All That Is Necessary for Evil to Triumph
The foreword to Why Peace
by Marc Guttman, January 23, 2012
The air was filled with dust and the building footprints were still smoking hot. The scene was framed by twisted beams and burnt and beaten buildings. Scattered atop the hills of metal and debris, rescue workers worked diligently to find survivors. Below us lay the ruined bodies of thousands of lost innocent victims, and we were helpless to do anything for them at that point….
Many individuals around the world have learned that only by interacting peacefully can we achieve a more harmonious, prosperous, healthy, fair and tolerant society, that our lives on this planet can be far better. People universally oppose acts of aggression, theft, and fraud when committed by individuals. We accept the principle that the initiation of physical force against others is illegitimate, immoral, and may rightly be defended against. For the most part, we also insist that organizations of individuals, such as corporations, also abide by this natural tenet.
When it comes to state aggression, however, especially that wrought by democratic governments, the perspective for many can change. Individuals too often excuse the state when it harms innocent individuals. This may be because they feel powerless to effect change or uninformed, preferring to defer to those more knowledgeable. They may possess cultivated feelings of nationalism and exceptionalism; expectations of benevolence and altruism in state officials; fears of attack, fostered by interventionist propaganda and complicit mainstream media; yearnings for conformity; or just a willingness to harm, burden or restrict others, in the expectation of benefit to ends and causes they themselves consider to be good ones. Thus, when our governments act as aggressors rather than protectors of human rights, many individuals remain silent.
This is an unfortunate root problem, since government actors are responsible for the greatest measure (by several orders of magnitude) of violence, coercion, and harm done to innocent individuals, both today and throughout human history. These state officials rule, by either might, divine right, or the consent of the governed. What’s more, many government interventions, even those well-intentioned, lead to perverse incentives, which usually have a way of turning would-be cooperative participants into adversaries, as members of groups seeking unfair advantage for themselves and restrictions on others. Such aggression has unbalanced and disharmonized us in various ways. This state aggression is vastly important to everyone, as individuals around the planet are being impoverished, robbed, ripped off, maimed, and murdered.
The universal goal of the people in my profession is: First Do No Harm. As an emergency physician, my goal is to advise people on how to make the most appropriate medical decisions for themselves. I consider the risk-benefit ratio of every diagnostic test and therapy. I use my understanding of medicine to avoid harming my patients. Similarly, if we are going to commune by the use of government, then First Do No Harm needs to be our prime directive. We ought to use government power to protect the life and liberty of individuals, rather than as a weapon against the innocent.
Sometimes I think I’d prefer to be blissfully unaware and go on enjoying my pleasant life, without giving state intervention a second thought. Even if I had no empathy for the violations of humans at home and abroad, I’d have to be aware that inevitably the unchecked offenses done to me and my loved ones would exceed my tolerance. It’s been rightly proclaimed that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
I feel as the civil disobedient Mohandas Gandhi did when he said, “If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake, from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake.” Historically as well as currently, dissenters have been bullied and silenced, and purposefully mischaracterized by interventionists with low tolerance for resistance. Since most public policies are coercive, it’s right they be debated, and for dissenters and victims to voice their objections. May they be indefatigable in their objections, regardless of how they are treated. The policies most often detrimental and overreaching are foreign policy, military interventionism, and civil liberties infringements.
So many individuals with whom I interact are uninformed about much of governments’ interventionism and its adverse effects. Maybe this is why such unjust violence is allowed to persist. This provides the impetus for this volume, and for my inviting knowledgeable individuals to contribute to it. After all, governments ultimately rule by the consent of the governed. If we really want to strike at the root and save humans from violent, aggressive force, allowing for greater peace and prosperity, we must withdraw our consent to it, and work actively against state violence.
Contributors from around the world — victims, witnesses, soldiers and military officers, former state officials, political prisoners, journalists, lawyers, civil disobedients, activists, economists, aid workers, epidemiologists, and others — have shared their personal experiences with military intervention and police state abuses, along with the understandings each has reached regarding the harms and adverse effects (both universal and individual) of such interventions. These diverse dissenters, from many corners of the world and different walks of life, explain here why they have embraced peace and believe non-intervention and human rights is the just course. Although they undoubtedly hold varying, perhaps even contradictory, opinions on some public policies (and you’ll read and recognize some of them), what they share here are their objections to the most harmful ones. Some promote radical positions (radically peaceful) that are as worthy of consideration and discussion as they are thoughtful, intelligent, and perhaps even universally beneficial.
Marc Guttman is an emergency physician and a former candidate for state Senate in the 20th District on the Libertarian Party line. He lives in East Lyme, Ct. He is the editor of Why Peace and Why Liberty .