sleeping lion is standing up and advancing into the world, and has become unstoppable!

What is the third issue we should clinch firmly in order to accomplish our historical mission of national renaissance? It is to hold firmly onto the big “issue of America.”

Comrade Mao Zedong taught us that we must have a resolute and correct political orientation. What is our key, correct orientation? It is to solve the issue of America.

This appears to be shocking, but the logic is actually very simple.

Comrade He Xin put forward a very fundamental judgment that is very reasonable. He asserted in his report to the Party Central Committee: The renaissance of China is in fundamental conflict with the western strategic interest, and therefore will inevitably be obstructed by the western countries doing everything they can. So, only by breaking the blockade formed by the western countries headed by the United States can China grow and move towards the world!

Would the United States allow us to go out to gain new living space? First, if the United States is firm in blocking us, it is hard for us to do anything significant to Taiwan and some other countries! Second, even if we could snatch some land from Taiwan, Vietnam, India, or even Japan, how much more living space can we get? Very trivial! Only countries like the United States, Canada and Australia have the vast land to serve our need for mass colonization.

Therefore, solving the “issue of America” is the key to solving all other issues. First, this makes it possible for us to have many people migrate there and even establish another China under the same leadership of the CCP. America was originally discovered by the ancestors of the yellow race, but Columbus gave credit to the white race. We the descendants of the Chinese nation are entitled to the possession of the land! It is said that the residents of the yellow race have a very low social status in United States. We need to liberate them. Second, after solving the “issue of America,” the western countries in Europe would bow to us, not to mention to Taiwan, Japan and other small countries. Therefore, solving the “issue of America” is the mission assigned to CCP members by history.

I sometimes think how cruel it is for China and the United States to be enemies that are bound to meet on a narrow road! Do you remember a movie about Liberation Army troops led by Liu Bocheng and Deng Xiaoping? The title is something like “Decisive Battle on the Central Plains.” There is a famous remark in the movie that is full of power and grandeur: “The enemies are bound to meet on a narrow road, only the brave will win!” It is this kind of fighting to win or die spirit that enabled us to seize power in Mainland China. It is historical destiny that China and United States will come into unavoidable confrontation on a narrow path and fight each other! The United States, unlike Russia and Japan, has never occupied and hurt China, and also assisted China in its battle against the Japanese. But, it will certainly be an obstruction, and the biggest obstruction! In the long run, the relationship of China and the United States is one of a life-and-death struggle.

One time, some Americans came to visit and tried to convince us that the relationship between China and United States is one of interdependence. Comrade Xiaoping replied in a polite manner: “Go tell your government, China and the United States do not have such a relationship that is interdependent and mutually reliant.” Actually, Comrade Xiaoping was being too polite, he could have been more frank, “The relationship between China and United States is one of a life-and-death struggle.” Of course, right now it is not the time to openly break up with them yet. Our reform and opening to the outside world still rely on their capital and technology, we still need America. Therefore, we must do everything we can to promote our relationship with America, learn from America in all aspects and use America as an example to reconstruct our country.

How have we managed our foreign affairs in these years? Even if we had to put on a smiling face in order to please them, even if we had to give them the right cheek after they had hit our left cheek, we still must endure in order to further our relationship with the United States. Do you remember the character of Wuxun in the movie the “Story of Wuxun”? In order to accomplish his mission, he endured so much pain and suffered so much beating and kicking! The United States is the most successful country in the world today. Only after we have learned all of its useful experiences can we replace it in the future. Even though we are presently imitating the American tone “China and United States rely on each other and share honor and disgrace,” we must not forget that the history of our civilization repeatedly has taught us that one mountain does not allow two tigers to live together.

We also must never forget what Comrade Xiaoping emphasized “refrain from revealing the ambitions and put others off the track.” The hidden message is: we must put up with America; we must conceal our ultimate goals, hide our capabilities and await the opportunity. In this way, our mind is clear. Why have we not updated our national anthem with something peaceful? Why did we not change the anthem’s theme of war? Instead, when revising the Constitution this time, for the first time we clearly specified “March of the Volunteers” is our national anthem. Thus we will understand why we constantly talk loudly about the “Taiwan issue” but not the “American issue.” We all know the principle of “doing one thing under the cover of another.” If ordinary people can only see the small island of Taiwan in their eyes, then you as the elite of our country should be able to see the whole picture of our cause. Over these years, according to Comrade Xiaoping’s arrangement, a large piece of our territory in the North has been given up to Russia; do you really think our Party Central Committee is a fool?

To resolve the issue of America we must be able to transcend conventions and restrictions. In history, when a country defeated another country or occupied another country, it could not kill all the people in the conquered land, because back then you could not kill people effectively with sabers or long spears, or even with rifles or machine guns. Therefore, it was impossible to gain a stretch of land without keeping the people on that land. However, if we conquered America in this fashion, we would not be able to make many people migrate there.

Only by using special means to “clean up” America will we be able to lead the Chinese people there. This is the only choice left for us. This is not a matter of whether we are willing to do it or not. What kind of special means is there available for us to “clean up” America? Conventional weapons such as fighters, canons, missiles and battleships won’t do; neither will highly destructive weapons such as nuclear weapons. We are not as foolish as to want to perish together with America by using nuclear weapons, despite the fact that we have been exclaiming that we will have the Taiwan issue resolved at whatever cost. Only by using non-destructive weapons that can kill many people will we be able to reserve America for ourselves. There has been rapid development of modern biological technology, and new bio weapons have been invented one after another. Of course we have not been idle; in the past years we have seized the opportunity to master weapons of this kind. We are capable of achieving our purpose of “cleaning up” America all of a sudden. When Comrade Xiaoping was still with us, the Party Central Committee had the perspicacity to make the right decision not to develop aircraft carrier groups and focus instead on developing lethal weapons that can eliminate mass populations of the enemy country.

From a humanitarian perspective, we should issue a warning to the American people and persuade them to leave America and leave the land they have lived in to the Chinese people. Or at least they should leave half of the United States to be China’s colony, because America was first discovered by the Chinese. But would this work? If this strategy does not work, then there is only one choice left to us. That is, use decisive means to “clean up” America, and reserve America for our use in a moment. Our historical experience has proven that as long as we make it happen, nobody in the world can do anything about us. Furthermore, if the United States as the leader is gone, then other enemies have to surrender to us.

Biological weapons are unprecedented in their ruthlessness, but if the Americans do not die then the Chinese have to die. If the Chinese people are strapped to the present land, a total societal collapse is bound to take place. According to the computation of the author of Yellow Peril, more than half of the Chinese will die, and that figure would be more than 800 million people! Just after the liberation, our yellow land supported nearly 500 million people, while today the official figure of the population is more than 1.3 billion. This yellow land has reached the limit of its capacity. One day, who knows how soon it will come, the great collapse will occur any time and more than half of the population will have to go.

We must prepare ourselves for two scenarios. If our biological weapons succeed in the surprise attack [on the United States], the Chinese people will be able to keep their losses at a minimum in the fight against the United States. If, however, the attack fails and triggers a nuclear retaliation from the United States, China would perhaps suffer a catastrophe in which more than half of its population would perish. That is why we need to be ready with air defense systems for our big and medium-sized cities. Whatever the case may be, we can only move forward fearlessly for the sake of our Party and state and our nation’s future, regardless of the hardships we have to face and the sacrifices we have to make. The population, even if more than half dies, can be reproduced. But if the Party falls, everything is gone, and forever gone!

In Chinese history, in the replacement of dynasties, the ruthless have always won and the benevolent have always failed. The most typical example involved Xiang Yu the King of Chu, who, after defeating Liu Bang, failed to continue to chase after him and eliminate his forces, and this leniency resulted in Xiang Yu’s death and Liu’s victory (during the war between Chu and Han, just after the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC) was overthrown). Therefore, we must emphasize the importance of adopting resolute measures. In the future, the two rivals, China and the United States, will eventually meet each other in a narrow road, and our leniency to the Americans will mean cruelty toward the Chinese people.    Here some people may want to ask me: what about the several millions of our compatriots in the United States? They may ask: aren’t we against Chinese killing other Chinese?

These comrades are too pedantic; they are not pragmatic enough. If we had insisted on the principle that the Chinese should not kill other Chinese, would we have liberated China? As for the several million Chinese living in the United States, this is of course a big issue. Therefore in recent years, we have been conducting research on genetic weapons, i.e. those weapons that do not kill yellow people. But producing a result with this kind of research is extremely difficult. Of the research done on genetic weapons throughout the world, the Israeli’s is the most advanced. Their genetic weapons are designed to target Arabs and protect the Israelis. But even they have not reached the stage of actual deployment. We have cooperated with Israel on some research. Perhaps we can introduce some of the technologies used to protect Israelis and remold these technologies to protect the yellow people. But their technologies are not mature yet, and it is difficult for us to surpass them in a few years. If it has to be five or ten years before some breakthroughs can be achieved in genetic weapons, we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Old comrades like us cannot afford to wait that long, for we don’t have that much time to live. Old soldiers of my age may be able to wait for five or ten more years, but those from the period of the Anti-Japanese War or the few old Red Army soldiers cannot wait any longer. Therefore we have to give up our expectations about genetic weapons. Of course, from another perspective, the majority of those Chinese living in the United States have become our burden, because they have been corrupted by the bourgeois liberal values for a long time and it would be difficult for them to accept our Party’s leadership. If they survived the war, we would have to launch campaigns in the future to deal with them, to reform them. Do you still remember that when we had just defeated the Koumintang (KMT) and liberated Mainland China, so many people from the bourgeois class and intellectuals welcomed us so very warmly, but later we had to launch campaigns such as the “suppression of the reactionaries” and “Anti-Rightist Movement” to clean them up and reform them? Some of them were in hiding for a long time and were not exposed until the Cultural Revolution. History has proved that any social turmoil is likely to involve many deaths. Maybe we can put it this way: death is the engine that moves history forward. During the period of Three Kingdoms [9], how many people died? When Genghis Khan conquered Eurasia, how many people died? When Manchu invaded the interior of China, how many people died? Not many people died during the 1911 Revolution, but when we overthrew the Three Great Mountains [10], and during the political campaigns such as “Suppression of reactionaries,” “Three-Anti Campaign,” and “Five-Anti Campaign” at least 20 million people died. We were apprehensive that some young people today would be trembling with fear when they hear about wars or people dying. During wartime, we were used to seeing dead people. Blood and flesh were flying everywhere, corpses were lying in heaps on the fields, and blood ran like rivers. We saw it all. On the battlefields, everybody’s eyes turned red with killing because it was a life-and-death struggle and only the brave would survive.

It is indeed brutal to kill one or two hundred million Americans. But that is the only path that will secure a Chinese century, a century in which the CCP leads the world. We, as revolutionary humanitarians, do not want deaths. But if history confronts us with a choice between deaths of Chinese and those of Americans, we’d have to pick the latter, as, for us, it is more important to safeguard the lives of the Chinese people and the life of our Party. That is because, after all, we are Chinese and members of the CCP. Since the day we joined the CCP, the Party’s life has always been above all else! History will prove that we made the right choice.

Now, when I am about to finish my speech, you probably understand why we conducted this online survey. Simply put, through conducting this online survey we wanted to know whether the people would rise against us if one day we secretly adopt resolute means to “clean up” America. Would more people support us or oppose us? This is our basic judgment: if our people approve of shooting at prisoners of war, women and children, then they would approve our “cleaning up” America. For over twenty years, China has been enjoying peace, and a whole generation has not been tested by war. In particular, since the end of World War II, there have been many changes in the formats of war, the concept of war and the ethics of war. Especially since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European Communist states, the ideology of the West has come to dominate the world as a whole, and the Western theory of human nature and Western view of human rights have increasingly disseminated among the young people in China. Therefore, we were not very sure about the people’s attitude. If our people are fundamentally opposed to “cleaning up” America, we will, of course, have to adopt corresponding measures.

Why didn’t we conduct the survey through administrative means instead of through the web? We did what we did for a good reason.

First of all, we did it to reduce artificial inference and to make sure that we got the true thoughts of the people. In addition, it is more confidential and won’t reveal the true purpose of our survey. But what is most important is the fact that most of the people who are able to respond to the questions online are from social groups that are relatively well-educated and intelligent. They are the hard-core and leading groups that play a decisive role among our people. If they support us, then the people as a whole will follow us; if they oppose us, they will play the dangerous role of inciting people and creating social disturbance.

What turned out to be very comforting is they did not turn in a blank test paper. In fact, they turned in a test paper with a score of over 80. This is the excellent fruition of our Party’s work in propaganda and education over the past few decades.

Of course, a few people under the Western influence have objected to shooting at prisoners of war and women and children. Some of them said, “It is shocking and scary to witness so many people approving of shooting at women and children. Is everybody crazy?” Some others said, “The Chinese love to label themselves as a peace-loving people, but actually they are the most ruthless people. The comments are resonant of killing and murdering, sending chills to my heart.”

Although there are not too many people holding this kind of viewpoint and they will not affect the overall situation in any significant way, but we still need to strengthen the propaganda to respond to this kind of argument.

That is to vigorously propagate Comrade He Xin’s latest article, which has already been reported to the central government. You may look it up on the website.

If you get on the website using key words to search, you will find out that a while ago, comrade He Xin pointed out to the Hong Kong Business News during an interview that: “The US has a shocking conspiracy.” According to what he had in hand, from September 27 to October 1, 1995, the Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachëv Foundation, funded by the United States, gathered 500 of the world’s most important statesmen, economic leaders and scientists, including George W. Bush (he was not the US president at the time), the Baroness Thatcher, Tony Blair, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as well as George Soros, Bill Gates, futurist John Naisbitt, etc., all of the world’s most popular characters, in the San Francisco Fairmont hotel for a high-level round table conference, discussing problems about globalization and how to guide humanity to move forward into the 21st century. According to what He Xin had in hand, the outstanding people of the world in attendance thought that in the 21st century a mere 20% of the world’s population will be sufficient to maintain the world’s economy and prosperity, the other 80% or 4/5 of the world’s population will be human garbage unable to produce new values. The people in attendance thought that this excess 80% population would be a trash population and “high-tech” means should be used to eliminate them gradually.

Since the enemies are secretly planning to eliminate our population, we certainly cannot be infinitely merciful and compassionate to them. Comrade He Xin’s article came out at the right time, it has proven the correctness of our tit for tat battle approach, has proven Comrade Deng Xiaoping’s great foresight to deploy against the United States military strategy.

Certainly, in spreading Comrade He Xin’s views, we cannot publish the article in the party newspapers, in order to avoid raising the enemy’s vigilance. He Xin’s conversation may remind the enemy that we have grasped the modern science and technology, including “clean” nuclear technology, gene weapons technology as well as biological weapons technology, and we can use powerful measures to eliminate their population on a large-scale.

The last problem I want to talk about is of firmly seizing the preparations for military battle.

Currently, we are at the cross road of moving forward or backward. Some comrades saw problems flooding everywhere in our country—the corruption problem, the state-owned enterprise problem, the bank’s bad accounts problem, environmental problems, society security problems, education problems, the AIDS problem, various appeals problem, even the riots problem. These comrades vacillated in the determination to prepare for the military battle. They thought; they should first grab the political reform problem, that is, our own political reform comes first. After resolving the domestic problems, we can then deal with the foreign military battle problem.

This reminds me of the crucial period in 1948 in the Chinese revolution. At that time, the People’s Liberation Army’s “horses were drinking water” in Yangtze River, but they faced extremely complex situations and difficult problems everywhere in the liberated areas, and the central authority received emergency reports daily. What to do? Should we stop to manage rear areas and internal matters first before moving forward, or press on to pass the Yangtze River with one vigorous effort? Chairman Mao, with his extraordinary wisdom and mettle, gave the marching order “Carry on the revolution to the end,” and liberated all of China. The previously thought “serious” conflicting problems were all resolved in this great forward moving revolutionary wave.

Now, it seems like we are in the same critical period as the “horses were drinking water” in the Yangtze River days in the revolutionary era, as long as we firmly seize the most basic principle of preparing for the military battle. The central committee believes, as long as we resolve the United States problem at one blow, our domestic problems will all be readily solved. Therefore, our military battle preparation appears to aim at Taiwan, but in fact is aimed at the United States, and the preparation is far beyond the scope of attacking aircraft carriers or satellites.

Marxism pointed out that violence is the midwife for the birth of the new society. Therefore war is the midwife for the birth of China’s century. As war approaches, I am full of hope for our next generation.

*     *     *Notes:

[1] Sina.com is one of the largest on-line media corporations in China. The on-line survey was launched by sina.com’s branch Sina Military (jczs.sina.com.cn). It started on February 2 and ended on March 1, 2004 and there were 31,872 persons who filled out the survey. The web page for this on-line survey is at “http://jczs.sina.com.cn/2004-02-02/1644180066.html” but this page has been removed and cannot be viewed.

The question was “If you are a solider, and if are under the orders of your commanding officers, will you shoot at women, children and prisoners of war?” 34% of the visitors answered they would shoot under any circumstances even without permission from their commanding officer. 48.6% of the visitors replied that they would shoot when the lives of themselves or their companies are threatened. Only 3.8% of the participants held they would not shoot under any circumstances. Those who agreed to shoot were mostly under the age of 25.

[2] “War Is Approaching Us”

[3] “Three islands” refer to Taiwan, Diaoyu Islands, and Spratly Islands.

[4] Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997). Officially, Deng was the leader of the CCP and China from 1978-89. Actually, after Mao’s death in 1976 Deng became the de facto leader of China until Deng finally died in 1997.

[5] Hu Jintao (1942-). Leader of the “fourth generation” of CCP officials. In 2003, Hu became President of the People’s Republic of China.

[6] Liu Huaqing (1916-). Commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy from 1982 through 1988, vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (until 1997). Liu is considered to be responsible for the PLA’s modernization efforts.

[7] He Xin (1949-). Senior Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

[8] “Three Represents” states that the CCP represents the requirement to develop advanced productive forces, an orientation towards advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people in China. It was put forward by Jiang Zemin, former Chinese president.

[9] Three Kingdoms refer to Wei, Shu, and Wu, three countries that overlapped the land of China during the period A.D. 220-80.

[10] “Three great mountains” were said according to the CCP to have weighed on the backs of the Chinese people—imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic-capitalism.

The original Chinese article is available at: http://epochtimes.com/gb/5/8/1/n1003911.htm


A Soviet Foreign Policy: A Revisionist Perspective

A communist star

Image via Wikipedia

Very interesting view of the Soviets. A view that, even today, is contrary to the traditional anti-communist rhetoric one would hear in a conversation about communism from most “conservatives”. (E)

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by Murray N. Rothbard

This excerpt from For a New Liberty was first printed in the Libertarian Review, 1978.

Since World War II, American military and foreign policy, at least rhetorically, has been based upon the assumption of a looming threat of Russian attack – an assumption that has managed to gain public approval for global American intervention and for scores of billions in military expenditures. But how realistic, how well grounded, is this assumption?

