|Peter C. writes: "Unlike Chris, I don't think this point is of marginal interest in discussing Rothbard - or I might say in discussing the Rockwell and antiwar.com nutters - since it demonstrates so effectively the level of evasion they are prepared to countenance in making their 'arguments.' When the facts don't fit, they simply ignore the facts, or 'cherry-pick' the facts to suit"... and then, he proceeds to accuse me of "cherry-picking" among Rand's and Rothbard's work.|
First of all, my book, Total Freedom was not focused on Lew Rockwell and antiwar.com (and the book did come out almost 2 years prior to 9/11).
Secondly, there is nothing essential about Rothbard's work that I overlook in that book, and the book is a thorough methodological critique of that work. The critique, in my view, goes to the heart of Rothbard's mistakes. So how am I supposed to defend either the methodological or substantive aspects of Rothbard with which I disagree? Where in my writing is there even the hint of a suggestion that I think Rothbard got it all right? In fact, one of the things I say about Rothbard is that his context-dropping (his lack of a fully "dialectical" approach, as I would put it) is the key to his weakness as a social theorist. (And I should add: There are crucial aspects of his work where he keeps context, and where I believe his insights are most valuable.)
As for "cherry-picking Rand's writing," I have already said that yes, Rand did favor a "commensurate counter-attack" (in the words of her political mentor, Isabel Paterson) against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. But I have also pointed out that, for years after the end of that conflict, she was still questioning the US entry into the European theater of World War II on the side of the Soviets.
Let's talk about "cherry-picking" for a moment. Few of you on the other side of this discussion have genuinely come to grips with Rand's opposition to the major 20th century wars, or her radical assessment of the relationship between domestic and foreign policy. In this thread, only George Cordero says what must be said by those of you on the other side: "... let me now state a blasphemy; Ayn Rand was not the best word on geo-politics or military strategy---as well as dozens of other specialized fields. Far lesser minds overall, were greater minds than hers when it came to these particular fields."
Bravo! I respect that George, immensely. I'd rather somebody say Rand was wrong, than act as if she never said all the things she did say about the nature of war (in general) or the specific wars of the 20th century.
Turning back to Pearl Harbor: There is not a single substantive reference to Pearl Harbor in all of Rand's published or unpublished writings (except for a comment about it in conjunction with a film scenario she was working on, entitled "Top Secret"). The only substantive reference to Pearl Harbor shows up in The Ominous Parallels, a book published with a preface by Rand that voices stunning approval for its author and his work. In fact, in this instance, Leonard Peikoff seems to imply agreement with those revisionist historians who believe that FDR knew what he was doing in provoking a Japanese attack, serving the leftist agenda of "push[ing] this country into World War II," as Rand had put it, on the side of the Soviets. As Peikoff writes in his fully Rand-approved book:
Judged by the standard its leaders publicly set themselves---the restoration of employment and prosperity---the New Deal was a failure. At the end of the thirties there were still ten million people unemployed, about two-thirds of the number without jobs in 1932. The problem was not solved until the excess manpower was sent to die on foreign battlefields.
This echoes a point made by Nathaniel Branden in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal: "It is part of the official New Deal mythology that Roosevelt 'got us out of the depression.' How was the problem of the depression finally 'solved'? By the favorite expedient of all statists in times of emergency: a war."
Once again, a period of rising statism in the West was climaxed by a world war. Once again, the American public, which was strongly "isolationist," was manipulated by a pro-war administration into joining an "idealistic" crusade. (On November 27, 1941, ten days before Pearl Harbor, writes John T. Flynn, "the President told Secretary Stimson, who wrote it in his diary, that our course was to maneuver the Japanese into attacking us. This would put us into the war and solve his problem.")
This is the same John T. Flynn applauded by Barbara Branden in a quote I cited here and the same John T. Flynn, whose work Rand herself lists in the bibliography to Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Peikoff continues, echoing points made by Rand in her essay, "The Roots of War":
The result of the first crusade had not been a "world safe for democracy," but the emergence of modern totalitarianism. The result of the second crusade was not the attainment of "four freedoms," but the surrender of half of Europe to Soviet Russia.
From the founding of the United States through the 1920s, the "private sector," as it is now called, was the nation's dominant element; the state and the principle of statism were always encroaching, but always peripheral. The New Deal, including its progeny of wartime controls and its Fair Deal successor, ended this historical relationship.
After the two Roosevelts, America was no longer an essentially capitalist country with a sprinkling of controls. Nor was it a socialist country. It was, and still is, a modern "mixed economy," with the philosophic base and the political future that this implies. In a mixed economy, one of the two elements gradually withers away. That element is not the state.
America had beaten the Fascists. It had stamped out Hitler. But it was turning into the Weimar Republic.
It is Peikoff's point in that book, of course, that America itself is moving toward fascism.
On the issue of the Soviets, Peter is correct that "not to advocate an invasion of the Soviet Union [Rand] is not the same thing as saying of the Soviet Union that 'we have nothing to fear' [Rothbard]," but I have already argued that there were crucial differences between Rand and Rothbard on these questions, even if their policy prescriptions and historical judgments were not as fundamentally opposed as one would think at first glance.
Now, it is true, as George puts it, "that one must have a firm grounding philosophically in order to rationally ascertain the morality, or lack of morality, of a nation going to war within a given context. But that grounding does not automatically correspond to the ability to make a proper assessment on events to which one has a limited knowledge." Rand may have been wrong, in George's view, but I don't think George would argue that this made her any less of an "Objectivist." When the founder of that philosophy says things about wars like World War II, which would have placed her in the "Hitlerite" category---a war that, it would seem, is ever more clear-cut than the current conflict in Iraq---I would therefore suggest that people on the other side of this debate pause for a moment when characterizing virtually all of the opponents of the current war as "Saddamites." I would prefer it if such advocates would do exactly what George has done: Reject Rand's analysis and assessment unequivocally, and the analysis and assessment of those opposed to the current war, and move on. Since I have no use for quasi-religious debates about who is the "True Objectivist," you'll get no argument from me on that score.
What you will get, however, is the same response I have been giving for many years, because, in my view, by repudiating this Randian analysis and assessment, you will have obscured a crucially important aspect of her radical legacy.