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Sam Koritz points out that nineteenth century classical liberals, like modern antiwar libertarians and conservatives, had intense debates about the comparative advantages of third party and major party strategies. This was certainly true in the 1900 when anti-imperialist gold democrats pondered whether to support William Jennings Bryan over McKinley.

Because of their hatred of Bryan’s views in 1896, many had bolted to the National Democrats, some had stayed home, and some had supported McKinley. Now, they were faced with an every greater dilemma. Their old nemesis, Bryan, had endorsed anti-imperialism but refused to tone his inflationist support for free silver, thus directly attacking the gold standard they had long championed. What would they do?

The gold democrats split into four camps. As Koritz notes, many held their noses and voted for Bryan. Others stayed home. A few backed McKinley because of his continuing defense of the gold standard. Some, including Oswald Garrison Villard, Senator Carl Schurz, and Moorfield Storey, made plans for a third ticket.

Villard even made a personal visit to Grover Cleveland to try to persuade him to run as a third party candidate in 1900, possibly under the National Democratic banner. Cleveland, believing that the voters had no interest in what he had to say anymore, politely turned down the offer. But Villard, Storey, and their allies were not quite ready to give up yet. They organized the National Party to run Senator Donelson Caffery, a pro-gold/anti-imperialist Democrat from Louisiana. The campaign collapsed, however, when Caffery (without explanation) pulled out of the race. McKinley went on to defeat Bryan yet again and a new classical liberal/anti-imperialist party was stillborn.

Koritz properly cites the parallels to 2004…but the differences are also significant. Many classical liberals had at least one good reason to vote for McKinley. For all his faults, he had upheld the gold standard. In 2004, by contrast, Bush does not offer any similar temptation. Because of his unrelenting big-government approach, most recently with the Medicare bill, he has not only abandoned free market conservatives and libertarians in domestic policy but thumbed his nose at them. Does this mean that libertarians and anti-war conservatives should consider voting for Dean much like their ideological ancestors who backed Bryan? I do not think so….but will save that for a later blog.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11: 00 a.m. EST


Over the last several years, I've had more than a few things to say about Christmas, my favorite holiday of the year, including these reflections on A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic. Whatever my"Randian" predilections, some of my favorite films have carried religious themes, including my Number 1 Favorite Film of All Time Ben-Hur—which opens with the birth of Jesus—though I do believe that this"Tale of the Christ" can be read more universally and symbolically as a story of personal integrity, struggle, and redemption.

Christmas brings forth some of the most creative impulses of the human spirit. That was one aspect of the holiday that wasn't lost even on ol' atheist Ayn Rand. One can see that impulse everywhere—from the joviality of Internet displays (see here, here, and here) to the holiday displays in department store windows to the extra care on display in the work of those who love their craft, of whatever degree of specialization.

That love of craft I witnessed just the other day when I was in a local chocolate specialty shop. We picked up a wicker basket of chocolates, and it was wrapped very nicely, I thought; but the sales woman insisted on adding to the basket a custom-made green bow. She must have been in her late 60s, and the way she tied that bow reflected a lifetime of pride in her work. Call me a sap, but I was actually emotionally moved by the masterful focus she brought to every twist of the ribbon in her skillful hands.

The fun of this holiday season includes the fun of gift-giving (and gift-receiving) and the fun of eating, especially those outrageously delicious foods shared with friends and family (which, dietary restrictions aside, includes pets). I know my dog Blondie approaches Christmas morning like an impatient kid, as she rips into her presents with singular purpose (see here, here, and here for some past Christmas doggie pictures, with her"eyes all aglow" indeed...).

Everything about this holiday is dripping in good sentiment: from the Christmas songs to the beauty of the lights that decorate the neighborhoods of my home-sweet-home in Brooklyn, New York.

Most of all, however, I find the message of peace, benevolence, and goodwill to be more intoxicating than any Christmas Egg Nog. It's the kind of message that has led some soldiers on opposite sides of a battle to lay down their arms, and nearly all soldiers so engaged to yearn for home.

When the song"I'll Be Home for Christmas" made its debut for the World War II generation, there was no way of knowing just how its themes would resonate with other generations of American soldiers. So, here's the lyrics to that song, in dedication to those men and women, whose"dreams" of home must become reality much sooner than later:

I'm dreamin' tonight of a place I love

Even more than I usually do

And although I know it's a long road back

I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas

You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe

And presents under the tree

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light beams

I'll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 8:30 a.m. EST


It occurs to me that I haven't yet stated (and I should) that: My views don't necessarily reflect those of

I'm pleased to see Chris Sciabarra's link from this blog to"The Saudi Connection: How Billions in Oil Money Spawned a Global Terror Network," by David E. Kaplan, with Monica Ekman and Aamir Latif, featured in the December 15 U.S. News and World Report. This article, based on five months of research,"a review of thousands of pages of court records, U.S. and foreign intelligence reports, and other documents," and in-depth interviews with"more than three dozen current and former counterterrorism officers, as well as government officials and outside experts in Riyadh," provides compelling evidence that the Saudi state continued to support al Qaeda after the alleged cutoff date of 1989 - right up to the Sept 11, 2001 (at least) - and that bipartisan US government support for jihad, particularly Saudi-led jihad, obstructed investigation and apprehension of anti-American Teflon terrorists in the United States. Even an unethical, interventionist, Machiavellian approach to foreign policy, if rational, would have required the abandonment of US support for jihad after the dissolution of the Soviet Union but, unfortunately, government programs are easier to start than to end. Corrupt alliances offer tangible benefits to a few insiders, while the costs are paid by many outsiders: taxpayers, innocent bystanders, and soldiers.

US News is a respected mainstream source, and this article demonstrates the costs of interventionism, yet the vast majority of antiwar and (real, as opposed to liberventionist) libertarian sites have ignored it (check it on google). I suspect that the left and liberal antiwar sites are ignoring the story because much of the damage occurred during the Clinton administration. But why have non-leftists opponents of war and empire ignored it? Why this insistence on portraying the terror-promoting theocratic Saudi monarcho-kleptocracy as a maligned republic of Ewoks? One of the reasons seems to be dualistic thinking, the idea that if members of the pro-war lunatic fringe criticize Saudi Arabia while advocating war then any criticism of Saudi Arabia must be pro-war. Highly illogical: our adversaries may be wrong in all their conclusions but that doesn't mean that their every statement is a lie - they'd be much less effective if so; actually, they mix truth, falsehood, exaggeration, logic, bias, and faulty reasoning. It's absurd to insist that the world conform to the opposite of anyone's opinions.

If anti-interventionists ignore the mountain of evidence indicating Saudi government support for al Qaeda, it's likely to lead to a loss in credibility; it could also actually encourage intervention in Saudi Arabia. Considering the many business and personal ties between the Bush administration and Saudi royalty, not to mention the lack of a pro-US alternative, intervention by the US in explicit opposition to the monarchy is unlikely. More likely is intervention in defense of the monarchy, or certain factions thereof, and/or the Saudi state. That being the case, it's likely that the greater the degree of (misplaced) trust in the quasi-ally, the greater the support for intervention.

More speculatively, I think there's a tendency among non-leftist anti-interventionists to blame US interventionism on alien and ideological fringe influences. This seems to be our equivalent of the old Russian peasant expression:"If the czar only knew…!" Today, some wish to believe that Bush II is a reasonable, ethical, non-interventionist Forrest Gump who's merely being misled by his weirdo ministers. This assumption is apparently based on some comments made during the presidential campaign, as if campaign promises have predictive value.

Another issue involving words vs. deeds is this supposed US-backed democratic revolution targeting Muslim and Arab nations. Is there a single Arab or Muslim nation allied with the United States that could credibly be called a democracy? If not, where's the revolution?

Even the existence of a war against anti-US terrorism is questionable. In defense of the idea we can cite the fact that some terror-funding organizations have been shut down and some terrorists and supporters have been arrested and some killed, and the overthrow of the Taliban may have weakened al Qaeda. On the other, the prominent jihadiphilic US government officials that allowed and encouraged terrorists to infiltrate the America have not been removed or punished - on the contrary, they've been rewarded for with increased funding and power. It's also not clear if the Saudi and Pakistani governments, their intelligence agencies in particular, have stopped aiding al Qaeda. Karzai's Afghan government accuses Pakistani intelligence of shielding the Taliban and al Qaeda:

"In Pakistan, meanwhile, President Pervez Musharraf has twice asked Riyadh to curtail the millions of Saudi dollars that pour into local Islamic political parties, jihad groups, and religious schools. Again, the Saudis have promised change, but Pakistani officials are skeptical. They point to the visit to Mecca last month by the chief of the Jamiat-e-Ullema Islam, one of Pakistan's top Islamic parties. The JUI shares power in Pakistan's Northwest Territory, where it provides sanctuary for Taliban members staging attacks in Afghanistan. Why was JUI's boss in Mecca? For fundraising, JUI sources told U.S. News."

Posted by Sam Koritz at 12:01 a.m. EST


In Monday’s Washington Times there are two excellent columns concerning the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. In the first one Nat Hentoff, quite possibly America’s staunchest defender of the First Amendment, highlights some of the arguments made by the dissenting judges. Their points are so valid that they leave one with a sense of wonderment as to how the other justices could have voted to sustain a law so clearly injurious to our right to free speech.

Hentoff also reminds us that the law in effect curtails the ability of individuals of modest means to speak politically during the crucial period before an election by denying them the right to pool their resources, while it leaves the First Amendment rights of billionaires such as George Soros and Bill Gates intact. At the end of his piece he quotes a letter writer to the New York Times, Edward Wronk, who says, “The powerful have only gotten more powerful.”

In the second column John R. Lott Jr., perhaps America’s staunchest Defender of the Second Amendment, discusses a recent announcement by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that it is considering buying a television or radio station. Just as Hentoff shows that the law fosters inequality among individuals Lott demonstrates that the law creates inequality among institutions. He asks,

“But what really distinguishes General Electric’s versus General Motors’ ability to influence elections? Is it really simply ownership of television networks? Can unions buy radio stations? Can anyone possibly rationalize such distinctions?"
Apparently McCain, Feingold, and Sandra Day O’Connor can but I can’t.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 2:30a.m. EST


Lately, the Bush administration and its neo-conservative supporters have been crowing about how President Bush's hard-line foreign policy caused Muammar Qaddafi to end his unconventional (biological, chemical and nuclear) weapons programs and open them to international inspections. They have also been implying that the tough U.S. policy will continue to make bad regimes capitulate. But the gains from Qaddafi's abandonment of such programs are mostly symbolic. In contrast, the president's aggressive foreign policy has made the danger of a terrorist attack greater than at any time since the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Much has been made of the timing of Qaddafi's first overture to negotiate an end to his unconventional weapons programs--in March of this year, shortly before the United States invaded Iraq. Although the imminent U.S. invasion may have prompted Qaddafi's feelers to bargain away his weapons efforts, Qaddafi has been trying to mend fences with the United States and the West for a decade. Five years ago, he turned over two Libyans for trial in the terrorist bombing of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988; recently, he agreed to pay reparations for the incident. British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that Qaddafi's disarmament initiative arose from the success of those negotiations. Also, for several years Libya has eschewed terrorist attacks. And it is probably no coincidence that negotiations to end Libyan unconventional weapons programs accelerated only after the United States agreed to allow the United Nations to end economic sanctions against Libya. Qaddafi most likely wanted to see some gains from his years of efforts to reconcile with the West before he made any more concessions.

Moreover, Qaddafi has watched as the Bush administration was accused of hyping evidence about the threat of Iraqi unconventional weapons to justify the war and became bogged down in a Middle Eastern guerrilla quagmire--both of which make the probability of a U.S. invasion of Libya over its weapons programs much less likely. Also, Qaddafi has seen the Bush administration's initial tough line toward the North Korean nuclear program melt into a much milder policy than that of the Clinton administration. In 1994, President Clinton had threatened war unless the North Korean regime froze its nuclear program. In the wake of North Korea's subsequent admission of cheating on the nuclear freeze agreement and withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Bush administration is now making noises about negotiating an end to North Korea's nuclear program in return for a normalization of relations with that nation-the right policy but hardly a hard-line policy that would send shivers down Qaddafi's spine.

What did Qaddafi concede? He apparently had stockpiles of crude chemical weapons, a primitive biological weapons program and a fledgling nuclear program. Although Qaddafi's renunciation of such weapons is a positive development, Libya's ability to produce any of them has been undermined by the sanctions and Qaddafi's purges of scientists. Thus, Qaddafi probably concluded that the minimal losses from giving up his crude weapons efforts would be more than offset by the economic rewards of playing"reformed dictator" poster boy in the Bush administration's public relations efforts to defend hard-line policies in the Middle East, which lately have been under fire. So vanquishing the overrated"Libyan threat" is less of an accomplishment than meets the eye.

Meanwhile those truculent Bush administration policies are likely to pose the very real danger of"blowback" to Americans everywhere from an enraged Islamic world. Tom Ridge, the president's own secretary of homeland security, raised the U.S. alert level and announced that the danger of a terrorist attack, possibly in the United States, is"perhaps greater now than at any point since September 11, 2001." Despite the firestorm in even the mainstream media when Howard Dean perceptively noted that the capture of Saddam Hussein had not made the United States any safer, the administration now seems to be confirming that fact. And, when polled, 60 percent of Americans also agreed with Dean's view. Thus, the hard-line Bush administration foreign policy toward the Middle East likely will reap only symbolic gain but very real pain.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 12:50 a.m. EST


David and Linda Beito's article"Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900" (mentioned below in"Anti-Imperialists, Classical Liberals, and Progressives") describes the presidential election of 1896, in which some classical liberal Democrats were so opposed to their party's rabble-rousing inflation-advocating presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, that they formed a new political party, The National Democratic Party (NDP), to oppose him. They captured only a meager (Libertarian Party-like) less-than-1% of the vote but, as they hoped, Bryan lost. (Some NDPers would later claim responsibility for Bryan's loss but this is questionable; unlike, for example, the Nader votes in 2000, even if all of the NDP votes had been gone to the Democrats Bryan would still have lost.) The"Mugwumps" (more or less"big chiefs," a mocking name given to them by their critics), New England reformers who viewed themselves as defenders of the old republican virtues, were important organizers of the NDP and later the Anti-Imperialist League. Daniel B. Schirmer ("Republic or Empire") suggests a group economic basis for the Mugwumps' emphasis on free trade, sound money, and ethical government:

"The political thrust of mercantile discontent had been carried after the Civil War not by the merchants alone, but also by a group of Boston liberals, many of whom were later prominent in the anti-imperialist movement. Linked as they were to the city's older mercantile wealth by manifold family ties and social connections, these lawyers and professionals quite naturally shared its hostility to the new-rich industrialists and their policies. …

"In addition to free trade, the Boston liberals were concerned with sound currency and civil service reform. Sound currency was important to the holders of inherited wealth, who felt threatened in these years by the popular agitation for cheap money (the free coinage of silver). The demand for civil service reform arose from the evidence of corruption at all levels of government after the Civil War. The country's new industrial entrepreneurs caused more than one scandal by their efforts to buy what they wanted politically, offending puritan sensibilities."

To continue this analysis, we can say that the Democrats in 1896, by advocating the inflationary free silver policy, represented the economic interests of debtors, especially indebted farmers, while the Republicans, by advocating protective tariffs, represented the economic interests of the manufacturers. Both parties wished to use the state to benefit their favored constituency. Under the circumstances, starting a third party to highlight the lack of a classical liberal alternative and to sabotage the candidacy of what was in their opinion the greater of the two evils may have been the most politically effective choice.

It's a controversial opinion, but it seems to me that the Mugwumps were skilled political operators worthy of study by today's drastically outnumbered classical liberals. In 1884, repulsed by the Republican Party's nomination of a candidate ("Slippery Jim" Blaine,"the continental liar from the state of Maine") accused of taking bribes from the railroad industry, the Mugwumps-to-be left the Republican Party and joined the Democratic. The Democrats were infamously and somewhat accurately called the party of"rum, Romanism, and rebellion" - in other words an alliance of urban Catholic immigrant"machine" politics and the former Confederates running Dixie, opposed to Protestant puritan prohibition and"blue laws" (as late as the 1970s you couldn't shop on Sunday in parts of Massachusetts). Joining the Democratic Party was, therefore, a pretty radical step for New England Protestant reformers of the Jerusalem-building variety but it paid off, as the Mugwumps were probably the deciding factor in securing the party's nomination for Grover Cleveland, a classical liberal with an unblemished record in public life (though with some personal relations issues).

The Mugwumps distrusted populism and organized labor, yet allied themselves with both, leading critics to charge that they represented"Harvard and the slums." (One interesting and successful alliance was with the"Red" classical liberal"single taxers" - followers of Henry George.) When founding the Anti-Imperialist League the Mugwumps allied with a veritable who's-who of outsider trouble-makers:

"Putting aside their upper-class aversion to organized labor and Boston's Irish population, the Brahmin anti-imperialists turned to them as important participants in the common cause. Their bitter disagreements with currency-reforming Silver Democrats, Silver Republicans and Populists they likewise set aside; they included even the Socialists, whose views most of them abhorred. They made special appeals to blacks and women. They worked to influence and unite with anti-imperialists in Democratic, and, so far as they could, Republican ranks. They sought out anti-imperialist clergymen, intellectuals, farmers' representatives. They worked to bring the press into the anti-imperialist fold."

That the Mugwumps refused to treat their, often distrusted, allies as"useful idiots" can be seen by the fact that the Anti-Imperialist League endorsed the hated Williams Jennings Bryan in the presidential race of 1900.

I agree with most of Gene Healy's comments about Howard Dean. Still, it seems to me that if we're going to participate in electoral politics we should use our votes to punish and reward. And we should punish Bush for the invasion of Iraq, the PATRIOT Act and the doctrine of preventive attack (a.k.a. permanent war) - and let that be a warning to the rest of them. 1896 would imply a slate of sane, I mean classical liberal, Republican defectors; 1884 would imply joining the Democratic Party and campaigning for the least-bad legitimate candidate.

Posted by Sam Koritz at 12:36 a.m. EST


Cass Sunstein is calling the Supreme Court's approval of the new campaign finance reform law,"a surprising endorsement of congressional authority."

I couldn't agree more. Considering the text of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law..."), I'd say that the Court's approval of a federal law sharply regulating political speech prior to an election is surprising, at the very least.

The only difference between Sunstein and me is that I wouldn't dare call myself pleasantly surprised by an emerging trend of judicial deference to" congressional authority" in this arena.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 5:25 p.m. CST


The RedStarTribune is silent today over the new science and social science standards, but the PioneerPress, rather than discuss them, digs up some education researchers unhappy over Commissioner Yecke's book. In The War Against Excellence, Yecke is rather critical of" cooperative learning".

Ability grouping was discouraged as elitist, and in many places was replaced with" cooperative learning," where a few students did all the work and everyone shared the grade. High ability students were often not allowed to work at their own pace, but instead were held to the pace of the rest of the class and required to tutor others--resulting in a loss to their own intellectual growth. Based on misinterpretations of scientific theories addressing brain development, a number of schools watered-down the middle school curriculum out of fear that pre-adolescent brains could not be expected to handle rigorous learning. And in some cases, academic competition was discouraged. These policies and practices resulted in some middle school environments that actively encouraged a culture that looked down upon high academic achievement.

The authors of a leading book on cooperative learning happen to teach at the University of Minnesota. They argue that Yecke has not read their work and that they are"professors, not activists". But their own work downplays the importance of what they call"technical skills".

The ability of all students to learn to work cooperatively with others is the keystone to building and maintaining stable marriages, families, careers, and friendships. Being able to perform technical skills such as reading, speaking, listening, writing, computing, problem-solving, etc., are valuable but of little use if the person cannot apply those skills in cooperative interaction with other people in career, family, and community settings. The most logical way to emphasize the use of student's knowledge and skills within a cooperative framework, such as they will meet as members of society, is to spend much of the time learning those skills in cooperative relationships with each other.

Yet the research of Marian Matthews suggests that group learning limits the abilities of gifted learners. The problem, it seems to me, is agreement on what should be called" cooperative learning". When it is tied up with the question of"tracking" (which I discussed earlier, as has Michael Lopez), it boils down to the broader question of limiting excellence, which is what Yecke is discussing. Cooperative learning with tracking would give much different results than without tracking -- I suspect it would be better but I'm not going to be able to prove that to anyone's satisfaction who doesn't already agree with me.

The other item that struck me was this misunderstanding of cooperative and competitive behaviors and the heroism of Flight 93.

Yecke said she was struck when she read news stories that repeatedly characterized the heroes of that flight as very competitive.

"Family members didn't talk about their cooperative nature," she said."In Flight 93, you have competitive individuals who knew how to cooperate, but they were driven by a competitive spirit."

David Johnson wondered if Yecke was giving short shrift to the collaboration of the heroes."They organized. They talked with each other," he said."It's a testament to the power of cooperation. Each one of those men might not have been able to do it on their own."

I think that Johnson, one of the UM professors, has a real problem with understanding what competition is. In the article they write that competition"is characterized by negative goal interdependence, where, when one person wins, the others lose." That's true only in a zero-sum game situation. Entrepreneurs compete, and thrill from the competition, without their victories being completely offset by the losses to others. This is the nature of market activity. Only one may win the spelling bee, but high grades are not earned generally at the expense of others (unless you grade based on standard deviations from mean performance in the classroom). The Johnsons divide competitive from"individualistic" learning, where students move independently to meet predetermined learning objectives. That, I hasten to add, is exactly what the new standards are about -- individualistic, not competitive. Cooperative learning could help when structured with appropriate incentives, a point with which I think even Yecke would agree. Why Welsh decided to run this piece now is a question worth answering.

Posted by King Banaian at 12:26 p.m. EST


Raimondo hits one out of the park today in an article about Libya’s abandonment of WMD. Does the Libya agreement provide proof that Dubya’s saber rattling is the best guarantee of world peace? Not at all. Libya has been intensely interested in turning over a new leaf since the 1990s though Clinton and Bush (until now) showed little interest in these feelers. Raimondo speculates that Gaddafi wants to restore his country's pre-modern role as a Mediterranean power.

Raimondo predicts that the neoconservatives and other enthusiastic pro-warriors will condemn the agreement as a ruse. Why? Because it might put the squeeze on Israel to abandon its own WMD and ease up on other hard-line policies. As if almost on cue, Raimondo’s prediction has been confirmed today in two articles. First, Joseph Farah frets that Libya’s action will increase “international pressure” on Israel to abandon WMD.

Farah is a pussycat compared to Ariel Natan Pasko who defends the inalienable right of Israel (and no other country in the Middle East) to own WMDs. In what has to be the most priceless neoconservative quote of the week, he uses the pages of the normally secular Frontpage to proclaim: “Sure Israel should 'Ban the Bomb'; When the Messiah comes!”

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:06 A.m. EST

VAE VICTIS, 12-22-03

[Cross-posted at In a Blog's Stead]

Who should try Saddam Hussein?

The Nuremberg trials have had both a positive and a negative legacy. The positive legacy is the affirmation of a higher moral standard to which government rulers are subject and in the name of which they can be called to accouint. But the negative legacy is the notion that the vanquished may legitimately be tried by the victor.

As John Locke famously pointed out, no one can be trusted to be a judge in his own case. Thus, apart from emergency situations when instant action must be taken, plaintiffs should submit their grievances to a third-party arbiter.

(Locke further takes this principle to support the establishment of a single monopoly arbiter. Of course it does no such thing. The inference from All disputes should be submitted to a third-party arbiter to There should be a third-party arbiter to whom all disputes are submitted is no more legitimate than would be the inference from Everyone likes at least one TV show to There's at least one TV show that everyone likes. In fact Locke's principle rules out a single monopoly arbiter – for a single monopoly arbiter would have to be a judge in its own case in any dispute to which it was a party.)

Locke's principle obviously rules out a trial by the U.S. – especially since the U.S. president has already called for Hussein's execution, thus nullifying any semblance of a fair trial. But it equally rules out the legitimacy of having the new Iraqi government try Hussein. (I say"Hussein" rather than"Saddam" because I am not on a first-name basis with the man; I’m not sure why everybody else seems to be.) The problem is not just that any Iraqi tribunal is likely to be a U.S. puppet (though that is certainly an obvious concern). Even if the U.S. had no influence on the Iraqi government at all, as long as Hussein is being accused, not of crimes against selected individuals, but of crimes against the Iraqi people as a whole, a government purportedly representing the entire Iraqi people cannot legitimately try him, since by doing so they would be acting as judges in their own case.

The only legitimate course of action would be for both the U.S. government and the Iraqi government to recuse themselves and hand Hussein over to a genuinely independent tribunal.

Don't hold your breath.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 03:28 a.m. EST


Ann Coulter is not one of my favorite people but she does often show a talent for good one-liners such as this one, “Is it just me, or is Kwanzaa becoming way too commercialized?”

