L. Neil Smith's

Number 3, December 1995

Two, Four, Six, Eight -- We Ain't Gonna Bosniate!

by L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
         By the most disgusting of coincidences, it's been exactly 30 years since I changed my mind about the war in Vietnam.
         The decision was harder to make than might be believed, even for a healthy 19-year-old with a low draft lottery number. I was, in many respects, a typical, red-blooded American boy, born in the shadow of World War II, brought up in the 1950s. By 1965, I was an Eagle Scout, and, more importantly, a military "brat". My dad, who'd been a member of the 8th Air Force and a German POW, was an officer in the 4420th Support Group of the First Air Commandos.
         In 1965, my "home town" had already been involved in Vietnam for three or four years, back when Americans were acting as "advisors". One of our neighbors was eaten alive by land crabs when his obsolete T-28 fighter crashed, breaking both his legs. His squadron, circling but unable to land, watched him die, morsel by morsel. Another was beheaded by the Viet Cong using his own Bowie knife. The comrade who made it for him (the same fellow who taught me how to throw a knife) came home with a bullet hole through his hand, the result of an unusually intimate gunfight with forces on the ground; flying through the trees, he chased the enemy who'd shot him into a "hootch", which he tidily napalmed. At that point, most Americans had never heard of Vietnam.
         The decision was hard for other reasons, too. After a brief flirtation with pacifism in high school (beaten out of me by what we'd call a street gang today) I began reading Ayn Rand. By the time I got to college, I was a radical individualist and anticollectivist. I campaigned ardently for Barry Goldwater, and any excuse to kill commies (I wrote in my campus newspaper column) seemed like a good one to me.
         But I was thinking, which is always dangerous: it was any excuse (I realized with chagrin) for somebody else to kill commies, but could I go do it myself? I didn't like the answer that came floating up from the gut level; it started the most painful, humiliating change I'd ever made in my life. What eventually saved me from deadly hypocrisy was my philosophy of individualism and a knowledge of history. Of course I was afraid to go to Vietnam and die -- it was those who weren't who had problems. Throughout history, one unjustifiable war after another had been thoughtfully, conveniently, and oh-so-coincidentally arranged for each generation of young Americans to fight and kill and bleed and die in, by cynical old politicians who faced no such risk.
         It was the ultimate form of collectivism.
         With regard to Vietnam, there was nothing about this idiotic war to motivate me to overcome my fear (the real essence of courage) and ride out to battle for King and Country. The King was a corrupt and murderous cretin, turning America as rapidly as he could into the very thing we were supposedly fighting in Southeast Asia. Although more successful -- legislatively -- than his inappropriately sainted predecessor, his domestic policies, which doubled the federal budget in a single administration, had wrecked the economy and begun dividing a once-coherent, peaceful, and productive population into warring camps.
         The Powers-That-Wished-To-Continue-To-Be were seeking the traditional way out of their self-inflicted dilemma.
         Even to a naive 19-year-old, the administration's reasons for escalating in Vietnam were laughably transparent. What's more, nobody over there had ever threatened me with injury, death, or even taxation; it was Lyndon Johnson and his "Great Society" that were to be feared -- and fought. It was they who labored ceaselessly to disarm me, to impoverish me, to enslave me, to pick my enemies for me, to send me off and get me slaughtered if at all possible.

Hey, hey, LBJ,
How many kids you kill today?
Hey, hey, LBJ,
How many kids you kill today?

         Overnight, I became as active as I could in opposition to the war. I was uncomfortable (even mildly nauseated) with the company I was keeping, but I never doubted the rightness of my decision, and I never will. It's one reason I'm a libertarian, rather than a conservative: abiding contempt for dim-bulbed, gullible Republicans who, if they believed what they preach, would have joined me, instead of taking up a despicable cause the Democrats created for them. In a world full of cockroaches frightened by right-wing revisionism and scuttling under the refrigerator to conceal their 1960s political activity, I hold that the war I opposed was evil, stupid, and purposeless -- a war no genuine individualist could possibly have supported -- and I'm proud to have been a part of putting a stop to it.
         Moreover, amidst a chorus still shrieking its mealy-mouthed "support" for "our boys" (which somehow always amounts to sending them into harm's way to aggrandize the political careers of creatures you wouldn't leave your baby daughter alone with) I maintain that the wisest, most grateful thing we can do for those who choose to defend our country is to demand that they not be sent -- or that they be brought back immediately -- in any case, that neither they nor their hard-won courage be squandered in places like Vietnam.
         Or Bosnia.
         For all their lives, Generation Xers have writhed with embarrassment over the passionate committment of their parents in the 1960s. (Alas, so do their parents these days.) Now, as the loathsome specter of Selective Service begins oiling its machinery again, they'll find out what it was all about -- that there are matters of greater import than sexual harrassment suits or saving the whales -- at a moment when criticism of a President's slime-dripping self-service is likelier to be suppressed with CS gas, flamethrowers, and machineguns than three decades ago.

Hey, hey, Billy J.
How many kids you kill today?
Hey, hey, Billy J.
How many kids you kill today?

         Welcome to the party, Generation X.

L. Neil Smith is the Prometheus Award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Lever Action and Bretta Martyn. An NRA Life Member since 1973, founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, and publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, he has been active in the movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living writer.

Don't sacrifice Principles to Politics! The Libertarian party must not abdicate its position as the party of principle. That it might do so by nominating a candidate for President who endorses the government's right to tax us, and even advocates taxation, is a clear and present danger. The only way to protect LP integrity is to support Rick Tompkins. See his Web page at: http://www.nguworld.com/rick96/. Send contributions NOW to: Rick Tompkins, Libertarian, for President; 8129 N. 35th Ave. #262, Phoenix, AZ 85051.

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