L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 143, October 15, 2001
POINTS OF VIEW
Yo! Vinnie! Whadda Ya T'ink Yer Doin'???
by Daniel Weiner
Special to TLE
In the aftermath of the Sep 11th highjackings, shocked by the death and destruction, angered at how quickly the 'crats, pols, and media airheads were plotting the "compromise" of our freedom, depressed over the knowledge that our centrally planned economy may not hold up, and the prospect of an unwinnable, "infinite" war, we could all take comfort in the universal opposition to the war and to the attacks on freedom by American politicians and media by Libertarian commentators and friends. Our arguments predate Sept 11th, and we knew what to say. And we have said it well, indeed.
So imagine our surprise when our favorite journalist, Vin Suprinowicz, writes an article in this most Libertarian publication advocating a war against Afghanistan, and worse, advocating the most ghastly criminal conduct one can expect in a war zone! What in the flaming f@#%$#&g hell is going on here??? What has happened to Vin? Did he go off the deep end? Is he suddenly a republicrat? Did he buy into Cathy Young's notion that "there are no libertarians in foxholes"? Mary Lou demands he explain himself. A reader of TLE demands his head on a platter and his removal from TLE. Somebody thinks he is just being sarcastic. But nobody knows, and he isn't talking. And neither is L. Neil Smith, who one would expect to be cleaning his gun and challenging Vin to a duel. Coffee and pistols at dawn, Mr. Suprinowicz, and no more trips aboard the Osprey for you!
Well, I think I have the answer, in spite of the fact that I have never met Vin, and have exactly one communication with him, an email I sent he never answered.
He was not being sarcastic.
He probably was not actually advocating a war with Afghanistan, though I might well be wrong about this one.
But he does want to make us think. And he wants to make us take another look at what we believe in. And for whatever reason motivated him, this was the method he chose. Think of Vin Suprinowicz as a younger, real life version of old Henry Martyn, challenging us with uncomfortable ideas, making us look again at what has happened. Making us look inside ourselves…
Today, an article appeared in Sierra Times written by Vin advocating much the same thing he wrote here in TLE, which seems to mean that my guess is wrong, and that he is simply declaring himself a war advocate, and thus has fallen for the Cathy Young syndrome: "There are no libertarians in foxholes". Why someone would base his/her philosophy on life in a foxhole is beyond me: it's not like we spend much time in such environs. Still, I will keep what I wrote yesterday and continue, as I think the challenge I thought Vin had handed us is worth pursuing, even if he isn't pursuing it himself.
Is it possible that a war over the terrorist attacks is actually a good idea? Could such a war be made compatible with libertarian ideals? Or are we exclusively pacifists, only able to defend ourselves on an individual basis?
Almost all non-fictional books, articles, etc written by libertarians are strongly anti-war, but much of our fiction is not. Heinlein, for example, not only has many wars in his books, but declared in one of the books revolving around Woodrow Wilson Smith that if the government decides to go to war, that country's citizens are morally obliged to volunteer for that war, even if they don't agree with it. There are revolutions in Heinlein's books, and some sort of cross-time war as well. Of course, I do not think, as many do, that Heinlein is a libertarian; I think he is an almost libertarian. I like his books and admire Heinlein himself, but I do know he is wrong on a number of issues.
Our very own L. Neil Smith, arguably the best sci-fi writer around, has numerous wars in his books, plus revolutions as well. In the NAC, we have the Prussian War, where American (NAC) volunteers fight a European war for freedom, and the War Against the Czar, where NAC volunteers fight off attacks by Russia against Antarctican settlers. The ships of the Galactic Confederacy make war against all governments, simply because they are immoral. And let us not forget the Henry Martyn and Bretta Martyn books, where Arran fights for his "rightful inheritance", a gift to his father from the mercantilist Monoplity of Hanover, and the war against the Oplyte Slavers, an endeavor undertaken for philosophical reasons, paid for by Monopolitan taxpayers.
So war, as such, is not absolutely out of the question. The questions to be answered are why fight, who fights, and who pays. And, as always, the principle of non-aggression must be satisfied.
Indeed, one can make a very good case in favor of a war against the terrorists, if certain conditions are met.
The first condition, that it be a war against an aggressor, has been met: the terrorists attacked non-combatants. Had they only attacked government buildings and installations and people, a case could be made that they are simply defending themselves against American aggression, as Bin Laden claims he is doing. By attacking people not involved, may of whom may oppose what the US does in the Middle east, the terrorists lose that claim to righteousness.
Any freedom fighter has the right to wage a war against authoritarian government, provided that freedom for the society involved is the actual end result.
Unfortunately, the United States government does not qualify. Our very own FedGov has committed terrorist acts against the Middle East, usually for nefarious political motives. They have supported the very same people now denounced as immoral: the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and probably others. They have supported both sides of the Arab-Israeli mish-mosh. They have terrorized parts of the Balkans, countries in Africa, and the Caribbean, not to mention Latin America. And they have terrorized our own citizens, the most well known examples being Waco and Ruby Ridge.
Thus, a war between Afghanistan and the USA is a war between two terrorist groups, with the US government's claim to righteousness being, "Well, we aren't nearly as bad as they are". I am not impressed.
So, perhaps Vin is right: maybe we do need to make war against the terrorists. But lets leave the US government out of it. And lets get the government out of the Middle East.