David Henderson to Speak on “An Economist’s Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy”

Antiwar.com’s economist David Henderson will be speaking Saturday, May 14, 3:00pm PT at the Monterey Peace and Justice Center located at 1364 Fremont Blvd., in Seaside, California. Professor Henderson, a Research Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, will discuss the history and economics behind his premise that “the United States should have stayed out of every war it has been in since 1783.”

Professor Henderson earned his BSc (1970) from the University of Winnipeg, followed by his M.A. and PhD (1976) in Economics from UCLA. He is recently retired from Naval Postgraduate School also in Monterey. He co-edits the popular EconLog in addition to publishing his work at Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Monterey Peace and Justice Center, the Peace Coalition of Monterey County, and the Libertarians for Peace.

Squandered Lives and Snuffed Out Genius: Mises, Tolkien, and World War I

Recently in The Times, Richard Morrison discussed, “The musicians silenced in the carnage of the Great War,” this being the centennial year of World War I. Morrison explored the war’s, “cataclysmic effect on the musical world,” and how “it left an indelible mark on musical composition—partly because almost a whole generation of brilliant young composers were killed, and partly because those that survived were changed for ever.” Morrison ends on a poignant note:

“As with so many of that horribly ill-fated generation, you wonder what might have been—had mankind not slaughtered so many of its brightest and best.”

This sentiment can be extended beyond music to all fields of human endeavor. Every life is precious for its own sake, but we can only have a full accounting of the costs of war if we also reflect upon the squandered potential of its victims.

Of course we can never know exactly what was lost to civilization in a war, but one way of getting an idea is to consider what we almost lost.

For example, World War I might have easily cost us most of the contributions of Ludwig von Mises, the greatest economist, and one of the greatest champions of liberty, who ever lived. In his wonderful biography of Mises, Guido Hülsmann wrote of how much danger Mises was in as an artillery officer on Austria-Hungary’s Northern Front:

Continue reading “Squandered Lives and Snuffed Out Genius: Mises, Tolkien, and World War I”

VERIFIED: Where Wars Do — and Don’t Come From

Where wars DO come from:

It is not civilizations that promote clashes. They occur when old-fashioned leaders look for old-fashioned ways to solve problems by rousing their people to armed confrontation.–Kenichi Ohmae, The End Of The Nation State, (New York: The Free Press 1995), p. 11.

Why of course the people don’t want war. … That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along –Head Nazi Hermann Goering

Mr. Bertie Felstead: “A German began singing All Through The Night, then more voices joined in and the British troops responded with Good King Wencelas… the next morning, all the soldiers were shouting to one another, “Hello Tommy, Hello Fritz” … The Germans started it, coming out of their trenches and walking over to us. Nobody decided for us – we just climbed over our parapet and went over to them, we thought nobody would shoot at us if we all mingled together… There wouldn’t have been a war if it had been left to the public. We didn’t want to fight but we thought we were defending England. England’s Oldest Man Remembers The 1915 Christmas Truce

People do not make wars; governments do. –U.S. President Ronald Reagan

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials… made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. …an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that …led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses. –Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith, False Pretenses: Iraq THE WAR CARD Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War, www.publicintegrity.org

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. …The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose–especially their lives. …the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. Yours not to reason why; Yours but to do and die. That is their motto The Anti-war Speech That Earned Eugene Debs 10 Years in Prison, Socialist Party convention in Canton, Ohio, 16 June 1918

By contrast, where wars DON’T come from:

…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight. Crazy Horse/Tashunkewitko

The Aztec strategy of war was based on the capture of prisoners by individual warriors, not on working as a group to kill the enemy in battle. By the time the Aztecs came to recognize what warfare meant in European terms, it was too late. Aztec

