Libertarianism and the concept of “National Defense”.

Since 1775 the USA has fought more wars than any other major nation on Earth.  We started out with our revolt (over taxes) against Great Britain and King George the Third.  We had another war with Great Britain in 1812 and attempted an invasion of Canada.  We fought a war with Mexico (1846-1848) which resulted in the US gaining considerable territory (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California) from Mexico.  We had our Civil War in 1861-1865 over slavery and “states rights”.  Fought an ongoing guerrilla war against the native people until they were eventually vanquished to reservations.  Note that Canada did things differently, so there was a “solution” other than that of military to the “Indian problem”.  In 1898 we fought a war with Spain, ending up with Cuba and the Philippines. We eventually fought in WWI, helping to defeat Germany, and also set into motion the conditions that would cause WWII.  Roosevelt provoked Japan into a war with the US, perhaps with the idea that such would allow the US to enter into the war against Hitler and his ally, Mussolini.  The conclusion of this war left the US as the most powerful military power on the Earth, with our adversary now the Soviet Union.  The aftermath of WWII also resulted in the takeover of mainland China by the Communists under Mao.  Then in less than five years after the end of WWII, we became involved in a war in Korea between the Communist North and the “democratic” South.  Eventually Red China got into the fight, which resulted in the stalemate between North Korea and South Korea that exists today.  Our next war was in Vietnam when we intervened in the conflict between South Vietnam and North Vietnam.  We pulled out of this conflict in 1973, having suffered over 50,000 American deaths, then a couple of years later the North Vietnamese managed to conquer the South, establishing a Communist tyranny there.  Since then we have fought three wars in the Middle East, two with Iraq, and another with Afghanistan.  These wars, like that fought in Vietnam, appear to have accomplished little so far as a lasting peace is concerned.  Are we doomed to follow this course into the future?  Obviously there are a lot of other places we could fight if we wished to.  It is however to be hoped that we’ve learned our “lesson” here about the folly of all of these military interventions in the affairs of other nations and other people.  The British eventually gave up their “Empire” (mostly for economic reasons), but so far the USA is still determined to continue on this path of force and aggression against everyone else!  And for what ends?  Oil, raw materials?  It would seem that more peaceful means would work better than doing things at gunpoint.  We are at best 5% of the world’s population.  Our threats against other countries have encouraged North Korea to develop a nuclear weapon.  Iran is working hard at the same task.  Pakistan has nuclear weapons, as does India.  It is apparent that the way we have done things hasn’t worked out all that great!

What do we mean by the term “National Defense”?  Today it appears to be something entirely different from defending the actual nation itself.  Which could have been done reasonably well by a force of armed citizens as was done in our Revolution and later on again in the War of 1812 against Great Britain. Today we employ a professional military and engage in conflicts half way around the world from the USA itself.  Against a rather technologically backward foe that is driven by religious fanaticism. However we need to ask ourselves how did this state of affairs start?  Most Americans will say “9-11-2001”!  But the sources of the conflict go back in time to an earlier time. Back actually to the formation of the Nation of Israel in 1947 by the UN mandate. This resulted in an immediate conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians who had been living there for centuries. Eventually the Palestinians were driven out of Israel for the most part, ending up in UN refugee camps. This was where the conflict between the “West” and Islam began, although historically there was conflict between the two societies dating back all the way to the 7th Century. The Crusades were a part of this conflict as the “West” attempted to “take back” the “Holy Lands” which were a part of the history of Christianity prior to their conquest by Muslim forces some centuries before. The history of this centuries long conflict is perhaps not as well-known as it should be. But it is a part of the history of warfare that both Christians and Muslims both share.

One of the basic principles of Libertarianism is the concept of non-aggression. That means you treat others as you’d like them to treat you. Live and let live. Mind your own business.  This also applies to nations as well as individuals. Obviously we haven’t been doing that. When you go and commit aggression against others, they will soon do the same thing back to you. Something most of us understand in our individual lives, but something that also applies to nations too. Israel was created by taking land from people who had lived there for generations, for centuries as a matter of fact. Yes, the Jews had once lived there, but that was almost two thousand years ago when the Romans crushed the revolt of the Jews against the Roman Empire and scattered the Jews to small enclaves in foreign lands. Those who are interested in learning more should visit their local public library where they will find books that will go into detail about these events of long ago.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that our current conflict with Islam goes back a long time in human history. The conflict started back in the 7th Century, continued on for centuries between two religious philosophies, two different ways of viewing the religious philosophy by which Man was to supposedly live. Eventually superior military technology by the West forced the Islamic world to give up its ambitions of world conquest in the name of Islam. Internal conflicts within the Islamic world weakened its power against the now much more militarily powerful West to the point that few people took it seriously any more as any kind of threat to Western interests.  However with the increasing importance of oil, the situation changed considerably.  The original political makeup of the Middle East had been altered considerably by Western colonialism, the current nations of the area being effectively “created” by the Western powers.  The result was a break up of political, religious, and tribal groups that created all sorts of problems.

The US took over the colonial duties of Great Britain after WWII, the emphasis being on creating “anti-Communist” political leaders (usually right-wing “strong men”) and also assuring access to the petroleum of the area, which grew in importance as the US’ own supplies started to diminish with time.  In Iran, a democratically elected government was overthrown by the CIA, so that the right-wing “shah” (king) would make Iran “safe” for Western interests.  Much the same thing was done throughout the Middle East, the US propping up right-wing dictators who it was felt would do things in the interest of the US. Naturally this state of affairs was greatly resented by the people who were ruled by these tyrants, Saddam Hussein being a good example of the breed.  However Saddam had his own ideas, one of which was seizing control of the oil supplies of Kuwait.  Which lead to “Gulf War One” and its aftermath, including the establishment of military bases in Saudi Arabia, something that was found “offensive” by many Muslims, including Osama bin Laden.  Osama bin Laden later being responsible for the events of 9-11 which resulted in the death of over 3,000 Americans.

The response of the Bush administration was to first invade Afghanistan, where it was believed that Osama bin Laden was now hiding out.  Then it was believed that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” that he might turn over to Islamic terrorists.  So the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq and depose Saddam, replacing him with someone else.  As events worked out, the final result of this has been a civil war between two sects of Muslims, one, the Sunnis supported by Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites, supported by Iran.  Also, events in Afghanistan didn’t turn out the way that the US wanted either, the consequence of all this being political destabilization of both countries along with a further loss of American lives of well over 6,000, or about twice the number that died on 9-11-2001.  The economic cost of these wars is already well over two trillion dollars, and the long-term costs will doubtlessly be around three trillion or so!  We have tens of thousands of disabled veterans from these wars, veterans who will need assistance and medical attention for the rest of their lives.  We have paid a high price in both treasure and human lives, a price that we will have to continue to pay…

Additionally, US activities in this part of the world have destabilized much of the Middle East, leading to civil conflicts and actual civil wars in several countries.  Plus a great deal of hatred directed at the United States of America.  Making a future “9-11” all too possible given the numbers who now have good reason for their hatred of our activities there…

It seems to me that had we lived according to the Libertarian principle of non-aggression that we’d be far better off today.  Military “solutions” seem to only lead to further problems down the road.   Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!


About muskegonlibertarian

77 year old retired owner of a security guard agency. Member of the Libertarian Party.
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2 Responses to Libertarianism and the concept of “National Defense”.

  1. NormD says:

    So how does a libertarian deal with the following issues:

    A nation launches a war of aggression on its neighbors and starts killing people by the millions, but it does not directly threaten us. Think Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan or Rwanda. Is the libertarian position that we should just sit back and watch? Would it be OK for a libertarian to sell Zyklon B to the Nazis, bullets to the Japanese or machetes to the Hutus?

    A nation builds a supply of nuclear weapons and gives them to people who do not like us. These people blow up a US city. Can we take preemptive action or do we need to absorb a blow before we retaliate? If we retaliate, can we attack the nation who gave the weapons to the people that used them or only against the people that used them?

    A country led by a group of people who think humanity is a plague on the world is experimenting with producing a virulent form of flu that, if released, will kill billions of people. Can we take preemptive action?

    In each case, how can we project our power (assuming you are OK with this) into the foreign country if our armed forces consist only of troops and equipment needed to defend our shores?

    The normal trite response is that “we cannot be the world’s policeman”. But what does that really mean? If not us, who? I guess a libertarian would sit by and watch when the lady next door is raped as long as the rapists do not attack the libertarian? If its OK to go to your neighbor’s aid, why not your neighboring country?

    • There is currently a vicious on going conflicts in Syria that has killed tens of thousands of people. Similar conflicts there parts of Africa, and a low grade civil war in Iraq. Mainland China has committed aggression against Tibet. The drug cartels in Mexico have killed thousands of people. Iran is working hard on developing a nuclear weapon. North Korea has exploded what it claims is a nuclear bomb. They are also working on missiles. There is religious conflict in Egypt. Which one of these do you want the USA to intervene in? Our military resources are not infinite. Any intervention means that there will be American service people wounded, killed, disabled for life. We currently lack the capacity to deal with more than a few of these at a time. And every time that we do, our people get wounded, killed, disabled for life. Are you willing to face their parents, spouses, children, and say that your child, your father died in battle so that some foreigners didn’t have to die? And what places in the world should we intervene in? We killed enough Iraqis in Iraq, most of them innocents who were unlucky enough to be in the field of fire, that the total death toll is in the six figure range. The use of depleted uranium in our shells means that we have spread low level radioactive materials wherever these shells were used. The “half life” of these materials is measured in billions of years. The actual dosage is relatively low, but exposure over a lifetime does increase one’s chances of genetic damage, cancer, and an earlier death. When we send a drone to kill a terrorist with a missile, often those who happen to be close to him are also killed or injured. Naturally this effects the opinion that the people in the country concerned have of the USA.

      As for the idea of military intervention against a supposed threat to the US, it appears that the development of nuclear weapons by countries such as Iran and North Korea is driven by the idea that building such a weapon will “deter” the US from attacking them. Japan attacked the US (Pearl Harbor) because FDR had cut off the sale of oil and other raw materials to Japan over their activities in China. There is some evidence that FDR suspected that the Japanese would react violently to this embargo and commit some action that would justify a declaration of war against Japan. Which in turn would allow a declaration of war against the rest of the AXIS (Germany, Italy, Japan). Churchill had been pressing FDR to act as Great Britain was in dire straits in the battle against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Remember World War 2 started in 1939, and this was now 1941. Germany was locked in battle with Soviet Russia at the time. We were supplying large amounts of materials to both England and the Soviet Union, some it on American ships with our own sailors. So we were already involved to a considerable degree. We had sold destroyers to the British. The British had used these to sink German submarines. We also had Americans who volunteered to serve in the British armed forces. And already Americans had died by German and Japanese arms Pearl Harbor was thus just the opening of “official” American involvement against the AXIS.

      A Libertarian America would have regular armed forces, just not to the level we have today. They would more likely be what is called “Special Forces” in the form of a “quick reaction force”. There would also be “weapons of mass destruction” held in reserve as a last resort weapon. But a Libertarian America would not be trying to “police” the entire world. It would make more sense for Libertarians to donate firearms to oppressed peoples so that they could win their own freedom. We have a lot of guns in this country. Given an oppressed person the means to defend himself makes more sense than sending soldiers. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I really think it should be the “first” because a disarmed people historically have ended up as slaves or serfs.

      Thank you for commenting on my blog. And for allowing me to have this discussion with you.


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