September 20, 2009

The Distressing Versus the Frightening

Justin Katz

The rapid transformation of this country into a European-style socialist democracy is certainly distressing. American life is on its way to becoming more difficult and less free, less innovative — in a word, less American. But it is the combination of that atrophy with the existence of nations seeking to duplicate the international accomplishment of the United States (a global sphere of influence, if you will) without adhering to its methods.

More specifically, it is the combination of a strong-handed government at home with a weak-kneed government on the international scene:

The U.S. Defense Secretary is already on record as opposing an Israeli strike. If it happens, every thug state around the globe will understand the subtext — that, aside from a tiny strip of land on the east bank of the Jordan, every other advanced society on earth is content to depend for its security on the kindness of strangers.

Some of them very strange. Kim Jong-Il wouldn't really let fly at South Korea or Japan, would he? Even if some quasi-Talibanny types wound up sitting on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, they wouldn't really do anything with them, would they? Okay, Putin can be a bit heavy-handed when dealing with Eastern Europe, and his definition of "Eastern" seems to stretch ever farther west, but he's not going to be sending the tanks back into Prague and Budapest, is he? I mean, c'mon . . .

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I was wonderingbif you could provide me with some concrete examples of the heavy handed governing and socialist policies of the Obama admin. I have heard these term used so often but I don't really see it. I do understand the healthcare issue and how that may be seen as a form of Socialism but what else . I am not trying to be a wise guy just wondering.

Posted by: Slappy jor at September 20, 2009 9:06 AM

If we traded freely with all nations and concentrated on homeland-based deterrence, no nation would ever have an incentive to attack us.

When an authoritarian country is constantly warring with its neighbors due to its aggressive foreign policies, why would it shoot the guy who comes once a week to sell it guns?

Posted by: Dan at September 20, 2009 9:54 AM

"provide me with some concrete examples of the heavy handed governing and socialist policies of the Obama admin"

One correction to your premise. It's not just the Obama administration, it's the Bush and Obama admins. But the real liability for these programs lies with Congress, which solely possesses the authority to implement them:

> Government controlled health care. Don't dismiss this one so quickly. Not only does it involve one sixth of our economy, it would become a very effective choke chain on all of us.

> Bailout/ownership in auto manufacturers.

> Bailout/ownership in banks/financial institutions.

> Pending Socialist-type, free speech squashing proposal: dictating who will be on the air (Fairness Doctrine or its latest re-branded title).

Posted by: Monique at September 20, 2009 11:35 AM


You're making a highly ideological assumption that totalitarian governments will view other governments primarily as benign trading partners, so long as they do not feel threatened by them. This assumption doesn't match either what totalitarian leaders say about what they believe, nor how they act.

To use two of the biggest examples from the last sixty years, communist leaders espoused the doctrine that "capitalist encirclement" was preventing the worldwide revolution they believed themselves to be a part of from advancing and capitalist governments had to be undermined and ultimately overthrown in order to keep history moving on its proper course. Radical Islamists belive that the existence of worldly institutions not based on Islamic law impedes the ability of individuals to freely choose Islam as their way of life, and therefore those institutions must be eliminated, to help return humanity to a state of harmony that has been lost.

No matter how much the United States alters its conduct in attempt to signal to other governments that we're not a threat, true-believers in these kinds totalitarian ideologies will be willing to make conflict with the rest of the world, even with trading partners they think they can temporarily get something useful from.

Posted by: Andrew at September 20, 2009 12:31 PM


Terrorists like Osama bin Laden and his followers have repeatedly stated through videos, tapes, and written statements that the sole reason they are attacking the United States right now is because of our interventionist foreign policy, our bases in the Middle East, and our financial support of countries like Israel. They have gone so far as to make the point that they have no problem with other free and democratic countries like Sweden (their example, not mine) who do not militarily interfere in foreign affairs and have not attacked them for that reason.

