I am revisiting (and hopefully expanding upon) my post from a few days ago, “Once Is Chance, Twice is Coincidence, Third Time Is a Pattern.”
I ended with a question: What am I missing?
I received a very through and thought-provoking comment from “Jubal,” who identifies that he is Spanish. I strongly suggest it is read in its entirety. I include a couple of the key points here (sic):
American libertarians like you have LRC in such high steem, for good (past) reason, that you have difficulty to perceive the clearly unprincipled, biased stance of LRC on several matters.
…the last 3-4 years of LRC, for me, are marked by deep disappointment, mainly becayse LRC's proclaimed anti-state stance is subordinate to anti-US imperialism stance.
In sum, the anti-state principle is not systematically and impartially applied at LRC. It is subordinate to anti-US imperialism.
For now, I make no comment either way about this viewpoint – I only take it as real for this commenter; it also seems to explain the reaction I labeled as “Once” in my previous post. However, I will return to this later.
Let me offer a recently published counterview by Justin Raimondo, “Two Invasions – and One Truth,” in which he addresses precisely this issue raised in my earlier post as well as the comments by “Jubal”:
No bombing, no casualties, no armed resistance, no “shock & awe” – Crimea isn’t so much an invasion as it is a hook-up.
Now behold another invasion, the American "liberation" of Afghanistan – which, by any measure, wasn’t (and isn’t) anything other than an old-fashioned shock-and-awe kill-‘em-all invasion.
Raimondo is drawing a distinction based on relative magnitude of the violations. Subsequently, Raimondo gets to the meat of the issue:
In short, some aggressors are more aggressive than others: indeed, there is one in particular that tops the list. Some libertarians are quite uncomfortable with these difficult yet irrefutable truths. They’d prefer we didn’t talk about them. Anthony Gregory, writing in some obscure web site that nonetheless got picked up elsewhere, complains "Our unifying enemy should be the same: aggression, whether it is ordered from Moscow or Washington DC" – and never mind the disproportionate death and destruction caused by the latter. That’s just a detail.
But is it? Doesn’t it matter that the Russian "aggression" caused no loss of life and no real destruction of property – not even a dented automobile? Doesn’t that alter the tortured calculus that instructs us in who our "unifying enemy" should be?
What these "both sides are equally bad" libertarians and fellow-travelers are loath to admit is a simple fact of reality, underscored by the history of the world since September 11, 2001, and well before that, and it is this: the US government is the biggest, most consistent and deadliest aggressor the world has ever known. Washington – not Moscow, or Beijing, or god help us Caracas [this is interesting; “Jubal” specifically mentioned an incident in Venezuela, and provided a video link, as being one such incident that is ignored by American libertarians] – is the main danger to peace and liberty in the world. It is our moral and political responsibility as libertarians to ceaselessly point this out –no matter how many hand-wringers and wishful thinkers are bothered by it. To do anything less is to capitulate to the aggressive American nationalism that has had this country by the throat lo these many years.
I know many people who live in or come from places or have family in places where the US government has caused untold death and destruction. Many of them have willingly come to the US to live, or are actively attempting to do so.
I have talked with a few of them about this seeming contradiction – the US government has helped turn their lives into hell at home, yet they are desirous of living under that same US government. What they see is that there is a significant difference between living within the US and being an innocent victim of US aggression overseas. In other words, they are relatively safe from the devastation via empire within the borders of the fifty states, but that same government can be deadly if they choose to live elsewhere.
Imagine life for those within those fifty states and specifically those with little if any exposure to international travel and / or alternative news sources. The US government is relatively benign and even good when it comes to its own (at least as far as the masses can see). Therefore, they assume, the US government is also doing good deeds when it comes to its international activities.
Imagine the effort it takes to break free of this dream-time fallacy.
I recall, during one the of recent Ron Paul runs for President (probably 2008) speaking to some friends overseas and describing the foreign policy of Ron Paul. My foreign friends replied very simply: he will never get elected; the American people won’t go for it.
Raimondo strikes an interesting tone in this: “…the US government is the biggest, most consistent and deadliest aggressor the world has ever known.” While I’m not sure about the “ever” part (although through indirect means such as financial controls, etc., it may be true), it is certainly true today.
I do not suggest this to discount the sentiment of Jubal or the others whose words I have used as examples in my previous post. But it is worth considering that while Venezuelan police are beating Venezuelan residents within Venezuela (as in the video referenced above), the US government has, since the end of the Cold War, been involved in over 60 overseas military operations, most of these far deadlier than localized police actions.
