The Hegemonists, Thomas Woods and the League of the South
Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, recently put out by Regnery, the venerable conservative publisher, has caused a storm of controversy, the outlines of which define the parameters of the politically permissible. In today's constricted political "debate" – especially when it comes to foreign policy – only two flavors are allowed: right-wing neocon and left-wing neocon. A "right-wing" writer who opposes foreign interventionism, condemns World War I as the senseless slaughter it indubitably was, and shows how FDR (and the Brits) dragged us into a second world war is bound to come under attack from the battalions of the neoconized Right as well as the Left, and the frenzied response to the Woods volume has not disappointed. ~Justin Raimondo
As a member of the League of the South (though, I must admit to my discredit that I am not by any stretch of the imagination an active member), I would like to congratulate Dr. Woods on the publication of his new book. I would also like to thank him for what appears to be a restatement of the view of American history that was once a common sense, majority view, at least among self-styled conservatives, and which needs to be instilled in the modern American public again and again. It is to be expected that the awful Max Boot and his ilk would find fault with an organisation dedicated to the preservation and restoration of American constitutional traditions, traditional Christianity and especially Southern culture and identity by all honourable means. All of these things are hateful to those who want to obliterate particular loyalties, federalism, political and cultural diversity (the historical sort that arises everywhere naturally, not the artificial, 'multiculti', coerced sort championed by neocon and liberal) and subjugate all men to a stale and fatal creed for homogenous slaves serving faceless masters in their anti-personal and anti-religious world of abstractions and social engineering.
Let me take this opportunity to say a few words about the League of the South, a group to which I am proud to belong for these past ten years. This group of ladies and gentlemen, for whom such terms still have their traditional meaning, endeavours to preserve their Southern, Christian cultural, religious and political heritage from the ravages of the same freethinking, Yankee spirit and empire that has gone on to devastate so many other societies, including that of those northern states gulled into the cause of Unionism. Though my lineage is almost entirely from the North, ours were the sort of conservative and republican people who opposed usurpation at every turn, and as much as my kinsman, William Plumer of New Hampshire, was right in arguing for secession over the illegalities of the Louisiana Purchase the Southern states were even more justified in resisting the usurpation of their rights. In the League of the South, I see the natural home of anyone who would honour and venerate the legacy of his ancestors and the early fathers of this country.
If the first-generation American (and I apply the term here very loosely) Boot is offended by us, it is little wonder: we have an American identity that actually has meaning and an inheritance from the past before our country had been overwhelmed by the follies of modernity and the fragmenting, dehumanising forces of industry and ideology. If the modern neocon or liberal cannot sympathise with the Old America, and cannot really muster even a grudging respect for the Old South, it is because these represent a world to which such alienated and disconnected people can never belong, and so they despise it to the same degree that they deeply, naturally desire to have such bonds with their past.
We in the League believe, if I can speak for the League in general terms, that faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity is imperative for salvation, loyalty to kith and kin is natural, necessary, sane and admirable, and veneration for one's ancestors and their struggles is worthy and indeed a duty for decent people. In specifically political terms we hold that the decentralised confederation of states that we once possessed best suits the interests of local communities, traditional Christian religion, the integrity of the family, the conservation of constitutional liberties received from our fathers and is the rightful legacy of our free and honourable ancestors.
The humane and decent civilisation of the South that took root in the Southland, though of course it was never without flaws (as no earthly society could be lacking in them), informed and shaped the creation of that political structure in large measure and was the guarantor of its authentic form for several decades, both through political influence and through the cultivation of a classically educated body of men who rose to defend, first by the pen and oration and then by the sword, the true political inheritance of the Republic.
The defeat of the Confederacy, though the Confederate political experiment does not exhaust the richness of Southern culture and identity, was a defining moment when the United States took its steps towards the abyss of the monstrous centralised state, rootless society and decadent culture that we have today. In sum, the Confederacy represented much of the Old America that was swept away, and with it went everything meaningful about the constitutional republican system, and the degeneration of that system in the next hundred years was the logical and ultimately unstoppable result of Lincoln's victory. All of this is in recognition that we are beholden to our ancestors for who we are, and we honour and remember their struggles and accomplishments not only because they can be established as reasonable, good and true but because they are the struggles and accomplishments of our people, who have made this land ours and sanctified it with their blood in defense against the wanton aggression of a barbarous tyranny.
Daniel Larison | March 01, 2005
In re: Max Boot, this reduces to the age-old question with regard to one's political opponents: are they evil or just stupid? Daniel, your answer seems to be that Boot is evil--he knows the truth but resents Southerners because of their rootedness. I don't think this is true. Max Boot, like most people these days, is simply ignorant of American history. He buys the fairy tales that have been told to him by liberals and their neocon brethren, and since to him those two groups represent a full left-right spectrum of thought, it never occurs to him that perhaps they are both laboring under the same errors and misconceptions--that they both constitute, in fact, a single camp. Thus, if and when someone does come along with a different interpretation of historical events, that person must, ipso facto, be an "extremist" and a loon, for he is outside the acceptable bounds of the political spectrum.
(There are serious problems with the whole notion of a political spectrum in the first place, but that's neither here nor there. Boot thinks there's one and that paleocons and libertarians fall outside the acceptable bounds. In fact, it is part of the very definition of "paleocon" and "libertarian," in Boot's mind, to be wrong on history.)
This is why he's so quick to jump on Dr. Woods and call him names, without ever bothering to consider or refute Woods' substantive claims. To him, it's not necessary, because "everyone knows" that Woods' claims have to be based on lies and distortions of the truth.
Jim Newland | 03/03/05 14:07
You make a good point. Max Boot is fantastically ignorant about American history, but regarding the things that he champions (chiefly the neo-imperialist doctrine and finding half-baked justifications for it in American history) I believe that he does know some of the evidence behind the substance of the claims that Dr. Woods is making and chooses either to ignore the evidence or view it according to his belief in the necessity of American hegemony. In his little book, The Savage Wars of Peace, he valorises the small wars of the early twentieth century by deliberately turning a blind eye to the unavoidable conclusion that they were practically all fought for corporate interests, simply exulting about the "moral" and humanitarian goods that we were pursuing or were achieving.
Clark Stooksbury had an excellent description of the career of Smedley Butler in the July 2002 Chronicles issue (I believe that's the right month), and what he quoted from Butler there (and what Butler wrote in War is a Racket) made a mockery of Boot's claims, at least about the small wars of the early twentieth century (which are the only wars directly pertinent to his thesis about the 'normalcy' of presidents having often deployed Americans overseas). Since then, I have been convinced that Max Boot is perfectly willing to deny or distort evidence as it suits him.
My letter in response to a servile, effusive review of Boot's book in New Criterion can be found online here: http://www.newcriterion.com/constant/letters2.htm
Mine is about three-fourths of the way down the page. Jude Wanniski also happened to write in on the same subject and had much the same reaction as I did.
Incidentally, I have also found, in one of Boot's own descriptions of his little book for Hoover Digest, that Boot is perfectly willing to be sloppy or dishonest about the facts regarding other deployments, such as the Tripolitanian War. In his lame attempt to justify undeclared wars, he claims that war was never declared in this conflict. This is simply not true. It is true that, because our embassy had been attacked, Jefferson responded first with force and then sought congressional approval in a formal declaration against Tripoli some nine months after the first fighting began. Of course, a state of war exists when one's territory, including one's embassies, are attacked by a hostile state, which allows the president to take certain measures for defense and immediate retaliation that do not admit of waiting for an assembly of Congress, but it is legally necessary that any continued prosecution of a war be explicitly authorised by Congress in a declaration--fourth-graders might have a better grasp of constitutional law than Mr. Boot on this point. The delayed declaration of the Tripolitanian case is very different from saying that a declaration was considered unnecessary. Nowadays, when Congress is virtually in permanent session for most of the year and travel is extremely easy, there would be no excuse for immediately assembling Congress in response to any such attack and declaring a state of war.
As for his other examples, the Haiti and Nicaragua deployments were not wars, but simply involved occupying the countries in question. Incidentally, simply because such practices occurred in the past in no way legitimises them today, if they are found to be fundamentally unconstitutional (as I believe they are). He refers to a presence in China lasting 100 years, which is silly: here we are not speaking of a meaningful military deployment, much less a war, but of the intermittent presence of American forces to secure commercial interests, extract concessions and the security of the embassy. Once again, whatever presence there was in China was precisely a function of Eastern interests in the China trade and our being a bystander and beneficiary of the imperialist carving of China into spheres of influence. No doubt there was also something very "moral" about all of that.
Mr. Boot is not quite as ignorant as he might seem; he simply does not care about making solid arguments based in evidence, as the evidence for most of American history repudiates his awful vision of what is authentically American foreign policy. As to whether he is evil or not, I will leave that to God. But we do know him by his fruits, and they are not very good.
This is the link: http://www.hooverdigest.org/023/boot.html
Daniel Larison | 03/03/05 14:51
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