retrieved from The Libertarian Forum, VOLUME III, NO. 5 MAY, 1971
Considering the traditional apathy and ignorance of most libertarians in foreign affairs, I don't suppose that many have taken a stand on what the press misleadingly terms a "civil war" in East Pakistan. In fact, the situation there is scarcely a "civil war"; it is a mass movement by the people of East Pakistan - the Bengalis - to rid themselves, once and for all, of the tyranny and despotism of the Punjabi-run central government of the West.
One of the major problems blocking most libertarians from supporting national independence movements is their pettifogging semantic hangup on the phrase "national self-determination", a concept, by the way, that loomed large in that very nineteenth-century liberalism to which libertarians consider themselves the heir. "National self-determination", most libertarians patiently explain, is an erroneous concept, an equivocation on the word "self" since the self can only be each individual, libertarians should only support "individual self-determination" rather than national. But this analysis, while philosophically correct, misses the whole essential point: the point that these national movements are primarily concerned with getting other imperial states and nations off their backs.
"National self-determination" is only a harmless metaphor for a movement against imperial dictation. The point, for example, about the nascent but growing Scottish National movement is that it is concerned with ending the domination of Scotland by English imperialism, a domination which is cultural. economic, and throughout political.
The same is true for the crisis in Pakistan. For Pakistan is in no sense a genuine nation, but a geographical abortion, created by the British as they were forced to leave the Indian subcontinent shortly after World War II. The Bengalis of the East have nothing whatsoever in common, except for their religion, with the Punjabis of the West; culturally, linguistically, ethnically and by every other criteria, they are separate nations. Furthermore, the political structure of Pakistan establishes a despotism by the Punjabis over the numerically superior, and far more productive Bengalis. The Bengalis are the merchants and the traders of India; and a large chunk of their productive earnings are taxed away by the central Punjabi government to build up a vast Punjabi-staffed army and central bureaucracy, as well as to subsidize the Punjabi large-landlord class. The Punjab government has always been a thinly-veiled military dictatorship; and it was the decision of that government to suspend Parliament in the wake of its loss in the recent Pakistani elections that touched off the current crisis. It was that suspension that finally convinced the long-suffering Bengalis that there was no hope for them to attain autonomy within the Pakistan framework and that decided them for national Bengali independence.
The fighting in Bengal is not a civil war, but a counter-revolutionary struggle by a Punjabi army to crush the independence forces, in other words the people of Bengal. Hence the use by that army of familiar genocidal tactics for it realizes that the entire population of Bengal is its enemy. Hence its systematic massacre of civilians. Hence its imposition of curfew and censorship, and its expulsion of all foreign correspondents from the country. The similarity with the American use of mass terrorism in Southeast . Asia should be striking and expectable, for in Southeast Asia we, too, are trying to impose an external rule on an entire population, all of which therefore becomes the enemy to be slaughtered wherever found. Genocidal slaughter is the logical conclusion of imperial war.
Another instructive point: the Great Powers, including The United States and Communist China, are all supporting the Pakistan government, since they all have deals with that government and they all value "stability" everywhere. Which shows where Great Powers, whoever they may be, will stand when it comes to justice and statism.