How I Learned To Love the Bomb

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In
the early days of my libertarian evolution, I once engaged in a
debate with a supporter of banning all private firearms. I made
the usual arguments, and he conceded the truth and logic of what
I said, but claimed that my arguments entirely missed the mark.

"That
all might be true, but the fact remains, I hate guns," was
his comment. Since he found guns distasteful, from an aesthetic
point of view, it seemed to him to follow that no one should have
guns. "I would prefer that the gun was never invented,"
was his argument.

I replied
that it might very well be true that the world would be better without
guns, but that guns, nonetheless, exist. Since they do, bad people
will use them, and so others need them for defense. Looking back
now, though, I see how foolish this reply is. The fact is, guns
are a positive good. A world without guns is a world where victory
in confrontation depends entirely on size; small victims have no
immediate recourse against larger attackers. The fact that the gun
exists means that rape victims may be able to defend themselves
against rapists. This is a good thing.

In what
follows, please don't misunderstand me. I oppose the nation-state,
and I prefer to see the nation-state ended yesterday if not sooner.
I oppose all coercion; I am a thorough-going anarchist. That said,
the worst evil committed by nation-states, and reason enough by
itself for wanted the nation-state abolished, is aggressive warfare.
Although the ultimate good is the end of the nation-state, it would
nevertheless be good to eliminate aggressive warfare, and also good
to reduce such warfare as much as possible.

It is in
this sense that the existence of nuclear weapons can be seen as
a good thing. The nuclear weapon is the ultimate answer to an attack.
One nation may be richer, stronger, and more numerous, but a poor,
defenseless, small nation can nevertheless retort "Attack us
and we will destroy your capital." The existence of such weapons
deters attack. The United States, for instance, worked hard to guarantee
that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction before attacking. Had
Hussein not been able to establish that his nation had no such weapons,
it is unlikely that the attack would have taken place.

With this
background, we can see quite readily the evil nature of the American
claim to the authority to decide who may or may not possess such
weapons. The American idea, of course, boils down to "Any nation
we may wish to bully in the future may not have these weapons."
It is not worded this way, of course. Instead, reference is made
to Iran, for instance, "holding hostage the American military,
and the entire free world." Let us examine this claim.

Returning
for a moment to the rape victim we discussed earlier, there is a
sense in which the rape victim holds potential rapists u2018hostage.'
That is, the armed rape victim prohibits would-be rapists from fulfilling
their desires. Of course, these are illegitimate desires for attack.
It is in this same sense that Iranian possession of nuclear weapons
would hold American interests hostage. The argument that, therefore,
Iran may not be allowed to possess such weapons ignores the fact
that it is good to hold potential rapists and potential attackers
hostage, in this sense. One cannot argue without contradiction that
"Freedom is good, therefore, I must have the freedom to tell
others what they may and may not do." Similarly, it is absurd
to hold that "Aggression is bad, and it is aggressive and therefore
bad to acquire the means to self-defense, because this impedes my
right to attack you." Therefore, in this limited sense, nuclear
weapons may serve a good, non-aggressive purpose.

Conclusion

One
may, and should, oppose the aggressive use of powerful weapons.
For that matter, we should oppose the aggressive use of less powerful
weapons. It does not follow, however, that it would be preferable
for such weapons never to have existed. Indeed, it is good that
weapons exist. We should not criticize Bush for attacking countries
that turned out not to have dangerous weapons — we should criticize
him for the evil, dangerous philosophy that only certain groups
may own such weapons. The path of peace is paved with fully-automatic
machine guns, cluster bombs, and atomic weapons — all reserved for
defensive use, of course. Is there a faster way to end the war on
drugs imaginable than for a drug dealer to announce that he has
planted powerful weapons in the DEA and will detonate them the next
time governmental forces attempt to arrest a peaceful businessman?

March
24, 2006

Joshua
Katz [send him mail] is
a graduate student in philosophy at Texas A&M. He has studied philosophy
of mind, logic, and epistemology of economics from an Austrian perspective.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and is presently looking
for work after the academic term. He enjoys a glass of port and
a wedge of Brie as a way to start his day.

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