Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
The nominations for Liberty and Power's award contest for best classical liberal academic blog are now closed and the official contest will begin in a few days. More later.
Charles W. Nuckolls
In Japanese popular culture “evil” (aku, jyaaku) is represented through images of breakdown and decay. The Japanese recognize this breakdown in their own increasing inability (as they see it) to feel shame or experience pride. According to this view, shame is the orientation to the gaze of others that inhibits purely selfish acts, such as talking loudly in public or disobedience to authority.
The absence of shame is marked by increasing emphasis on personal autonomy and a reluctance to assume social responsibility. It is widely believed that such problems date from the end of the Pacific War and have become especially prominent with the decline of the Japanese economy after 1990. The Japanese media routinely call attention to the decline of a shame-based culture and relate shamelessness to the eruption of murderous rage among adolescent students.
While student murders are statistically insignificant, they have added to the public perception of a problem in social control. It is said that shame used to be sufficientto prevent most criminal acts since the perpetrator’s family would suffer a loss in social standing. The killing of the an 11-year-old in 1997 in Kobe, for example, transfixed Japan in part because of its shameless savagery: His head was left resting on the front gate of a junior high school with a defiant message stuffed in the mouth.
But is insufficient shame a factor in explaining the schoolboy’s murder or, more generally, the moral decay contemporary Japanese tend to perceive? Consider what the killer himself (Seito Sakakibara) said when he taunted police and threatened more slayings."I can relieve myself of hatred and feel at peace only when I'm killing someone," he said in a letter sent to a local newspaper."I can ease my own pain only by seeing others in pain.”
Lack of shame might be the convenient interpretation, but as the killer’s own words suggest the opposite might be true. The killing apparently served a curative or therapeutic purpose for a young man who reported constantly feeling watched and look down on by others. Murderous rage, in other words, functioned as a regressive therapy for feelings of intense shame that were not too weak but too strong to repudiate or resolve more peacefully.
Excessive shame is made all the more potent by the unavailability of pride as a compensating emotional orientation. Insufficient pride is manifest in the phobic anxiety that surrounds any expression of nationalist sentiment. Many Japanese were horrified, for example, to see their fellow citizens waving Japanese flags during the 1998 winter Olympic Games in Nagano. And the debate over displays of the flag on public buildings, such as schools and post offices, continues despite the parliament’s decision a couple of years ago to authorize such use.
Many Japanese believe that anxiety over the issue of national pride is intensified by the post-war habit of apologizing every time reference to the war is made by other countries. However, an important corner was turned in 1998 with the release of the blockbuster movie, “Pride: Moment of Fate,” whose subject, Tojo Hideki, appeared as the rehabilitated leader of Japan’s war-time government after decades of Hitler-like vilification and public neglect.
The message of the film was unambiguous: Japan had acted in its own self-defense and Tojo was a hero despite the fact that he launched the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is therefore right that modern Japanese take pride in their history and seek the full restoration of their national glory, and that they identify with figures like Tojo. Interestingly, Tojo is repeatedly depicted in the film as a loving grandfather - kissing his grandchildren and bouncing them on his knee - and this points to the fact that pride and identification with the grandfather are, from the point of view of Japan’s contemporary nationalism, one and the same.
“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. . . . We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
A senior Bush administration adviser, 2002
A large number of Americans believe we are an "Exception to History”; brighter, richer, and just all around more Providentially Blessed, even when it appears this year with respect to wars, hurricanes, and just plain corruption and lies, that our leader may have lost the "Mandate of Heaven."
It may be that we are just, as a People, simply slow learners!
Even if you teach all of the people all of the time, some folks just don't learn very quickly, that the top of the stove is often hot to the touch. It appears, at times, that we even elevate one of these slow learners to the presidency, in order to better teach the rest of us by his example!
Anna Quinlan reminds us that we've been through this whole scenario before.
A historian might suggest to her, actually, this is at least the third time, and maybe, we have to hope this is not like baseball — 3 strikes and you're out — and that we will have to wait as long as the Chicago White Sox did, to have a shot at a World Series again.
In the Philippines over a century ago, we killed and tortured at least several hundred thousand Filipinos, although it may have been many more, losing a mere 4,000 Providentially Blessed American soldiers who gave their lives for the Empire. This "success" was due in great part because the Filipinos had few guns, having often to use bolo knives, to face American rifles, machine guns and artillery. Like the Vietnamese, the Iraqis do have guns and explosives!
While we were still diddling around setting up a "regime change" Protectorate in Cuba, we overwhelmed the Filipino revolutionaries, and set up a government of the old, Spanish Comprador elite, that men like Gov. Gen. William Howard Taft out in the Islands, to use today's terminology, would surely have proclaimed a great success in"Nation Building."
Those Americans who believe that, might read the five part series by Pedro Escobar in the Asia Times some months ago, entitled"The Sick Man of Asia," detailing the corruption and instability in those Islands today. Apparently, Nations don't stay Built! A good case could be made that this is about where things would be if we had simply left them with Spain. Most likely, with a little help somewhere along the line from the Japanese, they would have freed themselves from the Spanish anyway.
Perhaps America needs a new Motto:"Those who refuse to learn from History are doomed to repeat it."
Actually, at this point, our nation is bankrupt, not only morally, but financially as well, and that inflationary trend was evident several decades ago.
A number of historians, going back to the ancient empires of old, have remarked on a seeming 300 year cycle of the high tide of imperial power. At this point, what remains, is to speculate whether our Empire will even make it into that less than charming circle!
Charles W. Nuckolls
Many Japanese people believe that they have forgotten something vital to their identity. They want to remember, even though doing so runs the risk of un-doing the post-war generation’s carefully constructed image of Japan as a modern capitalist nation based on individual freedoms and human rights. The will to overcome this cultural amnesia and remember an identity now deemed authentic is couched in terms that are strikingly Oedipal.
