Freedom Circle logo
Freedom Founts

Source Materials About Freedom

Opinion column by Aubrey Herbert (pseudonym for Murray Rothbard), published in Faith and Freedom, Volume VI, Number 7, March 1955, pp. 18-19
Along Pennsylvania Avenue - Aubrey Herbert

America now teeters close to the brink of World War III. The Formosan question may set off the explosion. The Formosa problem has been allowed to sputter, until it now threatens to ignite what could be Earth's last war.

Three solutions could be tried. One: Withdraw, as the "isolationists" have suggested, to our own possessions, committing our defense to American territory only. Two: Start a preventive war with the Communist nations on the theory that we should right any wrong committed anywhere. Three: Try another "Korea," a limited "police action" which we can neither win nor lose. Formosa could be bombed, but we could not bomb the mainland unless we want solution number three to become solution number two.

We have tried number three in Korea. President Roosevelt tried number two when he "planned" Pearl Harbor. The "internationalists" declare that the "isolationist" approach of number one has been discredited; therefore we appear to be stuck with war: either another "Korea," or an "all out" war, which if it doesn't destroy the world, will at least drain it with bloodlettings, and enslave it with controls, restrictions, new Marshall plans to feed China and Russia, and the end of freedom and prosperity as we have known it.

Now why should the "liberals" who spent so much time. trying to discredit Chiang, now want us to go to war to defend Chiang? The answer appears to be that war will bring on socialism faster than peace. But realizing that the American people would never go to war to defend Chiang or any other personality, the "liberals" were forced to portray the Reds as "island hopping" their way to the United States.

Formosa, the "liberals" said, reversing their Achesonian reasoning, has become "necessary to our defense." If the Reds take Formosa, they will be one island nearer to the United States. It is an age-old story: a peaceful Pacific "moat" is needed for our defense. In order to protect this moat, we must secure friendly countries or bases all around it.

To protect Japan and the Philippines, we must defend Formosa. To protect Formosa we must defend the Pescadores. To protect the Pescadores, we must defend Quemoy, an island three miles off the Chinese mainland. To protect Quemoy we must equip Chiang's troops for an invasion of the mainland.

Where does this process end? Logically, never. The trouble with this doctrine is that it doesn't work one way. Red China can operate on the same theory, and the inevitable result is war. If the United States considers itself menaced by the possibility of Quemoy in Chinese Communist hands, how do the Communists feel when an island three miles off their coast falls into enemy hands?

If the Chinese Communists fear that we'll start the preventive war which many Americans advocate, then the "defensive" strategy which tells us to occupy Quemoy would tell the Chinese Communists to occupy Catalina Island, 22 miles off the California Coast.

Is Isolation Appeasement?

Only those who want to socialize America really look forward to the third and perhaps last World War. On the other hand, many conservatives interpret the strategy offered by the "isolationists" (withdrawing to American possessions) as mere appeasement.

Thus the Eisenhower Administration is pulled in two opposite directions. One force pulls toward a rash interventionist policy that comes close to an all-out "preventive war" against the Communist nations. The other presses toward some formula for peace and co-existence.

Twice—in Korea and in Indo-China—the peace policy has prevailed after an intense struggle. The third inner conflict has been perhaps the fiercest of all, as revealed by the many changes and reversals of position in recent months and weeks.

Few men in political life have publicly taken a realistic stand on the Formosa issue. The resolution of January 29 amounted to a blank check by Congress for war in China whenever the President shall deem it necessary. The Senate opposition to the resolution, though small in number, was courageous in pointing to its dangers. This opposition may have given heart to the "peace party" within the Administration, for it revealed that Congress was not eager for a "showdown."

The opposition in Congress was itself internationalist, however. Therefore, it conceded a guarantee of Formosa, quarreling only with its extension to the offshore islands and to the possibility of war on the mainland itself.

Only two Congressmen opposed the resolution on grounds of clear and direct principle. One was the always independent Senator William Langer of North Dakota. The other was freshman Representative Eugene R. Siler, (R. Ky). Siler picked up the baton that all the veteran "isolationists" had left abandoned. He said he voted nay because he promised his constituents that he would never help "engage their boys in war on foreign soil."

MacArthur Answered

But the noblest note in the whole controversy was sounded by General Douglas MacArthur in Los Angeles, delivering for his 75th birthday one of the greatest speeches of his career.

It was particularly ironic that MacArthur, practically the living symbol of anti-communism in the Far East, chose this troubled time to give us an unerring dissection of the interventionist position. At a time when many of his followers expected a virtual call to arms, Douglas MacArthur issued a clarion call for peace. It was perhaps the gallant old soldier's finest hour.

MacArthur pointed out that the H-bomb age has outmoded war as a settler of international disputes. Let emotions or wishes be what they may, we know that war now is not only immoral but also irrational, for it can end only in "double suicide." The people of all countries know this, said MacArthur; "the leaders are the laggards. The disease of power seems to confuse and befuddle them." To the interventionists who say that "we can't trust the Communists," MacArthur answered: "both sides can be trusted when both do profit." And the abandonment of war would profit both sides equally.

To the bipartisan advocates of "fifty years" of accelerated atomic arms race, MacArthur warned that both sides arm in like proportion, so that neither can gain advantage. Aside from the inordinate statism the policy entails, "the constant acceleration of preparation may well, without specific intent, ultimately produce spontaneous combustion."

If MacArthur's wise words of statesmanship are heeded, especially by those who have proclaimed themselves his supporters, peace may yet become a reality.

The "liberals" have succeeded in making a cause celebre out of the case of Wolf Ladejinsky, and have gone almost unchallenged. The issue raised between conservatives and "liberals" concerned whether Ladejinsky should keep his government job as a "right" or a "privilege."

But doesn't the issue in the Ladejinsky affair boil down simply to this? Must the American taxpayers be forced to pay an ex-employee of Amtorg (a Soviet trading agency), to establish a socialistic program of "land reform" in Japan?

"Why should we keep Ladejinsky?" becomes a small question compared to "why should we force a 'land reform' program upon Japan?" Actually we don't need either one.

If President Eisenhower's budget estimates prove correct, the average annual spending by the Federal Government will total $67 billion over his four years in office. President Truman was a New Dealer who didn't promise economy or a balanced budget. The average annual spending of Truman's second term, which includes more years of outright war, amounted only to $47 billion. ‡‡