The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
WHERE INTERVENE NEXT?
It must be fun being an interventionist these days. The world is
his oyster, and it presents a cornucopia of riches on where to intervene
next. So many tempting opportunities to "cure starvation" or impose
"democracy," to kill "warlords" and other bad guys, to bomb and
strafe and feed and occupy.
There is the bipartisan Bush-Clinton Somalia caper. It began last
fall, if you remember, as a purely "humanitarian" operation. The
problem was that there was "anarchy" in Somalia, no regular government,
just a bunch of battling warlords, and it became the U.S. armed
forces' mission to go in there with food and CARE packages to pacify
the warlords and feed everyone. Purely short-run mission. Out by
Clinton Inaugural Day. It was supposed to be a perfect mission for
America's New Model Army, a "sensitive" army that doesn't kill any
more, just hands out food to starving children, the sort of army
built for today's sensitive soldiery.
Well, things immediately and predictably began to go sour. We at
Triple R might have written the script. First starvation
increased, because the blundering free aid screwed up the
Somalian food supply system. Second, the happy Somalians, who first
greeted the American-UN army as liberators and feeders, began to
turn sullen, especially since the U.S. decided that among the slew
of "warlords" there was one really bad guy warlord, General
Aidid, who controlled half of the capital city of Mogadishu. Americans
have a deep need to see all foreign quarrels as two-sided: Bad Guys
vs. Good Guys, the GG being defined as all opponents of the Bad
Guys. The idea of multi-sided Equally Bad warlords fighting each
other is too nuanced for the average Americano to comprehend: besides,
multi-faceted warfare can scarcely justify massive American intervention
on one side or the other. And so Aidid, who actually had been the
original major welcomer of U.S. troops, now became the sole U.S.
target. And when some Paki UN troops fired into a protesting unarmed
Somali crowd, the U.S. shelled some Aididian posts in retaliation,
killing more Somalis. (Why are Americans supposed to avenge Paki
and Moroccan troop losses?)
All these events escalated and unified Somali hatred against the
UN and against the U.S. in particular, as usual the main agitator
and arm-twister inside the UN for massive intervention. Finally,
Aididians ambushed American troops, killing four U.S. servicemen.
U.S. blood is now drawn, and the Clinton regime is, of course and
we predicted, dropping the humanitarian-food mask, and taking up
more and more of the gun, vowing retaliation, war crime trials,
and the usual apparatus of armed vengeance. Isabel Paterson's Humanitarian
has indeed trotted out the Guillotine.
Is it too late to stop this senseless escalation? Hey look, this
is not New Model intervention; it's the same old Wilsonian baloney,
the same crazed crusade to feed and dominate and rule the world.
Talk about your quagmires! Out, out before it's too late! The Italian
UN troops finally got out, to much U.S. recrimination, because the
Italians wanted the UN to negotiate with Aidid instead of singling
him out for demonization. The reason: the Italians know something
about Somalia; they ruled the region in the 1930s. But of course
the U.S. never bothers to listen to people who know something about
a region; it might learn something it doesn't want to hear. As Harry
Schwartz, an economist and former New York Times editorialist
not known for "isolationism," wrote prophetically in USA Today
- Somalia's basic problem was not lack of food.... It was and
is the existence of warring factions... Each faction has a leader
we call a warlord, but his followers all think of him as a Somali
George Washington.... To the Somalis, the current U.S. policy
there looks as though we are trying to impose our rule on that
country. Of course, we can continue machine-gunning Somalis in
Mogadishu streets from our helicopters.... It is time to recognize
we made a mistake and get U.S. soldiers and the rest of
the UN forces out of Somalia. Let the Somalis decide their
own problems and their own fate.
I guess it was inevitable. The one and only place, foreign or domestic,
where Clinton had evolved a fairly sensible policy, a policy of
restraint, was in Bosnia. Not of course because his intentions were
good. But because any military person or anyone familiar with the
Balkans was counseling abstention from the Balkan mess; intervention
could only be futile and counter-productive. But Clinton, as we
all know by now, can't stand up to any pressure, and the anti-Serb
hysteria by the dozen or so neoconservative pundits (aided and abetted
by liberal pundits) proved irresistible. And so the Clinton administration
began making bomb-the-Serb noises once again. And not only bomb
the Serbs; because now it turns out that bombing in those crowded
mountains and forests wouldn't work; therefore we need American
spotters on the ground in Bosnia to direct U.S. planes where
precisely to drop the bombs (as well as other spotters, I suppose,
to direct planes where to drop those food packages). In short, the
U.S. is going to need to put troops on the ground in Bosnia
to support the air offensive.
Well! How long do any of you think a Yankee Serb-spotter
is going to last in those Balkan mountains? I shudder to think of
the death rate in that little operation.
Query: why is it that the same pundits who keep yowling about every
Muslim being a "terrorist" want Americans to kill and die to save
Muslims in Bosnia? What is there about Bosnian Muslims that makes
them uniquely lovable?
TAJIKISTAN: AUNCLE SAM WILL TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING"
I have long wished upon our interventionists' heads that they decided
to intervene in Afghanistan! Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet
Union, where heavily armed and trained Soviet troops, equipped with
planes and helicopters and all the rest, could never conquer. In
the decade Soviet troops invaded and tried to occupy Afghanistan,
15,000 Soviet troops died in those harsh mountains, taking the Soviet
Union down with them.
