Friday, October 17, 2014

For Every Question the Answer is War

Forgive a somewhat rambling post – several recent and not-so-recent events have prompted my thoughts here….

When I started this blog, I didn’t really have it in mind that I would write much about history – and that much of that history would focus on war.  Also when I started this blog, while I felt empathy with those who are victims in war – the non-combatants foremost – my further writing and reflection has brought this empathy into sharp focus.

I think the first revisionist war topic that I wrote about with some substance was the myth behind Pearl Harbor – in some ways a subject no longer controversial to even the professional supporters of FDR, although still a narrative than might result in a fist fight if questioned in the wrong crowd. Since then, the list of my work on this topic has grown rather long.

After several posts on the revisionist view of war history, I began to understand one reason I was drawn to this topic: war and the military is a god to many in the West, certainly in the United States.  It is supported by myths (the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor as a complete surprise, the bombs ended the war, the US brings democracy to the world, Germany started every war, blah, blah, blah); these myths deserve to die. 

In my own small way, I felt I could contribute to destroying these myths – I am satisfied if I feel I might have reached even one person with a post on this topic.

After some time, I began to put together something else: for a libertarian, war is THE issue.  Now, I don’t mean to suggest that to be a libertarian this must be so; I am suggesting that in war, every violation of freedom is to be found – whether on the (so-called) winning side or losing side.  Absent war, life for all would be much freer.

In war, everything about liberty and freedom hinges.  To begin: the life and death of the victims.  I recall reading, in the book Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism, by John Finnis, Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., and Germain Grisez:

If I may hark back to those charming debates of the 1950s, it has always seemed to me that red is better than dead because the red can choose to be dead but the dead cannot choose to be anything at all.

It is, of course, unarguable.  Not to get into an afterlife discussion (as you are free to advance yourself toward this end whenever you like), is there any separation from liberty more complete and permanent than death?  Yet, if one finds himself in a situation that he prefers “dead” to “red” (so to speak), he can always make this choice for himself.  “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Those alive are free to choose; those taken to death without a choice?  Not so much.

I was happy to find that once again, like on so many other topics, I found myself in a square occupied by Rothbard many years before.  I recall reading or hearing somewhere that Rothbard felt war was the paramount issue, the most significant issue to address by those of us who care about liberty.  I can’t find the quote (although, a read of this article, sent to me by a friend, will likely lead you to this conclusion).  I found another quote that at least somewhat comes to the same point:

It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society.
               Murray Rothbard

While this quote does not touch on the issue of death separating the victim from liberty on this earth, I have no doubt regarding Rothbard’s view on this matter.

This sounds so simple to me now; humbly I submit it wasn’t always so for me.

Walter Block wrote in 2008 about why he would support Obama over McCain (and I won’t bother to get the exact post, it was something like this).  The most important differentiator between the two was on this issue: the likelihood of war under each of the two.  He has recently written something similar as regards Rand Paul – compared to any other likely presidential candidate, Block feels that Rand is the most likely to be reflective and conservative when it comes to exercising military power.

I don’t mean to introduce a discussion about they are all bad, there is no difference between democrats and republicans, why support any politician at all, libertarians shouldn’t vote, etc.  On this very specific point, I conclude Block is right – what would “bombs-away” McCain have done by now with Iran?  Syria?  Russia?  What about Hillary in 2016?

In a recent conversation in the comments of this post, it was suggested to me that those who tell Americans to convert to Islam or die are evil and should be killed before they actually commit any violent act – again, paraphrasing.  At least they leave the poor Americans a choice.  What about those who give no choice?  What about those who give no choice to those who have nothing to do with the fighting?  In other words, what about the American military?

I have grown significantly more empathetic to the victims of war – as mentioned, I have felt this way to some degree for some time even before I started this blog: I have family and friends close enough to the death of war as non-combatants to make this somewhat real to me.  But as I have read and written over the years, I believe this feeling has mushroomed.

Perhaps it is for this reason that this subject at times causes my testy side to come out.  The ignorance by so many about the reality of those from the military whom they worship – on Sundays in church, before every sporting event, etc.  Or the simple-minded acceptance of fear-mongering.  What miserable human beings.

I recently saw some discussion on the news – is the bombing of ISIS effective?  The war-monger guest made Bill O’Reilly sound like Ron Paul!  He felt the bombing was not effective because there wasn’t enough of it – B-52s and B-1s should carpet bomb; and don’t worry, non-combatants would not be harmed.

