The Questions of the Day

As one of the few pro-Iraq-liberation bloggers here at Catallarchy, it falls upon me to answer Orin Kerr’s questions to the hawkish blogosphere. I’m not much of a general hawk, and my default position towards US foreign policy is to have as little of it as possible (bring the troops home, a strong presumption towards non-intervention, etc) while allowing for as much trade & peaceful commerce by Americans as possible with the rest of the world. Nevertheless I supported the Afghan & Iraq wars, so I suppose I meet Orin’s minimum requirements. I will say, as a disclaimer to protect the rep's of my fellow Catallarchists (among antiwar types, at least), the following is, of course, my position alone and not reflective of a general editorial consensus. That said, here we go, a page at a time.

Question 1 – Assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

In order to say whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a good idea, one must first establish why one was in favor of the invasion in the first place. There appear to be a few major themes floating about, and I’ll present them from least persuasive on up to why I thought the invasion was justified (heh), clarified with help from Jonathan:

1) The Spread Democracy argument – The idea that we need to rework the middle east in our image via force (i.e. ‘spread democracy’) to achieve our goals in the war with the armed ideology of Al Qaeda. To my knowledge, no libertarians have made this argument, and not even most conservatives have made this argument, as it is a general argument for imperial war that even hawkish Democrats of the 90s wouldn’t really get behind (bomb a country from 30,000 feet to ‘feed people & stop the killing’ - no problem. Change the regime doing the killing? Hell no!). This argument is used in the specific in the Den Beste dossier that describes his view and general plan of what must be done to deal with and prosecute the war on the ideology of Islamofascism, but I don’t believe that SDB advocates general imperial war to ‘fix’ the world, and would also prefer not to fight in the middle east more than necessary. The general argument is horrific, and the specific argument is not persuasive at all by itself.

2) The Liberation-from-Tyrants argument - Saddam is a dictator on par with Pol Pot, and Iraqi's deserve better. Civil society cannot take root until the head of the snake is cut off, although even then, it is difficult for civil society to flourish. Since governments already take the money that they would put toward private military organizations that might supply a demand for anti-tyrant military action, they desire to see state militaries used to take out Saddam (and, presumably, other tyrants when the time is right). Some libertarian hawks, specifically those at Samizdata.net, made this argument. This is a good sentiment and principle to have but in my view it is an after-the-fact justification that isn’t generally persuasive beforehand. I don’t want the US waging perpetual war for perpetual peace, even if large parts of the world suffer from odious governments. States should not get (back) into the habit of both settling ideological disagreements with open warfare and constantly looking at their neighbors to see how ideologically correct they are. Still, ceteris paribus, it’s better to not have tyrants.

3) The New Threat post-9/11 argument - After 9/11, the world changed, and the US government cannot afford to wait for garbage of the world to come flying across the oceans in nihilistic rage, so Saddam the Threat had to be removed. Saddam has a history of aggression against other countries - Iran, Kuwait, Saudi. He has also made references to establishing an Arab superpower in the Middle East. Seeing the success of 9/11, he could have easily tried to secure glory and political capital in the Arab world by partaking in even bigger and badder terrorism than 9/11. This argument is much, much more popular in the conservative/liberhawk side of the ‘sphere and is somewhat persuasive. But the argument does depend in part on empirical facts, a great deal of which were found not to be in evidence, such as: Active WMD programs, ties to global terror movements (aside from simply giving safe harbor to a Palestinian terrorist and funding anti-Israeli terrorism), and active plans for more military adventures beyond the borders of Iraq. It’s true that Saddam pretended to have WMD programs and played games with the inspectors (claiming not to have them, but explicitly acting like he had something to hide in order to suggest to his neighbors that he was still armed), but generally Saddam was in the ‘biding his time’ mode- pay off the French, Germans, and Russians with oil pumped with the UN’s tacit approval (don’t ask, don’t tell, eh Kofi?) outside of the sanctions regime to agitate by proxy in the Security Council for the removal of sanctions. The side effect of the UN corruption was to make Saddam rich and accumulate money for when the sanctions would be dropped, so that he might potentially restart his WMD programs, fund terror, etc. Who knows? But without the WMD and the active plans for mischief in the world, this argument falls short of justifying invasion, as it would be a war of choice when other forceful options short of invasion might do, and falls well short after the fact when the absence of WMD programs is revealed.