The Japanese who identify themselves as the grandchildren of the Pacific War generation are in rebellion against, and seek to replace, their own fathers -- the generation defined as the architects of Japan’s contemporary society and economy, with its accompanying emphasis on war guilt and individual liberty. A generation of “sons” thus resolves its ambivalent anger and consequent guilt toward their fathers by leapfrogging a generation and identifying with their grandfathers, the members of the war generation but also, in the view of increasing number, the last generation to be authentically and genuinely Japanese.
As Streek-Fischer writes, commenting on the rise of Hitler-worshipping skinheads in post-unification Germany: “Adolescents seek continuity and identity. If they do not find any appropriate perspectives in their family and society, they look for it in the past – in their family’s and society’s ‘past.’” The same thing can be said of contemporary Japan.
Kenneth R. Gregg
Was the A-Bomb's use based on race? In an interesting essay by Mick Hume, a revisionist case for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing as expression of American racism is made. Hume makes several telling points. The following is an excerpt from his essay:
"The only language [the Japanese] seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true."--Truman, 8/11/1945 letter justifying the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In 1993 Gar Alperovitz obtained... US National Security Agency intercepts of secret enemy wartime communications... [O]ne document quotes a German diplomat reporting back to Berlin on the state of Japan on 5 May 1945:
"since the situation is clearly recognised to be hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not regard with disfavour an American request for capitulation even if the terms were hard"(New York Times, 8/11/93). Alperovitz has noted that the president's rediscovered diary 'leaves no doubt that Truman knew the war would end"a year sooner now" and without an invasion' (Nation, 5/10/93).
Dwight D Eisenhower, the wartime Supreme Allied Commander in Europe who went on to become US president, later admitted that 'the Japanese were ready to surrender and we didn't have to hit them with that awful thing' (Newsweek, 11/11/63).
Why in the world was Japan to be the target? Hume continues.
On 23 April 1945, General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, sent a memo to Henry L Stimson, the American Secretary of War, on plans for using the Bomb. It included the striking observation that '[t]he target is and was always expected to be Japan.'
When he unearthed this memo during research in the 1990s, Arjun Makhijani discussed its implications with leading scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project. He reports that they were 'amazed' to learn of Groves' attitude, 50 years after the event. Most leading members of the Manhattan project team were east European emigres, who had agreed to work on the Bomb only on the understanding that the Nazis were both the target and their competitors. Joseph Rotblat, the Polish scientist, told Makhijani that 'there was never any idea [among the scientists] that [the Bomb] would be used against Japan. We never worried that the Japanese would have the Bomb. We always worried what Heisenberg and the other German scientists were doing. All of our concentration was on Germany' (see A Makhijani, 'Always the target', Bulletin of AtomicScientists, May/June 1995). All of the concentration of the political and military strategists, however, was on using the Bomb against the Japanese.
The first American discussion about possible targets for an atomic attack took place in May 1943, at a meeting of the high-powered Military Policy Committee. At that time, a year before the D-Day invasion and two years before VE-Day, Hitler's Germany was still very much a player in the war. Yet the committee's automatic assumption was that Japan would be the target. General Groves' summary of the meeting records how '[t]he point of use of the first bomb was discussed and the general view appeared to be that its best point of use would be on a Japanese fleet concentration in the Harbour of Truk. General Styer suggested Tokyo...'.
That Japan was already assumed to be the target was confirmed later in 1943, when the B-29 was chosen as the plane the USA would use to drop the Bomb. The distance the B-29 could fly made it the only bomber suitable for use in the Pacific. As one study has observed, 'had Germany been the primary target, the choice would hardly have fallen on an aircraft never intended for the European theatre' (RG Hewlett and OE Anderson, The New World, 1962, p253). The targeting of Japan was affirmed during a September 1944 meeting between British prime minister Winston Churchill and US president Roosevelt. The official summary of the meeting makes no mention of any possible use against Germany, but reports the Allied leaders' view that the Bomb 'might perhaps, after mature consideration, be used against the Japanese, who should be warned that this bombardment will be repeated until they surrender'.
The fact that Japan was always the target, and that Nazi Germany was not considered, demonstrates a potent double standard in Anglo-American foreign policy. And the basis of that double standard was the issue of race. To the Allies, Germany was a fellow white power which they had temporarily fallen out with; but Japan was an enemy alien, a nation apart. That was why the architects of the Holocaust in Europe were never mentioned as candidates for a 'humanitarian' bombing such as Hiroshima. Instead, the atomic bomb was aimed solely at the Japanese. They were considered legitimate targets because the Western powers considered them to be a lower race; as president Truman put it in the letter quoted above, the Japanese were no better than 'beasts', and to be treated accordingly.
Japan had been seen as a problem by the Western elites ever since its victory over Russia in 1905 catapulted it on to the world stage. Japan had emerged as a major capitalist power, but was never quite one of the club; it was not, in short, a white man. The notion of racial supremacy and the 'White Man's burden' lay at the heart of the ideology and self-image of the Western imperialists. An Asian nation could not be allowed to sit freely at the top table of world affairs.
The racial double standard in imperial politics was clearly demonstrated back at the Versailles conference which followed the First World War in 1919. While the Americans and the British affirmed their commitment to the new movements for national self-determination in Europe, they rebutted Japan's attempt to include a clause on racial equality in the covenant of the new League of Nations (forerunner of the UN). As one account puts it, the rejected Japanese amendment was 'palpably a challenge to the theory of the superiority of the white race on which rested so many of Great Britain's imperial pretensions' (AW Griswold, The Far Eastern Policy of the United States, 1966, p247).
The run-up to the Second World War was marked by escalating tensions between Japan, the USA and Britain over spheres of influence and trade in Asia and the Pacific. And always, the Western elites interpreted these conflicts through the prism of race. In 1938, three years before the Pacific War with Japan began, Antony Eden (later a Tory foreign secretary and prime minister) was already emphasising the importance of 'effectively asserting white-race authority in the Far East'. In 1939 Sir Frederick Maze, a top British official in China, described the coming conflict as 'not merely Japan against Great Britain' but also 'the Orient against the Occident - the Yellow race against the White race'.
