On August 24, 2019, I attended the fourth annual “Peace and Prosperity Conference” sponsored by the Ron Paul Institute near Washington D.C. titled “Breaking Washington’s Addiction to War.” It was my second year in a row at the anti-war gathering and I certainly enjoyed both conferences. More than 300 attended, another sell out, though no official figures were announced. There were nine speakers, perhaps the biggest names were Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and David Stockman.
Daniel McAdams is executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute and organizer of the conference. He opened the conference by pointing out that in Washington even the doves are hawks because they favor economic sanctions, the silent killer of untold thousands if not millions. Along with the foreign policy consensus favoring war, the national security state has made virtually all its domestic surveillance legal and trampled on our liberties. McAdams said that the government “cannot solve people’s problems overseas, nor even at home.” Interventionism in the end results in “mayhem and misery.” U.S. adventurism “continues making enemies overseas” and spawning more people bent on “revenge.” How break the addiction? McAdams said “regain control of language, and regain control of money.” In particular, do not say “we” are at war when it is the U.S. government at war, plus the Federal Reserve must go. Further, call out the military industrial complex (MIC) for the profiteers they are, who also lavishly fund so-called think tanks within the beltway to propagandize on behalf of war.
John Duncan, Jr., was a U.S. Representative from Tennessee 1988-2019 who voted against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, one of only six Republicans. He was a member of Ron Paul’s famous Thursday lunches. He quoted Dwight D. Eisenhower as saying, “If you give ’em another star, those Generals will cut the budget!” Duncan said there is greater turnover in office today and “Ron Paul was the best of the 1,500 I served with.” When Duncan came to Congress in 1988-9, he listened to briefings by Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. on the Iraqi “threat” but saw it fold in a hurry, leading him to doubt military experts. In Washington there is a rush to war partly because too many fancy themselves “new Winston Churchills.” Duncan quoted a question he never forgot from Fortune magazine: “We win, what then?” He recalled Senator Robert Taft as a conservative who advocated liberty of the American people as #1 and war only as a last resort. “There is nothing conservative about war,” said Mr. Duncan. His antiwar vote initially was most unpopular but “gradually became my most popular.” Duncan lamented America’s forever wars, the lives lost since 9/11 and trillions wasted. Finally he noted war is not so much about noble ends but money and power.
David Stockman was a U.S. Representative from Michigan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan and his most recent book is Peak Trump: The Undrainable Swamp and the Fantasy of MAGA. Stockman is brilliant and a prolific writer. He flattered the crowd by saying, “I appreciate that insurrection against the imperial city is alive and well.” He reminisced a bit, including “We thought in 1968 the country had turned with the Vietnam debate. Now there is no debate.” He railed against global adventurism, including a proposed title: “Something Is Rotten in Denmark But It Ain’t Greenland.” Maybe somebody was binge watching The Vikings?, he asked. Stockman denounced Sen. Tom Cotton (R, AR) as the dumbest man in D.C., a neocon nitwit, whose take on the Chinese commies has something to do with the ice flow in Greenland [as far as I could get it]. Denmark spends $3.5 billion annually on defense, or 1.2%, which illustrates how imperiled the Danes feel. History establishes that the Germans are not a nation of pacifists yet in 2018 Germany spent $18 billion or less than 1.2% of GDP on defense. German GDP is 3x Russia’s. Stockman speculated that maybe all the Trump insults ultimately will have a benign effect, namely, with another jolly little war in view, no other industrial state will show up.
Stockman put the true annual budgetary cost of U.S. warfare at $1.1 trillion. Yet all that is needed for defense (not offense!) is $250 billion in a multipolar world. Stockman would begin a reset of U.S. foreign policy by dismantling NATO and paving a new route to domestic and international security. He denounced NATO as “The most useless, obsolete, and dangerous organization in the world, its butt naked behind still ignored.” On Trump’s disappointing foreign policy performance, Stockman said the deep state wore him down and defeated his ideas. For example, some 29,000 U.S. hostages in Korea should be called home yet the president persists in bad choices like Pompeo and Bolton (newly fired!). But even modest ideas like restoring Russia to the G8 make the Democrats and the CNN war channel apoplectic.
