Chapter Overview: 25

National Defense

It is a universal belief that only government can provide national defense. Even libertarian philosophers such as Ludwig von Mises say that explicitly. However, political governments are unable to defend their citizens.  In World War II the principal combatants suffered an aggregate total of more than sixty-five million military and civilian fatalities, with civilian deaths amounting to about half the total.

In every combatant nation in WW II, including the United States of America, the nation’s government did some, one, or all of the following that brought war upon its people: initiated war, or pursued a course of conduct which made war inevitable, or failed adequately to protect its citizens from aggressor nations.


Given the perpetual warring during the lifetimes of those who first read this book, it may seem incomprehensible and utopian to declare that war will vanish from human society—but it will. It must vanish if humanity is to survive the advent of weapons of mass destruction, which are the epitome of the misuse of science and technology for destructive purposes. The reader is asked to suspend judgment on the prospects for a national defense that is provided in the same way as private security, that is to say without the political state which has failed to protect lives and property, but instead attacks them.

As Andrew Galambos observed, national defense is an issue only in the transition from politics and political coercion to a non-coercive stateless society. If political states wither away and vanish—as CTLR posits they are in process of doing—there will be no nations to attack or to defend.

A contemporary scholar, professor, and entrepreneur, P. W. Singer has observed that, “the privatization of the military is just a more aggressive aspect of a larger trend of privatization. Essentially the state is abandoning its commanding heights; all of its most characteristic institutions are in decline—state-owned institutions, social security, justice, education, and now internal security . . . [T]he parallel to military outsourcing is already manifest in the domestic security market. The private security business is a ‘growth industry par excellence worldwide’  and one of the fastest growing economic sectors in any countries.” 1

A way out of the predicament of state-caused wars

This chapter posits that the only way for a nation to defend itself successfully in all circumstances is with private enterprise; and that a strong, centralized state is incapable of defending the people it rules. To the contrary, strong, centralized states cause wars in which their citizens suffer terribly, both from both the conduct of the war and also from the retaliation of other nations.

The focus of this chapter is the abysmal failure of all political states to protect their citizens from harm caused by external aggression.

There is a way out of this predicament.  That way is to do something different—to turn away from politics and to look to a choice between competing security services for protection, including protection from external aggression. This different way envisions that security would be provided like any other service, by organizations which compete with each other to provide protective services; organizations that people can select and that they can choose not to patronize because there are competitors ready, willing and able to act as protectors.

As explained in the preceding chapter, security service would be financed by insurance—the social institution that people have developed to share risks of catastrophic loss that exceed the ability of individuals to endure or pay for. This concept applies as much to protection from aggression external to a nation as it does to protection from harm caused by attacks from sources within the nation.

The concept of proprietary national defense will be elaborated in the following chapter entitled “Insuring and Assuring National Defense.” Suffice it to say for here that the decline or collapse of political governments will not leave people helpless and unprotected. They will have private military forces ready, willing, and able to protect them. As state military operations become less reliable, private military firms will step in to take advantage of the opportunity to increase the scope of their operations.


Wars of aggression are waged primarily with conscripts—soldiers forced into the military by coercion. Every nation that has had conscription has imposed severe penalties for refusal to join its military; for refusal of conscripts and volunteers alike to obey military orders; and for desertion from the military in time of peace or war. Soldiers don’t want to fight and die; that is why desertion in time of war, in most armies, is punished with death.

WW II was waged almost everywhere primarily with conscripts. Even where there were numerous volunteers, as in the U.S. military immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, the virtual certainty of being conscripted caused many to volunteer in order to have some choice of the branch of the military in which they saw less danger than the U.S. army infantry.

In Germany in WW II, as in WW I, enthusiasm for military service had been whipped up by jingoistic appeals to patriotism and hatred of an enemy. However, the jingoism was backed up by conscription. Failure to submit to conscription was severely punished. Jingoism alone could not have raised large armies of enlisted men.

An army needs officers to lead its soldiers. When an army is primarily conscripts, the number of enlisted men who qualify for officer training is relatively low, so that the military effectiveness of such armies is questionable.

Even in the most coercive, totalitarian states, conscript soldiers, and even officers, sometimes rebel against military authority, as occurred from time to time in Germany and Russia after 1905. During the U.S. military action in the Vietnam War,  rebellion against fighting and military discipline was not uncommon. Under the extreme coercion of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany there was a conspiracy against Hitler among some officers before WW II, and an assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944.

Without conscription, it would not have been possible for a nation intent on conducting war on foreign territory to assemble armed forces anywhere near the size of the German, Russian, and Japanese armies in WW II.

As people gradually withdraw their intellectual and emotional support from government military forces, it will be natural that some will look to private military firms. That will further undermine conscription. People will be more and more willing to evade conscription, as occurred in the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

A coercive political society that depends on a conscript army could never prevail against private military forces, made up of well-paid and highly skilled professional soldiers using the most technologically advanced military equipment. It will become beyond the competence of a political state to achieve in its military the level of sophistication, skill, and power of private military forces.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill warned Britain and the world of the danger of Hitler and German aggression continuously from 1931 until 1939. Until 1939 Churchill’s warnings were ignored or dismissed as war mongering. However, with the Nazi invasion of Poland, those in Parliament who had been skeptical of Churchill’s warnings admitted openly that “Winston was right all along.” Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940 when it had become obvious to most in parliament that Churchill ought to be Britain’s wartime leader. As Prime Minister he inspired the people of England—and of many other countries—by his determination never to yield to Nazi aggression and intimidation.


Ambassador William E. Dodd

Ambassador William E. Dodd

William E. Dodd was U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. As an aspiring professor of history, he earned his Ph. D. in 1900 at the University of Leipzig in Germany. In August 1934 he wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull that in Germany he saw feverish arming and marching of 1,500,000 men all of whom are taught every day that continental Europe must be subordinated to them. He wrote to Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur that in his judgment Nazi Germany was preparing for a great continental struggle. Dodd refused to attend the annual Nazi party rallies in Nuremberg because of his horror over Nazi crimes—political murders, establishment of concentration camps, persecution of Jews, and his belief the Nazis were preparing for war. Dodd’s views were unpopular in the U.S. State Department, and he was persona non grata to the Nazis. In 1937 the German government said Dodd could no longer function as U.S. Ambassador. President Roosevelt decided to replace him as U.S. Ambassador. Back in America he continued to speak out about the danger presented by Nazi Germany.

George S. Messersmith

George S. Messersmith

George S. Messermith was head of the U.S. Consulate in Berlin, Germany from 1930 to 1934. In 1932 Messersmith issued a U.S. visa to Albert Einstein, allowing Einstein to leave Germany and travel to the United States. He personally called Einstein to tell him that his visa would be ready. Messersmith was criticized viciously in America by some people and in some of the media for issuing the visa to Einstein. In 1933 Messersmith sent a message to the U. S. State Department stating that if the Nazi regime remained in power for another year it would go far toward making Germany a danger to world peace for years to come. He said that the men who are running the government are psychopathic cases and would ordinarily be receiving treatment somewhere.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, German-born Nobel Laureate in physics was one of the scientists who left Germany because of Nazi persecution of Jews. Einstein developed his theory of the equivalence of mass and energy, epitomized by the famous equation E = MC2 stating, in effect, that matter is a form of energy. This theory became the basis for generating nuclear energy both for peaceful purposes and for nuclear weapons. Einstein’s theories underlie several important technologies, including photoelectric cells, lasers, nuclear power, fiber optics, space travel, and semiconductors. In 1935 Einstein  decided to make America his home, and then became a U.S. citizen in 1940.

Leo Szilard

Leo Szilard

Leo Szilárd, Hungarian-born physicist of Jewish descent, spent his university life in Germany from 1919-1932 where he earned a Ph. D. in physics and in 1929 published an important essay on information theory. While in Germany, Szilárd conceived the ideas of the cyclotron and linear accelerator, innovations that were instrumental in the practical development of nuclear energy. In Berlin, by 1929 Szilárd was certain that Adolf Hitler would come to power in Germany and that war was inevitable. Szilárd kept two bags packed at home in anticipation of making a hasty departure from Germany. In 1933 he left for England. There he conceived of the nuclear chain reaction. In 1938 he received an offer from Columbia University in New York and moved there, where in the same year he was joined by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi with whom he patented the idea of a nuclear reactor. Szilárd wrote a famous letter for Albert Einstein’s signature that was dated August 2, 1939 and delivered personally to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This letter explained that developments in nuclear physics could become the basis for extremely powerful bombs and therefore it could be desirable for the Roosevelt administration to establish permanent contact with the physicists working on this new technology in America. This letter resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the first atomic bomb. Szilárd always wanted the atomic bomb to be tested openly before the Japanese and an international audience so that the Japanese should know its power and should surrender before people died. After the bombs were dropped on Japan, Szilárd said that it was a tragedy for mankind.

Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist, whose wife was Jewish. Fermi was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics. When Fascist Italy enacted discriminatory laws against Jews in 1938, Fermi emigrated to America, arriving at New York City in January 1939, where he took up a post as professor of Physics at Columbia University. He was at Columbia at the same time as Leo Szilárd. Fermi was the first to warn U.S. military leaders about the potential impact of nuclear energy, giving a lecture on the subject at the U.S. Navy Department on March 18, 1939. In 1939 Fermi also warned that scientists in Germany had the knowledge and ability to produce a nuclear weapon. Fermi was asked by the U.S. government to continue his  work, which resulted in creating the first nuclear chain reaction in November 1942.


The best national defense is never to attack other nations. As the Swiss say, when time and again their policy of neutrality keeps them out of war, they win by not participating.

Henri Guisan General of the Army of Switzerland

Henri Guisan General of the Army of Switzerland

Swiss law prohibits its citizens from doing military service outside the country. Switzerland has not suffered a foreign invasion since 1815. Henri Guisan was head of the armed forces of Switzerland during WW II (1939-1945). In 1939 the Swiss Federal Assembly appointed Guisan General of the army, a unique rank chosen only in time of war or national emergency. Guisan was directed to safeguard the independence of the country and to maintain the territorial integrity of Switzerland. Guisan directed the mobilization of the Swiss army, which has few professional officers (one-half of one percent of the total manpower available to the army). To make invasion difficult the Swiss planted explosive charges at every point of entry into the country–by bridge, railroad or automobile road. Cannons were aimed at these entry points to shoot enemies trying to rebuild the bridges, railroads and automobile roads. The Swiss Army is made up predominantly of male citizens who receive military training, and then comprise the reserves that may be called up when needed to defend the country. The political leaders of Switzerland were determined to resist intimidation and even invasion by Nazi Germany. The Swiss government told the people that any radio broadcast stating Switzerland had surrendered to Nazi Germany should be considered false. After the Nazi conquest of France in June 1940, Guisan delivered an historic address to the entire Swiss Army Officer Corps, saying that Switzerland would defend itself against any invader; that the army would never surrender; and if soldiers ran out of bullets they should use their bayonets to fight on. On instruction of Adolf Hitler the German army prepared an invasion plan for Switzerland. However, German generals told Hitler that the army could lose 300,000 soldiers in a battle with the Swiss and that the results of victory would not be worth that cost. The German army never invaded Switzerland.

Admiral James O. Richardson

Admiral James O. Richardson

U.S. Navy Admiral James O. Richardson was considered in 1940 the Navy’s outstanding authority on Pacific naval warfare and Japanese strategy. In January 1940 Richardson became Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet of the U. S. Navy, then stationed at San Diego, California. President Roosevelt moved the Fleet’s home base to Pearl Harbor Hawaii in April 1940. Admiral Richardson viewed Pearl Harbor as an extremely dangerous location, vulnerable to attack by aircraft launched from Japanese aircraft carriers. Richardson, who was well acquainted personally with President Roosevelt, twice traveled to Washington, DC to protest this Hawaii deployment to Roosevelt, in person, in July and October 1940. After the second protest meeting the President removed Richardson from command of the Pacific Fleet.

Ambassador Joseph C. Grew

Ambassador Joseph C. Grew

Joseph C. Grew, U. S. Ambassador to Japan from 1932 to 1941, informed U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull  in September 1940,  that the Japanese military saw in the world situation a golden opportunity to carry their dreams of expansion into effect; that they had discounted effective opposition by the United States; that U.S. interests in the Pacific were definitely threatened by Japan’s policy of southward expansion; and that nothing but a show of force coupled with the determination to use force could contribute effectively to the future security of the United States. On January 27, 1941 Ambassador Grew informed the U. S. State Department that according to information from a reliable source, Japan was considering a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was President of the United States from 1933 until his death in April 1945. FDR was first inaugurated on March 4, 1933, one month after Adolf Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany. FDR never mentioned foreign affairs in his principal public speeches until 1938.

After the German army invaded France in June 1940, FDR became concerned that American people were not prepared for what appeared to be an inevitable war with Nazi Germany. This attitude was illustrated by the extreme reluctance of Congress to approve larger expenditures for the U.S. military, which was then smaller than that of tiny Belgium.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

In the presidential election campaign of 1940, FDR said to the American people, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again; your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Ten days before the Japanese naval attack of December 7, 1941 on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson entered in his diary the following statement made in a meeting at the White House: “[Roosevelt] brought up the event that we are likely to be attacked perhaps next Monday [December 1, 1941], for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what we should do. The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”

In a meeting of FDR’s cabinet on December 5, 1941, two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy said to FDR, “Mr. President, we know where the Japanese fleet is.” The President replied “Yes, I know.” 

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel

U.S. Admiral Husband E. Kimmel

Admiral Kimmel was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from February 1, 1941 until he was relieved of his command on December 17, 1941. Kimmel was charged—falsely—with dereliction of duty at the time of the Japanese attack on the U. S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 2,400 members of the U.S. armed forced died in that attack.

It was not widely known until decades after December 1941 that U.S. Naval Intelligence had tracked the path of the Japanese attack fleet from the time it left Japan on November 26, 1941 until it reached a point in the Pacific Ocean 400 miles north of Pearl Harbor on December 5, 1941.

On November 24, 1941 Admiral Kimmel ordered execution of a plan for a naval task force, including an aircraft carrier, to patrol north of Pearl Harbor in the very same area from which the Japanese air fleet attacked. These patrols probably would have discovered the Japanese attack fleet by December 5 if they had continued searching until then, as planned. However, almost as soon as the patrolling had commenced, Kimmel’s superior, the Chief of Naval Operations, ordered the search cancelled. Had the patrols been allowed to continue, it seems probable that having lost the advantage of surprise, the Japanese fleet would have turned back to Japan without attacking.

In November 1941 Kimmel and also General Walter Short, U.S. Army commander in Hawaii, were ordered by their superiors to be alert for hostilities, but also to do nothing to alarm the public in Honolulu. They were told, in effect, don’t shoot first; you must wait for the Japanese to make the first overt offensive move. These commands tied the hands of Admiral Kimmel and General Short, because to go to war alert status necessitated unusual activity in ship movements and aircraft traffic—which the residents of Honolulu could and would see.

Between December 2 and December 6, 1941, the President and the commanders of the U.S. Army and Navy knew that the Japanese fleet was headed toward Pearl Harbor and by December 5 was nearly in position to launch an aircraft strike. No one in the government picked up a telephone to call Admiral Kimmel and General Short in order to warn them of the danger.

The main text provides more detail on the foregoing.

General George C. Marshall

General George C. Marshall

U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall

General George C. Marshall served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from September 1, 1939 until 1947, when he became U.S. Secretary of State. General Marshall was among the responsible authorities of the U.S. Army and Navy who could have picked up a telephone at any time between December 2 and 6, 1941 and warned the military commanders at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, of the approach of a Japanese Navy fleet that included aircraft carriers. Such phone calls were never made, nor were Admiral Kimmel and General Short at Pearl Harbor, informed by their government in any other way of the approach of the Japanese attack fleet. That is the reason the U.S. military at Pearl Harbor had taken no action to mitigate or counteract the impact of a carrier-launched attack by Japanese warplanes.

Author John Toland reported that “a massive cover-up followed Pearl Harbor according to an officer close to General Marshall, when he ordered a lid put on the affair. ‘Gentlemen,’ he told half a dozen officers, ‘this goes to the grave with us.’”


Radar was a new technology in the 1930s, developed independently in Great Britain and America. The principal innovators were, in Britain, Robert Watson-Watt and Arnold Frederic Wilkins and in the United States Albert H. Taylor and Leo C. Young. In 1922, Taylor and Young were working for the U. S. Naval Aircraft Laboratory when they began experiments leading to the development of radar for the U. S. armed forces. Research and development led to the introduction of radar on a test basis in 1936, and in 1939 to the award of a contract to RCA for production of radar equipment. Prior to December 1941 radar had been installed in a land station and on a single warship at Honolulu, Hawaii, but on December 7, 1941 radar was not being used effectively to detect potentially hostile ocean or aircraft traffic in the approaches to Pearl Harbor.

Britain: Chain Home radar

Britain: Chain Home radar

The British adopted radar with greater urgency than the U.S. It was foreseen, correctly, that radar could be of great use in providing the  British Royal Air force (RAF) with early warning of enemy aircraft approaching England. Britain developed a ring of coastal early warning radar stations to detect and track aircraft. The system was called Chain Home. By summer 1937 radar stations were being installed along the coast of England and Scotland facing Europe. The system was fully operational in 1940 in time for the Battle of Britain, in which the RAF had to defend against large fleets of Nazi aircraft coming to bomb England. Chain Home radar was able to provide adequate warning of incoming Nazi air force raids, allowing British fighter pilots a better opportunity to shoot down many of the attackers before they could drop their bombs. The RAF won the Battle of Britain, the first military battle fought entirely in the air. Radar plus the skill and courage of RAF fighter pilots were both instrumental in the victory.

The Catalina PBY (the PBY) was an American seaplane built by Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego, California. The PBY could fly 2,500 miles without refueling, making it ideal for reconnaissance and patrol over the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean. There were 61 PBYs stationed at Honolulu on December 7, 1941. However, apparently only one was on patrol, and it was just offshore at the time of the attack. All but 11 of the PBYs were destroyed or temporarily knocked out of action by Japanese aircraft. Six months later, at the battle of Midway, June 4-7, 1942, it was a PBY patrol aircraft that discovered the Japanese fleet, leading to the biggest U. S. naval victory of WW II, the Battle of Midway in which the Pacific Fleet sank four aircraft carriers in the Japanese Fleet, leaving the Japanese navy with only six other carriers.

There were in existence technologies for defense of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that were not being used. Radar could have been installed on the PBY aircraft; far more PBYs should have been placed in service to provide continual patrolling on the lookout for enemy warships. Destroyers, smaller faster navy vessels, could have been equipped to operate as radar picket ships far out to sea, effectively extending the scope and quality of the surveillance. These resources were known in December 1941 but not used either due to unavailability of equipment, lack of sufficient trained personnel, or the specific order of the Chief of Naval Operations restricting the surveillance that Admiral Kimmel could undertake.

Consolidated Catalina (PBY)

Consolidated Catalina PBY


On the eve of WW II, the U.S. military, neglected for the prior twenty years, was unprepared to wage modern warfare. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) realized in May 1940 that U.S. military equipment was woefully inadequate in quantity and to some extent in quality, and that American military production was too slow, inefficient, and chaotic to achieve the rapid buildup that then was necessary. FDR sought an individual who could organize American production for war. He reached out to William S. Knudsen, the President of General Motors. Together with other men recruited in businesses large and small across America, Knudsen created the “arsenal for democracy” called for by FDR.

William S. Knudsen, Director of U.S. War Production during WW II

William S. Knudsen, Director of U.S. War Production during WW II

In just four years America’s factories and farms produced more military equipment and supplies than the rest of the combatants combined; supplied large amounts of military equipment and food to U.S. allies Britain and Russia; and increased the output of consumer products for Americans at the same time.

During WW II, American women were hired in ever-increasing and unprecedented numbers to work in the war production effort. They worked in factories at skilled manual labor and operated the machinery of production as well as, and sometimes better than male workers. At the wartime peak of production women working in the war effort, constituted over one-third of civilian war production personnel. They helped build, aircraft, tanks, ships, parachutes and much more, using riveting guns, metal presses, and welding torches.

Lady welder in a California shipyard

Lady welder in a California shipyard during WW II


By the early 21st century, hundreds of private military firms (PMFs) large and small were operating in every inhabited continent on earth. PMFs provide military planning, logistics, training, and even combat services to nations around the world. Since the end of WW II, and especially since the advent of digital computers, the most advanced military equipment requires personnel with specialized technical skills in the design, operation and maintenance of electronic equipment and computers. It is difficult for a nation’s military to recruit and retain such skilled people, whose services command high compensation. Therefore, frequently national military forces contract out such services to PMFs, even in a nation as technologically advanced as the United States.

Insight into the nature of some PMF work is provided by the following incident reported in the year 2000. A businessman had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom in East Timor, a small island nation adjacent to Indonesia. Acting right under the noses of regular New Zealand military forces, an undercover team of ten former New Zealand Special Forces soldiers, operating for a small New Zealand based PMF, rescued the businessman from captivity and transported him by air 3,700 miles to safety in New Zealand.

Specialized material personnel parachuting in airborne operation

Special forces personnel parachuting in airborne operation


Americans are being taxed heavily by the United States government to pay for national defense—yet the U.S. has never had a national defense, only the ability to retaliate when attacked.

The chapter posits that private enterprise, via insurance, private security, and private military firms could provide a defense that not only defends, but that would be an effective deterrent to foreign aggression against Americans.

Regarding large-scale defense, insurance companies have inherent advantages over a political state. Here are the advantages.

  • Political government has no proprietary interest in preventing losses and no financial responsibility to indemnify individuals and companies for losses.
  • Political government has no profit motive in its defense operations. It cannot lose money. Whatever its costs, taxpayers must pay.
  • If political government fails to protect people, no one in political government loses his job; and neither political government nor any of its employees have to compensate people for losses.
  • In contrast, insurance companies have a proprietary interest in preventing and mitigating loss. If an insurance company insures a risk, then does a poor job of loss prevention, the company will lose money, perhaps enough money to put it out of business.
  • The profit motive is powerful. While insurance companies offer protection, their primary motive is to make a profit in the protection business. To make a profit they must minimize losses.
  • If the insurance and security industries do a poor job of loss prevention, people in those industries are likely to lose their jobs, and their employers will have to pay for the losses.

Insurance companies themselves would buy national defense insurance because in aggregate they have custody of perhaps the world’s largest accumulation of capital in financial assets and business assets, such as office buildings, as well as databases that represent a significant investment in information and information technology. Nobody else is going to pay for the insurance of assets of insurance companies. They will need to purchase it for themselves.

Insurance is a product that arouses antipathy among a goodly number of people, such as those who believe insurance companies seek to cheat their customers by avoiding payment of claims or bargaining hard to reduce the amount paid on claims. In the case of national defense insurance, insurance companies would have a profit motive to pay claims fairly and expeditiously, as they themselves would be looking to insurance to pay for losses.



  1. Quoted from Singer, P.W., Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (2003, updated version 2008), pages 68-69
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