YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 16, 2013

Blogs on anarchism/punk/primitivism

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 11:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

punk_rock_means_freedom_by_miyavikhttp://clarespark.com/2009/08/20/shakin-the-blues-away-primitivism-rock-n-roll-and-mental-health/

http://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/

http://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/ (retitled rappers, primitivism, ritual rebellion)

http://clarespark.com/2011/09/08/getting-down-with-tom-wolfe/

http://clarespark.com/2012/02/09/glee-goes-la-raza/

http://clarespark.com/2012/04/24/the-subtle-racism-of-edna-ferber-and-oscar-hammerstein-ii/

http://clarespark.com/2012/08/16/marx-rivals-and-our-enigmatic-president/

http://clarespark.com/2012/09/10/index-to-blogs-on-populist-demagoguery/

http://clarespark.com/2012/09/14/ron-paul-anarchist-in-chief/ (guest blog by Phillip Smyth)

http://clarespark.com/2012/12/12/white-rage-black-surrogates/

http://clarespark.com/2013/03/10/what-remains-useful-about-freud/

punk-rock-goat

http://clarespark.com/2013/03/28/power-and-aristocratic-radicals/  (to escape from panopticon surveillance, embrace the primitive, the pre-civilized.)

http://clarespark.com/2013/06/20/james-gandolfini-as-tony-soprano/

September 14, 2012

Ron Paul: Anarchist-in-Chief

This is a guest blog by Phillip Smyth that logically follows the series of recent blogs of mine that describe, in broad strokes, populist demagoguery and its role in the current campaign for President. (See http://clarespark.com/2012/09/10/index-to-blogs-on-populist-demagoguery/.)  I have been interested for years in the overlap between anarchism of the Left and Right, for both had a strong presence at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, the local Pacifica Foundation radio station. Perhaps the most salient characteristic of the radio station and Pacifica stations in general, was the overwhelming “rage against the machine”. By this, I refer not only to an aversion to technocratic society and to scientific expertise, but to the very notion of equality before the law. Lawlessness (anti-statism, anti-Americanism, anticapitalism) was the very air we breathed, and that I, as Program Director,  could only weakly resist, given the composition of our programmers and the counter-culture audience.

Phillip Smyth is a journalist and researcher. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, Haaretz, Middle East Review of International Affairs, National Review Online, and PJ Media. His essay follows:

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to government, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In forming a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” –James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

An Anarchist By Any Other Name

Ron Paul has had a number of titles attached to his name and his campaigns for president; “true conservative”, “libertarian maverick”, and according to the Week Magazine he is a, “self-described ‘strict constitutionalist’”.  Rarely, is the term “anarchist” applied to the ideology and philosophical base of the Paul campaign.

In 2007, Dean Barnett called Paul the “crank-in-chief” and wrote that, “he’s as close to an anarchist as we’re likely to see in presidential politics.” Barnett was correct, actual anarchist philosophy runs deep in the Paul movement. Though, Paul’s anarchists are not just a motley crew of naïve kids wearing black T-shirts with red “circle-A” symbols. Often broadly referred to as anarcho-capitalists, these anarchists are part of a small and radical wing in the libertarian movement and their influence on Ron Paul has been monumental.

Unlike most anarchists of the left, the anarcho-capitalists utilize a number of different methods to win recruits and are willing to accept slowly phasing their radicalism into the mainstream. Just because anarcho-capitalists aren’t lobbing Molotov cocktails into a Banana Republic, that doesn’t mean their views are any less insidious or radical than their more violent leftist cohorts.  This minor yet extremely vocal faction of libertarianism embraces a near pathological hatred of any form of the state, even in the most minimal form; abounding in all varieties of anti-Constitutional, anti-limited government, and anti-conservative manner of thought.

Rothbardian Influences

Enter “Austrian-school” economist Murray Rothbard, founder of modern “anarcho-capitalist” theory. Paul’s connection to anarchy begins with the late Rothbard. Rothbard was no fan of even the most limited government, noting in his book, “The Ethics of Liberty” that there were, “fatal flaws and inconsistencies in the concept of limited, laissez-faire government”.

Paul called Rothbard a “down-to-earth genius” and in an action of hero worship reminiscent of Maoist China or Stalin’s Russia, hung a portrait of Murray Rothbard in his congressional office. Following his 1995 death, Rothbard was described by Ron Paul in an obituary as one of America’s “greatest men”. Paul recounted that, “[Rothbard] told me he enjoyed meeting a Congressman who had not only read his books, but used them as a guide in his votes and legislation … he urged me to run for office again … he said, our side [my emphasis] needs an uncompromising anti-statist voice in Washington, D.C.” By “anti-statist”, Rothbard meant the term to convey complete sense of an anarchist.

In keeping with the anarchist narrative, traditional and extremely influential conservative economists have been written-out by the Rothbard-influenced Paul. The Economist wrote that Milton Friedman was “a revered figure in right-of-centre circles”—Not so for Ron Paul. Frum Forum’s J.D. Hamel took issue with Paul’s removal of Milton Friedman from Paul’s new narrative of conservatism, in favor of the anarcho-capitalist views of the marginal Murray Rothbard. For Paul, Rothbard is to his ideology, what Mao is to Maoism.

Penetrating the Fringe

Rothbard’s methods for achieving his “libertarian” anarchist utopia were broadly outlined in one confidential memo, where he praised Leninist methods of spreading their ideals. Rothbard wrote: “[w]e are, in this sense, revolutionaries–for we are offering the public a radical change in their doctrinal views…Our objective is, of course, to advance our principles—to spread libertarian-individualist [anarchist] thought (from now on to be called “libertarian” for short) among the people and to spread its policies in the political arena.” (P.20)

Rothbard continued, saying that a hardcore of anarchists needed to be groomed and infiltrated into slightly similar groups: “For one of the reasons behind the idea of ‘infiltration’ is that we can probably never hope to have everyone a hardcore man, just as we can never hope to have everyone an intellectual. Since the hard core will always be relatively small, its influence must be maximized by giving it ‘leverage’ through allied, less libertarian ‘united fronts’ with less libertarian thinkers and doers.”

Thus, Rothbard was making an argument similar to the proverbial, “Throwing as much muck against the wall to see what sticks”. This method was combined with infiltration of quasi-like-minded groups. Whatever stuck could be used by the vanguards of anarcho-capitalism in an effort to further their ideology—Slowly changing the ideological make-up of the groups they had influenced. In an effort to spread the anarcho-capitalist gospel, Rothbard also endorsed and supported a litany of candidates. For Rothbardians, pragmatism is a primary tactic to push their brand of radicalism.

In July 1992, Rothbard, the founding father of anarcho-capitalism endorsed George H.W. Bush. Ron Paul’s official blogger, Jack Hunter wrote, “does anyone think that because Murray Rothbard endorsed President George H.W. Bush in ’92, that everything else Rothbard stood for, wrote and believed simply evaporated? Does anyone think Rothbard endorsing Bush represents the be-all-end-all of his political legacy?” And Rothbard did not.

Rothbard and Paul have also reached out to white supremacists, who needless to say, are hardly libertarian.  Earlier in January 1992, Rothbard backed white-supremacist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semite, David Duke. Duke ran as a Republican for governor of Louisiana in 1991, leading to President George H.W. Bush to say he would vote for the Democratic candidate. When Duke tried to run for president on the Republican ticket in 1992, party officials tried to block him out. Rothbard claimed his backing of Duke rattled “the Establishment” and that “Right wing populism” should be supported:  “for the entire Establishment”, said Rothbard, “the ruling elite, was at stake, and in that sort of battle, all supposedly clashing wings of the Establishment weld together as one unit and fight with any weapons that might be at hand… [T]he proper strategy of libertarians and paleos [paleoconservatives] is a strategy of ‘right-wing populism,’ that is: to expose and denounce this unholy alliance, and to call for getting this preppie-underclass-liberal media alliance off the backs of the rest of us: the middle and working classes.”