Which brings us to my rationale:

The options facing the US were not, as everyone keeps trying to assert in the back-and-forth on this issue, "war or not war", but rather "Continue the semi-explicit war on Iraq's people (low intensity bombing and sanctions) vs. Escalate and make explicit war on Iraq's state (high intensity ground combat operations).” The US has been at war with Iraq since 1991, a consequence of Bush Sr.’s ‘realpolitik’ decision to cut short the first Gulf War rather than directly ousting Saddam, and the legal fact that we never signed a peace treaty with Iraq (just a cease-fire). Instead, the US pulled up lame, incited the southern Shi’ites to rebel, and then let Saddam use his helicopters to mow them down[1]. The US then decided to wage indirect war on Saddam by crippling Iraq with trade sanctions, closing the border to goods and services and greatly constraining Iraq’s oil trade. Saddam, having taken several leads from Stalin, made himself coup-proof by executing anyone with ambition or creative thought in his inner circle, or even for several circles outside of that. So the US/UN coalition was left hoping, perversely and immorally, that if they made conditions horrid enough for the average Iraqi, they’d rebel (again?) and take Saddam out. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen.

So since 1992 and all the way through to 2003, the US and the UK have been bombing the south of Iraq daily (hitting radar sites, etc) in little pinpricks while overseeing the immiseration of the Iraqi people through trade sanctions that, also perversely, enriched Saddam at the same time. The sanctions ought to be in textbooks as examples of policies that result in the complete opposite of what was intended (they strengthened Saddam). The suffering of the Iraqi people[2] was used as a recruiting point for a different anti-western ideology, Al Qaeda.

The world, the US, and the Iraqi people needed to be rid of the sanctions regime, which was odious from a libertarian/moral perspective. The options then were: (A) stop the sanctions (end the war) and let Saddam ‘win’ by default, or (b) Escalate the war such that Saddam’s regime is eliminated (which would require invasion or something very close). Pre-9/11 there was no political stomach for another war in Iraq (involving ground troops), so if the US wasn’t going to do B, it needed to do A, which would have been a bad message to send, but at least some options approaching B might be implemented in the absence of the oil for fraud program, and in the meantime average Iraqis might be slightly better off.

Post 9/11, option A would send the message that it pays to slaughter westerners in massive terror attacks- “All you have to do to get what you want from the West is brutalize Arab civilians for propaganda purposes, and kill thousands of kaffir in exchange for a dozen martyrs! Tyranny and Al Qaeda Get Results!” Islamofascists have shown they need little incentive already to murder for the cause- providing additional incentives via evidence that geopolitical change is possible on the cheap using theatrical mass murder is asking for routine and unending butchery.

Thus, the US was between a rock and a hard place given its history and ongoing war with the country. 9/11 shut the door on ending the sanctions without war, and opened the possibility of option B. Finish the damn job, relieve the Iraqi people from their torment. In which case then, in reverse order, the other rationales come into play- Saddam was a thorn in America's side and odious, so eliminate a potential threat (rationale #3) and free the Iraqi people (rationale #2) and maybe, after all is said and done, leave Iraq a more liberal place in the end that might lead the region by example (rationale #1, SDB variant). Combine it all together and it passes the bar- eliminate one of the lesser rationales and it may not, eliminate my rationale and it definitely does not. Iraq is a very special case, indeed.

Finding WMDs, imminent threats, etc, were consequently meaningless to me as proximate rationales for the war.

The fact that we had to go and occupy Iraq to effect regime change & free the Iraqi people from international sanctions and pariah status sucks, no doubt. That the US government didn't even meet the low, low expectations of competence in the post-war administration classical liberals had prior to the fact also sucks hard core. That the federal government is using the Iraq war and the Terror War to justify all sorts of perfidy at home sucks (and is to be expected). But the suck would be with us one way or another, post 9/11, pretty much no matter what the US did, and I think in a much worse form had the US stuck with option A and let Saddam loose.

So to answer the question, yes, the invasion was a good idea, because the sanctions are gone, and Saddam is gone. I believe, too, that despite it all the Iraqi people are better off now than they were a year and a half ago, but that’s a matter of argument unrelated to Orin’s questions. Though I think it is impossible to argue the contrary.

fn1. I still don’t understand that.

fn2. The suffering due to the western sanctions, and not, of course, from Saddam’s home grown butchery.

Question 2 - What reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days?

Life after a 34 years of tyranny, 12 years of sanctions, and 6-7 years of ground war with Iran & and recent ground war with the US, sucks.

But more seriously, I think that the situation is not as bad as it seems due to framing effects and short-term memories. Prior to “mission accomplished” (the 3 week war), there were estimates of 5 to 10 thousand US soldiers that would be killed in the course of taking Baghdad (street by street), not to mention the other big cities. It was expected to take months to finish off the Iraqi army and deal with guerilla actions and pacifications. That didn’t happen in the initial invasion. US combat deaths have reached a thousand after 1.5 years. That’s not nearly as bad as the estimates. Its horrific in the particular, but relatively speaking the occupation, from a military standpoint, was a victim of its success. Since it didn’t take a bloodbath to take Baghdad, the war should be “done” and our boys and girls ought not be dying in theater, says the conventional wisdom. That they are dying is presented as evidence of “failure,” which I think isn’t fair in context. To an extent, the expectations of what the initial fighting would take were correct, but are playing out a year later (rebel cities, urban pacification missions, etc).

However, I leave all that aside as quibbles for others to roll over. When I hear of the troubles in Iraq, I see that the US government didn't even meet the low, low expectations of competence in the post-war administration that fellow classical liberals and I had prior to the fact. I don't think it can be shown that either the situation today, which is suboptimal even to my low standards[3], or a potential disaster in the future is the inevitable and foreseeable outcome of the war, but perhaps an inevitable outcome of half-assed half-measures, an inevitable outcome of going in without a plan and trying to wing it with political appointees(!) rather than making do with professionals.

I grant all the problems of central planning, top down administration, etc. Which is why the Bremer regime of micromanagement and centralization was beyond stupid, since it did all the things Hayek, Mises, et al. said not to do when it comes to administrating a country, an economy, or really any large undertaking. The only thing that the US could have foreseeably done well, and the most important thing the occupation authority could have done, was to guarantee the security situation and pass out largess. The latter isn't very libertarian, no (dispensing US citizens' taxes, etc), but that two-pronged effort at least acknowledges the severe limit to knowledge the occupying authority would have as well as the calculation & incentive problems. There should not have been contracts to Halliburton et al. for Iraqi infrastructure reconstruction except in the dire circumstances of having no Iraqi company capable of doing a particular job. The money should have gone to people who had tacit knowledge of their areas and local social networks. Money should also have gone to the sheikhs from day one, paying them in advance for good behavior, giving bonuses for those who turn in malcontents in their tribe or have completely pacific areas, and cutting off those who don't play ball (i.e. just like Saddam did to maintain power). They should have leveraged the three things the US had in abundance at the time- fear of our military might, mad cash, and the ability to move large amounts of goods and supplies into the country. On the military side, the tactic should have been to overwhelmingly swarm any sign of resistance[4], and pay out the nose to anyone and everyone who wants cash. Pay the Iraqi army to sit in their barracks. Pay the ex-Ba’ath bureaucrats to push paper around for a while. Whatever. Just keep everyone formerly attached to the old regime in the money (to keep the quiet in the short run), haul goods in quickly, and kill/maim anyone who tries to disrupt the peace.

The US government’s three areas of competence, generally speaking, are to blow things up, use violence/force, and spend/transfer money. That it did not do any of these things, either at all, very much, or very well in Iraq has led to the problems we have now.

Occupying a country after destroying its previous regime is, lets face it, an imperial/colonial exercise. The United States may not be colonizing Iraq nor particularly keen in keeping it as an imperial holding for any amount of time, but the situation is essentially an imperial/colonial undertaking. And if you're going on an imperial or colonial enterprise, you need to go all the way- don't half ass your imperialism, or you’ll get your entire ass handed back to you, probably with bullet holes or riddled with shrapnel. The quicker (and more 'ruthless') one is, the faster one goes home. That success in Iraq (as I see it) takes quick and ruthless action is a sorrow and another reason why war is bad, and that you don’t go on these kinds of adventures without the ‘perfect storm’, so to speak, of past history, high downside risk (to either moral sensibilities or the greater war on Islamofascism) to inaction, and the possibility of setting a number of bad things right.

