Friday, March 31, 2006

Thomas Woods and War

Thomas Woods, who earned a bit of blogospheric notoriety for his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (which I own and have read), later endorsed "Neoconned and Neoconned Again, two new collections of essays that make just about every argument you can think of against the war in Iraq." Woods's endorsement of the Neoconned books is unsurprising, given his indiscriminate embrace of the non-aggression principle, so beloved of paleo-libertarians.

I am not here to rehash the non-aggression principle, having thoroughly dismissed it in several earlier posts. (See this, this, this, this, and this.) Suffice it to say that Woods adheres to the principle with deranged fervor. (In addition to Politically Incorrect, read his oeuvre at Woods's embrace of the fatuous, suicidal, non-aggression principle fatally undermines his credibility as a critic of the war in Iraq. A review of Politically Incorrect at History News Network concludes with this:

Woods condemns Roosevelt, with much justice, for his concessions to Stalin at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences. He seems to be aware that not only did Soviet domination of Eastern Europe create unspeakable misery for its inhabitants, but that it was not in American interests. But a Europe run by Prussian militarists or the SS? That'’s something we could have happily coexisted with, apparently.

Conversely, he praises Reagan for having "challenged the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall and defeated Communism, while hardly firing a shot." Reagan didn't have to fire a shot because he had challenged the USSR by more meaningful measures than his plea to Gorbachev to tear down the Wall. Among other things, in a provocative, interventionist act roundly condemned by Paleos and Liberals alike, he placed intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Politically-correct history is offensive not because it seeks to celebrate the accomplishments of privileged groups, but because, in ignoring or denigrating the accomplishments of others and exaggerating or inventing their crimes, it does violence to the historical record. Particularly in his discussion of events in Europe in the 20th century, Woods's contempt for the evidence is as thoroughgoing as that of any p.c.-textbook-writing hack. It does students no service to expose one set of myths if youÂ’re going to substitute another.

The conclusion of a review of Politically Incorrect at reason sums it up:

Woods is a bad ally for libertarians, though his message may appeal to those who can'’t distinguish the flaws of America from those of outright despotisms. Decentralization is an important libertarian value, but surely our first principle is individual liberty; and nothing is more inimical to liberty than slavery or totalitarianism. The Civil War may not have begun as a war for abolition, but it nonetheless led to the end of slavery and to fuller enfranchisement of blacks in the North. And U.S. intervention in World War II and the Cold War may have been vital to defeating totalitarianism. On those two crucial battles, Woods is wrong.

I enjoyed Politically Incorrect for its irreverence and feistiness, but Woods's deep cynicism about the wars America has fought had become tiresome and whiny by the time he reached World War II. (As for the Civil War, about which Woods is unhinged, read this.)

Given the reality of German, Japanese, Soviet, North Korean, Chinese, Iraqi, and Islamist aggression, it is simple-minded sophistry to paint America as a war-crazed, militaristic, imperialist, aggressor. America's presidents and Congresses haven't always been right in their decisions to go to war, but it's better to be wrong at times than to be foolishly, consistently, against war when liberty is at stake -- as it always is in a world crawling with real aggressors.

Selected bibliography:

Incorrect History (a review of Politically Incorrect by Max Boot, posted at The Weekly Standard, 02/15/05)
The Purgatory of an Inadvertent Public Intellectual (an article by Woods, posted at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website, 03/16/05)
Final Thoughts on Thomas Woods and His Critics (a post by "william" at Southern Appeal, 03/21/05)
A Factually Correct Guide for Max Boot (an article by Woods that ran in the 03/28/05 issue of The American Conservative)
Response to My Critics (an article by Woods, posted at, 04/12/05)
Behind the Jeffersonian Veneer (a review of Politically Incorrect by Cathy Young, which ran in the June 2005 issue of reason)
Political Correctness in The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (a review of Politically Incorrect by Jeff Lipkes, posted at the website of George Mason University's History News Network, 06/06/05)
The Case Against This Monstrous War (Woods's review of Neoconned and Neoconned Again, posted at Lew, 11/09/05)

Related posts:

Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
But Wouldn't Warlords Take Over?
My View of Warlordism, Seconded
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
Anarcho-Libertarian "Stretching"
More Final (?) Words about Preemption and the Constitution
QandO Saved Me the Trouble
Comrade Gorbachev, Sore Loser
What If We Lose?