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:06 p.m. EST


Speaking of sowing and reaping, here's a report from the Washington Post that is worth reading. WP reporter Dana Priest writes:

Donald H. Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship, according to newly declassified documents. ... The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the nonprofit National Security Archive, provide new, behind-the-scenes details of U.S. efforts to court Iraq as an ally even as it used chemical weapons in its war with Iran. An earlier trip by Rumsfeld to Baghdad, in December 1983, has been widely reported as having helped persuade Iraq to resume diplomatic ties with the United States. An explicit purpose of Rumsfeld's return trip in March 1984, the once-secret documents reveal for the first time, was to ease the strain created by a U.S. condemnation of chemical weapons. The documents do not show what Rumsfeld said in his meetings with Aziz, only what he was instructed to say. It would be highly unusual for a presidential envoy to have ignored direct instructions from Shultz. ... [T]he administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush sold military goods to Iraq, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological agents, worked to stop the flow of weapons to Iran, and undertook discreet diplomatic initiatives, such as the two Rumsfeld trips to Baghdad, to improve relations with Hussein.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 11:25 a.m. EST


Liberty and Power guest blogger, Sam Koritz has mentioned the fine website of Jim Zwick on the history of the Anti-Imperialist League. As Sam notes, many of the anti-imperialists were dedicated classical liberals. He also points out that the turn of the century was a period of transition in which classical liberalism gave way to progressivism.

Tracing this transition has long been one of my research interests. For this reason, along with my wife, Linda Royster Beito, I wrote an article for the Independent Review , on the National Democratic (or Gold Democratic) Party. The party, which ran a ticket to oppose Bryan and McKinley in 1896, included many men who later were stalwarts of the League. Among them were such champions of free trade and the gold standard as Edward Atkinson, Oswald Garrison Villard, Horace White, and Moorfield Storey.

Interestingly, Storey and Villard were also pioneers in the crusade to uphold individual rights for blacks. Storey was the first president of the NAACP while Villard was its treasurer. While Villard later moved away from classical liberalism, Storey held on to most of these beliefs to the end of his life and even opposed federal child labor laws in the 1920s.

The National Democrats garnered less than one percent of the vote in 1896 and did not run a candidate in 1900. One of those votes in 1896 was cast by none other than President Grover Cleveland, who later became a vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:46 a.m. EST


I started my day today in a playful mood on the subject of conspiracy theory. But I think the following takes conspiracy theory to a new height. A relative of mine, who shall go nameless, said something similar months ago that sounded terribly cynical to me. If I didn't know for sure, I'd say this relative wrote into the"Voice of the People" of The New York Daily News under the pseudonym of"Leo F. Marshall" of Kew Gardens, Queens. My relative insists not. But here's what Mr. Marshall had to say under the title,"Perfect Timing" on 16 December 2003:

We're supposed to believe that the U.S. military happened to capture Saddam Hussein on Saturday afternoon—just in time to be covered on all the Sunday morning news shows and to divert attention from the Halliburton overcharging scandal, the economy and Howard Dean's popularity. It's obvious the military knew where he was all along and were just waiting for the right moment to" capture" him. It's equally obvious they know where Osama Bin Laden is and will" capture" him just before the November 2004 election.

So, y'all heard it here first. If there's an October surprise, we'll have to get in touch with Mr. Marshall and congratulate him for his soothsaying abilities.

Meanwhile, on a more serious note: All Hail the Freedom Tower: The New York Spirit of 1776 (feet) that will stand like a huge Middle Finger to Al Qaeda.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:00 p.m. EST


Jim Zwick has an excellent site, with the unclear-on-the-concept name of, dedicated to the history of the American Anti-Imperialist League. The historical documents archived on the site are particularly valuable, but the essays by Zwick and others are also worthwhile (though I have significant disagreements with them), especially for those of us interested in issues of liberty and power. The arguably successful, in my view (more on that below), pre-Cold War American opposition to US imperialism is probably the best historical model we have for our own opposition to US military global hegemonism (for want of a better term). A good introduction to the history of the League is Zwick's"Imperialists and Anti-Imperialists: The Roots of American Non-Intervention Movements":

"The Spanish-American War of 1898 proved to be a watershed for those in the U.S. who were advocating commercial and military expansion. It not only led to the annexation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, but at the height of the patriotic fever surrounding the war Congress put aside its opposition to the formal annexation of Hawaii, a valuable commercial and military outpost on the route to Asia."

Donald Boudreaux in"The Socialist Origins of the Pledge" (below) explains that Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge of allegiance in 1892 as a contribution to the Dewey-ist education centralization movement. Zwick follows-up:

"…[A]nti-imperialists were frequently portrayed as traitors to their country. The pressures they faced were tremendous in an era when 'patriotic' conformity was being established as the norm. It was during the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars, for example, that saluting the flag and other 'patriotic exercises' first became mandatory in many of the nation's schools. In New York State the legislation requiring this was passed just two days before the Spanish-American War began."

I disagree with the conclusion of Zwick's essay, that the Anti-Imperialists"ultimately lost the turn-of-the-century debate about imperialism." The imperialism that the Anti-Imperialists were united in opposing was classical imperialism, i.e. colonialism - a policy decisively rejected by the US government. (The high price Americans paid for the Pacific colonies during World War II is a good demonstration of the dangers of imperialism, and without imperialism maybe we could have skipped the Cuban missile crisis's nuclear war near-miss.) Now let's cut loose Puerto Rico, Guam, and the dozen other dependencies, or make them states, and we can move on from that ugly era. Ultimately, the Anti-Imperialist League split into the hard and soft anti-(classical) imperialists, with many of the latter joining the interventionist bureaucracy. Mission accomplished.

If a neo-League were being organized today, I would argue that the central mission should be the closing of all US military bases overseas. Even some of the hegemonist proponents of military modernization want foreign bases downsized (along with increased resources for US-based force projection), so obviously closing foreign bases wouldn't end the quest for global hegemony. And, in fact, closing all bases almost certainly won't happen - just as the US government still has 14 leftover dependencies, but isn't fighting wars to add more. But even the closure of the majority of overseas bases would be a huge step towards normalcy, and if nothing else it would help keep things like Saudi power struggles from spilling over onto American civilians (and can we close those bases in Central Asia yesterday, please?).

A number of brainy jingoists have recently approvingly suggested that the US government is an empire, which would make"imperialism" and"anti-imperialism" valid contemporary terms. Here's British immigrant Niall Ferguson, writing in Foreign Affairs ("Hegemony or Empire?"):

"…[T]he very concept of 'hegemony' is really just a way to avoid talking about empire, 'empire' being a word to which most Americans remain averse. But 'empire' has never exclusively meant direct rule over foreign territories without any political representation of their inhabitants. Students of imperial history have a far more sophisticated conceptual framework than that. During the imperial age, for example, British colonial administrators such as Frederick Lugard clearly understood the distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' rule; large parts of the British Empire in Asia and Africa were ruled indirectly, through the agency of local potentates rather than British governors."

But it seems to me that the very fact that Ferguson has to explain that"empire" doesn't exclusively mean direct rule suggests that the word implies direct rule, so it's a poor choice to describe a policy that essentially rejects direct rule."Imperialism" is even more problematic than"empire," since it brings to mind the Cold War-era Leninist implication of commercial monopoly or oligopoly and/or international trade and investment, along with direct or indirect rule. And then there's" cultural imperialism," which is hard to distinguish from international popularity."Anti-Imperialist" is even worse than the other terms, since it's so negative. The National Liberty Congress of Anti-Imperialists (1900) got back to zero by adding to their name what they did want. Ditching"anti" altogether,"Republic Clubs" were set up for Anti-Imperialist members of the Republican Party:

"Many Anti-Imperialist Republicans are unwilling to join a Democratic club, but would gladly join an organization based on the paramount issue of Anti-Imperialism. Such an organization in each community will greatly help to emphasize the issue of Empire versus Republic and keep it before the people as the leading question.


"The success of such an organization will largely depend on the name given the club. The one presented on the enclosed pamphlet -- Republic Club -- has much to commend it. Over against clubs of Rough Riders -- riding roughly over the Republic, and for the establishment of an Empire -- let us put up REPUBLIC CLUBS, and state as the one and only qualification for membership, OPPOSITION TO THE OVERTHROW OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE ERECTION OF AN EMPIRE. …[T]he evil is clearly marked -- it is the overthrow of the Republic if the voters at the polls ratify the Puerto Rican law and the President's similar policy in the Philippines; therefore,"Republic Club" raises the specific question at issue. …"

If"anti-imperialist" leaves much to be desired, there's not an obvious other choice. At we get emails from proponents of the principles of the power of positive thinking (new letters file posted today) criticizing the site's name - tell us what you're pro-, not what you're anti- - and from others saying that we must be (strict) pacifists, or that we're hypocritical if not. And"anti-interventionist" and"anti-hegemonist" just sound weird."Non-interventionist" seems kind of vague, but at least"non" is less anti than"anti."

Posted by Sam Koritz at 6:00 p.m. EST


From Dean's major foreign policy address on Monday:"I have supported U.S. military action to roll back Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, to halt ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, [and] to stop Milosevic's campaign of terror in Kosovo...."

Now, I guess that's not surprising. But Dean's argument against the Iraq war has focused on the idea (I'd say, the fact) that Iraq was never a national security threat. Well, it wasn't a national security threat in 1991 either, and Clinton's half-hearted argument that we had national security interests in Serbia amounted to"well, World War One started over there somehow when somebody killed some archduke or something." And if ethnic cleansing and terror argued for war over Kosovo, it's pretty hard to see why they didn't in the case of Hussein, who made Milosevic look like Niles Crain.

There's nothing in the rest of the speech that provides any kind of bold new foreign policy vision either. Spend more on foreign aid. Do more to wipe out AIDS in Africa. Work with our allies and don't tick them off gratuitously. Snore.

I'm rooting for Dean because he seems angry about something, and I'd like to see a fight, rather than a Clinton-Dole 1996-style lovefest in 2004. But the idea that he'd be a marked improvement over Bush is tough to credit. As somebody put it once, government's a massive runaway freight train careening towards disaster. Every four years we have a big to-do over who gets to sit up in the front car and pretend they're driving. It's hard to get excited about that.

Posted by Gene Healy at 2:05 p.m. EST


Before continuing with my serialized autobiography, I’d like to do some blogging….

Hurray for Orville and Wilbur Wright! Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle featured a number of articles honoring the 100th anniversary of their first flight. Staff Science Writer Keay Davidson contributed the contrarian, “Techno-skeptics weren't all wrong about Wrights,” (though I’ll be criticizing it, I think it raises some interesting questions and I did enjoy reading it.):

“Aviation pioneers weren't just nuts-and-bolts types who loved tinkering with gadgets. They were also social utopians. They believed airplanes would transform the world.”

“Consider the closing vision of an 1894 book by Octave Chanute, a leading aviation enthusiast and ally of the Wrights: ‘Upon the whole, the writer is glad to believe that when man succeeds in flying through the air the ultimate effect will be to diminish greatly the frequency of wars and to substitute some more rational methods of settling international misunderstandings. This may come to pass not only because of the additional horrors which will result in battle, but because no part of the field will be safe, no matter how distant from the actual scene of conflict.’”

According to Davidson, Chanute and the other aviaphile dreamers were wrong:

“The results of military aviation include some of the worst horrors of the 20th century, events so ghastly that a single name evokes them: Guernica. Dresden. Hiroshima.”

I don’t share Davidson’s confidence that Chanute was wrong – at least not based on this quote. All 3 of Davidson’s examples of the ghastly horrors of military aviation occurred in the same war, which was also the first war in which aerial bombing was effectively employed, and the last war (so far) in which two opponents bombed each other. The learning process suggested by Chanute might at least partly explain Thomas Friedman’s McDonald’s dictum: “No two countries that both have a McDonald's have ever fought a war against each other…” – though, of course, since the US’s post–Cold War world order destabilization campaign we’ve had to change that to “…except for the US bombing of Serbia…,” or just replace McDonalds with Starbucks, as Fukuyama suggested.

If Chanute was right in the longer-term, then we can conclude that sometimes (at best) the world isn’t transformed by potentially horror-producing technologies until actually experiencing the horror. And the one-sided bombing of the various non-McDonalded countries over the years brings to mind the joke:

Question: What’s the difference between a language and a dialect? Answer: A language has a navy.

Davidson stacks the deck, in way that’s surprisingly innumerate for a newspaper’s Science Writer:

“Suppose you had lived in 1903 and someone told you, ‘If heavier-than-air aviation comes true, then 71,000 people will die in plane crashes over a half-century [1945-2001].’ How would you reply? Would you say, ‘No problem, those deaths are worth it if I can get to Reno a few hours earlier’? …

This is deceptive since it presents the human cost of aviation without comparing it to the cost of the alternatives, and also includes no benefits except the ability to get to Reno more quickly. (I see why Davidson is a Science Writer, rather than, say, an options trader.) Aviation has enriched people’s lives by making travel cheaper, quicker, and, yes, safer – unlike, say, nuclear weapons, which never did anyone any good, and reportedly are still on hair-trigger alert in civilization-destroying quantities. Which brings us to the conclusion of the aeronautics-skeptical article:

“Already, skeptics warn us of the possible consequences of unregulated biotechnology, nanotechnology and other futuristic wonders that true believers claim will enrich our lives at no social cost. Like Newcomb and Melville, the new doubters might prove wrong on certain facts. But on matters that count most in the long run, they might prove terrifyingly right.”

“Unregulated”? But the only actually-existing technology (though I’m sure more are in the pipeline) with the capacity to destroy civilization is entirely regulated.

Posted by Sam Koritz at 10:15 a.m. EST


First it was the (intentional?) leak of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's memo, which brought into question the administration's effectiveness in the"War on Terror." Rumsfeld may have been born in Chicago, but he was educated at Princeton University. In New Jersey. Hold onto that fact for a moment.

Then, it was former EPA head and former governor of New Jersey (do you sense a pattern here?), Christie Todd Whitman, who slammed the Halliburton contracts in Iraq."That was dumb," this former Bush appointee said in November's Harper's Bazaar."Why in God's name [would] you let that happen? Halliburton may be the best people to do the job, but you have to bid it, because it just looks terrible."

Now it's another former New Jersey governor, Tom Kean, who is singling out"immigration inspectors,""visa people,""FBI people," for not being vigilant enough to thwart the 9/11 attacks. He's not"yet" naming any incompetent senior administration officials, but he's hinting that more than a few heads should have rolled because of the monumental collapse in US intelligence and defense on that dark day.

Forget Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Forget the Hollywood Left and the antiwar movement. Perhaps the administration ought to take a closer look at New Jersey, and all of its own appointees who are being a little too critical, and who may have had some connection to that state. Methinks there's a conspiracy afoot.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 9:00 a.m. EST


I have been debating"pro-war" advocates on several lists over the newest developments in Iraq, but it seems that I've earned the disapproval of at least one antiwar advocate too, because of my"Death to Tyrants" approach to Saddam Hussein.

Let me say, in response, that I am second to none in my appreciation of the role of U.S. foreign policy in engendering the demons it now seeks to exorcise from the world stage. I address the issue of Saddam and U.S. complicity in this post, where I quote appropriately from scripture:"If we sow wickedness, we will reap the same."

My recent discussion of the lethal triangular relationship between the US government, the Saudi government, and ARAMCO is yet another instance of my emphasis on the role of US complicity in the eradication of life, liberty, and property. (And if you want to puke over the Saudi role in all this, take a look at this article.)

But I do not believe that US complicity qualifies as a"mitigating circumstance" in judging Saddam's guilt. It is not a defense in morality or international law for Saddam to say:"Hey, everybody knew I was doing this, and the US encouraged me, and nobody raised hell about it before. Why now?" Saddam deserves due process, and if found guilty, he deserves the ultimate penalty for his crimes.

Still. US complicity must also be put on trial. In the court of public opinion. It is my hope that such a court will begin to understand the horrific internal contradictions that US policy has generated, day-in, day-out, for decades now, with no end in sight. And perhaps its political pragmatism will be put to death too, to make way for the rebirth of a politics of principle.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:25 p.m. EST


Invoking the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in today's Wall Street Journal asserts that “[t]he Pledge of Allegiance, too, is part of our common heritage.”

Nonsense. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by socialist Francis Bellamy.

Like many American socialists of the era, Bellamy subscribed to John Dewey’s notion that government should exercise monopoly control over education in order to produce citizens with sound “progressive” ideals. It’s no coincidence that the pledge was written for an event (sponsored by the National Education Association!) called the National Public Schools Celebration. The goal was to instill mindless loyalty to the national government so that it could more readily socialize American society – a goal that America’s founding generation would have found deeply abhorrent.

Posted by Donald J. Boudreaux at 2:40 p.m. EST


Here is another reason to support the separation of school and state .

Principal Karen Davis of Horsham’s Dorothea Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland has ordered the removal of a nativity scene display but allowed other displays to remain in place including a Menorah and an item representing Kwanzaa . Her reasoning is strained. She claims that “Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday and the Menorah is as much of a cultural symbol as it is a religious symbol.”

Unfortunately, the existence of the public school monopoly, which forces parents and children with diverse perspectives into a “one best system,” guarantees that silly stories of this type will continue to plague us on an annual basis.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:45 a.m. EST


I am delighted to announce that Gene Healy of the Cato Institute has joined as a permanent member of Liberty and Power.

Gene has just finished a new Cato Policy Analysis paper, "Deployed in the U.S.A.: the Creeping Militarization of the Home Front."

In this piece, he argues against looking to the military to solve domestic problems, such as illegal immigration, the threat of terrorism, and drug prohibition.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:45 a.m. EST


Like previous guest bloggers I'd like to thank David Beito for inviting me – and also for creating this high-caliber blog. I don't believe that I've met any of you regular L&Pers in the real world (that I've heard so much about) but I have read and admired a number of your books and articles (enough said), so I feel privileged to be able to share my thoughts with you all. Please feel free to comment on and criticize what I write, as I think conversations and debates are often more useful and entertaining than serial monologues.

Moving right along, I'd like to explain why I've been asked to guest blog. The short answer is that I'm on loan from the (AWC) blog, which debuted this summer. A couple of years ago I started AWC's letters-to-the-editor section, called Backtalk, and I've run it since. I was also Assistant Managing Editor /Webmaster in '01 & '02. It was a challenging job before the 9/11 attacks, after the attacks it was what my mom calls an AFGO, or Another F-ing Growth Opportunity. I'd like to ramble on a little here and describe the events that brought me to AWC.

I graduated from high school in Massachusetts the '80s, skipped college, moved to San Francisco and played music (no, you never heard any of it) while working at a series of low-paying jobs (visualize High Fidelity, close enough). I read a fair amount but somehow managed to keep from learning anything at all about economics. I was somewhat interested in but repulsed by, and basically uninvolved in, politics (much of the repulsion remains). Then two things pushed me in a different direction, the Kosovo conflict and the Internet.

Unlike every other non-former-Yugoslavian I've ever met, the Kosovo conflict motivated me more than any other foreign war has. I'm not sure exactly why but it might have had something to do with the President's unconstitutional end-run around Congress's war-declaring powers, the US's (and NATO's) violation of the UN Charter (which also seems to have violated the Constitution's requirement that the government honor its treaties), near-conflict with nuclear-armed Russia, and the never-adequately-explained bombing of nuclear-armed China's embassy, among other abominations – and all of this in the pivotal post–Cold War era and directed against a country that (unlike Iraq) no one even pretended was a security threat to the United States. And to top it off, many of my liberal friends and coworkers that opposed Republican wars and, retrospectively, at least, the Vietnam War, thought the Kosovo intervention was a great idea. The Clinton administration had ordered US officials not to use the word "genocide" when hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed, in order to avoid pressure to intervene there, yet we were supposed to believe that a conflict that had killed 1% as many people had to be stopped for humanitarian reasons.

One thing that motivated me to get involved in the antiwar mini-movement was my anger at the US media's propagandizing. For example, I remember walking past a newsstand and seeing a front page photo of Kosovo Albanians being forced onto trains. The headline, if I remember correctly, was "Shades of the Holocaust." What the story actually reported when I read past the front page, however, was that the Albanians had been forcibly evicted from their homes in an area where frequent attacks against government officials had occurred. The train ride had lasted several hours and soft drinks had been provided. Forcible eviction is a terrible thing, and depending on the circumstances might be war crime but what had occurred was not what the references to boxcars and the Holocaust implied.

I started reading everything I could find about Kosovo – I once calculated that I'd read well over 1000 articles. From a Yahoo News link I found and Justin Raimondo's Wartime Diary, a daily proto-blog. (Actually, I recognized Justin's name from his articles in Chronicles magazine, which I'd discovered when I worked at a magazine kiosk, though I wasn't familiar with his work.) I think it was at AWC that I read a column, originally posted on, which challenged the reader to find a single Milosevic quote that was overtly racist or hate-inspiring. I looked and looked and never found one. This doesn't prove that Milosevic isn't a war criminal, of course; a leader can kill without saying nasty things in public. Still, if he was the new Hitler, as government and media alleged, he was a Hitler who ran a shrinking country, didn't annex neighbors, and refrained from hate-speech.

AWC intrigued me with its news from around the world and viewpoints from around the political spectrum. It was so obvious but for some reason unusual: people who disagree on less important issues should work together to work on the more important problem of illegitimate and dangerously irresponsible government aggression. (Dangerously irresponsible: it's now pretty clear that US support for jihad in the Balkans and elsewhere led to the compromising of US security domestically.)

A friend of a friend of mine, who was also a union representative where I worked, spoke at an antiwar teach-in within walking distance of my house. As it happened, Justin Raimondo mentioned in his column that he was attending meetings by the group that hosted this event and invited his readers to join him there, so I did.

As I later learned from Justin, who is, surprisingly, an expert on all things commie, the coalition had been founded by a number of Trotskyist groups or grouplets that didn't want to belong to International ANSWER (which is itself a Trotskyist group, I think). A dozen or so people were in a relatively mellow mostly Baby Boomer group that I'm pretty sure was called Socialist Action. Their members struck me as sincere and well meaning, and they seemed to want to include non-communists. There was also a somewhat larger group that also had Socialist in its name, their members were younger and the men in the group struck me as somewhat creepy, cultish and unpleasant.

The coalition was very democratic, every detail was voted on, but the Socialists tended to vote as a bloc, sometimes it was socialist group against socialist group, sometimes socialist groups against non-socialists. The coalition included a number of independents – that is, people who weren't in a group – but a larger number of independents attended one meeting and didn't return, possibly they were discouraged by the fact that the Socialists tended to drag in their whole agenda. Still, I was encouraged. Justin, the token right-winger, and independents like me were allowed to participate in and even lead various projects, and by the time the crisis ended the Socialists had agreed to invite one or more non-leftist opponents of the war to speak at the next event. I think that if the Kosovo conflict had continued, before long enough independents would have joined that non-extremists would have outvoted extremists, and the coalition would have become more effective. If nothing else, I got a new appreciation for the Judean People's Front skit in Life of Brian.

That's enough about Kosovo. I'll talk about the Internet next time.

Posted by Sam Koritz at 4:35 p.m. EST


The"just trial" for Saddam promised by the Bush administration is a fiasco before it begins. In an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer, scheduled for broadcast tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC, Bush reportedly declares that Saddam should face the"ultimate penalty": the death penalty. How do Bush's words sound to the Arab world? Without a trial, the head of the world's most powerful Western nation is calling for the execution of a prominent Arab leader. This same Western leader simultaneously assures the Arab world that Saddam will receive a fair trial...presumably, prior to executing him. Only a fool would believe that Bush's statements would not influence the Bush-dependent Iraqi Governing Council which will be ultimately (tho' indirectly) responsible for any trial conducted in Iraq. Is Bush trying to make a martyr out of the man? Even some Westerners are feeling sympathy for the Beast of Baghdad because the humiliating footage of his"medical" exam for lice, etc. Cardinal Renato Martino, a leading critic of the war in Iraq and president of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace, said he was moved to compassion as he saw"this man destroyed, being treated like a cow as they [the US military] checked his teeth." The media and military treatment of Saddam looks like vengeance, not justice...and this could turn Saddam into an object of pity for some, a rallying point for others. Bush may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

For one thing...why mention the death penalty? It was akin to throwing gas on a raging fire for the joy of making sparks. As the UK Independent notes,"the death penalty issue could cause friction between the United States and Europe. All 15 member nations of the European Union have abolished capital punishment, and they often encourage other countries — most notably the United States — to abolish it. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also has said the world body would not support bringing Saddam before a tribunal that might sentence him to death." Ever the faithful lapdog, Tony Blair courageously stated that, although Britain opposed the death penalty, it would have to accept an Iraqi decision to execute. My point: why even raise the issue of executing Saddam...and so prominently? It is as tho' Bush sat down and pondered,"How can I possibly make the situation worse?" The answer is obvious, of course. He doesn't care how his statements impact the world as long as they please the American electorate.

Don't expect to see a trial or public process of any sort surrounding Saddam in the near future. The US is already announcing a long delay before a trial date is set. After all, what Saddam could say in a public trial might prove tremendously embarrassing to the Bush administration. As the BBC reports,"Iraq had invaded Iran in 1980 but the Iranians had held the advance and were striking back with human wave attacks. Iraq was known, by 1983, to have used chemical weapons to stop these. A US State Department memorandum in 1983 stated: 'We have recently received additional information confirming Iraqi use of chemical weapons.' President Reagan determined nevertheless that Iraq should be supported and he sent Mr Rumsfeld to Baghdad with a personal letter from himself to Saddam Hussein. Mr Rumsfeld had been defence secretary under President Ford and was then head of a private pharmaceutical company. Minutes of their meeting in December 1983 were taken by an American diplomat and later released in edited form under the Freedom of Information Act. They were published by the National Security Archive, a private research group." I doubt if Bush wants photos, like this one of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, to circulate before the elections next fall.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 8:50 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog.


