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From where I am sitting

Here in my office, the early stages of the war in Iraq are accompanied by a sort of low, whining tone of complaint from colleagues seated all around. Some are actually joking about Saddam’s taunts at Bush. What big men and women they are.

I have tried in my own mind to figure out what goes on inside the heads of supposedly intelligent people – folk with university degrees, who can produce work of great skill and complexity, but who, on this terrible issue of the day have the moral intelligence of total imbeciles. A sort of collective death wish seems to have gripped whole swathes of the smarter elements in our population. I am not just talking about the usual assholes on the far Left, mind you. Let’s not forget the head-in-the-sand isolationists with whom we occasionally mix in the libertarian parish. Not to mention the Pat Buchanan-style wackjobs either.

When this whole dreadful period in our history is over, and I hope really soon, I would like to renew my request to the anti-war folk who I would broadly classify as libertarian as to what they would actually do when confronted with terror and state sponsors of terror. And let’s have answers instead of the usual “we had it coming in the past so in future we should keep our heads down” evasions.

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67 comments to From where I am sitting

  • I would like to renew my request to the anti-war folk who I would broadly classify as libertarian as to what they would actually do when confronted with terror and state sponsors of terror.

    Is this another unproven assertion that Iraq caused 9/11?

    And let’s have answers instead of the usual “we had it coming in the past so in future we should keep our heads down” evasions.

    Govt ineptitude in health care causes people to suffer from illness when they shouldn’t have had to. Govt ineptitude in education causes people to graduate high school with a diploma they cannot read. Govt ineptitude in foreign affairs and national defense caused 9/11.

    No civilian deserves to be sick, illiterate, or killed by terrorists. The first two seem to be accepted around here, but when the govt officials take off the business suits and put on snappy military uniforms, everything supposedly changes. It doesn’t.

    How would you fix the British national health care program? Don’t evade the issue by saying it shouldn’t be nationalized in the first place.

  • Della

    A lot of people don’t mind evil so long as it is banal

    “… the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology, or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.”

    “Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining and reflecting upon whatever happens to come to pass, regardless of specific content and quite independent of results, could this activity be of such a nature that it ‘conditions’ men against evil-doing?”

    “I mean that evil is not radical, going to the roots (radix), that is has no depth, and that for this very reason it is so terribly difficult to think about it, since thinking, by definition, wants to reach the roots. Evil is a surface phenomenon, and instead of being radical, it is merely extreme. We resist evil by not being swept away by the surface of things, by stopping ourselves and beginning to think, that is, by reaching another dimension than the horizon of everyday life. In other words, the more superficial someone is, the more likely will he be to yield to evil. An indication of such superficiality is the use of clichés, and Eichmann, …was a perfect example.”

  • John J. Coupal

    Government ineptitude is a given when providing education. health care, and a variety of other “social services”.

    In the US, we spend a lot of tax bucks on our military. Instead of those bucks going down the rat hole of “social services” – which should be provided by the private sector – we really do get our money’s worth.

    What other government agency provides more bang for the buck? None that I can think of.

  • What other government agency provides more bang for the buck? None that I can think of.

    Blaming government ineptitude for 9/11 is blaming our civilian empire builders, not the average GI.

  • Scott Cattanach: So in some future libertarian utopia, there would never be any threat from non-libertarian states, is that what you are saying? And if that is the case, what cunning methods, implemented by whom, would be tirelessly defusing and obviating the threats posed by armed states who do not share our enlightened values, and who might see us as evil, or who might just want to take our stuff?

    Given that in a globalised economy it is impossible for ‘us’ not to come into frequent contact with ‘them’, it seems that the sort of unrestricted free global capitalism we both want may be a recipe for economic elysium but does it follow that it will also be a recipe for peace? I think not, given that some states that rely on keeping ‘us’ from selling things to and buying things from ‘their’ people, something that no free trader is ever going to just acquiesce to (after all, if we cannot tolerate regulation from ‘our’ government, are we going to accept other governments can tell us who we may or may not trade with?).

    And how will any future libertarian-infused body which prevents ‘them’ from just marching in and taking our goodies and killing us, differ from a state-like structure with an army and a diplomatic corps of some sort? Do tell.

    Sure, I would love to see Private Military Organisations like Sandline take care of ‘problems’ on a more regular basis, and the fact it happens at all is quite encouraging, but in the here and now, we are stuck with states like the US and UK to deal with the likes of the Ba’athists.

    And the way to fix the NHS is to progressively denationalise it. I would be quite happy to see the same approach taken with the military… but we ain’t there yet.

  • Byron

    Good question. I’ve been trying to figure it out myself, and I have come understand at least two reasons for it. The first reason is a legitimate concern, but the second is an unsettling look into the values of such people.

    The first reason has been made clear by semi-official statements from diplomats and politicians around the world. They simply fear America’s unchecked power, and I personally believe they are correct. I have few fundamental political beliefs, as I try to eschew dogmatic idealology wherever possible, but one of those few is Machiavelli’s observation that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not even America is immune to that syndrome, and we apparently enjoy almost absolute power in the world today. Throughout much of the past century, the mode operandus of American policy was to maintain a balance of power throughout the world. Now that balance is completely upset, and a lot of people fear the potential instability this could result in. Of course, a democratically elected government such as ours is much less likely to cause rampant instability than an autocratic dictatorship or communist regime, but the imbalance is so great it is a concern.

    The second, more troubling reason, is that many people value what others think over what is right. I challenged a staunch anti-war friend to a Hegellian dialectic, and we’ve been emailing our debate back and forth the past few days. Finally, we came to one of the fundamental reasons for her beliefs. I asked this question of her:

    “What happens if the US forces invade Iraq, get to the outskirts of Baghdad, and the Republican Guard launch chemical weapons attacks at them (as Saddam has threatened)? Will the war have been in violation of International Law then? Or will it have proved that International Law was being used to protect a dictator who was in even worse violation of it?”

    And her response was:

    We have not given other countries courtesy and respect. I can’t argue right and wrong; although, obviously I have strong feelings about what I feel is right, but I do know that being right is not as important as showing respect and attention to other people’s (and countries’) feelings.

    Apparently it is more important to subjugate objective truth to the “feelings” of other people and countries. I assume her views are more or less representative of most of the anti-war folks, all however many millions of them. I find this most disturbing, b/c every life experience of mine screams this is a false and dangerous belief. It is like fashion – some small group of designers and “opinion makers” decide what will be “in” for the season, and all the sheep follow along with it b/c they’ve subjected their own tastes to the tastes of others.

    Ayn Rand was right on in this respect, and rarely have I seen such clear evidence of that.

    PS – in partial defense of my friend, she is also a strong believer of the first reason, especially when combined with America’s spotty history of intervention abroad.

  • Scott Cattanach: So in some future libertarian utopia, there would never be any threat from non-libertarian states, is that what you are saying? And if that is the case, what cunning methods, implemented by whom, would be tirelessly defusing and obviating the threats posed by armed states who do not share our enlightened values, and who might see us as evil, or who might just want to take our stuff?

    In a future non-utopia, if we simply stay out of fights that don’t concern us, we make fewer enemies. Iraq would love to have our stuff, but you are assuming a plot on their part to take it.

    (after all, if we cannot tolerate regulation from ‘our’ government, are we going to accept other governments can tell us who we may or may not trade with?).

    If we cannot tolerate regulation from ‘our’ government, can we expect the Iraqis to tolerate it? Haven’t you just admitted that any regime we install won’t last long, because Iraqis don’t like having outsiders ordering them around any more than the rest of us do?

    And how will any future libertarian-infused body which prevents ‘them’ from just marching in and taking our goodies and killing us, differ from a state-like structure with an army and a diplomatic corps of some sort? Do tell.

