“Why, of course the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.””There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.””Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
Herman Goering, as related to Gustave Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials, from the book Nuremberg Diary.
More than 50 years later, we can now see clearly that Goering was right on all points. Not only that, but declarations of war are no longer relevant, and the voice of the people is no longer even recognized as an inconvenient obstacle. If anything, the present corruption has gone beyond his reckoning, as the rhetoric of the warmongers has expanded far beyond accusing opponents of “exposing the country to danger.” Nowadays, pointing out the immorality of war will get you accused of being against your own freedom and against human rights.
This, of course, is pure propaganda. Freedom is not a piece of land or a building that can be protected and guarded by guns. It is a concept that finds its expression in the free will of each individual. Since it exists purely within the individual, freedom cannot be protected by any exterior determinism: at worst, it can only be destroyed, by killing the individual, enslaving his body, or enslaving his mind to some belief system.
To draw the reasoning back to a more concrete level, we cannot justifiably say that the US military is “protecting our freedom” by killing “insurgents,” let alone innocent mothers and children. I am not made more or less free by such murders. These actions seek to further the values of the ruling class, which controls the military, and the values of their plutocratic friends, not the values of the common man. All that killing someone in Iraq can do is destroy the freedom of the now dead individual.
One may argue that the US military is needed in order to fend off foreign governments that might seek to kill US citizens. Let’s set apart the absurdity and coercive nature of the concept of “US citizenship,” because it is a rather obvious point: instead, let’s look at this from a self-defense point of view.
I can easily agree that anyone who threatens violence and has the means to do so (either by possessing those means, or by having influence over others who do) deserves to be met with force. I also agree that each individual has an inalienable right of self-defense. These two points are undisputed. However, I do not agree that the ruling class of any “country” has the right to defend its own plutocratic interests by hiring or enslaving a group of its own subjects and forcing them to kill the opposing group. To state that such a right exists is collectivist insanity. A man is not allowed to kill another because his superior is protecting his money or power. If that was so, then every corporate crime in history, and most contract killings, would be permissible, which is absurd.
A statist may then ask, how would an Anarchy be protected? For one thing, “an Anarchy” is not something that has rights: only individuals have rights. We may properly speak of the Anarchic framework, or of the individuals within it, but not both. The Anarchic framework will be preserved, as any other social institution, as long as the individuals within it believe that it furthers their interests. The individuals themselves will be protected because they desire to be protected. As Lysander Spooner said, “[I]f a man wants ‘protection,’ he is competent to make his own bargains for it; and nobody has any occasion to rob him, in order to ‘protect’ him against his will.”
In short, a justifiable common defense must be based on two inalienable principles: one, it must be entirely voluntary, and two, it must be an attempt to prevent crimes from being committed. It can easily be seen that the war in Iraq fulfills neither of these criteria, and that virtually no wars in history have ever fulfilled these criteria (including the old bugaboos like the American Revolution, the War of Northern Aggression or World War 2).
It’s even worse than that. War used to be a rich man’s pastime and glory, but the nature of war itself shifted. War became a Big Government program, and with this shift came one very murderous and morally corrupting belief: the belief in “total war,” that it is justifiable to slaughter civilian populations because they contribute to the “war effort.” It has led normal individuals to hold absurd, laughable depravity as truth. The end result of this corruption of minds is that many people now consider the genocidal nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be noble acts. This level of moral depravity is beyond anything that communism or fascism could ever achieve.
As much as it tries to fracture and balkanize society, democratic statism is an inherently totalizing framework, naturally extending its sphere of influence and claims of ownership, beyond that afforded by coercive laws and monopoloid systems, into areas hitherto reserved to the people.
Wars are now an integral part of this totalizing framework: no one can claim to be outside of it, no one is immune to being enslaved for it or dying for it, and no one can express dissent without being targeted. Democracy or not, people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders, as long as you inject enough FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in public discourse. The desire for security and the fear of threats to that security has always been, and remains, the best tool in the State’s arsenal.
The notion of war as an integral part of politics is brilliantly illustrated in the novel 1984, where “perpetual war” ensures stability between the three superpowers of the world. With the progressive fusion of Europe, the growing threat of American imperialism, and the growing power of China, let us hope that are not headed for such a catastrophic scenario. But one thing’s for sure: Goering was right.