Libertarianism, the Iraq War, and the Division in the Friedman Household:

This interesting recent Wall Street Journal interview with Milton Friedman and his wife Rose (also a prominent libertarian economist) reveals a rare disagreement between them - over the Iraq War:

Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression." Mrs. Friedman--listening to her husband with an ear cocked--was now muttering darkly.

Milton: "Huh? What?" Rose: "This was not aggression!" Milton (exasperatedly): "It was aggression. Of course it was!" Rose: "You count it as aggression if it's against the people, not against the monster who's ruling them. We don't agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don't agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously--such as, I don't want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out--but big issues, this is the first one!" Milton: "But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it." Rose: "And we will!"

The dissension in the Friedman family would be unimportant if not for the fact that it mirrors a broader split within the libertarian community over the war. Just looking at the major libertarian websites and blogs for example, Instapundit and Techcentralstation have strongly supported the war (as have most of us here at VC), whereas Liberty and Power and others have opposed it. So too has the most prominent libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. The commentators at Reason, probably the leading libertarian magazine, are internally divided among themselves.

Obviously, the war has also produced internal rifts among conservatives and liberals, but in each of these groups one side (pro-war among conservatives; anti-war among liberals) is clearly in the ascendancy and the other a small minority (though I wonder if more conservatives would oppose the war and more liberals support if it had been initiated by a Democratic administration instead of a Republican one). Libertarians, by contrast, seem much more evenly split, at least judging by the positions taken by prominent libertarian academics, pundits, and intellectuals.

I do not as yet have a definitive explanation for the intra-libertarian split. One possibly theory is that this disagreement tracks the longstanding division between those who endorse an absolutist interpretation of libertarian principle versus those who take a maximizing approach. Wars clearly lead to violations of rights to life, liberty, and property. If you are a deontological absolutist who believes it is always (or almost always) wrong to violate such rights regardless of consequences, then that gives you a logical reason to oppose virtually any war, possibly excepting a strictly defensive one, with "defense" defined very narrowly. By contrast, if you take a maximizing approach, you will be more willing to accept some rights violations now in order to reduce the total incidence of violations in the long run. For example, it could be argued that the War in Iraq, despite the carnage it has caused, saves a much greater number of innocent lives in the long run, as well as expanding personal and economic liberties for most Iraqis. However, it is not clear to me that the longstanding absolutist vs. maximizing division among libertarians fully accounts for the split or even that being absolutist or a maximizer is a good predictor of individual libertarians' positions on the war.

A second possible explanation is more autobiographical than ideological. It is possible that those libertarians who embraced the ideology primarily out of hostility to the various works of the US government are more likely to be antiwar than those who came to it primarily because of personal or familial experience with statist and socialistic governments elsewhere. Certainly, anecdotal evidence suggests that immigrant libertarians are more likely to be pro-Iraq War than native-born ones. So too with Jewish libertarians (who, even if native-born, may have a strong consciousness of their people's oppression by governments outside the US) as opposed to gentile ones, though Milton Friedman is one of many exceptions to the pattern. If you are highly focused on the evils of oppressive regimes and political movements outside the US, you might be more willing to countenance the use of American military power to destroy or contain them than if you have regarded the US government itself as the main threat to your freedom.

Obviously, most native-born libertarians are well aware that many other governments, including Saddam Hussein's. are much worse, in libertarian terms, than that of the US. Similarly, foreign-born and Jewish ones are still deeply hostile to the many nonlibertarian policies of the US government (I know I am!). However, there may be a visceral difference between the two groups as to which of these dangers to liberty seems more vivid and threatening and which engages our emotions more strongly at a subrational level.

I'm still not sure that this theory is the main factor behind the intralibertarian division over Iraq, and I can certainly think of many individual libertarians who are exceptions to it. But it does seem to have greater explanatory power than others I have heard. At the same time, it is certainly far from being the whole story.

To give credit where credit is due, I should note that the theory of a Jewish/immigrant vs. gentile/native-born intra-libertarian split was first proposed to me by co-blogger David Bernstein (though he bears no responsiblity for the content of this post).

NOTE: I'm not going to try to censor comments, but I suggest that it would be more productive if people focus on the narrower issue of the disagreement among libertarians instead of the broader issue of the justice of the war (which has already been debated ad nauseum both at VC and elsewhere).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. THe Libertarian Split over the War II - Historical Roots:
  2. Libertarianism, the Iraq War, and the Division in the Friedman Household:
I almost never post here lately, as the VC seemed to have been overrun with statist wingnuts and little reason for me to waste my time even reading the comments. Today was a slow day on the blogs and I thought I might check and see what was going on around here just to see whether there was anything interesting, and I see Ilya Somin has actually opened a potentially worthwhile dialogue.

I don't actually understand how someone can call themselves libertarian and be pro-war. The definition of libertarianism has always been tied up with the principle of non-aggression. Some libertarians do seem to define this differently, as "no first use" versus strictly defensive force only, or even pacifism. But by no conceivable definition of the principle does the invasion and occupation of Iraq seem to qualify as acceptable.

It strikes me that there are a good number of "libertarian-leaning" conservatives, who are not actually subscribers to the non-aggression principle at all, but who favor social issues like medical marijuana (or even outright drug legalization) domestically. This seemed to me the perspective of Eugene Volokh and many of the bloggers here at the VC. I certainly don't understand how they can be called libertarians in a genuine sense of the word. This isn't intended as a disparagement but as an attempt to classify accurately an ideological camp.

Also, there are many libertarians of the left who do not tend to associate with the right-leaning Cato and LP and certainly not the VC. Interestingly when I have tried to discuss this in some forums, it seems that many of the right-leaning libertarians are incredulous that such a thing could exist as a left libertarian. I suppose it is the same incredulity that I have with the idea of a pro-war libertarian, based on a different set of presumptive premises. But if the non-aggression principle is held as definitional, there is certainly room for many different possible voluntary economic and social arrangements that people may prefer which would situate them relatively left or right on the spectrum.

I hope to see some more thoughtful commentary on this.
7.23.2006 12:53am
As a nominally pro-war libertarian, let me tackle this. (by "nominally", it means that I wasn't thrilled about Iraq - I think we should have invaded Saudi Arabia. i.e. a question of target, not of aggression). There are (at least) three axis of political thought. Statist vs Non-Statist, Liberalism (in the classical sense) vs Social Conservatism, and Isolationism vs Interventionism. The normative libertarian is a non-statist who subscribes to classical liberalism. It doesn't really matter if they approve of people doing cocaine or frequenting prostitutes - its just that they don't think the government needs to be involved in those things. However, there is a considerable range on the isolationism vs interventionism scale. I admit, interventionism seems anti-liberterian. However, most non-extremist libertarians will admit that one of the legitimate duties of government is defense. Some of us think that the best defense is a good offense. Its really not much more complex, especially when faced (albeit, not openly in Iraq) with Islamic Extremism which is statist and socially conservative in the extreme. BTW, if we are doing a straw poll, I am a jew, so perhaps that's why I gravitate to the interventionist side, per the VC bloggers?
7.23.2006 1:38am
MPH (mail) (www):
DtI sounds a bit religious in his defense of "libertarianism." Kind of reminds me of christians saying the catholics aren't really libertarianism is a closed dogma.

This was a great article - not that it had many answers - but it did raise worthwhile important questions. In the future, when freedom has prevailed, how do we wean civilization off of the State? I suppose it is when we no longer need the protections it currently offers. We aren't there yet - and we are still battling states who sponsor the destruction of modern civilization. Until we can protect ourselves individually from such monsters, ought we remain open to destroying people who seek to kill us before they actually succeed?
7.23.2006 1:42am
cindy (mail) (www):
It is clear that the Bush administration seeks nothing less than to use the wars they started in order destroy the rule of law in this country and replace it with the rule of an undistinguished former cheerleader. After all, in terms of being governed, there are only two alternatives: either we are to be ruled by law or we are to be ruled by someone else. To be ruled by law means that every one of us has a solid foundation in law for planning his or her personal future and achieving personal goals. That was the original purpose of the U.S. Constitution — to give us that legal foundation. To be ruled by someone else is to be a slave.

And there are people in this country who are willing to accept the role of obedient servant to a state that is out of control and dangerously corrupt. During the week of February 12, a former employee of the Justice Department told attendees at the annual meetings of the Conservative Political Action Conference that the rule of law must be abandoned in order for George Bush to protect us from al Qaeda. The response was not boos and cries of “For shame, for shame;” it was a standing ovation! The boos were reserved for former congressman Bob Barr when he responded that the first loyalty of all Americans is to our Constitution. In reporting on the CPAC goings on, Paul Craig Roberts aptly labeled this audience response as a signal that American Conservatism is transforming into “brownshirtism.” We agree.
7.23.2006 1:47am
Brian Garst (www):
I tend to agree with libertarians on a number of issues. But on the war, and foreign policy in general, I find their hands off approach too dangerous to let prevail.

It's not that I don't appreciate their idealogical position of non-intervention and avoiding entangling alliances. In fact, 100 years ago I would have been in their camp. But this isn't 100 years ago. Technology has changed and I believe libertarians need to recognize this and adapt. A country is no longer safe merely be defending it's borders. The nuclear bomb has changed the equation.

In the world of nukes, it's no longer adequate just to have a strong defense against ambitious tyrants. Rather, the only defense it to prevent those who would use nukes from ever obtaining them. It's certainly debatable how to best go about that task, but as far as I can tell, the anti-war liberatarians aren't even particularly interested in the discussion. And that is dangerously naive.
7.23.2006 1:57am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
An intra-llibertian split? I never heard of such a thing.
7.23.2006 1:58am
Cornellian (mail):
I think of libertarianism as primarily dealing with the releationship between the state and the individual citizen, and having significantly less to say (or, to put it another way, more room to maneuver) on the issue of the relationship between the state and persons outside that state.

It may be undesirable from a libertarian point of view for the state to restrict the free speech of its citizens, for example, but it doesn't automatically follow that it's equally undesirable for the state to interfere with the freedom of speech of people in other countries, under appropriate circumstances. The purpose of a state is to serve its own citizens, not citizens of other countries.

I think it's perfectly consistent with libertarian principles to be pro-war (or anti-war) although I think the terms "pro-war" and "anti-war" so oversimplify the issue as to be virtually meaningless.
7.23.2006 2:03am
Is it a bad thing to be religious now? MPH seems to suggest so. That doesn't in any way imply a closed dogma, but there has to be some lynchpin definition of what it means to be libertarian or it means nothing at all. I think there is pretty good sense in saying that someone who calls him or herself a Christian but does not actually believe in God is not really a Christian. Maybe someone will take issue with this. There are certainly agnostic and atheistic Jews inasmuch as it remains an ethnic and cultural definition even in the absence of religious belief, but I think it's still fair to differentiate. And there are weird hybrids, like Jewish Christians (or is it Christian Jews), but at least on the axis of belief versus non-belief we could and should distinguish what we mean by different labels. Tell me why it should be different in defining libertarianism.
7.23.2006 2:09am
legally naive (mail):
Iraq is a situation in which beliefs about what is likely to happen diverge so much from one intelligent informed independent thinker to another that this variation overwhelms philosophical differences about what we should do. Libertarians have a more obvious split than other groups because they have more independent intelligent informed thinkers ( just my stereotype) than other groups. The five or twenty year consequences of any war cannot be predicted with any certainty and this war is exceptionally difficult. Whether one is concerned with the wealth health and liberty of Kurds or Shias or Sunnis or concerned with the effects on worldwide Islamic terrorism or terror originating in Iraq or concerned with the likelihood of tyranny or civil war or genocide in Iraq or concerned with the effects on American stature and respect in the world or in the US, it is not clear whether this war is a plus or minus and it won't be known for a while.
Small differences of opinion can lead to extremely different descriptions of what is going on. I find a "split" in my own opinion for example. I thought, and still think, that we were right to attack Saddam given his history and his possessing (or nearly having) nuclear weapons. The war was originally justified on the slightly broader grounds of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. I assumed that we had "smoking gun" ( or radioactive pile ) evidence and in fact kept expecting the stash of WMD to be revealed in the days just before or after the invasion. Well, our very serious mistake in my mind was relying on intelligence estimates rather than hard evidence. Should I describe myself as originally favoring or opposing our aggression in Iraq?
7.23.2006 2:16am
MPH (mail) (www):
DtI - I suppose this discussion reminds me of why I dislike political parties - I think strictly defining someone as worthy or not of the title "libertarian" based on such issues as we are describing ends up being a disservice to the ultimate goal I think we all share - liberty and justice.

This also reminds of the "Objectivist" versus "objectivist" thing - where the strict big-O dogmatic objectivists have certainly set back objectivist ideals simply by way of their dogmatism/cultism; losing sight of the bigger picture and becoming a closed system unable to cope with a present reality they should be most well equiped to comprehend and control.
7.23.2006 2:22am
Think Self-Interest, not High Theory. In this administration, if you announce you don't support the war you're not going to get a political job. Ergo, politically ambitious libertarians (who mostly vote Republican) are often inclined to say they support it. Of course, you might hear something else after a few beers.
7.23.2006 2:56am
BillWallace (mail):

I think any rational libertarian needs to be able to accept a dichotomy between the theory and ideology of complete non-aggression, and the reality of present circumstances.

To me there is no conflict between being an non-aggressive anarcho-capitalist in belief, but looking at the present situation, in which we live in a very unlibertarian world, and saying that the best thing to do at this moment is a state war.

Ideological absolutism at the expense of rationality seems to plague libertarian thought as much as any other group, which surprises me.
7.23.2006 2:57am

Is your argument that libertarianism is great, but you can't expect a libertarian to be consistent?
7.23.2006 3:09am
Robert Lyman (mail):
It is clear that the Bush administration seeks nothing less than to use the wars they started in order destroy the rule of law in this country and replace it with the rule of an undistinguished former cheerleader.

That might not be so bad. I think there are many men in the country who would love to take orders from a cheerleader. You'd be amazed how compliant tough guys get when faced with a short skirt and a pair of pom-poms.

