There was very little that Ayn Rand, that unapologetic capitalist philosopher, had in common with those “screeching hippies,” as she called them, but she did agree with one point: She too opposed the war in Vietnam.
The reasons she gave for this opposition are quite illustrative for delineating the difference between that war and the current war with Iraq. It demonstrates why those who now oppose the war are wrong, and why this war is not only right, but necessary.
The gist of Rand’s argument was the Vietnam War was waged on the basis of an abstract principle, and not on the basis of the true self interest of the United States.
In a certain sense it was the world’s first altruistic war in that this country sought to do for another people what they could not do for themselves.
It sought to prevent its people from falling under communism and not for any direct interest of the United States. There was no danger to this country of an attack by Vietnam and there were no natural resources or interests which were worth spending American lives.
Much after the fact rationalization justifying the validity of the Vietnam War centers around the fact much of South East Asia subsequently fell to communism, culminating in the horrendous massacres in Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The assertion is that if Vietnam had not fallen to the communists then Cambodia wouldn’t have either, but this is the fallacy of Hypothesis Contrary to Fact — since Cambodia did in fact fall, Cambodia may have fallen to communism anyway, Vietnam’s fall notwithstanding.
For Rand, the only thing that was important was whether or not it was in the self interest of the United States to fight such a war. Since there was no such strategic self interest, she deemed the war wrong. Aside from perhaps another tourist destination for Americans, there was no loss to this nation because of the failure of the Vietnam War. There was nothing concrete to gain in winning. Our eventual victory of the Cold War validated this view.
Using similar criteria, the same cannot be said to be true about the Iraq war. There is a direct self interest, on many levels, for this nation to engage in this war. And while the president is also making the mistake of justifying this war upon the premise of freeing the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator, the same error as in the Vietnam conflict, the truth is this is a secondary consideration. The real reason is the threat that Saddam Hussein and his regime directly pose to this nation.
The attacks on Sept. 11th were more than just an attack upon the United States. The reason that the World Trade Center was specifically chosen for attack, in 2001 and in the decade before that, was because the towers represented the heart of capitalism. Since freedom and capitalism are mutually inclusive, Sept. 11th was not merely an attack upon our nation, but upon our way of life. We shouldn’t ignore the symbolism that those who seek to destroy us so carefully chose. In the first truck bomb attack upon the Twin Towers the two main plotters carried Iraqi passports.
In fact, there have been a long series of such attacks going back many years. These attacks did not take place in a vacuum and could only have taken place with the tacit support of many countries. This support is both underground and above ground in an extensive web that is centered in the Islamic Mid East. That the government of Iraq is part of that support is not debated or debatable. That not all of this support is direct support for Al-Qaida doesn’t invalidate the fact that such support poses a direct threat to the safety of the citizens of this nation, because it is support for terrorism.
Saddam Hussein has openly given $25,000 gifts to the families of the suicide murderers in Palestine, so how much more must his invisible support be? The Iraqis involved in the first WTC truck bomb attack and the eleven Iraqis arrested in Kuwait as part of the assassination attempt on former Pres. Bush, are just further indications of that support.
That Iraq cannot be directly tied to the attacks on Sept. 11 is not the issue. The fact is that there is a spectrum of anti-capitalist, anti-American terrorist networks spread throughout the Muslim world. It is this network that this nation must address and deal with and this is where the war with Iraq comes in. All terrorism is a threat to every American, not just Al-Qaida — all terrorism — of which Iraq, if only a part, is a major player.
Since this nation has actually been under attack for many years, we have been, in fact, at war. It is not a war of our choosing. It wasn’t a war we even recognized until recently. Many Americans though have already died in this war. We just woke up to this fact because the events that took place on Sept. 11th violently shook us awake.
The Achilles Lauro, Flight 103 exploding over Lockerbie Scotland, the dozens of hijackings over the decades, the attack on the Cole, to the murders of William Buckley and Daniel Pearl are just a sample of the list. The full list is horrendous. (A more complete list can be found here: http://www.afa.org/magazine/Feb2002/0202terror.html)
We only have two options here: To do nothing or to take actions to preclude further attacks. For many years we have done nothing in response to previous attacks and the terrorists have only become more emboldened, culminating in the attacks on Sept. 11th with substantial loss of life. But that was only because we overlooked the deaths of those who have already died in this terrorist war and did virtually nothing in response. The Facts of Israel Web site noted that 800 Americans have already died at the hands of terrorism. Others say there are more. (http://www.factsofisrael.com/load.php?p=http://www.factsofisrael.com/blog/archives/000367.html)
Those who oppose the war with Iraq note that there is no clear connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime, the attacks on Sept. 11th, and Al-Qaida. This is a fallacy because this is not a war of retribution against the events that took place on Sept. 11th or even Al-Qaida. This is a war against all terrorism. Many American lives have been lost to terrorist attacks by other groups and associations other than Al-Qaida. It is all terrorism that is at war with us and to which we must respond.
Iraq is a terrorist nation. Iraq openly supports Palestinian terrorism. Iraq has sponsored terrorist training camps within its borders for many years. Iraq attacked Kuwait. Iraq gassed the Kurds, part of its own nation. Iraq has murdered countless numbers of its own people and others. If Iraq’s leaders are not stopped now, they will doubtless murder countless more of their own citizens and others. Some of those murdered will be Americans.
Iraq is not the only terrorist nation, true. This is not the point though. This war is a wake up call for all the terrorist world: We will tolerate you no more. Attack America at your peril. To return to Rand’s prescription of a just war, there is much to gain by this war. First in response to the complaint of the anti-war protesters, “No blood for oil!” Well, even if this were true it would fall within Rand’s definition of a “just war.” We have a commodity to gain, but the actual picture is bigger than this.
This nation has been repeatedly attacked and if we do nothing, will be attacked again. More Americans will die. Either we fight back and disarm our enemy, or we sit back and await more attacks. This is where the element of true self interest comes in. If we want to remain a free nation, a capitalist nation, then we must act in that self interest: We must fight for our freedom. We must take the fight to wherever terrorism is, or it will come to us. This has already been proven.
The first purpose of the Federal Government is to protect its citizens from external attack. This purpose has long been neglected in the area of terrorism. We paid a horrific price on Sept. 11th for this neglect, but have been paying it for long before that. We are just beginning to make up for this now. We simply have no choice if we wish to see capitalism survive and terrorism end. As the terrorists made clear by attacking the World Trade Center, it is either/or. It is either them or us, there is no middle ground.
Afghanistan, Iraq and Al-Qaida are just the beginning. This war with Iraq is a message to all the other nations of the world, purge yourself of terrorist elements or you will face the same fate. Thus we must fight this war. If we don’t, we can expect to see further events that make Sept. 11th look like a warm up. And it is in my own self interest, and that of every U.S. citizen to see this doesn’t happen. Otherwise anyone of us could be the next victim to die at the hands of terrorists.
When that day comes one won’t find the anti-war appeasers on the front line saying, “Oh, kill me first. My opposition to war made you possible.”
They can never be that honest with themselves. The pity is they cannot see they are abandoning their own best self interest and their nation’s own best interest, in favor of an abstract principle. Some people just never learn, or just don’t want to.
”’Don Newman is a free-lance writer living in Waikiki. He can be reached via email at:”’ firstname.lastname@example.org