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Libertarians and the War:
In today's Wall Street Journal (available for free here on OpinionJournal.com), I have an op-ed on Libertarians and the War in which I note that libertarian first principles do not dictate a single stance towards the war in Iraq and that libertarians are indeed divided on the issue. Here is a portion from the middle:
. . . Does being a libertarian commit one to a particular stance toward the Iraq war? The simple answer is "no."

First and foremost, libertarians believe in robust rights of private property, freedom of contract, and restitution to victims of crime. They hold that these rights define true "liberty" and provide the boundaries within which individuals may pursue happiness by making their own free choices while living in close proximity to each other. Within these boundaries, individuals can actualize their potential while minimizing their interference with the pursuit of happiness by others.

When it comes to foreign policy, libertarians' severe skepticism of government planning in the domestic arena carries over to the government's ability to accomplish anything positive through foreign aid, whether economic or military--a skepticism they share with most Americans. All libertarians, I suspect, oppose military conscription on principle, considering it involuntary servitude. To a libertarian, any effort at "nation building" seems to be just another form of central planning which, however well-motivated, is fraught with unintended consequences and the danger of blowback. And, like most everyone, libertarians oppose any war of aggression. In all these regards, Mr. Paul is a mainstream libertarian.

But like all libertarians, even Mr. Paul believes in the fundamental, individual right of self-defense, which is why libertarians like him overwhelmingly support the right to keep and bear arms. And most also believe that when the territory of the U.S. is attacked militarily, the government--which claims a monopoly on providing for national defense and extracts billions of tax dollars for this purpose--is justified in using the military in self-defense. For this reason, many libertarians (though not all) who now oppose the war in Iraq supported U.S. military actions against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had aided and harbored the al Qaeda network that organized the 9/11 attack.

But here is the rub. While all libertarians accept the principle of self-defense, and most accept the role of the U.S. government in defending U.S. territory, libertarian first principles of individual rights and the rule of law tell us little about what constitutes appropriate and effective self-defense after an attack. Devising a military defense strategy is a matter of judgment or prudence about which reasonable libertarians may differ greatly. . . .
The point of this essay is not to debate the merits of the Iraq war but to inform those who may be unaware that libertarians can come down on either side of this issue.
BTD_Venkat (mail) (www):
Reason magazine had a great set of articles on this issue. About 4 years ago . . . . titled "Forcing Freedom".
7.17.2007 1:58am
TruePath (mail) (www):
It seems to me the actual situation is much more complicated than this article suggests.

Of course if you happen to be a purely pragmatic libertarian (in general government interference is bad) you can have any view you like on a particular situation. After all in general does not mean always.

In particular pragmatic libertarians will tend to approve of government actions in situations which the government is uniquely or exclusively situated to solve. For instance on this view the reason the government should run a police force, raise an army and perhaps even enforce pollution laws is that these are important goods which are particularly difficult for anyone but the government to provide. Since it seems clear that the private sector could not have invaded iraq these sort of libertarians must answer the same sort of question here as anyone else. Did invading iraq (or staying there now) seem likely to provide important goods?

Importantly this calculation need not be restricted to considerations of US welfare. You can just as well consider the welfare of Iraqis or other broader concerns.

Even if you are an in principle libertarian you still must wrestle with important questions about Iraq. There is no doubt that Saddaam deprived many of individual rights so if you think that we must try to minimize the deprivation of individual rights you might strongly support such an invasion. Hell, if you are the sort of libertarian who thinks that government imposed deprivation of rights is much worse than anarchy and violence you might be one of the few who can view the invasion as a success.
7.17.2007 3:24am
Manny Klausner (mail):
Your analysis is thoughtful and timely.

The war in Iraq presents challenging issues for libertarians -- but it is unfortunately not generally understood that many libertarians do not share the anti-war views expressed by Ron Paul.

Indeed, the first Libertarian Party candidate for President -- the distinguished philosopher, John Hospers -- was a hawk as to the war in Vietnam.

Libertarians share a commitment to liberty -- and their insightful views on both domestic and foreign policy issues merit wider discussion among all individuals who take liberty seriously.

Manny Klausner
Co-founder, Reason Foundation
7.17.2007 4:27am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Might not some libertarians argue that if you support the war, your not a "true" libertarian? Why are they wrong?
7.17.2007 6:37am
Anthony Trauring (mail):
As a pro-war Libertarian, it was GREAT to see this essay. It was uncomfortable being in the Libertarian Party for a while with it's predominantly anti-war position.

The Libertarian hinge is "self defense" -- if one thinks our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are self-defense one can support them; if one thinks they are aggression, one would oppose them.

The self-defense laws in many red states don't require one to wait to be hit/stabbed/shot before permitting the use of lethal force to defend oneself; as Thomas Sowell put it, you can take action when your neighbor is building a cannon aimed at your house. Since certain types of pre-emptive action are legitimate as self-defense in the private sphere, why should it be different between nations?
7.17.2007 7:40am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Anthony Trauring,

Just because your neighbor is building a cannon that happens to be aimed at your house, this does not imply that your neighbor in fact plans on shooting your house. In fact, if your neighbor has plans on your house, building a cannon seems a bit extravagant and inefficient. Have you ever thought that maybe your neighbor is building a cannon that happens to be pointed at your house (during construction) because he is a history enthusiast? Or for self-defense in general? Presumably, this cannon will have wheels which allow it to point in different directions.

If you go and burn down your neighbors house, or destroy his cannon, can this really be said to be self-defense, absence knowledge concerning his motive? And don't you think if your neighbor really had plans on your house, he would attack in a more stealthy and efficient manner than building a cannon?

The point is, the line between "preemptive action" because you "imagine" some action is hostile and pure aggression is not always so clear.

I am sure there are plenty of libertarians who do not consider either you or Randy Barnett to be "true" libertarians.
7.17.2007 8:00am
paul lukasiak (mail):
It was evident well before the invasion of Iraq commenced that there was no serious "self-defense" argument to be made in support of military action, and the attempt to twist the facts to fit the argument in order to create a "libertarian" justification of the war smacks of gross intellectual dishonesty.
7.17.2007 8:06am
volatire arouet (mail):
your conclusions only stand if the invasion of iraq effectively advances american security interests.

given that (a) the intelligence used to justify invasion was exaggerated and manipulated; (b) the administration decided to make war before it had a clear case for it, as stated clearly in the downing street memeoranda; (c) the war has been a boon for international jihadism; and (d) has needlessly gutted our military,

your ideas are bad.

the war in iraq is an aggressive use of coercive force -- the initiation of violence outside of a context of self defense. that's clear at this point. maybe you could have plausibly made this case in 2003.
7.17.2007 8:41am
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
Ron Paul isn't really a libertarian, though. He agrees with most extreme libertarians about issues on the federal level, but it's not because he's a libertarian. It's because he's a hyper-federalist. On the state level, I think he's open to fairly significant anti-libertarian laws. He seems to be happy with restrictions of abortion on the state level, for instance. He just doesn't think the U.S. Congress has the authority to do that sort of thing.
7.17.2007 9:35am
Justin (mail):
This seems like an interesting article discussing the Afghanistan war. Any link between self-defense and the Iraqi war, on the other hand, seems almost transparently weak. And while you could probably make a technical defense of the language, this particular phrase: "little about what constitutes appropriate and effective self-defense after an attack" seems COMPLETELY out of place.

You....do....know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, no?
7.17.2007 9:37am
T. Gracchus (mail):
This essay fails to explain how a libertarian can arrive at different principles for foreign and domestic affairs. I think a pro-war libertarian is an oxymoron as the justification necessary for the war are not remotely acceptable for domestic relations. On libertarian theories, crime prevention could not justify invasion of homes of suspected criminals nor justify preventive detentions. State boundaries cannot mark any significant boundary with respect to principles (there is no license to harm those outside national boundaries). That is a serious problem for pro-war libertarians. Assuming consistency counts.
7.17.2007 9:51am
Mr. X (www):
The Libertarian hinge is "self defense" -- if one thinks our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are self-defense one can support them; if one thinks they are aggression, one would oppose them.


One does not "think" our actions in Iraq are self-defense. They either are, or are not. You can have your own opinions, not your own facts.

