Defense for a Free Society

The Iraq fiasco is providing a powerful validation of our Libertarian theory about how a free society would best be defended.

That's not of course to say that Iraq is in any sense a free society. Nor it is to disrespect the hundreds of Americans who have been killed there, nor to pass judgment on who, there, are the good guys and bad guys--an extraordinarily difficult task. Nor in particular does it suggest that the Iraqi resistors who are killing in the hope of becoming rulers (whether remnants of Saddam's National Socialist regime or members of some power-hungry Islamic group) are in any way to be compared to "freedom fighters"--except one. That one is, that they are giving the occupying army one helluva lot of trouble.

Statist Theory conventional doctrine holds that even if a government is needed for little else, there must be one for defense. America's founders certainly held that view. This statist notion holds that collectivism works for this most fundamental need of a society--despite its total failure to work for other needs such as food, water, clothing, shelter, transportation, education or the distribution of wealth. And every bloody page of the history books records how badly collectivism works for defense too. We knew that in theory before March 2003--and could have supported the view with plenty of evidence.

But now, we have a whole new chapter of confirmation. The Iraqi government provided a classic example of collective defense. A tight chain of command, run by strong-man Saddam; a large army, equipped by an impressive array of modern arms and technology. Yet in 1991 it was whipped in 100 hours, and in 2003 it was overrun in three weeks. Bush has been ridiculed for announcing "Mission Accomplished" last May--but he was not wrong: The mission of removing that vicious government had, indeed, been accomplished. The job was done even faster than Hitler was able to demolish the French one in 1940.

So collectivized defense does not work; or at the very least, it is fatally unreliable--it works no more than 50% of the time. And in the fall of Saddam, we have added proof. In its place we now see a living if highly imperfect example of Libertarian Theory--that is, of resistance to an occupying force by a large number of disparate groups operating from within a civilian population. In libertarian theory, that is very close to how a free society would be defended--with entirely different motives, of course. Much more: That theory holds (for example here under "Defense") that all potential aggressors, seeing the way that most members in their target, free society are well armed and determined not to be ruled, will count the cost of invasion too large relative to any loot that victory might yield, and seek a softer target. That therefore, there would never be any actual need to shoot his occupying soldiers in the back, sabotage their convoys or bring down his helicopters.

Now, prior to the Bush invasion of Iraq such resistance was not expected. The published view was that the invading soldiers would be greeted by flowers. Perhaps the Bushies knew a bit better than that, but it seems very unlikely that they would have invaded with full expectation that resistance would increase through the critical pre-election months of 2004. Not surprising; Saddam did not advertise that he would fold up and distribute his machine guns, land mines and RPGs to any fanatic who cared to take them home.

But a free society would advertise, in advance, exactly that kind of intention to resist. Just as the collapse of collectivized Iraqi defense mocks conventional theory, so the success of the highly decentralized resistance has confirmed the effectiveness of the "hedgehog" or anarchist alternative, regardless of the eventual outcome. Will it succeed overall? We have yet to see, of course, but it's clearly possible that the cost of occupation will continue to increase and that US voters will replace Bush with Kerry who, to win office, will promise to extract US forces from an unwinnable war. That will hardly benefit the longsuffering people of Iraq, who want only to enjoy life and raise their families and earn a living, for as noted the alternative to US rule is rule by either resurgent Nazis or by religious bigots stuck in the 14th Century; but it would add yet further proof to my point.

My own best guess is that the resistance will fail, because the invasion was not merely a Republican adventure but a combined Rep-Dem decision, to extend the American Empire, to de-fund and crush Islamic resistance, to secure a stable flow of mid-East oil, and to make safe and permanent the State of Israel (and just possibly, to set Saint George W on a white horse in triumph at Armageddon; as if he, too, has a mind stuck in the 14th Century.) Even if elected Kerry will not, IMHO, be allowed to disrupt that grand strategic plan. What that will mean in terms of ongoing conflict, life and morale in the US military, and ongoing terror attacks in the homeland, may be the story of the rest of this decade and perhaps beyond.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"