Montreal, October 8, 2006 • No 196




Chris Leithner grew up in Canada. He is director of Leithner & Co. Pty. Ltd., a private investment company based in Brisbane, Australia.




by Chris Leithner

          Charles Munger, the Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., is so deeply sceptical about the human condition, wrote Roger Lowenstein in Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1996), that Warren Buffett has called him "the abominable no-man." A tenet of Munger's approach to investing – and to life in general – is constantly to ask what can and likely will go awry. "Invert, always invert," said the mathematician Carl Jacobi, and for decades Munger has faithfully applied this maxim. Invited to address high school graduands, he did not laud the habits and qualities that would promote health, wealth and wisdom; instead, he denigrated those that would ensure emotional penury and material misery. In effect, he counselled his young audience "If you don't do the things I'm going to talk about, then chances are you'll be just fine." More whimsically, he once wondered aloud where he would die "so that I never go there."


          Clearly, to "invert, always invert" is to mitigate the downside and let the upside take care of itself. It is also to see things from another person's point of view; and a particularly illuminating way is to consider a contentious situation from the perspective of an opponent or adversary. If we can avoid harming others (or offer amends to those whom we inadvertently harm), then we lessen their incentive to hurt us; and if we can make habits of civility and neighbourliness, we will likely reduce some of the misfortune that life routinely tosses into our paths. Resentment and hatred seem to flourish longest and deepest among people who have lost – or never possessed – the capacity to empathise with those whom they have harmed, and also among the people who have retained the capacity to remember the harm they have suffered. How to avoid injuring others? We become more inclined to treat other people as we would want them to treat us, and thereby to increase the chances that we enjoy their goodwill, when we try to see their situation, predicament or grievance through their spectacles. A good way to avoid unintended consequences, and to mitigate what might go awry and return to haunt us, is to walk in others' shoes.

          David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, seemed to be thinking along these lines when he said "If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country … We come from Israel, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler and Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?" (See also John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy").

          Alas, Ben-Gurion did not seem to be "inverting" when he said "We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." Even more regrettably, this apparent lack of compassion for people other than his own also spread further afield. In 1948, the year the State of Israel was founded, he declared "We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai" (see Michel Bar-Zohar, The Armed Prophet: A Biography of Ben-Gurion, Barker, 1967).

          Viewing things from an unaccustomed, unconventional or unpopular angle often helps to understand them more thoroughly, appreciate their worth and acknowledge their flaws. It thereby promotes humility and inoculates against narrow-mindedness and intransigence. "Inversion" does not necessarily corrode one's principles; still less does it inevitably overturn them. Yet once in a great while, it triggers a fundamental alteration of outlook. But because it is so emotionally difficult – indeed, because something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome usually prevails – people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid reappraisals of their rulers. Perhaps that is why so few Australians, for example, think seriously about how their policies affect people in other countries. After all, these lands are usually distant and unfamiliar; there are only so many hours in the day to inform oneself about them; and other matters, from mortgage rates to petrol prices, seem to be more pressing. Accordingly, are not such specialised matters best left to the anointed experts in Canberra, the universities, think tanks and editorial pages? And surely the motives of Australian politicians and their Anglo-American masters are unimpeachable?

          But shortages of time and energy do not provide very satisfactory explanations of this general abandonment of the classical liberal virtue of vigilance. It is clear to anybody who opens his eyes that the policies of the Western political class routinely create messes and disasters at home: so why on earth should they foment anything other than chaos and misery abroad? Alas, few of the ruled ask this question. Instead, many avert their eyes and blindly accept what their rulers tell them about foreigners and far-off parts of the world. Why? Perhaps because if they saw things from the point of view of people at the receiving end of Western governments' foreign policies, an awful truth would stare them in the face: during and since the Second World War, some celebrated Western "leaders," particularly American and British, have, by the standards employed at Nuremberg, qualified as war criminals.

          As an example, consider Harry S. Truman. Ralph Raico, in "Harry S. Truman: Advancing the Revolution," concludes "the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime worse than any that Japanese generals were executed for in Tokyo and Manila. If Harry Truman was not a war criminal, then no one ever was." America's most senior military officers, including Dwight Eisenhower, Ernest King, Douglas MacArthur, Chester Nimitz and Carl Spaatz, expressed deep reservations to say the least – and to say the most, condemned the atomic bombings as pitiless, spiteful and unnecessary. The assessment of Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman's chief of staff, was typical: "the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

          In his memoirs, entitled I Was There (McGraw-Hill, 1950), Leahy compared the use of the atomic bomb to the treatment of civilians by Genghis Khan, and termed it "not worthy of Christian man." Truman wrote (or requested that somebody ghost-write on his behalf) the Foreword to Leahy's book. In a private letter written just before he left the White House, Truman referred to the use of the atomic bomb as "murder," and stated that the bomb "is far worse than gas and biological warfare because it affects the civilian population and murders them wholesale" (see Barton J. Bernstein, "Origins of the U.S. Biological Warfare Program," in Preventing a Biological Arms Race, MIT Press, 1990; John Denson, "The Hiroshima Myth;" Gary Kohls, "Whitewashing Hiroshima: The Uncritical Glorification of American Militarism;" and Ralph Raico, "Rethinking Churchill," particularly Part V).

What Is a War Crime, Anyway?

          A war crime is a general label used to describe one of three specific crimes enumerated and described in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT). Immediately after the end of the Second World War, the governments of the "Big Four" (i.e., the U.S.A., Soviet Union, Britain and France) established the IMT in order to prosecute the leaders of National Socialist Germany and its allies. The Tribunal's Charter, published on 8 August 1945 (ironically, shortly after the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima and just hours before the second detonation at Nagasaki), declared in Article 6: "The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility":

(a) "Crimes against Peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a Common Plan or Conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing." In plain English, to invade a nation that has never threatened you and does not presently threaten you is a crime against peace.

(b) "War Crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) "Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated."

          Article 6 warns: "Leaders, organisers, instigators, and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a Common Plan or Conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan." Section 7 states "The official position of defendants, whether as Heads of State or responsible officials in Government departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment." And Section 8 warns: "The fact that the defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility …"

          At a series of trials at Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945-49, these criteria were used to try more than 100 defendants. At the most important trial, of the top surviving leaders of Hitler's government and military, twenty-two men were indicted on one or more of the charges listed in Article 6. Nineteen were convicted and three acquitted. Of those found guilty, twelve were sentenced to death by hanging, three to life in prison and four to terms of imprisonment ranging from ten to twenty years. No appeals were permitted, and the last surviving convict, Rudolf Hess, died at Spandau Prison in Berlin in 1989.

          In late 1946, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 95 (1), affirming The Principles of International Law Recognised in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal. In this and other respects, the premises, process, results and precedents of the Nuremberg Tribunal form cornerstones of civilised international behaviour.

The Trouble with Victors' Justice

          The Nuremberg Tribunal explicitly prohibited tu quoque ("you did it too!") defences – hardly a surprise, given that it rendered victors' justice. The prosecuting powers sought to obscure the inconvenient fact that during the war their civilian and military leaders, as well as a few of their officers and enlisted men, had also issued and obeyed orders that – to put it mildly – fell well short of the standards imposed upon Hitler's henchmen. That prohibition set a poor precedent: surely justice, if it is worthy of the name, cannot be restricted to particular times, places and people? That is, if the invasion of Poland was a crime against peace when Adolf Hitler and high-ranking German officers and diplomats planned and executed it in 1939, then (to cite but one example) surely the invasion of Iraq, when planned and committed in 2001-2003 by George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their military and diplomatic subordinates, is no less a crime against peace?

          Apparently not: or, at any rate, few Americans, Australians and Britons believe that their leaders could contemplate, let alone commit, such crimes. But if one peruses the public record and considers how Anglo-American governments have planned and conducted military actions, then time after time one encounters prima facie evidence that certain of their politicians, bureaucrats, senior military officers and a few soldiers and airmen have committed crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity as defined by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945.

          In light of the voluminous evidence that now crowds the public domain, a prima facie case can be made that in 2001-2003 American, British and Australian leaders and their military and civilian advisers engaged in or acquiesced to the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression." It was obvious at the time (see in particular Justin Raimondo, "The Lying Game," 7 February 2003), and today is as plain as the nose on one's face, that neither Saddam Hussein nor the Iraqi military posed any threat to America, Australia or Britain. The many revelations by former insiders, coupled with the Downing Street Memo, the Lewis Libby indictment and numerous other sources, leave little doubt that these insiders intentionally deceived their own citizens and the world in order to invade a country that did not threaten them.

          Accordingly, and by the precedent set at Nuremberg, the misleading and ever-changing rationales uttered before, during and after the invasion exonerate nobody. Nor does the evasive special pleading uttered after the fact ("we acted on the best information available," Mr. Howard has stated repeatedly since the WMDs failed to materialise). To invade a country that has neither the means nor the intention to attack you – whether or not the invaders know it when they plan and execute their invasion – is a crime against peace. As Murray Rothbard put it in The Ethics of Liberty, "It is important to insist, however, that the threat of aggression be palpable, immediate, and direct; in short, that it be embodied in the initiation of an overt act. Any remote or indirect criterion – any 'risk' or 'threat' – is simply an excuse for invasive action by the supposed 'defender' against the alleged 'threat.'" Whether waged by Nazis or neocons, a pre-emptive war is necessarily a crime against peace. The ironic and rather pathetic fact that between 1991 and 2003 Saddam Hussein was the only person who spoke truth to power about WMDs in Iraq speaks volumes about the determination of Western politicians and their lackeys to twist information in order to indulge their inflexible prejudices.

          Moreover, and again in the light of the massive and growing body of evidence available to anybody prepared to consider it, it appears that American and British politicians and bureaucrats (and some military personnel obeying their orders) have committed "violations of the laws or customs of war," including "murder . . . of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war . . . plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity." Acts that seem to fit this description have occurred at Falluja, Haditha, Mahmoudiya, Samarra, Tikrit, the Abu Ghraib Prison and other locations.

          These incidents, it is reasonable to assume, are not isolated. Inevitably and by its very nature, war, occupation, insurgency and counter-insurgency breed atrocities (see, for example, "Beyond My Lai: New Revelations of Vietnam Atrocities" by Jon Wiener). Accordingly, when neoconservatives babble their despicable blather (i.e., "we must not cut and run," "we must stay the course," etc.), their use of the pronoun "we" is disingenuous. What they really demand is that somebody else must continue the destruction of faraway places and the murder of other people. Equally deceitful is their invocation of a bogus and moronic "war on terror" and vast exaggeration of "the terrorist threat" (which, as Leithner Letter 33 shows, is in probabilistic terms actually quite trivial). Hence an inconvenient question for the foreign policy interventionists: if pleas of military necessity did not excuse leading Nazis, then how can the alleged imperatives of a war on terror excuse the Three Amigos and their subordinates?

"It is clear to anybody who opens his eyes that the policies of the Western political class routinely create messes and disasters at home: so why on earth should they foment anything other than chaos and misery abroad?"

          The parallels are troubling. In the dock at Nuremberg, did Hermann Gφring not plead that concentration camps were necessary in order to preserve order and stability? Did he not say, "It was a question of removing danger"? Gφring also shed disturbing light upon the political tricks that demented shepherds use to frighten their flocks into the false belief they need more laws, services and protection. During his trial, he mused to an interviewer "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship" (see Gustave Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary, DaCapo Press, 1995).

A Grave Responsibility Mocked and a Desperate Effort Repudiated

          Today, more than three years after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, many Westerners have mostly forgotten (if, indeed, they ever knew them) the transgressions of this war, the 1990-1991 war and the many others that preceded them. They don't "invert" – that is, see things from others' points of view – because, by and large, they have convinced themselves that their rulers are right and just and others are wrong and crazed. Hence it never occurs to them that their politicians, in their name, commit war crimes; and they respond with indifference, denial or even hostility to the proposition that today's crop of Western politicians, like their predecessors at Versailles, are creating conditions under which extremists thrive.

          Since 2003, much mainstream coverage and commentary about the second war against Iraq has focussed first upon the failure to send sufficient troops to pacify the country; and then upon the decision to disband Saddam's army without training a new one; and more recently upon the failure to crush the insurgency and foresee the appalling communal violence; and now upon the highhandedness, cruelty and utter pointlessness of the occupation. But little analysis has pondered the legal questions arising from this and previous aggressions. The UN's Secretary-General has put his view in an unusually blunt fashion. In September 2004, Kofi Annan told the BBC: "the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN Charter."

          If so, then the question arises: should Anglo-American politicians and their top civilian and military aides be prosecuted for their repeated violations over the years of the very laws promulgated in order to punish Nazis after the Second World War? Do the precedents established at Nuremberg apply to American and British officials? Or are they somehow immune from the laws that their predecessors invoked? If not, why shouldn't Bush, Blair, Howard and their inner circle be tried for the many deaths and untold misery their policies have caused?

          If, on the same basis the Big Four employed to try Nazis at Nuremberg, the leading members of the American, Australian and British governments and armed forces were tried for actions taken in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in recent years, they might well be convicted (see Anwaar Hussein, "Dust Off the Nuremberg Files;" Michael Mandel, "Nuremberg Lesson for Iraq War: It's Murder;" and Michael Gaddy, "The Ghosts of Nuremberg"). In his Opening Address at the Nuremberg Trials, delivered in November 1946, Justice Robert Jackson of the U.S. Supreme Court began with these words: "The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility." Alas, during the intervening years, Western politicians have mocked and debased this responsibility to such an extent that Nuremberg principles are today little more than rhetorical devices uttered on ceremonial occasions. So the Three Amigos need not worry. Apparently, these principles apply only to captured thugs from Balkan or Third World countries.

          Yet reading the transcript of the first Nuremberg trial, it is clear that all who were accused of crimes, from the humblest foot soldier to the highest and mightiest civilian and military leader, were considered responsible for their actions. In particular, the leaders and henchmen who initiated aggression were assigned primary criminal responsibility. None of the subsequent crimes would have been committed if the primary aggression – that is, the crime against peace – had not occurred. On 12 August 1945, Justice Jackson stated the objective of the American prosecution: "If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner's dock rather than the way to honours, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure. … We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it."

          Justice Jackson's subsequent statements concerning the Nazi leadership in the dock goes to the heart of the matter: "These defendants were men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war. … We have here the surviving top politicians, militarists, financiers, diplomats, administrators and propagandists of the Nazi movement. Who was responsible for these crimes if they were not?"

          On 1 October 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal delivered its judgement. Three Amigos, are you listening? "To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole … Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities; and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced." Had Bush, Blair and Howard not unleashed their aggression, then tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, thousands of American and hundreds of British and other military personnel would be alive today. Hence Justice Jackson's last sentence of his closing statement applies to contemporary Anglo-American leaders as much as it did to the Germans on trial at the time: "If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime."

          Justice Jackson's words thus prompt one to wonder: how would he assess the legal basis of the Three Amigos' decision to wage war? Neoconservatives would do well to remember his injunction: "Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling these grievances or for altering these conditions." And those who cannot visualise American, Australian and British defendants in a war crimes trial should also ponder Justice Jackson's words: "Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn, aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment … This trial represents mankind's desperate effort to apply the discipline of the law to statesmen who have used their powers of state to attack the foundations of the world's peace and to commit aggression against the rights of their neighbours."

          Sixty years later, it is clear that this desperate effort has failed. Ignore their babble: the Three Amigos are above any law and accountable to nobody. How on earth can this be? How can it be otherwise? The "leaders" of welfare-warfare states are nothing more than, and have never been anything more than, the heads of criminal gangs (see Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, New York University Press, 1998). They are not protectors: they are predators. Further, major political parties (Liberal-National coalition versus Labor in Australia, Labour v. Conservative in Britain, etc.) are not separate entities that offer distinct policies; instead, they are simply wings of a single welfare-warfare party. They are, to use Butler Schaffer's apt analogy, wings of the same bird of prey. Those who have yet to encounter – much less absorb – this self-evident truth cling ferociously to the fairy tale of the benevolent state. Accordingly, confronted with the logic and evidence that some of their "statesmen" are better described as war criminals, they reply either with denial or vitriol.

Contempt of Criminality and Obedience to God

          In the world of business, finance and investments, Charles Munger constantly asks what can and likely will go awry. Applied to rulers and their policies of welfare and warfare, the rule is: whether at home or abroad, the intervention of the state creates unintended consequences; and these consequences inevitably worsen the very problems that the interventions allegedly sought to resolve. What, then, to do? A first step is to disengage. In the absence of compelling reasons to the contrary, regard anything uttered by any politician – and certainly any Anglo-American politician – as an evasion, distortion, delusion or outright fabrication. Don't believe them when they assert, in effect, that they can wave a magic wand and give you something (be it "security" or "quality healthcare" or "affordable childcare" or low interest rates or cheap petrol) for nothing. And ignore their vilifications of people in far-away places: if you have no reason to meddle there, then what grounds have your rulers?

          Why can't you believe the priests of the welfare-warfare caste? Jim Henley, in his blog Unqualified Offerings (3 February 2003), answers this question tartly:

          Because they lie. Routinely and often and deliberately. They said there were 100,000 people in mass graves in Kosovo. That was a lie. They said Iraqi soldiers were tossing babies out of incubators. That was a lie. They said Iraqi troops in 1991 were massing on the Saudi border. That was a lie. They said Saddam's attack on Kuwait was a total surprise. That was a lie. They said US troops had no combat role in Central America in the 1980s. That was a lie.

          Right through the Gulf War, I believed that sh**. By the time of Kosovo, I knew better. I'm 42 years old, I knew the Middle East existed before September 11, 2001, and if today's bunch sounds like a lot of previous bunches that turned out to be full of crap, my conclusion is that this bunch is full of crap too.

          Today, neoconservative politicians scream that Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are "threats to Western security." These assertions, too, are bald-faced lies (see, for example, Justin Raimondo, "The Lying Game Revisited"). Another is that "they hate us for what we are." The truth is that the victims of interventionism hate Western politicians' relentless aggression, and the death and destruction that it invariably generates. It is flatly wrong, in other words, to insist that suicide attacks at Bali, London, Madrid, New York and Washington, etc., have been conducted by "Islamo-fascists" engaged in a religious onslaught against the secular West (see in particular "Our Fascism, and Theirs" by Justin Raimondo). Instead, "suicide-terrorist attacks are not so much driven by religion as by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide terrorist campaign – over 95% of all incidents – has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw" (see Robert Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Random House, 2005). Suicide attacks, in short, are not a consequence of religious extremism: they are a response to political extremism – namely Western aggression and interventionism. Suicide attacks occur over here because our politicians meddle so brutally over there.

          The good news, in Pape's words, is that "The history of the last 20 years shows that once the [occupation forces] withdraw from the homeland of the terrorists, [the suicide attacks] often stop – and stop on a dime." If so, then the bad news is that the more our politicians intervene over there, the more the suicide bombers will retaliate over here. The Three Amigos' alleged cure for terrorism is actually a cause of terrorism. Memo to politicians: Do you truly want to prevent suicide bombings? Then stop the aggression and invasions, withdraw the troops and renounce interventionism (see also Patrick Buchanan, "Why Are They Killing Us?").

          The truth is that today's neoconservative lies are simply the latest in a long series of statist lies. Anglo-American politicians have repeatedly manipulated their subjects into war. These wars created unintended consequences; and the next batch of politicians treated these consequences with more interventions, more deceptions – and more war. Woodrow Wilson, for example, lied America into the Great War (see Thomas Fleming, The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I, Basic Books, 2003); and Wilson's war, which he glorified as "The War to Make the World Safe for Democracy," became, in terms of its effects, "The War That Made the World Safe for Fascism." Similarly, Franklin Roosevelt bamboozled America into the Second World War (see Thomas Fleming, The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II, Basic Books). FDR's war, allegedly fought to defend and promote The Four Freedoms, became "The War That Made the World Safe for Communism." And so too the Bushies: they have lied repeatedly and shamelessly about Afghanistan and Iraq, and it appears that their aggressions will become known as "The Wars That Made the World Safe for Christian, Jewish and Islamic Extremism."

          London's Lord Mayor, "Red" Ken Livingston, one of the few politicians who seems to know that there are no traffic problems, only insufficiently clearly specified property rights, offered these wise words when asked what motivated the attacks in New York, Washington, London and elsewhere:

          I think you've just had 80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands … We've propped up unsavoury governments, we've overthrown ones we didn't consider sympathetic. And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s … the Americans recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan. They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that he might turn on his creators … If at the end of the First World War we had done what we promised the Arabs, which was to let them be free and have their own governments, and kept out of Arab affairs, and just bought their oil, rather than feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect [attacks by Muslim extremists in retaliation against the attacks of Western extremists] wouldn't have arisen.