First, there is no doubt that the Soviets, along with all other Marxist-Leninists, would like to replace all existing social systems by Communist regimes. But such a sentiment, of course, scarcely implies any sort of realistic threat of attack – just as an ill wish in private life can hardly be grounds for realistic expectation of imminent aggression.

On the contrary, Marxism-Leninism itself believes that victory of Communism is inevitable – not on the wings of outside force, but rather from accumulating tensions and “contradictions” within each society. So that Marxism-Leninism considers internal revolution (or, in the current “Eurocommunist” version, democratic change) for installing Communism to be inevitable. At the same time, it holds any coercive external imposition of Communism to be at best suspect, and at worst disruptive and counterproductive of genuine organic social change. Any idea of “exporting” Communism to other countries on the back of the Soviet military is totally contradictory to Marxist-Leninist theory.

We are not saying, of course, that Soviet leaders will never do anything contrary to Marxist-Leninist theory. But to the extent that they act as ordinary rulers of a strong Russian nation-state, the case for an imminent Soviet threat to the United States is gravely weakened. For the sole alleged basis of such a threat, as conjured up by our Cold Warriors, is the Soviet Union’s alleged devotion to Marxist-Leninist theory and to its ultimate goal of world Communist triumph. If the Soviet rulers were simply to act as Russian dictators consulting only their own nation-state interests, then the entire basis for treating the Soviets as a uniquely diabolic source of imminent military assault crumbles to the ground.

When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917, they had given little thought to a future Soviet foreign policy, for they were convinced that Communist revolution would soon follow in the advanced industrial countries of Western Europe. When such hopes were dashed after the end of World War I, Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks adopted the theory of “peaceful coexistence” as the basic foreign policy for a Communist state.

The idea was this: As the first successful Communist movement, Soviet Russia would serve as a beacon light and supporter of other Communist parties throughout the world. But the Soviet state qua state would devote itself to peaceful relations with all other countries, and would not attempt to export Communism through interstate warfare. The idea here was not just to follow Marxist-Leninist theory, but also the highly practical course of holding the survival of the existing Communist state as the foremost goal of foreign policy: that is, never to endanger the Soviet State by courting interstate warfare. Other countries would be expected to become Communist by their own internal processes.

Thus, fortuitously, from a mixture of theoretical and practical grounds of their own, the Soviets arrived early at what libertarians consider to be the only proper and principled foreign policy. As time went on, furthermore, this policy was reinforced by a “conservatism” that comes upon all movements after they have acquired and retained power for a length of time, in which the interests of keeping power over one’s nation-state begins to take more and more precedence over the initial ideal of world revolution. This increasing conservatism under Stalin and his successors strengthened and reinforced the nonaggressive, “peaceful-coexistence” policy.

The Bolsheviks, indeed, began their success story by being literally the only political party in Russia to clamor, from the beginning of World War I, for an immediate Russian pullout from the war. Indeed, they went further and courted enormous unpopularity by calling for the defeat of “their own” government (“revolutionary defeatism”).

When Russia began to suffer enormous losses, accompanied by massive military desertions from the front, the Bolsheviks, guided by Lenin, continued to be the only party to call for an immediate end to the war, the other parties still vowing to fight the Germans to the end. When the Bolsheviks came to power, Lenin, over the hysterical opposition of even the majority of the Bolshevik central committee itself, insisted on concluding the “appeasement” peace of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.

Here Lenin succeeded in taking Russia out of the war, even at the price of granting to the victorious German army all the parts of the Russian Empire it then occupied (including White Russia and the Ukraine). Thus, Lenin and the Bolsheviks began their reign by being not simply a peace party, but virtually a “peace-at-any-price” party.

After World War I and Germany’s defeat, the new Polish state attacked Russia and succeeded in grabbing for itself a large chunk of White Russia and the Ukraine. Taking advantage of the turmoil and civil war within Russia at the end of the world war, various other national groups – Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – decided to break away from the pre–World War I Russian Empire and declare national independence.

While Leninism pays lip service to national self-determination, it was clear to Soviet rulers from the very beginning that the boundaries of the old Russian state were supposed to remain intact. The Red Army reconquered the Ukraine, not only from the Whites, but also from the Ukrainian nationalists and from the indigenously Ukrainian anarchist army of Nestor Makhno.

For the rest, it was clear that Russia, like Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, was a “revisionist” country vis-à-vis the postwar settlement at Versailles: i.e., Lenin, the lodestar of both Russian and German foreign policy was to recapture their pre–World War I borders – what they both considered the “true” borders of their respective states. It should be noted that every political party or tendency in Russia and Germany, whether ruling the state or in opposition, agreed with this aim of full restoration of national territory.

But, it should be emphasized, while Germany under Hitler took strong measures to recapture the lost lands, the cautious and conservative Soviet rulers did absolutely nothing. Only after the Stalin-Hitler pact and the German conquest of Poland did the Soviets, now facing no danger in doing so, recapture their lost territories. Specifically, the Russians repossessed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as the old Russian lands of White Russia and the Ukraine that had been Eastern Poland.

And they were able to do so without a fight. The old, pre–World War I Russia had now been restored with the exception of Finland. But Finland was prepared to fight. Here, the Russians demanded, not the reincorporation of Finland as a whole, but only of parts of the Karelian Isthmus that were ethnically Russian. When the Finns refused this demand, the “Winter War” (1939–1940) between Russia and Finland ensued, which ended with the Finns victorious and conceding nothing.

On June 22, 1941, Germany, triumphant over everyone but England in the west, launched a sudden massive and unprovoked assault on Soviet Russia, an act of aggression aided and abetted by the other pro-German states in Eastern Europe – Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Finland. This German and allied invasion of Russia soon became one of the pivotal facts in the history of Europe since that date.

So unprepared was Stalin for the assault, so trusting was he in the rationality of the German-Russian accord for peace in Eastern Europe, that he had allowed the Russian army to fall into disrepair. So unwarlike was Stalin, in fact, that Germany was almost able to conquer Russia in the face of enormous odds. Since Germany otherwise would have been able to retain control of Europe indefinitely, it was Hitler who was led by the siren call of anti-Communist ideology to throw away a rational and prudent course and launch what was to be the beginning of his ultimate defeat.

World War II and the Soviets

The mythology of the Cold Warriors often concedes that the Soviets were not internationally aggressive until World War II – indeed, they are compelled to assert this point, since most Cold Warriors heartily approve the World War II alliance of the United States with Russia against Germany. It was during and immediately after the war, they assert, that Russia became expansionist and drove its way into Eastern Europe.

What this charge overlooks is the central fact of the German and associated assault upon Russia in June 1941. There is no doubt about the fact that Germany and her allies launched this war. Hence, in order to defeat the invaders, it was obviously necessary for the Russians to roll back the invading armies and conquer Germany and the other warring countries of Eastern Europe. It is easier to make out a case for the United States being expansionist for conquering and occupying Italy and part of Germany than it is for Russia doing so – after all, the United States was never directly attacked by the Germans.

During World War II, the United States, Britain, and Russia – the three major Allies – had agreed on joint three-power military occupation of all the conquered territories. The United States was the first to break the agreement during the war by allowing Russia no role whatever in the military occupation of Italy. Despite this serious breach of agreement, Stalin displayed his consistent preference for the conservative interests of the Russian nation-state over cleaving to revolutionary ideology – by repeatedly betraying indigenous Communist movements.

In order to preserve peaceful relations between Russia and the West, Stalin consistently tried to hold back the success of various Communist movements. He was successful in France and Italy, where Communist partisan groups might easily have seized power in the wake of the German military retreat; but Stalin ordered them not to do so, and instead persuaded them to join coalition regimes headed by anti-Communist parties. In both countries, the Communists were soon ousted from the coalition. In Greece, where the Communist partisans almost did seize power, Stalin irretrievably weakened them by abandoning them and urging them to turn over power to newly invading British troops.

In other countries, particularly ones where Communist partisan groups were strong, the Communists flatly refused Stalin’s requests. In Yugoslavia, the victorious Tito refused Stalin’s demand that Tito subordinate himself to the anti-Communist Mihailovich in a governing coalition; and Mao refused a similar Stalin demand that he subordinate himself to Chiang Kai-shek. There is no doubt that these rejections were the beginning of the later, extraordinarily important schisms within the world Communist movement.

Russia, therefore, governed Eastern Europe as military occupier after winning a war launched against her. Russia’s initial goal was not to Communize Eastern Europe on the backs of the Soviet Army. Her goal was to gain assurances that Eastern Europe would not be the broad highway for an assault on Russia, as it had been three times in half a century – the last time in a war in which over 20 million Russians had been slaughtered.

In short, Russia wanted countries on her border that would not be anti-Communist in a military sense, and that would not be used as a springboard for another invasion. Political conditions in Eastern Europe were such that only in more modernized Finland did non-Communist politicians exist whom Russia could trust to pursue a peaceful line in foreign affairs.

And in Finland, this situation was the work of one far-seeing statesman, the agrarian leader Julio Paasikivi. It was because Finland, then and since, has firmly followed the “Paasikivi line” that Russia was willing to pull its troops out of Finland and not to insist on the Communization of that country – even though it had fought two wars with Finland in the previous six years.

Even in the other Eastern European countries, Russia clung to coalition governments for several years after the war, and only fully Communized them in 1948 – after three years of unrelenting American Cold-War pressure to try to oust Russia from these countries. In other areas, Russia readily pulled its troops out of Austria and out of Azerbaijan.

The cold warriors find it difficult to explain Russian actions in Finland. If Russia is always hell-bent to impose Communist rule wherever it can, why the “soft line” on Finland? The only plausible explanation is that its motivation is security for the Russian nation-state against attack, with the success of world Communism playing a very minor role in its scale of priorities.

Schisms and World Communism

In fact, the Cold Warriors have never been able either to explain or absorb the fact of deep schisms in the world Communist movement. For if all Communists are governed by a common ideology, then every Communist everywhere should be part of one unified monolith, and one which, given the early success of the Bolsheviks, would make them subordinates or “agents” of Moscow.

If Communists are mainly motivated by their bond of Marxism-Leninism, why do we have the deep China-Russia split, in which Russia, for example, keeps one million troops at the ready on the China-Russia frontier? Why is there such enmity between the Yugoslav Communist and the Albanian Communist states? How can there be an actual military conflict between the Cambodian and Vietnamese Communists?

The answer, of course, is that once a revolutionary movement seizes state power, it very quickly begins to take on the attributes of a ruling class, with a class interest in retaining state power. The world revolution begins to pale, in their outlook, to insignificance. And since state elites can and do have conflicting interests in power and wealth, it is not surprising that inter-Communist conflicts have become endemic.

Since their victory over German military aggression in World War II, the Soviets have continued to be conservative in their military policy. Their only use of troops has been to defend their territory in the Communist bloc, rather than to extend it further. Thus, when Hungary threatened to leave the Soviet block in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Soviets intervened with troops – reprehensibly, to be sure, but still acting in a conservative and defensive, rather than expansionist, manner. (The Soviets apparently gave considerable thought to invading Yugoslavia when Tito took that country out of the Soviet bloc, but were deterred by the formidable qualities for guerrilla fighting of the Yugoslav army.) In no case has Russia used troops to extend its bloc or to conquer more territories.

Professor Stephen F. Cohen, director of the program in Russian studies at Princeton, has delineated the nature of Soviet conservatism in foreign affairs in a recent issue of Inquiry:

That a system born in revolution and still professing revolutionary ideas should have become one of the most conservative in the world may seem preposterous. But all those factors variously said to be most important in Soviet politics have contributed to this conservatism: the bureaucratic tradition of Russian government before the revolution; the subsequent bureaucratization of Soviet life, which proliferated conservative norms and created an entrenched class of zealous defenders of bureaucratic privilege; the geriatric nature of the present-day elite; and even the official ideology, whose thrust turned many years ago from the creation of a new social order to extolling the existing one. …

In other words, the main thrust of Soviet conservatism today is to preserve what it already has at home and abroad, not to jeopardize it. A conservative government is, of course, capable of dangerous militaristic actions, as we saw in Czechoslovakia … but these are acts of imperial protectionism, a kind of defensive militarism, not a revolutionary or aggrandizing one. It is certainly true that for most Soviet leaders, as presumably for most American leaders, detente is not an altruistic endeavor but the pursuit of national interests. In one sense, this is sad. But it is probably also true that mutual self-interest provides a more durable basis for detente than lofty, and finally empty, altruism (“Why Detente Can Work,” December 19, 1977).

Similarly, as impeccable an anti-Soviet source as former CIA Director William Colby finds the overwhelming concern of the Soviets in the defensive goal of avoiding another catastrophic invasion of their territory. As Colby testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,

You will find a concern, even a paranoia, over their [the Soviets’] own security. You will find the determination that they shall never again be invaded and put through the kinds of turmoil that they have been under and many different invasions. … I think that they … want to overprotect themselves to make certain that that does not happen.

Even the Chinese, for all their bluster, have pursued a conservative and pacific foreign policy. Not only have they failed to invade Taiwan, recognized internationally as part of China, but they have even allowed the small offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu to remain in Chiang Kai-shek’s hands. No moves have been made against the British and Portuguese-occupied exclaves of Hong Kong and Macao. And China even took the unusual step of declaring a unilateral cease-fire and withdrawal of forces to its border after having triumphed easily over Indian arms in their escalated border war. (See Neville Maxwell, India’s China War [New York: Pantheon Books, 1970].)

Neither is China’s reconquest and suppression of national rebellion in Tibet a valid point against our thesis. For Chiang Kai-shek as well as all other Chinese have for many generations considered Tibet as part of Greater China, and China was here acting in the same conservative, nation-state manner as we have seen has guided the Soviets.

Avoiding A Priori History

There is still one thesis common to Americans and even to some libertarians that may prevent them from absorbing the analysis of this chapter: the myth propounded by Woodrow Wilson that democracies must inevitably be peace-loving while dictatorships are inevitably warlike. This thesis was of course highly convenient for covering Wilson’s own culpability for dragging America into a needless and monstrous war. But there is simply no evidence for this assumption.

Many dictatorships have turned inward, cautiously confining themselves to preying on their own people. Examples range from premodern Japan to Communist Albania to innumerable dictatorships in the Third World today. Uganda’s Idi Amin, perhaps the most brutal and repressive dictator in today’s world, shows no signs whatever of jeopardizing his regime by invading neighboring countries. On the other hand, such an indubitable democracy as Great Britain spread its coercive imperialism across the globe during the 19th and earlier centuries.

The theoretical reason why focusing on democracy or dictatorship misses the point is that statesallstates – rule their population and decide whether or not to make war. And all states, whether formally a democracy or dictatorship or some other brand of rule, are run by a ruling elite. Whether or not these elites, in any particular case, will make war upon another state is a function of a complex interweaving web of causes, including the temperament of the rulers, the strength of their enemies, the inducements for war, public opinion, etc.

While public opinion has to be gauged in either case, the only real difference between a democracy and a dictatorship on making war is that in the former more propaganda must be beamed at one’s subjects to engineer their approval. Intensive propaganda is necessary in any case – as we can see by the zealous opinion-molding behavior of all modern warring states.

But the democratic state must work harder and faster. And also the democratic state must be more hypocritical in using rhetoric designed to appeal to the values of the masses: justice, freedom, national interest, patriotism, world peace, etc. So that in democratic states the art of propaganda the elite uses over its subjects must be a bit more sophisticated and refined. But this, as we have seen, is true of all governmental decisions, not just war or peace.

For all governments – but especially democratic governments – must work hard at persuading their subjects that all of their deeds of oppression are really in their subjects’ best interests. What we have said about democracy and dictatorship applies equally to the lack of correlation between degrees of internal freedom in a country and its external aggressiveness. Some states have proved themselves perfectly capable of allowing a considerable degree of freedom internally while making aggressive war abroad, while others have shown themselves capable of totalitarian rule internally while pursuing a pacific foreign policy. The examples of Idi Amin, Albania, China, Great Britain, etc., apply equally well in this comparison.

In short, libertarians and other Americans must guard against a priori history: in this case, against the assumption that, in any conflict, that state which is more democratic or allows more internal freedom is necessarily or even presumptively the victim of aggression by the more dictatorial or totalitarian state. There is simply no historical evidence whatever for such a presumption.

In deciding on relative rights and wrongs, on relative degrees of aggression, in any dispute in foreign affairs, there is no substitute for a detailed, empirical, historical investigation of the dispute itself. It should occasion no great surprise, then, if such an investigation concludes that a democratic and relatively far freer United States has been more aggressive and imperialistic in foreign affairs than a relatively totalitarian Russia or China. Conversely, hailing a state for being less aggressive in foreign affairs in no way implies that the observer is in any way sympathetic to that state’s internal record.

It is vital – indeed, it is literally a life-and-death matter – that Americans be able to look as coolly and clear-sightedly, as free from myth, at their government’s record in foreign affairs as they increasingly are able to do in domestic politics. For war and a phony “external threat” have long been the chief means by which the state wins back the loyalty of its subjects. War and militarism were the gravediggers of classical liberalism; we must not allow the state to get away with this ruse ever again.

Reprinted from Mises.org.

Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School, founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of the Mises Institute. He was also editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his literary executor. See his books.


The Real Ronald Reagan

I was a young man when Reagan ran for office. Disgusted with how my choice in Carter had turned out I voted for Reagan. It was many years until I saw the truth. Murray Rothbard saw it all along. Here is his impression of Reagan after he left office Although I am strongly pro-life, (Rothbard believed in free choice), nevertheless I find myself agreeing with almost everything else he says here. It is quite long, more essay than article, but well worth the effort to understand some of what has gone on the past 50 years or more in America. I am only sorry I did not discover Rothbard until recently since he passed in 1995. I might have come to my senses sooner. Enjoy (E)

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Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy

by Murray N. Rothbard
by Murray N. Rothbard

First published in Liberty, Vol. 2, No. 4, March 1989.


Eight years, eight dreary, miserable, mind-numbing years, the years of the Age of Reagan, are at long last coming to an end. These years have surely left an ominous legacy for the future: we shall undoubtedly suffer from the after-shocks of Reaganism for years to come. But at least Himself will not be there, and without the man Reagan, without what has been called his “charisma,” Reaganism cannot nearly be the same. Reagan’s heirs and assigns are a pale shadow of the Master, as we can see from the performance of George Bush. He might try to imitate the notes of Reagan, but the music just ain’t there. Only this provides a glimmer of hope for America: that Reaganism might not survive much beyond Reagan.

Reagan the Man

Many recent memoirs have filled out the details of what some of us have long suspected: that Reagan is basically a cretin who, as a long-time actor, is skilled in reading his assigned lines and performing his assigned tasks. Donald Regan and others have commented on Ronald Reagan’s strange passivity, his never asking questions or offering any ideas of his own, his willingness to wait until others place matters before him. Regan has also remarked that Reagan is happiest when following the set schedule that others have placed before him. The actor, having achieved at last the stardom that had eluded him in Hollywood, reads the lines and performs the action that others – his script-writers, his directors – have told him to follow.

