Sunday, August 18, 2013

"The Last, Best Hope?"

"In national politics these days, the most ardent opponents of the Bush-Obama surveillance state are libertarians in the GOP, [who] were also conspicuous among opponents of the Iraq War, and they were better than most Democrats on Obama’s revving up (before revving down) the war in Afghanistan," writes "hard left" CounterPunch's Andrew Levine — Libertarianism in the Age of Obama.

The article has its weaknesses, focusing on the Chicago school of economics rather than the Austrian School, for example. Here's an excerpt, with my minimal bracketed and italicized fisking, that approaches the truth but misses it:
    Libertarians oppose Obama’s wars because they oppose Big Government.

    Since the dawn of the Progressive era more than a century ago, Big Government has been identified with militarism and imperialism.

    [Good start — the American Anti-Imperialist League from this era and later the America First Committee were broad-based and populist organizations.]

    The politicians of a century ago who opposed government efforts to keep the grandees of the Gilded Age from calling all the shots were as aware as anyone of the connection. Today’s libertarians are their political and intellectual heirs.

    Then and now, principled opposition to imperialism and militarism was not the moving force. Those who opposed foreign wars in the days when “isolationism” flourished did so because, as capitalism’s ardent defenders, they felt, with good reason, that there is a slippery slope out there that class-conscious capitalists would do well to avoid. This is what libertarians today think as well.

    [Begging the question, anyone? Bill Kauffman, historian of the A.F.C., notes that its was "the largest popular antiwar organization in U.S. history," refuting the notion that "principled opposition to imperialism and militarism was not the moving force."]

    A massive juggernaut, the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned against, is indispensable for projecting American power abroad.

    Libertarians understand that a precondition for anything like such a worldwide force is a large and powerful state, and they fear that a state of such size and power cannot be kept out of the economic sphere. This, above all, is what they want to avoid.

    Because isolationism has had a bad press for at least the past seventy years, the political heirs of the old rear guard used to have no choice but to accept America’s imperial role. They were therefore reduced to hoping, in vain, that Big Government could be confined just to the military-diplomatic sphere.

    Now, however, with the Cold War long over and with post-9/11 America drowning in its own bellicosity, the decades old “bipartisan” consensus around giving the military-industrial-national security state complex whatever it wants is beginning to crumble. Libertarians are therefore freer than they used to be to resume an isolationist stance.

    [These last paragraphs, I concede, are likely true of the Chicago school of economics types; they are completely untrue of Austrian School devotees.]

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