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President Gerald Ford…and the end of an era

The last American President (indeed, I believe, the last American politician) to really remember what the United States was like before the Hoover-Roosevelt Depression and the New Deal died on December 26th..

From now on every one talks or writes of the time when, for example, American farmers got their income from their customers, rather than the government, will be drawing on second hand information from books and so on rather than their own memories.

The same is true for when people talk of the time when men either did not expect to ‘retire’ (i.e. stop working because they had reached a certain age) or looked to their families and to private investments and fraternities (in the 1920′s ‘fraternity’ did not mean ‘student society’ for most people – it meant a group of adult people in a social and mutual aid society) to finance their retirement.

Was it a better time? Well technology was much more primitive and the capital base much less developed – so living standards were a lot lower. At least the statistics tell me so, although whenever I see film of the time (even socialist propaganda films) the people of the 1920′s look better dressed and more clean cut (or just more clean) than people today. And I do not think that the fact that most people were a lot slimmer was due to them not having enough money to eat themselves fat.

However, I am thinking of what is sometimes (after the actor) called the ‘Harold Lloyd’ America of scientific, economic and social progress (the America that Ford’s Grand Rapids Michigan was very much a part of in the 1920′s). Not the ‘Jim Crow’ (compulsory discrimination against blacks) South where corruption and poverty were much bigger factors.

On race: It was legal to discriminate against blacks in Michigan in the 1920′s (although, as stated above, it was not compulsory), but one of things about being a libertarian that shocks people is that we do not hold that someone should be prevented from discriminating by law. Who one chooses to trade with should be just that – a choice. If a bigot chooses not to take the money from black people (for example by not allowing them to rent rooms in his hotel), or chooses to employ a white idiot over an intelligent black person – that is their loss.

As for the general question of “race relations”. Did people of different races really tend to hate each other more in 1920′s Michigan (and the North generally) than they do now? Or did they just lie less? Judging things Henry Ford’s anti-semitic Dearborn Independent will not do. Henry Ford really did believe that ‘the Jews’ had sabotaged his efforts to make peace in Europe during World War I, but Henry Ford did not speak for all of Michigan, let alone all of the North. Michigan was and is also the State of Hillsdale University , the first college in the nation to let in blacks in on equals terms way back in the 1850′s and a strong supporter of equal treatment of people from all ethnic groups and of women. They were also a stern opponent of government statutes to force people act in ways favourable to blacks or to women or to anyone). With the death of Gerald Ford there is virtually no one left who knows what ordinary people really felt in their hearts in the 1920′s.

As for Prohibition: now there is the ‘War on Drugs’ which produces even more crime and corruption. At least there was a Constitutional basis for Prohibition (the 18th Amendment).

On politics: I confess I do not even know how Gerald Ford voted in 1936 (even if voted at all). I know he worked in the Republican campaign in 1940, but that might have been a protest against FDR going for a third term (which even George Washington had rejected) rather than out of a desire to fight the New Deal.

Certainly Gerald Ford (then an ‘America First’ type person as most Republicans from the midwest were) was against the underhand way that President Roosevelt was trying to get the United States into World War II (and contrary to the myth being against war in 1940 did not mean being ‘pro Nazi’ most, although not all, people who were against war in the United States despised Hitler and the National Socialists), and FDR was certainly violating the law – for example by sending aid to Britain, occupying Iceland, and ordering American forces to destroy German naval forces and dishonestly claiming that the Germans fired first.

On Japan, President Roosevelt’s policy of seizing Japanese assets and cutting off supplies of raw materials to Japan successfully led to war. But the Japanese did not have to be so stupid as to lauch the suicidal war on the United States in 1941 (they should either have just accepted their losses – or helped the Germans against the Soviet Union) and nor did they have to wage the war in the way they did (for example the vile treatment of allied prisoners of war did not benefit Japan in any great way).

Nor did the Germans have to declare war on the United States after the 1941 attack by Japan any more than the Japanese had declared war on the Soviet Union after the German attack on it in June – indeed the failure of Japan to help allowed the Soviets to move vast forces from Siberia to the defence of Moscow.

Whatever the details the actions of both Japan and Germany and the threat of international communism led Gerald Ford to reject the view that America could stay out of the wars of the world – and he became an ‘internationalist’, running against the ‘isolationist’ Republican Congressman in Grand Rapids and supporting Thomas Dewey, Dwight Eisenhower faction of the Republican party who wished to keep American power actively involved overseas.

How does this fit with wanting to keep government limited at home?

Certainly it is possible to support an ‘active’ foreign policy and limited government at the same time as a lot of people have – going right back to Pitt the Elder in Britain, but there is a tension in allowing government to spend a lot and do a lot in terms of defence and foreign policy and trying to keep it otherwise limited – however much writers such William Buckley Jr tried to paper over the cracks.

Oddly enough, I think that Gerald Ford went full circle (or something close to it) in foreign policy. As President he still tried to prevent the betrayal of Laos, Cambodia and the Republic of Vietnam, when Congress cut off support and allowed the Communists to take over in contempt for the peace agreements they had signed, murdering millions of people and enslaving tens of millions more.

However, President Ford’s heart never seemed to be it. He said clearly that Congress was breaking the promises that America had made – but he never made a great campaign of it. It was not that Ford was a pacifist as when the Cambodian Communists captured an American ship, his response was swift and hard, it was that in his heart he did not really believe in great President Wilson style wars for the alleged benefit of foreigners. If the foreigners were too unwilling or too corrupt to defend themselves after almost 60,000 Americans had died for them, perhaps it was time to say “enough is enough” and leave them to their fate (although President Ford did make sure that hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from Indochina were allowed into the United States – and they have proved to be good citizens). And, of course, President Ford was not supportive of the present war in Iraq (yet another President Wilson style war for other people). The old midwestern Republican doubts “it is just another government program that will not work” and “the locals will hate us whatever we do” from the pages of the Chicago Tribune in its Robert McCormack days were sleeping – not dead.

However, there is a difference between the struggle against Communism and the present struggle. Few now pretend that the majority of people in the counties that the Marxists took over were pro-Marxist even in the case of Vietnam, people who claim, I believe falsely, that most people were pro VC and NVA say this was because of ‘nationalism’ not because of support for the doctrines of Karl Marx).

The fact is that almost all the population of Iraq is Muslim and the enemy (both in Iraq and in many other places) is radical Islam (both Sunni and Shia), and who are we to say that the radicals have “misinterpreted Islam” – after all US military Islamic chaplains and Islamic consultants for the FBI have turned out to be supporters of this ‘misinterpretation’ and schools that “our friends the government of Saudi Arabia” fund teach this ‘misinterpretation” all over the world – including in the United States and the United Kingdom (such as the bits about trees and rocks crying out that there are Jews hiding behind them and that Muslims should come and kill them).

It is the same with immigration. Someone who escapes from a Marxist country is very unlikely to be a Marxist, but someone who comes from a Muslim country is likely to be a Muslim. And even if they themselves are not enemies of West, their children may well be as France and so many other countries have learned – although few people dare talk about it openly). Bigotry – perhaps, but sometimes that is just the way things are. It is unlikely that seeing some pornography, or going to sporting events in the West is going to overturn the cultural inheritance of fourteen centuries of conflict between the West and Islam, or is going to change the basic facts of the life of Mohammed and the doctrines of Islam. Indeed the sort of modern “culture” that young Muslim in the West is likely to be exposed to, especially in inner city areas, is going to lead to a higher percentage of them being anti-Western than their parents and grandparents generation and I am sure that is as true in Dearborn Michigan as it is in Birmingham England. And, of course, the present anti-Western teachings in government schools and in the broadcast media do not exactly help matters.

Still, whatever the truth of all the above may be, the fact that President Ford was not engaged in war made his efforts to limit government spending less contradictory – he did not have to engage in any Mark Steyn style mental gymnastics to explain why an obvious tension (being pro-war and pro-limited government spending – at the same time) is all fine really. Although why a government that can not deliver the mail should be any good at ‘nation building’ overseas is never explained. Any more than if the government is so good at ‘nation building’, why should it not be good at providing health care for everyone at home. Going out to kill or capture a person (be he Saddam Hussain or OBL) I can understand – “building a nation” is rather different. In the end it will up to the people in these nations themselves, the United States and Britain can kill X number of bad guys. or at least I would hope so – but it is up to them to “build a nation”.

Hopefully, nicer interpretations of Islam will win out – but I suspect that may depend on the Saudi Arabia (for the Sunni) and Iran (for the Shia) not having vast amounts of oil money to subsidize the most radical interpretations of Islam.

