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Defense of Liberty: Just Intervention
The Ayn Rand Institute, Objectivism in the Debate Round ^ | March 2000 | Ben Bayer

Posted on 10/20/2001 7:27:01 AM PDT by annalex

March 2000 resolution: “The intervention of one nation in the domestic affairs of another nation is morally justified”

I. Introduction
The March/April resolution is true. Provided that the government of a free nation does so for the purpose of protecting the security of its citizens, foreign military intervention is a necessary and proper policy.

II. Key Concepts
A. “Foreign Intervention”
Oxford English Dictionary defines “intervention” as “[t]he action of intervening, ‘stepping in’, or interfering in any affair, so as to affect its course or issue. Now freq[uently] applied to the interference of a state or government in the domestic affairs or foreign relations of another country.” Although this definition is not particularly helpful, it does highlight the meaning of “intervention” in the geopolitical context suggested by the resolution.
     Foreign intervention is a type of governmental action. A government, in Ayn Rand’s definition, is “an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area” (“The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 125). Because a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of force in a delimited geographical area, the attempt to enforce rules of conduct outside of that area, in an area subject to the jurisdiction of another government, is the essential trait of foreign intervention. The only way to accomplish such enforcement on territory under the jurisdiction of another government is to use military force; hence foreign intervention is an essentially military endeavor.
     Because foreign intervention is a state-supported military action, it must be distinguished from the involvement of private individuals of one nation in the affairs of another. When a businessman, a teacher, or a religious missionary from one nation deals with citizens in another country, he does so by their consent, using only his power of persuasion to influence their conduct. He is not attempting to enforce any particular mode of conduct, and he is not, therefore, interfering in the authority of their government to do it. As discussed earlier, foreign intervention is an essentially military endeavor, and is fundamentally different from any non-coercive mode of interaction.
     There are different ways in which one government can abridge a foreign government’s monopoly on the use of force. A government may, for example, send troops into the territory of another government without its consent in order to suppress conflicts (e.g., the dispatch of an expeditionary force against the Boxers in China in 1901, or against Poncho Villa in Mexico in 1916). Another possibility is a case in which a government militarily supports rebels, in order to overthrow a foreign government (e.g., U.S. naval support for Panamanian rebels against their Columbian rulers in 1903).
     A limiting case of intervention is intervention on behalf of a foreign government, against an insurgency (e.g., U.S. support of South Vietnam against the Viet Cong). While such intervention is at the request of the foreign government, it is nonetheless a limitation on that government’s monopoly on force: the intervening troops still take their orders from the intervening government. (If troops take their orders from the “host” government, they are not intervening troops, but mercenaries.) Another limiting case is intervention in a foreign conflict in which many factions are vying for power: no actual monopoly on force exists, but each faction is trying to establish one (e.g., U.S. intervention in Somalia).
     Foreign intervention is a particular kind of military action on foreign soil. It is not foreign intervention, for example, for one government to occupy a previously unoccupied territory (e.g., a potential U.S. occupation of Antarctica). Furthermore, outright invasion with the sole purpose of conquest cannot be classified as intervention, because the invading nation seeks not merely to interfere with or aid a foreign government, but to conquer it (e.g., German invasion of France). (“Invasion” and “intervention” are overlapping concepts: Some invasions do not seek outright conquest, but simply the replacement of a government and may, therefore, count as forms of intervention, as well [e.g., the U.S. invasion of Grenada or Panama].)
     It must also be remembered that foreign intervention is, fundamentally, a type of governmental action with respect to other nations. Obviously intervention is not, therefore, a type of inaction towards other countries, as when a government has never involved itself militarily in the affairs of another. Nor, of course, is it a type of cessation of action towards other nations, as when a government withdraws troops from the soil of another. Since intervention is fundamentally governmental action towards another nation, even those governmental measures that affect a foreign nation, but require only action at home for their implementation (such as the imposition of economic sanctions) do not count as intervention, since they do not involve governmental action on foreign soil.
     Intervention, then, is fundamentally a type of military action undertaken by a government, on foreign soil (i.e. under the jurisdiction of another government), that involves the limitation of the foreign government’s monopoly on the use of force.

B. “Domestic Affairs”
In discussing foreign intervention, we have already been assuming a definition of “domestic affairs,” implicitly: foreign intervention is interference in the domestic affairs of another nation.
     In this context, “domestic” merely means falling within the jurisdiction of the government of a particular territory. “Foreign” merely means falling outside this jurisdiction.
     A “domestic affair,” then, is a matter subject to enforcement within a government’s jurisdiction. A government charged with protecting the individual rights of its citizens will, for example, consider it a matter of “domestic affairs” to prevent burglaries, uphold contracts, pursue criminals, undertake judicial procedings, etc. Each of these examples relates to affairs conducted within the geographical boundaries of a government’s jurisdiction.
     A “foreign affair,” by contrast, is a matter related to a conflict between a home government and foreign government. If a foreign nation declares war on the United States, for example, this is obviously a matter of foreign affairs. So, by extension, is an alliance forged with friendly foreign governments to combat the enemy nation.
     Matters of domestic affairs can become matters of foreign affairs. What begins as a simple murder, normally the domestic concern of the police, becomes reason for war if the victim is the president and the murderer is an agent of a foreign government. What begins as the attempt to protect the free speech of a particular author, like Salman Rushdie, quickly becomes a matter of foreign affairs if a foreign nation like Iran puts a price on his head.
     What makes a merely domestic affair a matter of foreign affairs is one government’s use of force or threat of the use of force against another. Nations do not deal with one another except in terms of their governments, and when they do so, they do so in terms of force. (Peace treaties and trade agreements are matters of foreign affairs insofar as these represent the cessation of force between nations, either by ending a war, or by ending trade sanctions.) One consequence of this view is that not every domestic affair that has some effect on another nation is to be classified as a matter of foreign affairs. If, for example, the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates, affecting the economies of other countries, this does not become a matter of foreign affairs unless another country makes it a matter of foreign affairs, by threatening the U.S. with force if it does not set the rates at a more satisfactory level. A foreign government’s mere discontent with the Fed’s policy does not suffice to raise the issue to the status of a matter of foreign affairs. Even diplomatic communiques are not real matters of foreign affairs unless their messages are backed up by force or the threat of force.
     Whether or not a particular domestic affair should become a matter of foreign affairs is a question to be addressed in due time.

III. The Moral Justification of Foreign Intervention
A. Foreign policy implications of the function of government
A nation’s foreign policy is an integrated set of principles employed by a government for the purpose of guiding its dealings with foreign nations. The purpose a government adopts for its foreign policy will, however, be determined by a nation’s views on the function of government as such. More fundamentally, however, a nation’s predominant political philosophy is determined by its guiding ethical philosophy. Hence a view of foreign policy presupposes a view on ethics.
     A government founded on an ethics of rational egoism will concern itself only with the protection of the individual rights of its own citizens, adopting a foreign policy that protects them, by identifying enemy nations and working to oppose them. It will resort to foreign intervention only when a particular foreign situation poses an objectively demonstrable national security threat. On an ethics of rational egoism, U.S. intervention in Nicaragua might have been justified on the grounds that a communist regime so close to American borders would serve as a base for Soviet missiles to be aimed at the U.S. and for spreading further communist insurgency throughout Central America.
     A government subscribing to the moral code of altruism, by contrast, will seek to shoulder the economic or military burdens of other nations — whether through foreign aid programs for poor nations or through foreign intervention to stop ethnic wars in distant lands, irrelevant to its citizens’ interests — and thereby regard the security of its own citizens as of secondary importance at best.

B. A proper foreign policy
Of the two views of government and foreign policy presented, only the first is morally justifiable. According to Objectivism, each individual possesses the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. (See “Man’s Rights” and “The Nature of Government” in The Virtue of Selfishness.) One derivative of the right to life is the right to self-defense, the right to use retaliatory force against those who initiate force. Citizens delegate this right to the government, which therefore holds a monopoly on its use, placed under objective control, to protect individual rights. This monopoly is justifiably invoked in the use of the police and the courts to protect citizens from criminals at home, and in the use of a military to protect citizens from criminal nations abroad.
     It is with this last form of protection — protecting citizens from foreign aggression — that a proper foreign policy concerns itself. A proper foreign policy identifies a nation’s crucial interests and security concerns, as a means of objectively coordinating its diplomatic and military policy to protect the individual rights of its citizens.
     Note that building a “Fortress America” is not enough to defend the rights of American citizens; a nation’s security concerns do not stop at its borders. Particularly in a world increasingly integrated along economic and technological lines, a world in which weapons of mass destruction can rain terror across continents, a free state must acquire global military readiness. If China, for example, points its nuclear missiles at American shores, it has announced itself as an enemy of the U.S., and deserves to be opposed actively. Any nation that threatens domestic security, regardless of its distance from the homeland, must be identified by a proper foreign policy in order that it might be defended against and actively opposed. Both the threat and the initiation of force are logically and morally inseparable: each must be defended against, even if the latter warrants a proportionally greater response than the former. A mugger who threatens murder, but doesn’t commit it, is still a criminal and should be punished for the threat.

C. The proper use of foreign intervention
The proper use of foreign intervention follows from a proper view of government and from a proper view of foreign policy: from the idea that government exists to protect the rights of its citizens, and from the corollary need to combat objective foreign threats to a free nation’s citizens, threats to their life and rights. A proper government is justified not only in opposing foreign governments which pose such a threat, but also in opposing any foreign situation that poses such a threat. Supporting insurgents against threatening governments can work to advance the first goal, for example; supporting besieged governments against rebels who would erect a threatening government is an example of attempting to accomplish the second.
     A foreign government may be ideologically opposed to a country like the United States, and may also possess the military means to back up that opposition with force. Such a government poses an objective threat to the security of the U.S., and to the extent that ideologically more innocuous rebel groups exist in such a country, supporting them materially or tactically is necessary and proper. On this view, one might have justified U.S. support for the contra rebels against the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
     A band of communist rebels, however, has announced its intention to violate the rights of its fellow citizens, and by extension its willingness to violate those of foreign citizens. Because it adheres to a collectivist ideology destructive of individual rights, and because it has used force to implement that ideology, it poses a threat to free nations abroad. One might argue that U.S. intervention against communist rebels in El Salvador was justifiable in this respect.
     Although the examples of foreign intervention listed so far are the ones most likely to be justifiable, the list is not exhaustive. One can also imagine justifiable cases of intervention in which no government-rebel conflict is present, because no single party can be accurately described as “government” or “insurgent” — and even if neither party is demonstrably more of a threat to the intervening government than the other. The very conflict may be a threat. Were Canada to descend into anarchic struggle between French and English speakers, for example, the very presence of this conflict so close to American borders might easily threaten Americans near the border, and be detrimental to U.S. economic interests. In such a case, U.S. intervention to establish a stable and friendly government would be eminently justifiable.

IV. Polemics
A. “National sovereignty”
The leading critics of foreign military intervention argue that no nation is justified in meddling in the domestic affairs of another, for whatever reason. This is true, they argue, because each nation has a “right to self-determination” or “sovereignty” which ought not to be infringed — even if the nation in question is a brutal dictatorship.
     What such critics have never provided is an explanation for the source of this right. In fact, there is none. Nations as such — like any other collectives — have no rights. In her essay “Collectivized Rights,” Ayn Rand notes:
In a free society, the ‘rights’ of any group are derived from the rights of its members through their voluntary, individual choice and contractual agreement, and are merely the application of these individual rights in a specific undertaking. Every legitimate group undertaking is based on the participants’ right of free association and free trade. (By ‘legitimate,’ I mean: noncriminal and freely formed, that is, a group which no one was forced to join) (The Virtue of Selfishness, pg. 119).
     Applying this view in the context of nations, Miss Rand observes:
A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation — a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens — has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense) (pg. 120).
     But this right, she maintains,
. . . cannot be claimed by dictatorships, by savage tribes or by any form of absolutist tyranny. A nation that violates the rights of its own citizens cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The right of the ‘self-determination of nations’ applies only to free societies or to societies seeking to establish freedom; it does not apply to dictatorships. Just as an individual’s right of free action does not include the ‘right’ to commit crimes, so the right of a nation to determine its own form of government does not include the right to establish a slave society. There is no such thing as ‘the right to enslave’ (pg. 121)
     Ayn Rand goes on to identify the implications of this view for the rights of free nations to deal with dictatorships:
Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba, or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the nonexistent ‘rights’ of gang rulers. It is not a free nation’s duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses (pg. 122).
     Ayn Rand’s answer to this objection is clear, and needs no further elaboration, except to say that the same principle that justifies invading another nation similarly justifies intervening in it, if limited intervention is all that a free nation’s security requires. If it is acceptable to invade a statist nation like Iraq (as the U.S. did during the Persian Gulf War), then it would certainly be justifiable to intervene in on a limited scale (as Israel did in the early ’80s when it bombed Iraqi nuclear facilities).

B. Sanctioning foreign dictators
One objection to intervention on behalf of foreign governments against insurgents is particular popular. This is the idea that in doing so, the U.S. “props up dictators” who are responsible for serious violations of individual rights. This, critics say, stains American hands with foreign blood. Though it may threaten American security to do so, the U.S. must refrain from such alliances of “convenience” to keep itself morally innocent.
     As Peter Schwartz observes in his essay “Foreign Policy and the Morality of Self-Interest,” (The Intellectual Activist, 1986; available from Second Renaissance Books) the underlying premise behind this argument is a faulty view in morality:
[T]his accusation against self-interest as the standard for foreign policy is simply a restatement of one of the false premises underlying the doctrine of altruism. It is altruism which holds that men’s interests are inherently in conflict and that the individual’s only choice, therefore, is to be ‘moral’ by sacrificing himself for the sake of others, or to be ‘practical’ by sacrificing others to himself. In foreign policy, the altruist believes that the alternative America faces is either to pursue its interests by quashing others’ freedom or to give up some of its security in order to help advance liberty elsewhere (19).
But this is a false set of alternatives.
     It is wrong to assume, to begin with, that foreign autocracies are more conducive than free nations to the security of a free nation like America. Free nations pose no threat to other free nations, as they do not loot the resources of their own citizens, and turn on their neighbors when those resources are gone (See “The Roots of War,” Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal). Free nations also make better allies. As Schwartz points out, free nations are not only more trustworthy as allies, but also more capable of mustering a more productive defense. Notice, for example, that Britain was a much safer ally in World War II than was the U.S.S.R.: Britain did not claim half of Europe as her own when the war was over. It is, therefore, unmistakably in American interests to spread freedom around the globe. A proper American foreign policy would morally condemn any and every statist foreign regime.
     The issue of supporting foreign autocracies arises, however, in a world where many foreign nations are statist — but some are more statist than others are. The worst are those driven by totalitarian ideologies, like communism, Nazism, or Islamic Fundamentalism, which are by their nature bent on world domination, and the destruction of freedom. Others, however, are “petty dictatorships,” whose leaders have no ideology, and are content merely to loot their own people to a limited extent. Many such petty autocrats pose little or no direct threat to American security, but may be in a position to aid in the defense against totalitarians. Petty dictators like Pinochet or Duarte were of little significance when compared to the opposition they faced: ideologically-driven communists who were bent on joining forces with a global network of Soviet pawns. When the ideologists were allowed to topple their autocratic opponents, the results were invariably worse: the Ayatollahs were much worse then the Shah; Mao was much worse than Chiang Kai-Shek. In such cases, it may be necessary and proper to make temporary alliances with these regimes, provided that it is done so with the proper qualifications. (It is, incidentally, precisely because ideologically-driven dictatorships are the most dangerous that an alliance with one is to be ruled out, even if it is an alliance against another [e.g., the U.S. alliance with the Soviets against the Nazis].)
     Here are the qualifications: A proper policy of intervention would assist a foreign dictator to the extent, and only to the extent that is necessary and sufficient to repel or suppress the dangerous, common threat. It would, at the same time, include an open declaration of the moral inferiority of the dictatorial regime. A proper policy of foreign intervention would even offer support to those citizens who would overthrow the dictatorial regime, and replace it with one devoted to protecting individual rights. Such a regime would, after all, provide a better buffer to whichever ideological insurgency made intervention necessary to begin with.
     It is worth noting, in addition, that joining with these dictators does not thereby violate the rights of their subjects. On the contrary, foreign intervention against ideologically dangerous insurgents protects those citizens against the crimes of the insurgents. U.S. intervention in El Salvador, for example, effectively forestalled the greater crimes a communist regime would have perpetrated. Supporting a dictator to defeat a greater threat is analogous to the police tactic of paying criminal informants for information that leads to the arrest of more dangerous criminals — which is fully justifiable. (In the end, of course, police would prefer there to be no criminals, just as a proper foreign policy would prefer there to be no dictators.)
     The moral and the practical are one. As Schwartz summarizes:
What America’s military structure is designed to secure, after all, is the right of its citizens to be free. And there is no conflict between the rights of Americans and of other nationals, any more than there is a conflict among the rights of people in the same country. One man’s liberty cannot be attained at the cost of another’s subjugation, and the same is true for the liberty of entire nations (19).
C. Unjustified foreign intervention
The final objection is likely to be particularly relevant in a debate context. There may be cases of moral foreign intervention — the negatives may point out — but what about the numerous ways in which intervention can be undertaken unscrupulously? What if the intervention is for the purpose of eventual foreign aggression (e.g., Soviet intervention in African civil wars) or for strictly altruistic reasons (e.g., American intervention in Haiti)? The resolution is an unqualified statement that does not limit itself to moral intervention: it must also refer to immoral intervention. So the resolution cannot be true: it is impossible to justify the morally unjustifiable.
     The problem with the resolution as worded is that its present wording does not allow it to be evaluated as true or false. An action like intervention cannot be evaluated as intrinsically good or bad without a specified context. This point can be illustrated if we were to consider an analogous resolution: “Resolved: killing is immoral.” There would be no way to evaluate such a resolution. Which instances of killing? When? Is this resolution referring to killing unthreatening innocents? Or killing vicious killers in self-defense? The first could not be justified; the second could. “Killing is immoral” cannot be identified as true or false without reference to a specific context. Killing is not inherently good or inherently bad. Its moral worth depends on its context. The same goes for the resolution about foreign intervention.
     We should assume, properly, the actual context that has given rise to debate about the morality of foreign intervention. The resolution is not a disembodied proposition handed down from heaven (even if from the NFL), but an issue that has arisen in the context of decades of debate about American foreign policy. A person holding that foreign intervention is morally unjustified is likely to hold this view because they believe intervention necessarily represents an unjust incursion into foreign sovereignty, or an improper sanction of foreign oppressors, etc. To promote authentic clash in debate — and more importantly, to be able to evaluate the resolution at all — it is necessary that the affirmative side represent the genuine alternative in the contemporary context to the idea that all foreign intervention is wrong. Just as the ordinary proponent of the right to suicide does not maintain that everyone should commit suicide, the ordinary proponent of foreign intervention does not maintain that every foreign nation should be subject to intervention. We may just as well read the resolution as “foreign intervention is justifiable,” rather than “foreign intervention is justified.”

(The author acknowledges the kind assistance of Dr. Onkar Ghate.)

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial
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The previous thread, Defense of Liberty: Two Articles On Anti-Terrorist Policy by Peikoff , where Dr. Peikoff advocates a massive military retaliation for the Twin Tower Massacre, and, among other things, expresses regret that the nationalization of our oil companies in the Middle East was allowed to happen, spurred a far-reaching debate between Demidog and me. This installment addresses the issue of military intervention head-on.
1 posted on 10/20/2001 7:27:01 AM PDT by annalex
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To: Agrarian; A.J.Armitage; AKbear; annalex; arimus; Askel5; Boxsford; Carbon; Carry_Okie...

The Apparition of St. Michael by Pacino di Bonaguida

2 posted on 10/20/2001 7:31:48 AM PDT by annalex
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To: annalex
The March/April resolution is true.

What is truth? - Pontius Pilate


3 posted on 10/20/2001 8:12:57 AM PDT by ppaul
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: annalex
One derivative of the right to life is the right to self-defense, the right to use retaliatory force against those who initiate force. Citizens delegate this right to the government, which therefore holds a monopoly on its use, placed under objective control, to protect individual rights.

I don't agree with this at all. I do not delegate this right to anyone.

5 posted on 10/20/2001 10:02:20 AM PDT by Demidog
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To: annalex
My usual bump, with essential links for anyone interested in liberty:

A TREASURY OF PRIMARY DOCUMENTS . The ultimate source of history links.
A Chronology of US Historical Documents.
The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School, more historic documents.
Laissez Faire Books.
Ayn Rand Bookstore. (formerly Second Renaissance Books)
Reason Foundation.
Ayn Rand Institute.
Religion and the Founding Fathers
Religion vs. Morality, from the Ayn Rand Institute.