          What to do? Secondly, respect history. That is, understand the course of events that has produced this sorry juncture, and extrapolate where the actions that have created it, if they continue, will lead. For the past century, America's foreign relations can best be characterised as a series of subterfuges for empire-building (see in particular Ivan Eland, The Empire Has No Clothes, The Independent Institute, 2004); and for the past half-century, the foreign relations of countries like Australia, Britain and Canada have comprised little more than the running of fools' errands for Uncle Sam. The trouble with meddling in foreign lands, in addition to the misery, death and destruction it wreaks upon its victims, is that it extinguishes liberty at home. And the trouble with overt imperialism is epitomised in a question that preoccupied Thucydides and Livy, absorbed America's Founders and will likely overwhelm today's political caste in Washington: when does empire corrupt and bankrupt a once-great republic beyond the point of no return? (See also Laurence Kotlikoff's must-read "Is the United States Bankrupt?").

          The point for foreigners is that Anglo-American politicians have no right to dictate to the world and remake it in their image. The point for Americans is that by dictating to the world they cease to be the Americans in the sense that Thomas Jefferson understood that term (and Benjamin Franklin rightly feared would disappear within a century). For Americans and non-Americans alike, the extinction of Jeffersonian America is a sad loss (see also "Bizarro Conservatism" by Justin Raimondo).

          Interventionist foreign policies, in short, breed war; and war spawns more interventionism. War, as Randolph Bourne famously put it, "is the health of the state." Accordingly, to be pro-war is to promote big government. Given this insight, what will the "war on terror" achieve? Much killing, vast destruction of property and liberty, and growing hatred: it will, in other words, benefit rulers and harm the ruled. Grieving the death of his only son during the war to end all wars, in 1919 Rudyard Kipling wrote "if any question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied." The same point applies to the Americans, Australians, Britons, Canadians, Dutch and others mired pointlessly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

          Genuine, enduring peace will not come until Western and particularly Anglo-American politicians abandon what they arrogantly believe is their birthright – the treatment of the Arab and Muslim world like a pawn on a chessboard, drawing its boundaries, making and breaking incompatible promises, occasionally invading it and constantly meddling in its affairs, and establishing and supporting puppets that oppress local populations. At various points during the twentieth century, perhaps at Versailles and during the 1920s, Western politicians did little that mitigated – and much that encouraged – the rise of extremism. Today, they are doing exactly the same thing. A just peace can come only if politicians stop creating a state of affairs in which extremists thrive. Given their past and present form, a long time will pass before they come to their senses. In the mean time, countries like Australia, Britain and Canada should indeed adhere strictly to a staunchly pro-American policy. But it must be "pro-American" in the proper historical sense of that term – one, alas, that is alien to the best and brightest in Canberra, Ottawa and Westminster. As Amir Butler expresses it in an outstanding article, "Australia Must Follow Washington" – George Washington, that is.

          What to do? Thirdly and above all, Christians must abandon their moral relativism (whereby it's OK when Christians kill Muslims over there, but it's not OK if Muslims kill Christians over here) and worship of and craven submission to the state. They must recognise the strict limits of their duty towards the state (see in particular David Lipscomb's Civil Government: Its Origin, Mission, and Destiny, and the Christian's Relation to It, Michael Rozeff's "Christians and Libertarians," Teresa Whitehurst's "Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?" and Leithner Letter 59). Lipscomb presents a biblical view of a voluntary society. He refutes the fantasy that governments are created for "the public good," and he demonstrates that peace, progress and civilisation do not and cannot depend upon the state. If Christians participate in politics, they necessarily mock the Ten Commandments. Instead, they should persuade people to renounce the use of force – in all its forms, including taxation – embrace God and emulate the Carpenter of Nazareth.

          Christians should pray that their earthly rulers rule justly. But they should not glorify them, and still less should they bomb and kill for them. What happens when Christians turn their backs to God and embrace Caesar? Consider the words from 1 Samuel (8:11-18):

          This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.