Right now, because of US administrative incompetence and political management of the military operation, the resistance thinks that the US can be pushed around and then out if they kill or wound enough soldiers, or keep bombing civilians, and that’s because we let them get away with it, both by not paying the sheikhs to police their own and by letting cornered rats escape in Fallujah. If the US government is not willing to do what it takes to wipe the insurgents out (both carrot and stick), then we need to pull a Dean and cut and run, even though cutting and running would seriously worsen our short-to-medium term security situation (due to reputational effects). Half measures are far worse in the long run (as the whole 1991-2003 Iraq War has shown!).

fn3. I figured there would still be sporadic fighting & terrorism, but not de novo guerilla armies and rebel cities at this point.

fn4. Which would have required almost double the amount of troops we currently have in theater, most likely.

Question 3 - What specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

I object to the “invasion has been a success” question, mostly because the invasion is over and the occupation is a logically separate undertaking from the escalation that ended the Iraq War. But I’ll just change ‘invasion’ to ‘occupation’ and continue.

I’ll further change it up and put what I see as definite failure milestones:

The occupation has failed if in the next year the US armed forces have been bloodied as much or worse than in 2003-2004, and there is full-on civil war in Iraq in 2005. They ought to be able to contain the insurgency by then, and have thousands of Iraqi proxies to help (and who should be taking the brunt of the casualties). If the Iraqi successor state can’t manage a defense force by next year, then the US has really failed.

The occupation has failed if Iraq is an illiberal theocracy in 2005, whether or not it is an ally or neutral to the Islamofascists- and by that I mean an absolutist Iranian-style police-state theocracy with imposition of draconian shari’a law, not simply a conservative successor state run by Sistani and the DAWA clerics who govern as social conservatives but otherwise respect the rule of secular-but-Islam-friendly law. A merging of islam and state is a furthering of Al Qaeda goals, not those of the US/West.

If Iraq is an illiberal secular oligarchy/dictatorship, well... as far as dealing with foreign countries in the context of the War on Islamofascism, I'm still in the cold war mindset of "as long as you're not actively against us, and you cooperate with our larger security/ideological goals, I can tolerate some crap". Depends on how illiberal they are. If the new pigs in the farmhouse are the same as the old ones (i.e. a new strongman appears and starts flipping the bird to the US, aiding terrorists, etc), then we’ve failed massively and totally.

Some metrics for success:

Wage & economic growth.

Increased oil production.

Peaceful transition of power from one PM to another (I’d love to see Allawi either be defeated in the elections or willingly step down in favor of a new candidate- that’s the only way to wean yourself from dictatorship/strongmen)

Elimination of city-wide uprisings.

Increased electricity production & reliability.

Net inflow of population (of the non-Jihadi variety).

Regular local elections.

Secular army under civilian control.

Final thoughts

At the onset of the war, there were solid libertarian goals that could have been met (though with the odds stacked against them, of course):

(1) Saddam's brutal regime would be ended, which would also obviate the need for the sanctions regime, allowing trade, travel, and general commercial and social activity to resume, to the benefit of Iraq and the world.

(2) Iraq’s civil society could begin healing, restructuring, and growing after the removal of the Tyrant and the threat of omnipresent state/foreign violence.
(3) A relatively liberal, federal order could be constructed that would serve as a model for surrounding states.

The US has succeeded at #1, for the most part, though the insurgency and security problems are severely hampering potential growth and Iraqi trade with the outside world. But internal commerce, trade, travel and social activity has improved markedly since Saddam’s ouster. #2 is a mixed bag due to the insurgency, but the insurgency/terrorism is geographically limited and not pandemic, which is a bright side, at least. #3 is right out, and that’s all BushCo’s fault. They set up a centralized, non-federal system that will stack the deck against Iraqi liberals maintaining a decent government in the region. Almost for that failure alone, Bush oughtta be thrown out of office, but unfortunately Kerry has shown himself acutely uninterested in ameliorating the situation since all he has offered on the subject of Iraq is an intensification of the half-assed half-measures Bush has implemented in the first place, with a dollop of even more wishful thinking (i.e. that France & Germany will somehow agree to help us in Iraq when Bush is gone). Wishful thinking by Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush helped create the mess; we (as libertarian citizens of the US) need hard reality more than ever to animate US policy (either to stay or to go).

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Personally I slightly

Personally I slightly disagree with your point #2 on page 1. The US should not wage permanent war for permanent peace, but contrasting that versus doing nothing is a false dilemma. Recent Israeli tactics have demonstrated the effectiveness of cold-bloodedly gunning down enemy leaders. Surely the US has the muscle, via stealth bombers, bunker busters, mini-nukes etc, to single out and kill tyrants in situ without any actual ground war. They could have tried that against Saddam. Miss the first time, try again. Somebody else steps up to fill his shoes, kill them too. Not sure where he is? Hit everywhere he could be. Lobbing missiles is cheaper than invasion.

