by Walter Block
Recently by Walter Block: Chris Selley Is a Pussy Libertarian; I'mNot
How should the libertarian relate to the Iranian question? What is the Iranian question?
I oppose all governments since they violate the libertarian non aggression principle (NAP). But how does the Iranian government compare with other such illicit entities, when viewed through the eyeglasses of the NAP. Not too badly. No. I take that back. Pretty darned good, I should say, instead. At least in the modern era (I am no ancient historian), this country has followed a foreign policy very congruent with libertarianism. They have not been invading other nations that have not attacked them first, unlike the U.S. (The Iraq-Iran war was a defensive one of the part of the latter; the former attacked them first, and they merely fought back; rather successfully, as it happens.) Iran does not have military bases on foreign soil, again in sharp contrast to the U.S. which has some 1000 of them located in about 160 different countries. Iran has never incinerated massive numbers of civilians with atomic weaponry, as has, again, a certain country located south of Canada.
At the time of the present writing, the U.S. and numerous other gangster countries (I speak comparatively here; all governments consist of criminal gangs, but some are more, much more, egregious than others) has imposed sanctions on Iran. Evidently, these nations think that Iranian barriers to trade (tariff and quotas) are not sufficiently high. Ron Paul has quite properly called these sanctions an act of war against Iran. Can they be justified? Certainly, and even more, if Iran had attacked us first. Have they done so? Of course not. Not even the warmonger in chief of the U.S., that winner of the Nobel Peace prize of all things, makes that claim. (In the view of the imperialist western neo-conservative press, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a crazed lunatic who has made all sorts of threats in this regard, but it is my understanding that mistranslations have an explanatory role in this). Therefore these sanctions are unjustified, and should be removed forthwith.
The claim is that while Iran has not yet engaged in any foreign military adventurism, it is planning to create nuclear weaponry which would enable them to do so, and that once armed, they would indeed use these diabolical devices against innocent people. However, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a deeply religious man and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which overthrew the hated (and US imposed) Shah of Iran., is on record as opposing such bombs, on religious grounds. Further, the present Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, is of the same opinion.
But let us suppose, arguendo, that Iran does indeed develop the nuclear bomb. Is this compatible with libertarianism? Not at all. According to the view of Murray N. Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian, it is not, if only because its power cannot be confined to the guilty. However, let us now ask an entirely different question: will Iran's contrary to fact conditional attainment of this weapon save lives? This is purely an empirical question, an entirely speculative one.
At first glance, the answer is a clear No. The thought of this bomb being detonated in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, is horrific. Hundreds of thousands of people, probably millions, would perish. That is the case against this thesis that the bomb would save lives.
There is another side of the argument, however. Is North Korea safer from attack now that it has nuclear capabilities, than before? It is difficult to answer this question in the negative. Almost certainly, it is safer. But is it likely to use this weapon on South Korea, or Japan or the U.S. This is unlikely in the extreme. Its leaders full well know that were this to occur, their entire nation, including themselves and their families, would vanish in a puff of dust. Would a non-nuclear invasion of North Korea cost lives? Yes, indeed. Tens of thousands or more. So, in attaining the bomb, North Korea has likely made its own citizens safer, and those also of any invading army.
This precise analysis applies, too, to Iran. That country is far less likely to suffer the fate of Iraq having a nuclear device in its possession than without one. Its leaders know full well that were they to use such a weapon against Israel, that would spell their doom. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. fought a cold war of several decades. Not a shot was fired between them. Quite possibly, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is what saved Russian and American lives. A similar analysis applies to Iran and Israel.
But what of the argument that if Iran gets the bomb, so too, then, will others? Next might be Japan, then Egypt, then a country in South America, then one in Africa. If so many nations wield this weapon, will we not then be less safe? And, therefore, should we not move heaven and earth to ensure that this does not occur in this Persian nation?
Let us consider which nuclear nations are most likely to actually use this weapon. I base this prediction on how warlike they have been recently, in terms of foreign wars or invasions. Russia has had internal fracases (Chechnya), but has not invaded any foreign country since Afghanistan. France and England are stable countries but the latter gets bad marks for entering Afghanistan, and failing to negotiate with the Argentineans and the former for Mali and Algeria. India, Pakistan and China have all thrown bullets at each other, and the latter is now "making waves" against the Philippines, Japan and South Korea over a few rocky islands. North Korea has not invaded anyone. The least stable of all the nuclear powers, in terms of foreign aggrandizement, is surely the U.S. So if the leaders of this country are so worried about the spread of nuclear weapons, they should lead by example.
Even though the U.S. has once engaged in this barbaric practice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is still a stable country, and is unlikely to do so again (all such prognostications must necessarily be highly speculative).
The Iranians have offered, in a civilized manner, to sit down with their American enemies and discuss matters. This has not occurred. Just who is it that is the barbarian in this particular episode?
I write not only from a libertarian perspective but from a personal one, too. I am Jewish. I am a member in good standing of the group, Jews for Ron Paul. I have numerous friends and relatives who live in Israel. I am not sure of this, but it is quite possible that they will be safer, not more at risk, with a nuclear armed Iran. Unhappily, I know very few Iranians on a personal basis. But I do know one. His name is Houshang Memarzadeh. We both lived in Canada for a time. During that era, this third degree black belt in Shotokan karate was my sensei or teacher in this sport. My son Matthew and I both became brown belts under his tutelage. My Matthew, and his two sons Aptin and Omed, practiced team karate kata together; they sparred with each other. The three of them were friends. Our two families met for meals. I have rarely known a nicer or gentler man than Houshang Memarzadeh. After Canada, we went our separate ways. Me to Loyola University in New Orleans, him and his family back to Iran. The thought of him and his two sons fighting my friends and relatives in Israel fills me with dread. I am horrified and appalled at the prospect. I only wish that Ron Paul were now president of the U.S. If he were, instead of that drone throwing Nobel Peace Prize winning war-monger, we would all be much safer. A president Paul would have by now withdrawn all U.S. troops from foreign lands. There would be no stranglehold sanctions against Iranians.
The people in Europe in 1913 did not know that soon the world as they knew it would blow up in their faces. I hope and trust that we in 2013, one hundred years later, are not soon to meet the same fate.
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable, The Case for Discrimination, Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective, Building Blocks for Liberty, Differing Worldviews in Higher Education, and The Privatization of Roads and Highways. His latest book is Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty.