The Libertarian Standard » War http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Sun, 09 Nov 2014 19:26:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » War http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com/category/statism/war/ TV-G Against the Libertarian Cold War http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/03/26/against-the-libertarian-cold-war/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/03/26/against-the-libertarian-cold-war/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:54:17 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13428 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.

 

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Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the U.S. Terror State http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/06/hiroshima-nagasaki-and-the-u-s-terror-state/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/06/hiroshima-nagasaki-and-the-u-s-terror-state/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 16:16:06 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12612 Being a U.S. war criminal means never having to say sorry. Paul Tibbets, the man who flew the Enola Gay and destroyed Hiroshima, lived to the impressive age of 92 without publicly expressing guilt for what he had done. He had even reenacted his infamous mission at a 1976 Texas air show, complete with a mushroom cloud, and later said he never meant this to be offensive. In contrast, he called it a “damn big insult” when the Smithsonian planned an exhibit in 1995 showing some of the damage the bombing caused.

We might understand a man not coming to terms with his most important contribution to human history being such a destructive act. But what about the rest of the country?

It’s sickening that Americans even debate the atomic bombings, as they do every year in early August. Polls in recent years reveal overwhelming majorities of the American public accepting the acts as necessary.

Conservatives are much worse on this topic, although liberals surely don’t give it the weight it deserves. Trent Lott was taken to the woodshed for his comments in late 2002 about how Strom Thurmond would have been a better president than Truman. Lott and Thurmond both represent ugly strains in American politics, but no one dared question the assumption that Thurmond was obviously a less defensible candidate than Truman. Zora Neale Hurston, heroic author of the Harlem Renaissance, might have had a different take, as she astutely called Truman “a monster” and “the butcher of Asia.” Governmental segregation is terrible, but why is murdering hundreds of thousands of foreign civilians with as much thought as one would give to eradicating silverfish treated as simply a controversial policy decision in comparison?

Perhaps it is the appeal to necessity. We hear that the United States would have otherwise had to invade the Japanese mainland and so the bombings saved American lives. But saving U.S. soldiers wouldn’t justify killing Japanese children any more than saving Taliban soldiers would justify dropping bombs on American children. Targeting civilians to manipulate their government is the very definition of terrorism. Everyone was properly horrified by Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 murder spree in Norway – killing innocents to alter diplomacy. Truman murdered a thousand times as many innocents on August 6, 1945, then again on August 9.

It doesn’t matter if Japan “started it,” either. Only individuals have rights, not nations. Unless you can prove that every single Japanese snuffed out at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was involved in the Pearl Harbor attack, the murderousness of the bombings is indisputable. Even the official history should doom Truman to a status of permanent condemnation. Besides being atrocious in themselves, the U.S. creation and deployment of the first nuclear weapons ushered in the seemingly endless era of global fear over nuclear war.

However, as it so happens, the conventional wisdom is an oversimplification at best. The U.S. provoked the Japanese to fire the first shot, as more and more historians have acknowledged. Although the attack on Pearl Harbor, a military base, was wrong, it was far less indefensible than the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s civilian populations.

As for the utilitarian calculus of “saving American lives,” historian Ralph Raico explains:

[T]he rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single colossal fabrication, which has gained surprising currency: that they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American lives. These, supposedly, are the lives that would have been lost in the planned invasion of Kyushu in December, then in the all-out invasion of Honshu the next year, if that was needed. But the worst-case scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands was forty-six thousand American lives lost.

The propaganda that the atomic bombings saved lives was nothing but a public relations pitch contrived in retrospect. These were just gratuitous acts of mass terrorism. By August 1945, the Japanese were completely defeated, blockaded, starving. They were desperate to surrender. All they wanted was to keep their emperor, which was ultimately allowed anyway. The U.S. was insisting upon unconditional surrender, a purely despotic demand. Given what the Allies had done to the Central Powers, especially Germany, after the conditional surrender of World War I, it’s understandable that the Japanese resisted the totalitarian demand for unconditional surrender.

A 1946 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey determined the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nukings were not decisive in ending the war. Most of the political and military brass agreed. “The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing,” said Dwight Eisenhower in a 1963 interview with Newsweek.

Another excuse we hear is the specter of Hitler getting the bomb first. This is a non sequitur. By the time the U.S. dropped the bombs, Germany was defeated and its nuclear program was revealed to be nothing in comparison to America’s. The U.S. had 180,000 people working for several years on the Manhattan Project. The Germans had a small group led by a few elite scientists, most of whom were flabbergasted on August 6, as they had doubted such bombs were even possible. Even if the Nazis had gotten the bomb – which they were very far from getting – it wouldn’t in any way justify killing innocent Japanese.

For more evidence suggesting that the Truman administration was out to draw Japanese blood for its own sake, or as a show of force for reasons of Realpolitik, consider the United States’s one-thousand-plane bombing of Tokyo on August 14, the largest bombing raid of the Pacific war, after Hirohito agreed to surrender and the Japanese state made it clear it wanted peace. The bombing of Nagasaki should be enough to know it was not all about genuinely stopping the war as painlessly as possible – why not wait more than three days for the surrender to come? But to strategically bomb Japan five days after the destruction of Nagasaki, as Japan was in the process of waving the white flag? It’s hard to imagine a greater atrocity, or clearer evidence that the U.S. government was not out to secure peace, but instead to slaughter as many Japanese as it could before consolidating its power for the next global conflict.

The U.S. had, by the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, destroyed 67 Japanese cities by firebombing, in addition to helping the British destroy over a hundred cities in Germany. In this dramatic footage from The Fog of War, Robert McNamara describes the horror he helped unleash alongside General Curtis LeMay, with images of the destroyed Japanese cities and an indication of what it would have meant for comparably sized cities in the United States:

“Killing fifty to ninety percent of the people in 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional – in the minds of some people – to the objectives we were trying to achieve,” McNamara casually says. Indeed, this was clearly murderous, and Americans are probably the most resistant of all peoples to the truths of their government’s historical atrocities. It doesn’t hurt that the U.S. government has suppressed for years evidence such as film footage shot after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet even based on what has long been uncontroversial historical fact, we should all be disgusted and horrified by what the U.S. government did.

How would it have been if all those Germans and Japanese, instead of being burned to death from the sky, were corralled into camps and shot or gassed? Materially, it would have been the same. But Americans refuse to think of bombings as even in the same ballpark as other technologically expedient ways of exterminating people by the tens and hundreds of thousands. Why? Because the U.S. government has essentially monopolized terror bombing for nearly a century. No one wants to confront the reality of America’s crimes against humanity.

It would be one thing if Americans were in wide agreement that their government, like that of the Axis governments of World War II, had acted in a completely indefensible manner. But they’re not. The Allies were the white hats. Ignore the fact that the biggest belligerent on America’s side was Stalin’s Russia, whom the FDR and Truman administrations helped round up a million or two refugees in the notorious undertaking known as Operation Keelhaul. We’re not supposed to think about that. World War II began with Pearl Harbor and it ended with D-Day and American sailors returning home to kiss their sweethearts who had kept America strong by working on assembly lines.

