by Walter Block: Ron
Paul: Far Right or Far Left?
of an international body of water is an act of war. If Iran implemented
such a policy in the Strait of Hormuz, it would thus constitute
an act of war. This is because in order to do so, this country would
have to physically violate the rights of peaceful shippers. One
might object that at present, Iran has only threatened to
close the Strait of Hormuz. However, in my understanding of libertarian
theory based upon the non aggression principle (NAP) not only are
people (or governments!) not permitted to actually invade, or violate
the rights of peaceful individuals, they are not entitled to threaten
we unduly criticize the Iranians for this threat, let us put the
matter in context. The U.S. government has also threatened
a blockade of Iran. With many statements emanating from Washington
D.C. to the effect that the U.S. government "is not taking
anything off the table,"
they are menacing actions a lot more serious, and invasive, than
a mere blockade.
Why is the
U.S. acting in so bellicose a manner? This is because it seems to
be a settled part of present American policy that Iran should not
persist in its (supposed) goal of arming itself with nuclear weapons.
paradoxically, I agree with the Obama administration on this matter.
Iran should not have nuclear weapons. But, neither should anyone
else! Why not? This is because they are necessarily offensive. This
type of ordnance cannot be used in a way that distinguishes between
the guilty and the innocent. States Rothbard
in this regard: "… while the bow and arrow and even the rifle
can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals,
modern nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind.
Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes,
but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors.
Nuclear weapons, even ‘conventional’ aerial bombs, cannot be. These
weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass
destruction." (For a further elaboration of this thesis and
a discussion of its implications, see here.)
demand of Iran on the part of the U.S. comes with particular ill
grace given the fact that the latter country has thousands of such
nuclear devices. If the Obama Administration had suddenly become
infused with libertarianism in general, and with Rothbard’s analysis
of nuclear weapons in particular, it would certainly be justified
in continuing to press the Iranians not to develop such firearms.
But it would begin this quest by getting rid of its own stocks first.
But are not
the Iranians unstable? Are they not likely, under the leadership
of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to use these items against innocent
people? Did not this person threaten to wipe Israel off the map
with them, that is, use such weapons against that country? No. This
was a mis-translation of what he actually said (see here,
and especially here).
Nor is it possible to ignore the fact that there is only one
country on the face of the earth that has actually employed
atomic weapons against innocent men, women and children. And that
country, strangely enough, is not Iran. Rather, it is the good old
U.S. of A., land of the free and home of the brave. (See here,
and especially here).
So, while I
certainly endorse Rothbard’s analysis according to which any and
all atomic weaponry is illicit according the NAP, it does not at
all logically follow that a country with thousands of such armaments,
that has the distinction of being the only one to have ever murdered
people with such a heinous weapon, is justified in using force to
prevent another nation from obtaining one for itself. (I here stipulate,
arguendo, that this is indeed the case; Iran of course insists it
is interested in nuclear power for entirely peaceful purposes.)
Now that we
have explored the context, let us return to the Iranian threat to
close the Strait of Hormuz. From a libertarian point of view, in
order to assess the validity of this threat, we must ask, Does this
constitute initiatory aggression, or threats, or retaliation? For
libertarians are not pacifists. We reserve the right to employ threats,
aggression, violence, provided, only, that it is in response to
a prior act, but does not constitute the prior act itself. So, did
Iran "start up" with the U.S., or did the U.S. begin the
When put in
this stark manner, it is difficult in the extreme to see the Iranians
as the aggressors. At worst, they were going to build a nuclear
weapon, not merely avail themselves of the peaceful use of this
technology. Along comes a country, much larger and more powerful
than theirs, certainly lacking "clean hands" in this regard,
and orders them to cease and desist, under dire threat. So, in response,
the Iranians issue a threat of their own: to close off international
waters to peaceful shipping. Yes, Iran is in the wrong for so doing.
But, they are not the real villain of the piece. That guilt lies
elsewhere. The threat of the blockade against Iran came first.
Only then did the Iranians make their own threat.
Block [send him mail] is a
professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior
fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending
the Undefendable and Labor
Economics From A Free Market Perspective. His latest book
Privatization of Roads and Highways.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Best of Walter Block