End War by Ending the State

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.

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