Against the Libertarian Cold War

A controversy has arisen in the libertarian movement over the proper approach to the events concerning Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea. Like many such controversies, it has quickly polarized almost everyone, and has served as a proxy for long-standing factionalism within the movement. People quickly accuse each other of supporting Putin’s aggression or backing violent U.S. intervention. I myself have been accused of both kissing up to the Russian regime and dishing out State Department propaganda. This doesn’t itself show I have the right balance in my position, only that this feud has galvanized libertarians and hardened their rhetorical loyalties.

We might learn something from looking back at the 20th century. During the Cold War, most western critics of state power erred too far in one direction or the other. There were some whose opposition to U.S. wars led them to soften their assessment of communist aggression. Free-market and leftist lovers of peace both made this mistake. At the same time, many who favored economic and political liberty often let their anti-communism translate into support for American militarism and the security state. This confusion pervaded Americans across the spectrum.

We can all see this now: Yes, some antiwar Americans were obscenely soft on the communists. Well-meaning but foolish westerners said nice things about Lenin, Stalin, and Mao—and many of a more moderate tinge had no perspective of just how much worse international communism was than the U.S. system, at least as it concerned domestic affairs. Meanwhile, many libertarians and almost all conservatives ditched their supposed attachment to skepticism of government power and signed onto the U.S. Cold War effort. This American project included dozens of coups and interventions, the instruction of foreign secret police in unspeakable torture techniques, murderous carpet bombings that killed hundreds of thousands of peasants, and wars that indirectly brought about the Khmer Rouge and the rise of Islamist fundamentalism, both of which also became directly funded in the name of anti-communism.

It is easy to look back and see how westerners were wrong on both the Cold War and communist states—each of which killed millions of people and nearly brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust.

The stakes were so much higher then than in anything going on with Russia now. Imprecision in one’s moral assessment—either in defense of Nixon or Tito—was far more condemnable than criticizing Putin or Obama too harshly. The errors of almost all the great 20th century libertarians, free marketers, and peaceniks far exceeded any errors some might have today in their appraisal of NATO or Russia and Ukraine. And yet we forgive many people on both sides of that Cold War division. No one today actually thinks Hayek was a neocon or Rothbard a pinko.

Today’s polarization is all the more frustrating given that the bulk of American libertarians seem to agree on two major points: (1) the U.S. should not intervene in Eastern Europe and (2) Putin’s various power grabs are indefensible. Thus, most libertarians are not truly as divided as well-meaning Americans were in the Cold War.

Now, one’s emphasis is important. Not all acts of aggression are equal. But before addressing that, it’s useful to try to actually understand the splits in the movement right now.

I easily identify four factions, not two: (A) There are people who outright defend Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, and who otherwise downplay his autocratic tendencies; (B) There are those who agree that Putin is worth condemning, but who think it’s more important to emphasize the evils of U.S. interventionism; (C) There are those who agree that U.S. intervention is unwise and maybe even unethical, but who think it’s most important right now to emphasize Putin’s despotism; (D) There are those who outright favor U.S. and western intervention to stop Putin.

The polarization of discussion has led to A and B teaming up against C and D. It has also led to people in the B camp pretending like “no one” on their side is actually defending Putin, while people in the C camp are pretending “no one” on their side is actually calling for war or major U.S. interventions.

A principled opponent of state power is tempted to say that in fact B and C are on one side, despite differences in emphasis, and A and D are two extremes flirting with nationalist statism. This is my position, although I will say that I have friends—good friends—who flirt with being in camp A as well as in camp D. It happens. And to make the point again, during the Cold War, any libertarian activist would have probably had some friends who advocated nuclear strikes against the USSR, and others who supported Soviet control of the Eastern Bloc. Both of these positions would have been completely immoral and disgusting—far worse than anything said by anyone in Camp A or Camp D today. Yet today’s Cold War replay is leading people to defriend each other in the name of Manichean struggle. The tendency of people to break ties with others over this will only increase the polarization and erode mutual understanding.

On the other hand, camps A and D are at least being outright in their positions, while B and C are letting themselves get dragged into a flame war against each other when they both agree on both Putin’s and America’s actions. Both B and C are being disingenuous about some of their allies in the attempt to seem reasonable and principled and to say the other side is the only one that’s unbalanced.

In both cases, the problem appears to be nationalism—a desire to defend Putin’s actions as consistent with Russian, rather than individualist, concerns; or a desire to see American intervention as being more defensible than Russian aggression because, well, at least it’s American, and we have better, more liberal values at home. Both tendencies are in fact very illiberal, as are the attempts to collectively attack people on the “other side” of this debate when for all you know some of them agree with you on all the fundamentals more than some of the people “on your side” do.

The arguments over Russia have brought the Cold War back to the movement. They have fractured those primarily committed to anti-interventionism and those primarily concerned with liberty for all worldwide, when in fact these values are two sides of the same coin. The primary libertarian reason to oppose U.S. wars, of course, is that they kill foreigners, that they divide people into tribes based on nationality, that they are acts of nationalist aggression.

Discursively, refighting the Cold War within libertarianism will only harden people’s hearts, polarize their loyalties, and ultimately compromise their principles and clarity of thought. I plead young libertarians to refuse to be a proxy belligerent in this Cold War when for the most part it’s probably not really about Russia or Crimea at all; it’s about major factions within the movement with more fundamental disagreements using this as an opportunity to fight. If you actually seek to understand everyone’s positions, you’ll be surprised how heterogeneous attitudes are, despite the attempt to turn this current affairs disagreement into a grander sectarian dispute.

So what should we think? We should probably take a middle ground between B and C. Putin isn’t just an aggressor; he’s one of the worst on the planet. He killed tens of thousands of Chechens. He oversees one of the most vast prison populations on earth. He is essentially a late-communist holdover of the party variety in everything but name, and his violations of civil liberties, free speech, and the dignity of homosexuals and others are not minor matters for any libertarian who cares about the rights of all people on earth. His invasion of Ukraine was unjustified. His annexation of Crimea cannot be defended and although some critics have exaggerated the evils of this territorial power grabs by comparing them to Stalin’s or Hitler’s expansionism, it is true that Putin’s defenders’ arguments based on ethnic nationalism could indeed be used to justify the most infamous European land grabs that occurred that same decade.

As for the United States, its foreign policy is a lot worse than Putin’s biggest detractors wish to acknowledge. While Putin has killed more people than Obama, he does not appear to have killed more people as Bush—and yes, it is a moral failure and deviation from libertarianism to downplay the Iraq war as anything less than one of the very worst international atrocities of our new century, and one that dramatically taints the moral character of U.S. diplomacy. What the last few U.S. administrations have done will haunt much of the world for decades. And the aggression has hardly ceased. Obama’s drone killings are one of the most infamous human rights violations on the planet, the drug war imposed on Mexico has taken tens of thousands of lives, and America’s own civil liberties record is far worse than some on Team America wish to confront. There are tens of millions of people much worse off throughout the world because of recent U.S. diplomacy and wars, and only a cold utilitarian would even attempt to justify this record.

I understand why some libertarians are inclined to emphasize one point or the other. Those Americans focusing on U.S. criminality are right that we have more influence, albeit marginally so, on the government that lords over us, that if we don’t stand up to the U.S. war machine and its covert ops, no one will, and that criticism of foreign aggression often fuels war propaganda at home. But others are frustrated that just because the U.S. government condemns Russian aggression, they’re supposed to keep quiet. “My country is the world,” as Tom Paine said, and libertarians around the world should condemn aggression anywhere it happens. Pretending the U.S. government is the world’s only major problem is naïve at best. The first group is often right that liberal states are more belligerent in foreign affairs, and the second group is often right that it’s easy for people here to forget about victims of foreign oppression. Such dynamics played themselves out in the Cold War, too, and both sides had a point. It would have been demoralizing to be berated for attacking either U.S. or Soviet aggression in those times.

It is hard to maintain the right level of nuance and principle. I think John Glaser and the Jesse Walker blog entry he links to are good models of principled libertarian commentary. And I agree with plenty of points being made on multiple sides of the various controversies. Those who wish to purge either Ron Paul’s followers or the Student for Liberty internationalists over this are ignoring the points of agreement as well as the odious errors on their own side, and maybe even their own errors, and are blowing things out of proportion.

Did I myself get the balance perfectly right? Perhaps not. The right balance would have been even harder during the Cold War, and yet it would have mattered much more then. So please, everyone, take a step back. It’s fun as hell to get in faction fights. Sectarian squabbles are the force that gives us meaning. But you’ll find yourself drained and with fewer friends in the end. Don’t pretend your fellow libertarians are themselves worse than Russian nationalists or the Pentagon. It’s not true in either case. Our unifying enemy should be the same: aggression, whether it is ordered from Moscow or Washington DC.

Whenever anyone strays from this balance, it’s good to bring up what they’re missing. Then you’ll see who your true allies are, who the trolls are, and who is simply using this as a battle to refight old clashes in the movement. You’ll also find out what people’s actual position is, and that might help inform your own.

 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Really nice piece, Anthony. There’s only one thing you write above that I disagree with. You write, “It’s fun as hell to get in faction fights.” Not for me. I hate them. And when I see these fights between factions full of people on each side that I like a lot, I feel only despair.

    • David, thanks. I was trying to show that I appreciate why some get a kick out of them. I used to. I don’t anymore.

      • Mr Gregory
        You are not taking a moderate libertarian position. You are taking an incorrect one.
        Note the small “l”. The prima facie evidence that informs the argument is overwhelming.
        Anyone seeking liberty in the course of the last 200 years chooses America. Russia’s recent 100 year history in particular is disgusting beyond imagination to the man of liberty. The Bolsheviks and their apologists have disposed of tens of millions of men, women and children in that time. They have invaded utterly peaceful countries, no threat whatsoever to them (and no appeals for help from any sane faction in the target countries, such as the US had in Vietnam) all in the name of an insane, perfectly anti-libertarian ethos, if you can call the preposterousness of Marxism an ethos. (Marxism to man is like advocating death to create life. Marxism/Leninism/Communism/Statism makes anti-sense. It is perfectly insane to a man of liberty). They made slaves and mental wrecks of hundreds of millions. They destroyed families, culture, happiness. And Putin was one of them.
        You say the US did the same in Vietnam, elsewhere? Bunk. Talk about using the exception to prove the rule. Ask any Vietnamese refugees. Ask any Cambodian refugees. I have. War is disgusting and innocent people die. But the lamp of liberty as voted by refugees themselves is and was the US.
        The question has been settled with feet. Everyone in sorry circumstances wants in to the US. Nobody wants in to Putin’s Russia. Or any country in the Middle East. Or China. Or Cuba. It’s the US first, a few other Western countries runner-ups.
        The moral relativism of so many so-called libertarians is appalling. There is literally no comparison to make.
        Whether the US should intervene is another question. Probably it shouldn’t, mostly because intervention won’t help the cause of liberty in the long run. Not doing business with a thug-led nation is a start. As is diplomatic pressure. As are ally borderland counter-measures of support.
        I think we libertarians can agree total pullout everywhere would be wise. But even our European allies should be self-supporting by now. And where allies can defend themselves, such as Israel, a total pullout is warranted (stay out of the Middle East entirely, obviously).
        Statists and crony capitalism among politico-megabusinesses (often natural lovers of statism and socialism) inform some of US intervention. So on balance total pullout is warranted. But let’s not morally equivocate. The unrepented destruction of Sovietism and its unholy spawn are to be loathed and opposed.
        Ironically, our greatest past failures were due to initial intervention, followed by a lack of intervention at precisely the critical moment, once the intervention die was cast. The US, through leader’s gutlessness and wishful thinking, threw away the entire point of WWII sacrifices. We beat the Nazis only to allow Bolsheviks to proceed with the killing and enslavement of hundreds of millions. We beat the Japs only to passively observe Maoism decend on billions. Great fucking victories.
        No, I rest my case with actual immigrants and hopefuls. Ask them how evil America’s interventions are.
        Ask not the psychotics, collectivists and Islamists. Ask Cubans, Iraqis, Tibetans and Philippinos who value liberty as you do. If someone doesn’t value liberty, of what consequence is his position?
        I prefer no intervention. But my opinion is not shared by lovers of liberty in countries where luck does not run so sweet as my own, in the good ‘ol USA.
        Quit with the moral relativism already. Re-read your goddanmed Buckley and Whittaker Chambers for insights on the Cold War that make libertarian sense.
        Good night.
        J. Garcia

  • I am more inclined to agree with Ron Paul and the B group (including the Ron Paul Institute, the Mises Institute, and Justin Raimondo, as well as the LewRockwell.com folks) in this case, but you are very spot on in most of your comments. Great piece there.

    • Thanks for this link. Through the issue of Ukraine, Justin Raimondo offers an eye opening and well referenced insights to serious problems in the liberty movements, not just in the US but around the globe. SFL branch in Europe is called the ESFL, whose many leaders from various European countries have been towing the neocon line. Could it really be that it is indeed not wise to bite the hand that feeds you? Time will tell what ghosts might come out of that closet. One thing is sure however, money is a powerful weapon that can break the strongest of principles, especially when it plays in poorer countries of Europe.

    • I did not appreciate Justin Raimondo’s treatment of Anthony Gregory (which can be found at http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2014/04/01/two-invasions-and-one-truth/). Raimondo accuses Gregory of not wanting to talk about US aggression and saying all aggression is morally equivalent.

  • There is also an E group, whose position can be defined somewhere between the latter portion of this article, this piece by me, and this piece by Chris Cantwell.

  • Well said, Anthony. You regularly present a close approximation of my own sentiments on matters, and this is no exception.

  • “Today’s polarization is all the more frustrating given that the bulk of American libertarians seem to agree on two major points: (1) the U.S. should not intervene in Eastern Europe and (2) Putin’s various power grabs are indefensible. Thus, most libertarians are not truly as divided as well-meaning Americans were in the Cold War.”

    This is the critical, and I am afraid, wrong assumption. Because Ron Paul and his ilk DO NOT believe that there is such a thing as Putin’s illegitimate “power grab”. No, Putin according to them only defends Russia and its legitimate national interests and equally legitimate “sphere of influence” against the US and NATO aggression. One of the Ron Paul’s Putinistas even argued recently that dear Vladimir gave a lesson to the West how a true leader defends the national interest.

    • IMO you ought to debate individuals and their stands and actions. There is too much generalization and “hoarding into groups” anyway.

  • Quite good explanation. I agree with it wholeheartedly.
    One remark if any is needed at all, just a bit more attention should have been given to wording – e.g. “aggression” and that sort of stuff, it too, could have been tuned down a bit.

  • I could not disagree more with this column. The libertarian position is clear to me: let those who want to fight Putin go do so; let those who don’t, stay home.

    We’re only getting into squabbles about this when we argue about what the U.S. government should do. But surely this is silly: the libertarian position is that the government (if one exists) should work ONLY to preserve rights at home. Possibly we can add, it can organize defense against foreign invasions (of which the U.S. has had how many?). But when it comes to the rest of the world, a libertarian government has no business taking a position on one side or the other.

    What am I failing to understand here? Seems as if nobody else is making this point.

    • “I could not disagree more with this column. The libertarian position is clear to me: let those who want to fight Putin go do so; let those who don’t, stay home.”

      If you think that’s not my position, I think you didn’t understand my argument.

      • “I could not disagree more with this column. The libertarian position is clear to me: let those who want to fight Putin go do so; let those who don’t, stay home.”

        If you think that’s not my position, I think you didn’t understand my argument.

        I’m very glad to hear it. Strange that I got a completely different impression from reading your column. So, you weren’t in fact discussing what position you think the U.S. government should take? Thus, your options (C) and (D) above, which speak of “U.S. intervention”, are NOT, in fact, talking about the U.S. government, but only about what individuals should do? Would you agree that your wording above does not make that distinction clear? Perhaps a follow-up column clarifying your position would be beneficial.

        • C and D refer to different approaches taken by libertarians. Only D supports intervention. I said my position was between B and C. Of course I oppose intervention.

          “Perhaps a follow-up column clarifying your position would be beneficial.”

          In this column I wrote, “A principled opponent of state power is tempted to say that in fact B and C are on one side, despite differences in emphasis, and A and D are two extremes flirting with nationalist statism. This is my position.”

          I’ve probably written more specifically about why libertarians should oppose war than anybody else:

          http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/03/20/libertarians-and-war-a-bibliographical-essay/

  • I still dont understand how any libertarian can condemn the referendum vote in Crimea ? The right to self determination is defined in international law and is part of the basis of libertarianism.

    Claiming the referendum was somehow illegal when dozens of international election observers verified it is legit and claimed it was not forced seems to be the height of American hypocrisy ! How can you claim that Crimea was invaded and the referendum forced when all the evidence points to the contrary ?

    • Even if that’s totally true, I’m a libertarian and don’t support majoritarian rule. 99% of my neighbors think I should be ruled by the U.S. government. They are wrong. And if foreign libertarians said that Obama’s government were “legitimate” in ruling me, I would be very pissed.

    • Libertarian principles like upholding the absolute right of secession are thrown by the wayside when you start bloviating “My country is the world!”

      • Justin, I think it’s hard to make the case that what happened in Crimea was secession. Keep in mind that I’ve argued before that Ukraine is better off without Crimea.

        But when there are masked gunmen everywhere, journalists being harassed, provocations, reporters voting with Russian passports, and a 123% turnout, it’s not secession.

        Also, 20 years of polling data suggesting 40% of Crimeans consider themselves Russian and 23-33% wanting to join Russia.

      • Also, what do you say to the Catholics and Tartars who are now fleeing their homes? Sorry. Democracy rules. Now GTFO!

  • Whatever position one takes on Ukraine, we can’t pretend that history began in 2014. Underhanded American meddling since the breakup of the Soviet Union in the region and in Ukraine specifically has played a significant role in what is happening now. The ideas that Putin is Hitler or that Crimea is of vital importance to America are absurd. To claim that America must intervene now as a result of past interventions gone wrong is in itself an admission that intervention doesn’t work out so well. So-called libertarians who desire to promote libertarianism around the world using the American government to do so never seem so dedicated to promoting libertarianism in America, so it is rather hard to take them seriously as libertarians. After all, warmongering neocons have also claimed that the interventions they favor are to bring democracy and freedom to their victims.

    I can’t help but say that is seems where there is Koch money, interventionism often pops up when energy is involved. Of course, we all know that the recipients of Koch money are never ever influenced by their money, just like politicians. It probably is just a coincidence that libertarians who get Koch money start sounding like Republicans when issues that the Koch brothers really care about, like energy issues, arise. I would imagine that a war of sanctions between the EU and Russia that included less Russian energy being sold to EU nations would be beneficial for the Koch’s bottom line.

  • Anthony,

    As much as I respect some of your opinions I’m going to jump all over this one.

    —“….hardened their rhetorical loyalties.”—

    This is the point precisely: do we base liberty on rules independent of consequences, or consequentialist ethics that account for consequences? Immature minds require virtue ethics as a means of imitation in the absence of the ability to reason, mediocre minds rule based ethics to compensate for their lack of knowledge, and consequentialist ethics require we have a considerable knowledge at our disposal. So no, these arguments are not matters of loyalty but of ability to comprehend and use increasingly complex ethical arguments.

    —“We might learn something from looking back at the 20th century. During the Cold War, most western critics of state power erred too far in one direction or the other. There were some whose opposition to U.S. wars led them to soften their assessment of communist aggression. Free-market and leftist lovers of peace both made this mistake. At the same time, many who favored economic and political liberty often let their anti-communism translate into support for American militarism and the security state. This confusion pervaded Americans across the spectrum.”—

    Again, this conflict is over the immaturity of rule based rather than more mature consequentialist ethics.

    —“Meanwhile, many libertarians and almost all conservatives ditched their supposed attachment to skepticism of government power and signed onto the U.S. Cold War effort.”——

    Conservatives never ditched their skepticism of government, they conducted a multi front war both outside and inside. I was part of the movement that developed the strategy to bankrupt the state. We saw the cold war military build up as parallel to the great society effort, and thought that by spending in both directions we could bankrupt, and delegitimize the Keynesian state. We could bankrupt the state internationally by bankrupting the communist movement, and we could bankrupt the european and american social democratic movements. The only people who were clueless were the libertarians. Except for immigration, data suggests the strategy would have worked. So yet again, libertarians were wrong. Immigration of peoples who do not depend not the absolute nuclear family for their moral and social order are always and everywhere a net negative for liberty.

    —“This American project included dozens of coups and interventions, the instruction of foreign secret police in unspeakable torture techniques, murderous carpet bombings that killed hundreds of thousands of peasants, and wars that indirectly brought about the Khmer Rouge and the rise of Islamist fundamentalism, both of which also became directly funded in the name of anti-communism.”—

    When has liberty not required the organized application of violence? When and where? Liberty was always and everywhere created by the organized exercise of violence by a property-demanding minority over the objections of totalitarian and communal social orders that dominate all of world history. Liberty seekers are outliers. Always have been and always will be.

    —“Today’s polarization is all the more frustrating given that the bulk of American libertarians seem to agree on two major points: (1) the U.S. should not intervene in Eastern Europe and (2) Putin’s various power grabs are indefensible. Thus, most libertarians are not truly as divided as well-meaning Americans were in the Cold War.”—

    I disagree that we should not intervene in Eastern Europe, but then I suspect my brand of libertarianism requires that I defend all property rights of anyone who desires to have them and defend them too. But unlike conservatives, libertarians refuse to pay the cost of liberty for others, and plead that they get liberty for free themselves. And libertarians wonder why we fail – everywhere and always to enfranchise all but the most idiosyncratic. Arguments in favor of “Rights” are appeals by the weak to obtain what they are unwilling or unable to pay for. You never see conservatives making arguments that ridiculous.

    —“I easily identify four factions, not two: (A) There are people who outright defend Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, and who otherwise downplay his autocratic tendencies; (B) There are those who agree that Putin is worth condemning, but who think it’s more important to emphasize the evils of U.S. interventionism; (C) There are those who agree that U.S. intervention is unwise and maybe even unethical, but who think it’s most important right now to emphasize Putin’s despotism; (D) There are those who outright favor U.S. and western intervention to stop Putin.”—

    Mischaracterization. The point is not to stop Putin. It is that other people desire liberty, and if liberty lovers do not fight for one another’s liberty then libertarians are all talk and nothing more. All that talk is to obtain liberty at a discount. I cannot refuse help to those who demand it, in pursuit of freedom. The only moral use of violence is the provision of liberty.

    (You do realize that you’re just arguing through a statist lens, rather than a moral one?)

    —“A principled opponent of state power is tempted to say that in fact B and C are on one side, despite differences in emphasis, and A and D are two extremes flirting with nationalist statism. This is my position, although I will say that I have friends—good friends—who flirt with being in camp A as well as in camp D. It happens. And to make the point again, during the Cold War, any libertarian activist would have probably had some friends who advocated nuclear strikes against the USSR, and others who supported Soviet control of the Eastern Bloc. Both of these positions would have been completely immoral and disgusting—far worse than anything said by anyone in Camp A or Camp D today. Yet today’s Cold War replay is leading people to defriend each other in the name of Manichean struggle. The tendency of people to break ties with others over this will only increase the polarization and erode mutual understanding.”—

    This is a mischaracterization. As a member of camp “D” I don’t, and we don’t, oppose state power in the advancement of liberty, I advocate liberty at all times. I see libertarians who will not act to advance liberty as free-riders (thieves). I oppose monopoly bureaucracy and democracy. A powerful private government using organized violence to militantly defend and extend liberty to all those who ask for it, is something desirable. That’s what Aristocratic Egalitarianism means: voluntary enfranchisement. It is the only possible origin of property rights. Belief isn’t action.

