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–1 vote
e.g. If a resource-rich nation such as America or Canada reverted to a pacifistic anarchistic state, how would it defend itself against an organized invasion by a foreign authoritarian state. A likely scenario being that China or Russia would, having depleted their own resources by the late century, make a play to cease North America's rich resources. How would informal anarchistic militias defend against a disciplined and technologically advanced land/air/sea/space army of millions of men with access to satellites, drones, and nuclear/chemical/biological weaponry?
There are so many assumptions in this question that need to be unpacked before we could give you proper anarchist answers. You might find something like what you're looking for here:
enkidu, this is not an answer. please make it a comment. (argh.)
also, people not wanting to answer a question is just not wanting to answer a question. we have unpacked plenty of assumptions in many questions here. and it is among the things that the site is for.
that said, i'm not interested in putting myself out for this question either, but it's not because it would be too much work.
just sayin'...

3 Answers

–3 votes
It's hard to imagine any credible military threat to the United (non-)States after a social revolution, considering the overwhelming military capacity it would retain post-revolution (not as you suppose "pacifist", rather not imperialist), the threat would be of a military coup. Defense, from military aggresion, of an anarchy anywhere outside the US is a very serious problem, and the best defense would be one of international popular organisation in the would-be imperial aggressors, (eg general strike) rather than a military deterrent.
China and Russia aren't credible military threats. You'd base your defense on the Chinese workers calling a general strike to stop their own nation's war effort. And even if you pull up some statistics to say that America could defend against an invasion by China and Russia in alliance, would that apply after 20+ years of 'non-imperialist' America (so that America's military technology has largely stagnated, while the other powers have built up their navies, militarized space, and developed mature drone and electronic warfare tech, etc, etc...
"China and Russia aren't credible military threats." That's what I reckon, did you mean to put "?!" instead of "." . The US spends nearly more than the rest of the world combined on military stuff, admittedly some of that is, first and foremost, R&D gifts to high tech industry aimed more at commercial spinoffs than hard-headed enhancement of military capabilities, but on the other hand all the spending for the Iraq (and Afghanistan IIRC) invasion is excluded from the budget heading for 'military spending'. The US (and remember bs accounting) spends more than six times China, 11.21 times France and 13.06 times Russia. And there's reason to believe that without the pressure of constant US armament and technical development the rest of the world would drastically relax its armament and militaries. US is the only one geared to militarisation of space "ownership of space" not merely control, rendering deterrents obselete and forcing armament. The rest of the world would be only too happy to be able to ignore the military dimension and focus on their comparative advantage with the US which is economic. And recall that the US is pretty much the only force blocking elimination of nuclear arms(, and chemical and biological weapons).
I did mean to put a question mark, actually. China and Russia have nukes. Perhaps I am not understanding what this "anarchist US military" would look like. In case you haven't noticed, the US military doesn't exactly tend to the left...
"The essential point of the system was social equality between officers and men. Everyone from general to private drew the same pay, ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and mingled on terms of complete equality. If you wanted to slap the general commanding the division on the back and ask him for a cigarette, you could do so, and no one thought it curious. In theory at any rate each militia was a democracy and not a hierarchy. It was understood that orders had to be obeyed, but it was also understood that when you gave an order you gave it as comrade to comrade and not as superior to inferior. There were officers and N.C.O.S. but there was no military rank in the ordinary sense; no titles, no badges, no heel-clicking and saluting. They had attempted to produce within the militias a sort of temporary working model of the classless society. Of course there was no perfect equality, but there was a nearer approach to it than I had ever seen or than I would have thought conceivable in time of war...
...Actually, a newly raised draft ‘of militia was an undisciplined mob not because the officers called the private ‘Comrade’ but because raw troops are always an undisciplined mob. In practice the democratic ‘revolutionary’ type of discipline is more reliable than might be expected. In a workers’ army discipline is theoretically voluntary. It is based on class-loyalty, whereas the discipline of a bourgeois conscript army is based ultimately on fear. (The Popular Army that replaced the militias was midway between the two types.) In the militias the bullying and abuse that go on in an ordinary army would never have been tolerated for a moment. The normal military punishments existed, but they were only invoked for very serious offences. When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship. Cynical people with no experience of handling men will say instantly that this would never ‘work’, but as a matter of fact it does ‘work’ in the long run. The discipline of even the worst drafts of militia visibly improved as time went on. In January the job of keeping a dozen raw recruits up to the mark almost turned my hair grey. In May for a short while I was acting-lieutenant in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish. We had all been under fire for months, and I never had the slightest difficulty in getting an order obeyed or in getting men to volunteer for a dangerous job. ‘Revolutionary’ discipline depends on political consciousness — on an understanding of why orders must be obeyed; it takes time to diffuse this, but it also takes time to drill a man into an automaton on the barrack-square. The journalists who sneered at the militia-system seldom remembered that the militias had to hold the line while the Popular Army was training in the rear. And it is a tribute to the strength of ‘revolutionary’ discipline that the militias stayed in the field-at all. For until about June 1937 there was nothing to keep them there, except class loyalty. Individual deserters could be shot — were shot, occasionally — but if a thousand men had decided to walk out of the line together there was no force to stop them. A conscript army in the same circumstances — with its battle-police removed — would have melted away. Yet the militias held the line, though God knows they won very few victories, and even individual desertions were not common. In four or five months in the P.O.U.M. militia I only heard of four men deserting, and two of those were fairly certainly spies who had enlisted to obtain information. At the beginning the apparent chaos, the general lack of training, the fact that you often had to argue for five minutes before you could get an order obeyed, appalled and infuriated me. I had British Army ideas, and certainly the Spanish militias were very unlike the British Army. But considering the circumstances they were better troops than one had any right to expect." -George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia
0 votes
with guns probably.
by (320 points)
–1 vote
The first thing you have to realize is that whenever someone speaks to how an anarchist society would act in a given situation, they are guesstimating. Odds are, an anarchist society would be so pluralistic that it would be very difficult to define in the aggregate.

And that leads me to my first point. Think about what the terrorists did on 9/11. They struck at the heart of American power: the twin towers were a symbol of corporate capitalism and the pentagon was a symbol of the federal government. But in an anarchist society there would be no head to the snake. In other words, if there are no de facto leaders or institutions, where is the weak point?

Also, don't forget: statelessness in no way implies pacifism. Guns and larger weapons could very well be put to use in defending the "nation." I know many anarchists would like to believe that any anarchist society would be inherently peaceful, but--if history and the present are any indication--some people will still "cling to [their] guns." Guerrilla warfare has been very effective at stopping much larger and more powerful forces: the British during the American Revolution, the U.S. in Vietnam, virtually every western nation in the Middle East, the Romans in Ancient Rome, and many other places at many other times throughout history and at present.

For those who detest violence, Etienne de la Boetie wrote back in the 16th century that a ruler's power rests with the consent of the governed. This is true of dictatorships and democracies alike. If another country invaded an anarchist landscape, poisoning wells (so to speak), sit-ins, resistance on a Gandhian scale would likely deter or slow the invasion. And it is unlikely to the point of absurdity that an invading force would want to (or be able to) kill every indigenous individual. If no one is left to rule, what's the point?

Finally, though I may be criticized for quoting an Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises once claimed that "When goods cross borders, soldiers won't." An anarchist society would likely (though not certainly) be more prosperous, open to trade and cooperation. There would be no saber-rattling or blockades of foreign soil. So, what would another country stand to gain by invasion but a loss of soldiers, resources, and money?

This is by no means an exhaustive answer, but it's a start.
by (1.6k points)
edited by
you putting the word "nation" in quotation marks isn't enough to address the fact that you're continuing to use the idea of a group-that-acts-like-a-state. see lawrence's answers about militarization for a more coherent critique of the idea of an anarchist military.
very few people on this site expect an anarchist society to be pacifist. the question is at what point does a militarized force become no longer consistent with anarchist values?
your answer does nothing to address that.
also, the idea that money and economics is a reason for peace, and that people's actions are based on money exclusively (which you imply) is nuts.
Am I suggesting that an anarchist society would "act like a state [sic]" simply because people may band together to defend their homes and/or each other?

I was not speaking to the site when I claimed that many anarchists want societal pacifism; surely there are anarchists out there who don't write and read this site's material. And yet, it's good to know the demographics of Anarchy 101. (Btw, I've read some of lawrence's other answers: he's good. I'm looking forward to reading the ones you speak of.)

I never used the word "military" or "militarization" in my answer. In fact, I used the word "guerrilla," which refers to decentralized forces practicing strategic harassment and sabotage. And what are "anarchist values"? (Aren't anarchists iconoclasts, destroyers of values? Values are useful tools, nothing more. When they cease to be useful and/or enjoyable they should be scrapped. So what values do you speak of and more importantly: How would they be useful before, during, and after an invasion vis-a-vis the question at hand?) Are you speaking of peaceful cooperation/mutual aid? Are you speaking of non-hierarchical relationships/organizations? How is a group of people voluntarily coming together to defend themselves and their loved ones opposite anarchist values? Nothing I said implies generals, the draft, corporal punishment, or a military junta.

Finally, your implication that I'm nuts for suggesting trade (not money, although that MIGHT be a part of it) is a deterrent to invasion crumbles in the face of facts. The countries with the freest economies are also some of the most peaceful countries (except, of course, America). I'll show you...

Freest World Economies in order:
1. Hong Kong (No Peace Rating)
2. Singapore (Global Peace Index Rating: 24th out of 153)
3. Ireland (11th out of 153)
4. Australia (18th out of 153)
5. United States (82nd out of 153) <--Notable exception, the bastards :)
6. New Zealand (2nd out of 153)
7. Canada (8th out of 153)
8. Chile (38th out of 153)
9. Switzerland (16th out of 153)
10. UK (26th out of 153)

**I'll preempt two possible criticisms: 1) Yes, these statistics leave out other possible factors. To say that peace is entirely dependent upon economic freedom is ludicrous, but the parallel is pretty hard to ignore. 2) I personally advocate neither corporate capitalism (at all) nor an economic system composed ENTIRELY of low-to-the-ground free market 'capitalism': anarchy demands diversity.**

Out of curiosity, how would you advocate defending an anarchist (can I use the word) community?
I will ignore the use of the word nation. I share Rothbard's view that an anarchist society is one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person (i would say "body" instead of "person"; the meaning of person is imprecise) or property of any individual. Put another way, a society where all human interaction is voluntary, never coercive.

There is nothing inherent to the provision of defensive services and protection that prevents it from being provided in a voluntary fashion. Some proportion of the population would specialize in the industry of providing defensive services and their clients would pay them for it. The degree of defense required by a free society is a debatable topic; there is a good case that a free society would be an unlikely target of military aggression and would therefore require an immaterial level of defensive assets. To avoid misunderstanding, I use the word"defense" consciously, unlike the state and media who use the word defense when they really mean "offense". The level of defense in a free society would be determined by the demand for defensive services; based on individuals' assessments regarding the probability of aggression, which is the reason they would pay for defense.

When people are permitted to freely exchange value for value, absent coercive monopoly states, they act to satisfy their preferences. If these individuals feel that their property or life might be destroyed or stolen, they will act to prevent this from happening. Firms, or groups of individual actors, emerge to meet the demand for protection from foreign invasion. The protective services provided by these firms decreases the likelihood that individuals will lose their property or life. The individual would pay the company providing the services, most likely in an indirect fashion using an insurance-like model (free of coercive "regulations" imposed by states). If I don't want my property to be destroyed, my action is to pay installments to a firm that will pay me multiples of value on destroyed property. Such a firm would only exist as a going concern if it were able to collect premiums from people unlikely to have their property destroyed. Premiums would decrease as the probability that an individual's property will be destroyed decreases. The insurer would recognize and acknowledge the value of defensive services because they would be faced with the cost-benefit decision; therefore, the provision of defense firms would be an important component of this competitive, insurance market. Defensive services could be provided by a division of the insurance firm or an independent firm; that is for the market and economies-of-scale  to determine.

Defensive firms would provide protective services, military assets, and strategies that would dissuade foreign aggression and thereby decrease expected losses from military assault on the free society. Individuals and companies that pay for defensive services would have lower premiums because of the lower probability that they will make a claim for property destruction caused by foreign aggression. Equivalently, insurance companies could provide defensive services to their customers to reduce the likelihood that a claim would be made. The outcome is the same. The mechanics are similar to the provision of car insurance in a modern market.

The main hurdle is understanding how the firms would solve what economists call the "free rider problem". This is where some individuals benefit from the provision of defensive services while not having to pay for these services. If those receiving a service cannot be made to pay for the services they benefit from, the market will produce an insufficient amount of this service. So, without compulsory taxation that ensures that people pay for a certain level of defense, it would seem to some that rational people acting freely in a market would result in less defense than desired by the individual actors. This is called a market failure. The market failure could be overcome by the insurance model (i.e. insurance companies would preemptively provide defense to avoid claims). The problem is that a competitor could then insure people against claims while their rival firm pays for the defensive assets because the deterrent to foreign aggression is already being provided. This would depend on the preferences of consumers and the strategies employed by insurance firms. The customers in the market for defense would not be one of homogeneous actors, it would be diverse, sometimes referred to as "lumpy"; put simply, some firms and individuals would have much more to lose and would therefore be willing to absorb the cost of defense for the free riders that patronized firms that "free ride" by not providing their own military assets. Large companies would likely boast about their role in paying for defense as a public relations strategy and to generate good will in the community. Some level of defense would be provided in response to the individual desires for protection from loss of life and property.

I did not get into the idea that there is a lower probability of foreign aggression in a free society because it is another topic. I could discuss this if there is interest in this topic.

edited to make comment.
Who would produce the weapons that would be used to defend the anarchist society? You know, without markets; since if there were markets, money, and capital it wouldn't be anarchy. The problem of economic calculation and the massive coordination problem would need a solution. Otherwise, there would be no weapon production; and hence, no means to defend from aggression.