Chapter 9: WAR PROFITEERING
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WAR AND THE ECONOMY
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - March 6, 2003
Lew Rockwell is editor of LewRockwell.com
There's something about the prospect of an interview that focuses the mind. I write as I prepare to leave for an extended interview with Bill Moyers for PBS. He wants to know how it is possible to be against this war, and the policies of the Bush administration, and also be for a free and globally engaged commercial republic. To put it more crudely, how can we make sense of the phenomenon of right-wing anti-war theory and practice?
Behind the query is the longstanding canard that war is good for the economy. If what you care about is a prosperous economy, why wouldn't it make sense to spend hundreds of billions on huge industrial products like military planes and tanks? Why not employ hundreds of thousands in a great public-works program like war? Why not destroy a country so that money can funnel to American companies in charge of rebuilding it? Doesn't all of this help us out of the recession?
All these questions somehow come back to Bastiat's "Broken Window" fallacy. In the story, a boy throws a rock through a window. Regrets for this act of destruction are all around. But then a confused intellectual pops up to explain that this is a good thing after all. The window will have to be fixed, which gives business to the glazier, who will use it to buy a suit, helping the tailor, and so on. Where's the fallacy? It comes down to focusing on the seen (the new spending) as versus the unseen (what might have been done with the resources had they not had to be diverted to window repair).
Let us never forget that the military is the largest single government bureaucracy. It produces nothing. It only consumes resources, which it takes from taxpayers by force of law. Making matters worse, all these resources are directed toward the building and maintenance of weapons of mass destruction and those who will operate them. The military machine is the boy with the rock writ large. It does not create wealth. It diverts it from more productive uses.
How big is the U.S. military? It is by far the largest and most potentially destructive in the history of the world. The U.S. this year will spend in excess of $400 billion (not including much spy spending). The next largest spender is Russia, which spends only 14% of the U.S. total. To equal U.S. spending, the military budgets of the next 27 highest spenders have to be added together. If you consider this, and also consider the disparity of the U.S. nuclear stockpile and the 120 countries in which the U.S. keeps its troops, you begin to see why the U.S. is so widely regarded as an imperialist power and a threat to world peace.
This is very hard for Americans to understand. We tend to think of the American nation as a mere extension of our own lives. We all work hard. We mind our own business. We tend to our families and involve ourselves in local civic activities. We love our history and are proud of our founding. We are pleased by our prosperity (even if we don't know why it exists). We think most other Americans live the way we do. We tend to think our government (if we think about it at all) is nothing but an extension of this way of life.
A deadly military empire? Don't be ridiculous. The military is just defending the country. Bush is a potential tyrant? Get real! He's a good man. Those crazy foreigners who resent the U.S. are really no better than those people who attacked us on September 11, 2001: they envy our wealth and hate us for our goodness. We are a godly people, which makes our enemies ungodly, even demonic. This is a short summary of a widely held view, one that those who seek a government-dominated society use to build their public-sector empire.
What most Americans refuse to face is that what the government does day to day, and in particular its military arm, is not an extension of the way the rest of us live. Government knows only one mode of operation: coercion. It does not cooperate; it coerces. Because it is constantly overriding human choices, it makes unrelenting error, most often producing consequences opposite of the stated intention. This is no less true in its foreign operations than it is in its domestic ones.
... But let's return to the economic costs associated with war. It does not stimulate productivity. It destroys capital, in the same sense that all government spending destroys capital. It removes resources from where they are productive - within the market economy - and places them in the hands of bureaucrats, who assign these resources to uses that have nothing to do with consumer or producer demand. All decisions made by government bureaucrats are economically arbitrary because the decision makers have no access to market signaling.
What's interesting this time around is how the markets seem to have caught on. The prospect of war is inhibiting recovery. The stock market is now at 1998 levels, with five years of increased valuations wiped out. The recession itself, the longest in postwar history, may have been the inevitable response to the economic bubble that preceded it, but the drive to war is prolonging it. It could get worse and likely will. Consumer confidence is falling, as is consumer spending. Unemployment is rising. The dollar is falling. Commodity prices are rising.
All signs point to a man-made economic calamity.
The deficit is completely out of control. It will soar past $400 billion in short order. The idea of tax cuts is fine, but let's not pretend as if the bill for government spending doesn't need to be paid by someone at some point. It will be paid either through inflation or higher taxes later. In the meantime, deficits crowd out private production because they need to be financed through bond holdings. War will only make the problem worse. From time immemorial, war has gone along with fiscal irresponsibility.
War also goes hand in hand with government control of the economy. Bush has increased spending upwards of 30 percent since he took the oath of office. He has imposed punishing tariffs on steel and hardwood. He has created the largest new civilian bureaucracy erected since World War II. He has unleashed the federal police power against the American people in violation of the constitution. All of this amounts to a war on freedom, of which commercial freedom is an essential part. This is why no true partisan of free enterprise can support war.
But what about September 11? Doesn't that event justify just about anything? Let us not forget that this was a multiple hijacking, of which there have been hundreds over the decades since commercial flight became popular. The difference this time was that the hijackers gave up their lives rather than surrender. It was a low-budget operation, and needed no international conspiracy to bring it about. It easily prevented by permitting pilots to protect their planes and passengers by force of arms, but federal bureaucrats had a policy against this.
In any case, there is no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with 9-11. The Iraqi regime is liberal by Muslim standards and for that reason hated by Islamic fundamentalists. Unlike Saudi Arabia, it tolerates religious diversity, permits gun ownership, and allows drinking. It has a secular culture, complete with rock stars and symphony halls, that few other Muslim states have. Yes it is a dictatorship, but there are a lot of these in the world. Many of them are U.S. allies.
The focus of the Bush administration on Iraq has more to do with personal vendettas and Iraqi oil. In waging war, the Bush administration proposes to spend twice the annual GDP of the entire Iraqi economy! The U.S. will spend $2 for every $1 it will destroy - the very definition of economic . What's more, an attack will only further destabilize the region and recruit more terrorists intent on harming us.
Meanwhile, the prospect of war has markets completely spooked. Is this a narrow economic concern? Not in any way. Prosperity is an essential partner in civilization itself. It is the basis of leisure, charity, and a hopeful outlook on life. It is the means for conquering poverty at the lowest rung of society, the basis on which children and the elderly are cared for, the foundation for the cultivation of arts and learning. Crush an economy and you crush civilization.
It is natural that liberty and peace go together. Liberty makes it possible for people from different religious traditions and cultural backgrounds to find common ground. Commerce is the great mechanism that permits cooperation amidst radical diversity. It is also the basis for the working out of the brotherhood of man. Trade is the key to peace. It allows us to think and act both locally and globally.
What makes no sense is the belief that big government can be cultivated at home without the same government becoming belligerent abroad. What also makes no sense is the belief that big-government wars and belligerent foreign policies can be supported without creating the conditions that allow for the thriving of big government at home. The libertarian view that peace and freedom go together may be the outlier in current public opinion. But it is a consistent view, the only one compatible with a true concern for human rights, and for social and global well-being.
PHASE TWO OF BUSH'S WAR PLAN RUMBLES AHEAD
as World Leaders Ignore Anti-War Outcry
by Mark Weisbrot - www.lewrockwell.com - November 18, 2002
WASHINGTON, D.C. - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's pleading with the United States to "be patient," and give inspectors a chance do their work in Iraq before going to war is the latest sign of the growing gulf between Washington and the rest of the world on this issue.
Having succeeded in the first phase of their war plan - using Iraq to win both houses of Congress by displacing other issues in the election - the Bush Administration's strategists are marching forward with phase two: making war inevitable.
The UN Security Council's unanimous 15-0 vote on a resolution authorizing new weapons inspections was widely seen here as a big victory for President Bush, but that was mostly because of bad reporting by the media.
In truth, the administration got a unanimous vote by compromising on a key issue: France and Russia, as well as other governments, wanted an agreement that no military action against Iraq would be authorized without a second debate and vote in the Security Council.
The resolution that passed is ambiguous, but it is clear that Washington assured the others that this resolution did not authorize military action if the inspections failed.
According to Newsweek, both Powell and Bush assured France "that Washington would allow a genuine Security Council debate in the event that chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix reports Iraqi defiance or deceit."
The Russians got the same impression: "In the accepted resolution it is clearly stated that, in the event of problems, the members of the security council will gather to look at the situation as it stands and decide on further action," said Russian deputy foreign minister Yuri Fedotov.
But the problem is not just that President Bush could ignore the UN Security Council and go to war without their approval. A more likely scenario is that the Security Council will cave to U.S. pressure in the weeks and months ahead. Americans who have framed their opposition to the war as against "unilateral action" by the United States could very well regret that stance.
The reality is that the Security Council is composed of 15 countries, with five having a permanent seat and a veto - and not the entire United Nations. And sadly, most of these 14 governments do not represent their people any more than the Bush Administration represents Americans.
In Britain, opposition to the war has run as high as 71 percent, and 38 percent of those polled agreed with the statement that Prime Minister Tony Blair is "George W. Bush's poodle." But Mr. Blair will continue to bark, sit up, and beg at Washington's command. And we cannot realistically count on any of the others to stand up to the world's only super-power when push comes to shove.
Dick Cheney has a vision of the future, a decades-long crusade in which "terrorism" replaces communism as the pretext for using force and violence to impose Washington's will on the rest of the world.
Having failed to show any link between Iraq and terrorism, the Bush Administration now prepares for a war that can be expected to kill tens of thousands of people - mostly civilians, including children and the elderly.
If the war leaves no stable government in its wake - as in Afghanistan - it can simply move on to the next confrontation, perhaps with North Korea.
If the war provokes terrorist attacks against Americans, as it probably will, this is an added bonus for the Bush Administration, as it will be used to justify further military spending and adventures.
These people have nothing to offer the American public - there is a limited political base for repealing taxes on the rich - and seem to have concluded that war and security issues offer their best hope to stay in power through the next election cycle.
Their main opposition at present comes from the millions of people who have demonstrated against the war - in such disparate cities as Florence, Rome, London, Washington, Toronto, Tokyo, San Francisco and San Juan.
Most of the world is against this war, and sees through the various pretexts offered by the Bush administration. But their leaders have failed them. For now, democracy - such as it exists - is truly in the streets.
TO THE VICTOR GO THE SPOILS
by Bob Wallace - www.lewrockwell.com - April 14, 2003
What a miserable, stinking con. At least in the past the commanders of invading troops, when they conquered a place, understood the soldiers got a cut of the booty. But no more.
Now, soldiers are told lies about "patriotism," "defending your country," and "freeing oppressed people." Bah! They get paid a pittance, while those who run the government, and who start the wars, stuff hundreds of millions of dollars into their pockets. For example, I recently read an article that Halliburton, of which Dick Cheney was chief executive from 1995 until 2000, was given an almost seven-billion-dollar contract to fight oil well fires in Iraq. The contract was awarded without competition. And it was only a two-year-contract!
I don't exactly know what the average soldier gets paid for putting his life on the line, but I know it's not much. But do you think that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and others in the government aren't going to make truckloads of money off of the "reconstruction" of Iraq? And Iraqi oil? The poor die in war, while those who start the wars grow richer and richer. You think they're going to share that money? No, they're not. And I double-dog-dare anyone to prove otherwise.
If it's Hammer Time for whatever country the U.S. decides to invade, I want my cut of the action! Otherwise, somebody's got some 'splainin' to do!
Hey, this just ain't fair. One of the first casualties in Afghanistan that I read about was a soldier who stepped on a landmine and lost a foot. Okay, a foot's not much. I could live without a foot. I'd just get a steel one and kick some butt. I could probably get a bit part in a James Bond film as a minor villain. But if I was a soldier and lost that foot, by God I expect to be paid for its loss! And paid handsomely! Like about two million dollars. If the Carlyle Group can make bazillions off of Iraq, then I expect to make a few million. As Groucho Marx said, a child of five can understand this; therefore, someone fetch a child of five!
I don't want to hear any more garbage about "freeing oppressed people." Saddam Hussein was ultimately put into power by the U.S. almost 25 years ago. We armed him in his war with Iran. He was our ally for years. Why did the U.S. government wait 24 years to "free" the Iraqi people, when it's never shown the slightest concern in the past about the oppression and deaths of Iraqis? In fact, during the Iran/Iraq war, the U.S. government encouraged the deaths of both. The booger-eating Henry Kissinger made the comment, "Too bad they both can't lose."
Why hasn't the U.S. "freed" Cuba from Castro, who's been in power almost 45 years? Why haven't we freed Pakistan, North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Egypt, Libya, Zimbabwe (which would take a platoon) and the rest of the unfree countries in the world?
Because the current war in Iraq is not about freeing the Iraqis. It's about establishing the American Empire. Okay, fine. But if I'm going to be a mercenary for the American Empire, do not tell me lies about patriotism, defending the U.S. and freeing the unfree. And most especially do not do it while throwing crumbs my way while stuffing millions into your pockets!
How do these war-mongers sleep at night? Are they that self-deluded that they can ignore their own cowardice while insisting that others die? How do cowards like Rush Limbaugh live with themselves knowing they avoided military service and are now urging brave men to die? And knowing they are making money off of this war?
In the town where I once was a newspaper editor there lived a man who, at age 19, had been clipped across the back of his neck by a bullet. This happened as he was walking across a rice paddy in Vietnam. Had he fallen forward, he would have drowned. Instead, he fell backward and lived. Only he was paralyzed from the neck down. Permanently.
He spent the next 30 years living as a talking head, stuck in a room in his hometown. Then, at the age of 49, he died of pneumonia. The U.S. government stuck him in a room for 30 years until he died. Where was his millions of dollars for his loss? Oh, I forgot - his loss was for "patriotism," "defending his country," and "freeing the unfree." I'm sure that made him feel better.
Oh, yes, the U.S. government certainly takes care of its soldiers. I've been to VA hospitals, and I suggest you wander into one, too. They can't even get proper health care after risking their lives for the U.S.. But Dick Cheney gets stents put into his heart with no problem at all. And he's an armchair-warrior chickenhawk who avoided Vietnam with five deferments.
And if you don't want to go into a VA hospital, just watch Born on the Fourth of July sometime.
I'd like to see a reporter ask Donald Rumsfeld to cough up a few hundred thousand of his own money to give to a soldier who got hurt in Iraq. I'd like to see somebody suggest a law be passed that the oil money from Iraq be shared equally among the U.S. troops fighting over there. How about a million dollars for each soldier? Of course, this will never happen.
If the U.S. is going to be an Empire, then we should act like an Empire. The soldiers should get their cut. Babes and gold; that's what being a mercenary is about. I don't know what the Iraqi babes look like, but I know there's zillions of dollars of what the Beverly Hillbillies called "black gold" over there.
The people in the administration should be honest about what they are, and should stop hiding behind the high-flying rhetoric. I have a lot more respect for honest mercenaries like Executive Outcomes than self-deluded, self-righteous liars who wrap themselves in the flag. That cynical old saying, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" is exactly right.
It appears that what we have in the administration are a bunch of self-righteous crooks. Some of them obviously don't know what they are, because it's cloaked so far behind their "morality" they don't have a clue as to what the law calls "mens rea" - "guilty mind."
Heck, if the purpose of the State is to steal Other People's Money, it shouldn't just be for the benefit of the criminals who have gained control of the State. It should also be for the benefit of those who fight for the State. Those who control the State sure aren't going to fight. So if the U.S. Empire is going to "manage" the Iraqi oilfields, then at least spread the wealth among the soldiers who conquered them.
WAR FOR OIL?
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - February 27, 2002
President Bush has issued a call for more oil production, which isn't necessarily a free-market position but only seems like one given the huge number of restrictions on the market now that inhibit production. A truly free economy would generate as much marketable oil as was economically necessary: no more, no less (over time). The correct energy policy is: allow the market to work.
To what lengths will the Bush administration, which everyone knows is the muscle end of the domestic oil industry, go to pursue its desire for more production? To war, perhaps? Plenty of dissidents out there doubt that the overthrow of the Taliban and the war on terror generally are about justice for terrorists and security for the Americans. Rather, like the War on Iraq before it, this war is really about securing the profits of American oil companies doing business internationally.
Actually, that position is not a stretch. The State doesn't usually tell the truth about its own motivations. The State doesn't say: "send us your taxes so that we can enhance our power and pass out dough to our friends." Instead, it says: "taxes are the price you pay for civilization." In the same way, most people understand that the sloganeering of politicians is just eyewash to cover up the desire to get reelected, and that bureaucrats are mainly interested in their own jobs and pay.
It's the same in foreign policy. Even when there seems to be a good excuse for going to war (9/11), it's always mixed up with ulterior motives. In the overthrow of the Taliban and the installation of a puppet government in Afghanistan, you don't have to resort to far-flung tales of conspiracy to find evidence of mixed motives.
CNN openly reports that in the mid 1990s, Unocol had been working the Taliban, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan on a pipeline deal before political instability scuttled the deal. U.S. companies have invested some $700 million in a pipeline in the region so far, but Afghanistan is crucial if the oil and natural gas is going to be moved to the right markets. The Taliban proved uncooperative and unable to provide political stability. Thus the new regime has brightened the hopes of international energy corporations that stand to benefit.
In fact, you don't have to go to CNN. You can read the Department of Energy's own report on Afghanistan from September 2001:
"Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan, which was under serious consideration in the mid-1990s. The idea has since been undermined by Afghanistan's instability. Since 1996, most of Afghanistan has been controlled by the Taliban movement, which the United States does not recognize as the government of Afghanistan"
(By the way, this kind of research is no longer difficult. Finding those two links took about 2 seconds with Google.com and the right search terms.)
Even a casual look at the facts raises questions about the usual rationale. The Bush administration said it was necessary to overthrow the Taliban because it was sheltering Bin Laden, who had been secretly behind the attacks of 9/11. And yet the hijackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia, a brutal and unelected regime but a U.S. ally that has inexplicably escaped all blame in the aftermath. For that matter, the hijackers spent more time training in the United States than anywhere else. And even after the war, Bin Laden remains at large.
There are plenty of questions remaining, and tens of thousands of words could be spilled trying to demonstrate the connection between an industrial special interest and the war on terrorism. Let's just say that you have generated enough evidence to stand up in a court of law. Would it change any minds? Would the writers at National Review say: "Hey, we've been hoodwinked! This war is really about oil! Pull the troops out! Peace in our time!"
Of course not. National Review would quickly retort that it is necessary for a great power like the U.S. to protect its interests using the military; primary among those interests are the economic ones, particularly as they affect some vital commodity like oil.. As James Baker said during the Gulf War, there were three reasons for the attack on Iraq: "Jobs, jobs, jobs." This damning admission didn't change minds. It reinforced positions. The warmongers at the time said, "See? It's not just about Iraq's disputed borders. This war is also essential to our economic well-being!"
The school of thought that believes economic and military power are mutually reinforcing is found on the left and right today. Thomas Friedman's book The Lexus and the Olive Tree may appear to be a journalist's account of the glories of globalization. Actually, there's a theory at work here: he believes that McDonald's couldn't operate in 100 countries if McDonnell-Douglas weren't also there, and seeks to make the argument that war and commerce are a glorious fit.
This is a fallacy and a lie. Commerce doesn't require militarism. It is the opposite of militarism: it is mutual exchange based on mutual benefit and peaceful human interaction. Say what you will about militarism, it is not about peace or mutual benefit. When war is necessary, said Mises, it is always to be regretted precisely because it is the enemy of enterprise and civilization.
But the confusion is evident even in the way we talk about these subjects. We use the word "globalism" without specifying whether we mean free trade or empire. We decry "isolation" while deliberately obscuring whether we mean a non-interventionist foreign policy or protectionism. The party of liberty loves trade and hates empire, favors non-intervention but decries protection.
Where does that leave us? With a rich heritage of libertarian dissidents, for starters. An extremely important article by Joseph Stromberg in the Journal of Libertarian Studies ("The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire") examines the connection between war and commerce and shows that the divisions between the left-right imperialists and the party of liberty have always been with us. Moreover, he shows that government and certain strains of the business sector have long cooperated to bring about wars to their mutual benefit.
From the elimination of the wonderful Articles of Confederation, to the creation of the Constitution by an elite business class, to the drive to consolidate federal domination of the South by Northern industrial interests, to the attack on Spain and the invasion of the Philippines, and onto the myriad interventions in the 20th century, the hand of well-connected industrial giants seeking profits the easy way has been there the entire way.
The left has long argued that the structure of capitalism requires militarism to support it, and without a clear theory of economics, one can see how a person would be tempted to this view. In fact, imperialism represents a complete betrayal of free enterprise.
Stromberg offers the best definition of imperialism I've seen: "the outcome of an interaction between the permanent state apparatus and individuals or interest groups bent on exploiting productive societies." He closes with this revealing comment by Wilhelm Röpke:
It is therefore frequently possible to prove that in individual cases "economic" factors play a part in an aggressive foreign policy, when private groups understand how to make use of their national government for their own purposes, or the true economic interests of the nation as a whole are falsely depicted. It is shown over and over again, however, how little these examples go to prove that the prevailing economic system of necessity and by reason of its intrinsic structure results in an aggressive foreign policy.... The idea that the economic system which rests upon the regulating function of the market and the separation of political sovereignty from economic activity is that which compulsorily drives nations to war, must be completely rejected." (International Order and Economic Integration, 1959)
If Unocol believes it can make a buck delivering oil and natural gas through Afghanistan, let the company buy off local warlords to guard the pipelines. If that doesn't work, the company bears the risk. But don't send America's sons and daughters to do it, or, if you do, have the decency not to claim that they are doing their patriotic duty.
DOES OIL REQUIRE BLOOD?
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - January 06, 2003
It's obvious Iraq doesn't want war and the Bush administration does. The administration claims war would be a preemptive strike, but more honest commentators freely admit, as does Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, that oil plays a huge role in the continuing drama, even the decisive role.
