Blogs > Liberty and Power > Of Puritanism, Socialists, Today’s Liberals, Conservatives and Other True Believers

Jan 8, 2005 12:51 pm


Of Puritanism, Socialists, Today’s Liberals, Conservatives and Other True Believers



H.L. Mencken didn’t tell us all we needed to know about Puritans, but he offered a couple of key insights:

“A Puritan is someone who, in a Bear Baiting Contest, always bets on the bear.”

“The Puritans fell, first upon their knees, and then upon the Aborigines.”

I note today at lew rockwell.com that Anthony Gregory, of the Independent Institute, has taken up the Rockwellian notion that libertarians ought to build bridges with those on the Left, citing, among other things, a Maoist friend who admires Congressman Ron Paul.

I recall, based on a common opposition to the war in Vietnam, Murray Rothbard and William Appleman Williams editing a book together on the subject. But what came of that, other than perhaps David Horowitz moving over to become a hard-core Conservative?

I should perhaps mention that my own anarchism is genetic — probably more from my Spanish side (Celtic, Sephardic from the mountains of northern Spain, where they still wear the skirt and dance to the bagpipes) than from my American Celtic, Scot-Irish, side in Alabama.

I began reading the Fabians in high school, and was a friend of William Appleman Williams, based on some common ideas about Imperialism, long before I read, and came to know, Murray Rothbard.

The fundamental methodological assumption I have accepted is taken from Taoism, as also articulated by the historian Carroll Quigley; that virtually everything in nature, science, politics, etc., is best observed as a continuum, rather than some sort of Aristotelian, or Manichean, dualism.

That is certainly true when it comes to notions of Political-Economy within a given State, State System, Empire or Universal Empire.

Thus, one can share some ideas with those across a spectrum of positions; joining those from the left, right or whatever, in criticizing the “globaloney” of the Bushian Neocons, without harboring any illusions that a coalition with our fellow critics, to obtain power, could ever be possible.

That, as Mencken understood, was the problem with the Puritans!

The Puritans were excellent as a minority, out of power, opposing the growing authoritarian, absolute monarchy ideas of the Stuarts, but in power, whether in England, or Massachusetts, they brooked no dissidents to their True Believer views. Just ask Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, the Quakers, or the Salem “witches,” among others!

Oliver Cromwell once said, “Consider, in the bowels of Christ, that you might be mistaken.” A noble statement, much better than that my old high school home room teacher (thank God, I never in 5 years, had her for a class), who used to tell us she “might be mistaken, but I am never wrong!”

But that didn’t stop Cromwell from a genocide in Ireland that was much more thorough, although obviously on a smaller scale, than that of Herr Hitler against the Gypsies, Slavs and Jews. In the 1960s (pre-DNA) the great British geneticist, Cyril D. Darlington, estimated there were few, if any, real Celts left in Ireland; most of what were later thought of as Irish, were the off-spring of British soldiers in the service of Cromwellian imperialism. Ah well, so much for any Celtic notion of “limpieza de sangre!”

The enormous deaths from Mother Nature’s recent Tsunami remind us, of the sheer numbers of such genocides, some of which boggle the imagination, along with what imperial butchery has done in the last centuries. American historians, for example, have settled on the estimate of 200-220,000 Filipinos killed a century ago, but no one has done any study, such as has been done in some cases of recent plagiarism and falsification in History, to really refute the work of the Anti-Imperialist League, that closer to 600,000 were killed. The American Army’s figures sound “better,” or more “reasonable,” just as they do today in Iraq.

When Charles II was restored to the Throne, and this was pre-Salem witch trials, he marveled that the Puritans had “killed more people in that God forsaken wilderness (New England), than ever I did to avenge the death of my Father.”

It is worth recalling that Adam Smith’s liberalism grew out of his boyhood experience of seeing witches burned in Scotland, the last country to stop it, and he later noted that his short obituary defense of his friend David Hume brought down more wrath on his head than did his two volume critique of Mercantilism, The Wealth of Nations.

Fanatics throughout history, like George Bush today, have always been people who redouble their efforts, even as they lose sight of their original goal. Apparently Americans admire such determination!

