The Mises Institute monthly, free with membership
Volume 17, Number 6
The Lies of War
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
After the US government attacked Yugoslavia, the first act of the Republicans was to take
tax cuts off the table (if they were
ever really on it). This symbolic gesture underscores a point: when a war is on, the work of
liberty is off. For this reason,
everyone concerned about freedom must oppose war.
At the outset, Clinton gave reasons for his military intervention. A quick look showed them
to be models of the state
disinformation we've come to expect in wartime.
He said he was dropping bombs to prevent the spread of war. But this is straight out of
Orwell. Escalating war does not
prevent its spread. It encourages it. It brings about more property destruction, suffering, and
He said he wanted to underscore the credibility of Nato. The truth is that Nato has had no
credibility since the collapse of
the Cold War. The entire world now sees this organization for what it is: a fig leaf for the
retention of US military
domination of Europe. Nato has become a threat to peace because the US believes Nato must
fight wars to preserve US
As the war dragged on, Clinton became more expansive. He said the war is about stopping
intolerance. The problem, he
said, is that the Serbs (read: the embodiment of all evil) were oppressing Albanians (read:
minorities) because they happen to be born different. Thus, the civics-book version of American
civil-rights history is
invoked to justify aggression against a civilian population halfway around the world that has
never threatened any American
The actual conflict in Kosovo comes down to this: Serbia believes that the territory belongs
to it, and bases this claim on
history dating back 600 years. On the other hand, Kosovo is today (as versus a few years ago)
inhabited by a majority
Moslem population that demands the right to secede.
Which principle should prevail: the claims of history or the political rights of the majority in
a polyglot territory? Look at
American history. Both the claims of history and the rights of the majority were solidly in favor
of Southern secession. But
the US decided on union by force. Ever since then, the US has generally opposed secession, not
only at home but around the
Only during the first world war did the US back self-determination, when the fanatical
Woodrow Wilson used this principle
as a weapon against the multinational monarchies he was dead-set on destroying. It was political
propaganda, then and now.
The hypocrisy is nowhere as clear as in US opposition to Kurdish demands for separation
from the Turkish government.
The US sees Turkey as a reliable satellite, so the US turns a blind eye to ethnic oppression of the
most brutal sort. It turns
out, then, that the principle is not that downtrodden ethnic groups ought to have autonomy, but
that the US ought to
centrally manage the entire map of the world.
And how well does the US do this? In the same region the US is now bombing, Clinton
enforced a unified, multicultural
Bosnia, where US troops are permanently stationed, against the pleas of every ethnic group that
resides there for
independence. This is the peace of a prison camp, which also deprived Serbia of the Bosnian
Serb area that wanted to be
part of the Serbian nation state, an act which inflamed the present crisis.
So who is right? The Kosovo independence movement that claims to speak on behalf of the
Moslem majority, or the
Milosevic government that claims to represent the Christian majority's desire for a
The short answer is: this is not for the US government to decide. When we consider the
original American vision--of a
peaceful, commercial republic staying out of the endless quarrels of the Old World--we can only
be utterly alienated from
the ruling regime, which dominates a country conceived in liberty. It is clearer than ever that the
welfare-warfare state must
be demolished, so that it can no longer threaten the world, or trample on true American ideals.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of
the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Further reading: The Costs of War, John V.
Denson, ed., 2nd ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999) and Secession, State, and Liberty,
Gordon, ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1998).