Monthly Archives: September 2010

Destroying Enemy Morale (and Preserving Ours) as a Legitimate Military Objective: A Further Thought on the Ground Zero Mosque

Craig Biddle has written a piece on the planned Ground Zero Mosque, which he has published in the most recent issue of The Objective Standard. Click here for the full article; here is the excerpt on which I would like to focus:

Insults—whether verbal or symbolic—do not violate rights or aid the enemy. Just as government cannot legitimately outlaw drawings of Mohammed on the grounds that they insult or offend Muslims, so government cannot legitimately outlaw the construction of a mosque in Manhattan on the grounds that it would insult or offend civilized people.

Nor does the evil choice of location for the Ground Zero mosque violate rights or aid the enemy (in the sense that warrants government force). It is true, as some have argued, that a mosque at this location is clearly intended to aid the enemy; and, if built, it would aid the enemy in a certain respect. The mosque is intended to strengthen and further Islam in America—and the advancement of Islam in America does fuel those who are motivated by this barbaric creed. But, in this same respect, any support for Islam constitutes aid to the enemy. Any building, symbol, speech, or book that advances the creed thereby advances the fundamental ideas that motivate Islamists to kill.

Such aid to the enemy, however, is different in kind from aid that warrants government force. In order for aid to warrant government force, it must somehow—whether directly or indirectly—materially aid the enemy. For instance, providing the enemy with weapons, shelter, food, or maps materially aids him. Providing him with technology, targets, or training materially aids him. Calling for others to provide the enemy with such aid materially aids him. And inciting others to join the enemy in committing violent acts against Americans materially aids the enemy.

Emphasis added.

I disagree that government force is properly used only when someone, or some group, is providing material aid to the enemy. In past wars, the United States has properly considered the destruction of enemy morale as a legitimate military objective. Hence the carpet bombing of cities in Germany, and the dropping of nuclear bombs on two cities in Japan.

Wrote Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein in their article, “Just War Theory vs. American Self Defense”:

Observe what it took for the United States and the Allies to defeat Germany and Japan and thus win World War II. Before the Germans and Japanese surrendered, the Allies had firebombed every major Japanese city and bombed most German cities—killing hundreds of thousands. Explaining the rationale for the German bombings, Churchill wrote, “. . . the severe, the ruthless bombing of Germany on an ever-increasing scale will not only cripple her war effort . . . but will create conditions intolerable to the mass of the German population.” And as we well know, what ended the war—and the Nazi and Japanese Imperialist threat to this day—was America’s dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan.

The purpose of “creat[ing] conditions intolerable to the mass of the German population”? To destroy the enemy’s morale. I doubt that most, or even a substantial number of, the citizens in these population centers were providing material aid to our enemies.

Brook and Epstein, in the same article, noted the importance of states like Iran and Saudi Arabia providing spiritual support for those who violently attack us:

Without physical and spiritual support by these states, the Islamic Totalitarian cause would be a hopeless, discredited one, with few if any willing to kill in its name. Thus, the first order of business in a proper response to 9/11 would have been to end state support of Islamic Totalitarianism—including ending the Iranian regime that is its fatherland.

Emphasis added.

In general Brook and Epstein argue that, in a proper war of self-defense, a nation is entitled to “do whatever is necessary to destroy the threat and return to normal life, with minimum loss of life and liberty on the part of the citizens of the defending nation.”

Leonard Peikoff also called for ending the Iranian regime as a response to 9/11, before it was known whether Iran had provided any material aid to the group responsible for the attacks. Wrote Peikoff, in his October 2001 article, “End States Who Sponsor Terrorism,”

If one were under a Nazi aerial bombardment, it would be senseless to restrict oneself to combatting Nazi satellites while ignoring Germany and the ideological plague it was working to spread. What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to terrorism today. Whatever else it does, therefore, the U.S. can put an end to the Jihad-mongers only by taking out Iran.

If it was right to bomb Germany and Japan, in order to destroy the enemy’s morale, and if it would have been right to attack Iran, immediately after 9/11, because of Iran’s longstanding spiritual support of Islam’s consistent practitioners, I find it hard to believe that it would be wrong to prevent the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, given what we know about the spiritual support such a mosque, at that location, will provide for the enemy.

Tore Boeckman has given his permission to repost, on Facebook, the results of some research he did regarding Ayn Rand’s attitude towards those who would give symbolic aid to an enemy in time of war. The essay he referenced was Rand’s, “The Wreckage of the Consensus,” which is in her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (CUI). In the essay, Rand discusses the issue of citizens providing symbolic support for the Vietcong, our enemy during the Vietnam War. I will reproduce just one of the sentences here: “What is the moral-intellectual state of a country that permits its citizens to stage parades carrying the enemy’s–the Vietcong’s–flag?” (CUI, 223)

Rand clearly thought the U.S. government should not permit, during times of war, U.S. citizens to stage parades in which they display symbols in support of the enemy. I assume she would have thought the same of preventing the building of a mosque at Ground Zero.

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