Setting aside the immorality of the man, I thought “is the bombing effective at what?”  It is certainly something more than destroying ISIS – whatever that is and whoever invented it.  ISIS isn’t the only, or last, of its type.

Kill all the radical Muslims – how many, even on the edges of the libertarian community, hold this view?  Define “radical.”  The only definition that I can come up with that makes any sense for this crowd is “anyone who doesn’t like America,” meaning the American government.  This is the only objective that makes sense, if one is to ascribe even one scintilla of “sense” to this war on terror.

The only “effective” end to this, however, is to kill 1.5 billion Muslims.  Even if one can somehow justify killing another for an act the other might do, collateral damage in this war is a certainty – ask Mr. B-52 bomber.  Out of the friends and family of the victims, at least one new angry “radical” Muslim will be born.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Eventually kill them all.

Is this the answer?  Because it is the only “effective” answer to the only even remotely meaningful objective in this war on terror.

They don’t even stop to think if a few ragheads in a cave 10,000 mile away can actually put their dreams of meeting 1000 virgins in action by killing all of us infidels.  The entire notion is so nonsensical; there is a children’s tale that might be helpful for these immature minds.

With all of this said, far fewer are dying from war today than has been the case in recent (meaning the last 100 years) history.  It is one reason I consider that overall the human population today enjoys more liberty than during any earlier time in the last century.

Is this a reason to not write about war?  After all, it is globally a much smaller problem today than at any time since perhaps the end of Vietnam.  I don’t mean to diminish the deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc.  For each individual victim, there is no difference.  But for the human race, compared to World War II?  Compared to life under Stalin or Mao?

But it isn’t eliminated.  I know it won’t be as long as humans are human; but one less war is one more victory for liberty.

I enjoy writing about war – morbid, perhaps, but there it is.  I enjoy learning that I know little about the things that I thought I knew.  I don’t need any more reason than this.  Yet, more importantly, I find it one of the more important subjects that I tackle.

If Rothbard didn’t say that war is the paramount issue for libertarians, he should have.  For the libertarian, the answer to every question is war.  The rest, relatively speaking, is noise.


  1. War is evil - why? It's akin to violence. Violence in self-defence has its place againsst offensive violence. To do nothing while someone else walks all over you is to be immoral. Philosophers have been rattling their heads to come up for situations when a war can be truly just. Nonetheless pacifism isn't some fix-all solution just a weakness. Just because defensive violence isn't always an good answer to offensive violence doesn't mean it has to be refrained from in its entirety.

    1. Gil, the question is, when is violence defensive vs. offensive? Also, I don't see how Bionic Mosquito has advocated pacifism. You seem to be deliberately strawmanning.

    2. I would have to say that violence is always offensive because to be violent or to initiate violence is to violate someone's right to to be left alone.

      When you defend yourself you are not violating anyone's rights; you're using force to defend yourself from violence.

  2. The way some people claim to abhor violence and yet wholeheartedly support these conflicts frustrates me to no end! I found it particularly frustrating to sit through the presidential debates and listen to everyone bash Ron Paul for his "isolationism", all the while completely ignoring their own hypocrisy. Every one of the other candidates gave as their justification for attacking these "extremists" the threatening language used by some members of these groups. "They have stated outright that they want to do us harm!" or something like this. I had to wonder, if the language used by members of these groups justified us attacking them, would McCain's or Gingrich's... etc. language justify them in attacking us? They stood there on television and stated very clearly their intent to do these people harm and were applauded for it. Seemed a bit "extreme" to me. The way we refer to the deaths of non-combatants as "collateral damage" makes me ashamed. How are we so easily deceived? I am new to the libertarian thing and I feel ashamed of the support I used to give to these wars.

    1. 'collateral damage' in certain circles is referred to as 'bug splat'. imagine the mind that can even conceive of describing a once living human being in such a manner and then realize: they are 'working for us'.

      we should all feel shame and revulsion. the applause and support garnered by the words and actions that lead to death and destruction tell much about the state of mind of this nation.

  3. First off, I just want to thank you for putting your voice out there. It’s a courageous and selfless act that we should all appreciate and emulate. Hopefully, I don't sound to preachy, just expressing what I've come to understand.

    "But it isn’t eliminated. I know it won’t be as long as humans are human."

