"No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear: 'But what would you replace it with?' When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with?" ~ Thomas Sowell
State of the War Party - 2007
Exclusive to STR
The US War Party, which has been in power for over a century, is currently preoccupied with fomenting war in the Middle East. Although existing occupations continue (e.g. Korea and Kosovo) and new proxy wars are underway (in Somalia), the major (state-controlled) media focus primarily upon the Iraq occupation and possible coming attractions in Iran.
One of the main propaganda coups for the War Party is making the American people believe it doesn't exist. This invisibility act is accomplished using several means. First and perhaps foremost is the ubiquitous use of the fallacy of the ambiguous collective. Wars and occupations are (in the state-controlled media) invariably framed as something "we" do, the lackey soldiers as "our" troops, the bombs that murder civilians as "our" bombs, and so on. A critical thinker will immediately notice the trick. "Our" side is implicitly assumed to be both rulers and subjects, Republicans and Democrats and independents and non-voters, all one big happy (albeit occasionally dysfunctional) family, with the same interests, and obviously on the same team.
Bullshit, to quote Penn and Teller. In reality, the ruling elite who order everything from aerial bombings of civilians to commando raids on family homes are not you or your neighbors. The murderous chumps who follow the orders of the ruling elite are not you or the people next door. Remember this: You are not your rulers. The people who make the high-level decisions to murder foreigners, drop bombs, poison land, and shoot rockets into neighborhoods live in mansions in far-away Washington DC, aptly referred to as Rome-on-the-Potomac by some commentators. These people are not Joe Sixpack or Good Neighbor Sam; they are duplicitous politicians who have gained aggression-power through their role in the state. You are not the government, in any meaningful sense. "We are the government," is the basest form of deception and statolatry--the belief that the state is God.
The slave "we" is the most perverse trick for duping Americans into believing that the War Party doesn't exist, but there are additional techniques that augment the illusion. The forced choice is a major technique. Admitting that there is only one political party might be inexpedient for the ruling elite. After all, Americans have been told they have freedom, and choices, and alternatives in who rules them. Thus, it behooves the ruling class to emphasize rather insignificant differences in philosophy, and to frame these differences as major "party" schisms. Furthermore, if the contrived differences are portrayed as the only reasonable choices, then the rulers are able to stifle dissent and discussion of true alternatives. They have achieved a false dichotomy.
Some examples may help. The elite of the "Democratic" faction of the War Party generally support significantly higher taxation, whereas the elite of the "Republican" faction want moderately higher taxation, hiding it in the form of monetary inflation. This is a false choice, since both factions of the War Party support a higher level of predation on productive Americans. The Rep and Dem factions differ on who they want to give plundered loot to. The Reps prefers buying off big established business, the Dems big established unions. Both like paying off entrenched government employees, but differ somewhat on which retainers to favor most: DEA or FEMA, INS or EPA, munitions or environmental researchers. Again, this is a false choice, as both War Party factions favor using plunder to favor retainers. (The full name for the War Party is the Welfare-Warfare Party.)
When it comes to imperialism--wars and occupation and military hegemony--we get the same old false choice. The ruling elite in the War Party agree that US imperialism is good, right, and just. But there are quibbles about when and where military aggression should be used--when it is expedient. The Dem faction of the War Party tends to favor multilateral military aggression, while the Rep faction likes unilateral aggression. The Dem faction is more likely to favor organized mass-murder for humanitarian reasons, while the Rep faction for national aggrandizement reasons. The Dem elite love the Kosovo occupation and want to invade Darfur, whereas the Rep elite love the Iraq occupation and would love to invade Cuba if they could only get away with it. Again we have a fake choice, a false dichotomy. Even though both factions of the War Party support war, due to minor differences one of the factions is portrayed by state-controlled media as (more or less) a peace party!
The recent much-publicized debate on a "timetable" for withdrawal from Iraq is a perfect example of this con. In fact, the bill in question had no timetable for withdrawal at all, as anyone who took the trouble to read the fine print immediately noticed. But "Boobus Americanus," as H.L. Mencken called the masses, are notoriously poor readers--most would rather watch the boob-tube and veg out on soundbites. The bill simply set a start date, and only a start date, for a very limited and qualified withdrawal of some troops, specifically "combat" troops. Any troops engaged in police action, support for Iraq government police or the training of such, protection of US bases (14 built or under construction), protection of the new walled-off multi-billion dollar US "embassy" in Baghdad, or protection of US citizens or businesses, would be exempt from the (so-called) withdrawal. Can not any number of troops be justified by those black-hole sized loopholes? Yes, of course. Even the "optimists" admitted that the bill could easily leave 80,000 US soldiers occupying Iraq. Some withdrawal! Such blatant duplicity by the Dem faction of the War Party is standard operating procedure. After all, if they really wanted to end the occupation all they needed to do was halt funding - and they have the legislative majority to do. Instead, they provided even more war funding than the administration asked for, and used the time-table hoax to feign difference from the other faction.
