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

  1. Thank you for providing context on how non-material support in warfare is, if anything, more important than material support.

    I’m curious as to how you as a lawyer would interprete the Constitution’s Article III, Section 3 definition of treason with regard to the GZ Hamosque.

    P.S. I found Biddle’s statement that just ” because it aids the enemy by advancing Islam in America” particularly egregious. He admits that the Hamosque will aid the enemy, but doesn’t think that’s sufficient grounds to prevent it being built. Rationalism?

  2. The mosques are the best weapon of the enemy. They not only materially aid the enemy; they also provide spiritual and ideological ammunition. This is the reason why more and more Muslims are willing to die and kill for the sake of their god. The refusal of the U.S. government to identify the enemy is so appalling because is tantamount to dereliction of duty. This dereliction of duty and a policy of appeasement show that the U.S. government cannot fully protect the individual rights of its people.
    In the Philippine, our Revised Penal Code, which we borrowed from the United States, defines Treason as a high crime that can be committed by: “Any person who, owing allegiance to (the United States or) the Government of the Philippine Islands, not being a foreigner, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort within the Philippine Islands or elsewhere…”
    Observe that phrase “giving aid or comfort.” The framers of the penal code clearly understood that giving “aid or comfort” to the enemy is a treasonous act. This principle also applies to the Ground Zero Mosque issue. Spiritual and “moral” support is more powerful than any kind of material support. America ought to identify the enemy and destroy the enemy morale.

  3. Ms.Peikoff a question if I may:Is it your argument that the Mosque can be prohibited because our enemies will be inspired,emboldened etc in and of itself?Or because Rauf intends this to be the effect?

    • They will, and no reasonable person in Rauf’s position could believe otherwise.

      • Let me be more direct.Can any action which our enemies,who are not rational,find inspiring,(such as this debate),be outlawed.If our enemies find it inspiring that there is not unanimity on how to fight a war,be grounds for suppressing it?Doesn’t arguing that something can be banned simply because our enemies would be inspired by it leave us at the mercy of their subjective whims?What if our enemies think that we are weak because women have the right to vote?Would we make some kind of cost-benefit analysis on the effect of female suffrage on their feelings,weighing the pros vs the cons.(Note:I regard it as a separate issue as to whether Rauf is TRYING to incite our enemies)

  4. Robert

    Can the same governmet use this argument to go after people or organizations, like ARI, that it considers provide aid and comfort to thier perceived enemies?

  5. Tony Donadio

    I had a similar criticism of Craig’s article, and wrote a comment to that effect when I shared it on Facebook:

    “For the record, I’m not sure that I entirely agree with Craig’s analysis here… I do think that it is legitimate to use force against “spiritual aid” to an enemy in wartime. However, I do also think that the identification of a proper enemy for a declaration of war needs to involve specifying the [objective] reasons why they have become a material threat. In that context, spiritual aid to a material threat could considered… a material threat, which would then be consistent with Craig’s analysis.”

    It’s not clear to me that your objection regarding the (to my mind, obvious) legitimacy of breaking enemy morale in war is directly relevant to what Craig wrote. What I would say, though, is that once an objective and legitimate state of war has been declared, that would be absurd to try to suggest that it would only be appropriate to use force against -material aid- to the enemy. When someone is trying to kill you, -any- aid given to them — spiritual or material — is aid to their -material- attempts to kill you.

    There are a lot of other good and very important points in Craig’s article, but I do think that this part of his analysis was weak (or at least, unclear).

  6. Edward Cline

    To date, this latest discussion of the morality of the Ground Zero mosque is so radically and refreshingly different from its predecessor, i.e., participants are bringing to this one a knowledge of Islam and its methods of conquest, rather than an inappropriate focus on subsidiary or irrelevant matters, such as the “property rights” of the agents of an enemy ideology. I’ve already weighed in on the TOS Facebook page and elsehwere (on Rule of Reason, Capitalism Magazine, and Family Security Matters, among other blogsites, on my position on the GZ mosque, and now about Mr. Biddle’s article, so I won’t repeat my position here.

    Special thanks to Grant Jones for thinking of consulting the Constitution about the legal conditions of treason in the context of Imam Rauf’s actions — he is, after all, an American citizen, and so technically open to the charge of treason, even though he has been acting as a messenger boy for our own State Department…but wait, what about those fellows’ culpability…?

  7. Paul Hsieh

    If anything, this issue of symbolic support for an enemy during wartime highlights the importance of a point that Tony Donadio has made many times — namely the importance of declaring war against your enemy.

    If you are in a declared war with Nazi Germany, then we can legitimately argue that those flying Nazi flags (and expressing similar symbolic support) are committing treason.

    But in 1940, before the US declared war on Nazi Germany, such purely symbolic support for the Nazis might be morally odious, but not yet at the level of treason.

    Of course in our current context, the problem arises when our enemy has declared war on us, but our government deliberately evades that fact.

    In many ways, it would be similar to the hypothetical situation where there was a serial killer named, say, Jack Ripper, on the loose in a small town. Everyone knows who the killer is. But the local police chief refuses to acknowledge the fact murders are being committed (let alone issue an arrest warrant for Jack).

    Jack *is* a killer, so he has relinquished his right to walk around town as a free man. But unless the government issues an arrest warrant, he must be still allowed to roam at large. Ordinary citizens do not have the right to unilaterally arrest and punish Jack just because they see him buying milk at the grocery store.

    (I’m leaving aside the obvious emergency situations, such as if Jack is found breaking into his next victim’s house — of course, people can use force to stop an imminent deadly threat.)

    And if the townspeople sanction using non-objective law to get bad guy Jack off the streets today, they had better be prepared for similar non-objective law to be much more likely used against innocent victims in the future.

    The failure of the local government (in this case the police chief) to do its proper job and officially declare Jack to be a wanted criminal suspect places the ordinary townspeople in a no-win situation.

    Similarly, the failure of our national government to do its proper job and officially recognize that we are at war with a deadly enemy places ordinary Americans in a no-win situation.

    And this is just a corollary of Rand’s insight that one of the requirements of human survival is a proper government that protects our rights via an objective process of law. If the government fails to do that (either by inaction or by tyranny), then innocent people *will* suffer.

    Unfortunately, Americans are in real peril of learning this (again) the hard way…

    • Ashley

      If the town’s people know Jack is the killer then they have evidence. If the government, whose job is to protect our rights, refuses to act on the evidence then the power granted to the government properly revert back to the people who granted the power in the first instance. They have to act to protect their lives. They should also immediately remove the sheriff who refuses to carry out his delegated authority.

      Applying this principle (reversion of authority) to a similar evasion by our national government is problematical to say the least.

  8. J.Holden

    But this analysis only seems to apply to the GZM. What about all the other mosques in the country? It is estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of North American mosques are spreading Saudi financed Jihad literature. In essence, all of these mosques are contributing to the Jihad against America and the West. Shouldn’t they all be shut down too?

    How should we go about new mosque construction anywhere in the country? In a time of war should any new mosque construction be allowed. Should there be some really serious scrutiny applied to mosques?

    All these questions get to the much harder question of how to classify Islam and what type of constitutional protections it warrants given that it has built into it a military doctrine of conquest and it is the fountainhead of the Jihad enemy that is trying (and succeeding) at killing and terrorizing us (Molly Norris anyone?).

    • They probably should all be investigated, but not necessarily shut down. To me the question is one based on the quote I include from the Brook/Epstein article: what measures are necessary to eliminate the threat as quickly as possible with minimal loss of life and liberty for Americans? The planned Mosque at Ground Zero, to be called Cordoba, opened on 9/11, etc., is linked so closely to Jihadist morale, that I see it as a slam dunk. Even moreso with all the evidence against Rauf and company, which Craig Biddle includes in his piece at TOS. Other mosques may or may not aid the Jihadists in this way, or to this extent.

  9. Stopping one Mosque isn’t going to to destroy the enemy’s morale and will do little, if any, harm to them, spiritually or otherwise.

    I agree with your notion about morally as well a materially destroying the enemy in a time of war — but isn’t that the problem here? That we have not declared war and properly defended this country? Comparing how we morally destroyed the enemy in WWII is a totally different context than we are in today (since we haven’t even gotten to that stage yet).

    We need to be arguing in favor of conducting a proper defense and response to the enemy (Iran and Saudi Arabia, as has been identified by numerous other Objectivists). If one thinks thT what REALLY matters is this NYC Mosque, I’m afraid we’ve already lost.

    • This raises yet another point;if the argument is that Rauf is inciting terrorism by building the mosque,(& assuming for the sake of argument that,that is correct),the justification for banning the mosque would not depend on whether our enemies were actually inspired or not.But if the argument is that the mosque could be outlawed solely because of how our enemies will respond to it then I agree that it is unlikely to make any difference.Our enemies are not waiting to see whether a mosque is,(or is not),built near Ground Zero.They are obsessed with murdering us,dying,& raping their fictional virgins in paradise.I think that it is a error to assume that we can affect their morale one way or another.If we stop the mosque they will simply justify their attacks on us,(to themselves),on the basis of our alleged persecution of Muslims.I think that some of those who speak of “breaking the enemies will to fight”,have a more deterministic view.It reminds me of the argument made by some in Vietnam et-al that if only you apply a sufficient amount of force the enemy will “see” that they have no hope & surrender.That was not the case with the Russians vs the Nazis in WW2,or the Afghans vs the Soviets,or the Spartans etc.Of course the proponents of the break the morale argument will point to Sherman & the Civil War,& the Japanese etc. But were those cases where we “broke” their will?Or did those individuals just choose to surrender?I believe the only way to defeat these people is to kill them.They are too mystical in their world view to care.(I am talking about the suicide bomber types,there may be others who are less committed such as donors)Again,despite the talk about the importance of morale,at the end of the day the greatest threat is not the mosque,but WMD’s in the hands of our enemies.

      • That should have read. ..”a more deterministic view of our enemy’s morale,(& of morale in wartime,in general),than I do.

        Also. ….”They are too mystical to care what we do to them.Killing us is simply a means to their end,which is paradise.(That plus killing for the sake of killing,as part of their death cult),
        I would then resume with:I am talking about the suicide bombers.

  10. Just to add on to the points of Amy, the GZM would cause catastropic results for every ally the U.S has.

    I live in the Philippines. We have 3 Islamic insurgencies here in the southern islands. If the GZM is built, it’s almost certain that those killers are gonna get all fired up and emboldened.

    If the GZM is built, there’s a good chance that I could see death as young man. This goes for every other person living in a semi-free country fighting an Islamist insurgency.

  11. RickWilmes

    If the mosque is built, one can only imagine the types of propaganda films that will be produced and shown in the madrassa’s as recruiting and motivation videos.

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