Skip to comments.Defense of Liberty: Just Intervention
Posted on 10/20/2001 7:27:01 AM PDT by annalex
March 2000 resolution: The intervention of one nation in the domestic affairs of another nation is morally justified
The March/April resolution is true. Provided that the government of a free nation does so for the purpose of protecting the security of its citizens, foreign military intervention is a necessary and proper policy.
II. Key Concepts
A. Foreign Intervention
Oxford English Dictionary defines intervention as [t]he action of intervening, stepping in, or interfering in any affair, so as to affect its course or issue. Now freq[uently] applied to the interference of a state or government in the domestic affairs or foreign relations of another country. Although this definition is not particularly helpful, it does highlight the meaning of intervention in the geopolitical context suggested by the resolution.
Foreign intervention is a type of governmental action. A government, in Ayn Rands definition, is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area (The Nature of Government, The Virtue of Selfishness, 125). Because a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of force in a delimited geographical area, the attempt to enforce rules of conduct outside of that area, in an area subject to the jurisdiction of another government, is the essential trait of foreign intervention. The only way to accomplish such enforcement on territory under the jurisdiction of another government is to use military force; hence foreign intervention is an essentially military endeavor.
Because foreign intervention is a state-supported military action, it must be distinguished from the involvement of private individuals of one nation in the affairs of another. When a businessman, a teacher, or a religious missionary from one nation deals with citizens in another country, he does so by their consent, using only his power of persuasion to influence their conduct. He is not attempting to enforce any particular mode of conduct, and he is not, therefore, interfering in the authority of their government to do it. As discussed earlier, foreign intervention is an essentially military endeavor, and is fundamentally different from any non-coercive mode of interaction.
There are different ways in which one government can abridge a foreign governments monopoly on the use of force. A government may, for example, send troops into the territory of another government without its consent in order to suppress conflicts (e.g., the dispatch of an expeditionary force against the Boxers in China in 1901, or against Poncho Villa in Mexico in 1916). Another possibility is a case in which a government militarily supports rebels, in order to overthrow a foreign government (e.g., U.S. naval support for Panamanian rebels against their Columbian rulers in 1903).
A limiting case of intervention is intervention on behalf of a foreign government, against an insurgency (e.g., U.S. support of South Vietnam against the Viet Cong). While such intervention is at the request of the foreign government, it is nonetheless a limitation on that governments monopoly on force: the intervening troops still take their orders from the intervening government. (If troops take their orders from the host government, they are not intervening troops, but mercenaries.) Another limiting case is intervention in a foreign conflict in which many factions are vying for power: no actual monopoly on force exists, but each faction is trying to establish one (e.g., U.S. intervention in Somalia).
Foreign intervention is a particular kind of military action on foreign soil. It is not foreign intervention, for example, for one government to occupy a previously unoccupied territory (e.g., a potential U.S. occupation of Antarctica). Furthermore, outright invasion with the sole purpose of conquest cannot be classified as intervention, because the invading nation seeks not merely to interfere with or aid a foreign government, but to conquer it (e.g., German invasion of France). (Invasion and intervention are overlapping concepts: Some invasions do not seek outright conquest, but simply the replacement of a government and may, therefore, count as forms of intervention, as well [e.g., the U.S. invasion of Grenada or Panama].)
It must also be remembered that foreign intervention is, fundamentally, a type of governmental action with respect to other nations. Obviously intervention is not, therefore, a type of inaction towards other countries, as when a government has never involved itself militarily in the affairs of another. Nor, of course, is it a type of cessation of action towards other nations, as when a government withdraws troops from the soil of another. Since intervention is fundamentally governmental action towards another nation, even those governmental measures that affect a foreign nation, but require only action at home for their implementation (such as the imposition of economic sanctions) do not count as intervention, since they do not involve governmental action on foreign soil.
Intervention, then, is fundamentally a type of military action undertaken by a government, on foreign soil (i.e. under the jurisdiction of another government), that involves the limitation of the foreign governments monopoly on the use of force.
B. Domestic Affairs
In discussing foreign intervention, we have already been assuming a definition of domestic affairs, implicitly: foreign intervention is interference in the domestic affairs of another nation.
In this context, domestic merely means falling within the jurisdiction of the government of a particular territory. Foreign merely means falling outside this jurisdiction.
A domestic affair, then, is a matter subject to enforcement within a governments jurisdiction. A government charged with protecting the individual rights of its citizens will, for example, consider it a matter of domestic affairs to prevent burglaries, uphold contracts, pursue criminals, undertake judicial procedings, etc. Each of these examples relates to affairs conducted within the geographical boundaries of a governments jurisdiction.
A foreign affair, by contrast, is a matter related to a conflict between a home government and foreign government. If a foreign nation declares war on the United States, for example, this is obviously a matter of foreign affairs. So, by extension, is an alliance forged with friendly foreign governments to combat the enemy nation.
Matters of domestic affairs can become matters of foreign affairs. What begins as a simple murder, normally the domestic concern of the police, becomes reason for war if the victim is the president and the murderer is an agent of a foreign government. What begins as the attempt to protect the free speech of a particular author, like Salman Rushdie, quickly becomes a matter of foreign affairs if a foreign nation like Iran puts a price on his head.
What makes a merely domestic affair a matter of foreign affairs is one governments use of force or threat of the use of force against another. Nations do not deal with one another except in terms of their governments, and when they do so, they do so in terms of force. (Peace treaties and trade agreements are matters of foreign affairs insofar as these represent the cessation of force between nations, either by ending a war, or by ending trade sanctions.) One consequence of this view is that not every domestic affair that has some effect on another nation is to be classified as a matter of foreign affairs. If, for example, the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates, affecting the economies of other countries, this does not become a matter of foreign affairs unless another country makes it a matter of foreign affairs, by threatening the U.S. with force if it does not set the rates at a more satisfactory level. A foreign governments mere discontent with the Feds policy does not suffice to raise the issue to the status of a matter of foreign affairs. Even diplomatic communiques are not real matters of foreign affairs unless their messages are backed up by force or the threat of force.
Whether or not a particular domestic affair should become a matter of foreign affairs is a question to be addressed in due time.
III. The Moral Justification of Foreign Intervention
A. Foreign policy implications of the function of government
A nations foreign policy is an integrated set of principles employed by a government for the purpose of guiding its dealings with foreign nations. The purpose a government adopts for its foreign policy will, however, be determined by a nations views on the function of government as such. More fundamentally, however, a nations predominant political philosophy is determined by its guiding ethical philosophy. Hence a view of foreign policy presupposes a view on ethics.
A government founded on an ethics of rational egoism will concern itself only with the protection of the individual rights of its own citizens, adopting a foreign policy that protects them, by identifying enemy nations and working to oppose them. It will resort to foreign intervention only when a particular foreign situation poses an objectively demonstrable national security threat. On an ethics of rational egoism, U.S. intervention in Nicaragua might have been justified on the grounds that a communist regime so close to American borders would serve as a base for Soviet missiles to be aimed at the U.S. and for spreading further communist insurgency throughout Central America.
A government subscribing to the moral code of altruism, by contrast, will seek to shoulder the economic or military burdens of other nations whether through foreign aid programs for poor nations or through foreign intervention to stop ethnic wars in distant lands, irrelevant to its citizens interests and thereby regard the security of its own citizens as of secondary importance at best.
B. A proper foreign policy
Of the two views of government and foreign policy presented, only the first is morally justifiable. According to Objectivism, each individual possesses the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. (See Mans Rights and The Nature of Government in The Virtue of Selfishness.) One derivative of the right to life is the right to self-defense, the right to use retaliatory force against those who initiate force. Citizens delegate this right to the government, which therefore holds a monopoly on its use, placed under objective control, to protect individual rights. This monopoly is justifiably invoked in the use of the police and the courts to protect citizens from criminals at home, and in the use of a military to protect citizens from criminal nations abroad.
It is with this last form of protection protecting citizens from foreign aggression that a proper foreign policy concerns itself. A proper foreign policy identifies a nations crucial interests and security concerns, as a means of objectively coordinating its diplomatic and military policy to protect the individual rights of its citizens.
Note that building a Fortress America is not enough to defend the rights of American citizens; a nations security concerns do not stop at its borders. Particularly in a world increasingly integrated along economic and technological lines, a world in which weapons of mass destruction can rain terror across continents, a free state must acquire global military readiness. If China, for example, points its nuclear missiles at American shores, it has announced itself as an enemy of the U.S., and deserves to be opposed actively. Any nation that threatens domestic security, regardless of its distance from the homeland, must be identified by a proper foreign policy in order that it might be defended against and actively opposed. Both the threat and the initiation of force are logically and morally inseparable: each must be defended against, even if the latter warrants a proportionally greater response than the former. A mugger who threatens murder, but doesnt commit it, is still a criminal and should be punished for the threat.
C. The proper use of foreign intervention
The proper use of foreign intervention follows from a proper view of government and from a proper view of foreign policy: from the idea that government exists to protect the rights of its citizens, and from the corollary need to combat objective foreign threats to a free nations citizens, threats to their life and rights. A proper government is justified not only in opposing foreign governments which pose such a threat, but also in opposing any foreign situation that poses such a threat. Supporting insurgents against threatening governments can work to advance the first goal, for example; supporting besieged governments against rebels who would erect a threatening government is an example of attempting to accomplish the second.
A foreign government may be ideologically opposed to a country like the United States, and may also possess the military means to back up that opposition with force. Such a government poses an objective threat to the security of the U.S., and to the extent that ideologically more innocuous rebel groups exist in such a country, supporting them materially or tactically is necessary and proper. On this view, one might have justified U.S. support for the contra rebels against the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
A band of communist rebels, however, has announced its intention to violate the rights of its fellow citizens, and by extension its willingness to violate those of foreign citizens. Because it adheres to a collectivist ideology destructive of individual rights, and because it has used force to implement that ideology, it poses a threat to free nations abroad. One might argue that U.S. intervention against communist rebels in El Salvador was justifiable in this respect.
Although the examples of foreign intervention listed so far are the ones most likely to be justifiable, the list is not exhaustive. One can also imagine justifiable cases of intervention in which no government-rebel conflict is present, because no single party can be accurately described as government or insurgent and even if neither party is demonstrably more of a threat to the intervening government than the other. The very conflict may be a threat. Were Canada to descend into anarchic struggle between French and English speakers, for example, the very presence of this conflict so close to American borders might easily threaten Americans near the border, and be detrimental to U.S. economic interests. In such a case, U.S. intervention to establish a stable and friendly government would be eminently justifiable.
A. National sovereignty
The leading critics of foreign military intervention argue that no nation is justified in meddling in the domestic affairs of another, for whatever reason. This is true, they argue, because each nation has a right to self-determination or sovereignty which ought not to be infringed even if the nation in question is a brutal dictatorship.
What such critics have never provided is an explanation for the source of this right. In fact, there is none. Nations as such like any other collectives have no rights. In her essay Collectivized Rights, Ayn Rand notes:In a free society, the rights of any group are derived from the rights of its members through their voluntary, individual choice and contractual agreement, and are merely the application of these individual rights in a specific undertaking. Every legitimate group undertaking is based on the participants right of free association and free trade. (By legitimate, I mean: noncriminal and freely formed, that is, a group which no one was forced to join) (The Virtue of Selfishness, pg. 119).Applying this view in the context of nations, Miss Rand observes:A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense) (pg. 120).But this right, she maintains,. . . cannot be claimed by dictatorships, by savage tribes or by any form of absolutist tyranny. A nation that violates the rights of its own citizens cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The right of the self-determination of nations applies only to free societies or to societies seeking to establish freedom; it does not apply to dictatorships. Just as an individuals right of free action does not include the right to commit crimes, so the right of a nation to determine its own form of government does not include the right to establish a slave society. There is no such thing as the right to enslave (pg. 121)Ayn Rand goes on to identify the implications of this view for the rights of free nations to deal with dictatorships:Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba, or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the nonexistent rights of gang rulers. It is not a free nations duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses (pg. 122).Ayn Rands answer to this objection is clear, and needs no further elaboration, except to say that the same principle that justifies invading another nation similarly justifies intervening in it, if limited intervention is all that a free nations security requires. If it is acceptable to invade a statist nation like Iraq (as the U.S. did during the Persian Gulf War), then it would certainly be justifiable to intervene in on a limited scale (as Israel did in the early 80s when it bombed Iraqi nuclear facilities).
B. Sanctioning foreign dictators
One objection to intervention on behalf of foreign governments against insurgents is particular popular. This is the idea that in doing so, the U.S. props up dictators who are responsible for serious violations of individual rights. This, critics say, stains American hands with foreign blood. Though it may threaten American security to do so, the U.S. must refrain from such alliances of convenience to keep itself morally innocent.
As Peter Schwartz observes in his essay Foreign Policy and the Morality of Self-Interest, (The Intellectual Activist, 1986; available from Second Renaissance Books) the underlying premise behind this argument is a faulty view in morality:[T]his accusation against self-interest as the standard for foreign policy is simply a restatement of one of the false premises underlying the doctrine of altruism. It is altruism which holds that mens interests are inherently in conflict and that the individuals only choice, therefore, is to be moral by sacrificing himself for the sake of others, or to be practical by sacrificing others to himself. In foreign policy, the altruist believes that the alternative America faces is either to pursue its interests by quashing others freedom or to give up some of its security in order to help advance liberty elsewhere (19).But this is a false set of alternatives.
It is wrong to assume, to begin with, that foreign autocracies are more conducive than free nations to the security of a free nation like America. Free nations pose no threat to other free nations, as they do not loot the resources of their own citizens, and turn on their neighbors when those resources are gone (See The Roots of War, Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal). Free nations also make better allies. As Schwartz points out, free nations are not only more trustworthy as allies, but also more capable of mustering a more productive defense. Notice, for example, that Britain was a much safer ally in World War II than was the U.S.S.R.: Britain did not claim half of Europe as her own when the war was over. It is, therefore, unmistakably in American interests to spread freedom around the globe. A proper American foreign policy would morally condemn any and every statist foreign regime.
The issue of supporting foreign autocracies arises, however, in a world where many foreign nations are statist but some are more statist than others are. The worst are those driven by totalitarian ideologies, like communism, Nazism, or Islamic Fundamentalism, which are by their nature bent on world domination, and the destruction of freedom. Others, however, are petty dictatorships, whose leaders have no ideology, and are content merely to loot their own people to a limited extent. Many such petty autocrats pose little or no direct threat to American security, but may be in a position to aid in the defense against totalitarians. Petty dictators like Pinochet or Duarte were of little significance when compared to the opposition they faced: ideologically-driven communists who were bent on joining forces with a global network of Soviet pawns. When the ideologists were allowed to topple their autocratic opponents, the results were invariably worse: the Ayatollahs were much worse then the Shah; Mao was much worse than Chiang Kai-Shek. In such cases, it may be necessary and proper to make temporary alliances with these regimes, provided that it is done so with the proper qualifications. (It is, incidentally, precisely because ideologically-driven dictatorships are the most dangerous that an alliance with one is to be ruled out, even if it is an alliance against another [e.g., the U.S. alliance with the Soviets against the Nazis].)
Here are the qualifications: A proper policy of intervention would assist a foreign dictator to the extent, and only to the extent that is necessary and sufficient to repel or suppress the dangerous, common threat. It would, at the same time, include an open declaration of the moral inferiority of the dictatorial regime. A proper policy of foreign intervention would even offer support to those citizens who would overthrow the dictatorial regime, and replace it with one devoted to protecting individual rights. Such a regime would, after all, provide a better buffer to whichever ideological insurgency made intervention necessary to begin with.
It is worth noting, in addition, that joining with these dictators does not thereby violate the rights of their subjects. On the contrary, foreign intervention against ideologically dangerous insurgents protects those citizens against the crimes of the insurgents. U.S. intervention in El Salvador, for example, effectively forestalled the greater crimes a communist regime would have perpetrated. Supporting a dictator to defeat a greater threat is analogous to the police tactic of paying criminal informants for information that leads to the arrest of more dangerous criminals which is fully justifiable. (In the end, of course, police would prefer there to be no criminals, just as a proper foreign policy would prefer there to be no dictators.)
The moral and the practical are one. As Schwartz summarizes:What Americas military structure is designed to secure, after all, is the right of its citizens to be free. And there is no conflict between the rights of Americans and of other nationals, any more than there is a conflict among the rights of people in the same country. One mans liberty cannot be attained at the cost of anothers subjugation, and the same is true for the liberty of entire nations (19).C. Unjustified foreign intervention
The final objection is likely to be particularly relevant in a debate context. There may be cases of moral foreign intervention the negatives may point out but what about the numerous ways in which intervention can be undertaken unscrupulously? What if the intervention is for the purpose of eventual foreign aggression (e.g., Soviet intervention in African civil wars) or for strictly altruistic reasons (e.g., American intervention in Haiti)? The resolution is an unqualified statement that does not limit itself to moral intervention: it must also refer to immoral intervention. So the resolution cannot be true: it is impossible to justify the morally unjustifiable.
The problem with the resolution as worded is that its present wording does not allow it to be evaluated as true or false. An action like intervention cannot be evaluated as intrinsically good or bad without a specified context. This point can be illustrated if we were to consider an analogous resolution: Resolved: killing is immoral. There would be no way to evaluate such a resolution. Which instances of killing? When? Is this resolution referring to killing unthreatening innocents? Or killing vicious killers in self-defense? The first could not be justified; the second could. Killing is immoral cannot be identified as true or false without reference to a specific context. Killing is not inherently good or inherently bad. Its moral worth depends on its context. The same goes for the resolution about foreign intervention.