    I keep looking around for those Republican Guards that have marched into my town from Iraq to take over. Where are they?

    And the way to fix the NHS is to progressively denationalise it. I would be quite happy to see the same approach taken with the military… but we ain’t there yet.

    We can’t denationalize health care until there are no more sick people, just like we can’t cut back foreign military entanglements until we reach libertarian utopia.

  • Byron

    And the way to fix the NHS is to progressively denationalise it. I would be quite happy to see the same approach taken with the military

    I’m all for denationalization of health care, but how would you denationalize the military?

  • Aaron Aardvark

    Hey Scott, we must be reading different articles and comments. He was obviously talking about why ‘minding your own business’ does NOT guarantee your security and was not talking about Iraq at all, let alone what government will follow Saddam Hussain. Ditto your fatuous remark about the Republican Guards in your town.

    the point is Perry was correct that free traders do not want any government to regulate them so will never agree to NOT trade in porn or DVD players or derivatives or interest bearing loans or whatever to willing people in the Islamic world or anywhere else regardless of what some fucked up local mullah or government wants…

    and so it is a sure thing that the local mullah might want to use violence against ‘evil capitalists’ like us even if there is a libertarian ‘government’ in the place we live which is largely non-interventionist: civilian capitalism is what pisses these people off and THAT is going to me even more of a factor in some libertarian future, do not kid yourself on that count.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Hey Scott, we must be reading different articles and comments. He was obviously talking about why ‘minding your own business’ does NOT guarantee your security and was not talking about Iraq at all, let alone what government will follow Saddam Hussain. Ditto your fatuous remark about the Republican Guards in your town.

    Minding our own business aids our security (by not creating enemies if it can be at all helped), even if it doesn’t guarantee it. Perry’s comment was basically “what happens when foreign troops invade?”. Exactly how is that relevant to support or opposition to the current war with Iraq?

    Willing sellers need willing buyers (who are the more likely targets of crazed mullas), who we could arm against their own oppressive governments if the mullas threaten to shoot them for buying the wrong DVDs.

  • Larry

    Minding our own biz as the alpha and omega of national security!

    A Nobel Peace Prize to whoever first thought of that. After all, it’s worked so well for the small nations of Europe. Like Holland in the 20thC.

    “Go away, evil German National Socialists — we’re minding our own business!”

  • Scott Cattanach

    Minding our own biz as the alpha and omega of national security!

    We aren’t Holland, and Iraq isn’t Nazi Germany. How ’bout Switzerland and Nazi Germany instead?

    Why does everyone respond with “minding our own business is a good start” with assumptions that minding our own business is a guarantee and the alpha and omega, or its utterly worthless?

  • Bill Ernoehazy

    Scott:

    Government ineptitude didn’t cause 9/11. A bunch of radical Islamicists, none of whom would have any truck with any principle even *remotely* libertarian in bent, caused 9/11.

    As to the “unproved Iraq connection”: Hussein’s regime is apparently worthy enough of alliance that the Al Qaeda net (regardless of who’s actually now in charge) wanted it to appear that bin Laden called for Islamicist support of Iraq. Further, although there’s not much more commonality of philosophy between Al Qaeda and Iraq than there was between Germany and Japan c. 1935, there’s a commonality of interest — emnity to America and the “neo-West” (to borrow Brin’s formulation).

    And Al Qaeda *made* it our business. If you don’t think attacking New York and Washington DC is American “business”, you are … spectacularly myopic.

    At best.

    At worst, your insistence that we can avoid All This By Not Having Enemies … well, we heard that nonsense from Sheryl Crow, and I suspect she’s easier on my eyes than you are.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Western government ineptitude didn’t cause the Holocaust, but short sighted, post WWI vindictiveness (and a Depression caused by economic mismanagement) did give Hitler an opening. It depends on how far back you are willing to go.

    Al Queda made exactly what our business? All you have is “wanted to appear” and “commonality of interest” – which is exactly squat.

    We can’t avoid all trouble by not having enemies. The War Party, however, thinks we can make enemies with total impunity.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Al Queda made exactly what our business?

    Just to be clear, I meant “exactly what” specifically concerning Iraq.

  • Scott Cattanach writes:

    Willing sellers need willing buyers (who are the more likely targets of crazed mullas), who we could arm against their own oppressive governments if the mullas threaten to shoot them for buying the wrong DVDs.

    So we should arm insurgents against oppressive regimes? Hasn’t the US done that before, and doesn’t that policy get thrown back in its face every time? Cf. Nicaragua, Bay of Pigs, Afghanistan vs. Soviet Union.

    The US is damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. We’re so strong, that we can’t very well stand on the sidelines in any conflict without being resented for allowing tragedies to happen. But we’re so strong that any time we act, it’s proof of how weak every other nation is.

    Abraham Lincoln had a good perspective on this.

    The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.

    The US is the de facto shepherd. And we’ll stay that way until some nation catches up to us, or we allow ourselves to weaken.

  • Scott Cattanach

    there’s a commonality of interest — emnity to America and the “neo-West” (to borrow Brin’s formulation).

    Start with one enemy. Said enemy attacks you.

    Find someone you don’t like and make them into a second enemy. Use their “commonality of interest – emnity to you” as evidence they are conspiring so you can use the attack from one to justify attacking the other.

  • Scott Cattanach

    So we should arm insurgents against oppressive regimes? Hasn’t the US done that before, and doesn’t that policy get thrown back in its face every time? Cf. Nicaragua, Bay of Pigs, Afghanistan vs. Soviet Union.

    Nicaragua involved us supporting the original oppressive regime. The Bay of Pigs involved us supporting the original oppresive regime in Cuba (not that Castro was a trade up or anything), Afghanistan involved us supporting the oppressive regime in Saudi Arabia (not that Bin Laden cared about oppressiveness, but did care who runs Saudi Arabia) and having troops there. In none of these cases did we just ship someone arms and stay out of it otherwise.

    Abraham Lincoln had a good perspective on this.

    Lincoln would have used poison gas against the Confederates w/o a second thought, yet that sort of accusation is the trump card in the “Invade Iraq” game.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Lincoln would have used poison gas against the Confederates w/o a second thought

    And yes, vice versa, although while Atlanta was burned, we can’t know for sure if Philadelphia would have suffered the same fate if things had turned out differently.

  • So, sell the weapons, then stay out of it? I see. And then we’ll be criticism-free? Doubtful.

    As for Castro not being a trade up, he is most ceretainly a trade down, and he was loyal to a nation that intended our destruction, and he was too damn close for comfort. Ditto for the Sandinistas.

    And the support of the mujaheedin in Afghanistan against the Soviets from ’79 onwards was about opposing the Soviets expansion, not about Saudi Arabia.

    “Lincoln would have used poison gas against the Confederates w/o a second thought”

    And this statement is back up by…?

    Your historical revisionism is not helping your argument.

  • Scott Cattanach

    My point was that the Cubans, Sandinistas, and Mujaheedin didn’t involve us staying out of things earlier, arming people against their own tyrannical governments, then going home for good.

    “Lincoln would have used poison gas against the Confederates w/o a second thought”

    And this statement is back up by…?

    From the National Review:

    In a September 17, 1863, letter to the War Department, Gen. William Sherman wrote: “The United States has the right, and … the … power, to penetrate to every part of the national domain. We will remove and destroy every obstacle — if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.” President Lincoln liked Sherman’s letter so much that he declared that it should be published.

    On June 21, 1864, before his bloody March to the Sea, Sherman wrote to the secretary of war: “There is a class of people [in the South] — men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.” How would U.N. war crimes investigators react if Slobodan Milosevic had made this comment about ethnic Albanians?

    On October 9, 1864, Sherman wrote to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant: “Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources.” Sherman lived up to his boast — and left a swath of devastation and misery that helped plunge the South into decades of poverty.

    General Grant used similar tactics in Virginia, ordering his troops “make all the valleys south of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a desert as high up as possible.”

    The author writes elsewhere:

    Sherman lived up to his boast – and left a swath of devastation and misery that helped plunge the South into decades of poverty.

    Scorched-earth tactics were also used in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864-65. On September 28, 1864, Gen. Phil Sheridan ordered one of his commanders to “leave the valley a barren waste.” General Grant ordered Union troops to “make all the valleys south of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a desert as high up as possible … eat out Virginia clear and clean … so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their provender with them.” Union Gen. Wesley Merritt proudly reported to Sheridan on December 3, 1864, that “the destruction in the valley, and in the mountains bounding it, was most complete.”

    Such tactics were typical towards the end of the war. On December 19, 1864, a Union colonel reported that he had followed orders “to desolate the country from the Arkansas River to Fort Scott, and burn every house on the route.” In the same month, a major general with the Army of the Potomac noted the success of a Union expedition south of Petersburg, Virginia: “Many houses were deserted contained only helpless women and children … almost every house was set on fire.”

    Many Union officers were horrified at the wanton destruction their armies inflicted on the South. On March 8, 1865, Gen. Cyrus Bussey reported:

    “There are several thousand families within the limits of this command who are related to and dependent on the Arkansas soldiers in our service. These people have nearly all been robbed of everything they had by the troops of this command, and are now left destitute and compelled to leave their homes to avoid starvation…. In most instances everything has been taken and no receipts given, the people turned out to starve, and their effects loaded into trains and sent to Kansas.”

    The source of the preceding quotes is The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (128 volumes published by the Government Printing Office).

    …The more ruthless the Northern armies acted, the more exalted federal power became. For many, the greatness and sanctity of the federal government was confirmed by the fact that the government possessed the power to burn Southern cities, destroy Southern crops, and starve Southern families.

    The more the politicians used government power to destroy, the more government power itself was exalted as the greatest curative. Lord Acton, writing in England in 1862, observed of the American war: “Whether the Northern Government succeeds or fails, its character is altered, and its power permanently and enormously increased.” An 1875 article in the American Law Review noted: “The late war left the average American politician with a powerful desire to acquire property from other people without paying for it.” The tragic mistakes, blunders, and crimes of politicians led to a war that resulted in a vast expansion of the power of the political class.

  • In addition, Scott, your attack on Lincoln’s character, true or not, is entirely irrelevant to the point at hand. Namely, that it is impossible for a powerful nation to remain neutral in a conflict without being complicit in tragedy, and if we act, then we will unudoubtedly piss someone off.

    The policy you advocate seems to be a national version of the position taken by the bystanders in the Kitty Genovese murder. It wasn’t their fight, so why get involved. Only you think that they should have just tossed her a weapon, and then kept out of it. Not much of an improvement.

    While there may be merits to your position, it is morally reprehensible.

  • Scott Cattanach

    OK Jack, which other “Kitty Genovese murder” situations should we get involved in? Do we sit on the sidelines against all other tyranical governments? If we have an absolute moral obligation to invade Iraq, we have one to invade N. Korea, etc.

    Usually people limit themselves to saying Saddam’s behavior merely justifies an invasion, so they can wiggle out of the North Korea question. You didn’t – you threw down a moral gauntlet. Either become the world policeman and right all wrongs or admit to being morally reprehensible concerning nations other than Iraq.

  • Scott Cattanach

    And tossing Kitty Genovese a .357 would have been a huge improvement. God didn’t make men and women equal, Smith and Wesson did.

  • I do not doubt the ruthlessness of the Northern campaign. However, destroying homes, while brutal, is not the same as using poision gas. Most of those Southerners, as your post illustrates, became refugees, and it was tragic. But where does it indicate that Lincoln would have ordered his troops use chemical weapons, if he’d had them?

    It’s not just an idle question. Even in WW2, when we intentionally destroyed cities and the civilian populations, we did not drop gas on them. Would’ve saved a lot of infrastructure too.

    Yes, the Civil War was brutal, and originated the Total War concept. No sensible person can deny this. But your assertion was a non-sequitur, meant to shrug off my point without having to engage it on its merits. I chose Lincoln’s quote not because I agree with everything Lincoln ever said or did, but because he phrased it eloquently.

    You may have the last word, because I’m off for the night.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Even in WW2, when we intentionally destroyed cities and the civilian populations, we did not drop gas on them.

    We did nuke them, tho.

  • Oops, I lied. Gotta respond to that.

    I do admit to being morally reprehensible with regards to other nations. If you want perfection, seek the Lord. We’re just people.

    If you contend that we must be absolutely perfect to do anything, then by your standard we never can. No nation can, becuase at some point in the past, there has always been something reprehensible.

    However, amoral nations, or plain old “evildoers” will not be bound by this covenant. In other words, they will attack and slaughter. And they’re the ones that peace-loving people need to fight.

    And we don’t necessarily have a moral imperative to invade either. Bring down, yes. Not necessarily invade. But invade if that’s the only workable way to do it. One could have helped Kitty by getting the police, arming her, providing refuge, or by actively defending her. The US can do all of those to other nations.

    Must we do them all at once? No. It’s impossible, and that’s tragic. But it’s reality.

    Good night.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Good night.

    Its afternoon here, but good night to you, too.

    — Scott

  • Jacob

    to Scott:
    “We aren’t Holland, and Iraq isn’t Nazi Germany. How ’bout Switzerland and Nazi Germany instead? ”
    Switzerland bought the germans off – they aided Hitler, economically. Sometimes you have to do that to survive, esspecially when you are a small country. Would you advocate buying off evil as an auxiliary method for avoiding war ? Buying off evil involves deflecting the harm from yourself, and aiding the evil ones to perpetrate their crimes on other people.

    Another thing:
    “God didn’t make men and women equal, Smith and Wesson did.”
    Only some days ago I read on this site that it was Samuel Colt. So which is it ?

  • Scott Cattanach

    Only some days ago I read on this site that it was Samuel Colt. So which is it?

    I’ve heard both versions.

  • Bill Ernoehazy

    Scott:

    “Western government ineptitude didn’t cause the Holocaust, but short sighted, post WWI vindictiveness (and a Depression caused by economic mismanagement) did give Hitler an opening. It depends on how far back you are willing to go.”

    So what?

    A *moral* human wouldn’t have taken the opening and rode his nation into the charnel house.

    I decline to give Hitler, or Mussolini, a moral “pass” because of ‘vast impersonal forces’ and ‘inept governments’ givng them ‘openings.

    “Al Queda made exactly what our business? All you have is “wanted to appear” and “commonality of interest” – which is exactly squat.”

    Al Qaeda went to war on the United States and struck civilian targets. They then went to great pains to release a videotape proclaiming that they were in solidarity with Iraq because it was at emnity to the US, and called for terrorist attacks against the US in support of Iraq. If bin Laden was alive, he obviously wanted that message out. If he’s dead, then someone with access to enough technical resources to fake a bin Laden speech wanted that out… and only someone who’s a fan of the X-files is likely to believe that’s a CIA disinformation plant.

    Hussein, for his part, in last night’s address to Iraq and the world, specifically identified his country as doing God’s will and called for jihad… so much for being Ba’athist secularist.

    So now, even the layman, without access to classified information, has evidence that a terrorist cabal and a rogue state with WMDs are allied. Not because they necessary like each other, but because of a common enemy.

    Good enough. They *both* have to go.

    Not because we are the world’s policeman, or because of oil, or even because of humanitarian goals–though the end result will be the liberation of a desperately enslaved people– but we see public evidence of an alliance between someone who’s been able to deliver mass-destructive devices to the US *and* someone who has mass-destructive devices, and wants more.

    No more 9/11s. Not if we can help it. Not if we can stop it.

    “…We can’t avoid all trouble by not having enemies. The War Party, however, thinks we can make enemies with total impunity.”

    Free people don’t have to make enemies in this sorry world. They appear with depressing regularity.

    Your assertion that, in effect, we deserve the emnity of Al Qaeda is the geopolitical equivalent of blaming the victim for being raped because of their clothes.

    Sell that if you can. I am not buying.

  • kudos Scott – you’ve handled yourself well.

    My response to the post is similar. The question being asked: “what would the peace-mongers actually do” starts with the typical statist assumption that the government has to do something. Surely, if libertarians can agree on nothing else, we can at least agree that it is incumbant on the government to justify it’s action. To justify why it’s taking our tax, restricting our liberty and doing anything that would not otherwise be done voluntarily.

    Asking what I (as a peace-monger) would do in the case of a threat is impossible to answer. Different threats would make for different situations – some of which may require war. I believe there is such a thing as a just war. Basically, that is one that produced more benefits than costs. However, I don’t believe that invading Iraq is appropriate because I believe it would lead to a net cost.

    This is not an issue of perfection. The point is that, if the government isn’t going to improve the situation – then we’d be better off if they didn’t do anything. I guess you can accuse me of not wanting to do anything about it… but then you can accuse me of that regarding health, welfare, education, roads, drugs, pornography, prostitution, abortion etc etc. I believe such an accusation simply shows an ignorance of the libertarian political philosophy.

    If you think there is a net benefit – fine. But to imply that people who percieve a net cost are stupid says more about your inability to understand the parameters of the debate than it does about anything else.

  • As stated, I believe it is war, not peace, that needs justificaiton. The burden of proof is on you – not me. Let’s see what the pro-war arguments are:

    – links with Al-Quada. Come on… can we at least argue honestly? The proof of links have been that some Al-Quada people have been to Iraq. They’ve been to the US & UK too.

    – Iraq going to invade US, UK & Australia? A-ha. OK. And then they will conquer Mars.

    – To defend the UN. This is just me, but I don’t give a rats arse about the UN or defending their resolutions.

    – To help Iraqis. Nice thought but two points. I’m not sure that Iraq will necessarily be better off (depends on the next regime & how quick the war is). But putting that aside, I don’t believe its the role of government to do such humantarian projects with my tax money. If welfare is your reason for war – then use private philantrhopy.

    – To get oil. Just end sanctions. Or drill in your national parks.

    – To stop Saddam getting WMDs. I don’t believe he’s going to invade Australia – so I don’t care.

    – To stop terrorists getting WMDs. There are plenty of better places for Osama to get WMDs other than Iraq. Without sanctions or war, Saddam would have no incentive to deal with Osama – and Osama and Saddam have always previously hated each other. The only thing that could drive them together would be invading Iraq.

    So we’re left with what? A multi-billion dollar government funded semi-humanitarian project designed to stop Iraq doing something they weren’t going to do anyway. That’s my money. And, quite frankly, I’d like it back. The government has been shown to be lying with their evidence and have changed their excuses every other week. If they behaved this way while introducing a secret multi-billion dollar education program would you feel comfortable in your benevolent governments actions?

    This is what you want? Bigger government? Higher taxes? Many deaths and maybe increased hatred? For what benefit? And then you have the hide to imply I’m stupid simply because I believe the government shouldn’t act if they’re not going to make an improvement?

    God help the british education system.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    24601. Let’s examine the points. OBL and connectioins to Iraq. I grant that there is no cast-iron link between them, but Saddam has certainly given funds and backing to organisations like Hamas, who drink from the same well as al Quada. Given Saddam’s track record, that is scary enough.

    Saddam has, and has been acquiring, WMDs. He has consistently failed to be open with the inspectors about these. He has violated numerous UN resolutions; he has broken the terms of the 1991 ceasefire; he was almost certainly connected, from what I have read, to the attempted destruction of the WTC in 1993. That enough for you?

    As I sadly expected, no-one in all the comments above gave a decent answer to my question in the final paragraph – what would liberty-lovers actually DO if confronted by terror and terror-sponsors? As usual, we got the usual denial that a problem existed. This is what drives me nuts about so many otherwise smart folk in the libertarian camp – the sheer evasion of reality.

    Sorry to sound like a Randroid!

  • dave fordwych

    Jonathan

    I believe that what we are seeing is the inevitable consequence of the way young people in this country have been educated in the past 30 years.

    Britain’s past achievements have been constantly denigrated and belittled -if they have been mentioned at all.Political correctness has taken root in the “groves of academe” like nowhere else and students who emerge with any knowledge at all of the occasional necessity to go to war are in a small minority compared to the numbers who are inculcated with guilt about our past.This often translates into a gut feeling that “my country is always wrong” in any dispute with a country poorer than us[which means practically everyone] and is the origin of the “we had it coming ” attitude.

    You are correct- in my opinion -that , in the long run ,this constitutes a collective death wish,amongst those in whom it has taken root.The question is whether or not the rest of us allow them to take us with them or whether we can somehow turn the situation round.With every day that passes I am more pessimistic about that,but it is perhaps progress- and one of the first benefits of this war- that more of us are coming to realise the nature and full extent of the problem.

  • Jacob

    “As usual, we got the usual denial that a problem existed. This is what drives me nuts about so many otherwise smart folk in the libertarian camp – the sheer evasion of reality. ”

    How very true !! I feel exactely the same.
    I call them the “no proof” brigade.

    This quote:
    “I don’t believe he’s going to invade Australia – so I don’t care. ”
    reminds me of what most Germans said when Hitler started persecuting Jews – I’m not a Jew so I don’t care.

  • Jacob

    Another way to formulate the question for Scott and 24601:

    Let’s not argue wehter there are links to Al Qaeda, or wether there are WMDs – these are trivial questions of facts, nothing more.

    Let’s suppose for a moment that this is so – there are links to Al Qaeda, and there are WMDs. What do you do ?

    Don’t say “there is no proof”. Tell us what is to be done if there were proof.
    Did you oppose the war in Afghanistan too ?

  • I decline to give Hitler, or Mussolini, a moral “pass” because of ‘vast impersonal forces’ and ‘inept governments’ givng them ‘openings.

    I’m not giving them a moral pass either – I was explaining what I meant when I said govt ineptitude led to 9/11 (and was NOT saying therefore we deserved it).

    but we see public evidence of an alliance between someone who’s been able to deliver mass-destructive devices to the US *and* someone who has mass-destructive devices, and wants more.

    What WMD was delivered to the US?

    NOBODY gives away nukes. The Soviets didn’t, the Chinese didn’t, we didn’t. If you get the bomb you use it to deter people, which you cannot do if you give it to terrorists ‘pals’ you don’t really control (and that’s not a concession Saddam and Bin Laden are pals – that’s a hypothetical).

    So now, even the layman, without access to classified information, has evidence that a terrorist cabal and a rogue state with WMDs are allied. Not because they necessary like each other, but because of a common enemy.

    The assumption (and that’s all you have) that all your enemies must be conspiring against you, because they have being your enemy in common, may very well be the textbook definition of paranoia.

    Let’s suppose for a moment that this is so – there are links to Al Qaeda, and there are WMDs. What do you do ?

    What do you do if we find out that the incubator story in Gulf War I was a lie? What do you do if you find out that evidence of Iraq trying to get nuclear bomb parts in Nigeria turns out to be a lie. Whoops, that’s what happened.

    What do you do if it turns out that Rumsfeld met w/ Saddam in the 80s as part of our policy to support him at the time. Oops, that happened, too.

    Should there be any consequences for any of our government ‘leaders’, or do you want to demand our specific responses to your vague hypothetical evidence?

  • “I’m not giving them a moral pass either – I was explaining what I meant when I said govt ineptitude led to 9/11 (and was NOT saying therefore we deserved it).”

    So, had the various state agencies been more competent and successfully headed off the WTC attacks, I take it you would have no complaints?

    Excellent thread here, by the way.

  • Johnathan

    “What do you do if it turns out that Rumsfeld met with Saddam in the 80s as part of our policy at the time?”

    I’ll tell you what we should do. Give Rummy hell, and make sure that his past behaviour only increases the moral obligation the West owes to the people of Iraq to rid the world of Saddam.

    “Vague hypothetical evidence”. Hmm. Let me see now – the violations of UN agreements, treaties, the publicly-stated support for Hamas, the admission by Saddam only this week that he had WMDs in the past – how hypothetical is that?

    Look Scott, I’ll grant you that I believe very little of what politicians of any stripe say. And don’t get me wrong, I am not some sort of hysteric who thinks we should whack an unpleasant country on a whim. Of course not. I used to adhere to a fairly strict anti-interventionist libertarian stance in the past. But the case that has been made for going after terrorists AND their sponsors has been too compelling for me to ignore. Some folk in the libertarian camp are still in denial about that, thinking that all that is needed post-9/11 is the equivalent of a police detective operation. I’m afraid that is not good enough.

    I guess the evaders-of-reality don’t want to give up their obtuse stance any time soon.

  • So, had the various state agencies been more competent and successfully headed off the WTC attacks, I take it you would have no complaints?

    Not painting a target on the rest of us would have been better than heading off the attacks.

    ‘ll tell you what we should do. Give Rummy hell, and make sure that his past behaviour only increases the moral obligation the West owes to the people of Iraq to rid the world of Saddam.

    Rummy’s mistakes lead to more power for Rummy (since he is evidently going to remain in office during the war – you only say give him Hell, not jail or bus fare home).

    Look Scott, I’ll grant you that I believe very little of what politicians of any stripe say.

    Empty words. Everybody here says that, but the War Party refuses to act like they mean it. Every nation blows off the UN when it suits their purposes (including the US – specifically by blowing off the inspectors – and Isreal), and your WMDs are what? Chemical artillery shells? I have ammonia and bleach at home, do I have a WMD because I can make chlorine gas? If its a “WMD”, shouldn’t it be more dangerous than a large conventional explosive?

    Find me a bomb as big as the one we used against civilians in Hiroshima, or some Andromeda Strain and we’ll talk about WMDs.

  • Johnathan

    “Not painting a target on the rest of us”

    In other words, on September 11, we had it coming. It is the old isolationist line – if we do nothing, they’ll leave us alone, like the Swiss. But you have to consider the possibility that we would be attacked even if we took this approach because of what the secular West poses to the Islamists – a direct challenge to their world view.

    As for your dismissive comment on WMDs, try telling that to the Kurds. I will grant you that it is possible to manufacture stuff out of household goods, but what is your point then – do nothing at all against the stuff we can deal with?

    Just because we cannot establish a peaceful world 100 pct of the time, doesn’t mean we should hide away and do nothing.

    Writing for Samizdata and seeing the comments over the past few months has brought me to the realisation that the isolationist position is all too often built on a sneering dismissal of certain threats, a naive belief in the good intentions of certain states, and a belief that because the U.S. and Britain have done bad things in the past – they have – we have no cause to defend ourselves now. What crap. Anyway, my last comment for now. I am getting a headache from all this idiocy.

  • Scott Cattanach


    In other words, on September 11, we had it coming. ..

    As for your dismissive comment on WMDs, try telling that to the Kurds….

    Just because we cannot establish a peaceful world 100 pct of the time, doesn’t mean we should hide away and do nothing.

    …Anyway, my last comment for now. I am getting a headache from all this idiocy.

    No, we didn’t have it coming. Our government is not us, and we are not our government. Saying government action had a negative result does not mean the people hurt by that negative result deserved it, any more than someone suffering while waiting for ‘free’ socialized medicine deserves to suffer. This is just one more incubator lie by the War Party, since attacking those who disagree with them is all they seem to have.

    We supported Iraq at the time it was gassing the Kurds (since Iran was the enemy of the hour). Nobody even wants to fire Rummy for being involved. You can fire Rummy and invade Iraq – its not either/or. Its also not a given that it was the Iraqis and not the Iranians (and if Iran becomes the next enemy, that same gassing will have, thru the magic of govt propoganda, been done by them).

    Just because socialized medicine doesn’t cure 100% of all disease, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put the govt in control. I don’t accept that argument, but its the same one you make.

    And at this, Johathan picks up his toys and goes home.

  • Back for more. Very engaging discussion.

    Look Scott, I’ll grant you that I believe very little of what politicians of any stripe say.

    This notion reminds me a bit of an article by John Derbyshire at National Review. Mutual Incomprehension
    .

    The relevant passage (They and them refers to Europeans and other non-Americans as well as certain American elites who have more French than American sympathies; We and us refers to Americans):

    We don’t understand — Their cynicism. Two stories.

    Around 1991 I was in a movie theater in London’s Leicester Square (which is to say, a tony movie theater in the heart of London) watching Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Little Lady. Near the end of the movie, Tom looks into the eyes of his leading lady and says the words she’s been longing to hear: “I love you.” The London audience erupted in hoots of laughter. Can you believe it? Americans really go for that sappy stuff! What rubes they are!

    In China a year and a half ago, I was talking to one of my Chinese relatives about the United States Constitution. He waved away the Constitution with a laugh. “Oh, that’s all nonsense. it’s just a piece of paper. Doesn’t mean anything.”

    There is an innocence, an earnestness about Americans that, all too often, foreigners just don’t get. If we love someone, we look into her eyes and say so. We take our Constitution seriously. One way and another, we passed through most of the great disillusioning experiences of the 20th century, from the Great War to the sexual revolution, with our illusions pretty much intact. Outside the intellectual classes, irony doesn’t come easily to Americans. Europeans who come to live in the U.S. find that they have to perform major adjustments to their sense of humor to avoid giving offense to the literal-minded inhabitants of this country.

    Americans have had no prolonged education in cynicism. We have never been expected to look up to rulers who claim to be appointed “by the grace of God,” yet whose failings are all too obviously human. We have never had to endure the indignity of living in a “people’s republic” in which the actual people count for nothing, under a “constitution” whose sole purpose is to provide a fig leaf of legitimacy to naked, brutish power.

    One of the reasons I think Bill Clinton will be remembered by posterity as one of our worst presidents is exactly because of his proven dishonesty. No sensible person could trust a leader who parses the meaning of ‘is’ to avoid answering a simple question.

    To give an example, take the Kyoto protocol. He signed it, and therefore earned acclaim from the European elites. But, he knew full well that the treaty would never be ratified. The Senate had passed a 95-0 resolution opposing it, and Clinton never offered it to them for ratification.

    But you see, he played both sides. He signed a piece of paper, that he knew he was not going to be able to enforce, because the symbolic act of doing so pleased the foreign press, and pleased the green lobbies here in the US. That is the height of cynicism to me – a symbolic act that you know is destined to fail simply to please some lobbying group or another. And the irony is, when Bush simply confirmed openly that Kyoto was dead in the US, all the anger and resentment is directed towards Bush – because he honestly said “Sorry, this won’t fly” whereas Clinton also knew the treaty was a goner, but he pretended that it could pass.

    So I guess a cynical person would say, “Well, that’s what all politicians do.” Well, some do, and those are the ones who are, in my opinion, unfit for office. Because those kind of people are not interested in serving the public’s interest, they’re only interested in saying what they have to in order to keep their own power. I have far more respect for politicians who take a stand and try to accomplish something, even if I feel that it is completely wrong headed, than a politician who triangulates and checks the wind for direction. Thus I admire President Bush, and I certainly don’t agree with him on every issue. And if I ever meet Bill Clinton I won’t shake his hand.

    Now, here’s the kicker. I think that this deep-rooted cynicism that Derbyshire talks about (assuming he’s correct; I’ve only been to London back in ’92 as a student, so I can’t vouch personally for European opinion. I’ve worked with many Europeans here in the US, but they probably have a slightly different perspective. However, contrary to the popular image of unworldly Americans portrayed out there, a lot of us really do play very close attention.) actually renders people more likely to be subjugated to a tyrant or some other oppressive state. If you teach people the cynical worldview, that everyone in power is a fraud and a liar, if you convince people that they are helpless otherwise, then your culture can die in the following ways.

    1) Without the schooling in what is good and worth keeping in their soctiey, refered to by Dave Fordwych in a post above, the children, once they grow and beome the generation in power, will not have the ideas needed to defend their society. “If we have no right to judge others, then who are we to say that we shouldn’t let Muslims in our country adopt sharia law?” If you teach them that everything your society has done is wrong, then how can they be expected to know what aspects of society are worth keeping? And if you believe that truly, nothing is worth keeping, then…

    2) Someone who believe in nothing will believe in anything, or someone once said. Take a bunch of frustrated people, trained to believe that they are powerless from the time of their birth, trained to believe that those in power are always liars (even when they tell the truth), and toss in a charismatic amoral personality, a natural-born leader who can inspire them to fight and die for the cause, and what happens? A new Fuhrer. A new Russian Revolution. A new Cultural Revolution. A new Osama. A new Arafat. And all the millions of dead and the unspeakable horrors that go with it.

    That is, in my opinion, the root cause of terrorism in the Mideast. I do not deny that our policies since the discovery of oil there helped to create this situation. I do not deny for one minute that we, the US, were therefore complicit to some degree in what has trandspired. What is happening now is our attempt to undo that mistake. Yes, that does mean remaking the Mideast. Yes, it is fraught with danger, and it may go wrong. But, if we can teach them to believe in the ideals of freedom – and yes, I know my nation has not always lived up to those ideals – then I think we have the best chance of living in peace.

    How does this bring us to Saddam? As Sir Edmund Hillary would say, because he’s there. We have been at hostilities with him for 12 years, Iraq is strategically located, and it has enough resources to pay for its own liberation. It is the most likely place in the Mideast to transform the rotting Arab societies that we have allowed to fester to the point that 9/11 was possible. There are a lot of Iraqi exiles here in the US, who are willing to return (I’ve met some personally) who can bring a love of freedom with them. Was is necessary to invade? Some may argue the point, and history will decide. But, if we are to undo the rot, we have to start where we best have a chance for success.

    I know this sounds very idealistic. I know it may not work. Is there any plan that has a 100% chance of success. But, if you think it will fail, please offer an alternative plan. Because I don’t think that taking our marbles and going home is feasible, likely to happen, or likely to succeed.

    Jack

  • Scott Cattanach

    But, if you think it will fail, please offer an alternative plan.

    No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear: “But what would you replace it with?” When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with?

    — Thomas Sowell

    Prove your plan will work.

  • Although I usually agree with Sowell, and have used him as a reference many times, in this case I think he’s wrong.

    In fact, I think if a policy is disastrous, then the critics are obligated to provide an alternative. Because, without a viable alternative, you will, by inertia, end up with the status quo. That is the difference between leadership and simple criticism.

    It is, as a matter of logic, impossible for me to “prove” that my plan will work. I use the scare quotes because there are a lot of standards for proof out there. There’s 100% certainty. There’s “beyond a reasonable doubt.” There’s preponderance of evidence.

    Fundamentally, though, it is impossible to prove a prediction in the future. As it is impossible for you to prove that any recommendations you make will succeed.

    I don’t think that’s a reason to not make your case.

    Let’s take an example that seems to come up a bit in this thread – your National Health Service. There seems to be an agreement that the system needs some reforms. There seems to be some disagreement on how to reform it.

    Let us say, that someone offers a reform. You disagree with it. You think it won’t help. So you say, No, that won’t work. However, you still recognize that the service needs some kind of reform. So, are you not obligated to think about what kind of reform you think should be done? And how to do it concretely – how to get from point A to point B? Or should you sit back and wait, or adopt a platitude such as “Mend it, don’t end it” that was popular here with regards to welfare reform. It sounds nice, but doesn’t address any issues, and doesn’t say how to mend it.

    Because if you never consider what you want to do, how will you know if anyone else’s plans are acceptable?

    To not offer your own plan, if the equivalent of shouting “Somebody do something!” in a crisis. To use Sowell’s fire analogy, you can decide to run from the fire, you can decide to try to put it out. But you have to come up with a plan of action, or you’re cooked. Unless you believe that the status quo is just fine – i.e., you believe there is no fire.

    Lastly, I don’t know what to do about socialized medicine in Britain off the top of my head. I haven’t studied it much. If you want to know what I’d do, I’ll research it a bit.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Without the schooling in what is good and worth keeping in their soctiey, refered to by Dave Fordwych in a post above, the children, once they grow and beome the generation in power, will not have the ideas needed to defend their society. “If we have no right to judge others, then who are we to say that we shouldn’t let Muslims in our country adopt sharia law?” If you teach them that everything your society has done is wrong, then how can they be expected to know what aspects of society are worth keeping? And if you believe that truly, nothing is worth keeping, then…

    You confuse government and society. Our society is worth defending, but the good in it comes from the limitations on government, not from the government itself. Our governments have probably the best human rights records in world history. They have also committed armed aggression, racist violence (i.e rounding up the Indians, fugitive slave laws), and all that other fun stuff.

    If the best, most warm and fuzzy governments do that, what does it say about government (not society, but government) in general?

  • Scott Cattanach

    Although I usually agree with Sowell, and have used him as a reference many times, in this case I think he’s wrong.

    In fact, I think if a policy is disastrous, then the critics are obligated to provide an alternative. Because, without a viable alternative, you will, by inertia, end up with the status quo. That is the difference between leadership and simple criticism.

    It is, as a matter of logic, impossible for me to “prove” that my plan will work. I use the scare quotes because there are a lot of standards for proof out there. There’s 100% certainty. There’s “beyond a reasonable doubt.” There’s preponderance of evidence.

    Fundamentally, though, it is impossible to prove a prediction in the future. As it is impossible for you to prove that any recommendations you make will succeed.

    The Sowell quote wasn’t a statement by him specific to Iraq – it just made my point well.

    Inertia is keeping the same policy. Staying out of ethnic wars (the Balkans, the Mideast) where people have hated each other for centuries is not our current policy. If you want to be involved in somebody’s ethnic war, the burden of proof is on you, not me.

  • It says that the best need to get better. It says, as in my beloved Constitution, that we need to strive to “form a more perfect Union.”

    Not perfect. More perfect.

    It says that government is a necessary evil. It also says that a goverment formed “of the people, for the people, and by the people” will, unfortuneately, reflect the people’s bad tendencies as well as the good.

    The solution is teaching people to be better humans. That’s moral education, and it starts at home. It also means teaching them the ideals of our government in civics classes, and making sure they truly believe them. Then teach them how we in the past have not lived up to those ideals, as an object lesson in how to behave.

    “If the best, most warm and fuzzy governments do that, what does it say about government (not society, but government) in general?”

    But… what would you replace it with? 😉

    Jack

  • Scott Cattanach

    It says that the best need to get better.

    It says that the best need to get smaller and smaller. If government is a “necessary evil”, then any unnecessary government tax dollar is pure evil.

  • Byron

    the solution is teaching people to be better humans.

    As Machiavelli observed, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not even well-taught, idealistic, moralistic Americans are immune to that. And as Theodore Roosevelt observed, there is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility. That is, there will always be highly intelligent yet unscrupulous people who are willing and able to manipulate and exploit the good intentions of the majority. The only reliable way to guard against such abuse of power in a society is to dillute and decentralize that power as much as possible. Any other suggestion for dealing with that problem is wishful thinking at best, sinister deception at worst.

  • Scott Cattanach


    As Machiavelli observed, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I thought that was from Acton.

  • Scott,

    It says that the best need to get smaller and smaller. If government is a “necessary evil”, then any unnecessary government tax dollar is pure evil.

    I agree. However, there comes a point where “smaller and smaller” must stop, else the government get too small to serve its purpose – defending the life and liberty of its citizens. But we do agree that smaller is better, at least from the starting point of today, which is a damn big bloated government.

    Makes me wonder, though – I was under the impression you favored the socialized medicine in Britain. Did I misread that? If so, certainly you won’t want to get smaller than that, and in that case, I’d prefer a smaller government than you. But I may be mistaken.

    Byron,

    That is, there will always be highly intelligent yet unscrupulous people who are willing and able to manipulate and exploit the good intentions of the majority. The only reliable way to guard against such abuse of power in a society is to dillute and decentralize that power as much as possible. Any other suggestion for dealing with that problem is wishful thinking at best, sinister deception at worst.

    Too true. My comment was in regards to teaching values in home life – “That’s moral education, and it starts at home” That’s not the government’s job, and even if it were, it would not work. Civics education, though, is vital – and it does not need to be a government-run school. Many private schools here in the US do a better job of it that the public ones. Most, probably.

    You sound like a Federalist. We probably agree on a lot of those issues. But, the question is, given where we are – meaning the size of the US gov’t, and everything its involved in – what do we do to shrink it down. We both see the fire – how do we best put it out?

    I think that what I’ve said, although it could be called “nation building,” is in fact the best way for us to unentangle ourselves from the political affairs of the rest of the world, and then return to cultivate our own gardens.

    If we can teach those other nations how to fish, we won’t have to fish for them anymore.

    Have I mixed too many metaphors yet?

    Seriously, there was an article in the Financial Times a while back (can’t find a link that doesn’t require a password) about how American strategy may be returning to a maritime power, with fewer permanent alliances and certainly less military exposure on foreign soil. It was interesting speculation; I wish I could find it. The best I could find quickly is Instapundit’s reference to it.

  • Bill Ernoehazy

    Sorry for the time lag–stood a 24 hour watch in my ED (A and E, or Casualty/Receiving, for those of you on the Anglo side of the ‘sphere), and I needed some sleep before I go back tonight (0300 GMT).

    Scott:

    “… (me) _but we see public evidence of an alliance between someone who’s been able to deliver mass-destructive devices to the US *and* someone who has mass-destructive devices, and wants more._

    (Scott) What WMD was delivered to the US?”

    Please read the above again. “Able to deliver…”

    An organization which can coordinate the kind of strike performed on 9/11 has the operational skill to deliver a WMD. If they actually lack one in their weapons locker, that is a privation they can be expected to address as soon as possible. Airliners weren’t deadly enough for their tastes, I suspect.

    ” (Scott) NOBODY gives away nukes. The Soviets didn’t, the Chinese didn’t, we didn’t. If you get the bomb you use it to deter people, which you cannot do if you give it to terrorists ‘pals’ you don’t really control (and that’s not a concession Saddam and Bin Laden are pals – that’s a hypothetical).”

    (a) Nobody gasses their subjects/citizens, either. Not the Soviets, not the Chinese… oops. I’m sorry. Hussein did. Since he doesn’t seem content to follow THAT norm, whyever should he be expected to follow others?

    (b) WMDs are not just nuclear bombs. The access to fissionables alone makes the possibility of radiological weapons not to be dismissed lightly. And just like radiologic weapons, chemical/biowar systems –which you ignored– might not be as efficient from a military standpoint, but they’re BETTER for terror strikes.

    ” (me) _So now, even the layman, without access to classified information, has evidence that a terrorist cabal and a rogue state with WMDs are allied. Not because they necessary like each other, but because of a common enemy._

    (Scott) The assumption (and that’s all you have) that all your enemies must be conspiring against you, because they have being your enemy in common, may very well be the textbook definition of paranoia.”

    Well, Scott:

    (c) You’ve ignored the statements made by both “bin Laden” and Hussein in recent weeks. I have rather more than assumptions, despite your inability to address the evidence.

    (d) Ad hominem arguments are, in themselves, telling indicators of the… strength… of your position.

    (e) As a board certified specialist in emergency medicine (consultant grade, again), your assertion about the definition of paranoia is somewhat lacking of accuracy. Sorry….

    The latter was not a response to me, but I cannot resist…

    ” (another respondent) _Let’s suppose for a moment that this is so – there are links to Al Qaeda, and there are WMDs. What do you do ? _

    (Scott) What do you do if we find out that the incubator story in Gulf War I was a lie? What do you do if you find out that evidence of Iraq trying to get nuclear bomb parts in Nigeria turns out to be a lie. Whoops, that’s what happened.

    What do you do if it turns out that Rumsfeld met w/ Saddam in the 80s as part of our policy to support him at the time. Oops, that happened, too.

    Should there be any consequences for any of our government ‘leaders’, or do you want to demand our specific responses to your vague hypothetical evidence?”

    In other words, you are either unwilling, or incapable, of answering the basic question which started this thread.

    Speak to the question, please. Or chat up the nice folks here at samizdata.net and start your own thread on the pernicious nature of all governments.

    Stop ducking the question… to wit:

    “….what (anti-war libertarians) would actually do when confronted with terror and state sponsors of terror.

    And let’s have answers instead of the usual “we had it coming in the past so in future we should keep our heads down” evasions. ”

  • Fluffy

    “A sort of collective death wish seems to have gripped whole swathes of the smarter elements in our population.”

    The weak and the failures shall perish … they shall even be given every possible assistance. -Nietzsche, The Antichrist

    Conjecture (and a bit of wishful thinking): A portion of Western thought is self-immolating as we watch (maybe even some portion of Western thinkers).

  • Bill,

    By your standards, anyone w/ money for airfare and a BA in Chemistry is “able to deliver” a WMD. If they could, why haven’t they? If Iraq has WMDs and a willingness to give them away, why haven’t they?

    A. Hussein supposedly gassed his own people (ignoring evidence it was the Iranians who did), therefore not only can you assume he’d do anything out of evil (fair enough), but that he’s basically crazy. Someone as well trained in medicine as you claim to be should know better. Tyrants are control freaks, WMDs represent power, therefore tyrants don’t give away significant WMDs. Like I said earlier, chemical shells that would probably kill fewer on a subway than a suicide bomber could kill don’t count as mass destruction in my book.

    B. Show me Iraq’s Andromieda strain and we’ll talk. We had, and used, poison gas in WWI – a high school chemistry class qualifies as a WMD superpower by your standards.

    C. We can’t trust Iraq and Bin Laden to tell the truth (I agree), but we must give full creditability to what Bin Laden says about Iraq when it justifies an attack. Ever think that the terrorists will say about Iraq whatever suits their purposes regardless of the truth?

    D & E. You are paranoid if you just assume all your enemies are plotting against you, because they have being your enemies in common. Sorry.