Of course Gerald Ford, like his 1976 running mate Bob Dole of Kansas, had been active in trying to limit government spending back in the 1960′s (and, as Mark Steyn would point out, they had not been anti-war), indeed Gerald Ford had been the Minority Leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives (in those days “big spending Republican” would have been considered a contradiction in terms – unless one was talking about Republicans from the North East).

The Great Society programs started off small (Medicare and Medicaid started off as five billions for both in 1965) but, of course, they became vast and the Republicans then were right to resist them (how many hundreds of billions of dollars do Medicare and Medicaid cost now?).

Indeed there was even a sort of victory at one point. Medicare came in as voluntary on the States – i.e. a State government did not have to accept the Federal taxpayers money (the program is partly funded by the Federal government, partly by the State governments) if it did not want it. And one State (correctly fearing that the program would grow and grow – meaning the State government would have to pay more and more) refused to join – that was the, then conservative, State of Arizona (if memory serves Arizona finally fell in 1978 – due to a Democrat Governor who came into office due to a campaign of lies against local bakeries, of all things).

As President Gerald Ford earned the nickname ‘Captain Veto’ for the number of times he used his veto on spending bills from Congress (as well as the New York Daily News headline on his attitude to the bailout, on top of existing subsidies, for New York City – “Ford to City: Drop Dead”).

Of course, some of the veto’s were overturned. But (to quote a the French television show of my youth ‘The Flashing Blade’) “it is better to have fought and lost than not to have fought at all”.

Gerald Ford was certainly than President Bush – who never seems to veto anything (other than stem cell stuff). Indeed, as far as the control of government spending is concerned, the White House might as well be unoccupied as there does not seem to be a President living there at the moment. Still President Bush now has a chance to mend his ways – he now has a Democrat controlled Congress to veto.

President Ford was well guided by William Simon (one of the few good appointments that Richard Nixon made) on the fight against government spending and regulation (including the crazy price controls of President Nixon). And whilst some of the anti-inflation policies were silly (such as the absurd “WIN” – “whip inflation now” badges) the money supply did start to get under control (President Ford supported the tightening by the Federal Reserve Board) and so of course did inflation. Although inflation was less difficult to see in the 1970′s America – it tended to be more ‘prices in the shops’ inflation, whereas now it tends to be more asset price inflation (first real estate and now the stock market) so at least people could not fool themselves that they were living in l;ow inflation times’ in the 1970′s.

The Nixon pardon? I will leave that to others, other than to say that all the things that Richard Nixon did had been standard practice since President Roosevelt’s day – if he should have gone to jail, why should not FDR, Truman, JFK and LBJ not gone to jail?

As for the debates. Yes Gerald Ford was the worst President debater of all time. Eastern Europe (specifically Poland) not under Soviet domination – and it was not once, it was several times that he said thing weird things to that effect.

I doubt that President Ford really believed that – he just fell apart in the debates.

Ronald Reagan would not have done that. He did not do that even in 1984 against Walter Mondale when the leftists all say he was senile, he certainly would not have done that against Carter in 1976.

Nor would Reagan have carried the baggage of the Nixon pardon, and he was a better campaigner anyway. For example, both Ford and Reagan opposed the teacher union plan (supported by Carter) for a Federal ‘Department of Education’ (the budget of which has, of course, vastly grown since President Carter introduced it), but Reagan could make the case against the proposal in a way that Gerald Ford could not.

So, yes, Ronald Reagan should have been the candidate in 1976. It would have spared the nation, and the world, President James Earl Carter.

15 comments to President Gerald Ford…and the end of an era

  • cryptononcommie

    “(such as the bits about trees and rocks crying out that there are Jews hiding behind them and that Muslims should come and kill them).”

    That’s a quotation from the Hadith. Even ignoring the Hadith, there is more than enough good stuff in the Qur’an to lead anyone motivated (and literate enough) to read it to “extremist conclusions.” Of course, the term extremist is completely nonsensical, as the position held by many to not kill Jews (or others) is completely arbitrary (more specifically, dependent upon the fact that some old people wrote in some book that Jesus was against that sort of thing). If old people would have written in the old book that Jesus was pro-genocide (and Christianity had still become the official state religion of the Roman Empire), then most Western people today wouldn’t consider being pro-genocide an extremist position. In fact, being anti-genocide would be the extremist position.

