The Moral Poverty That 'Self-Esteem' Requires War
by David J. Theroux
by David J. Theroux
31st news release from the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), the "war
on terror" is being lost because of "compromise," "appeasement,"
and a "lack of self-esteem." For these Randians, America needs to
"adopt self-interest and victory." The ARI appears to believe that
the U.S. is just not tough enough and lacks the courage to kill
and keep on killing, bomb and keep on bombing, torture and keep
on torturing, tax and keep on taxing, etc. – all in the name of
"reason" and "liberty" of course.
I have missed something here. It would appear that the supporters
of preemptive war in Iraq and elsewhere have had anything but a
"lack of self-esteem." Indeed, the very bravado and imperial adventure
of invasion and occupation would seem utterly contrary to "compromise"
and "appeasement." To make this very point, former CIA anti-terrorist
expert Michael Scheuer correctly entitled his book Imperial
Hubris, after the delusional pride and arrogance of
all tyrants and collectivists.
who exactly the ARI believes Bush is appeasing, other than interest
groups who have pushed for and are benefiting from the neo-mercantilist
spending and hegemonic bonanza of the war and the enormous explosion
of federal government power? As Robert Higgs has shown in such books
Liberty Nor Safety, Crisis
and Leviathan, and Depression,
War and Cold War, war socialism is a very profitable
racket for (and in the "self-interest" of) those business
and government interests on the take, and moreover that war "crises"
are the major engine of Leviathan statism.
"appeased" are the untold millions who have been threatened,
killed, devastated and displaced by the U.S. invasion/occupation
of Iraq and the civil war and record terrorism that has resulted.
And what is Bush compromising, other than the freedom and
security of countless millions of people who have had absolutely
nothing to do with 9/11?
for ARI, the answer is that since Bush has not yet launched
total war against Iran as ARI has repeatedly proposed (see here,
what Bush and the U.S. Leviathan allegedly need is a jolt of good-old,
John Galt-type, guilt-free, "self-esteem" so that the
U.S. will kill anyone in its way on a mass scale without
hesitation or regrets.
to ARI President Yaron Brook, and in league with the views of
the unapologetic-Trotskyist/neoconservative, war-mongering
specific military actions would have been required post-9/11 to
end state support of Islamic Totalitarianism is a question for
specialists in military strategy, but even a cursory look at history
can tell us one thing for sure: It would have required the willingness
to take devastating military action against enemy regimes – to
oust their leaders and prominent supporters, to make examples
of certain regimes or cities in order to win the surrender of
others, and to inflict suffering on complicit civilian populations
[emphasis added] who enable terrorist-supporting regimes to remain
have stated a better case for collective guilt and that "the
end justifies the means"? And true to form, Brook
is an apologist for the World War II U.S. atomic bombings of Japan
and the use now of nuclear weapons in the Mideast.
from ARI Founder, Leonard Peikoff, which appeared in a full-page
ad in the New York Times on October 2, 2001:
war in self-defense is one fought without self-crippling restrictions
placed on our commanders in the field. It must be fought with
the most effective weapons we possess (a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld
refused, correctly, to rule out nuclear weapons). And it must
be fought in a manner that secures victory as quickly as possible
and with the fewest U.S. casualties, regardless of the countless
innocents caught in the line of fire. These innocents suffer and
die because of the action of their own government in sponsoring
the initiation of force against America. Their fate, therefore,
is their government's moral responsibility. There is no way for
our bullets to be aimed only at evil men."
a defense of natural rights, such a creed implodes into a strictly
utilitarian ethics of what ARI believes will benefit them situationally
(even if they are wrong). For these Randians it would apparently
be "immoral" to not force others to fund and fight a war
for them and to push wholesale slaughter to the maximum,
so long as they are not threatened. Again for them,
"the end justifies the means."
In other words,
what ARI is saying is that their "objective" defense morality
can only be subjective self-interest enforced by the "might-makes-right"
collectivism of all-out war. Any claim to justice, the rule of law,
or the natural rights of individuals that does not conform with
ARI’s situational self-interest is "altruism," which of course
means the very liberties, security, compassion, love, justice, well-being,
humility, decency, etc., that virtually all people wish to
defend. Hence, for ARI any qualms about killing an innocent person
must be a sign of "a lack of self-esteem," "compromise," and "appeasement."
As a result and as
Brook states, ARI firmly rejects natural law, "Just War"
theories for being too lenient and "altruistic," and presumably
the same would also go for the Geneva Conventions and any
universal moral codes – after all, only utilitarian concerns are
relevant when it comes to "self-defense." Thus, the slippery
slope of power becomes an all-consuming abyss.
This is obviously
no trivial issue. In contrast, neo-Thomist, Christian, natural law
advocates have long claimed that "Objectivism" and all
other forms of "naturalist" ethics are unfounded and contradictory,
in which rights are simply subjective and situational calculations,
based at best on some form of transient reciprocity. In C.S. Lewis’s
classic book The
Abolition of Man, he shows that natural law is tautologically
true, and no situational ethics can alter this fundamental
reality without producing profound contradictions. And in his brilliant
and Proper Function, analytic philosopher and rational theist
Alvin Plantinga refutes all claims that deny the "substance
dualism" of objective moral ethics and the "properly basic
knowledge" of free will, rational inference, human consciousness,
and moral conscience. In other words, Good and Evil are not
situational, crisis or no crisis, crime or no crime, war or no war.
the inane claim of a "lack of self-esteem," I would suggest that
what is lacking here is wisdom, justice, common decency,
and moral responsibility. Those who are so morally deluded or impoverished
to dismiss universal individual rights and moral standards that
restrict political power in order to champion warfarism and the
national security state are no friends of liberty and mankind.
J. Theroux [send him mail]
is the Founder and President of The
Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., Publisher of The
Independent Review, and Founder and President of the C.S.
Lewis Society of California.
© 2007 David J. Theroux