Bring on the Honors List!

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By
way of cheap entertainment, I propose to spotlight some of the zanier
bits of advice offered the American public since 9/11. These items
stretch from Bangor all the way to mighty Maine, to steal a line
from Firesign Theater, or at least from slightly left of center
all the way over to slightly right of center. In other words, my
samples come from the broad spectrum of Neo-Con opinion, and it
is not my fault if Left Neo-Cons differ from Right Neo-Cons only
on a few points of little interest.

Now
in the spirit of fairness, decency, and the best traditions of Western
Civilization – the public having come to expect such from LewRockwell.com
– I must concede that some of the emotional language to be
quoted below might be ascribed to the understandably tense aftermath
of 9/11. Some leeway must be given, after all, to natural anger
in the wake of the terrible events of that day.

That
said, I have to add that Neo-Cons were up for a war – any war – long before that day, and that their literary productions since
have simply gilded the warlike lily with a certain amount of high-toned
"strategic" reasoning.

It
was about a year and half ago, after all, that Serjeant-Major Derbyshire
of Her Majesty's Too-Late American Dragoons was calling for all-out
war with China, from the poop deck of NRO, because a US spy plane
was forced down with no casualties. The difference between the Neo-Cons
at the beginning of 2001 and the Neo-Cons from 9/11 forward is just
the difference between the Neo-Cons sober and the Neo-Cons drunk.
The indignation they felt in the first months after 9/11was not
wholly without art, nor was it entirely lacking in the wisdom of
the serpent.

We
may usefully file the advice we have been getting from NRO, the
Wall Street Journal, and other low joints under several headings.
We can think of the whole thing as a contest with suitable awards
to be given to the best entry across the categories. The envelope,
please.

Category
#1. Mental War Crimes

Here
we meet with thought-experiments in Total War. One of the very best
comes to us from the redoubtable David Brooks. On November 5, 2001,
he informed us in the Weekly Standard, that "The next
few years will be defined by conflict…. We will destroy innocent
villages by accident, shrug our shoulders and continue fighting.
In an age of conflict, bourgeois virtues like compassion, tolerance,
and industriousness are valued less than the classical virtues of
courage, steadfastness, and a ruthless desire for victory."

I'm
sure glad that "we" will only destroy the villages "by
accident," before "we" go off shrugging like some
militarized Atlas. It is bracing to think that the brave lads at
the Weekly Standard are not mere bourgeois, making and selling
useful things. How vulgar. Teddy and Franklin would never stand
for it.

The
next entry in this category comes from Michael (Permanent Revolution)
Ledeen. Writing in NRO, on August 6, 2002, as a critic of Brent
Scowcroft's imperial moderation, Ledeen goes to bat for "the
desperately- needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein
and the rest of the terror masters." I suppose he is referring
to terror masters who have dropped off the US payroll and forfeited
their medical benefits.

Scowcroft
has warned that for the US to go to war with Iraq "would turn
the whole region into a cauldron." Ledeen, unimpressed, takes
the bait, saying, "One can only hope that we turn the region
into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region
that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today."

This
is a strong entry. Ledeen's skillful wielding of the subjunctive
very nearly offsets his barbarous coinage, "cauldronize."

Further,
Ledeen gains points by demanding that the US bring down "the
terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria," and throws in Saudi
Arabia, if they don't mend their wicked ways. Three (or four) "regime
changes" for the price of one. Whoopee!

But
you just can't stay ahead of these fellows, much less keep up with
‘em. A few months back, LewRockwell.com ran one of Tiglath-Pileser's
bloody-minded inscriptions as his "State of the Union Address."
It seemed funny at the time. But now comes the post-libertarian
James S. Robbins to spoil our fun by ending his column of August
14, 2002, on NRO with this – "A final note: In 695 B.C.
the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, diverted the Euphrates to flood
the vanquished city of Babylon. Food for thought."

Food
for thought, indeed.

