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.