Category Archives: War

Evolution and War: Self-Sovereignty in Direct Democracy

 To defend one’s life is to vindicate one’s natural equality — an equal right to exist in peace: our self-sovereignty. We cannot, however, merely exist together on this plane: we must perpetuate our existence, providing sustenance and shelter both for ourselves and for any children we choose to have. Yet no one person on this Earth has any natural, inviolable, exclusive claim to any material part of this planet — let alone to any other person dwelling upon it — beyond children to their parents.

Though we now guard national borders and enforce private property rights — in order to improve our chances, first, for survival and then, unconsciously, for genetic success — pitted primarily against one another — the warm light of each rising sun might just as well cross a planet newly shared by all of us — never claimed by any one of us — if we were only, in the main, a more enlightened race of beings.

That we are not so, however, does not exonerate us from the distance we put between our lives today and that idyllic, more natural state of human equality. Our almost compulsive propensity for having children — whose own needs justify the further pursuit of property and of wealth — quite often of one another’s — fuels our territorial claims, our private property ownership, our nation states — and our wars.

Those states or tribal communities, then, whose members make the least claims to territory and to property would seem in many ways the more moral ones. But they too are often blindly driven to perpetuate themselves, often heedless of resource scarcities, thus failing to provide properly for what children they have — heedless too of worldly threats from outside their socio-ecosystems — or ill-prepared to defend against them, often warring among themselves or neighbors seemingly out of traditional sectarian or ethnic intolerance, even where natural resources and territory are not actually claimed.

To be moral, either as an individual or as a society, necessitates conscientiousness.

Free market capitalism may be relatively moral in comparison to other socio-economic systems by virtue of its theoretical free exchange of goods and services — thus its amenability to the expression of an equal self-sovereignty. Yet our own marginally free markets lead us only further from that graceful state of natural, non-materialistic equality.

Our system may be a rational recourse in a world where most humans cannot appreciate our fundamental equality — gathering unto us as many resources as possible and building over us a protective military shield. But that this, our system, more efficiently exploits and distributes the world’s resources, providing more people enough wealth to blindly have yet more children — while further insulating us interpersonally from the immediate needs of our fellow human beings — this is neither moral nor remotely conscientious.

Furthermore, a political system like our own representative democracy, in which elected politicians provide intractable entitlements to the most active and successful resource exploiters, i.e. the big corporations, and to the most prolific and irresponsible child bearers alike, undermines any of the theoretical virtues of a republican system. Our polity actually rewards best those who lead us furthest and fastest from an enlightened natural existence. And the characteristic American pursuit of wealth for its own sake, where the needs for survival and the basic comforts have already been met — especially where there are not even children to be provided for — this is a self-evidently vulgar and immoral life: it leaves the world a worse place than it might have been.

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Like so many citizens within sovereign states have been we find ourselves at times committed by an acting head of state to armed engagements against foreign states or terrorist groups whose leaders have purportedly moved aggressively against us and our interests or against an ally in the international community. And whether an ensuing military intervention were waged overtly, as has been the case in Afghanistan, or covertly, as so many CIA operations have been — we may well incur blowback.

But are we, as mere citizens, to be held accountable for the actions of our leaders? Are we liable for their decisions and thus ourselves legitimate targets?
The reflexive, defensively patriotic answer would be: No — that’s exactly what they want us to believe.

But as moral human beings don’t we owe at least an equal regard for the relative innocence of citizens within countries condemned by our leaders as aggressive? Do they not find themselves in the exact same situation as we are in? One could even argue that the less free and fair their political systems are, in comparison to ours, the more immoral we would be to hold such citizens personally accountable for the actions of their leaders — and thus the more egregious would be any harm done to their persons or to their property.

Are we, who live under a constitutional republic, this representative democracy, any less — or perhaps even more — obligated morally to risk, even to sacrifice, our own lives to be rid of our elected aggressive leaders?

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No. We humans owe our lives to no one else, except those to whom we have ourselves given life — and then only while they are young and dependent. No citizens, ours, or those of any other nation on Earth, must risk or sacrifice their lives to spare the life of an unrelated other — whether a fellow countryman or a foreign stranger — unless doing so would spare the lives of their own children. The childless need not even act in defense of their own lives, though to not fight against one who knows no respect for self-sovereignty would be immoral by inaction — leaving to the innocent a world less secure.

Furthermore, if one were to risk his life, let alone to sacrifice it, for the sake of those outside of one’s relative proximity — therefore outside of one’s immediate capacity both to judge the merits of those to be aided and to monitor the actual effects of the aid — if one were to attempt, for example, for the sake of foreign citizens, to assassinate the President, this would be immoral. To blindly forsake those in one’s immediate proximity for the sake of aiding unseen strangers would amount to a retreat from one’s soundest moral footing in the direction of a defiantly symbolic amoral gesture. And if this sacrifice then proved harmful to those within one’s own relative proximity — if the President, in this example, retaliated with an ill-measured use of force — this would clearly only deepen the immorality of an already empty sacrifice.

Better to walk the night streets in aid of strangers for whom one might, after first judging their plight, more judiciously and thus more morally sacrifice oneself. In a nation as large, as technologically advanced, and as secretive as ours, we citizens never possess all the knowledge necessary to make an informed, moral decision about the worthiness of an intervention overseas. The latest Iraq war clearly demonstrated that even our elected representatives are not necessarily in a position to weigh the appropriateness, to say nothing of the morality, of foreign military intervention. The most important decisions with regard to foreign intervention are therefore best left not to the voting public but to the widest feasible array of public officers charged with our protection:

No declaration of war, nor any peacetime initiation of military force outside the borders of the United States and its territories, shall be undertaken without the consent of two-thirds of the Governors of the states and a unanimous vote of assent between the President and the Defense Cabinet, whose membership shall include the Attorney General, the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security and the Treasury, the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; the number and composition of which may be altered by a three-fourths majority vote among the Governors of the states, but shall not exclude the Attorney General.

(from Article II, Section 2)

We Americans seem to be distinguished by our willingness to fight for our own lives, for the lives of others, and for freedom itself. But these strong convictions and lofty ideals do not justify the war deaths of relatively innocent citizens abroad. To act morally in a defensive war every effort must be made to eliminate individual aggressors or an isolated aggressive element without punishing the relatively innocent, e.g. an unwilling citizenry. Where possible, even troops ought to be considered unwilling actors, attacked only when they themselves attack or when they persist with aggressive actions after their leadership has been eliminated.

Nor does our fighting spirit exempt the citizens of these foreign states from a defense of their own lives and of the lives of their own children. The firm resolve of some Americans to commit us all to war, in order to spare any foreign citizens from fighting their own governments or from killing one another — where such a commitment so often means sending someone else to risk and sacrifice his life, rather than going there oneself — represents a particularly immoral impulse. Surely this paves the road to Hell.

Political assassinations since the Ford administration have been — at least officially — prohibited. An ideal policy, though, isolates individuals for the fullest consequences of their own choices and of their own actions — or of their inactions. Where possible no one else ought to be held to account. That the one leader might then be replaced by one far worse, or that such a policy might often prove impracticable, makes it no less a worthy, moral guiding principle. And to refrain from such a policy for fear that our own leader might in turn be assassinated implies that a presidential candidate has not already faced and accounted for the dangers inherent to the office.

 The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the military of the United States and of the National Guard. But directing of forces in a time and a theater of war and determinations of rank within the forces shall be determined, or delegated to inferior officers, by the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an appointment of the President; so that the President may set, or reset, the objectives of military action, or order the cessation of military action.

(from Article II, Section 2)

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In as much as we begin as self-sovereign equals, yet become unequal only in our demand for private property ownership, no threat solely against property justifies a violent self defense — not by an individual nor by a nation state. Only an earnest, tenable, impending threat against self-sovereignty itself or against national sovereignty — against the freedom to exist peacefully and to use any property as freely as any other, under the laws or customs of a prospectively shared community — only this threat to peaceful coexistence justifies a violent defense or the taking of a life. And in conflicts over territory, whether between sovereign nations or religious, ethnic, or tribal communities, those who more actively respect their own members’ self-sovereignty and the self-sovereignty of those outside their ranks — i.e. the more enlightened people — have a stronger moral claim to the disputed land.

As humans we gradually mature into conscientious beings only after enduring as individuals the fullest consequences of our decisions, our actions, and our inactions. Direct democracy, particularly within the constitutional design presented here, is an ideal polity then by virtue of its maximization of individual voter and public official accountability, as well as its strong limitations upon the federalization, or unnecessary collectivization, of statutory law. While we are now far from an ideal human race, this participatory direct democracy like no other political system inculcates the conscientiousness necessary to guide the greatest majority of us toward our enlightened, idyllic future.

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The Nation-State: Law, Punishment and Immigration

 Earth is such a beautiful world of finite resources, a stately mother who bestows unto humanity no special guarantee of survival. Alone and subjected to nature’s laws, we humans are really quite vulnerable, almost helpless, whether pitted against the elements and any animal rivals in search of our daily sustenance or pitted against one another for continued control of it.

