Jul 232006

Just in case anyone is still wondering whether Objectivists substantially differ from libertarians on matters of policy, just consider what Dr. Tom Palmer says about Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. (Dr. Palmer is a Senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute). On his blog, he writes:

With the rest of the world I have watched in horror at what is happening in Lebanon. Hezbollah, supported by the extremists in Tehran, has goaded Israel into striking, not only at Hezbollah, but at the innocent Lebanese, as well. The Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure throughout the country and the destruction of the lives of innocents are simply unconscionable.

I pray that the Israelis rethink their approach and stop the attacks.

Now consider the remarks of Dr. Onkar Ghate, Senior Fellow at the Objectivist Ayn Rand Institute, in a recent op-ed:

To achieve peace in the Middle East, as in any region, there is a necessary principle that every party must learn: the initiation of force is evil. And the indispensable means of teaching it is to ensure that the initiating side is defeated and punished. Decisive retaliatory force must be wielded against the aggressor. So long as one side has reason to think it will benefit from initiating force against its neighbors, war must result. Yet this is precisely what America’s immoral foreign policy gives the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah reason to think.

Only when the initiators of force learn that their actions lead not to world sympathy and political power, but to their own deaths, will peace be possible in the Middle East.

Obviously, wars cannot be fought without harm to civilian populations. Governments and their militaries are do not exist in some separate dimension from civilians, such that they might be uniquely targeted by an invading force. Enemy governments are thoroughly integrated into the territory over which they rule, depending upon its wealth, hospitals, roads, factories, trains, farms, ports, industry, people, and more. That’s why quickly and decisively eliminating the threat posed by an enemy nation cannot but require the bombing of so-called “civilian” targets.

Moreover, without active support and/or tacit submission from a majority of the civilian population, no government could maintain its grip on power. That’s why the vast majority of the population of an aggressive enemy nation are not morally innocent bystanders. The sometimes-awful luck of genuine innocents in wartime, such as young children or active dissidents, is a terrible tragedy. However, the party responsible is not the nation defending itself but rather all those who made such a defense necessary, particularly the countrymen of the innocents complicit in or supportive of the aggression of their nation.

Of course, all the same considerations apply to terrorist organizations allowed to operate by a nominal government unable or unwilling to control them.

Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear, upon what theory of war does libertarian Tom Palmer base his not-so-well-concealed pacifism? None other than just war theory. In the comments, he writes:

It is hardly a modern position that in war, no civilians must be hurt. Quite the contrary. The medieval rule was that, in general, noncombatants were not the legitimate targets of violence. It is the modern position (dating from the French Revolution), not the medieval consensus, that civilians are legitimate targets, since it is “nation against nation,” rather than ruler or dynasty against ruler or dynasty. I agree that sometimes war is necessary and justified, but I do not agree that it is legitimate to seek to attack the civilian population of a foreign state.

For the proper response to that whole Christian mess, I cannot do better than to point my readers to Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein’s article “Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense — yet again.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha