The Myth of Good and Bad Nations

The gang of neocons who control brain-dead “President” Joe Biden view international politics as a struggle between good and evil nations. Sometimes, it isn’t the people of the enemy nation who are viewed as evil but the demonic leader of the enemy country, who, if not Satan himself, is seen as a reasonably close approximation of him. Thus, today the evil Vladimir Putin is seen as engaged in a brutal conquest of Ukraine and the heroic Israelis are seen as engulfed in worldwide battle against anti-Semitism. Propagating these ideas helps the neocons in spending billions of dollars in aid to the favored nations and sending them weapons that threatens the thermonuclear destruction of the world.

In fact, international politics is a struggle between nations with conflicting interests, not a struggle between good and evil powers. Such conflicts are inevitable in a world of powerful states, in which the principles of the free market are flouted. As Ludwig von Mises has taught us, nations impede the free flow of goods in trade. This policy leads to wars, as nations struggle to obtain resources under their control, rather than buy these resources from suppliers. As Mises says in Omnipotent Government, (1944) “’Progressives’ and nationalists were . . .not themselves concerned with the maintenance of the international division of labor; they advocated government control of business which must necessarily lead toward protectionism and finally toward autarky.”(p.228) Omnipotent Government:... Ludwig von Mises Best Price: $16.61 Buy New $1.99 (as of 07:25 UTC - Details)

The neocon efforts to demonize the enemy are nothing new, and in what follows, I’m going to discuss a number of examples to show how pervasive this pattern has been in involving America in unnecessary, destructive, and costly wars.

Let’s begin with the most salient case of all. For the neocons, it’s always Hitler. The Munich Conference of 1938 shows what happens when we fail to stand up against evil. The facts don’t bear out what they say. Hitler was indeed an evil dictator, but America had no valid reason to go to war against him. Hitler did not aim to attack the United States, and fighting against him helped Stalin, who killed more people than Hitler did, in taking control of Eastern Europe.

Furthermore, Hitler’s policies during the 1930s aimed at the peaceful revision of the punitive and unjust Treaty of Versailles. A European War resulted only after the unwise and unenforceable British and French guarantee of the Western boundary of Poland. The eastern boundary against Russia was not guaranteed, and Poland lost territory to Russia after the Russians invaded Poland on September 17, 1939.

The great Murray Rothbard notes that Hitler’s policy before 1939 was improvised, responding to particular circumstances. He did not have a plan for “world conquest” as the neocons continue to allege today. “Hitler was not bent on world conquest, for which he had armed Germany to the teeth and constructed a ‘timetable.’ Hitler, in brief, (in foreign affairs) was not a uniquely evil monster or daimon, who would continue to gobble up countries diabolically until stopped by superior force. Hitler was a rational German statesman, pursuing — with considerable intuitive insight — a traditional, post-Versailles German policy (to which we might add intimations of desires to expand eastward in an attack on Bolshevism). But basically, Hitler has no ‘master plan’; he was a German intent, like all Germans, on revising the intolerable and stupid Versailles-diktat, and on doing so by peaceful means, and in collaboration with the British and French. One thing is sure: Hitler had no designs, no plans, not even vague intimations, to expand westward against Britain and France (let alone the United States).”

Even in this “worst case” example, the neocon legend of good versus evil nations is false. But the legend didn’t begin with World War II, the “good war.” During World War I, the Committee on Public Information blamed the war on the evil German Kaiser and spread false atrocity stories to inflame public opinion against Germany. We were told about nuns who had been raped and children with their hands cut off. As a result of this propaganda, German-Americans were persecuted and some cases, opponents of the war were beaten and killed. The result of Wilson’s crusade to “make the world safe for democracy” was the Treaty of Versailles, which paved the way for Hitler; and the overthrow of the Russian and Austrian Empires, which led to unsolvable conflicts among European irredentist nationalisms.

The neocons are still peddling the legend of evil Kaiser Bill today. They are inveterate Germanophobes. For example, Jacob Heilbrunn, a leading neocon, says that “’Kaiser Wilhelm II was a monster.’ He says that had Wilson failed to enter the war, the result would have been disaster for the world. The opponents of entering the war feared the malign consequence of doing so for domestic liberty, and they were right. Nevertheless, Wilson’s policy was justified.”

The revisionist historians, called this because they wanted to revise Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, included Sidney Bradshaw Fay, Harry Elmer Barnes, and Charles Callan Tansill, who showed that the responsibility for World War I was a divided one. Fay in his classic The Origins of the World War identified five underlying causes of the European War: nationalism, imperialism, secret treaties and alliances, militarism, and inflammatory journalism, which were present in all of the parties involved in the war. As to the immediate causes of the war, it is true that Germany first gave a blank check to Austria to deal with Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, but when it became evident that a war between Austrian and Serbia would not be local, Kaiser Wilhelm urged caution. Fay also blamed the Serbian government as an accessory to the assassination, Austria for an overly aggressive response to Serbia and, most important, Russia for being the first great power to order general mobilization of its armed forces, when “mobilization meant war.” Christopher Clark’s recent book The Sleepwalkers confirms Fay’s conclusion in his comprehensive book of 1928, revised in 1930, that the responsibility for the war was divided and that none of the major powers wanted a European war.

Harry Elmer Barnes went beyond Fay, in his The Genesis of the World War(1926) He suggested that French President René Poincaré, who longed for the return of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France after the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. and Alexander Izvolsky, the French Ambassador to Paris, who thought that a European War would enable Russia to seize control of the Straits of Constantinople from the Ottoman Empire, had plotted a general war. They carried out their scheme by urging Russian general mobilization, knowing that this would result in war.

More recently, Paul W. Schroeder, often regarded as the foremost American specialist in European diplomatic history, has pointed to British responsibility for the war by encouraging the breakup of the Austrian Empire and by pursuing a policy of encirclement against Germany,

In America Goes to War (1938) Charles Callan Tansill showed through vast archival research how Wilson’s bias toward Britain led to his tacit refusal to take effective action against the British starvation blockade of Germany, which led to vastly more deaths than German submarine warfare, Wilson’s primary excuse for entry into the war. The American Ambassador to London, Walter Hines Page, acted as if he were an employee of the British Foreign Office rather than an American diplomat. In actuality, Wilson wanted to enter the war in order to ensure that he had a primary role at the post-war peace conference.

After the end of World War II, the good versus evil nations paradigm was applied to the War Between the States as well. Before 1939, the dominant interpretation of the war stressed national reconciliation. Historians such as Avery Craven saw the war as an unnecessary conflict brought about by errors and intransigence on both sides. The foremost American historian of the time, Charles A, Beard, saw the war primarily in economic terms, as a conflict between the industrialized North and the agricultural South. In the new view, by contrast. as expressed in a pioneering article, “The Causes of the Civil War” by the ardent New Dealer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. in Partisan Review (1949), the war was seen as a Manichean struggle in which the heroic Abraham Lincoln battled the evil slave power. Tariffs, Blockades, an... Thornton, Mark Buy New $36.90 (as of 04:37 UTC - Details)

The neocons have continued the demonization of the South today, e.g., by campaigning to destroy all Confederate monuments and by rooting out any sympathy for the Confederate cause in history textbooks. General Robert E. Lee, once a national icon, is now reviled, and Abraham Lincoln, who bears primary responsibility for a horrendous war and for the growth of the Leviathan state, is treated as a virtual demigod.

As the great Tom DiLorenzo, the president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has pointed out, Lincoln’s motive for war on the South was not the eradication of slavery—he urged the adoption of the Corwin Amendment, which would have guaranteed non-interference with slavery in place where it then existed—but the continued collection of tariffs, the principal source of the federal government’s tax revenues, Secession, he thought, must be forcibly suppressed  to secure this vital source of revenue. As DiLorenzo says, “Lincoln then threw down the gauntlet in his first inaugural: ‘The power confided in me,’ he said, ‘will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion–no using force against, or among the people anywhere.’

‘We are going to make tax slaves out of you,’ Lincoln was effectively saying, ‘and if you resist, there will be an invasion.’ That was on March 4. Five weeks later, on April 12, Fort Sumter, a tariff collection point in Charleston Harbor, was bombarded by the Confederates. No one was hurt or killed, and Lincoln later revealed that he manipulated the Confederates into firing the first shot, which helped generate war fever in the North.” See this.

Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., in their excellent book Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation have also made a strong case that tariffs were the primary cause of the war.

Let’s do everything we can the educate people against what the great Old Right stalwart Albert Jay Nock called “The Myth of the Guilty Nation.” Doing so will promote a return to our traditional American foreign policy of non-intervention, as advocated by our greatest living American, Dr. Ron Paul.