On the flip side, the valley-girl diction would, like, make the State of the Union a total bummer.
7.23.2006 3:19am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I disagree that liberals and conservatives split as cleanly as you suggest. Of course, a straight liberal or straight conservative will tend to be more partisan than a libertarian, which makes conservatives pro-Bush and pro-war, while making liberals anti-Bush and thus makes them sound anti-war. I don't think that reflects ideology as much as most suggest, however.

Remember, this is a president who campaigned on a foreign policy based in humility (and for a reason -- that's what conservatives wanted to hear!), before converting to the polar opposite position after 9/11. It raises the question: in what way is the Iraq war actually a "conservative" idea? It's a radical idea, based in the idea that we can use military power to transform the Middle East into western-style democracies. If anything else, it's based in a long-standing Bush clan fixation on Iraq. I'm not sure how either of these ideas really fit a conservative viewpoint more than a liberal one, though, other than to the extent liberals just saw them as irrational and belligerent. Really, I think many liberals are somewhat revisionist in claiming that they always opposed the Iraq war, while a lot of conservatives hold their criticism for the same kinds of reasons.

Not that I think Al Gore would have invaded Iraq (I'm not sure anyone would have other than Bush). If he had, though, I think the Republican opposition would have been tremendous. But also, I doubt Gore (or others) really realized the scope of the mistake from the very beginning.

In the end, thus, I'd bet that liberals and conservatives are as conflicted and split as libertarians; they're simply less willing to admit it (though maybe at this point they've also brain-washed themselves into their parties' positions).
7.23.2006 3:19am
I don't know why MPH keeps bringing in extremists to this discussion. Objectivism is a cult of personality, more than anything. Whether and how you interpret what Ayn Rand believed as the defining characteristic of what and how you should think about things is not particularly similar to a discussion of what libertarianism means.

I suspect Larrylibertarian has a point, in that many people do do compromise their beliefs for the sake of some shorter-term objective, but that seems to me more or less to give up libertarianism for a soft libertarian-leaning Republicanism than to say that someone who does this is still a libertarian in outlook or practice.

Of course, since I've been fairly accused of being religious about it, I'll admit I also don't understand pro-war Christians and it seems to me that if you start practicing war you have given up something of what it means to be following in the steps of Jesus. I know he was angry about the money changers in the temple and all, but it seems that the Pat Robertsons and such are really more Leviticans than anything, with all the smiting.

But I'm a weird conundrum myself, a peaceful hippie anarchist Christian Jewish left libertarian. In Berkeley, no less. So take my perspective for what it's worth.
7.23.2006 3:27am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
I find it very interesting that DtI is looking for "thoughtful commentary", when he/she has obviously formed an opinion of what is a proper libertarian position, without the grounding in the fundamentals necessary to appreciate such commentary.

So, rather than delving into such matters as Hobbes' State of Nature, and the differences between the relationship between sovereign states, and states and their citizens, I think something more appropriate would be this guest post I did at Samizdata, back in February of 2003 - during the run-up to the invasion:

What Would You Do?

A fable by Kevin Connors

Imagine a world not too much different from what we live in today...

Let’s say you have this neighbour who’s never grown up from his teen-age bully days. You know he beats his wife; you can hear the screaming at night and you see the bruises during the day. But she’s too terrorized by the guy to do anything about it.

But it gets worse: This guy has a bad habit of trying to move his fence over on to his neighbour’s property. You don’t live right next door, so he’s never bothered you. But once he tried to move the fence over your friend’s tomato garden. That fellow has quite a green thumb and you buy all the tomatoes you can from him at every harvest.

But further, this guys a gun-lovin’ irresponsible bastard, in fact, before you really got to know the guy, you went with him to a couple of gun shows and taught him how to reload. But he has this penchant for going out in yard every now and then and randomly blowing off a few rounds. Not a direct threat to you; you’re a few houses down the block, unless you go out on the street.

So, what do you do? Wait for his next door neighbours to act? Well, they’re kind of timid folks, deathly afraid of what he might do to retaliate. Build a high wall around your house, avoid the street, and give up on those nice fresh tomatoes? Why should you let this punk inconvenience you at all? Besides, there’s still a chance of one of those bullets going over the fence and you have it on good authority he’s shopping for hand grenades.

"Call the cops" is the obvious answer. But I forgot to mentionthis isn’t quite like the social system we live in; this is anarchy. Each household is truly sovereign onto themselves. Of course, being very wise in this sort of environment, you’re the baddest son-of-a-bitch on the street, an Nth degree black belt, armed to the teeth, with two ninjas for sons and a wife that can cook up bombs able to vaporize any other neighbour’s house in an instant.

Back when he pulled the tomato garden stunt, you went over and slapped him around a few times, made him move the fence back (which didn’t stop him from ripping up all the tomato plants in the process), took most of his guns away and told him to be nice to his wife. Well, he hasn’t tried to move the fence any more, but he still beats his wife, gets drunk and blows off a few rounds out in the yard.

What would you do?
7.23.2006 3:55am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I remember 9/11. I got a call from a Libertarian fund raiser within a month. When I told him that the attack merited a war he was appaled. He went through the whole list - the non-agression principle etc. In fact the Party leaders were in the no war camp.

I left the party and have never looked back.

For all their reasoning the Libs leave out one important factor - the alpha male.

Just as the Socialists are looking for the New Socialist Man so are the libs looking for the the New Libertarian Man. The New Socialist Man was to be without greed and the New Libertarian Man was going to be without agression.

The problem is that these New Men don't exist in enough numbers to make the system work. The numbers required of course aproach or equal 100%.

The fantasy often starts out "Now if everybody....."

What I find interesting is that the Libs know what to do about the thugs down the block. They like personal weapons. But create a "fiction" called a border and they become powerless. Interseting for folks who border on anarchist philosophy.

The Libertarian religion is: borders are sacred.

Well any way. I quit the party (as did about 1/3 of the members) a few months after 9/11. My philosophy is way more muddled these days and I lean Republican. Although I did vote for Obama over Keyes. I can't abide theocons.
7.23.2006 4:09am
Kevin Connors' Hobbesian worldview is interesting as far as it goes, but it is more of a fantasy critique of Lockean libertarianism than an internal debate about application of libertarian thought to the conflict in Iraq. That he also feels it necessary to impute a lack of fundamental knowledge to me is only to weaken his own argument further.

To analogize his fairytale to the actual invasion and occupation of Iraq, his position is that one should go and kill or capture the neighbor for beating his wife, then take the neighbor's wife prisoner and chain her in his own basement where he would proceed to beat and rape her himself.

M. Simon too, is not a libertarian, by his own admission. That there are few people who practice non-aggression (or non-greed, for that matter) does not make them invalid choices. He can choose to be a non-libertarian who practices theft and conquest, and defend his choice on the grounds that others are doing the same and he might as well get what he can for himself, but this too is not an internal debate.
7.23.2006 4:36am
Tim S:
Among the people whose opinion about the war I respect, the difference in position (of whether we should have invaded) is almost entirely empirical. If you think that the creation of a proto-Western democracy is possible by a military overthrow of the previous government, you were in favor. If you thought it is impossible (or unlikely), then you opposed the invasion.
Of course, everyone whose opinion on Iraq I respect thinks we should stay the course now that we're in (just to give a sense of whose opinions I respect).
7.23.2006 4:57am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
The more correct analogy would be stationing one of your ninja sons in the widow's home, to protect her from her neighbors, who, despite their relative timidity, are not to be trusted. This, not to mention her own brood, who display many of the characteristics of their father.

She is uncomfortable with the situation, and grouses frequently - but has yet to demand that your son leave.
7.23.2006 5:11am
Tim, what is the victory condition, or alternatively what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it? Under what circumstance if any would you redeploy or withdraw?

Truly I think Al Qaeda loves having the US tied down in Iraq, as long as possible. We are watching the destruction of the US military before our own eyes and if the Shi'ites turn on the supply lines it's all over but the shouting.

I understand that some consider this a World War and a necessary adventure, but the American people aren't behind it and a draft is practically inconceivable without there being massive civil unrest at home. We cannot live in the world we'd like to imagine, we have to live in the world as it exists.

How would you proceed and what do you expect to happen?
7.23.2006 5:17am
Witness (mail):
Two intelligent, thought-provoking posts in a row that aren't also lame Honors English nitpickers? I thought all hope for the VC had been lost, but I guess not. Now, just jettison Bernstein, Kopel, and Lindgren, and we might have a chance of maintaining this kind of quality on a regular basis....
7.23.2006 5:30am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
I'm a generally anti-war libertarian, and I don't think I fit any of the conjectures very well. I devoted a chapter in the second edition of The Machinery of Freedom to arguing that libertarian rights theory is unsatisfactory, and my arguments are almost always consequentialist.

My basic argument in favor of a generally noninterventionist foreign policy, sketched later in the same book, is that a badly done interventionist policy is usually worse than no interventionist policy. Instead of getting other people to fight your wars with their blood and treasure you fight theirs with yours. Our foreign policy is being run by the U.S. government, so I expect it to be run badly. The Bush administration has given me no reason to change that opinion.

A second and related point is that war tends to increase government power. That pattern too is confirmed by recent events. Some of the increase would have come as a response to 9/11 even if we hadn't invaded Iraq--but less.

The standard counterargument is "the lesson of Munich." People who make that argument forget that, at the time of Munich, England and France had an interventionist foreign policy--that was why Hitler had to get their permission to annex Czechoslovakia. Munich was an example, not of a non-interventionist policy, but of an incompetently run interventionist policy.

I've recently been rereading the first volume of Churchill's history of WWII. One of the things I found was evidence that Britain's interventionist policy resulted in strengthening, not weakening, Hitler--by converting Mussolini from an ally into an enemy. I hadn't realized that Hitler's first attempt to annex Austria was blocked, not by France or England but by Mussolini, who put divisions into the Brenner pass and made it clear what they were there for. By the time of the second attempt, the clumsy intervention into Italy's invasion of Abyssinia--enough to annoy the Italians but not to stop them--had convinced Mussolini to change sides.

In an alternate history where Italy was still hostile to Germany and Austria independent, I'm not at all sure that Hitler could have conquered Czechoslovakia.
7.23.2006 5:38am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Tim S:

If you think that the creation of a proto-Western democracy is possible by a military overthrow of the previous government, you were in favor. If you thought it is impossible (or unlikely), then you opposed the invasion.

I don't know if you respect my opinion or not. I am also unsure on what you mean by "proto-Western democracy." But it is certainly not what I expected, which is pretty much what we have: a fucked-up mess. None the less, this fucked-up mess is less a threat to the US' vital national interests, and it's own people than the regime it supplanted.

Democracy does not naturally evolve from the top down, but from the bottom up, and preceded by economic liberty. Well, economic liberty seems to be alive and well in Iraq (unlike under the previous regime). All we can hope to do now is provide security, and let what evolves evolve.

We should meddle in this process as little as possible: providing advice and counsel, as it is required, and interjecting ourselves only when we see our own vital national interests threatened, or when the curtailment of human rights by the prospective new regime is absolutely unconscionable.
7.23.2006 5:45am
llamasex (mail) (www):
I found "" Milton: "But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it." Rose: "And we will!"" do be the most disturbing part of the interview. These are economists they should understand what a sunk cost is. I assume this is a recent interview (the post is dated July 22, at these point America has stopped reconstruction and we aren't funding it any further, Iraq right now, speaking in terms of infrastructure is as nice as Iraq is going to get. That is not a win or a success. You have to be deluded to think Iraq is still going to be a win. We need to look to limit our loses right now.
7.23.2006 5:52am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):

Truly I think Al Qaeda loves having the US tied down in Iraq, as long as possible. We are watching the destruction of the US military before our own eyes and if the Shi'ites turn on the supply lines it's all over but the shouting.

You are a "libertarian" about like Bill Mahr is a "libertarian". You also know nothing about the military, US or in general.

Wars oare won and lost on logistics. That is why al Qaeda is tied down in Iraq, not us. And also why we needn't worry about the Shi'ites "turning on our supply lines," We have a logistics apperatus geared to withstand the Soviets; "the Shi'ites" (whoever they are) would be nothing more than a nusance.

Nor is the Iraq campaign causing the "destruction of the US military." Check your facts: morale is up - reenlistments (particularly among those stationed in Iraq) are up. Nor is the Iraq campaign (or even the overall deficit - check it, relative to GDP, verses history) "bankrupting us."

You call yourself a "left libertarian" (whatever that is). I would suspect, like Bill Mahr, your are nothing more than a libertine socialist.

Tell me, have you taken "the world's smallest political quiz?"
7.23.2006 6:14am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):

America has stopped reconstruction and we aren't funding it any further, Iraq right now, speaking in terms of infrastructure is as nice as Iraq is going to get. That is not a win or a success.

Again, check your facts. In general, capacity of Iraq's infrastructure is WAY up over pre-invasion levels. Shortfalls (say, for instance, the time the average household is without lights), however, are comparable or greater. But that is only because demand is so much greater, as a result of increased economic activity.
7.23.2006 6:27am
"Jewish libertarians (who, even if native-born, may have a strong consciousness of their people's oppression by governments outside the US)": you presumably didn't mean to leave open the interpretation that American-born Jews look on foreign Jews as "their people", rather than viewing fellow-Americans as their people. I ask because it has been very sobering to hear British-born Pakistanis talking of Iraqis as their "Muslim brothers" while making it quite clear that they don't view their fellow Brits in such a light. I hope you don't think it pompous of me to urge care when phrasing such remarks.
7.23.2006 6:33am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Kevin L. Connors, What a funny standard to use I found a recent article on power over there [quote]Electricity output has dipped to its lowest point in three years in Iraq, where the desert sun is rising toward another broiling summer and U.S. engineers are winding down their rebuilding of the crippled power grid.[/quote]...

Onto your interesting standard
[quote]Although the U.S. effort helped boost Iraq’s potential generating capacity to more than 7,000 megawatts, available capacity has never topped 5,400, held down by plant breakdowns and shutdowns for maintenance, fuel shortages and transmission disruptions caused by insurgent attacks, inefficient production, sabotage by extortionists, and other factors.

In the first week of February, a busy maintenance period, output fell to 3,750 megawatts, reports the joint U.S. agency, the Gulf Region Division-Proje[/quote] and if things are broken, and Iraq isn't getting anymore reconstruction dough do you think that [b]capacity[/b] will ever be reached?

For example [quote]Now the U.S. reconstruction money is running out, the last generating project is undergoing startup testing in southern Iraq, and the Americans view 2006 as a year of transition to full Iraqi responsibility, aided by a U.S. budget for "sustainability," including training and advisory services.

Even that long-term support might fall short, however. The reconstruction agency allotted $460 million for this purpose, but in a report to Congress on Jan. 30 the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction estimated $720 million would be needed.[/quote]

Second and more importantly infrastructure is more than powerlines, do you think Iraq's overall infrastructure is in working condition? Remember our funding spicket is shut off, projects being built now are being scaled back or left unfinished. Is this a plan to win? Do you think winning is still an option? Is this your idea of success?
7.23.2006 6:45am
llamasex (mail) (www):
I forgot the source, and if a mod could fix my misuse of the quotes tag I would appreciate is
7.23.2006 6:47am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
dearieme, at the risk of being corrected by one or more of the real live Jews who frequent this site, I might posit that you really don't understand the history and mindset of the Jews, which (in general), is one of political allegiance to whomever (or whatever) is the sovereign entity of state in which one resides, coupled with strong social allegiance with one's ethnic brethren, across national boundaries.

This is at the core of the evolution of international banking, and in stark contrast to the mindset of many modern Islamist emigrants. But could you imagine an 18th century Jew voicing a similar opinion?
7.23.2006 7:00am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
llamasex, I think this quote, from the source you provided, proves my point (emphasis mine):

The overstressed network is producing less than half the electricity needed to meet Iraq’s exploding demand.

Do you really want to take me on here? I live and breathe this shit.

While it may be persuasively argued that American-enforced sanctions had choked Iraq to death, and strongly refuted that the real cause was abuse of the "Oil for Food" program, there can be no doubt that liberation has caused the desert to bloom. Further, one only has to look at the decrepit state of the infrastructure of Iran or Syria to get a model of what the "best case" conditions might have been in Iraq under Saddam.
7.23.2006 7:20am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Kevin L. Connors, I can take you on here, because the facts are on my side.

The best way to compare pre/post Iraq would be to goto the numbers, wouldn't you agree?

Well pre/post war electricty is the topic, now Iraq postwar (or intra-civil war *chuckle*)'s electrical output has at times topped prewar levels, but usually it hovers around the same level as prewar. As it goes both above and below. According to the Wash Post (as well as numerous other sources) the prewar level was 4,400 megawatts and as mentioned in the previously cited article power output for Feb 2006(!) was 3,750 megawatts. Now this was a low but it clearly shows you are wrong about the problem being new demand, as the supply isn't even up to the prewar output level. And of course this is a trillion dollars(?)later, but as I said that's a sunk cost.
7.23.2006 7:33am
Perhaps it all comes down to:
how much value do you place on human life?

ALL human life, them and us.

The price has spiralled out of control; for what??
Milton is right. The VC boys are wrong.

The price keeps going up...

(I suggest the same analysis for the current Israeli offensive. Count all the dead -- even if they are not Jews or Israelis. Worth it? Similarly, to how slavery used to be justified -- you just don't count all as "humans".)
7.23.2006 8:42am
Very early in this thread BillWallace wrote:
Ideological absolutism at the expense of rationality seems to plague libertarian thought as much as any other group, which surprises me.
You're new around here, aren't you?
7.23.2006 8:44am
Another day goes by
And still the children die.

Put a little LOVE in your heart
(before it's much,much too late...)

I suspect the world won't weep too hard
at burned Jewish babies anymore,
when we are turning our heads so easily
at this MAN MADE disaster...
7.23.2006 8:44am
Q. Is even Barnett supportive of these war actions?

He always struck me as the most sensible of the lot, like he cared what happened to non-Jews and children, and wasn't so nationalistic. If push came to shove, I suspected he'd choose the American way, not Israel's policies which very often conflict.
7.23.2006 8:48am
if it's ok for the US to arm Israel -- make her a superpower who has not "earned" that role, either morally or experience-wise, can someone explain to me again the problem with Iran or Syria supplying Hezzbollah?

Is it just the idea that we can't support a fair fight and Israel will lose without the technological advantage?
Is it just support for the home team? Because it seems inconsistent to me...
7.23.2006 8:51am
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
Mr. Connors -- As a fifth generation American Jew, a political conservative, and I hope , a patriot, I can tell you my first and strongest allegiance is to the United States of America. I don't think that is soley because I happen to live here.
Of course I do feel a sense of , well, almost family conneciton with Jews of other countries. Because of history, they are my distant relatives in all probability. .
7.23.2006 9:26am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
The problem with Iran arming Hezzbulla is that Hezzbulla is using said arms to kill Israelis. The US used to supply Iran also, (theyre the only nation still flying the F-14), but that little hostage incidentin 79' ended that nonsense. Speaking of fair fights,Iran outnumbers Israel some 70million to 7 million and thats not even factoring in the other flipflop wearing nations. I don't recall the last time Israelis snuck into Iran and killed anyone although it may be coming. Having been to both countries..Iran= crowded smelly country where homosexuals are routinely executed and you cant legally get a beer. Israel= crowded not as bad smelling country with hot women and a better bar scene than any city except NY. Whats with the posts all in Chineese by Fsdafi? Might be a code for AlKaida like those numbers repeating shortwave stations.
7.23.2006 10:20am
but how much bigger is the US over Iran?

If Israel gets the Bomb without signing treaties,
who not others?

If the US supplies Israel, why not Iran supplying Hamas/Hezzbollah?

Are we supposed to believe that the Israeli's are more moral or capable in killing accuracy? What if this notion is lost?
7.23.2006 10:26am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):

The price has spiralled out of control; for what??

That is a utilitarian argument, not a libertarian one.
7.23.2006 10:35am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
(from Wikipedia) US Iran
Land Area 3.7 mill square miles .6 mill square miles
Population 299 million 68 million
Nuclear weapons 5886 0
Nuclear weapons 1120 0
Thats not counting several hundred spare nuclear warheads allowed by treaty. Irans population is misleading as women,homosexuals, and foreingers are barred from service in the elite Revolutionary Guard unlike in the Evil US.
7.23.2006 10:45am
Shangui (mail):
From a libertarian point of view my objection to the invasion of Iraq was based on pretty simple ideas. Iraq seemed nowhere near being an immediate threat (though I, like everyone else, believed they had some WMDs). Overthrowing a regime that had been in power for such a long time and replacing it with a stable functioning government would be an amazingly complex, difficult, and expensive endeavor. The US government (and all other governments) have proven that they typically don't do well with complex difficult endeavors (which they ALWAYS make expensive). Myself and most libertarians I know barely trust the gov't to deliver mail, how could we possibly trust them to do what they claimed needed to be done in Iraq? I suggest any libertarian who's happy with the war on terror go back and re-read Crisis and Leviathan.

Some libertarian opposition to the war is surely tied with the disgust and sense of betrayal many economic conservatives feel towards Bush. The two most appealing aspects of his candidacy going into the 2000 election were his constant praise of small government as domestic policy and no nation building as foreign policy. He has rejected those policies in practice as dramatically as one could possible imagine. What's left to like? Why should we continue to trust this administration to do what they say they will?
7.23.2006 10:53am

(1) We have an organized enemy, who attacked us 9/11 and before. The Afghan war, as well as the Iraq war, are part of our response. (Note, the hardcore anti-war libertarians such as Harry Browne were against the Afghan war as well.) Even the most principled purist should justify response when we are attacked.
(2) The government's efforts, while very far from perfect, have been vastly more successful than this libertarian, or I venture to say most libertarians, would ever have predicted. For example, our enemies have not yet managed a single attack in our homeland since 9/11. Also, there have been definite signs of spreading democracy around the world, and even rifts within the arab world in the latest action.
(3) The key question for a theoretical purist such as David Friedman has always been, in my view anyway, the interaction of anarcho-capitalistic principles with real-world human behavior. After all, very few anarcho-capitalist societies have arisen, and they seem to be unstable. Interaction with external organized enemies seems to be a standard problem. How organizations such as mafias would be dealt with has also been a recurring question.
Recent events have not been kind to the purist anarcho-capitalist viewpoint. Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda have arisen. We have states such as Iran fomenting organizations such as Hizbollah in other states. Malevolent organizations are arising around religious feelings and hatred, and are in large measure immune to reason, or even to substantial force such as assassination of numerous leaders. David Friedman's answer on Mafias used to be (if I understood it in usenet correspondance years ago) that within an anarcho-capitalist paradise the godfather would be assassinated. That kind of approach doesn't seem likely to stop Al Qaeda. The recent fall of the anarchy in Somalia is another example. It seems to me recent data, and current circumstances, strongly favor a tempered view with a role for enlightened government in battling external organized enemies and (unfortunately) pretty much render obsolete the strong anarcho-capitalist purism. Rationality requires subjecting one's theories to data and responding to real world circumstances.
7.23.2006 10:56am
Ollie North (mail):
"US used to supply Iran also, (theyre the only nation still flying the F-14), but that little hostage incidentin 79' ended that nonsense."

Did it?
7.23.2006 11:02am
I believe, if I am not mistaken, that the David Friedman that commented here is the son of Milton and Rose Friedman.
7.23.2006 11:14am
Fencer (mail) (www):
Great discussion. I think that more than anything, this highlights the problems between the theory (ideal) and the practice (reality) of Libertarianism. A strict interpretation of Libertarianism would render war moot by removing all standing forces beyond that for immediate self defense is inadequate against any enemy who decided to overwhelm these forces. So, we are faced with the conundrum that outside forces can dictate our actions. Therefore, we have lost a certain amount of self determination, have we not?
Like most of my libertarian friends, my philosophy is too complex to fit onto a bumper sticker like so many of my Republican and Democratic friends are comfortable with. So when we say that war is bad, we overlook and simplify the real effect of war.
Wars are catalytic in nature. They are neither good nor bad, but provide the opportunity for change. Sometimes, the change is good: Germany and Japan after WWII. Sometimes it is inefficient or even counterproductive, (Think post Versailles Germany). The problem with war, as in all human endeavors, is that it is opposed by thinking human beings. Therefore, the idea that all of the permutations of choices can be defined, much less decided is an impossibility.
As to the current adventure in Iraq, I don't know why Libertarians don't support it more. We know that the Middle East was muddled in a variety of petty tyrants who, for the most part used their governmental apparatus to maintain their power over their subjugated peoples. The people seeking their own self determination would most likely have been executed, imprisoned, or chased out of the country in order to prevent their infectious thoughts from spreading.
So, if by invading Iraq, and toppling the infrastructure of domestic terror, are we not giving the people of Iraq a chance to decide their own future? Now they may not choose a path that we are thrilled with, but that will be their choice, not ours. But at least now they have the opportunity to make that choice.
This is not to say that we haven't had some small measure of success in this try. Lebanon, Kuwait, Egypt and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia are all flirting with democracy. Would they have even attempted this if we had not intervened? I find no reason to believe that it would have been possible.
Again, thanks for the interesting comments.
7.23.2006 11:22am
I consider myself a libertarian, and I have supported the war effort, except that I feel it has been (to date) too limited,. but my reasons are different that any of I seen posted yet.

We (in America) will only have freedom if Americans feel secure. Look at what we submit to when boarding a plane.
And see the opinion polls that show broad support for the NSA wiretapping. It's a basic human nature; most people will trade their freedom for security. Therefore, if we wish to be free, we must feel secure.

That there exists an enemy who wishes the death of America seems beyond argument (see: 9/11), so if my premise that we must have security to have freedom is correct, that enemy must be neutralized.

Now what's the best way to defeat the enemy is a legitimate argument. But since anti-war types have been notably unwilling to address it and present a serious alternative plan, I feel stuck with the current course of action. Lacking an alternative, I feel compelled to support the current course.
7.23.2006 11:35am
Steven Horwitz (mail) (www):
David Friedman comes closest to my own views (and I am both Jewish and a libertarian, and a contributor to Liberty & Power). I think the key is that not all libertarians think immediately in terms of moral arguments. The "consequentialist" take a different line.

In the early days of talk about going into Iraq, I was opposed, though not strongly. On the assumption, fairly widely held, that Iraq had WMDs and was connected with Al Queda (the first of which appears to have been false, though the second true), I could see the case for war. However, as the talk turned to "nation-building," my skepticism rose quickly.

The case against the war for me is Hayekian: how in god's name does anyone think we can intervene in to a complex nation/state/society and not face tremendous unintended and undesirable consequences? To believe that one can "build" a democracy there (and note "democracy," not "liberalism") is to have the worst sort of Hayekian pretence of knowledge. Institutions like democracy and liberalism cannot be imposed, they must grown from within.

Add to the likelihood of failure, the point raised by others that war is always the health of the state, and not just by expanding the military budget. War lowers resistance to other expansions of state power, and in many ways appears to necessitate it. Robert Higgs, as mentioned earlier, has been excellent on this point. And, of course, there is no way to avoid civilian casualities. Any realist perspective must recognize that *some* are inevitable when war is legitimate, but I do think the US has gone beyond that "some."

So although I don't dismiss completely the notion that one state might have a legitimate rationale for a pre-emptive move against a real threat from another, I don't think this was such a case. And because the case was so weak, the usual effects of war on the size of the state were bound to overwhelm any possible good. Finally, the whole idea of "nation-building" runs up against the strongest consequentialist arguments for libertarianism.
7.23.2006 11:36am
sbw (mail) (www):
The genesis of Libertarianism at a time that allowed isolationism permitted libertarians to avoid making decisions they are forced to make today.

