A Critique of Rand's War Quotes
by Scott Bushee, September 15,2001
Scott Bushee submitted the following comments to the list run by http://www.wetheliving.com.
This is off the ARI site (http://www.aynrand.org/medialink/arwarquotes.html) and deals with current events:
Ford Hall Forum 1972: "A Nation's Unity"
Q: What should be done about the killing of innocent people in war?
AR: This is a major reason people should be concerned about the nature of their government. Certainly, the majority in any country at war is innocent. But if by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overthrow their bad government and establish a better one, then they must pay the price for the sins of their government as we are all paying for the sins of ours. If some people put up with dictatorship as some of them do in Soviet Russia, and some of them did in Nazi Germany then they deserve what their government deserves. There are no innocent people in war. Our only concern should be: who started that war? If you can establish that a given country did it, then there is no need to consider the rights of that country, because it has initiated the use of force, and therefore stepped outside the principle of right. I've covered this in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, where I explain why nations as such do not have any rights, only individuals do.
Ford Hall Forum 1976: "The Moral Factor"
Q: Assume a war of aggression was started by the Soviet Union; assume also that within the Soviet Union, there were individuals opposed to the Soviet system. How would you handle that?
AR: I'll pretend I'm taking the question seriously, because this question is blatantly wrong. I cannot understand how anyone could entertain the question. My guess is that the problem is context-dropping. The question assumes that an individual inside a country can and should be made secure from the social system under which he lives and which he accepts, willingly or unwillingly (even if he is fighting it he still accepts it because he hasn't left the country), and that others should respect his rights and collapse to aggression themselves. This is the position of the goddamned pacifists, who wouldn't fight, even when attacked, because they might kill innocent people. If this were so, nobody would have to be concerned about his country's political system. But we should care about having the right social system, because our lives are dependent on it because a political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it. So if we fight a war, I hope the "innocent" are destroyed along with the guilty. There aren't many innocent ones; those that exist are not in the big cities, but mainly in concentration camps. But nobody should put up with aggression, and surrender his right of self-defense, for fear of hurting somebody else, guilty or innocent. When someone comes at you with a gun, if you have an ounce of self-esteem, you will answer him with force, never mind who he is or who stands behind him. If he's out to destroy you, you owe it to your own life to defend yourself.
Let us now consider the following fact. The U.S. government has been bombing Iraq almost constantly this past year. Our sanctions have killed thousands of people, including children. Does this mean that I, as a libertarian who opposes these actions, am responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents? Are you responsible for thousands of deaths? Were any of the firemen or police officers who died trying to rescue people from the WTC responsible for those deaths? What of the regular people in the building? According to Rand, the answer to all of the above would be yes. Yes, you are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children, because you are a U.S. citizen. Yes, the people (I will still refer to them as 'innocents'), the innocents who died in the building were responsible because they were U.S. citizens. Therefore, since they were all responsible for those deaths, certainly, had the attack been orchestrated by Saddam, it would have been justified. In fact, these quotes seem to place Rand (and every hawk) in the awkward situation of defending as a just act of war every innocent American who died in the WTC, provided it was done by people who were attacked first by the U.S. Government. It seems that she would be forced to say that those people in the WTC deserved to die.
Rand was wrong. Amazing as it sounds, she was arguing from collectivist principles.
Harry Browne and the editorial staff at Anti-war.com are right, and they are right because they didn't lose sight of their individualistic principles.