Boy, it is not easy to make heads-or-tails of Ayn Rand and her devotees on foreign policy.
In the book Ayn Rand Nation, sloppy journalist Gary Weiss read some of Rand’s writings on war and peace, mistook her for a peacenik, and ended up asking Ayn Rand Institute board member (and soon to be president of the Cato Institute) John Allison, So why was World War II such a bad idea again? Allison sort of bumbled through an answer and said that, well, Rand had been responsible for changing his mind on Vietnam.
Yet as Jordan Bloom shows in this good American Conservative piece, Rand was both against America’s initial involvement in Vietnam and seriously bloodthirsty in her prescription for how to get out of it — which was essentially the Nixon-Kissinger position.
Rand’s take on World War II was a mix of Harry Truman’s initial let-the-Russian-German-bastards-fight-it-out position and the conspiratorial suggestion that America forced Japan to attack us.
There’s a lot more of course. Here, Bloom attempts to sum up Rand’s foreign policy pronouncements in one neat package:
Based on Rand’s own foreign policy positions, then, one is left with a narrow and exclusionary conception of the national interest; a belief that once war has begun — even under dubious pretenses — the only exit is through victory, which becomes more likely the more force is applied; and a desire to side with what she deemed advanced and civilized countries against savages, in part because the savages wantonly killed innocent women and children. On the other hand, there is no need for America to avoid killing innocents because when we are at war all the residents of the enemy country are equally legitimate targets.
Bloom then marches us through a list of horribles of the foreign policy pronouncements of current leading Objectivists. Some of these statements are certainly troubling, but I’m not sure we should read them as sober, straightforward foreign policy pontificating.
Instead, they have the ring of heroic statements of a very specific type. I mean, take a listen:
Exterminate an enemy who is trying to exterminate you!
The government should bomb the ground zero mosque out of existence!
Metaphysical survival is at stake!
Bring their culture to its knees!
To my trained ear, these sound like statements that might have been speechified by heroes of… Ayn Rand novels.