In Defense of Defenselessness


The problem of national defense is one that has preoccupied many defenders and opponents of anarcho-capitalism. Anarcho-capitalists have spent a great deal of time promoting solutions ranging from donations to local defense agencies. Yet, all of these are unconvincing to many people. My solution to this problem? There is no problem. This is not an argument advocating pacifism; rather I believe that in certain cases national defense is simply not necessary.

While I admit that this is a radical concept even for anarcho-capitalists to accept, there is a perfect example of this theory: Costa Rica . Costa Rica has nothing, no army, navy or air force. Clearly, according to the arguments put forth by opponents of anarcho-capitalism, this area should have been conquered many times over by now. While Costa Rica is nearly unique in this aspect (some island nations also have no armed forces), many other states have such negligible armed forces that they are worthless. I spent a year in Malta (a small island state in the Mediterranean ) which had an army to match its small size. A few hundred rednecks with shotguns in rowboats could have defeated that army.

Even ignoring those cases, consider how many states would be able to withstand an invasion by the U.S. For 90% of the states in the world, national defense is worthless against an invasion by any of the major powers. Because of this, we should not hold an anarcho-capitalist area to be able to do so either.

Clearly, there must be reasons why these states have managed to survive. One of the more obvious ones is the negative reaction to invasion. When the U.S. invaded Iraq , it found few allies because of the reaction of people around the world. Even in the U.S. , there were protest marches. All of this over the invasion of a state ruled by a ruthless dictator. Imagine the reaction if the peace-loving people of the region of Anarchia (or whatever term would be used), were brutally invaded. International support is no doubt a thin thread to rely upon in case of invasion. Because of this, I would not necessarily recommend my no national defense strategy to people who live near dictators. Dictators being less responsive to public pressure would be more likely to invade in this case. I would point out, however, that Malta lies less that 100 miles from Libya , and they have not been invaded.

Most conflicts in today's world are internal or terrorist in nature. The rationale for invasion seems to be becoming an anachronism. How many invasions have there been in the last few decades? If one excludes U.S. nation-building activities, not many. Iraq 's invasion of Kuwait and the various invasions of Israel are among the few. Quite simply, it is not in a state's economic interest to invade. When it is costing the U.S $4 billion a month (a sum greater than the yearly expenditure on national defense of all but 26 states[i]) to maintain the occupation forces in Iraq , it is easy to see why. Furthermore, when a state has conquered another, what do they then have? Bombed out factories, dead people and piles of worthless fiat money. The wealth of nations today lies in capital goods and people, not land. Invading would destroy much of the wealth of the state. An exception should be made in the case of natural resources, such as oil.

Let us examine the U.S. as a possibility for this scheme. The U.S. has the advantage of having friendly neighbors and oceans on its borders, which make invasion unlikely. While the U.S. has natural resources, they are not so extensive as to make invasion lucrative. No state in the world has the navy necessary to bring an occupation force big enough to occupy such a large area, except perhaps the U.S.

But what if there was an invasion? Would the anarcho-capitalists be doomed to simply accept their fate as the subjects of a state? Perhaps. There are no guarantees in life. As I mentioned before, there is very little any state can do if the U.S. invaded them. The only way to fight back would be through guerilla warfare and terrorism, repellent but effective techniques. Even then, it is doubtful if that would be successful. In the case of weaker states invading, a combination of defense agencies and militias would provide at least a nominal emergency defense. Perhaps this would not be enough to stop an invasion, but it is just as much as Costa Rica could do.

I realize that many people are unwilling to accept this. It is risky, there is no doubt about that. But as for me, I would rather take the slight risk of invasion over living daily with the oppressive state.

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