Friday, March 6, 2015

Bleeding Brain Libertarians



I have been staring, on and off, at this piece by Kevin Vallier posted at the oxymoronic site Bleeding Heart Libertarians: “On Attacking ISIS.”  If one wanted a perfect argument to totally discredit libertarian theory and demonstrate the complete ignorance of context and history of those who claim to wear the libertarian label…well, his post is for you.

I am dumbfounded.  I keep staring at the words in his article and cannot understand in the broadest possible definition of “libertarian” how anyone might consider this position to be a valid application of the theory.  I am dumbfounded because I cannot get past the two-year-old-child’s understanding of the context and history regarding the fight in the Middle East.

Did I mention I am dumbfounded?

Libertarians are rightly skeptical of military interventions.

In the context of his post, what Kevin means by “military interventions” is an attack on individuals that currently carry the brand “ISIS.”  For the remainder of my post, I will assume the possibility of minarchist libertarian theory – in reality an impossibility, but….

Libertarians aren’t merely skeptical of military interventions; such actions cannot fit in any interpretation of the non-aggression principle:

The non-aggression principle is an ethical stance which asserts that "aggression" is inherently illegitimate. "Aggression" is defined as the "initiation" of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property. In contrast to pacifism, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violent self-defense. The principle is a deontological (or rule-based) ethical stance.

Where is the self-defense in such military interventions?  To suggest some people 10,000 miles away – who have not harmed a single individual on US soil (which should be rightly an issue of crime, not war – a lesson lost on 911) – have initiated an aggression thereby justifying “self-defense” is a stretch.

Without self-defense, it’s just aggression – aggression, needless to say, being a violation of the non-aggression principle.  (And I await someone to suggest that self-defense also includes the possibility of coming to the defense of another.)

A simple reason is that military interventions tend to do more harm than good.

Well, the simplest reason is that such interventions violate the NAP, but take out the “tend to” and Kevin might actually be on to something.

This simple reason was enough to justify opposition to the war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was horrible, but the prospects of instability and civil war were always high.

I guess that is one so-called libertarian’s opinion.  You see, once you decide that you are bright enough to move past the principle and into the mud, everything is possible.  There were other so-called libertarians who defended this invasion:

While many libertarians opposed the invasion of Iraq, Randy Barnett wrote a strong, libertarian defense of pre-emptive intervention.

Of course, the lesson of Iraq does not disabuse Kevin of the notion to try again:

The reason is that if we intervened against ISIS, we could probably destroy most of their organization, given that they are an essentially territorial movement.

Of course, if those who live in the region felt the need to destroy ISIS, they have more than sufficient resources to do so.  The Turkish military is almost 700,000 strong.  They have all of the most modern weapon systems available to a NATO partner.  They could crush the rebellion in a few weeks if they wanted to do so.

But pondering this point leads to so many dark corners.  Why doesn’t Turkey intervene?  Why not Saudi Arabia, another regional player with modern weapons?  Why does the US government fight against Assad, who could provide a significant force to fight ISIS with Syrian military strength?  What of the prior interventions that have made the soil fertile for ISIS?  What political philosophy led to rationalizing these past interventions?

Not a peep from Kevin on any of this.  Instead, he suggests playing the odds:

Further, and more importantly, while there will be blowback in the form of guerilla warfare, new terrorists, casualties, etc., it is hard to see how anyone worse would replace ISIS. If we “roll the dice” again with an intervention, even though the odds of coming out morally ahead are generally low, the odds of coming out morally ahead of having ISIS run parts of Iraq and Syria are probably pretty high.

It was also hard to see how anyone worse than Saddam or Assad or Kaddafi or (insert your favorite despot here) could have replaced these victims of past military interventions, yet it happened each time.  Ask those who used to live in these respective countries (those not now dead or homeless refugees).  They might have lived under a difficult regime, but at least they lived.

But Kevin won’t ask, instead he wants to “roll the dice,”  like it is just a game.

This is madness.  If one wanted an example to drastically muddle the libertarian message, Kevin has offered one.  If one wants to demonstrate the complete ignorance of context and history, see Kevin.

I remain dumbfounded…unless someone suggests that muddling the libertarian message is the purpose.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Libertarian Safe Spaces



My buddy, wanna-be-libertarian-philosopher Cory Massimino, has written a piece at Students for Libertine entitled “Liberty, Markets, and Safe Spaces.”  To give you some idea of his point:

The idea of safe spaces, traditionally associated with feminist and LGBTQ communities, refers to areas designed for marginalized people to feel free from the kinds of intolerant social norms, bigoted harassment, and general persecution that dominate mainstream culture. Safe spaces take the notion that “people shouldn’t push other people around” to its maximum extent within a minority community.

