The Enforcers

The kids running National Review have this in common with their predecessors: they are mightily impressed with the military state and the socialist enterprise called war. In particular, Republican-led wars fire up their sense of public duty to attach themselves to power. Their affected fondness for freedom in peacetime is quickly converted into the raw collectivism of wartime, precisely as Ludwig von Mises chronicled concerning European public intellectuals during the two world wars of the last century.

Several developments are inevitable once the prospect of a Republican-led war appears on the horizon. First, the National Review crowd will intellectually enlist, be pleased to see their voices used as vehicles for the delivery of war propaganda, and will cheer the war, just or unjust, with more passion than they can ever muster for any domestic concern — and to heck with all that boilerplate about the dangers of big government. Second, they will decry to the heavens anyone on the "right" who raises questions about the war. Thus does the first wartime issue of National Review feature a cover story not about the evils of Saddam Hussein but rather on the supposed perfidy of the anti-war right.

So with regard to David Frum’s long attack on the "paleoconservatives" — an unflattering term which he attempts to attach to any non-leftist who opposes the war on Iraq — we’ve been through this many times before. Instead of dealing with our essential critique — that the war is unnecessary, unjust, unconstitutional, too costly in every sense, and sure to leave America and the world worse off — he takes us slogging through extraneous details of movement history in an attempt to impugn the motives of the opponents of war. Jonah Goldberg piles on here and here, goading moderately pro-war libertarians to join in the attack (some already have).

It is as ugly as it is predictable, especially this time around when the federal government seems ominously poised to round up its enemies, real or imagined. Murray Rothbard always said that all ideological questions ultimately come down to this question: are you with the state and its power ambitions, or for freedom and thus against the state? That is true in all times and all places. Frum, just having left a job as one of the Maximum Leader’s many speechwriters, acknowledges this when he writes that "war forces people to take sides."

Of course one might have hoped for fewer lies and distortions, but only the most naïve of readers would have expected that National Review, which has been calling for massive bloodshed for fully 18 months, even defending the killing of civilians and the first-strike use of nuclear weapons, would have taken any other side.

Lew Rockwell Archives