When the Old Right Sounded (Almost) Like the New Left

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Originally
published in Inquiry,
July 1982.

Leaders of
the old right were among the most outspoken — and farsighted — critics
of America's descent into the Cold War. Having just seen the United
States emerge from the bloodiest global conflagration of all time,
they were loathe to embark on further foreign adventures that might
entail similar sacrifices of life, liberty, and property. Representative
Howard Buffett, Republican of Nebraska, pointed out the domestic
consequences of foreign policy in his cogent attack on President
Truman's plan to aid Greece and Turkey, a plan many historians regard
as a turning point in the Cold War.

"After
we have spread ourselves in Greece and Turkey," Buffett told
the House in March 1947, "and our leaders are patting themselves
on the back for their successful firm stand, a new alarm will come
in. Communistic outbreaks will be reported serious in another area.
We will rush to that alarm. A billion-dollar call will come from
Korea. There will be renewed demands from China."

"All over
the world we would soon be answering alarms like an international
fireman, maintaining garrisons, and pouring out our resources."

"In the
meantime, what will have happened at home? Economy plans will have
generally gone up in smoke… Attempts at economy would again be smeared
as reactionary efforts to save dollars at the cost of the lives
of American boys. Patriots who try to bring about economy would
be branded as Stalin lovers."

"The misery
of the people, from continued militarism and inflation, would soon
become unbearable. As their anguished protests become vocal, the
shackles of regimentation and coercion, so lately thrown off, could
be refastened in the name of stopping communism at home."

Buffett
envisioned that a policy of globalism would bring in its wake "totalitarian
tactics of smear, censorship, and lying propaganda" to "overwhelm
those who resist," and demands for military conscription "to
fill the ranks of garrisons for Palestine and the Near East oil
fields."

"Even
if it were desirable," Buffett concluded, "America is
not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that
attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion
and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to
other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the
methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth… We cannot practice
might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk
world cooperation and practice power politics."

Murray
N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was the author of Man,
Economy, and State
, Conceived
in Liberty
, What
Has Government Done to Our Money
, For
a New Liberty
, The
Case Against the Fed
, and many
other books and articles
. He
was also the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
.

Murray
Rothbard Archives

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