War, Nuclear Weapons and “Innocents”
ALL
Three Things We Must Know in Order to Stop Jihadists
by Elan Journo | December 23, 2016
15 Years After 9/11, We Still Don’t Understand The Enemy
by Elan Journo | September 11, 2016
Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond
by Elan Journo | September 07, 2016
How the U.S., and Israel, Wage Self-Crippled Wars
by Elan Journo | October 8, 2015
The Israel-Palestinian War
by Elan Journo | July 28, 2014
How the International Laws of War Abet Hamas, Undercut Israel
by Elan Journo | July 17, 2014
Book Review: “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes”
by Elan Journo | June 02, 2014
World Upside Down
by Elan Journo | November 27, 2012
Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand and U.S. Foreign Policy
by Elan Journo | October 19, 2012
Our self-crippled policy encouraged the deadly embassy attacks
by Elan Journo | September 28, 2012
Galt Goes Global
by Elan Journo | August 28, 2012
Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism
by Elan Journo | 2009
Our Self-Crippled War
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2009
An Unwinnable War?
by Elan Journo | Fall 2009
The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2007
The Real Disgrace: Washington’s Battlefield “Ethics”
by Elan Journo | July 28, 2007
Neoconservative Foreign Policy: An Autopsy
by Yaron Brook | Summer 2007
The “Forward Strategy” for Failure
by Yaron Brook | Spring 2007
What Real War Looks Like
by Elan Journo | December 07, 2006
Democracy vs. Victory: Why The “Forward Strategy of Freedom” Had to Fail
by Yaron Brook | September 12, 2006
Washington’s Failed War in Afghanistan
by Elan Journo | June 08, 2006
“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense
by Yaron Brook | Spring 2006
The Foreign Policy of Guilt
by Onkar Ghate | September 29, 2005
Neoconservatives vs. America: A Critique of U.S. Foreign Policy since 9/11
by Yaron Brook | September 15, 2005
The Failure of the Homeland Defense: The Lessons from History
by John David Lewis | March 23, 2005
America’s Compassion in Iraq Is Self-Destructive
by Elan Journo | January 12, 2005
Morality of War
by Yaron Brook | September 09, 2004
The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America
by Peter Schwartz | May 2004
Don’t Blame Our Intelligence Agencies — Blame Our Unprincipled Foreign Policy
by Onkar Ghate | April 02, 2004
Diverting the Blame for 9/11
by Onkar Ghate | March 31, 2004
America vs. Americans
by Leonard Peikoff | April 21, 2003
America Is Not Winning the War
by Onkar Ghate | August 29, 2002
Innocents in War?
by Onkar Ghate | January 18, 2002
War, Nuclear Weapons and “Innocents”
by Onkar Ghate | September 28, 2001
The Wreckage of the Consensus
by Ayn Rand | April 16, 1967
POV: Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World
by Ayn Rand | 1960

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Foreign Policy in Voice for Reason
Foreign PolicySelf Defense & Free Trade

War, Nuclear Weapons and “Innocents”

by Onkar Ghate | September 28, 2001

America is at war.

To win, we must destroy not just individual terrorists like Osama bin Laden and his allies in Afghanistan but the power of brutal, authoritarian governments to send out their armies of terrorists against us. Central among these is Iran, but the enemy includes Iraq, Syria, Sudan, the PLO and others.

The task ahead may be difficult, but we must not waver. We should constantly remind ourselves that these dictatorial regimes are arming themselves with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons aimed at our destruction. We dare not wait for another massacre before we eliminate their ability to attack us.

Many are now wondering, aloud or silently: Should the United States use nuclear weapons to destroy the enemy?

Determining what are the proper military means of achieving America’s objective in the war, and whether those means include nuclear weapons, is an issue for our generals. But the real worry behind the question is whether the U.S. government has the moral right to use its full military arsenal in waging the war. To this question I can say, as a philosopher, that morality answers with an unequivocal “Yes.”

The basic issue is that of self-defense. When men are initiating force against you in order to destroy you, you have the moral right to kill your would-be murderers by any means possible. To think that one thereby descends to the moral level of one’s attackers is as absurd as to think that a policeman descends to the level of Al Capone if he kills Capone in a shootout.

The U.S. government is simply the agent of its citizens, charged with one and only one responsibility: to secure and defend the rights — and very lives — of its citizens against aggressors. If in waging war our government were to consider deaths in enemy countries as a cost that must be weighed against the deaths of American citizens or soldiers, it would be violating its most basic function. It would no longer be an agent for our self-defense, but theirs.

What could be more morally obscene than 20,000 additional Americans killed in another attack on our cities because our government failed to bomb Iran, worried that Iranian casualties would be too high? Equally obscene would be to send our soldiers to war — courageous individuals ready to defend their freedom and ours — and then have our government not do everything in its power to minimize their deaths.

Morally, the responsibility of the U.S. government is to destroy the aggressors and minimize U.S. casualties. If our military decides that in this war, as in WWII, it needs nuclear weapons, so be it.

But what of the “innocent” civilians in enemy states that could be killed in the process?

Many civilians in those states hate us and actively support, materially and spiritually, their tyrannical regimes. They are not innocents. As we drop our bombs, should we worry about the lives of Palestinians who celebrated by dancing in the streets on September 11?

Other civilians in enemy states are passive, unthinking followers. Their work and economic production, however meager, supports their terrorist governments and so they are in part responsible for the continued power of the aggressors. They too are not innocent — and their deaths may be unavoidable in order for America to defend itself.

The civilians in enemy territory who actually oppose their dictatorial regimes are usually the regimes’ first innocent victims. Any such individuals who remain alive and outside of prison camps should try to flee their country or rebel.

Destroying innocents qua innocents should not be our goal — and true innocents should welcome American attack on their country. They know that they might be killed in the process, and even that they are legitimate targets insofar as they are forced to support their dictatorial regimes, but they will also know that it is their only chance at freedom. In WWII, occupied Europe welcomed American invasion, even though this meant that some civilians who actually resisted the Nazis would die in American bombings.

We must not allow human shields to deter us from defending ourselves. The U.S. government, properly and morally, in the name of defending the lives of its citizens, ordered the shooting down of the airplanes-become-missiles, even though this meant killing not only the terrorists but also the innocent American captives onboard. If this principle applies to Americans onboard their own planes, how much more so does it apply to people in Afghanistan or Iran?

The responsibility for all deaths in war lies with the aggressor who initiates force, not with those who defend themselves.

War is terrible but sometimes necessary. To win this war, we must not let an immoral concern with “innocents” weaken our resolve. We must have the profound moral conviction that we have the right to exist. We have the right to destroy those who initiate force to deprive us of our rights and lives. With full moral certainty we must urge our government to defend our lives, even if that requires nuclear weapons and hundreds of thousands of deaths in terrorist countries.

About The Author

Onkar Ghate

Chief Philosophy Officer and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute