History

Remembering the Victims of Communism

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The Victims of Communism Memorial is being dedicated in Washington, D.C. today, in a service featuring Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). Other events later in the day include a roundtable discussion with Richard Pipes, Paul Hollander, and Harry Wu; and a dinner with William F. Buckley and Elena Bonner (Andrei Sakharov's wife).

Details here.

Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this piece in the New Statesman that asks whether brutal repression is a feature not a bug in communism. Writes Robert Service, author of Comrades: A World History of Communism,

In all cases of durable state communism, there was some approximation to the Soviet "model". A single party kept itself in power without concern for electoral mandate. A nomenklatura system of personnel appointment was introduced. Religion was harassed. National traditions were emasculated. The rule of law was flouted. The political police was ubiquitous and ruthless; labour camps were established. Foreign travel permits were made hard to come by. Radio and TV broadcasts from abroad were banned. A prim public culture was installed.

This was the pattern despite the many national differences….

Service notes that, with the exception of Pol Pot's Cambodia, these same regimes industrialized quickly, expanded education, and did other things that helped to explain their staying power (and their good press in the liberal West). More here.

Alan Charles Kors took a long look at The God that Failed (the 1950 anthology and the ideology) for Reason here.

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  1. Well everybody knows that that wasn’t real Communism the way Marx envisioned it…

  2. If only they’d had the right people in charge…..

  3. Service notes that, with the exception of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, these same regimes industrialized quickly, expanded education, and did other things that helped to explain their staying power

    Of course, in the 20th century a lot of countries industrialized quickly and expanded education. You didn’t have to be a Communist to do it.

  4. these same regimes industrialized quickly, expanded education, and did other things that helped to explain their staying power (and their good press in the liberal West)

    Kinda like China now with every President since Nixon bowing and scraping.

  5. I guess this pretty much guarantees a “Victims of Capitalism” memorial to go up somewhere. I’m guessing Hiroshima, Baghdad, anywhere in SE Asia perhaps?

  6. Service notes that, with the exception of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, these same regimes industrialized quickly, expanded education…

    Is that really true of the PRC or Albania or a number of the SSRs?

    Anyway, Communist industrialization was often as not glommed onto the industrialization already underway in the nations which adopted communism or had it shoved down their throats.

  7. HA! HA! HA! HA!

    Dan, do you really seriously think the U.S. is a capitalist country?

    Wait, wait I know, next you’ll be telling me that North Korea is a Democracy!

    Dude, it’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be suspected to be an idiot than open one’s mouth and prove that one is.

  8. In all cases of durable state communism, there was some approximation to the Soviet “model”.

    The Hell? China seems to be the only ‘durable’ communist state (by adopting more capitalist economy) and they’ve never had much in common with the Soviets.

    A single party kept itself in power without concern for electoral mandate. A nomenklatura system of personnel appointment was introduced. Religion was harassed. National traditions were emasculated. The rule of law was flouted. The political police was ubiquitous and ruthless; labour camps were established. Foreign travel permits were made hard to come by. Radio and TV broadcasts from abroad were banned. A prim public culture was installed.

    Oh that. Well that wasn’t new with the Soviets. If I were to give it a name, I’d call it the ‘Roman’ model. Indeed, if you replace radio and TV with other forms of public speaking, it’s precisely the method perfected by ancient Rome.

    Service notes that, with the exception of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, these same regimes industrialized quickly, expanded education, and did other things that helped to explain their staying power

    What, you mean like Cuba?

  9. Next on the agenda: Nationalized health care!

  10. The memorial statue looks like the one erected by the protestors at Tiananmen.

  11. and did other things that helped to explain their staying power

    I try to think about chess.

  12. Dan, do you really seriously think the U.S. is a capitalist country?

    Well, who do you think controls things if not the people with capital?

  13. “Service notes that, with the exception of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, these same regimes industrialized quickly, expanded education…”

    Only an economic illiterate leftists could make such a stupid statement. Yes, they industrialized, but it was Potempkin industrialization. The factories were there but they didn’t produce enough to justify the investment in them. Most factories in communist countries actually had net negative value added meaning that the value of the finished produce was less than the value of the raw materials used to produce them.

    Contrast that with capitalist countries like post war Japan, South Korea or Hong Kong, who instead of being obsessed with heavy industry, started small producing easy to produce items
    and then worked up to heavy industry or in the case of Hong Kong finance. The communist countries with their obsession with immediatly building heavy industry never developed a profitable or efficient heavy industrial compacity. Yeah, they “industrialized” but they did so by wasting resources on inefficient white elefant heavy industrial projects.

  14. Well, yeah, in all cases of durable state communism, the communists openly allied themselves with and took direction from Moscow – even in China for the first 25 years of its existence.

    Warren, didn’t you ever notice those two non-Chinese dudes on the “three greats” posters in China?

  15. At the risk of sounding like I am on Dan T.’s side here, it has always struck me as odd that, for example, we have the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. It’s a great museum, by the way, but, um, was there a fascist period in U.S. history I somehow missed reading about? So, too, with the victims of communism memorial. I mean, come on, what next? Perhaps a monument to the evils of Feudalism?

  16. It’s popular amongst the pinky-brains of our times to apologize (usually on our behalf) for things that we never did.

  17. Come to think of it, D.A., where’s the “Victims of Slavery” Museum?

  18. I agree with DA Ridgley, why is the US building memorials for the deaths of people that it didn’t cause? Why not a Rowanda memorial? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

  19. DAR,

    More appropriate would be a “victims of American slavery” or a one dealing with the victims of the so-called “Indian Wars.”

  20. At least a victims of slavery monument would make sense. I will make you a deal Joe, the U.S. will build a victims of slavery monument right after the arab countries of North Africa build one and right after Brazil builds four or five. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t object to building one except that you know as well as I do that the US would be the only one to do it and it would leave the impression that slavery was a crime unique to the US or somehow worse in the US than everywhere else.

  21. Dan T –

    Hiroshima, Baghdad, Vietnam, etc. were nasty things perpetrated by the U.S. government, not capitalist endeavors.
    Militaristism and government oppression are not inherent attributes of a capitalistic system.
    Marxist-Leninism, on the other hand, is an ideology in which militarism and oppression are key attributes.

  22. John,

    A number of nations have slavery memorials, particularly in Europe.

  23. Not only are we the police of the world, we are its guilt (when convenient.)

  24. Of course the people of Hiroshima were completely the victims of the U.S. and not their insane genocidal militaristic government that started a Pacific wide war and then refused to surrender or give up power after loosing said war and destoying the country. No, those guys bear no responsibility for Hiroshima. UGH.

    I didn’t know that Grotius. Perhaps we should build a memorial to the victims of slavery.

  25. joe (and Grotius):

    At least that would make more sense to me. Look, I’m all for remembering the horrors of fascism and communism, hell, for remembering the horrors of totalitarianism and government oppression of any sort. My only point is, why are these in the U.S. and, in particular, in Washington, D.C.?

  26. one dealing with the victims of the so-called “Indian Wars.”

    You might try the new American Indian Museum in D.C. You can’t miss it. Its right on the mall, and has the best cafeteria of any Smithsonian museum.

  27. D.A.R.,

    Well, one way to teach about the nature of genocide is to build a museum to its most popularly understood example. I mean, the Holocaust Museum does more than its permanent exhibit (which itself is pretty damn powerful).

    The first time I visited I saw all those shoes. Piles and piles of shoes. To me it was a like punch to the stomache. I nearly felt physically ill. For me it was far more visceral in its own way than the scenes of bodies being stacked like cordwood I’ve seen on documentaries, etc.

  28. R.C. Dean,

    I haven’t been to it. Does it memorialize the “Indian Wars” specifically?

  29. D.A.,

    They’re in the U.S. because the people who built them wanted to get their message out to Americans. They’re in D.C. because Washington is where we put our important memorials.

    I just don’t see the location as implying guilt on our part.

  30. Isn’t “the best cafeteria of any Smithsonian museum” sort of like “the best Chevy Citation GM ever built?”

  31. joe,

    Heh. They are overpriced from my perspective. Better to walk down to Union Station and eat at the food court there.

  32. Plus the walk to Union Station is largely a pleasant one.

  33. the new york historical society museum has done some good exhibits on slavery as it existed in nyc (and new amsterdam). right now they’re doing one on the civil war and new york. they had a good exhibit on the draft riots a while back as well.

    though i doubt we’d ever see a slavery museum here. (too much of a political football – i could see some kinda setup where more conservative lawmakers would want to include arab involvement in the pan-african slave trade or african involvement for that matter and then folks like charles barron doing their thing, i.e. flippin’ the hell out.)

  34. joe:

    I didn’t mean to imply their location suggested U.S. guilt, only that they were inappropriate in D.C.

    Grotius:

    As I said, the U.S. Holocaust Museum is an excellent institution. As a native Washingtonian and political junkie with at least some sense of how special interest politics works, I am not so naive as to really wonder why it is there, either, but look, look at its location!

    I’ve also been to Auschwitz, where the sense of evil is palpable; the impact of the U.S. Holocaust Museum palls by comparison. I know not everyone can go to see such places in Poland, Germany, etc., but not everyone can go to the federal mall, either, which is supposed to be about, um, America.

    My attitude toward the victims of communism is exactly the same. Not everyone can go visit the gulags, either, but if we’re going to build a memorial to the evils of communism in the U.S., let’s put it in Berkeley or the Harvard Faculty Lounge where it belongs.

  35. dhex,

    Did they do something on the so-called 1741 New York Slave Revolt?

  36. Well, yeah, in all cases of durable state communism, the communists openly allied themselves with and took direction from Moscow – even in China for the first 25 years of its existence.

    joe, the Sino-Soviet rift was pretty much complete by the end of the ’50s so I’m not exactly sure where the “first 25 years of its existence” comes from.

    Or are you are referring to the fact that Chiang Kai-shek started out as a Moscow trained and financed revolutionary?

    Hmmm, come to think of it besides China and Cuba are there any more cases of Commies who managed to piss everybody off so badly that they got overthrown and replaced with an arguably even worse Commie?

    Interesting how those Commies end up being adopted as Yankee stooges too, eh?

  37. D.A.R.,

    Well, as an “immigrant nation” the history of Judaism is part of our history to some extent. so… it is about America in a way.

  38. “Did they do something on the so-called 1741 New York Slave Revolt?”

    yeah, the slavery in new york exhibition from last summer (iirc) had a whole section on it.

    http://www.slaveryinnewyork.org/

  39. John,
    I wasn’t neccesarily condemning the U.S. for Hiroshima, and I agree that Japan bears some responsibilty. But whether it was justified or not, I think vaporizing two cities qualifies as a “nasty” thing.
    My point was that it wasn’t an inherently ‘capitalist’ thing, wheras a good deal of communism’s nastiness was a key part of the ideology.

  40. dhex,

    Thanks for the link.

  41. Grotius,

    Try the cafeterias in the various House and Senate office buildings.

    DAR,

    “but if we’re going to build a memorial to the evils of communism in the U.S., let’s put it in Berkeley or the Harvard Faculty Lounge where it belongs.”

    Then I guess the Segregation Museum should be installed where National Review is published.

  42. Of course the people of Hiroshima were completely the victims of the U.S. and not their insane genocidal militaristic government that started a Pacific wide war and then refused to surrender or give up power after loosing said war and destoying the country. No, those guys bear no responsibility for Hiroshima. UGH.

    Right – because when we slaughter women and children, it’s because they deserved it.

  43. Isaac,

    OK, 25 years was an overstatement. Still, Chinese Communism began as Moscow-oriented Marxist-Lenninism just like all the others.

  44. joe,

    Well, when I was doing research at the Library of Congress I used to eat at the LOC’s cafeteria a lot. I loved walking over to Union Station though.

  45. “Of course the people of Hiroshima were completely the victims of the U.S. and not their insane genocidal militaristic government that started a Pacific wide war and then refused to surrender or give up power after loosing said war and destoying the country. No, those guys bear no responsibility for Hiroshima. UGH.”

    How bin Laden-esque.

  46. Dan T –

    Hiroshima, Baghdad, Vietnam, etc. were nasty things perpetrated by the U.S. government, not capitalist endeavors.

    By the government, on behalf of the capitalists.

    War is the ultimate capitalist endeavor, one could argue.

  47. Then I guess the Segregation Museum should be installed where National Review is published.

    Fine with me, unless you think the antechamber in Sen. Byrd’s offices would be better.

  48. “Then I guess the Segregation Museum should be installed where National Review is published.”

    National Review didn’t exist until the 1960s when segregation was on the decline. If you want to put such a musuem where it belongs, you would have to put it at the Democratic Party National Headquarters. I think it would be a very positive thing for Democrats to come to terms with their Party’s dark history regarding race in this country.

  49. Please. The best Smithsonian cafeteria is the one adjacent to the garden with all the statues. Because you have a nice view of the garden and the fountain and the statues and all that. And sunlight.

  50. John,

    The National Review was founded in 1955.

  51. “The National Review was founded in 1955.”

    Still after Brown.

  52. War is the ultimate capitalist endeavor, one could argue.

    One could, I suppose. One could argue that drinking gasoline is healthy. If you actually did argue — that is, explain how exactly “war is the ultimate capitalist endeavor” — maybe you’d convince me. I doubt it, but feel free to try.

  53. “Fine with me, unless you think the antechamber in Sen. Byrd’s offices would be better.”

    “If you want to put such a musuem where it belongs, you would have to put it at the Democratic Party National Headquarters.”

    No, better to put it somewhere whose residents have never recanted.

  54. “No, better to put it somewhere whose residents have never recanted.”

    Joe, that would not be National Review. They do not support segregation. But, at the Democratic Party Headquarters would be good because it needs to go somewhere where people will learn something. Most Democrats do not know their party’s dark history regarding race and think it was the Republicans who were behind segregation. In the same way the Germans, who have recannted, need a holocaust museum, the Democrats need a segregation museum so that they never forget their sins.

  55. John,

    Anyway, let’s be frank; for Republicans or Democrats the third-class nature of black citizenship in the U.S. was not an issue that would have created moral revulsion in either party. The Republicans after all went along knowingly with the so-called Compromise of 1877.

  56. By the government, on behalf of the capitalists.

    On behalf of the capitalists — they’re on big monolithic group? What capitalists? We nuked Japan to end the war which they had started. Justified or not, we didn’t do it on “behalf of the capitalists.”

    War, and anything the state does, can benefit certain people and/or businesses. At that point, it’s no longer free-market capitalism, it’s statism.

  57. By the government, on behalf of the capitalists.

    The nation-state – particularly in the West – has been (at least until quite recently) more powerful than capitalists. Indeed, that has been a hallmark of the creation of the nation-state since the early modern era.

  58. “Joe, that would not be National Review. They do not support segregation.” Then I’m sure you can go fetch me a link to where National Review renounced and apologized for its pro-segregation position, like Robert Byrd did.

    “It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me, and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one’s life, career and reputation,” the West Virginia Democrat says in an autobiography being released Monday. “I displayed very bad judgment, due to immaturity and a lack of seasoned reasoning.”

    BTW, there are numerous holocaust memorials all over Germany.

    Both parties supported segregation. Only one came to oppose it when it became a contested issue.

  59. Actually, the SP, SWP, and CP-USA all came out against segregration, when both the Republicans and Democrats supported it. The first lunch-counter sit-in was held in Chicago in 1946, by Socialist Party members.

    Where should we put that museum?

  60. joe,

    Well, as I’ve written on a number of occassions, sans the CP-USA the Scottsboro Boys chances of surviving the first so-called trial would have been greatly reduced. Of course even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  61. If you actually did argue — that is, explain how exactly “war is the ultimate capitalist endeavor” — maybe you’d convince me. I doubt it, but feel free to try.

    Well, consider that capitalism is a kind of survivial of the fittest, just like war. War is a kind of extreme implementation of the “might makes right” philosophy that capitalism also uses.

    War and economics are tied in so closely together it’s sometimes hard to know when one ends and the other begins. War is a great way to capture the resources that the capitalist economy needs in order to thrive.

  62. “Joe, that would not be National Review. They do not support segregation.”

    Neither do the Democrats, so there goes your snark. And as we all know, the Democrats came out against segregation (early 60s) about a decade before National Review ever got around to it.

  63. Grotius,

    And let’s not forget who organized the March on Washington.

  64. Maybe most amusing about this goofball display of propaganda is the idea that a philosophy can have “victims”. Maybe we can break ground on the “Victims of the Enlightenment” museum next?

    Of course, the reaction to my turning it around shows that really only the other guy’s philosophy can have them.

  65. No, better to put it somewhere whose residents have never recanted.

    Fair enough, the Congressional Black Caucus it is, then.

  66. Ah, my mistake, you’re just a troll.

    And here I was acting like you had an argument to make. Well done, troll!

  67. Wow, read the Wikipedia entry on the CBC.

    “This Caucus was founded in 1969…Since it was founded, only three black Republicans have been elected to Congress.”

    Since 1969.

  68. Off your meds again today, joe? [shug] I make a wisecrack, you jump in to, well, to what? Set the record straight and defend Berkeley or Harvard? To grind your own axe against National Review? (I understand the phrase “coming out of left field,” but really now!) Hey, if you think Robert Byrd is anything more than a bloviating sack of pork-bloated insincerity, go for it! If you think Blacks Only identity politics is a good thing, that’s jake with me, fella.

  69. D.A.R.,

    [shug]

    What’s a shug? 😉

  70. Dan T is right, in a way, in saying that capitalism, broadly defined, has had its share of victims.

    However, it’s always the “crony capitalism” and “state capitalism” that are responsible for oppression. Free-market capitalism could not produce such things, since those with capital would not have much use for controlling the state, given its extremely limited powers.

    Free-market capitalism and crony capitalism have about as much in common as a power plant and a potted plant.

  71. Both parties supported segregation.

    That is plainly and simply false.

    The Republicans have a less than stellar record on race. They have constantly caved on the issue but they did so for the most part in the face of a consistent onslaught from the Democrats who until the thirties were consistently segregationist and the exclusive architects of Jim Crow.

    The Wilson administration put an end to all Republican do-goodism on race relations. But even up until the thirties blacks saw that it was in their interest to support the Republicans; hence the cartoon in one of the black papers showing a black man answering the question of who he ws going to vote for with “Who-but Hoover!”.

    If you want to make the claim that the parties have switched position on race relations you would be on firmer yet still shaky ground.

    Frankly the whole “everyone was racist is bunk. The Republican position “We must raise the Negro from his ignorance and savagery before he can take his place in civilized society” while quaint and paternalistic is certainly not the equivalent of the Traditioal Democrat “The nigger is a savage and ignorant beast who will never be capable of living in civilized society and must be kept in his place at all costs”.

  72. But you are quite correct about National Review. Buckley and others made some exceedingly shaby statements in the fifties and none of them have ever repudiated those statements.

    But then National Review is not the Republican Party, either.

  73. This isn’t a memorial, it’s a monument. We beat the commies, and war monuments are how you pat yourself on the back.

  74. John, joe,

    Get a room already ffs.

  75. My larger point is that the history of the two American Parties is too complicated to be summed up accurately with your filecard sized “The Republicans have always been racist, grasping plutocrats, while the Democrats have always stood for truth, justice and being stronger than a locomotive and fastyer than a speeding bullet.”

  76. What’s a shug? 😉

    Twenty bucks — same as in town.

  77. Well, consider that capitalism is a kind of survivial of the fittest, just like war. War is a kind of extreme implementation of the “might makes right” philosophy that capitalism also uses.

    You’re closer to arguing that war is the ultimate expression of competitive sports, not capitalism.

    For your edification:
    cap?i?tal?ism (k?p’?-tl-?z’?m)
    n.
    An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

    I see nothing there about using coercive means for any purpose. In fact, I’ll bet that someone here could dig up plenty of evidence to show that free markets promote peace. Try harder, please.

    (“unfettered fre

  78. Ignore the crazy scrap at the end. I took out a redundancy. Feel free to spend the rest of the day wondering what I was going to add. It may have been brilliant.

  79. An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned

    And how exactly do things come to be privately or corporately owned? Often because you take them from somebody else.

  80. Dan T.,
    Stealing is not a part of the definition of capitalism. Using gov’t to steal property is not free market capitalism. Feel free to use that argument against crony capitalism – you won’t find any defenders of that here – but find some evidence that free markets encourage war before you lament the free markets’ “victims.”

    Here is an article about free markets and peace.

  81. “War and economics are tied in so closely together it’s sometimes hard to know when one ends and the other begins. War is a great way to capture the resources that the capitalist economy needs in order to thrive.” – Dan T.

    Lenin? Is that you? Next you’ll be telling us all about how capitalist, democratic states are more likely to go to war over resources… Despite all historical evidence to the contrary.

    http://www.sinistra.net/lib/upt/intpap/piso/pisohbiboe.html#u1

  82. Hiroshima was obviously a murderous act by the US government, though certainly it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the Japanese government. Similarly, 9/11 was a murderous act by Middle Eastern terrorists, though certainly it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the US government.

    See, there is plenty of blame to go around when groups of aggressors are bombing and slaughtering innocent people in enemy countries.

  83. The hitory of the parties and race could be summed up as such: From the founding of the Republican party in 1854 to the end of Reconstruction, the Republicans were the good guys and the Democrats were the bad guys.

    From the end of Reconstruction to the New Deal, the Democrats were the bad guys – and there were no good guys. This was the nadir of race relations in the U.S., by the way.

    From the New Deal to the late ’60s, the Democrats were both the good guys -and- the bad guys. The Republicans largely sat on the sidelines.

    Only since the late ’60s has there been the Democrats good guys Republican bad guys configuration, as the Republicans moved to capture whites disaffected by the Johnson-Kennedy Democrats advocacy of racial justice.

    One thing I can say for the current President, he has appointed independent black people to high offices. But the Republican party has a whole still attempts to marginalize political participation of blacks as a whole. The Party’s attitude toward African Americans still seems to be, we welcome your votes, but we’re not going to give you a reason to vote for us. That is not the Republican attitude toward whites, espcially white males.

  84. “Hiroshima was obviously [an act of war] by the US government, though certainly it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the Japanese government [murderously attacking the U.S. at Pearl Harbor]. Similarly, 9/11 was a murderous act [of war] by Middle Eastern terrorists, though certainly it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the [extremist militant jihadist philosophy that propelled it].”

    There. Fixed that to reflect reality for you rather than Ward Churchill’s class lecture notes.

    “See, there is plenty of blame to go around when groups of aggressors are bombing and slaughtering innocent people in enemy countries.”

    This is the concept that can’t be fixed. There is no blame to be placed on those who were murderously attacked, and until the side that initiated the violence has surrendered, the side which did not initiate the attacks is justified in continuing the fight against those who attacked them.

  85. Rob, there are no “sides” to the individualist. There are only individuals. Just because a government in my part of the world attacks your part of the world, you have no more right to kill me than if some criminal gang with members living down the block from me attacks you it gives you the right to blow up my neighborhood.

    The US government has been meddling in the Middle East for decades. It has been the main aggressor in the conflicts between America and the Muslim world. But even so, 9/11 was not justified. If Hiroshima was justified because Japan attacked a military base on America’s imperial holding of Hawaii, then 9/11 must be justified as well, for the US government slaughtered far more Middle Easterners — most of them civilians — than the Japanese slaughtered Americans. Indeed, if you believe in collectivist ethics, Japan killed a few thousand Americans and the US retaliated by killing hundreds of thousands of them; whereas the US government killed hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners and terrorists retaliated by killing thousands of Americans — this would mean 9/11 was far more proportional and thus defensible than Hiroshima.

    But I don’t believe in collectivist ethics. I see only individuals. And so I see both as acts of murder.

  86. As for Ward Churchill, those who blindly adopt American nationalism have far more in common with him than I do:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/gregory/gregory97.html

  87. “Rob, there are no ‘sides’ to the individualist. There are only individuals.”

    Um, ok… Next you’ll say “Only a Sith Lord speaks in absolutes.” Just because you are an individual doesn’t mean you’ll be any more or less dead when a group of people attacks you. Just because you don’t want to be at war, doesn’t mean that you won’t be if there is a group of people dedicating their lives to waging war on you and the group they lump you into (with or without your consent).

    “Just because a government in my part of the world attacks your part of the world, you have no more right to kill me than if some criminal gang with members living down the block from me attacks you it gives you the right to blow up my neighborhood.”

    Sure, as an individual I don’t. But the military does. That’s how it works, and wishing it wasn’t so doesn’t change the reality.

    “The US government has been meddling in the Middle East for decades.”

    True, no argument.

    “It has been the main aggressor in the conflicts between America and the Muslim world.”

    Not true, but once you’ve swallowed that whopper you’re more than ready to play the rousing round of “blame the victim” you engage in.

    “the US government slaughtered far more Middle Easterners — most of them civilians — than the Japanese slaughtered Americans.”

    When was this?

    “Indeed, if you believe in collectivist ethics, Japan killed a few thousand Americans and the US retaliated by killing hundreds of thousands of them;”

    Yup. How wars are won, sadly.

    “whereas the US government killed hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners and terrorists retaliated by killing thousands of Americans — this would mean 9/11 was far more proportional and thus defensible than Hiroshima.”

    Proportionality is just one part of the equation regarding whether or not a target is legitimate. Again, sorry, but that’s just the Law of Armed Conflict.

    “But I don’t believe in collectivist ethics. I see only individuals. And so I see both as acts of murder.”

    Well, that’s an opinion.

    “As for Ward Churchill, those who blindly adopt American nationalism have far more in common with him than I do”

    Yup, because American nationalism is the major force for evil and all that’s wrong with the world – in bizarro world. In this universe, though, the U.S. is far more a force for good than for evil.

  88. Neither American nationalism nor anti-Americanism are “the major force for evil.” But certainly nationalism is a problem regarding the US, the biggest government in world history. As a libertarian, I happen to think that government is the embodiment of violence. The US is a majorly aggressive empire. When did it kill many, many thousands of Middle Easterners? The sanctions in Iraq. Support for both sides of the Iran-Iraq war. Support for Saddam going back to the early 1960s, and including active support of him during his greatest crimes against humanity. The first Gulf War. These are not minor events. Had foreigners done this to America, even more Americans would be calling for nuking foreign countries right now.

    “Only a Sith Lord speaks in absolutes” is a self-defeating statement. Mine wasn’t. Poor example.

    You’re right. Reality is that militaries see the world through a collectivist lens. This is one of the biggest problems. And it is a problem with collectivism. Libertarians shouldn’t be trying to emulate the way governments immorally approach the world.

    The “Law of Armed Conflict” is, to the extent it is collectivist, as flawed as the laws against drugs or guns or any other such positive laws. But as it so happens, even the international law formed over the centuries, whether the Geneva Conventions or the theories of Just War, do not favor the US in such actions as the nuking of Hiroshima.

    As for proportionality, it is a matter of disproportionality if, for example, in retaliation for your punching me in the face, I stab you to death. If in response to your assault I shoot your neighbor, or even punch him, this is not a matter of violating proportionality — it is simply naked aggression. When aggressors attack you, you have a right to use force against them. Not innocent people.

  89. And if you think the US government, or any government, is overall a force for good in the world, it is you who are in Bizarro World, at least if you claim to have any libertarian philosophical views.

  90. “In all cases of durable state communism, there was some approximation to the Soviet “model”. A single party kept itself in power without concern for electoral mandate. A nomenklatura system of personnel appointment was introduced. Religion was harassed. National traditions were emasculated. The rule of law was flouted. The political police was ubiquitous and ruthless; labour camps were established. Foreign travel permits were made hard to come by. Radio and TV broadcasts from abroad were banned. A prim public culture was installed.”

    … this looks very much like the kleptocratic and murderous regimes Communism replaced in Russia, China and most of Eastern Europe. The natives did not forget that, as the exiled “elites” had often found when they returned to reclaim leadership.

    On the Victims of Communism Memorial should be a disclaimer: “victims of Communism, except the Nazi/Fascist thugs or various other warlords”.

  91. “But certainly nationalism is a problem regarding the US, the biggest government in world history.”

    Exactly how would that be possible as long as China exists?

    “As a libertarian, I happen to think that government is the embodiment of violence.”

    Really? Sounds more like an anarchists’ point of view to me. As a minarchist, I certainly see that gov’t should play a role – y’know in that John Locke, rule of law fashion. Without the rule of law you get settling crimes with honor killings and vendettas.

    “The US is a majorly aggressive empire.”

    Actually, there still isn’t a consensus among historians regarding whether the U.S. actually is an empire. If it is an empire, it is an empire only if you stretch the definition to include characteristics that aren’t included in the traditional definition of empire. It’s a cute bumper sticker to hang on the U.S.’s bumper when it suits people who dislike the foreign policy of the U.S., but it’s really sloppy thinking to assume that even experts would agree with you about the “U.S. is an empire” schtick.

    “When did it kill many, many thousands of Middle Easterners? The sanctions in Iraq.”

    You mean the United Nations sanctions? File a complaint with them, don’t hang it on the U.S. Also, it’s funny that none of the 9/11 terrorists were from Iraq. How does A lead to B, again? Only by blaming the victims.

    “Support for both sides of the Iran-Iraq war.”

    Again, none of the 9/11 terrorists were from either of those countries. How does A lead to B again? (Also, I think you need to do some research on where support came from for both sides of that war and in what proportion instead of just believing whatever you’ve been told.)

    “Support for Saddam going back to the early 1960s, and including active support of him during his greatest crimes against humanity.”

    That’s realpolitik. It’s ugly, but it’s the nature of international relations. The U.S. has turned a blind eye to some pretty heinous things in its own self-interest, no argument. You probably do the exact same thing every time you drive to work using gas that is refined from Middle Eastern and South American oilfields or use a cellphone that includes circuitry that wouldn’t be possible without items mined in areas of Africa that would turn your stomach. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but short of invading every country where there is injustice, about the only thing the U.S. can feasibly do is hope that the guy running the country isn’t Chavez/Kim Jong Il and/or doesn’t go from being the Hussein of the 80s to the Hussein of the 90s.

    “The first Gulf War.”

    Really? That was a coalition of nations that freed the Kuwaitis from an invading army. Ask the Kuwaitis (who are also Arabs, BTW) how they feel about the U.S.’s involvement there.

    “These are not minor events. Had foreigners done this to America, even more Americans would be calling for nuking foreign countries right now.”

    You mean if the rest of the world behaved toward the U.S. the way the U.S. behaves towards the rest of the world? You mean providing more direct and indirect aid, defending its allies with its own blood and treasure, and living up (like no nation in the history of the world) to the idea of “no better friend, no worse enemy?” I don’t really see how that’s a scenario that results in Americans calling for nuking foreign countries.

    “‘Only a Sith Lord speaks in absolutes’ is a self-defeating statement. Mine wasn’t. Poor example.”

    No, it’s a self-contradicting statement – just like yours, making it a spot-on example.

    “You’re right. Reality is that militaries see the world through a collectivist lens.”

    Like every group of people who have ever banded together since the first tribes of mankind? to be up in arms about this is to deny the reality of human nature, a common problem with all utopian pipe-dreams for making the world a perfect place. The trick, IMO, is to keep the group chugging towards making things better (like the U.S. does) instead of worse (the way the USSR, Mao’s China, and Hitler’s Germany did as an extreme example). It’s a balancing act, not a real example of “all groups and all collectivism is bad and good things only flow from individuals.” Most good in the world, just like most bad in the world, comes from groups. Guns are the same way – they can be useful tools of self-protection or harmful tools used to dominate other people. It’s not that all groups are bad, it’s that they have to have checks and balances in place to keep them from doing damage.

    “Libertarians shouldn’t be trying to emulate the way governments immorally approach the world.”

    True, individuals are internal members of a group who abide by the group’s rules for the betterment of the individual or there is no reason for the individual to abide by the group’s rules. Simple self-interest, there, which is simple human nature again. Utopian approaches often fail to take human nature into account and assume that if only they can overcome that nature that the world could be a perfect and perfectly good place. (See also, communism, socialism, etc.) But groups interacting with one another are rarely bound by the same rules as the individuals. Hence the difference between murder and war, a difference you seem incapable of discerning.

    “The ‘Law of Armed Conflict’ is, to the extent it is collectivist, as flawed as the laws against drugs or guns or any other such positive laws.”

    Well, are you positing the world would be better off without LOAC? There seems to be a lot of that on these threads (an uninformed position, clearly, IMO). We could go back to the “30 Years War” approach, but I somehow don’t think that’s what you’re positing since it would be far bloodier than the current LOAC system (which was established with the express intent of making things less needlessly bloody and less horrific for civilians). Again, the idea that you can make things better by abolishing all groups is just utopian clap-trap that is counter to human nature, but if that is what you’d like to see you should have some suggestion for what you would replace LOAC and international law with?

    “But as it so happens, even the international law formed over the centuries, whether the Geneva Conventions or the theories of Just War, do not favor the US in such actions as the nuking of Hiroshima.”

    Says you. Again, I think that you’re going to have a really hard time getting consensus on that even among experts and historians.

    “As for proportionality, it is a matter of disproportionality if, for example, in retaliation for your punching me in the face, I stab you to death.”

    You are making the same mistake about applying interactions between groups to interactions between individuals within a group who have agreed to live by the rules of that group. It’s hard for me to believe that your apparent inability to discern the difference is sincere – it seems almost like a philosophical position adopted for the sake of argument in a Philosophy 101 course. Also, again, proportionality is not the only (nor even always the primary) factor in establishing what is and isn’t legitimate use of military force.

    “When aggressors attack you, you have a right to use force against them. Not innocent people.”

    Groups in conflict with other groups (like nation-states, for example) often find it hard to distinguish between those who are part of the group by choice and rugged individualists like yourself who think they live in a vacuum rather than in a nation-state that is one of many others. However, to bring it to the individual level example (since you seem to have troulbe understanding anything above the individual level of organization): you are justified in shooting someone who you believe is shooting at you in self-defense, and it is also a justified shooting if you shoot someone who wasn’t attacking you but happened to be in the same group of people and you believed was shooting at you. It doesn’t make it any less tragic and sad that an innocent person died, but the world is an imperfect place where people often must band together to make life better for themselves and the members of their group (whether that group is the Libertarian Party or the military arm of a nation-state).

    “And if you think the US government, or any government, is overall a force for good in the world, it is you who are in Bizarro World, at least if you claim to have any libertarian philosophical views.”

    I’m basically a minarchist libertarian, and I don’t see that my views conflict with that position. But you seem to be an anarchist libertarian – which has always struck me as hopelessly utopian at best and a bloody and unworkable regression to the law of might rather than the ruld of right that it implies.

    I’m also an aspiring historian, so I recognize that human beings have pretty much always operated in groups and I have a pretty good impression of how previous groups have operated throughout the bloody history of mankind.

    Placing the blame on an “-ism” is legitimate if that “-ism” is rotten at its core (communism, socialism, authoritarianism). But in the case of your disdain for your definition of “collectivism” (defined, as you seem to, as “any group of two or more people for any reason”) which I don’t share (my definition is far more specific than yours and is more a political definition) flies in the face of every techonological and social advance in human history.

    In other words, no, the U.S. isn’t the source of all good nor of all evil. But it is responsible – advertently or inadvertently – for far more good than any other nation-state in history, especially the empires you lump it in with.

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