On Russiagate, Mueller came up with $100,000 in Facebook ads, produced by $4/hr troll farms practicing their 3rd language, out of $33 billion in FB ads. U.S. intel spending of $80 billion exceeds all of Russia’s war spending. There is no Russian and/or Chinese intent nor means to conquer the USA. Among other problems, Russia has a shrinking, vodka-favoring labor force, neither nation has a blue-water Navy, the Chinese are building sand castles–so what?–while we support 11 battle carrier groups–what for?–etc. Robert Taft had it right, he strongly opposed a huge Navy, forward stationed troops, etc., when nuclear delivery is all you need. There are no rival powers with a fraction of U.S. wherewithal, there is no conventional threat. The whole global military empire is built on nonsense like the “indispensable nation” and the “sine qua non” for stability around the world. The coalition of the willing should be shrinking to a party of none. Finally, George H.W. Bush promised no NATO expansion for Russian non-opposition to German unification. GHWB should have parachuted into Ramstein air base to announce its closing. Instead, the U.S. brain-dead, militarized foreign policy establishment marches on.
Nathan Goodman is a young graduate research fellow in economics and public choice at George Mason University who applies economics to defense and peace issues. While the DoD budget was $693 billion in 2019, the Watson Institute at Brown University estimates that post-9/11 U.S. wars cost $5.9 trillion, a lower bound estimate. All this spending diverts resources and implies Americans gave up real civilian good and services in favor of war. Goodman discussed the knowledge problem inherent in central planning and lack of feedback mechanisms to deter value-destroying decisions.
The power problem is paramount. Abuse is rampant in a system of pervasive secrecy, lower ranks must defer to higher ranks, a revolving door with the military industrial complex, and costs dispersed over a wide public with little individual incentive to resist. The Pentagon, of course, has proven unauditable. Trillions cannot be accounted for. Meanwhile “antiwar” Bernie Sanders supports the F-35 boondoggle because some employment for the project exists in Vermont; he is a crony capitalist in this case.
The American empire itself threatens your liberty in two ways: the centralizing tendency and transferring new techniques home. This began with the American campaign to subdue the Philippines and more recently the Vietnam war experience led John Nelson to initiate the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, now nationally grown to some 50,000 raids per year, 80% on behalf of the war on drugs. After 9/11 a pusillanimous Congress granted George Bush the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force…” And the topsy growth of agencies and militarization of law enforcement proceeds apace. Goodman gently notes, “Institutional problems persist beyond the current occupants.” His answer is to shift policy to non-empire.
Rick Sanchez is host of RT America’s “The News with Rick Sanchez” and previously was a news anchor with CNN and MSNBC. His opening applause line was, “I was fired by CNN.” He finds it amazing that you must “watch a Cuban guy on Russian TV to get the truth.” He reviewed a number of U.S. interventions in Latin America, including the removal of a Honduran president in a CIA-managed coup, Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Allende in Chile in 1973, and Bishop in Grenada in 1983. These were largely ignored by U.S. media or “miscovered.” Sanchez interviewed Manuel Noriega in 2002.
Why are the mainstream media so bad? First, they do not give context to stories. Latin America provides one example after another of “big brother” (Uncle Sam) pushing around little brother. Trump refers to “shithole countries” yet the U.S. helped make it true via unintended consequences due to multiple interventions. Key is what the media “don’t tell you.” After a Penguin book offer Sanchez’s employer, CNN, reviewed it before publication and said you “can’t say that about Latin American history.” But it’s the truth. Doesn’t matter. The media tell only half truths, but what is partly responsible? Pressure from the UK and Israel. “We must speak truths, troublesome though they be.” Bombings per year: Bush 12,000, Obama 20,000, and Trump 44,000. So Trump was the peace candidate?
After his firing by CNN, it was back to Miami, some teaching, radio and a clinic which grew into the fastest growing health company in the nation. Still, it was the news that beckoned. “Don’t die with music still inside of you.” According to Sanchez, a major reason the mainstream media went south was Watergate, whose lesson seemed to be become “crusaders instead of journalists.” It turned into Fox on the “right” and MSNBC on the “left.” Yet all of ’em are pro-war. Another big factor is that today sales departments essentially control news rooms, so Raytheon sits on the board along with Monsanto, Medical Insurance corporations, etc. A corrective answer is a business model with outside, independent auditors: RT is more likely to have outside auditors, though not so likely on Russia.
