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Freedom vs. War

“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations — entangling
alliances with none.” Those immortal words of Thomas Jefferson sum up the
original American vision of our nation’s role in the world. This compact of
independent states would trade freely with all, and eschew the hatreds and
wars of Europe.

Recall that Clinton’s first inaugural made use of Jefferson’s memory, as
he began his trip to the White House at Jefferson’s home in Virginia. As the
bombs rain down on Belgrade, it is sobering to think how completely this
administration disregards the Founding Fathers’ moral imperatives on
international relations.

The sum total of this administration’s foreign policy is bombs. It bombs
Somalia. It bombs the Sudan and Afghanistan. It bombs Iraq. It bombs Bosnia.
And now it bombs Yugoslavia. Bombing and destruction is this
administration’s lifeblood. Bombs distract the public from Clinton’s
scandals. They give him an excuse to spend more money and pay off his
friends among the munitions manufacturers. They make him feel like the
bigshot that he isn’t.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Clinton would join the company of the
warmongers, using his office to inflict unrelenting violence on the world.
After all, Clinton is a social democrat who believes in the power of
government. He has no qualms about using the state to muscle people, denying
their rights to liberty and property. He’s done that every day since he took
office, and favors doing ever more.

Somehow, it seems even more disgraceful when people who have spoken on
behalf of freedom in the past join the chorus in calling for mass
destruction. Editors at the Wall Street Journal and smug non-combatants at
the Weekly Standard, the two major centers of neoconservative thought, are
calling for more bombs, for ground troops, and for bloodshed all around.

These neocons used to claim that democracies don’t start wars. Now they
see aggressive war as the first priority of democracy. They even blast
rank-and-file Republicans for deigning to insist (by a large majority) that
Congress be consulted when the nation goes to war, and that war should be
the last, not the first resort, only to be undertaken when the country is
actually threatened.

Some Republican hopefuls are no better. For example, John McCain has
flipped his lid, sounding more and more like Dr. Strangelove by the day. “It
detracts from our ability to carry out the mission if our first and major
priority is to keep casualties down,” McCain says. Let’s call this sentiment
what it is: egregiously immoral.

Steve Forbes, in his statements on this war, has been worse than Clinton.
The mild-mannered advocate of hope, growth, and prosperity has been
transformed into a brooding militarist, demanding we inflict fear, poverty,
and death on anyone who dares question Clinton’s proposed treaties.

Note that none of these pundits has actually volunteered to fly any
missions over Belgrade, much less join those who they say should become
ground troops in Kosova. No, they are happy to cheer on the U.S.-imposed
bloodshed and destruction from their personal computers. Deadline for copy
is 4:00 p.m., and happy hour starts 30 minutes later.

Amidst this cacophony of cowardice, how wonderful to hear the courageous
words of James Madison:

“Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be
dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is
the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and
debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the
domination of the few. … No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst
of continual warfare.”

He continues:

“War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a
physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to
direct it. In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the
executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emoluments
of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under
which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to
encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human
breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are
all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”

John Quincy Adams famously said,

“America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the
well wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and
vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the
countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She
well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were
they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself
beyond the power of extrication in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of
individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the
standards of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly
change from liberty to force.”

Henry Clay was no friend of limited government, but he had enough sense
to know the dangers of European entanglements:

“By following the policy we have adhered to since the days of Washington
we have prospered beyond precedent; we have done more for the cause of
liberty in the world than arms could effect; we have shown to other nations
the way to greatness and happiness.

“But if we should involve ourselves in the web of European politics, in a
war which could effect nothing … where, then, would be the last hope of
the friends of freedom throughout the world? Far better it is … that,
adhering to our wise pacific system, and avoiding the distant wars of
Europe, we should keep our own lamp burning brightly on this western shore,
as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amidst the
ruins of fallen and falling republics in Europe.”

So who stands in the tradition of these voices? Who are the friends of
freedom today? Who has the courage to decry the actions of the new Evil

Here is my list of public figures who have spoken out against Clinton’s
latest bombing campaign, sometimes at risk to their careers and reputations.
They deserve our attention, our admiration, and our thanks:

Please send me more names as you discover them: rockwell@mises.org.