Blogs > Liberty and Power > An Attempt to Clarify a Bit of Madrid Madness

Mar 15, 2004 12:31 pm

An Attempt to Clarify a Bit of Madrid Madness

Just a couple of brief comments on several of the many questions raised by Chris Sciabarra in “Madrid Madness,” below.

1) The kind of “war” initiated in a Unilateralist, State mode, by Bush and his Neocon minions can only help gain more adherents for Al Qaeda. If you have not already done so, I would recommend reading Jonathan Schell’s, The Unconquerable World in this regard.

Where was Woodrow Wilson into the kind of “nation-building” advocated by the Neocons? Those Neocons who have advocated following the Philippine model of the early 1900s such as Max Boot, are almost totally ignorant on the subject. One example: unlike Iraq, the Filipinos lacked weapons after the US was able to halt Japan sending 5,000 rifles etc., to the Insurgents. Some “Savage War!” The letters of American soldiers indicate much of the same shame as did the British soldiers cutting down with Gatling guns the Zulus armed with spears. I should think that would be the kind of contest that would satisfy the blood lust of the”Non-combs,” excuse me, Neocons.

Wilson wanted a coalition of the “Have” powers to confront the challenge of the Bolshevik Revolution (see his 14 Points), and was not really into dismantling Colonialism although he did liberalize what we were doing in the PI a bit. As William Appleman Williams showed years ago, the so-called Isolationist opposition was composed of Unilateralist Imperialists such as H.C. Lodge (the real model for today’s Neocons) and legitimate Anti-Interventionists such as William Borah.

How little is comprehended of this today is evident in Thomas Fleming’s The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I where Borah is mentioned twice in a totally irrelevant way to this question. I still don’t understand how the allegedly anti-interventionist Cato Institute could have made such a big deal of Fleming’s book, hosting it and all of that, since it so badly missed the real issue.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the whole world understood that Borah was THE great American Anti-imperialist with respect to such areas of intervention as China, Nicaragua, Mexico and Cuba. A journalist described, for example, how a letter from Borah took him untouched through the turmoil of the Chinese Revolution. How far do you think you would get in the Iraqi countryside today with a letter from George Bush?

Borah was the ONLY American, due to his stands on Nicargua, Mexico and then Cuba in 1933, whose speeches were translated into Spanish and carried by radio throughout Latin America. Given how FDR was trying to undercut the revolution in Cuba, and then in Mexico, the Latins were not so stupid as to believe that the “Good Neighbor” blather of the Old FireChatter was anything more than Garbled Verbiage or Verbal Garbage!

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Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/15/2004

Nice points, William. When I refer to the Wilsonian "nation-builders," however, I do so in a general way: these are people who want "to make the world safe for democracy," by building geopolitical "democracies" upon shaky cultural foundations through the force of war. There is a lot of Hayekian epistemic hubris going on here, and it is not exclusive to Wilsonians or Trotskyites or any of the other forerunners of neoconservatism (including Lodge).

I think we do have a different perspective on the Fleming book, however, at least in terms of what I believe is a very real dynamic that Fleming traces between increasing domestic and foreign intervention that long predates the New Deal and World War II. (And on these points, I continue to recommend, highly, the Radosh-Rothbard book, A NEW HISTORY OF LEVIATHAN, which features Rothbard's essay on "War Collectivism in World War I.")

Either way, the neocons are bad news. There is nothing "neo" (new) about them, and, quite frankly, there is also little that is traditionally "conservative" about them.