The favorite torture of the Puritans, especially for Quakers, apart from burning people at the stake, was the hot iron pushed through the tongue. Now, that will really shut someone up! Historians are always blathering on about our great heritage from New England, but few — shades of Abu Ghraib — mention some of the seedier history aspects of American history as noted by Mencken above. Borrowing from our relations with the American Indians, the Philippines, the Germans during WWII, Vietnam, and our own extensive domestic prison system, etc., the US is one of the few, perhaps only, nations where the military has written books on the subject of torture and conducts “how-to” Schools in teaching its “practical” application.

William Lind, a Cultural Conservative, and regular columnist for LewRockwell.com and Antiwar.com, has been writing for several years about the mistake, for example, in Iraq, of the US military not adopting methods of what he calls “Fourth Generation Warfare (FGW),” and, who, if I understand him correctly, is now conducting a seminar on same, which when the results are published, and urged on the American military, will also be available on-line at lewrockwell.com. Will that be required reading, on-line, for places like, the now renamed, but formerly School of the Americas, for which we will need a Spanish version?

Now, I challenge Mr. Lind, and his sponsor Lew Rockwell, who has recently challenged us to break free of old assumptions in order to achieve “a new liberty,” to educate me about their emerging vision of FGW, which is really, after all, Lind’s “high falutin” terminology for counter-insurgency warfare., which does not end up with internment camps, torture, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians both by ground forces, and especially from the air, as it sets out to “win the hearts and minds” of the natives. I do not believe that anything short of the above will achieve"Victory,"as the military defines it.

In the case of bombing, I especially like the anonymous observation that “a terrorist is someone with a bomb, but without an air force.”

The British, led by our old friend, Winnie, were among the first to use such bombing on the Iraqis in the 1920s. From there, it was only a natural progression to the Italians in Ethiopia, the Wehrmacht over Guernica and London, “Bomber Harris” over Germany, Curtis LeMay and Robert MacNamara over Japan and Vietnam, the US in Iraq, and now, in particular, Fallujah

That Mr. Lind, the advocate of FGW, as a more efficient version of counter-insurgency warfare, is listed as a columnist for antiwar.com is enough to make one rethink his monthly contribution to that web site.

In Rockwell’s case, and the Mises Institute, this has gone so far as to admire the writings of the Israeli military advisor-historian, Martin “Bulldozer” Van Crevald, who has been an advisor on Iraq, but is now a critic of the emerging quagmire there. I agree with the comments over the years of the Israeli, Ran HaCohen, whose column at antiwar.com has been an on-going indictment of Van Crevald’s notions of FGW as applied to the Palestinians.

If Courts of International Justice had any meaning, then such advisors ought to be in the dock, along with those underlings who have carried out the dirty work.

And, so, Anthony and Lew, while I have no problem in joining in critiques with those across a continuum from the extreme left to the extreme right about what is going on in America and abroad, I just don’t think I want to climb into bed with True Believers with the goal of some kind of misguided, military, FGW, Futile Crusade to make the world safe for American ideas of Liberty.

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William Marina - 1/7/2005

Dear Justin,
One final response to your comment which I neglected to address.
I said I did not want to get in bed with those who supported people like Lind, but especially Van Crevald.
Nowhere did I suggest the supporters of these people are from the Left; they are clearly from the Right as you so described Lind, and Lew was an editor at the Conservative Book Club, when I first learned of him as the editor of the book I did there with Nathaniel Weyl in 1971.
It's a pity that perhaps your wild imaginings prevent your reading closely and accurately.
The other points I believe I addressed above.
Regards,
Bill Marina


Kenneth R Gregg - 1/7/2005

Bill,
Thank you for your kind words. I quite agree with you about the importance of opening up the neocon conundrum to expose the little beady-eyed critters inside. This is one of Justin's great accomplishments. Over the years I don't think there is anyone, left or right, that has done more than Justin has in this regard.
By the way, your brief mention of your wonderful Arlington House book reminds me to suggest that it should be reprinted. It was a good book that deserves readership among the young intellectuals of today (and a good reminder to the rest of us!).
Take care.
Just Ken


William Marina - 1/7/2005

Dear Tex Mac,
I tried to do so, but I guess we have read an impasse in non-communication.
Too bad.
Regards,
Bill Marina


William Marina - 1/7/2005

Dear Ken.
Like David Beito, I feel you have contributed a great deal to making L&P a fine Blog. I hope to continue to offer some critiques which will get readers to think about those two issues.
My differences with anitwar.com are very slight, despite Justin's outbursts, as compared to Mises and LRC.
The real challenge is to offer a critique of American Imperialism that will enable more people to see what the Neocons have been doing to America's image abroad and to her well-being at home.
Regards,
Bill Marina


Kenneth R Gregg - 1/7/2005

Justin and Lew will listen to your words on antiwar.com and lewrockwell.com. I have seen inconsistencies here and there and you point out specific issues which, I’m sure, both will be happy to respond to. Both are general interest sites by libertarians and they run the best essays by the best people that they can find.

Antiwar.com’s byline is “Your best source for antiwar news, viewpoints, and activities,” and the byline for lewrockwell.com is “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market” (I think “pro-family” has been there, too). Their essays and linked articles do an excellent job in meeting the bylines’ respective intent. I really can’t imagine anyone else who has provided the leadership and effort that either Justin (whom I’ve known longer) or Lew has done, and honored that they have been willing to put so much of their lives at stake in these endeavors. Both sites are generally libertarian, but include much of interest to nonlibertarians (perhaps to attract them into the libertarian fold) and items of interest to libertarians (even though it may be a nonlibertarian source).

As I understand it, the issue is “the Rockwellian notion that libertarians ought to build bridges with those on the Left,” “joining those from the left, right or whatever, in criticizing…” and finally, that you “have no problem in joining in critiques with those across a continuum from the extreme left to the extreme right about what is going on in America and abroad,” and “just don’t … want to climb into bed with … [nonlibertarians] to make the world safe for American ideas of Liberty.

OK, I understand. I worked in enough antiwar rallies in the ‘70’s to know crazies on the left, enough conservatives/neo-nazis on the right and libertarian conferences to understand the problem you are addressing. Acton’s Disease will destroy pretty much anyone’s freedom. Even really, really nice guys who just want to get elected (with our support, of course) get caught up with political power, left, right or libertarian.

I don’t see Lew as consistently consistent. When FEE, under the new, dynamic Presidency of conservative-libertarian Mark Skousen, organized the FreedomFest (which, along with changing the name of their periodical back to “The Freeman”), the best thing that FEE had done in years, it was criticized in lewrockwell.com for the conference in Las Vegas, and then attacked profusely for daring to invite a popular nonlibertarian (Rudy Guliani) to speak. I was at a loss to understand why. It couldn't be because Lew sponsored his own conferences? It certainly couldn’t be due to the nonlibertarian status of the speaker. After all, the rest of the speakers were good, hardcore libertarians. I was involved in Southern California for many years with the Future of Freedom Conferences held there (and SF conventions as well), and understand the makings of successful conferences

When the Mises Institute sponsored an entire conference around a nonlibertarian (van Crevald), it couldn’t be due to his popularity? Sure, his book on the state was informative, but so was Woodrow Wilson’s “The State,” Would a purely libertarian group organize a conference around Wilson? Not unless it put him in a pillory and a target for rotten vegetables!

Besides, a conference to be successful, needs to provide a fairly broad spectrum.

Keep up the good work, Bill, Justin, Lew, Anthony, et. al. It’s always good to open up discussions. After all, that’s what blogs are designed to do.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
kgregglv@cox.net
http://classicalliberalism.blogspot.com/


tex mac - 1/6/2005

But I did differentiate. I just ask you how, in principle, you can object to one without objecting to the other. I guess you're going more bad route.

OK.


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Tex Mac,
As I said earlier, if you cannot differentiate between voicing an opinion for a war, especially when based upon manipulated information, and being an advisor on developing field tactics on how to kill more people efficiently, then there is nothing more to be said.
Regards,
Bill Marina


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Justin,

I do not think I have told any lies about either Lind or Van Crevald.

Here is the quote from Lind at the end of his article in the LRC Archives for October7, 2004:

“The Fourth Generation seminar met Friday for the first time since last spring, and we have decided to write our own field manual on Fourth Generation war. It will be modeled on the excellent field manuals the U.S. Marine Corps issued when General Al Gray was Commandant. We plan to have it out in the first half of next year; LRC will offer the whole FMFM.”

My own article about Marine handbooks can be found at:

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1286

I am criticizing such efforts by the Empire’s strike force, as did Gen. Smedley Butler, while Lind wants to make it more efficient.

Also, June 26, 2004 there is an article in the LRC Archives, which Rockwell, and not Lind, identifies as, “All Hail Van Crevald.”

I support antiwar, and not LRC or Mises, although they are closely linked organizationally; in the old days of 19th century Capitalism, what might have been termed sort of an Interlocking Directorate, because antiwar is much more reasoned in its comments on Lind as well as in many other ways, and because Ran HaCohen has been an excellent critic of Van Crevald, unlike Lind, who clearly likes his military history stuff.

My own paper on MVC at Mises is 2001 addressed his historical methods. It was only later that I became aware of his advisory role in Israel in the Intifada, and in his advice to the US in Iraq.
In your intemperate replies, if you cannot see these distinctions, then that is your problem, not mine.

Regards,
Bill Marina


tex mac - 1/6/2005

No, we are talking about 3 people who are experts in their fields with whom we disagree substantially on many issues, yet we are discerning enough to discard that which is useless and retain that which is educational. You're trying to make a judgement as to degree for a difference that just isn't there in principle. Once you say Cole is OK, you don't have a principled objection to Lind. You're reduced to saying being a military expert who is against the war is so much worse than being a ME expert who is a war advocate that his writing should never be posted on a respectable libertarian antiwar website. I think we should just post both of them and let the reader decide.

And I really like Ran HaCohen and agree with him about a lot, but he should never have advocated building the Fence. Just my opinion.


Justin Raimondo - 1/6/2005

I disagree that Lind's works are aimed at making US imperialism "more efficient." And you, at any rate, have not shown that, or even attempted to show it. That's what really galls me about your remarks: it's not my thin skin. It's your willingness to publicly withdraw your support for antiwar.com on the basis of an unsupported claim. In this context, for you to question my remarks as "ad hominem" takes real chutzpah.

Lind is working from the assumption that we are indeed at war, and that there is a rational way to fight it: not in Iraq, not against states whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, but against what Michael Scheuer calls the "worldwide Islamist insurgency" represented by Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

You may disagree with Lind's assumptions, you may think they are wrongheaded and lead to supporting policies with which no libertarian can agree: you may argue that he is "objectively" supporting U.S. imperialism by failing to call for the abolition of the military and its replacement by a private protection agency. Whatever. But you have done none of these things: you have made NO argument, at least in your original post. Instead, you have attacked antiwar.com's credibility as a libertarian institution, and lied about Lind's actual position.


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Anthony,
Keep up the good work!
If attacked enough from both sides, you develop a thick skin.
For Prentice-Hall, while doing a text that sold 250,000 copies, coming out early in the PC craze, I was given a huge guidebook and had to work with six editors, one of whom thought I was a Marxist when I talked about llibertarian class theory.
What irony, what fun!
As someone who has worked with a number of think-tanks, including at one time or another, IHS, Liberty Fund, Koch, Cato, Pacific Inst. and Mises, I can tell you, you are at the very best, The Independent Institute, where, in retirement from teaching, I am pleased to be a Research Fellow.
Regards,
Bill Marina


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Tex Mac,
I think there is a big difference between having advocated war, early on as you say Cole did, when the Neocons were telling so many lies about reasons to intervene.
Developing strategies for killing people more efficiently for the Empire as has Van Crevald, or trying to develop same for our military as Lind is doing, are, in my mind, something of an altogether different dimension. Showing some info to demonstrate these as a one time thing could be understood, making someone a columnist and printing their war plans online is something else.
If you cannot see that distinction, then there is nothing left for me to say.
Regards,
Bill Marina


tex mac - 1/6/2005

I would imagine Lew will probably have some comments to make himself but I will say that I find it amazing that posting an article you think will be educational for readers translates into "support." Surely you would agree that there are things we can learn from people whose politics we find unlibertarian or otherwise objectionable. I see you skipped my example of Professor Cole, who is clearly a leftist and sprinkles his ME writings with leftist ideas. He even approved of the invasion of Iraq. Aren't you going to take AWC to task for "supporting" him? You'll have to if you're going to be consistent in your criticism.


Anthony Lee Gregory - 1/6/2005

Cool, Mr. Marina.

That's a funny note about the Birchers. As someone who both reads the New American and enjoys Bob Dylan's satiric song about their paranoia back then, I can appreciate that.


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Anthony,
I agree with you about the Left, as I hope I made clear in mentioning the direction I came from.
You have to understand Rockwell was a Conservative, and, therefore, much more sensitive to things from that direction.
When I first came in contact with him in 1971, we was an editor at Arlington House, and editing books for their Conservative Book Club.
He served as editor, and did a very fine job, on a book I co-authored with Nathaniel Weyl, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro, A CBC selection, which Choice, the librarian's journal, selected as one of the Outstanding History books of that year.
It has been my personal experience with respect to True Believers, that I was attacked much more from the Right than from the Left.
The Birchers in south Florida at the time of the Vietnam war, for example, called me a Commie. They were astounded, when at a discussion where I read a piece on the Empire, to learn it was by Garet Garret, that his book was published by the JBS, and that I had purchased it at their book store recently. They knew nothing of the anti-interventionist wing of the JBS.
Regards,
Bill Marina


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Tex Mac,
See my comments to Justin Raimondo for a reply to much of what you say about Lind.
I note neither of you mention my comments about Rockwell's support of Martin Van Crevald, who, just on the comments by Ran HaCohen at antiwar.com, I would consider a real "monster," as MNR used to say.
Regards,
Bill Marina


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Dear Justin,
I try not to put in a plethora of Links, unlike you, in what I write, but that is a matter of style. I include enough, usually so that any "idiot" can go there on the Internet, and read the piece for him/herself.
Lind's articles are archived at both LRC & antiwar.com so that anyone who wishes to read them can do so, even you.
I see nothing wrong with running Mr. Lind's articles, any more so than running those of, say, Paul Wolfowitz, which the antiwar site has done, which demonstrate the strategies of Empire.
But, do you plan to make Wolfie a regular Contributor as well?
Making someone an on-going Contributor, who, as you can read for yourself, since Lind states it very clearly, is trying to make imperial war strategies more efficient, seems to me a bit contradictory for web sites supposedly dedicated to opposition to war and empire; but I will refrain from calling it "idiotic."
Keep up the ad hominum stuff, its fun to read.
I think I cited several writers in the piece whom I admire very much, notably Murray Rothbard, Willliam Appleman Willliams & Carroll Quigley. I even find a great deal of your work of interest.
I think a considerable amount of my work has been substantive, and even theoretical, as Hans Hoppe complimented me upon several years ago.
I thought a Blog was the place, certainly in one contribution but not longer than many others there, to make some observations that were meant to provoke discussion, and I see I have done so, rather than some heavily footnoted journal piece.
My own activism both in Civil Rights and opposing war, go back to the 1960s, to having WAW and Rothbard as speakers and personally raising the funds for Sen Gruening, who opposed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, to speak at the Teach-in I organized against great opposition at FAU since LBJ had dedicated the school a few months before, and at the much larger one at the University of Miami, my undergraduate alma mater.
You really do have a thin skin!
Regards,
Bill Marina


Anthony Lee Gregory - 1/6/2005

Mr. Marina, I do not advocate that the libertarian movement compromise its principles. What I do advocate is that libertarians stop looking at the left as so much less libertarian than the right. I do not think this is a "Rockwellian notion," necessarily. I've come around to thinking this over the last several years, before I even read LRC regularly.

For a long time, most libertarians have assumed we have much more in common with the right. I don't think it's true, especially now. I think we should convert leftists, and not shrug them off as hopeless. I've made much progress on this front. Living in Berkeley, I've seen a potential in the radical left for enlightenment about economics. The main point of my article was to reach people who read LRC and might consider themselves more sympathetic to the right, to rethink some of their opinions. That's all.

