September 14, 2001

Yes, Myles Kantor, this means you….

Every time we have a major bout of war hysteria, a few libertarians bite the dust and, under the pressure of a highly emotional atmosphere, go over to the War Party. Myles Kantor, a columnist for, is the latest war casualty, finally coming out of the closet as a chest-thumping warmonger with a screed directed not only at me, but at Harry Browne, past standard-bearer of the Libertarian Party. I'll let Harry take care of himself, since he's perfectly capable of dealing with such a transparent ploy. You see, Kantor also writes a regular column for Frontpage, David Horowitz's internet soapbox, and his piece, "Soft-Pedaling the Barbarians," is an attempt to score points with the neoconservatives: "Oh, puh-leeze be assured I'm not a libertarian in the same sense as that radical Harry Browne, and that awful Justin Raimondo!" For some reason, he doesn't mention Lew Rockwell, and his fellow columnists at, whose views are roughly consistent with mine. But then again, that wouldn't help his career all that much. Oh, but don't worry, Myles, we never did think your libertarianism was anything other than an affectation, and now our suspicions have been confirmed.


What is particularly galling, however, is that his article is not only a lie, and a smear, it is also a brazenly dishonest attempt to pass himself off as a follower of the late Murray N. Rothbard, a radical libertarian social theorist, economist, and stalwart opponent of our interventionist foreign policy. Which just goes to show that nothing is sacred to a warmongering opportunist, not even the memory of a man who Kantor once claimed was a model for us in every way.


"I am a libertarian," proclaims Kantor, and therefore "the murderous aggression perpetrated this Tuesday by terrorists incenses me." So whaddaya want, Myles, a medal? It damn well incenses everyone who lives in this country, or is a US citizen, because this means that the threat of terrorism is very real – far more real than it has ever been before. It means we are all a target, warmongers and peace-mongers alike. Is that really so hard to understand?


Indifferent to both logic and common sense, Myles meanders on: "The most bizarre response to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania massacres is an attempt by some libertarians to rationalize it as an entailment of American foreign policy." He then quotes a section of my piece, "Terror: The Price of Hegemony":

"Crashing down along with this symbol of capitalism [the World Trade Center], modernity, and civilization is the overweening hubris of a government – and a people – who thought themselves immune. It is the doctrine of 'American exceptionalism', the theory that the US – blessed by Providence and released from the travails faced by other nations – is immune, exempt not only from the rules that govern and limit the powers of other nations, but also from history itself. For history – and not only history but physics – tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."


So where is the "rationalization," i.e. justification, for a murderous act? I attempted to explain the act, which is not the same as "rationalizing" it. But such subtleties are dissipated in the war fever now coursing through young Kantor's veins. To this born-again superpatriot, clearly auditioning for the role of the neocons' favorite "libertarian," my view that the US is reaping the consequences of a cravenly pro-Israel foreign policy is interpreted as follows:

"American foreign policy thus spawned the slaughter of September 11. The perpetrators acted less out of autonomous choice than as agents of historical inevitability who, Raimondo implies, taught America a salutary lesson in humility."


Humility? The US? Hah! Even now, the US is making noises about striking out at the alleged perpetrators without too much regard for where or whom they hit. That this will merely confirm the opinion of the Arab "street" that, for the US, Arabs are less than human, doesn't seem to bother Kantor. Nor does the likelihood that it will merely accelerate the cycle of terrorism and retribution – a cycle that could end in a third world war.


Incidentally, so far this saber-ratting appears to be for domestic political consumption only, since they have no idea who the enemy is or where he is – they just want to lash out and stage a display of their coercive might for its own sake, to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. In the end, they may go with the Afghanistan option, not only bombing but maybe even launching an invasion (with Russian support). If I were them, I wouldn't go there: remember what the Afghanis did to the Red Army. In any case, so what if a few hundred (or thousand) innocents are killed? The US government's credibility is at stake, and so that is a small price to pay – isn't it, Myles?


Certainly the Palestinian militants, Osama bin Laden, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or whomever, acted out of autonomous choice, but so what? What does that have to do with explaining and analyzing their behavior and tactics, as opposed to editorializing about it? Perhaps Mr. Kantor, as an aspiring pundit, has mistaken my job for his own. As a wannabee talking head, right up there with his buddy David Horowitz and, say, Bill Kristol, young Kantor has written reams of Internet columns that are full of his opinions about everything. The evil Abe Lincoln, the glorious Confederacy, the nastiness of Fidel Castro's regime, but nothing on foreign policy – until now. The reason is that dealing with foreign policy issues requires knowledge, and not just opinions: you can't just sit down and rant for some 1,000-plus words on a subject like the ins-and-outs of the Macedonian crisis. You need not only a few facts, but also a value-free methodology, i.e. one that starts out by evaluating cause-and-effect relationships and then drawing the appropriate conclusions and making value judgments.


You'll notice that there are no specifics in Kantor's brief hit piece: Israel is never even mentioned, even though it is the crux of my article. Instead he lifts a single sentence from Murray N. Rothbard's For a New Liberty that reiterates the nonaggression axiom and goes on to cite Rothbard's views on war:

"War…is mass murder, and this massive invasion of the right to life, of self-ownership, of numbers of people is not only a crime but, for the libertarian, the ultimate crime."

Well, then, it looks, from this, as if Kantor is going to come out against the possibility of a US invasion of Afghanistan – but, uh, no, his ire is directed not at his government, but at his fellow libertarians – Harry and me, to wit:

"The mass murder perpetrated on September 11 is antithetical to the libertarian creed, an act of war, and very much 'the ultimate crime.' For a libertarian to soft-pedal it is obscene incoherence."


Hey, Myles, I have some hot news for you: whomever pulled off the biggest terrorist act in US history is no libertarian. But the nonaggression axiom cited by Kantor is not a pacifist creed. Rothbard clearly believed that defensive violence is justified and necessary (see The Ethics of Liberty): he wrote a long essay on the concept of what constitutes a just war, and certainly the Palestinian war on Israeli settlers who are expropriating Arab land fits into that category.


This says nothing about the means the Palestinians are using to advance their cause, but only points to the underlying justice of the cause itself. The US has bombed Iraq on a quasi-daily basis since the alleged "end" of the Gulf War. By libertarian standards, they have the moral right to retaliate – but only with proportionate force, and only against those who initiated the aggression. This does not include the thousands of civilians who worked at the World Trade Center. But, again, nobody said we were dealing with libertarians here.

According to Kantor, by pointing out how the US government invited this sort of terrorism by meddling in the affairs of other nations – and, in the process, committing a few "ultimate crimes" of its own – both Harry Browne and I go "far beyond a sound opposition to the federal government's aggression" abroad by attempting to "mitigate terrorists' accountability for massacring thousands of Americans." But why isn't the US government also accountable for its actions? Is it because we aren't supposed to question our government in wartime? Is it because the US is exempt from all such criticism by its very nature?


There is one and only one way to stop this sort of terrorism, and that is to keep out of the affairs of other nations. We should be neither pro-Israel, nor anti-Israel; neither pro-Albanian, nor anti-Albanian; neither pro-Taiwan, nor anti-Taiwan. Our foreign policy should consist of the following principle, one handed down to us by the Founders: entangling alliances with none, free trade with all. It is a foreign policy that puts America first – not Israel, not Kosovo, not Taiwan, not "human rights," nor "democracy," but America's interests, narrowly conceived. Failing that, we reap the whirlwind.


The idea that in analyzing the Arab mindset I am justifying acts of terrorism is a vicious smear, one that is, furthermore, typical of the war-addled brain: I must pay ritual obeisance to our glorious government, and denounce the Evil Enemy as the epitome of all that is dastardly. Why, those miserable ragheads, who would've thought they could have pulled off such a spectacular feat, simultaneously hijacking four commercial airliners to topple three of the biggest symbols of US preeminence? Never mind analyzing and trying to understand their point of view: let's just bomb the hell out 'em and be done with it! This, in effect, is what Mr. Myles Macho – and lots of our hate mail – is saying, and to them I say: you can go to hell. That isn't the spirit of justice, or of the America I love, and, if this be treason, then make the most of it.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.


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