The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
THE POST-COLD WAR WORLD
WHITHER U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
With the collapse of Communist rule in Eastern Europe, and of Soviet
domination of its former satellites, whatever Russian threat that
may have existed is now over. The Brezhnev Doctrine, under which
Russia used force to prop up Communist rule in the Asocialist bloc,"
has been replaced by the charmingly named "Sinatra Doctrine," where
every country can go its own way. The Cold War is therefore finished,
and every intelligent person, wherever he stands in the political
spectrum, acknowledges this fact.
But if the Cold War died in the Communist collapse of 1989, what
can the ruling conservative-liberal Establishment come up with to
justify the policy of massive intervention by the U.S. everywhere
on the globe? In short, what cloak can the Establishment now find
to mask and vindicate the continuance of U.S. imperialism? With
their perks and their power at stake, the Court apologists for imperialism
have been quick to offer excuses and alternatives, even if they
don't always hang together. Perhaps the feeling is that one of them
The argument for imperialism has always been two-edged, what the
great Old Rightist Garet Garrett called (in his classic The People's
Pottage) Aa complex of fear and vaunting." Fear means alleged
threats to American interests and the American people. To replace
the Soviet-international Communist threat, three candidates have
been offered by various Establishment pundits.
One is "international narco-terrorism." As long as the drug hysteria
holds up, this menace is useful in justifying any and all invasions
of Third World countries, since there are usually drugs grown and
traded somewhere in each of these nations. The phrase is useful,
too, since it combines fear of dark, bearded Terrorists (remember
the non-existent "Libyan hit men" of a decade ago, allegedly in
the U.S. to get Reagan?), with the drug menace. It is doubtful,
however, that narco-terrorism can justify all those super-expensive
missiles and nuclear weaponry, since one hopes, at least, that the
U.S. government is not contemplating H-bombing Colombia or Peru
out of existence.
Second, a threat that loomed no more than one day after the wonderful
demise of the Berlin War, is the pending reunification of East and
West Germany. Since there is no ethnic or national "East Germany,"
the disappearance of a Communist East Germany would mean there is
little reason for the two parts of Germany not to become one nation.
And so, Establishment pundits trotted out the old slogans, as if
the last half-century of German history had never existed.
Hitler! was brandished once more, with scarce any realization that
Hitler only ruled Germany for twelve years, whereas a full forty-five
years have passed since his demise. But not only Hitler. For article
after article raised the spectre of Germany's having assaulted the
rest of Europe twice in one century thereby resurrecting
the old nonsense that Germany was the sole guilty party in World
It's as if all knowledge of the causes of World War I in this century
have been wiped away and we were back to repeating the vicious,
lying propaganda of the Entente nations (Britain, France, Russia).
In fact, the German government was probably the least guilty of
the warring governments in that monstrous catastrophe a disaster
that set the stage for the emergence of Bolshevism and Nazism and
led directly to World War II.
Most bizarre of all, some articles have actually blamed Germany
for the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 one which observers at
the time as well as later historians generally pinned on the expansionist
ambitions of the French imperial tyrant, Napoleon III.
A third threat has been raised in the Wall Street Journal
by that old fox, the godfather of the neocons, Irving Kristol. Kristol,
in a rambling account of the post-Cold War world, leaps on the "Islamic
fundamentalist" threat, and even suggests that the U.S. and the
Soviet Union should discreetly cooperate in putting down this looming
world period. Here we see a hint of a new conservative-liberal concept:
a benign rule of the world by the United States, joined by the Soviet
Union as a sort of condominium-junior partner, along with Western
Europe and Japan. In short, an expanded Trilateral concept. Of course,
pinpointing Islamic fundamentalism comes as no surprise from the
neocons, to whom defense of the State of Israel is always the overriding
But in addition to the negative there is the positive. The vaunting
along with the fear. The positive carrot is the old Wilsonian dream
of the U.S. as global imposer of "democracy." Since very few countries
can pass the "democracy" test, or have ever done so, this poses
an objective that suits the Establishment interventionists fine:
for here is a goal that can never possibly be achieved.
A goal that can never be reached but can always be kept shimmering
on the distant horizon is perfectly tooled for an endless policy
of massive expenditure of money, arms, blood, and manpower in one
foreign adventure after another: what the great Charles A. Beard
brilliantly termed "perpetual war for perpetual peace." Of course,
egalitarians will be cheered by the fact that from this point on,
American women will undoubtedly have the privilege of dying in combat
along with their male colleagues. For the armed forces will soon
be an employer offering equal opportunity death to all races and
THE PANAMA INVASION
The U.S. invasion of Panama was the first act of military intervention
in the new post-Cold War world the first act of war since
1945 where the United States has not used Communism or "Marxism-Leninism"
as the effective all-purpose alibi. Coming so soon after the end
of the Cold War, the invasion was confused and chaotic a
hallmark of Bushian policy in general. Bush's list of alleged reasons
for the invasion were a grab-bag of haphazard and inconsistent arguments
none of which made much sense.
