lovers of peace, for I will start by defending war. Sing this psalm
with me that I have composed:
is the Lord, almighty, and righteous in all that He does.
With disdain and ease He smites the blind and insane in their conceit
Armies of darkness that break apart without feeling
Without knowing what killed them and why they die.
His name and glory be praised to high heavens.
the proud across His knee
And throws them away.
He condemns the wicked to just punishment.
He rewards the righteous with infinite generosity.
May the ungodly tremble before the power of the Lord.
Yet to those
who repent the Lord is merciful
In His loving kindness He forgives all sins
He sends the Holy Spirit into them, beautiful and precious, with
Though He may plunge the sinner into Hell
To force him to fight the demons in him or die.
is in similar vein that Brian Doherty argues that "tendencies
and beliefs" can, at times, be "bombed out of existence". That
much is true, and, indeed, even Ludwig von Mises considered it a
good argument that "[t]here is no record of a socialist nation which
defeated a capitalist nation," implying that the destructive force
that can in principle be unleashed by free societies far exceeds
that commanded by the unfree ones. Power, in other words, whether
creative or destructive, is given only to those who obey economic
laws, for obedience to the divine law entails obedience to the natural
law. Hence those nations that fail to arrange their affairs properly
at home and cannot help but project their internal disorder onto
the world by aggressing on their less rapacious neighbors can be
humbled by the application of force and shown that their behavior
will not lead to success.
Thomas denies that a war is sinful if it is conducted "by the authority
of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged"; has a
just cause, "namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked
because they deserve it on account of some fault"; and the "belligerents...
have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of
good, or the avoidance of evil".
We may at this
point stop and object to the Angelic Doctor that modern war scarcely
discriminates between the combatants and non-combatants, and, indeed,
as Richard Weaver explains,
used to be described in the language of diplomacy as the ultima
ratio, the "final resort": what a nation fell back on when all other
means of settlement had failed. It implied that you had a logical
reason on your side which in the existing situation had to be given
the support of force. Moreover, the history of civilized warfare
does in fact reflect this rationale of war. The rationale assumes
that there is an arbiter of the destiny of nations... When a nation
has done its best, when it had exerted its maximum lawful
strength, it accepted the "arbitrament of the sword," whether that
was given for or against it. If against it, the defeated party had
to admit that the other side had "the better reason" and had to
accept a settlement that accorded with that reason. That was the
only way that warfare could be assimilated into the framework of
rational thinking. So conceived, war is used as a means of reinstituting
reason or of bringing people to their senses.
But once the
"old chivalric concept of the war of limited objectives conducted
against soldiers only" has given way, especially after the American
War Between the States, to total war in which "the sole object is
to win and impose your will" by any means whatsoever, Weaver continues,
war "no longer survives as an 'institution,' which can be described
in rational terms, but becomes pure and ultimate unreason... The
advocate of total war... does not regard victory as something that
is up for decision through approved methods of arbitrament, but
is something the warring party has from the beginning, or rather
would have except for the inexcusable resistance of a totally depraved
opponent." An interesting twist in the present war on Iraq is that
that whole nation has been coalesced into "Saddam," a monstrous
bogeyman who must be dispelled by the forces of "light" before
the reign of "freedom," whatever meaning the imperial speechwriters
attach to this term, can begin. That "Saddam," being head of the
Iraqi state will likely escape while the regular citizens
are blown to bits escapes their grasp.
It is possible
to argue that the war on Iraq was not a just war as follows.
war will surely deepen the present recession. It has, as usual, encouraged
massive lying and false propaganda. It will fragment the world further
into hostile camps and plunge individual human beings into barbarism.
It will not reinstitute reason but sow political chaos. ("[M]aybe
the new government will make the U.S. safer from the threat of terroristic
Islam," Doherty writes in the same article. It seems equally possible
that as a result of a remarkable happenstance and an incredible chain
of events if the state were to drop a "smart bomb" in Times Square
tomorrow at 1:15pm, it would end up killing only those who have committed
terrorist acts; this action would not cause any diminution of affection
for the U.S. government to the point when many more people decide
to join the ranks of terrorists themselves; and everyone will agree
that bombing is an integral part of the due process of law.)
- A sovereign
can put himself outside the law in five ways. First, if he acquires
power by illegitimate means. Now the present war was never declared,
hence those who wage it have taken the power that does not belong
to them. It is futile to object that the legislature's consent
"would have been given" had the vote occurred; the point is that
the vote did not occur and the consent was not given.
Suspects are not condemned to prison if their guilt seems "obvious,"
but only after an actual trial. An appeal to an abstract hypothetical
would betray only the arguer's arrogance and contempt for the
if he fails to safeguard justice. Since whether or not this
war is just is what we are trying to establish, it is necessary
to look at the state's behavior in general. We see easily that
the government, and especially the executive branch, consistently
acts without any regard for the Constitution, its own laws,
and international conventions, and this war is but one manifestation
of the Soviet-like chaotic and brutal arbitrariness of the state.
if his actions result in social chaos rather than order. The
effect of the various types of government interventions in the
economy is well-known. Manipulation of the money supply is especially
horrific, for it attacks economic rationality itself and thus
the metaphorical Spirit of Truth within society. Insofar as
this war strengthens the hold of the state over money and impels
the Fed to inflate, it is an attack on the life of the human
society itself. And whatever the official reasons for this war,
such as the liberation of Iraqis, they will not be accomplished,
just as the official ends of other government programs are never
accomplished. It is probable, however, that the dictatorship
of the local ruler will be substituted for that of the imperial
if he misuses the money in the public treasury. Every year over
two trillion dollars worth of wealth is removed from the private
economy, and what has the state to show for it? It builds pyramids
for its pharaohs at home, and abroad all it knows is how to
destroy. In Iraq destroy it has.
if between the citizens or towards other nations he fosters
malice, which is contrary to charity. Bush's proclamation that
"those who are not with us are with the terrorists" is sufficient
to satisfy this criterion.
therefore that this war is not being conducted by a legitimate
authority but by a private band of marauders and madmen.
- The war
on Iraq is purely aggressive. No harm to any American has come
from Iraq before or since the Gulf war. Not once by his actions
or words did Hussain indicate himself to be a threat to ordinary
Americans. Let there be no dark hints from the government of their
secret knowledge of Hussain's intentions and the subtleties of
the Iraqi internal politics.
- The main
motives of those supporters of the war who can influence the state
are: to expand their empire and solidify their power. These are
hardly "rightful intentions".
- The war
is far from being a last resort even when it comes to imposing
the state's own will on Iraq. Wrong though it would still be,
other methods could have been used to depose Hussain, such as
But the American elites wanted a war.
- It is being
waged on civilians, cities, and the Iraqi economy.
It almost seems
as if the existence of other human beings presents an irresistible
allure to the state to kill them and take their goods.
Now that the
fighting seems to be coming to an end, some say that whatever casualties
Iraq has suffered were entirely its own fault. For the U.S. clearly
outguns Iraq. If only the latter had surrendered at once, the war
would have been avoided and innocents spared. This "conservative,"
to use for the sake of simplicity such crude labels, argument parallels
exactly the "liberal" exhortations that people ought to submit to
muggers and rapists without putting up a fight. Besides, why should
not the U.S. have surrendered? Surely, casualties would have
been avoided this way, as well.
At this point
it may occur to one to become alarmed. While the war is still going
on, ought not we to refrain from criticizing the "Commander in Chief,"
his viziers, and especially the state's powers as such? For indeed
if any soldier sees such criticism, it may sow doubt in his mind
as to the righteousness of the war and tempt him to desert, disobey
orders, or not to fight as ferociously as he otherwise would. Similarly,
any citizen may wonder whether the taxes he pays to the state are
being used in the way he wants them to be used. (We may disregard
for the sake of argument the obvious absurdity of this question.)
This may compromise the "effectiveness" of the military.
to that, however, is simply, "So what?" First, if the criticisms
are correct, then their consequences, up to and including a complete
withdrawal of support for the war, are at least prima facie
desirable. Second, if the war is unjust, destructive, etc., then
those who wage it, including the troops, are, too, unjust, destructive,
etc. Why must we support such people? Third, if one side in a conflict
is made worse off, the other is by that very reason made better
off, hence there is no obvious improvement. Fourth, insofar as this
war is stripped from its apocalyptic veneer as a battle of good
vs evil or any such fanciful adornments, there is no reason to believe
that a victory (i.e. more power) for the United States government
will be more desirable from the point of view of Americans, Iraqis,
and everyone else than an Iraqi victory.
It is, however,
far too early to feel pleased with "our" victory. For the government
to have crushed a sovereign country with such breezy and nonchalant
assurance, as if this were just another day at the office, implies
the complete assent of the intellect to the goodness of this action,
and no society built on such delusions can last.
Chernikov [send him
mail] lives New York City.
© 2003 LewRockwell.com