Feminist and LGBTQ communities’ idea of safe spaces is at its core libertarian. Safe spaces emphasize “living liberty,” independence, and a general culture of autonomy and liberty. They create an open area wherein people are free to succeed or fail; free to pursue their goals without reverence for oppressive social norms and traditions; free to be their real selves and not conform to an authoritarian culture of sameness and obedience.

The libertarian vision of a tolerant, free society is really just one big safe space. Ludwig von Mises recognized the value of tolerance in the libertarian cause, “Liberalism demands tolerance as a matter of principle, not from opportunism.” A free society offers everyone, especially the poor and marginalized, options to improve their lot, alternatives to oppressive arrangements, and the ability to exit harmful systems and relationships. A free society is one that values and respects freedom of association and personal space. (Emphasis in original.)

Much of it is either neutral or worth ignoring (as Cory himself has suggested in the past, “I don't even believe in what I write. I just aim to be controversial.”), until I get to the last paragraph:

It’s time we in the libertarian movement took our ideas to heart and put them to work in our own lives. It’s time to stop living in the world of economic theory and philosophy, and to foster a mindset that can really change the world. It’s long been time to cultivate a culture of trust, charity, solidarity, tolerance, mutual aid, intellectual and expressive freedom, and most of all, community.

First of all, and not a minor point given that Cory pretends to be knowledgeable on such matters, libertarian theory says nothing about “economic theory and philosophy.”  Libertarian theory is simple: do not initiate aggression.  That this has applications in the economic sphere is true, just as it has applications in every other sphere of human action.

But to my main point: I cannot imagine a safer world than one in which everyone internalizes, accepts, and lives this simple idea: do not initiate aggression.  This isn’t safe enough for Cory; he wants libertarians to “cultivate a culture….”

Libertarian theory poses no positive obligation on anyone; it is incongruent and incompatible with libertarian theory to say that libertarians should “cultivate a culture”; libertarian theory says nothing beyond do not initiate aggression.  As I have written dozens of times, libertarian theory is not enough to answer every question raised regarding man’s relationship with his fellow man.

If you want to cultivate a culture, go for it – just don’t call it libertarian.  So-called left-libertarians or bleeding heart libertarians have no answer to the question: what happens when my property rights and your culture clash?  Which political theory wins?  Who gets to decide?

Libertarian theory, when unencumbered with the chattering of the milquetoast libertarians, makes for the largest possible tent: do not initiate aggression.  It says nothing about doing something positive toward or for individuals with whom one would prefer not to associate.  It only advocates to not do anything negative.

Why isn’t this enough for Cory?  Why does he insist on shrinking the size of the tent?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

“Welcome to the War”




What was it about the war that moved the troops to constant verbal subversion and contempt?  It was not just the danger and fear, the boredom and uncertainty and loneliness and deprivation.  It was rather the conviction that optimistic publicity and euphemism had rendered their experience so falsely that it would never be readily communicable.

Those in the war – and most specifically, the small minority on the front line – knew the sanitized version that was portrayed for those at the home front; further, they knew that their own comrades who were in support positions knew little of the experience of actual war. 

Fussell also comments on this contempt in his companion book of the Great War, “The Great War and Modern Memory”:

The visiting of violent and if possible painful death upon the complacent, patriotic, uncomprehending, fatuous civilians at home was a favorite fantasy indulged by the troops.

…would like to see them crushed to death by a tank in one of their silly patriotic music halls, and in “Fight to the Finish” he enacts a similar fantasy.  The war over, the army is marching through London in a Victory Parade, cheered by the “Yellow-Pressmen” along the way.  Suddenly the soldiers fix bayonets and turn on the crowd:

At last the boys found a cushy job.

They hated the smiling women on the streets.  They loathed the old men….They desired that profiteers should die by poison-gas.  They prayed God to get the Germans to send Zeppelins to England – to make the people know what war meant.

Those in combat knew that their arms and equipment were inferior to that available to the Germans, their automatic rifles slower and clumsier, and that the Germans had a much better light machine gun.  They knew their tanks were under-armed and under-armored, their anti-tank mines unusable in sub-freezing weather.  The greatest weapon in the war – other than the atomic bomb – was the German 88-mm flat-trajectory gun, used to bring down thousands of bombers and countless tens-of-thousands of soldiers.