The view of the Japanese as a less advanced race was so powerful, however, that many members of the Western elites - including Churchill - believed that Japan would not dare to fight the white powers, or would be quickly crushed if it did. Peering into Japanese-occupied China through the barbed-wire fences around British-occupied Hong Kong in 1940, the British commander-in-chief of the Far East described seeing 'various subhuman species dressed in dirty grey uniform, which I was informed were Japanese soldiers...I cannot believe they would form an intelligent fighting force'. The strength of this prejudice was such that, when war did break out and the British garrison at Hong Kong was strafed by enemy aircraft, many initially believed that German pilots must have been imported to do it, since the Japanese would not have been capable.
Against this background, the string of military successes which Japan achieved against the Americans and the British, Dutch and French colonialists between December 1941 and 1943 traumatised the Allied powers. The white imperialists had been beaten and humiliated by an Asian power, before the eyes of their colonial subjects. The effect, as one perceptive commentator notes, was to free the peoples of India and the rest of Asia from 'the spell of European invincibility' (see C Thorne, 'Racial aspects of the Far Eastern war of 1941-45', Proceedings of the British Council, 80, 1980).
'Japan's attack', wrote Dr Margery Perham at the time, 'has produced a very real revolution in race relationships' (Times, 13 March 1942). The abject British surrender to Japan in Singapore and Malaya was particularly damaging to the image of the old empires in Asia, as the president of Singapore's India Association was to reflect in 1945:
'the running away action of the Empire, both officers and non-officers, created a very deep impression in the minds of the people throughout Malaya [and] brought great disgrace on the white race generally.'Reading through the Allied leaders' discussion of these events, the major concern which they voiced time and again was not so much about the loss of territory to Japan, but about the loss of prestige suffered by the white powers in the process. Islands and colonial outposts could always be won back; but the image of invincible racial superiority which the imperialists had built up over a century was lost forever. That is why, for the British authorities, the real impact of the loss of Singapore was 'not a strategic one, but a moral one' (L Allen, Singapore 1941-42, 1977, p259).
The fears over a loss of racial prestige also help to explain why the Allies were (and indeed remain) so sensitive about Japan's mistreatment of their prisoners of war. Allied POWs held by the Japanese suffered terribly, but most fared no worse than many other wartime prisoners. One in four Western POWs died in Japanese captivity; only the same proportion of Russians held in German camps survived.
What made Japan's mistreatment of Allied prisoners so uniquely controversial was the inversion of racial roles that it involved. In effect, the Japanese were treating white POWs in the way that white colonialists had treated entire Asian peoples - like coolies. General Thomas Blamey of Australia let the cat out of the bag when reporting on the mood of POWs released in 1945. 'The thing that has hurt our fellows more than harsh treatment', said Blamey, 'has been the loss of prestige amongst the natives by British personnel due to the ignominious treatment they have received at the hands of the Japs in the sight of the natives'. Fears over the loss of racial prestige in the Pacific War were so widespread in the West that even Hitler was reported to be ambivalent about the victories of his Japanese ally, complaining that with 'the loss of a whole continent....the white race [is] the loser'.
The Allies were acutely sensitive to the way that Japan's wartime propaganda played upon their weak spots of racial and national oppression. 'And everywhere', wrote one American observer, 'Tokyo makes good use of our greatest weaknesses - our past imperialism and our present racial discrimination' (SC Menefee, 'Japan's psychological warfare', Social Forces, May 1943). Under the slogan 'Asia for the Asiatics', Tokyo attacked Britain's bloody colonial record and presented Japan as the champion of Indian freedom. After the surrender of Singapore, 45,000 captured Indian troops were addressed by a Japanese major. 'Japan is fighting for the liberation of the Asiatic nations which have been for so long trodden under the cruel heels of British imperialism. Japan is the liberator and the friend of Asiatics.' Around 25,000 Indian soldiers eventually changed sides, and joined the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army to fight against the British.
When they came to attack America, Japanese propagandists concentrated on the treatment of racial minorities within the USA. They made great play of the immigration laws which barred Chinese and Indians from entering the USA. And the systematic segregation employed against blacks in America proved even richer pickings. In the article quoted above, Selden Menefee noted that 'the Deep South is our India', and quoted this Tokyo radio broadcast of August 1942:
'How is the United States transmitting her ideas of the four freedoms into her living, into her labour and racial problems? What about her ever-present negro problem? Her notorious lynchings [are] a rare practice even among savages....The Americans prove and advertise to the whole world by their actions that they have completely forgotten that negroes are just as much a part of humanity as they are themselves.'The Allies had no effective answer to this kind of propaganda. It touched on the raw nerves of Western imperialists who claimed to be fighting a war for freedom and against fascism, while practising racial and national oppression themselves. As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out to Roosevelt in 1942,
'the Allied declaration that [they] are fighting to make the world safe for freedom of the individual sounds hollow, so long as India, and for that matter Africa, are exploited by Great Britain, and America has the negro problem in her own home'. Indeed the Western elites had become so insecure on these issues that their fears of racial and colonial unrest being stirred up by the Japanese during the war often outweighed any real immediate threat. So there was a constant debate about the growing threat of Pan-Asian unity, even though that 'movement' was largely a myth. There was even a serious discussion among the fearful US authorities about the possibility that American blacks might actively side with Japan.
The racial dimension made the Japanese a very different enemy from the Germans. The Japanese posed not just a military threat to the old imperial order, but a political challenge to white power that could spark the fires of Asian nationalism. The leaders of the Allied powers saw the Pacific War as a life-and-death struggle to salvage the prestige of the Western elites. They had been humiliated by 'Asiatics'. As a consequence they were fighting a race war, in which the enemy had to be not just contained, but crushed if the white powers were to retain any authority in Asia. The extent to which they saw the Japanese as different was reflected in the ruthless attitudes and actions adopted by Allied governments and forces during the Pacific War, culminating in the decision to drop the White Man's Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Throughout the conflict, the Japanese were depicted and treated as a lower race. These attitudes predated Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. America's president Roosevelt, the leader of Western liberalism, seriously considered the proposition that the Japanese were evil because their skulls were 2000 years less developed than the white man's civilised cranium, and that the solution might be to encourage some cross-breeding to create a new 'Euroindoasian' race that could isolate the Japanese. On the British side, Churchill was always noted for espousing the blunt racial attitudes of his Edwardian background, disparaging Asian peoples as 'dirty baboos' and 'chinks' in need of a good thrashing with 'the sjambok'. And Churchill was far from the exception. In the months before the Pacific War began, the diary of Sir Alexander Cadogan of the British Foreign Office records Cadogan's own views of the Japanese as 'beastly little monkeys' and 'yellow dwarf slaves'.
Once the war with Japan had begun, these prejudices were no longer confined to the private diaries and dinner party conversations of the Western elite. Instead, the politics of racial superiority were made public by Allied propagandists, and put into practice by the US and British military.
The American press branded Japan 'a racial menace', and routinely depicted the Japanese as monkeys, mad dogs, rats and vermin. Hollywood war movies emphasised the sadistic character of Japanese soldiers, who seemed to break the rules of 'civilised' warfare in every film. Allied propagandists made a clear distinction between their two major enemies. They showed the problem in Europe not as the whole German nation, but as Hitler and the Nazis. In Asia, by contrast, the enemy was 'the Japs' - an entire malignant race. As one of the best studies of the race war in the Pacific points out, 'Western film-makers and publicists found a place for the"good German" in their propaganda, but no comparable counterpart for the Japanese' (J Dower, War Without Mercy, 1986, p322n).
The racial denigration of the Japanese did not only happen in the movies. In America, the only German immigrants interned were those with suspected Nazi connections. Meanwhile, 120,000 Japanese-Americans, many of them born US citizens, were indiscriminately rounded up in camps. Asked to justify this treatment, General De Witt announced bluntly that 'a Jap is a Jap'. Meanwhile in the Pacific war zone, working on the assumption that the only good Jap was a dead one, Admiral William Halsey of the US Navy urged his men to make 'monkey meat' out of the Japanese, and demanded that any Japanese survivors of the war should be rendered impotent.
The lower ranks took their lead from above. The US Marine Monthly"Leatherneck" counselled the extermination of the 'Louseous Japanicus', depicted as a vicious Asiatic cockroach. One US marine explained the racial outlook which made it easy for his comrades to slaughter the Japanese and mutilate their bodies on the battlefield:
'The Japanese made the perfect enemy. They had many characteristics that an American marine could hate. Physically they were small, a strange colour and, by some standards, unattractive....Marines did not consider that they were killing men. They were wiping out dirty animals.'(Quoted in J Weingartner, 'Trophies of war: US troops and the mutilation of Japanese war dead, 1941-45', Pacific Historical Review, February 1992)
If the Americans were happy 'wiping out dirty animals' with bayonets and flame-throwers on the beaches of Pacific islands, why should they worry about wiping out two whole cities of 'beasts' with the atom bomb?
At the same time as they were fighting a ruthless race war against the Japanese, the US authorities understood that there could be no return to old colonial arrangements in Asia after the war. The 'revolution in race relationships' triggered by Japan's victories, and the rise of nationalist sentiment, saw to that. Washington's concern was to reach an accommodation with the anti-colonial movements which would leave intact as much of the past power relations as possible, and so preserve the authority of the West. To that end, in 1942 the US government declared that the European powers' Far Eastern colonies should be 'liberated after the war, and such possessions should be placed under an international trusteeship to assist the peoples to attain political maturity'. The dual emphasis on reforming the colonial system while leaving the former colonies under 'international' (that is, Western) supervision reflected America's 'welldefined commitment to maintaining the prewar structure of Asian politics...not a concern with abstract rights and freedoms for Asians' (A Iriye, Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War 1941-45, 1981, p81). In Washington's vision of a new Asian order, the white powers led by America would still hold the whip hand over the 'immature' native peoples.
The Allied powers understood that crushing the Japanese remained the precondition for reaching such an accommodation with the new Asian nationalism. Japan had acted as the catalyst for change in the colonial world, and its victories over the white powers had revolutionised race relations in Asia. That humiliation had to be avenged and that threat extinguished before the Western powers could re-establish their dominance.
Admiral Leahy, Roosevelt's close adviser, expressed the widely held fear that 'unless we administer a defeat to Japan in the near future, that nation will succeed in combining most of the Asiatic people against the whites'. In May 1943, when a top US government committee first discussed the question of how to treat Japan after the war, the navy's representative, Captain HL Pence, was in no doubt that 'Japan should be bombed...so that the country could not begin to recuperate for 50 years'. The war was 'a question of which race was to survive....we should kill them before they kill us'. The Japanese 'should not be dealt with as civilised human beings. The only thing they would respect was force applied for a long time'. Two years later, in May 1945, a US official in China named Robert Ward warned that Japan had exposed the peoples of the East to 'a virus that may yet poison the whole soul of Asia and ultimately commit the world to racial war that would destroy the white man and decimate the Asiatic'.
The myth that the bombing of Hiroshima was intended to save lives turns the truth completely on its head; the planning meetings which preceded the attack seemed to conclude that the intention was to kill as many people as possible, in order that the American bomb might make the most dramatic impact on the world.
On 31 May 1945, the Interim Committee (formed to advise the president on the use of the Bomb), met to discuss using atomic weapons against the Japanese. The committee comprised the leading political, military and scientific figures involved in the Manhattan Project. The two key players at this meeting were the top chemist and former president of Harvard University, James B Conant, and the Secretary of War, Henry L Stimson. The minutes record their conclusions:
'At the suggestion of Dr Conant, the secretary agreed that the most desirable target would be a vital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by workers' houses.'Hiroshima fitted the bomb sights. On 6 August it was destroyed, followed by Nagasaki on 9 August. The racial aspects of the fearful bombing were not lost on either side. Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King was one of many to express his private relief that the Bomb had not been dropped on the 'white races' in Europe (see Times, 3 January 1976). In Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, the angry reaction of Kip, the Sikh soldier, on hearing of Hiroshima captures the mood of many in the colonial world: "All those speeches of civilisation from kings and queens and presidents…. American, French, I don't care. When you start bombing the brown races of the world, you're an Englishman". For some reason that passage did not appear in the Hollywood film of the book.
Hume has made a powerful point about the racist motives of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki boming. A lesson that we need to remind ourselves when the U.S. government is involved in war once more.
Just a thought.
Kenneth R. Gregg
Just a thought.
David T. Beito
John T. Flynn was probably the most important single activist and publicist of the “Old Right” from the 1930s to the 1950s. He was born in Bladensburg Maryland in 1882. Although he graduated from Georgetown Law School, he choose a career in journalism and never looked back.
He started on the New Haven Register but eventually moved to New York where he was financial editor the New York Globe. During the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote articles for such leading publications as The New Republic, Harper’s, and Collier’s. He became one of the best-known political commentators in the United States.
Like Oswald Garrison Villard, another key figure in the Old Right, Flynn was a leftist with populist inclinations during this period. He supported Franklin D. Roosevelt for president and was a firm backer of the New Deal.
But Flynn was also a consistent anti-militarist. He was a key advisor to the Nye Committee in 1934 which investigated the role of the so called “merchants of death” (munitions manufacturers and bankers) in leading to U.S. entry into World War I.
By 1936, he had broken with Roosevelt. He was already comparing the statist and centralist features of the New Deal to Mussolini’s policies: “We seem to be a long way off from the kind of Fascism which Mussolini preached in Italy before he assumed power, and we are slowly approaching the conditions which made Fascism possible.”
Flynn was one of the founders of the America First Committee which opposed Roosevelt’s foreign policy. Flynn became head of the New York City chapter which claimed a membership of 135,000. The Committee charged that Roosevelt was using lies and deception to ensnare the United States into the war. It mounted campaigns against Lend Lease, the Selective Service, and other initiatives by Roosevelt.
Although Flynn scrupulously distanced the Committee from the ravings of extremist and anti-Semitic groups, such the National Union for Social Justice, his old pro-war leftist allies cut him off and the New Republic pulled his regular column, “Other People’s Money.”
The America First Committee disbanded in 1941 after Pearl Harbor and Flynn turned increasingly against New Deal liberalism which he regarded as a “degenerate form of socialism and debased form of capitalism.” In 1944, he wrote a classic critique of the American drift toward statism: As We Go Marching . Four years later, he followed this with The Roosevelt Myth. By the middle of the 1940s, he was describing himself as a liberal in the classical liberal tradition of small government and free markets.
During the Cold War period, Flynn continued his unflagging opposition to interventionist foreign policies and militarism. He was an early and prophetic critic of American involvement in the Indo-Chinese War on the side of the French. He charged that sending U.S. troops would “only be proving the case of the Communists against America that we are defending French imperialism.”
Unfortunately, Flynn’s association with the right also paved the way for some foolish alliances. He became an early and avid supporter of the disreputable Senator Joseph McCarthy in great part because McCarthy shared his contempt for the eastern Cold War elite.
Despite this ill-conceived association with McCarthy, Flynn remained fairly consistent in his foreign policy views. In 1955, he had a formal falling out with the new generation of Cold War conservatives when Bill Buckley rejected one of his articles for the new National Review. It had attacked militarism as a “job-making boondoggle.” Flynn retired from public life in 1960 and died in 1964.
My old friend and associate at the Institute for Humane Studies, John E. Moser, has written the first full-length biography of Flynn: Right Turn: John T. Flynn And The Transformation Of American Liberalism
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Guest Blogger)
According to Montaner, Washington´s first attempt at regime change abroad took place in 1898 when, after the Spanish-American War, the U.S. occupied Cuba, rebuilt it, forced the locals to write a Constitution and hold elections, and left the island after handing power to President Estrada Palma. Four years later, Cuba was in total chaos and soon the U.S. marines were back. The same sequence—chaos, U.S. intervention to force the installation of a democratic republic, more chaos, new intervention-repeated itself a dozen times across the hemisphere. And, after all that sound and fury, Latin America´s failure to sustain reasonable republican structures continued. What American regime-changing idealists (to speak only of the well-intentioned interventionists) were missing was a basic point: the greatness of the United States had not come about by magic when the Constitution was approved in 1787 but through a tradition that antedated that Constitution, made of certain values and habits as regards the way people interacted and coexisted.
People who suffer under dictators tend to want freedom. Iraqis did so under Hussein, Cubans do so under Castro, Nicaraguans did so under Somoza. But you don´t go from there-not even with persuasive American guns pointing at your temples-to republican structures that limit power and protect the individual against third parties or against the state itself in a sudden leap. That much the U.S. failed to understand with regard to Latin America (and in sheer frustration Washington often ended up allying itself with very unsavoury characters). It is also what a part of the U.S. establishment, sometimes with the best intentions, fails to understand today with regard to Iraq.
Montaner ends his piece by suggesting U.S. troops should withdraw after the elections because “it is better to sit down and wait for a miracle to happen than to try to do it oneself”. This realization on the part of someone who deeply admires the United States and has promoted many of the values of civilization across this hemisphere for decades is particularly important.
One final note. Many Latin Americans have written authoritatively about the roots of their region´s political traditions and why they are distant from the values that led the Founding Fathers of the U.S. to frame a Constitution that was able to work reasonably well for a long time. No one did so better than the late Venezuelan author Carlos Rangel (who must be turning in his grave to see what is happening to his country today in books such as The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the U.S. and Third World Ideology and Western Reality .
