Tibor Machan was the subject of a recent Daily Bell interview. Having grown up in Eastern Europe, in this interview he occasionally brings a perspective and insight on the issues addressed that many in the West today might not have; at times he seems purposely oblivious to context; mostly, his comments are completely indecipherable.
With that, let’s begin:
DB: That brings us to our larger topic of US imperialism and war….Let's begin by pointing out that since you grew up in a communist country, you tend to believe that US militarism is not as widespread or fierce as some think it is.
TM: For my money, the expansionist geopolitics is found mostly with Russia, China, Japan and so forth. What else would one call Putin's stance? But such generalizations are nearly impossible to ascertain as either true or false.
I agree that generalizations are not useful – however, they can be of advantage when speaking with an audience that holds a common understanding of certain terms. Machan has contributed articles to The Daily Bell for years – he certainly must have some understanding of the context of the terms used within the community. Machan seems to avoid this notion throughout this interview.
But what on earth are the specifics? Japan? This isn’t 1931. What has Japan done since 1945 to deserve inclusion in this group? China? If China has made any substantial act of war in any region farther than 200 kilometers of its borders in the last couple of decades, I am not aware of it.
Russia? Putin is no saint, but at worst whatever is happening in Ukraine is the offspring of many fathers – both east and west. Even if one grants that Putin is an imperialist, does this automatically negate the possibility of any other imperialist regimes on earth? Why deflect?
In any case, Ukraine is a lot closer to Russia than it is to any Western European (or North American) country. Besides, Putin was instrumental in stopping the bombing of Syria a year ago. That isn’t nothing.
Finally, to the extent states such as China and Russia gain influence in the world, it is and will be only because the United States government has so significantly abandoned any semblance of moral leadership.
DB: How has your thinking about natural rights and libertarianism evolved within the context of the West's continued militarism?
TM: This is one of those kinds of questions—"Have you stopped beating your wife?" "The West's continued militarism?" As far as I understand recent, modern geopolitics, there is no "continued militarism" in the West. Luxembourg? Hungary? Lichtenstein? France? Poland?
This is one of those “purposely oblivious to context” moments. It is obvious the context in which DB is asking the question. It is equally obvious that the United States (and other “Western” states such as Great Britain) have been quite militaristic in the last several decades – far more so than Japan, China, and Russia. Machan has noted this in the past. Why not in this interview?
TM: How about the USSR? Based on its ideology, the Soviet Union had to expand both territorially and so far as its belief system is concerned.
This is true enough – but again, not in the context of DB’s question – which was “continued militarism.” Continued! There is no USSR and hasn’t been for over 20 years; what is the USSR continuing? It doesn’t exist! Russia (as Machan apparently is not familiar with the distinction) – whatever the sins of its political leaders – has not fomented revolution in Mexico or Canada.
TM: Without such expansionism its imperial ambitions, going back all the way to czarist times, couldn't be sustained. Marx himself noted that in order to fulfill its destiny as the leader of international communism, modern Russia/the USSR had to act as an imperial nation.
Although muddled by the mixing of czars, Marxists, and whatever you want to label today’s Russia, this comment offers a glimpse into his insight; many in the West are not knowledgeable regarding Stalin’s actions and desire to lead Germany, France, and Britain into the Second World War as a means by which to spread communism in the west. But Machan so far has mixed past and present (China, Japan, Russia, USSR) so confusingly that I have no idea what he is talking about.
DB: Why do you think the West has so many wars – and not against other Western countries but against terrorism and "Islam"?
TM: I disagree with your premise here.
Which premise? Is it a disagreement about the term “West”? The term “war”? Lichtenstein and Luxembourg? This is “purposely oblivious to context” – he certainly has noted the US aggression in the past. Is it that the West (as the term is commonly understood) is not involved in “so many wars,” via some type of quantitative measure? Machan is not so ignorant. With which premise does Machan disagree? He offers no answer.
DB: Is the state in a sense at war with the individual – and is that war advanced by non-domestic military action?
TM: The state is a collection of individuals with various more or less aggressive attitudes.
Machan is quite correct, and many of us that write critically about the state often either forget this or merely use the term “state” as a shortcut to describe the individuals that are taking action against individual, non-aggressive, freedoms. Machan knows this (he has used this shortcut in the past), but instead of using this opportunity to shed light on his views, he avoids dealing with the question – a question behind which there is truth and an opportunity to educate.
Does he not understand the context? He has had no problem in the past speaking of the growing tyranny in the United States. Why is he so evasive today?