|Thanks to both Ross and Debbie for their kind words with regard to my essay. And thank you, too, Stella, for coming here and taking a look around. I look forward to future posts from you.|
I found Adam's newest post to be very well put. I think Adam makes some excellent points with regard to the theocratic, pre-enlightenment, communitarian tenor of the current threats to American freedom. I don't think that this ideological trend supplants the threats posed by the corporatist structure of our political economy, however, for all the reasons that I describe in Chapter 12 of my book, AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, and in Chapter 7 of TOTAL FREEDOM: TOWARD A DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM. Make no mistake about it, however: the trends to which Adam points are real, and not to be underestimated.
I'd like to address the various points made by Charles Novins. Thanks a million, Charles, for your very detailed reading of my essay.
Charles says that the Bush administration has denied repeatedly that there will be any "long-term expansion into the region." Nevertheless, I think that any attempt to transform the Iraqi government into a democratic regime must entail some kind of long-term expansion into the region. I don't see how it can be avoided if democratization is the expressed aim.
A point of clarification is in order, however: I do not believe that "the people of Iraq are necessarily insufficiently advanced to handle a rights-based political milieu." I agree that it is a very positive sign that Iraqi society is more secular than other Arab societies. But it is also plagued by a virulent tribalism and it is going to take a massive change in the culture toward individualism if such tribalism is to be transcended. That change cannot be imposed politically, as it were.
The events in Iran to which Charles points are indeed encouraging. He is absolutely correct that the intellectual revolution taking place in Iran is happening in one or two generations (I do point to Michael Ledeen's discussion of this in my article). But that's only because these intellectual trends are arising, spontaneously, as part of an ~internal~ dynamic within Iranian society, rather than imposed from without. I think this makes an enormous difference.
On nation-building: The neoconservative intellectual agenda, which has profound influence over the current foreign policy-makers, is very clearly aimed toward constructing democratic nation-states. And it is for this reason that I don't consider the Iraqi war, swift as it was - thank goodness, to have been a purely surgical strike. Surgical strikes don't require nation-building, which is what the neoconservatives advocate.
On the issue of US colonialism, I do not buy the "stealing their oil" argument either. But the character of US interventionist political economy is not typically "colonial." Rand was right to view the ~crux~ of US overseas intervention as financial in nature; the whole network of governmental subsidies, privileges, and such, has created enormous political, economic, and social distortions across the globe. There is every reason to assume, given the closed bidding process and the crony-contracting that is already going on, that this interventionist structure will simply be extended to Iraq during the period of occupation. I do not view this as a victory for capitalism. (As an aside: When I ask, in my essay, "Is there not any other way to deal with such despotism short of establishing a new U.S. colonialism?," I do not aim that question at the Bush administration. I do, however, aim that question at the various Objectivist commentators whose essays I've analyzed in my article.)
On the issue of the connection between foreign and domestic policy, Charles tells us that I'm being more precise than Rand who saw the latter as a ~consequence~ of the former. Yes, of course, both arise from the same basic premises; but if the basic premises of the latter are collectivist and statist, it is perfectly understandable why these same basic premises would be at work in the former - hence the inextricable connection.
To this extent, it was ~Rand~ who actually suggested that "by doing less, there is less harm done." Rand uses the biological analogy when she asks: "If you have a disease, should you get a more serious form of it, and will that help you?" I think Rand implies that "[w]hat we are now doing to others . . . we began by doing it to ourselves." She does not revel in the extension of neofascism beyond national borders; I believe she sees this as an extension in the scope of harm. It's not enough to say that "we shouldn't export" neofascism. We can't help ~but~ to export it, because that is the ~system~ we have. This is why Rand said that as long as this ~system~ is in place, it can only engender "parasitism, favoritism, corruption and greed for the unearned." As I say in my essay, "its power to dispense privilege, Rand emphasizes, '~cannot be used honestly~'."
This doesn't mean that the US can never use defensive force; but it does mean that American citizens must be forever vigilant in any time of national emergency, since such emergencies have often been used as a pretext for vastly expanding the power of the state.
As for Ron Pisaturo: I do not believe this is a straw-man. Listen to Yaron Brook. Listen to Leonard Peikoff. These gentlemen have openly advocated use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and the destruction of most of the Arab states. Pisaturo simply provides us with the ultimate logically horrific conclusion to which such strategies must ultimately lead.
I do not believe that Bush & Co. are aiming for a new Roman Empire---indeed, compared to Pisaturo, Bush is eminently reasonable. And as I said: I still take Bush at his word when he says that the purpose of this war was to rid Iraq of WMD and to build a democratic regime. It seems, however, that we will have a long wait before WMDs are actually found and democracy is actually installed.
My warning against a garrison state and a colonial occupation are simply that: a warning... specifically, a warning to those Objectivists who don't seem to appreciate the systematic nature of Rand's critique of contemporary political economy. By contrast, Charles suggests that neither the garrison state nor colonialism is likely, to which I must reply: From your lips to God's ears. :) I sincerely hope that I'm totally wrong and that my fears are totally unfounded. My goal is not to win debating points.