Larry Johnson worked at the CIA, the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism and is managing partner of BERG Associates which conducts money laundering investigations. He described himself this way: “I was an amateur in the NFL Bobby Mitchell classic golf tournament in ‘Night Train’ Lane’s foursome when somebody pointed to me and asked ‘Who’s that?’ and a little boy answered, ‘He’s a nobody.'” Johnson covered the Russiagate scam and insisted on covering the facts, not conspiracy theories. The key point was that Russia did not hack the Democratic National Committee because meta data shows (courtesy of Bill Binney formerly of NSA) it could only be a thumb drive or similar from within the DNC. There is no shred of evidence to the contrary. Ellen Ratner claims Seth Rich gave the data to Julian Assange. The Obama administration found a way to spy throughout well before July 30, 2016. More facts to emerge from the Durham investigation and other sources? We shall see.
Col. Douglas Macgregor is a Ph.D. graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a highly decorated U.S. combat vet. He is author of five books, a regular guest on the Tucker Carlson show and previous speaker at the 2018 Ron Paul conference. Macgregor said he voted for Trump and will again. [There is speculation that Macgregor is among those under White House consideration to succeed John Bolton as National Security Advisor].
There are no threats to the USA in the world. So what’s wrong? Personnel is policy and the people around Trump don’t agree with him. He’s the America id, he blurts out the truth, e.g., why defend Japan? Why not remove U.S. troops from the Mideast? With 14 months left there are important tasks to complete. Time to leave Afghanistan. There is nothing to gain there. It’s like putting your hand in a bucket of water, removing it and expecting to leave an impression in the water.
Xi, ruler in China, wants no war in Asia, including on the Korean peninsula. North Korea is circling the drain and has virtually no GDP. What to do? Go to Korea and sign an end of war declaration. South Korea is a sovereign state with President Moon leading. Hammer out a timetable to dismantle pari passu nukes with U.S. troop withdrawals. Withdraw from Okinawa. Have Japan reassert itself as a great power. No war between China and Japan. No war between South and North Korea, North Korea vanishes. No imperial China will emerge. Stop perilous U.S. spending on weapons we don’t need.
In the Gulf initiate a new arrangement: disengage U.S. forces, talk and listen to the Iranians, remove 5,000 troops from Iraq and 2,000 from Syria. In Turkey Erdogan is leading a non-secular, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish cause. Israel should wake up and acknowledge what a short march it is to the Golan Heights. On Venezuela, Trump should resist the war drums. Economic sanctions? They never changed a regime but impose immense civilian suffering to no good end. Same for Korea and Iran.
On senior U.S. leadership, each member was rewarded for 30 years of “yes sir!” Macgregor told a joke about a GI Joe doll that said “Yes sir!,” had no genitalia and no brain, accurately aping reality. He quoted Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm” but where is the success? He urged Trump to begin firing them. According to Macgregor, the forthcoming election pits Globalists, open border crusaders, nihilists and Marxists vs. Americans.
Lew Rockwell is former chief-of-staff to U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, founder and chairman of the Mises Institute and publisher of LewRockwell.com. Rockwell addressed “Rothbard and War.” He said Rothbard’s legacy is a great one (I agree!) and war was Rothbard’s number one issue. War and peace are key to libertarianism, including its growth. William F. Buckley Jr., by contrast, urged building a bureaucratic state to fight communism and constantly exaggerated the Soviet threat in National Review. Murray touted the Old Right doctrines of no foreign wars unless directly threatened and mocked the pervasive propaganda that “all wars were good” and “for America.” Lew cited John Flynn’s book, The Roosevelt Myth, as a great example of the Old Right.
Why oppose war? Rothbard argued it warps our moral sense because it, in effect, launches attacks on whole neighborhood, spreading death (most of whom are innocent noncombatants) and destruction. It’s in the nature of the state which is parasitic and realistically a racket which goes on and on. It supposedly stimulates economic output but it is akin to the plague stimulating the funeral industry. The National Income stats are bogus, valuing government “output” by its spending on inputs yet military spending increases at the expense of civilian output.
World War I is a leading example of the evil effects of war: chauvinistic programs, hate, demonization, making people expendable, and beneath us. It corrupts the culture, destroys freedom of thought, etc. Truth is suppressed. Media cannot show soldiers being cut in half because it “might end war itself.” War distorts reality itself via propaganda, moral degradation, patriotism, cheer maiming of others who have done them no harm. Rulers are not a law unto themselves as anodyne expressions like “collateral damage” suggest.
To offset these evils we must speak the clear truth: humanize the people targeted, oppose all aggression against peaceful people, do not say ‘we’ because it is crucial to separate war makers from non-war makers, separation avoids the feeling of being insulted about “your” foreign policy, as Mises said war and capitalism are incompatible in the long run, and the international division of labor depends on peace. War is the ultimate government project in every way: propaganda, spying, bureaucracy. Peace builds, war destroys. Murray once remarked there are only “25 libertarians in the world.” There are far more now and among the young, fewer and fewer are war mongers.
Ron Paul is a 12-term Texas Congressman, three time U.S. presidential candidate, founder and chairman of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, and host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report. “I never got applause for my speeches on the House floor,” said Paul, thanking the audience for its warm welcome. He continually advises young people “don’t even think about becoming a Congressman.” In 1973 the Republicans were in the doldrums, no one wanted to run, and he was warned, “No one likes someone who is against Santa Claus.” Yet Paul wanted to make the case for individual liberty.
Today politics is about group identity, not the individual, his or her sovereignty and self reliance. “Government is passing out money, so lobbies are natural.” What to do? Get rid of the Federal Reserve because it is the engine of inflation, distortion, big government, it’s so immoral, and is the enabler for wars and the welfare state. “It taxes people in a sneaky way.” So is capitalism responsible for growing income inequality? Republicans fall into that trap. Too often libertarians are not libertarians. Interventionism is a term of clarity. What part of life is free from interventionism? [None!] “I’m disorganized so I go to the internet to find my stuff!”
An economic crisis comes along and the “answer” is more regulations. Why not eliminate the causes? [Legitimate policy analysis has three steps: state the problem, its causes and the proposed “solution.” A policy not directed at causes cannot succeed. Almost all government schemes skip step two]. The Fed started with a mandate for a stable price level and now pursues 2+% price inflation, that is, depreciating money. Shortly we will likely face a QE to boost consumer spending via more consumer debt. Better management is not a real answer. In the next crisis there will be no free ride for the Fed. A new QE won’t be believable. It’s gonna end. Digital technology is fantastic, young people do not buy current institutions, and a coalition is coming together. Spend your own money on raw milk if you want to! Pasturization was a solution before refrigeration. Technology lifts all boats despite government.
The human race is improving. We have fewer wars. Of course the world would be even better with no lying, cheating or killing. The U.S. government confiscated private gold in the 1930s. It was a declaration of bankruptcy. Then Nixon confirmed U.S. bankruptcy by refusing to redeem dollars in gold [after DeGaulle sent French warships to exchange paper dollars for gold in 1965].
To advance peace and prosperity two groups must go: Democrats and Republicans. Both are philosophically bankrupt. The people’s chamber approved the “audit the Fed” bill twice. Financial bankruptcy correlates with moral bankruptcy. The people have become dependent on government. Liberty comes from the people, not the Constitution. My teacher was Leonard Reed, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education. The first step is to become somebody who knows something. Others will seek you out. What else to do? Do what you want to do. Manners are an important component.
And the Quincy Institute? George Soros and Charles Koch get together to promote peace? Doesn’t sound too bad! The key is to get the information out there. In most any political contest, peace defeats war. Trump in 2016 was an example. And my career in Washington D.C.? I had low expectations so I experienced little in the way of disappointment.
Critique While the conferences have been very worthwhile and successful by most any measure, the RP Institute might consider two changes. First, how about adding a Q&A session at the end? Granted, this might introduce some dissent but sparks should fly occasionally. Second, what about 9/11? That topic has been ignored yet it was the murderous “gift” that gave the Bush-Cheney administration its license to run amuck in the world and has been sustained by the Obama and Trump administrations. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”