As the United States and U.K. contemplate another war, we hear the usual wrong arguments.
Most of these arguments rest on the premise that we are each other’s keepers. The pro-war people will say, “It’s our moral obligation to save the Syrians.” The anti-war people will say, “It’s not our moral obligation to save the Syrians. It’s our moral obligation to save Americans.” Then fights will break out over racism.
Does government exist to force people to take care of one another, internationally or at home? Or does government exist merely to protect rights? That’s the crucial question. It’s never answered because it’s never asked.
Do you or I have a right to be taken care of by our fellow man, a right enforceable by a powerful government?
The internationalists state our first obligation as individuals is to serve others, and (they claim) international government exists to enforce that right. The internationalists want the U.N. to do it. The nationalists want the U.S. government to do it, and they want us to be forced to take care of each other via domestic programs.
Nobody seems to take up the case for, “You’re not anyone’s keeper, unless you choose to be. You’re entitled to help anyone you want. But you’re not obliged to do so — certainly not under the threat of a government gun.”
Then there are the pacifists. The pacifists say, “Libya has a right to form its own government.” We heard that argument against taking action in Iraq, and we hear that argument against taking action against real threats to Americans’ safety, threats such as Iran or North Korea. Pacifists speak as if governments have rights. But dictatorships — whether in Libya or anywhere else — consist of killers. Killers have no rights. Even if 70 percent of Libyans want their government to kill 10 or 30 percent of the population, that majority status gives them no right to do so. Hitler “only” wanted to kill a minority of the population. Did Hitler have rights?
Pacifists are wrong because governments do not have rights, only individuals do. Only governments that protect the rights of individuals — the right to life, most of all — have any moral legitimacy. At the same time, governments that do protect the rights of individuals don’t have the obligation to solve every single problem in the world.
Even if you think the United States government does have an obligation to solve every problem, then what makes you think we can? Iraq is worse off since Saddam Hussein fell. So is Afghanistan. If the people of a country do not want liberty and freedom, or have no concept of how to construct and protect liberty, then nothing we do with our armed forces can coerce that into happening. If you don’t believe me, look at the state of the world since 9/11. As bad as it was before 9/11, it’s much worse now. I cannot fathom the evasion of reality it takes to think that the U.S. can do anything for Syria when it did nothing but make things worse for all the other countries in that part of the world.
The only remotely functional country in the Middle East is Israel. Israel is by far the freest — even for non-Jews, including Muslims — and Israel mostly takes care of itself. That’s the model we should encourage.
It’s disappointing to see President Trump possibly going down the same road that his failed predecessors — Bushes, Clintons, Obama — did in the Middle East. He talked like he knew better during the campaign. Trump won’t have the uncritical support of the media that Obama did. Perilous waters ahead!
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