Monday, September 9, 2019

A Note on ‘Archism’ - By James Ostrowski and Michael Ostrowski

In writing this book, we concluded it was necessary, in describing what happened and why in Libya and Syria, to introduce a word that, if not a neologism, is certainly an obscure term used in what we believe is a novel manner: archism.

The state is a monopoly on the use of force in a region that supports itself with taxation. The absence of a state is referred to as “anarchy.” It is a widespread belief that states are needed for civilization to exist.  We are also led to believe that in the absence of a state, endless violence and chaos will ensue. States have had a good press for a long time. That may be because in most countries, the state has controlled the press directly or indirectly.
On the other hand, the notion that anarchism―the absence of states―might be a good thing is a relatively recent development.  The most popular and best known form of anarchist theory, anarcho-syndicalism, does not really posit anarchy at all since it smuggles the state back into the picture and merely renames it the “collective” or the “committee.”  The truer form of anarchy, individualist anarchy or anarcho-capitalism is far less well known.  The first anarcho-capitalist work was published in 1849.[1]  In modern times, anarcho-capitalism has never been considered anything but a fringe movement and it has never captured more than a tiny minority of public support.  It has received relatively little attention in academia[2] and virtually none in the media or in K-12 schools.
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Because it is therefore taken for granted that states must exist, a startling blindness to or denial of the necessary costs of creating and maintaining states has existed.  This is true both with respect to existing states and to proto-states, that is, movements that wish to become states.  More often, when proto-states clash with each other or with existing states, anarchy is ironically often blamed for the resulting violence and chaos.  This is an error as the primary cause of the ensuing violence is the perceived need for each entity to completely vanquish its opponents and drive them out of existence entirely.  If any such disputant in modern times has been anarcho-capitalist in its goals and methods, that is the best kept secret of all time.[3]  All known disputants have sought to achieve monopoly state power by defeating all competitors.  The sum total of the resulting violence, murder, mayhem, destruction and chaos has been incalculable.

There is no generally accepted word for the gargantuan costs of maintaining or creating states.  There is no clear concept for those costs and there has been no comprehensive delineation of those costs. Since we think in concepts and communicate in words, this lacuna means that we have been largely oblivious to the costs of states and proto-states as tied to a concept and as signified by a word that stands for that concept. Since the state system appears to be failing all over the world, this is a serious problem.  We propose using the term “archy” to signify such a concept.  The term “archy” is descriptive or scientific, not normative or judgmental.  No moral judgment is necessarily involved in applying the term to any given set of facts.  Instead what has happened is that things have been explained, clarified and better understood.  People are then free to make whatever moral or value judgments they wish.  If you favor archy; if you believe in archism and are proud of its methods and consequences, shout it from the mountaintops.  Knock yourselves out.

However, in this book, expect to have the beliefs you may hold in this regard scrutinized and their costs and consequences delineated.  And expect certain questions to be posed or intimated that are rarely asked and rarely if ever adequately addressed by archists such as:
1.   How do states arise?
2.   What should their borders be?
3.   What ethnic, racial and religious groups should be included in the state?
4.   Which states are so illegitimate that they should not exist?
5.   How do we get rid of bad states?
6.   Can parts of states secede and how?

We think that part of the problem with archism is that it begins at the end, considering the need for the existence of the state as self-evident, without establishing its foundations by addressing these questions.  Thus, we are in our present predicament.  The state system is failing all over the world, yet, virtually no one is questioning that system.  We are stuck in the kind of mental trap Einstein alluded to: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
So, facing problems that appear to be created by the state system, politicians, stuck in that “same level of thinking,” continue to apply the same tool, basically brute force, solving nothing, creating new problems, and all the while being callously oblivious to the consequences.  In their own minds, they all are just doing their duty or “following orders,” while in reality they are manufacturing corpses, destroying neighborhoods and cities, devastating cultures, communities and religions and forcing the mass movement of peoples.  It is yet another feature of archism that its practitioners can wreak such havoc during the day, doing things that normal human beings not employed by the state consider abhorrent, and sleep like babies at night.  Thus, unfortunately, conscience does not make cowards of archists.[4]

There is no way that justice can be done in this volume to the long-neglected and complex concepts of archy and archism.  However, an important start on such a project has been made and should serve to help illuminate the roots of the disasters in Libya and Syria.
[Here are some examples of how the terms were used in the text.]
Iraq is a country consisting of three separate groups with sharply different interests, the Kurds in the North, the Shiites in the South and the Sunnis in the middle.  Saddam Hussein kept the lid on the pot with ruthless police state methods.  Once he was overthrown by the United States, the country should have been partitioned, but it is official U. S. policy to consider arbitrary boundaries imposed by force on peoples to be sacrosanct.  This is part of the syndrome of archism, discussed in the Introduction.  Suffice it to say here that archism involves the belief that states must be maintained regardless of the costs. As one of the co-authors has explained elsewhere, democracy does not smooth over such sharp multicultural differences but rather exacerbates them.[5]  Naturally, the Shiites, constituting about 60 percent of the population, won the post-Saddam elections and began imposing their will on the Sunni minority.  A civil war ensued whose chaos ultimately led to the creation of ISIS years later.  See Chapter 7.
Say what you will about ISIS, but they had the savvy to realize what clueless (archist) foreign policy “experts” in the West did not, that the Sykes-Picott borders created by the Western powers were completely arbitrary and bore no relationship to reality in the 21stCentury.  They ignored them, indeed, explicitly promised to obliterate them.
Before the civil war, Libya, although far from perfect, was a stable and relatively wealthy country in a part of the world where neither element is common. Today, Libya is in a state of chaos and civil war.[6]  There are competing governments, which contrary to popular belief, is attributable to archy, not anarchy.[7]  After seven months of bombing, “downtown Benghazi is in ruins” and parts of the city are under the control of a militia deemed a terrorist organization by the United States.[8]
The one big promise the state system and its ideology, archism, make is order but all these competing states and proto-states have produced is chaos, violence and disorder.  Worse yet, they learn nothing; their mindset never changes and they continue to use the same strategies, methodologies and tactics that have failed them so far.  They do not and will not, as our late father[9] often advised when we acted up, “meditate on the virtues of peace.”
War and terrorism are mutually reinforcing.  War sparks terrorism which encourages an intensified military response which in turn stimulates an intensification of terrorist attacks.  It is an arms race of violence between the forces of archism–states and would be-states–with civilians the biggest losers.
Foreign progressive intervention has several features that differ from the domestic variety.  First, progressives know even less about foreign lands than they do about their own country where they still make huge policy blunders.  They are particularly unaware of the age-old conflicts among racial, ethnic and religious groups. They bring with them a western-style assumption, rooted in archism, that national borders are rational, just and sacrosanct.  Thus, they are blind to the fact that the state boundaries in most parts of the world are unjust, arbitrary and usually imposed by imperial powers after violent conquest.  Of course, as progressives (and archists), the notion that states need to be broken up into smaller parts that would allow the various warring tribes and groups to run their own nations, is loathsome to them.  Centralization is a primary progressive value.  So, for example, after the U. S. conquest of the artificial state of Iraq, they insisted on its continued integrity.  It was thus predictable that the Shiite majority would control the entire state after elections and impose its will on the minority Sunnis and Kurds, leading to the inevitable civil war.  Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq War, was herself blissfully unaware of this inevitability..
[1] Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security (1849).
[2] But see, Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974).
[3] There was an anarchist movement during the Spanish Civil War that briefly controlled some territory, however, it was the classic left-wing anarchist operation that smuggled in the state but called it a “committee.”  See, J. Ostrowski, “Chomsky’s Economics,”, Jan. 6, 2003.
[4] Cf., Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.
[5] James Ostrowski, Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America (2014), p. 118.
[6] B. Norton, “The Trey Gowdy/Hillary Clinton Conspiracy: The Real Benghazi Scandal Only Chairman Noam Chomsky Would Uncover,”, Oct. 26, 2015.
[7] See the Introduction; A. Kuperman, supra.
[8] Id.
[9] William J. Ostrowski (1925-2011), a lawyer, judge and hero of World War II.
James Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer in Buffalo, NY. He is the author of several books including Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America. See his website. Follow him on Twitter @JimOstrowski.

Copyright © 2019 James Ostrowski and Michael Ostrowski