War Is The Enemy Of Liberty

Admittedly, I have very little faith in violence as a problem solving tool in general. But I am not a pacifist. I do believe there is a time to fight back. If someone shoots at you, you certainly have every right to shoot back in order to avert the attack. In that sense, I really wish at least some people in the crowd that became the target of terrorists in Paris had a gun to shoot back. Even I admit that that would probably have prevented more damage and therefore to some degree solved the problem.

But we live in a world in which individuals have given up the control over their lives to Leviathan. And in Paris we could see what happens when you trust the state with your security. This however is unfortunately not the conclusion that many people have drawn from the events. The state knows how to distract the public from its own failures. There were no questions asked whether the state is the right institution for the security job. Instead the only question that was debated was how much more power do we now have to give to the state so that it can effectively deal with the problem. Bizarrely, it is rarely noticed that giving the state more power did not solve the problem last time, in fact it made it worse. And yet, once again it is concluded that this time it will work. Einstein’s definition of stupidity, trying something again and again and expecting a different outcome.

But that is the society we live in and so once again Leviathan’s big hour has come. The government has decided to solve the problem with the absolute worst government program imaginable: War. They are planning to bomb the IS. This is indeed the worst possible ‘solution’ for a number of reasons. First of all it is a moral disaster. Bombing areas in which innocent civilians are living is never morally acceptable. I am a libertarian. I believe in the maximum possible Liberty for individual human beings. That is why I reject the idea that individuals can be forced into the service of a higher good like a society. And the worst possible sacrifice to demand from a human being for a greater good is to die for it. So if you are killing innocent people in a bombing attack, then what are you fighting for? Certainly not individual liberty. That has been killed with the innocent that died.

People who support bombing areas with civilians essentially accept the moral code of terrorists. They too believe that it is acceptable to kill innocent people if only it serves a greater good. War is the arch enemy of Liberty and the health of the state. If we ever want to live in a freer society it has to be number one priority to keep the state out of wars. This is also the tradition of classical liberalism. Many classical liberals were first and foremost anti war activists. War not only completely abolishes the Liberty of those who die in it, it also makes the state more powerful in every other aspect. War sucks a lot of resources out of the productive economy into the unproductive war economy. War can only destroy it cannot build anything. It destroys not just material things and people but also morality itself. Suddenly things that seemed morally unacceptable, like killing and torture become acceptable. War also kills the political debate. People are forced to take sides. Either you are with us or you are with them. This regularly even forces state critical voices to rally behind the flag or at the very least to shut up. In order to win the war we are told that we need to surrender a lot of our other freedoms to the state. Big surveillance institutions, high taxation, capital controls, inflation, immigration controls etc. are created in war times and then more often than not never abolished afterwards.

And these are just the obvious libertarian objections to war. It also does not work from a very statist point of view. The reason the government is now supposed to fight the IS is because the last couple of wars that were supposed to solve the security problem have backfired big time. Politicians don’t like you to know about this, but the IS is of course a product of our disastrous foreign policy in the region. And at the moment, two big supporters of the IS, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are our best allies in the region. We are essentially helping the IS to fight Assad. Officially of course we are just helping the moderate opposition to Assad. The problem is this army of moderate Assad enemies does not exist. It is pure propaganda. The people that fight Assad are the IS and Al Nursra, the being essentially Al Qaida. So 14 years after the war on Terror started, we are now allies of Al Qaida against secular forces.

One could be surprised by this, if only one were to ignore what states do in general. They more often than not end up creating the opposite results of their intentions. The war on drugs has created more problems with drugs, the war on poverty more poverty. Of course the war on terror was always doomed to create more terror. And now we have a war on the IS. The IS is probably popping some champagne bottles (or whatever muslims do in this situation). Unlike western politicians, I am sure they can figure out what is coming: more IS.

It is impossible to win a war against a guerrilla army by bombing them. If you want to finish off the IS you will need to go in with lots of ground troops. But if the government did that, we would see a lot of dead western soldiers. That is because if you are fighting in the streets of a city, all your military superiority does not matter that much anymore. In that case people would see a bit more clearly what kind of nasty business war really is. And I bet, once that becomes clear, people will not support it anymore.

I am not a pacifist, but I am against state militarism. I do believe that if you want to fight for something, you have to do it yourself. If you believe that the IS is a threat to you, then fine, go ahead, take a gun and fight them. But don’t do it in my name and with my money. That is not to say that I like the IS. I think the portrayal of them as crazy savages is probably quite accurate. However, where I am, I do not feel particularly threatened by the IS. I do however feel threatened by the UK government. So I will not give the latter any more power in order to make me safe. I would be a lot more safe if the government would not try to keep me safe. And of course if you believe that that is the honest intention of the these people anyway, I have a bridge to sell you.


  1. I agree that war, by its nature, involves higher government spending (which itself reduces liberty) and the likely death of human beings – such as members of the British armed forces.

    It is certainly true that “war for trade” (and so on) is evil and should be opposed – Edmund Burke was quite correct to oppose Pitt the Elder (the classic war-for-trading-advantages man) on this matter.

    Also war to spread a political system is clearly wrong – a “war to spread democracy” (whether by Woodrow Wilson of George Walker Bush) should be opposed.

    However, when one faces an “armed doctrine” (as Edmund Burke put it) that seeks to impose itself (by violence) upon the world – then there is no real alternative to war, other than enslavement.

    The Nazis were not interested in just controlling Germany, and the Marxists were not interested in just controlling Russia – both wanted the world. Those who say that the West should not, for example, have to come to the aid of the Republic of Korea when it was attacked by the Marxists are (at best) deeply misguided. It takes one (NOT two) to make a dispute – and allowing the world to fall into the hands of one’s enemies does not mean that one will be left alone, quite the contrary.

    Is Islamism an “armed doctrine” and does that justify war?

    After all Edmund Burke was himself AGAINST war with Morocco and so on. Yes they were an “armed doctrine” that wished to impose their faith on the world by force – but they were “weak and far away” so could be ignore.. Unlike the French Revolutionaries – who were very powerful and controlled a nation only a few miles away. Since the time of the first Elizabeth no government in London had been content to see the entire coast facing this island in the hands of a hostile power (for fear of invasion of this island). Hence the opposition to the military expansion of Philip II of Spain and Louis XIV of France – as well as the French Revolutionaries and the military operations of the Germans (to dominate Europe as a springboard for wider conquest) in the 20th century.

    If Islam (or “Islamism”) is “weak and far away” surely it can be ignored – as Burke himself held?

    Perhaps for Britain in the 1700s – but not now.

    Islam (or “Islamism”) is no longer weak and far away – it is strong, and the world has shrunk in the sense that they can hit us anywhere (although there were still Islamist raids and attacks on Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries).

    Does this mean that air attacks on ISIS in Syria are the correct response?

    I do not know – perhaps they are, perhaps they are not.

    But an article that does not even mention the threat that expansionist Islam (or “Islamism”) poses to the West, is disturbing.

    Libertarians need to be able to deal with the world – not just with abstractions.

    Perhaps large scale “Protection Companies” could hunt down and kill the “Islamists” who seek to impose the teachings of Mohammed by armed violence – I do not know, the case has not been made (either way).

    But as so many libertarians seem unwilling to even NAME the enemy (or to accept that the enemy exists) I am left depressed.

    Not that Mr David Cameron’s speech did not also depress me – and for similar reasons.

    There are serious matters to be considered here. For example the principle of Islamic law that no one be allowed to mock Mohammed – a doctrine that is clearly not compatible with Freedom of Speech.

    Endlessly chanting this-conflict-is-nothing-to-do-with-Islam or even we-are-fighting-FOR-real-Islam (as Mr Cameron does) rather misses the point.

    To give an historical example…..

    It is quite true that personally Fichte, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Alfred Rosenberg never killed anyone.

    But that does not mean that the National Socialists who did kill people were not “real” National Socialists – or that they “misinterpreted” these thinkers.

    And NO (in case my words are twisted against me) I am NOT saying that someone should be hanged for their beliefs.

    Only attack (violation), or a real plan to attack, justifies the use of force in reply.

    The idea that (say) the intervention to defend Korea, or President Jefferson’s action against the Barbary pirates “violates the nonaggression principle” is absurd – it was the enemy who had violated the nonaggression principle.



  2. I name the enemy, and it is Totalitarianism. That covers ISIS, various ideologies, religions and regimes.

    It could also refer so some forms of response to same.

    That Assad does not support the bombing speaks volumes. It means he feels it is a violation of sovereignty, and that it may be used against him. This does not bode well.

    To me, disruption of the ISIS funding apparatus would seem a more effective route. I suspect it would result in far less collateral damage. Following the oil and money would reveal who is truly involved.

    That might be too uncomfortable for some.



  3. Assad is against the bombing – surely that is a point in its favour? A point that he fears that (unlike the Russian bombing) the Western bombing will indeed be directed against ISIS, the people with whom Mr Assad’s regime has been making oil deals with for years.

    As for calling Islam “totalitarianism” – well as long as Mohammed is described as a “totalitarian” I suppose that is O.K.

    But I still smell a dodge here – a sort of Cameron or Obama line that “the enemy is not Islam – it is something else”.

    “Totalitarianism” is a term that, I believe, Mussolini came up with in the 1920s.

    The people who attacked Europe for more than a thousand years, and are still attacking the West today, were and are not followers of Mussolini.



    1. This is not my using another term, it is defining who are the enemies and why. Totalitarian responses to a totalitarian threat are also a threat imho.

      Using the term focuses on what the danger really is, clarifies why and under what circumstances.

      The term enables opposition without the disingenuous use of phobia to silence.

      PS : Hitler liked Mercedes-Benz, but that does not invalidate their use or value.



    1. Surely Mr Assad is not going to say ‘Welcome RAF, please do bomb my country.’ is he? He has to maintain face and the pretence that he is in control of Syria. It would be a bit like Stalin inviting in the RAF to attack the Germans from Soviet territory in early July 1941, which was long before the Allied aid started flowing to the USSR and things could be controlled, it would undermine confidence in the regime. Mr Assad wants to be helped on his terms by his friends. I suspect that he is concerned that non-Russian bombing with these new-fangled non-barrel bombs might complicate his plans for dividing his foes, and as a good Ba’athist, he hates the West.

      Whilst Assad may have some oil deals with IS, that is probably in the main Iraqi oil as Syria’s oil is not as significant, so if IS are doing deals with him, it probably suits them both for now to carry on as they are, with Assad hoping that IS will make him look like the Devil you know, and the opposition in the middle being caught between hammer and anvil.

      One should remember the nature of the Ba’athist regime, and its long, long support for terrorism under Assad Senior, such as Nezar Hindawi’s plot against an El Al airliner at Heathrow, using his pregnant Irish girlfriend as a mule to carry Semtex. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindawi_affair



  4. I agree with you 100% on “I am a libertarian. I believe in the maximum possible Liberty for individual human beings.” (I would add ‘every’ human being). You’ve explained very well why war is wrong.

    I’ve been doing some soul searching and feel something very tangible and true at my fingertips. I’m a Libertarian, a Christian, and take lessons from the enlightened people of many religions and traditions (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc)

    What it boils down to, is that we are all free individuals, absolutely free. The big mistake is thinking that your freedom depends on taking away someone elses’ freedom. Here’s a man Bentinho Massaro, whose teachings I like.

    (Freedom doesn’t come from this human world. Freedom is our very nature, it comes from God)

    Interestingly, one of Bentinho’s teachings / theory about the Seven Densities of Evolution proved to me that Jesus is real. (He doesn’t talk about Jesus, I just put two and two together). No kidding, nothing fluffy here, it’s absolutely real. I’ll take time to explain it someday. And Libertarian philosophy is bang on.



  5. Those who oppose fighting wars are not offering peace as an alternative (although they think they are).

    The real alternative to fighting is defeat – and being destroyed.

    “But it takes two to make a conflict”.

    No it really does not.



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