Sunday, July 19, 2015

War, cosmotarians and the Confederacy

War, like politics, can sometimes make for strange alliances as they are intertwined there are plenty of examples throughout history when such grouping happen. Stalinist Russia allied with the democracies of World War II or Royalist France aligning itself with a rebel movement in American against a fellow monarchy or Tsarist Russia and Republican France before World War I against a rising Germany. Self-interest when it comes to nations knows no ideology and neither do political groupings either.

The Second Gulf War in Iraq and all military operations in the Middle East after 9-11 operated in the same fashion when it came to politics when it came to opposition to the war. Since Vietnam, peace movements have largely come from the Left of the political spectrum and that was true for Iraq as well. But the war also gave an opening for a new group who was also anti-war but from a different point of view to enter to the coalition and to benefit from it by starting a movement. Sadly however, this movement's ties to an older and less savory politics and points of view may well keep it still pertinent critiques from reaching a broader polity.

Critics of U.S foreign policy from what's commonly characterized as the Right of the political spectrum began to pop up with the end of the Cold War and with the first Gulf War of 1990-91. The most prominent of these being Pat Buchanan but others like National Review writer Joseph Sobran. Likewise from the Right-libertarian faction, former Congressman Ron Paul and his followers at the Von Mises Institute were also critical of U.S. foreign policy post-Cold War as well. They opposed first Gulf War and many other U.S. military operations as well throughout the 1990s, especially the bombing of Serbia,  and into the next century with the war in Iraq.

These critiques ultimately led to a new political movement. The "Buchanan Brigades" had played themselves out politically after the 2000 presidential campaign and while non-interventionist were not explicitly antiwar. The Ron Paul Revolution on the other hand was the epitome of antiwar from a strictly non-Leftist perspective. It was much broader and it's basic point undeniably libertarian: to reduce the size government one had to reduce the size of military-security-industrial state. It was a point many on the political line could come to some tacit agreement.

The problem was there were many libertarians, particularly those living in Washington D.C., who bought the government's war in Iraq hook, line and sinker. They immediately went on the attack on Ron Paul and his movement for his opposition to the war. The "cosmotarians" they were called or better the "Orange Line Mafia"  named after the D.C. Metro subway line which carried many of these persons to their places of employment. Their attacks upon Paul, centered around the infamous "newsletters" to which Paul put his name to and Lew Rockwell edited, helped to wreck the potential of the movement and campaign, both in 2008 and 2012. The war was one reason for these attacks and in some cases outright smears. But there was deeper division involved, one which haunts what's left of the Revolution and asks forlornly what might have been?

There were many literary figures and scholars of a conservative bent who for long time, since the end of the War Between the States, regarded Abraham Lincoln and his rhetoric as a forerunner for future totalitarianism, from the New Deal to some extreme cases Communism and Fascism. Many of these figures were Southerners to be sure (Mel Bradford for example) but anti-Lincolnism had its supporters all over the country and for largely the same reasons. Given this, it was only natural libertarian scholars also opposed to totalitarianism would pick up this mantle. And once having picked it up, it was also inevitable that sympathy for the Confederacy which opposed Lincoln while downplaying its most odious features, would follow. Thus, think tanks like the Rockford Institute, (of which this writer wrote pieces for its magazine Chronicles) the Von Mises Institute and writers, scholars and editors working for them, think tanks that were far away from Washington D.C., were the most prominent.

None of this was inevitable. Why criticism of the nationalism and Whiggism which followed to ultimately lead to the U.S. Empire needed to include corollary support for Confederacy, which was also expansionist in its nature (many Southerners looked to annex Cuba and prominent "fillibusters" like William Walker who once tried to take over Nicaragua were Southerners) is puzzling from this author's viewpoint and regrettable as I once shared it too. There is nothing about the Confederate government in its polices like slavery, conscription or paper monetarism, which is worthy of  libertarian or conservative sympathy at all. That it came to such is largely because, as stated before, in war and politics, in this case the struggle against "big government", made for strange bedfellows. Murray Rothbard is good example of this. The libertarian scholar and writer went from Strom Thurmond confederate to Robert Taft Republican to New Left sectarian and then all the way back to Pat Buchanan, all in an effort to ally himself with anyone in his mind running against the central state or war state for that matter.  Yet all this political posturing and historical downplay for ideology's sake leads such libertarians and conservatives down an ideological cul-de-sac as this Newsweek article states. To deny the role slavery played in the secession and the eventual outcome of the war i.e why the North ultimately won, and to deny the role the matter of race plays in the larger political context has done enormous damage to their larger purpose.

It was these connections which prevented the Paul Revolution and others who shared the same critique of U.S. foreign policy from breaking out from the Right for a broad antiwar coalition which could truly change the country. Now there's not much of an antiwar movement anywhere (the Left having sold itself out to the Democratic Party and surrendering to its new nationalism). Rand Paul doesn't suffer from the same destructive innocence of his father when it came to lending his name to people who thought they could win the David Duke vote only to watch themselves run from their paleo Frankenstein monster. But he also finds himself constricted in what he can campaign on, no doubt embarrassed by such past ties (as PAUL Fest back in 2012 no doubt showed).   It hasn't just been the Pauls either damaged by such ties. The Second Vermont Republic and persons like Kirkpatrick Sale hurt themselves with its associations to the League of the South through secession conferences and gatherings because they saw secession as an ideology rather than thinking through why certain groups of people wish to secede from larger political entities in the first place

It may well be the fault of such writers and scholars and editors for allowing their work to be tainted but it is also the fault of "cosmotarians" indeed cosmos of all stripes on the Left and Right whose support of failed policies such as the war -  policies which well beyond their own ideologies in an effort "to get along" as many did in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 - caused many to seek alternatives, some more radical than others. Those whose opposed and who shared the critique of the militarized, empire state the U.S. has become, made friends wherever they could find them, not an unheard of tactic in politics (or war for that matter). Yet there comes a time when you have to forsake political friendship to keep your own intentions true. Outside of being someone honoring their actual ancestors, there's no reason to fly the Confederate flag to honor it or think a political statement or try sanction one's ideology based on historical revisionism or engage in cheap politics based on where you think the votes are. Those who have done this now find themselves on political and ideological islands in this day and age and the effort against the Empire pretty much has to start all over again and away from these same groups.

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