Warmongers Need Not Apply

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Robert Higgs, long-time scholar of the links between warmaking and government growth (consult his classic Crisis and Leviathan early and often) has no qualms about reading anyone who supports U.S. military intervention abroad out of the libertarian movement. An excerpt:

My claim is that those who give a free hand to the government in its foreign and defense policy-making will ultimately discover that they have handed their rulers the key that opens all doors, including the doors that obstruct the government's invasion of our most cherished rights to life, liberty, and property. The war-making key is, so to speak, the master key for any government, because when critical tradeoffs must be made, war will override all other concerns….Anyone who has looked into the actions of the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, knows that during wartime the justices have placed themselves on the casualty list by effectively rolling over and playing dead. Without at least a semblance of the rule of law and an independent judiciary, all hopes for the maintenance of a free society are in vain.
………….
An obvious response by hawkish libertarians appeals to an axiom of classical liberalism: we need the state to protect us from genuine foreign threats; moreover, provision of such protection is the state's most basic responsibility…..

[But] what makes anybody think that the state will protect us, as distinct from the state's leaders and its apparatus of rule? For more than a century, nearly all of the U.S. government's military activities have been devoted to protecting someone or something other than you and me (or, earlier, our forebears). Spain did not threaten Americans in 1898, and the Filipinos did not threaten them between 1899 and 1902. Germany did not seriously threaten any genuine American right in 1917–the right to travel unmolested in a war zone on munitions-laden British or French ships does not qualify, despite Woodrow Wilson's tortured logic–and the Kaiser's government made conciliatory efforts repeatedly to maintain peaceful relations with the United States from 1914 until 1917.
……..
In more recent decades, North Korea, North Vietnam, Panama, Serbia, and Iraq, among others, did not threaten American rights before the U.S. government launched wars against them. If, in making war, the government intends only to protect Americans from foreigners who threaten their lives, liberties, and property here on our own territory, then we must conclude that the government has displayed astonishingly bad judgment in choosing its targets.

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  1. I don’t agree with everything Higgs says in this essay, but there does have to be some sort of threshhold bar to who can call themselves a “libertarian” if the term is to have any meaning pace the big tenters who think “libertarian” can include those who support nuclear strikes on non-nuclear nations whose governments’ have bad attitudes.

  2. Funny, a double post even from Reason. Damn server!

  3. Wow,

    I didn’t know Pat Buchanan wrote under a pseudonym and as a “libertarian”. If being a libertarian means adhering to the idiotarian, isolationist line, then there are going to be a lot fewer libertarians and rightfully so.

    “Germany did not seriously threaten any genuine American right in 1917–the right to travel unmolested in a war zone on munitions-laden British or French ships does not qualify, despite Woodrow Wilson’s tortured logic–and the Kaiser’s government made conciliatory efforts repeatedly to maintain peaceful relations with the United States from 1914 until 1917.”

    I guess trying to solicit Mexico to invade the United States doesn’t count either.

    “In more recent decades, North Korea, North Vietnam, Panama, Serbia, and Iraq, among others, did not threaten American rights before the U.S. government launched wars against them.”

    North Korea? WTF? North Korea invaded South Korea. They launched the war. If this clown holds the Bruce Cummings “the peaceful North was attacked by the imperialist warmongering South” he is just an idiot and isn’t worth being posted on anything outside of the John Birch society blog.

  4. North Korea invaded South Korea.

    I think the point is what they did NOT invade, namely the United States.

  5. Brian,

    The invaded a country with whom the United States had a mutual defense treaty with and killed U.S. military who were stationed there. It goes back to my above point, welcome to the world of the ideotarian isolationist. The meet this guy’s standard, the U.S. would have to pull out of all mutual defensive treaties and pledge to go to war only if U.S. soil is directly attacked. It would be great if the world worked that way, but unfortunately it doesn’t.

  6. I didn’t realize I needed to apply to Higgs to consider myself a libertarian – perhaps he could provide a handy-dandy form somewhere on the web for easy registration.

  7. My claim is that those who give a free hand to the government in its foreign and defense policy-making will ultimately discover

    This entire line of thought is a “you’ll get yours” bomb aimed at particular people rather than an argument against a particular position or counter-argument to a particular initial argument. As such, it’s not worth taking seriously.

    I’ll go to the mat to argue that wars fought without a clear intention of self-defense are not consistent with libertarian principles, but I don’t give a rat’s ass who calls themself a libertarian. What you call yourself is your own damn business. I don’t have to take it seriously if I don’t want to. That said, if someone understands libertarian principles and applies them to the vast majority of public policy issues, I’d be perfectly willing to think of that person as a fellow libertarian, regardless of whether they apply said principles ahead of all other considerations with unflagging consistency.

  8. I tend to line up with the commenters above. Surely the threshold SR argues for must recognize, or at least intuit, a significant difference in equilibrium between individual rights and the expansion of state power in domestic policy mandates versus that between such rights and the use of state coercion and intervention against sovereign states and other global threats. Higgs seems oblivious to any distinctions. Warmaking is a dangerous proposition for liberty – the most dangerous of all, as Madison observed – but the force of necessity is simply unique.

  9. I tend to line up with the commenters above. Surely the threshold SR argues for must recognize, or at least intuit, a significant difference in equilibrium between individual rights and the expansion of state power in domestic policy mandates versus that between such rights and the use of state coercion and intervention against sovereign states and other global threats. Higgs seems oblivious to any distinctions. Warmaking is a dangerous proposition for liberty – the most dangerous of all, as Madison observed – but the force of necessity is simply unique.

  10. I tend to line up with the commenters above. Surely the threshold SR argues for must recognize, or at least intuit, a significant difference in equilibrium between individual rights and the expansion of state power in domestic policy mandates versus that between such rights and the use of state coercion and intervention against sovereign states and other global threats. Higgs seems oblivious to any distinctions. Warmaking is a dangerous proposition for liberty – the most dangerous of all, as Madison observed – but the force of necessity is simply unique.

  11. Oh sure, remove the double post without any comment and make me look bad.

  12. The meet this guy’s standard, the U.S. would have to pull out of all mutual defensive treaties and pledge to go to war only if U.S. soil is directly attacked.

    Well, yes, I think that’s exactly what he would be in favor of. If we didn’t have soldiers in South Korea, they wouldn’t have been killed when North Korea invaded, right?

    I’m not necessarily in agreement with him, but I don’t think “the world just doesn’t work that way” is much of a counter-argument.

  13. John,

    True, North Korea was the aggressor in the Korean war, but there was no reason for us to get involved. We weren’t threatened.

    BTW, libertarians aren’t isolationists. We are probably the biggest champions of free trade around. When people can’t refute our non-interventionist arguments, they resort to name calling.

  14. “BTW, libertarians aren’t isolationists. We are probably the biggest champions of free trade around. When people can’t refute our non-interventionist arguments, they resort to name calling.”

    How exactly is that free trade going to work when Western Europe, Korea and then probably Japan were communist? Without the U.S. being willing to go to places like Western Europe and Korea during the Cold War all of contenential Europe and most if not all of Asia would have gone communist. Who exactly would you have had the U.S. trade with?

    That is my point, you can’t have free trade unless you have capitalistic partners to trade with. The U.S. investment in defending Japan and Korea and Europe from the Soviets paid enormous dividends economically to the U.S. in addition to helping to preserve freedom for millions of people.

  15. “The invaded a country with whom the United States had a mutual defense treaty with and killed U.S. military who were stationed there. It goes back to my above point, welcome to the world of the ideotarian isolationist.”

    That’s why our founding fathers were opposed to entangling alliances. They are trip wires for us to get involved in foreign quarrels.

    “The meet this guy’s standard, the U.S. would have to pull out of all mutual defensive treaties and pledge to go to war only if U.S. soil is directly attacked. It would be great if the world worked that way, but unfortunately it doesn’t.”

    What would be wrong with that? I can’t think of any reason why that wouldn’t work.

  16. “What would be wrong with that? I can’t think of any reason why that wouldn’t work.”

    Because our economy is too dependent on the rest of the world being stable and prosporous. It is not 1789 anymore, when they U.S. could shut off the rest of the world and just expand West.

  17. “How exactly is that free trade going to work when Western Europe, Korea and then probably Japan were communist? Without the U.S. being willing to go to places like Western Europe and Korea during the Cold War all of contenential Europe and most if not all of Asia would have gone communist. Who exactly would you have had the U.S. trade with?”

    “That is my point, you can’t have free trade unless you have capitalistic partners to trade with.”

    North Vietnam took over South Vietnam. Vietnam is a Communist country and yet we trade with them. China is a Communist country and yet we trade with them. A country doesn’t have to be a Capitalist country for us to trade with them.

    It is not clear to me that all of Asia and Europe would have fallen to Communism if we had not intervened. How could a command economy like the Soviet Union’s maintain control over so vast a territory. Its empire would have certainly collapsed. I’m not so sure the Soviets would have been able to take over most of this territory in the first place. If we don’t act as the policeman of the world, we will encourage other countries to form alliances to protect themselves from such bullies as the former Soviet Union. Those alliances could have been enough to fight off the Soviet Union without our help. It is interesting to me how conservatives say they believe in individual responsibility, but don’t apply that principle to other countries as regarding their own self-defense.

  18. I guess trying to solicit Mexico to invade the United States doesn’t count either.

    Read the full text of the Zimmerman Telegram instead of relying upon the sanitized government school account. In the first paragraph of the document it says: “…it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.”

    Think about it for a minute. Why would it be in Germany’s interest to drag the US into the war? The Germans had their hands full with the French and British.

    [North Korea] invaded a country with whom the United States had a mutual defense treaty with and killed U.S. military who were stationed there.

    The overlooked point here is why is there a mutual defense treaty with South Korea? It’s not likely South Korea is going to be of much help in the event of a US invasion. Why would someone consent to such a stupid agreement?

  19. “Read the full text of the Zimmerman Telegram instead of relying upon the sanitized government school account. In the first paragraph of the document it says: “…it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.”

    Through the threat of invasion from the South. The Zimmerman note was a direct affront to the sovereignty of the United States.

  20. I’ve got to agree with Herb and the Mad Prophet here.

    I asked RC Dean a question in a lower thread about which of our interventionist conflicts turned out rosey for the US. Maybe John would like to answer that question.

  21. John,

    The U.S. couldn’t shut off the rest of the world in 1789. Commerce with Europe was very important at the time.

  22. Egad. Spare us more Harry Browne-esque speculative histories. We can make things as fine as we want in the realm of counterfactuals.

    Nobody ever acts against people who mind their own business. It is proven fact, you know. The Poles were askin’ for it.

    The author is demanding anarchy, which of course will suffice to protect liberty from organized attack somehow. The title of the blog entry should be renamed “Minarchists Need Not Apply”.

  23. “It’s not likely South Korea is going to be of much help in the event of a US invasion. Why would someone consent to such a stupid agreement?”

    South Korea has a pretty kick ass military. There was a time in the 1960s and 70s when the thought was that the U.S. presence kept the South from going North as much as the North from coming South. Now that South Korea has twice the population and something like 10 or more times the GNP as the North, there really is no excuse for them not being able to defend themselves. That is 2006, however. In 1954 with the North still funded by the Soviets and the South decimated, had the U.S. left the North would have overrun the South within weeks and all of Korea would be under the Kims and living in a totalitarian nighmare today. There would not be a dawoo or any of the other dynamic multinational corporations that come from South Korea nor any of the billions in trade between the U.S. and Korea that we have today.

    It is very clear the Soviets could have overrun a war torn Europe had the U.S. just gone home. The Soviets were able to keep control of all Eastern Europe for 40+ years despite U.S. pressure, they certainly could have held on to all of Western Europe without that pressure. Had that happened, there would have been no Marshall plan. No Adenower. No post war economic miracle. At best the people of Western Europe could have expected years of oppression and communism followed by a prehaps velvet perhaps violent revolution. It is completely stupid to say that such a result instead of what did happened would not have affected the United States negatively. Like I said, defending and helping to rebuild Europe was the best investment the U.S. has ever made.

  24. Jason Ligon,

    What is your general rule for when to engage in a non-defensive war?

  25. I asked RC Dean a question in a lower thread about which of our interventionist conflicts turned out rosey for the US.

    I missed that question.

    Compared to the likely outcome if we hadn’t intervened in WWI, WWII, and the Cold War, I would say that, on net, US intervention on the world stage has for the best.

    Sure, not every single thing turned out peachy-perfect-keen with sugar on top, but in the real world nothing ever does.

    On balance, I think the world would be a worse place if the meatgrinder had gone on longer in WWI, and if the Japanese empire had had no real opposition there had been no Western Front in WWII, and if the Soviet empire had had no serious opposition in the Cold War.

    I mean, we’ve pretty much stayed out of Africa, so there’s a test case for you. How’s that going?

  26. John,

    The Marshall Plan probably hindered Western European development.

  27. The Marshall Plan probably hindered Western European development.

    Maybe so, but not as much as a Soviet occupation would have.

  28. the left happly have abandoned war as their laviathon builder at least in this country…it has now been shifted to the enviornment…ie population bomb, silent spring and global warming.

    i really don’t have that much fear of the right using it as a leviathon builder…this could very well be an irrational non-fear…but i think it mainly comes from the fact that the left has abanoded it…ie if bush leaves behind an monster capable of erroding my liberties i have my doubts the left will use that to errode them.

  29. John, Jason, and RC are Statists! Nyah Nyah!

  30. PL:

    I have a more expansive view of ‘defensive’ than most of the locals.

    Being careful with my answer here, as it depends on whether you mean general over all cases or general as in “with some qualifications”, I’d say that if you present yourself as a threat, be prepared to be treated as one.

    The threshold for legitimate action against a tyrant is much lower than the threshold for legitimate action against a ‘power from the people’ arrangement. A tyrant has no legitimacy in his position in the first place and his motivations have nothing to do with the country’s in the second. Military action can legitimately, morally be taken against any tyrant who acts like a threat. It isn’t up to super spy mindreaders in the NSA to prove anything FROM A LEGITIMACY STANDPOINT.

    The second tier of decisionmaking, of course, is utility. All things that can be done morally aren’t necessarily wise in the long view of costs and benefits. I’m not comfortable with a blanket assertion that the costs of military action always outweigh the benefits. This is clearly a case by case situation. China is run by despots, but the costs of engagement would be astronomical, and you can see moderating forces advancing on most fronts anyway.

  31. Through the threat of invasion from the South. The Zimmerman note was a direct affront to the sovereignty of the United States.

