Over the weekend, Arizona Senator John McCain passed away at the age of 81 from brain cancer. Figures on both the left and right have, for the most part, expressed their condolences for the McCain family. However, the libertarian community has been less gracious in their response to Sen. McCain’s passing. Libertarian twitter and facebook appear apt to make this the time to revel in the death of a person they claim to be a “War-Mongering Senator”. This raises two major topics of discussion: “When does a person become responsible for the abhorrent actions taken in war?” and “What are the benefits of continuing to condemn the actions of a man who has passed away?”.
Who is Most Responsible for War?
The answer to “Who is the most responsible for war?” is exemplified by the world’s actions after World War 2. When Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito were defeated we did not find ourselves executing every German, Italian, and Japanese citizen. Instead, the world responded by organizing numerous international tribunals which sought to hold accountable those persons resposible for the attrocities of world war 2, the highest generals, and political leaders of germany, italy, and japan.
Why is this?
Most would respond that, even if the citizen supported the Nazi Regime, Fascista Government, or the Empire of Japan, their lack of direct action in or knowledge of the war’s daily goings-on would make any more severe of a punishment unjust in the eyes of a civilized society. To extrapolate further, the eleventh Nuremberg Trial, called the “Ministries Trial”, found that those in the Nazi Ministry to be guilty of “participating in the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and wars in violation of international treaties” and sentenced them to imprisonment from anywhere between 4 years and 25 years.
According to the standards set by the eleventh Nuremberg Trial, we ought to hold Sen. John McCain’s voting and war propagation to be at a level vastly lower than the vitriol his death has brought out of some in the libertarian community. In addition, new evidence excluded, it would be speculative to claim that the intent of Sen. McCain was solely to cause great harm and push for wars of aggression and territorial dominance.
But let’s assume that these angered anarchists believe we were too soft on the ministers of Nazi Germany and that Sen McCain’s intent was to be a “war-monger”.
What are the Benefits of Continuing to Condemn the Actions of a Man Who Has Passed Away?
Then the question becomes “How does the libertarian ideology benefit from continued condemnation of Sen. McCain?”. The core of this discussion I think is best illustrated through a Buddhist Koan:
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?
This Koan illustrates how the condemnation of Sen. McCain is futile. This type of condemnation is not effective. A man who has done harm in the past, but is now dead, can no longer do harm and now society as a whole has an opportunity to progress. Not only is letting the dead rest a net good for our society, but also relishing in the death of someone propagates a poison within ourselves and our communities that is dangerous. The death of any person, regardless of their actions ought to be taken on with a somber sentiment.
As a man who is dead can no longer be a “war-monger”, it is then best in this case for those who have a deep hate for the actions and person who was Sen. John McCain to remain silent on his passing and instead turn their attention toward those who are seeking to replace the Senator, who may wish to continue the same actions as their predecessor.
Libertarian should turn their attention to Martha McSally, who intends to accelerate the Air Force’s attack jet program. Or to Kelli Ward, who says America must be “willing to confront our enemies abroad, before they attack us at home”, but has also condemned Sen. McCain’s foreign policy in the past.