And they knew that no one at home was aware of any of these things.  And they knew that the relative capability of the enemy’s armaments was the least important secret being kept from the home front.

To the extent those at home saw pictures of the dead they saw peaceful, intact bodies.  If ever a corpse was shown in a disfigured condition, it was usually the enemy’s dead.

What annoyed the troops and augmented their sardonic, contemptuous attitude toward those who viewed them from afar was in large part this public innocence about the bizarre damage suffered by the human body in modern war.

The general public would not know that the official “Graves Registration form” had a space for indicating “Members Missing.”  It wasn’t always bullets and fragments that did the damage – how about being killed by a violently detached body part of your comrade?

If you asked a wounded soldier or marine what hit him, you’d hardly be ready for the answer, “My buddy’s head,” or his sergeant’s heel or his hand or a Japanese leg, complete with shoe and puttees, or the West Point ring on his captain’s severed hand.

Men split into pieces, the head here, the legs there, the torso…unknown.  Severed heads thought to be mops.  Entrails, always entrails.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

President Obama: Our…Violent Extremism



President Obama recently penned an OpEd, “Our fight against violent extremism.”  It is in need of some modification.

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The United States has made significant gains against contributions toward terrorism. We've decimated strengthened the core al Qaeda leadership, strengthened decimated homeland security and worked to prevent convinced our allies not to launch another large-scale attack like 9/11.

At the same time, the our threat has evolved. The al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen We actively plots plot against you us. Since 9/11, terrorists we have murdered U.S. citizens overseas, including in the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Here in the United States, Americans government agents and their dupes have killed and been killed at Ft. Hood and during the Boston Marathon.

In Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group we created, called call ISIL has slaughtered innocent civilians and murdered hostages, including Americans, and has spread its barbarism to Libya with the murder of Egyptian Christians. In recent months, we've seen orchestrated deadly attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Copenhagen.

Elsewhere, the Pakistan Taliban massacred more than 100 schoolchildren and their teachers. From Somalia, al-Shabaab has launched attacks across East Africa. In Nigeria and neighboring countries, Boko Haram kills and kidnaps men, women and children.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have killed hundreds of thousands and wounded or displaced countless more.

In the face of this challenge, we must stand united internationally and here at home will not tolerate dissent. We know that military force alone cannot solve this problem, but this doesn’t stop us from trying. Nor can we simply take out terrorists who randomly kill innocent civilians, well, not very often at least. We also have to confront the violent extremists — the propagandists, recruiters and enablers — who may not directly engage in terrorist acts themselves, but who radicalize, recruit and incite others to do so.  We must control the internet.

This week, we'll take an important step forward as governments, civil society groups and community leaders from more than 60 nations gather in Washington for a global summit on countering violent extremism. Our focus will be on empowering local communities, except for the communities where you live.

Groups like al Qaeda the Department of Education and ISIL CNN promote a twisted interpretation of religion nationalism that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims anyone with half a brain. The world must continue to lift up drown the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars thinking people who teach the true peaceful destructive nature of Islam government. We can echo block the testimonies of former extremists critical thinkers who know how terrorists we betray Islam the people. We can help Muslim buy-off political entrepreneurs and brainwash youths in order to co-opt work with the private sector to develop social media spying tools to counter extremist truthful narratives on the Internet.

We know from experience that the best way to protect people, especially young people, from falling into the grip of violent extremists is to get them young, with no child left behind the support of their family, friends, teachers and faith leaders. At this week's summit, community leaders from Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Boston will highlight innovative partnerships in their cities that are helping empower communities to protect their loved ones from extremist ideologies.

More broadly, groups like al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption US bombing and snipers leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today's youth something better.  Don’t they realize we are bringing them freedom?

Governments, like Saudi Arabia and the United States, that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can run all of us out of town, tarred and feathered as we justly deserve address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development criminal trials of most of the world’s political leaders so people have hope for a life of dignity.

Finally — with al Qaeda and ISIL peddling the lie using simple maps demonstrating that the United States is at war with Islam — all of us have a role to play by upholding the pluralistic values that define us as Americans making it illegal for people to own maps. This week, we'll be joined by people who can’t read maps and therefore are easily fooled of many faiths, including Muslim Americans who make extraordinary contributions to our country every day. It's a reminder that America is successful because we welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds Americans need not know where your country is in order to decimate your life.

That pluralism civilized society has at times always been threatened by hateful ideologies the state and individuals from various religions hiding behind the shelter of badges and guns. We've seen committed tragic killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and at a Jewish community center in Kansas last year torture and mayhem in the open and unopposed for the last fifteen years, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

We do not yet know why three young people, who were Muslim Americans, were brutally killed in Chapel Hill, N.C. flock to Ron Paul.  But we know that many Muslim free-thinking Americans across our country are worried and afraid. Americans of all faiths and backgrounds must continue to stand united with a community in mourning its government and insist that no one should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship – unless we don’t like what they think.

Our campaign to prevent people around the world from being radicalized to violence freedom is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds – and we do mean battle. With this week's summit, we'll show once more that — unlike terrorists who governments that only offer misery and death — it is our free societies and diverse communities that offer the true path to opportunity, justice and dignity.

And we can’t allow that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Beaten to the Punch



Boy, oh boy, that Sheldon Richman…I was working on a post about the calamities that have befallen much of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, and the corresponding role played by the West – primarily the United States – in both creating and dealing with these calamities, and what do I read but this:

If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States. What could you do that these men have not done to keep Americans mired in distant turmoil?

Signs of apparent failure abound while the ruling elite feigns ignorance of the connection between U.S. intervention abroad and widening regional wars.

Yeah, that’s what I was going to say (well, not exactly and not nearly as well, but you get the idea).

Before I read Richman’s piece, I already had pulled together some quotes from other writers to help me construct my post – really, I did!  For example, from Glenn Greenwald’s piece, entitled “Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite”:

One can debate whether all of this is done by design or by “accident”: if you realize that U.S. actions create further pretexts for war, then those who do this for a living must realize it, too (their own studies say this); and how many times does something have to happen before “accident” is no longer a viable explanation (as in: oops, our bombing policies keep killing large numbers of civilians, but we keep doing it anyway, and keep claiming it’s all just a terrible “accident”)? But whatever else is true about motive, there is no question that U.S. militarism constantly strengthens exactly that which it is pitched as trying to prevent, and ensures that the U.S. government never loses its supply of reasons to continue its endless war.

See, I was going to say that it isn’t an accident – and it isn’t a failure.  They aren’t stupid and they aren’t blind.  Obama isn’t a dummy.  They know that their previous interventions are behind the current turmoil and will then demand future interventions.

But why?  Why do they do it?  Richman answers the question:

We must acknowledge, of course, that what looks like failure to us Americans outside the privileged elite may not actually be failure for our overlords. After all, turmoil is integral to the ingenious political perpetual-motion machine. Turmoil furnishes the “threats” that then can be called on to justify the very policies that manufactured those threats in the first place. How clever!

See, I was going to write something like that, referring to Jeff Brown’s piece entitled: “Behind the Great Western Firewall Is the Ugly Truth”:

False flags are ingrained in the DNA of Empire, to control and manipulate their subjects. Empire keeps on perpetrating false flags relentlessly, because they are so ruthlessly successful at achieving their aims. False flags brilliantly create mass fear and uncertainty among the people and justify the persecution of the group to be dehumanized for exploitation or destruction. The shock and awe of false flags allow governments and capital to herd the masses like sheeple, to induce them to gleefully go to war, commit genocide, accept economic servitude and environmentally destructive resource extraction, while willfully renouncing their free will to the tyranny of fascism and oligarchy, for “security and safety”.

And furthering it with a paragraph from Gary North’s piece entitled “How to Teach History Without a Textbook”:

It is not a radical thesis to argue that the financing of a war and the outcome of a war changes society more than almost any other non-military events. War is well understood as a device for radical social change.

What radical social change?  That’s the easy part – just look around at the changes since September 11, both within the US and outside.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  It has worked very well in the US ever since Hearst moved the people to “remember the Maine.”

Back to Richman:

While failure may in fact be success for the empire’s custodians and profiteers, the victimized foreign populations and American people have not been so fortunate, and there’s no end in sight.

It isn’t failure; it is working exactly as desired.  I was going to write that, too, but here I find it in Richman’s piece.

War is for control – control of the people.  Nothing else.  (Check the date on that link – you will see I got there first!)

In all seriousness, Richman’s piece is golden – much better than anything I could have done.  It is worth reading in its entirety.