The fact is that Iraq was unrelated to the terrorist attacks and the war was an unlibertarian act of aggression. Wishing that it was justifiable self-defense will not make it so.
7.17.2007 9:53am
Bretzky (mail):
Mr. Impressive:

You have exactly hit on the basis for the disagreement between the realist and the liberal schools of international relations. It is that the international system is anarchic. This is why "libertarianism" can not provide an effective foreign policy prescription for a state like the United States, which is, by dint of its wealth and position in the world, a target.

The reason why you are not justified in burning down your neighbor's house in the situation you described, from a libertarian viewpoint, is that he has done nothing to you; and, if you feel threatened by his actions, you can bring the state into the matter by calling the police or by taking him to court. What police force will you call or to what court will you drag your neighbor in the international arena? The UN, the ICJ...? Or, will you just burn his house down and tell him not to point any more cannons at your house once he rebuilds?

Of course, looking at the situation of Iraq before the war, Saddam Hussein had built cannons, had pointed them at his neighbors' houses, and had fired them. He also threatened to fire them at our house too. It's not like, in this particular instance, we didn't know that our neighbor was a homicidal maniac.
7.17.2007 9:55am
Barry P. (mail):
Like most classical liberals, I have a strong affinity for reading and following the Constitution, which makes reference to "suppressing insurrection and repelling invasion" as the prime motivators for military action.

It is exceedingly difficult to place Iraq in either of these categories. Saddam was not a threat to invade or attack the US or to forment insurrection. Thus, the answer concerning the Iraq War is clear: it was profoundly unconstitutional, and hence non-libertation.

Since the de facto Afghan government was supporting and sponsoring insurrectionists that one is more clearly in line with the Constitution requirements for war.

Bush is basically acting like an old European monarch who has a huge standing army at his disposal, and an irrepressible itch to use it, just because he can. That is the EXACT reason why the Founding Fathers were so strongly opposed to the idea of a standing army: they knew that frivolous use of same was irresistible to a monarch. Bush has validated their concerns in spades.
7.17.2007 10:21am
Davebo (mail):
"Neo"

Nuff said. (Neo now means non)
7.17.2007 10:24am
jimbino (mail):
A libertarian is justified in using force to defend himself and his family, and "defend" logically includes "pre-emptive attack." As a childfree person, I count inhabitants of Darfur and Mexican immigrants among my "family," and I wonder how fellow libertarians could justify invading Iraq but not Sudan.
7.17.2007 10:51am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Barry P.,

Article III, Section 8 says,


The Congress shall have power ... To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;


I am afraid the Constitution does not put any limits whatsoever on the power of Congress to declare war.

If you really had an affinity for the Constitution, you would read and follow what it actually says, not what you imagine it to say.

There is nothing in the Constitution that forbids even wars of pure aggression. Back in the day, such wars were not "politically incorrect" as they are now.

It is funny how a certain set of libertarians are so sure the Constitution says exactly whatever they wish. Some seem to think that libertarianism itself is required by the Constitution. Heh.

Im a liberal who does not support the war in Iraq. But I don't go around pretending the Constitution means whatever the hell I wish it means, just because I disagree with the war. Oh where, oh where, have the principled libertarians gone? Did they ever exist? Or have they always been so delusional?
7.17.2007 11:04am
Martin Ammorgan (mail):
If 150,000 armed government employees prove the necessary catalyst for the emergence of civil society in Iraq, then the entire libertarian premise is undone.

Whether libertarians can endorse "war" is academic. It's "this war" that's the issue, and it isn't even a war any longer. If troops can bring peace and healing to Baghdad, why not deploy them in every troubled area in the U.S. without further delay?
7.17.2007 11:07am
AaronC:
It is very difficult for me to understand how a self-declared libertarian could possibly support a military intervention such as the Iraq War. Yes, libertarians believe in political freedom but the belief that government can and should effect political change through the use of a big government program (war) is completely incompatible with libertarian principles. To me,"Pro war libertarians" are really just enocons who are liberal on social issues. Not libertarians.
7.17.2007 11:09am
Martin Ammorgan (mail):
Ok, now I read the essay. It's simply transmogrified Christian "just war" sophistry. i.e. here's how to kill people in accordance with Christ's principles.
7.17.2007 11:26am
Bretzky (mail):
Martin Ammorgan:


If 150,000 armed government employees prove the necessary catalyst for the emergence of civil society in Iraq, then the entire libertarian premise is undone.