You might think I overstate the case, but I am not suggesting we "climb into bed" with anybody. I only suggest we put more efforts into talking to the left than we have in the past. At most, I would suggest changing some of our rhetoric, but _never_ our principles.

That Maoist, by the way, as I said, is not really a Maoist. I mean, come on. Mao? My point here is that many who think of themselves as on the left are open to libertarian ideas, not that the left is inherently better than the right.

I mean, I've convinced lots of liberals that the ADA, public schooling, gun control, and Social Security all have to go. Maybe most liberals can't be convinced, but we need to try, if ever we are to win our freedom.


tex mac - 1/6/2005

I'm not sure I understand your critique of Antiwar.com carrying William Lind's pieces. From what I've read of Lind he says the US can't fight this kind of war and here's why it's impossible, so give it up and get out. He offers a valuable insight and he's an expert on the subject of guerilla war. Professor Juan Cole was pro-invasion, but he's an expert on the ME region so he's listed as a columnist as well. I think it's unfair to say that because AWC carries a writer's columns that they've "climbed in bed" with them, when AWC is actually trying to present as much quality information as possible from a broad spectrum of sources.


Justin Raimondo - 1/6/2005

In a long, rambling piece that complains about libertarians "getting into bed" with the Left, Bill Marina then veers off on a tangent, complaining about William Lind --with the Center for Cultural Conservatism -- and wondering whether he ought to reconsider his monthly contribution to antiwar.com because we run Mr. Lind's articles.

What strikes me as odd is that Marina nowhere cites a single objectionable word that Lind has ever written. There are no quotes from his pieces, there is not even a link -- nothing. Just innuendo, unsupported suppositions, and blather.

Does Lind advocate getting the U.S. out of Iraq, asap? Yes. Is he making his voice heard, at great risk to his "conservative" credentials? Again, the answer is yes. Is he a good writer? I would say yes: clear, concise, and what's more his subject matter (a new concept of warfare) is interesting to antiwar.com's readers. That is why we run his stuff.

Yet Bill Marina is pissed off that we are running Lind's stuff. Why? He doesn't really say. It's not clear. He just *is* -- pissed off enough to recommend that people reconsider their contribution to antiwar.com.

I'll tell you what, Mr. Marina: you can keep your damned 15 bucks per month. We don't want it.

I am sick unto death of "libertarians" who sit on the sidelines carping, kvetching, and coughing up all sorts of "objections" to what we do at antiwar.com. They don't like leftists. They don't like rightists. Well, who DO you like, Mr. Marina -- is anybody good enough for you?


Jeanine Ring - 1/6/2005

Thank you for the kind words... and apologies for the most careless piece of writing which I have written in the last year (*blush*)... really, I swear.

Oh, dear, that's what I get for writing sick like this. I get every bug, flu, fever, and now chest cold in this lovely city of San Francisco.

~sigh~

regards,

Jeanie Ring )(*)(

(If we had a free market in medicine, one could take a rotating cycle of antibiotics during sick season to deal will this kind of thing... as it is I'm limited to echinacea... thank Goddess for extrastatist alternative medicine!)


William Marina - 1/6/2005

Yes, Jeanine,
We sound like kindred souls close together along that long continuum of History.
Regards,
Bill Marina
marina@fau.edu


Jeanine Ring - 1/6/2005

Msr. Marina,

A very nice piece. I personally don't trust Rockwell, while supporting a notion between libertarianism and the specifically cultural in spiritual synthesis and kinship of opposition to structures of power, but otherwise your piece is much loved and much welcomed.

I didn't know you bit about Adam Smith's inspirations in opposition to Scottish burnings; and interesting piece of history, that. Your invocation of Taoism organicism (sorry Chris, I like 'dialectics' in substance, but am no philosopher) as a fundamentally liberal methology also resonates me; the late classical liberal Heinrik van Loon in his unjustly forgotten _Tolerance_ made the same point with similar imagery.

regards, and I always welcome critiques of dualism. 'Beware of the good and the just; the like to play with fire-- the stake."; Nietzsche.

Jeanine Shiris Ring )(*)(

also Nietzsche: "mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful."