Would it be acceptable for a country to offer military services (to other countries) in exchange for payment as one source of non-coercive government funding (i.e., would it violate any philosophical principles)? Would it be advisable (i.e., would the probable benefits outweigh the probable costs)?
When I say military services, I am including any type of services that the military would be good at providing, from providing mere tactical advice, to providing a few special-operations squads to accomplish a single key mission, to implementing a full-scale invasion. So, for example, country X's neighbor is a despotic totalitarian government that is a threat to country X, and country X hires the U.S. Military to come over and deal with the threat (i.e., take out the despotic regime). Or, as another example, country Y is unable to deal with internal threats (e.g., Islamist rebels, gang warfare, riots, etc.), and hires the U.S. Military to come over and provide temporary police-like services until the situation is under control. Or, as another example, although country Z has an otherwise capable military, it does not have access to intelligence that it would need to properly defend itself, and therefore country Z hires the U.S. Military to provide it with military intelligence. Or, as another example, country W enters into a long-term security contract with us in which we agree to provide military protection in the event it is needed in exchange for annual compensation (Taiwan for example?). Or, as another example, country V hires the U.S. Military to provide training to country V’s own military.
My question assumes that we would strictly limit the “contracts” we accepted to only those that required us to perform operations that it would be just for us to engage in. In other words, no attacking a country that it would be unjust for us to attack, no slaughtering of innocents, no propping up dictators, etc.
We would also only accept contracts that would not result in harming our own national interests, which would mean, for example, that we would not aid a country that is a threat to us or harm a country that is an ally.
Basically, a lot of the military interventions that we already do now for free as the "world's policeman" we could continue to do, but now we do it for profit instead of doing it as a sacrifice.
Also, it is worth noting that, just because we charge for some service does not mean that we need to charge for all services. Thus, for example, if country A is a threat to its neighbor country B, but country A is also a clear and present threat to us, we may go in and take care of country A on our own initiative (i.e., without waiting for country B to hire us) in order to protect our own interests.
As another example, it may be in our interest to enter into treaties with certain allies to provide military protection without asking for monetary compensation. Of course such treaties would need to still be in our interest (no sacrifices!), and so we would still need to be getting something out of the treaty even if it is not direct monetary compensation. For example, in a mutual protection treaty we receive the promise of their military help if we need it in exchange for our promise of the same. As another example, it may be in our interest to protect a key trading partner (e.g., Japan), or a strategic allay (e.g., Israel), in which case we might not charge for the service (or perhaps charge less for it).
So, given all of my stipulations, is there some problem with this notion that I am not seeing?
asked May 14 '15 at 10:14
There is little that I can add to Anthony's comments, especially the following:
... why can't non-government entities provide these services?
The existence and role of the military arises in Objectivism in the following context:
In this context, any use of physical force by a free country's military against (or in) a foreign country is limited to defending the objective national self-interest of the free ("provider") country, although this does not exclude mutually beneficial alliances and treaties with other countries to promote the defense of the free ("provider") country, nor does it exclude alliances in which other countries help to pay for the cost of military assistance which they receive. (And the source of the funds for such payment would need to be considered, as well -- i.e., how a foreign government obtains its own funding. Individual rights apply in principle to citizens of other countries as well as citizens of a free country that offers military assistance to a foreign country.)
The suggestion that military services should be treated as a profit-making business activity sounds basically the same as what historically has been known as mercenary services. The Wikipedia article on "Mercenary" begins as follows:
A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict who is not a national or a party to the conflict and is "motivated to take part in the hostilities by the desire for private gain." In other words, a mercenary is a person who fights for personal gains of money or other recompense instead of fighting for the ideological interests of a country, whether they be for or against the existing government.
On the Objectivist view of government, mercenaries would be private individuals, not agents of the government of the country from which the mercenaries come, and they would be limited in what their own government allows them to do in foreign countries. They could not, for example, be permitted to initiate the use of physical force against anyone. Their role would have to be strictly defensive (legitimately retaliatory).
A comment by the questioner asks if a military operation in a foreign country might be too big for private mercenaries, but militarily viable and economically lucrative for a free country's own military to undertake in return for financial gain. My view is that the first principle to apply in such a case is to ask why such a military operation needs to be undertaken at all. Who is the aggressor (force initiator) and who is the victim? Is there any national self-interest for a free country to provide military assistance to the victim(s)? If financial gain is the only benefit, what is the source of the funds that would be offered in payment for such assistance? Are anyone else's individual rights being violated in the process of generating the funds to pay for military assistance? And if there is legitimate financial profit to be gained from the activity, why wouldn't that provide an adequate financial incentive for objectively monitored mercenaries to offer their services to the government that needs military assistance? If the requesting government is a legitimate ally of a free country, in the mutual national self-interests of both, why wouldn't the terms of the alliance determine the level of military assistance to be provided (as an aspect of each country's own national self-interests)?
I could delve more deeply into a case-by-case analysis of the hypothetical examples described in the question, but I would like to emphasize and focus on the applicable principles first, before endeavoring to apply them to specific hypotheticals.
Update: Integrated Context
The questioner has posted numerous additional comments, to which Anthony has responded very succinctly:
I don't see the problem if another country offsets some, or even all, of our costs. The problem is when the U.S. military gets involved in a conflict solely for the money (to be used for something else). That goes beyond the proper role of the military.
Yes, exactly. The key is "the proper role of the military." I don't think it will be possible for anyone to understand this without first understanding Objectivism's view of the nature of government thoroughly. The main article that explains Objectivism's view of government is "The Nature of Government," published as Chapter 14 in VOS. Key excerpts can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Government." In VOS, this article is immediately followed by Chapter 15, "Government Financing in a Free Society." Key excerpts can be found in the Lexicon topic of "Taxation." On the topic of government actions in or against a foreign country, refer to "Foreign Policy" in the Lexicon, including the Playboy excerpts dealing with whether or not a free country should intervene in a foreign country merely because a free country has a valid right to do so.
The questioner probably already knows about these references; I am mentioning them again primarily for the benefit of others who may be reading this discussion and may not know (and for the questioner, as well, if he hasn't adequately integrated what these articles actually say).
As I understand it, the main thesis of the question can be summed up as follows:
From this restatement of the question and its underlying assumptions, little further discussion should really be necessary. Again, I see this line of thinking as an utter failure to comprehend "the proper role of the military" as envisioned by Objectivism. If the questioner (or anyone else) really needs further elaboration, I must again emphasize that a better understanding will have to start with the references noted above. I have seen little visible awareness of those references so far in the original question and the questioner's follow-up comments.
The Lexicon topic of "Principles" describes the relationship between principles and concretes as follows:
Concrete problems cannot even be grasped, let alone judged or solved, without reference to abstract principles. [...]
The questioner has said:
Could you please identify these principles and indicate how those principles lead you to your conclusion?
I have tried to identify the essential principles in my original answer above, along with the references cited therein and in this update, and succinctly summed up by the expression, "the proper role of the military." I find it extremely puzzling that the questioner either doesn't see the principles or doesn't see any connection to the concrete hypothetical of turning a free nation's military into mercenaries.