As with David Duke, Paul and the anarcho-capitalists continued to back fringe players and establish more links. As an extension of Rothbard’s support for “Right wing populists”, Paul also did work for Pat Buchanan. In 1992 he served as the chairman for Buchanan’s Economic Advisory Committee. Buchanan is/was well-known for his anti-Semitic views. William F. Buckley addressed Buchanan’s anti-Jewish demagoguery in a seminal essay (which later became a book) in 1991.

Salon’s Steve Kornacki mentioned the Buchanan-Paul connection: “When Buchanan ran in ’92, he embraced a Paul-like platform — vehemently anti-tax and heavy on warnings about unsustainable empire and encroaching world government — although the two men differed (and continue to differ) in some policy areas. ‘It was the ‘Come home, America,’ message,’ Buchanan recalled in an interview this week. ‘George McGovern was out there saying it in 1972, but it was the right thing to do in ’92.’”

The connection to the white-supremacist fringe has been a constant in Ron Paul’s clique. In fact, a major split in libertarianism—One which led to the Cato Institute to disassociate itself from Paul—was caused due to Paul and his supporters courting of white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations. Speaking to the New York Times, the founder of the Cato Institute said, “It was just something that we found abhorrent, and so there was a huge divide”.

Paul’s infamous newsletters were replete with praise for David Duke, placed blame for the 1993 Islamist bombing of the World Trade Center on Israel, and racist statements about blacks. Additionally, some Paul associates told the Washington Post that Paul actively signed off on the documents. Paul also took donations from white supremacists and was unwilling to reject the money. While Ron Paul attempted to publically distance himself from appearing to kowtow to white-supremacist interests, it was later revealed that his connections to these types ran deep.  In February, 2012, the hacker-group Anonymous released E-mails showing extensive connections between the white-nationalist American Third Position and Paul’s campaign.

Paul’s connection to the Constitution Party (CP), a firmly paleoconservative entity, is another vestige of Rothbard’s “Right Wing Populism” path (note: the CP absorbed the segregationist American Independent Party).  After Paul dropped out of his 2008 race for the Republican Party’s nomination, he endorsed Chuck Baldwin, who became the CP’s 2008 Presidential candidate.  Baldwin, a New World Order conspiracy-theory promoter, was also a former staffer for Ron Paul, and had originally endorsed Paul in 2007.

When held up to Nazi-types, Paul’s connections to the Libertarian Party (LP), and general definition as a “Libertarian” stand in stark contrast. Paul was the 1988 LP candidate for president and still maintains a very loyal following inside the party. After the 2012 Republican National Convention, Paul’s supporters, ignoring the fact that the LP had already held their convention, selected Gary Johnson as their nominee, and that such a move would go against the bylaws, attempted to get the LP to make Paul their presidential or vice presidential candidate . When asked about Johnson’s campaign, Paul stated he, “can’t imagine endorsing anyone else.” Though, Paul’s campaign staff later announced that he, “[W]ill not endorse Gary Johnson”.

Paul has also reached out to the conspiracists at the John Birch Society (JBS), maintaining close links to the group. In 2011, Paul spoke at the 50th Anniversary for the JBS and also appeared in a 1990 JBS “documentary” about a UN plot to take over the U.S.

Beyond the paleoconservative, racist, and right-wing conspiratorial, Paul has reached out to other third parties. In 2008, Paul called together Cynthia Mckinney, Ralph Nader, and Chuck Baldwin to issue statements critical of the two-party system. Paul had the trio agree to a neo-isolationist foreign policy, a push to audit the Federal Reserve, and a number of other widely held views Paul had been pushing for years. It is important to note that McKinney and Nader can hardly be described as conservative—Both espoused far-left ideologies.

Infiltration of the G.O.P.

The theme of infiltrating and transforming the Republican Party was a regular occurrence with Ron Paul’s campaign and among his supporters. Before ceasing his 2012 run for president, Paul held a rally in Florida announcing, “We are the future [of the Republican Party]”.  Paul’s attempt to become the GOP’s nominee shined a light on how deeply his members had burrowed into the Republican apparatus and how they felt their convictions needed to become those of the big-tent Republican Party.

Take the case of Virginia state Republican delegates who were slated to vote during the Republican National Convention. Many of those delegates were Ron Paul supporters and refused to vote for Mitt Romney despite Paul’s clear loss, state party rules, and a pledge they signed.  Adam Cassandra, Chairman of the Fauquier County (Virginia) Republicans rejected the Paul-supporters underhanded disavowal of the rules, stating they, “did a disservice to the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) and have betrayed the members of their districts who elected them.” For diehard Paul supporters, their leader’s ideology was more important than an electorate or the rules.

Paul supporters didn’t stop there when it came to promoting their particular candidate. Three Ron Paul-backing Republican electors for the Electoral College (the body which states send to Washington, D.C. in order to formally elect the President and Vice President) announced they would refuse to vote for Romney, even if he won the states they represent. On September 14, 2012 one Paul supporting elector resigned her position in protest. The Associated Press (AP) noted, “The defection of multiple electors would be unprecedented in the last 116 years of U.S. politics.” The AP added, “In Nevada, for example, Paul’s forces seized control of the state convention and won a majority of delegates. They also placed four Paul supporters among the state’s six electors.”

Bedecked In Confederate Grey

Another unusual connection for Paul and the anarcho-capitalists has been their links to neo-Confederates. Neo-Confederates often push apologetics for the short-lived Confederate States of America (CSA), bash the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and some have even called for a revival of the CSA. Ron Paul and his ideological cohorts have hardly masked their admiration for the Confederacy. Paul even gave a speech offering revisionist history regarding the Civil War while standing in front of a Confederate battle flag—also mentioning Lysander Spooner (see the “History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective” section below).

If connections to quasi-fascistic entities, racist groups, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and far-leftists was not enough to demonstrate the anarcho-capitalist’s odd alliances, why would a collective of people who identify with the semi-libertarian, individualist-anarchism, back the side which fought for the preservation of slavery? Moreover, would the backing of the CSA not amount to encouraging the formation of another government entity?

For some, the Paul/anarcho-capitalist love of southern secessionism and hatred of Lincoln demonstrated a deep-seeded racism within Paul’s ranks. Of course, this would be logical with the connections Paul shared with numerous racist figures and publication of offensive newsletters. In their report on Ron Paul’s invitation of Thomas DiLorenzo—a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist writer—to testify on Capitol Hill, the Southern Poverty Law Center highlighted DiLorenzo’s publications and his membership in certain organizations to demonstrate his “[E]xtremist connections”. The Daily Kos pinned most criticism on Paul’s, “long history of wacky, racist views.” Writing for The New Republic, James Kirchick assessed that, “Paul’s alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race.”

However, the base analysis that racist-links were the main reason for Paul and his fellow ideologues had for embracing the Confederacy, misses the very anarcho-capitalist philosophy Paul has embraced. For the anarcho-capitalist, secessionism is key for the completion of their goals. Hans-Herman Hoppe, an anarcho-capitalist heavyweight, pushed for a second American revolution through secession.   Hoppe notes that the experience of the CSA is a negative example in terms of achieving eventual anarchic goals noting,

“[I]t appears strategically advisable not to attempt again what in 1861 failed so painfully — for contiguous states or even the entire South trying to break away from the tyranny of Washington, D.C. …Rather, a modern liberal-libertarian strategy of secession should take its cues from the European Middle Ages…Europe was characterized by the existence of hundreds of free and independent cities…By choosing this model and striving to create an America punctuated by a large and increasing number of territorially disconnected free cities — a multitude of Hong Kongs, Singapores, Monacos, and Liechtensteins strewn out over the entire continent — two otherwise unattainable but central objectives can be accomplished. First, besides recognizing the fact that the liberal-libertarian potential is distributed highly unevenly across the country, such a strategy of piecemeal withdrawal renders secession less threatening politically, socially, and economically. Second, by pursuing this strategy simultaneously at a great number of locations all over the country, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the central state to create the unified opposition in public opinion to the secessionists that would secure the level of popular support and voluntary cooperation necessary for a successful crackdown.”

Thus, a more positive memory of the CSA would be required in order to establish a historical precedent to encourage further secessionist actions. The ideological thinking behind this process, was that when completed, the smallest entity would be the individual, “self-governing” him or herself—anarchy. Hoppe wasn’t alone in his support for an anarchist future via secessionism. Writing for Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Clifford Thies proclaimed in a 2009 piece entitled, “Secession Is in Our Future”, “[T]here no longer is any pretense of federalism in which domestic policy is left to the states of the Union.”

Murray Rothbard also explained this belief in his piece, “Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation State”: “A common response to a world of proliferating nations is to worry about the multitude of trade barriers that might be erected. But, other things being equal, the greater the number of new nations, and the smaller the size of each, the better.” (P.6)

The Ludwig Von Mises Institute, the most prominent anarcho-capitalist think-tank, has its webpage littered with numerous articles both backing the Confederacy and pushing for secessionism. The search-term “Secession” provides 1,430,000 results. Included is a collection of essays, “Secession, State & Liberty”. In a way to obfuscate from the clear pro-slavery of the South during the Civil War, the narrative of abolitionists backing the Confederacy is promoted.

In this clip we see Ron Paul backing the right of secession (linked to the Wilsonian idea of “self-determination”): http://youtu.be/2_NP7ikl7Ps

“True” Constitutionalists

Rothbard’s anarchism also extended to his trashing of the Constitution, stating it “has been a hollow shell and mockery for many decades.” In another piece, where Rothbard came out in support of the “direct democracy” the Founding Fathers abhorred, he described the Constitution as “quaint and obsolete”.  Despite Rothbard’s 1995 death, his microscopic movement did not end. The anarchic ideological base he helped create is the core of many Paul-affiliated groups. This core mainly finds its intellectual home among those of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Ron Paul’s chief of staff from 1978-1982, editor (and possible author) of the racist Ron Paul newsletters, and maintainer of the eclectic LewRockwell.com, Llewellyn “Lew” Rockwell, has been called a close friend and has served as an adviser to Ron Paul for decades. It should come as no surprise that Rockwell is an avid supporter of Paul’s bid for the presidency. This is despite the fact that this proud anarchist once penned:

 “[t]he presidency must be destroyed. It is the primary evil we face, and the cause of nearly all our woes… The presidency — by which I mean the executive state — is the sum total of American tyranny. The other branches of government… are mere adjuncts.”

During his twenty minute speech at the 2008 Ron Paul sponsored “Rally For the Republic”, Rockwell stated, “there comes a time in the life in every believer in freedom when he must declare without any hesitation to have no attachment to the idea of conservatism”.

Paul can claim many appearances on Rockwell’s radio show and his innumerable amount of articles on Rockwell’s website. In addition to being an anarchist, Rockwell is an anti-Constitutionalist.  He once noted in a piece praising fellow anarchist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite”. Statements such as this are nothing new in the Paul campaign; they’ve just been overlooked or obscured in the interconnected web of Paul supporting websites and articles.

In the view of mass media, Paul shrugged off his anarchist supporters. During a 2007 ABC News interview, the then 2008 presidential candidate indicated that his, “typical supporter is non-descriptive…I liked to kid that we get a few anarchists that come to our rallies”. Nevertheless, around his diehard clique, Paul allowed his true base-anarchistic ideals to be known. In a 2009 interview with the anarcho-capitalist/libertarian Motorhome Diaries, Paul was asked by an interviewer, “I know you stand for the Constitution, but what do you say to people who stand for self-government [another term for individualist-anarchism] rather than a return to the Constitution?” Paul followed-up with, “I think that’s really what my goal is…If you have a government, they will want us all to be socialistic.” Ron Paul has also described himself on Russia Today’s pro-Paul “Adam vs. the Man” program as a voluntaryist. “One of the most significant signs to the Anarchist is the steady growth of the principle of voluntaryism” noted the early 20th century anarchist publication, Free Society. To the voluntraryist, taxes, voting, laws, and even the Constitution aren’t voluntary because individuals didn’t agree to them.

Pushing the Agenda

There have been a number of spinoff groups created via Paul’s largess. One of these groups includes a youth-wing called the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), formerly known as Students for Ron Paul.  Additionally, the Campaign for Liberty (often referred to as C4L) was also founded in the wake of Paul’s 2008 run for president.

Anthony Gregory, a noted anarchist from the Independent Institute serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the C4L. The C4L claims that neither major political party, “treats the Constitution with anything but contempt”. However, the C4L’s hypocrisy regarding the Constitution is evident by the featuring of articles and speeches from anti-Constitutionalist anarchists such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Gary North. and wrote that the Constitution, “rather than being a legitimate source of pride” was instead a, “a fateful error”.  North claimed in his book, that the framers of the Constitution were simply out to centralize government and take power from the people, noting, “what they did was illegal”.

The YAL claims in their mission statement, they “welcome limited government conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians.” Yet they also concede their anarchic ideological purpose by stating in the same document that, “government is the negation of liberty”. Taking this statement to its logical extreme automatically opens the door for anarchist thought.

Despite the claim of being a conservative open-tent, the YAL is full of pro-anarchist commentary critical of the Constitution. Instead of being a haven for conservatism, classical liberalism, or even limited-government libertarians, YAL hosted speakers such as anarchist economist Robert Murphy and Thomas E. Woods, a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Woods authored a June 15 article on Rockwell’s site entitled, “Why Even An Anarchist Should Vote for Ron Paul”. In the YAL official magazine, the Young American Revolution, anarchists such as David Gordon find space for their views. In one article anarcho-capitalist Walter Block is referred to as a “titan of the freedom movement”. Matt Cockreill, the host of the official YAL internet based radio show, the “Matt Cockerill Show”, has stated that, “the only practical libertarian system—is anarcho-capitalism.” The vast majority of the figures the show has played host to are fellow anarchists including, Walter Block, David Henderson, Stephan Kinsella, Mary Ruwart, Justin Raimando, and even the ultra-leftist anarchist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky was described in the show as a, “world renowned academic and social activist”.

Ironically, in 2009 the YAL claimed that Constitution Day was our largest national event to date!” In October of that same year the YAL interviewed (and continues to laud) Stephan Kinsella, the same man who asked people to dawn black armbands for Constitution Day and proclaimed “Down with the Constitution.”

There’s also an almost never ending stream of pro-anarchy posts found on the official YAL blog. Even Bonnie Kristian, a self-proclaimed minarchist and YAL communications director, “also identif[ies] with Christian anarchy.”

History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective

In Paul’s books, The Case for Gold: A minority report of the U.S. Gold Commission, Liberty Defined, Freedom Under Siege, and even on Fox News he has paid homage to a little known 19th century abolitionist, anarchist, and member of the Karl Marx led First International, Lysander Spooner. One of Spooner’s most famous writings was entitled “No Treason” where he attempted to make the case (in a post-Civil War environment) that Confederate soldiers had not committed treason. Like modern-day anarchists Spooner didn’t just disregard the Constitution, he threw it away. Spooner wrote that, “The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation … And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago.”

In Liberty Defined, Paul writes that Lysander Spooner’s argument (interestingly quoting from the Mises Institute’s compilation on Spooner, Let’s Abolish Government) about the nullity of the Constitution as, “an interesting argument, but it’s not likely to make much headway at this stage in our history. Enforcing the Tenth Amendment is a big enough challenge to us now.” For a so-called Constitutionalist to write positively and bestow legitimacy on such an argument’s goals is rather odd. It’s not hard to interpret Paul’s implication he accepts Spooner’s arguments and is instead arguing for a more incremental approach to an anarcho-capitalist Shangri-La.

Conclusion: Sly Indoctrination

John Samples of the Cato Institute told the Houston Chronicle that, “In his two presidential campaigns, Ron Paul ran to educate”. This new education is attempting to alter the meaning for traditional terms such as “libertarian”, “conservative”, “liberty”, and “constitutionalist”.    If “education” is the goal and the lessons potential new conservatives and libertarians are receiving is actually one in anarchism. That outcome doesn’t look positive.  While it is [highly] unlikely that the Rothbardian utopia will be reached, its legitimization by mixing it with classical concepts in American governance and conservative philosophy will result in more misinformed, highly ideological followers, whom have no concept of the “ordered liberty” of the Founders, extol radical anti-state values, and praise nihilistic concepts of amorphous liberty.  It may be hard to contemplate that a septuagenarian with a Texas drawl might be a chameleon launching a radical crusade, but it is imperative for mainstream libertarians and the broader conservative movement to put Paul with other anarchists: In a distant dustbin of history. [Clare: for a video demonstrating the confusion of a Paulbot who thinks that Tom Morello sponsors his faction, see http://www.dailypaul.com/213503/tom-morello-gives-ron-paul-a-thumbs-up-video. I find this video alarming.]

Paul, Browne, Rothbard

April 26, 2012

Responding to neo-isolationists

Illustrated: Theo Van Gogh, assassinated filmmaker, as seen in Amsterdam Museum slide show

What follows is a guest blog by Phillip Smyth,  journalist and researcher. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, Haaretz, Middle East Review of International Affairs, and PJ Media.

Phillip Smyth

Lately, the terms “noninterventionism” and “isolationism” have been thrown around like a baby seal between two rambunctious orcas. The roots of these two terms finding their way back into American political discourse have much to do with the rise and spread of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his quasi-libertarian ideology.

Often, Paul’s foreign policy is termed “noninterventionism”— A policy that encourages free trade but also encourages the U.S. to abandon military engagements, bases, and engage in a policy of noninterference with any foreign state’s affairs.

However, noninterventionism is little more than a rehashing of isolationist principles. Instead of the promised prosperity and peace, the policy would result in little more than further problems for the United States.

Over a small period of time, I’ve noticed that those followers of what could be termed, neo-isolationism have developed a number of arguments defending their views. They range from the benefits of their strategy for trade, reasons why their ideological belief is not isolationism, attempts to connect “noninterventionism” with America’s founding fathers, together with a revisionist view, supportive of neo-isolationism when dealing with enemies we face today. It’s my hope that through this writing some of these neo-isolationist’s myths will be dispelled.

Isolationism By Any Other Name

Noninterventionism actually finds its roots in libertarian ideology—Namely the work of John Stuart Mill and latter day anarchists operating under the banner of libertarianism–called anarcho-capitalists. Far from being, in the words of Ron Paul, “The Original American Foreign Policy”, this form of isolationism was simply an anarcho-capitalist ideological concept rebranded as “noninterventionism”.

Serving as the ideological godfather for anarcho-capitalist thought, Murray Rothbard was–even before Ron Paul stood on the political stage–an ardent advocate for isolationism. In terms of influence, Rothbard was the most important element in developing the contemporary push for isolationism-as-noninterventionism in the United States.

Rothbard’s influence was particularly heavy on Ron Paul and the set of ideologues that would later come to push neo-isolationism. Rothbard described Paul as, “that rare American, and still rarer politician, who deeply understands and battles for the principles of liberty.” In an obituary Paul wrote for the late Rothbard, Paul felt that, “With his death, all who cherish individual rights and oppose the welfare -warfare state, are  the  poorer…one of the most fascinating human beings I’ve ever met…[A] down-to-earth genius.”

Even today, Paul is proud of his protégé status vis a vis Rothard; hanging  Rothbard’s photograph on his congressional office’s wall and posting quotes from him on his official congressional website.

In 1959 Rothbard wrote an unpublished piece for the National Review entitled, “For A New Isolationism”. In the piece Rothbard proudly proclaims the need for the United States to re-adopt isolationism (especially in military and foreign affairs) but still trade with friend and foe alike:

The basis of all trade is benefit to both parties. There is no need for the traders to like each other for each to gain by the trade. There is no reason, therefore, why the Communists, even if in charge of most of the world, would not be willing to trade with us, just as they are willing and eager to trade now.

Rothbard expanded on this further in a 1973 interview:

“[Isolationism is] [i]n other words, complete abstinence from any kind of American military intervention and political and economic intervention… abstinence from government intervention. It was the idea of isolationism. The sneer against isolationism always was that isolationists were parochial, narrow-minded characters who don’t know that there is a world out there and want to hide their heads in the sand. In fact it’s the opposite – the true principle of isolationism is that the government should be isolated, the government should do nothing abroad and people who trade, interchange, and engage in voluntary travel, migration, and so forth should be allowed to peacefully do so. The idea is to isolate the government, not to isolate the country.

By the early 1980s, Rothbard started placing isolationism in quotes and instead utilized the term “noninterventionism”. Even Rothbard’s wiki-entry for the Ludwig von Mises Institute (the primary think-tank for anarcho-capitalists) sidelines his fervent isolationism, placing it under the header of “noninterventionism”. This tactic was followed up by a number of articles by his ideological allies attempting to disassociate isolationism from noninterventionism. Nevertheless, despite the change of terminology, the main ideas originally set forth by Rothbard were retained.

In essence, Rothbardian isolationism is the same exact policy Ron Paul and other so-called “noninterventionists” propose; A policy of “free trade with all” but sans any form of foreign engagement. Paul states:

Noninterventionism is not isolationism. Nonintervention simply means America does not interfere militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations. It does not mean that we isolate ourselves; on the contrary, our founders advocated open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations.”

The Founder’s Interventionism

For many neo-isolationists, they believe that America must “return” to a “noninterventionist” foreign policy. Only then will the United States be free from attack, confusing overseas engagements, and see a new prosperity.

Yet, this belief is predicated on a mistaken belief that America’s founding fathers only practiced this foreign policy. Normally, these assertions are backed-up by cherry-picked quotations by the founders.  Perennial favorites include a line from George Washington’s farewell address, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world” and another line from Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 inaugural, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.”

Writing for The Future of Freedom Foundation, neo-isolationist Gregory Bresiger noted when, “Thomas Jefferson, took office in 1801, he, too, paid homage to Washington’s foreign-policy advice. Jefferson, despite his differences with the Federalists, promised no ‘entangling alliances.’ Isolationism, or non-interventionism, was, for a short time, the established policy of the United States.”

However, Bresiger’s view, along with those of his ideological allies, is largely a myth.

George Washington was hardly a noninterventionist. During the Revolution, Washington and the Continental Congress attempted to incorporate Canada into the United States. When French Canadians didn’t respond to congressional invitations to join the thirteen colonies, Washington opted to militarily conquer the entity.[1]

As president, speaking to his understanding of protecting what were considered American interests (e.g. fear of wide scale slave revolts in the United States), Washington “advanced France $726 million in debt payments and sold arms to the planters” in the French colony of Saint Dominigue (Haiti) in 1791.  Both Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton supported the decision to “interfere” in what many a neo-isolationist would consider a French problem.

In 1823, Founding father James Monroe along with John Quincy Adams, son of founding father and second president John Adams, conceived of The Monroe Doctrine. The Doctrine restricted European powers from influencing or attempting to recolonize either North or South America. To the doctrinaire neo-isolationist, America setting policy for, or extending a security umbrella to South America would be unthinkable.

Thomas Jefferson’s war against Barbary pirates in North Africa is another regularly cited example regarding the anti-isolationism of the founding fathers. Of course, the attack against the Barbary pirates subverted the recognized Ottoman authority over these states, thus breaking a cardinal rule of “nonintervention” for many a neo-isolationist. It also involved America entering into an alliance with Sweden.

