By: Justin Raimondo
James Taranto's usually quite boring "Best of the Web" column
in the online Wall Street Journal gave me a chuckle the other
day as I read his witless attack on Harry Browne, under the
sophomoric subhead "Stupidity Watch":
"Another reason we're not libertarian: Harry Browne, the
Libertarian Party's standard-bearer in 1996 and 2000, pens a
deranged 'antiwar' column…."
Taranto then inserts a long quote from Browne's Antiwar.com
piece, which presumably is supposed to demonstrate its self-
evident "stupidity," and, instead, does nothing of the kind.
But this is par for the course for the clueless Taranto, who is
actually paid to write a "column" consisting of little more
than other people's words: his idea of a good punchline is
"Hold your breath." Dorothy Parker he's not.
'BLOOD AND GUTS'
If no-talent Taranto wants "deranged," then let him take a look
at Max Boot's "This Victory May Haunt Us," which ran in the
November 14  edition of the Wall Street Journal.
Subtitled "Winning still requires getting bloody," this paean
to the virtues of bloodletting makes the monstrous argument
that America suffered too few casualties in the Afghan war for
our own good.
"This is not a war being won with American blood and guts. It
is being won with the blood and guts of the Northern Alliance,
helped by copious quantities of American ordnance and a handful
of American advisers. After Sept. 11, President Bush promised
that this would not be another bloodless, push-button war, but
that is precisely what it has been."
MAX AND THE MARQUIS Boot wants to see "blood and guts" and
won't be satisfied with anything less. Now, one might expect to
see this coming out of some grizzled old General, a vet who's
seen hand-to-hand combat, in any case someone with military
experience. So who is Max Boot, anyway – and why does he
imagine that the lack of casualties could or would ever "come
back to haunt" anyone but the Marquis de Sade?
WHO IS MAX BOOT? A one line bio at the bottom of his
bloodcurdling piece gives no details regarding Boot's
credentials except to note that he is "The Wall Street
Journal's editorial features editor." Thanks to the miracle of
Google, however, we learn that Boot is a 32-year-old punk who
was snapped up by the Wall Street Journal to rule over their
editorial page features at the tender age of 28. In a lengthy
1998 interview Boot gave to Brian Lamb, for Booknotes, we learn
that Boot's profile is that of the perfect armchair warrior:
instead of boot camp, this guy went to Yale and Berkeley. If
he's so gung ho, why doesn't he volunteer? – I'm sure with a
few hundred hours of training he could (barely) pass the
physical, and, in his case, we'll make an exception and skip
the psychological testing….
A NEW RULE To top it off, it turns out Boot isn't even a
native-born American, having emigrated here from Russia with
his family in 1976. Pardon my "xenophobia," but isn't it a
little, uh, pushy for immigrants to start wishing for more
American casualties in foreign wars? I don't mind them coming
here – I'm having Second Thoughts about immigration – but, once
we let them in, I think we should institute a rule: please, no
SHOCKING STUART VARNEY When Wall Street Journal editor Robert
Bartley and a few of his editorial sidekicks showed up on the
Nightly Business Report the other day, bloviating about the
war, Stuart Varney read the above quote by Boot on the sad lack
of American deaths and said:
"Forgive me for saying this, and I know Max is a great guy, but
he seems to be saying it's not a real victory unless we,
America, shed some blood. And I'm shocked at that."
THE WAR STREET JOURNAL Varney is such a nice guy that he has no
idea of the evil right in front of his eyes. Bloodlust shocks
him, as it does most Americans (at least the native-born ones.
Cruelty and lack of regard for human life is not – yet –
characteristic of American life). But perhaps Varney was merely
feigning innocence, and his remarks were really meant to be
ironical. Lew Rockwell has dubbed Bartley and his crew the "War
Street Journal" and that about says it all. Is there a war,
anywhere, that they haven't supported, and, more, demanded that
we escalate? Is there a place, anywhere on earth, they consider
outside our rightful concern or jurisdiction? From Kuwait to
Kosovo to Kandahar, they agitated for war and, when it came,
they fanned its embers when the flames appeared to be dying
out, hoping, demanding, cajoling, and finally denouncing the
administration (any and all administrations) for losing its
nerve and failing to go "all the way" – to Baghdad, to
Belgrade, to wherever the call of Empire takes us.
AND YOUR POINT IS…? Bartley, clearly embarrassed, could only
manage to blurt out: "Yes, well, [Boot] wants to make a point."
Not that Bartley was prepared to defend it, or even explain it.
