Viewing posts from the war 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.

A Path To Liberty

As a path to liberty, violent attacks against the government seem to be a doomed strategy, for several reasons. For one thing, they’re experts at violence; it is their core competency. For another, violent revolutions tend to attract many people who like violence for its own sake. These folks will at best stir up trouble; at worst, they’ll use the turmoil to their own ends, and people with actual functioning consciences will be lined up against the wall and dispatched.

There are other avenues which are more promising. There’s an entire institute devoted to the notion of peaceful revolution. They’ve written several books about it. I refer you to the Albert Einstein Institute.

Their mission statement follows:

The mission of the Albert Einstein Institution is to advance the worldwide study and strategic use of nonviolent action in conflict.

The Institution is committed to:

· defending democratic freedoms and institutions;

· opposing oppression, dictatorship, and genocide; and

· reducing the reliance on violence as an instrument of policy.

This mission is pursued in three ways, by:

· encouraging research and policy studies on the methods of nonviolent action and their past use in diverse conflicts;

· sharing the results of this research with the public through publications, conferences, and the media; and

· consulting with groups in conflict about the strategic potential of nonviolent action.

Lies All The Way Down

Samuel Johnson’s words in the Idler, betwixt 1758 and 1760, still hold; Truth is still the first casualty of war – or of politics, that ritualized form of overt warfare; the institutionalization of organized and sanctioned violence between and against members of a polity, rather than between separate political organizations.

When a politician declares a “war on X” for any X,  deceit has already been the first and most celebrated recruit. It is the superpower of politicians.

Time and again, our “news” organs relay the lies of politicians, thinking that a retraction in the back pages, some long while later, provides appropriate “balance.”

“We were misled,” they say. But they return willingly to the same well.

Not “in the middle.”

Are libertarians “half liberal, half conservative” as some say? No. Both but sides cloak themselves with a tiny percentage of libertarian , and ignore the rest. The commonality between the two is much larger than the differences.

For instance, libertarians are sometimes derided as “Republicans who smoke pot.” Well, when a D or R politician gets hold of marijuana law, their impulse is to tax and regulate it until it stops moving. A libertarian would say “back off already, leave them alone.”

Or take educational freedom. Libertarians say “separate school and state.” D and R politicians argue about exactly how the State should control the process of education. They argue about small details, not the fundamental principle. The coercion and the micromanagement suck all the life out of learning.

Or war – the Republicans openly advocate for war – against Iran, for example – but Obama and Clinton are not actually against war, otherwise our troops would be back home, and we wouldn’t be dropping all those bombs. Libertarians are all “mind your business.” We’d show respect for our soldiers by bringing them home.

The natural impulse of the politician is to coerce, to control, to deflect you from the path which you would choose. The principle of the libertarian is to leave you alone.