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9/11 was blowback

9/11 was blowback. It was blowback for the USA making movies featuring nudity. It was blowback for rock and roll and Jack Daniels and hog-roasts and pornography and Marilyn Monroe and Baywatch. It was blowback for not being part of a caliphate. Mohammed Atta was an architect(!) and what really wound him up was that in his native Cairo the Hilton Hotel and the Bank of America towered over the medieval mosques. Oh Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine always gets dragged up as a “legitimate” grievance but that’s pure window dressing. Why has no Arab state done a bloody thing to aid the Palestinians? And by the way, my definition of “aid” does not include bunging $25000 to the family of a “martyr” who has blown up in a Pizza Hut. The PA has basically been bank-rolled by the EU and oddly enough not in fact by their fellow Arabs and brothers in Islam of the Arab League. Why do you think the oil sheiks didn’t pony up the dough?

– Regular commenter Nick M in this thread.

73 comments to 9/11 was blowback

  • Perry E. Metzger

    Ah, yes. Nothing quite like ignorami making fun of Ron Paul to keep one remembering that Samizdata isn’t libertarian — its a bunch of reactionaries who think its cooler to call themselves libertarian. Sadly, they haven’t yet learned what the word “libertarian” means. Hint: Ron Paul is a libertarian.

    And with that, I am removing Samizdata from my RSS feed list. I’m sure you won’t miss me, and I’m sure I won’t miss you. Bye, all.

  • Midwesterner

    Perry E. Metzger,

    I don’t understand that at all. What exactly do you think caused the 1st and 2nd WTC attacks? Do you really believe we can be safe if we build a wall around the US? Do you believe we can even survive with isolationism.

    Do you really believe that defending one self against 9-11 style terrorism is unlibertarian? Do you believe that the mistake of going into Iraq in the first place absolves the Islamic attacks on the US and other western nations?

    I really am confused by your remark. I’ve enjoyed many of your comments in the past and this one just doesn’t make sense to me.

  • James Robertson

    If Ron Paul is the ideal Libertarian, why is he in the pork line for $400 Million worth of earmarks?

    I think the commenter might need to find a new hero.

  • Quenton

    More ignorant remarks touted as The Truth. Which jihadi video was it that made the claims that Pamela Anderson was the reason for jihad? Because a Bank of America tower was larger than a mosqe? Do you really think jihadis are that dumb?

    Am I expected to believe that an international militant movement capable of taking on the world’s strongest military for going on 6 years now is gaining recruits because of some girls showing off their hugh tracts of land? Who knew that all it took to mobilize millions of men with guns willing to throw their lives away against impossible odds was to release a few American Pie movies. With this knowledge I could rule the world!

    No, the sad fact is that we are hated for numerous reasons, most of which have nothing to do with our cultural by-products (of which the 9-11 hijackers took their fill of). It has to do with how we are percievied. The west tells them to have elections, and then we disaprove of who they select so we prop our own tin-pot dictator (see Iran and the Palestinian Territories). We prop up repressive regimes (Saddam, the Shah, The House of Saud) for our own purposes, tell the resistance that we will support them, and then leave them high and dry at the last minute (Shiites, Kurds).

    Now, this may come as a complete shock to some people, but God didn’t personally hand-craft westerners and tell them to go spread their glorious ideas at gun point to the heathen. If you want to find out why somebody hates you, just ask them. Don’t make up wild-ass theories based off of sterotypes and delusional fantasies and treat it as fact.

    Bin Laden and his ilk were losing ground after Afghanistan was invaded. He was not loved by Muslims as he was seen as too extreme. After we decided to wander into Iraq and then started mouthing off about how Syria and Iran were next, Al Quaeda was suddenly overflowing with new recruits. It wasn’t because Muslims suddenly took a liking to bin Laden’s Holy Warrior crap, it was because he was the only one standing up to the Westerners. Every other Muslim leader was too busy trying to figure out how to spend all those US Dollars being handed out by Uncle Sam. If you think the people being kicked around by these tyrants were blind to this, think again.

  • Nick M

    Pork line


    Silk purse

    Sow’s ear.

    Had to be said.

  • Pa Annoyed


    I don’t get the Ron Paul connection – has he described 9-11 as blowback or something? – but as for the rest, Perry has explained that often enough. Armies and international inteventionism are synonymous with big government, and therefore should be opposed by all libertarians. I’ve explained often enough why I think that’s wrong, which I’m not going to repeat here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t or shouldn’t listen.

    I also have found Perry’s arguments usually interesting. However, it doesn’t surprise me to discover that he is a Ron Paul supporter. Perry can stay or leave as he chooses, this being a voluntary association of consenting adults, but so far as I am concerned, and speaking as one who has disagreed with him quite strongly in the past, he is welcome to stay. Just so long as we’re not all required to agree with him (as he is not required to agree with us) and so long as we can make fun of whoever we like (as can he).

    That’s only my view, though.

    As for the original post – I don’t think it was rock-and-roll and Jack Daniels per se that they objected to, so much as the fact that we thought they should be offered to Muslims too, if they wanted them. Because of course a lot of young Muslims looked at a life full of prayer, sand, and abstinence, and a life full of Baywatch and Jack Daniels, and decided that perhaps a more flexible interpretation of scripture wasn’t such a bad thing after all. That was the “cultural first strike” that 9-11 was blowback for. We offered them Freedom, that corrosive dissolver of tradition and family values.

    Yes, we’ve listened to what the Jihadis claim are the reasons – as a matter of fact, 9-11 was in revenge for Chechnya (!!!) according to those who perpetrated it. The movement’s origins and much of their current rhetoric were/are in the response to the Westernisation of Arabia – Sayyid Qutb et al. All the stuff about foreign policy is a deception. Of course the Islamists would like us to stop fighting them – that would make it much easier for them to win, and to achieve their divinely appointed aim.

  • Martin

    Ron Paul actually voted to go after Bin Laden in 2001. The neocons and their supporters like to use Bin Laden to scare the shit out of the voters, yet the CIA practically gave up efforts to get him in 2005. Predictably, while the administration and their media shills get very enthusiastic about sending 20,000 more troops to ‘pacify’ Baghdad, they show little enthusiasm for doing anything remotely concerned with capturing or killing Bin Laden.

    And although it is debatable as to why 9/11 happened, it does not change the fact that American foreign policy has long been misguided and has had unforeseen consequences. I mean, can anybody still believe arming the jihadists in Afghanistan the 80s or helping Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 80s were good ideas? A libertarian ought to realize this. If government intervention creates unforeseen disasters with regards to education, economy, healthcare, and so on, how can any libertarian believe an interventionist foreign policy will be much different?

    And even if that WSJ piece is right (which I seriously doubt) about Ron Paul, $400 million in earmarks is more forgivable than the $500 billion dollars wasted in Iraq, and the billions blown on No Child Left Behind, Medicare expansion, and other neocon travesties.

  • Why has no Arab state done a bloody thing to aid the Palestinians?

    What would you have them do, invade Israel and liberate the Palestinians?

    Why do you think the oil sheiks didn’t pony up the dough?

    Are the oil sheikhs runing al-Qaida now? Are you mad at the PA, the sheikhs, or al-Qaida? Do you realize they are different entities with different interests? Has it dawned on you that the sheikhs may not care, but other people might?

    It seems the catastrophic failure of Anglo imperialism has addled your mind. Poor dear. Have a scotch and repeat to yourself, “I should mind my own fucking business.”

  • Nick M

    Perry E Metzger,

    An isolationist USA would be a tragedy for the world. The USA has to be engaged with the world. There is no choice. Because otherwise the world will come looking for the USA.

    Reactionary? I’m even more liberal than Bill Clinton – I inhaled. Well it had cost me a tenner.


    Why do we dislike Hamas. Is it perhaps because they have a charter which has as fixed point the complete destruction of a sovereign nation? And what form has our dislike taken? We have cut off charity hand-outs to them which is exactly what you would do with your charitable donations if the charities you gave to pursued a course you didn’t like.

    No, God didn’t hand-craft Westerners to spread their vision by gun-point but try handing out Bibles in Riyadh or being a South Korean Christian Missionary in Afghanistan.

    So it has nothing to do with girls getting their kit off or me having a beer? Right. Well, Shehzed Tanweer who mindermasted the appalling slaughter of 7/7 left a rambling videotape of which only the closing segment about Iraq and Afghanistan has been generally aired. The rest (70%) is an attack on UK imams who are more concerned with having a cushy time and living in a detached house with two cars on the drive and following UK law rather than the law of Allah. The recently jailed UK bomb plotters claimed famously that “those slags dancing are hardly innocent” during a real cute discussion on the morality of targeting civilians at a night-club.

    You can Google all of those but I will give you a direct quote:

    the American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.

    Sayyid Qutb

    Who he? Pretty much the Grandaddy of modern Islamic terror. You know where those girls he was discussing in verging upon pornographic terms were? They were at a Methodist tea-dance in Colorado. It was about 1950. He would’ve blown a fucking gasket if he’d been to some of the clubs I’ve been to.