I find Montaner's recounting of US-Cuban relations of a century ago very partial, and perhaps misleading when then applied to the situation in Iraq today.
Cuba in 1898 was the largest US intervention into Hispanic-America, but not the first. In 1792 the Adm. of Jorge Washington had given aid to the Creoles in Haiti, as the repercussions of the French Revolution erupted there, in the hopes of preventing a Black leadership from emerging, which, of course, eventually did occur. Southerners filibustered in the Caribbean early in the 19th century with dreams of a great slave holding empire there, based considerably on sugar production, shattered only by the North's victory in the US Civil War.
When Marti began the second revolution against Spain in 1895, the guerrilla war was led by a Black general, Maceo, and included many Blacks, unlike the tobacco revolt of 1868-78. Marti feared that Cuban conservatives were involved with US interests, in negotiations to press Spain to cede Cuba to the US.
Whether it would have been better for Cuba to become a US Territory, like Puerto Rico, eventually a state in the US system, or, later given independence like The Philippines, is today a rather mute point.
On top of southern US fears of a Black Republic in Cuba, was the threat of the competition of Cuban sugar if allowed within the barriers of US Tariff policy.
It was no accident that the Teller Amendment promising Cuba independence was pushed by a Senator from Colorado, a sugar-beet state, which would find it difficult to compete with Cuban sugar.
Of course, it was "pseudo" independence under an American Protectorate.
Montaner is a bit off in saying the US forced a Constitution on Cuba. Rather, they had to write several before finding the right protectorate formula that the US would accept. Heaven forbid that the US ever "force" anything on anyone, or intervene militarily!
The factors of race and sugar are not a part of US policy in Iraq. Oil and Israel are nearer the mark in the Middle East. The tariff issue, of course, remains with respect to Doha and the actions of the EU. The US and other developed nations are very big on the rhetoric of free trade and the right to immigrate, except when these are against its economic interests with respect to promoting economic development in the LDCs.
Montaner might also spare us all of this admiration for the historical lineage of the US Constitution, going back to Great Britain, etc. Prior to the Spanish King getting the wealth of Mexico, Peru, etc., the Cortes had managed to wrest more concessions from the King, than had the Parliament in England.
The US' greatest contribution Republican theory and practice was during the era of the Articles of Confederation when a process was developed whereby new entities could come into the system on a basis of eventual equality. No other republics in the ancient world had been able to achieve that.
The Constitution was flawed from the beginning in its failure to resolve the issue of slavery, and whether entities might withdraw peacefully from this Union. The bloodiest war of the 19th century, except for the T'ai P'ing Rebellion, was fought to begin to resolve the slavery/race issue, and the issue of possible secession was decided in favor of Empire; centralization, and all real power to the central government.
It would take several volumes to detail how American power — the Empire — has betrayed the ideals of self-determination inherent in the Declaration of Independence, or of the Bill of Rights.
The first occurred at about the same time as the economic intervention in Haiti in the 1790s, when the Militia system was "murdered," to use the term of the historian Richard Kohn, and the US developed the "Standing Army" that had been the bane of Republics throughout history.
In the face of that reality, blathering on about the Constitution is just noise!
Aeon J. Skoble
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Guest Blogger)
I did not say the U.S. intervention in Cuba was the first in Latin America
but that it constituted the first time the U.S. engaged in regime change in
another country. And that´s the truth: from 1492 to 1898, Cuba was part of a
monarchy that had four dynasties (the Trastamaras, the Habsburgs, the
Bourbons and, briefly, the Savoys). That ended with the U.S. intervention.
I see that professor William Marina read with interest my article and the
excellent review by Alvaro Vargas LLosa. I am grateful for that. But he
seems to have misunderstood both texts.
I did not say the U.S. intervention in Cuba was the first in Latin America but that it constituted the first time the U.S. engaged in regime change in another country. And that´s the truth: from 1492 to 1898, Cuba was part of a monarchy that had four dynasties (the Trastamaras, the Habsburgs, the Bourbons and, briefly, the Savoys). That ended with the U.S. intervention.
It is true that there were disagreements with the U.S. military with regard
to the 1901 Constitution and that Washington imposed the Platt Amendment as
an appendix to that Constitution, but the Constitution was written by
Cubans, as proven by the transcripts of the debates which are still
available. Those Cubans introduced elements that ran contrary to the views
of the U.S., such as the universal vote for adult males regardless of the
whether they were literate or property owners.
It is not true that the chief of the military insurrection of 1895 was that
black general Antonio Maceo. The chief was general Máximo Gómez, a white
Dominican. Maceo was the second man of the insurrection.
It is not true, either, that the war of 1868-1878 was the tobacco revolt. I
think professor Marina is confusing an episode that took place in the first
third of the 18th century--the revolt of the “vegueros” of Havana that ended
with the hanging of many dozens of tobacco traders--with the ten-year war
that took place 150 years later.
I understand there is no space for detailed accounts here, but professor
Marina´s simplification of the filibustering expeditions of the mid-19th
century is not entirely accurate. He does not seem to understand that
period. The responsibility for those adventures was not entirely American.
William Walker was invited to Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan liberals and his
guard was formed by Cuban exiles commanded by Cuban general Domingo
He is also mistaken in attributing to Senator Henry M. Teller dark
economic motivations linked to sugar behind his proposal of the amendment
that bears his name and which made possible for both Houses of Congress to
declare that Cuba had a right to its independence. Values and principles, as
well as psychological and personal factors, often have great bearing on
historical developments. Teller was quite an idealist. He made that proposal
at the request of his friend, lawyer Horatio Rubens, who was, at the same
time, a counsel for the Revolutionary Cuban Party(Partido Revolucionario
Cubano) founded by José Martí.
This is not the place to compare the degree of control the British
Parliament exercised over the British Crown with what happened with the
Spanish Cortes in relation to the monarchs in that country, but I can assure
professor Marina that the dream of all Spanish and Cuban liberals from the
end of the 18th century until 1873 was to replicate the British model in the
Ibero American territories. From 1873, Spain achieved some stability, which
lasted until 1923 precisely because it put in place a system of government
inspired by British constitutionalism.
It is true that the U.S. constitution of 1787 failed to eliminate slavery,
but at that time no country in the world had done so. The French Revolution,
for a brief period, tried to do it, but Napoleon attempted to restore it a
few years later. Spain did not abolish slavery until 1886 and Brazil
abolished it in 1888.
It is possible professor Marina has a terrible opinion of U.S. democracy and
the inadequacy of its institutions, but it might be useful to resort to the
question Spaniards tend to ask when someone inquires about their wives:
“Compared to whom?”
Starting in 1898, the U.S. facilitated the creation of a relatively
independent nation in the island and, through three mandates given by the
intervening military, organized three elections that made possible the
emergence of the republic: local elections, elections to the convention that
framed the 1901 Constitution, and the December general elections that made
possible the inauguration of the republic on May 20,1902.
It is true that there were disagreements with the U.S. military with regard to the 1901 Constitution and that Washington imposed the Platt Amendment as an appendix to that Constitution, but the Constitution was written by Cubans, as proven by the transcripts of the debates which are still available. Those Cubans introduced elements that ran contrary to the views of the U.S., such as the universal vote for adult males regardless of the whether they were literate or property owners.
It is not true that the chief of the military insurrection of 1895 was that black general Antonio Maceo. The chief was general Máximo Gómez, a white Dominican. Maceo was the second man of the insurrection.
It is not true, either, that the war of 1868-1878 was the tobacco revolt. I think professor Marina is confusing an episode that took place in the first third of the 18th century--the revolt of the “vegueros” of Havana that ended with the hanging of many dozens of tobacco traders--with the ten-year war that took place 150 years later.
I understand there is no space for detailed accounts here, but professor Marina´s simplification of the filibustering expeditions of the mid-19th century is not entirely accurate. He does not seem to understand that period. The responsibility for those adventures was not entirely American. William Walker was invited to Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan liberals and his guard was formed by Cuban exiles commanded by Cuban general Domingo Goicuría.
He is also mistaken in attributing to Senator Henry M. Teller dark economic motivations linked to sugar behind his proposal of the amendment that bears his name and which made possible for both Houses of Congress to declare that Cuba had a right to its independence. Values and principles, as well as psychological and personal factors, often have great bearing on historical developments. Teller was quite an idealist. He made that proposal at the request of his friend, lawyer Horatio Rubens, who was, at the same time, a counsel for the Revolutionary Cuban Party(Partido Revolucionario Cubano) founded by José Martí.
This is not the place to compare the degree of control the British Parliament exercised over the British Crown with what happened with the Spanish Cortes in relation to the monarchs in that country, but I can assure professor Marina that the dream of all Spanish and Cuban liberals from the end of the 18th century until 1873 was to replicate the British model in the Ibero American territories. From 1873, Spain achieved some stability, which lasted until 1923 precisely because it put in place a system of government inspired by British constitutionalism.
It is true that the U.S. constitution of 1787 failed to eliminate slavery, but at that time no country in the world had done so. The French Revolution, for a brief period, tried to do it, but Napoleon attempted to restore it a few years later. Spain did not abolish slavery until 1886 and Brazil abolished it in 1888.
It is possible professor Marina has a terrible opinion of U.S. democracy and the inadequacy of its institutions, but it might be useful to resort to the question Spaniards tend to ask when someone inquires about their wives: “Compared to whom?”
1) It all depends on what you mean by"regime change." If taking land from one country such as Cuba from Spain is an example, then taking land from Mexico occurred much earlier and was condemned by a number of Americans ranging from Thoreau to Lincoln. In Iraq, the situation is quite different in the sense of a regime change within one country, so that it is"mistake" to equate the two. Are you denying that the US was attempting to aid regime change in Haiti in 1792?
2) Your considerable elaboration of the history about the Cuban Const. is an improvement on your view that it was"forced" on the Cubans. While this modifies your earlier statement, I do not see where it corrects any supposed"mistake" on what I said.
3) There is considerable information about both Gomez and Maceo that can be easily Googled. Briefly, Gomez refusal to step down led to Maceo's death in 1896.
4) The formal name of the 1st revolt in 1868-78 was the Ten Years War. I referred to it with respect to Tobacco, because it was led by the white planters as contrasted to the later revolt involving the Blacks who were more heavily in the sugar industry. See the great, classic work of the anthropologist and founder of Afro-Cuban Studies, Fernando Ortiz, esp. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar.
5) I never said the filibusters were entirely the work of Americans. Empires, including the ancient ones in China and Rome, always sought compradors from among the elites. The Brits, whom you so admire, thrived on that.
6) I cannot read anyone's mind as to motives, but throughout history one does not have to be a Marxist to see how ideals blend with economic interests. Isn't it fascinating how George W. Bush seems more interested in bringing Neocon notions of Democracy to those nations that have oil, rather than to the many that do not. Senator John Shafroth of Colorado also opposed Empire, as did a number of agricultural states that felt threatened by products from both Hawaii and The Philippines. From 1893-98, Dole and his agents were busy preparing the way for the Expansionists of 1898 by selling Hawaii bonds to many in Congress which would later be redeemed at 4 times their purchase price. Money was even loaned with which to purchase same.
7) While I admire the rhetoric of Latin American Liberalism, it seldom has dealt very adequately with the race question with respect to both Indians and Blacks. As is well known, Spain at least defined slaves as human beings, not property in the sense of the Anglo-American experience. I can congratulate the British for taking the lead in abolishing slavery, and at the same time recognize that this coincided nicely with the increase in contract laborers from India, China, etc., which were cheaper to pay wages to, than to maintain slaves.
8) We agree, Señor Montaner, that I do not have a high opinion, I would not call it"terrible," about the vote of ignorant masses manipulated by the corporate media in our corrupt electoral system, none of which has much to do with Democracy, however that might be defined. I do lean toward a Republic based upon Law. The US system was best defined, although the book could be updated, by Walter Karp in 1973, in Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America. But as Bush's minions have repeatedly put it over the last several years,"We are an Empire now."
9) Thank you for correcting all of my mistakes.
Within the men's rights movement, there has been a concerted letter-writing and protest effort aimed at exacting an apology or retraction from PBS for their recent TV program"Breaking the Silence." And, from all I hear, the program seems to have been a bad piece of reporting that was quite biased against fathers and inaccurate to boot. But the campaign against PBS is one of those backlashes that combine several issues together as tho' they were one and make it more difficult for there to be a broad base of consensus.
I'll take myself as an example. I have seen so much wildly inaccurate and biased material against divorced fathers and their parental rights that the call for accuracy on the stats is like music to me. But the press release referenced above is as much a call to validate Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS} as it is a cry for accuracy. I am certain that parental alienation -- by which one parent poisons a child against the other -- is a real and painful problem. But I am skeptical and cynical about turning every human problem into a psychological Syndrome registered with the APA so that is accorded legal weight and used in court decisions. (And legal weight seems to be the goal of PAS advocates.) The Battered Wife Syndrome, the Helsinki Syndrome, the Recovered Memory Syndrome...I think these have been damaging steps away from common sense and hard standards of evidence within the courts. In short, I couldn't in good conscience sign on to the above protest against PBS because I don't want to endorse yet another court room Syndrome.
I had a similar problem with the drive against the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which I thought was a horrible measure on several grounds, one of which was the fact that it embeds gender more prominently, more deeply into the law. Most of my objections, however, revolved around the further expansion of the"domestic violence industry" through which massive government funds end up in the hands of ideologues: researchers, advocates, writers, lecturers, teachers, lawyers, etc. The solution favored by the men's rights movment -- which most of whom seemed to agree that the bill was bad in its essence -- the solution favored was to make the bill gender neutral by including men within its bad policies. I couldn't sign on to that either even though I opposed VAWA in several FOX News Columns. The intermixing of these two issues -- opposing VAWA and including men within its embrace -- is one of the reasons (I believe) that the drive against VAWA was so unsuccessful.
This makes you long for a single-issue issue. They are getting hard to find.
Aeon J. Skoble
Kenneth R. Gregg
[Wilberforce...]would frequently introduce a private member’s Bill abolishing slavery. Year after year his Bills were defeated until, finally, late on Friday July 26, 1833, as he lay on his deathbed, his friend, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the famous historian and member of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, brought him word that the Slavery Abolition Bill 1833 abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire had been read a third time (which means that it had been passed) by the House of Commons. Passage of the Bill through the House of Lords was assured. Wilberforce exclaimed:"Thank God that I have lived to witness the day in which England is willing to give £20 million for the abolishment of slavery."
Gary Galles' Remembering Thomas Babington Macaulay on Mises.org' blog is a welcome comment on Macaulay (10/25/1800-12/28/1859). There were several years that I spent with Macauley's works, particularly Miscellaneous Writings and Historical and Critical Essays, by my bedside when I was convinced that few libertarians were interested in history. This sage classical liberal historian (and great-uncle of another, G.M. Trevelyan), author of the often reprinted History of England, antislavery activist (and one of the founders of the Anti-Slavery Society), writer on many themes (probably best known for his Edinburgh Review essays), including antislavery, utilitarianism (which he embraced following in the lines of Joseph Priestly and Jeremy Bentham), ancient Rome, Milton, Macchiaveli, copyright, and the contestedlegacy of colonialism.
At Trinity College as a student, he fought to bring an end to the rule that forbade a discussion of public affairs at the Student Union later than those of the last century. He became elected to Parliament (all of us has some skeletons in our closet, after all) for the first seat for Leeds, traditionally, a hotbed of radical classical liberals (Samuel Smiles, Edward Baines (Sr. and Jr.), Wordsworth Donisthorpe, and many others) he was known for both his oratory and his writings, as mentioned before, primariy the History of England.
As a life-long student of history and admirer of Macauley, I would recommend his writings. Some of his books are long and, to be honest, I prefer his shorter prose (not his poetry), which I find more precise. Any historian of classical liberalism must take time to consider his legacy.Just a thought.
Aeon J. Skoble
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Guest Blogger)
This, exactly, is the fundamental problem with any democratic system when it is not limited by law. And I mean law, not legislation, of course--i.e. moral principles safeguarding liberty that no legislation can interfere with. Nobel prize winner Friedrich von Hayek wrote three powerful volumes precisely on how democracy has been perverted by the prevailing political system and has come to mean a sort of tyranny of the majority in which the majority is not even a numerical reality but simply any group able to influence the legislative machinery through the democratic process.
The emergence of segregation laws affecting public transportation in the South in the early 20th century is a poignant example of what has been happening to democracy in developed nations for a very long time. Contemporary examples include many discriminatory laws in different areas-commerce, labor, the environment-that are not really upheld by a majority but by special interests able to use the democratic system to their advantage and to provide politicians with sufficient votes to sustain the mirage of majoritism.
One last point about Rosa Parks. Hayek also argued persuasively that the cultural evolution of humanity from savagery to civilization was possible because at various stages certain individuals broke rules that held back their community from adapting to the world around them in more efficient and beneficial ways. These leaders, who were not necessarily conscious of being leaders, at the same time respected every other rule and therefore appeared reasonable to the rest of the community, ultimately, through imitation, dragging it to their"side", thus forcing a relaxation of various prohibitions. That, precisely, is what Rosa Parks did with her moving refusal to give up her seat.