By Zach Foster, Chris Padilla, Adam Clossman
The cornerstone of libertarian philosophy is the non-aggression principle: you won’t harm anyone if they won’t harm you either. This principle guides our conduct in peace and in war. We’re libertarians who served in the Global War on Terrorism; a soldier, a sailor, and a marine.
Chris Kyle, photo by Cpl. Damien Gutierrez, USMC
One of us is a constitutional conservative and two of us are dues-paying Libertarian Party members. We think our government should never have started the Iraq War. Intervention was wrong because it opened Pandora’s box of medieval rivalries and medieval brutality. We also don’t regret our decision to serve. We found out how the non-aggression principle becomes less and less black-and-white when shrouded in the fog of war. In the middle of a terrible war we don’t agree with, Chris Kyle made the best of a bad situation.
All the controversy surrounding Kyle’s legacy truly baffles us. For starters, most of the people throwing fits over his hit count and calling insurgents “savages” have never even read his autobiography, American Sniper. They’re just reciting quotes from the book, often taken out of context then hastily-written in online editorials. Talking about things while completely uninformed is called being ignorant. We say to our readers: if you haven’t read American Sniper cover to cover, you don’t have an informed opinion on Chris Kyle. Full stop.
Furthermore, the histrionically inclined are calling Kyle a liar and sociopath based on anecdotal citations. This narrative is pushed harshly in order to attack Kyle’s character. The infamous Jesse Ventura story is one of them. The only people who truly know the extent of truth in that story are Kyle, Ventura, and others in the bar that night. The same people pointing to the jury’s decision to award Ventura the royalty money and claiming that it’s iron clad proof Kyle may have lied, are the exact same people who turn around and decry the system we have in place when white police officers aren’t indicted.
And to clear something up, there’s a huge difference between a lie and an exaggeration. An exaggeration to a civilian is typically called a “fish story” or a “tall tale.” In Kyle’s Navy, they’re called “Sea Stories.” Sailors (along with all service-members) have a long, proud tradition of telling Sea Stories, going back at least six hundred years. Choppy seas? No. Rogue waves from every direction crashing down onto the flight deck of the carrier, almost capsizing her? Definitely!
It’s a completely cultural phenomenon, folks. Just as Democrats do not understand “gun culture” and Republicans don’t understand any culture, most civilians don’t understand military culture. Sea Stories are not something to get worked up about, and they are certainly not the smoking gun of poor character. Perhaps Kyle and Ventura simply exchanged words. Maybe they exchanged numbers. Or maybe Kyle knocked out Ventura for bad-mouthing the troops. The bottom line is that it simply doesn’t matter at this point. One of the most important pieces of military equipment is a “finely calibrated bullshit detector,” but anti-Kyle critics don’t understand "carpe diem."
As far as those defending him, most of them are completely down-playing the messed up skeletons in his closet which he casually wrote about. They’re hiding his skeletons and re-branding him as a modern-day John Basilone or Audie Murphy. It’s mostly because, after two long and bitter wars, they badly needed a hero for our time.
Photo by John A. Foley
Despite our evolved political views, nothing will EVER change the fact that Kyle kept a lot of good, perhaps misguided young men alive—men like us. We all did our time in the service, and that time in uniform showed us how things weren’t the way we were led to believe in the past. We became intimate with war and warfare. We’re no different than the many other soldiers, sailors, and marines for whom Kyle provided watch.
Most Americans—even most people in the military—will never know what it’s like to live under the protection of sniper fire. We’re glad that Chris Kyle was a sniper and we agree that every shot he ever took in the war was justified. Now give us a moment to flash our Ron Paul lapel pins before you write us off as imperialists and burn us at the stake for deviating from libertarian orthodoxy.
Chris Kyle said some messed up things about killing, but he never called Iraqis savages as a whole, nor any like names. These comments weren’t extended to include the indigenous interpreters, the patriotic Iraqi soldiers and police trying to rebuild their country, or the civilians who set a positive example and treated Americans with friendship and respect. It was the insurgency to whom Kyle referred constantly as savages.
video screenshot by Nick Berg
And the insurgents, their ranks saturated with jihadist terrorists and organized crime groups, really were savages. They were monsters. The things they did were absolutely unspeakable. We're talking about mass executions, daily beheadings, suicide bombings in civilian crowds, punitive amputations on civilians, and especially exploitation of children as cannon fodder. While Kyle had issues, the people he was killing—according to strict Rules of Engagement—were nothing less than savages.
Many in the liberty movement claim that the Iraqi insurgents had the moral high ground in the war. This theory looks good on paper, until one takes a closer look at who the insurgents were and what they did. The picture most anti-war activists have is one of noble patriots fighting to liberate their country from the foreign aggressors. Lest we prove to the world abroad that Americans truly have a short-term memory problem, the Islamic State terror-army currently committing horrible crimes against humanity in Iraq and Syria emerged under a different name in 2004: AQI, or Al Qaida in Iraq.
AQI was the predominant enemy we engaged and they are no friend even to nation-states who detest the United States. The U.S. being a mutual enemy, "The Great Satan,” has not given any common ground to ISIS and terror-sponsoring states like the Islamic Republic of Iran. The “Iraqi freedom fighter” delusion might have held substance back in 2003. Maybe. But 2004 and onward was a VERY different story.
By 2005 most Iraqi patriots had chosen a side and were either in the new government army, the police, or the local militia. They joined because they wanted to actually rebuild their country, or at the very least keep their neighborhoods safe from the psychopath insurgents. Whereas the Iraqi patriots were on our side in the war—they resented the hell out of America for invading, but they fought on our side. The insurgency was quite literally either: 1) organized crime groups bolstered by AK-47s and Republican Guard veterans, or 2) foreign, non-Iraqi jihadists who had no more of a right to be there than Chris Kyle did, only the jihadists didn’t give a damn about rules of engagement.
Iraqi insurgents, photo by the Department of Homeland Security
The reason the insurgency gained more power than the government security forces is that the insurgents—gangsters and jihadists alike—were able to hack off limbs, chop off heads, murder entire families of interpreters and informants, kidnap hostages, assassinate local leaders and elders, and a slew of other techniques of “guerrilla war” not open to government soldiers and police. But hey, they were freedom fighters, right?
The Iraqi (and foreign-born) warlords of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Shia Mahdi Army, and the various regional and neighborhood gangs who became overnight “insurgent groups” were, and are, a far cry from the Rothbardian militia volunteers at Concord in 1775. At no point did any American guerrillas kidnap Lord Cornwallis’ wife and children and float their bullet-riddled bodies down the Rappahannock. At no time did American guerrillas bomb or burn down churches with civilian Loyalists still inside. The American guerrillas always engaged the Redcoats away from their homes rather than use civilians as human shields and make propaganda out of their corpses.
Quite simply, there exist human beings who choose to be something other than human. Gang members who peel faces off, terrorists who decapitate hostages and murder civilians en mass, rapists, child molesters, etc.; they aren't human. They're monsters and the epitome of evil. To be considered a human being, one must behave like one, not like a demon. But as libertarians, we have no choice but to treat all lives with equal value until given a legitimate reason to do otherwise.
As libertarians, we don’t believe in preemptive strikes as the default strategy—especially not when cooked up by a bunch of rich-kid draft-dodgers whose military prowess is surpassed by any ten-year-old playing Call of Duty. However, we do believe in self-defense and in ambushing or apprehending would-be murderers in transit to commit an evil deed, with evidence in hand. All lives are equal until an individual embarks on a course of action to take other lives without just cause.
It’s at that point when it becomes necessary for good men to stand on a line between the weak and those who would exploit their weakness. Between the wolves of the world and the men, women, and children who want peace and to live free from the oppression of the beast. The recognition of this reality is how we as Constitutionalists and Libertarians can operate with a clear conscience. We stand ready to vehemently fight just conflicts and meet the enemy on his home soil so our countrymen can live in peace and freedom here at home.
This is not to say that we want to drag our country into endless wars via government action. By no means! We simply were, and are, prepared as individuals to stand and volunteer for what we think is a just cause, if not always a just war.
The majority of Iraqi insurgents blatantly disregarded the non-aggression principle and butchered civilians in their quest to harm Americans, whereas we the foreign invaders had absurdly restrictive rules of engagement. We’re sorry about the drone strikes and the horrifying collateral damage, but UAVs have nothing to do with Chris Kyle or the boots on the ground. End of story.
Again, let us remind our readers that we’re not apologists for the Iraq War. The public has Fox News for that kind of crap. As veterans, we support our brothers and sisters who volunteered to serve and those who have suffered the burden of deployment. As libertarians, we choose to view participants in the war as individuals—this includes American troops; private military contractors; allied nations soldiers; DoD and State Department civilians; Iraqi troops; Iraqi police; Sons of Iraq (militia); Iraqi civilian interpreters; Peshmerga guerrillas; Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Chaldean, Assyrian, and secular street gangs; Ba’ath Party loyalists; Fedayeen squads; Iranian Revolutionary Guard veterans; foreign-born Pan-Arab nationalists and Mujahedeen (jihadists); nomadic highway gangs; and a range of Syrian, Saudi, Jordanian, Yemeni, Egyptian, and Iraqi lone wolves.
When we view participants as individuals, we weigh their actions as individuals. As an individual, Chris Kyle did the right thing the entire time he was in-country. It does bother us a bit that he seemed to take pleasure in killing. However, people’s minds and morals tend to get twisted when they’re in the business of death and destruction. Despite that, Chris Kyle was exactly what we needed him to be, and he did exactly what needed to be done, when it was needed. And there is no doubt that many American families are together today because of his actions. A child has a father safe at home, and a mother was able to hug her children again. Sons, daughters, friends, spouses, moms and dads; these are the countless invisible faces blatantly and hurtfully disregarded by all sides in this debate. On the other hand, the oft-praised insurgents by and large were monsters. This story does not begin and end with Kyle alone.
SOI photo by the US Army
Chris Kyle and the other men of SEAL Team Three not only turned the tide to defeat those psychopaths in "God’s blind spot," Al Anbar province, but also enabled the beginning of the Sunni Awakening. The only reason the Sons of Iraq, Sunni neighborhood militias, were able to “awaken” was because the insurgency had received enough of an ass-kicking that the untrained, poorly equipped volunteers could finally patrol their own neighborhoods and fight the insurgents on a more level playing field. Again, Kyle made the best of a bad situation.
Someday, when the state becomes obsolete and unregulated libertarian “anarchy” begins to take off, there will still be non-state groups with evil members who act as conquering tribes (as described in Rothbard’s Anatomy of the State). Maybe they’ll be bankers looking to start a new Federal Reserve in this brave new world; perhaps they’ll be just a criminal gang who would rather loot than do the hard work of producing. They could even be a fundamentalist religious group, a philosophical order, or a school of scientific thought seeking to impose their answers on the whole world, even to the death.
Either way, the people those conquerors attack will fight back in a libertarian people’s war of national liberation, or they’ll be totally subjugated by tyrants. If they do fight for their lives, their homes, and their freedom, they’ll need volunteer soldiers who possess the same qualities as Chris Kyle. Liberty will ultimately be defended by hometown boys and girls who are damn good at killing people.