6 posted on 10/20/2001 11:37:31 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
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To: annalex; Demidog; *Paleo_list
I have to say, reading over the discussion in the last thread, that I agree with Annalex, especially with regard to real property. Let me open with a quotation from Frederic Bastiat.

So true is it that property is prior to law that it is recognized even among savages who do not have laws, or at least not written laws. When a savage has devoted his labor to constructing a hut, no one will dispute his possession or ownership of it. To be sure, another, stronger savage may chase him out of it, but not without angering and alarming the whole tribe. It is this very abuse of force which gives rise to association, to common agreement, to law, and which puts the public police force at the service of property. Hence, law is born of property, instead of property being born of law.

One may say that the principle of property is recognized even among animals. The swallow peacefully cares for its young in the nest that it has built by its own efforts.

Since we're discussing whether land can be property prior to the existence of government, lets take the example of an ordinary guy in a pre-civilized society. He builds a hut, as in Bastiat's example above, and plants some grain nearby. It seems fairly obvious that anyone taking the hut and crops from him by force is committing a crime. Isn't that the definition of ownership? He has a right to that land because no one may rightly take it from him. His ownership may be "temporary", but no more so than his ownership of anything else. In fact, it's longer lasting than his ownership of the grains he grows, which are eaten or bartered over the course of the next year. Mobility also seems to me to be a non-issue. By some of the arguments DD put forth, land holds up better than other forms of property. Jumping to modern times, people own cars for relatively short periods of time(I've been driving since I was 16, and have had two cars in that time; it would be one if I hadn't wrecked the first one, but it illustrates the point), but they are certainly movable. Cars are also registered with the government. I have a deed for my car.

7 posted on 10/20/2001 12:08:39 PM PDT by A.J.Armitage
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8 posted on 10/20/2001 12:40:07 PM PDT by ThanksBTTT
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To: annalex
Rand contradicts herself by first claiming nations can have no rights, but then goes on to make distinctions between the rights of free nations vs. dictatorial nations:

Nations as such — like any other collectives — have no rights. In her essay “Collectivized Rights,” Ayn Rand notes:---Here, we see that nations not only do not have rights, but cannot have rights, according to Rand.

Here, she makes distinctions between the rights of free nations and that dictatorial nations, savage tribes, etc. do not have those rights:

"A free nation — a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens — has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government."

In this quote, Rand is actually saying that what she defines as a free nation has a right to BE a nation. All a nation comprises consists of its territorial boundaries, its civilization and culture, and its form of government within those geographical boundaries. Our State constitutions at one time set forth their geographic boundaries by longitude and latitude, among other geographic descriptions of their boundaries. Once the geographic limits of the State were set forth, the State Constitution would then describe the form and organization of the government and guarantee the rights of the State's citizens. A nation is a geographic area in which the people possess a given civilization, culture, and form of government. As this is what a nation is, and Rand states these are the rights that are possessed by a free nation, free nations, therefore, are the only nations allowed to be nations. That is what Rand is really saying. "Territorial Integrity" is an element of sovereignty.

"A nation that violates the rights of its own citizens cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The right of the ‘self-determination of nations’ applies only to free societies or to societies seeking to establish freedom; it does not apply to dictatorships."

Sentence 1: Rand states that a nation that violates the rights of citizens has no rights, but earlier, Rand stated that nations, and other collectives, have no rights. This is a contradiction, which she attempts to eliminate by making a distinction between free and dictatorial nations.Sentence 2: This is further proof that Rand is saying that only free nations can be nations.

Rand confuses "nation" with "government," which is a common error. The government of this nation has intervened in several foreign conflicts without the consent of the people of the nation. Many government acts are performed in total secrecy, so the people cannot give their consent to those actions. The government decides to intervene, not the nation as a whole, in these cases. When this takes place, is there any more right for the "nation" (government) to intervene?

Nations either have rights or they do not. I prefer to think that nations do have rights, as the nations exist, and are comprised of human persons who undeniably possess rights. When one nation's government commits unjust aggression against another nation and its government, it makes legal sense to set forth the victim's claim against the injustice of the aggressor in the terms of nations, and their rights, rather than citing the rights of each individual citizen.

This is an attempt to replace traditional just war principles, based mostly on religion and classical philosophy, with one compatible with an materialist/atheist worldview. It is like replacing fresh sqeezed orange juice with Tang.

9 posted on 10/20/2001 12:43:31 PM PDT by roughrider
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To: Demidog
The use of force can never be a "monopoly" of the government in a free society, as this separates the government from the people who are supposed to be the principle, while the government is the agent of the people. If the agent is the only party to retain the use of force in defense of the rights of the principle, the agent is master, not the principle. The citizens having a duty to assist the servants of the law is an ancient Anglo/Saxon tradition, and citizens cannot come to the aid of the law if they are without arms. Rand is attempting to start from scratch in devising her libertarian ideology, rather than making reference to the ancient prescriptions and traditions of Anglo/American civilization, which has never witnessed a governmental monopoly on the use of force to defend rights and property, until recently in Great Britain.
10 posted on 10/20/2001 12:52:28 PM PDT by roughrider
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To: annalex
"A government may, for example, send troops into the territory of another government without its consent in order to suppress conflicts (e.g., the dispatch of an expeditionary force against the Boxers in China in 1901, or against Poncho Villa in Mexico in 1916)"

This description is not entirely accurate about either incident. In 1916, Pancho Villa attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico first. The Punitive Expedition was launched to find and punish Villa in retaliation for his attack. In the Boxer Rebellion, the Boxers also struck the first blow, attacking the foreign legations in Peking, where our diplomats were housed and is considered sovereign US territory, as the Chinese Embassy was, and is, here. Our maintenance of gunboats in Chinese rivers during the early decades of the century would have been a better example, as they were there to protect missionaries and US business people, who should have gone to China at their own risk.

11 posted on 10/20/2001 12:59:50 PM PDT by roughrider
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To: *libertarians
Inadvertently I left out the blurb about the author. Here it is

The author, Ben Bayer, is the coordinator of the ARI debate program. He is a past state champion in policy and four-time national qualifier in foreign extemp, L-D, and policy. He coached debate and extemp for two years, producing a state championship team and several national qualifiers. He is presently a graduate student in philosophy and a student at the objectivist Graduate Center. He can be contacted at

I will get to everyone's responses tomorrow. As always, thank you for your thoughtful replies.

12 posted on 10/20/2001 5:47:01 PM PDT by annalex
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To: Demidog
"I don't agree with this at all. I do not delegate this right to anyone."

No sane person would if the government is corrupt or unjust. The pretext, I believe, is objective laws and rules for evidence. If I believe the government able to administer justice, I would have no problem delegating this authority to it. As it is now, our society is schitzo. We can't resolve that there is truth ... let alone justice.
13 posted on 10/21/2001 7:40:43 AM PDT by gjenkins
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To: tex-oma
There are two issues here. A nation is free when it is ruled with the consent of its population and protects individual rights. Broadly speaking, our government does that: it has free and contested elections and has individual rights written in the constitution. Nobody prevented Americans from electing politicians who promise radical tax cuts; the reality is that the politicians who don't, and instead promise expanded government services get more votes. We are a free nation that uses its freedom foolishly. Nevertheless, we definitely qualify to morally fight any war we please on governments that usurp power anywhere; the Defense of Liberty: Just Intervention article explains why.

The second issue is that of national interest. While we morally can fight any war on dictatorial governments, often we shouldn't. Our involvement in Haiti, Somalia, and the Balkans are examples where we should have stayed out, because there was no national interest at stake. Those we involvements dictated by altruism, correct. But altruism as a motive does not invalidate the right to intervene; it only makes it a mistake.

14 posted on 10/21/2001 4:34:49 PM PDT by annalex
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To: Demidog
I do not delegate this right [to use retaliatory force against those who initiate force] to anyone

In matters of foreign policy you have little choice; like it or not, there is plenty voters in this country to empower a government that retaliates when this country is attacked or threatened.

15 posted on 10/21/2001 4:38:30 PM PDT by annalex
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To: A.J.Armitage; Demidog
I am gald you agree, although my take on natural rights is different from Bastiat. I don't think that the presence of a behavior in nature has anything to do with natural rights. Rights are natural when no legislation is necessary to prevent conflicts of rights. Thus, a right to homestead real property when there is "enough and as good" left for other potential homesteaders is a natural right; in conditions of scarcity the natural right is merely to establish competitive rules, which gives rise to a contractual right to claim unclaimed property according to the rules -- but not to claim it in absence of rules.

The rulemaking authority, even if needed, doesn't have to be government. Historically, that role was played by tradition, and professional associations.

Clearly, no rulemaking authority is needed to exchange property once acquired. A registry of deeds facilitates exchange but is not strictly necessary to have a rightful real property exchange.

16 posted on 10/21/2001 4:50:00 PM PDT by annalex
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To: roughrider
Rand contradicts herself by first claiming nations can have no rights, but then goes on to make distinctions between the rights of free nations vs. dictatorial nations

At least part of the problem is the human tendency to speak in shortcuts.

Groups have no rights other than those empowered by their individual members. It would be better usage to speak of individual rights and group powers, like our Constitution does when it speaks of government powers.

So, the expression "our nation has a right to do X" really means "we (Americans) each have individual right to empower our government to do X". In order not to torture the gentle reader, one simply uses the "national rights" parlance. A nation run dictatorially cannot say the same thing, has been empowered nothing, and so "has no rights"

Let's say you and I (a nation of two) walk in the park and see a man beating a woman (another nation of two). Since you and I decided that when it's time to rough people up, it is your responsibility, you go and knock that guy senseless. Even if in the process of hitting the man you occasionally hit the woman, my action in delegating you to fight was rightful; your action in roughing the guy up was also rightful; we as a nation had a right to intervene. The man beating the woman was obviously in a position of governing their nation of two; since he got to govern by violence and not, like you, by consent, he as an individual has no rights, and as a government has no rightful powers. The man and a woman as a nation of two have "no rights whatsoever", although the woman has her individual rights.

Thus, a nation that is not free can be referred to as a nation for purposes of its ethnos or geography, but politically it is a pariah nation, or as the current term is, a rogue nation. Its rights are nil, but of course its citizens have individual natural rights like any other human beings.

I don't think the above explanations are any different from what Rand teaches, but her expression may be less than perfect. It is true that many truths that objectivism claims as its own are really classic philosophy of government. The novelty of objectivism is to reduce the argumentation to stark atomic elements of individual rights. An attempt to build a theory of ethics on top of that, in my opinion, has failed.

The fact that governments do clandestine things doesn't remove the legitimacy as long as the government has obtained an overall consent to prosecute foreign policy.

On your comment in #11, I don't think it is relevant to the illustration of cases of intervention, whether the interventions in the Boxers' Rebellion or against Panch Villa had been provoked by initiated violence. The authore merely enumerates examples there.

The use of force can never be a "monopoly" of the government in a free society

I agree. I never understood this "monopoly" tenet myself. On the face of it, it is wrong. If we are talking of defensive/retaliatory force, clearly we all have a right to it. As to initiated force, the government has no right ot is any more than the individuals. The only case when there is a difference is that a government can make laws that would falsely empower it to use initiated force. May be that's what is meant by the "monopoly".

17 posted on 10/21/2001 5:40:00 PM PDT by annalex
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To: annalex
In matters of foreign policy you have little choice

Not according to my constitution. And if it weren't for the income tax, I could certainly refuse to support any incursion on foreign soil that didn't relate to national defense.

That is the essence of both libertarianism and our constitution. The people were allowed to freely refuse to support bad government decisions.

I am disheartened to see you resort to the might makes right argument. Votes shmotes.

18 posted on 10/21/2001 6:04:36 PM PDT by Demidog
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To: PatrickHenry
...Booked for reference, thanks.
19 posted on 10/21/2001 6:11:26 PM PDT by gargoyle
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To: gjenkins
The point though is that no government just or not can protect me. It has never occurred in the history of the world that any government has protected its citizens nor has a law ever prevented crime.

Our founders knew this which was why they did not ask us to give that authority over to the government. In every case this has been done, the idle government turned its weapons on the population at large.

20 posted on 10/21/2001 6:12:20 PM PDT by Demidog
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