However, the additional gritty details of how this war was executed and the very “interventionist” nature of the campaign against the pirates, is often forgotten. Not only did Jefferson go against adopting the isolationist position, he instead opted for a tactic many would ascribe to modern-day leaders: A military coup to gain a strategic ally. Historian John Carter notes Jefferson’s “interventionist” approach:

“…in the summer of 1801 James Cathcart, the U.S. consul to Tripoli, presented Secretary of State James Madison with a proposal to attempt to overthrow the Pasha’s government. As Cathcart explained, his plan called for enlisting the assistance of the Pasha’s older brother and rival for political power, Hamet Karamanli. Hamet was living in exile in the neighboring Barbary State of Tunisia. Cathcart proposed that an American military effort could be masked by Hamet’s participation to appear to be merely a local political uprising. If the action succeeded in replacing the Pasha with his brother, then America would gain an important ally in the Mediterranean region. Cathcart had already instructed the American consul at Tunis, an adventurer named William Eaton, to explore the depth of Hamet Karamanli’s political ambition for the throne of Tripoli as well as to make an assessment of the sort of resources that might be necessary to mount a coup…the administration paid Hamet a stipend of $2000 in 1802…In the end Jefferson settled on a two track diplomatic initiative that employed both a limited use of American naval force in the region and Cathcart’s covert plan for a coup to put Hamet Karamali on the throne.”[2]

Now juxtapose Jefferson’s (and the Seventh U.S. Congress’s) 1801 strategy with comments by Ron Paul about current situations.

Regarding Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, an American ally hardly “installed” by Washington, but supported for the sake of regional stability and furthering American interests:

[T]hey’re [the Egyptian people] upset with us for propping up that puppet dictator for all those years. Now to add insult to injury, where do you think the money went? To Swiss bank account, that family, the Mubarak family had $40, 50, 60 billion–nobody knows–stashed away in other countries, other areas of your money and that is true.

In relation to the U.S. War in Afghanistan and the 1953 British and American organized coup in Iran:

We already hear plans to install and guarantee the next government of Afghanistan…nation building is quite another. Some of our trouble in the Middle East started years ago when our CIA put the Shah in charge of Iran.

If anything, it would seem that the neo-isolationists are actually out of step with the pragmatic, interest-based, and at times “interventionist” foreign policy established by the founding fathers.

Isolationism & America’s Interests

Pulling American forces out of our numerous overseas bases and engagements is another policy goal for neo-isolationists. Many of these isolationists speculate that if the United States suddenly pulled its forces back from every foreign base and slashed defense budget costs, the global engine of trade would not only keep running, but would actually be kicked into high gear. [3]

However, this ignores historical and contemporary reality. In an piece covering the importance of a strong American military and need for power projection to protect American trade interests, Marion Smith notes, “Their [the neo-isolationists] mistake lies in thinking that commerce and security are separate issues. Nothing could be more at odds with the experience of American statecraft.”

Many neo-isolationists believe American influence on other powers is illegitimate. Yet with the removal of American forces to project power over key players, one of the great checks on stability and conflict would actually be removed.

Take the case of Israel countering Iran’s nuclear program. In the words of Ron Paul, if Israel attacked Iran, “That’s their business, but they should suffer the consequences.” The same concept could be applied to any military action by any state. It’s not America’s business, we should continue trading with both parties, and all will be well.

The fact of the matter is that in our globalized environment with its vast interconnections, it’s not simply “their business”.  Regional actors’ actions would have a direct effect on the U.S. Simply consider the variety of American interests in the Middle East, namely oil. Needless to say, the U.S. is a country reliant on cheap oil and a disruption would be quite costly.

Michael C. Lynch of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, told the NY Times, “If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we’d see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump”.

The price of oil and gas in the U.S. is often driven by speculation. With the possibility of increased regional war and terrorism, the risk would only grow.  Imagine what a Persian Gulf security vacuum would look like without the American security umbrella, how an empowered OPEC oil cartel might toy with international oil prices, or what emboldened irredentist entities might attempt in the Persian Gulf’s strategic waterways. Certainly, free-trade abroad and economic prosperity at home would be directly altered.

An even bigger question is which powers would take over the U.S. role? Oil starved China? Would there be a litany of small navies often battling one another for hegemony? Anarchic conditions may also exist to the detriment of international trade. One only needs to review how Somali pirates (regularly checked by U.S. and other fleets) plague trade routes.

Many neo-isolationists believe American influence on other powers is illegitimate. Yet with the removal of American forces to project power over key players, one of the great checks on stability and conflict would actually be removed.

Neo-Isolationists & Jihad

Intertwined with the issue of pulling out American forces from many global engagements, is our war against radical Islamism in Afghanistan and across the globe. As witnessed among the Sunni jihadists of al Qaida and the Shia Islamist theocratic regime in Iran, there is no denying that the numerous forms of messianic Islamism exist as coherent ideologies. What is more, is the jihadist worldview, one that it is locked in an existential battle against the United States and the West.[4]

Often, neo-isolationists will pin blame on Islamist attacks against the West by stating they were due to Western occupation. Rothbardian and Ron Paul backer, Professor Walter Block went so far as to say, “Terrorists do not put us in the cross hairs because we have rock music, mini-skirts and freedom.”

Yet time and time again, through Islamist discourse, it can be seen that concerns over military occupation(s) hardly encompass the entire picture. Disgust with Western lifestyles, freedoms, and the denial by many of those living in the West of accepting Islam served as extremely potent motivations for conflict.

In the words of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “So long as the American empire based in the White House has not been overthrown, we have work to do.”

In fact, the very policy of unilateral withdrawal simply emboldens our Islamist enemies. Osama bin Laden himself cited the examples of the U.S. pullout from Beirut (due to a Hizballah bomb attack in 1983) and the Somali “Black Hawk Down” incident of 1993 as proof that Americans were cowardly and needed to be attacked more.

When America pulled its Marines out of Lebanon following the bombing by the Iranian backed Shia Islamist Hizballah, a spate of additional bombings, hijackings, and kidnappings of Westerners and Western targets ensued.

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh wasn’t assassinated in retaliation for Western occupation, but for “insulting Islam”. Danish cartoonists who depicted pictures of Mohammed with a bomb fashioned to his head were threatened with death. This also resulted in radical Islamists targeting Denmark.  In 2008 Ayman al-Zawahiri, then the number two in al-Qaeda threatened Denmark:

“Denmark has done her utmost to demonstrate her hostility towards the Muslims by repeatedly dishonouring our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him salvation. I admonish and incite every Muslim who is able to do so to cause damage to Denmark in order to show your support for our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him salvation, and to defend his esteemed honour. We prefer to live underground [i.e. dead] rather than accepting the limited response of boycotting Danish dairy products and goods.”

One month after the statement, a car bomb exploded outside of Denmark’s embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Eight were killed.

Essentially, the simple and very libertarian exercise of freedom of speech prompted the attacks. These individuals and the very societal norms they embraced were seen as threats by Islamists.

NOTES.


[1]See: Gustave Lanctôt, Canada & the American Revolution, 1774-1783, (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1967).

[2] John J. Carter, Covert Operations As A Tool of Presidential Foreign Policy In American History From 1800 To 1920: Foreign Policy In The Shadows, (New York, The Edwin Mellen Press, 2000), P.23.

[3] Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto, (New York,Grand Central Publishing, 2008), pp. 56-57.

[4] My own article for the Daily Caller has other examples. See: http://dailycaller.com/2011/02/21/ron-pauls-poor-policy-and-poorer-defenders/

January 12, 2012

The Counter-culture vs. “the Establishment”

“America The Nation of Trampled Rights”

[Illustrated: Soviet poster. Tom Nichols translated it for me: "...an anti-imperialist passage written by Mark Twain in 1901 criticizing the Spanish-American war, but the Soviets mangled it slightly. The original goes like this: 'And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one--our States do it: we can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones.' The Soviet poster says: "We can set up a special flag, just the same flag with the white stripes black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones. -- Mark Twain'  Then at the bottom: AMERICA - THE NATION OF TRAMPLED RIGHTS...."

We are now in full campaign mode, and the media are belching out polls and opinions 24/7. Our political culture is so messed up with respect to labels that it is necessary from time to time to look at the key words that many Americans take for gospel truth, for a meaningful statement of fact. In this blog, I criticize the notion of a [Northeastern] Republican establishment that is held to be the big money behind the Romney candidacy.  For “establishment” read “elite.” For “counter-culture” read the Ron Paul enthusiasts and overlapping leftovers from the 1960s, or even from the coalition between the CPUSA and America First, 1939-41.

