How To Truly Honor Our Soldiers

 Posted by on 1 June 2010 at 1:00 pm  Foreign Policy
Jun 012010
 

While on vacation recently in New York City, Diana and I attended a nice get-together with some local Objectivists. That evening, we had the pleasure of chatting with another Objectivist visiting NYC who was also an active-duty officer in the US Army.

Because I don’t want him to get into trouble with his superiors, I’ll refer to him by the pseudonym of “Xavier” or “X”.

“Xavier” is a captain in the US Army. He commands an armor (i.e., tank) company, in charge of over 90 soldiers. He participated in the initial invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein, and he has served 3 tours in Iraq. He is currently stationed in the US, but will likely be deployed next to Afghanistan.

Based on his experience, he confirmed several of the points that writers such as Elan Journo and John Lewis have repeatedly made. According to Captain X:

1) If the US military were left free to do its job, they could eliminate the threat of Islamic Totalitarianism in very short order. The US military has the technological and physical capabilities to easily win the war.

2) As one example what our military is capable of, the invasion of Iraq and the breathtakingly swift overthrow of Saddam Hussein illustrates one brief episode when our soldiers were left relatively free to operate as they should.

3) The biggest obstacle to winning the war is our civilian leadership. The failure of our political leaders to correctly identify the enemy and take appropriate action to defeat them places our soldiers in an untenable position where they are not allowed to win.

4) One egregious example of our civilian leaders handcuffing our soldiers is their imposition of contradictory rules of engagement. Our soldiers are told that they are allowed to defend themselves from attack. But if they fire at an enemy fighter who isn’t clearly holding a weapon, then they could be punished for using excessive force. Soldiers are thus always forced to second-guess themselves while in combat, for fear of legal repercussions afterwards.

Despite all this, Captain X plans on making a career in the military. He loves this country, he loves his job, and he regards military service as a noble profession. He and most American soldiers want to defend our country, and they want to do what it takes to defeat our enemies.

To the extent that our civilian leaders prevent them from doing that and instead waste their capacities in various altruistic and/or “humanitarian” missions, they are merely placing these brave soldiers’ lives at risk in a form of useless sacrifice.

As Alex Epstein wrote in his recent Memorial Day piece, “What We Owe Our Soldiers“:

Every Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have died in combat. With speeches and solemn ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But one fact goes unacknowledged in our Memorial Day tributes: all too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily — because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America’s freedom.

Our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen deserve better than this.

Because of their position as active-duty soldiers, men like Captain X can’t freely speak out and criticize the policies of their civilian political superiors.

But we can.

If we wish to truly honor the men and women who are selfishly risking their lives to protect their (and our) freedoms, those of us who are able to speak out should.

We should demand that our government pursue a rational foreign policy based on defending American self-interest. We should demand that our leaders explicitly identify Islamic Totalitarianism as the enemy and that they explicitly pursue the goal of overwhelming victory over that enemy. And we should demand that our military be allowed to achieve that victory by all necessary means.

In short, we must exercise the precious freedoms (such as freedom of speech) that prior generations of soldiers have fought and died for, and use those freedoms to defend the ability of the current generation of soldiers who are now fighting (and dying) to preserve them. That’s in our self-interest as Americans — and a matter of simple justice towards those serving in our military.

Our battle won’t be with bullets and artillery shells, but rather with ideas.

If you need “intellectual ammunition” for this fight, the following articles and books make a good starting point, both to read and to recommend to friends, family, and elected officials:

“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense
Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein
The Objective Standard, Spring 2006

“No Substitute for Victory”: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism
John Lewis
The Objective Standard, Winter 2006-2007

America’s Self-Crippled Foreign Policy
An Interview with Yaron Brook, Elan Journo, and Alex Epstein
The Objective Standard, Fall 2009

Winning the Unwinnable War
Edited by Elan Journo

Nothing Less than Victory
John Lewis

Although I regard President Ronald Reagan as a very mixed politician, I agree with this quote:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Are we willing to fight for that freedom? The choice is ours.

(Also cross-posted to CapMag.)

May 132010
 

This video — particularly the last few seconds — contains the most chilling exchange I’ve ever watched. It’s David Horowitz drawing out a soft-spoken female student from UCSD… who also happens to be a Jew-hating, Hitler-admiring, lustfully genocidal Muslim.

She ought to be expelled from the university, as a threat to safety. No professor should be willing to have her in class, nor should any student be willing to sit in the same room as her.

If she’s not a citizen, she ought to be expelled from the United States — immediately — as a threat to national security. If she is a citizen, she ought to be closely watched by the government for any sign of or association with terrorists, then charged and imprisoned accordingly. Anything less — which is what I expect, sadly — would be a shameful failure to defend America against its sworn enemies.

(Via Adam Mossoff, who said, “This girl is so soft-spoken about expressing her support of global genocide of Jews, it’s like watching a clip from the Nuremburg trials in which the Nazis plainly described their atrocities as if this was no different to them from describing a trip to the beach (and it wasn’t).”)

Apr 152010
 

The April 12, 2010 edition of PJTV includes a good discussion of the latest Obama Administration foreign policy missteps by Yaron Brook and Terry Jones:

PJTV3359

Both Jones and Brook emphasized the importance of properly identifying the enemy (rather than hiding behind vacuous terms such as “war on terror” or “war on violent extremism”).

As Jones said, properly naming the enemy is important in order to be (1) truthful to yourself, and (2) getting your policy right. And Brook noted that without properly identifying the enemy, you cannot win. In essence, Obama (and Bush before him) has committed America to not winning.

They also covered America’s new nuclear policy (or non-policy), our fraying relations with our allies, the emboldening of our enemies, and the long-term implications for America.

I highly recommend watching the whole thing.

For positive alternatives to our current failing foreign policy, read John Lewis’ Nothing Less Than Victory and Elan Journo’s Winning the Unwinnable War.

A World without Nuclear Weapons?

 Posted by on 8 January 2010 at 9:00 am  Foreign Policy, Military
Jan 082010
 

In the Fall 2009 issue of Daedalus, economist Thomas Schelling asks what would happen if President Obama had his way and we had a “A World Without Nuclear Weapons?

Schelling argues that, contrary to the optimists like Obama, the world would become far more unstable and dangerous.

One big problem is that the knowledge of how to create and deploy nuclear weapons wouldn’t disappear. Hence, if the major nuclear powers did decide to eliminate their active stockpiles, any global crisis would create a tremendous incentive for them to reconstitute and/or use their nukes as quickly as possible before hostile countries did the same.

Here are a couple of noteworthy excerpts from Schelling’s article:

Considering that enough plutonium to make a bomb could be hidden in the freezing compartment of my refrigerator, or to evade radiation detection could be hidden at the bottom of the water in a well, I think only the fear of a whistle-blower could possibly make success at all questionable.

I believe that a “responsible” government would make sure that fissile material would be available in an international crisis or war itself. A responsible government must at least assume that other responsible governments will do so.

The natural implication:

…[I]f, at the outset of what appears to be a major war, or the imminent possibility of major war, every responsible government must consider that other responsible governments will mobilize their nuclear weapons base as soon as war erupts, or as soon as war appears likely, there will be at least covert frantic efforts, or perhaps purposely conspicuous efforts, to acquire deliverable nuclear weapons as rapidly as possible.

The result would be greater global instability, rather than greater stability:

In summary, a “world without nuclear weapons” would be a world in which the United States, Russia, Israel, China, and half a dozen or a dozen other countries would have hair-trigger mobilization plans to rebuild nuclear weapons and mobilize or commandeer delivery systems, and would have prepared targets to preempt other nations’ nuclear facilities, all in a high-alert status, with practice drills and secure emergency communications. Every crisis would be a nuclear crisis, any war could become a nuclear war. The urge to preempt would dominate ; whoever gets the first few weapons will coerce or preempt. It would be a nervous world.

Part of the fallacy behind the desire for a “world without nuclear weapons” is the false notion that the evil resides within the weapons, rather than within the aggressors who would use them against us. (This is just a grander example of the same fallacy that drives many gun-control advocates.)

If a US President truly wanted a safer world, perhaps he should eliminate America’s enemies, rather than eliminating our means of striking against them.

(Link to the Schelling article via Marginal Revolution.)

Nothing Less Than Victory

 Posted by on 19 November 2009 at 5:00 am  Foreign Policy
Nov 192009
 

Check out the endorsement John Lewis has gotten from Victor Davis Hanson for his soon-forthcoming book, Nothing Less than Victory:

John David Lewis has offered a superb appraisal of how ancient and modern wars start and finish. This chronicle of some 2,500 years of Western history is replete with a philosophical analysis of why nations fight, win–and lose. His insights and conclusions are original and fearless–as well as timely and welcome in the confused war-making of the present age.”

– Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture

If you haven’t yet heard about the book, here’s the description from John Lewis’ web site:

The goal of a war is to defeat an enemy’s will to fight. But how this can be accomplished is a thorny issue. Nothing Less than Victory provocatively shows that aggressive, strategic military offenses can win wars and establish lasting peace, while defensive maneuvers have often led to prolonged carnage, indecision, and stalemate. Taking an ambitious and sweeping look at six major wars, from antiquity to World War II, John David Lewis shows how victorious military commanders have achieved long-term peace by identifying the core of the enemy’s ideological, political, and social support for a war, fiercely striking at this objective, and demanding that the enemy acknowledges its defeat.

Lewis examines the Greco-Persian and Theban wars, the Second Punic War, Aurelian’s wars to reunify Rome, the American Civil War, and the Second World War. He considers successful examples of overwhelming force, such as the Greek mutilation of Xerxes’ army and navy, the Theban-led invasion of the Spartan homeland, and Hannibal’s attack against Italy–as well as failed tactics of defense, including Fabius’s policy of delay, McClellan’s retreat from Richmond, and Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler. Lewis shows that a war’s endurance rests in each side’s reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.

Recognizing the human motivations behind military conflicts, Nothing Less than Victory makes a powerful case for offensive actions in pursuit of peace.

John David Lewis is visiting associate professor of philosophy, politics, and economics at Duke University, and senior research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens and Early Greek Lawgivers.

The book is due out in March. On the advice of John Lewis, I recommend that you order the book from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. The publisher will take note of even a few dozen copies sold from that source.

Israel and the Media

 Posted by on 8 January 2009 at 12:03 am  Foreign Policy
Jan 082009
 

Mike Janis posted the following to FRODO, Front Range Objectivism’s discussion list on Tuesday. I thought it deserved a wider audience, so I’m reposting it here, with his permission:

The news coverage of the current conflict in the Middle East says a lot about the state of our culture, especially considering that the news agencies, being businesses, cater their stories to their audiences.

I’m looking at today’s story on MSNBC.com, U.N. official: ‘There’s nowhere safe in Gaza’.

First of all, the tone makes it sound like the evil empire is closing in on the helpless, innocent rebels (made me think of Star Wars). “Tanks rumbled closer to the towns of Khan Younis and Dir el Balah in south and central Gaza but were still several miles outside…”

Second, is it the U.N.’s official job to tally the civilian casualties? It seems that whenever the U.N. is mentioned, it’s so they can mention how many ‘innocent’ Palestinians are being killed. “More than 500 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 100 civilians, according to United Nations figures.”

Third, they can’t seem to mention enough that Israel isn’t bowing to international pressure for cease-fire. “Israel, which has already encircled Gaza City, the area’s biggest city, ignored mounting international calls for an immediate cease-fire.” Why are ‘international calls’ so quick to support the aggressors?

And lastly, if the article doesn’t get its point across with words, there are two links to slide shows with pictures of injured Palestinians and international protestors (most appear to be Muslim, and there’s even a picture of Muslim children in France standing next to a sign proclaiming Israel to be the terrorist nation).

I recently read William Tecumseh Sherman and the Moral Impetus for Victory by John Lewis in the The Objective Standard, Vol 1, No 2 and highly recommend it for anyone else who needs to hear a rational and sane voice about the moral duties/rights of a nation under attack and the role of civilian casualties.

