Viewing posts from the defense category

Unnecessary Wars

Pat Buchanan and I take opposite sides on some issues, particularly with his emphasis on “culture wars” and his aversion to immigration. Nonetheless, I must give a qualified recommendation for his book Hitler, Churchill, and the Unnecessary War.

Tl;dr version: both World War I and II were unnecessary. The Brits won the war but lost their empire; they overextended, ran up debt to unsustainable levels. The conclusion of WW II effectively made the world safe for Communism.

The United States of America appears to be heading down a similar slope, made slippery with the blood of millions of victims in the Middle East; the military forces are overextended, and debt is at its highest level ever, $20+ trillion and rising.

For a longer perspective, I recommend The Rise and Decline of the State , by Israeli historian Martin Van Creveld.

In this book, Creveld argues that the nation-state originated as and is optimized primarily as an engine of conquest. Militaristic expansion is designed-in. The nation-state has been going out of fashion, largely for two reasons: conquest is uneconomic compared to international commerce, and nations now fear atomic weapons.

Conquest is at best zero-sum; whatever we take, you lose; a vicious cycle.

By contrast, when commerce is shorn of coercion, it tends to be positive-sum; when we exchange voluntarily, both benefit thereby; the world is that much better off when we trade. This is a virtuous cycle.


Against War: Standards

Folks who read or listen to me know that I am deeply against war; indeed, I have been against war since my earliest memories, going back to the Vietnam War. But why?

To answer simply: I have standards. War is about “breaking things and killing people;” especially the latter. Now, I am no pacifist; there are times when I think it might be justifiable and proper to kill a person; but I think it morally abhorrent to do so lightly, without consideration of the harm, with hardly any justification but rumors and speculation.

The drone strikes in the Middle East, and the Tomahawk missile strikes in Syria, are cases in point. A drone strike is not a sniper bullet, killing a particular guilty person; it lays waste to that person’s home, to their neighbors, to the people across the street who may be trying to help the wounded and dying. It is an atrocity; it should be loudly denounced as a war crime, not praised. Nor can we be certain of the quality of the evidence which led to the strike in the first place.

Similarly in Syria; we hear rumors that a poisonous gas was used by Assad. Before any investigation of these allegations was even possible, missiles flew; people were killed. No amount of sophistry could possibly turn this into a morally justifiable act.

These acts did not make the United States safer; if anything, they increased the number of people who wish us ill. They do not add to America’s greatness, but diminish it. They are of value only to war fetishists, to worshipers of Mars,  god of war, and to war profiteers.

Yes, folks, I am against this war, and against the next one. I think little of the politicians and pundits and preachers and profiteers and all those who praise these acts of mass murder. Of all the fools, tools and trolls in this world, these are the most despicable. If government exists to protect us, let it protect us from these. With “protectors” such as these, we hardly need enemies.

Constitutionally, Congress ought to declare war before the government undertakes war. But I suggest a still higher standard. Before condemning a single person to death for even the most heinous of crimes, our criminal justice system demands a high standard of evidence, and still a single juror may stay that sentence, by refusing to convict. Let Congress hold itself to similar standards; if even one person of twelve refuses to declare war, let the matter pass.

Skip The Whereases

My father taught me something wise. “When you hear somebody say ‘blah blah blah but such-and-such,’ the word ‘but’ is a signal. Everything before the ‘but’ is preamble, which you can safely ignore. After the ‘but’, that’s the real substance, that’s what they were leading you to. That’s the important part.”

Whenever politicians speak, I have learned to completely ignore their justifications, whether preceded by a convenient “but” signal or not. Sometimes, politicians use “and” instead. It’s the same principle; just skip right to the end, when the tugging on your heart strings stops, and the proposal begins, which is usually a scheme to deprive you or some other unfortunate of some portion of life, liberty, property, or a combination thereof.

Find out the cost, and evaluate that cost on its own merits, before considering their long-winded “justification,” whatever it might have been. And make sure you add in the hidden costs, the things the politicians don’t talk about. De-fudge their numbers; get rid of the smoke and mirrors, and look for the naked truth.

Examine such proposals very closely. If I had my druthers, the Supreme Court would apply what it calls “Strict Scrutiny” to every single government law or regulation, not just a select few.

Briefly, “strict scrutiny” in the legal sense means that the proposal or law must be justified by a compelling governmental interest, not by a mere preference or whim; it must be narrowly tailored, not overly broad; and it must be the least restrictive means for achieving that interest.

It is atrocious that legislators and courts even consider any lesser standard for their works. To protect our own lives and property and health, we should demand no less.

Borders != Doors

Having locks on some doors does not mean that every door, every road, every shopping mall, every border should be locked and should require ID checks. I say this in response to BCFs (Border Control Freaks) who constantly draw a false analogy between sealed borders and a locked door.

The analogy is doubly false. First off, in a free country, access is valuable to many property owners; this is why shopping malls are usually open on the outside, closed at specific points, such as the employee break area, the manager’s office, the bank vault.

Second, border controls are not just about the border itself; they restrict the property rights of everybody inside the border; if you happen to hire a person who does not have the right paperwork, your front door will be broken down by BCFs; your private property rights will be destroyed. BCFs, despite their analogy, are not the least bit interested in respecting your private property rights.

Consider a gated community. They do restrict access to the owners and those who have been granted access by specific owners. I’ve attended events at such gated communities; I needed only say “I am here for so-and-so’s party,” and Open Sesame, I was in. In more carefully restricted areas, the owner would place my name on a list. Or I might require an escort. In no privately-secured area that I know of, do all the residents vote and say things like “No people of category X may enter for any reason.” Other residents don’t vote on who may visit my property, in such a community. But BCFs want to be able to do that. You can’t collectivize the property rights of the entire nation, and pretend that this is just an extension of private property rights. It’s border socialism, plain and simple.

Another common sillygism is this “If the borders aren’t sealed, this is not a nation.” Well, folks, prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1862, the borders of the US of A were not sealed. Was this not a nation then? This is no axiom if such an exception exists – especially when much of Europe had open borders. In those days, nations worried about the migration of armies, not of peaceful individuals. The special snowflakes of today’s Right are incapble of distinguishing between the two.

Observe the border between the US of A and Mexico. Go south, and the Mexican guards smile and wave. Go north, and the American guards demand to see your paper. For folks of my age, this is reminiscent of Cold War movies – only the guards who demanded papers were German and Soviet, not American. The demand for papers was seen as a reminder of why our country was better. It was common, in those days, to say “It’s a free country” whenever anybody asked if it would be OK to do something. One never uses that phrase nowadays.

Whatever it is that today’s conservatives are supposed to be conserving, it evidently isn’t freedom. The remind me of Sumner’s famous essay, the Conguest of the U.S. by Spain. America won that war on the ground, but only by becoming the thing that it fought against: a worldwide empire. It lost its soul. Today’s conservatives have no sense of history; they have buried that lesson.