War and the Morality of Americans

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Murray Rothbard
began his book Man,
Economy, and State
with the fact that the first truth to
be discovered about human action is that it can be undertaken only
by an individual human actor. Only humans have human ends and can
act to obtain those ends. This means that "states", "collectives",
or other "groups" can do things only by the actions of
individual humans. It is using a metaphor to say that the American
military invaded Canada in 1812. There is nothing wrong with using
the metaphor as long as we understand that it was really an invasion
of many individual humans who are each responsible for their own

Lew Rockwell
once pointed
that the ancient view of the state was that there
are special laws of morality that apply to the state, and that the
state was above the sort of judgment we might render in regards
to the actions of an individual human being. This allowed the state
to kill, steal, rape, pillage, or dominate in any manner it chose
while still remaining "moral" since different rules applied
to the state. The liberal tradition abolished this notion and replaced
it with the idea that no state should act in any way that was not
in accordance to the moral standards expected of the individual

the liberal tradition gradually abolished the idea of caste and
special legal privilege. It asserted, more generally, that no
group possesses a special license to lord it over others. St.
Augustine might have been the first to observe that the moral
status of Alexander the Great’s conquests was more egregious than
the pirate’s depredations. The pirate molests the sea, but the
emperor molests the world." (Lew Rockwell)

Hayek wrote
that justice is the application of the same rules to everyone regardless
of their station in life. He saw injustice as using different sets
of rules for different classes of people. For example, the class
of Americans called military men have no more right to kill innocent
women and children than you or I do in our private lives.

LRC writer
and adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
pointed out that:

centuries, the idea that justice during war is not, in its essence,
different than justice during peace would have been held as obviously
true by most of the population of Europe. While war was seen as
sometimes an ugly necessity, just war doctrine held that the same
rules of morality applied to a king making war as to a peasant
defending his home. The State had no special moral status, and
was seen at best as a bandage, only necessary due to man’s fallen

The ideas put
forth by all these men coalesces into the notion that the American
state is bound by the same morality as we individual Americans are.
It seems fair to judge the morality of the "American People"
(at least the government supporters) as a group; and judge them
by the government that they claim to run, and that some claim is
the best in the history of mankind. Many Americans have fought the
government with all their abilities and are not part of the group
of government supporters that I am discussing.

Since the same
rules apply to the collective as they do to the individual, let
us ponder the morality of the average modern American. I posit that
we may judge the average American’s morals by examining American
foreign policy, both in times of war and in times of peace.

Murray Rothbard
his view of the theory of a just war thusly:

" …
My own view of war can be put simply: a just war exists
when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination
by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination.
A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to
impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already
existing coercive rule over them. …"

No nation should
ever enter even a just war without serious contemplation;
and to wage an unjust war is an action that is to be greatly reviled,
loathed, and shunned. To wage an unjust war is to sink below the
status of the animals.

Shortly after
the 9/11 attacks on the US, Robert Elias who is a professor of politics
at the University of San Francisco wrote a paper
outlining the terror tactics of the American government on foreign
countries. Regardless of how one feels about his point in the essay
on why the 9/11 attacks occurred, one must be horrified at the actions
of our government that he marshaled into evidence in his article.

He pointed
out that the US has used "Weapons of Mass Destruction"
around the world on innocent civilian populations. These are American
bombs, both nuclear and conventional, used indiscriminately for
no military objective. The targets are civilian centers and the
victims are simply called "collateral damage."

The list he



& China (1950–53)

(1954, 1960, 1967–69)











El Salvador















bombings of civilian population centers in so many places in such
a short period of history would be enough, in my mind, to prove
that American foreign policy is not that of a peace-loving people,
but there was even more. Also listed were numerous uses of chemical
and biological weapons on civilians in foreign countries, and
even tests using Americans citizens here at home without their
knowledge! How could this possibly be justifiable under any system
of morality?

We have overthrown
foreign governments, interfered with elections in foreign countries,
foreign lands on a regular basis, and supported all manner of dictators
around the globe. The CIA once overthrew the first democratically
elected leader of Iran and installed a brutal dictator. What other
"black opps" have our spooks been up to over the years?

We spend more
than the rest of the world combined on our war machine, and we are
also the world’s largest supplier of arms to the third world. We
intimidate or use force on any country that does not obey the orders
of the masters in Washington. We also use economic warfare against
countries that are out of favor.

tell us that the vast waste of our time, talent, and treasure on
the war machine and foreign policy has impoverished the lower class
and taken food from the mouths of the children of the poor. The
economic ramifications on the American people will reverberate down
through the corridors of time for generations to come.

There really
is no way I could call American foreign policy moral by any measure.
If one places the responsibility for our bipartisan foreign policy
squarely on the American People, then it is time to recognize that
we are not the people of that shining city on a hill lighting the
way for humanity. In fact, we need to learn, as a people, to "live
and let live" before we give advice to other nations on any

Martin Luther
King said, “America is the greatest perpetrator of violence in the
world today" and it has gotten only worse since he said that
in the 60s. Our people have allowed our foreign policy to bankrupt
our country financially and morally. What can we do? It seems only
a "Revolution in Freedom" will save us now.

1, 2008

Joseph Potter
[send him mail] lives
in Florida and teaches in a small private school.

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