Vice President Cheney is in the news today. First, Paul Krugman, in Patriots and Profits, mentions Cheney in connection with Halliburton and crony capitalism. No surprises there. Even the liberal Krugman admits that"worries about profiteering aren't a left-right issue. Conservatives have long warned that regulatory agencies tend to be 'captured' by the industries they regulate; the same must be true of agencies that hand out contracts." I talked about this phenomenon in"Mixed Economy 101."

But the best Cheney reference today, by far, is this one, in Todd S. Purdum's NY Times article,"After 12 Years, Sweet Victory: The Bushes' Pursuit of Hussein." Purdum writes:

There were ample reasons for the first President Bush not to go after Mr. Hussein. The current vice president and then the secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, outlined some of them in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1992, when he said:"If we'd gone to Baghdad and got rid of Saddam Hussein — assuming we could have found him — we'd have had to put a lot of forces in and run him to ground someplace. He would not have been easy to capture. Then you've got to put a new government in his place, and then you're faced with the question of what kind of government are you going to establish in Iraq?"

"Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shia government or a Sunni government?" Mr. Cheney continued."How many forces are you going to have to leave there to keep it propped up, how many casualties are you going to take through the course of this operation?"

Purdum adds:"Most of those questions remain as relevant today as they were a decade ago..."


Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 1:30 p.m. EST


The humiliating footage, beamed to the world, of a bedraggled Saddam Hussein having his mouth examined by a U.S. military doctor is living proof that the embarrassing, once U.S.-supported Iraqi despot has finally been deposed. But if that fate is now to befall all dethroned, war-like leaders with autocratic tendencies, perhaps President Bush should get his own dental house in order just in case he loses the election in November 2004.

Of course, it would be unfair to compare the magnitude of Saddam's bellicosity and human rights violations with those of President Bush. After all, Saddam Hussein went to war with two countries-Iran and Kuwait-without provocation; so far, President Bush has needlessly invaded only one nation--Iraq--without first being attacked or genuinely threatened. In addition, Saddam killed thousands of his own people (some with chemicals sold to him with the approval of the U.S. and other Western governments); President Bush only had his law enforcement agencies intimidate and interrogate thousands of innocent Arabs and Moslems based solely on their ethnicity or religion and detain and mistreat thousands of similar immigrants indefinitely without charges or access to a lawyer.

Saddam used censored media to justify or hide such heinous human rights violations; President Bush merely relies on a White House spin machine and a cowed and compliant post-September 11American press corps to positively pitch his violations of America's founding principles--adequate due process and equal protection under the law.

In war, we become a little more like our enemies.

But like Saddam, President Bush may ultimately find that his political fate depends on digging himself out of a hole of his own making. Most experts on counterinsurgency expect that the capture of Saddam will not end anti-U.S. attacks in Iraq. After all, many of the people fighting U.S. forces and their Iraqi helpers are not doing so for the love of the former Iraqi leader. They are nationalists who oppose foreign occupation of their country, minority Sunnis who fear domination by majority Shiites and a loss of their privileged status in Iraqi society, and foreign Islamist fighters who have a hatred of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Any insurgency requires the support of at least some part of the population that is dissatisfied with the status quo. And little evidence exists that Saddam-on the run and without efficient means of communication-was directing the decentralized opposition cells conducting the ttacks.

More important, the Iraqi opposition knows that its attacks were already affecting U.S. policy in Iraq. After all, there is an election on, and the White House has to stop the U.S. body bags coming back from the continuing"unpleasantness." The attacks have already hastened U.S. plans, at least nominally, to turn the administration of Iraq over to the Iraqis. And, recently, the U.S. Army's desperate escalation of violence against the opposition-politically, it is difficult to increase significantly the numbers of U.S. or foreign troops in Iraq--will likely make more and more Iraqis hostile to the U.S. occupation. The Iraqi people may be delighted to see Saddam finally gone, but that doesn't mean that they are happy with their foreign occupier. So despite the capture of Saddam and jubilation in the streets, the outlook for the Iraqi resistance doesn't look all that bleak. In fact, the guerrilla cause ultimately may be strengthened by the U.S. release of humiliating footage of Saddam and the fact that the resistance will no longer be associated with his despotism.

Other Bush administration victory parades-the photo opportunity of the soldier placing the American flag over Saddam's statue after Baghdad was captured, the president's"mission accomplished" stunt on the aircraft carrier as he declared an end to hostilities and the grisly footage of Saddam's dead sons-proved to be premature. Very likely, so will the triumphalism over Saddam's capture. After the flag went up over the statue, Iraqi public opinion toward the U.S. occupation quickly soured because of widespread looting, chaos, gas lines and lack of electricity and other services. Continued problems of that sort could turn the current celebrations in the streets to renewed anger. If the resistance continues and U.S. soldiers continue to die, President Bush may want to make a dental appointment before the November 2004 election-just in case he, like Saddam, is deposed and has to force a smile before the cameras.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 12:34 p.m. EST

WENDY McELROY, MIT, 12-16-03

FYI for anyone wishing to pursue independent academic study. MIT is opening most of its course materials on the web to the public. A friend tells me,"I checked out one class and found references for the reading materials, a syllabus and calendar, assignments with solutions, quizzese and exams with solutions, links to related resources, and video lectures. There are over 500 MIT courses available." Here's the link.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 11:10 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog.


Michael Crichton (yes, the novelist guy who seems to have a monopoly on the reading habits of airplane passengers) speaks out forcefully against the dangers of extreme environmentalism.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:40 a.m. EST


Check out this new article by our fellow L and P blogger at Fox News .

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:28 a.m. EST


Brigid O’Neal, a research associate at the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute has just published an article on “Uncle Sam’s Guantanamo Prison: Outside the Rule of Law."

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:14 p.m. EST


As Chris Matthew Sciabarra points out in the post directly below personal survival held great importance for Saddam Hussein. I would go even further saying it was by far his number one, most likely his lone, priority. Not only did he have a plethora of tunnels he also had many doubles. He could not follow his natural instinct and flee Iraq because after what we did to the Taliban for giving Bin Laden sanctuary no other country would have taken him. We did not find him out leading an insurgency to recapture his country, we found him hiding in a hole in the ground.

If we accept the above point then the justification for the invasion is even further diminished. Whether or not Hussein had weapons of mass destruction has always been an irrelevant point. Even if he did still have them, to use them against America would have been an act of suicide by the least suicidal man on the planet. We could have easily traced any use of such weapons back to him because we provided him with such capabilities that he had back in the 1980s when he was one of our best friends fighting one of our worst enemies Iran.

Some of the neocon commentators suggest that we are in a new world war with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. If this true, what are we doing wasting enormous resources and precious lives in a country that was never a threat to us in the first place? I have no doubt that the fall and capture of Saddam Hussein is a good thing for the Iraqi people. However, the job of our government is not to make the Iraqi people happy, the job of our government is to make the American people safer and when George Bush invaded Iraq he was not doing his job.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 12:45 p.m. EST


I have some follow-up discussion on the capture of Hussein here. In that post to the SOLO Forum, I actually reiterate a point I made way back in February 2003 to the Philosophy of Objectivism list, which Arthur Silber republished on his blog here. There is no mystery as to why Hussein didn't go down in a blaze of glory. Telling his captors,"Don't shoot" is rather typical of a man who sees his own survival as the only barometer by which to measure victory in any battle. As I wrote:

This brings to mind a really wonderful skit from earlier this season on"Saturday Night Live." A group of Islamic terrorists are sent out to die so they can all get the rewards that come from sacrificial martyrdom: X number of virgins in paradise, etc. When somebody asks the Osama Bin Laden character why he isn't fighting, why he hasn't died for the cause, he fumbles over his words, screams out something about Allah, and proceeds to send out another group of martyrs to die—in his place.

We all know why this is the case. [Ayn Rand's villain from The Fountainhead] Ellsworth Toohey provides the answer:"Don't bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it accomplishes. . . . It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. . . . The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master." Hussein, Bin Laden, and other leaders of Islamic terrorism are fully capable of sacrificing their own people; they most assuredly do not wish to die themselves. I think it is reasonable to assume that pointing a nuke at Baghdad can still have the required effect of keeping Hussein in check, since he apparently wants to live. Why would he have so many tunnels and escape routes under his various castles if living were not a priority?

And so it was that he was captured in one of those filthy holes in the ground. How apropos. Now, the Butcher of Baghdad will put on a show to keep himself alive in the Mother of All Jury Trials. We're already hearing all the psychobabble about how the poor guy suffered abuse as a child, as if this should be a mitigating factor in our judgment of his crimes.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:00 a.m. EST


The status of the captured Saddam Hussein is already confusing. Although the US maintains that no determination of his legal status has been made, according to Voice of America (and many other sources)"Rumsfeld said the captured former Iraqi leader will be protected under the Geneva Convention, the international agreement that prohibits mistreatment of prisoners of war." In this, Rumsfeld is acting in accord with Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention (3GC) which states,"Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4 [which defines Prisoners of War], such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal." In short, until a competent tribunal declares that Saddam is not a POW, then he is.

But the Geneva protections have already been violated, as Rumsfeld well knows from his experience with the Guantanamo prisoners. 3GC (Article 3) states that POWs must be spared"outrages upon personal dignity,""humiliating and degrading treatment," as well as"insults and public curiosity." Rumsfeld has openly acknowledged that the GCs forbid showings PoWs -- an acknowledgement occasioned by the criticism surrounding widely-publicized photographs of prisoners at Guantanamo. At that time, the defense offered was that the photos were blurred and did not show the prisoners' faces. No such defense can be offered for the degrading photographs of Saddam that are saturating the globe: Saddam's hair being searched for lice; his mouth being probed by a tongue-depressor... Months ago, when the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera in Qatar showed Iraqi footage of interviews with American prisoners, Rumsfeld declared,"The Geneva Convention indicates that it's not permitted to photograph and embarrass or humiliate prisoners of war.'' In respect for the GCs, most American news sources restricted the airing of that footage.

His interrogation raises further questions about possible violation of the GCs, which guarantee a right to silence...other than stating minimal info such as rank, that is. Now Time and other sources are reporting that Saddam is unco-operative and defiant. Is he also being accorded the right to silence?

The question is not whether Saddam deserves to be humiliated, treated humanely, etc. As I stated yesterday, Sic Sempris Tyrannis -- Thus perish all tyrants! The question is whether the GCs are being applied as Rumsfeld insists. Clearly, they are not. And for an obvious reason. An unphotographed, silent Saddam makes for bad PR and the Bush administration wants to maximally-bask in the happy glow of an event that goes to its pre-election credit.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 4:50 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog.


It's about time this war saw a good day, and it's always a good day when you see a once-mighty tyrant looking like a bedraggled drunk rousted from the bus station. I hope we turn him over to the Iraqis and I hope they hang him high.

I also hope this improves our chances for a rapid and dignified exit. And maybe now we can work on capturing that other guy, you know, the one that attacked us. As former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince Cannistraro told ABCNEWS in September, the hunt for Saddam was impeding the hunt for Bin Laden:

"'If you've drawn off many if not all of your Arabic language resources and sent them off to Iraq you're shorthanded in terms of dealing with intelligence collection problem of fixing bin Laden's location,' said Cannistraro. 'So there are fewer resources to deal with in trying to basically find and capture, the principal leader of a terrorist organization that's killing Americans.'"

Posted by Gene Healy at 4:40 p.m. EST


Sic Sempris Tyrannis -- Thus perish all tyrants! My first response at the news of Saddam's capture was to check out coverage in the English-version Aljazeera, which ran basically the same straight-forward account that is circulating through dozens (probably hundreds) of other newspapers. Far more interesting is an article entitled "Early Analysis". Of course, the Iraqi Governing Council has stated,"With the arrest of Saddam the financial resources feeding terrorists have been destroyed and his arrest will put an end to terrorist acts in Iraq." I put more stock in the analysis of Toby Dodge, analyst at Warwick University and International Institute for Strategic Studies, UK:"It's a huge coup and most Iraqis will be celebrating the capture of this tyrant. But it's not as clear-cut as that. The insurgency has grown well beyond Saddam's control or even influence. There are 15 to 30 groups that have no direct contact, financially or strategically, with Saddam Hussein. His capture gives the United States a window of opportunity. If they redouble their efforts and increase their troop commitment, they could contain or even roll back the insurgency. But the temptation of Bush, facing a re-election campaign, will be to call this victory and cut and run. That would be a disaster for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the strategic interests of the United States in the region and beyond."

The Jerusalem Post reports"Iraqi governing council members described Saddam Hussein as 'unrepentant, defiant and sarcastic' about the Iraqi people at a news conference transmitted live on nearly all broadcast channels worldwide....Earlier, Chalabi told the Pentagon-funded Al-Iraqiya TV station, 'Saddam will stand a public trial so that the Iraqi people will know his crimes.' Chalabi is a leading member of the U.S.-appointed council who has close links to the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush." It seems clear that Saddam will be tried in Iraq by the US-dominated Governing Council (or, rather, its judicial creation -- the special tribunal established last week to try top members of the Saddam government for crimes against humanity.) But a question hangs as to whether there will be a"World trial" as well. The latter would be a risky venture for the US because that trial could not be easily controlled, especially if France, Germany or Russia were prominent players. article in JP may explain why there is a comparatively muted reaction from the Arab press at this point:"Many in the Arab world greeted news of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's capture with disbelief. Then, when it became official, emotions ranged from joy, to hunger for revenge against the tyrant, to sadness that an Arab leader - even Saddam - should come to such a tawdry end." It may take awhile for reactions to sink in and settle...tho' with the situation so fluid, reactions may have erupted before I post this entry. Certainly, the Palestinians know where they stand: Saddam's arrest is bad news for them.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 12:00 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog.


And so, the US armed forces find this brutal mass murderer cowering in a mud-hole. I understand Sheldon's mixed feelings, especially given the US government's former support of Saddam Hussein. It is therefore my hope that the Iraqis give him the due process he denied others and that his crimes against humanity be fully exposed. There isn't an industrial plastic shredder big enough to make him pay for the enormity of those crimes.

Will this end the unrest in Iraq? I doubt it, because the unrest is deeper than any one man, even the Ace of Spades. We can only hope, however, that it will bring some stability to this region, and that it will hasten the withdrawal of US troops.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 9:30 a.m. EST


So U.S. forces have finally captured Saddam Hussein. Talk about mixed feelings! The murderous bastard deserves to die a long slow death at the hands of the Iraqis he so brutally oppressed. But the thought of U.S. troops hunting down another country’s dictator makes me sick.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 8:00 a.m. CST


You’ve got to sympathize with the campaign-finance reformers. They don’t have it easy. You try removing the appearance of corruption from an intrinsically corrupt enterprise.

P.S.: With respect to Keith Halderman's post: any congressman who admits that he voted for the bill believing it to be unconstitutional while assuming the Supreme Court would kill it has committed an impeachable offense. There may be a separation of powers (in theory), but members of Congress take an oath to uphold the Constitution too. On that matter, there is no division of labor.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 6:45 a.m. CST


Whenever ex-Congressman Bob Barr’s name is mentioned at a drug reform movement event people will invariably start to hiss. He earned his well-deserved infamy in these circles with one of the most blatant attacks on the democratic process in my lifetime. He attached an amendment to the federal bill funding the District of Columbia prohibiting that local government from spending the miniscule amount of money necessary to count the votes already cast in a medical marijuana referendum. Estimates that a 70% favorable vote would be the result, later turned out to be largely true. What was especially egregious about Barr’s legislation was that it only blocked counting the vote concerning proposals to lessen marijuana penalties not those that would increase them.

When Barr experienced a surprisingly sound defeat in a primary election that featured ads sponsored by the Libertarian Party, which highlighted his stance on the medical marijuana issue, I will admit to being pleased.

However, there are most definitely two sides to Bob Barr. While still in Congress he along with Henry Hyde sponsored some worthwhile reform of asset forfeiture laws. When he left the House he worked with the ACLU to combat some of the more pernicious effects of the Patriot Act.

And, in Saturday’s Washington Times the good Bob Barr out did himself. He wrote an absolutely excellent column on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to eviscerate the First Amendment in the name of campaign finance reform. It is well worth reading. In it he relates how many Republican Congressmen voted for a law they knew to be unconstitutional because of their strong belief that the Supreme Court would never let it stand. Surprise! This terrific essay almost makes me wish Mr. Barr were back in the House of Representatives, but not quite.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 12:30 a.m. EST


The American Historical Association is generally zealous in its enforcement of political correctness. For example, because it has ruled out a long list of cities which fail its exacting pc standards for annual conventions, it has cost members hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably millions.

Despite this, Ralph Luker of Cliopatria reports that the powers-that-be in the AHA apparently did not think twice about the prospect of “giving Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia its inaugural Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Award for Civil Service...Byrd is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who was still using the word ‘nigger’ on national television without a wince as recently as two years ago.” Somehow I don't think that the membership of the AHA would show a similar tolerance if the name of the recipient was Trent Lott rather than Robert C. Byrd.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:45 a.m. EST


I've enjoyed the dialogue between David Beito (here and here) and Lutheran pastor Allen Brill on Martin Luther: Randian Hero? Of course, Rand and Luther had greatly divergent beliefs. But I've got an odd tidbit to share with my colleagues.

In an earlier manuscript version of the classic novel, The Fountainhead, Rand had written a longer speech for architect Howard Roark, who is busy defending himself in a jury trial toward the end of the book. Roark opens that speech on the"soul of an individualist" with the famous line:"Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light."

Interestingly, Rand scholar Shoshana Milgram tells us that"Rand originally had Roark provide a list of creators and an inventory of their suffering." Here's what Rand wrote, even though she later decided to delete this list from the final version of the novel:

Socrates, poisoned by order of the democracy of Athens. Jesus Christ against the majority of [indecipherable] crucified. Joan D'Arc, who was burned at the stake. Galileo, made to renounce his soul. Spinoza, excommunicated. Luther, hounded. Victor Hugo, exiled for twenty years. Richard Wagner, writing musical comedies for a living, denounced by the musicians of his time, hissed, opposed, pronounced unmusical. Tchaikovsky, struggling through years of loneliness without recognition. Nietzsche, dying in an insane asylum, friendless and unheard. Ibsen [indecipherable] his own country. Dostoevsky, facing an execution squad and pardoned to a Siberian prison. The list is endless.

Now, it is true that Rand and others writing in the Randian tradition are not too thrilled with Luther and others on the above list (though Rand did have a much more complex view of religion in general and Christianity in particular than some of her writings indicate; see my post, God Speaks). But to have listed Luther among those whom Roark acknowledges as among the sacrificed martyrs and tortured individualists, suggests that Rand herself might have appreciated the integrity of Luther, despite her rejection of his beliefs. Let's not forget that Rand does reserve a special respect for people of integrity, even if she rejects their explicit principles. Her novel We the Living boasts a character named Andrei Taganov, an idealistic Communist, who is among the strongest men of integrity in all her fiction.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 8:00 p.m. EST


Gene Healy's post on neoconservatism and the doctrine of unintended consequences was deliciously ironic. But what do we do when administration officials seem to embrace intended ignorance as a raison d'etre?

In a new Reader's Digest interview, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice reportedly states the following... ostensibly about her personal life, but, in my view, the perfect embodiment of the administration's Iraq policy:

There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. I have never run my life that way. I believe that serendipity or fate or divine intervention has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I've been open to those twists and turns because I don't have a long-term plan.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 7:50 p.m. EST


The NY Times tells us that James Baker's call to service in Iraq is all well and good, but that he"is far too tangled in a matrix of lucrative private business relationships that leave him looking like a potentially interested party in any debt-restructuring formula. The obvious solution is for him to sever his ties to all firms doing work directly or indirectly related to Iraq." The editorial continues:

Mr. Baker is senior counselor to the Carlyle Group, a global investment company that has done business with the Saudi royal family. He is also a partner in Baker Botts, a Houston law firm whose client list includes Halliburton. Baker Botts has an office in Riyadh and a strategic alliance with another firm in the United Arab Emirates, and it deploys Mr. Baker's name and past government service on its Web site to solicit Middle East business. It is inappropriate for Mr. Baker to remain attached to these businesses, whose clients and potential future clients could be affected by the decisions made about Iraq's official debt.

Duh. The"iron triangle" has been a perennial staple of the"mixed economy," a central characteristic of what Rand called the"new fascism." It involves a reciprocally reinforcing relationship between interest groups, bureaucrats, and politicians, wherein the personnel are very often the same: former interest group members become the bureaucrats who administer the political relationships that impinge upon the very interest groups being regulated. The alphabet soup of regulatory agencies functions by virtue of this iron triangle, blurring the line between the regulators and the regulated.

If the NY Times would like James Baker to sever his economic ties for the purposes of being a more objective participant in this folly, then it should be advocating the end of the system that makes the James Bakers possible, a system that institutionalizes such ties. But then Halliburton, Bechtel, and the rest of crony capitalism would have to give way to a free market. We can't have that, now, can we?

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 7:40 p.m. EST


Today’s Washington Times tells of a Human Rights Watch report, titled"Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq," which looked at the use of cluster bombs by American forces. The paper reports that “In 50 acknowledged decapitation strikes, not one targeted Iraqi leader was killed. But in four strikes detailed by in the report, at least 100 Iraqi civilians were killed.” So much for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, it is past time to leave.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 4:30 p.m. EST


I have already mentioned that pro-war bloggers often stress the involvement of extreme Marxist groups, like International ANSWER, in the anti-war movement. As far as it goes, it is entirely just and proper for them to point this out. International ANSWER is indeed a slimy group.

However, according to Justin Raimondo's column today , the pro-war effort to root out and expose commies is conveniently selective. Many of the same bloggers who effusively praised the demonstrations earlier this week in Iraq, for example, were completely silent about the significant role played by the Communist Party in bringing them about. The Communists were highly visible at the rallies. Scores of them proudly marched with flags depicting the hammer and sickle. In the past, conservative websites have often highlighted photos of similar demonstrators carrying pro-commie signs and banners at antiwar rallies, but strangely not in this case. Apparently, for some on the pro-war side, red-baiting is only a one way street.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:50 p.m. EST


I'm informed by James Markels that in the foreward to The Essential Neo-Conservative Reader, James Q. Wilson defines the neoconservative persuasion as follows:

"Neoconservatism is an ... attitude that holds social reality to be complex and change difficult. If there is any article of faith common to almost every adherent, it is the Law of Unintended Consequences. Things never work out quite as you hope; in particular, government programs often do not achieve their objectives or do achieve them but with high or unexpected costs. ... [A] neoconservative questions change because, though present circumstances are bad and something ought to be done, it is necessary to do that something cautiously, experimentally, and with a minimum of bureaucratic authority."

Given our current plight in Iraq, the irony is painful. That appreciation of social complexity and human fallibility certainly seemed to desert the neoconservatives in the run-up to war. But now that we're stuck trying to engineer the Iraqi Great Leap Forward from a backward tribal despotism to a modern liberal democracy, we're learning a lot about"high [and] unexpected costs."

Posted by Gene Healy at 8:18 p.m. EST


Allen Brill at The Right Christians “nearly gagged” when he saw my comparison of Luther (at least as depicted in the movie) to a Randian hero. He proceeds to give many examples of how Luther and Rand differed on range of issues including the role of greed, etc.

My comparison was a limited one and not intended to be revisionist history. I was arguing that Luther, like a Randian hero, was a rare example of an individual who showed integrity by risking all to stand up for an unpopular cause. I would not pretend to argue that Luther was a"Randian" in other respects. He certainly was not. As the proud grandson of Rev. Gudbrand Gudbrandson Beito of Rolling Forks Lutheran Church in Rolling Forks, Minnesota, I am fully aware of the differences.

As I grow older and observe the chocolate-eclair like pliancy and complacency of so many of my colleagues in higher education, I have come to appreciate more than ever just how rare it is for people of good will to swim against the tide of conformity. The question of whether I agree with them in all other respects seems less important, at least in that context.

Arthur and Chris: comments?

Posted by David T. Beito at 7:58 p.m. EST


The reporting about the just-upheld campaign-finance law has been confusing, probably because the law itself is so confusing. At any rate, yesterday I stated, apparently erroneously, that issue ads which implicitly target candidates were banned in the 60 days before an election and 30 days before a primary. It seems that the law only heavily restricts such advertising by imposing rules on how the money for it can be raised and spent. But the ads are not banned. See? The state isn’t so bad after all.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 5 p.m. CST

JUS IN BELLO, 12-11-03

[Cross-posted at In a Blog's Stead]

I have a problem with both sides in the debate over Lt. Col. Allen West.

West's defenders say his actions were justified because they resulted in information that helped to avert an attack on his unit. Let's think what that means. If such a defense is correct, then why should it apply solely in this particular case? Wouldn't it follow that torturing prisoners of war is justified whenever it might result in information that could prevent an enemy attack? (And if you think beating a bound prisoner and discharging a gun near his head isn’t torture, ask yourself whether you'd feel the same way if Iraqis had done it to an American soldier instead of vice versa.)

Are we really prepared to toss out the window this most basic protection for POWs, this hard-won victory of the party of civilisation over the party of barbarism? If so, to what principle can we appeal when our own soldiers receive abuse from enemy captors?

Those who defend such conduct are fond of saying"This is war!" – as though this were some sort of unanswerable, blanket license for suspending the requirements of morality. But if folks in the inter arma silent leges crowd really do regard morality as a mere human contrivance, to be discarded whenever it grows inconvenient, the self-righteous moralising tone of their pronouncements seems a bit incongruous.

But I have a problem with many of West's critics as well. What West did was wrong, but there's little justice in letting punishment fall on him while giving a pass to the authorities who put him in such an untenable position in the first place. (And the Army's weaselly treatment of West, threatening to prosecute him not for what he did but for refusing to resign meekly and quietly, has been inexcusable.) When arrogant princes like Bush and Cheney, who have presided over countless bombings of innocent civilians, hang someone like West out to dry for a far lesser crime, it's hard to feel anything but disgust.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 04:15 p.m. EST


The decline of liberal democracy in this county was accompanied by the rise of bureaucracy at the beginning of the 20th century. Initially, this was seen by the early"progressives" as a way to insure fairness in the application of rules. Experts, not politicians, would make the decisions, removing decision-making from the play of politics.

It didn't work. Instead, politicians used the newly created regulatory bureaucracy to escape scrutiny or criticism. After all, they said, it's a matter of"following the rules." And they found it fabulously successful: Americans are easily whipped into submission by any petty bureaucrat waving"the rules" in from of them.

A case in point is the University of Alabama, which recently banned from on-campus distribution the publications of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Alabama Scholars Association (ASA), and the Federalist Society. Why? The real reason is that administrators do not like the ASA. The AAUP and the Federalist Society are simply collateral damage.

How do you ban things these days? You cite"postal regulations." That's right: the post office and its rules are being used to defeat the first amendment. We are told that the University would be violating"postal regulations" if it allowed distribution of our materials. Faculty who would object to any outright attack on their constitutional rights shut up and tuck their tails between their legs when"regulations" are mentioned. After all, they say, it's"the rules."

That's how you defeat deliberate democracy and constitutional rights in America today.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 2:00 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: “LUTHER,” 12-11-03

I just saw the film “Luther.” My background, if nothing else, compelled me. I was raised by devout Minnesotan Lutherans who tried to live up to the best standards of that faith. Also, my grandfather and great grandfather (both Norwegian born) served as Lutheran pastors in Texas and Minnesota. Some people in my family hoped that I would follow in their footsteps.

The film was really quite good. Of course, there is plenty of room for complaint: Luther’s dark side is almost completely avoided and a subplot involving a handicapped child misfires (though my wife liked it).

Still, I chose to overlook any flaws for the larger message which is not so much about faith as it is about the importance of individual conscience, a rare quality in higher education today. The character Luther, in many ways, comes across as a Randian hero (Chris and Arthur please note) who shows integrity in standing up for his beliefs against incredible odds.

The performances are top-flight including Joseph Fiennes in the title role and Peter Ustinov (one of my childhood favorites). Despite Ustinov's considerably advanced age, he nearly steals the show as the relic-collecting German prince who is won over by Luther’s critique of the Catholic Church.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:00 a.m. EST


I wrote recently on SCSU Scholars about a graph I saw in a recent copy of Investors Business Daily. It was of spending per capita on higher education in the OECD countries. Unlike primary and secondary education, where we’re quite ordinary, the U.S. spends 2.7% of its GDP on higher education, a full percent more than the OECD average. IBD notes approvingly:

Americans are disappointed with their elementary and secondary schools, which use a lot of money but underperform other nations' school systems. Our university system is another matter. Americans spend more than any other nation on university and college education. It's a key part of our productivity edge.
One of the things I did note in reading the data was that the difference was almost entirely due to private spending on higher education; we’re approximately average (on a share of GDP basis) within the OECD. And as an export service higher education does very well, as the thousands of international students on even middling Midwest state university campuses will attest. So I wondered aloud whether its the private/public sector mix that is giving US higher education a comparative advantage.

Perhaps, says Jon Sanders at the Goldwater Institute. I would avoid the regression analysis he shows -- it looks for an immediate effect of higher education spending on state economic activity, whereas the usual arguments are about long-run effects of increased human capital -- but consider instead his last two tables. Which states had the most growth over the last twenty years? Mostly in the northeast -- Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware. How many top-tier institutions in those states are public universities? Zero. Of the twelve states that increased public spending on higher education by at least $10 per person on an inflation-adjusted basis, the one with the highest level of state economic activity per person is Michigan, 12th in the nation. So maybe that is it?

Think again, says John Bruce. He connects the high degree of private financing to the increasing degree of plagiarism and credentialism on American campuses.

I've seen the observation that in countries where public corruption is common, the corruption itself is seen as an important check and balance against unreasonable government action. The government may pass a burdensome law, and the political system may not provide for mitigation through the normal process, but that's OK, because you can always pay a bribe and get around that law anyhow. It's not an equitable solution, but it works for some, and thus, no revolution. At least for a while.

I think the satisfaction that US higher-education consumers show, by voting with their pocketbooks, is similar. The parents are buying (I am using a synecdoche here) a decal for the back window of their car, which continues to carry a cachet of meritocratic achievement -- although cracks are starting to show in that system.

Readers of L&P are no doubt well aware of the cracks, the breakdown in academic honesty and the rise of coursework that rewards students with high grades and promises of a rich future in the professoriate themselves (though perhaps as adjuncts) simply for parroting their leftist teachers. The question that bothers me, and one I have no satisfactory answer for, is whether that problem is a function of the public or the private part of the financing mix.

Posted by King Banaian at 11:33 p.m. EST


David Broder had an interesting column in Sunday's Washington Post (did I really just type that?). In it, he explores who should get the blame for the post-9/11 growth of the Imperial Presidency. Through much of the 20th century, from Truman's"police action" in Korea, through Bill Clinton's"bimbo bombings," executive aggrandizement was the main cause. Presidential power in foreign policy grew as a result of unilateral action by the president, sometimes--as in the case of the 1999 Kosovo war--in defiance of Congress's refusal to authorize military action.

Broder cites constitutional scholar Louis Fisher, who says that over the last 2+ years, much of the blame for our current foreign policy dilemma can be placed on the legislative branch. He's right. Since 9/11, Congress has shirked its constitutional power over war and peace in a disgraceful orgy of buck-passing and ass-covering. When it comes to the war power, Congress has said to the president, in essence,"hey, it's your call!"

The use-of-force resolution Congress passed immediately after September 11, 2001, is a blanket delegation of authority to the president, authorizing him to make war on ''those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons'' [emphasis added]. By its plain terms, the resolution leaves it to the president to decide when the evidence that a target nation has cooperated with al-Qaeda justifies war. It's an invitation to abuse, and it's amazing that it hasn't been abused thus far, to justify war with other nations on the neocon hit list.

Similarly, after voting for the Iraq war resolution, which gave the president all the authority he needed to attack, prominent members of Congress insisted that they hadn't really voted to use force. To this day, John Kerry justifies his vote for the Iraq war by saying he wanted to empower the president to end the impasse peacefully--even though the resolution authorized military action and would be used by the president as the equivalent of a declaration of war. Luckily, Kerry seems to be paying a political price for his gutlessness.

There's been executive aggrandizement aplenty in the last two years--this is, after all, a president who claims the right to summarily declare American citizens"enemy combatants" and lock them up forever. But as Fisher notes, much of our current predicament can be blamed on congressional cowardice and dereliction of duty.

Posted by Gene Healy at 9:26 p.m. EST


Iran’s Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the Nobel prize, shows again that there are many in the Middle East who do not fit into the simplistic"if you’re not with us, you’re against us” view of the world propagated by the neo-conservative Wilsonians in the Bush administration. She continues to stand up, often at considerable risk, for democracy in Iran but, at the same time, just as consistently condemns the U.S. war in Iraq.

The Bush administration, which continues to fall into the fallacy of dividing people in the Middle East into neat and tidy anti-U.S. terrorists/pro-U.S. freedom fighters categories, should take note.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:16 p.m. EST


The Supreme Court has upheld the fascistic campaign-finance law, which limits how much money people can give to political parties (who’d want to do that?) and, even more egregiously, bans political “issue ads” by private groups in the last 60 days of campaigns. The 5-4 majority said the appearance of government corruption justifies these restrictions. In other words, the distributive state requires the suppression of free speech and private property (money). Or in still other words, if the powers that be can make people think the system isn’t corrupt, it can carry on indefinitely.

Oh, one last thing: this is one of the bills that President George W. Bush didn’t veto. (He hasn’t vetoed any, actually.)

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 2 p.m. CST


Thomas Friedman, who supports the war in Iraq, notes in his Sunday New York Times article,"Presidents Remade by War," that the events of war often transform presidents. Such men as Lincoln and Wilson moved toward broader,"bigger purpose" in the wars in which they were engaged. What started out for Lincoln as a war to preserve the Union became a war to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence. What started out as a purely European mess for Wilson became a war to make the world safe for democracy. And what started out as a war to strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction has now become a war of democratic nation-building, in the hands of George W. Bush.

It should not be forgotten, however, that both the Civil War and World War I entailed massive increases in the scope and power of government—increases that simply became institutionalized in the postwar period, as a means to achieving such"bigger purpose." As Jeffrey Rogers Hummel argues, the history of the American Civil War was one of Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. It entailed a face-off between Republican neomercantilism and confederate war socialism, and while slavery ended, the war had perennial deleterious effects on American political institutions and culture. And, as Thomas Fleming argues, US involvement in World War I only provided The Illusion of Victory. It resulted in a massive increase in US government power at home and abroad, and laid the basis for the nightmarish events that would engulf the globe in a Second World War and beyond.

It matters not if such wars are pursued for petty reasons or for"bigger purpose." Cliche though it is, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And it is often the case that the"nobler" the intention, the more hellish the long-term consequences.

Ironically, Friedman embraces the nobler goal of democratic nation-building. He says he's"partial to Mr. Bush's new emphasis on the freedom and democracy argument ... the only compelling rationale for the Iraqi war." But this really is not a new emphasis. The promise of bringing"democracy" to Iraq and to the Middle East in general has been a part of the neoconservative rationale for this war from the beginning. Mr. Bush may have emphasized the WMD issue as a rhetorical device, he may have eschewed the notion of democratic"nation-building" as a presidential candidate, but as President, he has bought into this Wilsonian neocon project in a very big way.

Friedman ponders"how deeply Mr. Bush has internalized this democracy agenda, which is going to be a long, costly enterprise," but he finds hope in Bush's"heartfelt, almost ... religious conviction" in the stated goals."Only the future will tell us whether his attachment to this issue is the product of epiphany or expediency—or both."

From my perspective, such"religious conviction" might well contribute to another"bigger purpose," with"religious" implications. It's called Armageddon, and the only thing"democratic" about it is that the majority of us will perish.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 8:30 a.m. EST


Thanks to Professor Beito for the invitation to guest-blog at L&P. I'm honored to share a space with so many libertarians I admire, not least for their recognition of the centrality of the war issue and their refusal to drop libertarianism at the water's edge.

I suppose I should say a word or two about myself. I work quite happily as senior editor at the Cato Institute, though in anything I write here or on my own website, I'm speaking for myself, not my employer. I also live inside the Beltway, though my neighborhood looks more like El Salvador than K Street. I prefer it that way.

I know, I'm supposed to say how awful it is to live and work in Washington D.C. But I like it. If you've got a sense of humor and a taste for the grotesque--which you'd better if you make your living following politics--living in D.C. gives you ringside seats. Besides, liberty isn't totally dead in the nation's capital. We still allow smoking in bars.

Posted by Gene Healy at 6:06 p.m. EST


David Horowitz is complaining again about the role of wacko and extreme groups like International ANSWER in the antiwar movement. International ANSWER is indeed a scary, pro-Communist sect which deserves to be slammed by all people of good will. In fact, many antiwar activists, writing in journals such as Salon, have done precisely that. I find it a bit disingenuous, however, that Horowitz is so ready to criticize extremists in the antiwar movement but is relatively silent about the loonies on the pro-war side.

A case in point is Hal Lindsay, the author of the Late, Great Planet Earth, and a zealous supporter of the war. Lindsay believes that the entire Jewish population will be wiped out in the end times, except for 144,000 Jewish “Billy Grahams.” His views on American foreign policy, including support for the war, are in great part motivated by these beliefs.

When Horowitz leads by example and starts exposing and criticizing the Hal Lindsay faction in the pro-war movement, he might be able to make a more credible case.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:06 p.m. EST


Frontpage Magazine has an interview with David Bernstein, the author of You Can’t Say That! (Cato Institute, 2003). The book shows how anti-discrimination laws have undermined free speech. David recently gave a fine speech on this subject at the University of Alabama at an event co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the Alabama Scholars Association.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:46 a.m. EST


That's the profoundly provocative message of L&P colleague Arthur Silber in his essay"Please Do Not Call Me an 'Objectivist'," at the Light of Reason blog. And it's a message with which I find myself largely in agreement.

I say"largely" because I know, deep down, that, in terms of the fundamentals of Ayn Rand's framework, both Arthur and I are certainly in sync with"Objectivism," the name that Rand chose for her philosophy. It is an integrated system of thought—of realism, egoism, individualism, and capitalism—and it irks me that those of us who embrace it may end up forfeiting the"Objectivist" label to those who undermine its essential radicalism. Given the fact that I've been calling myself a"dialectical libertarian" now for about ten years, I suppose I forfeited that label some time ago.

But it is hard to disguise one's disenchantment with what has become of"Objectivism" in an era of increasing US government intervention at home and abroad. Too many of its most visible spokespeople have become apologists for neoconservatism, at war with Rand's radical legacy, which I discuss here, here, and here.

I, myself, have suggested that there might be a developing distinction between"Objectivism" and"Randianism." As I argue here, it is conceivable that future generations will distinguish between"Objectivist" and"Randian" schools of thought, where the"Objectivist" label would designate strict adherence to every detail of Rand's philosophic framework, and"Randian" might designate"of, relating to, or resembling" Rand's philosophic framework. In this instance, one can say that"Randian" is the broader designation, within which"Objectivist" is one possibility.

Rand herself was a bit uncomfortable with those who would have called themselves"Randians" or"Randists"; she wrote that she was"much too conceited to allow such a use of [her] name." On this point, she expressed"sympathy for Karl Marx who, on being told about some outrageous statements made by some Marxists, answered: 'But I am not a Marxist.'" So, she cautioned:"If you agree with some tenets of Objectivism, but disagree with others, do not call yourself an Objectivist; give proper authorship credit for the parts you agree with—and then indulge in any flights of fancy you wish, on your own."

With that advice in mind, I once entertained writing an article entitled"Why I No Longer Consider Myself an Objectivist." I long suspected that if I'd authored such a piece, my critics would have simply retorted:"Whoever said that you ever were an Objectivist?" Indeed, given my self-conscious absorption of lessons from Aristotle, Carl Menger, Herbert Spencer, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, F. A. Hayek, Karl Marx, and Bertell Ollman, among others, I've long been accused of engaging in eclectic"flights of fancy" by the official, orthodox"guardians" of"Objectivism." But since these guardians themselves have become veritable performance artists in their selective re-creation of Rand's philosophy, bracketing out anything of any lasting radical political value that Rand ever uttered, I'd say"Objectivism" is dead. Long dead. We are all Randians now... even if I'm still convinced, on some level, that some of us are better"Objectivists" than others.

Paraphrasing Ayn Rand's conclusion from her essay,"For the New Intellectual," we might say:"There is an ancient slogan that applies to our present position: 'The king is dead—long live the king!' We can say, with the same dedication to the future: 'The Objectivists are dead—long live the Objectivists!'—and then proceed to fulfill the responsibility which that honorable title had once implied."

Reading Arthur's post reminds me of the heavy burden of such a responsibility, especially in an era when human authenticity, dignity, and freedom are at stake, demanding the integrated, radical response that Ayn Rand pioneered.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:00 p.m. EST

PRIZE OF WAR, 12-08-03

[Cross-posted at In a Blog's Stead]

A lot of people were outraged when Yasser Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 – a choice which people are still protesting.

I'm no fan of Arafat, but look at the list of folks he shares that dubious honour with. There are certainly some good people on that list (including, I believe, the only libertarian: French economist Frédéric Passy, recipient of the very first prize in 1901, and perhaps the only person ever to accuse Gustave de Molinari of not being sufficiently libertarian!), but it also includes such pestilent warmongers as:

Theodore Roosevelt – 1906
Woodrow Wilson – 1919
Henry Kissinger – 1973
Mikhail Gorbachev – 1990
As far as I'm concerned, the Nobel Peace Prize became meaningless as of 1906. Arafat is welcome to it.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 03:45 p.m. EST


I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, often referred to as the People’s Republic of Montgomery County. It contains the suburbs to the northwest of Washington D.C. while Prince Georges County, Maryland has those to the northeast and Fairfax County, Virginia has those to the south. Traffic congestion in the entire area is absolutely horrendous. I have not been to Los Angeles since I was twelve but I find it hard to imagine anyplace worse then here.

Now, whenever someone is extolling the virtues of government they invariably mention roads. However, it seems the Montgomery County Council does not see the snail’s pace traffic in the area as its responsibility. They have passed an ordinance which will fine all county businesses with 50 or more employees $75 a day if they fail to come up with “traffic mitigation plans” by January first (those with less than 50 have until next January).

A friend of mine has a much better plan to ease the congestion. He suggests the legislative and executive offices of Montgomery County be moved to Fairfax County, while those in Fairfax County be relocated in Prince Georges County and those in that county be shifted to Montgomery County. Once the legislators and bureaucrats have to deal with the results of their negligence on a daily basis, improvements will swiftly follow.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 12:30 p.m. EST


I was a zealous Clinton hater for about ten years of my life. More than once, I turned the channel in disgust when he appeared on the news. As of late, however, my attitude has softened considerably. Looking back from the perspective of 2003, he just doesn't seem so terrible anymore, at least in relative terms.

After reading today’s Philadelphia Inquirer , I can at least take small solace that I resisted the temptation to vote for his successor: “Overall spending is up at least 16 percent since he [Bush] took office, far more than the 2 percent average annual inflation rate over the same period....after adjusting for inflation, nondefense spending decreased 0.7 percent during Clinton’s first three years in office while it increased nearly 21 percent during the comparable period under Bush.”

Jim Henley’s term as a guest blogger is over. We were glad to have him aboard. Jim’s own blog Unqualified Offerings, is well worth visiting on a regular basis.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:28 a.m. EST

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More Comments:

Oscar Chamberlain - 12/16/2003

David Beito's recommendation of the Crichton's speech (or is it an article) on the environment is unfortunate. Crichton says he is for good science, but most of the article is at least as delusional as "urban atheist" environmentalists he tries to caricature.

I'm working on more detailed comment with references for another venue, but here are two points.

1. DDT's impact on birds was pretty thoroughly documented and its impact did not involve cancer. (Whether it was labelled or mislabelled a carcinogen in the regulatory process is a separate matter)

2. Concerning global warming. He argues that it is not as serious a problem as the religious urban atheist environmentalists claim.

Here are the facts. The arctic ice cap is shrinking. The declassification of Soviet and US submarine records has documented that. Surface traffic in the arctic ocean is increasing. Antartica has grown sufficiently warmer that penguins are having to shift breeding grounds. More generally, just about every indicator points to a warmer planet.

He quote Science magazine to poo poo the chances of reducing CO2 this century. He does not say which article, but below is the abstract of a 5 Dec. 2003 article on Global Warming in Science.

This is the generally accepted scientific position of Global Warming. If Crichton likes science so much, why did he slide past that?

"Modern Global Climate Change
Thomas R. Karl1 and Kevin E. Trenberth2
Modern climate change is dominated by human influences, which are now large enough to exceed the bounds of natural variability. The main source of global climate change is human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. These perturbations primarily result from emissions associated with energy use, but on local and regional scales, urbanization and land use changes are also important. Although there has been progress in monitoring and understanding climate change, there remain many scientific, technical, and institutional impediments to precisely planning for, adapting to, and mitigating the effects of climate change. There is still considerable uncertainty about the rates of change that can be expected, but it is clear that these changes will be increasingly manifested in important and tangible ways, such as changes in extremes of temperature and precipitation, decreases in seasonal and perennial snow and ice extent, and sea level rise. Anthropogenic climate change is now likely to continue for many centuries. We are venturing into the unknown with climate, and its associated impacts could be quite disruptive. "

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 12/8/2003

Mark, thanks for your comments. Yes, Vietnam was heavily internationalized. But that war was a senseless slaughter of American lives. It served no purpose, and the ending was that much more horrific because of sustained US involvement: the violent takeover of the South, the developments in Laos and Cambodia, and so forth.
On Iraq, I'm not actually advocating its break-up; what I have suggested is that a "three-state solution" might be an option in the long-run. I do not see how a majoritarian theocracy can be avoided in the absence of a monumental shift in political culture. And that shift simply can't be imposed from without.
As for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: You're right, they are not beloved by the neocons. But there are certain political and economic realities in the US-Sa'ud relationship that not even the neocons can alter. My proposal: Go after, in every way possible---financial, military, economic, political---the Al Qaeda network that targeted the US on 9/11. Period. If this requires interfacing with Pakistani and Saudi Arabian authorities: fine. But the fundamental structure of the relationship here is not going to be changed without a fundamental change in the structure of global political economy, which is what I believe is necessary in the long-run.
More advice: The US shouldn't get involved in side conflicts like Iraq, and shouldn't attempt to remake a whole region of the world on the basis of a Wilsonian dream. Now that the US is involved in Iraq, of course, I think the quicker it exits from there, the better.
In any event, my whole point is that none of this will happen... because certain processes are already at work, which make such extrication a virtual impossibility.
In my "New Leftist," "Objectivist"-glossed dreamworld, I actually believe the US can and should follow a foreign policy based on principle. But such a policy of principle is impossible in the context of current political and economic structures.

David Salmanson - 12/2/2003

Did you notice in the current Stella awards that not one of the 7 has collected as of yet? Indeed, in some of those cases, they lost. I am surprised a libertarian like you would want to infringe on people's rights to do something even if it is stupid. Heck, one of those guys could not even get a lawyer! We hear a lot about big awards, we do not hear as much when they are reduced on appeal. Do you really want to put limits on how much corporations have to pay when they actually do bad stuff? Or should government have to bail them out? I'm thinking envrionmental polluters, "safe" herbal supplements that have no warnings on them about who should not take them, fraudulent record keeping, etc. etc..

mark safranski - 11/25/2003

Chris Sciabarra wrote:

"As for any comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam: Iraq is, indeed, Iraq---and the situation is potentially much worse... because whereas the Vietnam War was, essentially, a civil war between North and South,..."

The Vietnam as a Civil War paradigm, heavily promoted by Left-wing historians, is myopic. There was certainly that aspect to it but the Vietnam War was heavily internationalized on both sides. North Vietnam could not have prosecuted the war as they did without massive quantities of Soviet and Chinese aid or a Soviet run air force and air defense system. Nor could South Vietnam have withstood such an attack on their own without the United States. Vietnam in such a context is even less of an apt analogy for Iraq than Dr. Sciabarra admits.

Sciabarra continues:
" Iraq is not even a homogeneous nation. It is a makeshift by-product of the British colonization of Mesopotamia, made up of warring tribes... Sunnis, Kurds, Shiites (indeed, multiple tribes within the Shia), Turkomanns, and so forth. The US would stand a better chance of "building" new nations if it broke up Iraq and started from scratch. But that won't happen--- "

All true but the Iraqis of the warring tribes have vigorously indicated they do not want Iraq to be broken up into economically dysfunctional but homogenous statelets. Is finding a microstate for the Assyrian-Chaldean minorities really an option ? Iraq is Churchill's artificial construct but it isn't the Yugoslavia we all ( including myself) imagined it would be.

Sciabarra wrote:
"...especially since Turkey, the US ally to the North, would be dead-set-against any independent Kurdistan on its borders that might inspire a similar movement for independence among Kurds within Turkey (who are already being blamed for the recent bombings in Istanbul)."

The Turkish Kurdish independence movement already exists - Abdullah Occalan's notorious and cult-like Marxist-terrorist PKK - which is also the longstanding enemy of the two main Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga groups.

Sciabbara wrote:
"This is a freaking mess. And it was dictated predominantly by a neoconservative political agenda. The fountainheads of terrorism in the Middle East are more likely to be found in Pakistan (another nation with nuclear weapons) and Saudi Arabia---but they too are US allies. And they won't be touched. Not in any significant way."

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia represent different problems in the war on terror and the latter is not beloved by the administration's Neocons. If you recall, it was DoD Neocons who sponsored the " warning shot " briefing at the Pentagon Advisory board where the prospect of a U.S. attack on Saudi Arabia was laid out and then leaked. Whatever you may think of Perle, Feith etc - they are not friendly toward the House of Saud. The Musharraf government in Pakistan was apparently faced with quite dire threats from the United States after 9/11 and they chose to cooperate rather than bear the brunt of our retaliation which they certyainly would have. You support the war on terror ? Well to be frank we need the help of these squalid states because we do not have - and will not have for a decade- the HUMINT -linguist-analyst resources to tackle the pan-Islamist terror networks on our own. They are simply too obscure in terms of language and ethnicity for blond haired, blue eyed CIA agents to infiltrate. We can't even translate what SIGINT material we receive on a timely basis.

Sciabarra wrote:
" And, no, this is not a call to Bomb Mecca. It is simply a recognition of the reality of US government and corporate ties to---and complicity with---oppressive, duplicitous regimes. The cycle won't end, until its broken---fundamentally, radically. "

I'd like to hear more on what concrete policies you are proposing here. From what I have observed the critics of nonintercourse with despicable regimes ( Cuba) and engagement with despicable regimes ( Pakistan, Egypt etc) tend to be the same folks. Adopting a New Left critique of American foreign policy with an Objectivist gloss doesn't make it any more internally consistent, constructive or practical than it was ten or twenty years ago