Ayn Rand said: "Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did."
How is this excused away, as that looks to be a direct contradiction of the non-aggression principle. She is saying in other words, that it is ok for some group to initiate aggression against another group as long as they bring with them the element of civilization.
Since that is exactly what the Europeans did. They attacked and murdered American Indians who never did anything to them initially, for the purposes of taking over the continent.
First, it has to be pointed out that there were atrocities committed by both European Settlers and Native Americans. It is simply false to say that Native Americans "never did anything to [the European Settlers] initially." Sometimes the European Settlers initiated force, sometimes the Native Americans initiated force. Once the European Settlers became entrenched on the continent and strong governments arose, it began to become a more one-sided affair, with the Native Americans being mistreated by the Settlers much more regularly than the other way around. Thus, it might be fair to lay more blame at the feet of the European Settlers; however, just because the Settlers may deserve more blame, that does not exculpate the blame that some of the Native Americans deserve as well.
Now turning to the meat of your question--no, Rand was not contradicting herself by saying it was okay to violate the non-initiation of force maxim. Rand said in the quotation above that it would be right for the settlers to "take over" the continent, but "taking over" the continent does not necessarily imply initiating force. It merely implies taking possession of the land, which might be accomplished with or without the use of force.
For example, if the land was already owned and occupied before being "taken over", then there would be some initiation of force involved in the Settlers taking possession of it and ousting the rightful owners. However, occupying land that is not owned by anyone is not an initiation of force. Because Rand believed that the Native Americans did not own any land at all, saying that it is okay for the Settlers to "take over" this unowned land is not an endorsement of forcibly taking land from its rightful owners.
With regard to this belief of Rands that the Native Americans did not own any land, it appears she was mostly correct and partially wrong. Speaking generally (realizing there were exceptions), much of the land the European Settlers occupied was not owned by anyone until the Settlers arrived. The continent is vast, and much of the land was simply uninhabited. Moreover, very few of the Native Americans permanently occupied and cultivated parcels of land, instead moving periodically from place to place as nomadic hunters. Thus, to the extent the European Settlers occupied such unowned land, there was no initiation of force. However, Rand's belief was partially wrong because some Native Americans did permanently settle and cultivate land, and this land should have been recognized as being owned by them.
Moreover, even if one wants to read the initiation of force into the quote, that still does not mean Rand was contradicting herself. Using force against someone who does not respect individual rights is not a violation of the non-initiation of force maxim. The non-initiation of force maxim is not an acontextual absolute, but rather is a pithy summary of Rand's theory of rights. But rights are contextual, and as explained in answer to your other question, do not apply to those who do not respect rights. Rand believed that the Native Americans did not respect rights at all, and thus did not have any rights themselves. Thus, even if Rand was attempting to justify the use of force against Native Americans in the quote above, this would still not constitute her advocating violating the non-initiation of force maxim, because from her view point the maxim did not apply (since rights did not apply). Now, Rand was clearly WRONG that none of the Native Americans had rights, because she mistakenly believed that none of them respected any rights. But the question here is not whether or not she was wrong, but rather whether or not she contradicted herself. If she believed the non-initiation maxim did not apply because the context was different, then she was not contradicting herself, even if she was factually mistaken.
answered Aug 28 '14 at 13:59