L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 184, July 29, 2002
Assassination and Sabotage: Are They the Libertarian Art of War?
Exclusive to TLE
Ok, so you're against the idea of napalming villages full of women and children, but you do believe that we should defend ourselves against foreign countries who feel the need to conquer our country and enslave us, or just randomly butcher your fellow citizens to make a point. Now sure, a well regulated (i.e., well trained and equipped) militia is one of the best means of defense against an invasion we have, but, if you stand only on the defense the enemy can just keep coming at you. Vietnam and Korea are just two of the more recent examples of what happens when you refuse to take the war to the enemy. Standing purely on the defensive allows the enemy to grind away at your defenses, to rebuild and resupply his forces to continue the war. If one wishes to achieve victory, and a peace which is more than just a lull in an ongoing war, one must destroy the enemy's capacity to continue offensive operations.
How do we achieve this end, short of the conventional method of reducing the attackers country to smoldering rubble and killing innocent civilians in carload lots? Well, as Libertarians we believe in holding people responsible for their own actions, and since it is the leadership of a nation which starts wars, the obvious answer is to assassinate the leadership. If Saddam Hussein starts a war, you have him killed, along with the members of his government who support his actions. Odds are that after they bury a few dozen of their own, the remainder to the political class will get the idea.
Now many people disagree with assassination because they equate it with simple murder. However, is the man who gives orders to an army not morally responsible for the deaths and injuries caused by that army? In truth, assassination fell out of favor when Kings and politicians realized that "what goes around, comes around". Just like the mob, if you order a hit on your enemies, they just might return the favor. Political leaders don't mind sending teenagers out to kill or be killed, but they have a real problem with putting themselves on the firing line. If the leadership of a country KNEW that starting a war might just be a death sentence, they just might look for a better way of doing things. If not, then we move on to plan B, eliminating the industrial infrastructure which allows the attacker to support his military operations.
In the modern world, it is industrial capacity which is the basis of all military power. Modern weapons require a massive industrial base both to build the weapons in the first place, as well as to maintain and supply them once they are produced. If one can reduce the enemy's industrial capacity, one can eliminate the enemy's ability to sustain offensive operations. In World War II, it was the destruction of the industrial and transportation infrastructures of both Germany and Japan which allowed military operations to succeed as they did, otherwise the war would have lasted far longer than it did. If the attacker cannot produce or transport the arms and munitions necessary to sustain offensive operations, those operations cease. The problem in WWII was that the means we used to achieve this was to bomb vast areas flat, killing untold numbers of innocent people in the process.
Instead of flattening everything, what if you could send in a dozen guys, trained to infiltrate a country and destroy specific targets. They would attack, electrical power plants, electrical substations, power lines, oil refineries, POL (petroleum, oil, lubricant) storage, POL pipelines, water purification plants, water mains, rail lines, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, sewer lines, satellite up/down links, telephone lines, telephone switching stations, microwave relay towers, cell phone towers, dams, dykes, ports, industrial plants, mines, chemical plants, foundries, air control radar, etc. ad nauseam. The list of vital targets is a long one, and every one of them is not only vulnerable to attack but relatively easy to neutralize if not permanently, then for some period of time. The purpose of this kind of attack is manifold. It causes the enemy to divert his energies from the offense to defending his industrial base. It causes the diversion of the enemies resources from war production to rebuilding damaged industrial plants. It causes the civil population to cope with greater shortages, more discomfort, stricter rationing, as well as causing them to question the conduct of their leadership, after all it's hard to believe your side is winning the war when the lights keep going out and everybody keeps being sent home from work because the plants are constantly being shut down for repairs.
The psychological aspect is the most important of course. When your country is being bombed into rubble and thousands are being killed, it tends to make people mad. England, Germany, and Japan, were all subjected to strategic bombing, and each became more stubbornly determined to resist the enemy, because they believed that the enemy was intent on not simply defeating them but totally destroying them. 'Commando' attacks on specific targets, on the other hand, would cause minimal collateral damage while serving the same strategic purpose.
Would it be easy? No, most especially in closed totalitarian societies like North Korea. Would it be quick? Again, no, but neither is strategic bombing, unless you use nuclear weapons. Would it work? Yes, and it would do so while minimizing civilian casualties and decreasing the time and effort required to rebuild a productive economy. Additionally it would avoid, at least to some degree, planting the seeds of another war by targeting the minds and the means behind the war, rather than the civil population.