Why should one powerful nation attack another that is following intolerable policies -- e.g., gasing its own citizens? Some argue that this is because when others act violently toward innocent people, those who can prevent this from happening have an obligation to step in and help out. We are, as Mr. Obama put it not long ago, “all in the same boat!”
But is this true? Do we have such an obligation? The men and women who signed up to defend a country didn’t do this to fight for the citizens of other nations. They signed up to defend their own nation. For their leaders to lead them into a war that doesn’t involve national defense is malpractice.
But perhaps when the wrongs committed by the powerful nation are severe enough, the restraint against getting involved must be abandoned. It is just inhuman to allow the powerful nation to carry on with its vile, murderous practices.
Yet when my neighbors -- two brothers, say -- are fighting, is it my duty to intervene, even if in support of the weaker brother? Do I have the moral authority to do so? After all, going to the aid to the weak brother isn’t costless and those who are going to pay (sometimes with their lives) must give their consent, which the citizens of the intervening country may well not have given.
It is usually politicians who make these decisions and they aren’t footing the bills involved, let alone doing any of the fighting. (The lives of those who are being made to pay require sustenance and resources and it must be up to them how they allocate what belongs to them, otherwise they aren’t sovereign citizens.)
We are delighted to present Lessons in Freedom, essays by Dr. Tibor Machan, for your pleasure.
Dr. Machan holds the R. C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics & Free Enterprise at Chapman University's Argyros School of B&E.