|I have a lot to say this morning. |
Given Jason's observations above, I thought it would benefit SOLO readers if I reproduce a couple of pages worth of commentary and quotes from a fine book by Robert Mayhew, entitled Ayn Rand and Song of Russia: Communism and Anti-Communism in 1940s Hollywood. In the book, Mayhew examines especially Rand's contentions with regard to World War II and US involvement. Aside from amplifying points already made, my ulterior motive for posting this is to remind readers that one's opposition to US involvement in a war is not a sure sign of "anti-Americanism."
In politics, especially for those of us who seek to transcend left and right, we will sometimes be put into categories that we share with the America-hating left or the religious-loving right. But it doesn't mean that we are therefore "America-haters" or "whim worshippers." Take the Iraq war as an example. It is simply not the case that those of us who opposed the US invasion of Iraq were "Saddamites" all. Are there those in the "antiwar" movement who had turned "a deaf ear" to the plight of Saddam Hussein's victims? Are there those in the "antiwar" movement who are market-hating, reason-hating opponents of Western values? Yes to both questions.
And there are those on the "pro-war" side of the divide whom I would not characterize as closet neo-Wilsonians or ex-Trotskyites---but to deny the presence of neoconservative ideologues among pro-war advocates is simply wrong.
Back in the days preceding World War II---the "Good War" of the "Greatest Generation"---there were plenty of America-lovers who opposed US entry for a variety of reasons. Were some of the opponents of US entry Nazi sympathizers? No doubt. But to have painted all the opponents of US entry into WW2 as "Hitlerites" would have been wrong.
As I have already pointed out, Isabel Paterson was one of those who opposed US entry into WW2. Paterson knew that there were a variety of pacifists and also Nazi sympathizers who opposed US entry into the war, but that didn't stop her from voicing her own objections. And Paterson, like Rand, also knew that many Communists were pushing for America's entry into the European theater to aid the Soviet Union but that didn't stop either of them from recognizing the poison that was Nazi Germany.
I know Lindsay has no patience for those of us who like to dabble in nuance, those of the "yes, but..." crowd, who will always qualify an answer. Read Rand's words below, and see the "yes, but..." approach in all its glory. This is an Ayn Rand who was still questioning the wisdom of US WW2 policy for years after the end of that war. From Robert Mayhew's book, Ayn Rand and Song of Russia:
Song of Russia made a small contribution toward (and is an excellent example of) the destructive alternative reality that was created in America, Europe, and around the world---a consequence of the idea that it was proper to lie about the nature of the Soviet Union since it helped defeat Nazi Germany.
Hand-in-hand with the alternative reality, supported by it, and equally destructive, was the idea that we should do anything to keep the Soviet Union as our ally against Hitler. Aside from the impropriety and impracticality of lying to do so, was this in fact a good idea? This is a complicated issue that cannot be sufficiently discussed here; instead, I'll simply present Ayn Rand's position, which unfortunately she did not share with the HUAC in 1947. But first, the relevant exchange with Congressman Wood [before the House Un-American Activities Committee]:
Rand: But if you want me to answer, I can answer, but it will take me a long time to say what I think, as to whether we should or should not have had Russia on our side in the war. I can, but how much time will you give me?
Wood: Well, do you say that it would have prolonged the war, so far as we were concerned, if they had been knocked out of it at that time?
Rand: I can't answer that yes or no, unless you give me time for a long speech on it.
Wood: Well, there is a pretty strong probability that we wouldn't have won it all, isn't there?
Rand: I don't know, because on the other hand I think we could have used the lend-lease supplies that we sent there to much better advantage ourselves.
Wood: Well, at that time---
Rand: I don't know. It is a question.
Wood: We were furnishing Russia with all the lend-lease equipment that our industry would stand, weren't we?
Rand: That is right.
Wood: And continued to do it?
Rand: I am not sure it was at all wise. Now, if you want to discuss my military views---I am not an authority, but I will try.
Congressman Wood did not take her up on her offer. But in the mid-1970s, Ayn Rand was asked about Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time and the resurgence of interest in the Hollywood blacklist. As part of her answer, she gave a brief account of what she thought the American policy toward the Soviet Union should have been:
How many people died in this country, and in Russia or in Russian-occupied countries, because of Miss Hellman's ideas, God only knows. Nobody could compute the evil of what those Communists in the 1930s did. To begin with, they pushed this country into World War II. What would have been a better policy? Let Hitler march into Russia, as he had started to. Let the two dictatorships fight each other, then the West---England, France, and the United States---should finish off the winner. Then maybe, today, the world would be safe. (Except, of course, the ultimate safety of the world depends on philosophy, and nobody has the right ideas.) People like Lillian Hellman were pushing the policy of this country to the left and in support of only one country---not the United States, but Soviet Russia.
It made no difference whether one supported our alliance with the Soviet Union because one admired the Soviets, as Hellman did, or on pragmatic grounds. This policy, Rand believed, was wrong and destructive; it required that one accept or pretend to accept the alternative Soviet "reality." The result was that Stalin and the Soviets were the big winners in World War II, whereas the people of Russia and Eastern Europe were the big losers. This would not have been possible were it not for those who presented and pushed the Soviet Union---a la Song of Russia and Lillian Hellman---as a noble ally and savior.
But wherever one stands on the issue of the Soviet Union as an ally, Rand argued in 1947, lying to the American people is not justified:
We are discussing the fact that our country was an ally of Russia, and the question is: what should we tell the American people about it---the truth or a lie? If we had good reason, if that is what you believe, all right, then why not tell the truth? Say it is a dictatorship, but we want to be associated with it. Say it is worthwhile being associated with the devil, as Churchill said, in order to defeat another evil which is Hitler. There might be some good argument made for that. But why pretend Russia was not what it was?
This is a point that both the Left and the Right still do not get, namely, that neither the government nor anyone else should attempt to whitewash evil. In the years since World War II, the Left has been willing to ignore the evils of leftist regimes around the world (in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, until the end, and in China and Cuba today, to give a few examples)---to pretend that they are what they are not---while supposedly being concerned about the suffering of humanity in places like South Africa, El Salvador, and the Philippines. Similarly, the Right has been willing to ignore reality and whitewash dubious or evil regimes---to pretend that they are what they are not---in the name of combating Communism. (A relevant example is President Reagan's support of the anti-Soviet Islamic "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan.)
Let's not forget that Rand found herself in a similar situation with regard to the Vietnam War---arguments for which continue to have a familiar ring. Rand opposed US entry into Vietnam---but she believed that once the US was in that war, it faced a "Catch-22" situation. "We have sacrificed thousands of American lives, and billions of dollars, to protect a primitive people who never had freedom, do not seek it, and, apparently, do not want it." She knew that "the proclaimed purpose of the [Vietnam] war was not to protect freedom or individual rights, it was not to establish capitalism or any particular social system---it was to uphold the South Vietnamese right to 'national self-determination,' i.e., the right to vote themselves into any sort of system (including communism, as American propagandists kept proclaiming)." Rand knew that principled statesmen did not exist, but that if such did exist in America, the enunciation of a "radically different foreign policy," coupled necessarily with a radically different domestic one, could have made possible immediate withdrawal: "On such a policy, we could withdraw from Vietnam at once and the withdrawal would not be misunderstood by anyone, and the world would have a chance to achieve peace."
And let's not forget Rand's own lamentation about a century of warfare:
There still are people in this country who lost loved ones in World War I. There are more people who carry the unhealed wounds of World War II, of Korea, of Vietnam. There are the disabled, the crippled, the mangled of those wars' battlefields. No one has ever told them why they had to fight nor what their sacrifices accomplished; it was certainly not "to make the world safe for democracy"---look at that world now. The American people have borne it all, trusting their leaders, hoping that someone knew the purpose of that ghastly devastation. The United States gained nothing from those wars, except the growing burden of paying reparations to the whole world---the kind of burden that used to be imposed on a defeated nation.
I've argued over many of the above points for years now---and I am not looking to re-open debate. What I have done here, however, is to present a more three-dimensional picture---courtesy of Robert Mayhew and Ayn Rand---of Rand's own opposition to US policy from World War II to Vietnam. As an aside, however, let me say that many of us here, myself included, advocated a "commensurate counter-attack" (in the words of Isabel Paterson) against the forces of Islamic terrorism responsible for the barbarism of 9/11, and a wider cultural war against the forces of irrationality both at home and abroad. Our opposition to the US entry into the Iraq theater, however, is on a par with Paterson's and Rand's own opposition to the US entry into the European theater of WW2; if we are "Saddamites," I see no way of avoiding the characterization of Paterson and Rand as "Hitlerites." Or "Ho Chi Minh-ites" for that matter.
To bring this back to the subject at hand, Murray Rothbard: Rothbard, like Rand, opposed US entry into virtually all 20th century wars. Most assuredly, his approach differed from that of Rand, but I don't think one can make a sweeping generalization about his attitudes as "anti-American." He was as concerned as Rand was about the counter-productive foreign policies which emboldened the enemies of freedom both at home and abroad; he was as concerned as Rand was about the intimate connection between foreign and domestic policy (as Rand put it: "Foreign policy is merely a consequence of domestic policy"). His political attitudes emerged from the same loosely-defined "Old Right" intellectual tradition from which Rand herself learned much (a tradition that included thinkers such as Isabel Paterson, Rand's political "mentor" and John T. Flynn---whose work Rand and her Objectivist associates cited approvingly).
Finally, on a personal note, I can agree wholeheartedly with Mark Humphreys, who remembers the encouragement and intellectual nourishment that Rothbard gave to so many of us who were budding intellectual "freedom fighters"---regardless of how much we came to accept or reject his perspective, in total, or in part.