The positive vaunting was, of course, prominent: what was called,
idiotically, the "restoration of democracy" in Panama. When in blazes
did Panama ever have a democracy? Certainly not under Noriega's
beloved predecessor and mentor, the U.S.'s Panama Treaty partner,
General Omar Torrijos. The alleged victory of the unappetizing Guillermo
Endara in the abortive Panamanian election was totally unproven.
The "democracy" the U.S. imposed was peculiar, to say the least:
swearing in Endara and his "cabinet" in secrecy on a U.S. army base.
It was difficult for our rulers to lay on the Noriega "threat"
very heavily. Since Noriega, whatever his other sins, is obviously
no Marxist-Leninist, and since the Cold War is over anyway, it would
have been tricky, even embarrassing, to try to paint Noriega and
his tiny country as a grave threat to big, powerful United States.
And so the Bush administration laid on the "drug" menace with a
trowel, braving the common knowledge that Noriega himself was a
longtime CIA creature and employee whose drug trafficking was at
the very least condoned by the U.S. for many years.
The administration therefore kept stressing that Noriega was simply
a "common criminal" who had been indicted in the U.S. (for actions
outside the U.S. so why not indict every other head of state
as well all of whom have undoubtedly committed crimes galore?)
so that the invasion was simply a police action to apprehend an
alleged fugitive. But what real police action that is, police
action over a territory over which the government has a virtual
monopoly of force involves total destruction of an entire
working-class neighborhood, the murder of hundreds of Panamanian
civilians as well as American soldiers, and the destruction of a
half-billion dollars of civilian property?
The invasion also contained many bizarre elements of low comedy.
There was the U.S. government's attempt to justify the invasion
retroactively by displaying Noriega's plundered effects: porno in
the desk drawer (well, gee, that sure justifies mass killing and
destruction of property), the obligatory picture of Hitler in the
closet (Aha! the Nazi threat again!), the fact that Noriega was
stocking a lot of Soviet-made arms (a Commie as well as a Nazi,
and "paranoid" too the deluded fool was actually expecting
an American invasion!), and that Noriega engaged in occult practices
even being so sinful and depraved as to wear red underwear!
Well, that tears it! (conveniently overlooking Nancy Reagan's putting
herself under astrological guidance and wearing a red dress
her best astrological color). Noriega's possession of a signed picture
of the Pope was, of course, downplayed by the sickeningly obedient
media. Is all the destruction of life and property worth the vengeance
wreaked on Noriega for thumbing his nose at Bush to say nothing
of the many billions it will cost the U.S. taxpayer to build up
the economy that we have destroyed?
THE U.S. AND THE SINATRA DOCTRINE
In the meanwhile, the Soviet Union has been pursuing the Gorbachev-Sinatra
Doctrine. The Soviets have consistently refused to intervene to
prop up the Communist tyrannies in Eastern Europe, if anything,
giving the rulers a nudge to quit before the people saw to it that
they were forcibly removed.
When confronted with an insistent demand of the Lithuanian and
other Baltic nations, not only for non-Communism but even for independence,
Gorby has so far refused to send in troops to prevent what would
be a breaking away from the Soviet Empire itself an empire
that is essentially the old Czarist Russian Empire plus the Baltic
states acquired by a deal with Hitler in 1939. Instead, Gorby has
unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Lithuanians to stay in
the U.S.S.R. So far, Gorbachev's stance contrasts admirably with
the policy of the sainted Abraham Lincoln, who used massive force
and mass murder to force the seceding Southern states to remain
in the Union.
But how has the U.S. government reacted to Gorby's Sinatra doctrine?
At first, with surprised acclaim. But after a while, a curious note
began to seep into the American comment. When the Romanian revolution
came, when Secretary of State Baker publicly as much as urged the
Soviet Union to send troops into Romania to topple the monster Ceausescu
and impose "democracy" to which the Russians replied in some
puzzlement that they couldn't do that, since they had just gotten
through repudiating the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
How could they then turn around and repeat the performance? Furthermore,
they had just finished denouncing the United States for its military
aggression against Panama. The United States expressed befuddlement:
why are the Russians sticking to this "narrow" principle of non-intervention?
Once again, when the Lithuanian crisis arose, the U.S. let it be
known that it would look with some sympathy on the U.S.S.R. sending
troops into Lithuania for after all, wouldn't this be an
internal matter, and didn't Lincoln do the same?
And finally, when Gorby did send in troops to try to stop the fierce
civil war between the Armenians and the Azeris in Azerbaijan, the
Bush administration and the assorted Establishment pundits practically
whooped with glee, perhaps a bit relieved that the mighty Soviet
state was prepared to send in troops somewhere, at some time. Maybe
the Establishment was getting nervous, thinking that perhaps the
Soviet Union had gone all the way to libertarianism thereby
embarrassing the bullying foreign policy of the United States of
America no end, and establishing a beacon-light for the world.