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Military Socialism in Afghanistan

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Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman once pointed out that with the possible exception of the war on drugs, the U.S. military is the biggest socialist enterprise in the United States. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that when the military embarks on a rebuilding campaign for foreign countries it invades and destroys, among the first things it does is adopt socialist programs.

The latest example involves a massive road-building project in Afghanistan, which was detailed in Sunday’s Washington Post in an article entitled “After Billions in U.S. investment, Afghan Roads are Falling Apart.”

It turns out that not only are people dying in Afghanistan from drone attacks, suicide bombs, road mines, and shootings, they’re also dying from the U.S.-built road system. According to the Post, “In many places, the roads once deemed the hallmark of America’s development effort have turned into death traps, full of cars careening into massive bomb-blast craters or sliding off crumbling pavement.”

The Post states, “The United States almost immediately made road construction a top priority after the 2001 invasion—calling an effective network of highways and rural roads the key to both security and economic stability.”

Isn’t that just what we would expect from a large socialist enterprise such as the U.S. military? Among the first things it does to “rebuild” the nation that it destroys with its bombs, missiles, tanks, etc. is adopt a classic socialist program—roads and highways. Maybe they were thinking of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, a massive socialist public-works project that was modeled on the Autobahn system constructed by National Socialist Germany. (Not surprisingly, U.S. officials also love building dams, another public works project that has long been favored by socialist regimes.)

U.S. officials blame the Afghan road problems not on socialism but rather on Afghan officials. “There’s been nothing. No maintenance,” declared one U.S. official who preferred to stay anonymous because he hadn’t gotten permission to speak publicly on the matter. The Afghans say that they need U.S. money to do the maintenance. U.S. officials refuse to provide it because they say the Afghans are too incompetent to maintain the roads. Of course, another possibility is that U.S. officials know that the road maintenance money would end up in the pockets of Afghan officials.

What’s fascinating is that U.S. military officials really believe that socialism can be made to succeed, which is why they continue to embrace these socialist monstrosities. If the 20th century taught us anything, including in the Soviet Union, it’s that socialism is an utter failure. It has brought nothing but destitution, impoverishment, and lower standards of living for every nation that has ever tried it.

Equally important, as Ludwig von Mises and other free-market economists have long shown, socialism is inherently defective, meaning that nothing can be done to make it work. Mises called it “planned chaos,” the title of one of his books. What better term to describe situation in Afghanistan (and Iraq)?

But for socialists, hope springs eternal. Despite the manifest failure of every single one of its nation-building efforts (see Iraq), U.S. military officials continue to hope that one of their socialist programs—this one being a massive public-works road-building project—will finally succeed in rebuilding one of the nations it destroys with its invasions and occupations. It will never work.

The horrible part of U.S. invasions and occupations of foreign countries, of course, is the massive death and destruction that they wreak across the victimized nation.

The second tragedy comes as part of the U.S. military’s “rebuilding” of the new government. It has the new regime adopt a large military-intelligence establishment as the foundation of the new government, with officials having the unfettered power to arrest and detain people, the omnipotent power to search people’s homes, persons, and businesses without judicial warrants, to confiscate guns, torture prisoners, establish surveillance schemes on the citizenry, and so forth. It goes without saying that all of these programs violate the limited-government, due-process principles of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The third tragedy comes with the socialist economic programs that the U.S. military imposes on the occupied nation, programs that are antithetical to the founding principles of private property, free markets, and limited government on which America was founded. Massive public works projects, such as highway-building and dam-building campaigns, are examples.

So, there you have it: The U.S. military stomps around the world showing everyone what America stands for: militarism, imperialism, and socialism rather than private property, free markets, and limited government.

Americans deserve better. So does the world.

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The Future of Freedom Foundation was founded in 1989 by FFF president Jacob Hornberger with the aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government.