When just two people combine together to take what a lone human owns, they will undoubtedly have it. Thus human history is marred by large collective wars for territory — for control of the scarce natural resources that sustain us. And so our individual rights have been partially or wholly subsumed by state systems, which compel contributions from their citizens — though ideally only to the extent necessary to ensure life — and a dignified life — to all its contributing members.

For government itself is failure: the failure of a free people to act responsibly and with mutual consideration absent the imposition of an intervening, third-party authority. The only good government, then, is a government that weans the People from itself, teaching the greatest majority to respect one another absent any third-party intervention, teaching them to exercise force only in true self-defense or in defense of the truly innocent.

But within any society, our selfish drives, both to exercise unearned influence over others and to garner unearned favor from those already in possession of influence, are a constant — an extension of human nature itself. And these darker, anti-social aspects of our human nature are compounded by our own DNA, evolution’s engine of diversification; which works so tirelessly that, even within the family unit, two perfectly lovely parents might have two wonderfully kind children and one perfect SOB of a child.

Why is this relevant? The family may be viewed as a DNA-microcosm of the greater society: No matter how lovely the society and its rules or how peaceable the citizens and their leaders, born into their midst, just as in families, will be an equivalent ratio of individuals who delight not in following an orderly, voluntary, peaceable system but in bringing chaos and misery to such a system and to its participants — then in hoarding everything for themselves.

Thus we have need of laws, of law enforcement, of courts of law, and of prisons. A benefit of this legal state monopoly upon force is the freedom it provides most citizens to be productive in specialized areas, leaving the police and military, i.e. the specialists, to provide for the protection of all of us. Most people in fact don’t want to live in a state of hyper-vigilance — in a tension-filled, every-man-for-himself world. And they prefer not to know everything about everyone around them, let alone to be known fully by all others: they want to relax and enjoy life more.

Just look to third-world and otherwise underdeveloped countries, where law enforcement is non-existent or subject to private bribery, as examples of the alternative. Little or no industry forms there, because progress hasn’t yet made it past one of the very first, critical stages of a modern civilization: the energetic broad demand for a universally accepted, impartial law.

If this nation were instead of a melting pot an isolated Amazonian tribe within which most citizens shared the same familial genes, such that helping any member would be helping oneself in a Darwinian sense, an organic, unwritten common law might be feasible. But in our modern world, where very different sorts with very different interests and impulses are brought into constant contact and conflict, and where no material/ego/DNA benefit accrues to the one for cooperation with the other, the only jurisprudence subject to more abuse than our poorly written laws would be one with no written laws at all.

Such organic “lawlessness” would leave open wide a defense that since one cannot know unwritten law and its consequences prior to violation; or since its interpretation and application depend upon the jury or the judge or how previous, similar acts were interpreted and the law applied; one cannot be charged with willfully violating such law. Law is therefore subjected to subjectivity — much as we now rely upon the Supreme Court’s subjective interpretations of the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Even in sea-bound England, where rights are protected without an actual constitution, the trends are toward strife between cultures with differing legal traditions and toward a fight against the EU. There is no modern, collective, organic understanding of law.

Here is yet another justification for a system of direct democracy like this one which fragments the national body into its smallest political units, our voting precincts. In so doing, the largest number of communities, more than ten thousand of them, may enjoy the greatest freedom to determine their own local laws and ordinances — each serving as a sort of proving ground for the rest of the nation.

It then becomes necessary via a strong constitution to explicitly preclude the worst sorts of local ignorance and provincial laws, e.g. a precinct’s abolition of the requirement that children be schooled at all; the lowering of local educational standards below a level necessary for basic functioning outside of that community; a denial of citizenship rights to non-residents or to productive members of a local community; undue leniency toward violent offenders or those who neglect and abuse the truly innocent, i.e. children; or the wholesale legalization of psychotic substances, the users of which might adversely affect neighboring communities.

Without specific, authoritative, constitutional prohibitions, the state of the state that organically develops is most often disorder, followed by bitter struggle and then an imposition of rigid , fragile order (see Egypt, Iraq, Syria, etc.). Consenting adults ought to enjoy the greatest possible freedom to live alternative lifestyles and to design unique local environments — right up to the point where they even marginally do so at the expense of children — of their physical safety or of their fiscal futures.  Hence, constitutional law, more difficult to alter and universally applied, must be written.

This constitution includes a requirement that all able-bodied prisoners labor no less than forty hours per week, eliminating the moral perversion of allowing convicted criminals to rest behind bars while honest, hardworking citizens pay for their incarceration. Perhaps if such drains upon society were forced to wake up and work at five o’clock in the morning and made to work all day, they would then return to prison far less frequently and find a traditional forty-hour work week a little less disagreeable.

It was a scramble for resources throughout history that has led to a huge international stalemate across most of the globe. The smaller states of the world today benefit from the invisible protective shields of the larger states, who extract wealth from the former in exchange for checking the ambitions of the latter. But that underlying scarcity of resources and our inability to share them that made states necessary in the first place remains. So the ideal state is the least possible compromise of individual rights necessary to ensure the rights of all.

And the ideal state of geopolitics, so long as human nature retains its darker aspects, would be one where all law-abiding persons are free to travel among nations, states, and precincts; free to settle wherever they wish; and free to work wherever they settle. But this would only be a possibility where each nation’s government affords all law-abiding citizens the same, minimal level of benefits; and each acts as a sieve, filtering out the criminal element among the world’s population, thereby leaving the rest of us to enjoy our own productive, private lives.

Equality, Direct Democracy and Intervention

 The recent bombing attacks in Syria and the outright civilian slaughter unfolding inside its borders represent but one link in a long chain of epic state collapses trailing back beyond even the fall of Rome. Instability is inherent to autocratic regimes: the more concentrated their power, the less secure their grips.

A natural state of equality abides between all human beings, in spite of our diverse personal attributes, so that any discrepancy between the political power of one individual, or of one group, and another will eventually prove but a pretense and so eventually collapse.

Personal character, as demonstrated by their actions or inaction, solely elevates one human being above another — and even then only for a few moments.

Yet our personal character, like our planet’s metals, does have its rarer veins. It is neither equally distributed among mankind nor among all regions of Earth. Mankind’s very exodus from Africa revealed within humanity varying strains of curiosity and intrepidity — not to mention avarice and recklessness.

In centuries past, for example, the crossing of the Atlantic to America revealed a different sort of character than that possessed by they who stayed behind. Thus the American character reveals an even rarer, further refined vein. We are a people whose forefathers proved time and again they would not live under oppression — emigrating where possible, or fighting the powers that be for rights denied them and for a natural equality perverted both by monarchy and by slavery.

Were we aided in our struggles by other nations? Undoubtedly yes. But these were not the selfless sacrifices of nations who sought only the natural equality of all. These were the very countries whose oppressive governments drove us across the Atlantic in such great numbers.

So what of peoples in distant eastern reaches, whose inherited character seems less even tempered or less well refined than our own? Ought we, in the spirit of our natural equality, extend a helping hand backward across the wide oceans to aid in their growth to our naturally equal state? Do they deserve a benefit of the doubt as to their individual potential for redemption?

The fall of ancient Rome elicited no nation-states’ aid. But what might have been the result had the Roman empire been spared? Perhaps we should see now a centuries-long succession of Roman emperors, as well as of popes?

What of the Roman people themselves? Where the spoils of war and gladiatorial events were so intoxicating that political unrest from within was effectively silenced, should such a coarse strain of character have merited sacrifices by people of a rarer, more refined character?

In the case of Syria we find a people who until very recently remained complacent under autocratic regimes for decades, yet divided among themselves by inherited ethnic and sectarian loyalties. What sort of character does this demonstrate? Are there pockets of rebels who possess our sense of a universal human equality — those not simply fighting for their own survival or for a victory over rival factions but for our universal equality — and how would these be identified? Furthermore, why have they not yet emigrated or fled?

When our own forefathers were oppressed, or even just marginalized within their own respective homelands, they did not stay — either to tolerate the oppression or to return such intolerance and the prejudice they faced. Instead, they left for America.  And therein they proved to be of a different sort of character.

It is neither the responsibility of the U.S. nor of any nation beyond those that comprise the Middle East itself either to draw up or to impose a plan for a lasting civil order. The survival of any administration or regime and in fact of any nation hinges upon the capacity of a great majority of its citizenry to govern their own lives, to respect the lives of their fellow citizens — and to stand up against those who won’t.

If the citizens of a country are incapable of such civil sophistication and so require a dictatorial regime to maintain order; or if they have the necessary sophistication but lack the courage to fight for that order, then no amount of foreign intervention will ever create a stable nation. But it ought go without saying that no foreign intervention should attempt the bringing down of a regime for the sake of furthering the interests of that same foreign power, let alone for the sake of furthering private interests. Only if such an action were undertaken in self-evident national, impending self defense might it possibly be justified.