Sometimes, Reagan’s retentive memory – important for an actor – gave his handlers trouble. Evidently lacking the capacity for reasoned thought, Reagan’s mind is filled with anecdotes, most of them dead wrong, that he has soaked up over the years in the course of reading Reader’s Digest or at idle conversation. Once an anecdote enters Reagan’s noodle, it is set in concrete and impossible to correct or dislodge. (Consider, for example, the famous story about the “Chicago welfare queen”: all wrong, but Reagan carried on regardless.)

In the early years of Reagan rule, the press busily checked out Reagan’s beloved anecdotes, and found that almost every one of them was full of holes. But Reagan never veered from his course. Why? God knows there are plenty of correct stories about welfare cheats that he could have clasped to his bosom; why stick to false ones? Evidently, the reason is that Reagan cares little about reality; he lives in his own Hollywood fantasy world, a world of myth, a world in which it is always Morning in America, a world where The Flag is always flying, but where Welfare Cheats mar the contentment of the Land of Oz. So who cares if theactual story is wrong? Let it stand, like a Hollywood story, as a surrogate for the welfare cheats whom everyone knows do exist.

The degree to which Reagan is out of touch with reality was best demonstrated in his concentration camp story. This was not simply a slip of the tongue, a Bushian confusion of December with September. When the Premier of Israel visited Reagan at the White House, the President went on and on for three quarters of an hour explaining why he was pro-Jewish: it was because, being in the Signal Corps in World War II, he visited Buchenwald shortly after the Nazi defeat and helped to take films of that camp. Reagan repeated this story the following day to an Israeli ambassador. But the truth was 180-degrees different; Reagan was not in Europe; he never saw a concentration camp; he spent the entire war in the safety of Hollywood, making films for the armed forces.

Well, what are we to make of this incident? This little saga stayed in the back pages of the press. By that point the media had realized that virtually nothing – no fact, no dark deed – could ever stick to the Teflon President. (Iran-Contra shook things up a bit, but in a few months even that was forgotten.)

There are only two ways to interpret the concentration camp story. Perhaps Reagan engaged in a bald-faced lie. But why? What would he have to gain? Especially after the lie was found out, as it soon would be. The only other way to explain this incident, and a far more plausible one, is that Ronnie lacks the capacity to distinguish fantasy from reality. He would, at least in retrospect, have liked to be filming at Buchenwald. Certainly, it made a better story than the facts. But what are we to call a man who cannot distinguish fantasy from reality?

It is surely frightening to think that the most powerful position in the world has been held for eight years by a man who cannot tell fact from fancy. Even more frightening is the defection of the media, who early lost heart and played the role of a submissive receptacle for photo opportunities and press-release handouts. One reason for this defection was the discovery of Reagan’s Teflon nature. Another likely reason was that journalists who were too feisty and independent would be deprived of their precious access to the Presidential plane or to inside scoops or leaks from the White House. And a third reason was probably the desire not to dwell on the vital and hair-raising fact that the President of the United States, “the leader of the free world” and all that jazz, is nothing more than a demented half-wit.

But why the Teflon? Because of the incredible love affair that Ronald Reagan has enjoyed with the American people. In all my years of fascination with American politics (my early childhood memories are couched in terms of who was President or who was Mayor of New York City or who won what election), I have never seen anything remotely like it. Anyone else universally beloved? Franklin D. Roosevelt was worshipped, to be sure, by most of the American electorate, but there was always a large and magnificent minority who detested every inch of his guts. Truman? He was almost universally reviled in his time; he has only been made an icon in retrospect by the conservative movement. Jack Kennedy, too, is only a hero now that he has been safely interred; before his assassination he was cordially detested by all conservatives. Nobody ever loved Nixon. The closest to universal lovability was Ike, and even he did not inspire the intense devotion accorded to Ronnie Reagan; with Ike it was more of a tranquilized sense of peace and contentment.

But with Reagan, it has been pure love: every nod of the head; every wistful “We-e-ll,” every dumb and flawed anecdote, every snappy salute, sends virtually every American into ecstasy. From all corners of the land came the cry, “I don’t like his policies very much, but I lo-o-ve the man.” Only a few malcontents, popping up here and there, in a few obscure corners of the land, emerged as dedicated and bitter opponents. As one of this tiny minority I can testify that it was a lonely eight years, even within the ranks of the libertarian movement. Sometimes I felt like a lone and unheeded prophet, bringing the plain truth to those who refused to understand. Very often I would be at free-market gatherings, from living rooms to conferences, and I would go on and on about the deficiencies of Reagan’s policies and person, and would be met with responses like “Well of course, he’s not a PhD.”

Me: “No, no, that’s not the point. The man is a blithering idiot. He makes Warren Harding tower like Aristotle.”

Responder: “Ronald Reagan has made us feel good about America.”

Perhaps that’s part of the explanation for the torrent of unconditional love that the American public has poured onto Ronald Reagan. Lost in Hollywood loony-land, Ronnie’s sincere optimism struck a responsive chord in the American masses. The ominous fact that he “made us” feel good about the American State and not just about the country is lost even on many libertarians.

But, in that case, why didn’t Hubert Humphrey’s egregious “politics of joy” evoke the same all-inclusive love? I don’t know the answer, but I’m convinced it’s not simply because Hubert was captive to the dreaded “L-word’ whereas Ronnie is a conservative. It’s lot deeper than that. One of the remarkably Teflon qualities of Reagan is that, even after many years as President, he is still able to act as if he were totally separate from the actions of the government. He can still denounce the government in the same ringing terms he used when he was out of power. And he gets away with it, probably because inside his head, he is still Ronnie Reagan, the mother of anti-government anecdotes as lecturer for General Electric.

In a deep sense, Reagan has not been a functioning part of the government for eight years. Off in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land he is the obedient actor who recites his lines and plays his appointed part. Some commentators have been critical of Reagan for napping in the afternoons, for falling asleep at crucial meetings, for taking long vacations at his beloved ranch. Well, why not? What else does he have to do? Reagan doesn’t actually have to do anything; like Peter Sellers in his last film, all he has to do is be there,the beloved icon, giving his vital sanction to the governmental process.

Reagan’s handlers perceived early on that one threat to Reagan’s Teflon rule would be allowing him to mix it up with members of the press. Away from his teleprompter, Ronnie was a real problem. So very soon, any sort of real press conference, including uninhibited questions and answers, was done away with. The only press “conferences” became shouted questions as Reagan walked quickly to and from the White House helicopter. One of his handlers has written that, despite all efforts, they couldn’t stop Reagan from exercising one peculiar personality trait: his compulsion to answer every question that he hears. But fortunately, not much was risked, since the noise of the helicopter engines would drown out most of the repartee.

The worst moment for the Reagan handlers came, of course during the first debate with Mondale in 1984. For one glorious moment, during the give and take of the debate, the real Reagan emerged: confused, befuddled, out of it. It was a shaky moment, but all the handlers needed to do was to reassure the shocked masses that their beloved President was still sentient, was still there to be a totem to his flock. The handlers blamed Reagan’s showing on “over coaching” they made sure that he slept a lot just before the second debate, and they fed him a snappy mock self-deprecating one-liner about his age. The old boy could still remember his jokes: he got off his lovable crack, and the American masses, with a sigh of relief, clasped him to their bosoms once again.

The Reagan Years: Libertarian Rhetoric, Statist Policies

How did Reagan manage to pursue egregiously statist policies in the name of liberty and of “getting government off our backs?” How was he able to follow this course of deception and mendacity?

Don’t try to get Ronnie off the hook by blaming Congress. Like the general public – and all too many libertarians – Congress was merely a passive receptacle for Ronnie’s wishes. Congress passed the Reagan budgets with a few marginal adjustments here and there – and gave him virtually all the legislation, and ratified all the personnel, he wanted. For one Bork there are thousands who made it. The last eight years have been a Reagan Administration for the Gipper to make or break.

There was no “Reagan Revolution.” Any “revolution” in the direction of liberty (in Ronnie’s words “to get government off our backs”) would reduce the total level of government spending. And that means reduce in absolute terms, not as proportion of the gross national product, or corrected for inflation, or anything else. There is no divine commandment that the federal government must always be at least as great a proportion of the national product as it was in 1980. If the government was a monstrous swollen Leviathan in 1980, as libertarians were surely convinced, as the inchoate American masses were apparently convinced and as Reagan and his cadre claimed to believe, then cutting government spending was in order. At the very least, federal government spending should have been frozen, in absolute terms, so that the rest of the economy would be allowed to grow in contrast. Instead, Ronald Reagan cut nothing, even in the heady first year, 1981.

At first, the only “cut” was in Carter’s last-minute loony-tunes estimates for the future. But in a few short years, Reagan’s spending surpassed even Carter’s irresponsible estimates. Instead, Reagan not only increased government spending by an enormous amount – so enormous that it would take a 40 percent cut to bring us back to Carter’s wild spending totals of 1980 – he even substantially increased the percentage of government spending to GNP. That’s a “revolution”?

The much-heralded 1981 tax cut was more than offset by two tax increases that year. One was “bracket creep,” by which just inflation wafted people into higher tax brackets, so that with the same real income (in terms of purchasing power) people found themselves paying a higher proportion of their income in taxes, even though the official tax rate went down. The other was the usual whopping increase in Social Security taxes which, however, don’t count, in the perverse semantics of our time, as “taxes”; they are only “insurance premiums.” In the ensuing years the Reagan Administration has constantly raised taxes – to punish us for the fake tax cut of 1981 – beginning in 1982 with the largest single tax increase in American history, costing taxpayers $100 billion.

Creative semantics is the way in which Ronnie was able to keep his pledge never to raise taxes while raising them all the time. Reagan’s handlers, as we have seen, annoyed by the stubborn old coot’s sticking to “no new taxes,” finessed the old boy by simply calling the phenomenon by a different name. If the Gipper was addled enough to fall for this trick, so did the American masses – and a large chuck of libertarians and self-proclaimed free-market economists as well! “Let’s close another loophole, Mr. President.” “We-e-ell, OK, then, so long as we’re not raising taxes.” (Definition of loophole: Any and all money the otherguy has earned and that hasn’t been taxed away yet. Your money, of course, has been fairly earned, and shouldn’t be taxed further.)

Income tax rates in the upper brackets have come down. But the odious bipartisan “loophole closing” of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 – an act engineered by our Jacobin egalitarian “free market” economists in the name of “fairness” – raised instead of lowered the income tax paid by most upper-income people. Again: what one hand of government giveth, the other taketh away, and then some. Thus, President-elect Bush has just abandoned his worthy plan to cut the capital gains tax in half, because it would violate the beloved tax fairness instituted by the bipartisan Reganite 1986 “reform.”

The bottom line is that tax revenues have gone up an enormous amount under the eight years of Reagan; the only positive thing we can say for them is that revenues as percentage of the gross national product are up only slightly since 1980. The result: the monstrous deficit, now apparently permanently fixed somewhere around $200 billion, and the accompanying tripling of the total federal debt in the eight blessed years of the Reagan Era. Is that what the highly touted “Reagan Revolution” amounts to, then? A tripling of the national debt?

We should also say a word about another of Ronnie’s great “libertarian” accomplishments. In the late 1970’s, it became obvious even to the man in the street that the Social Security System was bankrupt, kaput. For the first time in fifty years there was an excellent chance to get rid of the biggest single racket that acts as a gigantic Ponzi scheme to fleece the American taxpayer. Instead, Reagan brought in the famed “Randian libertarian” Alan Greenspan, who served as head of a bipartisan commission, performing the miracle of “saving Social Security” and the masses have rested content with the system ever since. How did he “save” it? By raising taxes (oops “premiums”), of course; by that route, the government can “save” any program. (Bipartisan: both parties acting in concert to put both of their hands in your pocket.)

The way Reagan-Greenspan saved Social Security is a superb paradigm of Reagan’s historical function in all areas of his realm; he acted to bail out statism and to co-opt and defuse any libertarian or quasi-libertarian opposition. The method worked brilliantly, for Social Security and other programs.

How about deregulation? Didn’t Ronnie at least deregulate the regulation-ridden economy inherited from the evil Carter? Just the opposite. The outstanding measures of deregulation were all passed by the Carter Administration, and, as is typical of that luckless President, the deregulation was phased in to take effect during the early Reagan years, so that the Gipper could claim the credit. Such was the story with oil and gas deregulation (which the Gipper did advance from September to January of 1981); airline deregulation and the actual abolition of the Civil Aeronautics Board, and deregulation of trucking. That was it.

The Gipper deregulated nothing, abolished nothing. Instead of keeping his pledge to abolish the Departments of Energy and Education, he strengthened them, and even wound up his years in office adding a new Cabinet post, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Overall, the quantity and degree of government regulation of the economy was greatly increased and intensified during the Reagan years. The hated OSHA, the scourge of small business and at the time the second most-hated agency of federal government (surely you need not ask which is the first most-hated), was not only not abolished; it too was strengthened and reinforced. Environmentalist restrictions were greatly accelerated, especially after the heady early years when selling off some public lands was briefly mentioned, and the proponents of actually using and developing locked-up government resources (James Watt, Anne Burford, Rita Lavelle) were disgraced and sent packing as a warning to any future “anti-environmentalists.”

The Reagan Administration, supposedly the champion of free trade, has been the most protectionist in American history, raising tariffs, imposing import quotas, and – as another neat bit of creative semantics – twisting the arms of the Japanese to impose “voluntary” export quotas on automobiles and microchips. It has made the farm program the most abysmal of this century: boosting price supports and production quotas, and paying many more billions of taxpayer money to farmers so that they can produce less and raise prices to consumers.

And we should never forget a disastrous and despotic program that has received unanimous support from the media and from the envious American public: the massive witch hunt and reign of terror against the victimless non-crime of “insider trading.” In a country where real criminals – muggers, rapists, and “inside” thieves – are allowed to run rampant, massive resources and publicity are directed toward outlawing the use of one’s superior knowledge and insight in order to make profits on the market.

In the course of this reign of terror, it is not surprising that freedom of speech was the first thing to go by the boards. Government spies and informers busily report conversations over martinis (“Hey Joe, I heard that XYZ Corp. is going to merge with ABC.”) All this is being done by the cartelizing and fascistic Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice and its much-hailed Savanarola in New York, Rudolf Giuliani. All this is the work of the beloved Gipper, the “free-market,” “libertarian” Reagan Administration. And where are the “conservative libertarians”? Where are the “free market economists” to point this out and condemn it?

Foreign aid, a vast racket by which American taxpayers are mulcted in order to subsidize American export firms and foreign governments (mostly dictatorships), has been vastly expanded under Reagan. The Administration also encouraged the nation’s banks to inflate and pour money down Third World rat-holes; then bailed out the banks and tin-pot socialist dictatorships at the expense of U.S. taxpayers (via tax increases) and consumers (via inflation). Since the discrediting of Friedmanite monetarism by the end of the first Reagan term, the original monetarist policy of allowing the dollar to fluctuate freely has been superseded by Keynesian Secretary of Treasury James Baker, who has concerted with foreign central banks to try to freeze the dollar within various zones. The interference has been, as usual, futile and counterproductive, but that will not stop the soon-to-be even more powerful Baker from trying to fulfill, or at least move strongly toward, the old Keynesian dream of one world fiat paper currency (or at least fixed exchange rates of the various national currencies) issued by one world Central Bank – in short, economic world government.

But didn’t Ronnie “bring down inflation”? Sure, but he did it, not by some miracle, but the old-fashioned way: by the steepest recession (read: depression) since the 1930s. And now, as a result of his inflationary monetary policies, inflation is back with a roar – which the Teflon President will leave as one of his great legacies to the Bush Administration.

And then there is another charming legacy: the reckless inflationary course, encouraged by the Reagan Administration, of the nation’s savings-and-loan banks. Virtually the entire industry is now bankrupt, and FDIC – the federal agency supposedly “insuring” S&L depositors – is bankrupt. Instead of allowing the banks and their deluded depositors to pay the price of their profligacy, everyone of both parties, including our “free-market” Reaganauts, is prepared to use taxpayer money or the printing press to bail out the entire industry – to the tune of an estimated 50 to 100 billion dollars. (These estimates, by the way, come from government sources, which notoriously underestimate future costs of their programs.)

I have been cleaving to the strictly economic realm because even the staunchest pro-Reagan libertarian will not dare to claim that Ronnie has been a blessing for civil liberties. On the contrary. In addition to his reign of terror on Wall Street (who cares about the civil liberties of stock traders anyway?), Reagan worked to escalate toward infinity the insane “war against drugs.” Far from the 1970s movement toward repealing marijuana laws, an ever greater flow of men and resources – countless billions of dollars – are being hysterically poured into combating a drug “problem” that clearly gets worse in direct proportion to the intensity of the “war.”

The outbreak of drug fascism, moreover, is a superb illustration of the interconnectedness of civil liberty and economic freedom. Under cover of combating drugs, the government has cracked down on our economic and financial privacy, so that carrying cash has become prima fade evidence of “laundering” drug money. And so the government steps up its long-cherished campaign to get people to abstain from cash and into using government-controlled banks. The government is already insinuating foreign exchange controls – now the legal obligation to “report” large amounts of cash taken out of the country – into our personal and economic life.

And every day more evil drugs are being found that must be denounced and outlawed: the latest is the dread menace of anabolic steroids. As part of this futile war, we are being urged by the Reaganites to endure compulsory urine testing (supervised, of course, since otherwise the testee might be able to purchase and substitute black market drug-free urine). In this grotesque proposal, government is not onlynot off our backs, it is now also insisting on joining us in the bathroom.

And in the bedroom, too, if Ronnie has his way. Although abortion is not yet illegal, it is not for lack of effort by the Reagan Administration. The relentless Reaganite drive to conservatize the judiciary will likely recriminalize abortion soon, making criminals out of millions of American women each year. George Bush, for less than twenty-four glorious hours, was moved to take a consistent position: if abortion is murder, then all women who engage in abortion are murderers. But it took only a day for his handlers to pull George back from the abyss of logic, and to advocate only criminalizing the doctors, the hired hands of the women who get abortions.

Perhaps the Gipper cannot be directly blamed – but certainly he has set the moral climate – for the increasingly savage Puritanism of the 1980s: the virtual outlawry of smoking, the escalating prohibition of pornography, even the partial bringing back of Prohibition (outlawing drunken driving, raising the legal drinking age to 21, making bartenders – or friendly hosts – legally responsible for someone else’s drunken driving, etc.).

Under Reagan, the civil liberties balance has been retipped in favor of the government and against the people: restricting our freedom to obtain government documents under the Freedom of Information Act and stepping up the penalties on privately printed and disseminated news about activities of the government, on the one hand; more “freedom” for our runaway secret police, the CIA, to restrict the printing of news, and to wiretap private individuals, on the other. And to cap its hypocrisy, as it escalated its war on drugs, the Reagan Administration looked the other way on drug running by its own CIA.

On foreign policy, the best we can say about Ronnie is that he did not launch World War III. Apart from that, his foreign policy was a series of murdering blunders:

  • His idiotic know-nothing intervention into the cauldron of Lebanon, resulting in the murder of several hundred US Marines.
  • His failed attempt – lauded by Reaganites ever since – to murder Colonel Khadafy by an air strike – and succeeding instead in slaying his baby daughter, after which our media sneered at Khadafy for looking haggard, and commented that the baby was “only adopted.”
  • His stumblebum intervention into the Persian Gulf, safeguarding oil tankers of countries allied to Iraq in the Iraq–Iran war. (Ironically, the US. imports practically no oil from the Gulf, unlike Western Europe and Japan, where there was no hysteria and who certainly sent no warships to the Gulf.) In one of the most bizarre events in the history of warfare, the Iraqi sinking of the U.S.S. Stark was dismissed instantly – and without investigation, and in the teeth of considerable evidence to the contrary – as an “accident,” followed immediately by blaming Iran (and using the sinking as an excuse to step up our pro-Iraq intervention in the war). This was followed by a US warship’s sinking of a civilian Iranian airliner, murdering hundreds of civilians, and blaming – you guessed it! – the Iranian government for this catastrophe. More alarming than these actions of the Reagan Administration was the supine and pusillanimous behavior of the media, in allowing the Gipper to get away with all this.

As we all know only too well, the height of Reagan’s Teflon qualities came with Iran-Contra. At the time, I naïvely thought that the scandal would finish the bastard off. But no one saw anything wrong with the Administration’s jailing private arms salesmen to Iran, while at the very same time engaging in arms sales to Iran itself. In Reagan’s America, apparently anything, any crookery, any aggression or mass murder, is OK if allegedly performed for noble, patriotic motives. Only personal greed is considered a no-no.

I have not yet mentioned the great foreign-policy triumph of the Reagan Administration: the invasion and conquest of tiny Grenada, a pitiful little island-country with no army, air force, or navy. A “rescue” operation was launched to save US medical students who never sought our deliverance. Even though the enemy consisted of a handful of Cuban construction workers, it still took us a week to finish the Grenadans off, during the course of which the three wings of our armed forces tripped over each other and our military distinguished itself by bombing a Grenadan hospital. The operation was as much a botch as the Carter attempt to rescue the American hostages. The only difference was that this time the enemy was helpless.

But we won didn’t we? Didn’t we redeem the US loss in Vietnam and allow America to “stand tall”? Yes, we did win. We beat up on a teeny country; and even botched that! If that is supposed to make Americans stand tall, then far better we sit short. Anyway, it’s about time we learned that Short is Beautiful.

The US war against the Sandinistas on the other hand, which has been conducted at enormous expense and waged hand-in-hand with Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran dictators, is going down the drain, despite illegal CIA mining of harbors and injury to neutral shipping. Even the nearly comatose American public is giving up on the idea of supporting bandit guerrillas, so long as they are anti-Communist, despite the best efforts of Ollie and Secord and Singlaub and Abrams and all the rest of the war crowd.

The Reagan Administration’s continued aid and support to Pol Pot in Cambodia, the most genocidal butcher of our time, is more reprehensible but less visible to most Americans. As a result, Pol Pot’s thugs are mobilizing at this very moment on the Thai border to return and take over Cambodia as soon as the Vietnamese pull out, presumably to renew their bizarre mass murders. But you see, that’s okay with the Reaganites because the Cambodian Commies are guerrilla fighters against the Vietnamese (pro-Soviet) Commies, who by definition are evil. Pol Pot’s butchers as “freedom fighters” show us that, in the arsenal of the Reaganite Right, “freedom,” like “taxes” and many other crucial words, means, as in the case of Humpty Dumpty, whatever they choose it to.

Grenada was the perfect war as far as many conservatives (and apparently much of the American public) were concerned: it was quick and easy to win, with virtually no risk of loss, and allowed ample opportunities to promote the military (and their Commander-in-Chief) as heroes while bragging up the victory on television – in short, allowing the U.S. to glory in its status as a bully. (It helped eradicate the awful memory of Vietnam, which was the perfect war for American centrist liberals: virtually impossible to win, horribly expensive in terms of men and property – and best of all, it could go on forever without resolution, like the War on Poverty, fueling their sense of guilt while providing safe but exciting jobs for members of their techno-bureaucratic class.)

While the American masses do not want war with Russia or even aid to the bandit Contras, they do want an ever-expanding military and other aggravated symbols of a “strong,” “tough” America, an America that will, John Wayne-like, stomp on teeny pests like Commie Grenada, or, perhaps, any very small island that might possess the tone and the ideology of the Ayatollah.

Setting the Stage: The Anti-Government Rebellion of the 1970s

I am convinced that the historic function of Ronald Reagan was to co-opt, eviscerate and ultimately destroy the substantial wave of anti-governmental, and quasi-libertarian, sentiment that erupted in the U.S. during the 1970s. Did he perform this task consciously? Surely too difficult a feat for a man barely compos. No, Reagan was wheeled into performing this task by his Establishment handlers.

The task of co-optation needed to be done because the 1970s, particularly 1973–75, were marked by an unusual and striking conjunction of crisis – crises that fed on each other to lead to a sudden and cumulative disillusionment with the federal government. It was this symbiosis of anti-government reaction that led me to develop my “case for libertarian optimism” during the mid-1970’s, in the expectation of a rapid escalation of libertarian influence in America.

1973–74 saw the abject failure of the Nixon wage-price control program, and the development of something Keynesians assumed could never happen: the combination of double-digit inflation and a severe recession. High unemployment and high inflation happened again, even more intensely, during the greater recession of 1979–82. Since Keynesianism rests on the idea that government should pump in spending during recessions and take out spending during inflationary booms, what happenswhen both occur at the same time? As Rand would say: Blankout! There is no answer. And so, there was disillusionment in the government’s handling of the macro-economy, deepening during the accelerating inflation of the 1970s and the beginnings of recession in 1979.

At the same time, people began to be fed up, increasingly and vocally, with high taxes: income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, you name it. Especially in the West, an organized tax rebel movement developed, with its own periodicals and organizations However misguided strategically, the spread of the tax rebellion signaled a growing disillusion with big government. I was privileged to be living in California during the election year of 1978, when Proposition 13 was passed. It was a genuinely inspiring sight. In the face of hysterical opposition and smears from the entire California Establishment Democratic and Republican, Big Business and labor, academia, economists, and all of the press the groundswell for Prop 13 burgeoned. Everyone was against it but the people. If the eventual triumph of Ronald Reagan is the best case against “libertarian populism,” Prop. 13 was the best case in its favor.

Also exhilarating was the smashing defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam in 1975 – exhilarating because this first loss of a war by the United States, many of us believed, was bound to get Americans to rethink the disastrous warmongering bipartisan foreign policy that had plagued us since the unlamented days of Woodrow Wilson.

On the civil liberties front, the de facto legalization of marijuana was a sign that the nonsense of drug prohibition would soon be swept away. (Ye gods! Was that only a decade ago?) Inflationary recession; high taxes; prohibition laws; defeat in foreign war; across the board, the conditions seemed admirable for a growing and triumphant libertarianism.

And to top it off, the Watergate crisis (my particular favorite) destroyed the trust of the American masses in the Presidency. For the first time in over a hundred years, the concept of impeachment of the President became, first thinkable, and then a living and glorious process. For a while, I feared that Jimmy Carter, with his lovable cardigan sweater, would restore Americans’ faith in their president, but soon that fear proved groundless.

Surely, it is no accident that it was precisely in this glorious and sudden anti-government surge that libertarian ideas and libertarian scholarship began to spread rapidly in the United States. And it was in 1971 that the tiny Libertarian Party emerged, in 1972 that its first, embryonic presidential candidacy was launched, and 1973 when its first important race was run, for mayor of New York City. The Libertarian Party continued to grow rapidly, almost exponentially, during the 1970s, reaching a climax with the Clark campaign for governor of California during the Prop 13 year of 1978, and with the Clark campaign for the Presidency in 1980. The morning my first article on libertarianism appeared in the New York Times in 1971, a very bright editor at Macmillan, Tom Mandel, called me and asked me to write a book on the subject (it was to become For a New Liberty). Not a libertarian himself, Mandel told me that he believed that libertarianism would become a very important ideology in a few years – and he turned out to be right.

So libertarianism was on a roll in the 1970s. And then Something Happened.

Enter the Neocons

What happened was Ronald Wilson Blithering Reagan. Obviously Reagan did not suddenly descend out of the clouds in 1980. He had been the cherished candidate of the conservative movement, its chosen route to power, ever since Goldwater’s defeat. Goldwater was too blunt and candid, too much an unhandleable Real Person. What was needed was a lovable, manipulable icon. Moreover, Goldwater’s principles were too hard-edged: he was way too much a domestic libertarian, and he was too much an eager warmonger. Both his libertarianism and his passion for nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union scared the bejesus out of the American masses, as well as the more astute leadership of the conservative movement.

A reconstituted conservative movement would have to drop any libertarian ideology or concrete policies, except to provide a woolly and comfortable mood for suitably gaseous anti-government rhetoric and an improved foreign policy that would make sure that many more billions would go into the military-industrial complex, to step up global pressure against Communism, butavoiding an actual nuclear war. This last point was important: As much as they enjoy the role of the bully, neither the Establishment nor the American people want to risk nuclear war, which might, after all, blow them up as well. Once again, Ronnie Reagan looked like the Answer.

Two important new ingredients entered into, and helped reshape, the conservative movement during the mid 1970’s. One was the emergence of a small but vocal and politically powerful group of neo-conservatives (neocons), who were able, in a remarkably short time, to seize control of the think tanks, the opinion-molding institutions, and finally the politics, of the conservative movement. As ex-liberals, the neocons were greeted as important new converts from the enemy. More importantly, as ex-Trotskyites, the neocons were veteran politicos and organizers, schooled in Marxian cadre organizing and in manipulating the levers of power. They were shrewdly eager to place their own people in crucial opinion molding and money-raising positions, and in ousting those not willing to submit to the neocon program. Understanding the importance of financial support, the neocons knew how to sucker Old Right businessmen into giving them the monetary levers at their numerous foundations and think tanks. In contrast to free-market economists, for example, the neocons were eager to manipulate patriotic symbols and ethical doctrines, doing the microequivalent of Reagan and Bush’s wrapping themselves in the American Flag. Wrapping themselves, also, in such patriotic symbols as The Framers and the Constitution, as well as Family Values, the neocons were easily able to outflank free-market types and keep them narrowly confined to technical economic issues. In short the neocons were easily able to seize the moral and patriotic “high ground.”

The only group willing and able to challenge the neocons on their own moralizing on philosophic turf was, of course, the tiny handful of libertarians; and outright moral libertarianism, with its opposition to statism, theocracy, and foreign war, could never hope to get to first base with conservative businessmen, who, even at the best of times during the Old Right era, had never been happy about individual personal liberty, (e.g. allowing prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, or drugs) or with the libertarians’ individualism and conspicuous lack of piety toward the Pentagon, or toward the precious symbol of the Nation-State, the US flag.

The neocons were (and remain today) New Dealers, as they frankly describe themselves, remarkably without raising any conservative eyebrows. They are what used to be called, in more precise ideological days, “extreme right-wing Social Democrats.” In other words, they are still Roosevelt-Truman-Kennedy-Humphrey Democrats. Their objective, as they moved (partially) into the Republican Party and the conservative movement, was to reshape it to become, with minor changes, a Roosevelt-Truman-etc. movement; that is, a liberal movement shorn of the dread “L” word and of post-McGovern liberalism. To verify this point all we have to do is note how many times Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, et al., properly reviled by conservatives while they were alive, are now lauded, even canonized, by the current neocon-run movement, from Ronnie Reagan on down. And no one calls them on this Orwellian revision of conservative movement history.

As statists-to-the-core the neocons had no problem taking the lead in crusades to restrict individual liberties, whether it be in the name of rooting out “subversives,” or of inculcating broadly religious (“Judeo-Christian”) or moral values. They were happy to form a cozy alliance with the Moral Majority, the mass of fundamentalists who entered the arena of conservative politics in the mid-1970s. The fundamentalists were goaded out of their quietist millenarian dreams (e.g., the imminent approach of Armageddon) and into conservative political action by the accumulation of moral permissivism in American life. The legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade was undoubtedly the trigger, but this decision came on top of a cumulative effect of the sexual revolution, the militant homosexual movement “out of the closet” and into the streets, the spread of pornography, and the visible decay of the public school system. The entry of the Moral Majority transformed American politics, not the least by furnishing the elite cadre of neocons with a mass base to guide and manipulate.

In economic matter, the neocons showed no more love of liberty, though this is obscured by the fact that the neocons wish to trim the welfare state of its post-Sixties excrescences, particularly since these were largely designed to aid black people. What the neocons want is a smaller, more “efficient” welfare state, within which bounds they would graciously allow the market to operate. The market is acceptable as a narrow instrumental device; their view of private property and the free market is essentially identical to Gorbachev’s in the Soviet Union.

Why did the Right permit itself to be bamboozled by the neocons? Largely because the conservatives had been inexorably drifting Stateward in the same manner. In response to the crushing defeat of Goldwater, the Right had become ever less libertarian and less principled, and ever more attuned to the “responsibilities” and moderations of Power. It is a far cry from three decades ago when Bill Buckley used to say that he too is an “anarchist” but that we have to put off all thoughts of liberty until the “international Communist conspiracy” is crushed. Those old Chodorovian libertarian days are long gone, and so isNational Review as any haven for libertarian ideas. War mongering, militarism, theocracy, and limited “free” markets – this is really what Buckleyism amounted to by the late 1970s.

The burgeoning neocons were able to confuse and addle the Democratic Party by breaking with the Carter Administration, at the same time militantly and successfully pressuring it from within. The neocons formed two noisy front groups, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger. By means of these two interlocking groups and their unusual access to influential media, the neocons were able to pressure the Carter Administration into breaking the détente with Russia over the Afghanistan imbroglio and influencing Carter to get rid of the dove Cyrus Vance as Secretary of State and to put foreign policy power into the hands of the Polish émigré hawk and Rockefeller Trilateralist, Zbigniew Brzezinski. In the meantime, the neocons pushed the hysterically hawkish CIA “B” Team report, wailing about alleged Soviet nuclear superiority, which in turn paved the way for the vast gift of spending handed to the military-industrial complex by the incoming Regan Administration. The Afghanistan and “B” Team hysterias, added to the humiliation by the Ayatollah, managed not only to kill off the bedeviled Carter Administration, but also to put the boots to non-intervention and to prepare the nation for a scrapping of the “post-Vietnam syndrome” and a return to the warmongering of the pre-Vietnam Era.

The Reagan candidacy of 1980 was brilliantly designed to weld a coalition providing the public’s instinctive anti-government mood with sweeping, but wholly nonspecific, libertarian rhetoric, as a convenient cover for the diametrically opposite policies designed to satisfy the savvy and politically effective members of that coalition: the neocons, the Buckleyite cons, the Moral Majority, the Rockefellers, the military-industrial complex, and the various Establishment special interests always clustering at the political trough.

Intellectual Corruption

In the face of the stark record, how were the Reaganites able to get away with it? Where did Ronnie get his thick coat of Teflon? Why was he able to follow statist policies and yet convince everyone, including many alleged libertarians, that he was successfully pursuing a “revolution” to get government off our backs?

The essential answer was provided a century ago by Lysander Spooner. Why does the public obey the State, and go further to endorse statist policies that benefit the Power Elite at the public’s own expense? The answer, wrote Spooner, is that the State is supported by three powerful groups: knaves, who know what is going on and benefit from State rule; dupes, who are fooled into thinking that State rule is in their and everyone else’s interest; and cowards, who know the truth but are afraid to proclaim that the emperor has no clothes. I think we can refine Spooner’s analysis and merge the Knave and Coward categories; after all, the renegade sellout confronts the carrot and the stick: the carrot of wealth, cushy jobs, and prestige if he goes along with the Emperor; and the stick of scorn, exclusion from wealth, prestige, and jobs – and perhaps worse – if he fails to go along. The reason that Reagan got away with it – in addition to his aw-shucks “lovability” – is that various powerful groups were either duped or knave-cowardly corrupted into hailing his alleged triumphs and deep-sixing his evident failures.

First, the powerful opinion-molding media. It is conventional wisdom that media people are biased in favor of liberalism, No doubt. But that is not important, because the media, especially elite media who have the most to lose, are also particularly subject to the knave/coward syndrome. If they pander to Reaganism, they get the approval of the deluded masses, their customers, and they get the much-sought-after access to the President and to other big-wigs in government. And access means scoops, carefully planted exclusive leaks, etc. Any sort of effective opposition to the President means, on the other hand, loss of access; the angering of Reagan-deluded masses; and also the angering of their bosses, the owners of the press and television, who are far more conservative than their journalist employees.

One of Reagan’s most notable achievements was his emasculation of the liberal media because of his personal popularity with the masses. Note, for example, the wimpy media treatment of Iran-Contra as compared to their glorious attack on Watergate. Ifthis is liberal media bias, then the liberals need to be saved from their friends.

If the media were willing to go along with Reaganite duplicity and hokum, then so were our quasi-libertarian intellectual leaders. It is true of the libertarian-inclined masses as it has been always true of the conservative masses: they tend to be not too swift in the upper story. During the late 1970s, libertarian intellectuals and free-market economists were growing in number, but they were very few, and they had not yet established institutions with firm ties to journalistic and mass opinion. Hence, the libertarian mood,but not the informed thought, of the masses, was ready for co-optation, especially if led by a charismatic, beloved President.

But we must not under weigh the importance of the traitorous role performed by quasi-libertarian intellectuals and free-market economists during the Reagan years. While their institutions were small and relatively weak, the power and consistency of libertarian thought had managed to bring them considerable prestige and political influence by 1980 – especially since they offered an attractive and consistent alternative to a statist system that was breaking down on all fronts.

But talk about your Knaves! In the history of ideological movements, there have always been people willing to sell their souls and their principles. But never in history have so many sold out for so pitifully little. Hordes of libertarian and free-market intellectuals and activists rushed to Washington to whore after lousy little jobs, crummy little grants, and sporadic little conferences. It is bad enough to sell out; it is far worse to be a two-bit whore. And worst of all in this sickening spectacle were those who went into the tank without so much as a clear offer: betraying the values and principles of a lifetime in order to position themselves in hopes of being propositioned. And so they wriggled around the seats of power in Washington. The intellectual corruption spread rapidly, in proportion to the height and length of jobs in the Reagan Administration. Lifelong opponents of budget deficits remarkably began to weave sophisticated and absurd apologias, now that the great Reagan was piling them up, claiming, very much like the hated left-wing Keynesians of yore, that “deficits don’t matter.”

Shorn of intellectual support, the half-formed libertarian instincts of the American masses remained content with Reaganite rhetoric, and the actual diametrically opposite policies got lost in the shuffle.

Reagan’s Legacy

Has the Reagan Administration done nothing good in its eight ghastly years on earth, you might ask? Yes, it has done one good thing; it has repealed the despotic 55-mile-per-hour highway speed limit. And that is it.