"Any war we launch in Iraq will certainly be-in part-about oil. To deny that is laughable." What's more, he says in a twist on a predictable left-liberal trope, "I have no problem with a war for oil-if we accompany it with a real program for energy conservation."
It was the New York Times that recently carried two large articles on Iraq's oil resources in its prominent "Week in Review" section, one of which contained a map of reserves. The reporter noted, "112 billion barrels of proven reserves is also something nobody can overlook....Iraq's 'ability to generate oil' is always somewhere on the table, even if not in so many words."
Or consider the MSNBC story, "Iraqi Oil, American Bonanza?" which says, "Iraq's vast oil reserves remain a powerful prize for global oil companies.... Such a massive rebuilding effort represents a huge opportunity for the companies chosen to tackle it.... It's unlikely that American firms will be left empty-handed if the U.S. follows through on threats of military action."
What does oil have to do with the Bush administration? The MSNBC reporter gives the reader that information too: "American oil companies are also hoping to benefit from the industry's unusually strong ties to the White House. President Bush, himself the former head of a Texas oil company, has pursued a national energy policy that relies on aggressively expanding new sources of oil. Vice President Cheney is the former CEO of oil services giant Halliburton. National security adviser Condaleezza Rice is a former director of Chevron."
War and Economics
The connection between the war on Iraq and the desire for oil raises an important ideological consideration. Millions of college students are taught the Leninist idea that capitalist economies are inherently imperialistic. This is supposedly because exploitation exhausts capital values in the domestic economy, and hence capital owners must relentlessly seek to replenish their funds through grabbing foreign resources. In this view, war avoids the final crisis of capitalism.
College students might be forgiven for thinking there is some basis for this in the real world. In American history up to the present day, the onset of war tends to track the onset of economic doldrums. Recall that it was then-Secretary of State James Baker who said the first Iraqi war was all about "jobs, jobs, jobs." The line between the owners of capital and the warfare state has never been that clean in American history, and it has arguably never been as conspicuously blurred as it is today.
The view that sustaining capitalism requires aggressive war is usually said to originate with V.I. Lenin as a way of rescuing Marxism from a serious problem: capitalism was not collapsing in the 19th century. It was growing more robust, and workers were getting richer-facts that weighed heavily against the Marxist historical trajectory. The Leninist answer to the puzzle was that capitalism was surviving only thanks to its military aggression. The prosperity of the West originated in blood.
But Lenin was not the originator of the theory. The capitalists beat him to it. As Murray N. Rothbard explains in his History of Money and Banking in the United States, the idea began with a group of Republican Party theoreticians during the late Gilded Age, who were concerned that the falling rate of profits would cripple capitalism and that the only salvation was a forced opening of foreign markets to U.S. exports. These were the brain-trusters of Theodore Roosevelt, who heralded U.S. aggression against Spain in 1898.
The same year, economist Charles Conant published "The Economic Basis of Imperialism" in the North American Review in 1898. He argued that there is too much savings in advanced countries, too much production, and not enough consumption, and this was crowding out profitable investment opportunities for the largest corporations. The best way to find new consumers and resources, he said, is to go abroad, using force, if necessary, to open up markets. Further, the U.S. industrial trusts then dominant on the landscape could be useful in promoting and waging war. This would cartelize American industry and increase profits. Hence, said Conant, "concentration of power, in order to permit prompt and efficient action, will be an almost essential factor in the struggle for world empire."
While Lenin found imperialism for profit morally wrong, Conant found it praiseworthy, an inspiring plan of action. Indeed, many of his contemporaries also did. Boston's U.S. Investor argued that war is necessary to keep capital at work. An "enlarged field for its product must be discovered," and the best source "is to be found among the semi-civilized and barbarian races."
By the turn of the century, this view had largely caught on in the economics profession, with even the eminent theorist John Bates Clark of Columbia praising imperialism for providing American business "with an even larger and more permanent profit."
Today the same creed is captured in the pithy if chilling mantra of Friedman: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist." Lenin couldn't have said it better. Joseph Nye of Harvard fleshes out the point: "To ignore the role of military security in an era of economic and information growth is like forgetting the importance of oxygen to our breathing."
Historian Robert Kagan is even more brutally clear: "Good ideas and technologies also need a strong power that promotes those ideas by example and protects those ideas by winning on the battlefield."
So there you have it: if you want to use a cell phone, you have to be willing to send your son to die for the U.S. imperium in a war against Iraq. And if you lose your son in battle, know that this was necessary in order to shore up U.S. domination of the world economy. This is the creed of the global social democrats who champion both military and economic globalization.
With the communists and capitalists agreeing that war and prosperity are mutually dependent, how is a believer in peace and freedom to respond? While war can result in profit for a few, it is not the case that the entire system of a free economy depends on such wartime profiteering. Indeed, war comes at the expense of alternative uses of resources. To the extent that people are taxed to pay for armaments, property is diverted from its most valuable uses to purposes of destruction.
Commerce Is Peaceful
Indeed, the idea that commerce and war are allies is a complete perversion of the old liberal tradition. The first theorists of commerce from the 16th through the 18th centuries saw that a most meritorious aspect of commerce is its link to freedom and peace, that commerce made it possible for people to co-operate rather than fight. It made armaments and war less necessary, not more.
What about the need to open foreign markets? The expansion of markets and the division of labor is always a wonderful thing. The more people involved in the overarching business of economic life, the greater the prospects for wealth creation. But force is hardly the best means to promote the co-operative and peaceful activity of trade, any more than it is a good idea to steal your neighbor's mower to improve lawncare on your block. Bitterness and acrimony are never good business, to say nothing of death and destruction.
In any case, the problem in Iraq is not that Iraq is somehow withholding its oil from the market. For ten years, and even before the first war on Iraq, its oil supplies have been available to the world. In one of the great ironies of modern war history, the first Bush administration waged war, it said, to keep Iraq from withholding its oil resources from world markets. The U.S. then proceeded to enforce a decade of sanctions that withheld most of Iraq's oil reserves from the market.
We are not permitted to say this, but the solution to Iraq is at hand. Repeal sanctions and resume trade with Iraq. Oil prices would fall dramatically. Hatred of the U.S. would abate. The plight of Iraq could no longer be Exhibit A for terrorist recruitment drives. The only downside is that U.S. companies connected to the Bush administration would not be the owners of the oil fields but instead would have to compete with other producers.
The idea of free enterprise is that everyone gets a chance, and no single industry or group of producers enjoys special privileges. Through competition and co-operation, but never violence, the living standards of everyone rise, and we all enjoy more of the life we want to live. It is not hard to understand, except in the corridors of the Bush administration, where theorists have linked arms with Leninists in the belief that war is always good, and always necessary, for business.
BILLIONS, TRILLIONS, WHO CARES?
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - August 28, 2003
For those of us who balance our checkbooks to the penny, government finance
exists on another planet. Thanks to the institution of central banking, and the ability of the economy to generate unfathomable amounts of money for the tax state, we read daily headlines announcing figures in the billions and trillions. To us mere mortals with mortgages and electrical bills, these figures are darn near meaningless.
They are meaningless in another sense too. There are some things that government money can't buy. Peace, order, prosperity, and freedom in Iraq are among them. Iraqi military dictator Paul Bremer, in a fit of something approaching honesty, has admitted that "several tens of billions" are necessary in order to rebuild what the U.S. destroyed. We aren't talking here about setting up shopping centers and stock exchanges. This is only to get the power back on and clean water flowing again.
"The UN estimates that to get a more or less satisfactory potable water system in the country will cost $16 billion over four years. The 2,000 megawatts we need to add now just to meet current demand will cost $2 billion, and the engineers tell me we probably should spend about $13 billion over the next five years to get the power system" back in shape he told the Washington Post. It is "almost impossible to exaggerate" the country's economic needs.
Spoken like a true central planner with an unlimited budget. He bears no personal liability for the success or failure of his plan. He need only assist in bamboozling Congress to continue to authorize money for the ghastly "reconstruction" effort.
So long as the government is spending the money, what incentive does it have to economize on resources? At least an elected government could face some reprisal from the voting population. But a foreign military dictatorship is radically detached from the interests of the population it rules. In fact, the occupying military regards the Iraqi population as divided between good guys (compliant and passive) and bad guys (people who visibly resent U.S. presence and are seen therefore as potential threats).
Any Iraqi who resents the U.S. presence is decried as a "Saddam loyalist," as if the only two choices Iraq faces are between two forms of dictatorship. More absurdly, any Iraqi who attempts to do anything about the U.S. presence is seen as a "terrorist." On September 11, we learned that people who come from foreign nations and use sneaky tricks to destroy our infrastructure and people are terrorists. But now we are being told that the people who resist foreigners who destroy infrastructure and people are the terrorists.
In any case, these are no conditions under which to rebuild anything. But they are the perfect conditions to spend vast amounts of money with nothing to show for it in the end. As a wildly imperfect analogy, think of how Mike Tyson blew through $300 million before declaring bankruptcy. He was no financial whiz. He was just a guy who drew crowds of paying customers to see him beat up on others, and suddenly found himself earning 8 digits. His fortune didn't last because his temperament is disinclined to long-term investment.
We laugh at Tyson's mismanagement but at least he earned his money by providing something others want. The same cannot be said for the U.S. government. It takes all the money it has by force, and goes through a Tyson-level fortune in less than two hours, 12 times a day, every day of the year. Nor do the people the government beats up on enter the ring voluntarily. What the U.S. is doing in Iraq makes Tyson seem like a model of humanitarianism and financial prudence.
But let's block that metaphor and move on to the fundamental economic problem: even with the best of intentions, government has no way of knowing the correct production priorities or best means of achieving them. It's the socialist calculation problem, identified by Mises in 1920, all over again. The U.S. decided early on that it would not allow the country to be managed privately. It has kicked out cell phone companies, airlines, and oil field operators it has not specifically approved. What this means is that the U.S. is attempting to rebuild the country socialistically - in both means and ends - which cannot work.
Meanwhile, even large cities are denied electricity most of the day. Oil is smuggled out every day, even as oil infrastructure is blown up to keep the U.S. from taking what it does not own. Kidnapping for ransom and other forms of crime are rampant. Car theft is routine. Collaborators are killed daily, as are U.S. troops. And in the midst of this, President Bush vows to "stay on the offensive." If this is offense, God protect us from defense.
The presumption from the beginning of this war has been that any country can be brought to its knees with a strong enough show of force. This seems to be the only model the Bush administration knows. Once having embarked on a blood and awe path in the name of freedom, it is on the verge of being the last holdout in the world to claim its policy as a success. "The more progress we make in Iraq, the more desperate the terrorists will become," says Bush, when the truth is that the more of a mess the Bush administration makes of Iraq, the more desperate the Bush administration becomes.
