August 30, 2002
Edited: December 30, 2008
Iraq and Human Life: Libertarian Objections to War
President Bush is calling for “regime change” in Iraq and seems to have the intention of attacking that country in order to remove Saddam Hussein.
The Government of Canada should continue to oppose this type of action.
Such an attack is not morally justifiable, because it is unprovoked and is not an act of self-defence or just retaliation.
An attack on Iraq would likely cause the death of many innocent civilians - by both sides - as was the case with the Gulf War.(1) This pattern of large numbers of civilian deaths in 20th century wars - no matter how much we have gotten used to it - is a moral failure, and any civilian deaths should be diligently avoided.
It is a mistake to think that endless war is going to make North America more secure just like it is a mistake to think it's good strategy to crush other nations who haven't done anything to us.
An unprovoked attack (with almost zero support among allies, including Arab nations), would create more enemies, and would increase the odds of more terrorist attacks in North America. Arab countries like Iraq are filled with millions of innocent people, individuals who are not dictators and not terrorists, and they don't deserve to be treated as such.
Over recent weeks, there has been some strong opposition by Americans to White House intentions to attack Iraq. I was impressed, for example, with how the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, Dick Armey, a conservative, spoke out against Bush's plans. According to a New York Times article, he said,
I hope Stephen Harper and the Canadian Alliance follow this type of genuine American conservative thinking rather than the current mindless so-called "conservatism" that is dominating and distorting the American media right now.
I tuned out Rush Limbaugh and National Review Online - perhaps they have still have something worthwhile to say - but I don't know, because it got drowned out with all the stupid war-mongering about the Middle East. I hope Canadian conservatives are listening to the principled libertarians, conservatives and liberals in the U.S who oppose this war.
I don't think there is anything "conservative" about these attempts by some Americans to reshape the world by force, and to funnel their country's resources into an endless war with military bases on every continent. Force is for the defence of one's own country, not for interfering violently in other nations. "Conservative" should mean letting people live their lives and do their business in peace without the constant threat of being interfered with and murdered by some government.
I think Canadian political parties, including the Liberals and the Canadian Alliance, should take a balanced and fair approach towards disagreements between Israel and Arab nations.
I also think that if the Liberals won’t do it, then the Canadian Alliance or the Progressive Conservatives should pursue a policy of making Canada a more independent force in the world and less tied to interventionist allies. Canada should become a more self-reliant and stronger nation militarily.
Those who admire American ideals know what Thomas Jefferson and the others who wrote the American Declaration of Independence said:
Iraqis have the Right to Life also, but these sacred individual rights get discarded under the war machines as "collateral damage".
The Iraqi tyrant doesn't have a right to kill and terrorize his people, but neither does the U.S. or its allies. Iraqis should be left alone and encouraged by diplomacy to solve the problems of their own country.
With respect to the U.S. administration's attacks on domestic liberty in the U.S, see the same New York Times article mentioned above:
Hey, Canadian conservatives ! - and liberals too. Please stop fawning over the United States. The U.S. is further abandoning its liberties and ideals at an alarming rate, and if Canadians follow along with these mistakes, now or in the future, Canada is going to be dragged into something awful.
The Liberal government should maintain their opposition to this potential moral disaster, and I hope Parliament will debate this issue when it's time, especially if there is any question of Canada becoming involved.
I don't take it for granted that Canada is going to stay out of this or other conflicts. If you are a Canadian, why not express your views to your Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Official Opposition. (4)
1. Ayn Rand
In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Rand also says:
L. Neil Smith expresses it like this:
In another article, Smith calls the above statement the "Non-Aggression Principle". He describes it as “an ethical construction which holds that no one has a right to initiate physical force against another human being for any reason ...”
In an interview, Smith makes a distinction between the non-aggression principle, where a libertarian is willing to stop violence but not start it, and pacifism, which he calls a "self-destructive, self-sacrificial doctrine". (9)
1. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 1991, Vol. 47, No. 7 The Gulf War: Not so clean? By George Lopez
2. The New York Times, Aug 9, 2002, Iraq Is Defiant as G.O.P. Leader Opposes Attack By Eric Schmitt
3. http://coyote.csusm.edu/public/guests/history/docs/decind.html, Declaration of Independence
4. http://www.parl.gc.ca/ Canada's Parliament
6. Ch. 21, p. 224, Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. The same chapter, The Wreckage of the Consensus, forcefully attacks the Vietnam War and the draft.
8. Article “War of the Weenies”, The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 170, April 22, 2002. http://www.webleyweb.com/tle/libe170-20020422-04.html
9. L. Neil Smith http://www.zolatimes.com/V2.16/NEILSMITH.html An Interview with Science Fiction Writer L. Neil Smith by Alberto Mingardi and Matteo Incerti, The Laissez-Faire City Times