Time for Objectivists To Come Clean

It's time for Objectivists to come clean on the Iraq War.

I say that as a small "O" objectivist. Like so many others, I came into the Libertarian Movement largely due to the writings of Ayn Rand. There were other influences, but Rand provided such sharp insight into the immorality, psychology, and inevitable results of statism that nothing, before or since, has had so profound an impact on my thinking.

Simply put, my view of metaphysics is grounded in objective reality; my understanding of how human beings acquire knowledge of reality is through their rational faculty; ethically, I believe the only sane and healthy way to behave is via rational self-interest; and finally, I consider laissez faire capitalism and libertarianism – peaceful coexistence – as the only sane and healthy political system to live under.

I have a framed copy of the poster from Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (signed by the director, even) hanging on my wall. My 165-pound Great Dane's name is Atlas Shrugged.

Basically, I'm a small "O" objectivist because I endeavor to live my life guided by Objectivist axioms, principles and premises. But I do not accept the "official" Objectivist truth served up by the Ayn Rand Institute and The Objectivist Center and (all-too-willingly) swallowed by their rank-and-file members – especially on matters of foreign policy.

Still, through my objectivist roots and worldview I accept the Objectivist position that nations have the right, and moral responsibility, to attack, preemptively even, any other nation that poses a credible threat to the individual rights of those living under their governance. Any government that failed to protect the rights of its citizens from a foreign power would be failing to carry out its most fundamental duty.

This is why I don't hate Objectivists who supported the launch of a war against Iraq. For whatever their failings, they sincerely (I believe) feared that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an unstable dictatorship that was attempting to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction for possible use against the United States.

Though I tended then (as now) to dismiss the neo-con argument that the "smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud" as cheap war rhetoric, I understood that the principle of self-defense most assuredly supported the principle of hitting first and hitting hard. Anyone who has ever effectively dealt with a school-yard bully can understand the value in that.

So I want to emphasize that I don't hate Objectivists for backing the neo-cons in their rush to invade Iraq – I just think they, like so much of the rest of the country, were misled into believing that a threat existed and it turned out to be false; and too, that like the rest of the country, they've given up expecting such archaic niceties from our government as a constitutional declaration of war.

These failings are serious, to be sure. But they don't make the Objectivists my enemy; it just makes them wrong.

But now it's time to come clean. It's not just that no WMD were ever found; it's not just that thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have been needlessly killed; it's not just the 20,000 American casualties, including 2,500 dead, providing America with its own version of Northern Ireland; it's not just that the "mobile chemical weapons labs" were non-existent; it's not just that the attempt to acquire uranium from Nigeria never happened.

We now know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Bush Administration, and its allies in the Intelligence "community," willingly and knowingly cherry-picked the information that would make their case for war. We can speculate about their motives, but the evidence appears almost weekly on my doorstep, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Iraq never posed a threat to the United States. Maybe a case could be made that we didn't know that three years ago. No one, short of a liar or a madman, can say that is so today.

So come clean, all you war-cheerleaders at ARI and TOC. If you're dedicated to reason, rational self-interest, peaceful coexistence, and justice – as you claim – then admit you were wrong. There's nothing to fear. Though I'm an atheist, my favorite quote is biblical: Proverbs 23:23, "Buy the truth, and do not sell it." Give everything you have to the cause of reality, and then don't part with it – regardless of the price offered. By knowing and acknowledging the truth you can better prepare for the future.

And a future that is free of needless wars, over-bearing government and an irrational fear of everyone requires learning first that just because the government uses words and phrases that make you feel warm and fuzzy ("evil-doers" springs to mind) doesn't mean it can be trusted, that war is truly the health of the state (noticed government getting any smaller?), and that rationality best guarantees peace – not the whimsical, irrational thrashing about the globe that has defined American foreign policy for over a century.

My Objectivist friends, stop fighting so passionately for the great morals and values of our country under the leadership of a government that has abandoned both. Admit you were wrong, learn from the mistake, and help us steer our country back onto its once-noble and proud course in the world, one defined by "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations." Ayn Rand wrote that "justice is the act of acknowledging that which exists" – and reality has never been clearer.

June 26, 2006