The symbols of failure are all around us. Pick your favorite: the UN headquarters and the Jordanian embassy in Iraq being bombed, soldiers being killed every day, the skyrocketing oil price, the widespread assumption that Bush lied us into this war, the growing popularity of Saddam and Osama in the Muslim world, the growing radicalism of Muslim youth worldwide, the rising anger of families of U.S. servicemen and women. Any one of these means failure of the Bush policy, and no amount of protest from paid spokesmen is going to change that.
The U.S. started this mission with the assumption that there is nothing that bombs cannot accomplish. We were told of the amazing, wonderful success of this war on Iraq, and how it liberated the people of Iraq. All this time later, with Iraq in ruins and worse, they are still defending the disaster, and they will continue to do so. Now they tell us that there is nothing that dollars cannot accomplish if they are spent on the right things. Who believes them?
Whatever the results of an immediate U.S. pullout from Iraq, it would be better than the continuing military occupation. Bremer and his henchmen shouldn't get one thin dime.
WAR AND FREEDOM
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com
... Here is one example of what I mean. The Bush document says: "The concept of 'free trade' arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person, or a nation, to make a living."
Now, it is hard to disagree with that. In fact, it might be seen as a summary of the libertarian economic credo. And yet, the United States imposes trade sanctions on half the countries of the world, and the sanctions against Iraq in particular have resulted in mass human suffering. The very administration that preaches the libertarian line on trade has imposed high tariffs on steel and timber, and pushed massive agricultural subsidies that blatantly violate all international trade treaties to which the U.S. has become party. What we have here are actions that are the very opposite of the rhetoric, and yet the rhetoric plays the role of distracting people from what is really going on.
There are many other examples. The document preaches fiscal prudence, from an administration that has expanded government spending more dramatically and on more fronts than even LBJ. It preaches free markets but endorses the internationalization of U.S. labor and environmental controls. It rails against centralized economic planning, but embraces global efforts to cut "greenhouse gasses," even going so far as to brag of spending the largest sum ever spent to stop alleged climate change. The document calls for free enterprise but also a 50 percent increase in foreign aid slated for development assistance. It decries World Bank subsidies of the past but calls for the World Bank to spend more on public schools and promises a 20 percent increase in the money contributed by the U.S. toward that end.
In sum, we have here something worse than a wolf in sheep's clothing. We have a wolf that has also learned to b-a-a-a.
Even aside from partisan considerations, the permanent governing regime always needs an ideological rationale for maintaining control over the population and a continuing supply of resources to feed all the pressure groups that live off the taxpayer.
Even apart from elections, which change the flavor of government control but not its underlying reality, this permanent regime, which we can call the state, always seeks to expand.
For all the partisan bickering in Washington, all groups are pleased to cooperate in the overall mission of insuring the health of the state, and the best way is what they call bipartisanship: each votes the other's priorities in exchange for having its own met. Thus does the welfare-warfare state thrive.
It is no surprise that today the great rationale of the proposed expansion of the state is the fight against terrorism, which doesn't only mean stopping those who seek to harm U.S. citizens on American soil but encompasses some sort of blueprint for complete global domination. The war on terrorism is not just about stopping real threats, if it involves that at all. It is about securing the authority of the U.S. government against anything and everything that might threaten its interests. That threat could be swarthy teams of violent criminals hailing from far-flung parts of the world. But also, from the point of view of the state, the threat also comes from any political activist or even intellectual apparatus that does not unquestioningly yield to the power of the state.
... Most tragically, the need for war was asserted by people who called themselves libertarians, people who otherwise claimed to understand the nature of government. The slogan of one famous organization used to be "free markets, limited government, and peace." After the war on Afghanistan, the word peace had to go, and, inevitably, limited government and free markets were taken down too.
Without naming the guilty here, let me just say that only four institutions - to my knowledge - were willing to take a principled stand after 9-11: the Independent Institute, the Foundation for the Future of Freedom, the Center for Libertarian Studies, and the Mises Institute - four of the least well-connected among the hundreds of free-market organizations in this country. Once having signed up for the war on terrorism, mainstream libertarian organizations find themselves in an intellectual bind, fearing to criticize the foundations of the policy and enjoying the newfound access to power that the initial endorsement of the war gave them.
... But, as Mises argued, if we hate socialism, we must also hate war.
"Military Socialism is the Socialism of a state in which all
institutions are designed for the prosecution of war," he wrote. "The
military state, that is the state of the fighting man in which
everything is subordinated to war purposes, cannot admit private
ownership in the means of production. Standing preparedness for war is
impossible if aims other than war influence the life of individuals...
. The military state is a state of bandits. It prefers to live on booty
and tribute." Mises is right: if we libertarians tolerate war, we
But if the libertarians have shown a lack of courage stemming from
intellectual failure, the American conservatives have been far worse.
From the pages of the Wall Street Journal to National Review, there is
one thing we can count on: bone-chilling calls for international
bloodshed at the hands of the U.S. state. It was bad enough during the
Cold War, when American conservatives cheered on the warfare state -
the emergence of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores - as a
supposedly temporary measure to fight a particular enemy.
But nowadays, American conservatives have come to define themselves as
the people least wary of using nuclear weapons and the most ready to
cheer the death of innocents. The moral hypocrisy of these people - who
think nothing of running an article calling for an end to abortion next
to a piece defending the deaths of hundreds of thousands of foreigners,
unborn and born - takes one's breath away.
We have dealt here with three groups - the Bush administration, the
libertarian mainstream, and American conservatives - that use the
language of liberty to promote or defend its opposite. What about those
of us who remain, those whose commitment to the free society is
implacable, even in these times? I know this. There are more of us than
the media take account of. The Bush document includes a passage that
strikes me as true: "no people on earth yearn to be oppressed, aspire
to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret
police." I would only add that this includes the American people.
... But is final victory really so unthinkable? In the 18th century,
had the opponents of British imperial rule given up in 1750, there
would have been no 1776. Had the anti-communists in Russia thrown in
the towel in 1950, when Soviet rule seemed implacably secure, there
would have been no 1989. Neither will we be intimidated and neither
will we despair, because we are fighting the biggest of all big lies,
the idea that the state is a means of security and salvation. In
addition, we have on our side the greatest forces for good in human
history: the ideas of liberty and the demand for freedom. From these
principles, we will not be moved.
In the meantime, Bush threatens war. For my part, I favor the proposal
of the Iraqi vice president that Bush and Saddam have a private duel.
Choose your weapons, fellas, and leave the rest of us out of it.
Chapter 10: THEY HATE US FOR OUR FREEDOM - - - - - - - TO KILL?
THE VIOLENCE THAT BEGAT VIOLENCE
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - January 31, 2003
Lew Rockwell is editor of LewRockwell.com
The State of the Union address by George W. Bush was a breath-taking flight of statist fancy. After some perfunctory talk about freedom and opportunity, and the need to cut spending (this from the biggest spender since LBJ!), what followed was a program of government planning to rival anything from the 1930s.
The President, a Republican no less, seems to believe that government should be telling us what kind of car to drive, what kind of education our kids should receive, how to cure disease in Africa and the Caribbean, how to liberate women the world over, how to fund technological innovation, and even how to "transform" our "souls" and lift the "hopes of all mankind" - all courtesy of the long-suffering taxpayer who is, once again, supposed to believe that the government can make better use of his money than he can.
The headlines after the speech called Bush's agenda "conservative." How arrogant is the modern state! If a prince in the high middle ages had delivered a speech like this, he would have been dismissed as a lunatic. A statesman in the 19th century who said such things would have easily identified as a would-be despot, and all the mechanisms then in place to restrain executive power would have been unleashed against him. In any case, all parties would have agreed that any head of state who spoke this way was a threat to freedom, not its defender.
What a transformation in American political culture we've witnessed in ten years. In 1993, President Clinton had been in office one year, and his plan to socialize American health care had hit the rocks. The Cold War had collapsed, the welfare state was widely seen as unworkable and wasteful, and the regulatory and tax state had begun to fray everyone's nerves. The menace that is big government was easier to observe with the Soviets out of the way. The moment was ripe for a wide-spread revolt against the welfare-warfare state. Fueled by high-profile stories of government abuse, summed up in the words Ruby Ridge and Waco, grass-roots resistance movements were building: property-rights groups, 10th amendment supporters, secessionists, home-schoolers, militias, and much more.
The culmination was in reach in the Congressional elections of 1994, when we saw the closest thing to a political revolution in the postwar period. A new class of politicians was elected to Congress on a radical platform. They opposed not only the welfare state but also Clinton's post-Cold War foreign policy of nation building. We saw glimmers of a consistent anti-statist ideology - a widespread distrust of the state and conviction that society and economy can manage without DC supervision - begin to bubble to the surface of American public life.
How that 1994 revolution was co-opted even before the Congress met the following January is a story for another time. What is truly striking in retrospect is the event that caused a massive shift in momentum. It was the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.
Though many questions are still unanswered about the attack, the reason for the bombing was clear. Timothy McVeigh developed a blood lust as a soldier in the first war on Iraq, and then turned his resulting callousness toward human life into an act of revenge for the killings at the Branch Davidian religious community in Waco, Texas.
The attempt to tar the anti-government movement began immediately. With Clinton as its cheerleader, the public sector and the media struck back against all rhetoric and language critical of government. Rather than dissecting the source of McVeigh's personal drive (the Gulf War combined with Waco), the bombing was attributed to a more general cause: hatred and resentment of government. Therefore, it was said, anyone who raised concerns about the expansion of government power was guilty of hate, and hence bore some responsibility for the loss of life in Oklahoma City.
Of course the charge was preposterous. But it succeeded in intimidating people into silence for long enough for the federal government to institute new crackdowns on political dissent. All progress toward legislation that might have curbed government power was stopped, and new unconstitutional legislation was passed to permit every manner of spying and control, all in an effort to crack down on "hate" and domestic terrorism. In time, the dissidents, radicals, talk-radio rabble-rousers, and young turks in politics lost heart and backed off. The domestic side of the planning state had been saved.
As devastating as April 19, 1995, was to the libertarian agenda domestically, it turned out to be just a prelude to the meltdown after September 11, 2001, when hijackers got hold of passenger planes and used them as missiles against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The source this time was not domestic but foreign. As with McVeigh, the motivation was reprisal. The culprits couldn't have been clearer about their issues: sanctions against Iraq, troops in Mecca, funding for settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. foreign policy in general.
Looking at the details of the case, some easy lessons might have been drawn. The first is that airlines needed some clear means to protect themselves against hijacking, means which they had long been denied by federal law. Airlines were not permitted to defend themselves in the same way that banks, jewelry stores, and homeowners are allowed: through force of arms. Instead, the federal government had left airlines vulnerable to being stolen by anyone with box cutters and the will to die. Second, this was clearly an example of "blowback," a reprisal against policies that generate hostility and increase the ranks of the terrorists. More broadly, the lesson might have been drawn that the federal government is not an efficient or effective guarantor of the public safety.
Instead of looking at the specifics of what happened and why, and what might have been done to prevent it, the federal government again went on the offensive, this time with George W. Bush, who had campaigned for a "humble" foreign policy, as leader. Little attempt was made to examine the motivations of the hijackers or the federal regulations that had allowed them to pull off their deed. Instead, the general lesson was dictated by Washington: They (the ubiquitous pronoun with a fill-in-the-blank antecedent) hate us (no distinction between Americans and their government) because we (again, no distinction) are good (a broad moral approval of anything and everything Americans or their government do).
As for the specifics, it was immediately decided that Osama bin Laden was the culprit, and, in something of a leap, that the country that was said to be harboring him, Afghanistan, should be attacked and its government overthrown, even though it was being run by an Islamic faction that the U.S. had effectively brought to power in its guerilla war against the Soviets. The plot thickened then to include a large-scale global "War on Terror" directed not against those who plotted the attacks of September 11, but rather against any government that the U.S. regarded as a political enemy. With Congress rubberstamping unprecedented license for the executive in international affairs, the administrators of the U.S. warfare state had never been in a better position.
As with the Oklahoma bombing, an effort was made to pin the crime on anyone who holds opinions that the government does not like, and thus any questioning of U.S. foreign policy was decried as objectively pro-terrorist. If you think there is something wrong with stationing troops all over the globe, or sanctions against free trade with Iraq that lead to the death of more than a million innocents, you are thereby exposed as an ally of the terrorists (the word terrorists now having replaced the name bin Laden, which oddly became unmentionable after the government failed to apprehend him). If you oppose widespread wiretaps, a new Department of Homeland Security, massive restrictions on travel, or dare to ask what might have motivated the hijackers, you are probably a traitor.
As for the political culture, what had survived of public skepticism toward government before 9-11 had been all but wiped out. Now the president can go on national television and announce a program that would have horrified any previous generation of Americans and expect the media to give him a free pass. Only a handful of elected officials dare stand up to him. As for Washington think tanks and lobbying groups, they have been mostly cowed by the government's display of awesome power. In the same way that April 19, 1995, demolished the enemies of the domestic welfare state, September 11, 2001, ended up doing the same for the skeptics of the foreign warfare state.
That great enemy of freedom - the nationalist impulse of belligerence and chauvinism - was given new life. As the Caesars used love of country to bolster their power, in the same way George W. Bush used patriotism to build support for a massive expansion of the Leviathan state.
When we seek answers to the question of how the promise of 1993 turned into the disaster we see today, we cannot avoid looking at how the state used these two great incidents of politically motivated violence to crush its enemies and expand its power. In the end, then, who benefited from these acts against the state? The state itself. Is it any wonder that so many conspiracy theories circulate?
Speaking as a member of the remnant whose love of liberty has not budged an inch in ten years, I draw several lessons from this. First, political violence is a disaster for human liberty. Second, the state is capable of using any large-scale crisis, even those it itself causes or is guilty of failing to prevent, to intimidate its opponents and exploit the fears of the public. Third, the lovers of human liberty who refuse to bend the knee will probably always be a remnant.
This is not a case for despair. Just as these acts of political violence produced reactions by the state, the actions of the state are producing reactions of a different sort. Even as the state consolidates its power, a new and far more sophisticated generation is being forged. We find them among the peace protestors, small businessmen, home-schoolers, and political dissidents of all sorts. If most of the population has been cowed, we must remember that a remnant is watching and learning and waiting. Remember that the state is prone toward error, and the great error of the state this time around is overreach. Even now, the opponents of Bush's plan for domestic and global hegemony are gathering strength.
Meanwhile, we must throw ourselves into the cause of civilization in every way we are still permitted. The American colonists knew that human liberty is a right, and that the desire for it burns in the heart of every person made in the image and likeness of the Author of liberty, and that no power on earth, no matter how many advances it may make in the short run, can extinguish the heart's burning desire for truth, justice, and freedom. Especially in times of darkness, lift up your hearts, friends of peace and freedom, and uphold the light for all the peoples of the earth.
THE IMPOSSIBLE WAR
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - October 23, 2002
There are some things that a state just cannot do, no matter how much power it accumulates or employs. Some proposed policies are just impossible. It was Ludwig von Mises who first framed the issue with regard to socialism. A strict socialist system robs society of everything essentially economic (money prices for capital goods, the matrix of exchange, private property) and thus whatever else socialism brings about, it cannot bring about an economy.
So too with myriad state programs, among which is the global War on Terror. To shore up the war, there has been no shortage of rhetoric. No expense is spared on arms escalation. There is no lack of will. The effort has the backing of plenty of smart people. It is backed by threats of massive bloodshed.
What is missing is the essential means to cause the war to yield beneficial results. Of all the billions of potential terrorists out there, and the infinite possibilities of how, when, and where they will strike, there is no way the state can possibly stop them, even if it had the incentive to do so.
Consider the most obvious evidence of failure, as pointed out by Congressman Ron Paul in a stellar address at the Mises Institute (October 19, 2002). He drew attention to the irony that the Bush administration promised to eradicate terrorism all over the globe, and meanwhile, a thug-sniper was loose in the beltway for three weeks, claiming 14 random victims.
What is being described as a triumph of the police is actually an example of the spectacular failure of government-provided terror control. The Pentagon patrolled the skies. The police thought about nothing else. Hotlines rang constantly. After every shooting, police barricades interrupted traffic flows for miles. Profilers with a lifetime of experience were busy fitting the pieces together. But after weeks of work, and more than enough clues, authorities were no closer to catching or knowing anything about the sniper or sniper team than they were after the first victim fell.
As details emerged after the capture of John Allen Muhammad, it turns out that he was not an amazing sharp-shooting genius but a thug whose only training in shooting was provided courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. What's more, he was practically begging to be caught, calling the police to brag about a past crime, the scene from which fingerprints had been taken.
In the end, he was caught only thanks to a private individual who matched the license and the description from the radio aired over the objections of the police! And until he was caught, the biggest nation-state in the history of the world, armed with 10,000 nuclear warheads and funded with nearly a half trillion dollars per year, was being humiliated and left cowering in the face of one military-trained thug and a gun.
The prevalence of violence in the U.S. together with a global war on terror is the equivalent of the simultaneous existence of the War on Poverty, and grueling poverty in Anacostia, a few miles from the Housing and Urban Development headquarters. The more the state tried to eradicate poverty, the more it created, because the programs themselves fed (inadvertently or not) the very conditions that they were trying to alleviate.
So it is with the War on Terror. Behind terrorism is political grievance, mostly having to do with frustration at the activities and arrogance of the state and its violations of rights. This is not speculation. This is the word of the terrorists themselves, from Timothy McVeigh to Osama Bin Laden to innumerable suicide bombers. The pool of actual terrorists (like the poor in the War on Poverty) is limited and can be known, and they are the ones the state focuses on. But the pool of potential terrorists (and potential poor people) is unlimited, and unleashed by the very means the state employs in its war.
Hence, not only does the state not accomplish its stated goals, it recruits more people into the armies of the enemy, and ends up completely swamped by a problem that grows ever worse until the state throws in the towel. In the meantime, the target population is able to make a mockery of the state through sheer defiance.
As more and more were added to the ranks of the poor and the intended beneficiaries of the programs themselves began to mock the state's benevolence, people began to speak of the failure and collapse of the Great Society. Of course the welfare state still exists, but the moral passion and ideological fervor is gone. In the same way, we will soon begin speaking of the collapse of the War on Terror.
The failure to get the sniper is only the beginning. Bin Laden is still loose, and everyone knows that there are hundreds or thousands more Bin Laden's out there. Terrorism has increased since the war began. Israel suffers daily, and in constantly changing ways, ways even the notorious intelligence units cannot anticipate or prevent.
The theorist who first saw the collapse of the ideology of the nation-state, Martin van Creveld, was asked about this in an interview for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He was refreshingly blunt:
"If I were Arafat and the Palestinians, I would not put an end to this intifada, because the way I see it, from the first day of the first intifada they have been winning.... Nothing will work.... There is one thing that can be done - and that is to put an end to the situation whereby we are the strong fighting the weak... You do that by A, waiting for a suitable opportunity... B, doing whatever it takes to restore the balance of power between us and the Palestinians... C, removing 90% of the causes of the conflict, by pulling out...."
But can't the state just kill more, employ ever more violence, perhaps even terrify the enemy into passivity? It cannot work. Even prisons experience rioting. Another bracing comment from van Creveld: "The Americans in Vietnam tried it. They killed between two-and-a-half and three million Vietnamese. I don't see that it helped them much."
Without admitting defeat, the Americans finally pulled out of Vietnam, which today has a thriving stock market. To a notable extent, the war on poverty has ended its most aggressive phases and poverty is declining. What does this experience tell us about the War on Terror? The right approach to this program, as to all government programs, is to end it immediately.
But wouldn't that mean surrender? It would mean that the state surrenders its role but not that everyone else does. Had the airlines been in charge of their own security, 9-11 would not have happened. Whatever political motives the sniper has would not exist. Bin Laden would have a hard time gaining recruits. Muslim fundamentalism would be dealt a serious blow, for no longer would U.S. policy seem specifically designed to feed the madness of its lunatic fringe.
In all the talk of war on Iraq, I've yet to hear anyone claim that taking out Saddam or bringing about a regime change will make the world a more peaceful, happier place. No one really believes that. The last war on Iraq gave rise to al-Qaeda due to sanctions and Christian troops in Saudi Arabia, led to the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, and emboldened an entire generation of Muslims to devote their lives to fighting America. The next one will do the same.
The War on Terror is impossible, not in the sense that it cannot cause immense amounts of bloodshed and destruction and loss of liberty, but in the sense that it cannot finally achieve what it is suppose to achieve, and will only end in creating more of the same conditions that led to its declaration in the first place.
In other words, it is a typical government program, costly and unworkable, like socialism, like the War on Poverty, like every other attempt by the government to shape reality according to its own designs.
The next time Bush gets up to make his promises of the amazing things he will achieve through force of arms, how the world will be bent and shaped by his administration, think of Stalin speaking at the 15th Party Congress, promising "further to promote the development of our country's national economy in all branches of production."
Everyone applauded, and tens of thousands of landowners and factory managers were shot pursuant to that goal, but in the end, even if he did not know it, it was impossible to achieve.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON AND THE COMING INVASION OF IRAN
by Mike Rogers - www.lewrockwell.com - September 17, 2004
~Thanks to my good friend, Anthony Gregory, in the editing of this article.
Nearby my apartment, a man by the name of Faramarz runs his business. Faramarz is such a nice, friendly guy - one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. Faramarz has been in Japan for over 21 years. He is one of the few foreigners I have met who has been here longer than I.
Faramarz is married to a Japanese and his business sells exquisite, handmade Persian Carpets. These are some of the largest and most beautiful carpets I've ever seen. They are the kind of things you would see on the floor of a palace or the office of the CEO of some huge Japanese company. I imagine that carpets like these grace the floors of places like Buckingham Palace or the Taj Mahal. Faramarz's handmade carpets are as beautiful and detailed as any you will ever see.
Faramarz has two employees named Ramin and Aribizu. These guys impress me so much. They are so friendly and intelligent. They can each speak more than three languages and their English is superb. It's amazing that they come from what many of us in the west would consider a "backward third-world country."
Every person I have ever met from their country was extremely intelligent and proficient in several languages. One of my best friends in college was from the same place, and he could speak English, French, Russian, and Farsi. Farsi, as some of you may know, is the native language of people from Persia - or what we now call Iran.
Last night, Faramarz invited me over to sit and chat in his office for a few minutes. It was fun. Faramarz and his two employees had a wager on a sale that they were working on. The sale didn't go through; Faramarz lost the bet, so he had to buy ice cream for everyone. I thought:
"What a bunch of sincere, easy-going, peaceful people."
Faramarz and I started to discuss world events and I spent my time trying to explain the thinking of my countrymen. Faramarz and his friends all seemed to feel sorry for me. Well, not for me exactly - but for you, me, all of us we call, "Americans."
You see, this kind of thinking I have found quite common over these last few years when I meet people from other countries (and I meet quite a lot due to my job). It all boils down to this:
"Everyone all over the world likes American people. We just hate your government."
In the last year I have met people from Bulgaria, Romania, China, Thailand, Korea, Australia, England, Scotland, New Zealand, France, Afghanistan, and Kenya. And they all said basically the same thing. People everywhere are beginning to despise the United States.
The talk then went into the Chinese concept of "Ying and Yang." Faramarz explained to me that what is going on in the Middle East all fits in perfectly with the concept of Ying and Yang. In Japan, this concept is described as, "Dark versus Light."
I was a bit surprised to hear Faramarz explain his take on this concept to me. I would expect to hear something like this from someone from China or Korea, but someone from Iran?
Then again, when you realize that the Middle East has always been the road to the Far East, it shouldn't be too surprising to hear them speaking a philosophy that mirrors Eastern Asian thought.
Simply put, Ying and Yang represent the balance of everything in the world. Dark and light, good and evil, you and me.
Yang is the spirit of "light." He has the side of good and light. We and everything else that is not dark. Ying is, of course, the complete opposite. Ying is the "dark" part of the spirit. Evil and darkness; defeat is on his side of the balance.
In this Eastern philosophy, balance is everything. If something falls, something else must come back. That means if one manages to become the most powerful, the entire universe will be out of balance. So if Yang won, everything in the world would be happy - but not for long, for the balance would be upset. And for as long as Yang is in power, the reverse effect must come into play, and Ying will dominate after that for an equal or longer period of time - until the cycle reverses itself again.
Of course many Westerners might just chuckle at this silly "Eastern" notion. But last night it dawned on me: I realized that this concept of "Ying and Yang" is exactly the same as Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion, called "Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis," published in 1686. Isaac Newton stated:
"...that for every action (force) there is an equal and opposite reaction."
All actions are "forces," so this indisputable law says every force has an equal and opposite force. For every action, there is a reaction. For every behavior, there is a consequence. Like the rock thrown into the pond, the ripples radiate out, eventually hitting the shore, and then again returning to its center. For every act, a consequence.
One might take issue with my interpretation of how Ying and Yang and Newton's Third Law of Motion are, ultimately, the exact same thing. But I think anyone could see where there is a correlation.
Furthermore, could any educated person in the entire Western world argue with Newton's Third Law of Motion? I don't think so. Agreed?
Whether you want to call it Ying and Yang or Newton's Law, it is an undeniable fact that every action has an equal reaction.
That's why now I'd like to tell you folks in America a little more about Persia (Iran):
Did you know that Persia is one of the oldest civilizations in the world? And that Persia was once one of the largest empires the world had ever seen?
Did you know that, even though Persia has lost battles, it has never been conquered even once in over 3,000 years?
Did you know that Iran has more than three times the population of Iraq, and 63% of that population is under 31 years old? Did you also know that, geographically speaking, Iran is four times larger than Iraq?
Did you know that Iran's economy was twelve times the size of Iraq's, as of 2003?
Did you also know that, although no one is sure of the total casualties during the Iran-Iraq war of 1979 to 1988, estimates range from 800,000 to 1 million dead, at least 2 million wounded, and more than 80,000 taken prisoner? That there were approximately 2.5 million who became refugees and whose cities were destroyed? That the financial cost is estimated at a minimum of $200 billion? And even though, according to some estimates, Iran lost about one million soldiers, it was still not defeated?
Of course, you do know that now the Bush administration and the neocons are setting America up for a war with Iran. Right?
With George W. Bush as your next president, go ahead, America, attack Iran. But, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you will be forced to pay the piper. And it will, most certainly, be a catastrophically heavy price.
Please don't send me mail arguing with me about this observation. Argue instead with Ying and Yang - or, better yet, argue with Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion:
"...for every action (force) there is an equal and opposite reaction."
THE 4,000-YEAR-OLD WAR
by Bob Wallace - www.lewrockwell.com - July 12, 2002
When I hear journalists say "We are going to win this war on terrorism," I wonder, "Which war are they talking about?" We're involved in at least three.
World War I and the mistakes of the victors led to W.W.II. After Hitler and the Nazis attempted to eradicate the Jews, many of the survivors moved to the Middle East, to found Israel (most people don't know it, but the Nazis were going to eradicate Christianity, too). These survivors, instead of moving into a peaceful land where they could be safe, found themselves in a war that had been going on for about 4,000 years. We became involved in it, even though it's none of our business, and ended up with attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.
These attacks led to us conquering Afghanistan, even though we were attacked by Saudi Arabians, not Afghanistanis or the Taliban. Our invasion of Afghanistan is a continuation of both W.W.I and the unnamed millennia-old conflict in the Middle East.
That's two wars we are involved in. The third is the "Great Game," which is the war that's been going on in Central Asia since at least the 16th century, when conquering the khanates of Central Asia became a security priority for Russia. It began to be called "the Great Game" when England and Russia were vying for control of the area in the 19th century.
Those in the media are so ignorant they do not know these things. They understand the great mineral and oil wealth of Central Asia, but not much else about it.
My undergraduate degree is in journalism. I worked on two student newspapers, then three professional papers, first as a reporter, then as an editor. I do not hold most journalists in high regard. I've known too many of them. I call most of them "half-educated halfwits." I find many of them to be ignorant and arrogant people who believe they are intellectually and morally superior to the unwashed masses. Thomas Sowell has a term for these people - he mocks them as "the Anointed."
My opinion extends not only to print journalists, but to the talking heads on TV, and to those on radio. Especially AM radio. I recently heard one well-known commentator on AM radio claim, "We beat the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, and we'll win this war."
True, we did beat the Nazis and the Japanese, at a terrible cost. (And notice how FDR's W.W.II ally Stalin has dropped out?) But we're still fighting World War II. When that Chinese pilot bumped our plane and sent himself into the ocean, that was a continuation of W.W.II. Our screw-ups during W.W.II allowed the Communists to take China. Vietnam, too, was continuation of W.W.II.
We're going to "win" this war the same way we're "winning" the war on drugs. It's going to go on for decades, and we're not going to have much to show for it except hatred from other countries in the world, the loss of astronomical sums of money, a creaking economy, and a slow but sure slippery-slope loss of our freedoms.
It is because of the ignorance of those in the media that they do not know how many wars we are involved in, or how long these wars have been going on. They also do not understand the American Empire is following in the footsteps of the Roman Empire. Or, for that matter, every empire that has ever existed.
Washington was right in his Farewell Address. Peaceful trade with all, political alliances with none. Unfortunately, his wisdom is being completely ignored.
GAZING INTO THE ABYSS
by Bob Wallace - www.lewrockwell.com - November 10, 2003
John Quincy Adams wrote this in 1821: "Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be America's heart, her benedictions and prayers, but she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator of her own."
Has the U.S. government even paid just the littlest attention to that quote? Noooo. Those geezers who founded this country didn't know what they were talking about, did they? Their views are passé, 200 years out of date. It's like the people I meet who think Dubya's MBA is worth more than 2000 years of philosophy and theology. Hmm...now lessee...to whom am I supposed to listen? An ex-drunk and spoiled rich boy with sporadic military attendance, one who thinks God talks to him and has directed him to start Holy World War I, or a man who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God"?
Are the incompetents who always seem to gravitate towards politics even familiar with that Adams quote? ("Adams? Isn't that a beer?") If they had known it, and paid some mind to it, we would have avoided every war in which we've been involved. In our history I can only remember two times we've been attacked: Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Every other time we attacked them, always, of course, claiming it was because they were about ready to attack us. But (for one example out of many) I certainly don't remember the Philippines ever readying itself for an across-the-Pacific assault on America.
And each time we were attacked, contrary to the "there's no bag over my head" delusions of those who believe it was because We are Good and They are Evil! Evil! Evil!, it was blowback because of the U.S. government's (not the innocent citizens') search abroad for monsters to destroy. But since human nature is imperfect, this war against monsters will be never-ending. (Those who do not understand the cost of fighting monsters are advised to read Beowulf, in which the monster Grendel used as chicken-wings those he slaughtered, when he munched on their "bone-joints.")
A quote by Nietzsche can (and should) be added to Adams' comment: "Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."
I'm sure that Paul Fussell, author of at least 13 books, including The Great War and Modern Memory, which in 1976 won the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Award and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, would understand both quotes - most especially the second.
Fussell, who fought in World War II, was wounded in Europe, and even though judged 40% disabled, still ended up fighting in the Pacific theater. He was all of 21 years old. His war memoirs, in which he writes about the "unspeakable savagery of the Pacific war," should be read by all who think that fighting monsters is a purely noble undertaking (remember those crunchy bone-joints!).
The savagery, he writes in Thank God for the Atom Bomb, was on both sides - Japanese and American. Ah, now here we go - here's the explanation for these atrocities, in a sentence: When soldiers go in search of monsters to destroy, sooner or later many will gaze into the abyss, and find the abyss gazing back into them. Is that observation in the Bible? Probably, just in different words. If it isn't, it should be.
"And of course the brutality was just not on one side," writes Fussell. "There was much sadism and cruelty...on ours." Long-term war, when it becomes intense (as opposed to "non-intense war," I ironically suppose), robs many soldiers of their humanity. It's the only way they can survive the horrors. Wearily, unendingly, it has happened this way in every war in history.
In his book Fussell quotes from Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny as to the main reason for the brutality: "The obliviousness of both sides to the fact that the opponents were human beings may perhaps be cited as the key to the many massacres of the Pacific war." Well, duh. Things would be so much easier if our opponents were always really icky giant spiders, like those in the movie Starship Troopers. But they don't exist.
"...Soldiers," Fussell writes, "experience terror and madness, and relieve those frustrations by crazy brutality and sadism...[I]t would be not just stupid but would betray a lamentable want of human experience to expect soldiers to be very sensitive humanitarians."
Soldiers as "very sensitive humanitarians." It's one of those things that makes me go, hmm. The U.S. government thinks the American military should be a combination of monster-slayer and social worker - half bone-crushing Conan, half smarmy Stuart Smalley. On one hand, it believes that soldiers should, as Fussell wrote, "close with and destroy the enemy," but on the other, thinks they should "win hearts and minds." Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing? I am reminded of Vietnam, in which the right hand was telling the Vietnamese we were there to liberate them while the left hand was setting their huts on fire with Zippo lighters.
