It would be very difficult for me to be a libertarian. I’d like to say that on many issues, I am one, but that label just doesn’t seem to fit me most days. As much as I respect most of those who are, and the principles they seem to hold to, I just can’t embrace enough of their ‘golden calves’ to be labeled libertarian.
I’m just trying to be honest. I have several libertarian friends and on most issues, we agree. There are those issues that we don’t agree on though and although I have attempted to be open minded enough to at least consider the evidence, I always end up back in the same place.
This is not a post about legalizing marijuana, by the way. That will be down the road a bit. This is not about legalizing so-called ‘same-sex marriage’. I’ve already posted on that and will continue to pound the drum in favor of traditional marriage.
This is about the rhetoric I constantly hear from libertarians and some liberals on what they call ‘endless war’. Here are some of my thoughts.
First of all, I think I need to give some credit to libertarians on their loyalty to the Constitution. This is where we agree. War is strictly defined in that document as a Congressional act and there should be no exceptions, not for Bush, Obama, Lincoln, Roosevelt or whoever. That definition is agreed upon inside of the covenant voted upon and ratified by the states. This covenant, the US Constitution, binds and restricts our Federal government’s powers to levy war so as to protect the states from unnecessary burden in supplying the Feds with men, money, and materials needed to feed war hungry tyrants. It also protects the separation of powers inside of the Federal government to keep one branch, the executive, from obtaining too much power. Both the states are protected from the Feds and the people are protected from tyrants in this way. This is not only a libertarian issue; it is an important attribute of the nature of the American Republic.
Where I part ways with many libertarians is mainly the rhetoric, ‘endless war’. There is no such thing as ‘endless’ war. All wars begin, and all wars end. They know that and I know that, so we can probably agree that this is purely rhetorical language. That’s fine as long as it’s understood to be semantics.
What they probably mean is that war is perpetuated by our government and is becoming culturally acceptable as the norm. That may be true, but if that is the only disagreement with ‘endless war’, then there has been no evidence that would point toward immorality. War itself should not be preferred but is sometimes necessary. If it is the government that promotes it, that may simply be because the government’s job is to protect us from foreign enemies. War would only become immoral if it could be proven to either be perpetuated for an immoral cause (malicious) that measures insignificant beside human costs. Or, war may be immoral if it is perpetuated for arbitrary reasons (motive). Finally, if the means of war can be shown to be immoral, then its perpetuation may be immoral. In my opinion, these three, malicious, motives, or means, are the three ways to determine the morality of war.
The length of the conflict has little to do with its ethical position. In fact, one could say that if there were no malicious motives and the means were obligatory, then it would be virtuous to fight as long as necessary to obtain victory. To merely quit because of the length of the conflict presupposes a weakness in the resolve of the warring party, which presupposes a weakness in the belief in their cause, implying an arbitrary reason to begin with and a reason to doubt the morality of the conflict.
In other words, for a war to be just, it must have a sufficient moral cause grounded outside of the warring party.
Furthermore, war itself cannot be a sufficient cause for war. If war was perpetuated for the mere enjoyment of it, that would be deemed malicious and thus immoral.
So it is not the duration or the endlessness of war that would make it immoral, nor is it war itself that is necessarily immoral. There must be something else which would make ‘endless war’ immoral, something that is really wrong.
This is where I begin to separate those who I argue against rhetorically from those who I disagree with philosophically. Although I have Christian friends, brothers and sisters who would use the rhetorical power of the term “endless war”, I assume that many of the libertarians who use the rhetoric of “endless war” are atheists/agnostics. For that particular group I would ask, what is wrong with endless war? Is endless war only wrong for us? Or is it wrong for all people?
You see, for a Christian war can be wrong for several reasons. War can have an immoral cause. It may be immoral in its means. It may for some Christians even be immoral in its essence. We base these ideas on other truths that are outside of and independent of all people, places, and times. That is, they are transcendent or from God who exists outside of and independent of everything and in and from whose nature all morality transcends to his created beings, us.
For an atheist though, war cannot be immoral in any real sense. The fact of the matter is that the atheist has no grounding for morality other than his or her preference. It may be that they don’t prefer war, endless or not, but without a transcendent quality to their morality, it can never be considered objectively immoral and it may not be argued that another ought not war.
In fact, understanding that most atheists are materialists philosophically, there is no sufficient reason outside of the material, to oppose war at all. Actually, war can be nothing but a description of physically violent acts of one culture that prefers to war with another culture that may or may not prefer it. The wrong or right of war rests in the subjective ideals (immaterial; worldview contradiction) of a particular nation because there is nothing in which to ground any objective objection. For if there is to be a sufficient reason for one culture to object to another cultures desire for war, there must be a standard to which one can argue back. There must be a moral standard that both parties idea of rightness are based in and some truth that is outside of and independent of themselves. Not only must this standard be independently sufficient of the two parties in question, it must be outside of and independent of all cultures, all places, and all times. This is true because if it can be shown that the moral reason that dictates an act be found immoral is not always or in all places true, then that moral reason is not a sufficient reason to make any objective claim (such as murder is wrong, rape is wrong, ‘endless’ war is wrong). There must be grounding for what is right and what is wrong, a grounding that can be appealed to as objectively true.
And since atheists claim no such grounding for morality other than their own preferences that are grounded in their own subjectivity, I would like to ask what in the world is wrong with endless war?