    So no, it’s got nothing to do with us being kufr and willfully living lives of sin and immorality (and in Salafi Islam practically everything is a sin). It has nothing to do with an attempt to form the Islamic Republic of America and it has nothing to do with the fact our more liberal societies have full-spectrum dominance over the Ummah.

    Which jihadi video?. Well you do know about taqiyya? (Lying to kufr to further the cause is mandated).

    You do also appreciate that being a shaheed (martyr) fast-tracks you to paradise so that previous minor indiscretions are of no matter. Especially if they are taqiyya.

    And yes, they are that dumb or more likely warped beyond belief. Salafi Islam is a seriously warped worldview.

  • Midwesterner

    Golly, Quenton. How silly of me not to realize that Islamic fundamentalists are really just loyal Iraqis defending their country from the west. That must be why such spectacularly higher numbers of Iraqis are being targeted (and killed) than outside forces. Particularly the Iraqis that don’t practice the right kind of Islam. See, the Iraqis that actually like the 21st century have invaded the land of sharia. That makes them westerners, I guess.

    And of course, people who will declare a jihad against people who believe in the wrong number of prophets would never harm people who didn’t believe in prophets at all.


    Frankly, these terrorists scare the crap out of Muslims (with good reason) and the leave-them-to-their-fate argument offends me. One can argue against the legality of defending them. But to argue against the morality of volunteers defending them is pure sick.

    I am alway open to arguments that we are violating libertarian principles in the what and how. But I reject the idea that libertarian principles require us to abandon people to whatever fate their enemies have in mind for them. We are not required to come to their defense, be we certainly are allowed to.

    As for Perry Metzger, I actually will miss him, but such is life. I hope he changes his mind and continues trying to change other minds on issues where we disagree. That is what a debate forum is for.

  • This sure is a strange breed of libertarianism lately. Apparently the libertarian response to, say, having your face smashed in by a thug is to buy a helmet to wear next time.

  • Pa Annoyed

    “I mean, can anybody still believe arming the jihadists in Afghanistan the 80s or helping Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 80s were good ideas?”

    Compared to what? Compared to going there and doing it properly ourselves, no. Compared to letting the Soviets or Iran win, and expand their territory and influence, yes.
    The Soviets and Iran – that’s the sort of big government I would oppose first. We can sort all the rest out once we’re safe from them.

    History never ends, and both action and inaction have consequences. You deal with them as they arise, as best you can, and then you deal with the consequences of those actions, ad infinitum. Governments and wars aren’t the best way to do it – at most they can buy us a little time. It is the cultural war, of individuals standing up for their beliefs, that will in the end decide it. But if individuals don’t wake up and start that fight soon, even winning for Iraq will not be enough. Know your enemy: know yourself.

  • Martin

    ‘But to argue against the morality of volunteers defending them is pure sick.’

    The taxpayer is not a volunteer though. The troops in Iraq may be volunteers, but the taxpayer that coughs up the money to pay for the war (or will have to in the future when the monstrous deficit finally has to be paid up) has no say in the matter. If the war whoopers want a tax hike so that anti-war taxpayers need no longer be robbed, i would be all in favor of it. Whether many of the war whoopers would be willing to pay is another matter. As H.L. Mencken said: ‘ There is, however, a natural limit to idealism in this world, and it comes when the collector pulls the doorbell.’

  • long-time lurker

    I suppose what we, upon being convinced by the Ron Paul naysayers, must now do is decide which authoritarian/populist/fundamentalist to support, lest a Democrat get elected.

  • Quenton,

    Exactly what foreign policy would you like to see?
    If we intervene to remove dictators from office we are imposing our ideas.
    If we do not intervene, and conduct business as usual, we are propping up tin pot dictators.
    Should we not intervene and not do any business with countries run by dictators then? This is one option you don’t mention. I assume though that we would then be destroying their countries through our boycott. (This at least was the usual argument with regards to Iraq before the invasion.)
    I can understand why one could reject some of these policies. I can even understand how people may change their mind according to circumstance. But to reject all policy options out of principle and see them as reasons why we are hated seems a bit odd.

  • Midwesterner


    I actually like the idea of leaving Bin Laden out their taking the blame for all the Muslim on Muslim massacres. Far better than letting him be a martyr. And I really doubt he his doing squat anymore.

    And yes, this administration has been an unmitigated disaster by almost every measure. It is hard to imagine worse, but I have little doubt that Gore or Kerry could have achieved worse. And probably on a far more personal to us level. The system is broken. There can be no doubt of that.

    But no, $400,000,000 in earmarks is not at all “more forgivable” coming from someone who claims to be a libertarian. It is merely less painful for reasons of scale. If anything, it is far more hypocritical and I believe Ron Paul has lately done huge damage to the cause of libertarianism on more than one front.

    I agree with your comment on war funding to the extent that it is a war of liberation. But when defense is involved, then it is a legitimate function of government. But as you point out, our foreign policy has been an indescribable disaster in so many ways that it is hard to say what is what any more.

    I have found Paul Marks thinking to be the best reasoned on the matter.

  • James

    If Ron Paul is the ideal Libertarian, why is he in the pork line for $400 Million worth of earmarks?

    So what? He earmarks it for local spending and then votes against it when brought before Congress.

    The money’s there, his constituents have contributed to it, so why not claw it back?

    I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent with saying “I’d like to reduce Federal spending, but whilst it’s there, I’ll get what I can for my constituents”.

    It’s not as if the money would go towards reducing deficit, either- it just gets sucked in somewhere else.

  • Nick M

    You got in before me. Glad you mentioned Qutb (I was still writing at the time). Basically I think you’re right. I do think it is an appalling fear of temptation. Certain Islamic dress codes (and the shariah rape law) reflect this. But it also reflects a cognitive dissonance because Islam is a complete way of life not just for an individual but for an entire people. I once heard a muslim scholar defending judicial amputation and execution by saying that it’s like medicine – if a body part is cancerous you cut it out. Islam puts the body into body-politic.

    So, if you’re a fully believing Muslim and you therefore believe that Allah gifted Muhammed the keys to the creation of a perfect society and you look at the state of much of the Islamic world then… You get pissed off. Praying five times a day, never having a beer, never seeing a girl’s thigh and memorizing the entire Koran and after all that your world is still a shambles – well you would get peeved. I suppose for the ones in the West who go batshit it’s slightly different and more to do with outrage at what they see around them and know that God denies them.

  • Sam Duncan

    Do you really think jihadis are that dumb?


  • Midwesterner


    I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent with saying “I’d like to reduce Federal spending, but whilst it’s there, I’ll get what I can for my constituents”.

    You just in a nutshell described how the system works. It is built on “Everybody’s doing it. I’ll get mine.”

  • Martin

    ‘If anything, it is far more hypocritical and I believe Ron Paul has lately done huge damage to the cause of libertarianism on more than one front.’

    I laugh at war whooping ‘libertarians’ when they say this.

    By supporting the disastrous policies of a disastrous administration, your ilk of libertarians have caused huge damage to libertarianism.

    If Ron Paul has alienated some Limbaugh and Coulter worshiping yokels and nationalist nuts, all for the better.

  • History never ends, and both action and inaction have consequences. You deal with them as they arise, as best you can, and then you deal with the consequences of those actions, ad infinitum. you nailed it, Pa. It is not neat, life isn’t neat, really. Some people think that just because something happens outside their borders, it is not life, or it is taking place in some alternative reality. Just because you only see it on TV, does not mean it is not happening.

  • Nick M

    I am amazed that a discussion which was initiated by my thoughts (kindly posted by Mid) on the root causes of Islamic terrorism has become a bun-fight over the Iraq war. Perhaps we need a new Godwin’s Law.

    I am also mildly amused that Ron Paul (a man who stands about as much chance of becoming president of the USA as I do) and is not as far as I know an Islamic extremist has featured so prominently.

    It’s like firing a bottle rocket. You light the fuze and then… whiz bang! Who knows where it ultimately lands (unless of course it hits the local farmer’s barn and then you get him shouting at you with a shotgun leveled at your chest).

    My digression into my youthful antics with explosives (I shall surrender myself tomorrow for forty years in Belmarsh – aka the “Abu Hamster Cage”) might seem slight and indeed trivial but it’s about as much to the point as raising Ron Paul.

    I’m not sure if I meant “raising” in the sense of necromancy. I leave it as an exercise to the reader.

    I’m already bored witless by this US campaign so I feel heartily sorry for citizens of the US who must get it much more.

    But as you point out, our foreign policy has been an indescribable disaster in so many ways that it is hard to say what is what any more.

    Yeah, I know. It’s fucked beyond fucking fuckeration to the fucking n-th fucking power. I mean FDR (who gets caned around here regularly) at least had a clarity of purpose in WWII – unconditional surrender of the axis powers. I’m not generally praising him but he at least knew how to fight a war which Bush, Blair and now Brown have not the slightest idea how to. I think we ought to get a subscription up to send these folks a copy of a certain book by Sun Tzu.