    “but someone who comes from a Muslim country is likely to be a Muslim”
    If you let in anyone who wants to come to your country, yes, but due to the way that Islam was spread, and the stubbornness of some people, oppressed non-Muslim groups can be found in a large percentage of Muslim countries. As such, if someone was intent on replacing or amending the population of the West, there would be a very large supply of more deserving people. The current immigration policy is akin to mainly letting in Nazi Germans from Germany (if Germany was ruled by Nazis) instead of non-Nazis, Jews, and other people being persecuted.

    “Still, whatever the truth of all the above may be, the fact that President Ford was not engaged in war made his efforts to limit government spending less contradictory – he did not have to engage in any Mark Steyn style mental gymnastics to explain why an obvious tension (being pro-war and pro-limited government spending – at the same time) is all fine really”

    The sole purpose of the government is to protect its citizens from external threat (not that I am arguing that the failed attempt to teach Muslims democracy, inherently an anti-Islamic concept is doing that). Anything else that the government does (that is not conducive to the aforementioned end) is outside of its original mandate, and as such should be limited. I must be a very good gymnast, as the last paragraph was extremely easy to compose. You are correct in your assessment that country-building is generally outside the realm of this natural mandate.

    “Hopefully, nicer interpretations of Islam will win out – but I suspect that may depend on the Saudi Arabia (for the Sunni) and Iran (for the Shia) not having vast amounts of oil money to subsidize the most radical interpretations of Islam.”
    Where you one of those people hoping that nicer interpretations of Nazism would win out in the 1930s? I suggest whatever plans you make for the future should not depend too much upon this irrational hope. Mein Kampf can only be interpreted one way — similarly for the Qur’an. The only way that Islam can truly be reformed would be to rewrite the Qur’an (or kill all the people who can read Qur’anic arabic).

  • Perry E. Metzger

    “The last American President (indeed, I believe, the last American politician) to really remember what the United States was like before the Hoover-Roosevelt Depression and the New Deal died on December 26th.”

    Ronald Reagan was born in 1911. Ford was born in 1913. I’m not sure how to interpret your comment, since Reagan was President after Ford, but Ford died last.

    Ford was, by the way, much more of a thoroughgoing statist than Reagan.

  • jrdroll

    Good bye “Rockerfeller Republicans”.

  • Michiganny

    Paul, nice and interesting post. I currently live in Michigan and am in Grand Rapids once a month or so. I can vouch for the fact that that town is still a center of economic progress. It has transitioned to the modern economy much better than Detroit, Flint, or Saginaw (now one of the most violent towns of its size in America–it just overtook Flint!).

    It is especially intriguing to wonder whether people were “cleaner cut” back then. Well, I am currently house shopping and can tell you that there is a shower in the basement of probably every early 20th century house in my town. That is because the men came back so filthy from “the plant” that their wives would not let them upstairs without cleaning up. Wives and children used the bathtub on the second floor. I have no idea if that makes us cleaner or dirtier than they were.

    Regarding being slimmer and poorer, they both go hand in hand. My grandfather was born in 1908 and he couldn’t afford a car even years after he started at GM as a teenager. He seemed to fill every story with how many blocks it took to get somewhere. I know he walked at least a half hour to get to his future wife’s house for a date. He walked miles every day. I gather so did every one else. We still have the wagon my great grandparents pulled behind them when they walked to the store. It would seem that postwar neighborhoods with sidewalks are a rarity in Michigan. So are skinny children at their morning bus stops.

    I also think blacks and whites in Michigan are probably much better off than they were in the 1920s. But I doubt they are any better integrated. The municipality of Detroit is nearly all-black. Livonia, a typical suburb on its northwest border has been, statistically, the whitest town in America. “White flight” has now been surpassed by “black flight,” in the suburbs nearest Detroit, like Southfield. Crime really causes population shifts in this state.

    And race is a topsy-turvy subject. Even though every organization in Michigan was against it, the ballot measure outlawing affirmative action in public universities and government passed overwhelmingly last month.

  • Gabriel

    On Japan, President Roosevelt’s policy of seizing Japanese assets and cutting off supplies of raw materials to Japan successfully led to war.

    I normally agree with you, but whoa. Just whoa.

    and, while I’m at it.

