Fourteen Observations on Events in Syria

On April 4, a chemical weapon attack occurred in Khan Shiekhoun, Idlib, Syria, killing at least 69 people. Western governments and media outlets have almost universally blamed the Bashar al-Assad regime for the attacks, while Russia and the Syrian government have blamed Syrian rebel forces. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley indicated on April 5 that the US may take action against Assad in response. On April 6, President Donald Trump ordered a strike of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Shayrat Military Airport in Homs province, the place that US intelligence alleges as the point of origin for the chemical weapon attack. Fourteen observations on these events follow.

1. How people die is apparently more important than how many die. A person who dies convulsing and gasping for air following a sarin gas attack is just as dead as a person who is killed with bullets, conventional bombs, fire, or any other weapon of war. But the former looks more horrifying and thus causes more of an emotional response in empathic people than videos of bombed-out buildings or machine-gunned corpses.

2. The lügenpresse is fully aware of this tendency. This is why both sensationalist journalists and propagandists for Western military intervention would rather show videos of this sort than videos of more conventional warfare and its results. This allows them to short-circuit the reason centers of the American people and appeal to their moral outrage in a selective fashion, as Western countries tend to restrict their chemical weapons usage to less lethal levels, such as using tear gas against protesters.

3. It makes no sense for Assad to have used chemical weapons and every bit of sense for the rebels. In a speech on the night of April 6, Trump claimed that “[t]here can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.” Military intelligence reports seem to confirm this. But this may be disputed on the grounds that both the United States government and the intelligence community have a long history of both incompetence and of lying to the American people. Furthermore, Assad was already holding his ground and gaining territory from the rebels, including the capture of the long-besieged city of Aleppo in December 2016. The use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces could only invite intervention against their cause, and the rebels must know this, giving them the incentive to perpetrate a false flag operation.

Of course, this does not mean that Assad or one of his generals is not ultimately responsible, as assuming rational actors would be a fatal flaw in any analysis of events in the Middle East. But the incentives run counter to that scenario and favor a rebel use of chemical weapons.

4. There is a stronger national security interest in not intervening. In his speech, Trump said, “It is in this vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” This is debatable, but even if true, larger concerns loom. On April 7, Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy UN envoy, said to the UN Security Council, “We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the US. The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious.” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev charged that the US strikes were one step away from clashing with Russia’s military. Russia’s Defense Ministry responded to the attack by closing a communications line used to avoid accidental hostilities between American and Russian forces when US warplanes attack ISIS forces that are in close proximity to Russian forces. A Russian missile frigate was deployed to the area from which the two US destroyers fired missiles into Syria. None of this is beneficial for the fight against Islamic terrorism, and it makes a shooting war between nuclear-armed states far more likely.

5. Attacking Assad helps the Islamic State. Following the cruise missile strike against Shayrat, ISIS forces in Homs launched an offensive, storming the Syrian Arab Army checkpoints near Al-Furqalas. The destruction of Shayrat will temporarily prevent Assad’s forces from providing air support in the area, which could lead to ISIS gains there as well as on the Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor fronts. This is to be expected; a black swan event that negatively affects one side in a war necessarily has a positive effect on that side’s enemies, and ISIS has enough sense to seize upon this opportunity.

6. Actions like this make it difficult to take the War on Terrorism seriously. Attacking people who are at war with a terrorist state is counterproductive to winning the War on Terrorism. In fact, it raises concerns that defeating terrorism is not the true purpose of the War on Terrorism. Note that if the War on Terrorism were won, then the rationale for police statism and massive military spending would vanish. If the War on Terrorism were lost, then the state would fail at the one job that it is supposedly solely capable of performing, namely keeping its people safe. The ideology of Islamic terrorists disallows a draw, so the only other option is an endless war. An endless war allows politicians to continually expand state power and siphon money into the hands of the defense contractors who fund their campaigns. The idea that politicians care more about this than about the human lives lost on both sides of the conflict is the most cynical explanation, so it is the most likely to be correct.

7. The damage from the cruise missile strike can be easily repaired. Repairing a runway is a simple matter of bulldozing the affected areas and repaving it, which can be done in a few days. The buildings must be demolished and rebuilt, which could be done in a matter of weeks. Replacing the 20+ aircraft that were destroyed is the hard part, but Russia can solve that problem for Assad. In short, this one strike will be quite ineffective in the long term.

8. Trump’s moral outrage is inconsistent at best. The very strike that was supposed to stop civilian deaths actually contributed to them. Errant missiles missed the air base, hitting nearby villages. Five adults and four children were killed in Al-Hamrat, and another seven people were wounded in Al-Manzul. A few weeks earlier, an air strike aimed at ISIS in Mosul, Iraq killed 200 civilians. It makes no sense for Trump to be outraged about chemical weapons use in Syria but not about these atrocities carried out by the US military under his own orders.

9. Given the previous six observations, the strike makes more sense as a cynical political move than as an effort to help the Syrian people or punish Assad. As tensions escalate with North Korea, a targeted strike against Syria makes the threat of a targeted strike against North Korea more credible. This may alter the calculus of Kim Jong-un as well as the Chinese government, leading North Korea to be less aggressive and China to be more cooperative. At home, Trump faces continued allegations of links between his campaign and Russian government officials in addition to difficulties in accomplishing his legislative agenda. Acting against Syria while Russia is assisting them helps to rebut such allegations and give the appearance that he is not completely hamstrung by Congress. Trump may calculate that the number of isolationist supporters he would lose through such an act would be outweighed by the number of neoconservative and neoliberal war hawks he would win over. This combination of effects makes more sense as a motive than any humanitarian concerns.

As for future action against Syria, removing Assad would further destabilize the region and create a power vacuum which would be filled by jihadists. This would distract Trump from the aspects of his agenda that run counter to the globalist deep state. Backing down and patching over relations with Russia in a timely manner would bolster the leftist narrative of Trump as a Russian puppet. We may therefore expect more targeted strikes which leave Assad in power and do not really accomplish much.

10. Statecraft requires rational psychopathy. The unpleasant truth that no one wishes to acknowledge is that allowing third-world dictators to massacre their own citizens is the best thing we can do. As shocking as that may sound, there are only two alternatives, both of which have been tried and shown to be even worse. One alternative is to intervene decisively to help an oppressed people overthrow their ruler. This was tried in Iraq in 2003 and in Libya in 2011. The end result in both cases was sectarian violence that killed people at a faster rate than did the deposed dictators, and the same sorts of human rights abuses continued under new leadership. The other alternative is to intervene indecisively to keep a civil war raging. This was tried in Iraq and Syria in and after 2011. The end result has been the weakening of social order, the marginalization of moderate rebel groups, the growth of jihadist terror groups, and the ultimate transfer of arms to al-Qa’ida, Islamic State, and their affiliates.

The President of the United States, so long as there is going to be one, should be a person completely lacking in empathy. One should instead govern as a perfectly rational psychopath, thinking completely with the head and not at all with the heart, looking out for the interests of Americans and not for the interests of foreigners. One must be able to look at overseas atrocities and say, “This is not our problem. We are not the policemen of the world.”

11. This situation is the result of Western meddling. Syria was a colony of France from 1920 to 1946. At the beginning of this time, Mandatory Syria was divided into six states: Greater Lebanon (now Lebanon), Sanjak of Alexandretta (now part of Turkey), the State of Aleppo, the State of Damascus, the Alawite State, and the Jabal al-Druze State. This arrangement kept opposing factions in their own territories, but France had combined the latter four by the end of 1936. These factions fought for control, resulting in a large number of military coups and attempted coups from 1945 to 1970, ending only when Hafez al-Assad was able to rule strongly enough to suppress dissent. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar succeeded him. In the Arab Spring protests of 2011, Assad’s rule was challenged by various factions which sought to remove him from power, leading to the Syrian Civil War.

12. Syria must balkanize. If France had not tried to combine disparate peoples under one state and had instead left the four Syrian states separate, this bloody conflict could have been prevented. Bashar al-Assad, if he had come to power at all in this alternate timeline, would only be the ruler of a small part of western Syria. The rest of the country would have been ruled more locally and probably less oppressively by governments of their own people. This, rather than the removal of Assad followed by yet another wasteful failure of nation-building, should be the end goal of any intervention that might occur in Syria.

13. Trump has betrayed the raison d’être of his campaign. A major factor that caused people who normally do not vote for anyone to come out to vote for Trump was his “America First” rhetoric. Part of putting America first is to avoid unnecessary foreign entanglements by implementing a non-interventionist foreign policy. Many people supported Barack Obama in the hopes that he would do less damage overseas than George W. Bush. After being disappointed in Obama and seeing no difference in Mitt Romney, they gravitated toward Trump because his rhetoric was in stark contrast to that of establishment politicians from both major parties. Now he has also disappointed them, and hopefully they will come to realize that…

14. Peace can only be obtained by anti-political means. Peace is the status of being free from violence. A state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force in a certain geographical area. Initiatory force involves the use of violence. Thus, the very presence of a state is a guarantee of war, both abroad and against the domestic population at home. Therefore, the only possibility for peace is to have no state. The elimination of the state cannot be accomplished by political means, as political processes perpetuate the state by design. Thus, anti-political means are required.

Nine Observations on the Westminster Attack

On March 22 at 14:40 GMT, Khalid Masood, 52, drove a Hyundai Tucson vehicle into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London, killing three and wounding over 40 others. The vehicle then crashed into the railings outside the Houses of Parliament. Masood exited the vehicle, entered the grounds of New Palace Yard, and fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer. Armed police warned Masood, then fatally shot him. In response, Parliament was placed on lockdown and later closed for the day. The National Assemblies in Scotland and Wales suspended proceedings. Nine observations on this event follow.

1. Security personnel should not be unarmed. Matters of violence are generally decided by who is more able and willing to use force. As it was, the attacker brought a knife to a fight without guns, giving him a strong advantage that he used to terrible effect. If Officer Keith Palmer had been carrying a firearm, he could have stopped Masood before he got close enough to use his knife, as the armed police who arrived later did.

2. Citizens should not be unarmed. In the United Kingdom, access to firearms by private citizens is regulated by strict gun control laws. But criminals are defined by the fact that they disregard laws. As such, the only people who would have a gun in a legally disarmed society would be government agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). Had someone on the bridge been armed, they could have stopped Masood at some point before he reached the railings outside of the Houses of Parliament. Gun control did nothing to prevent the Westminster attack, nor will it do anything to stop the next attack. The politicians prefer it this way, of course; a well-armed populace has little need for the state to protect them and is much harder for the state to victimize.

3. Government prison systems do a poor job of rehabilitation. Masood had a lengthy criminal record, beginning with an arrest for criminal damage in 1983 and ending with knife possession in 2003. His convictions include assault with grevious bodily harm, possessing offensive weaponry, and public order offenses. A better criminal justice system may have been able to reform him, but the government penal institutions certainly failed to do so. In fact, the opposite occurred, as it was reported that Masood converted to Islam while in prison. Spread of Islamic radicalism in prisons is a known problem.

4. ISIS may be lying. In a tweet, ISIS’s Amaq News Agency said, “A soldier for the Islamic State carried out the operation in answer to calls to target the people of coalition states.” But it is in their interest to claim responsibility regardless of whether Masood had any connection to or drew any inspiration from ISIS, as doing so helps them to maintain relevance and prestige. Home Secretary Amber Rudd cast doubt over whether Masood was affiliated with ISIS, and analysts monitoring ISIS point to the lack of biographical information and operational specifics in the ISIS statement suggest a lack of direct involvement.

5. Islam is incompatible with Western civilization. Contemporary Western values include separation of church and state, equality before the law, and rational skepticism. All of these values are largely absent in the Islamic world. The reason that the West has these values is that a great amount of blood was spilled over their recognizance and defense. The Islamic world has yet to undergo the sort of reformation that Western society underwent, and the Quran is particularly hostile to the aforementioned innovations of the West.

Whereas immigrants from Eastern Europe to Western Europe or from Central America to the United States have different customs and traditions, they do have similar (though corrupted) legal and political systems. This makes those immigrants functional within the established systems, even if not as functional as the current populations. Muslim immigration, on the other hand, involves people who support a competing and adversarial worldview. Note that large percentages of Muslims wish to live under Sharia instead of Western common or civil law systems.

6. Preventing vehicle attacks before they start is likely impossible. There have been several incidents in which terrorists have driven vehicles into crowds of people, such as Nantes in 2014, and Nice and Berlin in 2016. Carrying out such an attack is far easier than other methods, in that there is no need to manufacture explosives, acquire arms and ammunition, or engage in multi-stage plots such as hijacking airplanes and crashing them into targets. Given that a terrorist could stay out of sight of the authorities, as Masood did after leaving prison in 2009

7. Successful attacks inspire copycats. One day after the Westminster attack, a French national of North African origin attempted a similar attack in Antwerp, Belgium. The vehicle was intercepted before it could hit anyone. Inside, police found bladed weapons, a riot gun, and a container filled with an unidentified liquid. The Westminster attack was itself carried out on the one-year anniversary of the Brussels bombings. As many attacks are attempted on anniversaries of previous successful attacks, it would be wise to increase security measures on those days.

8. Terrorist attacks make sense in a democracy. A system which does not grant the public a political voice, such as absolute monarchism or anarcho-capitalism, gives terrorists far less reason to kill members of the public, as there is little need for the monarch or the private landowners to listen to whatever calls for action that such an attack may prompt from the public. Conversely, a democratic system politicizes the masses like no other. It explicitly codifies the idea that everyone who is allowed to vote has some degree of political power. This means that targeting civilians becomes useful for promoting political change, both in the form of denying the vote to those who are killed and in the form of coercing the survivors toward a terrorist’s desired political changes. Furthermore, the voters are viewed by the victims of a state’s foreign policy as bearing responsibility for the crimes committed against them by agents of that state, thus causing terrorists who are motivated by vengeance to target civilians. For fringe elements of a society, voting will probably never get them what they want, as they simply lack the numbers to accomplish anything. But terrorism allows them to compensate for this by voting for their extremist causes multiple times over all of the elections that their victims would have otherwise lived through and voted in. While we cannot abolish terrorism by abolishing democracy, it would be a step in the right direction.

9. We should not expect anything to change unless we make it change. Through terrorist attacks in Orlando, Brussels, Paris, and Beirut, the response has generally been for people around the world to hashtag “Pray for Wherever” on Twitter, change their Facebook profile pictures to incorporate the flag of the attacked nation, and do little else. Meanwhile, governments do not change the policies that both encourage terrorists to strike and give them access to their victims. Thus, the terrorists win, which may be exactly what the politicians want. Until the people of Western nations demand real solutions under threat of taking matters into their own hands otherwise, citizens will continue to live with the fear and uncertainty of Islamic terrorism.

Ten Observations on the Fall of Aleppo

On December 13, Syrian government forces defeated rebels in the city of Aleppo after four years of fighting. A ceasefire was announced to allow civilians and rebels to evacuate, but the Syrian government resumed bombardment of eastern Aleppo on December 14. The death toll in the siege of Aleppo has risen over 30,000, many more have fled as refugees, and pro-government forces have deliberately targeted civilians with barrel bombs and cluster munitions. Ten observations on these events follow.

1. The international system under the United Nations has failed yet again. Just as it has in many other instances of democide, the UN Security Council failed to condemn the actions of the Assad regime. Once again, the ostensible purpose of international law, to protect civilians from atrocities that “shock the conscience of humanity,” was ignored. This is because Russia is involved on Assad’s side and has veto power in the UNSC, which it has used to block all resolutions against the situation in Syria.

2. There is an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns. The logical proof of this is rather simple. Suppose that there is not an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns. This means that there is a law governing sovereigns. This requires that someone be able to enforce this law against the sovereigns. But a sovereign is defined as having supreme power or authority, which means that no one is able to enforce a law against a sovereign. This is a contradiction, so the supposition is false. Therefore there is an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns.

Practically, this means that the UN fails because it must; it is logically impossible for it to succeed, as it is not a sovereign entity. The UN is incapable of imposing anything upon a state without the help of other states. Another important point is that there is no such thing as international law because there is no international enforcer of law. (That being said, the alternative is likely worse, in that a global government would be even less accountable than the nation-states of today.)

3. The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must. This will be true regardless of the system of governance in use, but the current system empowers far more abuses than would any system other than a centralized global omnipotent state. The only answer to this problem is the elimination of weakness, which will either be achieved by the weak strengthening themselves by acquiring and maintaining means of force sufficient to deter the strong or by the strong exterminating the weak. So far, we have seen far too much of the latter and not nearly enough of the former.

4. There was nothing that America could have done to prevent this. Many Americans are left wondering if there was any intervention that could have been successful. Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ A no-fly zone would not have stopped Assad’s ground forces, as they know that defeat means death at the hands of opposition forces. Enforcing such a policy with Russian aircraft involved could have escalated tensions with the Kremlin up to the sort of nuclear exchange feared during the days of the Soviet Union. Arming moderate factions has a terrible track record, as more radical factions defeat them and take the arms for themselves. Invasion also has a terrible track record, as shown by the failed efforts to nation-build in Iraq and Afghanistan. UN sanctions were vetoed by Russia, but sanctions are not very effective anyway. This leaves no good options for intervening.

5. When there is no one worthy of support, support no one. The atrocities of the Assad regime and their allies are well known. But those who would take over in the wake of his defeat are no better. There are a multitude of small groups involved in the war, but the only forces with enough might to govern all of Syria are Islamists of various types, such as ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. ISIS is well-known for human rights abuses, and the Syrian opposition has also committed its fair share. With this and the previous point in mind, the best course of action for Westerners is to sit back and watch enemies of liberty kill each other.

6. There is no such thing as non-lethal aid. Military intervention in Syria beyond limited airstrikes or special operations has never been popular with the American people, but non-lethal, humanitarian aid is viewed more favorably. But there is an economic fallacy being advanced by both sides of mainstream politics which applies to this case. Any organization has a total operating cost, which we may call C, and a total income, which we may call I. At issue here is the income from a particular source, which we may call S. Regardless of how S itself is allocated, the very presence of S means that the remainder of the total income, equal to I minus S, will be allocated differently than it would be in the absence of S. In other words, taxpayer funding for a non-controversial portion of an organization means that the organization can spend less of its non-taxpayer funding on that portion, thereby freeing up resources that the organization can now use for a more controversial activity.

In the case of Syrian opposition forces, money that they do not have to spend on food, medicine, etc. is money that they are now able to spend on armaments. The practical upshot is that there is no such thing as non-lethal aid to an organization that conducts lethal operations, and that economic and political commentators should take this into account.

7. President Obama’s red line was a mistake, no matter what he would have done afterward. In August 2012, Obama warned that Assad should not move or use biological or chemical weapons, and that doing so would “change his calculus” on whether to intervene. As terrible as the use of such weapons is, there was and is no effective method of intervention beyond limited strikes on the chemical weapons themselves. But drawing the red line and watching indifferently as it was crossed was worse than doing nothing, as it sent a message that American leaders are untrustworthy and do not need to be taken seriously.

8. This issue likely sealed the fate of the Gary Johnson presidential campaign. In a September 8 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mike Barnicle asked Johnson about Aleppo. Johnson completely blanked out on the issue. At the time, he was hovering around 9 percent in the polls and needed to reach 15 percent to gain access to the debates. This gaffe marked the beginning of his gradual decline from 8.8 percent on September 7 to the 3.3 percent of the vote he received on November 8. Attempts were made to defend his gaffe by claiming that Johnson could not bomb other countries like major-party presidents do if he did not know about them, but these rightly rang hollow. It is one thing to withdraw from foreign entanglements, but quite another to have no idea what is happening.

9. This problem is the result of Western meddling. Syria was a colony of France from 1920 to 1946. At the beginning of this time, Mandatory Syria was divided into six states: Greater Lebanon (now Lebanon), Sanjak of Alexandretta (now part of Turkey), the State of Aleppo, the State of Damascus, the Alawite State, and the Jabal al-Druze State. This arrangement kept opposing factions in their own territories, but France had combined the latter four by the end of 1936. These factions fought for control, resulting in a large number of military coups and attempted coups from 1945 to 1970, ending only when Hafez al-Assad was able to rule strongly enough to suppress dissent. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar succeeded him. In the Arab Spring protests of 2011, Assad’s rule was challenged by various factions which sought to remove him from power, leading to the Syrian Civil War. But if France had not tried to combine disparate peoples under one state and had instead left the four Syrian states separate, this bloody conflict could have been prevented. Bashar al-Assad, if he had come to power at all in this alternate timeline, would only be the ruler of a small part of western Syria. The rest of the country would have been ruled more locally and probably less oppressively by governments of their own people.

10. What we are witnessing in Syria is the true nature of the state. Governments do not maintain rule by divine right or popular consent; they do it by murdering anyone who dares to challenge their power, and even some who do not. Governments murdered 262 million of their own citizens in the 20th century, and if Aleppo is anything to go by, the 21st century is not off to a good start. One may object that not all governments have done such things to their own people in time memorial, or even ever, but that is not the point. The point is that all of them would if faced with a sufficiently powerful popular insurgency. The effect of power upon a ruler is intoxicating and addicting, much like substance abuse. Those who enjoy the power, wealth, and fame of being part of the ruling class will react with the utmost hostility toward any threat to their means of rule. The fear of reprisals by the people against the rulers should the regime fall coupled with the potential of having to produce rather than plunder for a living provides them all the motivation they need to violently crush rebellions. The tragedy of Aleppo, Homs, and other Syrian rebel strongholds is just the latest in a long line of murderous rampages by the ruling classes.

Thirteen Observations on the 2016 Election

On November 8, the United States held its quadrennial presidential election, along with many other elections for federal, state, and local offices. Thirteen observations on this event follow.

1. Predictions are increasingly unreliable. All of the polls leading up to the election indicated that Hillary Clinton would win, but Donald Trump won. Much like the Brexit vote in the UK in June, there was a group of voters who normally do not vote and supported a politically incorrect option who went undetected by pollsters. As veteran Republican operative Ned Ryun said, “The very premise of polling is based on the idea that voters will be completely honest with total strangers.” Betting markets fared no better. On Monday, three major betting sites predicted an 83 percent chance of a Clinton victory. A similar wrong prediction occurred with Brexit. All of this indicates what should have been common knowledge: the future is unknown and unknowable until it arrives.

2. The election did not end on November 8. The popular vote is over, but it does not determine the Presidency. The Electoral College members meet in their respective state capitals (electors for the District of Columbia meet within the District) on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December (December 19, 2016 in this case), at which time they cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for president and vice president. While unlikely, the electors could defy the will of the people and elect someone other than Trump if they so choose, and some Clinton supporters are asking for this to happen.