But look at Afghanistan. It's got all the requirements for U.S.
intervention: it's got lots of genocide a huge chunk of the
population are either dead or refugees; it's got warlords and armies
that are still fighting; it's got Communist or "ex"-Communist dictators;
it's got lots of Islamic "fanatics"; it's got bitter ethnic warfare,
largely between the Pushtoons in the East, the Tajiks in the North,
and the Turkmens in the West; it's got a lot of starvation; and
there's hardly a "democrat" in sight. Perfect fodder for the massive
intervention that, if handled properly, could last a lifetime. And
who knows, the U.S. Empire might even follow the USSR down the chute.
Well, nothing has even been hinted about U.S. intervention-invasion
of Afghanistan, but things are warming up nicely in neighboring
Tajikistan to the North. Tajikistan, part of the old Soviet Union,
has been having a deeply satisfying ethnic civil war, full-scale
war for the past year. In the last six months, out of a population
of 5.1 million, fully a tenth has been shifted or "cleansed," and
20,000 people have been killed. The official government holding
on to the western Tajik capital of Dushanbe is the old Commie, or
"ex"-Commie government, resting for its support on the governments
of Russia (including the sainted Boris Yeltsin), of neighboring
Uzbekistan in the West (also in the hands of "former" Communist
rulers), and the clans or tribes in the northwest who had been favored
by the old Soviet regime. Opposing the Commie Tajik government of
Emomali Rakhmonov, on the other hand, is a rebel coalition, resting
on peasants and mountain tribes in the East and South, near the
Afghan border; the rebels are observant Muslims.
Indeed, the rebels are a coalition of anti-Communist Democrats
and Islamic fundamentalists.
"Ex"-Communists like Yeltsin and Uzbek President Islam A. Karimov,
are justifying their strong support for the Commie government of
Tajikistan by invoking the menace of "Islamic fundamentalism" spreading
northward from Afghanistan like the plague. On the other hand, the
presidents of Kyrgyzstan, on the northeastern border of Tajikistan,
and of Turkmenistan, west of Uzbekistan, have been openly critical
of the fundamentalist alibi.
The United States, which finds it hard to resist intervention anywhere,
is edging toward getting into this hot potato. The Clinton administration
has already appointed James Collins, deputy chief of its Moscow
Embassy, as "regional coordinator" to "help resolve disputes" in
the old Soviet Union, the job to begin in the fall. Yeah right.
I'm glad to see that Pravda (Moscow) had the proper sardonic
response to this Clintonian move. It wrote that the Clinton administration
had not yet decided whether to use the Somalian or the Bosnian model
of "pacification" in Tajikistan. In any case, Pravda concluded,
"Soon the Russians won't have to worry about their fate anymore.
Uncle Sam will take care of everything."
But Uncle Sam will have a difficult time trying to figure out on
which side to intervene. How is it going to sort out the
Good Guys from the Bad Guys? Let's see: on the one hand, Commies
Bad; on the other hand, Democrats Good but Islamic Fundamentalists
Bad. The Commie-Islamic problem of course reached its peak during
the Soviet war in Afghanistan, when Uncle Sam decided that the Afghan
resisters to the Soviet army were heroic freedom fighters, anti-Communist
democrats who were inveterate readers of John Dewey, Sidney Hook,
and all the other champions of global democracy. As a result, we
armed the Afghans to the hilt, supplied them with hand-held anti-aircraft
missiles which they used to shoot down Bad Soviet helicopters, etc.
But no sooner did the Soviet troops pull out, when it turned out
that the democratic Afghan Freedom Fighters had transformed themselves
overnight into evil Islamic fundamentalist fanatics, dedicated
to putting the veil back on women. Inside the dust jackets of the
books of Hook and Dewey there turned out to be the Koran!
Indeed, the fat, diabetic "fanatic" blind sheik, he of the terrorists
and the UN building, got his start as a freedom fighter in Afghanistan,
reputedly a CIA asset in that brave struggle for democracy. Poor
blind sheik: a victim of the latest twist of the historical dialectic!
So: if Mr. Collins and the Clinton administration play their cards
right, who knows? We might wind up with American bombers, helicopters,
and ground "spotters" invading the mountains of Tajikistan, if not
of neighboring Afghanistan itself.
And then, of course, if he's got nothing else to do, Bill Clinton
can always bomb Baghdad again. Hell, that's always good for a few
points in the approval ratings.
HOW ABOUT KOREA?
Ruminating over our next intervention, an old friend of mine the
other day brought up that old unresolved problem: Korea. Here's
what Korea offers for our interventionists' delectation:
- An authentically hard-line, dictatorial, unreconstructed Commie
regime, headed by the evil Marshal Kim II-Sung.
- A "democratic" "pro-Western" South Korea.
- An unresolved war, or even American defeat, that cries aloud
for vengeance. In contrast to Vietnam, Korea for left-liberals
was the last Good War of the Cold War. North Korea had "aggressed"
against the South, violating all left-liberal-neocon canons of
- North Korea is rumored to be working on nuclear weapons.
So: we can bomb, nuke North Korea back to the Stone Age to our
hearts' content, and the terrain is not as inconveniently jungle-y
as it was in Vietnam.
And the war could take a satisfyingly l-o-n-g, L-O-N-G time!