By Murray N. Rothbard
The trouble with sectarians, whether they be libertarians, Marxists, or world-governmentalists, is that they tend to rest content with the root cause of any problem, and never bother themselves with the more detailed or proximate causes. The best, and almost ludicrous, example of blind, unintelligent sectarianism is the Socialist Labor Party, a venerable party with no impact whatsoever on American life. To any problem that the state of the world might pose: unemployment, automation. Vietnam, nuclear testing, or whatever, the SLP simply repeats, parrotlike: “Adopt socialism.” Since capitalism is allegedly the root cause of all these and other problems, only socialism will whisk them away, Period. In this way the sectarian, even if his spotting of the ultimate root cause should be correct, isolates himself from all problems of the real world, and, in further irony, keeps himself from having any impact toward the ultimate goal he cherishes.
On the question of war guilt, whatever the war, sectarianism raises its ugly, uninformed head far beyond the stagnant reaches of the Socialist Labor Party. Libertarians, Marxists, world-governmentalists. each from their different perspective, have a built-in tendency to avoid hothering about the detailed pros and cons of any given conflict. Each of them knows that the root cause of war is the nation State system; given the existence of this system, wars will always occur, and all States will share in that guilt. The libertarian, in particular, knows that States, without exception, aggress against their citizens, and knows also that in all wars each State aggresses against innocent civilians “belonging” to the other State.
Now this kind of insight into the root cause of war and aggression, and into the nature of thestateitself, is all well and good, and vitally necessary for insight into the world condition. But the trouble is that the libertarian tends to stop there. and evading the responsibility of knowing what is going on in any specific war or international conflict, he tends to leap unjustifiably to the conclusion that, in any war, all States are equallv guilty, and then to go about his business without giving the matter a second thought. In short, the libertarian (and the Marxist, and the world government partisan) tends to dig himself into a comfortable ‘Third Camp” position, putting equal blame on all sides to any conflict, and letting it go at that. This is a comfortable position to take because it doesn’t really alienate the partisans of either side. Both sides in any war will write this man off as a hopelessly “idealistic” and out-of-it sectarian. a man who is even rather lovable because he simply parrots his “pure” position without informing himself or taking sides on whatever war is raging in the world. In short, both sides will tolerate the sectarian precisely because he is irrelevant, and because his irrelevancy guarantees that he makes no impact on the course of events or on public opinion about these events.
No: Libertarians must come to realize that parroting ultimate principles is not enough for coping with the real world. Just because all sides share in the ultimate State-guilt, does not mean that all sides are equally guilty. On the contrary, in virtually every war, one side is far more guilty than the other, and on one side must be pinned the basic responsibility for aggression, for a drive for conquest, etc. But in order to find out which side to any war is the more guilty, we have to inform ourselves in depth about the history of that conflict, and that takes time and thought–and it also takes the ultimate willingness to become relevant by taking sides through pinning a greaterdegree of guilt on one side or the other.
So–let us become relevant; and, with that in mind, let us examine the root historical causes of the chronic as well as the current acute crisis in the Middle East; and let us do chis with a view to discovering and assessing the Guilty. Continue reading “War Guilt in the Middle East”