Hey, Peking … Duck!

by L. Neil Smith

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Well, it looks like it’s over. Our “boys” are coming home. But it’s been, well, interesting in the Chinese sense. I’ve had to rewrite this column more times than I can count, while new things were happening every day.

To sum up, however, how well do you remember the USS Pueblo? International situations like this go back, probably to ancient Egypt, maybe even to the lost continent of Mu. In this case, 24 US flyers whose high-tech surveillance plane encountered Red Chinese fighters over international waters, bumped into one (or got bumped, depending on who’s telling it), and were forced to land in Communist territory where they’ve been pawns in a nasty political taffy-pull that statists on both sides of the Pacific fervently hoped would bring back the Cold War, and guarantee the continued Health of the Management State.

Make no mistake. Flights like these keep the peace, and at a very low cost. China itself conducts them over Southeast Asia, keeping an eye on Thailand, Cambodia, and her ancient, implacable enemy, Vietnam. As long as we know what they’re up to, and they know what we’re up to, there’s a fair chance that nobody will get a nasty surprise. And nasty surprises are a major cause of wars. In his day, my father kept the peace, as a bombardier-navigator by flying a B52-load of hydrogen bombs over the Pole to the edge of Soviet airspace two or three times a week for about a decade. This — surveillance flights — is better and safer than that.

I don’t believe in the right of any state to exist, but as long as they go on peeping at one another this way, I’ll welcome it. It beats the hell out of an exchange of nuclear weapons that, to a very large extent, it helps to prevent. The only improvement I could make would be to broadcast everything I learned about the other guy this way.

But enough. Peevish and timid by turns, President George III (the third guy named George, after Washington and Daddy to hold the office) demanded that the flyers be returned, and that their plane, absurdly enough, stuffed full of the latest secret technological goodies, be granted extraterritorial sacrosanctity and returned, as well.

China, or rather its decrepit, murderous leaders, the butchers of Tibet and Tienanmen Square, made all of the usual Commie threats, growling that the collision was the American plane’s fault, insisting on a formal apology and an end to US surveillance flights, all the while shoving the blunt truth of the matter down the memory hole with both fists and a long-handled spoon.

Regrettably for them, their earlier, unguarded admission — that the incident had occurred over international waters — was already recorded on countless harddrives and VCRs around the world. It had happened because Chinese fighter pilots were enthusiastically pursuing an official policy of aerial harrassment that the US had complained to their government about. But the jury, insisted the bloodthirsty thugs of Beijing, was to disregard any fact that its kindly shepherds felt was inconvenient.

There seemed to be little in any conventional military, political, or diplomatic sense that George III could do to get his flyers or his airplane back. All he could do was bluster and whimper with equal ineffectuality for the benefit of the socialist media at home while he sent professional liars abroad who were eventually able to buy his way out of the mess, neatly ensuring that this sort of thing will happen again and again, as it has throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

And who knows what price we’ll end up paying this time?

Nor were the socialist media or the public they service much help. Throughout the crisis, the radio was full of calls and commentary on boycotting Chinese products. One particularly retarded correspondent from a network said that she and her Manhattan friends weren’t going to patronize any more Chinese restaurants. At least 50 IQ points lighter, her local counterpart speaking to her from Denver, boldly declared that he wasn’t going to buy anything made in Taiwan.

I’ve never been a great fan of boycotts, myself, even when they’re organized and carried out by people with more intelligence than these two displayed (approximating that of a turnip). Boycotts seldom work, except under special circumstances (the one against Smith & Wesson seems to be going well), and usually punish the wrong people.

But as it happens, I’ve just finished a novel (with the lovely and talented Aaron Zelman) in which a libertarian is accidentally elected President. We’ve spent the last few months generating policies that advance the genuine interests of the American people, while staying strictly within bounds of the Constitution (particularly those of the Bill of Rights) and the Non-Aggression principle that’s the heart and soul of libertarianism.

So how, I pretend to hear you ask, would our libertarian President have handled the current China situation?

The most important thing to understand about the situation is that China’s leaders are old, afraid, and lost. Three generations ago they saddled themselves with a two-century-old political and economic philosophy that doesn’t work, a philosophy the rest of the world has pretty much tossed on the midden heap of history, but which China’s leaders can’t give up, even now, without “losing face”.

And a whole lot of power and wealth.

I speak of collectivism in general, and Marxism in particular, a political and economic philosophy that resulted directly in the murder-by-government of more than 100 million individuals in the 20th century, a philosophy that’s transformed what was once arguably the greatest civilization in human history into a giant termite colony that chops its political prisoners up into spare parts — the ultimate act of involuntary selflessness — to repair disintegrating geriatric Communist Party bigwigs.

At the same time, like the senile and demented octagenarians they are (and resembling nasty-tempered two-year-olds, as well), China’s leaders desire the benefits of a free market system and private capitalism while they viciously suppress both freedom and privacy.

Unfortunately, the figures most Americans count on to make China’s leaders behave are rather more like China’s leaders, with regard to freedom and privacy, than they are like Americans. The embarrassingly tepid response of George II to the atrocities at Tienanmen Square, Bill Clinton’s own atrocities at Waco — still not properly prosecuted or punished after eight long, terrible years — and his evil exploits overseas, demonstrate clearly that the Chinese and American Management States operate on the same brutal principle: if the tax-cattle get the slightest bit uppity, slaughter them.

In two words, this is the essence of the New World Order, and it’s equally true of the Management States in fascist Britain, fascist Japan, fascist Germany, and fascist anywhere else you can think of.

However, as I’ve noted on previous occasions — and this is the second most important thing to understand about the current situation — what China’s leaders are most afraid of is not the United States, but the Chinese people themselves. Fear of one’s own people throbs at the very core of any police state. Note that George III still has not reopened Pennsylvania Avenue in front ot the White House.

More specifically, though, in the absence of a working political and economic philosophy, China’s obsolescent leaders are abjectly terrified at the prospect of the Chinese people learning more about — and ultimately adopting as their own — the same ideas, with regard to politics and economics, that created our nation. The sight of their own grandchildren in the equivalent of Red Square, carting around a handcrafted styrofoam replica of Bedloe Island’s Hollow Woman must have driven the old buggers even crazier than they were to begin with.

What everyone who loves freedom needs to do now is take advantage of these two important facts — that Chinese leaders are old, afraid, and lost, and that what they’re most afraid of is their own people — to get them to do more than simply turn 24 American fliers loose. Those who love freedom need to change the course of Chinese history.

The other day, someone told me that, behind the scenes, George III threatened China’s leaders with establishing something that could be called “Radio Free Asia”, recapitulating Radio Free Europe of bygone Cold War days, broadcasting the bright promise of freedom to prisoners of Communism. I don’t think I buy it. Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to believe that George III is sufficiently farsighted, or gives more of a damn about individual liberty than China’s leaders do.

The basic idea is good, though, but it needs work. Having lived overseas during its days of glory, and having been an avid shortwave radio listener, I remember Radio Free Europe, and what I remember most is that it was insipid, boring, and, worst of all,respectable.

What China needs, what the world needs — what America, most of all, needs — is not respectable. Thomas Paine was not respectable. He was a firebrand and a “dirty little atheist”. Patrick Henry, Lysander Spooner, Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Tucker, and H.L. Mencken were not respectable. They were all 24 karat pains in the ass. Ayn Rand was thoroughly detested by the opinion leaders of her time, although her name alone was the only argument they could ever muster against her: “What are you reading, there? Oh — Ayn Rand!”

(You can witness a similar phenomenon today in the contempt with which the same Volvo-driving, brie-gobbling, Zinfandel-guzzlers utter the name “Rush Limbaugh”, although that mouthpiece for the squatus quo really doesn’t really deserve it.)

The last entity on earth that should be in charge of Radio Free Asia is the government. It’s the problem, not the solution. Radio Free Asia must be a broadcast version of the Internet, featuring all those partisans and personalities our own baby-butchers love to hate, people like Matt Drudge, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Joe Farah, Minority Mike, Lew Rockwell, Vin Suprynowicz, J.D. Tuccille, Claire Wolfe, and, dare I say, L. Neil Smith. It must convey the radical and time-tested words of Paine, Henry, Spooner, Douglass, Tucker, Mencken, Rand — and Robert A. Heinlein to those who are hungriest to hear them.

Just imagine the history-making repercussions of a two-hour radio version, in Cantonese, of H. Beam Piper’s classic Lone Star Planet (aka A Planet for Texans), which makes a plausible argument that the assassination of would-be tyrants is simply another of the many checks and balances of a healthy political system. Now, try to imagine George III and his minions underwriting something like that.

The longer I live, the more appreciation I have for the Chinese people and their culture. I’d like very much to help those individuals among them who want to be free. I believe that, if they’re provided with a steady stream of information, consisting mostly of the fact that each and every one of them owns his own life, an unimaginably better world will be the result.

It would be a libertarian President’s job not to engineer something like that, but to get out of the way and let it happen.


Reprinted from The Libertarian Enterprise for Number 117, April 16, 2001

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