War and Loathing

I chose to write about the Vietnam War in the late 60s, while it was still ongoing – it ended in 1975, with the fall of Saigon. In those days, I could say I leaned heavily libertarian by instinct, but I hadn’t yet read much, nor developed my ideas. I went to the main branch of the Carnegie, borrowed everything the had,. and read about half a dozen volumes on Vietnam – a country and a people with a long history.

I could not find a good reason for America to be there. Even in those pre-internet days, I had read enough to know that the vigor of the Soviet Union was being overstated; to know that much of America’s foreign policy was being driven by the military-industrial complex.

We were sold a “domino theory” – if we lost Vietnam, we’d lose other countries to communism, and soon we’d be ringed about by communists. I opposed communism then, and still do today. I’ve always had a dual perspective; as a matter of right, people should be able to make their own decisions about what sort of work to do, what to buy and sell, how to use their own property, and so forth. This set of libertarian principles stood firm against communism, socialism, and the allegedly “free market” policies of the government of America. My second line of reasoning was this: government control of these decisions has a strong tendency to hamper the efficiency of any economy. Even before reading Rothbard and others, I had an instinctive belief that authoritarianism was good for authoritarians, but not for the rest of us, whose decisions were trumped by authoritarians.

Instead of taking over the world, the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. Some attribute this to Reagan’s increased military spending, but this is nonsense. I’ve spoken to many expats from the former USSR, and the Soviet bureaucracy destroyed itself, by making one bad economic decision after another. They not only lacked information, they could not even obtain the information without a functioning market system. The incentives were all wrong. Today, we see that Venezuela cannot even provide toilet paper, for many of the same reasons. Politics is a very terrible tool for making economic decisions.

After Vietnam, our government eased off on the big wars, but still pursued a host of smaller ones. Come 1990, however, somebody decided it was time for another big war. We were told that Saddam Hussein was the Next Hitler. The comparison is ludicrous. Germany was an industrial superpower. Iraq was one of several oil-based economies, which had to import weapons and most everything else.

After decades of reading the newspapers and other sources, I firmly believe that America goes to war not to defend itself, nor even to defend oil, but to defend two things: the status of the U.S. Dollar as the “Reserve Currency of the World,” and the Military-Industrial Complex itself. War makes excellent profits for a few extremely powerful industries.

Our media sell the story of the M.I.C. and downplay the horrible costs in human lives and suffering. Even today, people try to sell the notion that organized mass murder is “justifiable” for many reasons. These reasons become more and more spurious every decade.

What irks me today is that the antiwar movement includes a small number of folks who oppose dubious wars all the time, and much larger numbers who seem to think it’s horrible when a Republican President goes to war, and beneath notice when a Democratic President does likewise. Opposition to organized mass murder should not be a partisan issue. The wars in the Middle East and Africa are still evil, but I didn’t see any mass antiwar march during Obama’s eight years. This isn’t right. America is still engaged in mass murder in many parts of the globe. I hope the antiwar movement and the media soon revive their objections.

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