    Bonus question. I’m ignoring the vague hypothetical because its vague and hypothetical. Please answer my point about specific lies told by our own governments.

    And let’s have answers instead of the usual “we had it coming in the past so in future we should keep our heads down” evasions. ”

    I’ve addressed this more than once in this very thread. If you had one ounce of common decency, you would stop repeating this same lie over and over and over hoping to slander me.

  • Bill, when you equate “our government caused this” (more accurately, our government contributed significantly to it) to “we deserved it”, you confuse us with our governments. You are therefore thinking like a terrorist, because when they attack civilians in objection to government policy, they equate governments with civilian populations just like you do. Statists and terrorists think that way, and evidently you do, too.

  • Bill also thinks like the terrorists in that he and they are the only ones who believe anything the Al Queda leadership has to say:


    Well, Scott:
    (c) You’ve ignored the statements made by both “bin Laden” and Hussein in recent weeks. I have rather more than assumptions, despite your inability to address the evidence.

  • Bill Ernoehazy

    Scott: Are you so bankrupt of argument that you need to resort to assertions that I think like a terrorist? Twice?

    Res ipsa loquitur.

    Cordially, Bill

  • Bill, are you so bankrupt of argument that you have to say I’m blaming the 9/11 dead for the attacks when I clearly wrote earlier in this thread:

    Govt ineptitude in health care causes people to suffer from illness when they shouldn’t have had to. Govt ineptitude in education causes people to graduate high school with a diploma they cannot read. Govt ineptitude in foreign affairs and national defense caused 9/11.

    No civilian deserves to be sick, illiterate, or killed by terrorists. The first two seem to be accepted around here, but when the govt officials take off the business suits and put on snappy military uniforms, everything supposedly changes. It doesn’t.

  • Gun control causes high crime rates; our foreign policy causes terrorism (in all fairness, in both cases the govt action is a large contributor – obviously not the sole cause). In either case, no citizen deserves to get shot, and in neither case is the criminal off the hook morally.

  • Jacob

    Scott
    You misstrust governments and think they are capable of, and are doing, the worst imaginable things. That may be a plausible assertion.
    Why do you maintain that Iraqi __Government__, Iraqi dictators – Saddam – are unable of the same ? They have no WMD, are no aggressors, don’t butcher their people ? “No Proof “!!!
    Only the US Government is capable of the worst, Saddam’s government is tolerable.

  • I see no evidence or Iraqi nukes or Ebola-variants. Chemical artillery shells don’t count in my mind as “mass destruction”, and besides, nobody gave a damn at the time Saddam (and/or the Iranians) actually used them. Nobody considers either side using chemicals in WWI to be war crimes either. And can we use WMDs we previously approved as justification for war? From the Times:

    DONALD RUMSFELD, the US Defence Secretary and one of the most strident critics of Saddam Hussein, met the Iraqi President in 1983 to ease the way for US companies to sell Baghdad biological and chemical weapons components, including anthrax and bubonic plague cultures, according to newly declassified US Government documents.

    … The strategy, seen as a bulwark against the Islamic fundamentalism of Iran, was so obsessively pursued that Washington stepped up arms supplies and diplomatic activity even after the Iraqis had gassed Kurds in northern Iraq in March 1988, according to the records.

    …A 1994 investigation by the Senate Banking Committee disclosed that dozens of biological agents were shipped to Iraq in the mid-1980s under licence from the US Commerce Department, including strains of anthrax. Anthrax has been identified by the Pentagon as a key component of Saddam?s biological weapons programme.

    The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare.
    In November 1983, a month before Mr Rumsfeld?s first visit to Baghdad, George Shultz, the Secretary of State, was given intelligence reports showing that Iraqi troops were resorting to ?almost daily use of CW (chemical weapons) against the Iranians?.

    …The Iraqi Air Force began using chemical agents against Kurdish resistance forces in northern Iraq in late 1987, provoking outrage on Capitol Hill, particularly after the now infamous March 1988 attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja.

    But, in September 1988, Richard W. Murphy, the Assistant Secretary of State, wrote in a memo addressing Saddam?s use of chemical weapons: ?The US-Iraqi relationship is . . . important to our long-term political and economic objectives. We believe that economic sanctions will be useless or counterproductive to influence the Iraqis.?

    Iraq isn’t an aggressor against us until I see proof they were directly involved in 9/11. Rummy met w/ Saddam but is not considered directly involved in what Iraq did after that. Who was in the same room with who isn’t hard evidence of a plot, unless you’re willing to jail Rummy.

    North Korea, on the other hand, has an active nuclear program and a repressive govt. Do we have a moral obligation to take them out, or do you admit war is not always the answer? Do you believe that only the Iraqi government is capable of the worst, but North Korea’s government is tolerable?

  • Jacob

    About taking out North Korea – no, we do not have a moral obligation to do it, but we have a MORAL JUSTIFICATION. Whether the US does or does not engage NK militarily depends on many other factors.
    The US (and anyone else) surely had a moral justification to take out Stalin, Mao Tse Dung, Hitler, Tojo, etc., etc. It wasn’t able to take out everyone, and that’s a great pity, also a great pity it didn’t take out Hitler and Tojo much earlier, at a much lower cost.

    But you do not argue for taking out NK before Iraq because they are more dangerous. You argue for never attacking anyone, no matter how dangerous. Seems you claim that you have to wait until you actually get hit, as only then there is absolute proof of the danger of the adversary.

  • There is a difference demanding some proof of an immediate threat from Iraq, and demanding absolute proof.

    The global warming people say the govt should take over the economy, to reduce polution and save us all from drowning when sea levels rise. Proof? We can’t wait for proof – it will be too late. We can’t take the chance the environmentalists are right and therefore must nationalize everything. Now, now, now!!!!!!!

    Its the same argument you make.

  • Wow – haven’t got time to read everything here let alone respond. But just quickly to Jonathon (who responded to my post).

    Yes, Saddam has funded suicide bombers previously. I don’t find that convincing evidence that he would pass on WMDs. He has not done so previously, and if we were to act with indifference to him (no sanctions, no rhetoric) he would have even less incentive to pass on WMDs. His dissincentive would still remain strong, because if a link was ever established, he is guarnateed dead. He knows this – which is one reason he didn’t use WMDs in 1991.

    Yes, Saddam has an interest in WMDs. Whether he has them at the moment or not – I don’t know. Nor do I care. He’s not going to use them against Australia and I believe Australia should have a national defence force – not an international inter-galaxtic world peace enforcing agency. May sound heartless… but I believe philanthropy should be private, and only national defence public.

    Yes, he’s violated the UN. I don’t care – because I don’t care about the UN. I don’t care that Israel has violated the UN either.

    You once again complain that because I don’t have a government program in response to terror that I therefore have an insufficient answer. With regards to Iraq my policy is simply. Do nothing. Have no government policy on Iraq. No sanctions. No war. Once again, I believe that the burden of proof for government action lies with you and I don’t believe the government should act just for the sake of acting. If they’re not going to improve the situation then they shouldn’t act. Quite simple really.

    You may well disagree because you assess the costs and benefits differently – but please stop pretending that my position is a cope-out or non existent.

  • Johnathan

    “please stop pretending my position is a cop-out or non-existent”

    I am still looking at the comments above for an actual worked out, practical, non-delusional course of ACTION in dealing with terror and state sponsors thereof, which adheres to broadly pro-liberty principles. And 24601, unless I misread you, I did not come across this.

    My charge still stands – far too many anti-war libertarians are hoping that a pristine anti-interventionist stance on foreign affairs will work out. In other words, this stance is based on hope, on the fundamental good nature of humankind.

    If my comments above caused offence, that’s just too bad. Maybe I touched a raw nerve. Good. Might even encourage some clarity of thinking.