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Volume 6, Issue 42: October 18, 2004

  1. National Missile Defense System Misses Its Mark
  2. Costs, Benefits, and Foreign-Policy Blunders
  3. U.S. Nation-building in the Philippines

1) National Missile Defense System Misses Its Mark

The Pentagon is expected to announce very soon the activation of a new national missile defense (NMD) system, but it will not be truly functional -- i.e., able to defend against attacks from actual enemy missiles -- according to Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.

"Because politics rather than national security is driving the program, the rush to have some sort of system in place by November has led to the mentality of 'field now and test later,'" writes Eland in a recent op-ed. "Adequate testing must be done before building hardware or costly redesigns probably will be needed when some planned technologies inevitably don't pan out. With a close election at hand, however, the free-spending Bush administration cares little about the taxpayer's dollars."

Eland argues that NMD supporters have more than reelection in mind, however. "Although the stated purpose of national missile defense is to protect the nation from a few missiles launched from small 'rogue' states, many conservatives eventually would like to use a more robust system against China," writes Eland. "The problem with any kind of missile defense, however, has always been that an adversary can build additional missiles to saturate the defenses cheaper than expensive defensive systems can be augmented. An increasingly prosperous China should have no trouble 'outbuilding' U.S. defenses.

"Most likely, the Bush administration's missile defense will be an ineffective waste of money. But even in the unlikely event that NMD is somewhat effective, it remains a dangerous idea and should be scrapped," concludes Eland

"Protecting America or the President's Reelection Chances?" by Ivan Eland (10/11/04)

For a detailed summary of THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see


Center on Peace & Liberty

Ivan Eland on Tour:

October 18: 5-7pm (ET), Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 322 4th Street NE, Washington DC, 202-546-0795 x 197

October 19: 8:30am (PT), Live radio interview on KVI-AM 570 "The Kirby Wilbur Show" (Seattle, WA)

October 19: 3:45pm (ET), Live TV interview on WJLA Channel 8 News "Afternoon Report" (Arlington, VA)

October 21: 12:30-1:30pm (ET), Book signing at Barnes and Noble, 555 12th Street NW, Washington DC, 202-347-0176

October 25: 6:30-8:30pm (ET), Book signing at Labyrinth Books, 536 West 112th Street, New York City, 212-865-1588

October 28: 6:30-8:30pm (PT), Policy Forum at the Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, Calif., 510-632-1366. For information about this event, see


2) Costs, Benefits, and Foreign-Policy Blunders

Foreign-policy failures are often worse than domestic-policy failures, especially in the case of war -- the ultimate failure of politics. But why do foreign policy and national security seem especially vulnerable to the problem of government failure?

The answer, although profoundly important, is fairly straight forward, as Robert Higgs, senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute, explains in a recent op-ed: "Because national-security matters lie outside the immediate experience of the great bulk of the citizens, the government can get away with waste, fraud, brutality, and idiocy far more easily in foreign affairs than it can when prescribing student exams, building houses for poor people, or relieving grandma's aches and pains," writes Higgs, who also edits THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW.

With citizens far removed from the formulation and implementation of foreign policy, the costs of foreign-policy blunders are obscured (until the problem becomes obvious to all), while the benefits are plainly visible to the special-interest groups that lobbied for the policies that turned out to have failed. In fact, what looks like a foreign-policy failure may be considered a success by those who stand to gain from them a perceived material, political, or ideological advantage. As Higgs argues, "In matters of war making, as elsewhere in their wielding of power, governments act in the interest of their own leaders, with as many concessions as necessary to retain the support of the coalition of special-interest groups that keeps them in power."

Of course, the benefits that accrue to the few are dwarfed by the costs borne by the many: wars are negative-sum games. "Apart from all the sacrifices of life, liberty, and treasure that wars have entailed directly," writes Higgs, "they have also served as the prime occasions for the growth of the central state, and hence in the United States they have fostered the long-term diminution of civil and economic liberties and the ongoing subversion of civil society."

See "Benefits and Costs of the U.S. Government's War Making," by Robert Higgs (10/7/04)

Spanish translation:

For information about AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs, see


3) U.S. Nation-building in the Philippines

Far from serving as a blueprint for successful colonialism, as some neoconservative writers have asserted, the U.S. occupation of the Philippine Islands was fraught with significant but little-known difficulties. If anything, the occupation should cast doubt on the credibility of those who downplay the cost of fighting a guerilla insurgency, according to William Marina, research fellow at the Independent Institute.

Just as U.S. policymakers had favored Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war (and later Ahmed Chalabi before he lost favor a year after Saddam was toppled), so Emilio Aguinaldo had been the U.S. favorite in the Philippines after the Spanish-American war. Aguinaldo, however, lost favor and became leader of the anti-U.S. insurrection, which culminated in the death of more than 200,000 Filipinos, according to Marina.

U.S. Captain John R. M. Taylor authored a five-volume history of the occupation at the time, but its publication was blocked by President William Taft, according to Marina, who was responsible for the indexing of the records, now housed in the National Archives.

"It has now been 106 years since the United States intervened in the Philippine Islands," writes Marina, "how does economic development and democracy there measure up to American promises?"

The answer doesn't inspire much confidence in democracy "nation building": "As in Iraq today, the results in the Philippines have been an enormous loss of life, extremely poor economic development (with a population expected to increase from 84 million today to 200 million by 2050), massive political corruption and human rights abuses, and a political system hardly embodying self-determination, let alone democracy. Perhaps it's time to lay the myth to rest and replace it with the true historical record," Marina concludes.

See "The Three Stooges in Iraq, and the U.S.'s First Stooge," by William Marina (10/14/04)

For further articles and studies, please see


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless