Without the State, Who’d Drag Us Into Other People’s Wars?

This article was posted shortly before the International Court of Justice ruled provisionally that Israel’s Gaza military operation can plausibly be described as acts outlawed by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The ICJ ordered Israel to take all actions possible to prevent the acts forbidden by the convention. But the court did not order a ceasefire. A full ruling will come later. The complaint against Israel had been filed by the Republic of South Africa.

What’s more off-putting than seeing U.S. government officials and their spokesmen trying to wriggle out of embarrassing questions about American support for Israel’s continuing atrocities against the people of the Gaza Strip? That’s the location of just the latest conflict into which we Americans have been dragged by our caring rulers without our consent. The previous one, in Ukraine, is still going on, though largely forgotten. Isn’t the state a wonderful thing?

Theoretically, it’s illegal for the U.S. government to give weapons to governments that will use them to violate people’s rights. But that is exactly what the U.S. government has done for Israel over many decades. Hence the U.S. government’s bobbing and weaving over Israel’s unambiguous war crimes. Our “public servants” have to evade. What else can they do? They can’t acknowledge that Israel’s policy is to systematically kill, maim, and starve large numbers of innocent noncombatants and to destroy their homes and society. Still, those officials can’t deny it outright either because, given what we mere citizens can easily learn from a variety of credible sources online, they would look like the know-nothing damn fools they are. So they subtly acknowledge the crimes by politely suggesting that Israel try not to kill so many noncombatants, even as they insist Israel’s army remains the most moral army in the world. (Here is a video summary of the horrors that the U.S. government is abetting in Gaza.)

Why should Americans be forced to underwrite this nightmare for Gazans or other foreign conflicts? It certainly doesn’t protect Americans — on the contrary. (See 9/11.)  What makes it worse is that the forced assistance is crucial to the aggression. Israel could not continue to destroy Gaza if the U.S. government stopped sending ammunition, population-annihilating bombs, and spare parts. We Americans make the massive war crimes possible.

And it could get worse by bringing more direct U.S. intervention. The U.S. government is bombing Yemen — without a congressional declaration of war. (Not that it would make the bombing better.) The U.S. military is also striking Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq because they have hit U.S. forces. But why are U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq? Why is Iran a player in Iraq? Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.

Even though we haven’t consented to any of this — individually, I mean, not by majority vote — it’s a shameful mark on the country. No doubt, some aggrieved people, who perhaps have lost children and parents in the onslaught, want vengeance. Like Osama bin Laden, they think the American people control U.S. foreign policy. Who can blame them for thinking that? American rulers, by bragging about democracy, say that all the time. It’s absurd, but that fallacy is not confined to jihadists. American and Israeli politicians annihilate people for acts they did not commit or consent to.

This all adds up to a strong indictment against government per se. What other organization can steal our money and use it to help destroy other societies in our name without consent? Embroiling us in foreign conflicts is one of the government’s tools, with many benefits to the political class and its clients. Although people with bad intentions will be attracted to that power, interventionism will be tragically misguided even when well-intended, as perhaps it often is. The interventionists can never really know what they are doing. Unintended consequences will abound, and optimistic predictions will quickly turn sour. No constitution could permanently curb, much less abolish that power because every constitution will have to be interpreted. Who do you think will do the interpreting?

What can conscientious objectors do? Stopping traffic at rush hour doesn’t work. Closing down railway terminals and sitting in at government offices are no better. Your meager one vote is impotent. In the short term, I see no way out. Over the long term? Try to convince enough people that we can’t afford government either monetarily or morally.

Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies; former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education; and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest books are Coming to Palestine and What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.