Friday, April 4, 2014

Once, Twice, Three Times…Redux

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 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. 


  1. Most aggression of the US state is not military, or at least not primarily military in nature. The depredations of international organizations such as the IMF, combined with those of "health" related concerns pushing vaccines designed to harm, and strictly for profit corporations, (the list could be quite long but I will only name Monsanto as a particularly egregious example), often destroy people and countries just as thoroughly as outright war would. None of these activities would have reached the pervasive level that they have without: the threat of violence engendered by the US military, the insanely byzantine machinations of our state department, the false "science" pushed by nearly every part of the Federal government, and the almost laughably (it would be funny in fiction, but they are actually killing us) compliant "main stream media".

    This may be a better place to live, for now, but a big part of that is because of our non-military aggressions elsewhere.
    I for one am happy to have LRC concentrate on US misdeeds, but think it very important to realize that they do. Knowing that it is not perfect, will not prompt me to suggest any changes to LRC. Similar websites, mostly based in other countries, would be the remedy, if any is desired.

  2. BM,
    I'm glad you thought my point of view was interesting. I confess I'm a bit overwhelmed and shocked to see the issue raised at LRC now. Good for Lew Rockwell to be so open to criticism.

    I'd like to clarify my position, because subtleties are easily lost in reformulation. For instance, at LRC's title page your post is introduced this way: "Is LRC wrong? To concentrate on the misdeeds of the empire?" I don't have a problem with LRC concentrating on the US empire misdeeds, but I have a problem with LRC losing principled ground in doing so: anti-State stance subordinate to anti-US imperialism, as you thoughtfully quoted me.

    Perhaps it's a problem of defining yourself (LRC) by opposition, instead of by principle. The enemies of neocons and similar US warmongers are my friends? At least, to the point of downplaying their own misdeeds? Do I define myself by 100% opposition to neocon stance (forbearing thorough criticism of their enemies included) or do I define myself by my principles? There is risk of losing yourself here, and becoming the mirror image of what you oppose.

    Although, at first sight, I wouldn't have major disagreements with Justin Raimondo in the article you quote. His comparative analysis of US/Afghanistan vs Russia/Crimea is spot-on. However, I see a hint of what I said above. Let me explain.

    I think that one of the factors of the State survival are the psy ops that induce a separation of "microethics" and "macroethics" in most people (analogy to separation microeconomics and macroeconomics, so dear for non-Austrian economists and lovers of economic manipulation, intended). They see as legitimate for the group of people known as the State what they wouldn't see as legitimate for them or any other individual in "micro" interaction with other individuals.


  3. (cont'd)

    Justin Raimondo's conclusion (see whole paragraph quoted in post):
    "What these 'both sides are equally bad' liberaterians and fellow-travelers are loath to admit... To do anything less is to capitulate to the aggressive American nationalism that has had this country by the throat lo these many years."

    Definition by opposition, there you have it: Criticism of crimes by competitors of the US empire is capitulation to aggressive neocons (I disagree: the more principled and balanced the opposition, the stronger it is). Go for macroethic good and forget microethics, there you have it: the main danger to peace and liberty in the world ever known is the US government, don't do it a favor being critical of their competitors, too. The suffering inflicted by other governments? Hide it under the carpet, for the greater good (I disagree: the more principled and balanced the opposition, the stronger it is... sorry, I repeat myself).

    I've seen all this before, and I know how it ends. I'm too disappointed by mankind to be a "hand-wringer". It's about spiritual and moral strength, it's about keeping the high ground. But I offer my thoughts without expectations, low or high.

    About your suggestions of local "LRCs" and libertarian websites and some objections by others. I don't expect LRC to comment on every injustice on Earth. We all are humans and have limitations. Time is scarce. However, if LRC takes the time to say something about Venezuela, cheering (McAdams) the last electoral victory of Hugo Chávez in 2012 but not saying a word against the chavista State oppressing the people of Venezuela is weak, to say the least. LRC did much better yesterday, publishing this article by Jacob Hornberger:

    Mike Rozeff comes to my mind as a thoughtful writer. And James Corbett (posted by Charles Burris at LRC's blog, by the way):

    More local libertarian websites would improve coverage and richness of viewpoints, of course, but, beyond that, my point is that you should stick to principle on the issues you cover. Principle makes your stance strong. Defining yourself by "opposition to", on the contrary, weakens your stance. It's a form of compromise and leaves the reader wondering what's happening behind the curtain.

    Should I begin a website? I'd like to. I was quite active in Spanish forums defending Rothbardian libertariansm (not capitulating to neocons at all, by the way), but life is more and more demanding, specially under a European-style tyranny. I'm a slow writer and the entry barriers for a small business here are so crippling that I have no realistic chance of running a website and earn a living.

    Best wishes,

    1. Jubal

      Thank you for your further comments. I will make only a few minor points:

      1) While I occasionally send an article to Mr. Rockwell for his consideration, I did not this time.