    Nonsense. Germany was merely setting up a contigency plan for America entering the war as a British ally. Would the US setting up contigency plans with other nations (e.g. South Korea) be a sufficient justification for other nations declaring war on the US? And what would Germany possibly have to gain from the US entering the war as an enemy? The war was a stalemate from 1916 to when American troops joined the war. What were they thinking, “Gee, we’re bogged down in trench warfare on the Western Front. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to square off against some fresh troops from America?”

  32. “Nobody ever acts against people who mind their own business. It is proven fact, you know. The Poles were askin’ for it.”

    When was the last time Switzerland was attacked? Germany attacked Poland to get back Danzig which was taken from them at Versailles. Poland was not willing to give it back, so yes, in a way they were asking for it.

  33. Jason Ligon,

    I had no idea you were such a student of 17th century just war theorists.

    _______________________________

    WWI wasn’t going to last past 1918, and the eventual outcome with or without American involvement as a military power was also likely going to be an Allied victory.

  34. Map Prophet,

    Germany was soliciting Mexico to invade the United States and be gaurenteed return of the Southwest United States in return had the U.S. entered the war. You can call it a contingency plan all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that Germany was trying to ally with our cloesest neighbor against us in addition to sinking U.S. ships, disrupting trade and killing U.S. civilians through unrestricted submarine warfare.

  35. Another way of looking at it is that some actors on the international scene, tyrants and terrorist organizations among them, are by construction immune to traditional forms of passive deterrence. I am inclined to say that upon occasion a direct military threat to the health of the leadership / membership of those groups is needed for incentives to line up right.

  36. South Korea has a pretty kick ass military.

    I don’t deny that. But the point is that they are in Korea, which makes reciprication in a “mutual defense treaty” very difficult.

  37. “WWI wasn’t going to last past 1918, and the eventual outcome with or without American involvement as a military power was also likely going to be an Allied victory.”

    After the collapse of Imperial Russia, I am not sure that is the case at all. The spring 1918 offensive nearly ended the war in France. Without the influx of U.S. military aid and manpower, it is easy to imagine France falling and the UK negotiating a separate peace. No one will ever know for sure, but the war was certainly not won by either side in the spring of 1917, when the U.S. joined the war.

  38. There are a lot of anarchists calling themselves libertarians. To be fair, I suppose that they should stop.

  39. Germany was soliciting Mexico to invade the United States and be gaurenteed return of the Southwest United States in return had the U.S. entered the war.

    Have you bothered to read the contents of the Zimmerman Telegram? And I’ll ask again, what did the Germans expected to gain to have the US enter the war as its enemy?

  40. John,

    The spring 1918 offensive nearly ended the war in France.

    No it didn’t. The German offensives were checked by largely French and British soldiers.

    Without the influx of U.S. military aid and manpower…

    What “military aid?” You mean loans by U.S. banks? Those existed whether the U.S. was directly involved or not. If you mean material, well, the French (and the British to some degree) were ones providing that to the U.S., not vice versa. U.S. manpower wasn’t in country in large enough numbers to make a difference in the German spring offensives. And lest we forget, it was German morale at home which such sunk the German war effort; that morale was based on German propaganda which British and French efforts in the spring of 1918 disproved.

    No one will ever know for sure, but the war was certainly not won by either side in the spring of 1917, when the U.S. joined the war.

    Actually, the Germans lost whatever chance they had of winning the war in 1917 by not taking advantage of the problems in the French army in the spring of that year.

  41. “The invaded a country with whom the United States had a mutual defense treaty with and killed U.S. military who were stationed there. It goes back to my above point, welcome to the world of the ideotarian isolationist.”

    Brings us to the question: was the murderous, corrupt Syngman Rhee government worth protecting? IIRC, when Rhee was put in power, he immediatly went after his legitimate rivals: Koreans who fought the Japanese occupation. Rhee, like his incompetant thug freres in Viet Nam, went on an execution spree……and the seriously nutcake Comrade Kim et al, took it as an invitation to unite the country & dispose of a installed regime. Drop the serious nutcake part & you have “North” Viet Nam coming to the aid of thier Southern compatriots, but be aware: thru the 50’s & early 60’s, N Viet aid was limited. Try “Bright Shining Lie” as a resource here.
    The other questionable statement:

    “I mean, we’ve pretty much stayed out of Africa, so there’s a test case for you. How’s that going?”

    Mobutu, Savimbi, Holden Roberto, the guy Savimbi ate (remember him) , the murders of various principled African patriots like Lamumba, the sabotage of efforts by guys like Nkrumah- all done, to be sure, in connivance with other Imperial powers, diplomatic/eco. support for Aparthiede, any number of murderous swine got big time US bucks & hardware. All contributed to the ghastly Tommorrowland that is Africa.

  42. joshua corning,

    The point is that those countries which recieved the least Marshall Plan aid recovered the fastest, and vice versa. And this is even the case when one takes into account such factors as the level of devestation a nation incurred.

  43. “Brings us to the question: was the murderous, corrupt Syngman Rhee government worth protecting? IIRC, when Rhee was put in power, he immediatly went after his legitimate rivals: Koreans who fought the Japanese occupation. Rhee, like his incompetant thug freres in Viet Nam, went on an execution spree……and the seriously nutcake Comrade Kim et al, took it as an invitation to unite the country & dispose of a installed regime”

    Rea was a thug, but he was not the Kims. No matter how bad Rea was and he was a thug and then some, the fact is that South Korea righted itself and now is in much better shape that it was an a 1000 times better than the North.

  44. “that doesn’t change the fact that Germany was trying to ally with our cloesest neighbor against us in addition to sinking U.S. ships, disrupting trade and killing U.S. civilians through unrestricted submarine warfare.”

    Germany was sinking American ships because we were aiding Great Britain by escorting their ships and shipping supplies to them. We should have remained neutral.

  45. There are a lot of anarchists calling themselves libertarians. To be fair, I suppose that they should stop.

    Big “L” or little “l” libertarians? Now I’m wondering where the “maxarchists” fit into the anarchist/minarchist debate?

  46. Phil whatever the hell your name is.

    Over 85,000 U.S. forces participated in the second battle of the Marne in direct support of the French. Take those forces away and the French probably break leaving the BEF isolated ala 1940. The spring offensive of 1918 was very successful initially and very closely contested. The U.S. presense probably tipped the balance and effectively ended the war.

  47. “Another way of looking at it is that some actors on the international scene, tyrants and terrorist organizations among them, are by construction immune to traditional forms of passive deterrence.”

    I don’t believe that we would have the threat to America from terrorists if it weren’t for our meddling foreign policy. I don’t believe those who say they are attacking us because they’re jealous of us.

  48. PL:

    “Jason Ligon,

    I had no idea you were such a student of 17th century just war theorists.”

    It is what it is, I suppose. A tyrant is a blight on the globe who by definition destroys human liberty under his boot. The ethical problems are fewer.

  49. “I don’t believe that we would have the threat to America from terrorists if it weren’t for our meddling foreign policy. I don’t believe those who say they are attacking us because they’re jealous of us.”

    By that logic either the U.S. is the luckiest nation on earth or their are no true agressors just countries that are getting what they were asking for. Think about it. If the U.S. stopped all of its “medling foreign policy” then according to your logic, it wouldn’t be the victim of terrorism. Okay, then doesn’t that mean that every other country who is the victim of terrorism like say Bali, or Spain are just targeted because of their “meddling foreign policy”. Are there any victims of evil and agression anywhere? If so, then why is it that the United States is so lucky that it can avoid being the victim of such aggression simply by not asking for it?

  50. Herb:

    “I don’t believe that we would have the threat to America from terrorists if it weren’t for our meddling foreign policy. I don’t believe those who say they are attacking us because they’re jealous of us.”

    This is really the heart of the anarchist minarchist distinction, isn’t it? Absent the context of deterrence for harmful behavior, would things be better or worse?

    What I am concerned about is a lack of effective deterrence. I trust deterrence against hostility more than I trust what strikes me as a fanciful notion that only aggressors are aggressed against.

  51. John,

    It is easy to cut and paste my nickname.

    Over 85,000 U.S. forces participated in the second battle of the Marne in direct support of the French.

    Which started out as the last major counter-offensive of the Germans after they had largely dissapated themselves in the offensives prior to that.

    Take those forces away and the French probably break leaving the BEF isolated ala 1940.

    Yes, just like the French broke in the offensives directed at them prior to this one in 1918?

  52. Germany was sinking American ships because we were aiding Great Britain by escorting their ships and shipping supplies to them. We should have remained neutral.

    That brings us another question. If the US just had to get involved, why did it choose to aid Great Britain instead of Germany and Austro-Hungary? I know that many Progressives were fervid Anglophiles, yet America has decided to spend trillions on two social programs adopted from the Prussians. Modern America is ideologically more a product of Bismarck than Jefferson.

  53. Jason Ligon,

    The problem with your viewpoint arises in determining who is and who is not a tyrant.

    John,

    BTW, the BEF was not isolated in 1940; indeed, a large portion of the forces evacuated in 1940 were French soldiers. And of course a major reason why it was possible to evacuate the French Army and the BEF was due to the efforts of French soldiers.

  54. If the US just had to get involved, why did it choose to aid Great Britain instead of Germany and Austro-Hungary?

    Well, one reason might be that Wilson’s mother was English.

  55. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    They were there before the Marne. At Aisne and Chateau Theirey and Belleau Wood when the Germans were within site of Paris. Further, without the 85,000 American presense, the Germans could have held out during the summer of 1918 much better than they did. In addition, the continued arrival of American forces made the German position hopeless. Further, France and England were bankrupt by the summer of 1918. Germany could have held out and negotiated a settlement. Without U.S. involvement, the German Army may have reached Paris, certainly would not have suffered the defeats it did in the summer of 1918 and would not have faced the hopeless situtation it did in the fall of 1918. In short, no U.S. and a bankrupt france and england face a stalemate.

  56. Mad Prophet,

    The Germans spent their sympathy through the rape of Belguim and unrestricted submarine warfare. There was real thought that the U.S. might side with Germany in 1914. After its actions in Belgium in August 1914, submarine warfare, and the Lusitania, any thoughts of siding with the Germans ended.

  57. John,

    They were there before the Marne.

    And in too small of a number to make a difference.

    At Aisne and Chateau Theirey and Belleau Wood when the Germans were within site of Paris.

    The Germans were within “sight” of Paris for much of WWI. Like I was telling you before, the French and British absorbed the blows of the German offensives in 1918. but did not break.

    Further, without the 85,000 American presense, the Germans could have held out during the summer of 1918 much better than they did.

    That is a statement concerning the Allied offensives, which IMHO weren’t all that critical re: the end of the war. The mere ability of the British and French to hold off the Germans, who had no reserve manpower and who were about to see significant shortfalls in their upcoming class of draftees, doomed the Germans.

    In addition, the continued arrival of American forces made the German position hopeless.

    Now that is a plasible argument. But again, this merely feeds into my statement about the nature of the German homefront.

    Further, France and England were bankrupt by the summer of 1918.

    I don’t recall either country defaulting on their loans to their creditors. In fact, as I recall, neither country had a problem getting more credit from U.S. banks. If any country was bankrupt, it was Germany, which had suffered privations throughout the war that neither the British or the French had.

    …certainly would not have suffered the defeats it did in the summer of 1918…

    Which isn’t really that important.

  58. “Jason Ligon,

    The problem with your viewpoint arises in determining who is and who is not a tyrant.”

    I don’t think that is really so hard. Is there an institutional, nonviolent way for the governed to remove their governors and overturn rules under which they don’t choose to live? I’m willing to be generous here. Any mechanism over any reasonable time frame.

  59. Isolationist bickering aside, can anybody refute the article’s main premise that the warmongering actions of a government erode the civil liberties of it’s citizens?

    What about interminable ‘wars’ like the “Cold War”, “The Drug War” and the “War on Terror”? These ‘wars’ have no reasonable end and the longer they continue the further eroded our liberties become.

  60. John,

    The US is a victim of terrorism because of our meddling foreign policy. I didn’t say that all acts of terrorism everywhere are due to meddling foreign policy.

  61. Jason Ligon,

    Is there an institutional, nonviolent way for the governed to remove their governors and overturn rules under which they don’t choose to live?

    So you’d overthrow a benign, liberal monarchy?

  62. Jason Ligon,

    Indeed, I can imagine a fairly homogenous, small monarchy which would be far more respectful of the rights of its citizens than the U.S. is which you would nevertheless overthrow. To be blunt, your standard for determination is flawed.

  63. The “purity” of someone’s adherence to libertarianism is a nonsensical notion.

    I profoundly disagree with the pro-war camp, but I am willing to talk to them just as I would anyone else. I am not going to “eject them from the tent.”

    Despite my opposition to the war, I am still bothered by the question “How many times does a dictator have to commit genocide before it becomes necessary to go to war to destroy him?” I am aware of 3 genocides perpetrated by the Saddam Hussein regime: 1) The Kurds; 2) The Shiites; 3) The Marsh Arabs.

    The purity of my beliefs is small compensation for doing nothing to oppose these crimes.

  64. “The US is a victim of terrorism because of our meddling foreign policy. I didn’t say that all acts of terrorism everywhere are due to meddling foreign policy.”

    Why is the U.S. so special that it is never a victim of agression but only gets what is deserves?

  65. And by monarchy I obviously mean a hereditary one; not an elective one.

  66. Anyway, as much as I’d like to continue, I must go.

  67. Sorry RC, it’s in the Buckley thread…I agree that we were forced to join in the world wars (although I also have always wondered why we didn’t side with Germany, since they were the agrieved party, but again my knowledge of this part of history is marginal, at best).

    But the cold war? Really? You think that was an overall good thing? Our meddling in Vietnam, Korea, all over central and south america?

    Again, I’d like to see some proof. (Which I will actually go out and try to find this evening.)

  68. PL:

    Remember that we are talking about the first order determination about legitimacy of action and not the whole shooting match, which includes utility.

    If we feel that we have something to fear from a benevolent monarch, we can treat him like a tyrant, yes. His status as tyrant becomes obvious as soon as we exercise non military sanction against his country to aleviate the threat, his people become restless, and they have no way to influence policy.

  69. Jason Ligon,

    Remember that we are talking about the first order determination about legitimacy of action and not the whole shooting match, which includes utility.

    I would suspect that given the subjective nature of your criteria that either hurdle is quite easily broken.

    If we feel that we have something to fear from a benevolent monarch, we can treat him like a tyrant, yes.

    “Feel?” “Something” to fear?

    His status as tyrant becomes obvious as soon as we exercise non military sanction against his country to aleviate the threat, his people become restless, and they have no way to influence policy.

    And what if they want him to continue his policy? Does he remain a tyrant? Basically, if our wholely subjective attitudes makes us sabre rattle and it scares the shit out of people we’re free to invade if their scared. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  70. PL:

    Yes, ‘feel’ and yes ‘something to fear’. Act like a threat and get treated like a threat. Dissemble on the subject of a WMD stockpile or program and don’t be surprised if you suddenly get treated as a threat that may need to be contained.

    “And what if they want him to continue his policy? Does he remain a tyrant? Basically, if our wholely subjective attitudes makes us sabre rattle and it scares the shit out of people we’re free to invade if their scared. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

    Is a tyrant not a tyrant if he is popular? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that there is no mechanism for peaceful policy change other than personal appeasement. If he keeps his scepter no matter what and commands national wealth, he is immune from signals toward moderation that might affect his subjects if they had anything to say about it.

    The baseline argument here is that there is some policy or action which poses a risk to national security. Granting safe haven for a terrorist organization poses a risk to the US. It is not, in and of itself, an attack on US soil. If a tyrant is sheltering terrorists, he has no national border I feel morally compelled to respect and I don’t think I can deter him in ways that might work if I were dealing with some form of representative government. He will be the last guy living well and eating well.

  71. Jason Ligon,

    Yes, ‘feel’ and yes ‘something to fear’. Act like a threat and get treated like a threat.

    Or alternatively, don’t act like a threat and be perceived as a threat anyway. It cuts both ways.

    Dissemble on the subject of a WMD stockpile or program and don’t be surprised if you suddenly get treated as a threat that may need to be contained.

    Or tell the truth and still be perceived as holding one and get invaded.

    Is a tyrant not a tyrant if he is popular? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that there is no mechanism for peaceful policy change other than personal appeasement.

    So, it doesn’t matter whether the “people” want policy change or not. Couple this with your “feel” standard and you have sigificant problems.

    The baseline argument here is that there is some policy or action which poses a risk to national security.

    Or no policy or action which does. Remember, one need only “feel” threatened according to you.

    Granting safe haven for a terrorist organization poses a risk to the US.

    In all circumstances? And what is a “terrorist organization?”

  72. Jason Ligon,

    I think I can fairly write again that the problem with your viewpoint arises in determining who is and who is not a tyrant.

  73. Act like a threat and get treated like a threat. Dissemble on the subject of a WMD stockpile or program and don’t be surprised if you suddenly get treated as a threat that may need to be contained.

    Fair enough, if it weren’t for the thousands of other people caught in the crossfire and the likelihood this war has done us more harm than good. Just because Saddam may have failed his treaty obligation to make it crystal clear that he had no WMD’s (though I wonder if our own military could keep track of things as well as he was required to) does not mean we did not still have ample reason to make damned sure we facing such a dangerious situation that we had no other choice but to make war.

  74. fyodor,

    I think that the difference of opinion is based on a difference of presumptions.

  75. My presumption follows the logic that Adam Smith had towards government interference in the economy, etc. Namely that one better make damn sure that one wants to interfere in the economy or go to war before one commits oneself to war.

  76. PhilLip – and I think that we can see that the unintended consequences of intervention, both in the economy and in the affairs of other nations (especially militarily), have not been kind.

    I always wonder how someone can not see how the two are related.

    But then again, I guess I’m one of those idiot isolationists. (As if, just because I am generally against military intervention, I am absolutely an isolationist. I’d say that looking at a number of things in my home, that is not the case.)

  77. Without the influx of U.S. military aid and manpower, it is easy to imagine France falling and the UK negotiating a separate peace…

    And a vaguely democratic-minded constitutional monarchy, with the most educated population in Europe and the largest number of Jewish citizens in prominent positions, would have become the dominant power on the continent. A chastened France would have rebuilt and continued on its comfortable way, minus most of its colonies; the British would have gone on to other things, and the three major nations of western Europe-all of them more or less free-market democracies-would have been able to put up a united front against the USSR. The United States would have continued to prosper through trade with all of them. A commercial artist named Schickelgruber would have ended up battling diabetes and tooth decay in total obscurity.

    Anybody who thinks US intervention in World War I was a good thing has a hole in his head. The majority of Americans realized it was a mistake before the teens were even over, and any remaining doubt was dispelled by 1933.

  78. PL:

    We seem to have differences around what course of action is appropriate in uncertain conditions. I am taking it for granted that you should do everything you can do to determine the true state of affairs, but I am also incorporating an assumption that such certainty is extremely difficult to come by.

    Depending on what you mean by ‘damned certain’, I don’t know that we could ever get enough evidence together to defend ourselves. There is an acceptable level of probability analysis from where I’m sitting, especially when dealing with a one man government answerable to no one.

    “So, it doesn’t matter whether the “people” want policy change or not. Couple this with your “feel” standard and you have sigificant problems.”

    If the people have no say in the matter, no, it doesn’t matter what they want. I understand your concern, but I think it is important to be straight forward as to the facts of the situation.

    You are kind of sneering at the “feel”, but I think that is the vast majority of potential cases once you are talking about asymmetrical engagements. Yes, it is obvious exactly who the threat is when a country rolls up to your border with tanks marked with their flag. You have immediacy of threat and identity of enemy all rolled up together in a clear visual. Unfortunately, things don’t work that way anymore.

    Iran’s relationship to Hezbollah comes to mind. At what point would Israel be able to legitimately slap around Iran? How much evidence is needed?

  79. Tim Cavanaugh,

    And a vaguely democratic-minded constitutional monarchy, with the most educated population in Europe and the largest number of Jewish citizens in prominent positions, would have become the dominant power on the continent.

    Or an aggressive Germany would have followed through its plans to seize Belgium and most of northern France and treat those areas as colonies to exploit. And lord knows what terrors they would have visited on the people of Eastern Europe who they had subjugated. Given the German government’s penchant for paranoia that was the primary cause of the war, one can only imagine what that paranoia would send in pursuit of.

    A chastened France would have rebuilt and continued on its comfortable way, minus most of its colonies…

    Chasted by what? Defending itself against German aggression?

    And minus most of northern France. German war plans were clear; seizing most of France’s northern industrial base was part of it and it would have crippled France.

    Germans were the ones who encouraged France to gain many of her colonies after all. Germany would have presumably continued to encourage such.

    …the British would have gone on to other things…

    Not with an aggressive power sitting there across the channel. Germany would have been a direct threat not only to the British on their island but also to the British empire. Of course stealing Britain’s empire from Britain was a major goal of the British by war’s end, thus one could look forward to continued warfare even if France did collapse.

    …and the three major nations of western Europe?all of them more or less free-market democracies?would have been able to put up a united front against the USSR.

    Kind of like how the Germans and Soviets were in cahoots against the British at the close of the war in the German effort to press into central asia and India?

  80. … and, lest it be lost upthread too far, the legitimacy of action is only one of two components I’m talking about, with the other being utility.

    I’d have no problems with the justice of Israel marching into Iran, overturning their government and blowing up everything that looked like a missile, a reactor, or a centrifuge. I would not support such an action for utilitarian reasons.

  81. Tim Cavanaugh,

    The major problem with your thesis is that it assumes any universe where the Germans win is going to better than one where they lose. I can imagine many plausible scenarios where Europe is plunged into a several decade long war along the lones of the Thirty Years’ War or the Napoleonic Wars’ by a German victory over the French, as Britain and Germany duke out it in a war for survival of each nation’s respective empire.

    Jason Ligon,

    …but I am also incorporating an assumption that such certainty is extremely difficult to come by.

    I would think that would teach one to be cautious.

    There is an acceptable level of probability analysis from where I’m sitting, especially when dealing with a one man government answerable to no one.

    Since no such government exists, we can throw that scenario out right there.

    Unfortunately, things don’t work that way anymore.

    Study past wars, particularly those of the Romans. It is my knowledge of these events that makes me quite skeptical of the desire to go war, because “feelings” were often trumped up B.S. or based on paranoia.

    At what point would Israel be able to legitimately slap around Iran? How much evidence is needed?

    I don’t know enough about the situation to say.

  82. Tim Cavanaugh,

    And of course the Germans were going to have to deal with all the Eastern European nationalisms bursting out of the Austro-Hungarian empire, since the war, whether Germany won or lost, spelled the demise of the empire. Could Germany control the Polish nationalism that it was encouraging (a Poland which would go on to defeat the Soviets in 1921)? And how would it deal with countries like Czechoslovakia, which created themselves (and not the Treaty of Trianon – which merely acknowledged their existance)?

  83. Weak. For someone trying to get his grubby hands on peoples’ decoder rings, the guy doesn’t have the balls to argue that we should have kept from going to war with Japan in WW2. He baldly ducks mention of the single military confrontation he knows he’ll get virtually no sympathy from anyone on.

  84. Well actually: follow the money-
    a writer posits:
    “That brings us another question. If the US just had to get involved, why did it choose to aid Great Britain instead of Germany and Austro-Hungary?”-

    Thats simple. The Big Money of the day- the Northeast financial families, had loaned vast sums to Britain in the early part of the War. The Brit aristocracy, which, unfortunatly for honest soldiers, translated into instant high rank, had so blown the thing that it looked like Britain might well loose. Which meant no repayment of the loans. Investing a fraction of what was at stake, a jingoistic campaign against Germany was launched. That included wide publication of the Zimmermann Tele. and mass publicity of the all too real (tho hardly unique) Hun atrocities. (the Lusitania hardly figured in) In short, Capital, thru mass propaganda, stampeded the Proles into War, to protect its, um, investment.
    Which ties in to the original Q (for once) how war making powers subvert Liberty.

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