End War by Ending the State

by David D’Amato

Much has been made of last Thursday’s announcement that, as reported by the New York Times, the US Department of Defense will take its “first major step toward shrinking its budget after a decade of war.” The plan represents only a minor modification (if even that), but has been presented — by both its proponents and detractors in the US political establishment — as a veritable sea change.

President Barack Obama’s apologists on what I’ll call “the acceptable left,” those who still somehow believe that the president isn’t just a war-embracing clone of his predecessor, regard the “cuts” as a step in the right direction. From more overtly imperialist quarters come the groans and yowls one would expect, addressed to predicted closures of military bases and the waning of American global strength.

As always, the devil’s in the details. Slate’s Fred Kaplan observes that Ronald Reagan’s defense secretary too once attempted this sleight of hand: “He would insist that he was making drastic cuts by comparing his budget with what he’d projected it to be (sincerely or not) the year before — while, in fact, he was requesting massive increases.”

Assessing the proposed shift, then, we would be wise to retain our incredulity at the tortuous Newspeak of the political class. Viewed in the light of war’s actual purpose as Big Business for a connected elite, the scores of doomsday scenarios used to sell it become less plausible.

For market anarchists, war in many ways represents the epitome of the state’s interaction with human civilization; indeed, I have often suggested that to be consistently and undeviatingly anti-war means to be anti-state.

And to reject war and the state, in turn, is to favor a safer world, not the treacherous, entropic nightmare prophesied by today’s flag-bearers of military adventurism. That nightmare is largely descriptive of the world we live in today, one disfigured by America’s military empire and the economy built up around (or inside of) it.

Anarchism does not prescribe, it allows, swapping the rigid systems of compulsion with the adaptability of universal freedom; those who worry that it indeed allows too much might do better to direct their perturbation at the impunity allowed by arbitrary authority, the defining attribute of the social institution we call the state.

The anarchist’s definition of the state, phrased by Benjamin Tucker as “the subjection of the non-invasive individual to an external will,” is central to her analysis of social and economic justice. Anarchists don’t at all seek to abolish security, justice, order or even necessarily law.

Our argument for dispensing with the state is, in point of fact, that the state is a deeply and unavoidably malefic force, positioned directly against those worthy societal goals. Cutting through the disinformation that screens it, we find that the state wages war on those goals to make Raytheon, Boeing and Northrop Grumman rich.

The choice posed by market anarchism — based on voluntary association and trade — is not that of rules or no rules, but of individual sovereignty or top-down control. Should individuals and noncompulsory community organizations make decisions for themselves, or should a modern, state-corporate nobility, protected by law from the consequences of its actions, decide for all?

The war economy is a command and control economy, and neither Leon Panetta nor Barack Obama is going to do anything to change that; they work for it and not the other way around. To truly end the racket of neocolonialist domination, society must genuinely support peace and security by casting the state aside — regardless of what Washington says.

9 responses to “End War by Ending the State

  1. Michael Roberts

    Brilliant! … … let’s give (the religion of) peace – and various other nutters – a chance. I’m sure they’ll listen to reason, once the neocolonialist caliphate is established.

  2. I see this kind of proposal as what I call a “definitional solution”. You abolish not the thing itself, but the particular definition of it. So, you can say, “let’s abolish financial inequality by abolishing money”. Well you can do that, but then you’re just shifting to another ground where somebody has more camels than somebody else.

    What is a war? Well, in current legal terms it’s two States fighting one another. So great, yes, you can abolish war by that definition by abolishing States. But then you just shift to another ground of two gangs of people fighting each other, and abolishing States doesn’t solve that problem.

    This is why I can never see how anarchism is supposed to be stable, or metastable. You abolish the State. Okay. Now, let’s say the people of Northampton get themselves all worked up and decide to walk down the road to Kettering, and rape and pillage it. Isn’t this a war in all but name?

    So it seems to me you have to fall back on some idea of people being reformed into a post-human state where they have no will for plunder. I’m not at all convinced that this is going to be easily achieved, but best of luck with it.

  3. My knowledge of history is limited but I can’t think offhand of any example where different groups of people decided to up and attack each other spontaneously. There is nearly always some group of arseholes on one side or both working people up to attack each other.

  4. We’re hierarchical herd animals, so yes, there’s always somebody organising things, be it a King or a rabble rouser standing on a crate.

    That’s why I’m not an anarchist. Anarchists invariably IMV define the State too narrowly. Any time humans start organising themselves into a collective- which we will always do- a State, or “state-like entity” starts to form.

    So I’m interested in ideas which are compatible with human nature, rather than ones that require radical and, so far as I can tell, impossible changes to it.

    You’ve only got to look at those situations that appear in the press every now and again where escalations of words and then violence occur between neighbours over a driveway or overhanging tree or something to see what you’re up against. They are little wars, too.

  5. Disputes over driveways are not wars in any real sense. They are mostly non-violent (ie don’t go beyond the verbal except for a few nutters who go to the law and even fewer who take a swing). Such disputes and wars are both on the scale of egotism but are far apart.

    There is no way to stop human violence altogether–there will always be criminals (true crims–thieves,thugs,rapists, murderers–those who are evildoers in all times and places not merely people who don’t do what the state tell ’em), fights over women, ego-based showdowns between people who are not otherwise that bad–OK Corral etc.

  6. Disputes over driveways versus wars are simply a matter of degree. Most disputes between States are mostly non-violent too. Violence is the strategy humans move on to when the shouting hasn’t worked.

  7. If it always did so I would be more inclined to agree. Most driveway disputes peter out. Violence is a tactic that most people do not go to despite the perceived rightness of their own cause. There are many occassions when ordinary people should use violence as a tactic in their own defence but they mostly don’t.

  8. Most wars do too, they’re the ones that don’t get in the history books. Like, maybe, the 2012 Anglo-Argentine war that never happened after both sides reached agreement after a bit of sabre rattling. Maybe even the 2012 American-Iranian war that doesn’t happen.

    “Ordinary people” back down because they either reach a compromise, or escalation will be too expensive- not least because the State suppresses escalation with its own armed force.

    Come to that, remember, 911 wasn’t an act of war either. Purely private action.

  9. IanB wrote: “You abolish the State. Okay. Now, let’s say the people of Northampton get themselves all worked up and decide to walk down the road to Kettering, and rape and pillage it. Isn’t this a war in all but name?”

    You abolish the state. Then there is a war. Isn’t that war a war?

    Yes. Yes, it is.