      2) The titles on the home page are chosen by someone at LRC, although I can see why this title was chosen given the content of my post

      3) You write well (and think clearly); so I encourage you to write, even only if you cannot do it regularly.



    2. BM,
      I guessed so. Didn't mean that you chose the title at LRC. "Overwhelmed" is the key word. Excuse me if I've been a bit self-centered with this follow-up. Just felt the urge of some clarification (and balance, too) on my part.

      Thanks for the encouraging words. And for this thoughtful post, too.


      I just came across an interesting post by Lila Rajiva:

      This excerpt captures the spirit of never ending search for principle and truth that I commend and makes me value her and other independent bloggers and writers (yourself, James Corbett, Anthony Wile, and some writers at LRC, too) so much:

      "One can accept the secession of Crimea as a relatively peaceful process and an understandable reaction to the US’s own belligerent posturing and meddling in the region, but it doesn’t follow that one should then swallow the narrative of Patrick Buchanan that Putin stands for Christianity.
      These are deep waters. Nothing is as it seems. Anyone who subscribes to black-and-white narratives can be easily manipulated by the powers-that-be."
      Thinking on your suggestion ("instead of focusing on perceived shortcomings, perhaps Jubal can make a proposal to Mr. Rockwell along these lines"), perhaps an international network of NAP watching websites, both in English and the local language(s), could be my proposal. I emphasize the NAP watching character as the foundational guiding principle.

    3. "...perhaps an international network of NAP watching websites, both in English and the local language(s)..."

      Perhaps something along these lines (I suggest in format, not necessarily content)?

      A bit like a clearing house for stories / etc. regarding NAP violations, perhaps organized by country / region? Under each country / region, the stories could be in whatever language they happen to be. Perhaps a utility that makes translation easy and automatic?

      This could be an interesting concept. What do you think?

    4. I meant to add: I wasn't a fan of that Buchanan article at all.

    5. I was thinking of a double mission:
      1) A news alert about violations of NAP.
      2) Use those news as a source for case studies of NAP application and conflict resolution. This post of yours could be a good example of this second point:

      The idea would be going beyond academic writing or editorial opinion and aiming at an open source experiment of bottom-to-top law discovery. My impression is that articles in the web reach a limited audience, but engaging people in a more hands-on approach, trying to show that bottom-top law discovery is the way and centralized top-to-bottom legislation fiat is not, could be more educative and effective.

      We're not going to avoid the collapse of Western civilization writing articles on libertarian philosophy. As the State tightens its grip on society and loyalty to the State weakens, the embryons of legitimate social institutions should be there as an alternative that people can know and prefer. The Web is good for sharing information and opinion, but I think we should further explore its potential for social organization and putting ideas into action.

  4. I read this article at LRC today, then came here and found it. In my case, as an American Buddhist with a strong affinity for Tibet, and a number of friends in the large Tibetan exile community in my town, I was rather disappointed (not to say annoyed) by Rockwell's casual dismissal a few years ago of the horrible sufferings of the Tibetan people under the Chinese boot (roughly 1/6 of the population slaughtered, not counting the over 100 self-immolations in recent years)—not to mention his ongoing starry-eyed view of the "New China" (which, as a long-time student of Chinese history, culture, etc., I don't think is really all that new, certainly not in any way that will matter to China's neighbors, including Tibet). Another blind spot?

    But, nobody's perfect, and I have to agree with Justin that the first responsibility of an anti-war American is to oppose what has certainly been for at least the last half-century the greatest threat to the world's peace and prosperity, i.e. the government that controls our own country. Very few Americans are aware that this country has been an empire from its beginnings, and its history has indeed included plenty off "slaughter and pillaging of villages". Just ask Russell Means (I was sad that he stood for the Libertarian nomination in 1988—"Russell Means Freedom"—the same year as Ron Paul; it would have been sweet to see him a presidential candidate). Or anyone in Central America. Not to mention Hiroshima—a crime unequalled by another nation in history. Just for starters.

    Back in the late 60's in San Francisco, KSAN radio used to host a news program by a fellow named Wes "Scoop" Nisker (he's now a teacher of Buddhist meditation, and a neat guy), who always ended his show with "If you don't like the news... go out and make some of your own." Not saying your friend Jubal should not express his disappointment with LRC, and I understand the difficulties that discourage him from doing his own Spanish version of a libertarian website (I don't have a blog either). But… a Tibetan woman named Woeser (འོད་ཟེར་, Özer, tr. "ray of light", like most Tibetan names of spiritual origin), now living in Beijing under virtual house arrest, has for over a decade not ceased writing strong criticisms of the Chinese government's treatment of her fellow Tibetans despite some pretty serious persecution. God bless her, it can be done.

    I also remember reading in the LA Free Press back in the 60s that one commune in Los Angeles had a sign on the wall: "If you care about it, it's your responsibility." That's the libertarian solution.