On the Moroccan Coast, nine migrants gaze across the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. Across the sea lies hope. There is a chance for freedom, a chance to carve out a good life. They have fled Syria, the Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Poverty, war, terror, oppression and loss is all they can expect from their homeland.
Under the cover of darkness, at risk of capture, torture and/or death they fled. They subjected themselves to the brutality of a large human smuggling network, hid in tight spaces, traveled at length in silence and paid incredible fees. They kept cover under palm trees, moved along sand dunes and have slept very little. Tired, bone weary, hungry, but alive, they stand on the shoreline.
This is it. The last leg in a very long journey. But, the ancient Mediterranean is dangerous.
Choppy currents, large waves, great white sharks and other obstacles stand between the refugees and Europe. They have all heard the tales. They know thousands have drown on this eight mile voyage. But, just as thousands before them, they will risk their last breath and attempt to cross the sea with their families. Freedom is worth their last gasp of air.
They climb aboard their makeshift raft and push-off. Nervous, but hopeful, they paddle out to sea. Everything is fine at first, but the calm coastal waters soon turn violent off the continental slope. They are in too deep to turn back, but it is too dangerous to push ahead. They radio for help. With hearts pounding, people screaming, babies crying, the phone rings — the Spanish Coast Guard picks up. The Guard hears nothing but panic and the crashing of large waves, time to radio in another rescue.
Under heavy winds and high waves, the raft rips apart, the refugees are lost at sea. The Coast Guard pinpoints their location — all nine are rescued. They are hospitalized and suffering from hypothermia, but this time they are alive.
Stories like this are overlooked in common discussions about war. The 1800 people who have died this year, on this very voyage across the sea, are casualties of war. They survived the terrible ISIS regime and Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons. They survived endless drone campaigns that continue to lay waste to schools, neighborhoods, weddings and funerals. They survived the full might and militarism of western nation-states, civil wars and political instability. Though they died in the sea, they died seeking refuge from power and domination.
They died seeking refuge from the state.
War is the primary function of states. The resources necessary to build war machines and carry out global military campaigns are impossible by a community basis. Modern war exists because of the military establishment; the military establishment cannot exist without state organization.
As the state’s primary function is war, it is concerned with resources and territory — not to craft or cultivate markets, but to enhance its own power. War is the destruction of property, liberty and ultimately life. Thus, states can only destroy, they can never create — they are great agents of repression.
As we hear of people risking life and limb for a better life outside of the war torn regions of the world, may we remember that war is a global, state phenomenon. States are responsible for war.
If we care for others, we need humility. A peaceful existence requires resistance to the military establishment and thus the urge of war. Resistance to, and freedom from, war necessarily requires freedom from state. If we are to organize the peaceful society it is important to organize markets, cooperatives, institutions and federations absent of state control.
We cannot expect the end of war without first realizing a vibrant stateless society — a society where every human being is free to pursue their interests and develop their capacities into individual and social account.
Grant A. Mincy is a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org) where he holds the Elinor Ostrom Chair in Environmental Studies and Commons Governance. He also blogs at appalachianson.wordpress.com. In addition, Mincy is an associate editor of the Molinari Review and an Energy & Environment Advisory Council Member for the Our America Initiative. He earned his Masters degree in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of Tennessee in the summer of 2012. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee where he teaches both Biology and Geology at area colleges.