Thanks very much to John Kurtz for having me on his great radio show on this topic.
I was recently presented with the following question in regard to the mess developing between the U.S., Israeli, and Iranian governments:
Is standing by and refusing to act while harm befalls a neighbor a virtue?
Restated in the specific context with the countries’ names included and it reads something like:
Is it right for America to stand by and refuse to act while Iran attacks Israel?
I won’t elaborate too much on the facts that:
-Iran has yet to initiate any kind of aggressive act against America or Israel despite enduring provocations to do so for years.
-Iran completely lacks the means to pose any kind of real threat to any other country even if it desired to.
-Iran is outgunned by the U.S. and Israel by about a million to one and knows full well that any kind of aggressive act against the U.S. or Israel would be sure suicide.
-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is on record in the past six weeks saying Iran is not even trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
-The U.N. and its International Atomic Energy Agency “found nothing to worry about” at Iran’s uranium enrichment site.
-Iran’s borders are surrounded by forty-five U.S. military bases.
-Iran is actually the victim of aggression in this developing scenario ever since the U.S. began imposing coercive sanctions on Iran, i.e., preventing goods and services from getting to regular Iranian people – people who have far more in common with us Americans than our own government does.
- Benjamin Netanyahu gave an address to Congress last year saying Israel can defend itself and doesn’t need American military aid.
-The American State is the only government in the history of the world to use nuclear weapons against another country, instantly vaporizing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and possesses absolutely no moral authority to go around judging other governments over their weaponry.
-Ron Paul, perhaps the most anti-war presidential candidate in the entire history of America and the most outspoken opponent of war against Iran, receives more donations from active-duty soldiers than Obama, Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich combined.
No, I will judge this case assuming that every bit of the lies and war propaganda spewing from those who desire to see innocents slaughtered in another evil war is completely true and factual –because even then a war against Iran is not justified.
Let us pretend for a moment that Iran does possess a nuke. So what? Is Iran not a sovereign country? America has nukes. Israel has nukes. Why can’t Iran have nukes? Why is one country allowed to have nukes, but not another country? Why is it that the American government is the sole decider of who can and can’t have nuclear weapons?
Americans who believe it is the role of the U.S. government to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy are subscribers to an evil nationalist philosophy of American Exceptionalism, which holds that America is a superior country composed of a superior class of people and for that reason America may go around hypocritically condemning and attacking other countries for doing things the American government itself does. Americans are the best, our government is the best, and foreigners are just a subhuman, homogeneous blob that we may impose “our” political opinions on. America is allowed to boss other countries around, but not the other way around, of course, and if they resist America’s control and instead seek independence from the U.S. government’s dominion, “we” are somehow morally permitted to obliterate them.
It’s ironic that America imposes coercive sanctions on Iran when it was Britain’s interfering with the American colonies’ trading that contributed to the initiation of the Revolutionary War. Was the American founding generation wrong to throw off Britain’s control? Should they have just shut up and obeyed King George the way Iranians are supposed to obey King Bush or King Obama?
Why in the world would Iran not acquire a nuke? A quick examination of America’s foreign policy over the last half century clearly reveals that the U.S. government almost exclusively picks fights with defenseless third-world countries and leaves alone countries that actually do have nukes and can put up a fight. You only have to look one country west of Iran to see shattered, destroyed Iraq and understand that Iran acquiring a nuke is completely understandable.
Now let us ponder the scenario where Iran is on the literal verge of attacking Israel.
This brings us back to the initial question “is standing by and refusing to act while harm befalls a neighbor a virtue?”
For starters it is worth mentioning that this suggestion of Israel being an ally is contrary to the founding principles of America.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, stated in his first inaugural address that American foreign policy should consist of "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none." (Emphasis added)
George Washington warned in his farewell address against "permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”
Opponents of a non-interventionist foreign policy should be prepared to publicly denounce the advice of Washington and Jefferson as kooky and dangerous if they are going to use such labels against Ron Paul and his supporters.
Non-interventionists are not cold-hearted, apathetic people who simply wish to see other countries perish in wars. Non-interventionists oppose entangling alliances precisely because they only serve to exacerbate international conflicts, make wars more likely, and make wars larger and involving more countries. It is the non-interventionists who have performed the deep thinking on this matter, not the jingoists who hate and agitate for war against whoever their government tells them to hate and fear.
The sole purpose of the U.S. military is to defend the U.S., not defend other countries. A war is not defensive if it involves soldiers leaving the borders of their home country. A war is not defensive if the country claiming to defend launches a preemptive strike. A preemptive strike, as the warmongers prescribe “we” hit Iran with, is an act of aggression, making the government who launches the preemptive attack the actual aggressor.
Individual Americans who worry about Israel are completely free to donate their money to the country and even go and volunteer to fight, but they may not use the U.S. government to compel other Americans to pay for Israel’s defense. There is nothing honorable or courageous about forcing people to fund a cause they may not agree with or feel has nothing to do with them. In fact, it is grossly immoral.
As Murray Rothbard explains in his timeless and heroic essay War, Peace, and the State, if Jones is being aggressed against by Smith, it is perfectly legitimate for Jones to use violence to repel Smith’s aggression. It would not be legitimate for Jones, however, to compel other innocent third parties to aid him. People may voluntarily contribute resources to Jones’s effort, but Jones may not force others to contribute their labor or money to his cause.
“Is standing by and refusing to act while harm befalls a neighbor a virtue?”
Is it virtuous to use coercive taxation to make other people pay for your cause against their will? Is it virtuous to throw them in jail if they don’t pay up? Is it virtuous to kill them if they resist being jailed?