Well,
why not? This is how the world wags. Bad precedents pile up over
time, until the pile becomes so massive and odorous as to constitute,
in the minds of some folks at least, a standing argument in favor
of Total War. Blight makes right.

Mr.
Robbins should know, too. After all, he was one of the original
inventors of liberventionism, or interventionist libertarianism,
back in 1991 in the columns of the oddly named Liberty magazine.
If he hasn't said much about liberty lately, well that too is understandable.
Cheering the empire on is full-time work, they tell me.

At
the risk of stating the obvious, flooding a city, vanquished or
not, is generally thought to be a war crime. It doesn't seem all
that valorous, either. Happily, Mr. Robbins has only done it on
paper.

Category
#2. Clever comparisons put forward on the assumption (apparently)
that white Southerners can't read, don't read, don't care if their
ancestors are vilified, and will continue enlisting in the present-day
equivalents of Mr. Lincoln's armed forces in disproportionate numbers
no matter what Northern exo-philanthropists say or write
.

This
category is a personal favorite of mine. Back when LBJ was trying
to prove that he had more going on in his Y-fronts than Ho Chi Minh
did, it dawned on me that, whatever the vastly different circumstances
of the two wars, US strategy and tactics in Vietnam bore a certain
resemblance to those pioneered between 1861 and 1865. It seemed
like a package deal: endorse the burning of Atlanta and Columbia
and embrace LBJ's and Nixon's bombing sorties. There were
at least two ways to react to that choice.

National
Review famously ordered us to endorse Sherman's march through
Georgia as the appropriate predecessor of the War on Vietnam.

That
should have led someone to form Southern Nationalists for Peace
in Indo-China, I suppose, but the nearest analogue was SSOC, which
was better than nothing. On the down side, George Wallace was led,
somehow, to add the mad bomber, General Curtis LeMay, to his ticket.
This was doubtless the meanest thing old George ever did, but as
we felt our way out of our post-Goldwater hangover towards a proper
pro-peace position, some of us didn't know this at the time.

The
first entry here comes from the ineffable George F. Will in the
Washington Post of December 27, 2001. He notes that "America's
Civil War provides many analogies by which we measure – and sometimes
misunderstand – today's military developments, and American ways
of waging war." You said a mouthful there, George. That war
is indeed a clue to "American ways of waging war," even
if some of us "measure" them a little differently down
here.

And
thanks for reminding us that you nice folks up North define the
meaning of American. We forget sometimes.

Rather
than quote any more of Mr. Wills's sterling prose, I shall stipulate
that the column is a running comparison of Confederates and al-Qaeda,
and that the moral seems to be that General Sherman should come
back and kill off the terrorists with the same fervor with which
he killed off the best and brightest of the Old South. Who can blame
Will for this? After all, he concedes that not everyone will like
the comparison, but such things are of little weight when it
is necessary to spread the gospel of Total War.

Total
War – a US tradition since 1862 or so. We should be proud. Mr. Will
is.

Even
I can only stand so much of this material. Rather than summarize
the views of everyone who entered the "Abe did it, therefore
we must do the same" sweepstakes, I shall merely list them.
Honorable mention in this category goes to Jay Winik, "Security
Comes Before Liberty," Wall Street Journal, October
24, 2001; Tony Blankley, "Trade civil liberties for better
security," Washington Times, September 26, 2001; David
S. Broder, "Echoes of Lincoln," Washington Post,
September 23, 2001; and Ronald Radosh, "Learning from Mr. Lincoln,"
FrontPage Magazine, October 3, 2001.

Abe
did what an Abe's gotta do, and these gentlemen want the Proper
Authorities to do all those same things now.

Category
#3. Ideological Clarity Department

Here
we have all the writers who have clarified the "fascist"
nature of the Islamic Menace for us. Very honorable mention goes
to Christopher Hitchens, who has too many essays on this theme to
cite here. A strong entry from Mr. Adam Wolfson, "More Like
Nazis than Commies," the Weekly Standard, November 12,
2001, seems likely to sweep all before it. This sample will justify
the claim: "Nazism was irrationalist and anti-Enlightenment
to its core, while, as an outgrowth of the Enlightenment –
an extreme outgrowth, to be sure – Soviet communism was amenable
to the persuasion of the carrot and the stick."

It
is odd, then, that on the numbers Soviet communists murdered many
more class enemies than the Nazis murdered racial enemies. Taking
other communist regimes into account, the totals are even further
apart. I mean, I can see how the poor commies were just "an
extreme outgrowth" of the Enlightenment and all, but there
still seems to be a problem here worth looking into.

No
matter. The enemy must always be "fascist." High-minded
people just won't sign up for a crusade if that is not the case.

Other
entries in the ideological clarity section, if time and space allowed,
would include Alan (Sterilized Needles) Dershowitz and several others
who discovered the virtues of torture in the current crisis. Honorable
mention goes to them all, if not by name, perhaps by name, rank,
and serial number.

This
Just In… A late entry has just come to my attention, an entry which
could easily compete in Category #3 and possibly #1. I refer to
Gabriel Erem's "Dinner
with Prince Goebbels
," World Net Daily, August 27, 2002.
The writer of this item is incensed that W should receive Prince
Bandar and make nice with him at the ranch, etc., etc.

For
Mr. Erem, the Saudi rulers are all rich sleazebags over whom all
the "Arabists" in the State Department make a fuss — for
some reason. What might that reason be?

It's
oil, brother! Wealthy oilmen like the Prez and his cronies care
so deeply about this commodity that they wish to control and cartelize
the market for it. On the other hand, it happens that a lot of other
people care about it, too. I'd suspect that many more Americans
care about having oil than care deeply about the theological property
deed to a small (but growing) section of flaming desert.

Mr.
Erem would no doubt assume the worst about people who just want
their cars to work and want the industrial machinery to keep running.
Perhaps I can simplify the issue. It isn't about liking anybody.
Outside of NYC, Washington, DC, and a few other places, I strongly
suspect that most Americans would just as soon never hear again
in any detail about territorial disputes in the Near East.

Of
course the US government, as against the people it allegedly protects,
has managed to play two or three sides against the middle in the
Near East, leaving them all irritable, but that is another matter.
Mr. Erem makes a couple of good points on this front, even if these
raise more questions than he has asked. He can't tarry over such
matters and is soon demanding World War II against the Saudi regime,
although he couches the demand a bit.

"Our
enemies," he says, are eating dinner with the Prez. Maybe yes
and maybe no. Most of us would rather find our own enemies, thank
you very much. That is hard doctrine, I suppose, but if we let the
US government, the press, and various interested parties find enemies
for us, we will have many more enemies than we actually need or
want. The process has already gone a lot farther than it ever should
have.

Despite
these mild criticisms, I have to allow that Mr. Erem's essay wins
points for adding the Saudis to the target list and for sticking
to the party line that the enemy is always "fascist,"
points on which Messrs. Ledeen and Wolfson, respectively, have already
anticipated him. Give it a five.

I
have neglected "libertarian" interventionists for the
most part, but they will certainly have their day in the sun as
the Greatest-Ever War unfolds. Meanwhile, I suggest that the best
minds of our generation collaborate on finding an appropriate name
for the pending conflagration. For my part, I have to finish judging
the present contest and designing appropriate medals and ribbons
for all the candidates. Why not start now? If this excitement is
really to last for forty years, and if we really have to offer up
"the whole of our lives" to it, it would be cruel to postpone
the honors roll.

Honoring
interventionists for their achievements should be as ongoing and
perpetual as the war itself, and the war should be as perpetual
as the empire that wages it.

August
28, 2002

Joseph
R. Stromberg [send him mail]
is holder of the JoAnn B. Rothbard Chair in History at the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
and a columnist for LewRockwell.com
and Antiwar.com.

Joseph
Stromberg Archives

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