Libertarian America: Scott Horton on the American Empire

A series of interviews with prominent libertarians that will seek to gain insight into their lives and minds. Photo: U.S. Navy photo

MADISON, Wis., June 23, 2013 ― Every once in awhile, you come across an individual with a seemingly endless stockpile of knowledge. Radio host Scott Horton is such an individual. 

Joseph Diedrich: Can you explain in detail the most negative effects of our foreign policy?

SEE RELATED: Libertarian America: A Conversation with Scott Horton (Part 1)

Scott Horton: Empire is murder-suicide. That goes for ours too. None of the U.S. military’s occupation of the planet earth is about protecting the American people. It’s just vested interests in the National Security State, military, congress, foreign governments, think tanks and connected military industrial complex firms sucking the country dry through debt, inflation and the IRS because they don’t want to have to get real jobs.

Not a single nation-state on the planet threatens the U.S. The only enemies we have are the few hundred acolytes of Ayman al Zawahiri, whose al Qaeda “caliphate” amounts to the basement where he’s hiding from the cops somewhere in Pakistan. In fact, very few of even those guys seem much concerned with attacking the U.S. “homeland,” since the 9/11 attacks accomplished exactly what they were meant to: bait the hubristic Americans into invading and occupying Afghanistan so that al Qaeda could attempt to recreate their (and our) success against the Russians in the 1980s, “racing” our generals to far flung battlefields in order to “bleeding us to bankruptcy,” and eventually drive the empire out of the region altogether.

The rest of our government’s counterproductive policies, from invasion to torture, rendition, drone assassination, etc., are all just a continuation of the same counterproductive thinking that lead to what former CIA bin Laden unit chief Michael Scheuer has called the “unexpected gift” to al Qaeda: overreaching, invading and overthrowing the secular Baathists in Iraq back in 2003. 

Instead of heeding the lessons of that disastrous war, in the name of fighting al Qaeda, the U.S. continues creating more battlefields where their copy-cats can thrive, most recently in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali and Syria.

SEE RELATED: Did the Libertarians get it right about Republicans and Democrats?

The U.S. government’s mass strangulation of the Iraqis under blockade and bombing from bases in Saudi Arabia under Bill Clinton in the 1990s is what provoked al Qaeda’s war against the American people, and just about every single thing the government has done in the name of fighting them since has only made matters worse in terms of spreading terrorism, here and around the world, and also in destroying the freedom our government blamed instead.

So, either you work for the national government, you collect dividend checks from Lockheed, you’re al Qaeda, or this entire war on terrorism is at your expense. Eight trillion dollars so far.

JSD: How does foreign policy fit in with domestic policy?

SH: Foreign policy is everything — not just for libertarian theory, but for the way we live our lives in America. Our domestic policy is completely wrapped up in our foreign policy and subordinate to it.

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For example, Ron Paul’s Freedom Restoration Act of 2007 aimed to repeal the PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and the Protect America Act, among others. It focused mostly on the domestic violations of liberty. Of course it was laughed at; nobody cared about it in the House. Their simple argument was, “We’re at war. There are bad guys who want to kill us.” As long as we’re at war, then any usurpation of American liberty or privacy by the government becomes tolerable. This won’t change until the war ends. As long as there’s a foreign enemy, then whatever else the government is doing is less important and less objectionable. Garet Garret said that, in empire, “Domestic policy becomes subordinate to foreign policy.”

JSD: What has been a source of cognitive dissonance or inner struggle in your intellectual life?

SH: It bothers me that our government’s mass murder of civilians all over the planet seems to rank so low in importance as an issue to the American people when it’s all that matters to me. The polls show that people want out of the wars we’re in, and don’t want any new ones, which is great and important. But they don’t seem to be mad as hell about it.

The most important thing in the world, the worst violence on the planet and the root of what is killing America, our militarism. Concerned about the economy? Well, empire is expensive. Hate the IRS? Again, what do you think they “need” your money for? Want to protect the environment? Who are the worst polluters on the face of the earth? Concerned that even the pretense of constitutional government will last your lifetime? What national emergencies are justifying the erosion of liberty? Worried your God judges nations, and not just individuals? How do you think He likes cluster bombs and depleted uranium dust?

Uncertainty abounds and people are afraid for the future. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The first step to getting back on the right track should be obvious to all: Abandon the empire.

JSD: What person or period in U.S. history was the most damaging?

SH: Woodrow Wilson, hands down. His intervention in World War One led to the creation of the USSR, Nazi Germany, U.K.-French domination of the Near and Middle East, World War Two, the Cold War and the Terror War. (See the great author Jim Powell’s Wilson’s War.) Not to mention the fact that his fascist economic program launched during the war was the trial run for the New Deal and the modern warfare-welfare-regulatory-police state.

Also note self-described “Hard Wilsonian” and ex-“Social Democrat” neoconservative Max Boot’s recent praise of liberal interventionist Samantha Power’s promotion by Obama to the position of U.N. ambassador, as an example of how Wilson’s intellectual legacy has to this day perverted the very minds not only of state-loving progressives, but also of those the conservative rank and file look to as their intellectual leaders: Boy, sure hope she can lie us into Syria! You know, to make the world safe for prisoner-beheading, suicide bombing, heart-eating cannibal jihadis who need more of America’s help to overthrow their secular government. That is Wilson’s legacy. At least he’s dead.

JSD: What book has had a great influence on you?

SH: Well you might expect it, but I’d have to say The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin, which I read in high school in the mid-nineties. It was a great introduction to sound Misesian economics, and contains one case history after another of American bankers and administrations cooperating so that the former can inflate and the latter can wage foreign wars while delaying the economic consequences. And Jekyll Island will kill off any lingering ideas one might have about government employees caring about anyone but themselves. There is no republic. There is no national interest, just corruption and power — millions of pages worth of rationales and giant marble statues of our politician-gods everywhere notwithstanding (or proving the case for certain, depending on your point of view).

JSD: Who is your favorite president?

SH: William Henry Harrison.


Joseph S. Diedrich also writes for the MacIver InstituteThe College Fix, Young Americans for Liberty,, Young American Revolution, and Musings of a Superfluous Young Man. Find him on FacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn and Twitter @JSDiedrich.

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Joseph S. Diedrich

Joseph S. Diedrich has been a columnist at The Washington Times Communities since early 2013. He covers non-electoral politics from a libertarian perspective. His work has also been featured at the MacIver InstituteThe College Fix, and elsewhere.

Joseph is also a classically-trained composer and somewhat of a gastronomy enthusiast. Find him on Facebook, LinkedInGoogle+, and Twitter @JSDiedrich.


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