[This originally appeared as The Editor Rebuts, in the February 1973 edition of The Libertarian Forum.]
First, I should like to make it clear, to Dr. Hospers and to his many admirers, that I have nothing but the greatest esteem for him, both as a friend and as the outstanding theorist and spokesman for the limited archy wing of the libertarian movement. I wrote the article to which he is objecting (Hospers On Crime and the FBI, Lib. Forum, December 1972) not out of malicebut out of sadness, sadness at the numerous violations of libertarian principle committed by the Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party in the questionnaire. I am firmly convinced, moreover, that the numerous flaws, fallacies, and inconsistencies in Dr. Hospers general position stem not from personal eccentricities but from the very essence of his conservative libertarian position. Between Conservatism and Libertarianism there are numerous and grave inner contradictions, and the attempt to mix the two will lead inevitably to grave problems and anomalies, as we have all recently seen, for example, in Ayn Rands attack upon amnesty for draft evaders. But since Dr. Hospers is a man of great rationality, objectivity, and dedication, I have every confidence that he will eventually embrace the truth and jump completely over the conservative wall.
Now as to specifics. Dr. Hospers states that the questionnaire was not intended for publication; yet when a presidential candidate, in the heat of his campaign, answers a questionnaire designed for all the candidates, this is surely and legitimately News, and publication of the results can scarcely be regarded as a breach of confidence. When one runs for the Presidency, and assumes an important role as spokesman for libertarianism, then ones utterances become especially subject to careful scrutiny. Hospers the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party rather than Hospers the man was the subject of scrutiny in our article.
As for the context, of course readers can only decide the merits of my summary by obtaining the questionnaire from the Friends of the FBI. But one notable fact is that Dr. Hospers makes not a single rebuttal to any of the points in my article nor an explanation of any of his answers. Instead, virtually his entire reply is devoted to the Russian Question, a matter irrelevant and out of context if there ever were one. As I recall, there was not a single mention, either in the questionnaire or in Dr. Hospers answers of the Russian Question, nor of course in my article. Indeed, what in the world the Russian Question has to do with whether or not the FBI should prosecute the drug traffic, or wiretap, or whether the police should remind accused persons of their constitutional rights, passeth understanding. Are we going to be like the typical Conservative, who drags in the Russian Threat like King Charles Head to justify any and all acts of government tyranny? Once we go that route, once we begin to justify a loss of liberty now in order to defend that liberty later, we are not only abandoning liberty itself: we are justifying every act of statism, from the draft to oil proration laws. Indeed, every such act has been justified by conservatives in the name of the Russian Threat and of national defense. And in these justifications, we can see how the State has for centuries used the foreign threat to aggrandize its power over its deluded subjects.
Before getting to the Russian Question itself, I would like to say that I fail to be impressed with the politeness of the FBI. That they are better than many local police is hardly a commendation; do we prefer Attila or Genghis Khan? In fact, on the score of education, intelligence, and suavity, the CIA has the FBI beat hollow; and yet the foul deeds of the CIA have become glaringly known. But the major point is the usual libertarian case for decentralization: that when we confront despotism by the FBI we have no place to go short of leaving the country; whereas to avoid despotism or brutality by, say, the West Waukegan police force all we have to do is to skip to East Waukegan: surely a far more comfortable choice.
But to get to the Russian Question. In the first place, whether or not Russia constitutes a critical military threat is strictly an empirical question, and therefore not a question that can be resolved in a few pages of philosophical or political controversy. For example, it is logically conceivable that Great Britain constitutes an imminent military threat to the U.S., and that Edward Heath is planning a sneak atomic attack on New York in 48 hours. Logically conceivable, but of course empirically laughableeven though we could make out a case of sorts, citing the fact that we were twice in grave military combat with Great Britain, and so on.
Since it is an empirical question, I will have to be a bit high-handed and say flatly that it is my considered view that there is not a single shred of evidence of any Russian aim or plan to launch a military attack upon the United States, either in the past, present, or future. In fact, the evidence is all the other way, even in the time of Lenin, and certainly in the time of Stalin and his successors. Since the time of Lenin and his magnificent (from a libertarian, pro-peace point of view) conclusion of the appeasement Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, the Soviet Union, vis–vis the other Great Powers, has consistently pursued a policy of what they have long termed peaceful coexistence, in fact often bending over backwards to pursue a peaceful foreign policy almost to the point of national suicide. I am not maintaining that the motivation for this unswerving course was any sort of moral nobility; it is the supremely practical one of preserving the Soviet State at all costs to other aims and objectives, buttressed by the Soviets firm Marxian conviction that, since capitalist states are doomed anyway, it is foolhardy in the extreme to court or risk war. The Soviet policy has always been the defensive one of hanging on to what they have and waiting for the supposedly inevitable Marxian revolutions in the other countries of the world. Lenins adherence to that policy was only confirmed by the socialism in one country doctrine of Stalin and his successors.
We all too often forget several crucial facts of modern European history: and one is that, from the point of view of ordinary international relations, Russia (any Russia, not just Soviet Russia) was a grievous loser from the settlements imposed by World War I (Brest-Litovisk, Versailles). Any German, Russian, or Austrian regime would have been revisionist after the war, i.e., would have sought the restoration of the huge chunk of territory torn from them by the victorious powers. Old Czarist Russia was shorn of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Western Byelorussia (grabbed by Poland after its war of aggression against Soviet Russia in 1920-21), and Western Ukraine (lopped off by Czechoslovakia and Rumania). Any Russian government would have hankered for its lost and grabbed territories. And yet, the Soviets did very little about this hankering; certainly they made no move whatsoever to make war to get the territories back. The Hitler-Stalin pact, much reviled by the uncomprehending Western press, actually made excellent sense for both major revisionist post-Versailles powers, Germany and Russia. For the essence of that pact was the commonality of revisionist interests by both powers: from that pact, Germany got its lost territories back (plus an extra chunk of ethnically Polish Poland), and Russia peacefully re-acquired its old territories, with the exception of Finland. No dire Russian military threat to the West, let alone the United States, can be conjured up out of that.
The next crucial and unfortunately forgotten fact is this: that Hitler turned brutally upon his ally and savagely attacked Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941. In this attack, Hitler was joined by the fascist regimes of Rumania and Hungary (Polish Poland and Czechoslavakia had by this time disappeared, or been swallowed up by Germany.) Why Hitler did this foolhardy act, an act that lost him the war and his head, is still a puzzle to historians. But we can say that his motives were compounded out of two factors: (a) his long-held desire to seize the breadbasket of the Ukraine; and (b) his hysterical anti-communism which fully matches the equivalent anti-Communism of the American Conservative movement. In his hysteria, Hitler too, like our conservatives, thought he saw an imminent Russian Threat: and so he decided on what is now called a preemptive strike. But of course Hitler, like our American Conservatives, was deluded; for the events of the war revealed that Stalins unwise trust in his ally led him to neglect elementary preparedness and thereby almost lost him the war as a result. Stalins pacific policy was carried almost to the point of national suicide.
What of Stalins expansion into Eastern Europe? This expansion was scarcely aggression in any rational sense: it was purely the inevitable consequence of Russias rolling back and defeating the German aggressor and his Hungarian and Rumanian allies. It is only by a grievous dropping of the context, of forgetting that Russia got into the war as a result of German aggression, that we can possibly point the finger of threat of aggression at Russias military march into the aggressor countries.
Read the original post:
The Soviet Bogeyman