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.
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.”
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!
Jacob Huebert, author of Libertarianism Today and fellow TLS writer, gave a superb talk this past weekend on libertarianism and war at the fourth annual Students for Liberty Austin Conference. In short, Jacob argues that a consistent position against all aggression implies that one must also oppose wars of all kinds.
Perhaps my favorite talk at the conference this weekend was “Why Libertarianism is the Only Moral Choice” by Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education. In his presentation, Reed tells the story of great men and women who devoted their lives toward the promotion of liberty in the world. It is eloquent and inspiring, and I hope you will take some time to listen intently.
What the FBI is doing is called entrapment. No, worse, it’s like finding a virgin not previously interested in having sex with a prostitute, seducing him, teaching him how to have sex, getting him all horny, giving him money and a condom, and then pointing him in the direction of a cop posing as a prostitute.
Has the FBI caught any “terrorists” it didn’t create?
Of all the policies of the Barack Obama administration – one of many which began under the Bush regime and has been continued, even expanded, by his successor – I think the use of predator drones sickens and angers me the most. Especially with the revelation that the drones also target first responders, and even people attending funerals. Imagine if a suicide bomber had attacked police and firefighters as they arrived at the World Trade Center on 9/11, or the funerals of the victims. That is essentially what the CIA’s predator drones are doing.
But what’s really infuriating, though not surprising, is how quiet liberals are about this, given how loudly they spoke out against war during the Bush years. Yet this is arguably worse in terms of its sheer violence and callousness: worse than Abu Ghraib, worse than the Haditha massacre. If any other country’s military engaged in such acts, they would be denounced by the U. S. government (and others) as war crimes, and rightly so. And as the report cited by Glenn Greenwald makes clear, government officials have been lying about the civilian casualties from the attacks. But from most Democrats, the response amounts to at best a shuffling of feet and an uncomfortable silence. In fact, most of them support the use of drones, and even keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison camp open, according to a Washington Post poll. This despite Obama’s campaign promise to close Gitmo. I guess Democrats suffer from memory loss as much as Republicans do.
How anyone can vote for a man who gives orders to commit mass murder is simply incomprehensible to me. And please spare me the counterpoint that the Republicans are just as bad. Of course they are. That just further proves the point that the major parties are virtually indistinguishable in their lust for mass murder, bigger government, and more control over people’s lives. Voting Republican or Democrat is voting for the imperial warfare/welfare state, and all of the blood and treasure it demands.