In Defense of Liberty: State of Denial

May 9th, 2013   Submitted by Michael Hendricks

BostonBoomOne of the most common cries of the Statist is “Who would provide defense without the State?” The idea that the State somehow provides protection is observably false. If one examines military campaigns throughout history they will find that armies always defend the capital of the State as its top priority. It defends government facilities and officials first, and civilians are low on the priority list.

Let’s examine the Russian defense of Stalingrad, and the Chinese defense of Manchuria during World War II, and just so you know it can happen here too, the battle known as “First Bull Run” to the Union and “First Manassas” to the Confederates, and the Battle of Gettysburg, both during the American Civil War.

In 1942 Germany launched an offensive to capture the Russian city of Stalingrad which was considered a key city to hold to maintain the psychological health of the Soviet Union. The city had strategic importance due to it’s location at the confluence of the Volga and Tsaritsa rivers.

Russia threw massive resources into its defense. They even sacrificed civilians, throwing them into the battle unarmed and shooting those who attempted to run away. The battle of Stalingrad was marked by a blatant disregard for civilian casualties. Russia placed priority on the industrial centers of the city as these were key to the war effort.

German tactics called for close coordination of armor, air, infantry, and engineers. The Soviets knowing this developed a strategy which they dubbed “hugging,” making sure to place their lines so close to the Germans that it nullified German air support and hindered artillery support. It worked. The German infantry so used to fighting with armor, air, and artillery support was totally unprepared for the vicious close quarters combat they faced in Stalingrad.

All this while Russia conscripted it’s own citizens and sent them to their death. When Russia fought bitterly for residential zones it wasn’t for the civilians. It was because they wanted the Germans to suffer for every foot. During the siege the factories kept rolling out tanks because the Soviets defended the industrial zones over the residential zones. The priority was not defending the civilians.

In 1931 Japanese forces invaded the Chinese city of Manchuria in direct violation of orders from the Emperor. The order came from the Imperial General Headquarters’ general Jiro Tamon. The goal was to seize the South Manchurian Railway.

The civilian government of Japan was thrown into chaos due to the massive insubordination of its generals and armed forces. The Chinese army was unable to repel the Japanese forces and when news of Japan’s victories reached Tokyo, the civilian government of Japan was no longer able to control it’s own army. This shows that governments can’t reliably command their own military, regardless of their stated intentions. As each Chinese province fell the Japanese setup occupational governments and spearheaded the creation of secessionist movements. These governments declared their independence from China, and remained under Japanese control until the end of the war.

Troops loyal to China resisted Japan at the Nen River bridge. Chinese propagandists spread news of the resistance across China, increasing recruits in the volunteer armies. Seeing defeat on the horizon, the Chinese general defected to the Japanese, leaving the Chinese people to fend for themselves. They were massacred by the Japanese forces, showing that governments will allow foreign armies to murder their people, provided it is strategically advantageous. There are reports that Japanese officer’s had local women raped and then cannibalized them.

The Manchurian and Russian campaigns demonstrate two things. First, there is no guarantee that a military will listen to it’s government. In fact a military coup is always a risk. Second, the military has its own priorities. If those priorities overlap with protecting civilians it is a coincidence, not an objective.

The defection of the Chinese general also shows us that military personnel don’t necessarily uphold their oaths if it doesn’t suit them. In fact, upholding an oath to the US Constitution could land a soldier the brigg. It also shows that the military is not subject to the desire of the government it “serves.” The military possess superior force, and when push comes to shove it can do whatever it wants.

What is normally claimed in the United States is that the State can control the military because Congress controls the budget. Therefore Congress can decide what the President has the power to do, by either funding it or not. This is false. Organizations like the CIA are capable of self funding through gun running, drug dealing and other illegal enterprise. Congress technically has the power to defund the Unconstitutional wars of the president, but to exercise this power is political suicide, due to the perception of the troops as heroes, who “defend freedom and democracy”.

Perhaps you think these are only the actions of foreign States, despotic governments, and it’s different in America. Not so. The US military has had fewer opportunities to show its true colors, but when it does it behaves no differently.

Early in the American Civil War a battle took place that became known as “First Bull Run” to the Union, and “First Manassas” to the Confederates. It was the first major land skirmish of the war. Both sides were eager to end the war quickly by taking the other’s capital.

Union forces marched South to assault the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia. Confederate forces marched North, pressing toward the Union capital of Washington DC. The battle took place near the city of Manassas. Both sides had green troops, meaning they lacked experience, which made their commanders hesitant to engage. Lincoln pressured Union General, McDowell saying “You are green, it is true, but they are green also. You are all green alike.” McDowell reluctantly attacked.

The battle was a victory for the Confederates. Northern civilians and soldiers alike were terrified that nothing stood in the way of the rebels reaching Washington, but they caused enough damage that the Confederates couldn’t march on to the capital. The battle of First Manassas demonstrates that both States were unconcerned with civilians. The civilian territories were something to be trampled on their way to other objectives, and protected only when it happened to overlap with the primary strategy. Perhaps civilians resources were seized if it served a military function. Attack the capital. Defend the capital. Those are the primary objectives.

The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of Civil War battles fought in 1863. The Confederate State wanted General Robert E. Lee to defend the Vicksburg Garrison, but Lee decided to move North into Union territory. He thought being aggressive in the North could force a defensive withdrawal from the South. The Battle of Gettysburg coincided with the Union victory at Vicksburg, and is generally considered the turning point in the war.

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred because the Confederate army was in need of supplies and went to Gettysburg to seize them. A chance meeting between the Northern and Southern armies lead to battle. Gettysburg was a key city to hold for both sides due to the civilian supplies there. The supplies were not Union property. They were civilian property, and the Confederates were there to steal them. But the Northern Army wasn’t there to protect the property of Northern civilians. It was also there to steal the supplies. The armies met there by chance because they both had similar plans to expropriate the property they claimed to protect.

The military “defends” a civilian population in the same way that a wolf defends a calf, by consuming it. When an army moves into an area it expropriates all it needs. If its logistics cannot support it, it takes what it wants, and needs, from the population. It is of no consequence whether that population is its own citizenry or if they are foreign. The atrocities are brutal in either case. This is what the Statist who cries, “Defense! Defense!” either doesn’t realize or chooses to ignore. Even when the State does defend a civilian area, after it has prioritized its own facilities and those necessary to win the conflict, before any of that happened the civilians were already aggressed against to pay for everything the army does.

It doesn’t matter whether the priority of the military is truly to defend its civilian ward or not. Because of what it is, and how it runs, the military simply cannot defend the civilians! The claim that it does so is entirely fallacious, even if we naively assume that the military is there for us, to protect us, and its members are loyal and trustworthy. And because the nature of the State is consistent across time and distance, there is no reason to believe the US and its military will not eventually behave like other foreign, despotic governments.

As we can see from all these examples, State armies don’t defend their civilians when it doesn’t suit them. Armies always prioritize securing strategic positions and supplies, even at the expense of civilians, and States always prioritize conquest and the protection of their own centers of power. When States aren’t murdering their own people they are failing to defend them, as they prioritize defending themselves.

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29 Responses to “In Defense of Liberty: State of Denial”

  1. DonnaNo Gravatar says:

    A unique view with a ton of historical information. I do agree with the statement “States always prioritize conquest and the protection of their own centers of power.” Often when talking about the wars we are currently involved in we hear of civilian deaths as “causalities of war.”

  2. LarryNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting article. I am new to this website and found the article interesting, especially being a history enthusiast. Something that I never considered is how the military treats civilians until I read the article and it brought insight to my own experience. I am a military vet and served in Southwest Asia in the first Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Determined Resolve and never cared about the people we were effecting, only the orders that I was given. Looking back I agree with the article when it says the civilians were not a priority, in my case the priority fell on protecting the military base, King Khalid Airport and the King’s palace more than the “average” Saudi Arabian citizens.

    • GregNo Gravatar says:

      If there wasn’t a state you also wouldn’t have a central command. So what would be a target of a foreign invader in a stateless society? There is nothing to take over and conquer which the invader could use to plunder and control. There would be no apparatus in place to easily allow the exploitation of the people there. And more than likely almost every person would be armed and prepared to defend their lives and property.
      Without a state you would be far safer from foreign invasion and you wouldn’t have so many people who hate you because you were meddling in their countries.
      peaceful trade would be far more profitable than endless state conflicts.

      • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

        This is a good point something I hadn’t considered. Do you mind if I put it into the next instalment of In Defense of Liberty?

      • The invaders could simply decide they do not need the population because it have no value to them, so they will simply exterminate it and substitute it with their people.
        This is how war was done in the past (and the present in a few place).
        The Romans, for example, had not many problem to enslave or exterminate entire populations if these population didn’t accept their rule.

        Some type of organized military force, specialized in death and destruction, is needed in any society to protect the society from external aggressors.
        The problem is it need to be kept operative and strong even when not used and more effective it is in deter enemies from attacking, less its utility is apparent.

        An advantage over the past is the extreme specialization of the military. The costs of training and equipping a modern US soldiers are so high it is folly to use them on ground as police or other not combat duties.

        In my opinion,
        1) a true libertarian society able to withstand in the long term the competition of statist societies must have specialized military enterprises interested in the wellness of the society.
        2) lacking the ability, patience and will to finance long wars, a libertarian society will be more inclined to short, cost effective, military confrontations. AKA, buy who can be bough and is cost effective to buy, destroy and kill all of the other menaces and not waste time in winning their hearts and minds.

        Another interesting point is, the attackers, under common libertarian interpretations, in responsible for the costs of the war, and can be expropriated of his properties to pay back the war costs and damages incurred by the defenders.
        In the past, winning armies were allowed to plunder a conquered city for days (to pay the mercenaries their bonuses).

  3. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    It’s funny that when Mubarak of Egypt got ousted the military didn’t break up.

    The military and police are the original gangsters of antiquity. The politicians are just put their to legitimize their plunder.

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

      Good point something I hadn’t thought about. Perhaps I’ll bring it up in the next edition.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        In the past it was very possible that a successful general might overthrow the king and take over the state.

        • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

          Yessir that is absolutely true and that is part of what I was trying to get across in the essay. I wouldn’t rule out a coup de etat in the USA entirely either. Is it likely? I don’t think so, but it is always a possibility.

    • Live mikeNo Gravatar says:

      The politicians in Egypt acted as scapegoats for the military. Any bad thing the state did got blamed on them while the military presented itself as noble defenders. Same thing in the USA and lots of other countries.

  4. DarrenNo Gravatar says:

    Michael, nice article. You may want to take a look at Abscam At the time it was thought that the FBI was reacting to congressional attempts to cut their budget.

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:


      I can’t say that I’m surprised in the slightest by this.

  5. Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

    Why did the U.S. treat Nazi scientists as royalty? Why wasn’t Von Braun put on trial as a war criminal for using slave labor to give the Nazis rocketry? Why were Nazi intelligence officers secretly given sanctuary? Why is it atrocities by the Allies were covered up or ignored? Why did the U.S. threaten and punish American scientists who criticized using “the bomb”? Why did the Allies round up and force the return 10s of thousands of escaped Russians to the U.S.S.R. knowing they would be murdered for the crime of rejecting Communism? Didn’t that strengthen Stalin by discouraging escape? Wasn’t Stalin the new post war enemy? How did the Russians get “the bomb” so quickly? Was it to establish a balance of power and give both sides an “enemy”?

    All these strange contradictions of state propaganda can be explained if one rejects the paradigm of government as protector, and sees it as a gang of thugs who fight among themselves and other gangs, but are united in principle by their worship of force over voluntary interaction. Statists have more in common with one another, regardless of national origin, color, or creed than they do with voluntaryists.

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

      Yeah I could write a book of the historical evidence supporting the thesis. That is definitely true.

  6. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    It stands to reason that a government will defend its’ capitol city. A government is not going to say to an invading army, ” take our capitol we surrender.” Btw, the Yankees stole supplies and property from the good people of the C.S.A. even when they didn’t need supplies. You failed to mention that but stated that the Rebels stole fron the people of Gettysburg. Here is a link to a clip from the movie Gettysburg that is historicly accurate. I recommend that you watch it.

    I wonder why you made no mention of the first American Revolution. Oh, wait, the city of Philadelphia was captures by General Howe in 1777 but war continued and the last major battle happened in 1781 and the British lost. Well it looks like seats of government my not be all that important in war doesn’t it?
    While Howe occupied Philadelphia he did nothing to help Burgoyne in NY and Burgoyne was defeated because Howe sat on his ass in Philly. Eventually Howe left Philly but it was to late for him to aid Burgoyne. Burgoyne was probably a better playwrite than a general anyways.

    During the War of Yankee Agression Richmond was captured on April 2, 1865. The last Rebel General to surrender was Stand Watie on June 23, 1865. Even Lee surrendered 1 week after Richmond was captured.

    Although wars are generally fought by states there have been wars fought by people who lived in tribes. The absense of a state does not guarantee the absense of a war within a particular area of real estate. At best it might mean war would be less likely.

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

      ” Btw, the Yankees stole supplies and property from the good people of the C.S.A. even when they didn’t need supplies.” Not surprised, paratroopers during WWII stole from civilians throughout Europe.

      “You failed to mention that but stated that the Rebels stole fron the people of Gettysburg” I also said that the Yankees were going to steal from the people of Gettysburg too. Contrary to popular belief the Yanks were the bad guys in this war, but that’s not the point of the essay is it?

      “I wonder why you made no mention of the first American Revolution.” Why didn’t I mention the war of 1812? Why didn’t I mention the Roman Campaigns? Simply because I had millennia of wars to choose from.

      “Oh, wait, the city of Philadelphia was captures by General Howe in 1777 but war continued and the last major battle happened in 1781 and the British lost. Well it looks like seats of government my not be all that important in war doesn’t it?” Washington was sacked during the war of 1812, in 1814 if I remember correctly. Whilst seats of government may not be the be all end all of conflict you can’t say they are unimportant.

      “During the War of Yankee Agression Richmond was captured on April 2, 1865. The last Rebel General to surrender was Stand Watie on June 23, 1865. Even Lee surrendered 1 week after Richmond was captured.” Very few wars have ever ended on the exact day that a capital was lost or captured. Losing a capital is just a sign that that side is close to losing, if it hasn’t already lost.

      As has been said, if the thesis of this essay is true there are millions if not billions of examples of it.

  7. Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

    Michael’s point is that civilians/troops are tools of war with no more value than inanimate objects. He demonstrates it my pointing out that the possession of a militarily insignificant objective may be taken or kept at great expense of life. Your comments did nothing to disprove or weaken his point.

    That said I would have chosen the Korean War example where Chinese and American generals got into a pissing contest over a worthless objective (hamburger hill). Each side tried to prove to the other how committed to victory they were by sacrificing lives as a symbol of their resolve. It was as if the side that proved they had the least respect for life, won, i.e., respect for life was taken for granted by both to be a fatal sign of weakness.

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

      That’s a good point. That example would have been superior.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      Despite the fact that there are far better examples of mistreatment of civilians by armies during wars he deliberately chose to use one of the best examples of an army that was not very abusive towards civilians. There are far better examples of armies mistreating civilians during wars. Why use the CS army as an example? Why not a more recent example.

      • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

        I used the American Civil War and the Confederates for two reasons.

        1. The Confederates were the good guys, even the good guys treat civilians like shit.

        2. It happened in the United States, so the Ostriches can’t say “Oh that’s just THEM not US, and that only happens THERE not HERE.”

        And maybe it shows the strength of the Thesis that I didn’t use easier examples. There really are better and easier examples out there, but I didn’t choose the easy road I choose the road less followed.

        I don’t know maybe I’m just arrogant.

        Regardless does the fact that I chose the Confederates take away from the thesis? I don’t think so.

        When I was a Minarchist I often wondered how things would have turned out had the Confederates pressed their advantage after First Manassas, or if Lee had decided to defend Vicksburg instead of heading North. So maybe I chose those battles because I’ve thought about them for years. I don’t think it matters in any case though.

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          I wouldn’t consider the Confederates “good guys.” But on a slightly different topic, you mention how you look at history a little differently as an anarchist. I did the same thing, and still do. For example, I think there was a movie a few years back about Jesse James. And there was a quote I really liked that “the civil war never ended for Jesse James.”

          At the time I watched it I wasn’t an anarchist, but it struck an anarchist cord with me, because it dawned on me how much of a pain-in-the-ass Jesse James was to the state well after the civil war, and he was just one guy. Imagine if all of those Confederate soldiers had the same resolve as Jesse James. Imagine if Lee had surrendered, and everybody else snickered to themselves, and then continued fighting on in their own way.

          The South lost that war because they were still thoroughly statist. They still had a follow-the-leader mentality. And all it took was their main leader to bow down and that’s all she wrote.

          I think one of the strengths of anarchism is its lack of a leader and that individuals are more capable of doing good through whatever motivates them, than they are following somebody else’s orders. That’s a value I learned from reading Ron Paul’s book Freedom Under Siege, where he completely destroys the efficacy of the draft.

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            The Confederates as the good guys to me for a few reasons.

            1. They were aggressed against by the North, i.e. the civil war is the War of Northern Aggression.

            2. My paps’ family is from the South, so I spent alot of time there in my youth and genuinely like it there, I’m a fan of the climate and the people for the most part.

            3. The Confederacy was far more minarchist than the North under the thumb of the tyrant Lincoln. If you’re a minarchist (and I guess I still haven’t completely freed my mind from it) it’s easy to defend the Confederates as the good guys.

            But all things considered you’re right as far as the South being thoroughly Statist. Something that just occurred to me is that the South is an example of how minarchy can’t work.

            I had never considered Jesse James like that. It’s an excellent point.

            Your point about Anarchy is a good one too.

            • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

              To me, the North vs. the South is like the Nazis invading the Soviets. Just because the Soviets were the ones invaded didn’t make them good guys.

              • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:


              • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

                Do you also not consider the Americans the “good guys” in the first American Revolution? Sure there are wars (WWI for example) in which it is not clear who the “good guys” are. The 2nd American Revolution is not such a war. The Yankees were the aggressor. The British military and state of Great Britian were the aggressor during the first American Revolution. One can find things to criticize about both sides in a war but there are times when it is clear which side is in the right. Your comparison is absurdly wrong. To use National Socialists as a comprison is a tactic that is often used by those who simply want to demonize and end debate. I am not claiming that is your reason for going that route. I am simply pointing that out. It is not the same as Germany and the USSR during WWII. It was the US government that was oppressing the people in the southern USA prior to the war and creation of the CSA. Sure the CSA had it falts but clearly they were the “good guys” in the war. It is possible that had the CSA been successful states in the CSA in time would have declared independence from the CSA. It is possible had that CSA won the war what is the USA today would be several countries and ther might even be a area(s) that would be stateless.


  8. Good piece Michael. I especially like the focus upon how the state viewed/used civilians in specific campaigns.