THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 170, April 22, 2002
REMEMBER 9/11? REMEMBER 4/19!
War Of The Weenies
by L. Neil Smith
Exclusive to TLE
With a fair degree of frequency I find myself ... now what would the appropriate participle be? Somewhere between "criticized" and "castigated", I suppose, for my insistence that there is a formal, objective definition for the word "libertarian", a definition that is rooted in -- and, in fact, consists entirely of -- the Non-Aggression Principle, an ethical construction which holds that no one has a right to initiate physical force against another human being for any reason, and that only someone who consistently manages to live within the bounds of that ethical construction is entitled to call himself a libertarian.
And nobody else is.
The Non-Aggression Principle is the immutable standard by which I have grown accustomed to judging the ethical quality of my conduct toward others for some forty years. It is also how I judge the conduct of those others toward other others (to coin a phrase) and toward me. And it is how, whenever the need arises, I judge the conduct of nations.
There is, of course, a sizable number of individuals who crave the protective coloration that calling oneself a libertarian can sometimes afford, but who also wish to reserve some right they imagine they have to initiate force -- or perhaps more accurately, have forced initiated for them -- against others should it serve their purpose. These types complain loud and long that the Non-Aggression Principle is a sort of "loyalty oath" they object to having imposed upon them. Or they mutter that it's "an undesirable litmus test", whatever that's supposed to mean.
What they're really beside themselves about, of course, is that the Non-Aggression Principle constrains them. It limits their options to those actions that are (speaking of coining phrases, how's this for one to conjure with?) ethically correct. They experience the Non-Aggression Principle as a straitjacket and -- in this sense it's a lot like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights -- it chafes them.
In time of war, for example, the more hawkish types among us would dearly love to be relieved of that burdensome moral obligation we all labor under to behave justly and decently toward other human beings. If they can only fight back against specific individuals who attacked them, they can't very well justify dropping explosives, incendiaries, microorganisms, poison chemicals, or thermonuclear bombs on entire populations -- not two percent of which, in most cases, ever raised a hand against them, bears them any ill will, or even thinks about them very much. The Non-Aggression Principle allows no room for "collateral damage".
Disagree with the above -- with any of the above -- and you're not a libertarian, nor are you an individualist. You're just another piece of collectivist trash, attempting to whitewash taking it on yourself to mete out group-punishment to folks as a whole who never did you any harm.
To me, the most astonishing and dismaying part about everything that's happened since the murderous events of September 11, 2001, is the fact that all of this seems to need explaining, all over again, to people who've been calling themselves "libertarians" for decades. It's almost as if they've been waiting all these years for some phenomenon that would allow them to tear off their principles -- like a campaign button for an unsuccessful candidate -- and at long last, join the "mainstream".
It wasn't all that long ago that I wrote an article commenting on a fact that seems to characterize the current unpleasantness. Every conservative my age who was enrolled in a seminary during the war in Vietnam, and every pencil-necked neocon who can't lift his own volume in plastic packing peanuts, is screaming for blood -- any blood -- as long as it can be connected, even falsely, with the World Trade Center hijackers. What they want is to wallow on the sofa, watching TV and stuffing Cheetos in their fat faces while young, strong, healthy men are expected to go in harm's way for them and do their dangerous dirtywork. It's what I called "the unquenchable bloodlust of the sedentary".
The glow from having written those words had scarcely faded from the phosphors of my CRT, when friends of mine drew my attention to a column written for the website of a company that sells a great many of my books. I happen to know the writer fairly well, and was unhappy to observe that (like some I've heard about recently in various crevices of the national Libertarian Party) he's contracted a bad case of war fever.
As Paul Harvey says, he would want me to mention his name.
This fellow's share of the war effort, it appears, is to attack those of us who've managed to retain a grip -- on the principles we're supposed to share and be guided by, I mean -- since September 11. The first of those is Antiwar.com, and its proprietor "Justin Raimondo's perpetual railing against America's 'amen corner' as if Israel were a greater threat to the U.S. than radical Islamic American-targeting fundamentalism."
Elsewhere, our worthy columnist goes on and on until his ears grow points like Mr. Spock's and his lips puff up like T'Pol's (a pretty sight it ain't) about the importance of logic. So let's try a little logic, and you can even draw some Venn diagrams if it makes you feel comfortable.
Be honest. Would radical Islamic American-targeting fundamentalism be targetting Americans, radically or otherwise, if the nation state of Israel -- the police state of Israel -- didn't exist? Of course it wouldn't. Then Radical Islamic American-targeting fundamentalism is basically a part of whatever threat the nation state of Israel, all by itself, can be said to represent (principally the siphoning off of billions and billions of dollars every year, taken from Americans at gunpoint by our own radical bureaucratic productive-class-targetting statists).
Our noble e-columnist goes on next to what he calls "Burton S. Blumert's assertion over at LewRockwell.com that Bill Bennett's new organization, Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, 'seeks to stamp out libertarian dissent on war, militarism, Pentagon budgets, and free speech.'" Does he offer to discredit Blumert's assertion? Does he cite one example of what he terms "web-slung fact-hashing hyperbole"? No, he pleads lack of space and, after a final cheap shot, bravely runs away.
By the way, if you entertain any doubt whatever regarding exactly who and what William Bennett is, I cordially invite you to check him out yourself on the web. He is no friend of freedom -- and never has been. I doubt that the man has said anything in public over the past ten years that Benito Mussolini himself wouldn't have approved of thoroughly.
Our keyboard warrior's final cheap shot is at me, over what he calls my "apparent accession to [Raimondo's, Blumert's, and, by implication, Rockwell's] assessment [of the War on Terrorism] over at The Libertarian Enterprise". Come now. In the first place, this guy understands me well enough to know I don't accede to anything. It's one of my most endearing qualities. I've been a big boy for a long, long time, and I've been making my own mind up for much longer than that.
I met Justin Raimondo in person a couple of times, many years ago, but never took to him, primarily because of his whole self-conscious New Left schtick. No offense, simply a matter of personal aesthetics. On the other hand, I like Antiwar.com and I'm damned glad Justin's there, if only to provide Alan Bock with a place for his most radical columns.
I don't know Burton Blumert, but I like what he does, too. I don't know Lew Rockwell nearly as well as I'd like to. I greatly admire his work, but he has plenty of strongly-held opinions I don't "accede" too -- on religion, abortion, immigration, and evolution -- which don't change my admiration for him or my estimation of the value of what he does.
Our virtual hero next tells us that to oppose his (and George Bush's) Glorious War on Terrorism an individual must be a) a left-wing pacifist or b) a right-wing anarchist. If this "logorrheic screed" of his (to employ his own marvelously appropriate term) wasn't already packed full enough of ideologically-motivated song and dance to tell me he knows perfectly well that he's full of excrement -- but doesn't want anybody else to notice it -- this alone would have been more than sufficient.
As I said, I know him -- and he knows me. He knows that I'm not a left-wing pacifist because, when he lived out here in Flyover Country, he used to make fun pretty constantly of my interest in weapons and self-defense.
He should also know (unless he's somehow avoided ever seeing "the world's smallest political quiz") that I'm not a right-wing anything -- and that one needn't be an anarchist to apply the Non-Aggression Principle properly (although it helps). I explained it with perfect clarity in The American Zone, which I don't believe he hasn't read. All of that, of course, tends to get in the way of his dismissing a thoughtful moral and political position with a couple of snappy phrases.
Maybe he just wants to beat his chest and feel manly for once in his life. Or perhaps he's just toeing a party line of his own -- the Objectivist party line -- which seems to have abandoned reason and logic for the thrill of vicarious "revenge" extracted from innocent and anonymous strangers. In either case, I have no choice but to conclude sadly that the columnist who would want me to mention his name has either forgotten what he learned when he joined the movement or he never learned it to begin with, and only pretended that he knew it.
Maybe I didn't know him as well as I thought.
NET ASSETS -- the science fiction novel by Carl Bussjaeger.
What would you do for cheap orbital access available to everyone?
"Ad astra per aspera."
Buy it online.