3. All votes are wasted in the presidential race, and the majority of votes are wasted in the other races. The definition of a wasted vote is a vote which does not help elect a candidate. In the presidential contest, only Electoral College votes matter. Therefore, all popular votes for President are wasted. In the races in which popular votes directly determine the outcome, all votes for losing candidates are wasted, as well as all votes for winning candidates which went above the amount necessary to win. Thus, the percentage of wasted votes in a race may be given as

W = 100% − (Second highest vote percentage)% − 1 vote,

which will be at least 50 percent unless only two candidates receive votes and the winner wins by only one vote.

4. Elections are quite costly to conduct. The estimated cost of the 2016 election is $6.8 billion. To put that in perspective, let us consider what else could have been accomplished with that amount of funding. Applied to various causes, $6.8 billion looks like the following:

Regardless of what one thinks of these expenditures, surely all of these are better uses of money than the further enrichment of political consultants, lobbyists, and financiers while the American people continue to suffer.

5. This was not a change election. For the first time in many election cycles, it cannot truthfully be said that there was not a dime’s worth of difference between the major-party candidates. But despite all the pleading from the talking heads that this was the most important election of our lifetime, this does not mean that anything will really change. Due to economic ignorance and the inertia of the current system, it is unlikely that Trump will be able to keep his most lofty campaign promises. Had Clinton won, her presidency would probably have been much like that of Barack Obama, and conditions would continue to worsen. Depending on whether or not the Senate had flipped to Democratic control, her first two years might have resembled Obama’s last two years or middle four years. Had a miracle occurred to give Gary Johnson or Jill Stein the Presidency, either one of them would have faced a Congress that would be entirely in opposition, as no House or Senate members are Libertarians or Greens. Congress might resolve its gridlock, but only to work against them, override their vetoes, and pass laws to keep any future third-party candidates from succeeding.

6. Reactionary and anti-establishment sentiment will continue to grow, though the alt-right may be short-lived. The victory of Trump will embolden the alt-right, which almost unanimously supported his candidacy. Regardless of how successful Trump is, they are now a movement which helped place one major-party candidate in the White House and drew enough attention from the other major-party candidate to get a speech dedicated to them. However, the future of the alt-right is uncertain. Will the disparate groups within the alt-right maintain a coalition or go their separate ways? With they find a home within the Republican Party, leave the political scene when the Trump administration does, or bolster a future third-party candidate? Only time will tell.

7. The protesters in the streets are stupid, but not surprising. On the evening of November 9, demonstrators took to the streets in several major cities to signal their disapproval of Trump. But they had the chance to do that in the voting booth on November 8 and for several weeks prior. If they were protesting against democracy itself and were upset that anyone would be President of the United States, then their actions would make more sense. But like petulant children, they are whining because they did not get their way. This is par for the course for the left; there is a well-established historical record of leftists seeking a do-over until they get the electoral results they want, followed by moves to prevent further debate of an issue.

8. Johnson and Stein were inept candidates. In a year marked by a rejection of the familiar, the two largest third parties decided to rehash their nominees from 2012, and both of them appeared worse for the wear. Johnson gaffed badly when asked about Aleppo and foreign leaders, and Stein vandalized construction equipment. Johnson had a multitude of deviations from libertarian positions on issues, and Stein only seemed to believe in science when it suited her. The end result was that the entire third-party vote was under 5 percent, despite historically disliked duopoly candidates.

9. Then again, the alternatives to them were even worse. There were five serious contenders for the Libertarian presidential nomination: Johnson, John McAfee, Austin Petersen, Darryl Perry, and Marc Allan Feldman. Feldman died several weeks after the convention, so nominating him could have caused a crisis within the party. Perry was a stronger libertarian on the issues, but his presentation would likely have been even more off-putting to most voters than Johnson’s. McAfee has a rather sordid past, and revealed himself to be a social justice warrior in his concession speech at the convention. Petersen might have been a better choice to present to voters, but he is no solid libertarian either.

Stein faced no serious challenge to her bid for the Green Party presidential nomination, with William Kreml’s primary win in his home state of South Carolina being the only result keeping her from unanimity.

10. The perceived legitimacy of a presidential candidate hinges on presence in general election debates. As always, third-party candidates faded away as Election Day approached. This is mostly because the Commission on Presidential Debates keeps them out of the general election debates, which many people use to determine which candidate they should support. A candidate who does not appear in the debates is thus not viewed as a serious contender. This means that if a future third-party candidate wants to have a chance of winning, then that candidate must not allow the CPD to effectively silence them.

11. No one but Hillary Clinton is to blame for Hillary Clinton losing. Predictably, leftist media outlets are blaming Johnson and Stein for “siphoning,” “taking,” or even “stealing” votes from Clinton, describing them is this year’s equivalent of Ralph Nader in 2000. But there is no such thing as this, aside from the voter fraud which is disproportionately committed by Democrats. For people who claim to believe in democracy, Democrats are quite eager to deny choice to the people if it helps their candidate to win. The reality is that votes must be earned, and Clinton did not do enough to earn the votes of Libertarians or Greens.

12. Vote swapping is a terrible idea. The idea of vote swapping is that a third-party supporter in a swing state should make an agreement with a major-party supporter in a safe state to swap votes. This is a terrible idea on four counts. First, there is no guarantee that the safe state voter or voters will actually vote third-party. Such a proposal could simply be a ruse by major-party supporters to weaken third parties. Second, the way that third parties have historically made a difference has been to exceed the margin of victory between the major-party candidates in close elections, thus making the major parties pay attention to their issues in order to court their voters. With vote swapping, the voters who support third parties can be safely ignored by Republicans and Democrats. Third, a third party requires a certain percentage of the vote in each state to remain on ballots in the next election cycle without having to pay filing fees or gather petition signatures. Fourth, it causes the voter base of the party to be inauthentic, in that the believers in that party’s message are not voting for that party, and vice versa. A vote swapping strategy makes third parties fade into irrelevancy in all of these senses, and should therefore be rejected.

13. Leftist cries of bigotry will continue to backfire. Predictably, leftist elites have yet again failed to engage in any self-reflection concerning their policies, which have enriched themselves at the expense of the common person for at least a generation. Their immigration and trade policies have depressed wages, endangered safety, shipped jobs overseas, and eroded cultural identities. Their foreign policies have contributed to terrorism and cost a fortune. Their domestic policies have led to increasing police statism and national debt. But rather than acknowledge that they have done wrong, the leftist elites have decided to deride the voting public as racists and sexists. Not only does this misunderstand what motivates most people to vote against the establishment, it will only serve to throw gasoline onto the fire. There is a proverb in the Deep South of the United States: “If you knock on the devil’s door long enough, someone will answer you.” At some point, the common people will conclude that if they will be accused of racism and sexism regardless of their actions and words, then they might as well be racist and sexist. To some extent, this has already happened with the rise of the alt-right, but that movement has plenty of room to grow and newly fertile ground in which to do so.

Seven Observations on the Charlotte Protests

On September 20, Charlotte police were looking to serve a warrant to a man at an apartment complex. Just before 4:00 p.m., officers saw a different man get out of a car with a gun, then get back into the vehicle, then get out again. Police told him to drop the weapon, then Officer Brentley Vinson fired at the subject after he did not drop the weapon. Keith Lamont Scott, 43, later died from the gunshot wound at Carolinas Medical Center. Police recovered a gun from the scene. Some witnesses, including Scott’s family, told local news outlets that Scott was unarmed and holding a book while waiting to pick up a child after school. Demonstrations began on the evening of September 20, which turned into riots as the night progressed. Further violence occurred on the nights of September 21 and 22. Seven observations on these events follow.

1. Video footage is less useful than most people think. Although the police video of the shooting has not been released at the time of this writing, the Scott family has viewed it. “It is impossible to discern from the videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands,” Scott family attorney Justin Bamberg said. “When he was shot and killed, Mr. Scott’s hands were by his side and he was slowly walking backwards.” Charlotte-Mecklenberg police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters that the video does not provide definitive visual evidence that Scott pointed a gun at police officers, although other evidence and witness accounts support the police version of events. On September 23, Scott’s family released a cell phone video of the shooting, which is also not definitive in terms of showing what was in Scott’s hand.

2. Social media is but a tool; its morality is its user’s morality. Those who disbelieve the police version of events and/or those who simply wish to destroy have used social media to great effect. Protesters have used Twitter and Facebook live-streaming to organize and document the protests, as well as some riotous behavior. One video has been viewed more than 2 million times and shared more than 100,000 times. But condemning social media for this is nonsensical. Like any other tool, it has no inherent morality. It can be used for good or evil, depending on the intentions of its user. As Kaveri Subrahmanyam of California State University explains, “These tools empower the public with an easy, free way to directly share their experiences without any filter. Video footage of such incidents is very compelling. But they also make it possible for rumors and other falsehoods to spread – and could likely make a tense situation worse.”

3. Some people believe that everything is racist, including true statements. In this case, a black police officer shot a black citizen. But this did not stop some activists from talking about systemic racism among police. Worse, some blacks responded by assaulting innocent white citizens. Then there is the commentary of Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), who represents the Charlotte area. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Pittenger responded when asked what grievance the protesters have,

“The grievance in their mind is the animus, the anger. They hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not. I mean, yes, it is, it is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage so they can’t be all that they are capable of being.”

Certainly, this is not true of all of the protesters, but it could reasonably be said of the rioters and looters. Of course, Pittenger was condemned as a racist. He foolishly backpedaled, failing to realize that apologizing to social justice warriors is not the correct way to handle them.

4. Expecting people who are motivated by emotion to deal in reason and facts is foolish. While the release of the video and other evidence could calm some of the protesters, others are simply looking for an excuse to riot and loot. These people have no interest in the facts of the case, preferring instead to resort to force against innocent third parties. It is necessary to speak to them on their level, which is to say that defensive force must be used to stop them.

5. Attacking innocent third parties is not a winning strategy. Rather than attack police stations or other government targets, the rioters have looted private businesses and vehicles. This is counterproductive for the cause of addressing police abuse, as it creates a perception among the population that crime is out of hand and more force needs to be brought to bear to restore order. The end result of such action will be more violence by police against citizens, not less.

6. The National Guard is inferior to a citizen militia. When Governor Pat McCrory finally declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, a night of destruction had already occurred and another was occurring. While they will likely restore order soon, this does not help those who have already had their property stolen or their lives ended. Unfortunately, the citizen militia has almost decayed out of existence, and it is vitally important that it be restored. The concept of the militia is that all males of military age and able body should be competent in matters of force, able to provide defense for their communities against threats both foreign and domestic. While the National Guard waits until called in by government executives and is (at least theoretically) limited in their methods of engagement, a citizen militia could respond almost immediately and use any means necessary and available to defeat those who threaten life, liberty, and property.

7. When government agents and common criminals fight, pull for no one. Government agents are the enforcers who make possible a system of coercion that is responsible for murder, theft, and destruction under color of law on a massive scale. Common criminals violate the lives, liberties, and properties of their fellow citizens. Therefore, both are enemies of liberty. A clash between government agents and common criminals in which both sides lose people and resources would be a victory for liberty. But as the protesters have mostly either been peaceful or common criminals looking for easy ill-gotten gains, such a result has not occurred.

Seven observations on Brexit

On June 23, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether it should stay in the European Union or become independent from it. The people voted to leave by a margin of 17,410,742 (51.89%) to 16,141,241 (48.11%). Seven observations on this event follow.

1. Neither polls nor bets are reliable means of predicting elections. Leading up to the vote, almost all polls indicated a Remain vote. Bettors, who frequently predict election results better than polls do, were even more in favor of a Remain result. Yet Leave was victorious. This, along with other polling mishaps both recently and historically, calls into question the usefulness of polls for measuring public support for issues and candidates.

2. Leftists favor democracy until people vote against leftist goals. Following the Brexit vote, a petition to hold a re-vote was started, which has since gained over 2.5 million signatures. This is par for the course for leftist elites, who pay lip service to democracy while trying to undermine it for their own ends. Whether they put their thumbs on the scales through election fraud, demographic displacement, or simply re-voting until they get their desired result and then stopping re-voting, democracy is only a means to an end for the left. The impact is best summarized by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and only rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.”

3. When one side of a debate uses facts and the other side uses fear, the side with facts is correct. The Leave campaign consisted primarily of a reasoned case for why the UK would be better off independent from the European Union, while the Remain campaign consisted mostly of fear-mongering. The use of scare tactics in an argument is a sign that the user has no rational case to make, otherwise one should be expected to use logic and evidence. We may therefore conclude that the Leave campaign made a superior case.

4. This is only the beginning of a long process. The referendum was advisory, meaning that it is not legally binding. In theory, the British Parliament could choose not to implement Brexit and deal with the wrath of voters in response. It is also possible that a two-thirds majority of MPs could call for a general election in which a party campaigns against Brexit. If that party wins, then they could claim that their election result counters the referendum.

If Brexit goes forward, the UK must invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which specifies how member states may leave the European Union. The UK will then have two years to negotiate its withdrawal, at which point it will be removed from the EU regardless of whether said negotiations are concluded. During this process, the UK will be subject to EU treaties and laws but will have no say in its decisions.

5. This is likely to be only the first secession of many more to come. While England and Wales both voted for Leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted for Remain. In response, there are calls for another vote for Scotland to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU. (One such vote was held in 2014; Scots voted 55.3% in favor of remaining in the UK.) There is also talk of Irish reunification (Northern Ireland leaving the UK) for the same purpose.

The successful vote in the UK has resulted in calls for similar referendums in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden. It is quite possible that one or more of these nations will also leave, throwing the very survival of the EU into question. There is also a recent history of secessionist movements within European nations gaining traction, such as the Catalan independence movement.

6. This is an excellent buying opportunity for investors. Upon news of the Brexit vote, world financial markets tumbled. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 610.32 points (-3.39%), the NASDAQ lost 202.06 points (-4.12%), the S&P 500 lost 75.91 points (-3.59%), and the Russell 2000 lost 44.68 points (-3.81%). British and Chinese markets fell slightly less, while German and Japanese markets lost a larger percentage. Gold gained $59.30 per ounce (4.69%) as investors fled to safety, while the British pound fell to $1.35, its lowest exchange rate since 1985. But nothing has really changed to warrant such a selloff. Business will continue as usual for at least the next few months, and the UK will not be fully independent until late 2018 at the earliest. The downturn is more emotional than substantial, and therefore presents an excellent buying opportunity for anyone sitting on the sidelines holding capital.

7. Leftist cries of racism and xenophobia will backfire. Predictably, leftist elites have yet again failed to engage in any self-reflection concerning their policies, which have enriched themselves at the expense of the common person for at least a generation. Their immigration policies have depressed wages, endangered safety, and eroded cultural identities. Their foreign policies have contributed to terrorism. Their domestic policies have led to increasing police statism. But rather than acknowledge that they have done wrong, the leftist elites have decided to deride the voting public as racists and xenophobes. Not only does this misunderstand what motivates most people to vote against the establishment, it will only serve to throw gasoline onto the fire. There is a proverb in the Deep South of the United States, “If you knock on the devil’s door long enough, someone will answer you.” At some point, the common people will conclude that if they will be accused of racism and xenophobia, then they might as well embrace those ideas. To some extent, this has already happened with the rise of the alt-right, but that movement has plenty of room to grow and newly fertile ground in which to do so. A reaction of openly racist people is coming, and matters will get ugly.

