Bill Kauffman's article "The New Antiwar Capitalists" (Feb.) is a disturbing, albeit sophisticated, example of America-bashing that has once again become fashionable. Under the guise of concern over defense spending and interventionism, he unleashes a furious assault on U.S. policies in the postwar period and, by implication, on the moral values that have guided them. Not a word is said about the fact that the Cold War was a reaction to the Sovietization by brute force of half of Europe. It is to these U.S. policies that 300 million Western Europeans and countless others, from Greece to Korea, owe their liberty. Nor is anything said about the brutal transformation of Nicaraguan society into a totalitarian clone of the Soviet Big Brother by a tyrannical Marxist regime.
In his zeal to make his particular bias more credible, the author resorts to some rather dubious sources, such as the Center for Defense Information (CDI). Who are these born-again "antiwar capitalists"? It is an organization which for more than a decade has engaged in an uncompromising attack on U.S. defense policies, while belittling or denying the Soviet threat. I challenge Mr. Kauffman to find a single U.S. defense policy CDI liked and a single Soviet arms-control and security initiative they didn't. They managed to blame even the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Washington, by arguing that the Soviets invaded because the U.S. had repudiated detente.
CDI has been tireless in a variety of endeavors, from sponsoring anti-NATO conferences in Europe to publishing the locations of U.S. nuclear depots, that have a single common denominator—the U.S. is an aggressive militaristic power, while Moscow is reasonable and peace-loving. Knowingly or not, CDI has astutely played the role of yet another instrument in Moscow's propaganda orchestra abroad.
Isolationism and unilateral disarmament are the logical outcomes of the "antiwar capitalists'" prescriptions. To advocate such panaceas in the name of libertarian values is perverse. In the world in which we live, they are not only detrimental to the pursuit of liberty and suicidal in the long term, but aid and abet the enemies of freedom in the short term.
Santa Monica, CA
Center for Defenseless Inanity?
As always, I enjoyed immensely your February issue. As always, I have a nit to pick. This time I must mention it to you.
To mention the Center for Defense Information and Admiral Gene LaRoque in a reasoned discussion of advocates of rational points of view on defense is to muddy the water beyond repair. It also gives credibility to those who would cheerfully destroy the U.S., at least in my view. This group not only opposes "idiot missiles," tanks, and stationing of U.S. forces in foreign lands—views which are certainly defendable—but they also oppose any rational defense of the U.S., including missile defenses.
We might all agree that such turkeys have a right to any kind of asinine or destructive opinion. But it is not necessary to give them a forum without at least pointing out some of their foolhardy notions.
Daily News Digest
Security Begins at Home
Your excellent account of "The New Antiwar Capitalists" is encouraging evidence that businessmen are bringing their experience, common sense, and leadership to the problem of preventing war. They are the members of our society who know that a sound, productive economy is an essential element of the security and well-being of American citizens.
One thing is certain. No matter how many weapons we build and how many places we send U.S. troops, we are not going to be able to impose the U.S. economic-political system on the world at the point of a gun. It is time to listen to businessmen when they point out the need to stop wasting our resources on efforts to be the world's policeman and get on with strengthening our own economy and society.
National defense—yes! Preparations to intervene militarily in every corner of the globe—no.
Eugene J. Carroll, Jr.
Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.)
Center for Defense Information
"The New Antiwar Capitalists" is a masterpiece in the art of quoting out of context. "Ike's suspicion of the defense establishment makes him a hero to today's antiwar businessmen," says the article. But the main thrust of Ike's farewell address was his warning against the Soviet military threat: "We face a hostile ideology—global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method.…A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action."
Later in his address he warned about potential side effects, one being "unwarranted influence" by the "military-industrial complex." Those who refer to this particular warning now ignore the subsequent executive branch regulation, congressional oversight, and media scrutiny of defense procurement.
Nor was Ike an isolationist. Note the almost constant global travels of his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, his use of the Marines to prevent civil war in Lebanon, and his use of the Navy to prevent war between Nationalist and mainland China.
To make our defense expenditures the same percentage of the budget as they were under Ike, they would have to almost triple, yet Kauffman states that they are "spiraling" and should be cut. Why aren't nondefense spending cuts even mentioned?
Donald D. Holle
Bill Kauffman's thesis ignores changes that have taken place in the world power structure since 1945. The most ardent noninterventionists of the recent past, Neville Chamberlain, Herbert Hoover, and Robert Taft, were all proved wrong during World War II. The reality of today's Soviet hegemony does not allow us the luxury to ignore assaults on Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua. We cannot stand idle, even if we morally object to war, if we are to protect our freedom.
Senator Taft recognized this need for a different approach after the war. In a 1951 address he stated, "Because of the power of Soviet Russia and the Communist philosophy, we must today do everything possible to prevent the extension of that power as a threat to our security, and are therefore interested in protecting liberty throughout the world."
No Free Trade in an Unfree World
I enjoyed "The New Antiwar Capitalists," but I have some questions. As a consultant and small independent oil operator and capitalist, I too understand the cost of taxes from intervention, defense, and excesses of government. I would certainly like to see business a profit-making, stable enterprise in a free society.
