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I have just finished reading George H. Smith's excellent critique of an article (link below) that appeared in The Objective Standard titled "Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense which was co-authored by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein. The article I am refering to is in last month's edition of Liberty magazine.

In his essay, Smith gives an overview of Brook and Epstein's essay that declares that "Just War Theory" as described by Saint Augustine and others who have written about it is rooted in altruism and should be ignored.

Brook and Epstein seem to say that the U.S. government's military response to the 09/11 attacks and incursions in the middle east since then (and possibly before) were the correct response since Islamic extremists or "radicals" are making an effort to attack the United States due to their alleged hatred of our freedoms and way of life.

As Smith points out, if she were alive, Rand might have approved of the essay, respectfully. Unfortunately, she is not so we have no way of knowing if she would have.

I have also read the article and could not disagree more with Brook and Epstein's logic as one main facet of Objectivism that doesn't seem to get taken into account in any Objectivist circles on the so-called War on Terrorism is the Non-Aggression Principle that Ayn Rand made specifically clear what it is in her writings and lectures. While not a prescription for pacificism (or anarchism for that matter), the NAP clearly points out that no one (including a country) shall committ an act of aggression against another unless they have been attacked.

My take on war is that, while at times war is necessary and an appropriate response to agression by others. However, based on the evidence I have been able to acquire about U.S. foreign policy for the past 50+ years, the U.S.'s claim to the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions is not morally, ethically or legally justifiable.

Despite my opposition to capital punishment, no love is lost on my part for Saddam Hussein (who was evil to the core) being dead. But my misgivings about the Iraq invasion was (aside from being illegal) also unjustifiable since much of the knowledge he acquired (if any) to produce WMDs was the result of the U.S. government's supplying him the know-how to do so when he went to war with Iran. As many of you know, WMDs was the primary reason for the invasion touted by Bush and the neo-conservatives.

Interestingly enough, I just finished listening to New York Times reporter James Risen's excellent book State of War on audio. In this book, Risen points out that the C.I.A. was going to try to give faulty information on making either a nuclear weapon or reactor (I do not remember which) to Iran with the help of a Russian scientist they were able to enlist in order to do it.

Risen pointed out that Russia and Iran are allies and I believe Risen said they have supplied the Iranians with military and scientific technology.

The plans the C.I.A. wanted to leak to the Iranians had flaws so obvious that, to the surprise of the C.I.A. agents who provided the plans to him, the Russian scientist pointed the plan's flaws out during his first look at them.

If the C.I.A. had been successful then it would another notch in the U.S. government's supplying knowledge to a hostile foreign power and then Bush would have had all the justification he needed to invade or attack Iran.

With the flaws the scientist saw in the blueprints, Iranian scientists would have seen them, corrected them and then Iran would quickly be part of the world's nuclear club.

Thoughts anyone?

Objective Standard article: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues...-war-theory.asp

George Smith's response: http://www.libertyunbound.com/archive/2008_05/smith-war.html

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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Just some preliminaries based on your comments, I only barely read the infamous article by Yaron (only so much Kill em All! Kill em All! Kill em All! I can handle in one sitting) and I don't have time right now to check out the critique (though being the troll I am any new antriroid LULZ will be read by yours truly within 24 hours of it being spoken of here).

Outside of the ethical issues involved in declaring war another equal (or larger) issue for me has been the facts and framing used in the Roid's framing of the war. You touched on it, lightly IMHO, in pointing out the complicity of the States (and Britain, Israel, France, Germany etc) in supplying and aiding in the creation of the "Evil Doers". To many simply by into the myth, as the Roids do, of the clean handed Americans going against some frozen abstraction of the Bad Guys when in fact the truth of our Middle East (and East Asian) adventures are about contacting one group of Evil Doers and giving them the training, guns, and even the lighting to wipe out entire civilian populations of "Baddies" (Sabra and Shatila). To ignore the history of Western colonialism, imperialism, complicity with evil dictators, is to engage in massive self deception and moral amnesia. It also tricks us into thinking we are well liked, remember Rumsfeld's infamous "They will greet us with flowers" speech when in fact most Iraqis wanted nothing to do with us.

This ties into a second point, in framing the wars only in moral terms, with economic criticism labeled as 'Marxist', we can get away with what nations always do when they go to war - steal and plunder. Only in the mind of the Roid these motivations are hidden by double think and praised as the Just actions of Galt vs Toohey in typical roidian mental gymnastics.

Just some observations.