The Antifederalists were populists furiously opposed to the output of the Constitutional Convention (1787), but who plays the populist card these days? I have argued here before that populism may have had a startling recrudescence as a grass roots movement of farmers reacting to the Depression of 1893, angry at banks and railroads and railing against the gold standard; however its demands for more direct democracy were co-opted and advanced by a bipartisan progressive movement (as emphasized by Martin Sklar’s big book on the “socially constructed” transition to progressivism). Thus, it can be said, with accuracy, that there is a progressive movement that spans both major political parties, but is mostly unopposed within the Democratic Party (and that in turn often makes common cause with the Leninist Left), and that finds powerful adherents in the Republican Party, especially those espousing “compassionate conservatism.” It is also true that both political parties are internally incoherent, for they are playing to a highly diverse electorate with the same, often irrational or outdated appeals. I hope that the following key words can clear up a bit of the media-bred confusion.

1. Establishment. If classes were akin to geologic strata or rungs in a ladder, and if we had a stable ruling class with the powers of the medieval Catholic Church or the absolutist monarchies that joined King and Church, there might be some basis for the counter-culture dropping out from, or rejecting “the establishment.” But class is not a ladder or a layer of sedimentary rock; equal opportunity does exist under capitalism, and groups that were once exploited in an earlier America (slaves and many workers, including women) now have organized themselves so that they wield enough political power to make or break a federal or state election, not to speak of the power awarded to them by an ever-alert and porous progressive ruling class, alarmed by rowdy movements from below. Clearly, there are de-centered loci of power (as the postmodernists claim), and there is more fluidity and opportunity to rise than the class-warfare ideologues claim. In the case of the Ron Paul adherents, there exist such hated entities as “the military-industrial complex” or “the Fed” (aka the money power). Just to emit these key words, so resonant with authoritarian parenting styles, is enough to stir up a mob.

2. Experts. The stubborn  hatred directed against Walter Lippmann by followers of Noam Chomsky is impressive in its magnitude. Apply to antagonism to Mitt  Romney as “technocrat”. See http://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.

3. American exceptionalism. Anti-Americans, whether Soviet or Nazi/Fascist, have wreaked havoc on the writing of history. Partly because of the way that the corporatist liberals (i.e. the pseudo-moderate men of either Party, see http://clarespark.com/2011/12/02/the-whiteness-of-the-whale/, etc.) absorbed movements from below during the 1960s and 70s, catering to cultural nationalists (subtly racist)  of all kinds, and because there was much ammunition available in the American past, owing to our particular history, the most self-critical,  open and pluralistic society on earth has a terrible international reputation, just as does democratic Israel with its authoritarian neighbors. With a very few exceptions, our most prominent intellectuals and opinion-makers see us as no more than rapacious white people/Jews plundering the other “races” and Mother Nature herself. Who wouldn’t want to drop out and turn on Nirvana in such a hellhole? Hence, the demand for cheap narcotics and other forms of escape, strongly reinforced in the popular culture. (I developed this paragraph further here: http://clarespark.com/2013/02/27/american-exceptionalism-retold/.)

4. The moderate men. There is pseudo-moderation and true moderation. But the word itself is a staple of psychological warfare. No better way to affect public opinion than to name your opponent as “extremist” while claiming the rational position for oneself. And rationality has come to mean the willingness to find the middle ground so that compromises can be effected and wars averted. Pseudo-moderates are often found in those statists who see regulatory agencies and the bureaucracy in general as floating above the fray, able through artfulness to bring extremist antagonists to the bargaining table, where the mediator will accomplish his [magic tricks]. Since everyone wants to be reasonable (i.e., not crazy), we often let this buzz-word go by without critical reflection, without asking for a detailed analysis of the policy that is under review by its citizens or their representatives. A mob is never moderate; a citizen is always thoughtful, self-examining, and prefers the marketplace of ideas as the best place to separate reconcilable from irreconcilable conflicts, taking action accordingly without fear of “flip-flopping.”

5. Flip-flopping.  Any person who has never changed her or his mind is a slave to institutional authority. I have flipped-flopped numerous time, from housewife to radio personality (and with much internal role conflict); from liberal to leftist; from leftist to independent or classical liberal or just plain seeker after truth as a scholar. If a politician is merely an opportunist who changes his/her line depending on the audience, rather than speaking from soundly analyzed and specified policy preferences, then I understand the animus against flip-flopping. But someone who cries “liberty” without spelling out what means in the most detailed and concrete manner, to be judged by American citizens accordingly, is a charlatan. But then, is our most visible culture not given to the most abstract buzz words and expressions?

From “establishment” to “counter-culture” we are not only speaking past each other, we are not speaking at all.

January 9, 2012

Denying the Nuclear Age

Thanks to Tom Nichols, political scientist, for this guest blog.

I love teaching, and I especially love teaching undergraduates. (Watching young people discover something for the first time is an exciting part of the job.) But it’s a frustration beyond words that younger Americans have no historical memory at all. That’s probably why no one seems to care about nuclear weapons anymore. Not only do many of my students no doubt think that my accounts of the Cold War sound like “crazy grandpa” stories about the Kaiser and the Huns, but they seem to think we’ve solved all those problems now, and that the biggest threats to the planet are things like carbon emissions and Wall Street’s executive bonuses.

In other words, they worry about things that could make us uncomfortable and change our lives by a few degrees over the next 50 years, and remain oblivious to the things that could increase the planetary temperature by ten million degrees in the next 50 minutes.

I suppose there’s plenty of blame to go around. The media, of course, are always a good choice: when Ronald Reagan was president, there wasn’t a day that went by that news anchors like Dan Rather didn’t tell us all to have courage even though that nutty old man was going to blast us all to bits. Once the Cold War was over, and Clinton told us all it was the economy, stupid, nukes went away (just like the homeless, who seem to vanish from the media during Democratic administrations). Journos didn’t rediscover the nuclear danger until George W. Bush started up about nuking the “Axis of Evil”  — a self-inflicted wound typical of the Bush 43 administration — but by and large, the media doesn’t understand nuclear issues and doesn’t care about them. (And yeah, FOX News, I mean you, too.)

Now we’re facing the possible creation of an Iranian nuclear bomb, which would be an epochal event that could get a lot of people killed a lot faster than a notional rise in beach temperatures. No one seems to know what to do about it; Rick Santorum says he’ll bomb them, Ron Paul says we should mind our own business (and that the Iranians are just afraid of the Jews, anyway), and the President, as presidents do, is expressing “deep concern.” (On that last one, I recommend we all cut President Obama some slack: this situation sucks, and it’s not of his making. I don’t want him to say anything definite one way or another; I’d rather let the Iranians have to wonder about that, rather than seeing POTUS paint himself into a corner. That’s how deterrence works — I hope, but that’s an issue for another day.)

But on the bigger issue of nukes in general, I have a bigger worry. I think people don’t care about nuclear weapons because we’ve just gotten used to them. We’ve learned to accept things that no sane person should accept.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I was an anti-Soviet nuclear “hawk” in my early career in the 1980s, because I believed that the sons of bitches –that’s a political science term — who ran the Kremlin didn’t scare easily, and if nuclear weapons were needed to keep the peace, so be it. I had no love for anti-nuclear activists, whom I thought of in the main as harebrained political menaces. No one remembers Helen Caldicott, the then-famous anti-nuclear activist, but I do: she was (I am not kidding) an Australian pediatrician.. She was also a person of staggeringly silly politics, and I firmly believe that if she had been listened to in her time, we’d all either be working in Soviet lumber camps or rooting around for canned goods in radioactive ashes. The Cold War was already a nerve-wracking series of games of chicken, and the last thing we needed back then were screechy kibitzers grabbing the steering wheel and telling us to just make nice with Yuri Andropov and the other murderers in the Soviet Communist Party.

But even then, we were in danger of being infected by our own propaganda. It’s one thing to warn the Soviets not to screw with us or our NATO allies, it’s another entirely to think you could go, as Major Kong said in Dr. Strangelove, “toe-to-toe with the Russkies” and pull it off. I knew guys back in the day, during the height of the last stage of the Cold War, who really bought into things like “limited” scenarios where “only” 10 or 12 million people die on Day One. This tended to be the kind of thing the middle-level nuclear operators and wargamers were especially fond of, but Reagan’s senior advisors weren’t that crazy; before he died, Paul Nitze — not exactly a wobbly liberal on this stuff — admitted that he privately told Reagan never, under any circumstances, to use nuclear weapons, not even in retaliation for a nuclear attack.  (I think the reasoning here is that if all was lost, there wasn’t much strategic, or moral, point in massacring 100 million Russians on the way down.) It wasn’t something you wanted to say out loud in earshot of the Soviet marshals, but it was certainly the right thing to believe.

The ease with which we think about this stuff today, however, does not speak well of any of us. We don’t need to play this game of nuclear stoicism any longer. I once gave a lecture a few years back where I described a hypothetical attack on the U.S. land-based missile force, and I said it would probably kill 40 million people. A young Air Force major walked out of the lecture with me and with a disapproving look said something like: “Well, you know, sir, that number’s high, it’s probably only 8 million or so.” And I said, with all the dryness I could muster: “What a relief. For a moment there, I thought it was going to be really bad.” He didn’t get it. Among the many casualties of the Cold War, irony was clearly one of them.

We live in a better world today, no doubt about it. In 1968, the United States had over 30,000 nuclear warheads; today, it has 5000. By treaty, we and Russia will only deploy 1550 each. But here’s the thing: That is still an insane number of weapons. If we and the Russians ever lose our minds and exchange just a fraction of that, say 500 weapons each, we’re going to exterminate the Northern Hemisphere. We can’t even clean up New Orleans after a flood, for heaven’s sake. We’re certainly not going to “recover” from a couple of hundred nuclear strikes. (Don’t get me started about missile defense. It doesn’t work, and will never work enough to matter in a nuclear crisis. The Russians know it too.)

Even China can ruin our day, with its little arsenal of 25 or so ICBMs. Some people a lot brainier than me over at the Federation of American Scientists and the National Resources Defense Council have estimated that if we try to take out those Chinese missiles, we’ll kill something like two million people, and that’s lowballing. And if the Chinese get one missile loose against a U.S. city — and I mean just one — they estimate that 800,000 Americans will die, and that doesn’t even count the long-term effects of things like the destruction of infrastructure, the loss of irreplaceable records and national treasures, and all the other things that will stick around long after Los Angeles is a red zone. For reference, that’s more than the total U.S. casualties of World War II, and we’re talking about it all happening in minutes, not years.

People don’t realize that the momentum for change is actually on the side of nuclear reductions. If Bush 43 dropped the ball on military intervention as a means of stopping proliferation, Obama has likewise let American leadership on nuclear reductions dissipate the same way. It’s not a sexy enough topic, and it costs a president, any president, a lot of capital to champion it; to be fair, Obama’s not going to get mired in nuclear issues now that he has the Republicans climbing up his leg for destroying the U.S. military, which is — Irony Alert, Part Two — actually not an accurate claim. You don’t see it much, but if you scout around, you’ll find a lot of the progressives are venting in the leftist media about how Obama has reneged on what they thought were his promises to them to slash the military. (They’re right, but that’s a good thing.) And let’s face it, nobody is going to occupy Zuccotti Park over this. (Irony Alert, Part Three: People used to hold sit-ins against nukes, back during the Cold War — at exactly the time they shouldn’t have. The Soviets loved that stuff and even instigated some of the protests themselves, the clever devils.)

For most people, nuclear weapons are just “out there,” an undefinable problem that’s too technical to grasp. Younger voters would rather listen to Ron Paul’s crackpot conspiracy theories — I am deeply queasy over how many of his supporters are young people who are attracted to his simplistic nonsense — than tackle something that really could change the world. Right now, the nuclear “club” has 10 demonstrated members: The U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea, and South Africa. (Yes, South Africa. The crazy white regime built six of them before dismantling them when apartheid collapsed.) There are over 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and at least one more country determined to get them. And credit card ATM fees are our big worry?

The old Cold War hawks know the nuclear threat better than anyone, because they helped build it. And that’s why people like Henry Kissinger, William Perry, George Shultz, Sam Nunn and many others are now desperately trying to tell us to get rid of the damned things. But no one’s listening.

Last May, Kissinger, Shultz, Perry, and Nunn hosted a major conference of retired generals, diplomats, statesmen and others in London to try to re-energize the nuclear reduction movement. Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans noted ruefully that there wasn’t a person there under 65. (For the record, I am 51, the same age as the President.) Evans lamented that people from all political parties, from every country (including Russia, I would add) have managed to put aside their other differences to concentrate on this apocalyptic threat, but that no one currently in power seems to be interested in seizing the moment. At the conference, former British defense minister Des Brown summed it up: “People who used to be something really want to tackle this issue. The trouble is that those who are something don’t.”

I’ll just close with a moment from a great old Cold War movie, Seven Days in May. It’s a classic, about a military coup in the United States, staged by General Scott (a glowering Burt Lancaster) against President Lyman, who Scott wants forcibly removed from power to prevent the signing of an arms treaty with the Soviets. Once the plot is put down, Lyman says:

“He’s not the enemy. Scott, the Joint Chiefs, even the very emotional, very illogical lunatic fringe: they’re not the enemy. The enemy’s an age – a nuclear age. It happens to have killed man’s faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, and out of sickness a frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness.”

We can turn our eyes from it, but we still have that helplessness; it’s a learned response. Right now, there are hundreds upon hundreds of nuclear weapons around the world on high alert. One mistake, one miscalculation, and there’s going to be hell to pay, quite literally.

The late Lawrence Eagleburger, one of America’s great diplomats, said shortly before his death a few years ago: “One nuclear war is going to be the last war, frankly, if it really gets out of hand. And I just don’t think we ought to be prepared to accept that sort of thing. But I’m not at all sure that there are very many people who look on this as being as terribly dangerous as I do, so I may be exaggerating the whole thing. But I just don’t think we can tolerate it.”

He was a great American, a conservative, and a tough and smart U.S. diplomat. And he was right. If people showed a little more concern about the future of humanity, and did a little less complaining about student loans and their smartphone data plans, we might actually be able to get something important — really important — done before it’s too late.

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College. He blogs at The War Room (tomnichols.net/blog/). His opinions are his own and do not represent the U.S. Government.

June 3, 2011

Neo-isolationists and the Jewish Problem

Here is a comment from a Pajamas Media reader, responding to Debra Glazer’s article (6-3-11)  regarding an Orange County, California Jewish organization that has been  funding anti-Israel propaganda:

[Comment from “Nickel”:]  “It is time for the Jewish community to clean its’ own house before the looming war in the Middle East asks thousand(s) of young Americans to die fighting to help protect Isreal [sic]. The majority of Americans are willing to fight to defend Israel but not if those that are funding and organizing the destruction of Israel and the destabilization of the entire Middle East are also part of the recognized Jewish American community. Communism is not a religion it is a mental disorder and it is about time the Jewish community world wide purged its members.”

Here is the comment I left in response to this one and to another one that referred to “Jew-haters” among Jews:

[Clare:] Not all American Jews are “Jew-haters.” Recall that the major period of Jewish immigration to the U.S. lasted a short time, starting in the last few decades of the 19th century and stopped by the 1924 Immigration Act, a law that reacted to presumably communistic “Polish Jews.” Many immigrants were poor and lived in tenements and worked in sweatshops. Their descendants, thanks to the Jewish tradition of respect for education, experienced astonishing upward mobility, but that mobility was limited by a WASP elite, so that Jews were successful in the professions and in the new culture industry (radio, film, television) that WASPS spurned. In order to succeed many assimilated to the populist-progressive movement and its attendant statism (including the legitimating of labor unions), while others (especially during the Depression) became activists on the Left. The situation is now changing as the Islamic threat is obviously making headway. I hope that the comments above are not repeating common antisemitic tropes, such as the belief that Jews are a people apart. There is no “world wide” Jewish community or “Jewish Americans” with the power to purge its members. Jews are scattered, and often at odds with each other. Here is one of many blogs that takes up these matters: http://clarespark.com/2011/05/20/the-mentalist-melville-blake-and-israel/. [end comment, slightly corrected]

To elaborate on these points: the comment I quoted reiterated common antisemitic tropes,  that could be applied to collectivist rhetoric in the description of other minority groups. There is no such thing as a world-wide Jewish community. The phrase “Jewish Americans” is part of the ethnic nationalist/ multiculturalist project that separates out the hyphenated Americans from regular Americans. (On assimilation see http://clarespark.com/2011/06/02/glossary-to-some-terms-in-dispute/) now retitled “The Mass Culture Problem.”

The notion that Jews are so organized that they can purge their “communist” members reflects the myth of the all-powerful  International Jew.” Moreover, and most importantly, persons of Jewish descent who become communists renounce any ties to a Jewish identity and marry themselves to proletarian internationalism. The fact that they are still considered to be Jews is an example of “scientific racism.” “The Jews” remain defined by others because of a widespread  belief in the inheritance of racial character.

After decades of genteel antisemitism, finally, there are Jews in the Republican Party. Upper class Americans, until the Shoah, excluded all but a few Jews from their corporations, playgrounds, and secret societies in the Ivy League, not to speak of the imposition of race-based quotas in the better colleges’ admission policies. And while the “progressive”  patricians invented the New Deal and multiculturalism (with the aid of useful assimilating Jews), they neglected to put antisemitism in their reformed civil rights-inspired curricula, though a few schools sponsor “Holocaust Studies” while at the same time, further peace studies and conflict-resolution, ignoring all irreconcilable conflicts, especially those between Israel and its Arab and Iranian neighbors.

My last observation on “Nickel’s” comment: he is almost sounding like Patrick Buchanan, Ron Paul, or earlier, Charles Lindbergh in his famous America First speech, delivered on September 11, 1941 in Des Moines. “Lindy” was arguing against American involvement in a world war to save the Jews.*  Similarly, the Nazi propaganda campaign emphasized world war 2 as started by “the Jews” who were out to exterminate the German people.

“Nickel” has not gone that far, but in his racialist assumptions, he has made a disturbing linkage between the existence of Israel and all the other tumults in the Mideast, either caused or aggravated, one might assume, by the existence of the [expansionist?] Jewish state. Has Israel asked for Americans to sacrifice their lives to save them? Was the second world war an enterprise through which Americans saved the Jews of Europe? I don’t think so.

* [excerpt from Lindbergh's speech:]“It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.

Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to  involve us in the war.

We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.” [end Lindbergh excerpt]

Did you get that, gentle reader? Jews and the New Deal [a.k.a. Jew-Deal] are alien and unassimilable to the true America.

September 24, 2009

Liberal opinion leaders and my puritan discontent

    

David Weigel tracking the Ron Paul demo

 Last evening, a local NPR station broadcast Terri Gross’s interview with David Weigel, an observer of “the Right” with some libertarian credentials of his own. The subject was ostensibly the emergence of a new theme in “right-wing” protest: fiscal conservatism and reverence for the U.S. Constitution. Gross pushed her guest, I thought, to agree with her that the growing deficit was not the real reason folks were turning out for town-hall meetings and mass rallies; rather the deficit (like Constitutionalism) is a cover for the conservative movement to regain momentum for its customary attacks on pro-choice feminism, blacks, illegal Latino workers, and gays. But what was most striking was her view that the protesters were mere clay in the hands of crypto-Fascist organizations and the demagogues of Fox News Channel, prime villains in the recruitment and organization of the 9-12 march on Washington. In other words, she views “the Right” as an undifferentiated mob of proto-Nazis and fascists, illuminated in their dogma by “divine right” that they misread into the Constitution.

    I complained about the program on my Facebook page, and got thoughtful responses from an old friend I met while in graduate school at UCLA, now a history teacher in a Southern university. I promised a blog about the subject, really an excuse to lay out my own philosophy of education, for NPR, like its Pacifica Foundation predecessor, is a listener-supported “educational” outfit that also gets considerable taxpayer funds from the CPB, in addition to the tax-deductibility of individual contributions. The topic is also timely, because Roger Simon has been raising the subject of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, because it has recently come to light that an Obama operative was directing artists to make work in support of the administration’s policy initiatives. Simon and his companion Lionel Chetwynd are wondering what happens when governments fund the arts and humanities.

    As I have been demonstrating all summer on these blogs, the progressive movement has been engaged in enlarging the role of government in ways that are at best, a mixed bag, and at worst, protofascist. Where do I stand with respect to the “culture wars” as a scholar and teacher through this website? As readers of the blogs will have concluded by now, I view every reader, whatever their background or ideology, as an educable person who would rather be free from coercion than to be yanked around by demagogues and other persons who pander to the prejudices of their audiences. I see myself as an emancipator from illegitimate authority and dogma of every kind.

    I was heavily influenced by both of my parents, the children of immigrants from Eastern Europe. My father Charles Spark was a research pathologist during the 1930s, then an army doctor (a pathologist in charge of U.S. army base laboratories during the second world war), and when he was discharged, he treated veterans and other people of modest means. From him I was taught to be skeptical of most medicine, and especially psychiatry: “We know very little about the brain,” or, “most doctors are quacks,” he warned me. He had no use for the ways of the nourveaux riches but also all establishments, and had a keen nose for corruption. But most importantly, he stressed the importance of preventive medicine and empathy for the anxieties of those who suffer pain.

      My mother Betty Spark was a minor journalist and social worker, primarily an investigator of persons on relief, some of whom were frauds. Like many other women of her generation, she was an underachiever but an avid consumer of high culture and great talker. She also had an insatiable interest in other people, and made friends in unlikely places. She was no snob and moreover, she was relatively free of racial prejudice. The notion of writing off other people as simpletons, yahoos, or puppets, was foreign to her.

     In college (the Cornell State College of Agriculture) and in my first bout of graduate school (Harvard Graduate School of Education), I was trained very rigorously in science education, with little time for the humanities. (Doubtless, I take personal umbrage when city dwellers look down their noses at rural populations who cope with the vagaries of nature and whose labor is intense and uninterrupted with frivolities.)* Whatever I have done in the, for me, almost recreational fields of history and literature is almost entirely the result of independent reading, for I had few prerequisites in history when I applied for the doctorate in history at UCLA after years of radicalism at Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles. The result was that I brought the habit of skepticism, a strong work ethic, and the eye for detail inculcated by the science background, plus, being Jewish (secular) and expecting imminent catastrophe when and if I ever made a mistake or failed to read my environment accurately, I escaped indoctrination and gradually withdrew from prior political alignments, especially as I saw too much conformity to various lines of analysis and hero-worship on the Left as well as the Right. It was hard enough to deal with the idealization of my father the heroic doctor, and I will always struggle with that.

    One reader of this website asked me what I meant by “freedom” (one of the bad words I had listed as creating mobs, because it was so vague as to be meaningless, hence allowed anyone to project whatever meaning the “leader” preferred. See blog http://clarespark.com/2009/09/15/making-mobs-with-bad-words-and-concepts/). I answered him thus: the freedom to see and correct my own misperceptions and mistakes. This may seem like an evasion to some, but I am quite serious. Hip philosophers and social theorists argue endlessly about “structures” versus “agency” and if you don’t listen to them, your work is “under-theorized.” So be it. To conclude this rather personal blog, “freedom” like the other words I listed as potentially mob-making, has a meaning that is dependent on its context. To a small businessman, freedom may entail lower taxes and less bureaucratic red tape in complying with government regulation. Do such persons idealize the “free market”? That is a question we should all be asking, and I would be interested in getting responses from readers to this blog as to what “freedom” means to them, if the word has any concrete, timeless content at all. Don’t look here for final answers, and call me Isabel (an inside Melville joke).

*David Brion Davis (later a famous Yale professor and authority on slavery) allowed me into his American intellectual history course during my last term at Cornell, though I had none of the prerequisites.  I recall thinking that this endeavor was child’s play compared with the sciences, and gazed incredulously at my friends in the school of Arts and Sciences who were seemingly on an extended vacation (unless of course they were science majors).

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,186 other followers