Thursday, July 17, 2014

For the Love of God, STOP Standing with Israel

by Jeff Godley

My Facebook feed has been inundated in the last week with posts expressing support for Israel.

Of all the well-intentioned-yet-hopelessly-misguided political sentiments out there, "Stand with Israel" is among the worst. Westerners should not be standing with Israel; nor should they should be standing with Palestine. Westerners should be staying out of this conflict altogether and stop trying to impose their own will on affairs in the Middle East.

Here are a few reasons why you should stop "Standing with Israel."

1. It makes the situation worse. 

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Israel really is "the good guy" and Palestine really is "the bad guy." If Palestine really is committing unprovoked aggression against Israeli civilians, is having leaders from all the most powerful nations publicly state that they stand against Palestine likely to make the Palestinians see reason? Or is it more likely that this will simply make them desperate and lead them to redouble their efforts? This is hardly a fair question; a dangerous animal when cornered is more dangerous still - so why are we in such a rush to force Palestine into a corner?

2. It promotes entangling alliances

Idle words and political posturing are bad enough on their own. However, if recent history is any indication, expressions of political commitment may all-too-easily escalate to military commitment. Politicians who trumpet that they "Stand with Israel" may soon have their bluff called and asked to put their troops where their mouth is.

The conflict between over the Holy Land has been ongoing since the 7th Century. Do we truly believe that this time if we just send some people with guns into the region we will achieve lasting peace? Every time the West marches into the Middle East to "keep peace" they create more chaos and bloodshed. Even if our motives were pure each time, at what point will learn from our mistakes and admit that maybe, just maybe, our presence in the region will NOT make the situation any better?

3. It decreases security at home 

Westerners have been sold the bald-faced lie that terrorist attacks against Western nations are because terrorists "hate us for our freedoms." The truth is, terrorism is retaliation for the West's decades-long political and military intervention into the Middle East. Indeed, such "hippie" "peacenik" organizations as the CIA and the 9/11 commission have identified "blowback" (the politically correct way of saying "they hate us because we won't leave them alone") as a primary cause of the attacks of September 11th.

If China decided that it wanted to install a leader in Canada who was "friendly to the East" or if Russia invaded the U.S to "make the world safe for dictatorship," I imagine the idea would not sit entirely well with the citizens of those countries. But that is precisely what the Western world has done in the Middle East for the better part of a century. They hate us because we try to rule their countries in a way that best suits us. And we wonder why they attack us.

Intervening in the Middle East does not make Israel safe, and it certainly doesn't make us safe either.

4. It is bad for Christians in Palestine

Many of those who are "standing with Israel" are professing Christians, who invoke the idea that the Jews are "God's people" to justify their support of Israel. If so, what about God's "other" people - the many Christians in the Middle East?

Fact: there are far more Palestinian Christians than their are Israeli Christians. Fact: Palestinian Christians are not well-treated. Fact: every time conflict between Israel and Palestine breaks out in earnest, Christians are persecuted even more heavily. By "standing with Israel" Christians are choosing to stand against their brothers and sisters in Palestine.

The better path: non-intervention. 

As long as Western nations continue choosing sides in border disputes that do not involve them, war will be the daily reality for countless millions of people. If we truly take pity on the victims of war, we must accept responsibility for our own part in creating that reality - by interfering in international disputes we provoke war, we make war worse and we keep wars going.

Ron Paul said it best: the West serves foreign nations best when it stops inserting itself into their affairs. Be friends to other nations, trade freely with them, take no sides in any of their conflicts, and set an example of peace. That is how we ought to treat Palestine. If we won't stop provoking other nations, why should they? 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Problem of Depravity: Why Human Evil is Not a Case for Minarchism

Anand, the proprietor of this blog, is on a hiatus from writing. In his absence, he has agreed to allow me, Jeff Godley, to continue writing content of my own. 

In one sense, the gap between libertarian minarchism and libertarian anarchism is negligible: both groups generally agree on major policy issues, such as ending the wars, ending the Fed, stopping the drug war, and getting the government out of education and healthcare.

Yet the way the two groups communicate, in another sense they are very far apart, indeed.

I don't intend this to be yet another "anarchists are right, minarchists are wrong" post. Time enough for that later. My goal here is to help the two camps debate in good faith, and to ensure both groups are making the strongest case possible for their positions. If our goal is the pursuit of truth, neither anarchist nor minarchist will be well served by endlessly repeating bad arguments.

To that end, I want to take a look at a common minarchist objection to an anarchist society: the problem of depravity. It usually takes this form:
Anarchism may work in theory, but it is not for the real world; men are not angels. Some form of government is necessary to maintain order among people, stop invading armies, and apprehend violent criminals. Government is a necessary evil. 
The problem with this argument is not it's inaccurate portrayal of humankind - no anarchist, after all, denies that men are not angels - but rather that its application is completely arbitrary. It takes a true statement ("men are not angels") and uses it to object to anarchism while ignoring the fact that the same argument is just as true of their own position.

When an anarchist challenges the minarchist, arguing that the "men are not angels" standard applies to those who are in government, the minarchist typically replies along these lines:
That is why the citizens must exercise eternal vigilance over the government; that is why we need to elect good leaders; that is why we have checks and balances; that is why we have need to follow the Constitution. 
Perhaps that is true; but the minarchist is arbitrarily choosing not to apply the "men are not angels" standard here. "Men are not angels" is supposedly anarchism's kryptonite - but only because minarchists fail to apply the standard consistently to their own position. If these sinful men are not be fit to govern themselves, how is it that they are fit to keep watch over government, judge who is a "good" leader, institute and uphold checks and balances and write and enforce constitutions?

If we accept the minarchist standard as applied to anarchism, we have to say that - since there is no ultimate guarantee that men can or will exercise any of these duties faithfully - men are just as unfit to be part of a minarchist order as they are to be part of an anarchist one.

The point is this: human depravity is a problem for every legal system. Every time Person A devises a system of legal order, whether it is centralized or polycentric, forced or voluntary, Person B can (quite correctly), raise the objection "how do we know that the people providing the order will do so properly?!?" So Person A devises a mechanism by which the legal consumers can ensure the best quality from the legal producers. Then Person B can object, "how do we know that the people responsible for this mechanism will do so properly?!?" So then Person A......

This kind of reductio ad infinitum is possible no matter what legal system one argues. Pointing it out is not a good argument, since it applies equally well to both sides of the debate. As long as the human will is involved in your legal system, there is the strong possibility it will fail, and fail miserably. There exist no iron-clad guarantees of perfection in any legal system. The point is not "men are not angels; therefore minarchism." Neither is the point "men are not angels; therefore anarchism." Rather, men are not angels; therefore... nothing at all.

Anarchists and minarchists need not always agree, and debate between the two camps helps clarify what we believe about government - a necessary and inevitable evil? a boon to humanity? or a destructive parasite with no justification? This is a valid question and one worth debating.

But in this debate not all arguments are created equal. Minarchists do not help their case by applying an arbitrary standard of human depravity. They should take care, lest they fall into their own trap.