Paul Gigot ventured that "He has a certain point, that maybe
some of the world thinks we're not serious," but distanced
himself from the rather more sinister overtones of Boot's ode
to "blood and guts" by averring that the world does take us
seriously. Obviously, Bartley agreed with Boot, but was too
cowardly to come out in public and say so.
RABID-OWITZ However, perhaps it was Dorothy Rabinowitz, a WSJ
columnist, who reminded Varney of Boot's bloodlust. Earlier in
the interview, Varney had asked her,
"These are the Taliban fleeing with civilians. Should we bomb
them? Should we strafe them? Should we kill them? What are the
politics of that?"
RABINOWITZ: "I would say, you know, we are in war and I think
we should be bombing and killing and strafing."
THE NEW SADISM Is it something in the water cooler over at the
WSJ? Yes, I know how close they were to Ground Zero and
everyone in New York has been traumatized, but is this really
the voice of American business that we are hearing – or only
the deranged rantings of people driven mad by a combination of
tragic circumstances and ideological fixations? This
unrestrained sadism is really very ugly, and, yes, I know
"everything has changed," but things haven't changed that much
– or, they will over my dead body.
WHEN IN ROME If the sheer enjoyment of death has now become a
public habit – one indulged not only by madmen, but also by the
mighty editors of a great metropolitan newspaper – then I have
to wonder about the degraded state of our culture. America is
often compared to ancient Rome by conservatives, who point to
the general decline in morality and especially sexual mores
among the Romans as the reason for the decline and fall of
their empire. But the true decadence of Imperial Rome was the
spectacle of what they enjoyed: not mere sensuality, but sheer
cruelty, on display in the arena. This is what we are seeing in
the neo-imperialists, or the worst of them: like the decadent
Romans, they revel in bloodlust for its own sake. This is
arrogance mixed with hubris and the worship of power, a
sadistic perversion alien to all that is normal and, well,
American; certainly it is a perversion of conservatism.
MAX BOOT, MACHO MAN In some circles, the disappointment that
the war is coming to a conclusion, militarily, so swiftly is
palpable, not the least in Boot's furious imprecation hurled at
his fellow adopted countrymen for not being willing – nay,
eager – to suffer. "The war in Afghanistan," he complains,
"will do nothing to dispel the widespread impression that
Americans are fat, indolent, and unwilling to fight the
barbarians on their own terms." This is no ordinary call for
vengeance, or even a call to escalate the war in order to
achieve some tangible objective: we have something to prove to
Bin Laden. Not to avenge the victims of 9/11 but to assert...
what? Our collective manhood? – or is that "personhood"?
IDEOLOGY AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY Here, again, we have left the
daylit world of ideology and descended into the darkest realms
of psychopathology, where terms such as sadism and dominance
are more applicable than the political categories of "right"
and "left." Aside from the fact that very few of these ultra-
hawks have ever served in the military, the leitmotif of our
armchair generals is that their private neuroses and anxieties
are reenacted on the stage of world politics. Given the
sadistic theme of Boot's little essay, it is not hard to see
how this works in his case, since the theme of cruelty is
constant throughout, to wit:
"But if we do not show soon that American soldiers can wage
sustained ground combat – that we can practice the cruel art of
warfare as relentlessly as our ancestors did – we may pay a
heavy price later on."
TWISTED 'LOGIC' By this sort of logic, then, US policy must be
to wage war with clocklike regularity, since we must have a
little bloodletting every so often, just to prove to the rest
of the world that American soldiers can wage sustained ground
combat. You know, like our ancestors did….
ANCESTOR WORSHIP Say, what? Whose ancestors is Boot talking
about? Does he mean his ancestors in Russia? If so, then he may
have a point: cruelty and war are the twin leitmotifs of that
unfortunate nation's history. Regard for human life has never
been a characteristic of Oriental despotism: it is, however, an
important value in the West, perhaps the top value which
defines our civilization. Which is why Boot's essay is a
A NEW LOW No, we didn't need No-talent Taranto to tell us that
the War Street Journal is hardly a libertarian bastion. But
this bewailing the lack of body-bags on their way home to
grieving families is a new low, one that is eerily disturbing.
Justin Raimondo is Editorial Director of AntiWar.Com. He is a
regular columnist for Ether Zone.
We invite you to visit their website. They may be contacted at
Published in the November 26, 2001 issue of Ether Zone
Copyright © 1997 - 2001 Ether Zone.
God Bless America
Non illegitimi carborundum est
Reagan: "The march of freedom and democracy ... will leave Marxism-Leninism on
the ash heap of history."