Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Will Cato Become an All Out Warmongering Institute?

The new president of the Cato Institute, John Allison, has stated he wants to move the institute away from the "technical economic views" thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

He has stated that he wants to focus on the "moral" argument for liberty. But what does he mean the "moral" argument? Allison is a strong advocate of the views held by Ayn Rand. He is a member of the board of the Ayn Rand Institute. What goes on at the Ayn Rand Institute?

In 2007, Wes Bertrand attended an ARI lecture and reported on what he heard:
...the intellectuals at the Ayn Rand Institute ( ARI ) desire to take us to the land of rationality, freedom, peace, prosperity, and respect for individual rights. However, in order to do this, they apparently believe it's necessary to compromise some principles. Namely, we must use the tools of the State to conquer our enemies, those radical mystics who hate us, the fellows at ARI allege, solely because of our freedoms (stemming from our enlightened Western worldview). "We" must wage war on "them" in an unrelenting fashion, disregarding any collateral damage (e.g., civilian casualties), because "we" are moral and "they" are evil. This is no laughing matter, after all.

The "we" here is used (wittingly or not) to conflate all Americans with the actions of the U.S. government, its military, and its more clandestine and even more unaccountable coercive organizations such as the CIA , NSA, DHS, ICE, FBI, etc. The ARI fellows believe that the U.S. government shouldn't appease other countries by apologizing for its assertions of power in the Middle East ; it shouldn't make concessions; it shouldn't be diplomatic; it shouldn't lose face; and, it shouldn't cut and run. They also believe that even though "we" shouldn't be in Iraq , "we" should fight to "win," nevertheless. Additionally, the U.S. government shouldn't be "selfless" by trying to institute freedom or democracy or stability in the Middle East (in contrast to what warmonger-for-freedom Dinesh D'Souza advocated at Freedom Fest 2007 in Las Vegas ). Nope, the fellows at ARI see such policies as self-sacrificial. Rather, "we" must destroy the enemies of reason, egoism, and individualism who threaten us until they're all wiped off the planet, or until they so tremble in fear at the mere mention of " America " that they wouldn't even think about being aggressive. (Curiously, war-mongering intellectuals seldom practice exactly what they preach. Given what they've helped sow and reap lately, it's little surprise that being air-dropped into Baghdad to do patrol for a year isn't on their things-to-do-for-liberty list.)

These are the ideas I heard during ARI 's public lecture at the Hilton in Costa Mesa , CA on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. Instead of rational arguments, I heard arguments for preemptive strikes and collective punishment of entire countries of people. ARI member Elan Journo began his speech, titled "The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists," by setting the historical context of terrorism. Where did he start? In 1979 with the taking of the hostages in Tehran , Iran . He then proceeded to catalog the various terrorist attacks since then on military personnel and civilians. The idea of foreign policy blowback was conspicuously absent from his talk. While the fellows at ARI declare U.S. military actions overseas to be misguided, apparently they also believe that no one abroad ought to complain about them, let alone violently resist them, because they're mostly done to "help" others, i.e., for supposed altruistic purposes.

Similarly, not a disparaging word was uttered by Journo about the Israeli government's rights-violating actions over the years (apparently people in Palestine are always to blame). Further, he offered no discussion of or critical reflection on the past operations of the CIA in Iran , let alone elsewhere, and no acknowledgment of his audience members' (and Middle Easterners') capacity to recall such things. It seems that in ARI 's world, neither the government of Israel nor the government of the United States plays an indictable role in the increase in terrorism and Middle Eastern conflicts (other than the two governments' militarily weak, or "selfless," policies of course). Another sizable tidbit Journo left out was the fact that terrorism mainly began in Sri Lanka , courtesy of the Tamil Tigers, which a statist-oriented source reiterates.

Just as troubling was how much Journo appealed to emotions throughout his speech, seemingly encouraging audience members to quench their thirst with a toxic brand of jingoistic Kool-Aid. According to views expressed by Journo and Yaron Brook ( ARI 's director) in the Q&A, every American supposedly has an Islamofascist's gun to their head, and the practical response is to use the U.S. government's tax-and-Federal Reserve Bank-funded military to destroy those who threaten " America ." This of course translates into anyone who currently threatens the U.S. government's foreign escapades and related corporate interests. In response to my question, both Brook and Journo asserted that the end (our safety) justifies a rights-violating means ( U.S. governmental actions). In other words, the ARI fellows apparently believe that the practical and the moral need not be aligned when our lives and safety are at stake'which openly flouts Ayn Rand's cogent expositions about the moral being the practical and vice versa...

While Objectivism's ethical branch extols a moral code based on rational self-interest, individualism, and happiness according to objective values and virtues, its political branch harbors the ideas of collectivism and statism. Thus, we witness attempts by ARI 's fellows and their supporters to justify actions of people in government by appealing to absurd abstractions such as national "self-interest." Instead of noticing their essential conflict in these matters, they continue to sanction and promote the coercive behavior of those working for the State'and thereby drop the context of self-interest, individualism, and happiness, in addition to reason and objective reality.

Instead of strictly denouncing taxation and the welfare/warfare State, and by extension its ridiculous military structure, based on Objectivism's principles of reason and individualism'and individualism's historical and societal roots in America'the fellows at ARI utilize the currently hegemonic, neoconned political climate and the psychological aftermath of 9/11 in a way that rivals the mainstream media (some of the corporate heads of which are conveniently on the boards of various defense contractors).
Bertrand concluded, which may be very applicable to the new Cato:
...it's high time to start firmly saying "No" to anything that's not based on the principles of individualism, property rights, agency, and voluntary trade. Each of us needs to hold strongly to our own liberty, and thus our society, as fear-mongers of all creeds constantly try to take perverse advantage of real or potential acts of terrorism. Beware the intellectual and psychological guises of those who posture as your protectors or philosophical gurus. Pay attention to the way they step.

1 comment:

  1. They want to move away? Wasn't aware that to this point Mises and Hayek were actually used at Cato for direction even now.