Eleven observations on the Orlando shooting

At 2:00 a.m. on June 12, a terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. Police later killed the shooter during a hostage standoff. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Eleven observations on this incident follow.

1. A gun-free zone is a victim disarmament zone. The Pulse nightclub was a gun-free zone. But criminals are defined by the fact that they disregard laws as well as the wishes of private property owners. As such, the only people who would have a gun in a gun-free zone would be government agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). Mass shooters usually choose gun-free zones to attack, as they know that they will almost certainly not be facing citizens who can shoot back.

2. Politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. Before the dead bodies were even cold, leftists predictably began calling for tougher gun control measures. To politicize a tragedy and use it to put emotion above reason and evidence is par from the course for those who seek to expand the power of the state and curtail individual rights. Like other mass shooters before him, this gunman was undeterred by the background checks which are in place, as he had no felony convictions, no domestic violence convictions, no restraining orders against him, no dishonorable discharge from the military, was not a fugitive from justice, was never committed to a mental institution, and was not denied a firearm purchase by mistake. No measures that have been proposed would have disarmed the shooter without also disarming many innocent people.

3. Internal conflicts that are irreconcilable predictably lead to violence. The shooter was both gay and Muslim. The Quran condemns homosexuality, and some schools of Islamic jurisprudence support capital punishment for it, especially those linked to terrorism. As such, the shooter had a belief that an aspect of his being that he could not change made him worthy of death or other severe punishment. Those who think so lowly of themselves are unlikely to think highly of others, especially others who share that aspect of one’s being. Those who think lowly of themselves and others are far more likely to commit violent crimes than those who have a healthy sense of self-respect and respect for others.

4. Government has not solved this problem because it cannot. Governments are effective at destroying other centralized entities. If there is a physical target that can be bombed or a living person that can be exterminated, states are usually able to carry out those acts. (Of course, they frequently go overboard with their bombings and killings, which motivates more people to become terrorists, but statists rarely care about this, as prolonged war is prolonged health of the state.) The regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein quickly fell after the U.S. military invaded their respective lands. But in their wake came decentralized enemies in the form of anti-occupation insurgents, online jihadist recruitment, and home-grown lone-wolf terrorists. These have proven impossible for governments to stop. After all, governments, with their bureaucratic red tape and intrinsic inefficiencies, must be correct every time in order to prevent all terrorist attacks. Islamic jihadists, with their ability to remotely recruit and train new terrorists anywhere in the world, need only be correct once to carry out each attack. When governments do catch such terrorists, they must do so either through a legally dubious entrapment scheme or by catching the terrorist after an attack has been carried out. Even these arrests sometimes occur after private citizens find terrorists who evade government agents.

5. Even if governments could stop terrorism, it would not be in their interest to do so. If the War on Terrorism were won, then the rationale for police statism and massive military spending would vanish. If the War on Terrorism were lost, then the state would fail at the one job that it is supposedly solely capable of performing, namely keeping its people safe. The ideology of Islamic terrorists disallows a draw, so the only other option is an endless war.

6. Part of the solution is division, not unification. People cannot peacefully coexist with people who want to kill them. If people cannot peacefully coexist, then they need to separate. It makes perfect sense for an LGBT establishment to ban known adherents of a religion that considers LGBT people to be fair targets for killing. But governments interfere with the private property rights and freedom of association of their citizens by enforcing laws against discrimination, thus preventing people from taking necessary and proper measures to ensure their safety.

7. Some religions are more dangerous than others. There are many religions which call for violence against non-believers as well as violence against people who engage in certain sexual practices, even if those practices do no harm to anyone who is not a willing participant. But in the contemporary world, Islam has a disproportionate percentage of followers who believe that such violence is legitimate.

8. In the digital age, dead men can still tell tales. The shooter was radicalized in part by videos made by Anwar al-Awlaki, a pro-terrorism imam. Although Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in September 2011, his videos live on at various locations on the Internet. As such, killing recruiters for terrorism is no longer sufficient to stop them.

9. A backlash is likely to follow. Just as far-right anti-immigrant movements gained ground following the Paris attacks and the Brussels attacks, they are likely to do so again, especially with the rise of Donald Trump. Although the shooter was born in New York and raised in Florida, his parents immigrated from Afghanistan. His father is a well-known Taliban sympathizer who holds anti-American and anti-LGBT views. In a sense, it is worse for a person born and raised in a country to commit a terrorist attack there than for an immigrant to do so, as it suggests a fundamental incompatibility between cultures.

10. The terrorist has blood on his hands, but so does the American government. The American government allowed the shooter’s parents to enter the country despite their own radicalism, banned discrimination, conducted an interventionist foreign policy that motivated terrorists like this one to retaliate, and failed to stop him despite knowing that he was a threat. While the ultimate responsibility for evil acts falls upon those who commit the acts, there is a vicarious responsibility upon the American government for taking actions which made the attacks possible and likely.

11. Terrorism cannot be solved by more terrorism. Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” Oxford defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” A government is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on the initiation of force within a geographical area. In other words, a government uses violence and intimidation to keep its population obedient and manage external threats to its operation. This leads to an important truth that few wish to speak: every government is a terrorist organization. For decades, Western nations have attempted to defeat Islamic terrorism with more terrorism in the form of military interventions, to build Western democracies among populations whose cultures are incompatible with such an apparatus, and to arm one faction against another even though such weapons frequently fall into the hands of the most evil and destructive groups. What Western leaders fail to realize is that in the irrational game of Middle East politics, the only winning moves for them are to withdraw from the game or to knock over the board.

Ten observations on the Brussels attacks

On March 22, at least four terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State attacked the airport and a subway station in Brussels, killing 31 people and injuring 300 others. Three of the terrorists were killed during the attacks, and one is still at large. Ten observations on this incident follow.

1. Open-borders immigration policy is partly to blame. In a community founded on libertarian principles, immigration would be on an invite-only basis, regardless of who the immigrants are. Someone would have to sponsor an immigrant, have lodging set up for them, have employment set up for them unless the immigrant is wealthy enough to live without working or the immigrant is fleeing an immediate danger, and perhaps have some vicarious liability should the immigrant turn out to be a criminal. Unfortunately, the immigration policies of nation-states do not remotely resemble this standard. They overrule the desires of property owners through their monopoly on initiatory force and exercise exclusive control over who may enter and/or remain within a geographical area. This is bad enough, but to violently monopolize a service and then fail to provide it is even worse. Had Belgium and other European nations refused to allow the terrorists to enter or remain inside their territory or allowed private property owners to impose the same, then the Paris attacks could not have happened.

2. Anti-discrimination laws are partly to blame. Like most Western nations, Belgium violates the private property rights and freedom of association of its citizens by enforcing laws against discrimination. These laws are not as strict in Belgium as they are in France and some other countries, but the Belgian people are disallowed from asserting their individual preferences and working out their biases in action. While the initial response by the Belgian people has been more of a call for unity than a backlash against immigrants, these laws have still deprived them of recourse against an invasion of immigrants that their government has forced upon them.

3. NATO and Pax Americana are partly to blame. Since the United States became the only global superpower, it has taken on a role as a universal defender, particularly of nations which are signatories of NATO. The problem with this is that these nations are less likely to be self-reliant for defense when they can call upon the United States to expend blood and treasure in their stead. This lack of responsibility and initiative leads such nations to be less prepared to deal with threats on their own, and a perception of weakness invites aggressors.

4. The security measures proposed following the Brussels attacks will fail. The three terrorists who attacked the airport detonated bombs near the American Airlines and Brussels Airlines check-in desks, and next to a Starbucks coffee shop. It has been proposed that security measures be located farther away from the airport terminals, but there will be a line of people wherever they are placed, and that is where terrorists will attack.

5. The terrorists have blood on their hands, but so does the Belgian government. The Belgian government let the terrorists in and failed to expel them, banned discrimination against them, disarmed the Belgian people so they could not defend themselves, and conducted an interventionist foreign policy that motivated terrorists to retaliate. While the ultimate responsibility for evil acts falls upon those who commit the acts, there is a vicarious responsibility upon the Belgian government for taking actions which made the attacks possible and likely.

6. The attacks were an example of blowback. Belgium has been a participant in the War on Terror since 2002. Belgian aircraft participated in anti-ISIS operations in 2014-15, and some personnel remain in Iraq. The Islamic State claim of responsibility for the attacks says in part,

“Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State.”

7. A backlash is likely to follow. Just as far-right anti-immigrant movements gained ground following the Paris attacks, they are likely to do so again. As Nabil Riffi, an attorney of Moroccan descent who lives in Antwerp, told USA Today, “Recent anti-Muslim rallies in Flemish cities such as Antwerp and Ghent have been relatively small but they may grow in size and become violent. My fear is that they will draw more people to them because the danger is now among us. I think the possibility of the Pegida (an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim movement that started in Germany and has spread to other countries in Europe) rallies in Flanders getting violent is real.”

8. Central governments do not fare well against decentralized enemies. There was a time when major terrorist attacks, like those of 9/11, were the biggest fear of people in the West. This was the height of centralized terrorism, when 19 agents of al-Qaida hijacked four airplanes and killed nearly 3,000 civilians in a well-planned, well-funded, highly coordinated operation. Here, the state displayed its strong suit: it can effectively destroy centralized enemies. If there is a physical target that can be bombed or a living person that can be exterminated, states are usually able to carry out those acts. (Of course, they frequently go overboard with their bombings and killings, which gives more people cause to become terrorists, but statists rarely care about this, as prolonged war is prolonged health of the state.) But in the wake of the War on Terrorism, decentralized enemies in the form of small terrorist cells which act independently have emerged. These have proven difficult, if not impossible, to defeat. Without a clear target to destroy, the state is ineffective. Because of this…

9. The people of Europe must defend themselves. This dark side of decentralization is best fought with the light side of decentralization. Because the state cannot be competent at protecting against this threat (and has done much to cause it), the people must take matters into their own hands if they wish to be safe.

10. Terrorism cannot be solved by more terrorism. Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” Oxford defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” A government is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on the initiation of force within a geographical area. In other words, a government uses violence and intimidation to keep its population obedient and manage external threats to its operation. This leads to an important truth that few wish to speak: every government is a terrorist organization. For decades, Western nations have attempted to defeat Islamic terrorism with more terrorism in the form of military interventions, to build Western democracies among populations whose cultures are incompatible with such an apparatus, and to arm one faction against another even though such weapons frequently fall into the hands of the most evil and destructive groups. What Western leaders fail to realize is that in the irrational game of Middle East politics, the only winning moves for them are to withdraw from the game or to knock over the board.

Seven observations on the end of the Rand Paul 2016 campaign

On Feb. 3, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul announced that he was suspending his campaign. Following a fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucus and polling in the low single digits in New Hampshire, Paul said,

“It’s been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House. Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty. Across the country thousands upon thousands of young people flocked to our message of limited government, privacy, criminal justice reform and a reasonable foreign policy. Brushfires of Liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.”

Seven observations on this event follow.

1. Rand Paul did not run a principled campaign. Whether pledging to cut military spending and then proposing to increase it, considering cutting foreign aid to Israel and then backing down, being skeptical about belligerence toward Iran and then getting on board, taking a principled stance on the Civil Rights Act and then retreating, pandering to evangelicals, or reaching out to social justice warriors, Rand has repeatedly strayed from libertarian principles.

2. One cannot serve two masters. While running for President, Paul was also in a re-election bid for his U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky, and his victory in that election is by no means guaranteed. Republican Party operatives were becoming concerned that Paul’s attention on his presidential campaign to the neglect of his Senate campaign could cause him to lose both, thus giving Democrats a Senate seat that they might not otherwise get. Had he chosen to focus solely on his presidential bid, he might have fared better. But perhaps not, because…

3. Truth is treason in an empire of lies. The previous sentence is a quote from his father, and it adequately describes Rand’s role in the Republican primary debates, just as it did his father’s when he ran in 2008 and 2012. Whether challenging the dangerous bellicosity of Chris Christie and Ted Cruz, the threat to civil liberties posed by Marco Rubio, or the lack of detail provided by Donald Trump, Paul was the truth-teller on the stage. In a system that favors pleasant lies over uncomfortable truths, this is a campaign-ending liability.

4. Pandering to groups which are at cross purposes will get one support from neither group. Unfortunately, Paul was not always a truth-teller. As mentioned in point #1, Paul tried to broaden his support base by reaching out to people who openly reject libertarian principles. As another example of point #2, this backfired on him because his pandering to non-libertarians was not only believed to be phony by them, but also lost him the support of hardcore libertarians who backed Ron Paul.

5. The Libertarian Party is unlikely to gain much from this. Though the Libertarian Party’s statement on the event is correct to say that “the Libertarian Party nominee will be, indisputably, the only choice for small government in the 2016 race for President of the United States,” said nominee will likely be facing major-party contenders who have much greater difference between them than did Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the last election. The possibility of Michael Bloomberg entering the race as an independent candidate would almost certainly mean that the Libertarian candidate would finish fourth, as Libertarian candidates have historically fared poorly when other well-known third-party candidates ran.

6. The establishment media is using the word ‘isolationist’ as a dishonest smear. Several commentators referred to Rand Paul as an isolationist rather than a non-interventionist. The difference is that isolationism is a non-interventionist military policy combined with a protectionist trade policy. All of the other candidates favor more trade barriers and economic sanctions than Paul does, which means that he is actually the least isolationist of all the candidates. This has been explained to the pundit classes on numerous occasions, so we may rule out incompetence and deem this malice.

7. The path to liberty is anti-political. Many libertarian-leaning voters continue to support politicians as a means of advancing liberty, but this has a terrible track record. Such efforts have not even accomplished as much as random violent outbursts against the state apparatus, let alone the anti-political methods of alternative currencies, black markets, cryptography, mass non-compliance, and revolution. The path to liberty is not to vote away the problems of statism, but to do what is necessary to impose liberty on our fellow human beings.

Nine observations on the Oregon standoff

On Jan. 2, a group of armed men took over the unoccupied headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore. Three of the men involved are sons of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose own standoff with government agents made headlines in 2014. Ammon Bundy, the spokesman for the group, has vowed to stay at the site for years if necessary, calling it “the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” a ranching family in the area that saw two of its members sent to prison on Jan. 3. Nine observations on these events follow.

1. The current standoff is a reaction to a long list of government abuses. In order to understand this situation, it is necessary to examine the history of the area and the conflict. The area was originally inhabited by the Paiute Native American tribe. President Grant allowed white settlers into the area in 1876, and the Paiutes were forced off their land in 1878. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt created an Indian reservation devoid of Native Americans as a political scheme to create a wildlife preserve and breeding ground for birds. This would become the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1964, the Hammond family purchased their ranch in the Harney Basin. The purchase included approximately 6,000 acres of private property along with four grazing rights on public land, a small ranch house, and three water rights. It was already one of the last ranches in the area, as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had been buying up ranches and adding them to the wildlife refuge. In the 1970s, these agencies revoked grazing permits and raised costs for the ones that remained, making some ranches unsustainable. In the 1980s, the agencies diverted water to flood ranch properties near the Malheur Lakes, then drained the land once the ranchers were forced to sell their submerged lands.