Thank you, Mike!

Hamas: The Big Bully on the Playground

 Posted by on 5 January 2009 at 12:03 am  Foreign Policy
Jan 052009
 

Thirteen-year-old Gaza resident, Yousef Nakhala, called out the equivalent of “the Emperor has no clothes!” in reaction to Israel’s retaliation against Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza. He said: “I blame Hamas. It doesn’t want to recognize Israel. If they did so, there could be peace. Egypt made a peace treaty with Israel, and nothing is happening to them.”

The kid clearly gets it. But not the civilized world, which has told Israel to hold back, like the platitudinous let’s-just-all-hold-hands-and-get-along from the E.U. Foreign Policy chief, Javier Solana: “We are very concerned at the events in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire and urge everybody to exert maximum restraint.”

Oh wow, what a clever suggestion.

Not wanting to piss off anyone else on the playground, the U.S.’s policy is just as morally neutral: “Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people. The United States urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas in Gaza.” (White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe)

Just like a spoiled brat, Hamas is getting exactly what it wants — more pity and attention from the Arab and Islamic world:

“Iran strongly condemns the Zionist regime’s [Israel's] wide-ranging attacks against the civilians in Gaza. The raids against innocent people are unforgivable and unacceptable.” (Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi)

“Egypt condemns the Israeli attacks.” (Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak)

“We are facing a continuing spectacle which has been carefully planned. We face a major humanitarian catastrophe.” (Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa)

Oh, give me a break. Hamas doesn’t have anything to offer the world — or the Palestinians for that matter — except the perpetual state of hate and poverty of its population. But what else could you possibly expect from the efforts of an avowed terrorist organization?

When Hamas, also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, won the majority in the Palestinian Authority’s parliamentary elections in 2006, the governing Fatah party and the world wondered what this would mean for future peace negotiations with Israel, a two-state solution called the “road map” which would create an independent Palestine alongside Israel.

Hamas wants to kick Israel off the playground. It explicitly does not recognize the right of Israel to exist, and it has carried out terrorist attacks against Israel for decades.

Even though the Middle East quartet’s (U.N., E.U., Russia, U.S.) price for bankrolling the Palestinian government is peaceful behavior towards Israel, Hamas leaders couldn’t care less. Hamas attacked Israel and forcibly seized control of Gaza in a very undemocratic fashion within a year after its election victory, leading to an economic blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.

A bully is still a bully if it behaves like one, even though he gets elected to student council. Now maybe Israel can put the bully in his place, having learned lessons from its anemic response to Hezbollah’s repeated aggression in Lebanon in 2006 which only emboldened that Islamic fundamentalist organization.

In the whole long-running and complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, why is it in America’s best interest to condemn an organization like Hamas and support Israel? The principle is that the only moral government is one that upholds individual rights.

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights applies this principle well:

We recognize that those who attack Israel are not seeking to establish an even freer nation: they are seeking to wipe out the only outpost of freedom in the Middle East. We support Israel not for its failings but for its virtues, and we understand that those who threaten Israel’s freedom also threaten America’s. If they succeed in destroying Israel, they will turn their full attention to the United States.

The bully Hamas has no intention of playing nice, and should be expelled. Israel ought to continue fighting hard and eliminate Hamas. And instead of cowardly giving in to intimidation from the U.N. and Arab/Islamic countries by calling for yet another cease-fire, the civilized world should give unqualified support for Israel in the face of this chronic Islamic threat. Hamas, and the civilian population who elects and supports it, should suffer the painful consequences of their ongoing war against freedom — and peace.

There Are A Lot Of People In China

 Posted by on 20 November 2008 at 12:06 am  Cool, Foreign Policy
Nov 202008
 

Today’s Eric Daniels-type bit of trivia comes from Strange Maps“:

China is the world’s most populous nation. That much anybody knows. But even if we know a bit more (that the number of Chinese is around 1.32 billion, which is just under 20% of all humans alive today), that figure is still too big to mean much beyond that China is ‘number one’.

This map compares the population of China’s provinces (plus the ‘renegade province’ of Taiwan), autonomous regions and municipalities with those of whole countries, and thus helps shed some light on that issue.

China is an interesting country in that it is no longer committed ideologically to Communism, but it is no where close to a free country. Instead, the ideology is a mixture of authoritarianism, nationalism, and some market elements. Hence, I’m glad that there are people interested in translating Ayn Rand’s works into Chinese.

If Rand’s ideas ever took hold there, China could become a true powerhouse on the world stage. On the other hand, if a different bad ideology became entrenched in place of Communism, we could be looking at a huge menace.

(Via Dave Does The Blog.)

Israel and Hezbollah

 Posted by on 17 October 2008 at 4:47 pm  Foreign Policy
Oct 172008
 

StrategyPage reports this little news tidbit regarding Israel and Hezbollah (look at the October 4, 2008 entry, towards the end of the webpage):

Israel has announced that, if there is another round of Hezbollah rocket attacks from southern Lebanon, all the villages that the attacks come from will be destroyed. Hezbollah is ignoring the UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and again installing rocket storage areas in the basements of homes, or nearby. The locals are threatened with violence or death by Hezbollah if they resist, so Israel is now playing by the same rules and letting the villagers know that, yes, they are in the crossfire if the rockets go off again

Now I don’t know whether Israel’s political leadership will actually follow through with their promise. But at least they are articulating the right principle. If Israel is attacked again by Hezbollah, then they have the moral right to strike back and end the threat even if it involves the deaths of Lebanese civilians in those villages where the rockets are coming from.

If those civilians were coerced by Hezbollah into storing those rockets in their homes, then the moral fault for their deaths lies with Hezbollah, not with Israel. If those civilians were willing, then they are active participants and cannot claim to be “innocent civilians”.

And it also means that if Lebanese civilians genuinely don’t want Hezbollah forcing them to act against their own self-interest, then they will have to stand up and oppose Hezbollah and fight instead for a better Lebanese government that protects their rights (rather than violates those rights and puts them in harm’s way).

Of course, if another conflict were to break out between Israel and Hezbollah, I expect the usual unjust condemnation of Israel by the Western press decrying those “innocent civilian casualties” in Lebanon. And American politicians (of both political parties) will put intense diplomatic pressure on Israel to stand down. And Israel will eventually knuckle under, bringing them one step closer to national suicide.

America does not have to fight Israel’s wars — that’s not our job. But the one thing we can do is to give Israel our moral support — in particular affirming with words and deeds that it has a right to defend itself. That more than anything else could reshape Middle East politics in a positive direction and put America’s enemies on notice that there will no longer be “business as usual”.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect this sort of leadership from either McCain or Obama. And if Israel does eventually go under, it won’t be long before we’re next…

Prediction on North Korea

 Posted by on 7 October 2008 at 11:00 am  Foreign Policy
Oct 072008
 

StrategyPage has an interesting (and plausible) prediction about the near future of North Korea:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il apparently fell ill last April, and months of treatment left him unable to continue nuclear disarmament negotiations. It’s unclear if he is back at work, but no one else seems to be able to make decisions.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have better connections inside North Korea, but apparently do not share a lot of information with anyone else. Defectors from North Korea believe that the Chinese will take over if it appears that the North Korean government is about to fall apart. The Chinese plan to install pro-Chinese North Koreans as head of a new “North Korean” government, and institute the kind of economic reforms they have been urging the North Korean to undertake for over a decade. The Chinese do not want North Korea to merge with South Korea, nor do they want North Korea to collapse (and send millions of starving refugees into northern China.

China and South Korea both want North Korea to stay independent, and harmless. Thus China is willing to unofficially annex North Korea, knowing that the South Koreans would go along with this as long as the fiction of North Korean independence were maintained.

South Korea won’t admit this, but most South Koreans know that absorbing North Korea would put a big dent in South Korean living standards. That is more unpopular than any other outcome.

As Diana says, it’s pathetic when China has to come into a country and be the agent of free market reforms…

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