    I would say it’s laughable but for the thousands killed, maimed and injured. I have put more man-hours into strategic planning for some invasions in Civ games than it would appear that Dubya and Blair’s mob seemed to have done on this one.

    BTW, was that enough “fucks”?

    Well, we’ve now got Mr Brown (“a bit close to Mr Shit”) so how do American commentators think they’ll get on with Barack Hussein Obama as Commander in Chief?

    I’m English and, trust me, that idea fills me with only slightly more horror than Hilarity Clinton… Where’s a Teddy Roosevelt when you need one. Oh yeah he’s on top of my monitor and cost 8 bucks from the Capitol giftshop. He is equipped with a big stick and he’s not afraid to use it. I would tell you what he says about this utter fucking shambles but he he’s about 8cm tall and does speak softly so it’s hard to hear him above my computer’s cooling fans.

    The real tragedy of Iraq is that it is now painfully obvious that no bugger had the slightest idea what to do after Baghdad was taken. That for me is a much bigger story than any hokey dossier about WMD. Mr Gilligan, please?

  • Midwesterner

    “War whooping”, Martin? The power of rational discourse, eh? The “I’m right, you’re delusional” method of explaining your beliefs?

  • Nick M


    Life is about as neat as putting an elephant into a refrigerator.

    You know what they say about someone with a tidy desk?


    “War whooping” is an odd one. Do you think the vast spontaneous party that broke out in London after Germany surrendered in ’45 was “whooping”? Do you think being glad your side won (and that it’s all over) is “whooping” or that word only applies to people calling for a war which may be just.

    And some wars are just. World War II was a just cause for the Western allies. Some are just but just fucked-up. Would anyone be calling ‘nam the fiasco they tend to if the US had essentially won in the way it had done in Korea. I appreciate Korea was a bit more complicated than that but…

    Well practically any attempt to liberate the whole Korean peninsula would have embroiled the USA (and allies) in a full-scale war with China and/or Russia. Or as you might call it an absolute fucking nightmare.

    So you don’t believe that liberating the millions of folk south of the DMZ was worth it? Tell that one in Seoul. Part of a basically third world nation attained in less than half a century European levels of affluence and I frequently buy computer bits from ’em. Look what happened (and is happening) north of the DMZ and tell my that those lads died in vain.

    They created a country currently about as rich as Spain and with about the same population and I’d call that an achievement. I have never bought anything made in North Korea because I fix computers for a living and I doubt they’re even up to supplying parts for difference engines. Oddly enough there is little call for difference engine repair in Manchester.

    * Yeah, I know. McArthur, as my brother would put it, “really screwed the pooch”. I also know what Truman said when he sacked him and it’s priceless.

  • Nick M

    Mr Holmes,

    I’m not sure I shouldn’t tell you to just fucketh yeaself off by the most expedient method at your current disposal which I assume would be to take your copy of Das Kapital and shove it.

    Well, perhaps the Arabs could’ve welcomed fellow Arab refugees. Perhaps upon the foundation of Israel they could’ve not expelled Jews from their countries. Perhaps they could have aided them practically to build a civil society in which kids would aspire to more than blowing themselves apart in an Israeli bar. I dunno. Perhaps they could’ve done something other than a highly cynical “fuck all” because ultimately they don’t want a solution. They want a perennial stick to beat with – to beat practically any fucker but themselves*. Where d’ya think a lot of those Jews from Damascus and Baghdad ended up? Expanding the Jewish population in Israel/Palestine** (wasn’t that something they were against). There are a huge number of practical (and probably) cheaper things that the Arab world could do other than funding katyushas and suicide belts and radical madrassas or that obscene Hamas version of Mickey Mouse.

    It’s that simple Joshua.

    I was actually winding up a better ending rejoinder but it involved mentioning other people and frankly you are such a troll that any Billy Goat Gruff gets an armed guard next time he goes over the bridge.

    Now get with the fucking program or piss off and stop trolling.

    *If this is a fundamental issue of Islamic pride why aren’t Egypt and Syria and all the fucking rest massing on the border right now? Because they got their arses kicked in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982… So they use stealth funding of kids with rocket launchers that Tom Swift would be embarrassed to build.

    **I use the “/” term for technical reasons. It implies nothing about either the state of Israel or the putative state of Palestine. Think of it a bit like calling the whole sub-continent “India” before partition.

  • Martin

    I would say this about Korea:
    1. Truman set a dreadful precedent by not declaring war formally on North Korea. Instead, he justified it using a UN resolution. Since that war, America has been plunged into lots of undeclared wars. Such contempt for the constitution is criminal. Truman was a dreadful president though (predictably beloved by neocons and liberals though,just like both Roosevelts and Wilson) , and most of what he did set bad precedents or perpetuated ones that FDR began.
    2. Once the UN forces reached the North-South border in 1950, they ought to have stopped, or perhaps only gone as far as capturing Pyongyang. Any attacks further north should have been limited to airstrikes. Considering the point of the war was to protect South Korea, that is what the war should have been limited to. Instead, it was decided that North Korea was to be subject to ‘rollback’, even if it meant going up against half a million Chinese. Considering that most US casualties happened after the Chinese got involved, I would say they were needless sacrifices.
    3. Although South Korea’s economic wealth is impressive, the country, like Europe, is a freerider on American military might. South Korea is a wealthy country and should look after its own security.

    I am somewhat troubled about WW2. Hitler was evil and the Japanese were in the wrong, but I don’t think it makes the allies saints. The Soviets were just as bad as Hitler, and they butchered their way across Europe in 1944/5 almost as viciously as the Germans had the years previous. They sent millions to die in the gulags during and after the war (in addition to the millions sent prior to the war). I’m not that hot about how the British carpet bombed German cities. American airforce raids tended to target industry and particularly fuel and oil. The RAF just copied luftwaffe tactics hoping to break german morale, and they failed, despite killing thousands of civilians. Likewise, American bombing tactics over Japan leave a lot to be desired. The USAF just resorted to mass bombing and finally A-bombs. Internment of Japanese in America and Germans/Austrians in Britain was not cool either. Nor was the road to serfdom that the war economy imposed. The war resulted in Britain becoming socialist, and the New Deal apparatus being permanently imposed on America. The censorship, conscription, and price controls/rationing made a mockery of the freedom we were told we were fighting for. The unions milked it for all it was worth and furthered their grip on many politicians. It was a justified war, but a very very fucked up one with a lot of less than desirable outcomes. I don’t buy the sentimentality either. 1940 was not Britain’s finest hour, and the WW2 generation were not America’s greatest generation. That honor surely goes to the generation of 1776 that slung out the British and went onto elect a good president (Washington).

  • bob

    The one aspect of an acutely religious muslim that has always surprised me is his outward-directed rage, when confronted by unapologetic temptation. Contrary to popular depiction, your average Ivy league campus has a larger proportion of boring religious shmucks (Ba’hai, teetotaling Prods from the plains, conservative Jews and so on) than you would think. The mildly religious always came out for pints, if not to partake then to participate in an indigenous social ritual. This includes Shia and Sunni muslims from the Mahgreb, as well as Indians and Pakistanis. Only the religious muslims got upset, when you asked them.
    Always the same scenario:

    “Wanna go to a bar?”
    “I don’t drink.”
    “Well, you can watch me drink.”
    Muslim angrily walks the other way without a word.

    Strange people.

  • Nick M

    I am typing this on an IBM Thinkpad using MS software in England. I am truly free-riding on the US. I was truly free-riding on the US last fall when I honeymooned for three weeks in the USA.

    We have to all hang together or hang seperately because ideas that any country on this planet can become isolationist are nonsense.

    “Japan was in the wrong” – has to be the understatement of the fucking century. Yeah, tell that to an inmate in one of their prisoner of war camps or… well just Google “The Rape of Nanking”. I would tend towards the idea that that was not right.

    Fuck the bombing argument. “They sowed the wind and they reaped the whirlwind”. Just Google “Operation Gomorrah”. Whilst I’m sorry for the many poor bastards who were incinerated in a tornado of flame that set fire to the asphalt two streets away from the flame front (yes a feursturm is that bad) at a fundamental level I don’t give a toss. I don’t because as Basil Fawlty once put it, “You started the war. You invaded Poland!” Admittedly Mr Fawlty who was far from stable at the best of times but there is a grain of truth in that. In an ideal libertarian world we could all be individuals but as many here (especially Mid) have pointed out it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes a form of collectivism forces itself upon you and you have to take your place in the phalanx to defend your individual freedom. Of course states usually take it too far. An the imposition of income tax in the UK was a temporary measure in order to defeat Napoleon.

    That doesn’t mean beating Napoleon wasn’t important and it doesn’t mean that the destruction of Hamburg wasn’t both richly deserved and militarily useful. The USAAF used “precision” bombing techniques – that was their operational doctrine. The RAF used night area bombing because that was theirs. Simply as. Oh and we simply had no bomber that could live over Germany in daylight. I have absolutely got to get to bed soon but I will discuss aerial warfare with anyone until the cows come home later. The US effort was more successful but that was largely because the RAF (after Gomorrah) went for Berlin and because the US effort had the superlative P-51D escorting it and probably did more useful damage to the Luftwaffe than it did on the ground although it almost nixed ball bearing and synthetic fuel production.

    Anyway. I have to go to bed and as I could write reams on this this is hardly the place or time.

  • Sunfish

    Well, if Perry M. feels the need to sulk and stomp out of here because of a lack of people sharing in his bullshit hero-worship of that moonbat from Texas, that’s unfortunate. “We gave them the gas.” Yah, I can go to the Daily Kos or the HuffingGlue Post for that level of disconnection from reality. Sorry, Ron Paul may be philosophically libertarian, but he’s also a crank and a grabby little vote-buying hypocrite.

    As for what motivates the Salafist asshats…I thought the 7-7 video persuasive. Along with the reaction to the Danish cartoons. And the Minneapolis cabbies throwing tantrums about whether they (with their government monopoly) should allow drunks and women and seeing-eye dogs into the cabs. Or the bitch-fits about footbaths in the airport in Kansas City.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot: I’m a badge-heavy thuggish fascist pig and should probably shut up now.

  • James Waterton

    I’d like to see Ron Paul in the Whitehouse. He would never be able to implement his agenda fully (that whole checks and balances thing), but I think he’d be a really good start.

    Ron Paul’s problem is that his net-based supporters are, by and large, obsessive nutjobs. He’s been labelled the Cindy Sheehan of the right – not without justification – but that’s down to the behaviour of many of his supporters and not due to the typically dignified conduct of the man.

    It’s a pity he can’t (or won’t) shake off the loons that have attached themselves to his campaign, as their obsessive and aggressive behaviour has alienated many libertarians and small-govt Republicans who might have otherwise gravitated towards his message. I like many elements of Ron Paul’s platform, and find his voting record to be more principled than that of anyone else in Congress. He’s my preferred Republican candidate, even if his foreign policy views are not completely in line with my own.

  • Martin

    ‘We have to all hang together or hang seperately because ideas that any country on this planet can become isolationist are nonsense.’

    Switzerland do pretty well. Same with Sweden. The United States did pretty well out of staying out of entangling alliances for a long time too.

    ‘Isolationism’ is a smear term invented by blood thirsty imperialists that wanted to smear opponents of the Spanish-American war. It is still a smear term used by imperialists.

    The correct foreign policy is armed neutrality with unilateral free trade. No alliance systems, no trade blocs, no UN, no ‘special relationships’, no permanent war economy, no conscription, no collectivism, no sanctions, no imperialist wars disguised as ‘humanitarian’ intervention, no military subsidies for foreigners, and so on.

  • The war resulted in Britain becoming socialist

    As opposed to National Socialist if they had lost.

  • Nick M


    “blood thirsty imperialists”. I’m surprised you didn’t go the whole hog and add “… and lickspittle capitalist running dogs”.

    When a country is as big and powerful as the USA it is impossible to avoid foreign entanglements. A lot of the anti-US talk from much of the World is almost verbatim what a lot of folk said about Britain 100 years ago. The chattering classes and rabble rousers were probably saying it about Rome 2000 years ago. It’s just that foreign folk don’t like whoever is global 800lb gorilla.

    Switzerland is a very special case and Sweden is not exactly neutral or free from foreign entanglements anymore being a member of the EU. Neither is of course a great power (more gibbon-like) and are therefore more able to keep out of stuff. Not a luxury afforded to the 800lb gorilla.

    Do you think honestly that if America dropped all it’s foreign entanglements that nutcase in Tehran would stop ranting about the Great Satan? Or Chavez woulod buy a holiday home in Florida?

    Whilst I favour very free trade in general it isn’t that simple if you trade with unfree nations. Imagine you run a widgets plant in Nebraska and and just for the badness of it the Chinese politburo decides to bankrupt the entire US widget industry by massively subsidizing their own widget production and dumping it onto the US market. Now, imagine further, that widgets and the supply of widgets is vital to some necessity of modern warfare and the US depends upon it’s supply from a potentially hostile power. Imagine if China then cuts up rough… and it takes at least a year to re-tool a widget factory. Get’s tricky doesn’t it?

    While I would love a world in which the USA could act as you describe we ain’t reached that utopia yet.

  • Martin

    ‘Switzerland is a very special case’

    It actually had a big influence on the American founders- decentralized government, gun rights, citizen militias, armed neutrality as reflected by George Washington’s farewell speech. I know America has lost its way here, with a leviathan central government, increasing gun control, and a foreign policy more fit for the British Empire than a free republic, but the model is still a good one that was foolishly abandoned.

    ‘Do you think honestly that if America dropped all it’s foreign entanglements that nutcase in Tehran would stop ranting about the Great Satan? Or Chavez would buy a holiday home in Florida?’

    Does that really matter? Ahmadinejad and Chavez are a threat only to their own countries. They are ruining their own countries so effectively that any threat they pose to the United States is minimal. They need crises with America to sustain their rule. Stop taking their bait, and they will be finished.

    With regards to the supposed threat of the Chinese subsidizing their industries to put American ones out of business: more often than not, it is the US government subsidizing business American business to put foreigners out of work. The Chinese frankly are a lot more in favor of free trade than most people in democracies. We are better off trading with places like China, Vietnam, etc than we are being at war with them.

  • Only the religious muslims got upset, when you asked them.
    Always the same scenario:

    “Wanna go to a bar?”
    “I don’t drink.”
    “Well, you can watch me drink.”
    Muslim angrily walks the other way without a word.

    I think there’s a continuum here. Mormons behave similarly. They don’t get angry, and they don’t huff off, but they frequently refuse to enter bars, and they certainly never miss an opportunity to remind you that they’re not supposed to be drinking caffeine or alcohol. Religious Muslims are the extreme end, maybe, but they’re not really a special case when it comes to obsessive avoidance of temptation.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I am somewhat troubled about WW2.

    Writes Martin. Nice line in world-weary commentary, old bean.

    I see that Mr Metzger – whom I met about two years ago – has left the building in a huff. A shame, I liked his comments, but clearly he cannot deal with libertarians who fail to adhere to a strict, isolationist foreign policy, which he believes is best exemplified by the Swiss (I have pointed out the rather shaky aspect of this analogy before). As Randy Barnett has put it in a long and interesting comment recently, there are contradictions aplenty in that world view, not least of which is how such isolationists treat the sovereign borders of Iraq with a respect they would not give for one nanosecond to their own governments.

    Non-interventionism is nearly always the right policy, but this is a matter of practical judgement, not hard doctrine.

    As for the “blowback” argument, it has been repeated on here often enough that terror attacks vs western targets happened for decades before the Iraq war etc. Sure, the latest situation may have made some islamists even madder, but they were pretty nuts to start with. And anyway, the argument that we should not pursue a sensible foreign policy because it might “provoke” a response rings of cowardice.

  • Midwesterner


    ‘Switzerland is a very special case’

    It actually had a big influence on the American founders-

    At the time of our founding, we were Joe nobody and a Switzerland like existence was a reasonable expectation. Those days disappeared when Japan attacked us on land and Germany attacked our free trade with Britain, we defended and won. We are Roman Empire powerful now. The Swiss option is not available to us. And besides, do you really think the Swiss would have survived a Nazi victory in WWII? Really?

    Ahmadinejad and Chavez are a threat only to their own countries.

    The world gets smaller every day. On December 6, 1941, there were no doubt many making the same claim about Japan.

    Pakistan has the bomb. Iran can easily be expected to get one unimpeded. Iraq would have had one but for a bombing run by Israel back before the gulf wars. Private investors are soon putting satellites into orbit. Anything private investors can do here, oil money can do there.

    The Chinese frankly are a lot more in favor of free trade

    Might I encourage you to learn a little bit about exchange rate manipulation and production subsidies and other tools of trade war. China is not even remotely interested in unimpeded free trade. They want and mostly receive unimpeded free trade from our side only.

  • Of course states usually take it too far. An the imposition of income tax in the UK was a temporary measure in order to defeat Napoleon.

    And if we ever got a Libertarian Party into power we would reject his heirs (the EU) and finally be able to tackle income tax once and for all.

  • Martin

    ‘We are Roman Empire powerful now.’

    Much to our detriment. America is a corporatist socialist democrazy with elected Caesars running the show. America’s republic has gone the way of Rome’s. An Empire needs big government. Supporters of America being the new Roman Empire are automatically anti-libertarian for that reason.

    ‘The world gets smaller every day. On December 6, 1941, there were no doubt many making the same claim about Japan. Pakistan has the bomb. Iran can easily be expected to get one unimpeded. Iraq would have had one but for a bombing run by Israel back before the gulf wars. Private investors are soon putting satellites into orbit. Anything private investors can do here, oil money can do there.’

    ‘The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary’- H.L. Mencken

    ‘War scares are always potent with American numskulls’- H.L. Mencken

    And your anti-China rhetoric is hypocritical. You seem to be forgetting all the corporate welfare, agricultural subsidies, tariffs, and other trade impediments Washington imposes. The US government has no interest in free trade in any meaningful way.

  • Martin

    And BTW, considering how rich Switzerland is, why is a imperial foreign policy in anyway necessary to keep America rich?

  • Nick M

    Points taken. I disagree mainly but I never knew there was a Swiss influence on the founding fathers.

    Continuum? Read my earlier post with the link about Sayyid Qutb. He was outraged by the immorality he saw at a Methodist tea-dance in Colorado c.1950. If it is a continuum then alas these Muslims are at the “tending to infinity end”. I have dated a practicing Baptist and… it was fairly normal, really. I have lived all my adult life in English inner city areas with very large muslim minorities (in at least one case a majority) and I have never exchanged a single word with a veiled woman. Not once. They just don’t talk to non-mehrem men. They say the veil is liberating because it means they get judged on what they say rather than how they look but I have yet to hear an observation on the weather from one. I know there’s a woman in there but it is very easy not to think or feel that.

    I am not suggesting random strangers must come up and strike up a conversation but… You know what it’s like – you live on a street for a coupla years and you get to know people and stuff.

    And don’t think, “Ah hah, I bet you never even tried” because I’m on about the sort of casual conversations that occur at bus stops and only nutters “try” and start them. They generally just happen.

    It’s quite sad. I’m not talking about them even accompanying me to bar, I’m talking about a few shared remarks on how the A6 roadworks are taking a long time. To think that you live in a pretty neat country (and the UK is pretty neat) and yet have zero interest in it or it’s inhabitants is tragic.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    And BTW, considering how rich Switzerland is, why is a imperial foreign policy in anyway necessary to keep America rich?

    Swiss is rich for several reasons. One of them is that so many people flee there from high-taxing countries. Now if Britain, the US and places like France cut taxes radically, that might put the Gnomes of Geneva and Zurich into a pickle.

    Seriously, the Swiss model can work for relatively small nations with easily defendable borders (those mountains come in handy), etc. But let’s not kid ourselves; if Switzerland’s resources were deemed vital to a potential invader, or if the Swiss started to get the evil eye of you-know-who, then I am afraid things change somewhat.

    And of course the Swiss are heavily armed.

  • Midwesterner

    Martin, you wrote a long reply but you ignored my points. I asked you:

    “And besides, do you really think the Swiss would have survived a Nazi victory in WWII? Really?”

    Yes or no?

    Would nuclear weapons and intercontinental delivery systems in the hands of people sworn to use them against us be something that you would ignore as “not a threat to our country”? Would you wait until we are hit to change that description? Do you disbelieve avowed enemies when they say what they would do with those nuclear weapons?

    Yes or no?

    My “rhetoric” in regard to China is the one that isn’t hypocritical. I have consistently opposed all non-defense related trade measures. I have only two reasons that qualify for trade measures, preserving defense critical domestic capacity and preventing arming our enemies. Would you reject these two reasons?

    Yes or no?

    why is a imperial foreign policy in anyway necessary to keep America rich?

    So if I don’t agree with you on every single detail, I am an imperialist? Is that how “war whooper” is defined as well?

    Yes or no?

  • Midwesterner

    BTW, I consider the WTO to be pro free trade. They have the best record of anything at increasing free trade.

  • Robert Speirs

    This thread reminds me why Ayn Rand was NOT a libertarian. She would have hated Ron Paul. She supported the obliteration of crazed tyrannical regimes when it was in the interest of freedom-loving democracies to obliterate them. If she were president, Islam would be only a nightmarish memory.

  • Martin

    I think the swiss could probably have put up a tremendous fight against the Germans. Books covering swiss policies during the war show that they were more than ready to put up an immense fight, that their soldiers were well trained, heavily armed, that they were prepared to blow up every bridge and tunnel rather than give it to the Germans. As Switzerland’s central government was so weak, there was no hope that Germany could quickly coerce a quick surrender, unlike in Belgium or France.

    It should be remembered that Yugolsav partisans cleared the Germans out of Yugoslavia largely by themselves. And remember how Finland manged to prevent the Russians from taking over Finland, despite a lack of men and arms.

    I disagree with the WTO. Free trade does not need a global government. The WTO are not exporters or importers. They are bureaucrats that want to meddle. Real free trade terrifies them. They would have no job to do. The WTO is as much in favor of free trade as the European Union is.

  • Kim du Toit

    The reason the CIA has given up going after Bin Laden is that he’s dead.

    As for 9/11: they hate us because we’re godless (according to their definition); they hate us because we’re immoral (again, according to their definition); they hate us because we’re successful and they’re not; they hate us because their culture is still stuck in the 11th century, and ours isn’t.

    Frankly, my dear Scarlett, I don’t actually care why they hate us.

    Oderint dum metuant, or we drop a daisycutter bomb on their ass.

    I wish.

  • Midwesterner

    We disagree on WTO. I’ve looked into their record and it is better than anything else I have seen (which is admittedly not a high benchmark.) It has been very useful in the US for terminating and preventing some protectionism. I believe we would be in much worse shape, trade wise, without it. Our difference on WTO is reasonable enough and I am open to doubt and always listening for signs that it is turning into what you describe. So far, it seems to function mostly as a court of appeal, not an administrator for, trade practices.

    All descriptions of partisan’s successes against the Nazis and the Communists must be taken in light of the incredible economic power (despite FDR’s efforts to hobble it) of the United States. Not counting our own massive military involvement, lend lease alone was “equivalent to nearly $700 billion at 2007 prices” That’s $700,000,000,000. The Swiss faced a dead end. Their only long term plan that could succeed is one of leaving scorched earth for the Nazis.

    Finland is a case that I don’t think stands up to close examination. Prior to WWII, it played off Germany and the SU. Within Finland, the ‘Whites’ were funded by Germany, and the ‘Reds’ were funded by the Bolsheviks. Post WWII, it benefited from the cold war. The SU clearly could, and clearly would have taken it in the absence of outside opposition.

    I share your contempt of most of what government is. But I do not believe it is possible to survive without a strong, projectable military. There are bad people out there who mean us harm regardless of where we are. That was my point in choosing Nick’s statement to quote.

    I personally believe that weakness and vulnerability to surprise attacks encourages those people to use violence. I do not support, and in fact recoil in disgust, from most of what this administration has attempted and achieved. But I make a very strong effort to not allow BDS to skew my judgment. It does take some effort 🙂

  • Nick M

    They pickle gnomes in Zurich?

    Fuck me! I thought they just put cuckoos into clocks!

    You are an idealist and purist, I think. The real world doesn’t work that way. One day it might and that day I’ll buy you a coke but until then…

    Of course the Swiss could put up a terrific battle. But a major power could crush them if it was prepared to throw the kitchen sink at them. Just like the Sov’s crushed the Finns at enormous expense to themselves. For small nations defence policy is about making themselves too costly to invade. This doesn’t apply to some of the big hitters though. Hence you got stuff like MAD during the cold war. The big hitters play for global domination and always have done. You may not like that and I may not like that but it’s the way it pans out.

    Must re-install Civ 4. I am only a digital imperialist.

    Any tips on pickled gnome futures? Worth a punt or are they a little on the sour side?

  • RobtE

    Nick –

    Can’t speak for the pickled gnomes, but it seems you can get Elf Cutlets.

  • A few points about the Swiss.

    Yes they were ready to fight like hell in their mountains , but they were also ready to give up the plains and surrender most of their population to Nazi control. How that would have played out is pure speculation but given the Nazis habits of large scale killing of civilians and Hitler’s very Austrian hatred of the Swiss it would have been ugly indeed.

    The Swiss were not at all well armed. They did not have a single tank or anti tank gun and most of their artillery was of WW 1 vintahe if that. They had good rifles but that is about it. They certainly lacked any sort of squad automatic weapons to match the British bren gun or the German MG-38.

    Looking back further in time the Swiss did have some influence on the first US articles of confederation, but we got rid of those pretty quickly. The US constitution was the model for the post 1848 Swiss one.

  • Alexandros

    Just as a further aside, I don’t understand the hostility towards the Roman Empire or its legacy by supposed libertarians such as Martin. I believe the *collapse* of the Empire holds plenty of meaning about what policies and conditions to avoid, but for most of its existence Rome insured a massive and relatively secure system of trade for its citizens. It did FAR more for the betterment of its constituent states (even the conquered ones) than an individual city-state along the Greek models could have. I realize that admiration for giant states is not a feature of libertarianism, but it has to be said the Roman empire, by its massive dominance of its surroundings and military superiority for most of its existence, insured great prosperity for a huge amount of humanity. I would even argue it insured much more liberty than they would have otherwise enjoyed, either being at the mercy of the barbarian tribes, or under rule of more local despots.

    It’s a favorite remark of self-labeled “anti-imperialists” that i’ve personally known and read, that all empires must fall. True enough, but then again thats true for every nation, large empires however usually have the distinction of surviving the longest and passing on the greatest cultural and military legacies even after their passing. I personally argue that the Roman empire had a continous existence for nearly 2000 years through the survival of the Eastern empire’s administration. And even today, 1500 years since the end of the Western empire, Rome continues to be a huge influence in the world (even in those places that claim to hate imperialism so much now). So when somebody sneers that America “is the new Rome” I really hope that they’re correct, we should be so lucky. ahem, well, my 2 cents at least.

  • Paul Marks

    First I have commented on the original thread.

    Since when has being libertarian meant telling lies?

    Lies like “we gave them the gas” (concerning the chemical weapons Saddam used on the Kurds).

    Or – the United States was attacked on 9/11 because “we had been bombing Iraq for ten years” (which means, if it means anything, that attacks on anti anticraft missile bases in Iraq, in order to try and stop them shooting down American aircraft which were tyring to enforce the 1991 agreement, somehow led to 9/11 – a justification that even Bin Laden never tried).

    “Ron Paul was not telling lies, he just did not know what he was saying”.

    I see – so being a libertarian means comming with a lot of stuff you are being fed?

    Are we really back to the Rothbardian days of the communist aggression in Indo China being a “peasants revolt” and a “national liberation struggle against Western Imperialism”.

    “Left and right join hands”

    Back in the 1960’s with the “Students for a Democratic Society”, now with moveon.org and the DailyKos.

    “But if you do not follow our line you are not a libertarian”.

    A favourate tactic of some people connected with the Ludwig Von Mises Initiute.

    Accept, of course, that Ludwig Von Mises himself did not follow the Rothbardian line.

    As for the comment by Nick M.

    Yes (as I have said on the original thread) Sayyid Qutb (whose teachings inspired Osama bin Laden) did NOT hate the United States because the Americans helped overthrow a pro Soviet Prime Minister in Iran in 1953, or even because of the support for Israel.

    Sayyid Qutb hated the United States because he hated Western Civilization (especially as regards women) and he was confirmed in his hatred by a visit in 1949.

    See Michael Burleigh’s “Sacred Causes: Religion and Politics from the European Dictators to Al Qaeda” (London 2006).

    Page 460 onwards (for those who can not use an index).

    “So why do the radical Muslims, Sunni or Shia, not attack (say) Sweden?”

    Because the United States, not Sweden, is the main power of the West. “But we do not want to be the main power of the West” – so who is to step forward in the place of the United States?

    “No one should step forward – if we did not fight them they would not fight us”.

    If anyone really believes that I have a nice bridge near the Tower of London to sell them.

    But, by the way, they have not forgotten even Sweden Wahabi ideas are now common in places like Malmo.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Alexandros, your thesis would be even stronger had the Romans not operated slavery and on a huge scale. A bit of a problem, that one.

  • Martin

    Oh please. Rome looted the peoples it conquered. Tributes had to be paid and millions of slaves were taken. Rome was a classic mercantalist empire. Good model for a mercantilist tories that wanted Britain to lord over the world or mercantilist neocons that want American imperialism. Not a good model for a free market libertarian.

  • Alexandros

    Johnathan, granted the Romans had a large institution of slavery, but then again it was a common practice world-wide up until a few centuries ago (and in north Africa even today). Indeed modern times seem to be an outlier from usual practices of mankind, not that that excuses it mind you. However I don’t think the fact Rome used slaves alters my point much. I’d also say that unlike other nations that practiced slavery, the Roman Empire was not nearly as dependant upon their slave-labor force, and indeed would have remained a prosperous nation even if the institution had been removed. But I believe that slavery on the whole damages a nation, and not just abstractly, as it creates a sense of dependency from the higher classes in that society, and creates social-rigidity that helps no-one. As well, both the British Empire and the United States relied upon slave labor for large chunks of their history, and aside from some nay-sayers I wouldn’t think many here would argue both nations have had on the whole a very positive impact on the world despite the practice.

    To Martin, the Romans taxed their provinces yes, but I wouldn’t call that looting, which generally denotes the forceful taking of wealth without any compensation. The Roman empire *did* provide a reciprocal service to its provinces in the form of access to foreign markets for local goods and military protection from barbarian tribes in the north and foreign nomads to the south. Not to mention access to technology and knowledge that simply would have been unknown to people before their assimiliation into the Empire. Also I don’t see how you can really call Rome mercantalist, the truly negative consequence of mercantalism, and the one most people remember is that the founding nation restricts production ability in its colonies so as not to allow competition with manufactured goods coming from the home country, and thus insure all capital is one way, into the founding nation and out of the provinces. But from everything i’ve read, that wasn’t the case up until nearly the end of the western empire, and it was that punitive level of taxation that helped along the West’s collapse.

  • Martin

    ‘To Martin, the Romans taxed their provinces yes, but I wouldn’t call that looting, which generally denotes the forceful taking of wealth without any compensation.’

    Finding it hard to differentiate looting from taxes from what you have wrote.

  • Alexandros

    Maybe I was unclear, Looting is the forceful taking of wealth without compensation, the Vikings being a stereotypical example. The Romans didn’t loot their provinces (albiet perhaps some during the initial conquest), they taxed them, IE, the local government was required to send X amount to the Treasury. But Rome sent civil engineers to its provinces to build roads, fortresses, walls, and aquaducts in turn. Territory within the Empire was also by-and-large free of bandits, and one of the worst aspects of the empire’s collapse in the west was the loss of security along the once safe trade routes. So Martin I really don’t see how you can say that Rome looted its territories.

  • Martin

    Taxation IS looting. Even if the money is used for quasi welfare-security state purposes as the Romans did, it is still downright robbery in the same way as the income tax is downright robbery today. It is coercively enforced. Just because the taxman appears more respectable than a viking does not change the fact that the taxman is still a robber.

    The types of people I suppose who could admire this Roman attitude are welfare state types that love to blab on about how we’re taxed for our own good. I’m sure that’s how the Romans saw it. As a libertarian, I’d admire anybody that beat up or killed Roman tax collectors and their stooges.

  • Alexandros

    Then, as now, there is a perfectly decent reason to levy taxes on a population, to provide for the maintence of the military and the construction of infrastructure to support it (roads for rapid movement throughout the territory, forts for deployment, aquaducts and canals for transport and water.) And military infastructure serves the dual use of also facilitating faster trade. I completely agree, the purpose to which taxes are used today *are* mostly theft, the removal of wealth from productive members of society to sustain unproductive members. However unless you’re a rabid anarchist, you must admit there *are* some legitimate functions of government, and IMO the protection of a nations borders and insurance that its populace is reasonably safe are among them. Come to think of it I think the Romans were better at those two most of the time than western governments today, go figure.

  • Quenton

    Sorry for the delayed reply. Busy day.

    Nick M:

    It’s not the cutting off of funds to Hamas that angers me. It’s the fact that we turned around and gave them to another group of murderous barbarians called Fatah. This has the effect of turning the Palestinians, who hate the US and Israel, against Fatah. I personally don’t want either of them to get my money, or any other foreign government for that matter.

    Sayyid Qutb sounds like he needed a good lay. I’ve read Penthouse letters that were more mild than his speeches. The way to fight these people isn’t with bullets, it’s with freedom. Freedoms like looking at scantily clad women while eating overpriced food.

    We trade with Dubai and it’s people are becoming more moderate. We bomb Iraq (a guerrilla war and yet we use area of effect weapons) and the people there are becoming more radical. This is partially because anyone that actually seeks freedom is leaving. No sane person wants to live on a battlefield.

    And yes, I know very well what taqqiya is. My problem, however, is what is taqqiya and what isn’t? It seems that the term is usually applied to any jihad propaganda that runs counter to neo-con propaganda. Any jihad video that serves a useful purpose, such as threatening mom and apple pie, is of course not taqqiya.


    I don’t object to anyone volunteering to help out. Government intervention is not “volunteering” in any sense of the word. If you and a group of people want to arm up and defend neighborhoods from roving death squads please do. Do not force others to take action on your behalf, that is not “volunteering”

    And who exactly is the US Military protecting at current? The Chaldeans who have nearly been wiped out? The Kurds, whom we are about to abandon a second time and let Turkey wipe them out? Perhaps it is the Sunni minority who is fleeing the country in droves? Or the Shiites who like to shop in the crowded marketplace? The US and UK governments have a piss-poor record of protecting their own citizens at home and yet they are somehow supposed to supply a level of competence in this field that has never existed in the past.


    Just because you don’t actively try to get rid of a dictator doesn’t mean you are supporting him. Free and open trade would not be with the dictator, it would be with the people. Sure he would get tax revenues, but if he is getting tax revenues then that means that the people are getting the goods and services that they desire or else there would be nothing to pay the taxes with. Once the big money starts rolling in repression becomes counter-productive. The only thing people like more than killing other people is to make butt-loads of money off of other people.

    My ideal foreign policy would follow that mold. Trade would always take precedence over warfare. I’m not saying never to defend yourself. If you are attacked, attack back, and hard. Do not move war to the front of the option list, keep it at the back. The first piece of wisdom found in The Art of War is that the general who accomplishes victory without engaging in battle is the better general.

    This talk about how the Roman Empire was a good concept with a bad execution is complete and total crap. Reminds me of the arguments that Communism is a good idea if only it is executed right. Empires are self-serving entities that always collapse leaving the people who were part of it in a very bad state of affairs. You can’t “fix” the problems that the Roman Empire had because those problems are inherit in imperial systems. Imperial systems require that the citizens give up any and all rights at their leaders whims. A republican era Roman had vastly more rights than an Imperial one. One small example was that a Republican era citizen was allowed to own weapons (and indeed was required to purchase his own if he went into the army), and an Imperial one was not.

    Once the Empire started collapsing due to lack of funds the unpaid professional soldiers left their posts and the townspeople were unable to defend themselves against the barbarians that came. Empires spread rot and decay thought the people under them and erase their ability to fend for themselves. Once that happens the people have a vested interest in maintaining the empire. The solution is not to have an empire and maintain it well, but to not have one in the first place. There are plenty of places that have existed in peace and prosperity without having an ever-expanding empire.

  • Martin

    There are countless examples of utilities and infrastructure being provided by the free market and provided by the free market better than the state. even IF that was impossible in Roman times, we should not admire them for it because all they encouraged were countless generations of statists to bogusly claim that a market economy cannot provide infrastructure.

    And yes defense is a valid function of government. BUT the Roman Army was always more of an expansionist army rather than a defensive one. And I don’t think it is a valid function of government to steal land.

    You say something about Roman lands being free of bandits. Maybe thats true, but who would need bandits to bother you when you had Roman troops to do the deed instead? Have you ever looked at how many people the Romans killed and enslaved? Bandits may kill tens, possibly a few hundred people. Caesar slaughtered a million people in Gaul and enslaved that many. The Romans killed over a million Jews while they were trying to suppress them. A few bandits seem preferable compared to the precursors of the La Grande Armée and the Schutzstaffel.

  • Alexandros

    Quenton, sure, there are plenty of places that exist without the presence of a large empire…then again such places are usually a.) isolated enough they don’t get noticed or b.) under the protection of another large and powerful state. I’m thinking of places like micronesia for A and Canada (somewhat) for B. I can understand your point about the decay of citizens ability to fend for themselves, but I thats something that all specialist societies face, not something particular to huge empires. For the record, I think the way in which Rome’s rulers were selected was idiotic, the inbreeding was worse than the 18th century European royal bloodlines, but think the structure of the empire was decent, not necessarily its rulers. I feel the same way about the U.S. half the time too. Also, the collapse of empires don’t *always* result in Chaos, witness the British Commonwealth. Although in the case of Zimbabwe I have to ask if they weren’t better off with the empire…

  • There are countless examples of utilities and infrastructure being provided by the free market and provided by the free market better than the state.

    For sure! That is not at all a good reason to have a state. Military (but I am all for PMCs and letters of marque), some provision for courts and police (which does not preclude a big role for private polycentric law and private security) and defence against plagues… nothing else the state does cannot be done better by markets.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Johnathan, granted the Romans had a large institution of slavery, but then again it was a common practice world-wide up until a few centuries ago (and in north Africa even today).

    I don’t really respect that sort of argument, since it is saying: “They all do it so don’t condemn us” point; well, in fact that was not entirely true and after the fall of the Empire, slavery disappeared in parts of the former Empire, and did not exist in say, Anglo-Saxon England and serfdom only reappeared when another conquering bunch, the Normans, got into Britain.

    There are many things to admire about the Roman Republic, in particular, but the Empire, with its extraordinary cruelties, persecutions, love of violence (Russell Crowe, take a bow), hardly suggests it was a place any liberty-loving person would want to spend a lot of time in.

  • Paul Marks

    Roman legal thinkers (the people who helped create “Roman law” when it was a common law tradition – before it became a state code) agreed that slavery was aganst “natural law” – their way out of this was to say as slavery was accepted by “the law of all nations” natural law could go hang.

    The argument did not hold together (any more than Aristotle’s old “natural slave” argument had done centuries before – indeed Aristotle’s arugment did not even convince him, as he freed his own slaves in his will) and some Roman writers (such as Pliny the Elder) pointed to places where slavery did not exist (thus blowing a whole in the whole “law of all nations” dodge) but they were ignored.

    Although of course individual Romans did free slaves a lot. Indeed it was the ease with which the Romans freed slaves that shocked other folk, and the high positions in society that these Freedmen sometimes got. Indeed Augustus (the first Emperor) brought in laws to make freeing slaves more difficult – this was partly because of the Roman cultural practice of “client and patron”.

    A poor person would often seek a patron (perhaps a distant relative or a friend of a friend) and would be under a moral (not a legal) obligation to be supporter of this patron. And a freedman was under an intense moral (not legal) obligation to show his good faith and honourableness by supporting the person who had freed him.

    We can snear at all this – but it was an alternative to the “bread and games” of the state. A way by which a poor person could lift his family out of poverty (your patron would find you a job, or give you money to start up a business – but in return was the moral, again not legal, obligation to support your patron especially if his life was in danger, or if the patron could not be saved to at least save his wife and children).

    Also there was the ease with with which the son of a Freedman – or an alien, became a citizen.

    These things would have horrified such politicians as Pericles of Athens (perhaps this is a reason the Roman Empire lasted longer than the Athienian).

    On Conquest:

    Yes Martin is correct.

    Conquest was often pushed by the need to buy votes at home.

    When the United States wins a war it gives money to the defeated place (one of the many reasons why it is absurd to talk of an “American Empire”) – that was not the Roman way.

    Some of the “knights” (i.e. the class of people who had once been defined by their ability to have a horse for battle) were always on the look out for government contracts (for tribute collection and other such).

    And the popularist (Populari) just wanted money to fund “free” bread and games for the voters.

    The conservative “Optimate” (best men) faction in the Senate opposed Imperial expansion (their wealth depended on farming – not government contracts for tribute collection and other such, and the bread and games politics cut accross their patron-client way of operating). But their last great leader was Sulla.

    It is often forgotten that, for all his faults (which were great – he killed anyone who crossed him, although he argued that the Populari side had started the killing), Sulla was the last Roman General to capture places (in retaliation for wars launched against Romans) whilst opposing annexing them. And he was the last Roman politician in the Republic to abolish the government bread and games (they were brought back a few years after his retirement).

    On the British Empire.

    In the 18th century there was nothing “Tory” about it Martin.

    If was created by Whigs like Pitt the Elder.

    True Lord North is called a “Tory” in the history textbooks – but that just shows how bad they are. Lord North was no more a Tory than I am one of Tolkien’s Elves (he was a court Whig). There were court Whigs (like Lord North) and there were country Whigs (such as Lord Rockingham and his chief thinker and client Edmund Burke) if anything the country Whigs were much closer to the Tories than the court Whigs were (look who Edmund Burke allied with in the struggle against the cider tax – cider, now there is a Tory drink if there ever was one).

    George III when he came to the throne in 1760 he wanted to break with the great Whig famlies. But his man Lord Bute was hardly a Tory (apart from in his opposition to overseas war – a Tory point of view) and Bute did not last long anyway. People like Lord North were court Whigs.

    The Tories (the actual English Tories – not Americans who got the name “Tory” shoved at them, although the French American writer J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur was very much a Tory) were actually “little Englanders” who wanted nothing to do with empires and other such. They supported “Church and King” – as long as the Church of England was made up of people who were more interested in hunting and fishing than in strange relgious concepts (of either the Roman Catholic of Dissenting Protestant varieties) and they supported the King – but did not want him to do anything (about anything). Tolkien’s “The Shire” (in the “Lord of the Rings” is a very Tory place).

    A classic “October Club” (to use an early, rather than a late 18th century term) Tory supported the King as opposed to “politiicians” and speculators in the national debt.

    Certainly Dr Johnson was a Tory and he opposed American indepedence, but Boswell was a Tory to – and he did not want any taxes imposed by Parliament on the Americans.

    A classic Tory thinker in the late 18th century was Dean Tucker (if anything less of a “mercantalist” than Adam Smith was – just as, way back in the 1600’s the Tory writer Sir Dudley North had been no “mercantalist”).

    Tucker was churchman (the Dean of Gloucester) but a Tory Anglican – so he did not spend much time thinking about religion.

