January 17, 2019

Why Are We Thanking the Troops for Disastrous Wars Like Iraq?

Veterans-Day-2016Another Veteran’s Day has come and gone, with the usual high fives all around for anyone who has ever donned a U.S. military uniform. The holiday falling on a Friday this year meant the pro-military sentiments generally lasted throughout the weekend at sporting events and other public gatherings. As always, the ubiquitous mantra from every corner of the republic was, “Thank the troops.”

Sooner or later, somebody has to ask: For what?

The general answer is for the great sacrifices the troops have made to defend freedom. But when was the last time any American’s freedom was in jeopardy from an external threat? Would any American be less free if the U.S. did not invade Afghanistan or Iraq? Vietnam? Deep down, everyone knows Americans aren’t freer because of these wars. So, why do we keep talking like they are?

Let’s take the two wars virtually everyone, across the political spectrum, agree were mistakes: Iraq and Vietnam. It turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no “domino effect” after Vietnam, even though the mission there was unsuccessful. The communists did take over the country, but Asia and eventually the rest of the world did not fall to communism afterwards. On the contrary, once we stopped fighting them, the Vietnamese had the good sense to abandon communism relatively quickly after we left. Today, they are a major trading partner.

So, neither of these wars benefited the people who paid for them. In fact, American taxpayers and just about everyone else on the planet would have been far better off if neither had been fought at all.

To preempt hysteria in the comments section, no, the men and women in uniform don’t decide which wars they fight and where they are deployed. Fine. But just because the soldiers shouldn’t be blamed for the war, it doesn’t necessarily follow they should be thanked for it, either. If you’re talking to a friend at a cocktail party and a drunken guest bumps him, causing him to spill his drink on your suit, you may not blame your friend for ruining your suit. But would you thank him for it?

Read the rest at HuffPost…

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.

Muhammad Ali Was No Draft Dodger; His Stance Against War Was Libertarian

220px-Muhammad_Ali_NYWTSAmerica awoke today to the sad news that boxing legend Muhammad Ali has passed away. And while the overwhelming majority of public remembrances will be praiseworthy, there are still those who have never forgiven Ali for his refusal to comply with the military draft in the 1960s. Even his archrival, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, resorted to calling Ali a “draft dodger.”

Ali took some controversial racial positions early in his career, some of which he regretted later in life, but the charge of draft dodger is completely unfounded. Ali never dodged the draft; he opposed it, accepting the legal consequences without any attempt to evade them. He didn’t flee to Canada or enroll in college to obtain a deferment. From the moment he learned of his induction, Ali stood firmly in the proud tradition of civil disobedience, saying “just take me to jail.”

And while Ali cited his religion as the chief basis for his objection to the war, most of his statements were firmly rooted in the libertarian principle of non-aggression:

“Why should me and other so-called ‘negroes’ go 10,000 miles away from home, here in America, to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent brown people who’s never bothered us and I will say directly: No, I will not go.”

This writer has long argued the declaration of war power granted to Congress is not the power to start a war, but to declare that one already exists, based on the founding libertarian principle of nonaggression.

Ali’s principled stand cost him quite a bit at the time. He was stripped of his boxing title and sentenced to five years in prison. While he eventually won an appeal and avoided the prison sentence, he was indebted for years and reviled by a large portion of the American public.

Throughout it all, he maintained his stance, reiterating the non-aggression principle over and over as he toured America speaking against the war. Certainly, racial inequality was interwoven into his position and some of what he said was regrettable, including “my enemy’s the white people, not the Vietcong, the Chinese or the Japanese.” But while those words were rash, it’s not like he didn’t have a point.

More importantly, history has vindicated his principled stand against a war nearly everyone now considers a mistake. After invading a tiny nation that had never attacked the United States and losing over 50,000 U.S. soldiers, the United States left Vietnam to the communists, who quickly took over the entire country.

According to proponents of the war at the time, this should have led to a “domino effect,” wherein the rest of Asia and subsequently the world succumbed to the communist menace. Instead, communism failed on its own and the Vietnamese began adopting a market economy a mere twelve years later, as eventually did virtually every other communist nation. Today, Vietnam is a trading partner with the U.S.

A lot of very smart people defended the Vietnam War at the time and for a long time afterwards. Some of the most hawkish wonks still do. Imagine the lives and fortunes that could have been saved if they had just listened to a loudmouthed young boxer with a purported IQ of 78, who wisely articulated the eternal law of nature in opposing an immoral and unnecessary war.

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.