March 25, 2019

What If Iran…

As another “holiday” weekend draws to a close, Americans have again been bombarded with exhortations to thank the U.S. military establishment for their supposed freedom. This theme pervades all aspects of American culture. Uniformed military personnel are granted privileges on airlines, discounts at restaurants, hotels, and other business establishments. This past summer, I attended my daughter’s dance recital at the Tampa Performing Arts Center. At the midpoint of the performance, men in uniform were rolled out onto the stage and a long tribute follwed, including patriotic-sounding music and a special dance routine, with a pair of army boots spotlighted at the front of the stage. The militarization of American culture is inescapable. That no one seems to recognize the similarity between this cultural worship of the military and the same by another militarized society of not so long ago is truly horrifying.

It may not be fashionable to say so, but I am sick and tired of being told to thank the military. The idea that thanks is owed grows out of the inability of most Americans to recognize simple cause and effect relationships. As I’ve said before, Americans seem to be unwilling to ask themselves the most basic questions about precisely how U.S. wars have made them freer. What are the specific results that the U.S. military has either achieved or prevented in the past 70 years that have led to this supposed increase in freedom? How would we be less free if the U.S. government did not fight one or more of those wars? While I have dealt with this at length before, let me summarize briefly:

1. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Korea.

2. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Viet Nam.

3. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Grenada (does anyone really take this one seriously?).

4. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Somalia.

5. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Kuwait.

6. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Iraq.

7. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan.

Now, I know that these statements are at odds with conventional wisdom and will be regarded as unpatriotic by conservatives and even most liberals. However, after completing the required ad hominem attack upon the author, I challenge anyone who disagrees to refute these statements logically, providing a reasonable argument that there is some cause-effect relationship between the cited wars and the relative freedom of U.S. citizens. It will be particularly difficult to make the argument in the case of Viet Nam, where the objective (to prevent North Viet Nam from taking over South Viet Nam) was not achieved. U.S. citizens should have been less free as a result. Were they? How?

Cause and effect. It is the first and most basic natural law of the universe. It is the first concept that human beings must master before they can begin to undertsand the world around them. This understanding is imperative when performing the simplest task, like crossing the street. An inability to understand the cause and effect relationships between drivers and pedestrians can get you killed. The danger is exponentially greater when considering spending hundreds of billions of dollars to send hundreds of thousands of armed men to some far-off land.

The so-called debate on Iran provides yet another example of the inability of most Americans to recognize cause and effect relationships. Assuming that the Iranian government is attempting to build a nuclear weapon, the government-media complex has presented a narrow range of options from which Americans are expected to choose, with all others off the table. They are 1. Bomb or invade Iran now, before they get a nuclear weapon or 2. Impose economic sanctions (i.e., a military blockade/act of war) and bomb or invade them later. All of this is predicated upon the assumption that Iran will immediately use this nuclear weapon the minute they build it. While even the most hawkish conservatives would probably concede that there is not much chance that Iran will develop an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. anytime soon, they cite the possibility that Iran may use this weapon against Israel.

This is where Americans don’t seem to be able to call upon the most basic critical thinking skills. Let’s assume that the hawks are correct. Iran develops a nuclear weapon. Let’s assume that one sunny morning, they decide to fire it. What would happen next?

Israel has approximately 300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and the most well-trained and equipped military establishment in the Middle East. Do the math. The idea that Iran would preemptively nuke Israel, resulting in its complete destruction, is preposterous. Yet, most American citizens either refuse or are incapable of engaging in this simple analysis and instead give their tacit or enthusiastic support to whatever destructive foreign policy  decisions their leaders make.

There is the argument that Iran is led by a government that is not reasonable and therefore would not consider its inevitable destruction before attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon. Of course, “not reasonable” is a label that would fit any government like an old pair of shoes , but is Iran’s government less reasonable than any other? Let’s consider a few facts.

Iran has not invaded another country in over 200 years. The last overt aggressive action that the Iranian government has taken against another nation is the taking of hostages from the U.S. embassy in 1979 (the Iran-Iraq War was a defensive one for Iran). If asked why the Iranians did this, I’m sure most politicians would respond with the “they hate us for our freedom” mantra. Unfortunately, most Americans are willing to believe that the leaders of foreign nations have the same motivations as the villains in comic books.

Assuming that the hostages were taken because the Iranians “hate us for our freedom,” a few questions should immediately spring to mind. Why did they not take hostages from the German Embassy, or the French Embassy, or the Dutch Embassy? Were those countries so much less free than the United States that the Iranians would not have similar hatred toward them? Americans are asked to swallow this nonsense without question and ignore the Iranians’ stated reason for the kidnapping: the U.S.-led overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government and subsequent installation and decades-long support of the brutal Shah.

U.S. taxpayers are now being asked to once again abandon cause-effect reasoning in order to support the next steps on the path to war with Iran. They are asked to assume that somehow the results of a military conflict with Iran would be different from the results of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan. After 10 years and trillions of dollars, not to mention lost American and civilian lives, absolutely nothing has been accomplished by either of those wars. Neither has America been rendered freer as a result of them. On the contrary, Americans now live in what any lucid person would describe as an Orwellian police state, complete with electronic surveillance, warrantless searches and seizures, and summary execution of U.S. citizens – without trial or even indictment – at the order of an American dictator. These have been the results of the “War on Terror.” No sane person should expect anything but more of the same if it is expanded further.

