Blogs > Liberty and Power > Updating the Marine's Empire Handbook

Oct 10, 2004 11:14 pm

Updating the Marine's Empire Handbook

Dear Chris,

While I think it a good thing that someone like George Will now questions the war in Iraq, I do not see that his questioning of the tactics of Empire is the same as turning against Empire. People like Michael Scheuer, the “Anonymous” author Imperial Hubris are not against Empire, but simply the recent tactics of same.

It is perhaps more significant to observe how and have become part of those arguing for a more efficient war effort. William S. Lind, of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, has become a regular columnist at both sites. Given his constant writing about a more effective development of what he calls Fourth Generation Warfare, I find it difficult to relate his views even to “Kultural Konservatism.”

One of Mr. Lind’s heroes is the Israeli strategist Martin Van Creveld, an admirer of Stalin, who has been criticized by others at for his statements about killing as many Palestinian civilians as is necessary, 5,000 or more. Van Creveld has also been a favorite of the Mises Institute.

It was Van Creveld who advised the US over a year ago to use the Israeli tactics in Iraq, simply bulldozing whole towns as we are now doing:,2763,927780,00.html

Now Lind tells us in his latest that the 4th Generation Warfare Seminar will be meeting again with the notion of updating the Marines’ Small Wars Handbook, which when completed, will be published in its entirety at In the meantime, those interested in better military tactics for the Empire can read his Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985). Perhaps, if the new Handbook is read by a large number at LRC, the Marines will publish it for their commanders. After all, it might be a little difficult for a Marine in the field to pull out his laptop and log in to LRC. To quote Lind:

“The Fourth Generation seminar met Friday for the first time since last spring, and we have decided to write our own field manual on Fourth Generation war. It will be modeled on the excellent field manuals the U.S. Marine Corps issued when General Al Gray was Commandant. We plan to have it out in the first half of next year; LRC will offer the whole FMFM.”

My own comments on the Marine Handbook can be found at:

Those of us who oppose Empire have always differentiated between: 1) anti-war, which can also be examined on a spectrum from absolute pacifism to those who oppose aggressive war-making; 2) anti-intervention, which can also mean using powerful economic levers even to the point of starving people; and 3) anti-imperialism, opposing a whole system of Statist centralization, encompassing all of the above.

The above cited sites have been very good up to recently in giving us a day to day listing of articles about the three above factors, if a little light on the last, but accepting such war making columnists on a regular basis, seems to me far worse than anything that these people have accused the Cato Institute of, with respect to capitulating to the folks around the Beltway.

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Matt Barganier - 10/14/2004

"Making someone a regular columnist who continues to write in an interventionist vein is another matter. You are certainly still free to do that, but I find it inconsistent with a web site ostensibly holding an anti-interventionist worldview."

I've already been through this. Please refer back to my first post. I haven't personally administered the non-interventionist blood test on William Lind, though I'll take your word for it that he's impure. However, on the Iraq war at least (as my excerpts indicated), he appears to be against intervention, and his pieces that we choose to run buttress arguments against *this* intervention.

I fail to see what's unreasonable about that. I'm beginning to think that you simply have some personal beef with (as your earlier complaint suggested).

William Marina - 10/14/2004

Dear Matt,
1) I do not question your (antiwar's?) right to publish anything you wish. Certainly, the writing of some Imperialists should be published there to show readers the nature of those arguments.
2) Making someone a regular columnist who continues to write in an interventionist vein is another matter. You are certainly still free to do that, but I find it inconsistent with a web site ostensibly holding an anti-interventionist worldview.
3) What I sent on MVC was sent to the Blog, not as an article. Perhaps I sent it incorrectly, but, in any event, it did not appear at the Blog site.
4) The major part of what I noted at the P&L Blog site was directed at LRC publishing Lind's forthcoming revision of a Marine Handbook which has been used for global interventionism for decades. Lew Rockwell is also free to do that, but I also find that very inconsistent with a web site supposedly devoted to anti-interventionism.
Bill Marina

Matt Barganier - 10/13/2004

Just to be clear, Lind's column is syndicated. His pieces appear in several different forums. So we're not even guilty of the bizarre definition of censorship given above (i.e., if we don't run it, it won't be seen).

Matt Barganier - 10/13/2004

I assume that bit about censorship is a joke. What, exactly, is your complaint about us running certain pieces by an author but not others? Are we obligated to run everything Brent Scowcroft writes because we agree with some of it? I don't recall your submission about van Creveld - I can assure you I get plenty of mail. But why would we be obligated to publish your opinion of van Creveld, anyway? Have I stumbled on some liberal site where people can't distinguish between censorship and editing?

William Marina - 10/13/2004

Hi Chris,
There has been a sad decline of the anti-imperialism coalition since 1898. In the case of Vietnam, for example, too much effort was concentrated on opposing the bombing -- which even some hard core interventionist types could do -- than on an analysis of Empire.
There is a place for all of the stuff coming out on the latest adventure in Iraq & elsewhere, but what is lacking is a real liberatarian analysis of Empire, comparable to that of my old friend, Wm A. Wms, over 40 years ago. In the universities today, the students want a degree for a job, not some kind of notion of ethics.

William Marina - 10/13/2004

Without taking time to cite or quote it, it was the Ha'Cohen piece to which I was referrring when I mentioned MVC.

William Marina - 10/13/2004

Dear Matthew, I have no problem with the idea of running pieces by such as Scowcroft, "Ananymous," etc. nor some insights by Lind. Making him as regular columnist is a different matter, and now you tell me you edit his stuff and decide which columns to publish. That is really censorship for which should be ashamed. But then I learned that a few months ago when I sent you an extended comment about Van Crevald which was not publsihed at your Blog site.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 10/11/2004

William, thanks for your thoughts, and thanks too to Matt Barganier. I agree that there is a continuum among many who are opposed to the Iraq adventure, ranging from absolute pacifists to anti-interventionists and anti-imperialists. Given the fact, however, that I've seen an amazing tenacity in people's perspectives on this war (see here: ), I welcome broad-based movement toward criticism of the current administration's conduct of this foreign policy fiasco. Opposition coalitions are always built on that kind of breadth; ultimately, of course, it will be incumbent upon those of us who are most consistent to drive home the most important, fundamental issues at work, issues that point to problems with the system of interventionism that leads to all sorts of contradictions in domestic and foreign policy alike.

Matt Barganier - 10/11/2004

Most of the references to Martin van Creveld on AWC treat him in his capacity as a historian (see Joseph Stromberg's various ruminations:, not as a propagandist for Israel. (Please don't let Tom Palmer hear that we're promoting a Likudnik – he might start liking us!) This is a far cry from the Cato-ite tendency to fete uber-statists like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in their capacity as statists.

For one AWC view of van Creveld the Likudnik, please see Ran HaCohen at

"A real Nazi version of this rhetoric was recently offered by Prof. Martin van Creveld, a renowned military historian from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The learned scholar suggested to bombard Palestinian cities and carry out a genocide: 'Perhaps 5.000 or 10.000 killed won't be enough, and then we will have to kill more' (Jerusalem regional weekly, 1.3.2002). Though this eccentric, almost insane person can hardly be classified politically, his suggestion shows the very same pattern: he concludes by saying that 'it is better that there be one massive crime, after which we will exit and lock the gate behind us.'"

Hardly an all-purpose endorsement.

Matt Barganier - 10/11/2004

Dr. Marina, runs William Lind because he often has useful insights about the mechanics of interventionism. Those insights, by the way, underscore the futility of the Iraq war and occupation. We are not interested in "a more efficient war effort"; but since our arguments against interventionism are both moral and pragmatic, we are interested in Lind's expertise on the *inherent inefficiency* of imperialism.

A few examples from Lind's most recent articles on AWC:

"The Grand Illusion" (10/2/04)

"Throughout history, armies of hirelings have melted at a touch when faced with people fighting for something they believe in. All the training in the world will make no difference. The core problem is the deepest taproot of Fourth Generation war: the 'state' Iraqi security forces are being told to fight for has no legitimacy. When Bush and Kerry argue that we can avoid defeat in Iraq by training more Iraqis to do the fighting for us, they are indulging in a grand illusion."

"Destroying the National Guard" (9/25/04)

"One of the likely effects of the disastrous war in Iraq will be the destruction of an old American institution, the National Guard. Desperate for troops as the situation in Iraq deteriorates, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is using the National Guard in a mission for which it was never intended: carrying on a 'war of choice' halfway around the world. Most Guardsmen enlisted expecting to help their neighbors in natural disasters, or perhaps maintain order locally in the event of rioting. They never signed up for Vietnam II. ...

"The fact of the matter is that Versailles on the Potomac does not care about the rest of the country in any respect, so long as the tax dollars keep coming in.

"My old friend King Louis XVI might be able to tell Rumsfeld & Co. where that road eventually ends up."

"Doomed to Winning Lost Victories" (9/15/04)

"Of the moral level of war, which John Boyd argued is the most powerful level, there was nothing. Worse, there was no discussion of the central dilemma in Fourth Generation war, that what wins at the physical level tends to lead to defeat at the moral level. Goliath may mop the floor with his smaller, weaker opponents, but in doing so he makes himself universally hated."

I could go on, but these excerpts are from the last three Lind pieces on AWC, so it should be clear that I'm not cherrypicking. Obviously, these are all perfectly valid antiwar (though not specifically libertarian) arguments. We avoid Lind's articles that deal strictly with military theory and practice, and run those that are relevant to foreign policy.

Now, I suppose we could just publish abstract condemnations of war and eschew the "impure" opinions of military experts. That is, we could be the mirror image of our chickenhawk adversaries, who glorify war while knowing nothing of it. We would have their credibility, but only one-millionth their audience. But we would never get our hands dirty with non-libertarian critics of the war, such as Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Shinseki.

That sounds like a recipe for success.