The Western condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again served to highlight the exceptionalist attitude of the West, and of the United States in particular. Whichever standards other countries and governments are held to, the West believes that it is permitted to deviate from, or even obliterate those standards, labelling its own interventionist feats with some other, innocuous term, while utilising a half-baked moral justification in order to promote its acceptability.
However much people may disagree on the how big the state should be, it is almost universally acknowledged that “national defence” – the protection of the citizenry from invasion by foreign states – is regarded not only as the primary function of the state but also its very raison d’être. Indeed, together with domestic security and protection from private criminals, such a function is joined at the hip with the state’s monopolistic use of force. Thus, it is difficult to imagine how, without this function, the state could exist as a distinct institution.
Recently, I posted on Free Life an analysis of the threats that can be posed to liberty by interstate relations and conflicts. Today, I wish to reiterate one particular part of that analysis: that we cannot analyse relationships between states by reference to libertarian principles in exactly the same way in which we discuss relationships between individual people.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has, once more, brought war and international relations to the forefront of the political agenda. Given that Ukraine’s support from Western countries, both spiritually and financially, seems aimed at exacerbating this conflict rather than abating it, it is critical for those committed to peace and prosperity to grasp a key fact if their stance is to be successful: that one cannot be truly anti-war without also being anti-state.