    And I do not think that the fact that most people were a lot slimmer was due to them not having enough money to eat themselves fat.

    This is more than a little reminiscent of certain bits of Soviet propaganda.

    Anyway we shouldn’t be nation-building in Iraq, which is plainly impossible, we should be government-building. Indeed we should be govenment-doing

  • guy herbert

    Where you one of those people hoping that nicer interpretations of Nazism would win out in the 1930s?

    You mean they didn’t? The aggressively nationalist corporate state dependent on a leader cult and ethnically/culturally exclusive rule has certainly been a common form of government over most of the world since.

  • Paul Marks

    Gabrial first.

    I had hoped it would plain that I did NOT believe that people were slimmer because they could not afford to buy more to eat.

    They had more SELF RESTRAINT. It is ture that more people engaged in hard physical work, but the main reason that people did not tend to be fat was because they ate moderate meals at regular times.

    These regular habits also extended to things like shaving. In the 1920′s a man might have a beard (although these were rare), but he would not have a lot of stubble on his face (well this was less common than it is now – in spite of our high tech shaving machines).

    On F.D.R. and the Japan (indeed the Axis in general): What is the problem here? Does anyone still deny that F.D.R. wanted war and followed a policy designed to produce war (whilst making speech after speech saying he did not want war and was doing everything to prevent it).

    Now President Roosevelt may have been CORRECT to want war with the Axis powers (Gerald Ford came to believe that war was the correct policy), but he was a liar (indeed his lies helped him win the 1940 election), and he broke the 1939 Neutrality Act and many other statutes.

    Of course Japan should not have attacked in December 1941 and Germany should not have declared war after it did. The governments of both of these countries reacted in a suicidal way – but a way that President Roosevelt had hoped that they would react.

    The militarists of Japan did not have the self control to resist the temptation to (as they viewed the matter) strike back against the Americans, and Adolf Hitler (who got more hot headed the older he got – possibly due to the various drugs he used), almost declared war even before the Japanese attack (the various American moves were already having the designed effect on him).

    I doubt that anyone had the guts to say to the “Leader” “but Japan did not declare war against the Soviet Union when we attacked it, so why should we declare war against the United States when Japan attacks it?”

    There is, of course, a great difference between F.D.R. and Adolf Hitler. If someone offended President Roosevelt he might well send the I.R.S. or the F.B.I, to make trouble for them (for some reason it was O.K. for F.D.R. to use such tactics – but not for Richard Nixon to use them), but Adolf Hitler MIGHT WELL HAVE THEM KILLED.

    That is why there was greater freedom of speech in the New Deal United States than in National Socialist Germany. As Guy Herbert would agree this lesser use of violence against political opponents is one of the great differences between Social Democracy (the ideology of the modern West) and Fascism and National Socialism.

    Nation building in Iraq:

    Even Donald Rumsfeld (a conservative in his background and a friend of Milton Friedman) thought in terms of nation building (at least by the time he left office).

    I remember sitting and hearing him (in interview after interview) talking about how (for example) the American Department of Agriculture should be doing X, Y, Z, to develop farming in Iraq. And how this or that should be done to develop education or healthcare.

    The idea that people should do these things for themselves – for example that farmers should control farming (rather than a “Department of Agriculture”) no longer seemed to enter his mind. Although (of course) Donald Rumsfeld was NOT in charge of occupation of Iraq – that was the State Department’s Paul Bremmer, but I will not write about him (for fear of my blood pressure).

    As for George “schools and hospitals” Bush – his thoughts on these matters are not of a very high standard.

    Government building in Iraq: This is rather difficult with Al Sado (or however one is supposed to spell this gentlemans name) in the government.

    Not only have his Shia militia (now trained by the Iranians and the “Party of God” people in Lebanon – his militia used to be one of the worst trained but things are changing) killed Americans, but they also have killed a lot of Sunni civilians.

    Even if one wishes to overlook the actions of the other Shia parties (and, of course, both the Prime Minister’s party and the SCIR have armed militias who have done nasty things) the inclusion of the M. army in the govenment is surely acceptable – as for Al Sado himself, the Americans should have dealt with him when his militia was weak (which they were at first) it is bit late now.

    Even at the execution of Saddam, some of the people present were chanting the black bearded one’s name.

    The Sunni parties (of course) have close links to their own armed groups – who both kill Americans and (more normally) Shia civilians (indeed vast numbers of Shia civilians).

    Of course there are efforts to bring Shia and Sunni groups together, but some of these efforts (such as the one by the Iranian regime) are on the basis that Shia and Sunni should unite – in order to fight nonMuslims.

    This is not Germany, Italy or Japan in the late 1940′s – the situation is quite different. Although I do not yet hold it to be hopeless.

    Now the point about the memory of the 1920′s:

    Errrr yes I should have typed “Gerald Ford was the last man to be President who could really remember the 1920′s”. I know that Ronald Reagan was born in 1911 – but he has been dead for some time.

    Of course it is possible that Ronald Reagan still remembers the 1920′s, but if one is including Presidents who have “gone to the other side” one would have to included all Presidents who had memories of the 1920′s (not just Ronald Reagan).

    Islam and immigration:

    I did not claim that the bit about the trees and rocks (calling out that Jews were behind them and calling upon Muslims to come and kill them) was from the Koran (I know that noone says I did claim this – I just want to make it clear), but it is taught in school in the West (including the United States) funded by the “our friends the Saudis” (Mark Steyn is quite correct about this).

    I should also make it clear that I am NOT opposed to the immigration of nonMuslims from Muslim nations.

    There is a lot of confusion about this (and I am sorry if I have added to it).

    For example, in Australia people talk about the “Lebs” – i.e. the Lebanese immigrants and children of immigrants who (it is alleged) rape and kill and demand (by the threat of violence) that books critical of Islam be kept out of Australian book stores (for example the “Religion of Peace” web site has long pointed to the scandal by which children’s books talking about future oppression of Muslims by the Australian government are in the book shops [indeed the schools and so on] but childrens stories where Muslims were the bad guys have not been allowed).

    However, it is not the “Lebs” at all. In that some of the people involved in the activities attributed to the “Lebs” do not come from the Lebanon (and neither did their parents or grandparents), and many of the people whose families came from the Lebanon do NOT favour the rape of women who dress “indecently” or the censorship of books (and so on). There are many Christian Lebanese.

    The problem may be connected with the fact that under Australian law one is not allowed to “incite hatred” of any religious group – so people say “Leb” when they mean “Muslim”.

    Of course, there are many Muslims in Australian who do not support the above activities – but they have lost out in the power stuggle (in so far as there has been any power struggle) for who controls the religion in Australia.

    For example the important Imans who have defended rapists on the basis that “if a dog sees a bit of bare meat on the street it is not the dogs fault if he eats it”, face no real threat to their position.

    In Pakistan recently the President (rather to my surprise) managed to roll back Islamic law on rape (specifically that four male Muslim witnessess must testify that a rape has taken place for the victim to be innocent), but sadly the main religious groups just take this as an added reason to kill the President.

    Really President M. might as well more help fight the Taliban and Bin Laden and co (rather than withdrawing from the tribal areas and so) in that his policy of compromise (fighting against the radicals – but not fighting against them very much) is not pleasing anyone.

    The Americans and the British are frustrated with his lack of help (although they do not say so publically) and the religious groups in his own country want to kill him anyway.

  • Paul Marks

    One thing I should point out is that I heard on television (after I wrote the post) a friend of the late President say that Gerald Ford had told him that he was in support of the war in Iraq.

    So the claim that was not supportive is contested.

  • magnetic north

    “when the Cambodian Communists captured an American ship, his response was swift and hard”. Maybe the President ordered such a response, but in practice what happened was stupid, bloody and wasteful.

    According to Wikipedia, the operation was launched out of Thailand “despite an explicit refusal of permission by the Thai government, resulting in considerable anger towards the United States.”

    Totally inadequate intelligence and reconnaisance resulted in heavy casualties among US forces, which were completely unnecessary.

    “Tragically, the merchant crew whose seizure at sea prompted a US attack had, unbeknownst to the US Marines, been released in good health before the Marines attacked.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayaguez_Incident

  • Paul Marks

    Many people today seem to think that their can be casualty free military operations (perhaps because there idea of war comes from T.V. and Hollywood). In reality there is always the “fog of war” (i.e. intelligence information is just so much guess work) and there are always casualties.

    As for asking some other countries permission before a military operation to punish a nation that has attacked American citizens – I am British and even I think that is absurd.

    So Wickipedia says there was “anger” – so what?