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Yes indeed. I agree with your premise. Also, in fairness to Brook and Epstein, their justification of authoring this critique of just war theory is more geared towards a context of government protecting the rights of an individual who is forced to live under a theocracy or the totalitarianism spawned by radical Islamists who could come to or already dominate a country.

It seems to follow the logic espoused by Rand in her Playboy interview when asked about action taken against communist countries, like Cuba.

However, one thing both gents seem to over look is that in order for such actions to be justifiable, in the case of Iraq, the government who wishes to take such action should decide, do an analysis or have an analysis done to see if there will be any kind of retaliation against them (i.e. blowback) when taking action, furthermore, if action is taken, the country doing so should follow its own constitution and declare war.

The United States government had lots of knowledge via the C.I.A. about the retaliation that results for U.S. miltary of clandestine activities but obviously decided to ignore tham and did not follow the Constitution by declaring war when it took action against Iraq or even Afghanistan for that matter.

As far as my touching on the U.S. government giving knowledge or aid to hostile foreign powers, I could list all of the nonsense they have done with regards to supplying countries hostile to us (our dues paid the U.N. in which a portion of them are disbursed in the form of foreign aid come to mind) that is longer than my arm.

I am sure many on these boards maybe aware of such actions taken already.

Just some preliminaries based on your comments, I only barely read the infamous article by Yaron (only so much Kill em All! Kill em All! Kill em All! I can handle in one sitting) and I don't have time right now to check out the critique (though being the troll I am any new antriroid LULZ will be read by yours truly within 24 hours of it being spoken of here).

Outside of the ethical issues involved in declaring war another equal (or larger) issue for me has been the facts and framing used in the Roid's framing of the war. You touched on it, lightly IMHO, in pointing out the complicity of the States (and Britain, Israel, France, Germany etc) in supplying and aiding in the creation of the "Evil Doers". To many simply by into the myth, as the Roids do, of the clean handed Americans going against some frozen abstraction of the Bad Guys when in fact the truth of our Middle East (and East Asian) adventures are about contacting one group of Evil Doers and giving them the training, guns, and even the lighting to wipe out entire civilian populations of "Baddies" (Sabra and Shatila). To ignore the history of Western colonialism, imperialism, complicity with evil dictators, is to engage in massive self deception and moral amnesia. It also tricks us into thinking we are well liked, remember Rumsfeld's infamous "They will greet us with flowers" speech when in fact most Iraqis wanted nothing to do with us.

This ties into a second point, in framing the wars only in moral terms, with economic criticism labeled as 'Marxist', we can get away with what nations always do when they go to war - steal and plunder. Only in the mind of the Roid these motivations are hidden by double think and praised as the Just actions of Galt vs Toohey in typical roidian mental gymnastics.

Just some observations.

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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This is an important article. As Smith says, the moral issues in starting and fighting war are among the most difficult.

One of the things that Objectivists do is attempt to minimize the number of innocents. For example, almost everyone in the agressor country is seen as a defacto supporter of the agression (because they don't revolt).

Rothbard's theories have their problems, but at least he took seriously the question of how to apply the nonagression principle in warfare.

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A few months ago I said that the ARI is structurally and methodologically incapable of producing anything other than complete bull shit. I've wanted to make a post explaining this but haven't had the time. Fortunately this article demonstrated, at least partly, why I hold the ARI in such low esteem. Not only have the Cardinals of Roid-dom utterly missed the point of Just War Theory, they also appear to have never read a book (generally...) and see the "Altruist" behind every action. Its fiction, myth, dangerous stereotyping and its a mentality of ignorance, misrepresentation, and mythologizing that pervades every single thing they puke out.

Moving on,

n the case of Iraq, the government who wishes to take such action should decide, do an analysis or have an analysis done to see if there will be any kind of retaliation against them

Self criticism has never been a strong point of any power structure, let alone one as corrupt as Dubya's. Anyway, back about 2 years ago there was a major State Dept report on "Why 'they' h8 'us' " which looked at the Islamic world in detail and listed all its screw ups. Everyone liked it. The last report however laid most of the blame on the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. This final report was never published and I think some ADL types cried "antisemitism!!" over it. Without going into my personal beliefs about war, which are at this point pretty well Marxist, I think we can all cry "Bollocks!" on this uncritical war mongering.

As for the ethics of the war and the violation of American laws that got you people into your present state all I can say is "Well, yah. Now what are you people going to do with it? I mean /b/ delivers but this is one Hell of an order."

"Only the dead have seen an end to war" It will always be in the interests of an elite to bang the war drums. Unity, Profit, Power - What's not to love?

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The problem goes back to Rand, recall her claim that the streaker at the Academy Awards just had to be motivated by Kantian-inspired nihilism. Peikoff then gave Rand's approach a veneer of respectability by publishing The Ominous Parallels.

Official Objectivists have written some interesting things about Rand's ideas, but when they turn to other people's ideas its a total dud.

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The problem goes back to Rand, recall her claim that the streaker at the Academy Awards just had to be motivated by Kantian-inspired nihilism. Peikoff then gave Rand's approach a veneer of respectability by publishing The Ominous Parallels.

Official Objectivists have written some interesting things about Rand's ideas, but when they turn to other people's ideas its a total dud.

My understanding has this tomfoolery going back at least as far as "Philosophical Detection" in PWNI (never mind the black and white archetypes and paranoia of her novels) when she lays out how any statement can be made a philosophical straw man with no rules as to when it can not be used.

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Speaking of war and The Ominous Parallels, does anyone know if Peikoff has repudiated his opposition there to US involvement in WWI and WWII? Rand wasn't a complete isolationist, from what I can tell, but she would be turning over in her grave if she knew of the ARI's praise of Franklin Roosevelt.

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Speaking of war and The Ominous Parallels, does anyone know if Peikoff has repudiated his opposition there to US involvement in WWI and WWII? Rand wasn't a complete isolationist, from what I can tell, but she would be turning over in her grave if she knew of the ARI's praise of Franklin Roosevelt.

Not to answer your question, but I remember almost exactly 40 years ago in NYC, when he was giving his first Ominous Parallels lectures, in a Q & A I think, when he stated that the Soviets were inferior fighters to the Germans, that they merely advanced while the Germans retreated. What a howler! The Nazis gave up whole armies in the east because of Hitlerian, pig-headed stupidity. (That's like saying Lee was superior to Grant or the South to the North.) It's true the German officer corps was superior to the Soviet, but German general officers so exposed themselves on the front lines that they were all too frequently killed.

--Brant

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I agree wholeheartedly. Furthermore, I think its important to make a distinction. I am not antiwar but, rather, anti-imperialist. Like Rothbard, Rand knew the difference between imperialism and legitimate military responses to aggression (i.e. war) on the part of other countries. I am not sure if she considered the details as much as Rothbard did.

I am still not clear on (though I can understand) her logic with regards to foreign policy in the middle east.

For example, in her last interview on Donahue in 1979-80 she seemed to approve of the U.S. government taking some sort of action with regards to Iran nationalizing its oil fields saying the country violated its contract rights with the oil companies by doing so though seemed to stop short of endorsing regime change.

It would have been one thing if the U.S. military stepped in to enforce contract rights by guarding or retaking the oil fields from the Iranian government originally owned and operated by U.S. oil companies. However, unless the armed forces returned home shortly after completing their mission, even this can degenerate into full blow occupation if not invasion of a country (like Iran) over time with the people who replace the decision makes who approved of this action decide to institute a regime change since they have armed forces already present in the country.

Or a situation similar to the East Indian Trading Company or Haliburton being given exclusive contract rights by the U.S. government to rebuild Iraq (i.e. mercantilism).

This is an important article. As Smith says, the moral issues in starting and fighting war are among the most difficult.

One of the things that Objectivists do is attempt to minimize the number of innocents. For example, almost everyone in the agressor country is seen as a defacto supporter of the agression (because they don't revolt).

Rothbard's theories have their problems, but at least he took seriously the question of how to apply the nonagression principle in warfare.

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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ARI gave the nod to FDR? I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe this. Can you cite the source?

Speaking of war and The Ominous Parallels, does anyone know if Peikoff has repudiated his opposition there to US involvement in WWI and WWII? Rand wasn't a complete isolationist, from what I can tell, but she would be turning over in her grave if she knew of the ARI's praise of Franklin Roosevelt.
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It would have been one thing if the U.S. military stepped in to enforce contract rights by guarding or retaking the oil fields from the Iranian government originally owned and operated by U.S. oil companies.

It would have been something if U.S. forces would have done that. It is not the role of our military to enforce private contracts with foreign nations. Especially contracts that were made by a dictator set up by western forces. Also the companies that had their oil leases seized were not even American they were British (I believe).

--Dustan

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George Smith's article is excellent. One of his very best, IMHO, and he has always been a great writer. Unlike Brook and Epstein, he really knows something about just war theory. And his response is all the more effective for being so measured.

