Is War Necessary? Part II

by Harry Browne

January 16, 2004        

My article "Is War Necessary?" provoked a number of email comments and criticisms. Here are some of them, together with my responses.

"Either you live in a cocoon or are a physical and/or moral coward!!"

Would you like me better if I said I had beat up two dozen men and a handful of women?

"Sometimes you have to accept the burden. Some responsibilities can not be wished away. That is what the liberals do, they run from responsibility, hoping that by being 'nice' people, the big bad wolf will not bang on their door. . . . 

"You liberals either don't understand history or don't want to. Either way, you end up being physical and moral cowards."

You have me mixed up with someone else.

Unlike liberals, and unlike you, I have no faith in government. It can't run the health-care system, doesn't educate our children well, and it certainly doesn't keep us safe from your "big bad wolf."

As for "being physical and moral cowards": If it's cowardly not to want to see innocent people killed, I guess I'm a coward. I'm not brave enough to taunt the villain and dare him to kill a bunch of other people.

If you want to go over to the Middle East and fight for "Iraqi Freedom," that's your business. But by staying at home, eating well, watching TV, and earning a decent living  while men, women, and children are getting killed in Iraq it is you who won't "accept the burden." It is you who are "wishing away responsibilities." It is you who is "running from responsibility." It is you who are the physical and moral coward, while playing the part of the courageous hero.

I hope you don't go off to fight in the Middle East. But I also want every American there to come home. I want to see America live in peace and liberty. And big government doesn't provide either.


"You misunderstand and misuse history. Switzerland has not had a war in lots of years because every Swiss is armed, is in the armed services until age 40, and shoots to kill anyone that violates their sovereignty.

"They are at all times prepared to defend themselves. And, being such a small country, even Hitler and Stalin and his successors felt that the cost of invasion was not worth the gain.

"Wake up, smell the coffee and live in the real world, not some idealistic place in your warped mind and some place that has never existed."

Since I said in my article "They've devised ingenious defenses to demonstrate that, while Switzerland is not unconquerable, the cost of conquest would be intolerable to the conqueror," I'm not sure what you're complaining about. As a matter of fact, I lived in Switzerland for six years and am quite familiar with its defense system. But notice that it is focused on defense, not offense as the U.S. system is.

"One important fact not reported by Mr. Browne. Switzerland became a repository for Nazi gold during World War II as well as valuable artifacts and paintings. When Germany lost the war, Switzerland simply kept the gold and other valuable items and founded a banking system that would not have been possible otherwise.

"In addition, Switzerland did cooperate with Nazi Germany during the war and manufactured critical war materiel for the German war machine for which they were paid handsomely.

"Switzerland has kept out of conflict by being underhanded in its dealings and not because of any moral commitment.

"Sorry to burst your bubble."

Since I said in my article "And they've made themselves an indispensable trading partner to any country that otherwise might see some advantage in invading Switzerland," I'm not sure what new information you think you're providing.

The Swiss banking system was founded hundreds of years ago. Laws were passed in the mid-1930s to protect Jewish accounts from being investigated or confiscated by the Nazis; otherwise, the system remained as it always had been. The only gold the Swiss bankers retained after the war was gold for which claimants had no way to prove their ownership; you can't expect a banker to give someone's gold to anyone who showed up at the door asking for it, but who had no evidence of ownership. 

And I don't see anything underhanded in dealing openly with Germany and Britain during the war. Not joining your side doesn't make someone underhanded, just discriminating.

The last time I looked, the bubble was still intact and unburst.

Swiss Profiteering

"One point about Switzerland. The reason they never go to war is because that is the enclave that the world's bankers use to house all the world's (their) money. And they are the ones that fund all the wars, and both sides of the wars. War is very profitable for them and keeps countries unstable, while they remain in full charge through finances which is power."

I understand what you're saying, but Switzerland doesn't fund wars. The Swiss government foreign aid program is infinitesimal much too small to have any effect on anything. And the banks are privately owned. No private bank is going to lend money to both sides of a war (as our government sometimes has). A bank can't afford to lend money to the loser who may not repay his loans.

Swiss & American Defenses

"I'm curious about two points.

"1. Mr. Browne stated 'They've [the Swiss] devised ingenious defenses to demonstrate that, while Switzerland in not unconquerable, the cost of conquest would be intolerable to the conqueror.' What are these devices and/or where could I learn more about Switzerland's defense policies?

"2. He also wrote: 'In the few cases that America has been attacked, it's because our politicians were trying to dictate to other countries.' What were we doing to Japan to provoke the attack on Pear Harbor?"

Unfortunately, not a lot has been written in the English language about Switzerland's ingenious World War II defense policies. And I don't have time to try to remedy the lack of material. But I can give two examples.

During World War II, the Swiss government allowed the Nazis to pass through the Swiss Alps to resupply troops in Italy a very valuable route for the Nazis. The Swiss mined critical spots and told the Nazis that the Swiss would close the supply lines by blowing them up the moment the Nazis started any funny business.

Second, the Swiss made a deal with the Nazis that allowed the Germans to buy machine tools from Swiss companies but only on condition that Swiss boats be allowed to carry equipment for delivery to the British down the Rhine River to the North Sea, unimpeded by the Nazis.

As for the other question, the Roosevelt administration browbeat the Japanese for two years before the Pearl Harbor attack demanding that the Japanese give up their colonies and conquests in China and East Asia. The Japanese were absolutely no threat to the United States (just like Iraq in 2003), but Roosevelt made it clear to his subordinates (who later reported his views in their memoirs) that he wanted to lure the Japanese into "firing the first shot" so that America could get into the war against Hitler. (The Japanese and Germans had a mutual defense treaty.)

I don't know of a single historian today who believes the Pearl Harbor attack was either unprovoked or a surprise. The only argument is over whether Roosevelt was right to bully the Japanese into attacking, in order to rally the American people to support U.S. entry into the war.

Here are some links to more detailed information:

The Myths of World War II by Harry Browne
American knowledge of the coming Japanese attack; interview with Robert B. Stinnett
Details of Roosevelt's maneuvering by John Flynn
Why Did Japan Attack Us? by Patrick Buchanan


"The war has largely been a success, especially when compared with pre-war predictions made by Harry."

I'm not aware of any pre-war predictions I made. If I've forgotten some, you're free to remind me. But don't confuse me with anyone else.

Pandering to the Crowd?

"Going against the war is bad for the Libertarian Party. . . . what matters is the tremendous number of Bush supporters who are upset with his domestic agenda. The Patriot Act, his propensity to spend, and the prescription drug entitlement are the first that come to mind.

"I don't think your going to get a lot of Dean supporters; they will support the Green (communist) Party, or any of the other leftist running for the Democratic nomination, if he does not make it. Anti-war rhetoric may catch their ear, but once they learn of the Libertarian position on government, taxes and guns, they will switch us off."

If we go along with the war hawks, how can we ever expect the war mentality to recede? Someone has to stand up and point out the obvious that the Bush doctrine has caused tens of millions more people worldwide to believe America is a bully, encouraging more people to support the terrorists.

Maybe we couldn't stop the Iraqi War. But pointing out that politicians lie and that war isn't necessary may cause a few more people to be skeptical the next time when the President (either Bush or Kerry) is trying to build support for attacking Syria, Iran, or someone else.

We can't determine the truth of a proposition by the number of people it might appeal to. I'm not saying what I think might appeal to Dean supporters. If you really think I am, you don't understand libertarian principles.

Comparing Countries

"You said, 'After one apparently necessary fight to extricate itself from British rule, it found itself in the best neighborhood possible.'"

"I don't think my life would be any worse off today if Britain still ruled the United States. The British people are not any less free than the American people are today. So I think that war didn't matter either. In fact I would rather live in Britain today than the United States."

When your own government is out of control, almost any other country can seem to be more attractive. However, I don't think you'd find Britain to be any freer than America (or even as free).

Click here for Part I of "Is War Necessary?"