Ron Paul was far too polite in responding to the “What if Iran…” question. It is time for Americans to stop worshipping their military establishment and start thinking critically about these issues. Whether they develop a nuclear weapon or not (which is their right as much as any sovereign nation’s), Iran is never going to initiate war with it. What is certain is that if the U.S. government is allowed to lead its country into another destructive war, Americans will be less free, further in debt, and more hated around the world than they are now. The last ten years should be all the proof we need.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011

Tom Mullen Interviews Ron Paul 10 minute version 7-7-2011

Tom Mullen, author or A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America interviews Congressman and Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul. You may enjoy the full version here or watch the short 10 minute version below:

10 minute epidsode

Tom Mullen Interviews Ron Paul 7-7-2011

My 2011 interview with the great Ron Paul. Can you identify the mysterious third person (besides Ron and me) appearing in this video? Hint: a famous libertarian.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Tom Mullen: Disband the Army

Adam vs Man 20010706RT’s Adam VS The Man – Tom Mullen Joins Adam Kokesh live in Washington DC to discuss the Constitution, founding fathers and what they meant by no standing armies.

Response to Letter from Senator Bill Nelson Concerning Independence Day

I received a holiday message from one of my senators with the customary admonishment about how grateful I should be to the government and its soldiers for my supposed freedom. I felt compelled to remind the senator that freedom is an inherent, inalienable right, bestowed by my creator and not by any government, and to refute this preposterous claim that invading third world countries is somehow making me freer. As one forced to pay for all of this, I find the claim particularly distasteful on the 4th of July. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I reprint his letter and my response here, so that the facts can be submitted to a candid world.

July 3, 2011

Dear Thomas,

I gave my Fourth of July message in the Senate this past week, and would like to share it with you. 

Some 235 years ago this weekend, John Adams proclaimed that July 2 would mark the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  It was on that day the Continental Congress declared the 13 colonies free and independent of Great Britain’s crown.  It was two days after that when Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was adopted.

And when did Americans first celebrate their independence?

Philadelphia is said to have thrown a big party on July 8, 1776, including a parade and the firing of guns.  George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the news on July 9 and celebrated then.  But in 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.  Ten years later, the young nation’s celebration was dubbed Independence Day.

This Independence Day, I hope every American will stop and think for just a minute about our freedoms – and just how much we owe those who came here long before us and mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.   And let us also remember the young men and women who have died in defense of those freedoms.

We traditionally observe the Fourth with fireworks and fanfare, pomp and parade.  But today we remain engaged in far-away struggles to promote and protect the rights of others who, like us, value freedom and independence.  Many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are spending their Fourth in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of world.

I recently was reminded of the commitment and selfless sacrifice demonstrated by one of America’s World War II veterans, who lives in my state of Florida.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Rickel, of Boca Raton, served as a waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress.  Sgt. Rickel survived the daring bombing campaign of Schweinfurt, Germany in October 1943, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism or extraordinary achievement.

Sgt. Rickel and all the military members and all their families knew the risks and sacrifices they were making were worth it.   As President Reagan once said, “Some things are worth dying for … democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

Indeed, our democracy is something to celebrate.  I wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July.

Bill

July 4, 2011

Senator Nelson,

The founders of our republic considered democracy “the most vile form of government” (James Madison). They did everything they could to try to limit the power that the majority had over the individual. That’s why they founded “a republic, if you can keep it” (Benjamin Franklin). Obviously, we have failed.

They also objected to the existence of standing armies during peacetime and would likely be taking up arms again if they were taxed by their government for anything other than defense of their own property. While I respect the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers, it is apparent that they are grossly misinformed. There is no cause-effect relationship between the wars that the United States has been involved in, at least since WWII, and what freedom we have left, which diminishes every day. I challenge anyone advancing this sophism to explain exactly how Americans would be less free if we had not invaded Korea, Viet Nam, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Of course any such explanation would be a list of non sequiturs and absurdities.

As a net taxpayer, I grow increasingly irritated by the ubiquitous exhortations by politicians and media figures to be “grateful to the troops for my freedom,” with the implicit accusation that I am not grateful enough. Even if one accepts the preposterous claim that these wars are making us freer, the gratitude should be directed at those who pay for all of this. I see no reason why I should be grateful to someone whose salary, expenses, education, and sometimes even retirement are all paid for by me – while I have to try to pay for all of those same expenses for myself and my family with what is left after the government’s rapacious taxation.

I for one will not be celebrating our democracy today. Rather, I will celebrate our lost republic in the hopes that it can one day be restored. I hope you will consider my thoughts on this matter and govern accordingly.

Best regards, 

Tom Mullen

What’s So Hard to Understand About Ron Paul?

Ron-PaulThis time things are going to be different for Ron Paul’s presidential run. After correctly predicting the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting financial and economic crisis, Paul has become a mainstay on business talk shows, especially on the conservatively-oriented Fox News. One can almost sense the resignation in the voices of talk show hosts and reporters as they acknowledge that Paul will not be ignored by the media this time around – which is ironic because it is these same people who ignored him in 2008.

However, while supporters will rejoice at the increased quantity of coverage of Paul’s campaign, they should be realistic about the quality of the coverage. Namely, supporters should expect that conservatives will agree with him on most of his economic positions, including cutting down the welfare state and rolling back government regulations, but disagree with him on foreign policy.

Similarly, supporters should expect that liberals will agree with Paul on foreign policy (although somewhat reservedly while there is a Democrat running the empire) and civil liberties, but disagree with him on economic policy, especially when it comes to Paul’s positions on responsibly ending Social Security and Medicare.

Watching Paul’s appearance on The View, one could already see this dynamic in action. While the ladies on the show were very gracious to the congressman, Whoopi Goldberg took the lead in asking some policy questions and demonstrated the liberal take on Paul perfectly. She first stated that she agreed that she would like to see the wars end, but wanted to know how Paul could get us out of them (a concern that never would have arisen with a Republican running the empire). After Paul gave his customary answer, “we marched right in there, we can march right out,” Goldberg then challenged Paul on his position that healthcare is not a right. She truly looked baffled that any politician could be both anti-war and anti-entitlement.

On the conservative side, media figures have been doing the opposite routine with Ron Paul for years. Glenn Beck (pre-blackboard) routinely had Paul on during the economic crisis and always emphasized his agreement with Ron Paul’s economic positions and  his disagreement on foreign policy. Ann Coulter has also weighed in on Paul in this way, as have countless other media figures.

Neither conservatives nor liberals agree with Ron Paul that the Federal Reserve should be abolished.

Conservatives believe that along with what they would call “free market capitalism” (their version including privileges and subsidies for big business), one must support a large military establishment and an aggressive foreign policy. For conservatives, it is just inconceivable that anyone could support one and not the other. This is not a position that can be supported by reason. Rather, it is closer to an article of faith to which conservatives have developed a deep emotional attachment. The conservative philosophy still has its roots in the “ancien regime,” whereby the king/executive and a wealthy elite control commerce and support a large, active military establishment, both for the aggrandizement of the empire.

Liberals believe this, too. They share the mistaken perception of conservatives that free market capitalism is dependent upon an imperialistic foreign policy. However, instead of wholly supporting it, they wholly oppose it, confusing the state capitalism supported by conservatives with a truly free market.  Therefore, liberals oppose imperialism and free markets as if one cannot exist without the other and cannot conceive of anyone who could disagree. As with conservatives, their positions are not reasonable. They are likewise articles of faith, rooted in the ideals of ancient democracies in which the majority had unlimited power over the life and property of individuals, taken to new extremes by Marx and other socialists in the modern era.

Ron Paul’s positions do not fit into either one of these belief systems, nor does he seem to “compromise” between the two. Conservatives accuse him of being too liberal. Liberals accuse him of being too conservative. For both groups, many of his positions seem completely unexplainable.

To his supporters, Paul’s positions are so obviously consistent that they often attribute genuine confusion about them to some sort of media conspiracy. Paul bases all of his positions on what we today call “the non-aggression axiom,” which Thomas Jefferson and his supporters called “the law of nature.” This is a very simple principle which states that because we are all created equal, no one individual or group has the right to initiate force against another. Consistently applied, this principle prohibits the government from running welfare programs, regulating commerce beyond prohibiting aggression, or waging war unless the nation is actually attacked.

Paul insists that the military only be used after a declaration of war because in order for Congress to issue this declaration, the president has to cite the overt acts of war committed by the other nation against the United States. The Congress then deliberates and votes to determine whether or not a state of war already exists. That process binds the government’s use of the military to the law of nature. That is the way the declaration of war power has been exercised in every case in American history.

The main reason that conservatives and liberals do not understand Paul’s reasoning is that they have never heard of the non-aggression axiom. Despite the fact that it was the founding principle of the United States, it is not taught in schools. It is not discussed in the media. Instead, 100% of political debate revolves around results. “If the government does A, will B or C be the result?” Conservatives argue B, liberals C. Neither discusses the rights of the parties involved. Paul bases all of his positions upon these rights, which is how all political decisions should be made.

On May 5, Paul will participate in the first debate among candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president. One should not expect the objections to his positions to be substantively different than they were in 2008. While he may get more respect and stage time from the media, conservatives will still try to attack Paul’s foreign policy positions. The most that supporters should expect is the grudging admission that he may be right on economic policy, but that his foreign policy would be some sort of disaster. This follows logically from the fact that conservatives apply the tenets of their political faith and Paul follows the law of nature. He may be right, but don’t expect most conservatives or liberals to have caught up with him yet.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Remarks to the Punta Gorda Tea Party July 3, 2010

I would like to thank the organizers of the Punta Gorda Tea Party for giving me the opportunity to come here today and speak to you on this joyous occasion. I say “joyous occasion” because I suspect that everyone of you, like me, has at sometime in the past imagined that he or she was the only person in the world who understood that our liberty was in jeopardy, or who cared enough to do something about it. Yet, today, although the danger has never been greater, there is joy in my heart, as I hope there is in yours, because of what this movement has made plainly obvious: we are not alone! In fact, to paraphrase words attributed to Japanese Admiral Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor, I believe that those who would dare to attack our liberty have merely awakened a sleeping giant.

I would like to take just a few moments to reflect upon the meaning of that which we fight for, to share a few words from those who established this land of liberty, and to humbly suggest to you an idea to carry forward in this sacred fight. I want to start with the question that I began my first book with, which is, “What is freedom?”

234 years ago, a man named Jefferson answered that question for us. I would like to share a few passages from Mr. Jefferson’s favorite philosopher. This man’s writing was so important to Jefferson that he actually had a resolution passed that said,

“Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Board that as to the general principles of liberty and the rights of man, in nature and in society, the doctrines of Locke, in his ‘Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government,’ and of Sidney in his ‘Discourses on Government,’ may be considered as those generally approved by our fellow citizens of this, and the United States.”

I share this with you not to make some theoretical or academic point, but because the ideas Jefferson refers to have the utmost relevance to the struggle we find ourselves in now. Let me read to you the opening words of the essay by John Locke that Jefferson cites:

“TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”

“A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection…

You no doubt recognize that this was the source of those famous words, “We hold these truths to be self evident – which means that no proof is required, for these truths can be directly observed in nature – that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”

I wanted to read those passages from Locke because they contain a very important point. Our natural liberty is not the license to do anything we wish. We must exercise our will “within the bounds of the law of nature.” But what are those bounds? What is the law of nature?

Locke tells us. “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

So, natural liberty is the right to order our actions AND DISPOSE OF OUR POSSESSIONS as we see fit, as long as we do not harm another person in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. Libertarians today call this “the non-aggression principle,” but it is really the principle of natural liberty itself. It is the fundamental, founding principle of the United States. It is vitally important that the connection between liberty and non-aggression be understood, for it is upon this foundation that the limits on government power rests.

Jefferson confirmed this many times over the course of his life. Whenever he was asked about the role of government in a particular matter, he consistently applied the non-aggression principle. In a letter he wrote in 1816, he said, ““Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”

Of religious freedom, Jefferson wrote, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

On another occasion he wrote, “But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”

There are many more quotes just like these that I could read, but the point is made. You may ask yourself, “what does this have to do with Obamacare or any of the countless other present incursions into our liberty?” The answer is this: the reason that Obamacare violates our liberty is because it violates the non-aggression principle, which is liberty.

Now, I want to stop here to draw a crucial distinction. Non-aggression is not pacifism. While the principle of liberty forbids us to initiate force, we have a right and a duty to defend ourselves with force, if necessary, against those who commit aggression against us. And so, in order to secure our rights, we delegate this individual power to government – making government the societal use of force. It is also crucial to remember that all government action is backed by the force of arms. When we make laws, they must be followed or he who breaks the law will encounter that armed force. This power comes from us, from each individual – from our right to use force in self defense. However, we cannot delegate a power to government that we do not possess individually, and so the limit on government power is the same as the limit on individual power: that force may only be used in defense against aggression. When government is kept within this limit, its people are free. When it goes beyond this limit, even if the intentions are good, it is initiating force against its people and we call this tyranny.

When one person steals the property of another, we employ the societal use of force – government – to compel that person to make restitution and to accept punishment for the crime. This is consistent with the non-aggression principle. We call this justice.

When a foreign nation attacks us, we employ our military to defend our lives and liberty with force against that nation. This, too, is consistent with the non-aggression principle.

However, when the government makes a law that says that one person must pay the medical bills of another, or purchase a product that he does not consent to purchase, then it is the government that is the aggressor. It is the government that initiates force against someone who has not committed aggression himself. This is a violation of the non-aggression principle – a violation of liberty – and that is why it cannot be tolerated by a free people. No law written by men can violate the law of nature.

I respectfully suggest to all of you that this be the measuring stick against which you judge all acts of government, from its economic policies, to its criminal law, to its foreign policy. It was the non-aggression principle that our founders used to determine the limits of government power. It is the founding principle of our nation. Once you apply it, you will find that our government has violated our liberty for many decades. This has happened under Republican and Democratic rule. At home, it is characterized by the massive redistribution of wealth, not just for welfare for the poor, but for bankers on Wall Street, for farmers, for scientists, for educators, and for every one of us in programs like Social Security and Medicare – all of these are violations of our liberty that we must begin talking about responsibly phasing out, if we are to regain our freedom.

The violation of our founding principle extends to our foreign policy as well, for we fight wars with nations that have committed no aggression against us. This is a threefold violation: against the people of the nation we attack, against the soldier whose life is risked or sacrificed unnecessarily, and against the taxpayer who is forced to pay for it at the point of the same gun that compels him to pay for Obamacare.

Now, I know that the Tea Party movement strongly supports our troops and so do I. God help us if we ever become a nation that does not honor the men and women who walk in front of bullets to preserve our liberty. However, it is not the soldier that takes us to war. He does not make that decision – not because he is incapable of it – but because for a limited time while he serves, he pledges to follow the orders of his civilian leaders about where he will go and whom he will fight. By doing so, the soldier places a sacred trust in those leaders that they will call upon him to fight only when our lives and liberty are truly in danger.

Now, let me ask you one question: Do you truly believe that those same civilian leaders who have given you Obamacare, the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae, Amtrak – all of which are failed and bankrupt – were suddenly competent when they made decisions about taking us to war? I will suggest this to you: it is not merely incompetence, but a deliberate violation of our founding principle for the purpose of acquiring power that has informed all of their decisions. Remember that Washington, Adams, and Jefferson spent their entire presidencies trying to keep our country out of foreign wars. As James Madison said, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

My friends, we are in a struggle for the greatest idea that the world has ever known: freedom. You, the Tea Party, are being attacked by the established powers with every weapon at their command, and for one reason only: they are afraid of you. They know that their power over you requires your continued consent and you are no longer willing to be governed without it. I ask you to remember the meaning of that great principle of liberty, the non-aggression principle, and apply it objectively to everything that our government does. You will find that most of what it does today violates that principle. In other words, even after we get rid of Obamacare and send this president and Congress job hunting, we will still have a lot of work to do. It will not restore our liberty to vote out those who commit one form of aggression and replace them with people who will merely commit another. We must select representatives from amongst ourselves who will accept the natural limits of their powers or we will be no freer than we are now. But I am joyful today because we the people have that power. We have slumbered for decades, but we slumber no more. The sleeping giant is awake and we are going to win.

Check out Tom Mullen’s book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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© Thomas Mullen 2010

Fighting For Our Freedom?

iraq warTo even question the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the now-institutionalized worldwide military empire being maintained by the U.S. government draws tourrettes-like attacks from all who identify themselves as conservatives.  Not only are critics of U.S. foreign policy accused of being unpatriotic or even traitorous, but conservatives routinely go so far as to label them ungrateful.  The argument goes that critics of the empire enjoy the freedom of speech with which they criticize the government only because the military has fought to defend that freedom.  Therefore, those who oppose the present wars or our military presence around the world should be ashamed of themselves for “biting the hand that feeds them.”

Of course, this argument rests upon an assumption.  The assumption is that if the U.S. had not fought any of its past or current wars or had not maintained its military presence around the world, that we would have lost some or all of our freedom.  This fundamental assumption is never questioned (or I suspect even considered) by supporters of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that it completely disintegrates under even superficial examination.

Let’s give conservatives WWII for now, Pat Buchanan’s interesting arguments notwithstanding.  Is there any credible argument to be made regarding any of the major wars that the United States has waged since 1945 wherein one could conclude that not fighting it would have resulted in a loss of freedom for Americans?  What chain of events can any reasonable person construct whereby U.S. citizens would have lost their freedom if not for the invasions of Korea, Viet  Nam, Afghanistan, or Iraq?

The first two post-WWII wars were justified for ostensibly the same reason.  We supposedly had to prevent the communist governments of North Korea and North Viet Nam from taking over South Korea and South Viet Nam, respectively, because if we did not, communism would spread like a virus throughout all of Asia and eventually the world.  This was the so-called “Domino Theory.”  While anyone with a globe that is more or less correctly scaled can see through the ridiculousness of the argument in terms of Korea, one need not even resort to conjecture to refute this argument regarding the Viet Nam war.  History has shown in its case that the domino theory was completely untrue.

North Viet Nam did take over South Viet Nam.  The U.S. pulled out of Viet Nam in defeat and the very outcome that the U.S. had spent 14 years, the lives of 50,000 U.S. soldiers, and hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to prevent came to pass.  The communists took over all of Viet Nam.

Did American citizens lose any freedom as a result?  No.  In fact, as young men were no longer conscripted into the army to participate in this futile exercise, anti-war protestors were no longer being suppressed, and a huge chunk of government spending was eliminated (in theory, anyway), Americans were actually far freer once the war was lost than they were while it was being fought.

There is no argument to be made, no matter how far logic is stretched or how much disbelief is suspended, that Americans lost any freedom as a result of the loss of the Viet Nam war.  Therefore, the assertion that the troops fighting it were “fighting for our freedom” must be false.

Moreover, communism didn’t spread like wildfire beyond Viet Nam. After approximately 12 years, it imploded there just as it did in China at about the same time.  In the mid-1980’s, the Vietnamese began transitioning to a market economy, just as China did.  Today, both countries are arguably as capitalist as the United States, which unfortunately isn’t saying much.

As for Korea, the most generous conclusion one could come to regarding the “fighting for our freedom” theory is that the jury is still out – sixty years later.  U.S. troops are still stationed at the 38th parallel, supposedly keeping the communist barbarians from taking over South Korea as a stepping stone to the rest of the world.  Here speculation is certainly necessary, but not random speculation.  While it certainly would not be a postive outcome for South Koreans, can anyone seriously argue that if North Korea took over South Korea tomorrow that American freedom would be lost or even noticeably diminished?  How?

Fast forward 25 years and consider the present war in Iraq.  That war was started based upon on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that it was preparing to use against its neighbors to destablize the Middle East.  Let’s pretend for a moment that this assertion was not proven completely false.  Exactly how would another war in the Middle East, which would presumably resemble Iraq’s ten-year war with Iran, jeapordize the freedom of American citizens?  What cause and effect relationship could possibly be established between Middle Eastern politics and American freedom?  This question has to be answered before the “fighting for our freedom” assertion can be proven.

There is only one answer: none.  The Middle East has been unstable for thousands of years, and freedom has come and gone for countless western nations regardless of political devleopments in the Middle East, with the exception of the actual invasions of Western Europe by Muslim nations in the Middle Ages.  Those were ultimately defeated.  Certainly today the Middle Eastern nations pose no military threat to Europe, much less the United States.  To assert that Afghanistan could possibly threaten American freedom borders upon the absurd.

Putting the active wars aside for the moment, any objective observer would be even harder pressed to conclude that the U.S. military presence in the other 135 countries in which the U.S. maintains troops is contributing anything toward American freedom.  Can anyone seriously argue that if the U.S. government were to remove the 56,000 troops presently stationed in Germany that American freedom would somehow be jeopardized?  How?  The same question applies to  the 33,000 troops in Japan, the 10,000 in Italy, and so on.  There is simply no reasonable argument to be made that Americans would be one iota less free if all of these troops were to come home.

Warfare conducted for any purpose other than defending the borders of the nation does not make Americans freer.  On the contrary, it destroys freedom without exception.  More of Americans’ property is confiscated in taxes to support warfare.  Freedom of speech is curtailed.  Opponents of the war are rounded up and imprisoned or exiled.  Privacy is destroyed by the government in search of enemy spies or saboteurs.  These destructions of freedom have occurred during every war that the United States has ever fought, including all of the wars of the past 60 years.

Furthermore, America’s vast military presence in countries where no active war is being fought also results in less freedom for Americans.  Regardless of the public relations efforts of the U.S. military establishment, foreign troops are universally regarded the same way by the citizens of countries where they are stationed: they are resented.  This resentment breeds terrorism in some countries and other forms of protest in others.  Americans traveling abroad are much less free in what they can do, where they can safely go, and where they are welcome because of resentment born of U.S. troops stationed in foreign nations.

As Randolph Bourne famously observed, “war is the health of the state,” and the state is the enemy of freedom.  America was founded upon the idea that the state was “at best a necessary evil” and that there was an inverse relationship between war and liberty.  James Madison wrote that if “tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. No Nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  History has proven him correct.  In the post-WWII era, the wars have become more numerous and longer and government has grown exponentionally.  With the expansion of war and the state, freedom has diminished.

This is not an argument for pacifisim or against the actual soldiers.  We live in a world with other nations that pose a threat to our lives and liberty and there must be some means to defend ourselves against an aggressor nation.  Whatever their reasons for joining, the men and women who serve in our miltary do make a huge sacrifice.  The overwhelming majority of them serve honorably both on the battlefield and off.  They join believing that they are defending our nation and freedom and the blame for our foreign policy does not rest with them.  A military force cannot function with each of its members questioning every order before carrying it out.  They have an obligation to disobey an order which is obviously immoral, such as shooting a non-combatant or torturing a prisoner, but beyond situations like those they must carry out their orders without question.  They place a sacred trust in their civilian leaders to deploy them only when it is absolutely necessary.

It is those civilian leaders who have violated that trust over and over again for the past sixty years.  It is they who have not supported our troops, spending their lives like so much loose change in wars that have been fought for everything but freedom.  They have sent them to countries that pose no military threat to the United States whatsoever and then tied their hands with rules of engagement that, whether intentionally or not, have prolonged those wars for years and even decades.  There can be no greater insult to the honor of brave soldiers than to exhort them to give their lives defending freedom when in fact freedom is not at issue in the war.

The United States government is broke.  It has accumulated a debt that can never legitimately be repaid.  While entitlement programs are ultimately far more economically destructive, costing over twice as much as U.S. military adventures, the $700 billion annual military budget is the next largest contributor to the deficits.  Of that $700 billion, less than $200 billion is spent fighting the two current active wars.  An active war should represent the high water mark of government spending, yet most of our military expenditures go to support standing armies in places like Germany and Japan.

It is evident that the military could be downsized by orders of magnitude without jeapordizing U.S. security in the least.  In fact, the U.S. would be far more secure without troops in 135 countries inspiring resentment against Americans and fighting wars against nations that could not launch a military attack against the United States in anyone’s wildest dreams.  Most importantly, the lives of hundreds of thousands of our troops, their opponents, and the innocent civilians in the countries that they fight in would be spared.

The gargantuan U.S. military establishment survives because American soldiers and civilians continue to accept the assertion that it is necessary to preserve our freedom.  This assertion is at best a destructive delusion and at worst an insidious lie, told by people who care nothing for our troops or the civilians they defend.  It is time to stop believing the lie and to truly support our troops.  Bring them home.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Three P’s: Things Government Cannot and Should Not Do

declarationIn this late stage of America’s devolution from constitutional republic to social democracy, one is hard pressed to find meaningful debate about the role of government. Despite a 24/7 news cycle and endless political commentary on talk radio, most Americans have not once in their lives heard the question, “What is the purpose of government?” Certainly, we hear that “the government should do this” or “the government should not do that” in regard to particular issues, but nowhere will you hear a meaningful discussion about the overall mission of government. Indeed, answering this question might not be all that beneficial to our chattering classes, because once it is answered, there is little need for hours and hours of more talk. Clarifying the role of government makes the answers to most political questions rather simple and unambiguous. It is hard not to suspect that many of our politicians avoid this subject intentionally.

If America is truly the “land of the free,” then there can be only one answer to this question. The purpose of government is to defend its constituents against aggression. Period. Since “liberty” and “the non-aggression principle” are one and the same, it is impossible for government to have any other purpose, or any additional role.

As government is by definition the societal use of force, any action of government other than defense against aggression must itself be aggression.  To induce human action through aggression is coercion. When coercion is practiced by government, it is called tyranny.

Freedom is the ability to exercise one’s will in the absence of coercion.  Therefore, freedom is impossible once government is allowed to perform any function other than defense.  If freedom is exercising one’s will in the absence of coercion, one cannot be free while being coerced. Two plus two cannot equal five.

That leaves a multitude of actions that government must be prohibited from engaging in. They generally fall into three categories, which I like to call “the Three P’s.” The Three P’s are to prevent, to promote, and to provide.  There is no way for government to engage in any of these three activities without destroying the liberty that it supposedly exists to defend.  Yet, this is 99 percent of what government in modern America does.

Most Americans look to government to prevent crime.  Once a particularly heinous crime is reported in the media, there are universal outcries about the failure of government to prevent it.  Almost no one stops to think about what it really means for government to “prevent crime.”  By definition, to prevent something is to act before it happens.  Since all government action represents the use of force, government can only prevent crime by initiating force against people who have committed no crime.  Force must always be initiated by someone.  The initiating party is the aggressor.  There is no other possibility.

This is not merely a theoretical or academic argument.  Think for a moment about the results of government’s various “crime prevention” efforts.  Gun control disarms the victims of crimes while empowering violent criminals who don’t care about gun control laws.  Economic regulations which attempt to prevent fraud insulate protected corporations from competition, emboldening them to commit more fraud.  Worst of all, the War on Terror, the ultimate government crime prevention program, has harassed millions of American citizens while allowing terrorists to walk onto planes with explosives in their shoes, underwear (and who knows where else), and has laid waste to an entire nation in order to determine that the “weapons of mass destruction” it supposedly possessed did not in fact exist.

In addition to preventing crime (including terrorism), that war also claims to undertake another of the Three P’s: to “promote.”  Once it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a new rationalization was needed for our brutal invasion of that country.  That new reason turned out to be our missionary desire to “promote democracy.”  Without getting into the erroneous perception that “democracy” and “freedom” are synonymous, it should be quite clear after seven years of uninterrupted martial law in Iraq that our government has failed to achieve either democracy or freedom.  Only government can be capable of missing the irony of ordering people at gunpoint to be free.  While it might play for some good laughs in a Peter Sellers or Monty Python movie, it is really quite horrifying when one considers that our government takes this position in all seriousness.

It is not only in foreign policy that government reaps disastrous results when trying to “promote.”  Consider its attempts to promote “clean energy.”  One need look no farther than the ethanol fiasco or “Climategate” to see the results government gets in promoting respect for the environment.

The same underlying reason accounts for the similarity of results when government tries to “promote” or to “prevent.”  In both cases, force is initiated against individuals who have committed no aggression themselves.  In order for government to “promote” anything, it must act.  When government acts in the absence of aggression, it commits aggression.  By committing aggression against and therefore overriding the decisions of millions of individuals, government causes innumerable unintended consequences.  All of them can be traced to the initiation of force.

The third of the Three P’s is by far the most destructive when undertaken by government: to provide.  The illusion that government can “provide” anything springs from a loss of recognition of what government is.  Government is the use of force, not by an individual, but by all of society.  As it is a destructive force, rather than a creative one, it can produce nothing.  Therefore, it can only provide something to one citizen that it has forcefully seized from another.  This holds true whether it is attempting to provide healthcare, education, housing, or any other form of property.

The fact that human beings spend the majority of their time on earth laboring to fulfill their wants or needs makes this the most costly of the Three P’s.  While warfare represents violent aggression against millions of people, government’s usurpation of human labor initiates violence against everyone.  While the cost of warfare in human lives cannot be expressed in dollars and cents, there is at least a limit to the amount of lives it can affect and the length of time it will go on (despite government’s best efforts to make it universal and indefinite).  However, once government has claimed a right to the labor of its constituents, no one is spared and the subjugation never ends.

While the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amount to less than $200 billion per year (as if those amounts were not staggering themselves), the U.S. government spends trillions of dollars each year attempting to provide its citizens with healthcare, retirement benefits, education, housing, and other necessities.  Government’s results in all of these areas are the same: disastrous.  The healthcare, education, and housing provided by government are more expensive, of lower quality, and in shorter supply than would be the case if government did not attempt to provide them.  Aggression cannot create prosperity any more than it can create freedom.

Thomas Paine wrote that “government is at best a necessary evil.”  He understood clearly what government is: an institution of violence.  As individuals, we understand that the need may arise to commit violence against another human being, but only justifiably for one reason: to defend our lives against aggression.  Should we be faced with that unfortunate choice, we may be justified in resorting to violence but afterwards regret that the need to do so arose. Most importantly, no sane person claims a right to initiate violence under any other circumstances.  As we do not possess this power as individuals, we cannot delegate this power to government.  Any legitimate power possessed by government must derive from the individuals who constitute it.

To put it most succinctly, government must always be limited to a negative power.  It is the societal extension of the individual right of self defense.  As individuals cannot use force to prevent, promote, or provide, government cannot either.  Individuals have no right to force one another to do anything, even if they believe that it is in the victims’ best interests.  So, whenever the question arises of whether government should involve itself in some new aspect of its citizens’ lives, remember the Three P’s.  If the new program represents any of them, it is time for each individual to exercise his most basic right in respect to his government: the Fourth P, to prohibit.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Conservatism Is Not What We Need

conservative-liberal-road-sign-cropped-proto-custom_28If you are going to listen to Washington politicians at all, it is always best to listen to the party that is currently out of power. After each election, it is the job of the losers to try to attack the winners in any way they can. Often, they inadvertently advocate genuine principles of liberty in the process.

During the 8-year nightmare that was the Bush administration, it was the Democrats that stumbled upon these principles in their efforts to regain the throne. It was they who pointed out that the government should not be spying on its own citizens, that the president was assuming un-delegated powers through executive order, and that it was neither morally justified nor prudent to invade a third world nation that had committed no acts of aggression against the United States and lacked any reasonable means to do so. Their hysterical mouthpiece, Keith Olbermann, even went so far as to cite a long-forgotten document, the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, it is now abundantly clear that these arguments were made simply out of expediency. With the Democrats in power, it is now the Republicans’ turn to “fight City Hall,” and they have rolled out their usual rhetoric about small government, free markets, and traditional family values. Moreover, they, too, have rolled out the U.S. Constitution and waived it around in opposition to the Democrats’ plans to “spread the wealth around.”

Let’s take note that the Republicans are now correct in opposing the main tenets of the Democratic agenda, including expansion of government involvement in health care, “Cap and Trade,” and other wealth redistribution schemes. Amidst all of the usual noise coming from Washington and its media pundit class, it is only the Republicans that are making any sense at all.

Unfortunately, this is shaping up to produce familiar results. There is a growing movement for “change” that promises to “throw the bums out” in the next two elections. However, those who are part of this movement do not stop to consider what the Republicans’ true agenda will be once they regain power. As they have for over 100 years now, Americans are dashing to the other side in their perennial political game of “pickle in the middle.” They still haven’t learned that the pickle never wins.

The Republicans are having remarkable success in painting President Obama’s agenda as socialist and their “conservatism” as its antithesis. Most average Americans who identify themselves as conservatives accept this argument. If socialism redistributes wealth through the force of government, then conservatism, being its opposite, must oppose such redistribution of wealth. If socialism means that the economy will be centrally planned by government “experts,” then conservatism, being its opposite, must leave those decisions with private citizens. If socialism results in big government, conservatism, being its opposite, must result in small government. These are the assumptions that inform the political decisions of most conservative American voters.

There is only one problem. None of them are true.

The conservative-liberal dichotomy is as old as politics itself. It was present at the founding of the American republic. However, despite the Republicans’ claim to represent America’s founding principles, America was actually founded upon radically liberal ideas. The secession from the British Empire was in essence a complete rejection of conservatism.

Most Americans today believe that the primary motivation for the American Revolution was a separation from the British government. However, the revolutionaries only acquiesced to the necessity of complete separation as a last resort. Even after Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, the colonists were still making attempts to settle their differences with the British king and remain in the British Empire. The primary objection of the colonists was not the British king being their executive, but the conservative, mercantilist economic system that the British government enforced. The colonists objected to the policies of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, a central bank, militarism, and the taxes levied upon them to support these and other aspects of the worldwide British Empire. Had the British not imposed this system upon them, they would have been content to remain British citizens.

As soon as the Revolutionary War was won, the exact same debate erupted within the new American political system. Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists wished to replicate the British mercantilist system under an American government that would closely mirror the constitutional monarchy of Great Britain. The Federalists were the party of big government, national debt, corporate welfare, militarism, and central bank inflation.[1]

They wished to preserve the status quo insofar as the role of government and the nature of civil society was concerned, which benefitted a privileged, wealthy elite. They were the conservatives.

Socially, this party was the less tolerant of dissenters and tended to promote religion as useful in informing public policy. During Adams’ presidency and with the Federalists in control of Congress, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, making it illegal to criticize the government. These also are core conservative principles.

Their opponents, Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans, promoted exactly the opposite ideas. They wished to radically change the role of government in society to one that was strictly limited to enforcing the non-aggression principle of liberty, most importantly economic liberty. They were opposed to corporate welfare or any other government redistribution of wealth, railed against the dangers and injustice of standing armies and the national debt, and opposed the central bank. Over and over again when asked about the role of government, Jefferson consistently applied the non-aggression principle to arrive at an unambiguous answer. Always his answer supported each individual’s right to do as he pleased as long as he did not violate the rights of others, and to keep the fruits of his labor.

Jefferson and his followers insisted upon a “wall of separation” between church and state and denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts. They advocated free speech, civil liberties, and tolerance. These are core liberal principles.

While the conservatives gained the early lead due to George Washington’s election as president and subsequent appointment of Hamilton as treasury secretary, it was not a decisive victory. Washington, who along with Vice President John Adams was certainly a more moderate Federalist, also appointed Jefferson to his cabinet as secretary of state. This set the stage for an epic battle between the two ideologies after Washington departed from politics. Adams eventually broke with Hamilton and his party, costing him the 1800 election, and resulting in a decisive liberal victory by Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans. For the next 60 years, it was the liberal ideology of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom that dominated federal politics.

During this time, the conservatives constantly fought to establish bigger government, the central bank, and the other tenets of mercantilism that defined American conservatism. After the Federalist Party disbanded, they were replaced by the Whigs, a party made up of the same people and advocating the same principles as the Federalists. By this time, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans had also had a split, and had emerged as the Democrats.

The Whigs were never successful in achieving their goals, and eventually disbanded. However, as before, the same people and the same principles of big government were back again in 1860, this time calling themselves “Republicans.” They finally won a decisive victory in electing Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and a majority in Congress. Immediately, the Republicans began implementing their agenda of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, and higher taxes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it was this economic agenda (particularly the tariff) that motivated the southern states’ secession from the Union, not a disagreement over slavery.

It is vital to understand that the Republican Party was born as the party of big government, inheriting traditional, conservative big government principles from its conservative philosophical ancestors, the Whigs and Federalists. For most of its history, it has remained true to these principles, up to and including the Bush II adminstration. Barry Goldwater’s more libertarian platform during the 1960’s was a divisive anomaly in the conservative movement. Its popularity was later exploited by Ronald Reagan’s administration to implement the usual conservative philosophy of bigger government, militarism, and debt.

The problem for Americans today is that there is no longer an opposition party that represents a true antithesis of these principles. By the dawn of the 20th century, the Democrats had completely abandoned their core principles of individual liberty and economic freedom and adopted a socialist, democratic ideology of popular wealth redistribution. Where the Republicans continued to promote a system which plundered the many for the benefit of the privileged few, the Democrats no longer objected to government as an instrument of plunder and now merely fought to divide up the loot differently. They were no longer truly liberal, although they perverted that word in popular culture to mean exactly the opposite of what it really means. Since then, Americans have had to choose between two parties whose ideologies are fundamentally hostile to liberty.

One week ago, Congressman Ron Paul gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that both mainstream Republicans and Democrats disagree with. Of course they do. It was an eloquent articulation of America’s founding principles of individual liberty and limited government. Like Jefferson, Paul consistently applied the non-aggression principle of liberty to every aspect of government, concluding that we must end our worldwide military empire, end the welfare state (both corporate and popular), and get rid of the plundering Federal Reserve.

Socially, he advocated tolerance, civil liberties, and the right of every American to express his or her opinion, even if those opinions contradicted Paul’s own most preciously-held beliefs. Despite being likely the most truly Christian person in any branch of the federal government, he never once made any allusion to religion during his entire speech, except for a purely philosophical reference to Thomas Aquinas’ principle of the just war (he alluded to this as part of his anti-war argument). Young Americans for Liberty, an affiliate of Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, invited a gay pride group to the conference, invoking a bigoted outburst from one of the younger conservative speakers just before Paul took the stage. Paul’s followers roundly booed him out of the auditorium.

Ron Paul pitched his ideas as “conservative,” but they are not. During one point in the speech, libertarian radio commentator and publisher of Liberty Pulse, Kurt Wallace, turned to me and exclaimed delightedly, “Ron Paul is a radical!” He is. Like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the rest of the most pro-liberty founders of the United States, Ron Paul is a radical liberal (in the true sense of the word “liberal”). He is also an extremist, in the true sense of that word. He refuses to compromise his principles regardless of the political consequences.

Average Americans elect Republicans because they believe that Republicans will give them small government, low taxes, and economic freedom. They are mistaken. What they are yearning for has nothing to do with the Republican Party or the more general ideology called “conservatism.” What they really want is radical change. They demonstrated this in giving Ron Paul a victory in the CPAC straw poll. They also proved once again that they are wiser than the political class in Washington. At this critical juncture in American history, there is only one thing that can bring America back from the brink of social, economic, and political collapse: radical, anti-conservative change from leviathan government to extreme liberty.

[1] Thomas Dilorenzo’s books, Hamilton’s Curse and The Real Lincoln document the true roots and history of American conservatism superbly.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?