Not to suggest that one is an action to condemn and the other is not – both certainly are damnable. But it seems to me reasonable that one receives more exposure to a broader audience.
Why did I take a detour through the avenue of my friends and acquaintances, and especially pointing out the ignorance of many native-born Americans? As to the transplants and hope-to-become transplants, they see or have lived through the danger of a US government gone mad, and the relatively-speaking split-personality of that same government at home. The US is a relatively safe place to live, and has virtually no risk of being attacked by a foreign nation. They can see this, coming from the outside.
As to the ignorance of many Americans, those with little knowledge outside of the inside: it seems to me something to be celebrated that a growing portion of Americans are seeing the truth of their government, and especially of their government’s actions overseas. This can only help, in the long run, to bring public pressure against such adventurism; haven’t we seen this in Syria and, so far, in Ukraine?
To whom do we owe such an awakening? Some of the same people being criticized for not speaking boldly against the state in all cases and at all times; some of the same people who consider Russia’s actions as relatively minor compared to those perpetrated by the US state.
Why the detour to Ron Paul and my foreign friends? Only bankruptcy and public opinion will bring an end to US overseas adventurism. That those like Ron Paul, LRC, and others bring weight to public opinion, this should be of value in all four corners of the world.
Whatever one can say about Ukraine, so far, at least, the people are not dying by the thousands. Whatever one can say about Russia’s actions to date, these are tame when compared with what the US would do if such trouble brewed in Vancouver (let alone what the US does do whenever and wherever the government chooses anywhere in the world).
And whatever does or doesn’t happen in Ukraine, remember who said “F@%& the EU.” Remember who drove NATO into Central and Eastern Europe.
Yes, I understand this is making a relative argument; I also understand the NAP is absolute. But I offer the following from Rothbard, who sees relativism when it comes to such topics:
We have seen throughout our discussion the crucial importance, in any present-day libertarian peace program, of the elimination of modern methods of mass annihilation. These weapons, against which there can be no defense, assure maximum aggression against civilians in any conflict with the clear prospect of the destruction of civilization and even of the human race itself. Highest priority on any libertarian agenda, therefore, must be pressure on all States to agree to general and complete disarmament down to police levels, with particular stress on nuclear disarmament. In short, if we are to use our strategic intelligence, we must conclude that the dismantling of the greatest menace that has ever confronted the life and liberty of the human race is indeed far more important than demunicipalizing the garbage service.
He, of course, is not speaking of the tyranny of the US government as opposed to that of other governments. He is contrasting two different extremes of state action: the use of nuclear weapons, and tax-funded trash collection.
I return to the sentiment behind Raimondo’s words: if there was one international aggressor to tone down, to reign in – which would libertarians and others against war choose? It is a testament that many American libertarians concern themselves more with the devastation caused by the US government to innocents overseas than they concern themselves with local, relatively insignificant but much more personal, violations.
I reference the banner at LRC: “ANTI-STATE•ANTI-WAR•PRO-MARKET.” Which state in the world today is the largest, most all-encompassing – and even globally encompassing? Which state is by far the most militaristic overseas?
The answers to these questions are indisputable. LRC and the like take these on with no holds barred. Must one site take on the entire world of violations? Must American libertarians also focus on every episode of police brutality to maintain legitimacy? Isn’t taking on the largest, most all-encompassing, war-mongering state enough?
Jubal goes further, pointing to examples where statements have been made justifying one side over the other – in one case praising the election of a foreign tyrant because the tyrant was also one who stuck it to the American Empire. While this was not his example, is it good news for the people of North Korea that their own tyrant considers the US Empire as enemy? Should an American libertarian praise this? For this, to the extent it occurs, I have sympathy. It seems to have occurred often enough for an obviously intelligent reader like Jubal to feel such disappointment.
I take further wisdom from Jubal: think local, think individual. The violations are all around us, and are committed by state actors and against real human beings in every corner of the world. The victims are equally harmed, whoever the aggressor.
But it is a bridge too far to expect one site, or one corner of the anti-state, anti-war world, as being all things to all people. I suggested in my reply to Jubal’s comments that perhaps, just as Mises.org has dozens of international affiliates, perhaps the same could be considered for LRC. Instead of focusing on perceived shortcomings, perhaps Jubal can make a proposal to Mr. Rockwell along these lines.
Or just start his own blog. The environment is target-rich.