We should assume, properly, the actual context that has given rise to debate about the morality of foreign intervention. The resolution is not a disembodied proposition handed down from heaven (even if from the NFL), but an issue that has arisen in the context of decades of debate about American foreign policy. A person holding that foreign intervention is morally unjustified is likely to hold this view because they believe intervention necessarily represents an unjust incursion into foreign sovereignty, or an improper sanction of foreign oppressors, etc. To promote authentic clash in debate and more importantly, to be able to evaluate the resolution at all it is necessary that the affirmative side represent the genuine alternative in the contemporary context to the idea that all foreign intervention is wrong. Just as the ordinary proponent of the right to suicide does not maintain that everyone should commit suicide, the ordinary proponent of foreign intervention does not maintain that every foreign nation should be subject to intervention. We may just as well read the resolution as foreign intervention is justifiable, rather than foreign intervention is justified.
(The author acknowledges the kind assistance of Dr. Onkar Ghate.)
The Apparition of St. Michael by Pacino di Bonaguida
I don't agree with this at all. I do not delegate this right to anyone.
A TREASURY OF PRIMARY DOCUMENTS . The ultimate source of history links.
A Chronology of US Historical Documents.
The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School, more historic documents.
Laissez Faire Books.
Ayn Rand Bookstore. (formerly Second Renaissance Books)
Ayn Rand Institute.
Religion and the Founding Fathers
Religion vs. Morality, from the Ayn Rand Institute.
So true is it that property is prior to law that it is recognized even among savages who do not have laws, or at least not written laws. When a savage has devoted his labor to constructing a hut, no one will dispute his possession or ownership of it. To be sure, another, stronger savage may chase him out of it, but not without angering and alarming the whole tribe. It is this very abuse of force which gives rise to association, to common agreement, to law, and which puts the public police force at the service of property. Hence, law is born of property, instead of property being born of law.
One may say that the principle of property is recognized even among animals. The swallow peacefully cares for its young in the nest that it has built by its own efforts.
Since we're discussing whether land can be property prior to the existence of government, lets take the example of an ordinary guy in a pre-civilized society. He builds a hut, as in Bastiat's example above, and plants some grain nearby. It seems fairly obvious that anyone taking the hut and crops from him by force is committing a crime. Isn't that the definition of ownership? He has a right to that land because no one may rightly take it from him. His ownership may be "temporary", but no more so than his ownership of anything else. In fact, it's longer lasting than his ownership of the grains he grows, which are eaten or bartered over the course of the next year. Mobility also seems to me to be a non-issue. By some of the arguments DD put forth, land holds up better than other forms of property. Jumping to modern times, people own cars for relatively short periods of time(I've been driving since I was 16, and have had two cars in that time; it would be one if I hadn't wrecked the first one, but it illustrates the point), but they are certainly movable. Cars are also registered with the government. I have a deed for my car.
Nations as such like any other collectives have no rights. In her essay Collectivized Rights, Ayn Rand notes:---Here, we see that nations not only do not have rights, but cannot have rights, according to Rand.
Here, she makes distinctions between the rights of free nations and that dictatorial nations, savage tribes, etc. do not have those rights:
"A free nation a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government."
In this quote, Rand is actually saying that what she defines as a free nation has a right to BE a nation. All a nation comprises consists of its territorial boundaries, its civilization and culture, and its form of government within those geographical boundaries. Our State constitutions at one time set forth their geographic boundaries by longitude and latitude, among other geographic descriptions of their boundaries. Once the geographic limits of the State were set forth, the State Constitution would then describe the form and organization of the government and guarantee the rights of the State's citizens. A nation is a geographic area in which the people possess a given civilization, culture, and form of government. As this is what a nation is, and Rand states these are the rights that are possessed by a free nation, free nations, therefore, are the only nations allowed to be nations. That is what Rand is really saying. "Territorial Integrity" is an element of sovereignty.
"A nation that violates the rights of its own citizens cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The right of the self-determination of nations applies only to free societies or to societies seeking to establish freedom; it does not apply to dictatorships."
Sentence 1: Rand states that a nation that violates the rights of citizens has no rights, but earlier, Rand stated that nations, and other collectives, have no rights. This is a contradiction, which she attempts to eliminate by making a distinction between free and dictatorial nations.Sentence 2: This is further proof that Rand is saying that only free nations can be nations.
Rand confuses "nation" with "government," which is a common error. The government of this nation has intervened in several foreign conflicts without the consent of the people of the nation. Many government acts are performed in total secrecy, so the people cannot give their consent to those actions. The government decides to intervene, not the nation as a whole, in these cases. When this takes place, is there any more right for the "nation" (government) to intervene?
Nations either have rights or they do not. I prefer to think that nations do have rights, as the nations exist, and are comprised of human persons who undeniably possess rights. When one nation's government commits unjust aggression against another nation and its government, it makes legal sense to set forth the victim's claim against the injustice of the aggressor in the terms of nations, and their rights, rather than citing the rights of each individual citizen.
