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W.A.R. and Peace

By April 29, 2008No Comments
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There has been a lot of debate and misinformation spread about my supposed views on war and peace. It’s time to set the record straight. I’m no pacifist and that’s a good thing, because no pacifist has ever been, nor ever will be, elected President of these United States.

I am a strong patriot who loves his country, will defend his country with honor, and is always respectful of our troops who are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedom. But I am most definitely not “pro war.� To the contrary, I am a Libertarian who believes in dramatically altering and re-focusing our foreign policy, foreign aid decisions, war on terror, military objectives, and military/defense budget.

The Libertarian Party advocates a non-interventionist policy in the affairs of other nations. I agree 100% with this stance. It’s time to stop gallivanting across the globe to “nation buildâ€� and stuff democracy down the throats of others.

It’s time to admit that the Iraq war, as well as the supposed “post war planningâ€� was a disaster. It is time to admit that while there is a “war on terror,” the war in Iraq had (and has) little do with it. It’s time to admit the war in Iraq has distracted us from the real “war on terror” we are waging against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It’s time to admit that the war in Iraq has fostered terrorism and civil war. It’s time to admit that our troops are dying in the middle of a sectarian civil war that, to be blunt, is none of our business.

It’s time to admit that our injection into the foreign affairs of others often causes more problems than it solves. It is time to admit that our foreign policy in many cases has caused, as Ron Paul put it, “blow-back.â€� In other words, by choosing sides we create new enemies and grudges against the United States.

Worse, we often choose the wrong side. As an example, we supposedly deposed the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein to make the world a safer place for America and our allies such as Israel. Yet it is Shiite-supported Hezbollah that is now attacking Israel, as well as our forces in Iraq, NOT Sunni. It turns out that we did not make the world a safer place. Quite to the contrary, by choosing sides in a war that was none of our business, we made Iraq, and the world, a much more dangerous place. And we did no favors for our ally Israel.

It’s time to admit that our military has been stretched to the breaking point- which has endangered our security at home. It’s time to admit that this occupation of a small country in a far-away land is damaging our economy, and bankrupting our country for future generations. It’s time to admit that if we can’t afford the costs of a war in small, lightly populated countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, we should aim to avoid future wars at all costs (unless we are responding in self defense).

Most importantly, it’s time to admit that no war should be fought in a foreign land under the guise of fighting for the rights and freedom of others, while being used as an excuse here at home to expand government, violate the constitutional rights of Americans, and take away our freedoms. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”

There are a significant number of libertarians (I among them) who believe that only a direct attack or an imminent attack from a foreign enemy can justify our use of the military to defend our country. Of course, there are a few libertarians who would object to a military response even under those conditions, rationalizing that it must have been our country’s fault in the first place, or that non-violence takes precedence over self-defense.

And there are some libertarians who hold a more hawkish view on foreign policy. No less a figure than Ayn Rand wrote that America had the right to invade dictatorship nations and institute successor governments that respect the natural rights and freedoms of their citizens.

Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the nonexistent “rights” of gang rulers. It is not a free nation’s duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.

This right, however, is conditional. Just as the suppression of crimes does not give a policeman the right to engage in criminal activities, so the invasion and destruction of a dictatorship does not give the invader the right to establish another variant of a slave society in the conquered country.

A slave country has no national rights, but the individual rights of its citizens remain valid, even if unrecognized, and the conqueror has no right to violate them. Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights.

— Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness
Chapter 13 – Collectivized “Rights” (1963)

However, while Ayn Rand advocated a moral position for pre-emptive war, when one looks pragmatically at war as a policy, one cannot ignore how it has historically been both costly in terms of lives and treasure. Moreover, the government almost always uses war as an opportunity to expand its size and encroach upon our own civil liberties.

The fundamental basis of libertarianism is ownership of one’s life and honestly acquired property. Very few other actions of the government can do more to infringe upon basic libertarian values than waging a war upon others. Waging war almost always results in the expansion of government and the military-industrial complex, which in turn results in waste, corruption, debt, budget deficits and ultimately higher taxes upon the wages and property of Americans. War, while sometimes unavoidable, should be seen only as a last resort. And when war is waged, its mission should be to eliminate the threat to our country in a manner that minimizes the loss of innocent life.

One action by voters can go a long way to preventing future wars under any circumstances. Electing a Libertarian as President can certainly promote policies that will dramatically reduce, though not eliminate, our risk of being attacked by other nations. That will only happen however if a tough-talking, patriotic Libertarian like myself is the Presidential candidate. No weak-sounding pacifist Libertarian will ever break the 1% of the electorate barrier, let alone wage a credible, realistic campaign to actually win the White House.

America is a nation of parents – mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers – whose number one concern is the safety of their children. They will only choose to elect a President who talks tough to our enemies and makes it clear that America will always respond quickly to any threat to our security. That is the attitude that makes America’s parents feel that their children are safe at night. That makes it all the more necessary to nominate a Libertarian candidate with national defense views that do not appear weak – because a popular, credible LP candidate who does well at the ballot box leads to the election of LP candidates at every level of office from water commissioner and school board to mayors and state assemblyman. It also leads to ballot access in states across the country in the 2012 election.

Given that war is an act that we should aspire to avoid, here are some of the policies a Wayne Root administration would advocate to reduce the likelihood of involving America in future wars:

* We must rapidly and dramatically reduce foreign aid and U.S. military bases around the world. In particular, it is time to end our defense of wealthy countries such as Japan, South Korea and the nations of Western Europe. As a Libertarian and fiscal conservative who stands strongly against welfare and entitlement programs for able-bodied individuals here at home, I believe it’s high-time to stop supporting welfare for able-bodied nations as well.

* More specifically, we must also starve terrorism by stopping the flow of foreign aid to nations that support terrorism. Douglas Casey once defined foreign aid “as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.â€� Our government has given billions of dollars to tin-pot dictators around the world, many of whom are enemies of America and democracy, all while we are denouncing terrorism and funding wars to fight it. It’s time for this misguided and naïve charade to end. Let’s start by eliminating financial support to dictators, with the ultimate goal of cutting foreign aid to a bare minimum everywhere and only if absolutely required for national defense. Let’s bring these monies home to the American taxpayer in a time of economic uncertainty.

* We need to change our system of funding defense. The current system encourages cost overruns and time delays. Figures compiled by the Government Accountability Office showed that 95 major weapons systems exceeded their original budgets by $295 billion in the past seven years. This is a disguised corporate welfare scheme, which is bad for your pocket book and dangerous to our national security. Considering that the entire U.S. budget deficit was $160 billion last year, cutting waste in these 95 programs alone is a great way to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. We need to minimize the number of contractors that are paid based on cost plus. If you were told that you would get $2 for every $1 you spent, how much would you try to spend? Think of the waste and corruption involved in our entire military-industrial complex. Think of the billions of dollars wasted to fatten the wallets of politically connected defense contractors. It’s time to start applying the same criticism, cynicism, and fiscal discipline that we do to welfare (for individuals) to the U.S. defense budget. Waste is waste, whether it’s dressed up as “patriotismâ€� or not. Dramatically cutting waste from the defense budget will automatically dramatically cut the size and scope of government spending- which leads to dramatic reductions in the tax burden to American taxpayers.

* Remove the barriers to free trade, thereby increasing the interdependence of other countries on the success of ours. Nineteenth century French economist Frederic Bastiat once wrote: “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” Or to put it another way, greed is good. Create wealth for another nation, and that nation will rarely, if ever, risk damaging or losing that wealth by starting a war.

* Eliminate the international “war on drugs.” This policy will eradicate the huge profits that terrorist groups and terrorist nations reap from the monopolistic prices the “war” creates. The current misguided policy wastes billions of dollars and unwittingly subsidizes America’s enemies around the globe. To be blunt, what farmers in Afghanistan or Columbia grow on their properties is none of the business of the United States of America. But if we stop increasing the profits that this “warâ€� creates, it’s much more likely that they will be harvesting grains instead of poppies and coca leaves.

* Reduce our nation’s tax burden. Competition for industry will compel other nations to also lower their tax burdens, which will decrease their capacity to build weapons of war. And the wealthy society that America creates with a low tax burden will cause others to want to emulate our way of life.

* Open up the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling. This will increase the supply of oil and reduce its price, thereby squeezing the budgets of the socialist oil-rich kingdoms that fund terrorist groups. As long as we are dependent on foreign oil for our energy needs, we will be funding our enemies and thereby encouraging terrorism. America must find a way to develop energy independence so that we can starve the terrorists. Without the money that funds terrorism, terrorism will eventually end.

* The so-called “war on terrorâ€� must be aimed at our enemies, not our own American people. Warrantless wiretaps are a violation of the constitution and must be ended immediately. PERIOD. It’s quite simple: if the government has proof of a possible crime being committed then get a judge to issue a warrant. Many provisions of the Patriot Act should be repealed. The so-called “Real IDâ€� program is yet another abuse of the rights of privacy of American citizens. “Real IDâ€� will be a bureaucratic boondoggle run by the same government bureaucrats who lost one laptop and thereby exposed the private information of millions of U.S. veterans to identity thieves. Worse, “Real IDâ€� will turn America into a Big Brother-like police state. As long as the Homeland Security Administration is in place, our liberties will be in jeopardy.

* Bring private industry and American ingenuity into the “war on terror.â€� Government’s attempts to make us safer against terrorists are often irrational. Seven long years after 9/11 there are still only 50 Arabic-speaking FBI agents out of 10,000 agents in our country. Some people are only half-joking when they state that TSA means “Thousands Standing Around.â€� If we want the “war on terrorâ€� to be a success, without compromising our liberties, we need to get the government largely out of it and bring American private industry into the efforts. Make sea ports, train depots and airports responsible for their own security. I can almost guarantee you they will not be requiring that you dispose of your toothpaste and water bottles. If an airline believes that the best way to protect its passengers (and keep its insurance costs down) is to require ID, search bags and arm pilots, that’s should be up to them. If we want to apprehend Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, have Congress issue letters of marque and reprisal, as currently authorized in the Constitution, to allow American companies to earn billions of dollars for successfully capturing these thugs here and abroad. Never underestimate a motivated company’s capabilities with billions of dollars at stake to get the job done. Remember how back in 1979 Ross Perot, with the assistance of retired Green Beret Colonel Arthur “Bullâ€� Simons, rescued his employees taken hostage by the Iranian government? Now, imagine unleashing that same level of can do spirit with results-oriented American companies leading the way. That’s how you fight the “war on terror.â€� Good old American capitalism can triumph when given the opportunity.

* Lastly, if the day should come where war is necessary, it cannot be implemented in contravention with the restrictions imposed by our Constitution. We must reject the notion that the President has the power to declare war. The entire concept of an imperial presidency is anathema to our Constitution’s checks and balances. In a Root Administration, wars and offensive military actions will require Congressional authorization, as our Constitution dictates – preventing a President from ever again involving this nation in unpopular wars without the full support of the American people. And while a military response in self-defense of this nation in the hours after being attacked does not require immediate Congressional approval, the President must seek a timely ratification after the fact. This is clearly a standard that prevents future unnecessary, unpopular or controversial wars or military actions, yet allows America the leeway to defend herself without debate or delay.

Ideally, these policies of a Root Administration will decrease the risk of war and terrorism.

Of course, we cannot assume that non-interventionism will always be sufficient to avoid conflict. There are other groups, cultures, and nations that do not share even slightly the Libertarian “live and let live” sentiment, and will not necessarily act in what we consider a rational manner. Pretending otherwise may well lead to the deaths of many Americans in future terrorist attacks.

We’re already familiar with how many in this country are infected with envy. The envious people amongst us seek to punish or even destroy those who produce the most and reap the rewards of industry. And the politicians these people elect enthusiastically serve their cause, engaging in productivity sapping redistribution-of-wealth schemes in the name of “fairness.â€�

It’s naïve to believe that people in other nations do not hold similar views. They blame the West for their own failings and the United States, in particular, for representing the epitome of Western Civilization. Islamic Jihadism preaches hatred and destruction of “infidels.â€� And as long as mothers hate us more than they love their own children, some teenagers and young men (and increasingly women too) will strap explosives to their bodies and detonate them to kill the targets of their hatred – regardless of what a Libertarian administration might do.

Unfortunately, battling this Islamic extremism, hatred and violence is not new. In 1786, long before our foreign interventionist policies of today, Thomas Jefferson, then the American ambassador to France, and John Adams, then the American ambassador to Britain, met in London with Abdrahaman, the ambassador to Britain for the government of Algiers. They were attempting to negotiate peace with Muslim countries that were engaging in piracy and enslavement of Americans. In a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following of how Abdrahaman justified attacking innocent Americans:

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

— Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801-1805

The United States government for years tried appeasement, making payments in ransom and tribute amounting to 20 percent of its annual revenues to Muslim nations during the year 1800 for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. But our most Libertarian United States President Thomas Jefferson – who hated most all forms of federal power, dramatically reduced the size of the military budget, and warned of foreign entanglements – felt compelled in 1801 to send a U.S. Naval Armada to Tripoli to wage a war against “Barbary Pirates.”

We are in a contest between two civilizations: ours, which values rational thought and individual liberties; and theirs, which is based on theocracy and subservience to an all-powerful government.

During most times we are able to largely ignore our enemies because our own wealth protected us from any threat they could pose. In the long run, free countries with free economies will always outgrow socialist tyrannies.

But technology is making weapons of mass destruction both cheaper to produce and easier to transport. As this trend continues, the risk of a country – or its terrorist agents – being able to harm us will increase.

If the day should come that weapons-of-mass-destruction become affordable to tyrants, and if such tyrants think very little of giving such weapons to terrorists who share a common goal of our destruction, in spite of our libertarian non-interventionism, we may have to rethink our foreign policies and strategies. We know now that some terrorists are willing to fly a plane into a building. If it were possible, these same murderous thugs would not have hesitated to set off a nuclear device in the middle of Manhattan, Hollywood or Disneyworld.

Fortunately, I do not believe it is too late for non-interventionism and our other Libertarian, free market policies to be the solution to avoiding unnecessary war. But we must be vigilant and prepared if we are proven wrong.

In summary, a Wayne Root administration will never unilaterally engage in pre-emptive war and it will implement and champion Libertarian policies that reduce the likelihood of Congress ever having to declare war. A Root administration will stand ready to defend America should she ever be attacked, or if Congress concludes that irrefutable proof exists that our being attacked is unavoidable. And wherever possible, we will employ the superior power of the marketplace to preserve our safety.

If you believe in a future where America does not engage in nation-building, yet our nation remains vigilant and strong enough to defend ourselves from foreign attack, join the Wayne Root campaign to restore America to its constitutional tradition of limited government and non-interventionism.