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“But listening to lies does not make us safer, even though it might make us feel better about ourselves. The truth is that ending these misguided wars and occupations will make us safer, more prosperous and more free.”

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Ron Paul:

Ten years ago, shocking and horrific acts of terrorism were carried out on U.S. soil, taking nearly 3,000 innocent American lives. Without a doubt this action demanded retaliation and retribution. However, much has been done in the name of protecting the American people from terrorists that has reduced our prosperity and liberty and even made us less safe.

This is ironic and sad considering that the oft-repeated line concerning the reasoning behind the attacks is that they hate us for who we are – a free prosperous people – that we must not under any circumstances allow the terrorists to win. Though it is hard for many to believe, honest studies show that the real motivation behind the 9/11 attacks, and the vast majority of other instances of suicide terrorism, is not that our enemies are bothered by our way of life, neither is it our religion or our wealth – rather it is primarily occupation. If you were to imagine for a moment how you would feel if another country forcibly occupied the United States, had military bases and armed soldiers present in our hometown, you might begin to understand why foreign occupation upsets people so much.

Robert Pape has extensively researched this issue and goes in-depth in his book “Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It”. In fact, of the 2,200 incidents of suicide attacks he has studied worldwide since 1980, 95% were in response to foreign occupation. Pape notes that before our invasion of Iraq, only about 10% of suicide terrorism was aimed at Americans or American interests. Since then however, not only is suicide terrorism greatly on the rise, but 91% of it is now directed at us.

Yes, the attacks of 9/11 deserved a response, but the manner in which we responded has allowed radicals in the Muslim world to advance a very threatening narrative about us and our motivation in occupying their lands. Osama Bin Laden referred to us as “crusaders” with a religious agenda to convert Muslims, westernize their culture and take control of their resources. If we had targeted our response to only the thugs and criminals who attacked us, and refrained from invading countries that had nothing to do with it, this characterization would seem less plausible to the desperate and displaced. Blaming Islam alone is grossly misleading.

Instead, we chose a course of action that led to the further loss of 8,000 American lives, 40,000 wounded, and has left hundreds of thousands seeking help from the Veterans Administration. We are $3 to $4 trillion poorer. Our military is spread dangerously thin around the globe at the expense of protection here at home. Not only that, but we have allowed our freedoms to be greatly threatened and undermined from within. The PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches and wiretapping, abuse of habeas corpus, useless and humiliating circumstances at the airport, are just a few examples of how we have allowed the terrorists to win by making our country less free. Suicide terrorism did not exist in Iraq before we got there. Now it does. There are no known instances of Iranians committing suicide terrorism. If we invade and occupy Iran, expect that to change, too.

Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable to ask the right questions and face the truth. When a slick politician comes along and gives a much more soothing, self-congratulating version of events, it is very tempting to simply believe what we would like to hear. But listening to lies does not make us safer, even though it might make us feel better about ourselves. The truth is that ending these misguided wars and occupations will make us safer, more prosperous and more free.

Looking Beyond a Society Based on Consumption or Why I Am Not A Randian or Objectivist

This post is inspired by, amongst many other things, this particular “piece of writing” that I saw on Google News Spotlight. It’s not very good but I am linking to anyway in hope of maybe getting some cross traffic or baiting some Randians to come argue with me.

I haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, so please don’t mistake this as some type of review or critique.

Imagine a world where, instead of the capital owning class going on strike, the lower and middle classes went on strike. They stopped buying durable goods, stopped eating out, stopped going on vacations, stopped investing in their 401Ks. What would happen to the economy and industry then? Granted, the working classes are generally unable to go on strike for prolonged periods. They are called the working class because they have to work. They don’t have nest eggs and investments from which they can draw an income. So they work. They aspire, they consume, and they keep the economy moving along because they have to: they have to feed and clothe and house themselves and their families.

But they don’t have to buy new TV’s and automobiles or overleveraged homes. These are cultural values, specifically consumer culture values. Partially they are the legacy of the “American Dream” that is itself rooted in the scientific revolutions of the Enlightenment and subsequently mankind’s gradual ascent from a Hobbesian existence towards the current level of comfort and physical security afforded to us today. Human beings are an aspirational animal. We are hardwired to accumulate material wealth because material wealth brings security. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense. The only problem is that sometime thousands of years ago, mankind started to cultivate the land and form societies. These societies began to offer to human beings a way to escape the Darwinian struggle for survival, to a certain degree. Over time, it has brought us to a point today where natural selection is still in effect, although social processes have created an evolutionary environment in which it is not always the most adapted that survive and flourish. We have created a world of equal genetic opportunity, which is almost assuredly a great thing, but we still have these evolutionary impulses to conquer and acquire, to hoard what is scarce, and to have anxiety over our relative social position.

All of these impulses are putting us on a collision course towards collapse. I am not an expert on environmental science or population economics, but I believe it is fair to say that the scientific community, by and large, has seen the writing on the wall. The level of economic growth, as it is defined contemporarily by GDP growth, is unsustainable. The stock of natural resources on our planet is being diminished and the world’s population is continuing to grow, both at ever increasing rates. From the time of the Industrial Revolution to the end of the Second World War, the world’s population has grown from 1 billion to 3 billion people. Only a fraction of those people were lifted out of what we would consider poverty and into the ranks of the working consumer class. Today, the world’s population is near 7 billion and more than half of those people are currently playing “catch up” with the Western world in terms of industrialization and standards of living. Even though today’s industrial standards are more technologically sophisticated and efficient than what was used during the 19th and 20th centuries, the cost to the earth of giving 3 billion more people plasma screen displays and three bedroom houses will be tremendous.

The consumerist cultural values that are intrinsic to the operation of the current global capitalist system are unsustainable, and from an existential viewpoint, completely unnecessary in today’s world of abundant food and relative interregional security. Many recent studies have been done that conclude people do not gain any marginal happiness with income levels over a certain amount. I am not sure what that amount is, but the mere fact that it exists should tell us something about the end result of an aspirational consumerist society: it won’t end until the earth is dead or we change our values.

The middle classes can stop wanting to become the upper classes, and the lower classes can be assured of their own rights to be enfranchised as global citizens who are able to receive benefits from the technological and scientific progress that has been made over the last several centuries, we just have to want it and demand it, first as individuals, then as a society. We have to change our values.

Back to Atlas Shrugged: Atlas would be screwed without society at large. If the upper class really are the innovators, idea people, and heroes of society (which is a claim I am dubious of, but for the sake of argument I will let it stand), they still need a stock of workers to bring those ideas to life, and a marketplace full of consumers who are willing to purchase these ideas. Philosophically, the nobility of the capital owning classes lasts only as long as you give credence to consumption as an end in and of itself.

I try so hard not to be a Stan for this guy, but I just can’t help myself when he says shit like this:

“Last week marked an important milestone in the war on terrorism for our country.  Osama bin Laden applauded the 9/11 attacks.  Such deliberate killing of innocent lives deserved retaliation. It is good that bin Laden is dead and justice is served.  The way in which he was finally captured and killed shows that targeted retribution is far superior to wars of aggression and nation-building.  In 2001 I supported giving the president the authority to pursue those responsible for the vicious 9/11 attacks.  However, misusing that authority to pursue nation-building and remaking the Middle East was cynical and dangerous, as the past ten years have proven.

It is tragic that it took ten years, trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of American casualties and many thousands of innocent lives to achieve our mission of killing one evil person.  A narrow, targeted mission under these circumstances was far superior to initiating wars against countries not involved in the 9/11 attacks, and that is all we should have done.  This was the reason I emphasized at the time the principle of Marque and Reprisal, permitted to us by the US Constitution for difficult missions such as we faced.  I am convinced that this approach would have achieved our goal much sooner and much cheaper.

The elimination of Osama bin Laden should now prompt us to declare victory and bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.  Al Qaeda was never in Iraq and we were supposedly in Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden. With bin Laden gone, there is no reason for our presence in the region – unless indeed it was all about oil, nation-building, and remaking the Middle East and Central Asia.

Hopefully bin Laden does not get the last laugh. He claimed the 9/11 attacks were designed to get the US to spread its military dangerously and excessively throughout the Middle East, bankrupting us through excessive military spending as he did the Soviets, and to cause political dissention within the United States.  Some 70 percent of Americans now believe we should leave Afghanistan yet both parties seem determined to stay.  The best thing we could do right now is prove bin Laden a false prophet by coming home and ending this madness on a high note.

Tragically, one result may be the acceptance of torture as a legitimate tool for pursuing our foreign policy. A free society, calling itself a republic, grounded in the rule of law, should never succumb to such evil.

At the very least we should all be able to agree that foreign aid to Pakistan needs to end immediately.  The idea that bin Laden was safely protected for ten years in Pakistan, either willfully or through incompetence, should make us question the wisdom of robbing American citizens to support any government around the world with foreign aid.  All foreign aid and intervention needs to end.

Our failed foreign policy is reflected in our bizarre relationship with Pakistan. We bomb them with drones, causing hundreds of civilian casualties, we give them billions of dollars in foreign aid for the privilege to do so, all while they protect America’s enemy number one for a decade.

It is time to consider a sensible non-interventionist foreign policy as advised by our Founders and authorized by our Constitution. We would all be better off for it.”

Categories: Libertarianism, Peace, Ron Paul