CBD, Citizen Based Defense AND LIBERTARIAN PHILOSOPHY first writing October 88 In August,

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

CBD, Citizen Based Defense AND LIBERTARIAN PHILOSOPHY first writing October 88 In August, 1988 there was a very interesting meeting at my home in Fullerton California. It brought together peace activists and libertarians to see where there were agreements. In the meeting were some very important people in both movements. At least two libertarians made their living from the philosophy (an organizer of conferences, and a lecturer) and on the other side, Mel Beckman, was the president of the Civilian Based Defense Association. This series of letters was inspired by that meeting. CBD has a following among libertarians. One thing that most startled this libertarian about CBD is the admission that CBD does not have all the answers, --at least not yet. There is another peace group called Beyond War (which also has a libertarian following). Both groups emphasize the problem rather than the solution. Only the challenge is certain. "We must find an alternative to Mutual Assured Destruction." These two Peace organizations admit to not having the final solution, but do so on a rather large legacy of searching. This legacy vastly overwhelms the equivalent effort from libertarians on the same subject, who are accustomed to having all the answers. Libertarians have much to learn from the Peace Movement. Where libertarians have done a great deal of thinking is on human behavior. The most common article in any freedom oriented magazine involves the individual versus the collective. Unlike conservatives, libertarians talk about individualism as an ideal, not just the best way to produce a wealthy nation. Even if socialism could produce cheaper and more reliable refrigerators, libertarians would still defend the rights of the individual over the collective. Their patron saint of economics, Adam Smith, wrote his famous, Wealth of Nations as part of a series of books on moral philosophy. The number one seller among libertarians over the past ten years is an economics book with the name Human Action. If the peace movement has something to learn from libertarians, it is on the philosophical reasons for freedom of the individual. This essay advocates Citizen Based Defense from the perspective of someone who holds the individual as the highest sovereign. In plainer words; you don't have to be a lover of your fellow man to be an advocate of nonviolent action. A. The Freedom Movement and Coercion Libertarians are drawn to the nonviolence of CBD because of their hatred for government. (They associate coercion with government.) Libertarian is a movement not an organized society, so there is actually a spectrum of belief in this matter of coercion. I will draw a distinction on three types. 1. Some libertarians oppose only the "monopoly" which government has on coercive force. They advocate instead competing agencies of coercive force and a voluntary militia. 2. The libertarian party, the largest organized group in the libertarian movement takes the pragmatic position that one form of socialism should exist and that is the defense and resolution of private property disputes i.e. police and military. Their disagreement with conservatives on this matter is only on the amount. 3. At the extreme are libertarians who embrace a Quaker-like attitude toward defense in which even a voluntary militia would be wrong. This group is visible through the magazine The Volunteeriarist. By the way, these libertarians hasten to add that they are not passivists. They will indeed do something about a threat. They might even use violence in self defense just as would any human. The difference can be seen after an act of self-defense takes place. Most people would feel justified in the use of force if it is in self defense. The Voluntariasts libertarian would feel his violence was wrong, even in self defense. This attitude difference reflects forward in time to make one heck of a difference in behavior during the moment of attack or long before in the method of providing protection. In just one line, voluntariasts are not likely to use force ever. B. The Peace Movement and Coercion For some people in the Peace Movement, such as Beyond War members, nonviolence is a matter of the highest principle. If violence is sanctioned even once, there is no principled reason for not allowing it some other time. To allow violence "sometimes" is like making the draft illegal "except" during a national emergency. The obvious problem with that is that at no time is the world ever finished. A clever person can always justify a violation of a principle based on some long-term good. A person of the highest principle on the other hand will never resort to such self deception. Such a firmly consistent view is not universally held even within the Peace Movement. One can argue that there must be a period of getting from here to there, and the world we have now is so inconsistent that the average man will not notice a small compromise with principle. Those who compromise principle for the sake of getting something good started consider themselves pragmatists. Gene Sharp, the intellectual fountainhead of CBD, has been criticized for being a pragmatist. He proposes a compatible changeover period, using the term "transarmament" for this interim period. For a time, CBD would co-exist with conventional arms (nuclear in this context could be considered conventional). It is only necessary to clearly define ahead of time when and who will be using what. C. Nonviolence and Noncoercion It is tempting to identify with the principled people rather than the pragmatists on the matter of nonviolence. But I think it is the principled-ness which is so attractive. Is nonviolence the right thing to be principled about? Maybe Gene Sharp's position on compromising with nonviolence is not so inconsistent. First, let me dethrone nonviolence a little bit. Consider that if you thwart a bully who is used to getting his way, he does not care that his pain is due to nonviolence. All he knows is that he is being stopped in his admirable enterprise. It is easy to see that nonviolent action and noncoercion are not synonymous. Consider this classic example. Is a spanking worse than not being able to go with the family to the movies? One should not expect that you can have your way with nonviolent action and your enemy will embrace you. Remember, both Ghandi and Martin Luther King were assassinated. The word action in the phrase "nonviolent action" convicts this phrase to being just another form of coercive force. Nonviolence is not advocated out of a revulsion for pain or death, because nonviolent action can indeed result in suffering, --and quite often, the most suffering is on your side! So why use nonviolence rather than violence if coercion and hatred is the result in any case? D. The Difference Between Nonviolent Action and Violence If nonviolent action is coercive, then what is the difference between violent action and nonviolent action? My answer is quite simple. Cost. Violent action needs expensive weapon systems, soldiers trained in using them and soldiers trained to work as a team. Nonviolence, on the other hand is cheap. Nonviolent action does not require weapons, nor team work. The power of a tank is obvious, but what is the power of nonviolent action? It is not because nonviolence has God approved magical powers. For now consider it more a matter of definition. To be in the nonviolent collection of tactics it must be practically free. What is the leverage which makes the list of nonviolent tactics cheap? Let's review some examples of that list first: > Noncooperation > Withholding legitimization > Fraternizing with the enemy The power behind these is the direct involvement of the citizens. In contrast, the heart of the machine which a conventional general uses to carry out his plan is the loyalty within a hierarchy of command and the external source of money (taxes). The heart of the machine which a CBD general uses is a different form of loyalty. It is an idealistic loyalty which is voted upon while it is acting. It is a loyalty which the CBD general cannot use like the conventional general. He must know what it is, and lead his volunteers in the direction they want to go. In other words, he is not much of a leader. But leaderless defense has the potential to be much more effective because top to bottom communications do not have to be maintained. E. Government's Use of Nonviolent Action Nonviolent action is not limited to defense, nor even to civilians. The mood of the population can be read like a book and that book can be read by anyone. The CIA, IRS and KGB each use psychological warfare all the time. Why is the disparaging term "psychological warfare" used in their case and nonviolent action in ours? Here's the difference; The difference between CBD and the government's use of psychological warfare is one of organization. The organizational costs of CBD are paid and directed from the grass roots, while a military is run by a different group of people than the people who are taxed for it. Libertarians are fond of the phrase "spontaneous order." It can be applied to national defense as well as to the marketplace. Spontaneous organization versus hierarchical organization; that's the difference. Governments use psychological and conventional weapons. These are paid for out of taxes. Citizens working without government can only afford nonviolent action. Otherwise, both are involved with force. You can't even distinguish defense versus offense, since all governments claim to use their forces only in defense. Think about it. The only examples of nonviolent action in history have been by people not associated with the entrenched governments. Even Gandhi joined the Allies in WWII dropping nonviolent action for violent action soon after he became the legitimate government. So perhaps the big question with regard to the future of CBD is not violence versus nonviolence, but government coercive defense versus nongovernment coercive defense. And that larger question is the theme of the rest of this essay. I will send the next part in a few days.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank