In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it seemed that the typical battle-lines were being drawn. Neocons were calling for increased surveillance and foreign meddling. Self-righteous “moderates” were proclaiming their support for free speech (while simultaneously supporting laws that dramatically restrict it). The left’s fellow travelers were insisting the real danger was not terrorism, but Islamophobia. And Ron Paul pointed out that, like every other terror attack, this could largely be attributed to “blowback.” Naturally, the neocons, the moderates, and the left could all get together to do what they all do best – loudly denounce Ron Paul and the principles of non-interventionism.
As a brief recap – the principle of the “blowback” theory is quite simple. The simplest explanation is probably the best one. We can listen to what terrorists say, and when they say, “We’re attacking you because you keep meddling in the affairs of our countries,” they’re probably telling the truth about that. It is in direct conflict with the “they hate us for our freedom!” line that is parroted about by mainstream politicians (even in places like France, where the concept of “freedom” is laughable). While it’s true that journalists who criticized Islam were targeted, the question remains: Would terrorist cells be active in France in the first place if the west wasn’t out there engaging in military interventionism in Islamic countries?
Before you answer that – let’s look to one more example. Charlie Hebdo wasn’t the only terrorist attack in France. Two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a gunman took hostages in a kosher market, ultimately killing four. It’s easy to see the word “kosher” above and immediately assume this is simply an act of anti-Semitism. Obviously this guy was just looking to kill Jews, and his attack has nothing to do with blowback or interventionism, right? Wrong.
As CNN reports in the link above, the gunman made it quite clear that his primary objection is that the French military is harassing Muslim countries, and restricting the rights of Muslims domestically. A phone was left off the hook, and captured audio of portions of his discussion with his hostages. Of particular interest to this blog is the key line – “You pay taxes, so that means you agree.” In that very instant, what seemed like a crazy terrorist slaughtering Jews because he’s racist suddenly took on the appearance of a common political debate that libertarians and statists have been having for decades.
The hostage responds as you would expect the average person to respond – by claiming that they pay their taxes for the roads and the schools, not for bombing children in Yemen. But the gunman is having none of it. He understands that all tax dollars go towards financing all government operations. We don’t get to earmark our taxes to only go towards happy things everyone likes. When you buy a membership to big government – you get the schools and the fiery death robots. It’s a package deal with no a la carte pricing option. The gunman’s position is quite clear on this – and it’s hard to argue that he’s wrong. Paying taxes and supporting a government that engages in violence does make you somewhat responsible for that violence.
This isn’t to say that the gunman’s actions are morally justified. I don’t support the use of force against individuals who simply finance violence and other bad behavior (as evidenced by the great “should it be legal to hire a hitman” debates of 2011). But this particular attack should be far more terrifying to the average neocon, moderate, or liberal, than the Charlie Hebdo attack was. As much as the media wants to emphasize that Islamic terrorists are “attacking free speech,” it’s pretty easy to avoid publicly mocking Muhammad (putting aside for the moment the issue of whether or not you should have to avoid it). But if radical terrorists start targeting any and all taxpaying citizens for their complicit part in military aggression overseas, we’re looking at an entirely different ballgame. The warnings of Ron Paul will be harder and harder to ignore. And perhaps this will be a necessary condition for meaningful change. Perhaps knowing that you could be held individually responsible for the actions of your country’s military will inspire people to more loudly and forcefully oppose military interventionism. Normally, the aftermath of terrorist attacks consists of loud calls for us to surrender more and more freedom to the state. Hopefully, the aftermath of this particular attack might be for us to consider the vile acts that government commits in our name and with our permission, and whether or not that’s something we ought to be supporting…