Whether libertarians can endorse "war" is academic. It's "this war" that's the issue, and it isn't even a war any longer. If troops can bring peace and healing to Baghdad, why not deploy them in every troubled area in the U.S. without further delay?

Actually, outside of anarcho-capitalists, libertarians accept the absolute necessity of a government being able to impose law and order on a population before a free, liberal society can blossom. The libertarian believes that government should only impose just enough order to allow for this blossoming to occur and no more. The more force being applied by those who would prevent it from happening requires the use of greater force by those who are trying to promote it.

The reason that you wouldn't use the U.S. military to provide such law and order on American streets is that it isn't needed and would actually wreck those already troubled areas. The success of American cities like New York and Chicago in reducing crime and lawlessness shows that we have the means at our disposal to improve the situation in these areas if we have the courage to use them. Putting U.S. soldiers on the streets of Philadelphia would be like using the proverbial sledgehammer to swat the proverbial fly when the Philadelphia police force is adequate to the task.
7.17.2007 12:16pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
jimbino-

A libertarian is justified in using force to defend himself and his family, and "defend" logically includes "pre-emptive attack."

No it doesn't. The doctrine of self-defense requires imminence. The person has to be actually coming at you. "Pre-emptive attacks" are by definition not self-defense. If "pre-emptive attacks" were allowed society would likely degenerate into the "he looked at me funny so I shot him" kind of thing. There is also the danger of increased false self-defense claims if "pre-emption" was allowed.

As a childfree person, I count inhabitants of Darfur and Mexican immigrants among my "family," and I wonder how fellow libertarians could justify invading Iraq but not Sudan.

Personally, I think actions to prevent or stop genocides are justified under libertarian doctrine, so I would support that. Other libertarians probably disagree. I don't know where Mexican immigrants fit in, you didn't explain that.
7.17.2007 1:02pm
Bretzky (mail):
American Psikhushka:


"Pre-emptive attacks" are by definition not self-defense. If "pre-emptive attacks" were allowed society would likely degenerate into the "he looked at me funny so I shot him" kind of thing. There is also the danger of increased false self-defense claims if "pre-emption" was allowed.

This may be nitpicking but I am a firm believer that words mean what they mean and "preemptive attack" or "preemptive war" is a recognized action of self-defense. I believe you are confusing it with "preventive war", which is what the Iraq War was/is and is generally not considered to be self-defense.

You are right that self-defense requires an imminent danger; but, it is preemptive war that is fought to ward off an imminent attack (e.g., what Israel considered itself as having done in '67 to Egypt). Preventive war is fought to prevent a potential imminent threat from arising.

The case for preventive war is far more difficult to make than that for preemptive war because preventive war generally lacks the marshalling of troops on one's border or clear preparations for war by the enemy beforehand. Preventive war generally relies on a history of aggression by the intended target with the fear that the target will almost definitely become agressive towards you in the future.
7.17.2007 1:25pm
Salixquercus (mail):
Bretzky, I'm really not interested in navel-gazing, but your "libertarians accept the absolute necessity of a government being able to impose law and order on a population before a free, liberal society can blossom" is completely ass-backwards, at least in theory.

The theory is actually that it is freedom from state coercion that will spontaneously produce a free and liberal society. Your idea seems to be more of a Platonic Republic with guardians model.

But who cares, really? It's all vapid theorizing, and libertarians-whatever they are-are forever destined to the margins since even self-proclaimed "Libertarians", witness Barnett, are intent on trashing the highest-polling Libertarian candidate to appear in a Presidential race in, ummm...American history.

They're just authoritarians who don't care about pot.
7.17.2007 1:33pm
WillbBKing (mail):
Mr Impressive,

The whole question of who is a "true" libertarian (or "true" any party, FTM) is, IMO, a non-issue or, more precisely, an issue that is only used in inter-party warfare and therefore potentially self-destructive. In the Libertarians case, this kind of nonsense has gone on way too long.
7.17.2007 2:01pm
Bretzky (mail):
Salixquercus:


I'm really not interested in navel-gazing, but your "libertarians accept the absolute necessity of a government being able to impose law and order on a population before a free, liberal society can blossom" is completely ass-backwards, at least in theory.

The theory is actually that it is freedom from state coercion that will spontaneously produce a free and liberal society. Your idea seems to be more of a Platonic Republic with guardians model.

Not to get into a debate about the finer points of libertarian philosophy, but what you are describing is actually anarchism, not libertarianism, which is why I exempted anarcho-capitalists.

Standard libertarian theory posits that government is a necessary evil, à la Jefferson, that is required to maintain order between the members of the society because not everyone will play by the rule of "live and let live". Libertarians believe that the state has three responsibilities: 1) protect the people from external invasion, 2) protect the people from internal disorder (to include insurrection; rebellion; and good old-fashioned assault, robbery, and murder; among others), and 3) adjudicate disagreements between people based upon clear rules of procedure and the rule of law.
7.17.2007 2:02pm
Salixquercus (mail):
Bretzky, that's why this debate is so worthless. Beliefs are a free lunch.

For instance, I spent the whole 1990s being schooled in what Republicans believe via Newt and Limbaugh etc., and then, when they gained control of all three branches of government in 2000, I saw how they acted.

Anyone who still believes Republicans "believe" in small government undoubtedly drives a car they paid too much for.

I'll return to the discussion when Libertarians assume power, and then we can discuss their actions.
7.17.2007 2:16pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Mr. Impressive,

Suppose you and your neighbor have a disagreement. At the initiation of that disagreement he announces he is building a cannon to destroy you. And in fact starts building the cannon. And repeats to who ever will listen his intentions.

Is that good enough to take action?
7.17.2007 2:41pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
When you consider that the Euros of the 1930s avoided the preemptive war trap only to fall into a bigger one, I'm not sure even the "no preemptive war" doctrine holds water.

In any case since it was our job to police the armistice with Iraq and it was violated almost daily, the war was justified on those grounds alone.
7.17.2007 2:50pm
pennywise (mail):

[...] and the attempt to twist the facts to fit the argument in order to create a "libertarian" justification of the war smacks of gross intellectual dishonesty.


That is beyond hilarious coming from Paul "Lucy Ramirez" Lukasiak.
7.17.2007 3:03pm
Yu-Ain Gonnano:
As I understand it, Libertarians do believe that you have the right to shoot the goblin with a gun in your face demanding your wallet.

What I don't understand is why Libertarians think you should have to stand by doing nothing while a goblin puts a gun in the face of a lady 50 feet away demanding her purse because "If she didn't want her rights violated she should fight for them herself and if she wanted your help she should ask".

Screw that. Shoot the bastid. I don't care that it's other-defense and not self-defense.
7.17.2007 3:32pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

given that (a) the intelligence used to justify invasion was exaggerated and manipulated; (b) the administration decided to make war before it had a clear case for it, as stated clearly in the downing street memeoranda; (c) the war has been a boon for international jihadism; and (d) has needlessly gutted our military,

Given that (a) through (d) assume facts not in evidence ( -- who manipulated the intelligence? Why did it come out to say the same thing before Bush's election as after? -- The Downing Street memoranda don't say what they were imputed to say in the press. -- international jihadism has lost thousands of adherents, it's fixed bases, much of its financial structure, and a lot of its command and control, so if that's a "boon" I hope they get more of them; -- and (d) begs the question, since it's only "needless" if you assume the false points preceding) I'd say the bad ideas might be distributed differently than you believe.
7.17.2007 4:02pm
peter jackson (mail) (www):

During my twenty-year tenure as a "big-L" Libertarian, I encountered much confusion amongst my compatriots between non-interference versus isolationism and being anti-war versus non-aggression, a la Congressman Paul (whom I campaigned for in '88). I believe at the heart of this confusion is the fundamental misapprehension that self-defense requires magnanimity.

After 9/11 all of this Libertarian menu-eating left me with a choking sensation and I bailed on the party. As long as the US wasn't facing an actual enemy, the LP's beliefs regarding war were harmless enough. But now that we are, it has become clear to me that they would be not only unfit to govern, but by failing to comprehend our national self-defense they stand unfit for the very liberty they advocate.

yours/
peter.
7.17.2007 4:06pm
Barry P. (mail):
Mr. Unimpressive:

I am imaginig nothing. The clause you cite necessarily exists, the clause I cite also exists, a few lines later, with a clear qualification of the necessary preconditions for military action.

No lucid person with the scantest knowledge of the history of the Constitution and the Revolutionary era would ever question the skepticism the Fathers had for standing armies and wars of leisurely choice.

I see that you do not warrant inclusion in that class of people.
7.17.2007 4:17pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
peter,

I took a similar trajectory for similar reasons.

I'm with you:

by failing to comprehend our national self-defense they stand unfit for the very liberty they advocate.
7.17.2007 4:18pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
You....do....know that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, no?

This is not true. Iraq gave non-operational assistance including medical, training and logistical assistance to Al Qaida. That is something, i.e., not nothing.

Yours,
Wince
7.17.2007 4:33pm
Gknowmx (mail):
Without credible sources, Mr. Barnett’s article ‘Libertarians and the War’ drips of “trust me when I tell you” what some, most, or many libertarians think. What irony! This is exactly the style, in principle, that a libertarian, or any other critical thinker abhors. If there as a message, it was lost due to the completely un-credible style with which this article was written. Basically, beyond a couple of references to Dr. Paul, we are essentially asked to take everything else that Mr. Barnett proclaims about libertarians in his article at face value. Even if he has succinctly summarized various libertarian positions on war, without references to facts, sources, tangible groups, or quotes by specific libertarians his opinion is worthless, despite being printed on the expensive real estate of the WSJ. Try this: go back and re-read the article and replace the work libertarian with leprechaun. Does it make any more or less sense? Next time please tell us who all these libertarians are. What Mr. Barnett and the WSJ continue to fail to realize is that a blathering “trust me” style is why the MSM has lost credibility. Set aside, for a moment, the war in Iraq, or the War on Terror, the battle at hand that you are clearly losing is part of the war for respectability of those who can and do think for themselves. Critical readers: nothing here to see, move along to your regular blog destinations.

Mr Barnett, you utterly failed to educate anyone in a meaningful way. Virtually everyone has a position on the various wars. Parsing some of them using a libertarian label has little value; telling us who you value as divergent libertarian thinkers does. The bulk of Republican and Democratic sheeple who read this article are likely to use this peice as fodder against libertarians. While you parse libertarians in nearly as many ways as there may be numbers of libertarians, importantly you fail to distinguish a Libertarian from a libertarian for the uninitiated. Frankly, I am less concerned about any libertarian's position on any war than I am concerned that so few folks have the courage to think for themselves at all. When you get space in the WSJ next time, use it to get people to think first. Don't confuse them with a million flavors of libertarinaism. For example, it would have taken as much space to say, XXXX a respected libertarian intellectual holds such and such a position. Nevertheless, YYYY, an equally reputed libertarian thinker takes a different stance.

Don't tell me that the number of libertarians in the US is a small number, put a number on it. Quote a source. Most people resist the libertarian label because a prerequiste is the ability to think for themselves. Next time, please don't just give your opinion, give folks some tools so they can further explore the various libertarian positions.

Reading this blog to this point makes it clear that, at best, you were preaching to the libertarian chior. How many self-declared non-libertarians have weighed in here so far as a result of reading your article?

Gknowmx
7.17.2007 5:09pm
anon252 (mail):
I immediately stop reading any comment that uses the 'word' "sheeple."
7.17.2007 5:25pm
Yu-Ain Gonnano:
Gknowmx,

I'm not a journalist or anything, but I think you would have to consider John Hospers (1st LP Presidential Candidate and author of most of the origian party principles) a pretty respected Libertarian. His endorsement for GWB precisely because of the GWOT should be evidence (yes, I know, sample size of 1 and all that)that respected Libertarians can take opposing views on this matter.

You can also look at the Neo-Libertarian Network, which seeks to persuade towards a absolute Libertarian Ideal in incremental steps and rejects old-style isolationism:


Neolibertarian foreign policy rejects the equal sovereignty premise of traditional libertarian foreign policy and differentiates between free countries and oppressed countries. It also holds as its highest standard the rights of free people, not the 'rights' of nations. Neolibertarians have no problem with condemnation of and, if necessary, intervention in those oppressed countries, if they pose a threat to our nation's security or citizens.


The blogroll is not minor.

You have a legit point that Barnett should have referenced these items himself, but to pretend these Libertarians don't exist is incorrect.
7.17.2007 5:37pm
Spooner:
Does Professor Barnett think any aspect of the initiation the war and/or its prosecution is unconstitutional according to the original meaning of the war power (or some other enumerated power)?

I would hasten to say that the initiation of the war was unconstitutional and it led to other collateral executive and legislative actions which were foreseeable and also unconstitutional.

BTW, its Dr. Paul; not Mr. Paul.
7.17.2007 5:40pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Barry P.,

Apparently, you do not understand what a militia is versus an army.
7.17.2007 5:53pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
M. Simon,

I think that the situation you describe would justify taking action.
7.17.2007 5:55pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):

No lucid person with the scantest knowledge of the history of the Constitution and the Revolutionary era would ever question the skepticism the Fathers had for standing armies and wars of leisurely choice.


Should we be governed by your imagination concerning what the Founders would want (they are a diverse group of people who had serious disagreements, you know) or should we be governed by the Constitution that they actually wrote.

Skepticism about standing armies among some Founders notwithstanding, the Constitution does not forbid such armies. Likewise, the Constitution does not forbid wars of aggression. Deal with it. The Constitution does not say exactly what you wish it does.
7.17.2007 6:00pm
jdd6y:
I don't agree with the op-ed. Principle #1 is the government is generally bad for the people who are governed.

I don't know how you get from that principle to pre-emptive war against one government to install another one when the citizens don't want either and didn't ask you to intervene. I would think that leaving Iraq will compel the locals to compromise. Perhaps civil war must occur first. There must be some level where a balance of power will lead to some sort of peace. That balance cannot be imposed through a U.S. force unless everyone knows the U.S. force will never leave. And still, whichever group is associated with the U.S. force will be overthrown, eventually.

Maybe one can make a case for taking out a government if that government is a threat to the U.S. citizenry. This was obviously not such a case. There is a better argument to invade West Pakistan than to invade Iraq.
7.17.2007 6:27pm
Tom Cross (www):
Wince, got a reference for that? Where that true, would it justify the invasion of Iraq and the deaths that ensued from it? Why didn't we invade Pakistan instead? Why aren't we invading Pakistan now?

We could have a discussion about the morality and strategic correctness of the Iraq war if we could set a factual baseline upon which we agreed about what we were actually doing there in the first place. We can't. Its just not clear.

What is clear is that reasonable or not, the decision was made; years ago. The question today should be what to do going forward. What difference does it make if it was or was not a good idea?

I think most people allow their assessment of the situation at the beginning to set their opinion of what we should do now. People who aren't convinced going into Iraq was a good idea think we should leave. People who supported going into Iraq support staying. The second conclusion should not be connected with our view of the first, and I see the decision as being far too tactical to really bring a political philosophy to bare on it.

Unfortunately, I don't think that in the end it will matter what the most sensible thing to do is going forward. I think, frankly, that mainstream Democrats are so sick of being pushed around and called names for years that they'll pull out just to spite the Republicans...
7.17.2007 6:42pm
Justin (mail):
Tom,

Although I opposed the war from the start, there was a period where I foolishly thought we had not reached the point of no return vis a vis a bloody civil war, and supported staying there (not necessarily in the capacity of Bush's policies there) and doing something to prevent that outcome.

More recently, I've realized we probably passed the point of no return pretty early, and that a civil war is inevitable. We should leave and let that tragedy happen now, so the Iraqis can then go on to rebuilding their war-torn country without us raising the cost in money, resources, and human life.
7.17.2007 6:46pm
Tom Cross (www):
Justin, have you seen this Frontline Documentary?
7.17.2007 7:22pm
SenatorX (mail):
I thought you explained the "finer points of libertarian philosophy" quite well Bretzky, thanks.
7.17.2007 8:12pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Even anarcho-libertarians can differ on 'foreign affairs'.

Some anarcho-libertarians are porcupines who roll into a defensive ball when attacked. But some are pirates who attack foreign states where feasible.

Piratical attacks on nations using volunteer fighters and using the technique of entering a nation's territory and waiting for it to attack the 'invader/traveler' are fully consistent with non-aggression theory since entering unowned/government owned territory is not a rights violation.
7.18.2007 12:01am