    Not athiesm – just an understanding that he did not know God’s inside leg measurement, and how religion was practiced was about maintaining traditions holding local people together.

    Tucker’s writers on such matters as trade and empire are well worth reading.

    In the 19th century people like Benjamin Disraeli make Toryism a very different thing – but do not get me started on the despicable Dizzy.

    Of course such things as the war in Iraq (however wrong headed they may be) are nothing to do with “empires” or “mercantalism” – but it is difficult to explain that to people who have been influenced by Rothbardian thinking.

    As for the “neocons” – they are people who support spreading democracy by warfare (they are not mercantalists).

    Actually there were never very many of these people in the Bush Administration (Paul W. was one, but I can not think of any others off the top of my head). The Bush Administration did think it would be nice for Iraq to be a democracy, but they certainly would not have gone to war if Saddam had been pro American in 2003. Rightly or wrongly they regarded Saddam as a threat to the allies of the United States and to Ameicans directly (not just the President’s father, but ordinary Americans as well).

    All the above (on all the subjects) is made up of things that people could find out for themselves (without great difficulty).

    It is odd that I have to write it all out (as if I was a “fact checker”). Why can not people do this job for themselves?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    It is odd that I have to write it all out (as if I was a “fact checker”). Why can not people do this job for themselves?

    Alas, people are lazy, Paul. I enjoyed your points about the difference between court and country whigs; a lot of lazy people assume that Burke was a Tory but he was not. Have you read The Great Melody by Conor Cruise O’Brien?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes I have Johnathan – it is a good biography. However, it is not so good on political theory and it does tend to see things too much from Edmund Burke’s own point of view (perhaps no bad thing in a biography).

    For example, the situation in India was not quite what Edmund Burke thought it was (and it was certainly not as O’Brien presents it – with the only threat to ordinary Indians being nasty British people, O’Brien both tends to leave out the French and leaves out Indian warlords who were often not passive at all).

    Still I must point out that I did not mean to imply that Pitt the Elder was “Court Whig” (the “Great Commoner” would not have liked that at all) – but he was a war-for-trade man (what Martin, following the tradition of Adam Smith, would call a “mercantalist” – perhaps the most important British one there ever was).

    All these labels are difficult.

    For example, was Sir Robert Walpole a “Court Whig” or a “Country Whig”?

    He ruled with the backing of first George I and then George II – and his political foes certainly thought of him as a corrupt stooge of the Court and the London national debt speculators (although Walpole tended to avoid speculation himself – as he showed when he followed advice to stay out of the South Sea Company bubble when virutally every other poltician got over his head with it).

    However, Sir Robert Walpole was in favour of controlled government spending (his bribes to win votes in the House of Commons did not cost much), lower taxes (if my memory serves he got the land tax down to two shillings in the Pound at one point) and free trade (although that was bound up with 1733 internal excise scheme – which crashed and burned, and perhaps rightly so) – and, above all, peace.

    Indeed it was the war with Spain (which he finally failed to prevent) that brought him down.

    As a boy Edmund Burke despised Sir Robert Walpole (the “patriotic” opposition looked so much more honourable – partly because men like Pitt the Elder did not depend on bribes to win poltical support), but he came to see that Sir Robert had been right and his foes wrong.

    It is interesting that even when they were basically on the same side against taxes on the Americans, Burke (and the Rockinghamites generally) found it very difficult to cooperate with Chatham (as Pitt had become) and his followers.

    There economic opinions were very different (unlike the “neocons” the Chathamites really did have an economic conception of “Empire”.

    Really Rockingham and Burke had more in common with old dead Sir Robert Walpole than they had in common with the Earl of Chatham.

    Although, of course, a man like Rockingham would never have accepted or given a bribe (Rockingham was one of those very irritating people who seem to have had no moral flaws – perhaps that is why historians do not tend to write about him, it is boring to write about a man whose worst enemies where unable to make any charges against him about anything, and always acted with goodness and honour).

    O’Brien might point out that it is easy to be “high minded” when you are perhaps the richest man in England. However, I think O’Brien is unfair to Rockingham. He could not speak (although a man of great physical courage Rockingham seems to have been rather shy) or write well – but his Yorkshire brain was sound enough. He was not Edmund Burke’s puppet (any more than Burke was his paid stooge – Burke had broken with patrons when the did not share his opinions before and was to do so again when Rockingham died) – he happened to share Burke’s basic outlook.

    When Rockingham died Burke found he had depened on him for a lot more than money. Earl Fitzwilliam did not quite fill Rockingham’s shoes (even when the good Earl finally decided that Burke was correct about the French Revolution, till then Burke refused his support anyway, that was a thing about Burke – you had to agree with him before he would do you the honour of taking your money, just offering him money with the freedom to say whatever he liked was not enough).

  • Martin

    Perhaps mercantalist was the wrong word. But there is an economic factor that has influenced US foreign policy in the Middle East for years, and that is the fear of a repeat of the 1970s oil crisis. Obviously, the reasons for war in Iraq were more ideological than economic. But Bush I admitted at the time of Gulf War I that war was necessary to avoid a new oil crisis. The topic has become difficult to debate because leftists assumed this meant Bush was out to ‘steal’ oil, and as a result it has been easy to tar anyone bringing up the issue to be a mad leftist.

    Many economists have debunked how crucial the oil crisis was in causing America’s economic woes in the 1970s. I quote from an article from 1998 by Jerry Taylor of the CATO Institute:
    ‘But once oil is in the global marketplace, there is no way to keep it from the United States, even in the teeth of a direct boycott. As MIT’s Thomas Lee, Ben Ball, Jr. and Richard Tabors have written, “it was no more possible for OPEC to keep its oil out of U.S. supply lines [in 1973] than it was for the United States to keep its embargoed grain out of Soviet silos several years later. The embargo was circumvented by simply rerouting through the international system. The significance of the embargo lay in its symbolism.”‘

    ‘Contrary to popular opinion, oil prices are simply not that important to the overall economy. Only 2 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on petroleum. Economist Douglas Bohi calculates that the petroleum shortages of the 1970s reduced the nation’s GDP by only 0.35 percent. Many economists now agree that wage and price controls, inflationary monetary policy and economic mismanagement large and small by the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations were the root cause of the economic downturns of the 1970s. Both political parties, however, found it useful to blame OPEC for the economic mistakes of their party leaders.’

    Of course, one only has to look at Washington’s domestic policies to realise that economics is not a strong point. You are right that American foreign policy does not benefit the country economically , but the politicians seem to think it does. The ideological zeal of the Bush II has complicated things a lot, but I think economic interventionism is still a factor influencing foreign policy in the Middle East, even if at the moment it takes backstage to trying to turn Iraq into New Jerusalem.

  • Quenton,
    That was a late reply indeed…

    Just because you don’t actively try to get rid of a dictator doesn’t mean you are supporting him. Free and open trade would not be with the dictator, it would be with the people. Sure he would get tax revenues, but if he is getting tax revenues then that means that the people are getting the goods and services that they desire or else there would be nothing to pay the taxes with. Once the big money starts rolling in repression becomes counter-productive. The only thing people like more than killing other people is to make butt-loads of money off of other people.

    Well, I think that’s a respectable opinion, if a bit optimistic as regards the consequences of trade. I probably just got too used to people finding fault with any possible option (and your post reminded me of that line of argument) . So my apologies, I should have been more careful in my interpretation.

  • Paul Marks

    There was a lot of good sense in your last comment Martin – but I do not think that George Walker Bush ever wanted to turn Iraq into a New Jerusalem. Just a place with a constitutional government (rather than a expansionist dictator) was his objective.

    My problem with that was that Iraq used to have a parliament, with fairly free elections and so on – and it all fell apart back in 1958.

    The Royal family were killed (those who were in the country) and the Prime Minister (an Arab Nationalist all his life) had his penus cut off and was dragged behind his car THROUGH CHEERING CROWDS till he died.

    I pointed out that the same crowds might well have cheered if this had been done to the Prime Minister’s opponents (it was sadism – not some point of political philosophy), but this was one of the times that the “shit hit the fan”.

    I was accused of disrespecting the people of Iraq (and various other things) and my opinions on the operation were worthless because I did not accept that all people were much the same in every country on Earth.

    Still victory in Afghanistan is linked to victory in Iraq as defeat in Iraq would make defeat in Afghanistan inevitable (and remember the Afghan war was not optional – the Taliban supported the A.Q. indeed they have the same theology-political philosophy). Of course even without Iraq victory (i.e. a stable constitutional government) in Afghanistan was not wildly likely (but, after 9/11 there was no choice but to try).

    Life is irritating.

  • Paul Marks

    Full disclosure:

    A family friend served in Iraq before W.W.II – he had many Iraqi friends, but his general opinion of the culture can not longer be legally expressed in the United Kingdom (because of various statutes).

    Indeed even many school boy expressions (common when I was young) are no longer useable (legally), although they are sadly accurate expressions.