This is an attempt to replace traditional just war principles, based mostly on religion and classical philosophy, with one compatible with an materialist/atheist worldview. It is like replacing fresh sqeezed orange juice with Tang.
This description is not entirely accurate about either incident. In 1916, Pancho Villa attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico first. The Punitive Expedition was launched to find and punish Villa in retaliation for his attack. In the Boxer Rebellion, the Boxers also struck the first blow, attacking the foreign legations in Peking, where our diplomats were housed and is considered sovereign US territory, as the Chinese Embassy was, and is, here. Our maintenance of gunboats in Chinese rivers during the early decades of the century would have been a better example, as they were there to protect missionaries and US business people, who should have gone to China at their own risk.
The author, Ben Bayer, is the coordinator of the ARI debate program. He is a past state champion in policy and four-time national qualifier in foreign extemp, L-D, and policy. He coached debate and extemp for two years, producing a state championship team and several national qualifiers. He is presently a graduate student in philosophy and a student at the objectivist Graduate Center. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will get to everyone's responses tomorrow. As always, thank you for your thoughtful replies.
The second issue is that of national interest. While we morally can fight any war on dictatorial governments, often we shouldn't. Our involvement in Haiti, Somalia, and the Balkans are examples where we should have stayed out, because there was no national interest at stake. Those we involvements dictated by altruism, correct. But altruism as a motive does not invalidate the right to intervene; it only makes it a mistake.
In matters of foreign policy you have little choice; like it or not, there is plenty voters in this country to empower a government that retaliates when this country is attacked or threatened.
The rulemaking authority, even if needed, doesn't have to be government. Historically, that role was played by tradition, and professional associations.
Clearly, no rulemaking authority is needed to exchange property once acquired. A registry of deeds facilitates exchange but is not strictly necessary to have a rightful real property exchange.
At least part of the problem is the human tendency to speak in shortcuts.
Groups have no rights other than those empowered by their individual members. It would be better usage to speak of individual rights and group powers, like our Constitution does when it speaks of government powers.
So, the expression "our nation has a right to do X" really means "we (Americans) each have individual right to empower our government to do X". In order not to torture the gentle reader, one simply uses the "national rights" parlance. A nation run dictatorially cannot say the same thing, has been empowered nothing, and so "has no rights"
Let's say you and I (a nation of two) walk in the park and see a man beating a woman (another nation of two). Since you and I decided that when it's time to rough people up, it is your responsibility, you go and knock that guy senseless. Even if in the process of hitting the man you occasionally hit the woman, my action in delegating you to fight was rightful; your action in roughing the guy up was also rightful; we as a nation had a right to intervene. The man beating the woman was obviously in a position of governing their nation of two; since he got to govern by violence and not, like you, by consent, he as an individual has no rights, and as a government has no rightful powers. The man and a woman as a nation of two have "no rights whatsoever", although the woman has her individual rights.
Thus, a nation that is not free can be referred to as a nation for purposes of its ethnos or geography, but politically it is a pariah nation, or as the current term is, a rogue nation. Its rights are nil, but of course its citizens have individual natural rights like any other human beings.
I don't think the above explanations are any different from what Rand teaches, but her expression may be less than perfect. It is true that many truths that objectivism claims as its own are really classic philosophy of government. The novelty of objectivism is to reduce the argumentation to stark atomic elements of individual rights. An attempt to build a theory of ethics on top of that, in my opinion, has failed.
The fact that governments do clandestine things doesn't remove the legitimacy as long as the government has obtained an overall consent to prosecute foreign policy.
On your comment in #11, I don't think it is relevant to the illustration of cases of intervention, whether the interventions in the Boxers' Rebellion or against Panch Villa had been provoked by initiated violence. The authore merely enumerates examples there.
The use of force can never be a "monopoly" of the government in a free society
I agree. I never understood this "monopoly" tenet myself. On the face of it, it is wrong. If we are talking of defensive/retaliatory force, clearly we all have a right to it. As to initiated force, the government has no right ot is any more than the individuals. The only case when there is a difference is that a government can make laws that would falsely empower it to use initiated force. May be that's what is meant by the "monopoly".
Not according to my constitution. And if it weren't for the income tax, I could certainly refuse to support any incursion on foreign soil that didn't relate to national defense.
That is the essence of both libertarianism and our constitution. The people were allowed to freely refuse to support bad government decisions.
I am disheartened to see you resort to the might makes right argument. Votes shmotes.
Our founders knew this which was why they did not ask us to give that authority over to the government. In every case this has been done, the idle government turned its weapons on the population at large.
Since the resolution was not stated "can be" ... "could be" ... or "may be," it is ridiculous on its face.
"...hence foreign intervention is an essentially military endeavor."
Intervention by the covert operatives of one nation to influence or control domestic political developments within another country is as clearly "intervention" as is military action. We should have little doubt that the U.S. has engaged in more numerous political interventions than the far more visible military form.
If intervention can be morally justified, it is IMO only under conditions in which clear and imminent threat exists. These are the same conditions under which I feel it is appropriate for U.S. law enforcement to engage in preventive action against our own citizens.
The government does seek majoritarian consent for its specific policies, and you can work to bring your views into majority. Universal consent is needed under natural law when that activity of the government doesn't follow from the constitution. For example, if the government decides to run a pension plan, participation in that plan should be voluntary so that there is a universal consent to it.
The Key Concepts section makes it clear that any time the foreign government is limited through our action in its use of force, what we have is intervention. That would include covert operations.
Having determined that the intervention is justified (against a government that usurps power), we have the next question: is it a good idea? Rand's answer is that it would depend on concrete circumstances and should be rooted in natinal interest only. There is no reason to limit that to cases of imminent threat. Clearly, at least in some cases, the national interest will be better served if the intervention occurred before a threat form some menace is imminent. For example, the US would have (a) been justified and (b) served its national interests better if it invaded the USSR right after the World War Two, rather than waiting till the missiles were installed in Cuba, -- by which time the success of a military confrontation became doubtful.
Balogney. There is nothing whatsoever that authorizes foreign intervention abroad. The phrase uttered over and over in the constitution is "repel invasion." Extermely specific.
The military was also forbidden from being funded for longer than two years.
But aside from that, it was expected that you as a citizen would shoot some foregn invaders and be a well regulated militia member.
"Consent of the governed" - what exactly do you think that phrase means anyway? It's nice sounding but meaningless? Consent by a bunch of white men dead and burried 200 years ago?
The discussion doesn't rectify the wrongly worded resolution itself, but irrespective of that, can we name any government throughout all of history which could not be reasonably argued to have "usurped power"? Are there any which have taken less power from their own citizens than our own, one which almost every FR poster believes has usurped too much? Pre-emptive self defense always involves subjective judgements and almost always can be reasonably viewed by some knowledgeable individuals as premature, over-reaching, unnecessary and/or immoral.
The imminent threat proviso narrows the range of subjective judgement and makes it more likely that if errors are made they will be on the side of non-intervention, which I think appropriate. It is not enough that our interventions serve U.S. interest, but to be moral IMO they must be self-defensive (at least retributive, which actions have a self-defense component in the sense of warning against future conduct which threatens U.S. security.)
The post-WWII USSR example doesn't quite fit, as our experience with Stalin (particularly the objectives/intransigence/attitudes revealed in negotiations at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam) made it quite clear to those who weren't predisposed to sympathy for the "Brave New World" that an imminent threat existed, and plenty of people were saying so.
Among other clear signs, he demanded that we forcibly return 2 million refugees from the Soviet Union and its satellite states (who had made their way to the right side of the Iron Curtain) as a condition of releasing approximately 60,000 British and American POWs who were in Soviet camps after having been "liberated" from German POW camps by the west-moving Red Army. Should we have caved to the demand and forced 2 million newly free people back to his tyranny? Should we have seen that demand as proving the existence of an imminent threat?
I don't see a more equitable mechanism of consent in matters of national interest than majoritarian consent at election time, -- the classic Lockean body politic. Do either of you?
Note that the situation is different in matters of domestic policy. There the only players are ourselves, a free nation. So we can mix and match policies based on universal consent. Under the libertarian ideal of self-government, if our government proposes some cockamammie scheme that some of us like, then those who like the scheme sign up, those who don't -- don't sign up, and there is equity all around. But we can't have a foreign policy based on universal consent. That would legitimize a fifth column of non-consenters, who would jeopardize the safety of the consenters, and so won't be rightful.
And amazingly enough, under the dictates of the militia act of 1792, it is the only situation where the President can call up the militia and command the armed forces without a Congressional declaration of War.
Frankly, I think the militia act is unconstitutional because it gives the President the power to act when the Constitution doesn't delegate that authority. But, I, like you see it as a legitimate necessity. I wish it had been sent out as an amendment to the constitution.
Right now, we have a totalitarian military dictator who runs this country. Doesn't matter who's been elected. Because of the forced consent that is the income tax and a military that includes career officers and soldiers, the republic is history. It's on the dust bin of history waiting to be either restored, or acknowledged for the dictatorial empire that it is.
My face was expressing the realization that it is politically incorrect to say so, yes. Nevertheless, our government represents adequately about 90% of our electorate, at least as regards the so-called war on terrorism, as well as the taxation and regulation policy. As I disagree with 90% of what out government does, that is because I disagree with 90% of people I meet. We have a government with consent of the governed, without a doubt. However, all that is beside the point. The Rand's test is not on us, but on the foreign nation. If a foreign nation is ruled by a government that usurped power, then is can be invaded rightfully. By whom? By anybody!
Let's return to the lovely scene in the park (#17). Who has a right to stop a thug? Anyone. The world is an open season on any dictatorship. They are outlaws. We don't have to present any credentials; we don't have to go to confession first.
This whole article does what you just did-make a bunch of assertions that are flatly false
Then it should be easy for you to point out its flaws concretely.
Might makes right eh? Your assertion might fly if the President adhered to the constitution. The Congress that was elected STILL hasn't declared war. And why? Because there is absolutely no nation to declare war upon!
And if the President were to restrain himself until he was given his declaration, he might just entertain letters of Marque because it is the only constitutional remedy for foreign and nationless pirates such as the infamous Al Qaeda and bin Laden. (Not that anyone has bothered to produce a shred of evidence that anyone involved in that organization really committed these acts).
She did and you ignored them. That the Rand institute are full of objectivist warmongers is no secret and I am beginning to see why Rand didn't like libertarians. I am betting the feeling is mutual.
To start off the entire racket she is peddling, she states several times that government's have "rights." This is impossible. Government's hold powers but no rights. That is because they are not individuals and obtain their delegated authority from those entities who actually do posess rights.
This a govenrment has no "right" to act in any fashion whatsoever, much less creating empires and taking down so-called "rogue" nations.
And if you insinuate that libertarians are in general pacifists again I am going to scream. Given that libertarians are the most staunch second amendment advocates anywhere in the world, that idiotic assertion must stop immediately.
The test is not on the invading nation, but on the invaded. If that government has usurped power, then war on that government is justified for anyone. That being said, our government meets the minimal tests: no one prevented the American voters to vote in the ultra-libertarian ticked in every branch of government, except the mind of the voters themselves.
I agree that the imminent threat test is a good rule of thumb. Yet, it is not the whole test. As you argue for example, that the USSR should have been invaded in 1945-49, you go against the prevailing line of thought that there was no imminent threat from them. What happens is that you present an argument that a particular rogue nation is certain to present a threat, and once the threat is presented, it will be harder to confront. Together with you, I think that the West was blind to the Red threat in 1945-49 and betrayed its civilizational obligations to the Western values. The betrayal of the soviet refugees was a dramatic manifestation of that betrayal across a very broad spectrum. But I would hesitate to qualify the Red threat as imminent.
Ahhhh now you have just justified the terrorists. Congratulations.
I guess I have to agree with your minimal test; the fact that a government routinely violates the constitutional authority granted to it is insufficient justification to call it "usurping" if the vast majority of the citizenry offers no objection.
But I would hesitate to qualify the Red threat as imminent.
They held 60,000 Allied citizens against their will and used them as leverage to get what they wanted. If that isn't imminent threat, I don't know what is. Of course the threat that the Soviet Union would become a nuclear super-power which threatened the whole world was not so imminent at that time, but we had clear self-defensive justification to demand the release of the 60,000 and to start kicking A$$ is they weren't immediately released.
This is getting far afield of the subject of the thread, but I think our concessions to the USSR were not technically errors, but the result of willful blindness and the influence of communists and communist sympathizers in our government and media.
Where do you see "might makes right"? This war is popular: the popular consent of, say, 90% could be easily obtained. The reason there is no declaration of war is as you mentioned yourself, is that there is no particular nation we are at war with. The congress nevertheless did pass some sort of thing that empowered the President to do what he does.
The problem for you is not that the president can't prevail politically about this war, but that, like in any war, there are some who don't agree with it, no matter how closely he adheres to the Constitution. I pointed out to you that there is no reasonable mechanism to seek 100% popular consent in foreign policy. If you see such mechanism, kindly point it out.
[tex-oma] did [point out the flaws in the article] and you ignored them.
I responded in #14, to which she had nothing meaningful to say. Thinking that perhaps it was my fault, I clarified myself in #32.
you have just justified the terrorists
According to Rand, it is rightful for a nation that is ruled representatively, to wage a war against a government that usurped power. The terrorist represent no-one but themselves and wage a war on civilians.
our concessions to the USSR were not technically errors, but the result of willful blindness and the influence of communists and communist sympathizers in our government and media.
Agree and agree. Thank you.
Doesn't make it any less of a representative government by popular consent. What sheeple want sheeple get.
It is possible that many woud think it just to invade us, but I doubt that they would do so because they read Rand.
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