In the Korean war, another Truman project, the U.S. policy of shameful mass murder continued. According to historian Bruce Cumings, professor at the University of Chicago, millions of North Korean civilians were slaughtered by U.S. fire-bombings, chemical weapons and newly developed ordnance, some of which weighed in at 12,000 pounds. Eighteen out of 22 major cities were at least half destroyed. For a period in 1950, the US dropped about 800 tons of bombs on North Korea every day. Developed at the end of World War II, napalm got its real start in Korea. The US government also targeted civilian dams, causing massive flooding.

In Indochina, the U.S. slaughtered millions in a similar fashion. Millions of tons of explosives were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. These ghastly weapons are literally still killing people – tens of thousands have died since the war ended, and three farmers were killed not long ago. Among the horrible effects of the bombing was the rise of Pol Pot’s regime, probably the worst in history on a per capita basis.

The U.S. has committed mass terrorism since, although not on quite the scale as in past generations. Back in the day the U.S. would drop tons of explosives, knowing that thousands would die in an instant. In today’s wars, it drops explosives and then pretends it didn’t mean to kill the many civilians who predictably die in such acts of violence. Only fifteen hundred bombs were used to attack Baghdad in March 2003. That’s what passes as progress. The naked murderousness of U.S. foreign policy, however, is still apparent. The bombings of water treatment facilities and sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s deliberately targeted the vulnerable Iraqi people. Once the type of atrocities the U.S. committed in World War II have been accepted as at the worst debatable tactics in diplomacy, anything goes.

American politicians would have us worry about Iran, a nation that hasn’t attacked another country in centuries, one day getting the bomb. There is no evidence that the Iranians are even seeking nuclear weapons. But even if they were, the U.S. has a much worse record in both warmongering and nuclear terror than Iran or any other country in modern times. It is more than hypocritical for the U.S. to pose as the leader of global peace and nuclear disarmament.

The hypocrisy and moral degeneracy in the mouths of America’s celebrated leaders should frighten us more than anything coming out of Iran or North Korea, especially given America’s capacity to kill and willingness to do it. Upon dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, President Truman called the bomb the “greatest achievement of organized science in history” and wondered aloud how “atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence toward the maintenance of world peace.” Nothing inverts good and evil, progress and regress, as much as the imperial state. In describing the perversion of morality in the history of U.S. wars, Orwell’s “war is peace” doesn’t cut it. “Exterminating civilians by the millions is the highest of all virtues” is perhaps a better tagline for the U.S. terror state.

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Hedy Lamarr Bet on the Wrong Horse http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/01/hedy-lamarr-bet-on-the-wrong-horse/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/01/hedy-lamarr-bet-on-the-wrong-horse/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 13:06:13 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12603 NakedHedwig

“Hedy stands naked in a field. She looks off-camera in dismay as her horse gallops away with the clothes she had draped over its back to take a dip in a woodland pond.”


That’s the opening line of my article “Putting Hedy Lamarr on Hold,” featured today in the Freeman.

I shared a draft with a writer friend of mine over the weekend. She is far more educated and literary than I am. She saw a parallel between the opening scene and the larger story that I confess I was not conscious of. I thought I’d just been going for sex appeal.

Here’s more of the opening:

She is not called Lamarr yet. That name will come later, in Hollywood. For now she is still Hedwig Kiesler, a Viennese teenager in Prague, playing her first starring role in a feature film, Ekstase (“Ecstasy,” 1933). The controversial Czechoslovakian film will become famous for Hedy’s nude scenes (which are not sexual) and its sex scenes (which show only her face, in close-up, in the throes of passion).

The film will give Hedy her first taste of fame. She will be known as the Ecstasy girl. An Austrian director will tell the press, “Hedy Kiesler is the most beautiful girl in the world.” Later, MGM movie mogul Louis B. Mayer will repeat the claim, using the name he insisted she change to: Hedy Lamarr.

But while the world of her time will remember her for her photogenic beauty, history will remember her as the inventor of frequency hopping, the foundational technology of today’s mobile phones and wireless Internet. [FULL ARTICLE]

FreemanHedyThe piece goes on to explain how Hedy invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum during World War II and why it took so long for that invention to usher in the wireless Internet age. Short answer: the government kept the technology secret for decades. Not only did Hedy Lamarr not see a cent from her invention; she didn’t even get credit for it until the end of the century.

So here’s what my writer friend said:

The more I think about it, the movie image you start with — Hedy looking at her runaway horse and thinking, ok now what? is exactly what you describe in your title: Hedy Lamarr on hold. She’s on hold in the movie (for a moment, I guess — given the movie title, I imagine that she’s not alone for long) and then her invention is on hold for a much longer time. … A Hollywood starlet and inventive genius who made millions in the market surrendered her most innovative idea to Leviathan, who stifled it. And she did so, ironically, because of a lack of imagination on her part — a naive faith that the state would protect and serve its citizens.

(By the way, I’m especially pleased that FEE decided not only to feature my article but also to use the image I put together for it!)

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The Case for Independence http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/07/03/the-case-for-independence/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/07/03/the-case-for-independence/#comments Wed, 03 Jul 2013 22:42:53 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12562 On July 4th some Americans celebrate the rejection of empire. Politicians more likely see it as the US government’s birthday. Libertarians must decide which legacy the day truly commemorates, and celebrate or mourn appropriately.

If this is a day to remember liberation, disunion, the idea that a house divided might be more civil, peaceful and secure than one kept together by force—if we are to focus on the subversion of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence more than its inconsistencies—we should consider the benefits of reclaiming and radicalizing the spirit of 1776 and applying its principles to the present day. We should contemplate the possibility that what Americans and foreigners need is independence from the empire.

The American colonists had been particularly irked by the British government’s hypocrisy regarding the liberal tradition. The British prided themselves on having a liberal and enlightened political culture, complete with checks and balances, due process and the like. But they did not grant such privileges and immunities to their colonial subjects. They preached freedom and toleration but practiced international despotism. Edmund Burke, one of the most consistent proponents of liberty in Britain, decried this colonial hypocrisy as an enormous scandal.

Today, the US empire is everything the British empire was: It claims the banner of constitutional justice at home, it feigns interest in freedom abroad, it poses as the embodiment of liberty itself. But it treats those in its clutches, especially those in its remote grasp, as dispensable means to an imperial end. It slaughters civilians with no regard for the number. It enforces martial law in its exploits abroad. It is the champion and vindicator, not of foreign liberty, but of theocracies and socialist states everywhere. In the course of its reign, it has laid waste to millions of lives.

Barack Obama is a far greater tyrant than King George ever was. He claims the right to seize anyone in all the world — his designated battlefield in the war on terror — and deprive him of liberty or life without anything approaching due process. He asserts the right to kill anyone he deems a terrorist on his own discretion. Under modern presidents, the US has become just what John Quincy Adams warned it might: The Dictatress of the World.

The world’s people deserve their independence. Perhaps it would be fitting to start with the British. Liberate them from the post-9/11 foreign policy that only a minority of them approve. Wartime coalitions without representation are tyranny! They should be the first satellite freed, as a poetic gesture of honest friendship. The Brits didn’t release America without a fight, but perhaps they can be let go in peace.

Of course, Afghanistan must be freed immediately, as should all those living in regions terrorized by US intervention—Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and all the rest. Is it not an embarrassment for Americans to celebrate the day with fireworks and barbecues yet think nothing of the perversity of it all, given what is happening in the Muslim world? US interference with Middle Eastern independence has been nothing but a repudiation of July-4th principles, at least since 1953 when the CIA overthrew Iranian democracy and installed a torturing inflationist monster. The US support, betrayals and overthrows of Arab and Muslim regimes have typically been incoherent, contradictory, and nakedly unjust. Such intervention has not protected but has rather endangered American lives and freedoms. The entangling alliance between the United States and Israel, which compromises the safety of both populations, must also end.

Then there are the other imperial holdings. There’s Old Europe, which should stop being bullied every time they don’t want to go to war for America. Just because Americans were dragged into World War II doesn’t mean the French should be dragged into the next installment, with presumed allegiance to Old Glory until the end of time. Bring GI Joe home from Germany, where he has absurdly been stationed for six decades, presumably in wait for Hitler’s resurrection, or the threats presented by the Soviet Union, always an economic invalid and now nearly two-decades defunct.

Then there’s New Europe, which should be freed from undue US government influence. Stop bribing their leaders and see how loyal their people really are to the neocon-neolib enterprise. It is high time the US stop playing elections to its advantage.

In Japan and Korea, American troops have long been the cause of much agitation and no visible good. Bring them home. Mao has long been dead, so it’s time the US government stopped pretending it’s all that’s keeping imaginary dominoes from falling all over Asia. Free trade with Asians would be good as well. Much of the original US imperial interest in Asia was commercial in nature, although now America’s protectionists fear Asia becoming capitalist and rich. It’s clear, however, that trade benefits both sides to the transaction, and empire only gets in the way.

Latin Americans’ self-determination declines whenever the US reinterprets the arrogant Monroe doctrine to award itself the keys to the capital city of yet another Spanish-speaking nation. Policy in the region has been brazenly colonial at least since the US imposed the Platt Amendment on the Cubans and stole Guantanamo Bay. The US should stop pretending it has always owned the Western Hemisphere, stop poisoning crops, stop staging coups and stop strong-arming Mexico and other countries into maintaining a draconian drug war.

US meddling in Africa also tends toward disaster, as Libya, Somalia and Sudan have shown. Extend to the African peoples total free trade and friendship, which is the best America can do to help them join the developing world. We should resist the internationalist temptation to redeploy into the continent with humanitarian bombs and altruistic bellicosity, as if in anticipation of a Joseph Conrad novel with a happy ending.

Australia, Canada (and every other country) should also get their independence, at last, from the US. No more global regulatory arm-twisting, manipulative foreign aid, threats or empty promises.

As for the American people, we should consider independence, too. For starters, half our income is taxed away and we have the biggest prison population on the planet. American government is much worse for American liberty than the British empire was, to an almost obscene degree.

Open up Common Sense and notice the radical insights about being governed from afar. There is simply no sense or justice in the same central state ruling everybody from Hawaii to Virginia, from Arizona to Vermont. The American Republic was a half-decent experiment, as far as such political experiments go, but it didn’t guarantee liberty even when the American population was 2% the size it is today.

American freedom and international peace will always be a mirage so long as the beast in Washington, DC, lords it over everyone on earth. There have always been Americans who saw no limits to the US government’s power, but let us once and for all tell these Hamiltonians and Wilsonians that we are sick of their crazed expansions and invasions and want some peace and freedom for a change.

Americans make particularly terrible imperialists. We are a people who prefer privacy and liberty in our own lives. We are a people with independence and rebellion in our national heritage. Ours is thus an even more hypocritical empire than that of the British. It’s long past time Americans stopped trampling across the globe as conquerors. As long as we pursue such conquests, we ourselves will remain conquered, shackled by our own chains. Edmund Burke’s rebuke of his nation’s imperial policy and his defense of American independence apply today as never before.

Our government, the biggest in human history, is the greatest threat to our freedom, drain on our wealth, and fomenter of international conflict. We cannot keep empire if we want liberty. We cannot be free if we seek to boss all of mankind around. To have the freedom that Jefferson described, we must let go of our foreign satellites and allow our compatriots and international brothers and sisters the freedom we want for ourselves.

Is such independence possible? Absolutely. Empires crumble. In 1775, few thought the Americans would soon be their own nation. The British empire suffered from pretensions to eternal life. The US empire may in some ways be unique, but it is no more permanent than any other. In stark contrast, the principles of human nature declared to the world from a small Philadelphia gathering 237 years ago were true then, before the US empire was born, and will remain true long after the US empire collapses.

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Libertarians and War: A Bibliographical Essay http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/03/20/libertarians-and-war-a-bibliographical-essay/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/03/20/libertarians-and-war-a-bibliographical-essay/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 23:39:53 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12387 The relationship between war and libertarianism has interested me since 9/11. In the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, I witnessed in grim fascination many libertarians make excuses for government in the realm of national security. The proper libertarian position on war has become a matter of controversy, although I believe it shouldn’t be. “War is the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne said, as well as being “mass murder,” in the words of Murray Rothbard.

The following essay presents some of the most relevant materials and readings on this controversy. It is unapologetically tilted toward the antiwar position, although it includes some references to pro-interventionist writings. It is idiosyncratic and not comprehensive, and its omissions are not always deliberate. I am always interested in reading suggestions. As for the citations, I include publishing information for books but generally leave it out for articles written for or available on the web, so as to avoid extraneous clutter. Please follow the links to learn more.

Among the founders of modern libertarianism, Rothbard most consistently urged an antiwar position. In “War, Peace and the State,” he identified opposition to all state wars as well as to nuclear weapons as the libertarian’s core commitments. For more on Rothbard’s views on these questions, I recommend “Murray N. Rothbard: Against War and the State” by Stephen W. Carson and “Murray N. Rothbard on States, War and Peace, Part I” and “Part II” by Joseph Stromberg.

In terms of comprehensiveness and clarity, the best modern treatment is “Why Libertarians Oppose War,” chapter nine in Jacob Huebert’s fantastic Libertarianism Today (Praeger: 2010), which is probably my favorite introduction to libertarianism. Huebert covers all the bases, touching on the relevant economics, U.S. history, and moral principles, and delivers radical conclusions. The chapter is perfectly balanced in terms of scope and emphasis. In November 2012 he eloquently summed up his thesis at a Students for Liberty conference in a talk titled “Why Libertarians Must Oppose War.”

Other decent libertarian introductions feature strong summary discussions of foreign policy. Chapter fourteen, “War and Foreign Policy,” in Rothbard’s For a New Liberty still stands the test of time, and provides a nice refresher on Cold War revisionism. Harry Browne’s two campaign books, Why Government Doesn’t Work and The Great Libertarian Offer, both gave the issue serious attention, and he published a moving excerpt from the first book as an article, “What Is War?”  Mary Ruwart’s Healing Our World in An Age of Aggression (Sunstar Press: 2003) has a solid discussion of foreign policy, an earlier version of which is available online. Gary Chartier gives the topic due attention in Conscience of an Anarchist: Why It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to the State and Build a Free Society (Cobden Press: 2011). On multiple occasions Chartier has spoken on the centrality of peace under the eminently quotable topic title, “There’s War, and There’s Everything Else.”

Marc Guttman’s edited compilation Why Peace? is a masterful 636-page collection featuring dozens of authors, mostly libertarians, explaining how they came upon their staunch antiwar and pro-civil liberties convictions. It belongs on the bookshelves of all libertarians who prioritize war and peace issues. One powerful contribution is Bretnige Shaffer’s “Mere Anarchy Loosed Upon the World.”

In an excellent and succinct discussion of the war controversy, Robert Higgs draws a line in the sand with “Are Questions of War and Peace Merely One Issue among Many for Libertarians?” Higgs’s highly regarded scholarly stature and his general ecumenical stance on other issues make this piece very special. “In sum,” Higgs concludes, “the issue of war and peace does serve as a litmus test for libertarians. Warmongering libertarians are ipso facto not libertarians.”

More than a few have argued not only that libertarians should oppose war, but that they must oppose war to properly be called libertarians.  Walter Block has a couple of pieces on why pro-war libertarianism is a contradiction in terms, “Bloodthirsty ‘Libertarians’” and “Libertarian Warmongers.”

Homing in on the non-aggression principle, Wendy McElroy explains why virtually every war fails the libertarian test in “Libertarian Just War Theory.” Roderick Long’s 2006 article “The Justice and Prudence of War: Toward a Libertarian Analysis” presents a strong and somewhat novel argument against strict pacifism while adhering to a very hardcore antiwar position. As for the broader meaning of pacifism as opposition to all wars, Bryan Caplan has written one of the most compelling libertarian arguments for pacifism in a series of blogs, starting with “The Common-Sense Case for Pacifism.”

I have personally contributed a number of writings on libertarianism and war, the most extended of which was based on my talk “Warmongering Is the Health of Statism,” given at a LewRockwell.com conference in November 2005. For one of my most theoretical pieces that relate, see “Collateral Damage as a Euphemism for Mass Murder.” My most recent piece along these lines, “Noninterventionism: Cornerstone of a Free Society,” focused on American history. More of my writings are mentioned further down.

Standing Athwart History, Demanding Peace

Political issues come and go but war has always been with us. Those of the classical liberal tradition have tended toward the pro-peace position, although there have always been heretics. The major wars throughout history faced libertarian opposition and today libertarians disparage them retrospectively.

Ralph Raico’s 2007 talk “Classical Liberalism on War and Peace” sums up the historical liberal abhorrence of war. In a sense, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was itself an antiwar tract, as Don Boudreaux notes in “Adam Smith on war.” In nineteenth-century Britain, the Manchester School, personified by Richard Cobden and John Bright, was firmly on the side of peace, as Jim Powell explains in “Richard Cobden’s Triumphant Crusade for Peace and Free Trade.” Herbert Spencer’s “Patriotism” from Facts and Comments (1902) remains one of the most radical discussions of moral responsibility falling on the soldier. Stromberg’s “John Stuart Mill and Liberal Imperialism” addresses one of the most prominent classical liberal hawks.

Arthur A. Ekirch’s book The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition (The Independent Institute: 2010) surveys the historical relationship between U.S. liberalism and opposition to war. Stromberg discusses the current of anti-imperialist American liberalism in “Imperialism, Noninterventionism, and Revolution: Opponents of the Modern American Empire.”

For a discussion of libertarian attitudes about foreign policy throughout U.S. history, see Christopher Preble’s lecture, “Libertarianism and War.” Preble himself favors a mostly but not radically non-interventionist foreign policy, and emphasizes his antiwar side here: “libertarians. . . see war as the largest and most far-reaching of all socialist enterprises.”

Unsurprisingly, the most celebrated wars in U.S. history have become the most contentious among libertarians. At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Fernando Teson has etched out his theory of defensible “libertarian wars” and elaborated on it in “More on Libertarians and War.” Gary Chartier’s “Violence, Wars, and States” at the same forum stakes out the antiwar position.

Even more radically antiwar libertarians like Rothbard have defended the colonists’ cause in the American Revolution. But there exist libertarian critiques of even the most seemingly defensible wars. Stephan Kinsella’s “Thumbs Down on the Fourth of July” compiles some of the most recent libertarian critiques of the American Revolution, including a contribution by me.

Multiple controversies surround the American Civil War. Radical abolitionist Lysander Spooner, a libertarian anarchist writing at the time, strongly opposed attacking the South. Since then, classical liberals from Lord Acton to H.L. Mencken have criticized Lincoln. Ludwig von Mises, on the other hand, favored the Union cause.

Today, some libertarians to varying degrees favor the Union, others the Confederacy, and still others oppose both sides. In April 2011, Reason Magazine commemorated the 150th anniversary of hostilities by publishing a handful of perspectives ranging from anti-war but not pro-South all the way to pro-Union. Sheldon Richman, editor of  the Freeman, dedicated that month’s issue to libertarian revisionist perspectives, including by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, author of the definitive libertarian history of the Civil War—and one of the best history books on any war or by any libertarian—Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. Hummel also has an unpublished book manuscript elaborating at length on one of his key contributions: the thesis that the government, including the national government, subsidized slavery, making it profitable for slaveholders despite its macro inefficiency, with the implication that secession was a viable anti-slavery, peaceful alternative to war: “Deadweight Loss and the American Civil War: The Political Economy of Slavery, Secession, and Emancipation.”

For a series of pro-Union critical responses to the Freeman symposium, see Timothy Sandefur’s “Springtime for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy.” Over the years, lots of writing at LewRockwell.com, particularly by Thomas DiLorenzo, has critiqued the Civil War, and especially the Union’s conduct. Pushing back against a perceived pro-Confederacy bias, Charles Johnson has written multiple pieces criticizing the Southern warfare state.

The first major Progressive War, the Spanish-American War, united most classical liberals in opposition. They were key figures in the Anti-Imperialist League, headed by Mark Twain.

World War I was more divisive, as many precursors to the modern libertarian movement, from individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker to Old Right giant Garet Garrett, favored the war, which enjoys few defenders among libertarians today. Indeed, one of the most compelling critiques of the war, particularly emphasizing the effects on the United States, is Ralph Raico’s terrific “World-War I: The Turning Point,” included in the author’s recent and entirely relevant collection, Great Wars & Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, which also includes fantastic revisionist essays on Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Trotsky, and other topics. A most stirring critique that explores some neglected wartime effects on domestic statism is Rothbard’s “World War I as Fulfillment: Power and Intellectuals.”  Jim Powell’s Wilson’s War: How Woodrow Wilson’s Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II makes the argument, not uncommon among libertarians, that U.S. entry paved the way to many of the centuries worst cataclysms. Libertarian historian Hunt Tooley’s The Western Front: Battleground and Home Front in the First World War is one of the best and most moving general accounts of the European War in all the literature.

World War II is a more controversial matter. Old Right giant John Flynn’s 1944 book As We Go Marching was a devastating liberal critique of World War II’s impact on American statism. The same year, Ludwig von Mises explained the National Socialist warfare state in Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total War and Total State. Rothbard’s article, “World War II: The Nadir of the Old Right,” explains the key significance of the world’s largest ever battle in shaping the principal precursor to the modern libertarian movement.

The Rothbardian tradition has opposed U.S. entry into World War II, demonstrated by a sample of critical writings from Higgs, who has focused on its domestic consequences in Depression, War, and Cold War, among many other academic and popular writings, including a nice revisionist piece, “World War II: An Unspeakable Horror Now Encrusted in Myths.” Jacob Hornberger has over the years run dozens of articles criticizing everything from U.S. diplomacy before Pearl Harbor and U.S. cooperation with Stalin to Roosevelt’s refusal of Jewish refugees and the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki—many of these articles wound up in the great FFF collection, The Failure of America’s Foreign Wars. Hornberger’s series on repatriation remains one of the few available popular writings on this episode. For his publications I have written reviews critical of World War II. Raimondo has written multiple pieces keeping the Old Right opposition to war alive, and his book Reclaiming the American Right puts the issue front and center.

Many libertarians today continue to defend U.S. entry into World War II, and some look upon the opponents incredulously. Eric Dondero had trouble believing Harry Browne, who on his radio show said he opposed U.S. entry. Cathy Young’s review of Tom Woods’s Politically Incorrect Guide to American History takes for granted that American entry into the war was a positive thing. On the other hand, many modern libertarians take it just as much for granted that Franklin Roosevelt’s warmongering was indefensible. As Antiwar.com’s Angela Keaton said in an interview with Motorhome Diaries: “I get this question from time to time, especially from new libertarians: ‘Aren’t some wars necessary—like World War II?’ No. No. There’s your answer to that.’”

The Cold War, from its hot conflicts to its domestic political culture, occasioned the birth of modern libertarianism, by distinguishing it unmistakably from the right. The reflective “Conscience on the Battlefield” by Foundation of Economics Education president Leonard Read in 1951 marked a definite break from the Korean War hawks, although FEE did not focus much on foreign policy generally. In 1963, Rothbard’s “War, Peace, and the State” took specific aim at conservatives as it fashioned a radical libertarian theory against war, and his “Confessions of a Rightwing Liberal” and other writings served to emphasize peace as a core element of libertarianism.

These libertarians ideas finally animated a political and social movement amidst escalation of the Vietnam War, police state crackdowns on antiwar protesters, and draft card burnings and marchings. Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008) conveys much of the history of this agitation, and is especially good on such event as the famous split at the Young Americans for Freedom and the 1950s and 1960s Cold War libertarian counterculture. Focus on war issues helped give rise to the New Left, which featured an affinity between anti-authoritarian leftism and libertarianism, especially in its scholarship. Rothbard’s journal Left and Right epitomized this fusion, as did his title essay, “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty.”

Yet there were Cold Warrior libertarian fellow travelers. Even the early Libertarian Party was divided on immediate draft amnesty. In 1991, some libertarians defended the first Gulf War under George H.W. Bush. A smaller faction defended Clinton’s war with Serbia in 1999.

Jeff Riggenbach’s great introduction to historical revisionism, Why American History Is Not What They Say, explores libertarian, left-, and right-wing war historiography in some depth. Tom Woods’s book We Who Dared Say No to War, co-edited with Murray Polner, at least implicitly serves as a libertarian endorsement of antiwar perspectives throughout American history, with classic essays criticizing the War of 1812, the Mexican War, The Civil War (including from a Southern anti-Confederacy perspective), the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the War on Terror.

Jeff Hummel’s unfinished book manuscript,  “War is the Health of the State: The Impact of Military Defense on the History of the United States” has excellent chapters on America’s major wars from the Revolution through World War II, focusing on the relationship between conflict and government growth. Each chapter is followed by an outstanding bibliographical essay. Also worth mentioning are Bruce Porter’s War and the Rise of the State (Simon and Schuster, 2002); John Denson’s edited volume, The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, Rothbard’s Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy, a powerful tract on American wars and the coporate state; Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan, the classic tome on war and the growth of the U.S. government, Joseph Stromberg’s bibliography on war, peace, and the state, David Gordon’s bibliography “On War,” and the Independent Institute’s bibliographies at OnPower.org.

From a war’s most primary policies—killing and conquest—all the way down to the taxation, intrusions into the economy, censorship, violations of civil liberties—libertarians should have more to hate about war than anyone else, as war fuels state power and collectivism in a thousand ways at once. Accordingly, libertarians have produced some of the most comprehensive critiques of war, especially its effect on wide range of government policies. Moreover, the libertarian critique often comes from all angles, so that libertarian economists, legal theorists, historians, and other social scientists will all have something bad to say about a war.

Nevertheless, in the libertarian community remains a faction that defends a wide range of state activities in the name of national security. This faction appeared to grow or become more vocal in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

War and Libertarianism after 9/11

The 9/11 attacks, the U.S. response, and particularly the Iraq war, have served to illustrate the deep divide in principle among self-described libertarians and questions of war and peace. Each event was a testing ground for principled libertarian opposition to the warfare state. Joseph Stromberg contributed a series of pieces, reflecting on the returning trend of pro-war libertarianism, which had declined a bit after the end of the Cold War. Coining the term “liberventionist,” Stromberg analyzed the unfortunate reemergence in “Liberventionism Rides Again,” critiqued general liberventionist intellectual error in “Liberventionism II: The Flight from Theory,” and discussed the liberventionist tendency to whitewash the history of U.S. intervention and even advocate total war on civilians in “Liberventionism III: The Flight from History.”

Many libertarians and some libertarian groups came out firmly on the side of peace after 9/11. Among the institutions were LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com, The Libertarian Enterprise, Strike the Root, the Mises Institute, The Independent Institute, and the Future of Freedom Foundation. Many of these groups not only took a pro-peace position early, but have held peace as a high priority in their publications and programs consistently since 9/11.

Harry Browne, the recent Libertarian presidential candidate, published a bold antiwar article within a day of the terrorist attacks, “When Will We Learn?” stirring up controversy among LP members. The Libertarian Party establishment itself seemed to favor the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Lew Rockwell critiqued this ambiguous LP press release in his article “Does the LP Support THIS War?

Reflecting on the sad divide in the libertarian movement over the war, the Future of Freedom Foundation’s Jacob Hornberger explained in “Libertarian Splits in the War on Terrorism” why freedom is impossible so long as there is perpetual war. David J. Theroux, president of the Independent Institute, and Karen DeCoster warned about the assaults on American liberty that would come with the burgeoning warfare state, and the impossibility of using aggression and central planning to bring about security, in “The New U.S. War on Liberty.” Hans-Hermann Hoppe explained why libertarian principles mean the rejection of aggressive war and why libertarian class theory should lead one to distrust the warfare state in an interview, “Hans-Hermann Hoppe on War, Terrorism and the World State.”

Standing against the criticism of libertarian dovishness early after 9/11, Justin Raimondo defended the antiwar libertarians in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Postrel?” and L. Neil Smith did so as well, while expounding on the non-aggression principle as it relates to war, in “War of the Weenies.

Raimondo explained how there was more hope for libertarians than many might think in his article, “Long Live Libertarianism!“—an inspiration for anyone at the time who was worrying about the death of rationality and principle in this movement of ours. In his speech “War and Freedom,” Lew Rockwell reflected on the disappointing performance of mainstream libertarians, and the horrible bloodthirstiness of conservatives and the Bush administration.

When some libertarians went beyond supporting the Afghanistan War to advocating war on Iraq, it became clear that liberventionism was not going away and was not only an understandable, if disappointing, visceral reaction in the immediate wake of 9/11.

After Justin Raimondo challenged the Libertarian Party to take a firm antiwar position in his speech, “Libertarianism in the Age of Empire,” activist and writer Thomas Knapp chimed in with “The Party and War,” explaining why the Libertarian Party could not afford to be soft on the issue. Shortly after Gulf War II began, Robert Higgs addressed the demented mindset of liberventionism in “Are Pro-War Libertarians Right?” Harry Browne reflected on the many ways libertarians had to violate their own principles in “Libertarians and War.” Gene Healy from the Cato Institute took libertarian Iraq hawks to task in a September 2003 blogpost “Libertarians and the War.” Daniel McCarthy reiterated the major reasons why we must oppose warfare aggression in “Liberventionism for Fun and Profit.” Don Boudreaux found himself explaining his position in a 2005 piece called “An Open Letter to My Libertarian Friends Who Don’t Understand My Opposition to the War in Iraq.”

In 2005, R.J. Rummel, great scholar of governmental mass murder, coined the term “freedomist” to describe an interventionist libertarianism rooted largely in the logic of the democratic peace theory. I criticized this theory in “Making the World Safe for Imperialist Democracy.”

Other conspicuous liberventionists writing from 9/11 to the end of the Bush administration included Tim Starr, Timothy Sandefur, J. Neil Schulman, Max Borders, Glenn Reynolds, John Hospers, Ron Bailey, Tyler Cowen, Neal Boortz, Randy Barnett, and Larry Elder—although some of these people have changed their tune since. Underground “mainstream libertarian” Eric Dondero made a lot of noise criticizing antiwar libertarians and calling for their purge, characterizing antiwar libertarians as pro-Islamist or “leftwing libertarians.”
The most vociferously pro-war voices in the broader libertarian movement have belonged to Objectivists. The Ayn Rand Institute called for nuclear war after 9/11. Raimondo explained how Objectivism related to warmongering within the libertarian movement in his speech, “The Objectivist Death Cult.” To be fair, there have been efforts by Objectivists to expose the folly of Randian warmongering, including a wonderful article by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, “Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand’s Radical Legacy,” as well as a thoughtful piece by Chip Gibbons, “Ayn Rand: The Roots of War.”

The Vindication of Libertarian Non-Interventionism

As the Iraq war became increasingly unpopular, Gary North expressed optimism that liberventionism was on its way out in “The Self-Castration of Libertarian Hawks.” In 2006, Milton Friedman passed away, and his publicized characterization of the Iraq war as “aggression” gave new mainstream credence to the antiwar libertarian view. The Volokh Conspiracy responded with a blog putting Friedman’s disagreement with his wife in the context of a longstanding controversy among libertarians.

In 2005, Matt Welch at Reason Magazine had an interesting pro-war libertarian quiz as he appeared to be working out these issues himself challenging interventionists to define the boundaries of their position. “An Open Letter to Libertarians Who Support the War on Terror” by Marc Joffe is diplomatic and conciliatory article standing firm on the side of peace. Justin Raimondo addressed the issue again in “Libertarianism and the War,” inspired by the release of Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism. Jacob Hornberger, in early 2007, addressed “The Critical Dilemma Facing Pro-War Libertarians,” concluding that we must stand with the warfare state or with liberty. In June 2007, John Walsh, a leftist at Counterpunch, credited the Future of Freedom Foundation for its three-day conference on peace and civil liberties: “Libertarian Conference on Peace and Liberty: Shaming the Official Antiwar Movement.” In late 2007 Bryan Caplan asked, “Why Did So Many Libertarians Support the War?

Ron Paul spent most of his political career focusing on the evils of U.S. intervention abroad, as his collection of speeches and writings, A Foreign Policy of Freedom well demonstrates. Paul ran for president in 2008 and 2012, each time putting focus on the war issue. In response to his first presidential campaign, Randy Barnett wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal asserting that one could be a libertarian and support the war in Iraq. This incited an avalanche of responses, many of which are included in Stephan Kinsella’s “An Overview of Criticisms of Randy Barnett on Iraq and War.” In addition, Robert Higgs wrote a letter to the editor, part of which was published in the WSJ, which added his expertise to the issue. Walter Block penned a piece “Randy Barnett: Pro-War Libertarian,” as well as an excellent and more substantive critique in “A Libertarian War in Afghanistan?”. My own response to Barnett was a column, “The Effects of War on Liberty,” that focused mostly on the relationship between war and statism.

The Ron Paul Revolution of 2007–2012 hardened the association of libertarianism with non-interventionism. I celebrated this in my own article in late 2007, “Ron Paul and the Defeat of the Liberventionists.” Five years later, Less Antman credited Paul for emphasizing peace and declared at the 2012 Libertarian Party convention in his stirring nomination speech for R. Lee Wrights that “Anti-war Is the Health of the Anti-state Movement.”

After eleven straight years of war, antiwar and anti-interventionism have seemingly arisen as the dominant position among libertarians. But new issues—another terrorist attack, another alleged genocide abroad—could always bring the controversy back. In late 2012, the sticky bundle of issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict animated libertarian debate, much of it aired on Bleeding Heart Libertarians. Steve Horwitz took a nuanced position in “‘Anti-State’ or ‘Pro-Liberty’? Some Thoughts on Israel.” John Glaser of Antiwar.com responded with an antiwar critique of Israel in “Libertarianism, Israel, and Palestine – A Different View.” Peter Lewin largely took a pro-Israel position in “Let’s Talk Fundamentals: Israel is Not The Problem and Israel Does Not Have The Solution” Matt Zwoliski in “Libertarianism, Self-Defense, and Innocent Shields” and Chartier in “Some Principles,” attempted to bring the issue back to basic fundamentals to guide debate. My own article, “Gaza and America,” attempted to show that the Israeli state’s attacks on Palestinian are as unlibertarian as is Hamas’s terrorism, and why Americans in particular should care.

On the tenth year anniversary of the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Reason Magazine published a forum of reflections from various libertarian writers: “The Iraq War: 10 Years Later.” Ron Bailey admitted he was wrong about Iraq, most others reiterated their position of opposition, and Ilya Somin argued for a nuanced approach, ultimately concluding the war was good for both America and Iraq on balance.

Libertarians Against War

It would be impossible to list every valuable critique of war written by libertarians, but some that are particularly libertarian in their method and approach are worth including. David Henderson’s very good column Wartime Economist at Antiwar.com is worth noting. Laurie Calhoun’s “Just War, Moral Soldiers?” hones in on the individual ethic of fighting in a war. Sheldon Richman’s “War as a Government Program” demystifies warmaking and shows it is as political and problematic as any state activity. Lew Rockwell’s “War and Inflation” draws the connection between these two key state activities. Joe Salerno’s “Imperialism and the Logic of Warmaking” brings praxeological insights to bear. My own “War and the Common Good” sees war as the epitome of collectivism.

Other libertarian scholars and writers whose primary issue is war or foreign policy, and who thus stand as walking examples of libertarian war opposition, deserve mention for their wonderful contributions. The Independent Institute’s Charles Peña has written many critical pieces and Ivan Eland, author of The Empire Has No Clothes, has written thousands of articles. The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow, Ted Galen Carpenter, and Malou Innocent are also worth following.  Eric Garris, founder of Antiwar.com with Justin Raimondo, has done as much to promote peace as any living libertarian. See his interview in the Daily Bell. Scott Horton the libertarian radio host has done over a thousand interviews with experts, most of them on foreign policy. Arthur Silber is a quasi Objectivists whose Once Upon a Time blog usually features very hard-hitting focus on the war issue.

I’ve written other assorted pieces relevant to the discussion of war and libertarianism. In “Only War Will Prevent War” I mock what I saw as a crude utilitarianism in pro-war libertarian reasoning and in “Would Pro-War ‘Libertarians’ Have Supported the New Deal” I pose the question of what degree of statism they would endorse. “A Compromise for the Libertarian Hawks” is mostly a polemic piece arguing that there is no such thing as pro-war libertarians; such people are merely a species of conservative. The pro-war anarchist faces scrutiny in “Anarcho-Statism.” I make a general plea that libertarians stand front and center on the issue in “Libertarians and the Warfare State” and I identify what I take to be a theoretical problem in “Liberventionists: The Nationalist Internationalists.” Parts of this essay are adapted from my 2005 article, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of World War.”

There is no issue more fundamental to liberty than peace. The essence of liberty is peace, and nothing expands the state and gives cover for rights violations better than war.  

 

* I will update this in the next week or so with more links I’ve been sent.

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Drone Rage: A Day Late and a Sequester’d Dollar Short? http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/26/drone-rage-a-day-late-and-a-sequesterd-dollar-short/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/26/drone-rage-a-day-late-and-a-sequesterd-dollar-short/#comments Wed, 27 Feb 2013 03:51:55 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12371 The brilliant Glenn Greenwald tweeted today:

Must-read from ProPublica: The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About (via @robertgreenwald)

Must reading indeed. Here’s what I don’t get about the drone debate. Why the @#$% did it take so long to start? Admittedly, I’ve grown somewhat numb to the fact that so-called conservatives are attacking the current POTUS about issues that seemed somehow obscure to them when Shrub was manning the con. Still, one would hope that basic human decency would, maybe, cause some kind of reaction to senseless killing of men, women, and children even in the far-away Middle East. Yet, there has been an alarming lack of concern about the drone program before now. Given CIA director nominee John Brennan’s recent cageyness about plans to use drones domestically, everyone is up in arms. The British are coming! One drone if by land! Two drones if by sea!

ProPublica sums it up nicely:

Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.

Four American citizens killed–over the past decade–added to the pending plan to deploy drones domestically, signals the apocalypse. Several thousand non-Americans, is, well, another day at the office. One suspects that there are more than a few Americans who think such action is warranted, particularly since we’re “at war” with Al Qaeda or some such.  Really? Well then, how to reconcile this little tidbit?

“What about the people who [are killed and] aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t on a [known terrorist] list?” asks Naureen Shah , a human rights and counterterrorism expert at Columbia Law School. Of the few thousand people killed, Shah notes, “it’s hard to believe all of these people are senior operational leaders of Al Qaeda.

Indeed. Are there really several thousand Al Qaeda “senior operational leaders” in Yemen and/or Pakistan? No. Furthermore, the standard for deciding to deploy a deadly drone strike is, shall we say, remarkably, embarrassingly  disgustingly, low.  U.S. officials are using what is termed a “‘reasonable man’ standard.” Let us again return to ProPublica, because I cannot say it better.

Asked what the standard is for who could be hit, former Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter recently told an interviewer: “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40. My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s – well, a chump who went to a meeting.

So, there you have it. Certainly, this author won’t be confused with a military strategist any time soon, but one feels pretty safe in saying that is not a defensible standard for deciding who dies. We can certainly be excited that people like Rachel Maddow are asking hard questions about drone deployment given Brennan’s pending confirmation. However, just like the Tea Party’s tardy recognition of fascism under the previous statist Czar, it just strikes me as a little late, now that we’re all enjoying the audacity of hope.

Better late than never I guess!

…cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Outside… http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/20/just-when-you-thought-it-was-safe-to-go-outside/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/20/just-when-you-thought-it-was-safe-to-go-outside/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 23:26:14 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12356 Having witnessed more than a couple knock-down, drag-out scuffles between various factions of the ostensible “liberty movement” over the last few days and weeks and months, it’s not really surprising to me when people disagree. One of the best–and most entertaining–ones occurred on Facebook (Where else?) just a few weeks ago. One side suggested that “Amerika is a police state!” They provided examples and context. The other side responded with, “C’mon! No one was jailed for calling the POTUS an idiot this week, right?” That’s also a pretty solid point. And, as is true of most of these debates, debates that balance on a sliver of disagreement between two tiny factions of what is itself a very small faction in the U.S. political landscape, both sides are somewhat correct.

There is little doubt that the current U.S. populace is accepting of and subject to infringements of liberty that would have likely had the so-called Founding Fathers reaching for ammunition.

There is also little doubt that no one in the U.S. will have to escape to another country for calling their Congressmen an idiot. (That this is relatively commonplace in other countries was brought home to me when I caught a ride recently with an immigrant from The Congo.)

So a little perspective can go a long way.

All that said, when I see stories like this one, wherein “a coalition of upstate New York universities and defense contractors has submitted a bid to become a federally designated testing and research site for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, into domestic airspace” I get that tingly feeling along the hairs on the back of my neck. Didn’t I recently read that the President’s first drone strike killed innocent civilians? (According to one news source, “The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster.”) And yet, the drone program is accelerating, not abating.

Just the other day, we got our answer on the question of domestic use of drones. Says the article, “John Brennan, the nominee to be head of the CIA, didn’t rule out the use of unmanned drones in the U.S. when quizzed about the matter, a response that alarmed rights groups and civil libertarians.” Of course he didn’t rule it out. What shocks me is that people seem to genuinely believe that a government which deploys unmanned, remote-controlled devices that kill innocent men, women, and children in Yemen or Pakistan will somehow think, “Nope! That’s immoral…” when faced with the same option in the U.S. Innocent men, women, and children are killed in drone strikes so routinely that one wonders who the actual targets really are, or what purpose the program really has. Seriously, if you kill the people you claim to be protecting with each attempt to protect them, wouldn’t your methodology or your motives come into question at some point?  How the psychotic megalomanics who control the U.S. war machine treat the brown people in the Middle East is exactly analogous to how they’ll (eventually) treat the folks here. It’s simply a matter of when, not if.  And frankly, if we continue to let these bastards kill whoever they want overseas, we probably deserve it.

Rather than draw any further conclusions at this point–or further illustrate the height of my blood pressure–I’ll just end with the text of one of my recent tweets, somewhat modified…

“The skies of Yemen, coming soon to the U.S!”

…cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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Peace art and peace music http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/09/peace-art-and-peace-music/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/09/peace-art-and-peace-music/#comments Sat, 09 Feb 2013 18:49:35 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12343 I just came across this wonderful music from Ron Paul fan Tatiana Moroz (iTunes albums).

I’ve blogged previously on peace/liberty-related art: see Justin Gaffrey Peace Art:

DSC_0643I’ve said it before (Peace Art): I love Justin Gaffrey’s paintings, and in particular his peace sign paintings.

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See also related posts below:

My Favorite Earrings

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on August 19, 2008 11:09 PM

ShawnJohnsonPeaceSymbolAfter winning the gold in the balance beam, Shawn Johnson, the impressive and mature 16-year old from Iowa, was interviewed by Bob Costas. She proudly wore a pair of simple, white “peace” earrings. Good for her! I bet they’ll be for sale soon on her store….

Updates: The interview starts about 8:34 into this video (thanks to Daniel Uffleman). “Proud Iowan” notes here that not only did she wear the peace earrings during the Bob Costas interview, “she flashed a peace sign at the camera after her routine”.

Another LRC’er writes: “She didn’t get all weepy when the national anthem played during the medals ceremony, either. She’s a tough little chica. The whole women’s team was pretty impressive this year, actually.”And one more:

“I was actually going to bug Lew to post something about Johnson’s earrings. As somebody who works with teens her age, there was something that caused me to root for her above others. After seeing those earrings I’m glad I chose her. I might buy my cousin a pair for her 15th birthday although it would probably tick my neocon aunt.

“I confess had it not been for my coworkers constantly bringing them up, I would probably refuse to watch the games believing them to be a tool by elites to promote nationalism. However after watching them, I have a new found respect for the athletes who compete in them regardless of nationality. The games are not bad, but like so many other things, the politicians ruin what should be an amazing spectacle.”

Re: My Favorite Earrings

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on August 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Lew, re Shawn Johnson, her peace earrings, and the Olympics–yes, I quite agree. Everyone is whining about a few special effects that the Chinese used. So what. It’s a good show.

Someone told me that these “peace” earrings are popular among young girls nowadays, with no significance other than a fashion fad to them. Could be. But several things lead me to think Shawn wore them consciously. First, she is no bubblehead: she’s mature and intelligent. Second: she flashed the peace sign after her routine. Third: given the disgraceful censorship of the athletes regarding criticism of things Chinese and political–by both the Chinese and the Americans (”Shawn won’t be able to blog until after the Olympics are over due to the United States Olympic Committee’s rule not allowing athletes to post blogs”)–this may have been her way of protesting–Chinese political crackdowns; Bush-Iraq; Russia-Georgia, etc. Finally, she hawks a large number of necklaces and pendants on her store (and I say GOOD for her–boo to anyone criticizing her for doing this; I say, buy from Shawn!) and could have advertised any one of them by wearing it, but she chose not to display one she is selling, but instead a simple, elegant, visible, crisp-white unadorned peace sign, after she won the gold medal and was being put on international TV. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt for being pro-peace.

Put Your Hands Up In The Air For Peace!
Posted by Stephan Kinsella on April 3, 2009 01:59 AM

Apropos my entry Peace Art, it occurs to me this site’s slogan is “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market”–which can be boiled down to: “pro-peace.” And I have to recommend this wonderful video and song, “Peace,” by the Luminaries, which premiered at the Elevate Film Festival 2008 (see The Peace Project).

Update:
Mike S writes:

Mr. Kinsella,

I stumbled on your blog post and while I was listening to the song you recommended, I remembered one of my favorite songs from P.O.D. called “Tell Me Why.” It’s a true anti-war/peace song and I believe you might be interested.

***

Another reader emailed me:

Mr. Kinsella,

I wanted to thank you for your LRC blog post with the “Peace” music video, as well as suggest another artist who I feel has been extraordinarily dedicated to the message of peace. Michael Franti has actually travelled to Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere in the Middle East and created a documentary called I Know I’m Not Alone on his trip, where he basically travelled all over Iraq, staying with families, playing music on street corners (and even at bars filled with U.S. soldiers, singing a song that goes “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace”), and just talking to people about the human cost of war. He also runs an annual Bay Area music festival called Power to the Peaceful. He has many great songs, but one of my favorites (and apparently his most popular music video on Youtube) is called It’s Time To Go Home [see below]. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Keep fighting the good fight,
Casey Worthington

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Unipartisanship is the new bipartisanship http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/30/unipartisanship-is-the-new-bipartisanship/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/30/unipartisanship-is-the-new-bipartisanship/#comments Fri, 30 Nov 2012 22:05:58 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12079 Romney bans certain kinds of guns; Obama supports war and Bush-era doctrines; Romney enacts (even more) socialist-fascist health care; Obama has a near opaque administration in spite of the desire to be transparent.

The so-called “left” promotes a policy (say, universal healthcare or the individual mandate or the health care exchanges). The “right” opposes it. The opposition is usually superficial and us used as talking points to obtain votes. The object of power is power, after all. Assuming the policy becomes law, and assuming (as is often the case) it receives widespread support, the right becomes less vociferous about repealing the law. At best they want to reform; usually either nothing happens or the mildest of cosmetic changes are made, if only to appease the fringe party supporters. Today’s progressive, becomes tomorrow’s conservative. Already, for example, the financially devastating Obamacare that was such a hot topic a year ago is starting to go away in the eyes of most–that is, if you don’t have a business facing ever-higher health care costs. Soon the right will stop talking about repealing it or replacing it with something else. Florida governor Rick Scott, who initially opposed setting up the FL healthcare exchange, has changed his tune–how unexpected!

On the other “side” of the political spectrum, the totalitarian and warmongering right wing, whose most recent icon and trend setter is GWB, pushes for war and empire and crackdowns on civil liberties. The left claims to oppose it. When Bush II was in power the progressives, ever irate, regaled us with their smugness (and, as we now know, insincere) opposition to the Bush administration’s policies and tactics. Enter a democratic president. Oh my–what happened!? Suddenly Obama adopts and relishes in continuing core Bush doctrines as well as expanding into new territories of despotism: droning and NDAA come to mind. Today’s warmongering conservative is tomorrow warmongering progressive.

I for one welcome our new unipartisanship overlords.

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Top State Evils: A Scorecard of Libertarian Progress http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/15/top-state-evils-an-assessent-of-libertarian-progress/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/15/top-state-evils-an-assessent-of-libertarian-progress/#comments Thu, 15 Nov 2012 05:10:32 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11972 The most evil and harmful state laws, institutions, and policies are, I believe:

  • war;
  • the Fed/central banking/fiat money;
  • government schools;
  • taxation;
  • the drug war;
  • intellectual property (patent and copyright).1
You could also mention the regulatory state and the entitlement state, but the above makes a pretty good listing of the top things we libertarians would get rid of if we could.

How are we doing on these issues? I spoke with some radical libertarian friends—it’s fun musing as to which one you would abolish first, if you could—and here is the basic take:

  • war: not great, but they are getting harder for modern debt-laden welfare-states to afford;
  • the Fed/central banking/fiat money: not great, but bitcoin could pose a threat;
  • government schools: not great, but at least, in the US, homeschooling and private schools are legal;
  • taxation: not great, and getting worse, but there seems to be a limit to the level of taxes the state can get away with imposing on the economy;
  • the drug war: still horrible, but significant inroads have been made in the last election, with marijuana being legalized on a state-law basis by Washington and Colorado; and
  • intellectual property: getting more and more out of hand, but being seen as more and more ridiculous and unjust. Copyright is getting easier to evade with various technologies like encryption and bit torrent; and patents are being seen more and more as ridiculous and protectionist.

Overall, the biggest cause for hope is probably the recent progress made in the insane, evil war on drugs.

 


  1. See Where does IP Rank Among the Worst State Laws? 

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