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Volume 10, Issue 13: March 31, 2008

  1. Bush Optimism on Iraq Conflicts with Realities on the Ground
  2. Obama’s Goals vs. Obama’s Policies
  3. U.S. Involvement in World War II: Exposing the Myths
  4. Student Seminar on the Economics, Heritage, and Challenge of Liberty: June 16-20 & August 11-15, 2008

1) Bush Optimism on Iraq Conflicts with Realities on the Ground

Bush’s upbeat speech in Dayton, Ohio, last week, extolling progress in Iraq, was so much at odds with reality that it amounted to Orwellian doublespeak, argues Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed, “Putting Lipstick on a Pig: More Doublespeak on the Situation in Iraq.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s recent military offensive in Basra against Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr’s militias, and the ensuing violence in cities across the country, belie Bush’s claim that “normalcy is returning to Iraq.” In addition, the previous reduction in violence, according to Eland, had more to do with U.S. pay-offs of former Sunni insurgents, than with the U.S. troop surge. (One counterinsurgency expert, former U.S. State Department official William Polk, estimates a six-fold increase of U.S. troops would be required to “clear, hold, and build” Iraq.) The futility of those pay-offs will be made abundantly clear if and when the payments subside and full-blown civil wars—fanned by the United States having armed opposing sides—break out.

Eland concludes: “In the long-term, Maliki’s ill-timed and freelance offensive may have backfired—by effectively torching the cease-fire with al-Sadr forces throughout Iraq and showing that the Iraqi government is too militarily weak to provide security. Some return to ‘normalcy.’”

“Putting Lipstick on a Pig: More Doublespeak on the Situation in Iraq,” by Ivan Eland (3/31/08)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland


2) Obama’s Goals vs. Obama’s Policies

Barack Obama’s famous speech on race in America, delivered two weeks ago in Philadelphia, made partly in response to the controversy surrounding his Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave an insightful and nuanced perspective too often missing from public discussion, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa argued in his latest syndicated column from the Washington Post Writers Group.

“Obama cut not only through the racial but also the ideological divide when he praised the value of ‘self-help’ and referred to it as ‘conservative’—meaning he had no qualm in finding value in what is a cornerstone of the social vision espoused by the adversaries of liberalism,” writes Vargas Llosa.

Unfortunately, Obama’s political program often undermines the goal he espoused in that speech, according to Vargas Llosa. “I happen to think that only the blending and transformative powers of a free society—politically, economically and morally free—will dissolve fear and mutual grievances into something approaching a colorblind environment,” he continues. “That means, in my view, that some of the protectionist and interventionist policies that Obama advocates will not achieve the end he eloquently defined. But the mere fact that a man with a real shot at the presidency was willing to address these truths turned this presidential campaign, for one brief moment, into something very meaningful.”

“That Speech,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/26/08) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


3) U.S. Involvement in World War II: Exposing the Myths

Historians live for tracing the causal factors of historical events, large and small, back to their earliest origins. Most people, however, often act as if yesterday’s headlines arose out of thin air—a failing that allows history’s villains to slip through the cracks of justice. In his recent article, “Truncating the Antecedents,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs explains how this problem characterizes the thinking of otherwise well-educated people who believe that America’s involvement in World War II began with Pearl Harbor.

In truth, the United States had been at war with Japan and Germany long before it declared war on them following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. navy, Higgs explains, had conducted “shoot [Germans] on sight” convoys in the North Atlantic, “even though German U-boats had orders to refrain (and did refrain) from initiating attacks on American shipping.” And just as the U.S. government provided military supplies and assistance to the British, the French, and the Soviets fighting the Germans, so it provided warplanes and pilots to the Chinese, who were at war with Japan—all before the U.S. had declared war on the Axis powers. “Most important,” Higgs writes, “the U.S. government engaged in a series of increasingly stringent economic warfare measures that pushed the Japanese into a predicament that U.S. authorities well understood would probably provoke them to attack U.S. territories and forces in the Pacific region in a quest to secure essential raw materials that the Americans, British, and Dutch (government in exile) had embargoed.” Historian George Victor, by no means a Roosevelt basher, examines these U.S. policies in his recent book, The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable.

For Higgs, perhaps the main lesson of the public’s amnesia—or historical ignorance, since perhaps only 1 out of 10,000 Americans had learned the truth in the first place—is that we should not give the U.S. government any benefit of the doubt when it comes to its claims about the origins of the wars in which it involves us. “Whenever the U.S. government launches a new war abroad, we would be well advised to look into what happened in that part of the world previously, perhaps over the course of several decades,” Higgs writes. “We may well discover that the locals have legitimate grievances against our government or some of its corporate cronies. Or we may simply discover that the situation is more complicated than it has been made out to be. We know one thing for certain at the outset, however: we cannot rely on the government to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Unvarnished truth is to our rulers as holy water is to vampires.”

“Truncating the Antecedents: How Americans Have Been Misled about World War II,” by Robert Higgs (3/18/08)

Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government, by Robert Higgs

Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, by Robert Higgs

Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl Close


4) Student Seminar on the Economics, Heritage, and Challenge of Liberty: June 16-20 & August 11-15, 2008

What are natural rights and the rule of law? How do free markets operate? How can we best improve our schools, health care, environment, and transportation? What are “public goods”? How does technology affect the case for regulation? What causes inflation and recession?

Few students have the opportunity to learn the basic ethical and economic principles of open markets and free societies. Yet these principles are essential for understanding, appreciating, and preparing them for the world they will soon enter. The Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars help high school and college students better understand real-world issues they will encounter throughout life.

This five-day series of lectures, readings, films, multimedia presentations, and small group discussion teaches students what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how understanding it can help them achieve better lives for themselves, their communities, and the world at large. Informative, inspiring, and fun, these seminars are an ideal way to make summer vacation intellectually rewarding.

Seminar Leader Brian Gothberg and Seminar Faculty James Ahiakpor, Fred Foldvary, José Yulo, Gregory Rehmke, Carl Close, and Anthony Gregory will address a wide range of issues, including the ethics of liberty, economic development, immigration, environmental regulation, inflation and the business cycle, and peace and national security.

Session 1: June 16-20
Session 2: August 11-15
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Independent Institute
Conference Center
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621
Maps and Directions

Tuition: $195 (includes books). Scholarships are available but limited.
Registration Form (pdf)
Registration Form (html)               

PRAISE from Previous Student Participants:

“This is a really great program! I really enjoyed learning about all of the famous economists, their basic philosophies, and their influence on economic reasoning. Overall, an outstanding week!”

“I enjoyed having a small group, making it easier to concentrate on everyone's questions and statements, in more comfortable atmosphere.”

The Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars

“The Challenge of Liberty: A Fresh Perspective,” by Katarina Koncokova (Hawaii Reporter, 7/19/2007)

Contact Academic Affairs Director Carl Close, for further information


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