Usually the totalitarian Islamic countries are too busy fighting amongst themselves over their own petty nonsense and power-struggles, as dictators tend to do, than to focus outside of the Middle East on countries like the United States. The only reason why they have done so recently is because we have made ourselves a big red target by meddling in their affairs all the time. I can point to examples of exactly the same occurring between the communist countries like the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea during the Cold War also. They would all have been simply busy fighting amongst themselves due to their own backwards policies to pose a real threat to us if our military were truly defensive in nature and we stopped getting ourselves into expensive and needless messes like Korea and Vietnam. In fact, whichever of these countries agreed to trade with us would have undoubtedly prevailed over the others, too big of an incentive for them to ignore.

I will further point out the example of the Swiss "porcupine" during World War II. Even a country that small posed enough deterrence and disincentive to keep the massive German military from invading it. Hitler's military advisers analyzed such an invasion and realize that the high gun ownership, fiercely independent population, strong economy and resources, and inhospitable geographic features (sound familiar?) would make any attack foolhardy, and that it would be far better to simply do business with them instead.

These totalitarian countries aren't going to engage in policies like attacking the United States that anybody could see would immediately result in their nuclear annihilation, economic ruin, or military defeat. Especially not when they would lose all of the business that we should be freely giving to them, even further boosting our economy and providing toward that all important deterrence factor. Getting involved all over the globe is simply weakening us, spreading us thin, and rallying our enemies against us. Consolidation and free trade are the antidotes to this endless and needless international conflict.

Posted by: Dan at September 20, 2009 1:03 PM

Don't you see, Andrew? Only good can come from turning a blind eye to evil and aggression under the rubric of "live and let live." Let somebody else battle back the hordes and tyrants. It's not our responsibility.

And when everybody else has fallen (whether by totalitarian attack or undermining by Islamic demographics), the aggressors' free-trade philosophy will lead them to then be content to stop one USA short of world domination. And if they should be so ... dare I say ... fanatical as to attack us, surely the subjected masses whom we'd previously ignored will rise up from within foreign countries to help us help them to take their countries back.

All of this is especially true given the clear willingness of Americans to put morality aside on the international scene and to stand strong in defense of their culture. Although Dan would also have us treat our culture as a purely private affair, not at all appropriate to assert in the public sphere, surely the traditionalists and Christian crusaders will stand should-to-shoulder with the pimps, prostitutes, and drug addicts who've corrupted their neighborhoods in order to secure a military victory that allows us to shuffle quietly back into our churches and resume our attempts to raise children resistant to the incessant sales pitches of the libertines on the street.

See. It all makes perfect sense.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 20, 2009 1:20 PM

Actually I support people being able to voluntarily organize themselves into communities based upon shared values and ideologies, and I detest the idea of the government forcing us to subsidize other people with whom we disagree morally, which is what government does by definition.

Posted by: Dan at September 20, 2009 1:35 PM

Terrorists like Osama bin Laden and his followers have repeatedly stated through videos, tapes, and written statements that the sole reason they are attacking the United States right now is because of our interventionist foreign policy, our bases in the Middle East, and our financial support of countries like Israel.

Of course they say that. It sells better than "The only book most of us have ever read, written by a child molester, told us to attack you until you submit to the god that aforementioned book tells us to believe in."

Are you sure you want to be calling them terrorists? From the sounds of your post, you agree with them. In that case they'd be "freedom fighters," wouldn't they?

Posted by: EMT at September 20, 2009 2:12 PM

I sincerely hope that you don't go around accusing anyone who disagrees with you on foreign policy of siding with the terrorists. It's tough to get more anti-intellectual than that.

I am simply for neutrality as to foreign affairs. It is not our place to police the world, and we are not even remotely capable of doing so even if we wanted to, it's ineffective and counterproductive.

In any case, I don't see how that's supporting terrorism. Would you say that you support obesity because you haven't violently coerced people to stop stuffing their fat faces with food?

Posted by: Dan at September 20, 2009 2:44 PM


The November 3, 2001 statement of Osama Bin Laden listed many more grievances than American foreign policy...

Our brothers in Kashmir have been subjected to the worst forms of torture for over 50 years. They have been massacred, killed, and raped. Their blood has been shed and their houses have been trespassed upon....

Let us look at the second war in Chechnya, which is still underway. The entire Chechen people are being embattled once again by this Russian bear....

The crusader Australian forces were on Indonesian shores, and in fact they landed to separate East Timor, which is part of the Islamic world.

Therefore, we should view events not as separate links, but as links in a long series of conspiracies, a war of annihilation in the true sense of the word.

In Somalia, on the excuse of restoring hope, 13,000 of our brothers were killed. In southern Sudan, hundreds of thousands were killed.
And what does Bin Laden see as the basis of his "war of annihilation"...
Under no circumstances should we forget this enmity between us and the infidels. For, the enmity is based on creed.
Why shouldn't he be taken at his word?

In a more recent statement, on the sixth anniversary of September 11, Bin Laden explained how the Western system of capitalism and self-government had to be replaced with Islamic law, to free people from serving the "interests of those with capital"...

This is why I tell you: as you liberated yourselves before from the slavery of monks, kings, and feudalism, you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system.

If you were to ponder it well, you would find that in the end, it is a system harsher and fiercer than your systems in the Middle Ages. The capitalist system seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations under the label of "globalization" in order to protect democracy....

So it is imperative that you free yourselves from all of that and search for an alternative, upright methodology in which it is not the business of any class of humanity to lay down its own laws to its own advantage at the expense of the other classes as is the case with you, since the essence of man-made positive laws is that they serve the interests of those with the capital and thus make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The infallible methodology is the methodology of Allah, the Most High, who created the heavens and earth and created the Creation and is the Most Kind and All-Informed and the Knower of the souls of His slaves and the methodology that best suits them.
I think it's safe to say that Bin Laden doesn't take a benign view of free trade.

If you claim neutrality between one side that believes in letting people choose the laws they live under, and another that doesn't, because of a belief that "man-made positive laws" are inherently exploitative -- and that is willing to use force to back that belief up -- then you are supporting an agenda that is very different from a liberty agenda.

Posted by: Andrew at September 20, 2009 10:24 PM

I don't have a liberty agenda toward others. I want to simply leave others alone, stop aggressing against them, and stop meddling in their affairs. That's about the extent of it.

As long as New Hampshire is allowed to be free as part of the Free State Project, I don't care what the rest of this country does for itself, much less other countries.

Posted by: Dan at September 20, 2009 10:52 PM

I believe that a Russia that's not pissed off at us makes the world a far safer place than an expensive an ineffective 'missile shield' would.

This 'shield' wouldn't really be very effective, and if Russia wanted the Czech Republic, it could take it quite easily by conventional means without having to risk mutually assured destruction with the west.

The real reason the Czechs wanted this wasn't for 'protection', it was to get some of the economic trickle-down from our massive military expenditures. Fortunately, there seems to be a sudden outbreak of common sense in US policy, where we are realizing that we cannot afford both guns and butter forever. Unfortunately, Obama needs to back out from Bush's policies in a way that doesn't -look- like capitulation.

We have 5% of the world's population, and we account for almost 50% of the world's military expenditure, almost half of your taxes go towards a huge military-industrial complex that is unarguably the most bloated, least efficient government program in the world.

In my opinion, the country would be much better off with a small military that combined lots of research and technology spending with enough just enough manpower and manufacturing capacity to gear-up quickly in case we're needed. Focus on creating -better- stuff new technology (yes that includes missile defense tech.), but not building and deploying much of it.

Posted by: mangeek at September 21, 2009 4:47 PM

I don't have a liberty agenda toward others. I want to simply leave others alone, stop aggressing against them, and stop meddling in their affairs. That's about the extent of it.

So your plan to resist an ideology that wants to kill you in spite of your "neutrality" is.... what? Hope?

I refuse to apologize for not being as naive.

Posted by: EMT at September 21, 2009 6:02 PM
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