Eisenhowers farewell speech was a long and nearly hysterical argument for the Cold War. He presented it as more than a military policy against Russia, but rather as a grand metaphysical struggle that should take over our minds and souls, as bizarre as that must sound to the current generation.
His words were Wilsonian, even messianic. The job of U.S. military policy is to foster progress in human achievement and enhance dignity and integrity the world over. Thats a rather expansive role for government by any standard. But he went further. An enemy stands in the way of achieving this dream, and this enemy is global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. This great struggle commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings.
Because some crusty apparatchiks are imposing every manner of economic control over Russia and a few satellites, U.S. foreign policy must absorb the whole of our beings? So much for limited government.
The rhetoric had to be hysterical to overcome a few obvious problems. Russia is a faraway country and the notion of an invasion was about as likely as one from Mars. Russia, an authoritarian state operating under the ideological cover of Communism, had only a few years earlier been declared our valiant ally in the struggle against Japan and Germany.
But Americans woke up one day to find that the line had suddenly changed: now Russia was the enemy to be defeated. In fact, the Russian government already in deep economic trouble as a socialist regime was bankrupted by World War II and dealing with incredible internal problems. The Soviets couldnt begin to manage the world of Eastern Europe that had been given as a prize for being the ally of the United States during the war. It was for this reason that Nikita Khrushchev began the first great period of liberalization that would end in the eventual unraveling of this nonviable state. The U.S. not only failed to encourage this liberalization, but pretended it wasnt happening so as to build up a new form of socialism at home.
Indeed, the entire Cold War ideology was invented by Harry Truman and his advisers in 1948 as: 1.) a political trick to keep from losing more congressional backing, 2.) a way to circumvent political pressure for postwar disarmament, and 3.) a method to maintain U.S. industrial dependence on government spending, particularly with regard to American corporations operating overseas.
It was an unprecedented form of peacetime socialism, designed to appeal to big business, and Eisenhower became its spokesman. Savvy libertarians knew exactly what was going on and supported Cold War opponent Robert Taft for the Republican nomination in 1952. But the nomination was effectively stolen by Eisenhower, with massive establishment backing. He repaid his backers with his support and expansion of Trumans program.
January 12, 2011
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of LewRockwell.com. See his books.
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