"America at War: The Moral Imperative of Self-Defense"
A live lecture by Adam Mossoff
Thursday, October 25, 8:00pm in Angell Hall Auditorium D
Sponsored by the University of Michigan Students of Objectivism.
For more information, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
"END STATES WHO SPONSOR TERRORISM"
By Leonard Peikoff
Fifty years of increasing American appeasement in the
Mideast have led to fifty years of increasing contempt in the
Muslim world for the U.S. The climax was September 11, 2001.
Fifty years ago, Truman and Eisenhower surrendered the
West's property rights in oil, although that oil rightfully belonged
to those in the West whose science, technology, and capital
made its discovery and use possible. The first country to
nationalize Western oil, in 1951, was Iran. The rest, observing
our frightened silence, hurried to grab their piece of the newly
The cause of the U.S. silence was not practical, but
philosophical. The Mideast's dictators were denouncing wealthy
egotistical capitalism. They were crying that their poor needed
our sacrifice; that oil, like all property, is owned collectively,
by virtue of birth; and that they knew their viewpoint was true
by means of otherworldly emotion. Our Presidents had no
answer. Implicitly, they were ashamed of the Declaration of
Independence. They did not dare to answer that Americans,
properly, were motivated by the selfish desire to achieve
personal happiness in a rich, secular, individualist society.
The Muslim countries embodied in an extreme form every
idea-selfless duty, anti-materialism, faith or feeling above
science, the supremacy of the group-which our universities,
our churches, and our own political Establishment had long
been upholding as virtue. When two groups, our leadership
and-theirs, accept the same basic ideas, the most consistent
After property came liberty. "The Muslim fundamentalist
movement," writes Yale historian Lamin Sanneh, "began in
1979 with the Iranian [theocratic] revolution .. ." (NYT 9/23/01).
During his first year as its leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, urging a
Jihad against "the Great Satan," kidnapped 52 U.S. diplomatic
personnel and held them hostage; Carter's reaction was
fumbling paralysis. About a decade later, Iran topped this
evil. Khomeini issued his infamous Fatwa aimed at censoring,
even outside his borders, any ideas uncongenial to Muslim
sensibility. This was the meaning of his threat to kill British
authorRshdie, andto destroy his American publisher; their
crime was the exercise of their right to express an unpopular
intellectual viewpoint. The Fatwa was Iran's attempt, reaffirmed
after Khomeini's death, to stifle, anywhere in the world, the very
process of thought. Bush Sr. looked the other way.
After liberty came American life itself. The first killers were
the Palestinian hijackers of the late .1960s. But the killing spree
which has now shattered our soaring landmarks, our daily
routine, and our souls, began in earnest only after the license
granted by Carter and Bush Sr.
Many nations work to fill our body bags. But Iran, according
to a State Department report of 1999, is "the most active state
sponsor of terrorism," training and arming groups from all over
the Mideast, including Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
Nor is Iran's government now "moderating" Five months ago,
the world's leading terrorist groups resolved to unite in a holy
war against the U.S., which they called "a second Israel"; their
meeting was held in Teheran. (Fox News 9/16/01)
What has been the U.S. response to the above? 1i 1996,
nineteen U.S. soldiers were killed in their barracks in Saudi
Arabia. According to a front-page story in The New York
Times (6/21/98): "Evidence suggesting that Iran sponsored
the attack has further complicated the investigation, because
the United States and Saudi Arabia have recently sought to
improve relations with a new, relatively moderate Government
in Teheran." In other words, Clinton evaded Iran's role because
he wanted what he called "a genuine reconciliation." In public,
of course, he continued to vow that he would find and punish
the guilty. This inaction of Clinton's is comparable to his action
after bin Laden's attack on U.S. embassies in East Africa; his
action was the gingerly bombing of two meaningless targets.
Conservatives are equally responsible for today's crisis, as
Reagan's record attests. Reagan not only failed to retaliate
after 241 U.S. marines in Lebanon were slaughtered; he did
worse. Holding that Islamic guerrillas were our ideological
allies because of their fight against the atheistic Soviets, he
methodically poured money and expertise into Afghanistan.
This put the U.S. wholesale into the business of creating
terrorists. Most of them regarded fighting the Soviets as only
the beginning; our turn soon came.
For over a decade, there was another guarantee of
American impotence: the notion that a terrorist is alone
responsible for his actions, and that each, therefore, must be
tried as an individual before a court of law. This viewpoint,
thankfully, is fading; most people now understand that terrorists
exist only through the sanction and support of a government.
We need not prove the identity of any of these creatures,
because terrorism is not an issue of personalities. It cannot
be stopped by destroying bin Laden and the al-Qaeda army,
or even by destroying the destroyers everywhere. If that is all
we do, a new army of militants will soon rise up to replace the
The behavior of such militants is that of the regimes which
make them possible. Their atrocities are not crimes, but acts
of war. The proper response, as the public now understands,
is a war in self-defense. In the excellent words of Paul
Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, we must "end states
who sponsor terrorism."
A proper war in self-defense is one fought without self-
crippling restrictions placed on our commanders in the field. It
must be fought with the most effective weapons we possess
(a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld refused, correctly, to rule out
nuclear weapons). And it must be fought in a manner that
spcures victory as quickly as possible and with the fewest
U.S. casualties, regardless of the countless innocents caught
in the line of fire. These innocents suffer and die because
of the action of their own government in sponsoring the
initiation of force against America. Their fate, therefore, is their
government's moral responsibility. There is no' way for our
bullets to be aimed only at evil men.
The public understandably demands retaliation against
Afghanistan. But in the wider context Afghanistan is
insignificant. It is too devastated even to breed many fanatics.
Since it is no more these days than a place to hide, its
elimination would do little to end terrorism.
"if our appeasement
has led to an
escalation of disasters
in the past, can it
do otherwise in the!
future? The survival
of America is at stake.
The risk of a U.S.
is negligible. The only
risk is underreaction."
Terrorism is a specific disease, which can be treated only
by a specific antidote. The nature of the disease (though not
of its antidote) has been suggested by Serge Schmemann
(NYT 9/16/01). Our struggle now, he writes, is "not a struggle
against a conventional guerrilla force, whose yearning for a
national homeland or the satisfaction of some grievance could
be satisfied or denied. The terrorists [on Tuesday] . . . issued
no demands, no ultimatums. They did it solely out of grievance
and hatred-hatred for the values cherished in the West as
freedom, tolerance, prosperity, religious pluralism and universal
suffrage, but abhorred by religious fundamentalists (and not
only Muslim fundamentalists) as licentiousness, corruption,
greed and apostasy."
Every word of this is true. The obvious implication is that
the struggle against terrorism is not a struggle over Palestine.
It is a clash of cultures, and thus a struggle of ideas, which can
be dealt with, ultimately, only by intellectual means. But this
fact does not depreciate the crucial role of our armed forces.
On the contrary, it increases their effectiveness, by pointing
them to the right target.
Most of the Mideast is ruled by thugs who would be
paralyzed by an American victory over any of their neighbors.
Iran, by contrast, is the only major country there ruled by
zealots dedicated not to material gain (such as more wealth or
territory), but to the triumph by any means, however violent, of
the Muslim fundamentalist movement they brought to life. That
is why Iran manufactures the most terrorists.
If one were under a Nazi aerial bombardment, it would be
senseless to restrict oneself to combatting Nazi satellites while
ignoring Germany and the ideological plague it was working to
spread. What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to
terrorism today. Whatever else it does, therefore, the U.S. can
put an end to the Jihad-mongers only by taking out Iran.
Eliminating Iran's terrorist sanctuaries and military capability
is not enough. We must do the equivalent of de-Nazifying the
country, by expelling every official and bringing down every
branch of its government. This goal cannot be achieved
painlessly, by weaponry alone. It requires invasion by ground
troops, who will be at serious risk, and perhaps a period of
occupation. But nothing less will "end the state" that most cries
out to be ended.
The greatest obstacle to U.S. victory is not Iran and its
allies, but our own intellectuals. Even now, they are advocating
the same ideas that caused our historical paralysis. They are
asking a reeling nation to show neighbor-love by shunning
"vengeance."' The multicultural ists-rejecting the concept of
objectivity-are urging us to "understand" the Arabs and avoid
"racism" (i.e., any condemnation of any group's culture). The
friends of "peace" are reminding us, ever more loudly, to
"remember Hiroshima" and beware the sin of pride.
These are the kinds of voices being heard in the
universities, the churches, and the media as the country
recovers from its first shock, and the professoriate et al. feel
emboldened to resume business as usual. These voices are
a siren song luring us to untroubled sleep while the fanatics
proceed to gut America.
Tragically, Mr. Bush is attempting a compromise between
the people's demand for a decisive war and the intellectuals'
demand for appeasement.
Although the Bush administration has now launched an
attack on bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan and even
against the Taliban, the administration refuses to target Iran, or
any of the other countries identified by the State Department
as terrorist regimes. On the contrary, Powell is seeking to
add to the current coalition these very states-which is the
equivalent of going into partnership with the Soviet Union in
order to fight Communism (under the pretext, say, of proving
that we are not anti-Russian). By seeking such a coalition, our
President is asserting that he needs the support of terrorist
nations in order to fight them. He is stating publicly that the
world's only superpower does not have enough self-confidence
or moral courage to act unilaterally in its own defense.
For some days now, Mr. Bush has been downplaying
the role of our military, while praising the same policies
(mainly negotiation and economic pressure) that have failed so
spectacularly and for so long. Instead of attacking the roots
of global terrorism, he seems to be settling for a "guerrilla
war" against al-Qaeda, and a policy of unseating the Taliban.
passively, by aiding a motley coalition of native tribes. Our
battle, he stresses, will be a "lengthy" one.
Mr. Bush's compromise will leave the primary creators of
terrorism whole-and unafraid. His approach might satisfy
our short-term desire for retribution, but it will guarantee
catastrophe in the long term.
As yet, however, no overall policy has been solidified; the
administration still seems to be groping. And an angry public
still expects our government not merely to hobble terrorism for
a while, but to eradicate it. The only hope left is that Mr. Bush
will listen to the public, not to the professors and their progeny.
When should we act, if not now? If our appeasement has
led to an escalation of disasters in the past, can it do otherwise
in the future? Do we wait until our enemies master nuclear,
chemical, and biological warfare?
The survival of America is at stake.
U.S. overreaction, therefore, is negligible.
The risk of a
The only risk
Mr. Bush must reverse course. He must send our missiles
and troops, in force, where they belong. And he must justify
this, action by declaring with righteous conviction that we have
discarded the cliches of our paper-tiger past and that the U.S.
now places America first.
There is still time to demonstrate that we take the war
against terrorism seriously-as a sacred obligation to our
Founding Fathers, to every victim of the men who hate this
country, and to ourselves. There is still time to make the
world understand that we will take up arms, anywhere and on
principle, to secure an American's right to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness on earth.
The choice today is mass death in the United States or
mass death in the terrorist nations. Our Commander-In-Chief
must decide whether it is his duty to save Americans or the
governments who conspire to kill them.
I ., ' ' I