As the Gipper, at bloody long last, goes riding off into the sunset, he leaves us with a hideous legacy. He has succeeded in destroying the libertarian public mood of the late 1970’s, and replaced it with fatuous and menacing patriotic symbols of the Nation-State, especially The Flag, which he first whooped up in his vacuous reelection campaign in 1984, aided by the unfortunate coincidence of the Olympics being held at Los Angeles. (Who will soon forget the raucous baying of the chauvinist mobs: “USA! USA!” every time some American came in third in some petty event?) He has succeeded in corrupting libertarian and free-market intellectuals and institutions, although in Ronnie’s defense it must be noted that the fault lies with the corrupted and not with the corrupter.

It is generally agreed by political analysts that the ideological mood of the public, after eight years of Reaganism, is in support ofeconomic liberalism (that is, an expanded welfare state), and social conservatism (that is, the suppression of civil liberties and the theocratic outlawing of immoral behavior). And, on foreign policy, of course, they stand for militaristic chauvinism. After eight years of Ronnie, the mood of the American masses is to expand the goodies of the welfare-warfare state (though not to increase taxes to pay for these goodies), to swagger abroad and be very tough with nations that can’t fight back, and to crack down on the liberties of groups they don’t like or whose values or culture they disagree with.

It is a decidedly unlovely and unlibertarian wasteland, this picture of America 1989, and who do we have to thank for it? Several groups: the neocons who organized it; the vested interests and the Power Elite who run it; the libertarians and free marketeers who sold out for it; and above all, the universally beloved Ronald Wilson Reagan, Who Made It Possible.

As he rides off into retirement, glowing with the love of the American public, leaving his odious legacy behind, one wonders what this hallowed dimwit might possibly do in retirement that could be at all worthy of the rest of his political career. What very last triumph are we supposed to “win for the Gipper”?

He has tipped his hand: I have just read that as soon as he retires, the Gipper will go on a banquet tour on behalf of the repeal of the 22nd (“Anti-Third Term”) Amendment – the one decent thing the Republicans have accomplished. In the last four decades. The 22nd Amendment was a well-deserved retrospective slap at FDR. It is typical of the depths to which the GOP has fallen in the last few years that Republicans have been actually muttering about joining the effort to repeal this amendment. If they are successful, then Ronald Reagan might be elected again, and reelected well into the 21st century.

In our age of High Tech, I’m sure that his mere physical death could easily have been overcome by his handlers and media mavens. Ronald Reagan will be suitably mummified, trotted out in front of a giant American flag, and some puppet master would have gotten him to give his winsome headshake and some ventriloquist would have imitated the golden tones: “We-e-ell…” (Why not? After all, the living reality of the last four years has not been a helluva lot different.)

Perhaps, after all, Ronald Reagan and almost all the rest of us will finally get our fondest wish: the election forever and ever of the mummified con King Ronnie.

Now there is a legacy for our descendants!

Reprinted from Mises.org.

 

Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School, founder of modern libertarianism, and academic vice president of the Mises Institute. He was also editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his literary executor. See his books.

The Best of Murray Rothbard



Does Favoring Free Enterprise Mean Favoring “Business”?

Source: http://mises.org/daily/4998

by Jeffrey A. Tucker on January 25, 2011

“The first great error here is the mental habit that many have of thinking that big government and big business are somehow at odds.”

American political rhetoric seems to operate on a regular cycle, like a clock, which is why it seems lately like we are reliving the Clinton years.

The story goes like this. A Democratic administration with lefty ideas gets elected, pushes hard for a series of goofy reforms like protosocialized medicine, which prompts a backlash and thereby a rethinking among the rulers, who then tack to the right and become “centrist” by praising the great contribution that the business sector makes to American life.

Most of these grandiose shifts — Obama is going through one now — are illusory and pointless, like slapping a new color of paint on a car that is traveling in one direction in order to fool people into believing that it is a different car going in a different direction.

But what interests me most here is the rhetoric and the way the Left uses it. They imagine that they got themselves in trouble by being seen as too progovernment and not sufficiently in favor of “business” as they understand that term. And so then comes the change when they discover phrases like “private sector” and even words like “capitalism.”

It’s all superficial, and these shifts suggest that the Left accepts a caricature of capitalism: the belief that it is the system that favors the largest and most established capital owners in society. So when things start to go wrong with a socialist agenda, they reach out to the corporate kingpins in the name of becoming friendly to free enterprise.

Look at Obama’s pathetic attempt to reach out to business. The administration claims it is reviewing government regulations to find those for which the cost outruns the benefits. Well, we could make some progress here by turning the Departments of Energy, Education, and Labor into sports arenas, but that’s not what the administration has in mind. Instead, you are to go to Regulations.gov and comment, if you can figure it out. I bumped into one rant that seems typical — some giant racket about home-energy upgrades — but no doubt that this site is more safety valve than work order.

Obama also has some new thing he established in the White House called the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and this is supposed to represent his new centrism. And who is to head it? Not the owner of Cupcake Kitchen down the street in my neighborhood but rather Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, of all people. And this is supposed to signal some kind of new turn for the administration.

Obama’s advisers imagine that his image has become tainted with the impression that he is too much in favor of big government — hmm, where did that come from? — and so now is the time to do the Clinton thing and triangulate by being probusiness, and hence this new council and new appointment.

Yes, it is a hoax on many, many levels. The first great error here is the mental habit that many have of thinking that big government and big business are somehow at odds. The whole of American history from the beginning to the present suggests precisely the opposite. From Alexander Hamilton to Goldman Sachs, a careful look at the history shows that there has been no major expansion of government that some sector of big business hasn’t backed with pressure and funding.

Who won from the mercantilism of the 19th century? Who came out ahead in the war socialism of Woodrow Wilson? Who was the major power behind the economic regimentation of the New Deal? What sectors of American life made out like bandits during World War II and the Cold War and the regulation of medical care and the American workplace in the 1960s and 1970s? Without exception, the corporate elite were behind every push for expanding the leviathan state.

The 19th-century history here has been carefully documented by Thomas DiLorenzo. Murray Rothbard has revealed the role of business in World War I. The postwar period through the New Deal is documented by Butler Shaffer in his great book In Restraint of Trade. The New Deal racket received a thorough exposé with John T. Flynn. The Cold War and after are shown to be radically probusiness in For a New Liberty, as well as Robert Higgs’s excellent works. And this is just the US case: it’s been true in every country where free competition was overtaken by state interventions.

There are several pieces of the puzzle one must understand to see why this is so. The largest companies have a strong interest in crushing upstarts any way they can. In a free market, they do this through better products at better prices. But that’s a hard-knock life. The struggle to stay on top in this rat race consumes all energies. Profits are always threatened in unexpected ways. Market share is never really secure. The capitalist in this system feels like a slave to consumers, and there is always another entrepreneur out there with a better idea to market. Not even gigantic companies can be sure that they can hold on.

In a mixed economy, the government itself becomes an occasion of sin. Capitalists are all-too-happy to jump out of the rat race and reach for the levers of power. And to do what? To grant favors, privileges, security, protection against failure, and, crucially, to stultify competition by imposing business costs they have already absorbed onto their less-lucrative competitors.

This is how the minimum wage and healthcare mandates and every manner of regulations come to be imposed on the entire business sector: it is a tactical move by the dominant players. It is the same with the regulatory agencies, who hardly make a move without pressure and consultation from business interests.

Antitrust is the classic case (protecting big business against competition) but it is true with labor mandates, health mandates, environmental mandates, and everything else. It’s true with patents, great inflations, higher taxes, mandated workplace benefits, consumer-product regulations, and everything else. They are all mechanisms to cartelize the market on behalf of the biggest players, while the rhetoric about the small guy is just the political excuse.

A book that absolutely blew me away was written by Ludwig Erhard, the great, Misesian-influenced reformer of the postwar German economy, a passionate opponent of the interventionist state and a man who deserves nearly all the credit for the so-called miracle experienced by Germany after the war. The book is a patient-but-compelling argument in favor of free competition and a plea to move away from wartime cartelization, from which the German business sector benefited mightily. The book is outstanding on its own terms, but much more interesting is the intended audience: not consumers, not intellectuals, not voters, but business itself, for Erhard knew what so many others seemed not to know, namely, that the business sector is among the least likely to favor the free market. It was this sector more than any other that needed to hear the message.

And this becomes transparently obvious in the case of General Electric, which is as intertwined with the government as the East India Company was in its day. Mr. Immelt himself is a good case in point: not an advocate of free enterprise but rather an enthusiastic champion of regulation, green-energy subsidies, high regulatory barriers in energy, not free trade but export-driven trade, and a loud proponent of regimentation in general insofar as interventions end up benefiting his company. This guy finds a very happy home in the halls of power, pushing for all kinds of policies that the state will love.

But back to Obama’s new “centrism.” What puzzles me is that left-wing triangulation of this sort could possibly fool anyone. The idealistic Left is undoubtedly upset with Obama’s new turn, but are these people really naïve enough to believe that there is such as thing as a big government that is somehow untainted by the backing of big business? As for the chamber-of-commerce Republicans, can they really be fooled into believing that such moves amount to a new friendliness on the part of Obama to the interests of the private sector?

Mises wrote in his inspiring book Liberalism (still the bible of liberty after all these years) that freedom is not about being in favor of the business sector; often the the business sector is the strongest and most well-heeled opponent of freedom.

Did we not learn this during the succession of Bush/Obama bailouts, all designed to privatize the gains of big business and socialize its losses? These bailouts had nothing whatever to do with macroeconomic stabilization or with the general interest of society; they were all about looting society to favor large banks and corporations like General Motors and AIG, protecting the state’s friends from the wiles of market change.

Mises goes on to speak of the tragedy of liberalism. As a doctrine, it is not favored by any single special interest and certainly no single political party. It is nonetheless in the interest of the whole society over the long term; indeed, it is the wellspring of civilization. It is for this reason that Mises believed that liberalism needs dedicated champions in all walks of life. Otherwise we end up with endless cycles of phony change such as we observe by looking at the whole history of presidents after midterm elections.

Jeffrey Tucker is the editor of Mises.org and author of Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail. See Jeffrey A. Tucker’s article archives.

 


The Fourth American Revolution

by Jim Quinn
The Burning Platform

The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.

The Fourth TurningStrauss & Howe – 1997

The mass murder in Tucson is another brick in the wall of this Fourth Turning Crisis. The importance of this tragic event is not what happened in that Safeway parking lot, but the reaction in the aftermath of the shooting. Turnings are not about specific events, but how generations react to the events based on their stages of life. A turning is an era with a characteristic social mood, a new twist on how people feel about themselves and their nation. It results from the aging of the generational constellation. A society enters a turning once every twenty years or so, when all living generations begin to enter their next phases of life. We entered this Fourth Turning between 2005 and 2008, with the collapse of the housing market and subsequent financial systemimplosion.

We have crossed the threshold into a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime will propel the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. The Silent Generation (1925–1942) is dying off, Baby Boomers (1943–1960) are entering elder hood, Generation X is entering midlife, Millenials are entering young adulthood – and a new generation of child Artists are being born. Strauss & Howe have documented that a long human life of 80 to 100 years makes up a social cycle of growth, maturation, entropy, and death (and rebirth) known as a Saeculum. Within each cycle, four generations proceed through their four stages of life. Every 15 to 25 years a new Turning surprises those who only think of history in a linear way. Strauss & Howe are historians who have been able to document this generational cycle going back to the 1400s.

The Anglo-American saeculum dates back to the waning of the Middle Ages in the middle of the fifteenth century. In this lineage, there have been seven saecula:

  • Late Medieval (1435–1487)
  • Reformation (1487–1594)
  • New World (1594–1704)
  • Revolutionary (1704–1794)
  • Civil War (1794–1865)
  • Great Power (1866–1946)
  • Millennial (1946–2026?)

The Turnings of history are like the seasons of nature. Seasons cannot be rearranged, seasons cannot be avoided, but humans and nations can prepare for the challenges presented by each season. Winter has descended upon our nation.

We are still in the early stages of this Fourth Turning and the mood of the country continues to darken like the sky before an approaching blizzard. Generational theory does not predict the specific events that will happen during a Turning. The events, personalities, and policies that become the chapters in history books are not what drive a Turning, it is how each generation reacts to the events, personalities and policies. Someone who is 60 years old will react differently to an event than they would have reacted at 20 years old. The issues that are driving this Fourth Turning (un-payable entitlement obligations, Wall Street greed & power, globalization gutting the middle class, increasing government control, wealth distribution) were all known and understood in 1997. It took the spark of a housing market collapse and the generations being in proper alignment to catalyze the mood of the country.

Chapter one of this Fourth Turning is approaching its end. Chapter two guarantees to be more intense, with more violence, and periods of great danger. Strauss & Howe envisioned this chapter based upon their analysis of the issues looming back in 1997:

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it. Thus, might the next Fourth Turning end in apocalypse – or glory. The nation could be ruined, its democracy destroyed, and millions of people scattered or killed. Or America could enter a new golden age, triumphantly applying shared values to improve the human condition. The rhythms of history do not reveal the outcome of the coming Crisis; all they suggest is the timing and dimension.

The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

“A Fourth Turning is a solstice era of maximum darkness, in which the supply of social order is still falling but the demand for order is now rising. As the community instinct regenerates, people resolve to do more than just relieve the symptoms of pending traumas. Intent on addressing root causes, they rediscover the value of unity, teamwork, and social discipline. Far more than before, people comply with authority, accept the need for public sacrifice, and shed anything extraneous to the survival needs of their community. This is a critical threshold: People either coalesce as a nation and culture – or rip hopelessly and permanently apart.”

The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

There have been three prior Fourth Turnings in U.S. history: the American Revolution, Civil War and Great Depression/World War II. The American Revolution preceded the Civil War by 87 years. The Great Depression followed the Civil War by 69 years and this Millenial Crisis arrived 76 years after the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. Essentially, each prior Fourth Turning has represented a Revolution in American history.

The First American Revolution began in 1773 when Parliament’s response to the Boston Tea Party ignited a colonial tinderbox – leading directly to the first Continental Congress, the battle of Concord, and the Declaration of Independence. History always seems easy to predict in retrospect. This is another of the many faults in human thinking. There was very little talk or thought of the colonies breaking away from the mother country during the 1760s. Up until the Boston Tea Party catalyst event, no one could have predicted the events which would occur in a chain reaction over the next 21 years. There were dark cold bitter days during this Crisis winter. In the end, George Washington’s honor, courage and fortitude symbolized the character of a new nation.

Historians Charles and Mary Beard described the Civil War as the Second American Revolution. The Civil War Crisis began with a presidential election that southerners interpreted as an invitation to secede. The attack on Fort Sumter triggered the most violent conflict ever fought on New World soil. The war reached its climax with the Emancipation Proclamation and Battle of Gettysburg (in 1863). The epic conflagration redefined America. The slavery issue was settled for good, signed in the blood of 600,000 men. The industrial might of the North was rechanneled toward progress as a world industrial powerhouse. In retrospect many will say the Civil War was entirely predictable, but that is completely untrue.

The great compromise generation (Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster) of the 1850s passed from the scene, leaving the country in the hands of firebrands on both sides. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and subsequent execution served to increase the brooding mood of the country. The bloodiest war in the history of mankind was not predictable even one year before it began. The aristocracy of Washington DC actually took carriages in their Sunday best to watch the First Battle of Bull Run. Shortly thereafter Lincoln mobilized 500,000 men and unleashed a catastrophic spiral of butchery over the next four years that exhausted itself with the assassination of Lincoln and the surrender at Appomattox in the same week. The resolution of this Crisis felt more like defeat than victory.

Renowned American historian Carl Degler called FDR’s New Deal the “Third American Revolution”. The Crisis began suddenly with the Black Tuesday stock-market crash in 1929. After a three-year economic free fall, the Great Depression triggered the New Deal Revolution, a vast expansion of government, and hopes for a renewal of national community. After Pearl Harbor, America planned, mobilized, and produced for world war on a scale never seen in the history of mankind, making possible complete victory over the Nazis and Fascists. In 1928 did anyone foresee an 89% stock market crash, worldwide depression, vast expansion of government power, a world war more devastating than the prior war, and the usage of an atomic weapon of mass destruction? Not a chance. Only in retrospect do people convince themselves that it was predictable.

Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 marked the abrupt unforeseen end of the Roaring Twenties. The bewilderingly rapid collapse of the worldwide financial system in the space of three years left the American people shaken and desperate. With their wealth destroyed and unemployment exceeding 20%, the American public turned to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal promises of government social and work programs. He declared “nationwide thinking, nationwide planning, and nationwide action, the three essentials of public life”. This was truly a Third American Revolution. FDR’s policies changed the course of American history. The renewed spirit of American youth during the 1930s was essential in preparing them for the trials that awaited from 1941 through 1945. It is somewhat ironic that FDR’s revolutionary social programs, begun during the last Crisis, will be a major factor in the current Crisis – the Fourth American Revolution.

 

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January 21, 2011

Copyright © 2011 The Burning Platform



Frank Chodorov, Nonvoter

Mises Daily: Friday, December 24, 2010 by 

[Transcribed from the Libertarian Tradition podcast episode “Frank Chodorov, Non-Voter”]

Frank Chodorov, Nonvoter

It was 44 years ago this holiday season, on December 28, 1966, that Frank Chodorov died. Chodorov had been born nearly 80 years earlier, on the day after Valentine’s Day, February 15, 1887, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was the youngest child of a pair of Russian Jewish immigrants, who gave him the name Fishel Chodorowsky. But he was the only one of their eleven children to be born in this country, and he seems to have known early on that he was an American who needed an American name. As a child, he rechristened himself “Frank” and shortened his last name to Chodorov.

He also showed an unusual enthusiasm for schooling. After spending the customary eight years in the local grammar school, he became one of only 400 students accepted at the first high school to be established in New York City. When he emerged a few years later as one of the 120 students who successfully completed that high school program — you might say in modern terminology that his graduating class had a dropout rate of 70 percent — he moved right on to another program of classes, this time at Columbia College, the heart of what we know today as Columbia University.

While there, he became interested in anarchism but was disillusioned by his discovery that

the various schools of anarchism then extant … took a dim view of the institution of private property, without which, it seemed to me even then, individualism was meaningless. If a man cannot enjoy the fruits of his labor, without let or hindrance, he is enslaved to the one who appropriates his property; a slave has no property rights. Besides … the abolition of private property could be accomplished only by the intervention of an all-powerful State, which the anarchists were so bent on destroying.

By the time he graduated from Columbia in 1907, Chodorov was no longer an anarchist. Instead, he had decided, he was a poet, like “Shelley and Keats and Byron.” But “I soon realized that my muse was not up to it. Besides, I acquired a wife who needed regular sustenance. Therefore, I turned to teaching as a career; that promised some regularity of income.” From teaching, Chodorov drifted into advertising.

During a stint as a copywriter in Chicago, when he was in his late 20s and Woodrow Wilson was in the White House, a friend recommended a book to him and even lent him a copy of it — Progress & Poverty by someone named Henry George.Download PDF The book impressed him immensely. He read it several times and decided that what it offered was nothing less than the simple, inescapable truth about political economy. But what was he, Frank Chodorov, supposed to do about that? He had a living to make. He had no time in his life for causes, however worthy they might be. So he put Henry George‘s Progress & Poverty on the bookshelf — by now he had his own copy — and went on with his daily routine.

Then, one night in the fall of 1936, when he was just a few months short of his 50th birthday, Chodorov stopped in at the Players Club for dinner. There he fell into conversation with “a dignified elderly gentleman [who was] playing pool” — avid conversation, you might call it, one of the most memorable conversations Chodorov had had in his entire life up to that time. The “dignified elderly gentleman” turned out to be the noted journalist and author Albert Jay Nock, another man who had been swept away in his youth by Henry George and had clung to George’s ideas ever since. The two men rapidly became good friends. In fact, during the last decade of Nock’s life, the period when his libertarianism was at its finest, purest pitch, Frank Chodorov may have been his closest friend. He wound up, in the summer of 1945, as executor of Nock’s modest estate. More important for our present purposes, Nock’s influence led Chodorov to walk away from his career in the world of profit-making business and take up a new one in the world of political journalism and nonprofit advocacy work.

He launched his new career in 1937, at the Henry George School of Social Science in New York. The school was at that time five years old, having been founded back in 1932, and it needed help of several different kinds. Chodorov advertised and promoted it, raised money to support it, oversaw its operations, taught many of its classes, and edited its monthly magazine, which he founded and named The Freeman in honor of the Georgist weekly edited by his friend Albert Jay Nock back in the early 1920s.

Ultimately, Chodorov was ousted from his editorship of The Freeman and from his position as director of the Henry George School because of his unpopular views on World War II. He had warned his readers as early as the fall of 1938 “that no war is justified; that no war benefits the people; … that war destroys liberty,” and after the war was over, nearly a generation after the war was over, in the early 1960s, at a time when that war was well on its way to being remembered fondly as “The Good War” nobly waged by “The Greatest Generation” to save us from the Most Evil Man in Mankind’s History, Adolf Hitler, and the Most Evil Political Movement in Mankind’s History, Nazism — at that point, Chodorov wrote this:

It is a well known fact that during a war the State acquires powers which it does not relinquish when hostilities are over. When the enemy is at the city gates, or the illusion that he is coming can be put into people’s minds, the tendency is to turn over to the captain all the powers he deems necessary to keep the enemy away. Liberty is downgraded in favor of protection. But, when the enemy is driven away, the State finds reason enough to hold onto its acquired powers. Thus, conscription, which Mr. Roosevelt re-introduced at the beginning of the war, has become the permanent policy of the government, and militarism, which is the opposite of freedom, has been incorporated in our mores. Whether or not this eventuality was in Mr. Roosevelt’s mind is not germane; it is inherent in the character of the State. Taxes imposed ostensibly “for the duration,” have become permanent, the bureaucracy built up during the war has not been dismantled, and interventions in the economy necessary for the prosecution of war are now held to be necessary for the welfare of the people. This, plus the fact that we are now engaged in preparing for World War III, was the net result of our entry into World War II. Whichever side won, the American people were the losers.

So Frank Chodorov left the Henry George School and its magazine and became editor-in-chief of another monthly called analysis. It was during his years in that job that he became the first editor to publish a promising newcomer, a 23-year-old Columbia University graduate student named Murray Rothbard. From analysis, in the early 1950s, Chodorov moved on to a weekly called Human Events, and from there back to another monthly called The Freeman, this one published by Leonard Read at the Foundation for Economic Education. When he left The Freeman in 1955, he was 68 years old and ready for a break from the constant deadlines that had defined his life for most of the preceding 20 years.

He didn’t stop working, though. He wrote his last two books, The Rise & Fall of Society: An Essay on the Economic Forces That Underlie Social Institutions, which was published in 1959, and Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist, which was published in 1962. And in the summers he taught at Robert LeFevre’s Freedom School in Colorado.

What did he say in these books? What did he tell his students? Let him answer in his own words. “I should … like to see society organized so that the individual would be free to carry on his ‘pursuit of happiness’ as he sees fit and in accordance with his own capacities,” Chodorov wrote in Out of Step.

That is because I assume that the individual is endowed at birth with the right to do so. I cannot deny that right to my fellow man without implying that I do not have that right for myself, and that I will not admit. … The best that society can do in the circumstances is to see that one’s way of pursuing happiness does not interfere with that of another’s — and then to leave us all alone.

That is the way I should like to see society … organized; but it is not so organized and I find its rules quite distasteful. In the first place, it has instituted a system of taxation whereby one-third of our earnings is confiscated; to the extent of such confiscation the pursuit of happiness is delimited or circumscribed, for one cannot spend … what one does not have. And then, the spending of this vast amount of money calls for a bureaucracy of proportions, and this monstrous bureaucracy in order to justify its existence pays out largess to favored groups, who must conform to certain regulations and controls in order to get it.

Now, the people who have organized society in this way are known collectively as the state. In The Rise & Fall of Society, Chodorov wrote that

The State consists of a number of people who, having somehow got hold of it, make use of the machinery of coercion to the end that they might pursue their version of happiness without respect to the discipline of the market place.

In the beginning, he explains in Out of Step, the “gang of people” who later became the state were

a band of freebooters [who had] developed an appetite for other people’s property [and] went after it with vim and vigor. Repeated visitations of this nature left the victims breathless, if not lifeless, and propertyless to boot. So, as men do when they have no other choice, they made a compromise. They hired one gang of thieves to protect them from other gangs, and in time the price paid for such protection came to be known as taxation. The tax gatherers settled down in the conquered communities, possibly to make collections certain and regular, and as the years rolled on a blend of cultures and of bloods made of the two classes one nation. But the system of taxation remained after it had lost its original significance; lawyers and professors of economics, by deft circumlocution, turned tribute into “fiscal policy” and clothed it with social good. Nevertheless, the social effect of the system was to keep the citizenry divided into two economic groups: payers and receivers. Those who lived without producing became traditionalized as “servants of the people,” and thus gained ideological support. They further entrenched themselves by acquiring sub-tax-collecting allies; that is, some of their group … were granted subsidies, tariffs, franchises, patent rights, monopoly privileges of one sort or another.

This is the state. These people are the state. And Frank Chodorov was very firm about how these people should be treated by self-respecting members of society.

Having fixed in our minds the fact that the State consists of a number of people who are up to no good, we should proceed to treat them accordingly. You do not genuflect before an ordinary loafer; why should you pay homage to a bureaucrat? If a prominent politician hires a hall to make a speech, stay away.

How should you regard a government building?

You enter it under duress only, and you do not demean yourself by admiring its living or dead statuary. … You honor the tax-dodger and pay your respects to the man honorable enough to defy the law.

Above all, you stay away from elections entirely.

Why should a self-respecting citizen endorse an institution grounded in thievery? For that is what one does when one votes. If it be argued that we must let bygones be bygones, see what we can do toward cleaning up the institution so that it can be used for the maintenance of an orderly existence, the answer is that it cannot be done; we have been voting for one “good government” after another, and what have we got? Perhaps the silliest argument, and yet the one invariably advanced when this succession of failures is pointed out, is that “we must choose the lesser of two evils.” Under what compulsion are we to make such a choice? Why not pass up both of them?

The two evils that confront voters in a typical election, Chodorov pointed out, are not really, as they themselves insist, exemplars of opposing principles. For “with principles — that is, moral or philosophic concepts — politics simply has nothing to do, except as convenient slogans in the promotion of its business, which is the acquisition of power.” No politician stands for any principle. No politician even has an opinion of his or her own. “The politician’s opinion is the opinion of his following, and their opinion is shaped by what they believe to be in their own interest.” This is why, in a typical American election, “there is no difference in the political philosophies of the contending candidates.” The only “difference between the candidates is a matter of personality, or between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”

I see no good reason for voting and have refrained from doing so for about a half century. During that time, my more conscientious compatriots (including, principally, the professional politicians and their ward heelers) have conveniently provided me with presidents and with governments. … They have put the nation into two major wars and a number of minor ones. Regardless of what party was in power, the taxes have increased and so did the size of the bureaucracy. Laws have been passed, a whole library of them, and most of these laws, since they are not self-enforcing, have called for enforcement agencies, who have interminably interpreted the laws which created them and thus have spawned more laws. The effect of these laws is (a) to put restraints on the individual and (b) to concentrate in the hands of the central government all the powers that once were assigned to local government; the states are now little more than administrative units of the national government. Political power has increased, social power has waned. Would it have been different if I had voted? I don’t think so. …

It is interesting to speculate, on what would happen if, say, seventy-five percent of the electorate refrained from casting their ballots; more than that is out of the question, for at least a quarter of the voting public are concerned with what they can get for themselves from the election of this or that candidate. … In the first place, the politicians would not take such a repudiation of their custodianship in good grace. We can take it for granted that they would undertake to make voting compulsory, bringing up the hoary argument that a citizen is morally obligated to do his duty. If military service can be made compulsory why not political service? And so, if three-quarters of the citizenry were to refrain from voting, a fine would be imposed on first offenders and more dire punishment meted out to repeaters. The politician must have the moral support of a goodly number of votes.

But

not only would the politicians undertake to counteract the revolutionary nonvoting movement, but many of the citizenry having a vested interest in the proceeds of taxation would raise a hue and cry about the “duty” of the citizen to vote. The teachers in our tax-supported schools would lecture their pupils on the lack of public spirit on the part of their parents. Propaganda would emanate from tax-exempt eleemosynary foundations, and from large manufacturers dependent on government contracts. Farmers’ organizations, with an eye to government largess, veterans’ societies asking for handouts, and particularly the bureaucracy, would denounce non-voting as a crime against society.

We would be told, most emphatically, that by not voting we would be turning the reins of government over to “rascals.” Probably so; but do we not regularly vote “rascals” out? And, after we have ousted one set, are we not called upon to oust another crew at the next election? It seems that rascality is endemic in government.

Don’t vote; it only encourages them — that, in essence, was Frank Chodorov’s message. But if we don’t seek to use the vote to steer American society away from the direction in which it has been moving for all these many decades, what do we do instead? For Chodorov, that was a question very easily answered: we put our efforts into education.

Jeff Riggenbach is a journalist, author, editor, broadcaster, and educator. A member of the Organization of American Historians and a Senior Fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute, he has written for such newspapers asThe New York TimesUSA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle; such magazines asReasonInquiry, and Liberty; and such websites as LewRockwell.com, AntiWar.com, and RationalReview.com. Drawing on vocal skills he honed in classical and all-news radio in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston, Riggenbach has also narrated the audiobook versions of numerous libertarian works, many of them available in Mises Media. Send him mail. See Jeff Riggenbach’s article archives.

This article is transcribed from the Libertarian Tradition podcast episode “Frank Chodorov, Non-Voter.”

 


Playing by the Rules

FROM: Mises Daily:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 by 

Andrew Bacevich’s new book, Washington Rules, illuminates the post–World War II Washington foreign-policy consensus and gives a history of its evolution. This is a key piece of history, and it can also provide larger lessons about the operations of the state. In order to be a player in foreign policy in Washington, one must accept the rules, which consist of a “credo that inspires consensus and the trinity in which it finds expression” (p. 16). The consensus defines the terms of debate and the limits of acceptable opinion, privileging those who agree with it and banishing any other arguments. Players (institutions and their leaders) must play by the rules and stay relevant to the consensus. The consensus also allows change, so long as the change is relevant to supporting the consensus or defending against threats to it. Bacevich shows that the Washington rules may benefit the elite, but they are failing the country in the long term by harming the country’s power and prestige as well as hurting it economically and morally.

What Are the Washington Rules?

The rules are hidden and not consciously discussed, because they are the basic assumptions for foreign-policy discussions: “This postwar tradition combines two components, each one so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from view” (p. 12). These two components are the credo and the trinity, which taken together mean that it is up to America to change the world, whether it likes it or not.

The Credo

The credo is global leadership.

The United States and the United States alone must “lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world” (p. 12). Under the Washington rules, in order to be considered for high office you must respectfully allude to “America’s responsibility to lead,” (as well as to God and “the troops.”) There must be “engagement” by the United States. This is what “The American Century” — as Henry R. Luce called it — is all about. Luce called on Americans to “accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit” (p. 12). The United States cannot be “isolated.”

There are four subrules of US “responsibility” for global leadership:

  1. The world must be organized, or “chaos will surely reign” (p. 20).
  2. The United States does the organizing. Only the United States is able to “prescribe and enforce such a global order” (p. 20). No one else can be trusted, and the United States must constantly shoulder new obligations.
  3. The United States defines the principles of the global order. These principles are American and also universal. Evolving American principles on anything, be it nuclear weapons, noncombatant casualties, or women’s rights, are always universal. The world must adopt the latest American attitudes.
  4. World leaders want the United States to lead the global order, and they stay up at night worrying that the United States may abdicate its responsibility to do so.

The Trinity

America chooses the means, not just the ends, of global leadership. There are three fundamental assumptions about the means:

  • global military presence
  • global power projection
  • global interventionism

While much has changed in the US military in the last 60 years, this trinity apparently remains too holy to be questioned (p. 14). In line with this, the term “full spectrum dominance” means that the United States should be globally dominant in all areas: space, nuclear, naval, air, army, covert operations, etc.

Note the emphasis on “global.” The United States must have a forward presence everywhere. It must be set up to project its power globally, whether that means boots on the ground, bombs from the sky, or knives in the dark. Able to intervene anywhere on the globe, the United States must have a policy of doing so.

The corollary of this is that the United States exempts itself from norms that it expects others to comply with. Bacevich gives the example of how outraged Americans and the world would be if China had a defense budget that matched all the great powers’ except the United States’, created garrisons around the world including in Latin America, appointed People’s Liberation Army generals responsible for different parts of the globe (including one for North America and one for Europe), conducted war games globally, and created a global strike force (pp. 23–24). In reality, American policy is far more expansive than the hypothetical Chinese example. Because Americans are the good guys, they are surprised when others are outraged.

Failure to accept the Washington rules means relegation to outside Washington. Even if you’re important on domestic questions, you won’t be taken seriously among the players dominating foreign policy, i.e., the upper echelons of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and the leaders of the State Department, Homeland Security, and Defense Department, not to mention the law-enforcement and intelligence communities. These institutions include think tanks and interest groups, lobbyists, lawyers, retired officers, and former officials in good standing. Beyond the beltway, they include big banks, defense contractors, elite media such as the New York Times, and such institutions as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Kennedy School of Government (p. 15).

The Rules Mean Change

The implications of this are fascinating. America has the ability, right, and duty to change the world however it wants and by whatever means. The use of the term “engagement” is revealing. For example, according to the State Department, a large power grid failure in Brazil on November 10, 2009, created “opportunities for engagement … including DOD, DHS, FCC, TDA.”[1]

Bacevich can discern no particular objective for this duty to change the world or standard by which change can be measured. In fact, he particularly mentions that the rest of the world must fall in line every time the United States changes its mind (p. 21). Presumably, what unites members of the consensus is either a vague neoliberal idea of state capitalism, or, more likely, the idea that American leadership can help bring about whatever fantasy world each member may hold in his heart. As long as everyone who counts agrees to the necessity of the system, it doesn’t matter if what the system actually does is incoherent. Again, Bacevich seems to find no consistent principle for all this intervention, only the belief that chaos would reign without American leadership.

If the core rule is simply that the United States can change the rules, and the corollary of the Washington rules is that the United States exempts itself from norms that it expects others to comply with, other countries will logically see US leadership as the exercise of power. If there is no particular standard at the end of the day that anyone can be expected to comply with, there is no rule of law. Foreigners might understandably be concerned that change is coming for them. Especially as change always seems to involve the use of guns and bombs on their soil.

Obama talked about “change” coming to America. While some things may change, Bacevich shows throughout that the principle of US global leadership or dominance still remains the same in 2010. That doesn’t change. Power remains, and power corrupts everything else and slowly destroys itself from within.

Evolution within the Washington Rules — 1948 to 2010

Bacevich shows how foreign policy and the US military have operated and evolved within the fixed framework of the Washington rules from World War II to the present Obama administration in 2010. Important players try to demonstrate to other players that the public (or private) institution or subinstitution they represent is relevant and therefore deserving of funding and power. Those exercising “soft power” make their claims; and those exercising the various forms of “hard power” make their claims.

Bacevich starts off by showing that when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took office in 2009 their rhetoric was within the Washington rules of American global leadership (p. 19). Similarly, their policy choices were constrained. As Bacevich has pointed out, the Obama administration was presented with limited choices: to either send more troops to Afghanistan or publicly take responsibility for a US defeat. Not surprisingly, Obama sent more troops. There was no time to first ask questions about why the United States was there, what it hoped to accomplish, what victory would look like, or if it was likely to be achieved (pp. 214–20). The consensus was preserved. The cost was that Obama wasn’t allowed to talk about what the grand strategy was.

Bacevich’s story really begins about 1948, but it seems like there is room for a further book to explain the origin of the Washington rules prior to World War II, and certainly Bacevich is aware of US intervention and power structures prior to the scope of his book. He mentions that Truman was constrained in his choices about the atomic bomb (p. 31). Certainly the “credo” of American global leaderships goes back to at least the Progressive era. President Wilson, never one to let facts get in the way of romantic ideas, once proclaimed that the United States should “serve” and “show mankind the way to liberty,” and with other nations “guarantee peace and justice throughout the world.”

“American principles,” Wilson concluded, “are the principles of mankind and must prevail.”

Chapter 1

In charting the evolution of institutions, Bacevich starts with 1948 to 1960 in chapter 1, which is about the “semiwarriors” who run the military-industrial complex of perpetual semiwar. The two key players are powerful examples of the institutional gains for following Washington rules. In this period, Allen Dulles expanded the CIA’s covert operations, and General Curtis LeMay expanded the Strategic Air Command’s nuclear bomber force. Both institutions came from essentially nothing and symbiotically provided global reach for US power. In return, Congress gave them control of huge budgets and authority. They were at the height of their power and were perceived as the only two players with global capabilities. Although they technically reported to the executive branch, they were very independent and very relevant.

In this period, there was little resistance to the Washington rules. While Eisenhower understood the dangers of the military-industrial complex and gave a fantastic speech on it, he basically permitted its growth under his watch, and he never explained why he waited till the end to protest (p. 33).

Chapter 2

At the end of the Eisenhower administration, the army’s General Maxwell Taylor started a drive to make the army more relevant. The army would fill the part of the spectrum between nuclear war and covert operations, giving the United States a “flexible response.”

Nuclear war was now increasingly perceived to be obviously futile almost by definition. The limited ability of the CIA was increasingly evidenced in the early ’60s in Cuba and Vietnam. In this gap the army was able to claim relevance for conventional forces for “flexible-response” intervention around the world. Somebody new had to step up to the plate if everyone else was striking out.

But the US debacle in Vietnam showed that this flexible response of the army (supported by the Navy’s and Air Force’s airpower) didn’t work very well either, and led to serious degradation of the army as an organization. A similar failure of intervention was eliminating South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. Taylor believed that in killing Diem, the United States turned out to have eliminated a key player who was probably the only person holding South Vietnam together (p. 94–95).

Taylor establishing the relevance of the army was not unique. Relevance is something all of the bureaucracies wanted. The US Navy over time evolved from carrier battle groups to a strike force. There were no real navies to fight, so the Navy became more floating airbases for ground-attack aircraft. There was a rise in the last few decades of the importance of the field commanders and four-star generals who head the six regional theater commands (pp. 206–7). The Joint Chiefs of Staff became less relevant. Interestingly, special operations in 1987 was given its own four-star special operations command, joining the six other commands at the table (p. 157). This is a good example of the development of a powerful subinstitution. By contrast, the Strategic Air Command no longer exists.

Bacevich devotes a lot of detail to Kennedy, in part because of the many people who speculate as to what would have happened if he’d lived. Bacevich sees Kennedy as a cold warrior who never fundamentally changed, and he gives plenty of evidence of this up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bacevich states that after the crisis, Kennedy then suspended the Washington rules, but only temporarily. American involvement in Vietnam still increased under Kennedy’s watch (p. 90). Bacevich points out that Kennedy’s allies McNamara, Bundy, and Taylor all went along with Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War. Certainly the administration as a whole was following the Washington rules. The other implication of all this of course is that if Kennedy really had changed his mind, then he would have been totally outside the Washington rules. His close allies would all have deserted him, and he would have lost relevance.

Chapter 3

The Foreign-Policy Elite React

After Vietnam, there was the brief possibility that the Washington rules might be reevaluated. This was not to be. Some in the American elite reacted like the elite of World War I Germany — employing a “stabbed-in-the-back theory” that blamed treachery at home for failure abroad. Others simply tried to move on. Kissinger, for instance, said there was remarkably little to be learned from Vietnam (p. 137). It was just a unique event. There were no systemic problems or defective principles — no need to ask serious questions.

But some elites seemed to be questioning the consensus, and the people were undermining the authority of institutions. This simply would not do. It might lead to irresponsible behavior defined as “isolationist,” or what others term noninterventionist. Anthony Lake feared that the United States might turn to “a mean-spirited foreign policy” and that the prointervention Munich analogy would be replaced by the anti-intervention Vietnam analogy (p. 132–33).

So in 1976, Lake assembled a CFR publication The Vietnam Legacy, a book of essays by 24 foreign-policy observers evaluating Vietnam. To Bacevich, the writers and their views seem “clubby” and “homogenous.” They could be counted on to avoid rocking the boat. They had a common analytical framework that viewed Vietnam as an anomaly and the problem as one of a loss of “consensus, control, and legitimacy” (p. 131). While there was no evidence US policy had nipped any problems in the bud or kept the peace, Lake was a true believer in the Washington rules (p. 133). The Vietnam Legacy quite intentionally reenforced the shaky consensus of US leadership and intervention.

In general the foreign-policy establishment fully reentrenched itself and imposed the Washington rules as a form of political correctness; in fact “the range of acceptable opinion” is an “order of magnitude larger” in the faculty lounges of “tenured radicals” in academia. One could not discuss the idea that Vietnam was, as Martin Luther King said, “but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit” (pp. 133–34).

Madeline Albright

Madeline Albright is mentioned at the end of chapter 3 as a key figure who encapsulated the consensus in rhetoric without adding anything particularly new. Bacevich gives four key examples, all of which are very interventionist (pp. 140–43):

  1. “My mind-set is Munich. Most of my generation’s is Vietnam.” Translation — Albright sees the dangers of appeasement where others see the dangers of intervention. Certainly, Bacevich claims that the foreign-policy establishment’s mindset in Albright’s generation was Munich.
  2. “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further … into the future.” This is how the elite really see themselves.
  3. “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Said to Colin Powell, this question summed up the foreign-policy elite’s problem with how the army was rebuilt.
  4. When asked about the death of 500,000 Iraqi children, Albright replied, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.” She did not dispute the question.

Chapters 4 and 5

The Army Elite React

The army learned from Vietnam that it should rebuild itself according to the Powell Doctrine: it should fight wars it could win, i.e., the first Gulf War. However the problem was that these wars didn’t create substantive change. Gulf War I changed nothing, it kept the status quo. People in the foreign-policy establishment questioned the relevance of an army with the Powell Doctrine. Both sides were correct, and the army ended up being put in a war it couldn’t win.

The RMA and COIN

In a quest to stay relevant and support the Washington rules, the army then changed again — twice in fact in the 2000s.

First was the Revolution in Military Affairs, or RMA. Rumsfeld did want radical change. Speed, visibility, and precision targeting on the battlefield would allow the army to dominate and to inflict less civilian damage and casualties. Wars would be over quickly, and the United States could intervene everywhere, liberating the natives. This naturally failed as soon as the natives decided they needed liberating from the US Army, and the army had no idea what the targets were.

The RMA failed, so to keep relevance the army needed a new idea.

As long as one stays within the Washington rules, all kinds of changes are possible. No one had ever really sold the United States on the idea of a long war. Yet now the idea was cropping up that the United States was in just such a war (p. 183). (Similarly the Democrats criticizing Bush objected to, not the Washington rules, but bad execution and the use of “hard power” at the expense of “soft.”)

With the end of the Bush administration and the takeover by the Democrats, there were several developments. One was that the United States was adrift. The second was that military activity seemed purposeless. To mask this, the idea of Counter-Insurgency or COIN was taken off the shelf to replace “Shock and Awe.” Though irrelevant for solving the ostensible problem of anti-Western jihad, COIN created the “appearance of purposefulness,” and it solved a very real problem of relevance (p. 186). The Washington rules survived despite the aimlessness of the long war.

Ironically, counterinsurgency previously had been seen as exactly the type of ill-fated liberal Democratic social engineering idea that conservative Republican’s didn’t believe in. The officer corps as well had no interest, being busy with creating a finely tuned force to fight other armies. They wanted to fight short wars they could win. As the army was bogged down fighting nonarmies this wasn’t a very relevant viewpoint anymore.

Petraeus spearheaded the counterinsurgency idea as a replacement. Petraeus wrote his Princeton PhD dissertation on Vietnam. He agreed with the officer consensus that counterinsurgency was a bad idea, because public perception of long involvement was negative. But he also got from Vietnam the corollary idea that one could and should manage public perceptions (pp. 193–94). Changing perception meant changing reality.[2]

Bacevich sees COIN as a repackaging of the failed Vietnam idea of “flexible response.” The perception problem was that “Victory had essentially become indefinable and the benefits accruing to Americans were at best obscure” (p. 189). While the 2003 Iraq invasion was part of a strategy, however misguided, there was no real strategy after that. To solve the problem, Petraeus’s key achievement was managing the public’s perceptions so that they didn’t view the long involvement, the long war, as failure. COIN and later GCOIN or Global COIN became how the United States shows leadership and helps other countries. This involved demolishing the idea of the army as something that fought and won wars. “Petraeus’s purpose in revising U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine was not to evaluate COIN but to sell it” (p. 197). Petraeus seemed to have achieved perpetual public support and perpetual funding for perpetual war (p. 209).

Conclusion

The Washington rules still seem clearly in place. Evolution has taken place within a fixed boundary, leading to the rise and fall of different institutions and subinstitutions that meet the system’s needs. The system appears to have temporarily achieved perpetual lavish funding.

Bacevich and others can see clear problems ahead. The United States, like other Western states, is running out of money and cannot meet all its future obligations. Even the Council on Foreign Relations admits that US spending is unsustainable.[3] Eventually the public support and funding will break down. Prolonged combat occupation slowly degrades armies. But since World War II, the leaders’ failure and recklessness so far haven’t really cost them anything, in the way failure cost Germany for example, so there isn’t yet any real incentive to change a system that they believe benefits them.

Bacevich suggests that we tend our garden before it is too late. His vision is an America that leads by example. A republic that solves its own problems will once again be an inspiration to the rest of the world. Troops should be immediately withdrawn from abroad, especially where the cost is high and the potential gain is invisible, i.e., in the Muslim world. Bacevich says that unfortunately it is easy to simply blame our leaders, but it is also the American people who let them get away with it, because too many Americans believe in the credo and trinity of Washington rules.

Anders Mikkelsen is a cost-management consultant in New York City. Send him mail. See Anders Mikkelsen’s article archives.

Notes

[1] This quotation was found not by research but by reading a random cable in Wikileaks. Little globally is outside the purview of the United States — or even of US domestic agencies.

[2] In this vein, Petraeus did well in Iraq partly by appeasement, buying off insurgents, and subtly proclaiming victory.

[3] “It is fiscal, economic, and political failures at home that are threatening the ability of the United States to exert the global influence that it could and should. In other words, it is not reckless American activity in the world that jeopardizes American solvency but American profligacy at home that threatens American power and security.” Roger C. Altman and Richard N. Haas, “American Profligacy and American Power,” Foreign Affairs, 2010.

 


Word War II-What You Think You Know As Opposed To What Is True.

Truncating the Antecedents
How Americans Have Been Misled about World War II
March 18, 2008
Robert Higgs

Whereas historians obsessively trace every event’s causal lineage further and further into the past, nonhistorians tend toward the opposite extreme: they assume in effect that the world began immediately before the event they have in mind. I call this unfortunate tendency “truncating the antecedents.” Among the general public, it has given rise to mistaken interpretations of historical causation in cases too numerous to mention, and mistakes of this sort continue to occur frequently, in part because politicians and other conniving parties have an interest in propagating them.

I was recently struck by this tendency while reading comments at a group blog associated with the History News Network. A commentator there had mentioned that the blame for World War II is not as cut and dried as Americans typically assume it to be, and hence some revisionism is long overdue. In response, another discussant, whose previous contributions to the blog show that he is an intelligent man, expressed bafflement: “Yes, obviously some revisionism regarding the ‘great allied leaders’ of WWII is called for. But an attempt to be revisionist about the justness of a war where U.S. territory is attacked by one opponent and war is declared on the U.S. by the other opponent is sort of like justifying the War on Iraq on the basis of mythical WMD.”

Like Americans in general, this man takes the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the German declaration of war on December 11, 1941, as dispositive evidence that Japan and Germany started the war that ensued between these nations and the United States, and therefore he concludes that they should be held responsible for it. In a later post, he persists in this interpretation by saying: “Nation X attacks Nation Y. One or the other is right. Either Nation Y is a victim or the attack was a ‘justified pre-emptive attack.’ Yes, the response may be disproportionate, etc., but those really aren’t reasons to declare Nation Y ‘wrong.’ Or the two ‘equally wrong.’” This view represents a classic case of truncating the antecedents.

Many people are misled by formalities. They assume, for example, that the United States went to war against Germany and Japan only after its declarations of war against these nations in December 1941. In truth, the United States had been at war for a long time before making these declarations. Its warmaking took a variety of forms. For example, the U.S. navy conducted “shoot [Germans] on sight” convoys, which might include British ships, in the North Atlantic along the greater part the shipping route from the United States to Great Britain, even though German U-boats had orders to refrain (and did refrain) from initiating attacks on American shipping. The United States and Great Britain entered into arrangements to pool intelligence, combine weapons development, test military equipment jointly, and undertake other forms of war-related cooperation. The U.S. military actively cooperated with the British military in combat operations against the Germans, for example, by alerting the British navy of aerial or marine sightings of German submarines, which the British then attacked. The U.S. government undertook in countless ways to provide military and other supplies and assistance to the British, the French, and the Soviets, who were fighting the Germans. The U.S. government provided military and other supplies and assistance, including warplanes and pilots, to the Chinese, who were at war with Japan. The U.S. military actively engaged in planning with the British, the British Commonwealth countries, and the Dutch East Indies for future combined combat operations against Japan. Most important, the U.S. government engaged in a series of increasingly stringent economic warfare measures that pushed the Japanese into a predicament that U.S. authorities well understood would probably provoke them to attack U.S. territories and forces in the Pacific region in a quest to secure essential raw materials that the Americans, British, and Dutch (government in exile) had embargoed.

Consider these summary statements by George Victor, by no means a Roosevelt basher, in his recently published, well-documented book The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable (Dulles, Va.: Potomac Books, 2007).

Roosevelt had already led the United States into war with Germany in the spring of 1941—into a shooting war on a small scale. From then on, he gradually increased U.S. military participation. Japan’s attack on December 7 enabled him to increase it further and to obtain a war declaration. Pearl Harbor is more fully accounted for as the end of a long chain of events, with the U.S. contribution reflecting a strategy formulated after France fell. . . . In the eyes of Roosevelt and his advisers, the measures taken early in 1941 justified a German declaration of war on the United State—a declaration that did not come, to their disappointment. . . . Roosevelt told his ambassador to France, William Bullitt, that U.S. entry into war against Germany was certain but must wait for an “incident,” which he was “confident that the Germans would give us.” . . . Establishing a record in which the enemy fired the first shot was a theme that ran through Roosevelt’s tactics. . . . He seems [eventually] to have concluded—correctly as it turned out—that Japan would be easier to provoke into a major attack on the Unites States than Germany would be. (pp. 179–80, 184, 185, emphasis added)

The claim that Japan attacked the United States without provocation was . . . typical rhetoric. It worked because the public did not know that the administration had expected Japan to respond with war to anti-Japanese measures it had taken in July 1941. . . . Expecting to lose a war with the United States—and lose it disastrously—Japan’s leaders had tried with growing desperation to negotiate. On this point, most historians have long agreed. Meanwhile, evidence has come out that Roosevelt and Hull persistently refused to negotiate. . . . Japan . . . offered compromises and concessions, which the United States countered with increasing demands. . . . It was after learning of Japan’s decision to go to war with the United States if the talks “break down” that Roosevelt decided to break them off. . . . According to Attorney General Francis Biddle, Roosevelt said he hoped for an “incident” in the Pacific to bring the United States into the European war. (pp. 15, 202, 240)

These facts and numerous others that point in the same direction are for the most part anything but new; many of them have been available to the public since the 1940s. As early as 1953, anyone might have read a collection of heavily documented essays on various aspects of U.S. foreign policy in the late 1930s and early 1940s that showed the various ways in which the U.S. government bore responsibility for the country’s eventual engagement in World War II—showed, in short, that the Roosevelt administration wanted to get the country into the war and worked craftily along various avenues to ensure that, sooner or later, it would get in, preferably in a way that would unite public opinion behind the war by making the United States appear to have been the victim of an aggressor’s unprovoked attack. (See Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Its Aftermath, edited by Harry Elmer Barnes [Caldwell, Id.: Caxton Printers, 1953].) As Secretary of War Henry Stimson testified after the war, “we needed the Japanese to commit the first overt act” (qtd. in Victor, Pearl Harbor Myth, p. 105).

At present, however, sixty-seven or more years after these events, probably not one American in 1,000—nay, not one in 10,000—has an inkling of any of this history. So effective has been the pro-Roosevelt, pro-American, pro-World War II faction that in this country it has utterly dominated teaching and popular writing about U.S. engagement in the “Good War.” Only a few years ago, when an essay of mine was included in a collection being considered for publication by the University of Chicago Press, the press’s expert outside reader expressed shock that I had mentioned in passing Roosevelt’s pre-Pearl Harbor maneuvers to bring the country into the war, and he declared that crackpot statements of this sort would discredit the entire volume. (In deference to the editor and to discourage the volume’s rejection by the press, I removed the single obnoxious sentence, which was not central to my purposes in the essay in any event, and eventually the book was published, notwithstanding this “expert’s” negative appraisal of my own contributions to it.)

Observations such the foregoing ones tend to elicit angry accusations of “Holocaust denial” and “moral equivalence,” among many others. For the record, then, let me avow that I do not deny the Holocaust, nor do I regard the Roosevelt administration as morally equivalent to Hitler’s regime. While I am making my innocence plain, let me also avow that I do not regard the Roosevelt administration as morally equivalent to Stalin’s regime. This latter comparison comes up surprisingly seldom, however, given that the two regimes were close allies in the war, and, most important, that the major outcome of the war was to leave Stalin and his puppet regimes astride the greater part of the European continent in an area that stretches from the Urals to Bohemia and from Estonia to Azerbaijan. In short, if anyone deserves to be recognized as the war’s “winner,” that person is Stalin. Somehow this fact has never seemed to me to fit comfortably into a characterization of this horrible conflict as the “Good War.” Perhaps I’m just unduly squeamish.

The fate of the European Jews also requires mention, inasmuch as after the war many people professed to believe that saving the Jews was the war’s prime justification. Aside from the fact that none of the Allied leaders held that view—Roosevelt himself was a genteel anti-Semite of the sort typical in his time, place, and class—the undeniable truth is that the Jews were not saved: approximately 80 percent of them had perished by the end of the war. Little wonder, too, because U.S. and British war plans did not give high priority to saving them; as a rule, those plans completely disregarded the urgent need to rescue the surviving Jews.

Few Americans have ever entertained the idea that their country ought not to have entered World War II. They persist in believing that they—the ordinary people of the country, as distinct from its political leaders and their foreign legionnaires—were genuinely threatened by the Japanese and the Germans and therefore that the war “had to be fought.” Even George Victor, from whose honest and useful book The Pearl Harbor Myth I quoted earlier, has brought himself to believe that Roosevelt had excellent motives for his persistent provocation of Germany and Japan. Thus, he writes: “As Germany began to prepare for conquest, genocide, and destruction of civilization, the leader of only one major nation saw what was coming and made plans to stop it. As a result of Roosevelt’s leadership, a planned sequence of events carried out in the Atlantic and more decisively in the Pacific brought the United States into one of the world’s greatest cataclysms. The American contribution helped turn the war’s tide and saved the world from a destructive tyranny unparalleled in modern history” (p. 16).

Unparalleled? What about Stalin’s tyranny or Mao’s? Regardless of one’s answer to this question, however, another question remains—whether Nazi Germany, as evil as it certainly was, had the ability to defeat the United States, much less to “destroy civilization.” Americans love to speculate about German acquisition of atomic weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and other military capabilities the Nazis, in fact, never came close to acquiring. As things actually stood, Germany lacked the capability to invade and conquer even Great Britain. Conquering the United States, thousands of miles across the Atlantic, was realistically inconceivable. Whatever else one may take U.S. leaders’ motives for war to have been in the early 1940’s, national self-preservation could not have been among them, unless they were shockingly ill-advised as to the economic, logistical, and technological constraints on the German war machine. In reality, that machine had its hands more than full in dealing with the Soviets on the eastern front, not to mention the British and others who were pestering it on other fronts.

Thirty-six years ago, Bruce M. Russett’s little book No Clear and Present Danger: A Skeptical View of the U.S. Entry into World War II (New York: Harper & Row, 1972) was published. Russett noted at the outset that “[p]articipation in the war against Hitler remains almost wholly sacrosanct, nearly in the realm of theology” (p. 12). In this regard, nothing has changed since 1972. Yet Russett argued forcefully, with logic and evidence, that this orthodoxy rests on shaky grounds. He concluded that World War II “may well have been an unnecessary war that did little for us and that we need not have fought” (p. 20). Nor did he concede that although the war may have been imprudent on instrumental grounds, it was well justified on moral grounds: “it is precisely moral considerations that demand a reexamination of our World War II myths,” he insisted (p. 21). Although much has been added to the corpus of World War II scholarship since the publication of Russett’s book, this little volume remains unjustly neglected, and its argument deserves serious consideration even now.

Of course, many other great events in American history might be examined as I have suggested U.S. participation in World War II ought to be examined—by taking the relevant antecedents fully into account. For historians, this advice should be unnecessary; if they know anything, they know that history did not begin yesterday. The American people at large, however, remain extremely vulnerable to misleading descriptions of the government’s actions, especially its plunges into foreign wars—accounts of which generally disregard many relevant antecedents, particularly those that cast blame on the United States for stirring up enmities abroad. Yet, any honest account of U.S. foreign policy reveals that this country’s government has engaged again and again in foreign interventions whose official justifications cannot withstand critical scrutiny. Many of these interventions amounted to little more than armed errand-running for privileged American business interests seeking to beat foreigners into line and, not coincidentally, to line their own pockets. This aspect of U.S. foreign policy famously led General Smedley Butler to declare that war is a racket.

Time, some wit has said, is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once. Taking this idea to heart, we may remind ourselves and others that whenever the U.S. government launches a new war abroad, we would be well advised to look into what happened in that part of the world previously, perhaps over the course of several decades. We may well discover that the locals have legitimate grievances against our government or some of its corporate cronies. Or we may simply discover that the situation is more complicated than it has been made out to be. We know one thing for certain at the outset, however: we cannot rely on the government to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Unvarnished truth is to our rulers as holy water is to vampires.


Robert Higgs
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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation. He is the author of many books, including Depression, War, and Cold War.

Full Biography and Recent Publications


NeitherNew from Robert Higgs!
NEITHER LIBERTY NOR SAFETY: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government

Economist and historian Robert Higgs illustrates the false trade-off between freedom and security by showing how the U.S. government’s economic and military interventions have reduced the liberty, prosperity, and genuine security of all Americans. Learn More »»

Copyright 2010 The Independent Institute

 

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I Love This!

Bank encourages second amendment

By ARTHUR HAHN/Managing Editor

Published:  

Thursday, August 19, 2010 11:59 AM CDT

CHAPPELL HILL — Any would-be robbers looking to walk into the bank here had best think twice.

There’s a new sign in town.

About a month ago, Chappell Hill Bank president Edward Smith looked at a sign on the front door prohibiting concealed weapons from his business and decided to make a policy change.

Licensed to carry a handgun? Come on in, and bring your weapon.

*

The sign, now prominently displayed on the bank’s front door, says, “Lawful concealed carry permitted on these premises. Management recognizes the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as an inalienable right of all citizens. We therefore support and encourage the carrying of licensed concealed weapons.”

Smith said he made the policy change to send a warning to potential robbers, and also to express support to Americans’ right to bear arms.

“We had the sign on the window, the red circle with the pistol inside and a line through it. And I started thinking, ‘We’ve got this no gun sign up and the guy (robber) can come in and do what he wants.

“But if you’ve got a policy allowing handguns, he won’t know how many people are going to be in here carrying a concealed weapon. There may be some little old lady who’s mad at the government, and she’d love to use it,” he said.

The bank has been robbed twice in the last three years, including last March when a Western-attired man walked in, ordered bank employees to fill a canvas bag with money and then fled in a pickup truck. The man, who did not brandish a weapon, has not been caught.

The sign has made Chappell Hill Bank and Smith somewhat of an Internet sensation.

A photo of the sign has made its way around the world, and Smith has even been interviewed for the National Rifle Association’s radio network (http://www.nranews.com/#/nranews). He’s also been contacted by other media outlets wanting to do stories.

“It’s kind of gotten a life of its own,” he said.

Expressions of support have far outnumbered criticism.

Smith been contacted by officials from larger banks considering to take similar action, and has received e-mails in support from across the United States and even from England, Canada and Germany.

“I haven’t gotten any from Chicago or California, which doesn’t surprise me,” Smith said with a laugh. “We did get a real nice e-mail from an 88-year-old World War II veteran who said it’s about time somebody stood up in this country.”

The NRA has even invited him to speak at an upcoming convention, but Smith said, “I’m still deciding on that.”

Smith said he’s only received one negative e-mail, from an anonymous sender.

The policy change has also brought Chappell Hill Bank a handful of new customers and comments from people outside Washington County that they’d bank there if they lived here, said Smith.

“I tell them that we’re a full-service bank and we’re on the Internet. They can bank online,” he said.

 

Thank you Wayne for bringing this article to my attention


Bizzare Link Between New York City Muslim Center and the CIA

Untangling the Bizarre CIA Links to the Ground Zero Mosque

By Mark Ames
September 10, 2010 | 2:36 p.m
<br /> (Getty Images)

Getty Images

So far, the debate over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has unfolded along predictable lines, with the man at the center of the project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, drawing attacks from the right painting him as a terrorist sympathizer with ties to HamasMuslim Brotherhood. and the

But meanwhile, links between the group behind the controversial mosque, the CIA and U.S. military establishment have gone unacknowledged.

For instance, one of the earliest backers of the nonprofit group, the Cordoba Initiative, that is spearheading the Ground Zero mosque, is a 52-year-old Scarsdale, New York, native named R. Leslie Deak. In addition to serving on the group’s board of advisors since its founding in 2004 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Deak was its principal funder, donating $98,000 to the nonprofit between 2006 and 2008. This figure appears to represent organization’s total operating budget—though, oddly, the group reported receipts of just a third of that total during the same time period.

Deak describes himself as a “Practicing Muslim with background in Christianity and Judaism, [with] in-depth personal and business experiences in the Middle East, living and working six months per year in Egypt.” Born into a Christian home, Deak became an Orthodox Jew and married a Jewish woman before converting to Islam when he married his current wife, Moshira Soliman, with whom he now lives in Rye.

Leslie Deak’s resume also notes his role as “business consultant” for Patriot Defense Group, LLC, a private defense contractor with offices in Winter Park, Florida, and in Tucson. The only names listed on the firm’s website are those of its three “strategic advisers.” These include retired four-star General Bryan “Doug” Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command until 2007, where he headed “all special operations forces, both active duty and reserve, leading the Global War On Terrorism,” and James Pavitt, former deputy director for operations at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he “managed the CIA’s globally deployed personnel and nearly half of its multi-billion dollar budget” and “served as head of America‘s Clandestine Service, the CIA’s operational response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Besides Pavitt, Brown and a third advisor, banker Alexander Cappello, the Patriot Defense Group is so secretive it doesn’t even name its management team, instead describing its anonymous CEO as a former Special Forces and State Department veteran, the group’s managing director as a former CIA officer experienced in counter-terrorism in hostile environments and the group’s corporate intelligence head as a “23-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service who worked on the personal security details of former Presidents Bush and Clinton.”

Leslie Deak and Moshira Soliman/ PanachePrive

Patriot Defense Group’s primary business involves leveraging its government connections and know-how. The firm is divided into two divisions: one that “focuses exclusively on the needs of the U.S. military and law enforcement communities as well as the requirements of friendly foreign governments,” and a corporate division, which “provides business intelligence and specialized security services to corporate clients and high net-worth family enterprises.”

So, to recap: From 2006 to 2008, R. Leslie Deak worked as a “business consultant” to this super-secretive security contractor with ties to the CIA and counterterrorism forces, and in those same three years he also donated nearly $100,000 in seed money to the foundation now advocating the construction of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

Interestingly, during the same three-year period during which the Deak Family Foundation was financing the Cordoba Initiative, Deak also donated a total of $101,247 to something called the National Defense University Foundation. The National Defense University is a network of war and strategy colleges and research centers (including the National War College) funded by the Pentagon, designed to train specialists in military strategy. The organization recently announced a November 5 dinner gala in honor of Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Robert Gates. Sponsors include Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and…the Patriot Defense Group.

Deak also sits on the NDUF’s board of directors, the chairman of which is Mark Treanor, the former general counsel for Wachovia bank from 1998 through its collapse in 2008 and a major bundler of campaign donations for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008. Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, was recently fined $160 million for laundering “at least $110 million” in Mexican drug money between 2003 and 2008, while Treanor was Wachovia’s general counsel, though the figure is likely higher since Wachovia admitted it didn’t put any controls on at least $420 billion—that’s billion—in cash moved through its network of Mexico currency exchanges.

Which leads to another odd coincidence: Laundering money for drug lords is what brought down Deak & Co., the company run by Leslie Deak’s father, Nicholas Deak, years ago. The elder Deak, a former top intelligence commander during World War II for the OSS (the forerunner of the CIA), was the founder of Deak-Perera, which became for a time one of the world’s biggest foreign currency and gold dealers. But in 1984, a Presidential Commission on Organized Crime accused the firm of acting as a money laundering operation for Columbia drug cartels, who reportedly brought sacks of cash containing tens of millions of dollars into Deak’s Manhattan offices. By the end of 1984, Deak & Co. had declared bankruptcy, and a year later, Nicholas Deak was murdered in the company’s headquarters at 29 Broadway by a deranged homeless woman.

After the firm went bankrupt and Leslie Deak was left on his own, the corporation was broken up and sold off in pieces. One company that traces its beginnings to the defunct Deak empire is Goldline International, a business concern well known to fans of Glenn Beck as well as California investigators. Goldline is to Glenn Beck what General Electric was to Ronald Reagan: The company sponsors Beck’s TV and radio shows as well as his touring act, and Beck is its public face. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, along with the Santa Monica City Attorney’s office, are currently investigating Goldline for defrauding customers by railroading gullible customers into buying their most debased products.

Speaking of Glenn Beck, it has been reported that Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the second-largest shareholder in News Corp., the parent company Fox News, which airs Beck’s program, is also a major funder of Imam Rauf’s projects, as Jon Stewart viewers heard all about last week.

Coincidences happen, of course. (For instance, Pamela Geller, the blogger who’s become the leading voice denouncing the mosque project was once, bizarrely enough, associate publisher of The New York Observer.)

But add to this array of unexpected connections the work of Imam Rauf on behalf of the U.S. government—which includes serving as an FBI “consultant” and being recruited as a spokesperson by longtime George W. Bush confidante Karen Hughes, who headed up the administration’s propaganda efforts in the Muslim world—and a compelling picture begins to emerge. Bush’s favorite Imam, with backing from a funder with connections to the CIA, the Pentagon and the currency trading company that now sponsors rightwing firebrand Glenn Beck, proposes to build a mosque around the corner from the site of the most devastating terrorist attack ever visited on America. In the name of “[cultivating] understanding among all religions and cultures,” he puts forth a project that offends a majority of Americans and deals a significant setback to the broader acceptance of Muslim-Americans. It’s a little like Billy “White Shoes” Johnson claiming the only reason he moonwalks after scoring a touchdown is to lower tensions on the football field and raise the other team’s spirits.

Whether the Cordoba Initiative ever gets its way with the Ground Zero Mosque, it may well have a lasting legacy at odds with its stated intention: By damaging the very moderates and progressives who actually view New York, and the nation as a whole, as a tolerant melting pot, and strengthening the position demagogues on both sides, it will almost certainly deal a setback to interfaith relations. It will also help to hobble the Democratic party. Which just might have been the point all along.

Either that, or it’s merely a coincidence that this controversy has erupted now, during crucial mid-term elections. In which case we can all go back to what we were doing before—either denouncing the Park51 Mosque as an affront to Americans, or championing it as a symbol of our fundamental rights-playing our accustomed roles in a drama that seems too perfect, somehow, to believe.


Why Libertarians Oppose War

Joint forcible entry exercise

by Jacob H. Huebert

This article is excerpted from Libertarianism Today, by Jacob H. Huebert.

Libertarianism and war are not compatible. One reason why should be obvious: In war, governments commit legalized mass-murder. In modern warfare especially, war is not just waged among voluntary combatants, but kills, maims, and otherwise harms innocent people. Then, of course, wars must be funded through taxes, which are extracted from U.S. citizens by force – a form of legalized theft, as far as libertarians are concerned. And, historically, the U.S. has used conscription – legalized slavery – to force people to fight and die. In addition, an interventionist foreign policy makes civilians targets for retaliation, so governments indirectly cause more violence against their own people when they become involved in other countries’ affairs. Plus, war is always accompanied by many other new restrictions on liberty, many of which are sold as supposedly temporary wartime measures but then never go away.

War Involves Mass Murder

Today, people mostly accept that innocent civilians die in wars, and it doesn’t seem to bother them too much as long as it’s happening to other people on the other side of the world. The military calls this “collateral damage,” and the American media mostly ignores it, but libertarians call attention to it and call it what it is: mass murder.

Historically, war didn’t necessarily involve killing innocents on a large scale. War was always terrible and undesirable, but by the eighteenth century, Europe had developed rules of “civilized warfare,” and wars were generally fought only between armies, with civilians off-limits. From the libertarian perspective, this type of war is not so much of a problem; if people choose to engage in mortal combat with each other, that may be foolish, self-destructive, and even immoral, but it’s not aggression in the libertarian sense. (Of course, those wars still have objectionable ends – generally, the right to dominate a particular territory – but at least the means aren’t so offensive.)

Modern warfare is another story. Modern governments, including but not limited to democracies, claim to represent “the people,” so modern wars are seen as being fought, not just between rulers, but between whole peoples. By this way of thinking, it’s not two governments fighting; it’s “all of us versus all of them.” This is how politicians and some conservative pundits talk: either you are rooting “for America” or you “want America to lose” – they don’t distinguish between the country’s government and its citizens. If their view is correct – if governments really do represent the people – then it follows (more easily) that the people are fair game in war.


Of course, libertarians reject this view of government and democracy. Governments don’t actually represent their people – they prey upon their people. Many people in any given country, democratic or otherwise, don’t support all of their government’s policies, and don’t deserve to be punished, let alone killed, for what their government does. But many are unwillingly implicated in their government’s crimes through taxation, conscription, and other ways in which they’re forced to directly and indirectly support the war effort.

The United States led the way in destroying the historic prohibition on targeting civilians. In the Civil War, with Abraham Lincoln‘s approval, General William Tecumseh Sherman unleashed “total war” in the South, burning cities and towns to the ground and destroying huge amounts of civilian property – food, housing, tools – mostly for no reason except to terrorize the “enemy” population.

Britain also played its part, thanks to Winston Churchill. In World War I, as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill implemented a blockade that caused about 750,000 German civilians to die of hunger or malnutrition. In World War II, Churchill urged the deliberate bombing of civilians in German cities, which killed 600,000 people and severely injured some 800,000 more.

President Harry S. Truman contributed as well, killing more than 200,000 people with the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the first and so far only nuclear attacks by any country. The U.S. also killed over 100,000 more civilians in raids on Tokyo, including one major raid that took place after the atomic bombs had been dropped and Japan had indicated its willingness to surrender. Libertarians would consider the killing of all those civilians to be an unjustifiable war crime in any event, but libertarian historian Ralph Raico has argued that, contrary to popular belief, the atomic bombs weren’t even necessary to save American soldiers’ lives or win the war.

In the Cold War, the U.S. (and the Soviets) continued to produce and accumulate nuclear weapons, which, if used, would destroy enormous civilian populations. Even now, as it condemns other countries for wanting even one nuclear weapon, the U.S. maintains a huge nuclear arsenal, with nearly 4,000 nuclear missiles ready to use. Unlike guns and other traditional weapons, nuclear weapons have no legitimate defensive purpose; they can’t even theoretically be limited to target only enemy combatants. True, they serve as a “deterrent” without being detonated, but this provides little comfort, since it assumes that the President of the United States is, in fact, ready, willing, and able to bring a nuclear holocaust upon millions of people if put to the test. For these reasons, libertarianism calls for immediate, total nuclear disarmament. Libertarians might also point out that the very existence of nuclear weapons provides a powerful argument against large governments. Without big government, there is no reason why these weapons, which have the potential to destroy the entire human race, would exist.


Sometimes the U.S. foreign policy kills people indirectly. For example, from 1990 through March 1998, sanctions against Iraq kept food and medicine out of that country and caused at least 350,000 excess deaths of Iraqi children under the age of five (“excess deaths” meaning deaths above the normal death rate). In 1996, when asked on 60 Minutes whether it was worth allowing hundreds of thousands of children to die to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals, Madeline Albright (the future Secretary of State, who was then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) infamously said, “We think the price is worth it.”

The Iraq war itself has also killed many thousands of people, causing at least 90,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths by October 2009. Other estimates put the figure much higher, such as an October 2006 study from the medical journal The Lancet, which estimated that the war had caused, directly and indirectly, more than 650,000 excess Iraqi deaths. For perspective, one might recall that the September 11 attacks that led – quite indirectly – to the Iraq war killed 2,976 Americans.

War Is Anti-Market

Many on the right see no contradiction between their (nominal) support for capitalism and their support for war. Many on the left believe capitalism and militarism go hand in hand. Libertarians say they’re both wrong because war interferes with the free market.

War and the Economy

War disrupts the market by directing society’s resources away from productive uses and toward destructive uses, or at least toward things that people didn’t voluntarily demand. Nonetheless, the myth persists that war is good for the economy. For example, many people still insist that World War II ended the Great Depression, but libertarians have pointed out why this is false.


The idea that war makes for prosperity is an instance of the “broken window fallacy” that the great libertarian economist Frédéric Bastiat identified in the nineteenth century. We mentioned this concept briefly in chapter one: if a window breaks, this “creates jobs” for the people who make and install windows. But if the window hadn’t broken, the window’s owner could have spent his or her money on something else instead – and society would be wealthier because we would have not only the unbroken window, but also the additional goods and services produced.

War is nothing but “breaking windows” on a massive scale. It creates jobs for the people doing the breaking, and for the people who do the cleanup – but if there were no war jobs, those people would do something else that would be creative instead of destructive. Yes, unemployment plummeted during World War II, but ending unemployment is easy if you draft millions of people into the military. Slavery is indeed a “full employment” program, but not a very desirable one, especially when it can get you killed. And it’s difficult to see how American soldiers were economically better off for being sent into the line of fire, or how their families were made better off by having fathers and sons sent away, possibly never to return.

Merchants of Death

Wars are not good for the economy, but they are good for some businesses: those that produce military equipment and weaponry, such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman; those that provide “infrastructure” in occupied territory, such as Halliburton and KBR; and those that provide “private” military services, such as Blackwater. These “merchants of death” are not “free-market” entities; without a government buying their goods and services to wage war, they would not exist as we know them. They are economic parasites, who take society’s resources but do not produce anything for civilian use in return. Libertarians have consistently echoed President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” – a warning that Republican and Democrat politicians have almost universally ignored as the war profiteers successfully lobby them year after year.

Read the rest of this chapter in Libertarianism Today.

September 15, 2010

Jacob H. Huebert [send him mail] is the author of Libertarianism Today (Praeger, 2010). He is also an attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University College of Law, and an Adjunct Scholar of the Mises Institute. Visit his website.

Copyright © 2010 Jacob H. Huebert. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.

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