This was one of the speeches I wrote for Politimasters.
Some say that war is a necessary evil. Others say that antiwar is the ultimate good. I propose that choosing between a war & antiwar stance is like choosing between Republicans and Democrats; it's an example of a false dichotomy. There are other choices that can, and should, be made.
Necessary evil is a contradiction in terms (otherwise known as an 'oxymoron') it is an impossibility for something to be both necessary, ergo good, and evil, ergo bad. (I see your hand up back there, I'll bet you think you've got an example to prove me wrong. I would suggest that you check your precepts, there is a logical flaw in your argument somewhere.)
War is a many faceted concept. One of its facets, the right to defend oneself against aggression, is necessary. It is only through the ability to defend ones rights that the rights themselves can be secured; even if that defense requires violence in response to violence.
However modern warfare, wars of conquest, wars of aggression, are evil. Modern warfare, which is exemplified by large groups of soldiers highly trained and mechanized, able to wreak great destruction and death from a safe distance, is very hard to legitimize. Conquest and aggression violate the rights that we hold dear, and so should be avoided at all costs.
On the other hand, the antiwar movement has breed its own evil, and cannot possibly be the 'good' as currently constituted. Watch any antiwar rally, listen to nearly any antiwar protestor talk, and you will hear and see hatred of America, and the demonization of the American people.
This begs the question, if they are Americans, and all Americans are bad, how can they possibly be good? Are 'we' bad as libertarians? Of course not; and Americans in general are not evil or bad. Misguided, yes. America is the most generous nation on the face of the planet, and I have a hard time believing that is a sign of evil as well.
A facet of the antiwar movement, is the pacifist movement. Pacifism, in my opinion, is evil in its own right. True pacifism does not allow for a credible self defense; if you cannot mount an equal or superior force, then the consequences for aggressive actions are not sufficient enough to give an aggressor pause. Just like the possibility of being shot in states that allow concealed carry curbs crime, the knowledge on the part of an aggressor nation that the population of its 'target' is prepared to defend itself will tend to dissuade it from carrying out its aggression there.
In light of the above, let's analyze the current conflict in the middle east. Are we involved in a war of aggression, or are we engaged in self defense?
Do we face a real & credible threat? If you travel to New York city, and look into the pit that was the base of the World Trade Center, I think you will have to agree that there is a credible threat to us. The 'terrorists' who flew the planes into those buildings were part of a larger religious sect, and that religious sect has declared war on us. There may be no governments that have declared war on us in the middle eastern region, but several governments support this religious sect. That constitutes a threat in my opinion as well. In light of these facts we could be said to be engaged in self defense.
But why Iraq? They don't support the religious group who has declared war on us; and while they do train terrorists there (we should know, we funded them for many years) there has been no provable link between Iraq and the 9-11 attacks. The answer is: strategy. If you listen to the spokesman for StratFor (www.stratfor.com) he'll tell you what the governments won't: The real reason we are in Iraq is for long term strategy. We destroy the strongest army in the area, we have large numbers of troops on the ground in the region and we get to remove our troops from Saudi Arabia where they are causing problems. (in fact, their presence there lead indirectly to the 9-11 attacks, but I digress) all good strategic reasons to be there.
Isn't that by definition a war of aggression? It sure looks like it on the surface. In reality, however, how can we know? The 'top secret' information that our governments is acting on is not available to us. No discussions of the facts behind our current conflict have been allowed so far. Very few public discussions of a factual nature have been conducted at all; generally all we get are propaganda based posing on either side (war and antiwar) which are framed in such a way as to create a rift amongst the American people.
So, here we are, libertarians all. What should be our response to this. I've got one for you: What war?
There has been no declaration of war. There has been no request for one. The president has gone out of his way to stress to insurance companies that there is NO war, so they have to honor the claims of businesses and people harmed by the current conflict.
We have no 'real' information. The CIA doesn't report to any of us, and how could we know whether to trust them or not, even if they did? The only people that know what's going on are the men in the field, and most of them are too close to the action to be objective about it.
We have a genuine need to remove real and credible threats, but is this the right way? Do we have to subjugate the entire middle east in order to remove the current threat? That certainly seems to be where we are headed, and without any direction from the people who will have to foot the bill for all this. I welcome discussion on the facts, Mr. President, members of congress; give us the facts. Give us the chance to judge the truth of the matter as sovereign individuals, as is our right. What are the long range intentions in relation to the middle east, and militant religion in particular.
So the next time (Did I hear you say "Hey the wars over, we won."? Right...) someone asks you "what do you think about the war?", just ask them "What war?" I guarantee it will be a conversation they'll remember.
In hindsight, it strikes me as funny that Bush declared victory in 2003, but we're still fighting battles over there on a daily basis. What does 'victory' mean? Doesn't sound like the war is over from where I'm sitting.
The thing I got the most trouble over from people who heard the speech is that I needed to revise my views concerning necessary evil; it was deemed to be a sign of naivete, that I didn't understand the issues well enough to understand what evil was and why it might be necessary to do evil. Nearly three years later, I simply feel stronger about it. Most people who use this phrase are just looking for an excuse for supporting something that they 'know' is evil. The problem remains in the unrealistic definition of what evil is, as I asserted originally.
If you find yourself mouthing the phrase 'necessary evil', you better be 100 percent sure of the necessary part.