There was a time when he would have followed the Rothbardian line closely; this is no longer the case. Rothbardianism, interpreted with complete consistency, degenerates into pacifism because inadvertently killing one innocent person while waging war ends up on a par with murder. (Rothbard idealized guerrilla warfare, but very little real guerrilla activity would meet the requirements that he set.) Smith correctly credits with Rothbard with raising some important questions, but doesn't endorse all of his answers.

I'm going to disagree a little with Neil here:

One of the things that Objectivists do is attempt to minimize the number of innocents. For example, almost everyone in the agressor country is seen as a defacto supporter of the agression (because they don't revolt).

This is true only if Objectivists are equated with acolytes of the Leonard Peikoff Institute. Although there are a couple of Rand quotes that are currently in vogue with the ARIans, she didn't consistently treat every last person in the aggressor country as complicit in the aggression. Prior to the emergence of the present day line at the Leonard Peikoff Institute, I was not aware of any consensus among Randians on blaming the entire civilian population of, say, the Soviet Union for the actions of its rulers.

Robert Campbell

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Robert,

I should have been a little clearer. Obviously not everyone believes this (not even in ARI land I imagine) and Rand's comments on these things are mostly in Q&As from best I can tell.

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George Smith's article is excellent. One of his very best, IMHO, and he has always been a great writer. Unlike Brook and Epstein, he really knows something about just war theory. And his response is all the more effective for being so measured.

There was a time when he would have followed the Rothbardian line closely; this is no longer the case. Rothbardianism, interpreted with complete consistency, degenerates into pacifism because inadvertently killing one innocent person while waging war ends up on a par with murder. (Rothbard idealized guerrilla warfare, but very little real guerrilla activity would meet the requirements that he set.) Smith correctly credits with Rothbard with raising some important questions, but doesn't endorse all of his answers.

I'm going to disagree a little with Neil here:

One of the things that Objectivists do is attempt to minimize the number of innocents. For example, almost everyone in the agressor country is seen as a defacto supporter of the agression (because they don't revolt).

This is true only if Objectivists are equated with acolytes of the Leonard Peikoff Institute. Although there are a couple of Rand quotes that are currently in vogue with the ARIans, she didn't consistently treat every last person in the aggressor country as complicit in the aggression. Prior to the emergence of the present day line at the Leonard Peikoff Institute, I was not aware of any consensus among Randians on blaming the entire civilian population of, say, the Soviet Union for the actions of its rulers.

Robert Campbell

In a Ford Hall Forum Q & A she endorsed the idea of a "just" war against the Soviet Union--that there were very few innocent people left in the USSR in any case and that most of them were in concentration camps. Probably the most irrational, wrong-headed thing she ever said. In those days that meant general thermonuclear war.

--Brant

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Thanks, Neil. However, ARI Watch states ARI looks to FDR's Generals for inspiration on how to fight the Iraq war. I don't see in ARI W's essay that ARI has praised FDR himself.

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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Correct on the oil leases and I agree with your statement on the role of the military. I was addressing Rand's point pertaining to her views on the situation in Iran during the Donahue interview at the time.

It would have been one thing if the U.S. military stepped in to enforce contract rights by guarding or retaking the oil fields from the Iranian government originally owned and operated by U.S. oil companies.

It would have been something if U.S. forces would have done that. It is not the role of our military to enforce private contracts with foreign nations. Especially contracts that were made by a dictator set up by western forces. Also the companies that had their oil leases seized were not even American they were British (I believe).

--Dustan

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I think I read it also and what you are refering to is in the book Ayn Rand Answers. I looked the statement (s) up and while she seems to give conflicting views if taking into her statements on pages 95 & 97 of the book, but she did have this to say on page 114:

Even as a writer, I can barely project a situation in which a man must kill an innocent person to defend his own life. But suppose someone lives in a dictatorship, and needs a disguise to escape. Personally, I would say that the man is immoral if he takes an innocent life. So he must kill an innocent bystander to get a coat. But formally, as a moral philosopher, I'd say that in such emergency situations, no one could prescribe what action is appropriate. That's my answer to all lifeboat questions. Moral rules cannot be prescribed for these situations, because only life is the basis on which to eastablish a moral code. Whatever a man chooses in such cases is right - subjectively.

Taking this into account, its as if she is saying there is no right answer.

In a Ford Hall Forum Q & A she endorsed the idea of a "just" war against the Soviet Union--that there were very few innocent people left in the USSR in any case and that most of them were in concentration camps. Probably the most irrational, wrong-headed thing she ever said. In those days that meant general thermonuclear war.

--Brant

Edited by Mike Renzulli
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