War, Terrorism, and the World State Interview with Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is an Austrian school economist and libertarian / anarcho-capitalist philosopher, a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Senior Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and the Editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies. QL’s deputy editor Marc Grunert asked his opinion on issues such as war, terrorism, the emergence of a world state, and how to promote freedom. For a review of H.-H. H.’s latest book, see le QL, no 96.

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Québécois Libre: What is your position on the "war on terror" led by the US government? Do you think an attack on Iraq is justified?

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Hans-Hermann Hoppe: For one, it is important to note that the U.S. government is not exactly innocent in all of this. Through its interventionist foreign policy, and in particular its almost blind support given to the state of Israel, the U.S. can be said to have provoked terrorist acts. If you meddle in foreign affairs, you should not be surprised if besides some friends you will also make plenty of enemies. In addition, it is the U.S. government, by having disarmed pilots and passengers, which made it first possible that people armed with box cutters could inflict the damage they did. Moreover, the non-discriminatory — affirmative action — immigration policy of the U.S. and other Western countries during the last few decades has made it possible that people alien or even hostile to Western values can easily come and infiltrate the Western world.

Iraq (and Saddam Hussein) is no worse and no greater danger than many, many other places. It has apparently committed no foreign aggression and its alleged Al Qaeda connection is mere say-so. A war against Iraq would thus be a purely preemptive strike and hence set an extremely dangerous precedent. In light of this, it is difficult to dismiss the suspicion that in both the war against the Taliban and against Saddam Hussein matters of pipeline and oil concessions (rather than humanitarian concerns) actually play(ed) a dominant role.

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Indeed, one may even ask if it is not the U.S. (and Bush) that constitutes the greatest danger to world peace. The U.S. commands more weapons of mass destruction than anyone else, they have not hesitated to gas their own population (in Waco), they engage in economic embargoes (against Cuba as well as Iraq) which harm especially the civilian population and which, because of this, have been traditionally considered particularly shameful forms of war, and spurred on by the neoconservatives and evangelic fundamentalist the U.S. is driven by an almost religious — and self-righteous — zeal to make the old Wilsonian dream come true and make the world safe for democracy.

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QL: Is there an efficient means to fight terrorism and preserve individual rights at the same time? H.-H. H.: What we see in the U.S. today is something very familiar. Governments love crises — indeed, they frequently cause or contribute to them — in order to increase their own power. Just witness the government takeover of airport security, the establishment of an office for homeland security (isn’t that the task of the Department of Defense? and if not, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call the department of defense the Department of War?), and the current plan of establishing an almost complete electronic surveillance system vis-a-vis its own citizens. In order to combat terrorism it is necessary to engage in a non-interventionist foreign policy, to have a heavily armed civilian population — more guns, less crime — and to treat terrorism for what it is: not as a conventional attack by the armed forces of another state but as essentially private conspiracies and crimes which must be combatted accordingly by police action, hired mercenaries, privateers, assassination commandoes, and headhunters. QL: French "classical liberals" oppose US libertarians and what they call their "pacifist propaganda." Do you consider yourself a "pacifist?" H.-H. H.: In general (me included), libertarians are not pacifists. Quite to the contrary, they believe in the right to self-defense. However, they are opposed to the initiation of force, i.e., aggression. There exist "just" wars such as, for instance, the U.S. war of independence and the Southern war of independence. In order to be just, however, a war must be defensive, and a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants must be made.

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