The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

In his most recent blog post (no link due to Blogger bug), Eric S. Raymond says "The aftermath of 9/11 is a hard time to be an anarchist." In his previous post he called for a new imperialism against radical Islam. Now there are a lot of people who claim to be anarchists who are nothing of the sort; they ooze contempt for freedom from every pore, and spent half their time calling for state action against private individuals, and the other half smashing windows at the local Starbucks. But Mr. Raymond is not one of those people.

Most people probably have heard of Raymond through his work as a Linux/open source evangelist. Before that he wrote The New Hacker's Dictionary. But I first came across Raymond in the late 80's when I was in college and read political newsgroups. Raymond was a fun and witty proponent of libertarian anarchism; it was his Usenet articles and the writings of David Friedman that convinced me that libertarianism without government was superior to a minimal state.

So when Raymond says "I see no alternative to state action as a way to suppress this threat, up to and including conventional warfare and the proconsular occupation of significant parts of the Arab world", I stand up and take notice. And I treat what he has to say with respect. But given all that, I think that he's overreacting.

Raymond says that Islamic fundamentalism poses a deadlier threat than the Soviet Union. All I can say is that thirteen years of peace must have dulled his memory. What could be scarier and more menacing than international communism? They tried to subvert half the damn planet; for the first 60 years of the USSR's existence, once a country went communist it never went back.

What made the Communist threat really dangerous was the support it engendered from within its enemies. Much of the Western intelligentsia was openly pro-communist. In countries like France and Italy there was a communist party that polled a significant fraction of the vote. Every Western country had its traitors, such as the Rosenbergs in America and Kim Philby in Britain.

Does anyone really think there will be an American couple who sends atomic secrets to Saddam Hussein? That a highly placed CIA officer will act as a mole for Al Qaeda out of love for Islam? That the Koran will become required reading and citing in university English departments?

Raymond also says that

... what Al-Qaeda wants is not driven or constrained by geopolitics, by pragmatism, by a rational estimation of risk and reward. They have no population to answer to even in the limited sense that Hitler and Stalin did.

Excuse me, but where is the Al Qaedan as stone cold crazy as Pol Pot? If you find him too provincial, then what of Chairman Mao, who said that nuclear weapons didn't bother him because after a nuclear attack there would still be 300,000,000 Chinese? How about Krushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Raymond said that he entertained and then discarded the idea of an anarcho-capitalist military as a heavily armed militia with a few professional soldiers. I agree that this defense system will not work well against terrorists delivering weapons of mass destruction. A static, defensively-oriented military has been obsolete since 1918.

In the world that we live in it was not difficult to find and punish Al Qaeda after 9/11. Within 24 hours there were strong suspicions that Bin Laden was behind the attack. It was less than a few days later that President Bush was issuing ultimata to Afghanistan. What made this possible was not government, but power projection -- aircraft carrier groups, bombers, and the capability to deliver infantry to a remote location. There is nothing specifically statist or anarchist about a B-52 bomber.



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