But how do these antiwar capitalists expect to operate or even keep their business if the Soviets have their way? Don't they realize that the master plan of the Kremlin, relentlessly pursued since Lenin, calls for world domination in the Marxist mode?
How do they expect to participate in world trade if the Soviets control the world trade routes? They are now threatening the Arabian Gulf, Suez Canal, and Panama Canal and have designs on the Magellan Strait and South Africa, among other critical geopolitical-economic areas.
How can a noninterventionist policy and anything less than an adequate defense to protect free enterprise in the free world work until the Kremlin adopts at least a semblance of a "live and let live" policy?
Antiwar Double Standard
One can search in vain in "The New Antiwar Capitalists" to find details about these capitalists' efforts to pressure the Soviet Union to refrain from its interventionism or decrease its military spending. What kind of journalist is it who doesn't even ask about this crucial issue? I think the readers of REASON deserve to know if these "antiwar" heroes believe in unilateral actions that will leave the Soviets the dominant military power on this planet. If the individuals highlighted by the article just want to achieve equal and verifiable arms-reduction agreements with the Soviets, join the crowd.
Kauffman's frame of reference is revealed by his need to assert that it is small and medium-sized businesses that most oppose defense spending and foreign commitments. American political dynamics just don't work that way. Right or wrong, small business types are the strongest supporters of defense spending and drawing the line against Soviet expansionism. The big-money boys—and the group Kauffman wrote about fits right into the mold—have always been accommodationist (read that "bootlickers," if you will). The notion that big business is a source of aggressive foreign policy is just so much left-wing garbage.
Peace and Profits
Congratulations to Bill Kauffman on his informative article. As a scholarly writer on American peace movements, I have been struck by the limited role businessmen have played in questioning the military buildup of recent decades. Certainly, there is no good reason for this. Economic growth flourishes in a climate of peace, rather than in one of war, chaos, and destruction. In hot war or in cold, the conscription of manpower, resources, and profits by the state inevitably undermines a free-enterprise economy. Little wonder, then, that the Japanese, who since 1945 have poured resources into their civilian economy rather than into an expensive military machine, have proved to be the most successful capitalists of modern times!
Lawrence S. Wittner
Empire of Trade?
Bill Kauffman ignores the role of U.S. multinationals in supporting—not undermining—the status quo abroad; Gulf and Chevron aren't lobbying Congress for aid to Savimbi in Angola, they are pumping dollars into the communist government there. Nor are small businesses some monolith of virtue. They are as likely as others to beg Uncle Sam for favors. And many small businesses are totally dependent on military contracts, often more so than larger, more diversified firms.
As a cure to foreign-policy woes, the article offers "an empire of trade." But in much of the world, there can be no classical trades—company to company, freely acting individual to freely acting individual. When U.S. farmers sell grain to the Soviet Union, the buyer is a police state that pays for its purchases with slave labor and uses its control over the economy to stamp out dissent. Likewise, when IBM sells computers to some authoritarian dictatorship, the computers are paid for by the very taxpayers they are used to oppress.
In its efforts to demonize "interventionism," the article enshrines the status quo, however inimical to individual freedom. The article quotes Martin Stone saying "it's up to the Nicaraguans" to handle the repressive Sandinistas. But with or without U.S. support for the contras (who are, of course, Nicaraguans), the Nicaraguan people will not have the chance to decide their own future; that right has been stolen from them by the dictators who rule their country, and those rulers have no noninterventionist scruples about accepting aid from abroad.
One may object to intervention in a particular situation. But in a world in which the enemies of freedom can readily obtain military assistance, to declare a unilateral hands-off policy—regardless of circumstances—is to sacrifice the hopes of the oppressed to assuage the budgets, and perhaps the consciences, of the free. Had the French taken this attitude in the 1770s, there would be no United States, and Bill Kauffman would have nothing to write about.
Finally, the article's Red Dawn–like conception of national defense is short-sighted. Small, far-away wars may not be romantic, but they are preferable to large, last-minute wars at home. Preferring to have one's land ravaged by war rather than to fight abroad is always foolish. In a nuclear age, it is truly insane.
Virginia Inman Postrel
Los Angeles, CA
A Call to Arms
The naiveté of Bill Kauffman's article is best expressed by Martin Stone's plea to keep our "hands off" Nicaragua and leave it up to "the Nicaraguans" to solve their own problems. Tell that to the Soviets, to all the Cubans, PLO terrorists, East Germans, and Libyans in Managua! Nicaragua is a Soviet colony. If we abandon the contras, we leave Nicaragua to the Soviets, certainly not the Nicaraguans. And a consolidated Sandinista regime—that would be another Vietnam, with the most powerful army in Central America by far, just as Vietnam's is the most powerful by far in Southeast Asia. Immediately an attempt would be made to subvert the governments of the rest of Central America, to colonize for Marxism just as Vietnam has done for Indo-China. Next comes Mexico.
Let me mention the obvious from which all libertarian isolationists desperately avert their eyes: the Soviet Union exists. Libertarian isolationism should really be called libertarian idealism: idealism being the epistemological theory that reality is a construct of the mind, that unless something is perceived it doesn't exist. We are at war with the Soviet Union. How nice it would be if it would leave us alone. But until the Soviet Union disbands its colonial empire, until it renounces Marxism and its missionary call to aggress against any culture or society not taking orders from it, with America as its primary focus and declared enemy, we are at war and the war is worldwide.
La Jolla, CA
A Call to Debate
Bill Kauffman's provocative piece will cause a lot of us to think more deeply about the world situation and how the United States fits into it. Few of us have any fascination with war, and peace is the alternative of choice; but nostalgia is one thing, reality another. What we didn't have in the days of Bob Taft, Andrew Carnegie, and Bertie McCormick was the overwhelming military might of the Soviet Union and that country's open determination to install communist or socialist dictatorships throughout the world.
Most of us are more than weary of providing for the defense of an unappreciative European Community and of Japan, and there is little question but that we need to reexamine how many joint defense treaties we are committed to and how many places in the world we really need to maintain military bases. But in this modern world of global communication, nuclear missiles, weapons in space, and other rapidly developing technologies, isolation spells suicide for our basic liberties and way of life.
It could very well be that the peace movement can be wrested away from the communists, socialists, and their dupes; but for such an effort to catch on with middle America, it would have to be a well-thought-out policy with a sound foundation in reality. What may be needed is for the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute to jointly sponsor a national convocation of a wide range of groups and interests to agree upon the fundamental policy goals of such a movement and to develop a basic plan to achieve those goals.
The conferees ought to consider, among others, the following possibilities: negotiations with the Soviet Union for mutual withdrawal of military bases and personnel from all other countries, including the captive nations of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, etc., and U.S. withdrawal from Europe; putting the Japanese and the Koreans on notice that we would begin a five-year phase-out of providing for the defense of those countries; all-out support of SDI; making it clear that the United States would provide funds and military supplies to insurgents around the world who seek to defeat totalitarian governments of whatever stripe and who are prepared to install governments based on individual liberties and economic systems based on the free market.
Mr. Kauffman replies: Space is limited, but let me plug John T. Flynn's As We Go Marching, Felix Morley's Freedom and Federalism, and William Graham Sumner's The Conquest of the United States by Spain, for those who desire immersion in the pacific waters of antiwar capitalism. Scattershot remarks:
Mr. Holle would have a rock-solid point if I'd said Ike was an isolationist; I didn't and he wasn't. Ike's is a curious legacy. On the debit side we find the accumulation of dozens of useless allies and the refinement of covert operations, particularly in the shameful overthrow of Guatemalan democrat Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. To his credit, Ike refused to pull Euro-colonial chestnuts out of the fire at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and Suez in 1956, and he recognized the imperative of peaceful coexistence. I urge readers to examine the Farewell Address, as well as recent works on the Eisenhower presidency (for instance, Blanche Wiesen Cook's The Declassified Eisenhower), to take their OWN measure of an admirable man denigrated by Cold War liberals.
Assertions that small business has agitated for foreign adventurism are ahistorical. I urge my correspondents to peruse the postwar opinion surveys of the National Federation of Independent Business.
I hate to recite simple truths for which I will be caricatured as procommunist, but Nicaragua is not "a totalitarian clone of the Soviet Big Brother." The Sandinista insurrection that toppled a U.S.-sponsored dictator was an indigenous revolution that today tolerates limited private ownership of land, heavily regulated private enterprise, parliamentary opposition, and a modicum of religious freedom. It has also extinguished freedom of the press, introduced an ambitious literacy-cum-brainwashing campaign, and erected an Eastern European-style police state apparatus. Aren't communism and 1987-model Sandinismo loathsome enough without distortion?
The pertinent question is whether U.S. taxpayers should be forced to contribute to a rebel army of dubious commitment to democracy. Failing a contra overthrow of Nicaragua's rulers—unlikely for insurgents with modest support inside Nicaragua—a U.S. invasion is the logical last step of the Reagan foreign policy. I believe the cost of a U.S. war in Nicaragua, in men, dollars, and American liberties, will dwarf the very questionable gains. This is called realism; global crusaders on behalf of murky "freedom fighters" are the idealists.
Admiral Carroll's letter summarizes the outlook of the Center for Defense Information. The whispers of treason will always attach to opponents of foreign wars, whether H.L. Mencken, Charles Lindbergh, or Martin Luther King.
Finally, my "America-bashing." This is the favorite epithet of typewriter soldiers who accept—nay, revel in—the U.S. government's imperial obligations and prefer shouts and bluster to civil discussion. I love every inch of American soil; I detest the leviathan state that sullies our proud heritage. The distinction seems to elude some of my critics.
I thank all who took the time to respond to the article. Perhaps we'll meet at Mr. Fields's suggested convocation, which I heartily endorse. I'll buy everyone a beer as we chant the mantra: "I will stop taking myself so seriously."