    —“In both cases, the problem appears to be nationalism”—

    Mischaracterization. It is the corrupt anti-propertarianism of the Russians against the citizens of a small poor country desperate to obtain freedom and participation in the market. Yes, the Russian east is allied with Russia but it is for economic reasons: membership in Europe means an end to the marketability of eastern Ukrainian manufactured goods – most of which are supplied to the Russian war machine.

    This small country had THOUSANDS of tactical nuclear weapons and THOUSANDS of warheads, and gave them up in exchange for promises of defense. Had they kept those weapons, they could easily keep Russia out of Ukraine. So Americans promised and lied. It’s that simple. Americans broke a deal. A deal that means possible economic enslavement,conquest and continued corruption under Russian imperialism.

    What is more moral than fulfilling your contract? Or is that conveniently not part of your argument?

    —“The arguments over Russia have brought the Cold War back to the movement. They have fractured those primarily committed to anti-interventionism and those primarily concerned with liberty for all worldwide, when in fact these values are two sides of the same coin. The primary libertarian reason to oppose U.S. wars, of course, is that they kill foreigners, that they divide people into tribes based on nationality, that they are acts of nationalist aggression.”——

    Mischaracterization. Russia has brought back to life the war against militarily expansionist empires whose economic policies are a threat to liberty and prosperity. Russia cannot complete economically but it can militarily. That’s its advantage.

    —“Discursively, refighting the Cold War within libertarianism will only harden people’s hearts, polarize their loyalties, and ultimately compromise their principles and clarity of thought. I plead young libertarians to refuse to be a proxy belligerent in this Cold War when for the most part it’s probably not really about Russia or Crimea at all; it’s about major factions within the movement with more fundamental disagreements using this as an opportunity to fight. If you actually seek to understand everyone’s positions, you’ll be surprised how heterogeneous attitudes are, despite the attempt to turn this current affairs disagreement into a grander sectarian dispute.”——

    Actually, no. Rekindling the war against totalitarianism and anti-propertarianism will assist us in reforming libertarianism from an immoral parasitic cult-philosophy argued in conflated obscurantist, continental pseudoscience, and to return it to aristocratic egalitarianism we call the protestant ethic.

    I want this fight to continue to help reform libertarianism because we’ve failed. The pseudoscientific libertarian movement of the 20th century has been by all measures a catastrophic failure. We have not made a dent. The newest generation is more libertarian, but that is not because of our success – quite the contrary. It’s because of the failure of the left and right majorities. So this fight over Russian aggression is part of the necessary reformation of liberty, and the restoration of liberty to its martial origins. The source of liberty is the constant application of violence for the suppression of free riding in all its forms. Everyone else is a free rider. A thief. A fraud.

    —“So what should we think? “—

    We should think that the organized application of violence in support of people who desire liberty is a moral obligation, because it is that reciprocity that makes liberty possible for any and all.

    —“It is hard to maintain the right level of nuance and principle.”—

    Only if you mischaracterize the problem. :) It’s quite simple really. Most moral and ethical problems are simple if you don’t mischaracterize them.

    —“unifying enemy is aggression”—

    Exactly. But one is not aggressing in response to an act of aggression.

    —“Allies… Trolls…”

    Actually Anthony, it tells us who makes cogent arguments despite personal cost, and those who make selfish arguments justifying their free riding and who mischaracterize the conflict as one over rules rather than one over consequences.

    Curt Doolittle
    The Propertarian Institute
    Kiev.

    • You seem to be a conservative, not a libertarian, so much of what you say are your positions are not that relevant on the question of what libertarians should say and think.

      You write, “Immigration of peoples who do not depend not the absolute nuclear family for their moral and social order are always and everywhere a net negative for liberty.”

      And with that, you make your cultural loyalties clear. And with this:

      “The source of liberty is the constant application of violence for the suppression of free riding in all its forms.”

      You make it clear you’re not at all a libertarian.

      • Anthony,
        1) Names are not actions. And thus, again, you demonstrate, and confirm, my central argument:
        THAT IS FOOLISH TO ARGUE RULES NOT OUTCOMES, and that all such people are by definition fools. Well meaning fools. But fools none the less.

        2) I claim to be a libertarian because:
        a) I place liberty first among the six moral intuitions in my words and deeds.
        b) I reduce all rights to property rights, and all ethics to voluntary transfer.
        c) I seek alternatives to the corporeal monopoly bureaucracy we call ‘the state’.
        This is what is required of a ‘libertarian’.

        Conversely if you believe in immoral parasitic ethics, anti-scientific pseudoscience, and desire liberty for free in violation of the central theory of property rights, then whether or not you call yourself a libertarian, you’re merely immoral, anti-intellectual, and daft.

        3) As such I “make it clear” that:
        a) I do not support immoral parasitic Rothbardian ethics
        b) I do not support the pseudoscience of praxeology
        b) I do not support a failed ideology

        4) Just as there is good economics and bad economics, there is good libertarianism that produces liberty and bad libertarianism that does not produce liberty. There are smart libertarians who create liberty and stupid libertarians who hinder it. I claim to be a smart libertarian trying to reform libertarianism and I accuse stupid libertarians who advocate immoral parasitic ethics, pseudoscience, and anti-science of harming the cause of liberty.

        5) So either refute my central argument that posited above, that you have mischaracterized, intentionally, the all the points I listed, or simply admit that you are comfortable being an immoral, parasitic, pseudoscientific, anti-empirical, purveyor of ideological nonsense that hinders the creation and preservation of liberty.

        I have the arguments locked dow. I don’t need to win over stupid libertarians. I just need the smart ones. And so far it’s working.
        :)

    • Well, aye-aye, cap’n. Let’s start the insanity.

    • Oh perhaps, continue it.

      I was part of the movement that developed the strategy to bankrupt the state. We saw the cold war military build up as parallel to the great society effort, and thought that by spending in both directions we could bankrupt, and delegitimize the Keynesian state. We could bankrupt the state internationally by bankrupting the communist movement, and we could bankrupt the european and american social democratic movements.

      Well, you sure took your part of being a useful idiot to statists seriously.

  • Anthony, do you distinguish between “intervention is unwise and maybe even unethical” and “no matter whether it is wise or unethical, that is an *individual* decision, not one to be enforced at the end of a gun ala a state?” I’m not sure I’m seeing this distinction, but maybe I’m missing it… To me this is an oft-overlooked point in these intervention discussions: from a libertarian perspective, only *individuals* act. We can have a discussion about whether individuals may or may not want to act to intervene in another country and even whether that is compatible with libertarianism; but in no way can a *state* intervening be libertarian, because A) states aren’t compatible with libertarianism, and B) even if they were, the second one set of people takes the money that others set aside *for defense* and decide to use it for any other purpose, they have effectively stolen that money… it doesn’t matter whether the military is used to do the most heroic, moral thing in the world: it’s still a violation of libertarianism if it was used in other way than the “contract” by which people paid for it. And in the US, that contract is explicit: the military is only for *defense*, not for anything else, not for human rights or “doing the right thing” or anything like that, *only* for defense.

    So I don’t even get to the point of discussing the particulars of this situation: it can’t be libertarian.

    • Andy, I don’t think there’s much of a debate among libertarians over individual interventionist contributions to this struggle.

      I agree that state intervention is always unlibertarian. But some of the Putin defenders and NATO defenders—camp A and D—seem to disagree.

  • It would be nice if “libertarians” like Doolittle were as concerned about liberty in their own country as they are about liberty in foreign nations – especially when they are prepared to sacrifice it at home to fight for it abroad. It’s worth noting that they haven’t had a whole lot of success at liberventions abroad.

    I can understand why so many conservatives like to call themselves libertarians. I wouldn’t want to be identified with the corrupt and intellectually bankrupt non-philosophy of modern pop conservatism if I were them. The problem is that many libertarians, myself included, are becoming more and more reluctant to be identified with the label “libertarian” as more and more conservatives identify themselves as libertarians. This trend is also amplified by the so-called progressives and the media.

    • I absolutely agree with this. As more conservatives slap the label “libertarian” on their shambles of a political ideology, I find myself distancing myself from it. Curt Doolittle’s ends-justify-the-means ideas and irrationally arrogant attitudes are exactly why.