Starting in the 1990s, the agencies started targeting the Hammond family specifically. Susie Hammond researched the situation and discovered a 1975 FWS study which found that the “no use” policies of the FWS on the refuge were causing wildlife to leave the refuge and move to private property, to the extent that private property had four times as many ducks and geese as the refuge and migratory birds were 13 times more likely to land on private property than on the refuge. The Hammonds also obtained a new deed for water rights from the State of Oregon, which the BLM and FWS unsuccessfully challenged in State Circuit Court. The revelation of this study and the court case led to many vindictive acts by government agents.

The next action by BLM and FWS was an arbitrary revocation of one of the Hammond’s grazing permits. When a federal judge ruled that the federal government does not have to observe Oregon state laws which require no obligation on the part of an owner to keep his or her livestock within a fence or to maintain control over the movement of the livestock, the BLM and FWS forced the Hammonds to either build and maintain miles of fences or have their private property rights infringed upon. The Hammonds were forced to remove cattle from their ranch because they could not afford to fence the land. The Hammonds had to sell their ranch and home to get another property with enough grass to feed their cattle. This property also had grazing rights on public land which would also be arbitrarily revoked later. The Hammonds would eventually regain their original ranch after the person who bought it from them died from a heart attack.

In 2001, Steven Hammond called the fire department to inform them that he was going to perform a routine prescribed burn on their ranch. This is a common method used to remove weeds and increase productivity on ranches. The fire spread to public land and burned 127 acres of grass, but the Hammonds put out the fire without help. In 2006, lightning started a wildfire on federal lands which threatened the Hammond family’s land. Steven set a backfire on their private property to stop the wildfire, which was successful. The next day, federal agents accused Steven and Dwight Hammond of multiple charges, which the Harney County District Attorney chose not to prosecute. Dwight and Susan Hammond’s home was raided by federal agents in September 2006, who informed the Hammonds that they were looking for evidence that would connect them to the fires.

In 2011, the U.S. Attorney Office filed terrorism charges against Steven and Dwight Hammond under the Federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of death. During the trial, Federal Court Judge Michael Hogan did not allow the Hammonds to present a proper defense, allowed the prosecution to use a witness who was not mentally capable to be credible, and conspired with the prosecution to tamper with the jury on multiple occasions, including pressuring them into a hasty verdict. Once convicted, the judge sentenced the Hammonds to less than the mandatory minimum sentence, believing the mandatory minimum to be cruel and unusual punishment for the Hammond’s actions. The Hammonds served their sentences (Dwight 3 months, Steven 12 months) starting on January 4, 2013 and were released.

In June 2014, the prosecutor and two BLM employees filed an appeal with the Ninth District Federal Court seeking Dwight’s and Steven’s return to federal prison for the entire five year mandatory minimum. The court re-sentenced them in October 2015 and were also forced to grant the BLM first right of refusal; if the Hammonds ever sell their ranch they will have to sell it to the BLM. Dwight and Steven returned to federal prison on Jan. 4, 2016. The Hammonds are also being forced to pay more fines to the BLM, sell them the ranch, or face further prosecution.

2. Governments do not legitimately own land. Property rights are a logical consequence of self-ownership. A person mixes one’s labor with unowned natural resources and thus establishes a right to exclusive control over them. The owner is then free to use, trade, gift, or destroy said resources as he or she sees fit as long as doing so does not violate anyone else’s right to life, liberty, or property.

Governments do not acquire property in this manner. Because a government is not an individual, it cannot perform labor or make decisions; people can only claim to do so in its name. Therefore, a government cannot legitimately acquire property. Instead, governments acquire property simply by claiming it and committing armed robbery, extortion, and murder against any rightful property owners who resist such a claim.

3. The protesters are justified in occupying federal lands and buildings. Because everything exclusively controlled by governments has been stolen from its rightful owners, it is legitimate for someone to not only occupy the land for a protest, but to permanently seize and re-homestead it to return it to private ownership. To quote Murray Rothbard,

“Suppose, for example, that A steals B’s horse. Then C comes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be called a thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminal for stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performing a virtuous act of confiscation, for he is depriving thief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is at least returning the horse to the innocent ‘private’ sector and out of the ‘criminal’ sector. C has done a noble act and should be applauded. Of course, it would be still better if he returned the horse to B, the original victim. But even if he does not, the horse is far more justly in C’s hands than it is in the hands of A, the thief and criminal.”

In this case, A is the federal government, B is the Paiute Native American tribe, and C is the Bundy-led protest group.

4. Government courts function through conflict of interest. When the BLM and FWS revoked the Hammond’s grazing permit, a federal judge in a federal court ruled that the federal agencies did not have to observe state laws of Oregon. The conflict of interest involved with being the plaintiff, the judge, and the court operator in a case would never be considered acceptable in a case not involving the government. The prosecutor and judge would later conspire to obtain a conviction in the criminal case against Dwight and Steven Hammond.

5. This is a conflict between two groups of statists. The Bundy-led protesters have expressed support for the United States Constitution and do not question the validity of the state as an institution. They are only asking for certain remedies for grievances committed by the federal government against ranchers in the Western United States. As such, there is no good side in this conflict from a libertarian perspective, only a bad side and a much worse side. “What we’re doing is not rebellious. What we’re doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land,” Ammon Bundy said on Jan. 2. “We’re out here because the people have been abused long enough, their lands and their resources have been taken from them to the point that it is putting them literally into poverty.”

6. The government is the terrorist organization, not the protesters. Many people in the lapdog media and on social media have denigrated the protesters as terrorists, labeling them #YallQaeda and #VanillaISIS. The most parsimonious complete definition of terrorism is the use of violence, threats, fear, and intimidation to achieve political, social, and/or economic goals. As explained in point #1, the federal government has a long history of this. The protesters, on the other hand, have yet to resort to violence and have announced that they will only do so if attacked by government agents. To the extent that the protesters are using threats, fear, and intimidation, they are doing so in an effort to defend against state aggression.

7. This is different from Black Lives Matter protests because it does not interfere with private property. Many leftists in the pundit and political classes are claiming that the Bundy-led protesters are benefiting from white privilege because according to them, blacks or Muslims who behaved identically would be gunned down by police by now. Aside from the fact that this is a counterfactual and therefore unprovable, the Black Lives Matter protesters have interfered with private businesses and caused harm to innocent third parties in the process. The Bundy-led protesters, on the other hand, have a clearer idea of who their adversary is and are only targeting government-held property with their sit-in.

8. The Hammond family’s statements are being made under duress. “Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond Family,” the Hammonds’ lawyer W. Alan Schroeder wrote to Sheriff David Ward. This has been represented by the lapdog media as a rejection of the Bundy-led protests, but even if this were clearly the case, the Hammonds are under duress. When one is being ordered to report to prison to serve another four-plus years on a charge based on an anti-terrorism statute, advocating violent resistance to government is not conducive to one’s well-being, especially when five years is the minimum sentence and the maximum sentence is death.

9. The Bundy’s cause is just, but their tactics are unwise. Governments are not competent at much, but they are quite capable of destroying centralized opponents. Just as they did at Ruby Ridge and Waco, federal agents may yet lay siege and murder some or even all of the people who dare to defy their rule. If they do, the lapdog media will cheer for the costumed criminals and demonize those who were defending innocent people and private property rights against their assault. The protesters are correct to resort to force; they are dealing with a violent aggressor that vindictively bullies innocent people and uses underhanded means to corrupt peaceful efforts to resolve disputes. But a centralized foe of the strength of the United States government can only be fought through decentralized methods, such as guerrilla warfare waged with the intent of expelling government agents from a geographical area and maintaining a functioning society by continuing to defend against any further threats to people and property.