Reject the Proposed Statement of Historians Against the War

It would be a disastrous strategic mistake for Historians Against the War (HAW) to adopt the proposed new statement. The statement’s assertions on domestic policies will only weaken the anti-war movement by driving away anti-imperialist libertarians and conservatives who have been among the most committed opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whereas the original statement wisely avoided making domestic policy prescriptions, the proposed new statement calls for “a drastic reduction of national resources away from military spending and towards urgently needed domestic programs.” This is an attack on the politics of libertarians and conservatives who have campaigned tirelessly against the wars but who object to spending on both the warfare and the welfare state.

Similarly, the claim that “the current, rapidly escalating crisis of global capitalism, which is creating suffering worldwide, will lead to escalating wars abroad and intensifying repression at home,” is rejected by many anti-war libertarians and conservatives who believe that the source of the current crisis is too little, not too much, reliance on free-market “capitalism.” Several scholars sympathetic to HAW’s original statement, such as distinguished economic historian Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan, attribute the current global economic crisis to governmental actions such as deficit spending, bailouts, Federal Reserve inflationary credit expansion, various stimulus plans, and vast military spending.

Three years ago, there was another attempt to make similar changes to HAW’s statement of purpose. David Montgomery, a founder and leading member of the organization, eloquently gave cheer to those of us who favor the strategy of uniting all anti-war historians when he wrote the following: “I remain cautious, however, about taking organizational stands on some of the other issues mentioned as possible targets of HAW activity, especially the socio-economic impact of imperialism. From the outset HAW has encompassed historians with divergent political views, among them quite a number of conservative libertarians. We must try not only to keep our ranks diverse but united. We should welcome open discussion of such issues, but limit the extent to which we take organizational stands. There are, after all, other organizations that quite properly represent their particular analyses and viewpoints. HAW’s aim should always be to involve as many historians as possible and to make them feel at home, without in any way prescribing or stifling particular analyses of US power or interpretations of what is now called ‘globalization.'”

Montgomery’s words apply equally today. Let’s not weaken the antiwar cause by adopting positions on domestic and economic issues that will only alienate us from potential allies.

In solidarity against the empire,

David T. Beito
Department of History
University of Alabama

Thaddeus Russell

I have also posted this at the HAWblog of Historians Against the War. Please post any comments there.

David Beito is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute and editor of the Independent book, The Voluntary City: Choice, Community, and Civil Society (with Peter Gordon and Alexander Tabarrok).
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