Jacob Bronowski reminds us our world is different. Science now puts incredible power in the hands of any who care to learn to use it such that strong boxes no longer protect our wealth or bolted doors our families. How should one respond to those with the means and inclination to destroy you for their own selfish purposes?

This requires a change of mind. The diversity of civil society is like the pile of a carpet. The many-colored, multi-textured fibers are held together underneath by a minimal structure that must exist if civil society is to exist. Those who do not believe -- and adhere to -- the underlying warp and weft that holds the carpet together prefer the law of the jungle over civil society and must be defended against by those who, by their actions, choose to live under the umbrella of civil society's protections.

The warp and weft of society are simple: a process of peaceful problem resolution and respect for others who support it.

Libertarians believe in civil society and, accordingly, support a process of peaceful problem resolution. Libertarians also respect individuals. It follows that attempts to tear the underlying fabric of society challenge libertarians to respond.

We are in a race, where there is no guarantee civilization will win. The race isn't to subjugate and disarm, but to defend ourselves while we try to change minds.

Rose is the libertarian. Milton will be, when Rose makes it clear to him what is at stake.
7.23.2006 11:56am
Shangui (mail):
Rose is the libertarian. Milton will be, when Rose makes it clear to him what is at stake.

It's just pathetic how some use this single conflict as the means to define people. If you don't support this war in Iraq you are not really American, Christian, Republican, libertarian, etc. Come on. As stated above, I feel confident in opposing this was on libertarian grounds. But I also think it's absurd to say that no one who does support the war can be called a libertarian. When Milton Friedman is declared to be no libertarian because of his opposition to the war in Iraq it's clear that the definitions people are using have become meaningless. Maybe Christ wasn't a Christian with all that turn the other cheek crap.
7.23.2006 12:17pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Interestingly, there were several instances when Jesus didn't turn the other cheek.

Shangui, perhaps you'll read my comment and think about it. It is more substantive than your flip misreading of it would indicate.
7.23.2006 12:30pm
SLS 1L (mail):
Unsurprisingly, this argument seems to have strayed from Somin's original post to an argument about the merits of the war. I will respond to Somin rather than the commentators.

Somin's point about maximization vs. deontology can only be half the answer. A maximization philosophy won't lead you to support the war unless you think the war will in fact maximize liberty. This is far from obvious. When you consider typical libertarian assumptions about government action, there seems to be a case that wars in general, or the Iraq war in particular, will not do so.

To believe, ex ante, that the war would be liberty-maximizing, you'd have to believe that a massive government program based on reworking a society via central planning from Washington would (a) be competently adminstered by good people (b) not be hijacked by special interest groups such as oil companies to promote their own interests and (c) not produce significant, unanticipated bad consequences. Whatever the merits of (a), (b), and (c), they run flatly counter to standard libertarian assumptions about how government almost always works.

I think the real explanation is that the alliance betwen conservative libertarians and the Republican party caused some libertarians to have an unwarranted degree of trust in the competence and good faith of George W. Bush.
7.23.2006 12:46pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):

Some libertarian opposition to the war is surely tied with the disgust and sense of betrayal many economic conservatives feel towards Bush. The two most appealing aspects of his candidacy going into the 2000 election were his constant praise of small government as domestic policy and no nation building as foreign policy. He has rejected those policies in practice as dramatically as one could possible imagine. What's left to like? Why should we continue to trust this administration to do what they say they will?

We libertarians, unfortunately, are forced to live within the constructs of our two party system. Bush's failure to reign-in a profligate Congress of his own party - a party in total breach of its 1994 Contract with America. The "no nation building" pledge, on the other hand, did not survive contact with reality.

I doubt there are many who frequent this site who are very enthusiastic about the performance of Mr. Bush, or his compatriots in Congress. However, when juxtaposed against the alternatives presented by the Jackass Party in 2000, 2004, and likely 2008, one is forced to choke down hard, and accept the lesser of two evils.
7.23.2006 12:53pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
My only beef with the war is it took out Irans only real enemy. With Saddam in power it only would have been a matter of time before they were back at Iran-Iraq warII.
7.23.2006 1:00pm
w3 (mail):
I split from the LP after 9/11 and I've been politically homeless ever since. Harry Browne's (paraphrased) 'what'd ya think would happen when we're so involved in the Middle East?' emails awakened me to the flippancy with which party leaders viewed Political Islam. Sarcastic and pun-driven press releases from the LP used to make my day, but after 9/11 they weren't so funny.

The LP leadership seems to accept the premise that 9/11 was a response to US aggression in the middle east. I do not subscribe to the theory that Political Islam is a response to western aggression. The propaganda they use to divide The West certainly makes that case, but the talk amongst militant Muslims that leaks its way out to the press is that Global Caliphate is the true and singular purpose of antagonizing the west and driving the entire world into chaos.

If you accept the second theory, you realise the first is irrelevant. Whether we entangle or disengage, we will eventually have to face the goals of Political Islam. I no longer support any party that denies the goals of this movement and seems to feed on self-loathing statements of principle.
7.23.2006 1:01pm
Ken Arromdee:
To believe, ex ante, that the war would be liberty-maximizing, you'd have to believe that a massive government program based on reworking a society via central planning from Washington would

Whether the war would be liberty-maximizing depends on two things:
1) how good we are in creating liberty
2) how bad the situation was before we got there

If the society is very bad, it's more likely that reworking it will improve things--even a result of mere mediocrity would be much better than was there before. I'm sure that if the US were to invade Sweden, we'd have a hard time improving things. But even typical US incompetence can improve Iraq.
7.23.2006 1:10pm
Shangui (mail):
perhaps you'll read my comment and think about it. It is more substantive than your flip misreading of it would indicate.

You're right that I shouldn't have been so nasty. Your post does indeed say more than I addressed in my brief comment. At the same time, that's partly why the "agree with me or you're no libertarian" closing is so disappointing. Do you really think MF is not a libertarian because of his opposition to the war? The way you smuggly assume he just needs to see the light sounds far too much like saying he's suffering from false class-consciousness for my tastes.

You also write, "Libertarians believe in civil society and, accordingly, support a process of peaceful problem resolution. Libertarians also respect individuals. It follows that attempts to tear the underlying fabric of society challenge libertarians to respond."

Do you really consider what has happened in Iraq "a process of peaceful problem resolution"? I'd hate to see what your definition of "violent problem resolution" is. Please don't bother with the "Saddam was evil" response. I agree. But let's not be so blind as to say that the way we've removed him or what we've allowed to spring up in the wake of that action is "peaceful problem resolution." That's just absurd. The larger war against Islamic (and Christian) fundamentalism is a real very important one. I just don't think it will be won by these sorts of massive and expensive pre-emptive military intervensions. You clearly disagree. I don't think this makes you un-libertarian. But I do think it makes you wrong.
7.23.2006 1:20pm
From Ilya's post: "anecdotal evidence suggests that immigrant libertarians are more likely to be pro-Iraq War than native-born ones."

This is something that I think needs to be expanded upon. No native born American, no matter how learned and empathetic, can truly understand what it means to be born into (and grow up in) a slave society, a terror society. Being born into and growing up in the Soviet Union under Stalin, or Mao's China, or Saddam's Iraq (especially if a kurd or shi'ite or liberal sunni intellectual) tends to make for two kinds of people: the vast majority, quiet, desperate, terrified, and a very thin sliver of utterly amoral butchers. Some of the discussion here, although thoughtful and interesting as always, leaves out this human (and, as Ilya said, 'autobiographical') element.

People who grew up in slave societies and now live in freedom in America are acutely aware that the people's of newly freed nations remain very slavish in their minds for long periods of time. Habits of mind linger. People who have seen relatives disappear in the night, who know first hand of unspeakable torture, tend to lay low and calculate. It's only normal. Not everybody can be a hero. Most folks are just folks.

I don't want to go too far off on a tangent, but I think one of the factors that can explain this split in the libertarians is that one side knows that the destruction of Saddam's regime was a massive net increase in liberty in that region; they 'feel' the event as a liberation. The other side just sees bombers and fundamentalists and hysterics and figures there wasn't really any liberation at all.
7.23.2006 2:06pm
DJ (mail):
I simply see the split between what I've always thought of as nationalist libertarians and more ideological libertarians. Nationalist libertarians, it seems to me, embrace libertarian theory because they've concluded that it's the governing theory of our American constitutional order. Accordingly, these people tend to be pro-police and pro-military because these forces of reaction defend the essentially libertarian American social order. And they they tend to approve a muscular American foreign policy when it has the effect of advancing American interests and, in paricular, liberal American principles. These guys also are more active in politics (Republican, for the most part).

Anti-statist ideological libertarians, on the other hand, start with a reflexive aversion to state institutions and go from there.
7.23.2006 2:15pm
Daniel Wiener (mail) (www):
I think a lot of the libertarian anti-war sentiment is predicated on its fundamental hostility toward government. As David Friedman noted, government tends to be incompetent and is therefore likely to botch a foreign war irregardless of the moral arguments. Similarly, Harry Browne’s mantra was that “government doesn’t work”. Hence a foreign war is unlikely to work and is instead likely to be highly counterproductive.

There are some problems with this meme. One is that it creates an unstated (or seldom-stated) desire among libertarians for our country to lose any war it is engaged in, since a victory would undercut the theory that government is incompetent. It’s not enough for many libertarians to hope for success but fear the worst, and then reluctantly say “I told you so.” Instead many libertarians fear success and refuse to believe any good news because they don’t want others to say to them “I told you so.”

Another problem is that the United States’ military forces are in fact very good at waging war (“breaking things and killing people”), and are vastly more competent in that endeavor than most other countries’ military forces. Our weaknesses show up after the main fighting, when we engage in “nation-building”. Then the bureaucratic regulation and control problems which afflict the federal government in its “nation-building” here at home also afflict similar efforts abroad. But many libertarians insist on conflating military operations with post-military occupations.

The division among libertarians reflects back into the “anarchism” versus “minarchism” debate. Anarchist libertarians are especially going to question the ability of a government to be successful in any war, or to ever act in a moral and principled manner. Whereas minimal-state (“night watchman”) libertarians will want to defend the proposition that a government which is limited to its proper functions (providing collective self-defense and a justice system and legal framework for citizens to interact) can indeed perform those functions in a reasonably competent manner.

The 9/11 attack hammered a wedge into this inherent division among libertarians. The overwhelming majority of libertarians believe in self-defense and strongly support the individual right to keep and bear arms. Our country was clearly the victim of a horrendous attack on 9/11 which required some kind of response. So what were the libertarian options?

One option was to deny that we were the victim of an attack. A tiny percentage of libertarians have bought into the conspiracy theories which say this was all a plot by the U.S. government, and that the towers were toppled by explosive charges, and that no plane actually hit the Pentagon, and that this was Bush’s Reichstag fire to give the fascist Republicans dictatorial control of the country. This neatly obviates the need for a response, since there was no external attack in the first place.

Another option was to blame everything on prior foreign interventionism by the United States. We’ve unquestionably propped up foreign dictators in the past, supplied them with weapons, established foreign bases, etc. If you go back far enough (and often very recently) you can almost always find one or more grievances which foreigners can site as justification for striking back against our country. If the U.S. was the orginal aggressor, then 9/11 could be painted as an act of retaliation and self-defense, and we would have no moral justification for responding further. At the very least there would be a moral equivalence between the acts of “terrorists” and the acts of the U.S. government.

Another option was to concede that the U.S. government had made many mistakes by its past foreign interventionism but to deny moral equivalence between that and terrorist attacks which were directed at innocent civilians and which killed three thousand people. Recognizing that we had an active enemy which would continue to try to attack us, many libertarians agreed that it was morally proper to act in self-defense to try to defeat the terrorist organizations. But how? There was a lot of libertarian support for a limited strike against Al Queda in Afghanistan and the Taliban government which was shielding the terrorists. There was also a lot of support for the Ron Paul approach of issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal, offering huge rewards (billions, not millions) for the Al Queda leadership, and encouraging private military operations to target the terrorists.

Another option was to view this as a major war with many fronts, and to hold every government which sponsored or sheltered terrorists as being co-conspirators (either before or after the fact) in terrorist attacks and therefore culpable. This would classify military actions against nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even North Korea (which is a potential supplier of nuclear weapons to terrorists) as retaliatory self-defense. The order of military operations would become a strategic decision rather than a moral question. Under this scenario the war would end when the terrorist leaders were captured or dead and their organizations dismantled and no nation-state was willing to shelter or support future terrorist operations which could again threaten our country.

The Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement in general has splintered among these options, with each camp accusing the others of violating libertarian principles. The picture is further muddied by the many instances of incompetence evidenced by U.S. military occupations, and the inconsistent realpolitick foreign policy with respect to countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The picture is also muddied by the biased reporting of much of the media which prevents us from getting an accurate picture of the real successes and failures of this war. Each libertarian faction is therefore able to point to and emphasize different sets of facts which it can claim supports its interpretation of events. The 9/11 wedge has created giant fissures in the libertarian movement which I don’t see closing anytime soon.
7.23.2006 2:16pm
Ben of MA:
I thought the war was legal and morally justifiable, although I believed that the risks Saddam posed were not worth the costs of war.

My libertarian reason for opposing the war is that I believe that nation building is a fool's errand. In this case, it's social engineering of the most crude sort (at the point of a gun). I simply don't see how anyone who believes in the ideas of Hayek and Burke could think that the nation building stage of this war would go well. Unfortunately, Bush's original "humble" foreign policy ideas were probably based more on a general religious sentiment than a reasoned opposition to government action.

I'm guessing that the libertarians who oppose all war as an "initiation of force" are the same libertarians who believe that all taxation is an "initiation of force" - they're anarchists.
7.23.2006 2:31pm
Justin (mail):
"By contrast, if you take a maximizing approach, you will be more willing to accept some rights violations now in order to reduce the total incidence of violations in the long run. For example, it could be argued that the War in Iraq, despite the carnage it has caused, saves a much greater number of innocent lives in the long run, as well as expanding personal and economic liberties for most Iraqis."

No, no you can't. In theory, you could have argued this in the past, but the actual results of the war (which, in the eyes of many, were completely predictable) along with the knowledge of Iraq's lack of WMDs (perhaps less predictable) shows that the utilitarian pro-war argument was absurd - even more so from a liberterian point of view, which does not take a dreamy-eyed view of government intervention. If utilitarianism cannot justify welfare spending, universal health care, and worker health protections, how can it justify a war with such an unlikely chance of success?

"NOTE: I'm not going to try to censor comments, but I suggest that it would be more productive if people focus on the narrower issue of the disagreement among libertarians instead of the broader issue of the justice of the war (which has already been debated ad nauseum both at VC and elsewhere)."

The problem here is that the justice of the war, or at least in terms of utilitarianism, is a prerequisite to the question you want. You have to assume the first to get to the latter. But the question wasn't whether the government can interfere at the cost of death and destruction to innocents when the result was going to be, for sure, a total of less death and less destrucion. It was at its first instance whether it was rational for people naturally distrustful of government efficiency arguments to swallow the bait on that question.

And ultimately, it was about what was more important to liberterians - their beliefs or their allegiences. Those who supported the war chose their allegiences over their beliefs, and some have (in various degrees) nobly come to (in various degrees) admit and apologize for their error.

And for those who still support the war, such as Glenn Reynolds, not much needs to be said, other than you are framing the question in a way that, if true, could only lead to the conclusion that this tenured law professor is actually incapable of comprehending basic facts, a conclusion that seems untenable in my own view.
7.23.2006 3:00pm
Justin (mail):
Daniel Weiner,

your arguments are deceptive, setting up and beating up a straw man. The real straw man was in option three. The assumption made throughout, but penetrating in option three, are these simple false presumptions

Saddam Hussein = Osama Bin Ladin
Secular Baathism = Wahaabism
Regional = Global
Israel = United States
Terrorism = goal (as opposed to method)

The option you ignore, or at least dress up as absurd, was that a response to the Twin Towers attack which would be focused solely on Al Queda, or more broadly on anti-American Wahabbist paramilitary organizations, would have been sufficient.
7.23.2006 3:04pm
Karen Nitzschke (mail):
The difference among libertarians re the Iraq War can only be ascribed to the male (Milton) v. female (Rose) principal, i.e., male-type libertarians see the war as aggression and a violation of the rights, liberty, etc., of the Iraqi people; female-type libertarians see it as a valid pre-emption. The female perspective: A woman who has been repeatedly beaten by an ex-husband or lover has now been threatened by death if she does not comport with his wishes. She goes to a judge who agrees to issue a restraining order against the man if he comes within 100 yards of her, but that is the best he can do. He cannot arrest and/or convict him for making a threat. Until such time as the guy violates the order by killing her, there is nothing the State can do against him. “Honest to God,” the judge says, “if he kills you, the State will arrest and try him – hoping for a conviction – given his rights to life, liberty, etc.” A strong female libertarian will say to herself, “Screw you, Judge, I’m going to buy a gun and learn how to use it and if that bastard comes within 100 yards of me, he’s dead meat and I’ll take whatever punishment (or obloquy) comes – at least I’ll be alive to feel/hear it.” The male-type libertarians are the judge (male or female) insisting that only the retaliatory use of force is, sometimes, legitimate, “But let me navel-gaze a moment to see – just before he kills you because, of course, I’ll be there to rule at that exact moment – whether this time he coming to kill you and not just beat you up again.”

7.23.2006 3:09pm
Justin (mail):
Mr. Horowitz,

"(the first of which appears to have been false, though the second true)"

Presuming that connection has a real meaning - some sort of actual or real potential conspiracy, not in the sense that the United States and North Korea are connected - do you care to explain this statement?
7.23.2006 3:16pm
David Aitken (mail) (www):
I think that dictatorships, rogue nations, terrorist groups, and other purveyors of fascism forfeit their right to sovereignty by virtue of their actions. Members of civil society, as nations, groups, or individuals, have the right to act against them to change their ways or remove them from power. I'm also inclined to believe that maxim attributed to Edmund Burke - "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing" (paraphrase). So you can sit around and watch the world go to hell in a handbasket, or do something about it.

I would agree that, prior to 9/11, US foreign policy had no clear purpose. Now it appears to have a purpose of gradually eliminating dictators and the like. I think that's a plus for mankind. You can take the position of "yes, but it's not our job", but who else is realistically capable of doing it?
7.23.2006 3:18pm
noahpraetorius (mail):
Fundamentally I am a libertarian except for the annoying features of human nature that preclude a libertarian society from functioning. So I have the same gripe against libertarians as I do against socialists and communists.

I guess that Mark Steyn is closest to my philosophy. He views the war in Iraq in practical terms...getting rid of Saddam is good but don't expect Shangri-La. I think Bush is slowly coming to his senses. He trapped himself by his own rhetoric...after all he offered safe passage to Saddam out of Iraq and to forego the invasion so presumably in that case the new Iraqi government would have been a hopefully somewhat chastened Baathist thugocracy. But Bush set the bar way too high and as a result Iraq is likely years or decades from any kind of stability.
7.23.2006 3:54pm
Daniel Wiener (mail) (www):
I must say, Justin, it was rather fascinating to observe all the things you claimed to read into my posting which I never said but that you "presumed" were there. I never realized that "Saddam Hussein = Osama Bin Ladin, or Secular Baathism = Wahaabism, or Regional = Global, or Israel = United States, or Terrorism = goal (as opposed to method)". Nor did I realize it was an absurd option that a response to the Twin Towers attack could have been "focused solely on Al Queda, or more broadly on anti-American Wahabbist paramilitary organizations".

What I was doing was describing the fault lines (as I saw them) among libertarians which were caused by the 9/11 attack. From your response I would guess that you fall into Option 3, but that you thought my description of that option was unfair and intended to make it seem absurd. Since that was not my intention (nor my belief), I have to wonder whether you found yourself accidently looking into a mirror and not being comfortable with the face staring back at you.
7.23.2006 4:13pm
Classically Liberal (mail) (www):
The blog Classically Liberal suggest the divisions on the war among libertarians is more one-sided than appears here with most opposing the war. Certainly if the Friedman family is indicative this would be the case. While the article mentions Rose and Milton we note that David (in comments here), their son is against the war. As is grandson Patri.
7.23.2006 4:16pm
Jake (www):
I was a staunch anti-interventionist before 9/11. After 9/11 the question became, and always IS when discussing ethics, what do we do? The Libertarian Party offered nothing. I read Den Beste's blog a lot at the time, and his analysis was very cohesive and persuasive.

The following link is a very good response to both the reasoning behind pro-war libertarian thought as well as an answer to Justin's post above (warning: it's long, but worth it):

Who Is Our Enemy?

I also find it ironic when people invoke the straw-man argument as a straw-man argument itself.
7.23.2006 4:20pm
Boris A.Kupershmidt (mail):
The argument of Somin about the differences
in the pro- vs con- war position being
a direct function of experience with totalitarianism
is spot on and has been my own explanation.
Being born in freedom (or from rich parents) has its own
drawbacks: witness the persistent infantilism
of so many libertarians in the face of the threat
to their countrymen's existance from a mad enemy.
Liberation of Iraq is in no way fifferent from the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. (The Bush administration's usual incompetence _afterwards_ doesn't change the fact, it just provides another irrelevant anti-war argument for those so inclined; it's a valid argument against the hands-on nation buildin, though.)
Another point worth remarkimg: libertarianism is a proper philosophy of _peaceful_ people. It's completely bankrupt
in dealing with existential outside threats to a society's existence -- witness the LP national nitwits after 9/11.
7.23.2006 5:30pm
noahpraetorius (mail):
Just curious about hardcore Libertarians. Isn't it essentially Buchananism without the whiff of anti-semitism (altho personally I do not believe Buchanan is anti-semitic).
7.23.2006 6:19pm
peter jackson (mail) (www):
It doesn't surprise me that Dr. Milton believes the war wrongheaded while Dr. Rose sees it merely as a matter of moral common sense. Dr. Milton has aways struck me as more oriented toward the abstract and abstract reasoning than Dr. Rose is. I see this tendency not just amongst libertarians, but across the rest of the political spectrum as well to one degree or another.

The fact is that the world and our thoughts about the world are two different things; one is the actual world itself, while the other is merely a collection of thoughts bouncing around inside of our skulls.

This being the case, it is completely possible for any of us to be absolutely 180° wrong about literally anything at any given time. When the world or something withing the world changes, no invisible hand reaches into our minds to redirect our thoughts to be consistent with the new reality. Likewise when we change our minds about something, the world doesn't spontaneously re-order itself to our thoughts. Instead, when our thoughts don't coincide with reality, we're simply wrong is all, which may or may not have undesirable implications depending on the subject and scope of our misapprehension.

I've always found that the more congnizant a person is of this separateness, the less likely they are to "eat the menu" here in the real world. They are more likely to identify and analyze their observations of the world based on other observations of the world, as opposed to simply abstract principles.

And fortunately for my theory, the opposite generally also appears to hold true: the more philosophical one's attitude toward the world, the less cognizant one is of the separateness of the world and one's beliefs about it.

It's also my experience that anti-war folks tend toward this latter type. They also tend to be more anarchist than minarchist, and more principled than consequentialist.

7.23.2006 7:17pm
sarnac (mail):
The division among Libertarians and generally between hawks and isolationist/peaceniks comes down to something rather simple, yet vastly more complicated than most arguments here:

Doves see nothing particularly _personally_ threatening about the state of the MidEast 1991->2001/2003.

Hawks see various combinations of factors adding up to a medium/long-term personal/familial threat.

Then there's this perspective ...
1: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya etc are/were working on WMDs
1a: Chem-weapons are annoying but not a critical danger.
1b: Nukes are locally more dangerous, but hard-to-make
1c: Bio-weapons are the threat to extinguish Homo Sapiens.

2: Iraq, Iran, and Syria are clearly known to have worked on weaponizing various *-pox germs ... this was broadly reported on in the late-1990s, specifically mentioning manipulating camel-pox's human transmissibility or practicing on camel-pox before working on smallpox.
* The Iraqi government did admit to U.N. inspectors back in 1995 that they were working on camelpox as a weapon against foreign troops.

* They claimed they wanted to use it as a weapon to which Iraqis, who are used to camels, would be immune, while foreign troops would not.
The inspectors were dubious, as camelpox does not cause human disease. They feared that instead, Iraq might be using it as a safe substitute while testing a smallpox weapon.

Iraq acknowledges a certain level and that is that they were conducting research on three viruses - chemopox which is loosely related to cowpox, smallpox presumably, but is principally a disease of camels; human rotavirus which is a notorious cause of infant diarrhoea; and hemmolergic conjunctivitis which produces a hemorrhaging in the eye and blurred vision which will last 24 to 48 hours. The eyes bleed. -----
Presumably if you're working on camelpox you are working on smallpox. -----
Well camelpox is a very strange one. We were told at the time that the reason they were working on camelpox is that they believed that the local population, the indigenous population would be immune and outsiders coming in would be susceptible to it. ----- They have openly acknowledged three agents. The anthrax, botulinum toxin as well as clostridium perfringens spores. The latter one produces - it's a notorious cause of gangrene, particularly in penetrating wounds during war time. It's a rather horrible death and presumably that was what Iraq - that's what Iraq claim was their interest in it. source:

* Another mystery is Iraqi statements about work on camelpox virus at the Daura ... Even the small chance that Iraq is running an Ebola lab is a chilling prospect. ...
google blurb of a for-pay Science article on Iraq, Camelpox and Ebola

From the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, the Iranian opposition group that revealed Iran "peaceful" nuclear program:
Iran has begun production of weaponized anthrax and is actively working with at least five other pathogens, including smallpox, in a drive to build an arsenal of biological weapons.

* Iran has started production of weaponised anthrax spores, and is investigating efforts in other pathogens, including smallpox for its bioweapons arsenal. It is of interest, that Kenneth Alibek supervised the development of weapons grade smallpox during his tenure as scientific chief at Biopreparat (The USSR's Biopreparat was what has been dubbed a “toxic archipelago.” Scientists toiled on 52 different agents that could be used as weapons, among them the organisms causing smallpox, anthrax, plague, Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, yellow fever, tularemia, brucellosis, Q fever, botulinum toxin, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis. Genetic hybrids were whipped up from the most deadly ingredients.)

Defense Update News Commentary

National Academies Press

3: These bio-WMD efforts pre-dated serious genetic manipulation or understanding of the outputs of the recominint genetics projects that have now published the genetic structure of humans, mice, and many minor animals plus _MANY_ deadly virii like the 1918 flu, smallpox, etc.

4: Western morality does not allow us to withhold medical machinery from Iran, et al.

5: Medical knowledge has raced ahead of most people's understanding of it due to the inherent exponential growth of biochem/genetic knowledge multiplied by the Moore's law exponential growth curve of computational proteinology (The computational power applied to biomed-research and genetic or protein structure doubles about every 12 months (computer power doubles every 18 months ... but these are added to (not replacing) the existing supercomputer infrastructure)).

6: We can (TODAY) create virii that are genetically tailored to a particular person's cancer (trials have been ongoing for some time now) to kill ONLY thse cells. The exact same technique can be applied to making a virus that targets a specific ethnic group (Jews for example since Amhadinijad seems to be especially chipper today about neutralizing the Israeli nuclear "Samson-Option"). Since so many Jews have particular distinctive genetic characteristics, they can be targetted with a tailored virus that theoretically kills only them.
6a: Can it be done:
A reporter with no biology experience since high school is walked through doing genetic manipulation with ebay-equipment in under a week
"Biowar for Dummies"
* 'Every hands-on gene hacker I polled during my project estimated they could synthesize smallpox in a month or two.'
* 'Brent guesses he would need a couple million dollars to whip up a batch of smallpox from scratch. No need for state sponsors or stolen top-secret germ samples. “An advanced grad student could do it,” Brent says.'
* Here's the genetic map for smallpox (and many other virii)
* 'Three years ago, Eckard Wimmer headed a team of researchers at SUNY Stony Brook that made live polio virus from scratch, part of a Defense Department project to prove the threat of synthetic bioweapons.'
* DNA synthesis is following a kind of accelerated Moore’s law—the faster and easier it gets, the faster and easier it gets. Last year, a group of researchers synthesized DNA strands of more than 300,000 base pairs—longer than the smallpox genome—using a method that eliminates most of the shake-and-bake lab steps I’d spent weeks learning.
* 'Carlson designs custom proteins on a computer in his Seattle home. According to his calculations, if the current pace of biotech proceeds for another decade, cooking up a lethal bug will be as easy and cheap as building a Web site.'

7: The mousepox example ... they created a weapon while trying to create a mouse contraceptive:
BBC fatal engineered-mouse-pox article
Biological Warfare news-archive on AU mouse-pox
The researchers, based in Canberra, Australia, were hoping to genetically engineer the mousepox virus to produce a contraceptive vaccine to control mouse populations.
When the genetically engineered mousepox was put into mice the mice simply died. The supposedly benign mousepox virus was discovered to have become a killer. And not only a killer, but a super-killer: 100% of the mice died. The scientists thought they might learn something useful about mouse contraception, but instead they had learned how to create a universally fatal virus. And this killer virus had been created via a very simple genetic manipulation, accessible to every country with a few PhD microbiologists."
The result was widespread terror within the defense and medical community. If this technique could be used on a mouse virus, why not a human one? Smallpox and mousepox are very closely related. Would smallpox+IL-4 create a superpox? This is very likely. As one scientist said, "if some idiot put IL-4 into smallpox, they'd increase the lethality quite dramatically ... I wouldn't want to be the one to do this experiment."
He won't need to. Others have volunteered; no doubt this question is being answered right now in clandestine labs around the globe. The technology is easily accessible, the technique is published. All it takes now is intent and a modest lab. And, if this particular technique doesn't work, perhaps another one will do the trick ...
NOTE: Nature has an for-fee article on:
Common Cold Virus Combined With Polio
Nature: article on Polio+Common-Cold

NOTE ... these articles aren't mentioning it, but I remember from the time: every mouse in the BUILDING died ... rapidly, despite containment and attempts to save their lives. The building was (AFAICR) incinerated to prevent further spread.

From an article on 2002's vaccination of US troops vs Iraqi upgraded-Smallpox:
Center for Defense Information article on Iraqi smallpox
"According to biologists, growing and maintaining the smallpox virus would not be difficult for Iraq, a country that admitted in 1995 to pursuing a clandestine biological weapons program. A year earlier, UN inspectors examining Iraqi medical facilities uncovered an industrial-sized freeze dryer, the type used by microbiologists to extend the life of germ samples. It was labeled in Arabic �smallpox machine.� Iraqi officials claimed the freeze dryer was meant for the smallpox vaccine, not the virus.
Nevertheless, many former UN biological weapons inspectors in Iraq, including Richard Butler, are seriously concerned about the likelihood that Iraq has smallpox, possibly in weaponized form. "

My conclusion: we cannot stop gene-manipulating medical hardware, information, and methods from reaching Iran, Syria, etc, therefore we must change the Middle-East armageddonist/Wahibbi/"Twelver" anti-Jew/EU mindset ASAP before they screw up and launch an anti-Jew version of ebola/smallpox that evolves/genetically shifts to be fatal to all of Homo Sapiens worldwide.

Last note: On Friday 7-21-2006 ... during what is arguably the apparent start of a region-wide mass war, the Persian restaurant where my wife professionally belly-dances had an impromptu pre-Armageddon-party. The persian owner of the restaurant did not expect this but had actually cancelled several dancers for that night expecting a low turnout. Previous recent confrontations between the US and Iran caused dramatic drops in attendance ... only Americans or a few Arabs or Indians showed but no Persians ... this time was completely different ... and the partiers explicitly said it was because of the fighting between Iran-proxy HezboAllah and Israel ... and that Ahmadinijad claimed to be able to neutralize the threat from Israeli nuclear weapons.

7.23.2006 7:53pm
I am a foreign born libertarian who have strong memory of living under Communist oppression. My father was jailed and tortured when I was 1w.

I support the war. It is something that native born libertarian coud never understand. I understand libertarianism within the framework of utilitarianism, "maximum liberty for maximum number of people."
7.23.2006 8:08pm
One more data point for you here: immigrant (from a not-very-nice third world country), very libertarian, very pro-war. The pattern in the article seems to apply, at least in my case.
7.23.2006 8:26pm
"I understand libertarianism within the framework of utilitarianism, 'maximum liberty for maximum number of people' in America."

I added those last two words.
You need to first pick a team.
One team's interests might conflict with another's.
For America to risk everything, on one shake of the dice with Israel... It's not life or death for the U.S.
7.23.2006 9:01pm
microtherion (mail):
What I'm missing in this very interesting discussion is an explanation why the pro-war libertarians seem to have signed on to the REST of the Bush agenda, especially the Guantanamo detentions and the domestic spying.

As an outside observer of libertarianism, I would have expected libertarians to start a post-9/11 debate on how to better protect against terrorism while minimizing the impact on civil liberties. Instead, it seems that pro-war libertarians are willing to take the government's word about what measures are needed to protect them. They also seem to take the government's word that detaining hundreds of people (many of them probably innocent of any wrongdoing) without due process of law is essential for the protection of society.

If this is not accepting the primacy of collective rights over individual rights, what is?
7.23.2006 10:00pm
sbw (mail) (www):
shangui: the "agree with me or you're no libertarian" closing is so disappointing. -- Do not put in quotes what I did not say. And do not misinterpret what I did say. You put up a straw man, swing and miss with a full load of class-consciousness noise that no one even alluded to, much less meant.

shangui: Do you really consider what has happened in Iraq "a process of peaceful problem resolution"? -- Of course not. There was no peaceful process of problem resolution so there was no civil society. What existed followed the law of the jungle and could be removed by it.

shangui: But let's not be so blind as to say that the way we've removed him or what we've allowed to spring up in the wake of that action is "peaceful problem resolution." That's just absurd. -- You've missed the point. Where no process of peaceful problem resolution is subscribed to, force is allowed. In the absence of a legitimate U.N. (and please spare me that it isn't corrupt) force was applied.

shangui: I just don't think it will be won by these sorts of massive and expensive pre-emptive military intervensions. -- In the absence of a legitimate, effective, international police force -- and the U.N. certainly isn't any of that -- just what alternative do you suggest? In the ensuing silence, we'll just have to use what tools are available. Diplomacy, backed up by force, until such time as everyone decides to live under the umbrella of peaceful problem resolution. Live under it or not, as you choose. But choose to live outside and the law of the jungle offers you no safe haven.

shangui: You clearly disagree. I don't think this makes you un-libertarian. But I do think it makes you wrong. -- You think it makes me wrong because you have twisted what I tried hard to express clearly. What I said was both succinct and important. The decision-making process it applies is the only effective choice if society is going to survive advances in technology and overcome moral relativism. What's more, it is compatible with libertarianism, because lbertarianism can only occur within a functioning civil society.

What I meant in the first post was that after Rose explains this to Milton, he'll subscribe to it, too.
7.23.2006 10:56pm
Justin (mail):
Daniel, you can't seriously be trying to convince people that you weren't setting up the "fault lines" in a way that did anything other than try to color going into Iraq as such an obvious action for not just liberterians but decent people everywhere.

That goes for sarnac and others too. If you're making normative arguments about why the war was such a brilliant idea (ignoring the giant elephant in the room), it is deceptive and bad form to try and disguise that as a positive description of the schism between you and those who disagree with you. It is the definition of the strawman, and it is hardly worth a response.
7.23.2006 11:41pm
David T. Beito (www):
I am in one of the members of the predominantly antiwar blog, <a rel="nofollow" href=""> Liberty and Power</a>. I'll be blogging about Somin's judicious and thoughtful post later in the week.

Let me note a few issues that have come up in the discussion, however, Several folks have argued that libertarian critics of the war are unusually focused on abstract and ideological arguments. This view does not get us very far. Ideology and consequentialist arguments can be found in ample supply on both sides.

Many members of Liberty and Power, for example, center their objections to the war on a consequentialist Hayekian view that foreign (like domestic) intervention leads to negative unintended consequences. We are skeptical of claims that "democracy" in the Middle East is a panacea and point to the danger of the tyranny of the majority. We have also been skeptical of the view that the likes of Bush and Clinton can impose liberty on areas that have little to no tradition of the rule of law, free speech, free markets, etc.

Many of us look at the events over the last week and worsening ethnic/religious violence in Iraq (especially in light of the wildly optimistic pro-war arguments in 2003) as confirmation of our long-held fears.

The thrust of our (or at least my) objections are practical and consequentialist. On the other hand, many pro-war libertarians seem to be primarily motived by a highly ideological, and in our view unrealistic, goals such imposing liberty, etc., fine tuning/ending the medieval turf wars of the Middle East, creating a democratic revolution via the ballot.
7.23.2006 11:41pm
Fuz (mail) (www):
In the consequentialist vein: governments are instituted among people to secure their liberties. Because governments, either our own or that of the folks next door, are the greatest threat to our liberties, we seek to constrain our government, and hope the folks next door will constrain theirs, by constitutions, laws, courts, and an armed citizenry.

While our own government is usually the biggest threat to liberties, we still institute them anyway. As the old joke goes, "we need the eggs." I part with the anarcholibertarians because when governments are outlawed, only outlaws will have governments. An outlaw will be only too happy to subject me to his when he finds I have none to protect me from his.

We do not institute government to protect other peoples' rights, but our own. Governments are useful for organizing effective resistance to armed attack from the haywire tyrant from next door---or worse, the workmanlike and well-organized democracy led by the very haywire people next door.

I consent to having our government initiate violence on my behalf so long as that violence is directed against external threats. And "next door" is a somewhat meaningless term because distance operates very weakly over the scale of international conflict. It is difficult, not impossible, to justify the projection of US force overseas to liberate people just because they are unfree. The regime to be toppled really should constitute some threat to our ordered liberty.

How this applies to Iraq is deep and complex and I'd prefer to keep the question of oooooiiiiiillll out of it. Suffice it to say, I think we should have whacked Iran instead of Iraq. The mullahs' influence on the attack on World Trade and the Pentagon is more demonstrable, though there appear to be linkages between Iraq and UBL. Iran's, and Islam's overall, insistence that secular power be subordinated to a religious institution is a greater threat to Western civilization than Saddam Hussein could even contemplate.

Still, we are in Iraq, and the consequences of backing out are far worse than the consequences of staying and slugging it out. Not relevant to the topic but worth noting, we are faring far better than I (and many others) thought we would. But all of it could go to hell quickly because our government's leaders assumed that everybody wants a Western-style democracy, and will peacefully sway and sing kum ba yah if we gave them one.

Once that democracy is in place and exerts exclusive right to the initiation of force over all of Iraq's real estate, they could turn out not to be friendly to us or our institutions. Their gratitude to us could be very shallow and short-lived.

Iranians, on the other hand, are probably more ready for Western notions of self-ownership, and less likely to be riven by sectarian or ethnic violence,. Many of them would participate in bringing down their religious rule, making it more easily toppled without utter destruction of a significant economy.
7.23.2006 11:42pm
Ben of MA:
Just to develop the observation of Jewish support for the war a bit further: The 20th century taught the Jewish community that having a strong theoretic commitment to liberty or the pursuit of happiness really means nothing without a strong Jewish state that actively protects them. The utter destruction of the war taught western Europeans the opposite - to turn away from the classic nation state in favor of theoretical and legal constructs that promise freedom to everyone, everywhere.

America has not experienced a trauma on the scale of WWII, the Holocaust or Communism. But from what a few libertarians here say, 9-11 revolutionized the way they think about foreign affairs.
7.24.2006 12:09am
microtherion: What I'm missing in this very interesting discussion is an explanation why the pro-war libertarians seem to have signed on to the REST of the Bush agenda, especially the Guantanamo detentions and the domestic spying.

My opinion: Because while I have grave concerns about personal freedom the criticisms of Guantanamo detentions and domestic spying (and I just about want to put quotes around "domestic spying") tend to be hyperbolic grandstanding which sort of makes any serious consideration of the consequences of those things too difficult to attempt in mixed company.

Guantanamo... well, as some have pointed out, *legally* we should probably have just executed them all at the point of capture. We don't *do* stuff like that, so we've got this instead. It's *complicated* and most people publically denouncing Guantanamo simply can not have a dispassionate discussion of the alternatives.

"Domestic spying" tends also to be hyperbolic grandstanding by politicians and pundits who are, on any other day, supporters of fundamentally statist policies but have grasped a club with which to pummel Bush. In other words... they are un-serious.

I don't *approve* of invasions of privacy. I just find it really difficult to assume a posture of outraged offense when I file my taxes every year with my kids social security numbers on them. So let the deluded statists have their outrage. They'll get over it.
7.24.2006 12:49am
David T. Beito (www):
Do Jews as a whole support the war? I thought that most American Jews now regard it as a mistake. Does anyone have poll data on this? Jewish libertarians, of course, can be found in both the pro and antiwar camps.
7.24.2006 12:59am
Peter Bessman (mail) (www):
For the record: libertarian, ethnicish jew (dad's side), native born, and very, very pro-war.

On the original topic: we're looking at the difference between libertarians who actually have a concealed carry permit, and those who just think it should be legal.
7.24.2006 1:00am
What I actually intended to say... though it's rather intimidating to post among so many who are certainly more literate than I claim to be... I have no idea who half the people referenced even are,(Ok, more than half,) is:

I see the issue as a choice between unwanted foreign adventuring and intolerable turning inward. I fear "homeland security" far more than I dread international intervention.