    The real attack that could have been made against President Ford is that he did not use the attack on the American ship as an excuse to terminate the Communist government in Cambodia – had been able to do this millions of Cambodian lives would have been saved.

    However, it is likely that the Congress and the media would not have allowed such an operation.

  • magnetic north

    Accepting military operations involve casualties – of course.

    Accepting fatal blunders can occur in military operations – yes.

    Claiming a fatal blunder as proof of a leader’s martial qualities – well, how desperate are you?

    If, as Paul Marks seems to want, the US will only run bases on foreign soil on the understanding that the host nation has no right to veto operations from such bases, then we can look forward to a world where fewer nations will accept US bases.

  • magnetic north

    “As for asking some other countries permission before a military operation to punish a nation that has attacked American citizens – I am British and even I think that is absurd.”

    Was it absurd for Ronald Reagan to ask British permission in 1986 to bomb Libya from British bases? Or would it only have been absurd to respect a negative response?

  • Paul Marks

    An American ship is attacked in international waters by the Cambodian Communists. The President orders a military response.

    Sadly he does not (I admit, perhaps can not) order the termination of the Communist government in Cambodia (ultra Maoist rather than Stalinist like the Vietnamese Communists – the Vietnamese Communists murdered vast numbers of people, but they did not have a demented plan to introduce equality by mass extermination of the population), but he does respond to the attack.

    Magnetic North clearly has a problem with this – O.K. fair enough, I do not have a problem with it.

    As for asking permission – this is a good idea if you know you are going to get it, but it is a bad idea if you are not going to get it.

    For example, the “senile” Ronald Reagan did not ask the permission of Mrs Thatcher to invade the island of Grenada (in order to remove the Communist dictatorship there), because no such permission to invade a “Commonwealth nation” would have been granted – indeed President Reagan knew that Mrs Thatcher would be angry.

    What would you do – ask permission and when it was refused say “oh well we are going to use the base anyway”?It is much better to do what has to be done (with maximum speed – so that opposition does not have time to build up), and then accept the anger afterwards.

    As long as one has not insulted people by asking permission and then acting anyway when the permission is refused, the anger is soon over.

    Still you have a good point on bases. Bases are always vulnerable to the local government ordering out forces – this is the argument that some use for the big flat tops and the general long range Navy and Air Force power projection.

    By the way as you are a Wickipedia person you may be able to do me a favour – can you find out why there is no article on Arthur Latham Perry or the American free traders generally on Wickipedia – their help desk system says “we will not reply to e.mails”.

    “Write an article yourself and send it in” – sorry to say I am rather useless when it comes to computers (I do not know how to do such things).

  • magnetic north

    Wikipedia? Well, I read two articles about President Ford on the same day; the second was yours. After the first, I searched Wikipedia for the Mayaguez incident and saw it in a more negative light than you.

    I don’t use Wikipedia that much, but I understand that the whole point of it is that anyone can write an article on any subject. If you know about Perry, then why not write one? It’s just typing, not programming. If you have trouble uploading it to Wikipedia, maybe I’ll be able to advise. The site says it has 186 pages in the category “Economists”. Perhaps it needs another.

  • Paul Marks

    Magnetic North – I did send you an e.mail, but it bounced back. So I will put in a short reply here (although there is not much chance you will see it).

    Yes A.L. Perry is worth an article – he was the leading American free trader of his day, and to those to whom that does not matter he was also the best selling American economist of the time.

    Oddly enough I can not think of a single 19th century American economist who wanted a smaller government who does have an article on Wickipedia.

    “This is because people like Paul Marks are too lazy to write such articles” – I suppose so.

    By the way I also read the anti M. section of the Ford article on Wickipedia.

    But then I am in favour of punishment operations.

    For example, I thought that the Afghan operation lauched in 2001 was about getting O.B.L. and those people who protected him (most notably Mullah Omar). If I had known that President Bush and co were indifferent (in spite of all their words to the contrary) to killing or capturing O.B.L. and and Mullah Omar and were really just interested in building Social Democratic state in the Afghanistan I might have had a totally different position on the operation (not that this would have made any difference – as I am not someone of importance).

    In case someone says “But Bush was not indifferent” – then why the failure over the last FIVE YEARS?

    Not even I believe that the government is that incompetant. If they had really wanted to get O.B.L. and Omar they would have been got by now.