    I don't think the problem is humans being humans; rather it is humans rejecting what it is to be human and choosing instead to be beasts.

    human (adj.)
    mid-15c., humain, humaigne, from Old French humain, umain (adj.) "of or belonging to man" (12c.), from Latin humanus "of man, human," also "humane, philanthropic, kind, gentle, polite; learned, refined, civilized,"

    beast (n.)
    c.1200, from Old French beste "animal, wild beast," figuratively "fool, idiot" (11c., Modern French bête), from Vulgar Latin *besta, from Latin bestia "beast, wild animal," of unknown origin.

    It’s not a free choice though. We are manipulated into it by being conditioned to believe that there is no choice; that this is just the way it is, has been, and always will be. It’s just human nature, dontcha know.

    All the physical wars are really just symptoms of the real war and that war is the war on human consciousness.

    Through our conditioning (read public "education"), the constant propaganda through the media/entertainment, the adulteration of our food and various other means human consciousness is being imprisoned in tiny box (think of the symbolic box we put on our heads at graduation) in an effort to keep people from seeing the bigger picture; to keep people from seeing other options they have. If our consciousness can be limited to a narrow spectrum of thought, then we will perceive that our options are limited and we can be convinced of anything and led anywhere, like a horse with blinders on.

    Once a person’s consciousness has been corralled, the liberal use of fear can keep the person their little box. That is why we see nothing but fear in the media/entertainment industries…even the word entertain means to "to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind." The things we watch and read helps to keep us in a distracted state of fear and the only protection we are told we have is the government and religion (but I repeat myself).

    It’s all a great big con job.

    It is essentially like the children’s tale you posted except that it isn’t “just happening”. This is a method of control that is being purposefully employed and has been purposely employed for thousands of years to enslave humanity. There are people who understand the human psyche and human motivation and actively occult (hide) that information to create a power differential between those with the knowledge and those without.

    But as in the story, no one can give you the knowledge; no one can remove the fear from you. It’s a journey one must take on one’s own. One can receive help and give help, as you are doing, but the power to change, to learn, and to grow resides solely in the individual. And that’s the key. That’s why we are constantly encouraged to look to the external for salvation, because the true power lies within.

    1. Thank you for this very thorough comment. I find myself quite in agreement.

      The reason I wrote what I wrote about humans being human....

      Partly, you have explained it - there are humans who will always act in this manipulative manner, and there will be most of the rest who allow themselves to be subjected.

      Mostly it is because I believe man is an imperfect creature; being imperfect, he is subject to falling.

      The first reason is sufficient, I suspect, for those who do not believe in what lies behind my second reason.

    2. You're very welcome. I just want to point out a little contradiction that I see in your thinking though:

      You're obviously fighting for liberty yet you seem to believe that "most [humans will] allow themselves to be subjugated." If this is true then what's the point in fighting?

      I mean, I definitely agree that there will always be humans who want to manipulate and that there will always be humans who will allow themselves to be subjugated but what I would argue is that there is no law of nature that says it will always be "most" people.

      It might seem like I'm splitting hairs but if most people will always allow themselves to be subjugated then there is no way that freedom will manifest in this world in any great amount or for any extended period of time.

      And I'm not sure what perfection has to do with anything. It seems kind of like a red herring. Freedom and liberty don't require perfection to manifest. I know you understand this, so why bring it up?

    3. I think "most people" will always be satisfied to get along. If they are reasonably comfortable with their lot in life, able to feed, clothe and educate their children, left alone as long as they don't get too uppity with the local warlord / politician, they go along and get along.

      But I don't think it takes a majority to make change - a vocal, educated minority will do. And I don't think we will ever see libertarian / anarchic societies in all corners of this world. Not as long as humans are human; not as long as envy is a part of the human condition.

      But maybe we can make more of a difference on war; maybe we can have educated enough people about money and gold to have some influence in the transition to come - which may not even be in my lifetime.

      There will be decentralization; through decentralization will come more choices, more alternatives. It is worth working to ensure that one of the alternatives that they get exposure to is liberty.

      I know for certain that no one will choose liberty (in the true sense) if they are not exposed to it.

    4. I don't think you really addressed what I said but it's cool. I'm sure you have much more important things to take care of.

      I guess I just need to start my own blog ;)

      Thanks for the convo and thanks again for doing what you do.