Fussell also quotes from the World War II war correspondent Edward L. Jones: "We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off of enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers." ("Darn it, Grandma, why didn't you tell me what Grandpa had in that trunk in the basement before I opened it?")
We pretend only the enemy does these things, and not our side, as if our soldiers have a radically different, more ennobled nature than the enemy. The truth? Every person in the world is united by their frailties and imperfections. And sometimes those frailties and imperfections do really bad things.
"A really successful war," writes Fussell, "a psychologically Good War, requires not only the extirpation of a cruel enemy abroad. It requires as a corollary the apotheosis of the pure of heart at home...if for years you fancy that you are engaged in fighting utter evil, if every element and impulse of society is busy eradicating wickedness, before long you will come to believe that you yourself incarnate pure goodness...but during the war few cared to perceive that the battle was less between good and evil that between degrees of offensiveness."
Uh oh. It's that old lie about the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness. Which side is which? Oh, heck, it's easy: we have God on our side and they are Spawn of Satan. But wait a minute - our enemies think the same about us! (What? Me the Spawn of the Devil? I'm Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, although I have a frog.) It is this, the Goebbelsian labeling of the Other as non-human and evil, that is the sole purpose of propaganda.
Fussell will have none of this heretical, Manichean "We are Good and They are Evil" nonsense. "...if you can't imagine yourself an SS officer hustling the Jewish women and children to the gas chamber, you need to be more closely in touch with your buried self," he writes. That "buried self" exists in everyone, even people who think the voices in their heads are God talking to them. To deny this self that all have in common is to, for all practical purposes, claim perfection. Which, with total accuracy, has always been considered blasphemy by those who understand the all-too-common tendency to exalt self, tribe and nation, while simultaneously denigrating the enemy as sub-sub-sub-human.
Unfortunately for humanity, but not so unfortunately for the ravening maw of that Satanic entity known as the State, one of the easiest ways to unearth this buried self is to start a war: It comes out not only in soldiers but in non-combatant citizens, many of whom rage for the death of the enemy (even women, children and infants) while they have no intention whatsoever of proceeding to the front themselves. Instead, they go all grr! woof! woof! grr! on TV and AM radio.
Having seen war first-hand, Fussell understands the horrible waste of lives that is its inherent and eternal nature. Here he quotes John Toland: "...Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war."
But think of all the jobs created for companies producing artificial arms and legs! And wheelchairs! And the long-term care facilities for those reduced to mental three-year-olds after getting whacked in the head! Think of all the self-deluded sentimental, mawkish chickenhawk armchair-warriors who can go to military cemeteries, and with a tear in their eye, feel proud over the ultimate sacrifice, made by others.
As for the enemy, once we destroy 'em, then we can rebuild 'em. That way, once they get hooked up with DVD players and all the other goodies, they'll easily forgive us blowing the hands and feet off of their children. And after they watch Monsters, Inc. they'll be enlightened to the truth that monsters are really just big cuddly pushovers.
Each generation forgets what war is like, Fussell tells us. They romanticize it, they cheer it, they clean it up and try and make it honorable and patriotic. He says, "Animals and trees and stones cannot be sanitized, only human beings, and that's the reason it's going to happen again, and again, and again, and again."
What was that Santayana said? "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it"? Something like that.
Chapter 11: CONSERVATIVE VERSUS NEOCONSERVATIVE
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - May 20, 2003
Lew Rockwell is editor of LewRockwell.com
... Along with the political victory of the neocons (by victory I mean the reality that they now control many levers of power) has come shock and alarm of those who disagree with their policies. Their critics left and right regard their use of domestic police powers as contrary to constitutional guarantees, and their foreign policy as nothing but untrammeled aggression that violates human rights and makes us ever more vulnerable.
Despite its political victory, the future of neo-conservatism rests with the war on Iraq and its aftermath. They brought about this war over the objections of most of the world, and relied heavily on the crudest form of chauvinistic sloganeering to sell it to the American people. Iraq has been destroyed, with most people living amidst appalling wreckage that neocons apparently failed to anticipate. Their raw military power unleashed utter chaos, barbarism, and fanaticism in what was once the most secular and liberal Arab state.
... However, very little commentary on neo-conservatism deals with the crucial question to ask of any non-libertarian ideology: to what extent does it seek to use the welfare-warfare state to achieve its end? The answer with regard to neo-conservatism is clear in the actions of the Bush administration:
it has increased overall government spending by more than any administration since LBJ;
it has unleashed government spies like never before;
it has unleashed a series of wars against foreign countries that posed no threat whatever to the U.S., laying waste to their economies and cultures.
Now, this is remarkable given that the essence of conservatism in America is skepticism about political power, though it is true that all conservatives (a word that only became common parlance in American politics after the Second World War) have been excessively friendly to the state.
Yet conservatism did mean a desire to jettison utopian schemes and to defer to the tacit wisdom associated with what is. Conservatism was an unstable ideology, and, in fact, not an ideology at all. It was a predilection to preserve rather than innovate in matters of public policy. Generally speaking, conservatism offered valuable critiques of the left, but had no positive program apart from its endorsement of Truman's Cold War. In order to ensure support for the Cold War, conservatives came to terms with Leviathan and systematically resisted the libertarian implications of their domestic program in foreign and military affairs.
It is often forgotten that it was not only American conservatives who backed anti-communism. Another group of anti-communists of the period was variously called Scoop Jackson Democrats, Cold War Liberals, Democratic Socialists or Social Democrats, or simply the anti-Stalinist Left. They favored big government at home and abroad, and had a particular distaste for the Reds in Russia because they saw them as having discredited the great dream of socialist planning (and killed Trotsky). They were passionately for the Cold War but saw it as less an ideological struggle than a political one. They favored New Deal-style planning but rejected the excesses of Soviet-style totalism.
Of them, Mises wrote:
What these people who call themselves 'anticommunist liberals'... are aiming at is communism without those inherent and necessary features of communism which are still unpalatable to Americans. They make an illusory distinction between communism and socialism... . They think that they have proved their case by employing such aliases for socialism as planning or the welfare state... . What these self-styled 'anticommunist liberals' are fighting against is not communism as such, but a communist system in which they themselves are not at the helm. What they are aiming at is a socialist... system in which they themselves or their most intimate friends hold the reins of government. It would perhaps be too much to say that they are burning with a desire to liquidate other people. They simply do not wish to be liquidated. In a socialist commonwealth, only the supreme autocrat and his abettors have this assurance.
An 'anti-something' movement displays a purely negative attitude. It has no chance whatever to succeed. Its passionate diatribes virtually advertise the program that they attack. People must fight for something that they want to achieve, not simply reject an evil, however bad it may be. They must, without any reservations, endorse the program of the market economy.
After Vietnam, the Democratic Party became home to an ever-more influential group of Cold War skeptics, so many leftist Cold Warriors gravitated to the Republican Party, where they sought to cement the GOP's attachment to welfare and especially warfare. As Max Boot admits: "It is not really domestic policy that defines neo-conservatism. This was a movement founded on foreign policy, and it is still here that neo-conservatism carries the greatest meaning, even if its original raison d'être - opposition to communism - has disappeared."
Now, it would be wrong to say that the neoconservatives had not undergone any kind of intellectual change. They became less enamored of formal socialism and more at home with mixed-economy capitalism. They grew to hate much of the egalitarian-left cultural agenda of Democratic Party special-interest groups. Many of them wrote treatises decrying the excesses of their ex-brethren.
But the transformation was never complete, and the core of their ideology never changed: these people had then and have now a remarkable faith in the uses of state power, at home and abroad. Their intellectual formation in Straussianism convinced them of the centrality of the elite management of society by philosophers, and their background in Trotskyite organizing kept a ruthless political strategy as the operating mode.
As David Gordon sums up Rothbard's early analysis: "As Strauss sees matters, classical and Christian natural law did not impose strict and absolute limits on state power; instead, all is left to the prudential judgment of the wise statesman." The younger generation absorbed this tendency as much as the old.
Thus with neoconservatism, we have the statist aspects of the old conservatism minus the libertarian aspects that led the old conservatives to favor decentralist political institutions and free enterprise. Add to that the natural tendency of anyone in power to use the tools they have at their disposal. What we end up with is a danger to liberty as fierce as any ever posed by the left.
But by the standard of loving Leviathan, today's neo-conservatism is worse than every brand of conservatism that preceded it. It is worse than Reaganism, which included some libertarian impulses, and worse than National-Review-style conservatism from the 1960s and 1950s. One expects pro-state affections from socialists, but the puzzle of neo-conservatism is how it could exist within a group of self-professed non-socialists who even claim to despise what the collectivist left has done to the world.
Thus the great fallacy of neo-conservatism is the one that afflicts all non-libertarian ideologies: they believe that society can be managed by the state in both its political and economic life. They believe this to a lesser extent than some left socialists, but to a far greater extent than most thinkers on the right.
What they miss or do not want to face is precisely what the socialists never wanted to accept: that society is made up of acting, choosing human beings with their own values and ideas and plans, and it is they and not the state who do the hard work of creating civilization, a creation that is easy to destroy through statist means, but impossible to rebuild through such means; that many social forces like culture and economics are beyond the final control of state power; and in the long run, it is people, and not philosopher kings whispering in the ears of gullible statesmen, who will determine the course of history.
THE NATIONAL DEFENSE MYTH
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - October 23, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld puts on a good face for the public, but an internal memo revealed by MSNBC shows startling confusion. "We lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," he writes. "Is our current situation such that 'the harder we work, the behinder we get'?"
There you have it: a typical government program. Hundreds of billions down the drain, and nothing to show for it but confusion. Imagine a private business admitting that it doesn't know if it is making profits or losses. Imagine blowing through a trillion dollars and not knowing whether you actually accomplished anything at all. That private firm would be doomed, but the warfare state just keeps chugging along.
Later in the memo, Rumsfeld asks obliquely: "Do we need a new organization?" In a word, yes, and it shouldn't be government.
We're dealing with the oldest political error: the belief that because everyone wants something, government should or must provide it. If the error is pervasive, the result is the total state. If it is completely uprooted, the result is the purely free society.
For example, everyone agrees that the nation needs defending. If you believe it can't be done privately, that government should just do it, you run the risk of unleashing Hell. Thus has the U.S. government presumed the right to shell out half a trillion of other people's money every year, build and threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction, place troops in nearly 130 countries, and generally build the most well-funded, destructive, expansive, meddlesome military empire in all of human history. The result has been ever more threats, ever less actual defense, ever higher costs.
The political error described above is not universally applied, of course. Everyone needs to tell time but we don't suppose that government must issue everyone watches. We pretty much leave that to the private sector. With issues of food and housing, government has variously attempted mass provision but with obviously disastrous results: who wouldn't prefer private to public housing, grocery stores to K-rations? If the government had nationalized software production 10 years ago, you wouldn't be reading this article right now.
But defense is supposed to be different. We all want it. But something in the nature of things is said to prevent us from organizing it ourselves. We need government to do it because defense is a "public good," something the market can't provide for a variety of convoluted reasons (free rider problems, non-excludability, high cost, etc.). It is believed that we would rather be taxed to have bureaucrats defend us. This belief is held across the political spectrum. The arguments about defense and security and military budgets never go to the core.
What if the conventional theory is wrong? What if it turns out that the private sector can provide national defense, not in the sense of contracting with private companies to build bombs at taxpayer expense, but really provide it to paying customers at a profit? The argument of the explosive new book edited by Hans-Hermann Hoppe and published by the Mises Institute, is precisely that it can. If you have never before considered the idea, or considered it but wondered if you were crazy, you need The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production.
In the entire history of economic and political ideas, you can find only a handful of writings that argue along these lines, and nothing that makes the argument in this level of detail or with this level of theoretical and practical rigor. This volume is the best proof I've seen in years that intellectuals can perform essential services to society: shattering myths, causing a complete rethinking of widely held fallacies, assembling historical evidence in patterns that reveal certain theoretical truths, and making obvious the previously unthinkable.
The bias in favor of government provision of defense, and the taboo about other alternatives, has been, of course, entrenched, for hundreds, even thousands, of years. And certainly since Hobbes, just about every political philosopher has conjured up nightmare scenarios about the consequences of life without government defense, while ignoring the reality of the actual nightmare of government provision. As Hoppe writes, "the first person to provide a systematic explanation for the apparent failure of governments as security producers" was 19th century thinker Gustave de Molinari. In our own time, the only people doing serious work on this subject, perhaps the most important of our time, are the Austro-libertarians."
Government failure, yes, but private defense? Before you say this is an outlandish idea, remember that just about everything else done in the private sector sounds, at some level, implausible. What if I told you that oil needs to be extracted from the bottom of the ocean, converted and refined into gasoline, and then made available to every American not far from his house, on demand and at the price of bottled water?
It seems impossible. The first impulse might be to say that we need a government program to manage such a thing, but the non-intuitive reality is that government could never do such a thing on its own. Only the private sector can manage to coordinate the thousands of processes essential to such an undertaking.
Hoppe begins his argument with a quotation from Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. The British government had failed to protect the lives and liberties of the citizens of the colonies, and so it was the natural, God-given right (the Declaration argued) of the people to throw off that government and "provide new guards for their future security."
Not much has changed in the intervening years, Hoppe says, because today the U.S. is not protecting the lives and liberties of Americans and thus it is our right to provide new guards. The remainder of the book explores how such guards can come about.
Hoppe draws attention to the core problem of orthodox defense theory. The presumption on the part of nearly everyone is that monopoly is a bad thing. It is inefficient. It robs society of the benefits of competition. It limits choice. It places too much power in the hands of producers and not enough in the hands of consumers. The second presumption is that defense must be provided by a monopoly. Philosophers and economists have long presumed that the first argument about monopoly is false when applied to defense, and so it must be thrown out. This book takes the reverse view: the first argument is true and the second one is false.
He goes further. He says that there is no way to make a government monopoly of any kind work well. Government cannot be limited once it is conceded that it must be the sole provider of defense. It will continue to raise the price of the "service" as it provides less and less. Democracy doesn't help, says Hoppe. Democracy is as likely to be as war-like and crushing of internal dissent as the total state (see, e.g., the American Civil War) - a theme further explored by Gerard Radnitzky in his contribution.
The sweep of this volume is nothing short of breathtaking. Marco Bassani and Carlo Lottieri reconstruct the history of medieval non-states and the rise of republican theory. Murray Rothbard explains how states use war and "defense" as tools to grab, retain, and build power over the people. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn rethinks the monarchist idea of security. Bertrand Lemennicier examines whether the U.S. is using arms control as nothing but a mechanism for monopoly enforcement.
On the practical side, Joseph Stromberg and Larry Sechrest explore actual historic cases of how private means have been used to provide national defense. Jeffrey Rogers Hummell explains how it is that government gained its monopoly privileges in the first place and how the will to be free is essential in undermining this monopoly. Walter Block demolishes the modern "public goods" rationale for state defense and Joerg Guido Huelsmann shows how the principle of voluntarism and the right to secession are critical institutions in preserving freedom. This is strong material that slices right through the core assumption of nearly all modern politics. To say it is controversial is obvious; what's remarkable is just how completely convincing it is.
Hoppe concludes: "Though the implications of the arguments made in this volume are radical and sweeping, the principles are quite simple at root." What are they? In economics, the contributors apply known market analysis to an area in which it is usually excluded. In politics, they seek only the application of the principle Jefferson presented in his Declaration of Independence. Hoppe admits that "these ideas represent a relatively unexplored application of traditional liberal theory." Yet "given the continued rise of the national-security state in our own time, the future of liberty itself may hinge on our willingness to push these principles to their fullest extent."
Meanwhile, the killing goes on, in the name of defense. A news item the other day said that al-Qaeda has recruited ever more into its ranks - precisely the opposite of what Bush claimed his war would yield. Who is complaining? What can be done? Even worse: from the government's point of view, this isn't failure. It is success, insofar as it provides more excuses for the expansion of power over the rest of us. If public provision of defense is to be replaced by private - and this volume convincingly shows that it should - the argument must begin.
Habits of mind are hard to break. Sometimes radical intellectual surgery is the only way. That is precisely what this book does. So rather than email me your outrage at my lack of patriotism, or inform me of my failure to understand the sacrifices that our military men and women have made in the service of freedom, do something more constructive. Get this book and read it to discover why socialism in defense of the nation works no better than socialism in any other area of life.
EVEN CONSERVATIVES NEED THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - www.lewrockwell.com - October 26, 2001
American citizens who have doubts - any doubts - about the war have been subjected to an amazing barrage of hate and threats in recent days. But if you believe the polls that show 90 percent-plus support for this war, it seems oddly disproportionate to whip up hysteria against a handful of doubters.
Rather than defend the anti-war position itself, I want to make a different argument. If you believe in freedom at all, you should hope that there are at least some doubters and protesters, regardless of the merit of their case. Even if you think this war is a great and necessary thing to teach the terrorists a lesson in American resolve, the preservation of liberty at home is also an important value.
The existence of an opposition movement is evidence that some restraints on government still exist. The government, which is always looking for reasons to increase its power, needs to know that there will always be an opposition.
The view that wartime requires complete unanimity of public opinion is not an American one - it is a position more characteristic of Islamic or other totalitarian states, where differences of opinion are regarded as a threat to public order, and where the leadership demands 100 percent approval from the people. These are also states where the head of government requires that he be treated like a deity, that there be no questioning of his edicts, that he govern with unquestioned power.
This is the very definition of despotism. Unpopular government is dangerous enough, popular government far more so. When public officials believe that there are no limits to their power, no doubters about their pronouncements, no cynics who question their motives, they are capable of gross abuses. This is true both in wartime and peacetime. The most beloved governments are most prone to become the most abusive.
If you think that such despotism is not possible in the United States, you have not understood the American founding. Thomas Jefferson taught that American liberty depends on citizen willingness to be skeptical toward the claims of the central government. "Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism," he wrote in his draft of the Kentucky Resolves. "Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power."
"In questions of power," he concluded, "let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Wartime means that government is unleashing weapons of mass destruction against other human beings and their property. It is the most terrifying of all the powers of government. The war power, which means the power over life and death, can create in those who use it a feeling of omnipotence, the belief that they have absolute power, which gives rise to absolute corruption, as Lord Acton observed. This is true whether the war actions are popular or not.
Now, add to that reality an additional element: The population that supports the war power with its taxes is consumed in nationalistic fervor - to the point that nobody believes that government is capable of making a bad choice or of abusing its power. That is a sure prescription for abuse, and not only in wartime - the government enjoys this uncritical attitude, and will demand it in peacetime as well. Typically, in these cases, the abuse of peoples' rights is not decried but celebrated.
We have seen this happen in American history. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jay Winik reminds us that wartime abuse of presidential power has a long history. Lincoln imprisoned anti-war activists, including newspaper editors, judges and attorneys, and otherwise suspended all civil liberties. Wilson made it a crime to voice dissent on any aspect of the war, including the way it was financed. The jails were overrun with independent-minded people. Franklin Roosevelt did the same, and even set up internment camps for American citizens of Japanese descent.
Incredibly, even ominously, Winik writes about this in defense of the emergency powers that wartime provides. This is why we need to trade liberty for security, he says, and he implies that the Bush administration needs to go much further to meet the (low) standards set by his predecessors.
Winik's ultimate defense, however, involves a claim that is just plain wrong: "despite these previous and numerous extreme measures," writes Winik, "there was little long-term or corrosive effect on society after the security threat had subsided. When the crisis ended, normalcy returned, and so too did civil liberties, invariably stronger than before."
It's true that the despotism subsided after the wars ended, if only because government has a difficult time trying to maintain the level of public support it enjoys during wartime once peace has arrived. But does government really return to normalcy?
In fact, what changes is our definition of normalcy. In no case after a war did the government return to its prewar size. The postwar government is always bigger, more intrusive, more draconian, more expensive, than the prewar government. It feels smaller because the government is no longer arresting dissidents. But our standard of what constitutes freedom and despotism changes during wartime. Nothing has been as corrosive of American liberty as war.
Wartime tyranny also creates an historical precedent for future violations of liberty. Every president who desires more power cites his predecessors who enjoyed similar power, just as the bloody legacies of FDR, Wilson and Lincoln are being invoked on behalf of Bush today (witness Winik's own article).
Jefferson said in his first inaugural address: "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." That's why, if you hate the anti-war movement and want to see it suppressed, you are no friend to liberty, even in peacetime.
WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST
by Brad Edmonds - www.lewrockwell.com - October 22, 2001
... Vice President Cheney, speaking at a charity dinner in New York on October 18: "We must and we will use every means at our disposal to ensure the security and freedom of the American people." Here, Cheney was referring to efforts to combat terrorism internationally. The persistent idea is that bombing and ground troops killing terrorists (mostly terrorists, anyway) will improve security for Americans. What of the possibility that these American military forays will only increase hostilities directed against increasingly disarmed American civilians by terrorists (as the terrorists have, in fact, threatened)? The possibility of less interventionist, less violent foreign policy in America's future was not addressed.
And of course, "every means at our disposal" refers strictly to government efforts. Few today seem to understand what the founders understood - that individual citizens, armed and ready, are the only way to ensure both freedom and domestic security. The more our government attempts to provide security, the less of both freedom and security we'll have. And we've already lost freedom since 9/11.
... It gets even more wrongheaded; much of the recent rhetoric shows misunderstanding of freedom and rights. A common tack, for example, has been to blame our open society for the ease with which terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into buildings. Nothing could be further from the truth. If passengers weren't prevented by the FAA from exercising their constitutional right to bear arms, it is unlikely the hijackings would have been attempted.