Now that we've exposed the false dichotomy offered by the War Party, it behooves us to give an alternative to their military interventionism. That's easy: non-interventionism--the policy of refraining from engaging in wars, occupations, "police-actions," and such in foreign countries. This is the policy that Washington and Jefferson favored, "free trade with all . . . entangling alliances with none." The idea is that it is better to be a "beacon of light" for freedom, rather than trying to impose it at the point of a gun or nuclear warhead. Now that there are weapons of mass destruction, now that there is fourth generation asymmetrical warfare, aka terrorism, it is more important than ever to refrain from creating anti-American terrorists, as the US has done incessantly with its interventionist policy of the last century.
The War Party tries to shrug off non-interventionism with some rather weak counter-arguments. Some portray non-interventionism as "isolationism," implying that it is opposed to trade and cultural intercourse. This is, of course, erroneous - see the "free trade with all" part of the famous Jefferson quote above. More than that, history clearly demonstrates that the more trade and cultural interaction there is between peoples, the less likely they are to go to war. After all, if you know that Ruritanians are nice people, you ate at their house or they at yours, or have a mutually beneficial business relationship with them, the last thing you want to do is spoil it all by trying to murder them. Freedom of trade and interaction creates a natural peace constituency.
Another "humanitarian" critique of non-interventionism is that "we" (see ambiguous collective fallacy above) have a duty to "save" the wretched foreigners. This "saving" can be anything from White Man's Burden, Manifest Destiny, cultural superiority, bringing God and salvation, to the latest excuse of "building democracy" and remaking the earth in "our" image. There are many objections to this kind of argument. One is: If you want to do something like this, then you should do it on your own dime. Any individual or voluntary group may try to bring their vision to the world using their own resources, but a state doing so with plundered resources by decision of a political elite is downright evil; especially when it endangers all Americans, who tend to get blamed for the actions of their rulers. Anti-American terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks, can be squarely blamed on past military "adventures" perpetrated by US ruling elite.
Finally, there is the rather ridiculous assertion that terrorists would come here, to US turf, if they weren't being fought there. First, this overlooks the point made above, that the terrorists in question would not be after Americans at all if it weren't for prior military aggression conducted by US rulers. Any terrorism would have been against local Middle East tyrants, like Saddam Hussein, rather than faraway people in the World Trade Center. The other objection to the fight there rather than here assertion is that there is no evidence to back it up. All missives from Al Qaeda and all reliable intelligence indicates that, if the US ceased its ongoing intervention in the Middle East, the "Islamist" militants would have no beef with Americans at all. If the US withdrew all troops from the region, abandoned all military bases, and quit supporting Israel, anti-American terrorism by "Islamists" would essentially cease. Not that the War Party would ever do it, but this refutes the fight there rather than here excuse for continued intervention in the region.
What are the prospects for getting rid of the War Party? In my opinion, reform--using the "legitimate" channels for change such as voting and lobbying--will not work. Boobus Americanus is alive and well, and overwhelming in number. As everyone from Thomas Paine to Robert Higgs knows, the tendency of a state to grow more and more powerful and authoritarian is clear. Changing a state from within is like trying to prevent evolution. Gushers of liberty generally occur in one of two ways, both involving crisis: conquest from without or secession from within. I don't see the US being conquered by a foreign power anytime soon. I expect that a crisis will occur, in the not too distant future, that will impel the US to break up much like the Soviet Union did in the early 1990s. As Mises taught us, the more authoritarian and centralized a state gets, the less well it works.
Eventually--soon I hope--the US will reach a crisis stage just as the Soviet Union did, perhaps for many of the same reasons. I suspect that a devolution will occur due to monetary crisis, in particular the hyperinflation of the dollar. Others, such as Wolf DeVoon, predict that the crisis will be triggered by a major terrorist attack. In either case, Boobus Americanus will suddenly lose confidence in the US state; its current brain-dead allegiance will disappear as quickly as you can say "it costs $1,000 to buy a quart of milk." (Or, "If the government can't even protect New York City or Washington DC from nuclear/biological annihilation, what good is it?") Former flag-humpers will quickly realize that keeping the fruits of their labor is much better than government plundering 40% of it, and that they can spend their money more wisely than central rulers ever did. Our job, as libertarians and lovers of liberty, is to educate. We must familiarize people with the concepts of self-ownership and secession, so when the shit hits the fan, they are ready.