New England’s first Indian war, the Pequot War of 1636-37, provides a case study of the intensified warfare Europeans brought to America. Allied with the Narragansetts, traditional enemies of the Pequots, the colonists attacked at dawn. … The slaughter shocked the Narragansetts, who had wanted merely to subjugate the Pequots, not exterminate them. The Narragansetts reproached the English for their style of warfare, crying, “It is naught, it is naught, because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” In turn, Capt. John Underhill scoffed, saying that the Narragansett style of fighting was “more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies.” Underhill’s analysis of the role of warfare in Narragansett society was correct, and might accurately be applied to other tribes as well. Through the centuries, whites frequently accused their Native allies of not fighting hard enough. -James W. Loewen, LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME, (New York, NY: Touchstone 1996), p. 118

Frank Gaffney Slams Noted Libertarian Isolationists Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

I missed this Frank Gaffney column from a couple of weeks ago:

I had an unsettling flashback last week listening to two of the Republican presidential candidates talk about foreign policy. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman espoused isolationist stances that called to mind one of the most preposterous public policy debates in decades.

As I recall, the occasion was a Washington, D.C. event sponsored in the early 1990s by a group of libertarians. A colleague and I were invited to rebut the following proposition: “Resolved, the Constitution of the United States should be amended to prohibit the use of military force for any purpose other than defending the nation’s borders.”

Our side of the debate pointed out that, however superficially appealing such an idea might appear, it was ahistorical, irrational and reckless.

After all, if history teaches us anything, it is that wars happen – as Ronald Reagan put it – not when America is too strong, but when we are too weak. In the run-up to World Wars I and II, we followed more or less the libertarians’ prescription, and disaster ensued.

It continues, but I’ll just home in on the best part: World War I happened, or was worse than it would have been otherwise, because America was following a libertarian — i.e., “isolationist” — foreign policy.

Frank Gaffney takes refuge in a libertarian-free zone.

Now, in the 16 years before the outbreak of the Great War in Europe, the United States took part in the Spanish-American War, a savage occupation and counterinsurgency in the Philippines, and various smaller interventions in places such as Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, China, and Haiti. What this has to do with the Triple Entente, the Triple Alliance, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is anyone’s guess, but “isolationism” it isn’t.

But Frank Gaffney has been peddling this story for decades. When I was looking for something on his harrowing run-in with libertarians, the World War I thing popped up again. In his opening remarks at a January 1990 Cato Institute debate on foreign policy after the Cold War*, Gaffney said:

I think that it is equally evident that we have tried a policy of disengagement from Europe, a policy known in varying eras as “America-first-ism,” “isolationism,” what have you. And I think our experience is unmistakably clear. It has been a disaster every time it has been tried. The obvious, most glaring cases in point, of course, are World War I and World War II.

Later, in the Q & A portion, an audience member asked:

I have a single, simple question for Mr. Gaffney.

Mr. Gaffney, you suggested that America’s traditional pre-World War I policy of disengagement was an unmitigated disaster in part because it permitted wars on the European continent. In your opinion, at what date before World War I, 1898, 1870, 1848, 1815, whatever, should the United States have entered into formal military commitments to send and station troops in Europe?

To which Gaffney responded:

Well, it’s an interesting rhetorical question. I think that, obviously, at that particular juncture in history, let’s say, prior to 1914, the United States was neither terribly well equipped and certainly not disposed to be a world power. As was evident, starting with 1917, it had the resources to play a major role in restoring what I believe was the proper arrangement — the proper post-war configuration. Unfortunately, I think, in part because it once again withdrew[,] the proper order, the institutions of democracy that flourished briefly in the post-war period did, indeed, fall apart as Chris Layne indicated and gave rise to the seeds of World War II.

Actually, Layne had said that “one could make a very convincing argument that it was precisely the American intervention in World War I that prevented that war from ending in a compromise peace and that gave rise to many of the problems that led subsequently to the rise of Hitler and fascism and thence to World War II, and ultimately to the problems we’re facing now.” Rather different, no? But in Frank Gaffney’s mind, all of this could have been prevented if the United States had dispatched troops to Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Yes, there are actually people who think like this.

*Sorry, I can’t find a link online. I got this transcript off LexisNexis. Gaffney’s questioner was probably Michael Lind, though the transcriber wrote “Lindt.”