And I'm hopeful that this is going to work. I think that Fencer made some good (if rather brutal) comments. (10:22 am) They tie in a bit with what I see as a tension between embracing uncertainty and a need to control outcome. You either trust individuals or you don't. It's not enough just to distrust government. A couple of people here seem to have said that this will fail simply because anything the government does will fail. But the government isn't the only actor involved.

What I hear most often from people who are against the war in Iraq is that it will fail because of the *people* of Iraq. I dare say that the people in Iraq are just as petty and venal and selfishly short-sighted as people anywhere. Does that mean they can't somehow muddle forward given this opportunity?

We manage it. What's our excuse?

I feel strongly that libertarianism requires a clear eyed acceptance that the chaos that is humanity is. It just *is* and it's not a bad thing. The polar opposite of that, it would seem to me, is needing to have everything controlled.

Well, obviously, controlling doesn't work too well. (At least part of the hold up with infrastructure building in Iraq seems to be sometime local resistance to giving government authority even if it means getting electricity for two hours from the neighborhood guy with a generator instead of all day from what you believe *must* be or become corrupt. I think we can identify with that.)

Having faith in the potential of human beings doesn't require any sort of denial about what human nature entails. People are what they are, and they manage to muddle through. I have faith that the Iraqi people, given the opportunity, can muddle through.

It's not really "nation building" so much as "nurturing" in the hopes that liberty and prosperity other *there* will result in greater security over *here* without living in a perpetual state of lock-down.

We live globally. We can't pretend we don't.
7.24.2006 1:35am
Mike Lorrey (mail) (www):
I'll note that foreign libertarian blogs, like the anglospheric and groups, like the French "Liberte Cherie International" tend to be for the war and pro-US (though their pro-US stance may be just because the French establishment is anti-US, a good argument for the typical libertarian Oppositional Defiant Disorder).

IMHO, the delineation tends to fall along the lines of those who interpret libertarian principles simplistically or on a nuanced basis. This may dovetail with your "maximizing" approach, but IMHO it tends to fall along lines of how pedantic and simplistic a given libertarian is.
7.24.2006 2:03am
I agree with the analogy with the Judge, woman and restraining order. I see the restraing order from the Judge as all the useless UN resolutions. I see the gun I use to shoot the SOB as the US military. "The Judge" are those who want the restraing order and sit and get killed cause they neither have a gun or will not pull the trigger to save their own lives. I as a woman am in agreement with Rose.
7.24.2006 2:15am
Justin (mail):
The Bush administration stated in front of the Supreme Court of the United States that they believed that the Constitution permitted them, on the basis of declaring a US Citizen arrested in the United States an enemy combatant, the right to detain that person indefinitely without charges.

That's not "hyperbolic grandstanding," that's a specific position taken by a specific administration in a specific case before the Supreme Court. If that doesn't bother you, but paying your taxes does, then I suggest you're not so much a liberterian at all, just a conservative.
7.24.2006 3:11am
microtherion (mail):

Guantanamo... well, as some have pointed out, *legally* we should probably have just executed them all at the point of capture

And how would that have served either U.S. interests or libertarian principles? Only 5 percent of the Guantanamo inmates were captured by U.S. forces, the rest were captured by Pakistan &the Northern Alliance and turned over to the US in exchange for substantial bounties. The ostensible purpose of this was intelligence gathering, what purpose would it have served to have middle easterners captured for bounty, only to kill them upon receipt?

It's *complicated* and most people publically denouncing Guantanamo simply can not have a dispassionate discussion of the alternatives.

That's the part that I don't get: Libertarians used to be extremely suspicious of state power (I remember endless lectures of how approving of taxation was approving of jack-booted thugs to collect same taxes). Now that they are faced with the most clear cut violation of individual rights by the U.S. goverment in their lifetime, the pro-war libertarian faction suddenly discovers nuance?

Bush has plainly asserted that

• Any citizen of any nation, captured anywhere in the world, can be detained upon his say-so.
• Detainees are to have no recourse under the law whatsoever to challenge their detention
• This situation is to last until terrorism is vanquished (and even the most rosy colored Bush'iites would probably concede that this is not likely to happen in our lifetimes).

This means, essentially, a repeal of the Magna Carta (or its moral equivalent in the U.S. constitution). I would have thought that this would cause some concern for any libertarian, but apparently not.
7.24.2006 3:49am
The Dude (mail):
To explain my approach, I would first have to divide the military action against Iraq into two distinct phases.

Firstly the invasion, which had clear objectives, milestones and a specific target(s). I am broadly in favor of proactive targeted strikes against forces/targets deemed to be a threat. For this reason I would have been all for this type of engagement if it could be proven that Iraq was a threat (I didn't think it was -- but that's not the point -- and could have been persuaded otherwise easily).

Secondly we have the post war occupation and nation building. I was not in favour of this and would never be in favour of this. Specifically in the case of Iraq because I just didn't think (having spent manyy years in the Middle East) that it would be culturally ready for democracy -- and that all you would get would be a another Theocratic regime of one form or another, or at best extended civil war between the countries different factions. Other commentators have already stated all this in better terms than me.

Therfore, I was against the war because the way it was packaged option 1 was not available without option 2.

Quickly touching on other points...

I like and have great empathy for the abstract principals of Libertarianism. Unfortunately I'm also a realist and just don't think human nature would let it work, and think that the private organisations espoused by Anarcho-Capitalism is just government by another name. So would be better classified as a minarchist who uses the abstract principles of Libertarianism as one internal reference point to compare and contrast what actually happens in reality.

I am also not an immigrant (although I spent so long living in other countries I may well have been --- 15 years in the Magic Kingdom does that to you, and that was certainly not very free!).

At the most baic level I think the level of support for or against the war(s) on terror comes down to one basic point -- fear. If someone is not secure or does not feel secure (no matter how they reach that conclusion) they are more likely to support action that will make them feel more secure.

If another person reaches the conclusion that they are secure (there is no fear), or that the fear is there but you can't do much about so don't worry (or one fear is just replaced by another fear, then another, etc.) they are less likely to support interventionalist action.
7.24.2006 7:58am
anonyomousss (mail):
microtherion - absolutely right. the idea that there's anything remotely libertarian about giving the president the power to imprison anyone he wants - forever - based on nothing more than his say-so is so absurd as not to merit refutation. to give the president an unreviewable power to imprison anyone he determines to be an enemy combatant is to give him an unreviewable power to imprision anyone he is willing to say is an enemy combatant. how could any libertarian have so much trust in the competence and good faith of the government so as to support such a thing?
7.24.2006 10:03am
anonyomousss (mail):
or, to put the same point another way, "libertarian defense of unlimited authority for the executive to arrest and imprison people" is like "communist defense of the free market."
7.24.2006 10:53am
JasonPappas (mail) (www):
You are right: the anti-war libertarian is deontological. But I believe the interventionists are more interesting and varied than you let on. Interventionists range from those that advocate a pre-emptive devastating strike meant to establish a deterrent, to those favoring a long-term social engineering program (i.e. nations-building) aimed at nurturing a liberal order. This is where the interesting debate lies. It accepts as moral our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq but still leaves prudential questions up for discussion.

The deontological libertarians have little to offer except “you can’t to that, hell comes what may.” Since blatant dogma (i.e. the deontological) is contrary to the empirical nature of Anglo-American thought, they tend to invent detailed causal chains to explain how, on a utilitarian basis, the idea still holds water. Their hope for a positive outcome stems from avoiding unforeseen consequences which they foresee as horrendous if we intervene. All this is just a rationalization of their deontological dogma.

Interventionists recognize that despotic foreign nations are maximal rights-violating interventionists in their own right – first in the lives of their own citizens and then, if their natural inclinations prevail, in war with their neighbors.

Those seeking to establish a deterrent, hope to keep these tyrants from acting on their inclinations out of fear. When a deterrent is lost, actual war becomes necessary to stop the tyrant and establish a deterrent to discourage future tyrants. Call this classical self-interest. Hope is that we can return to a non-interventionist policy after the deterrent is re-established.

Those seeking to nation-build a liberal order hope to change the disposition of the regime by the long-term cultivation of a new cultural ethos. Call it enlightened self-interest. Hope is that no one will want war again.
7.24.2006 11:06am
It is impossible to be a true libertarian and support the War on Iraq. Those "libertarians" who did and continue to support this war are essentially neocons with a libertarian streak on domestic policy.
7.24.2006 11:13am
sbw (mail) (www):
Focusing the issue: How do libertarians recognize whether those outside their sphere are a threat to their existence and what options do they have to defend themselves?
7.24.2006 11:18am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
It is clear that the Bush administration seeks nothing less than to use the wars they started in order destroy the rule of law in this country and replace it with the rule of an undistinguished former cheerleader.

Cindy, you should note that 'King George' has imposed a much lighter rule during WWIV than 'King Franklin' did during WWII or 'King Woodrow' did during WWI. Those worthies locked up many more people, raised taxes (and imposed withholding), nationalized industries, imposed rationing, and indulged in much greater suppession of civil liberties.

George is a piker.
7.24.2006 11:26am
anonyomousss (mail):
Cindy, you should note that 'King George' has imposed a much lighter rule during WWIV than 'King Franklin' did during WWII or 'King Woodrow' did during WWI.

George W. Bush: he's restricted liberty less than FDR. Now that's a libertarian slogan for you.

There is no libertarian case for the Bush administration's "security" policies, nor is there any libertarian defense of the actual Iraq war (rather than a hypothetical war fought based on a completely different strategy). As I wrote above, a libertarian defense of absolute executive authority is like a communist defense of the free market. The same holds for a libertarian invasion of a country that poses no direct security threat to us or our allies in the hope that the government can, via central planning, rework the culture of the society to create a liberal democracy in a society that has no history of any such thing.
7.24.2006 11:37am
The idea of "national sovereignty" divides libertarians.

Many libertarians believe that "national sovereignty" exists as a principle which should be respected. These people apply the non-agression principle to national governments the same way they apply the principle to individuals.

Many other libertarins believe that "national sovereignty" does not exist and that national governments are not themselves "sovereign" any more than are state governments, city governments, homeowners assocations or any other group of people. These people believe that people running national governments who act in violation of the non-agression principle—whether against people in the territory of that country or against people in the territories of other countries—have no more "sovereignty" than does an individual mugger or murderer.

My first hypothesis is that libertarians who believe in "national sovereignty" will be far more likely than not to oppose the Iraq invasion. Libertarians who do not believe in "national sovereignty" will tend to to be divided based on their assessments about whether the invasion would in fact help or hurt the cause of individual liberty in Iraq, in America and in the rest of the world.
7.24.2006 12:11pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
There has been a lot of strange libertarian debate of late in addition to war and peace including libertarians who advocate government licensure of marriage and libertarians who favor federal funding of stem cell research. Peculiar.

I can't explain it myself.

On war and peace, libertarians carry the non-aggression principle farther than it actually reaches. Government military expenditures are no more or less immoral than government expenditures for anything else (under the non-aggression principle - NAP). Certainly education expenditures concern me more.

Libertarian anarchists don't have a dog in this fight. Since we don't think there should be a government obviously there shouldn't be a government military so any specific activities of government including any war are equally inappropriate. Since anarchists don't believe in state soverigenty, they don't actually oppose freedom of travel by armed men in the absence of tresspass so they shouldn't use the term 'invasion'. Free travel is not an invasion.

When talking about invading other countries, it is important to note that such invasions are not per se violations of the NAP since so much land in other countries is unowned (government owned). You, I, or anyone could have invaded IRAQ siezed the oil fields and defended them against attack since those fields are un(government)owned. Or just call up the Al-Rasheed Hotel, book rooms for 2500, show up on the IRAQ border, and proceed inland. If some public employee of the government of IRAQ tries to prevent you from taking up your reservation, respond to his agression. Applies equally, to London, Paris, or DC. Absolutely no NAP violation involved.

Perhaps our libertarian commentators can tell me how the above violates the NAP.

Real libertarians don't have to oppose 'war' they only have to oppose 'state war' and 'state education' and 'state medical research' and 'state marriage' and 'state vector control'.

The fight is thus among all you limited governmentalists who after all have allowed that some human rights violations are OK. You think there should be a government and you think it should do things "now you're just arguing over the price." You've got a monopoly government that initiates force and are just rearranging deck chairs.

At this point it becomes just another policy debate in which limited governmentalist libertarians can't offer any unique libertarian perspective. They have to debate foreign affairs in the same terms they would use if they were right wing nuts or commies. No diff.

Note the similarity in the status of anarchists and minarchists in these arguments:

Anarchists can only say "War is wrong - like all other state action".

Minarchists can only say "I support/oppose the war for this or that non-uniquely-libertarian policy reason."

Not being a minarchist myself, I may not be doing justice to their foreign policy positions but I don't see them as very different from Left and Right.
7.24.2006 12:13pm
possible libertarian (mail):
is there a libertarian party? or is it just an idealogy? if there was a party, then who would be a possible presidential candidate?

can anybody post an answer to these questions...please
7.24.2006 12:32pm
anonyomousss (mail):
When talking about invading other countries, it is important to note that such invasions are not per se violations of the NAP since so much land in other countries is unowned (government owned).

i think this kind of attitude, sadly common among libertarians, betrays a serious misunderstanding of the realities of modern warfare. invasion will almost certainly wind up violating the nap because invasions invariably kill lots of innocent civilians who have not themselves violated the nap. and unless you are exceptionally good at controlling your soldiers they're likely to rape and/or kill innocent people and commit various other atrocities. these consequences are perfectly predictable and virtually certain results of war.

to justify invasive warfare, you have to argue that it's ok to violate the nap in those circumstances, not that the nap is not, in fact, being violated.
7.24.2006 12:34pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Actually, though, there is some advice that anarchist libertarians could offer to the Feds to improve the execution of WWIV (though they are unlikely to take it).

US Constitution Article I, Section 8:

The Congress shall have power...

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

Issue letters of marque and reprisal against targeted nations to suitable US businesses and stand back.

Luckily the Declaration of Paris which outlawed privateering was never fully accepted by the US and does not apply to "captures on land" in any case.

Note that States do not have property rights only private entities do.
7.24.2006 12:36pm
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
Just for FYIs, L&P isn't monolithic. I was in favor of the war at the outset, although it's been close to 2 years since I switched to advocating withdrawal of US troops.
7.24.2006 1:10pm
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
I suppose this would also be a good opportunity to plug the current issue of Reason Papers - see -- which is all about intra-libertarian dispute over war issues generally. The April issue of _Liberty_ magazine (I think it was April) was also cenetered on this theme.
7.24.2006 1:12pm
Jake (www):
What's funny Duncan, is by distancing yourself in your previous post from those who do not automatically follow "uniquely-libertarian policy" I don't see you as being very different from Left or Right either.

I'm a realist first, and although libertarian thought is the current leader amongst political ideologies that reflect reality, that does not mean one must follow libertarian ideology by default on every issue. It's a guide, not a rule.

I am also perplexed on the libertarian stance on favoring government sponsored stem cell research as you are. Here, we have an actual free market alternative that will most assuredly perform better. With protecting our nation from failed and destructive ideologies however (North Korea also fits this description), a national army is the only alternative that works. If that makes me un-libertarian, I guess I'll just remain registered as an Independant. /shrug

PS: I'm a WASP US Native. What box am I in now?
7.24.2006 1:20pm
Jam (mail):
I am not a Libertarian but have strong libertarian tendencies - a minarchist prbably describes me farily well.

The only way the these uS were justified in attacking Iraq was if (1) Iraq had attacked first or (2)Iraq was a credible threat and an imminent danger. Of course, the principle applies to Iraq and any other country.

Iraq did not meet (1) nor (2).

I will set aside the fact that Kuwait was a creation of the British Empire since current boundaries in the area meet the criteria also.

Then, was Iraq justified in attacking Kuwait?

These are claims Iraq made (from memory) prior to the invasion:
1) Negotiations with Kuwait were deadlocked.
2) The uS ambassador if these uS officially told Hussein that we had no position in the border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait.
4) Kuwait was violating a treaty with Iraq with regards to drilling within a certain distance of the border.
5) Kuwait was slant drilling under Iraq.
6) Kuwait was engaged in an economic war against Iraq, causing Iraq extreme financial distress.

I do not know if the above assertions are facts. Are they?

If yes, then Iraq was acting in self-defense.

If no, Iraq still posed no credible threat to us.
7.24.2006 2:34pm
Irfan Khawaja:
Ilya's first explanation for the split was closest to being on track. But the deeper explanation is one that's been current in Objectivist circles for at least two decades now. It's that the term "libertarian" conceals more than it reveals about its proponents. On the surface, it seems to reveal a commitment to liberty and rights. At a deeper level, it conceals disagreements about how to justify and define those terms. When a single doctrine purports to justify and define "liberty" in teleological AND deontic AND contractarian terms, confusion is a guarantee. But "Randian libertarians" are teleologists, "Nozickian libertarians" are deontologists, and "Narvesonian libertarians" are contractarians. The differences between these views are much more salient than the supposed agreement supplied by the term "libertarian."

This point was made in a polemically shrill way 20 years ago in Peter Schwartz's notorious essay "Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty" (reprinted in Rand's The Voice of Reason) and before that in a subtle way in David Kelley's "Life, Liberty and Property" (Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 1, [1984]). I made the same point in a review essay I did six years ago in Reason Papers ("Whose Liberalism? Which Individualism?" RP vol 25, [2000], pp. 96-97).

These arguments have so far gone unrebutted, but they provide an easy explanation for the so-called "split" within the libertarian camp. The split didn't begin with the war; the war merely brought into the open the fact that "libertarianism" was split from the beginning. If people from "one" camp can't agree on the nature of justification, they won't be able to agree on the nature of ethical or political norms. And so they won't agree on war. No surprises here.
7.24.2006 2:39pm
Peter Bessman (mail) (www):
Is non-agression the means, or the end? That is the question.
7.24.2006 2:49pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Is it just the idea that we can't support a fair fight and Israel will lose without the technological advantage?

Just, Back in '49 when 5 Arab armies attacked Israel, the Zionist Entity had no technological advantage. The Arab armies lost decisively save for the Jordanian Legion under Sir John Glubb (The Glubb Pasha) which captured the Old City of Jerusalem.
7.24.2006 3:06pm
Jim May (mail):
Irfan Khawaja nails it in his post: the libertarian ship is barely held together by the philosophical equivalent of duct tape and spit, and was destined to fracture and schism with its first serious test. I recommend Paul Hsieh's The Fable of the Cardiac Surgeon and and the Organization of Health Practitioners as an illustration of why this sort of thing is inevitable with the LP as currently constituted:

This explains much more than the division over the war; it explains why the Libertarian Party cannot succeed politically. A friend of mine in Canada attended a political debate pursuant to a national election at CityTV in Toronto, where there were three Libertarians in attendance. After a televised debate about "abortion" was concluded -- one in which they were pro-choice (which is the true "pro-*life*" position, but I digress) -- and the cameras had stopped rolling, one of them turned to the other two and said "why exactly do we support it?"
7.24.2006 3:16pm
person (mail):
The problem with violence is its lack of limits. It is irrational. No matter how hard anyone tries, war cannot be rational. Emotion inevitably invades the province of reason when life is harmed. Because it cannot be rational, it cannot be contained. The real issue is not whether the war has yet produced costs exceeding the possible and entirely incalculable costs of non-intervention, (a debatable issue), but whether it was worth the risks. For war is always a risky proposition. We cannot know the short-term or long-term consequences. Self-defense is worth the risks, because there is little to risk and the costs are substantial. Another issue is the possible effectiveness of non-aggressive alternatives. Such alternatives are almost always preferrable because they avoid the risks of war. Based on this analysis I do not think Iraq was worth the risk. The threat was largely exaggerated and distant, the risks substantial, the gains uncertain, and alternatives seem to have existed. The risks of war are rarely worth it.

As to maximizing libertarians, how can you ever know when actions will maximize rights, liberty and so forth? Perhaps, I'm missing something, but wouldn't such a maximizing view justify invading individual's rights and liberties?
7.24.2006 3:20pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
The genesis of Libertarianism at a time that allowed isolationism

What? The 19th Century? Or the modern libertarian movement of the 1960s &1970s. When we were "15 minutes away from nuclear annihilation".
7.24.2006 3:23pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

The Bush administration stated in front of the Supreme Court of the United States that they believed that the Constitution permitted them, on the basis of declaring a US Citizen arrested in the United States an enemy combatant, the right to detain that person indefinitely without charges.

Hey guys. When a libertarian army captures a POW, it gets to keep him until the cessation of hotilities. In fact, since the libertarian army is not subject to any international agreements, it can execute him if it feels like it -- no matter what his citizenship.

During the Civil War both sides kept a total of more than 300,000 POWs almost all of whom were native born US citizens. This is not a new concept. When you capture them, you get to take them off the board.
7.24.2006 4:08pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Duncan, thanks. My mistake, I shouldn't have used a capital "L". I was thinking about the concept, not the party, and leaning more toward the philosophical pre-ICBM conversations that arose to face down socialism.
7.24.2006 4:14pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

I am not a Libertarian but have strong libertarian tendencies - a minarchist prbably describes me farily well.


Hate to tell you but we were already at war with Iraq - since 1991 - after they invaded Kuwait and they asked us to kick Iraq out. A ceasefire agreement is not an end to the war.

That's the real reason the US resumed hostilities. S&T. Here was this convenient nation in the middle of that 'troubled region' that we were already at war with. That's a no brainer. Squeeze Iran between Afghanistan and Iraq, isolate Syria, provide convenient bases for strikes N,S,E,W.

Just because I'm an 'extreme volunteerist' doesn't mean I can't read a map.
7.24.2006 4:22pm
JasonPappas (mail) (www):
"Irfan Khawaja nails it in his post ..."

Indeed he has.

The war has created a permanent split by revealing a fundamental irreconcilable difference. Any idea of a Libertarian Party or even a libertarian contingent within the Republican Party is now laughable.

Let the word libertarian become a modifier in the economic realm: he has libertarian views on the minimum wage; she has a libertarian view on immigration, etc. The idea that ethics on the individual level, writ large, becomes foreign policy is naïve.
7.24.2006 4:50pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
llamasex, this really isn't the proper forum to debate Iraq's electrical grid. But you'll find
7.24.2006 5:12pm
David T. Beito (www):
Jason Pappas says that "anti-war libertarian is deontological."

Again, this is not true, at least for me and the other folks at Liberty and Power. As explained above, our critique of the war rests heavily on Hayekian/consquentialist arguments.

By contrast, a fair number of the pro-war folks favor a highly moralistic/Wilsonian approach of imposing "liberty" and "democracy" regardless of the consequences.

If Pappas wants to stick entirely to pragmatic/consquentialist arguments (such as those which increasingly have turned ordinary Americans to oppose the Iraq war), I'll wager that most antiwar libertarians would be happy to engage him on that basis.
7.24.2006 5:21pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Oops. To continue, you'll find a good inside look at the challenges Iraq's infrastructure (focusing on electricity) in this article from IEEE Spectrum Executive Editor Glenn Zorpette (non-tech heads may prefer this short NYT version).

Some things of particular note are the redirection of electricity away from Baghdad, which would give some "Iraq specialist" reporters who have seldom been outside the city an exaggerated impression of the "crisis", the prevalence of private generation (sometimes up to 1000 MW in Baghdad), and the prosperity of Sadr City, Baghdad's former slum.
7.24.2006 5:30pm
Anthony Gregory (mail):
Peter Bessman writes:

"On the original topic: we're looking at the difference between libertarians who actually have a concealed carry permit, and those who just think it should be legal."

Anyone who believes the state has a right to force people to petition it for permision to own and carry any gun of their choice is not a libertarian. The right to bear arms is a right—not a privilege. As for particularly pro-gun libertarians, many of them opposed this war. L. Neil Smith is an obvious example.

To oppose gun control is to oppose state violence initiated for the purpose of disarming people in a misguided effort to reduce violence overall. The Iraq War is gun control times a thousand. I don't really see this as the split.
7.24.2006 5:45pm
JasonPappas (mail) (www):
Prof Beito, I can’t do justice to the assertion in such a small space. However, although I acknowledged the broad empirical tradition in Anglo-American libertarianism, I’m still left with the impression that there is a core group of libertarians that start with a limitless adherence to a non-initiation principle that isn’t dependent on (but believed to be confirmed by) empirical considerations. The abundance of moral argumentation and scarcity of prudential criticism of current policy suggests, but in no way proves, a deontological disposition. Although I’m a frequent reader of L&P, I tend to see this more in the rank-and-file libertarians who, correctly or not, have adopted this disposition. But I would have to review the literature to see if my impression is true of the intellectual exponents often allied with the anti-foreign-war viewpoint.

Incidentally, I’m not sympathetic to either deontological or pragmatic/consequentialist approaches.
7.24.2006 5:51pm
Jam (mail):

"Hate to tell you but we were already at war with Iraq - since 1991 - after they invaded Kuwait and they asked us to kick Iraq out. A ceasefire agreement is not an end to the war."

The question is not that we are at war with Iraq.

The question has to do with the Libertarian split and whether the principle of non-agression was violated.

I do not, repeat do not know if the substance of Iraq's claims are true. Chances are that neither you nor anyone else in here knows.

If Iraq's assertion are true then, wasn't Iraq engaging in self-defense? And what would that not make us violators of the non-agression principle and, therefore, violators of the Libertarian Principle? Isn't an agreement forced on Iraq under agression/duress void?

"Just because I'm an 'extreme volunteerist' doesn't mean I can't read a map."

I am happy for you.
7.24.2006 6:11pm
Third Party Beneficiary (mail):
I find it bizarre that a number of putative libertarians both here and elsewhere rationalize their support for the war on the grounds that the invasion was performed excellently and it's just that minor detail of the ensuing three years, couple thousand (American) lives, and a few hundred billion dollars of occupation that's the problem. This is the equivalent of looking at someone pursuing, and eventually crushing, a house fly with a sledge hammer and then waving off the the resulting holes in the walls, furniture, floor, etc., as mere unhappy chance. I think some people need to go back and review Bastiat's "The Seen and the Unseen" a few times and think about its applicability beyond domestic policy.
7.24.2006 8:45pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Thanks, Ilya; I don't recall any thread I have encountered were greater levels of both profundity, and idiocy, have been displayed. I really didn't think I'd ever see higher levels of delusion than commenter Justin, who seems to have rejected (most of) our reality, and substituted his own,,, until I read this from Anthony Gregory: "The Iraq War is gun control times a thousand." Righhhhttt.

What amuses me most is those (mostly anti-war types) who portend to know the decisional process of the pro-defense libertarian. I admit I am something of an iconoclast - even among libertarians, and perhaps as such, rather atypical, among those inclined to posit an opinion in the blogosphere (although my reasoning always seems to strike a chord with the common American), But I don't think ANY of those characteristics - from all those posts - apply to me,

What does this "pro-defense" libertarian think? Well, that would be rather long and involved for a comment thread - particularly one like this, which is growing long in the tooth. But I promise to write something soon on my own blog, referencing posts here, and pass a link to Ilya.
7.24.2006 10:57pm
Anthony Gregory (mail):
Kevin L. Connors writes: "I really didn't think I'd ever see higher levels of delusion than commenter Justin, who seems to have rejected (most of) our reality, and substituted his own,,, until I read this from Anthony Gregory: 'The Iraq War is gun control times a thousand.' Righhhhttt."

Well, let's see. The war was waged to disarm a regime for violating an international weapons control sanction instituted by the United Nations.

Since then, Iraqis have been violently disarmed of firearms they were previously able to buy at gun shops in Baghdad, under Saddam—unlike in Washington DC, under Bush. Gun shops were shut down and gun merchants arrested and in some cases shot at. Rifles were rounded up, household by household. And the unintended consequences—all the most violent elements coming to overpower the helpless population—mirror those of gun control. So what's so delusional??
7.25.2006 5:47pm