Heck, they could at least have stuck a billion-dollar bounty on his head, and let his own people do the deed.

So why didn't they?

Not to get in a big

Not to get in a big argument, but this statement sort of hit me:

(1) Saddamâ??s brutal regime would be ended, which would also obviate the need for the sanctions regime, allowing trade, travel, and general commercial and social activity to resume, to the benefit of Iraq and the world.

It seems that you are saying the following:

1. US is already aggressing against Iraq (sanctions).
2. Libertarians hate aggression and love free trade (we do!)
--> 3. Let agress more (i.e. invade and occupy and democratize and subsidize and...) to end 1) and satisfy 2).

Here's an analogous argument:

1. The US is already taxing citizens.
2. Libertarians hate taxation and like full ownership of one's property
--> 3. Let's tax everyone fully so that there is no income left of which to worry about.

Of course this doesn't follow. I think it applies to the argument as I interpreted it above. The antecedents (1) are wrong/unjust and your solution is another "bigger" wrong that would "obviate the need" for 1).

Idea: Stop 1) and stop the whole false implication!

Thoughts?

Michael: your analogy

Michael: your analogy doesn't hold. Here's a better one: some drunk guy is making a nuisance of himself in a bar. You've already slapped him down for picking on strangers, took away his weapons, and told him to sit down and shut the f*ck up. Now he's getting belligerent again, calling you names, and (while denying it) acting as if he had a knife hidden up his sleeve. Do you preempt? Do you wait until he makes his move first? Do you back off and let him have his way unchallenged?

Taxes are a bad analogy, because they're pure one-sided aggression, and because increasing them consistently makes things worse, all the way up the scale from infinitessimal to 100%.

Fighting is different. Where enmity is mutual and reasonable compromise can't be reached, sometimes the most ruthless solution is the least harmful.

I'll make my argument

I'll make my argument against the Iraq invasion as simple as possible. this argument only applies if your'e a libertarian, or someone with clear thinking (arguably the same thing)

1. Although Iraq was a generally hostile nation to its neighbors and often those not so close (Isreal), the fact remains that The Iraqi republic never once, directly or indirectly, aggresed against the United states preemptively. Not once. During the invasion of Kuwait Iraqui forces fought the american military only because it happened to be in a country which they were invading, I know that sounds like a dumb argument at first, but from a libertarian point of view the U.S has no business interceding in the wars of other countries which do not affect America directly. such is intervention and often excused by too much realpolitick.

2. There never was any link found between Saddam and the 911 attacks, none, ever, unless you consider skin color a connection.

3. The U.S or any other state has no business telling soveriegn countries that they cannot develop nukes. This is very much like the one guy who owned guns first in a town of 193 people telling another resident that they cannot own guns becuase they could be a danger to their neighbors. How can that argument be libertarian.

4. War is the states largest, most violent, and expensive racket, this one is no exception. The american occupation authority which has replaced Saddam, regularly engages in tyrannies that would make any lover of liberty cringe with shock and disgust if they were conducted on american soil. Massive warrantless property searches and confiscations, arrest and detention without due process, confiscation of the civilian populations firearms, etc.. If one is going to justify the gigantic taxation costs of war then it had damned well better be a justified war, ie: one which is conducted in direct self defense. (see point 1)

thats as simple as I could make it and yes is did miss many other points out

thats as simple as I could

thats as simple as I could make it and yes is did miss many other points out

WADR, none of your points had anything to do with Brian's reason for supporting the war, and I'd guess he agrees with a lot of what you wrote. Specifically, his argument is that, the current state of US policy was one of sanctions and containment. The options were to either continue in that status quo or remove Saddam or completely withdraw. I realize most libertarians would support complete withdrawal, but after 9/11, what kind of message would have been sent to the nutcase dictators of the world if Saddam had won the power play?

The U.S or any other state has no business telling soveriegn countries that they cannot develop nukes.

Really? Does this include a man who murders millions and tortures children in front of their parents? Does this include Crazy Kim of North Korea? Since when did tyrants deserve rights? How can a libertarian support individual rights for 'sovereign' dictators?

1. US is already aggressing

1. US is already aggressing against Iraq (sanctions).
2. Libertarians hate aggression and love free trade (we do!)
â??> 3. Let agress more (i.e. invade and occupy and democratize and subsidize andâ?¦) to end 1) and satisfy 2).

Let's elaborate the scenario:

1. Saddam is aggressing against individuals within the territorial monopoly he controls. He partakes in murder, atrocities, and genocide regularly. The victims of this aggression are Iraqis.

2. The US is aggressing on the territorial monopoly of Iraq via sanctions for the failed and morally bankrupt policy of trying to starve a nation into rebellion. The victims of this aggression are Iraqis.

3. Libertarians hate aggression and love free trade. Thus the US should aggress less on the territorial monopoly with the result that Saddam can get back to aggressing against Iraqis? Or, given the fact that the US started an act of aggression on Saddam back in 1991, should it finish its aggression against Saddam because his level of aggression against Iraqis is a different, higher order of magnitude than any tyrant-wannabe in the US govt, at a level that would make even John Ashcroft blush?

I think it's clear that "non-aggression" cannot be used when we're talking about states precisely because libertarians believe in using methodological individualism to analyze ethics. Collateral damage makes libertarian ethics even more difficult to come up with black and white answers. Some of the worst libertarian arguments against the war were along the lines of "the US govt is aggressing against Saddam's govt".

Given that taxation exists and militaries are monopolized by governments, libertarians have to do what many of them often hate doing - step outside the NAP-centric worldview and analyze consequences. In a world of gangs which none of us choose to be born in nor support, when the only choices are evil, which are the least evil?

Julian- Saddam invaded

Julian-

Saddam invaded KUWAIT. Per your example, the drunk guy was on private property invading your space and actually threatening you. Saddam never did those things w.r.t. the US. If he did, then defense is legitimate.

Michael, Saddam invaded

Michael,

Saddam invaded KUWAIT. Per your example, the drunk guy was on private property invading your space and actually threatening you. Saddam never did those things w.r.t. the US. If he did, then defense is legitimate.

Saddam the drunk has a long history of being boisterous and threatening his neighbors Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Does the Good Samaritan Corollary of the NAP not apply? If I see a man being attacked physically by another man on the street, can I not help defend him?

Jonathan: "Thus the US

Jonathan:

"Thus the US should aggress less on the territorial monopoly with the result that Saddam can get back to aggressing against Iraqis?"

YES!

Scenario:

You see Jones agress against Jim. You come to me -- your neighbor -- and tell me about this horrible thing. I agree that bad things are going on. You then confiscate my rake, axe and $50 to stop said aggression. Is that just?

Inaction in the face of aggression against others does make one responsible for that aggression. You have a right and perhaps moral duty to do your best to help them, however, you cannot force others to do so. Stopping aggression...with aggression!

Michael, You see Jones

Michael,

You see Jones agress against Jim. You come to me â?? your neighbor â?? and tell me about this horrible thing. I agree that bad things are going on. You then confiscate my rake, axe and $50 to stop said aggression. Is that just?

That's an argument against taxation, and one that I agree with. But given the fact that the rake, axe, and $50 have already been confiscated, what do you prefer happens?

Or put it another way -

Given the fact that the US govt takes your money to pay for public schools, are you obligated to not send your kids to public schools?

Given the fact that the US govt licenses physicians via the AMA, are you obligated to not see an AMA-certified doctor?

If a army of full-blown socialists invaded the US, am I obligated to not hope that the US govt fends them off?

"If I see a man being

"If I see a man being attacked physically by another man on the street, can I not help defend him?"

Go ahead! I will help you if my percerption of costs and benefits of such a venture deem intervention worthy.

Your policy makes my cost/benefit calculation worthless. Your are using an arbitrary "American" cost/benefit analysis that ignores the possiblilty that I don't want to pay for bombs, I don't want more terrorism and I don't want to be drafted.

Jonathan (I'm trying to

Jonathan (I'm trying to responded to all your points):

Socialism is best defined as a system that pervasively confiscates the wealth and property of citizens to help other citizens. Your argument that US gov't has an obligation to aid foriegners in need is socialism in different clothes. If you don't see it, then you don't understand libertarianism.

"Thatâ??s an argument against taxation, and one that I agree with. But given the fact that the rake, axe, and $50 have already been confiscated, what do you prefer happens?"

This is a very dangerous slippery slope. Just replace "war of liberation" with "war on poverty", "medicare" or any other gov't program. In a sense, you have tried to justify all gov't spending: "They have my money, why not use it?!"

"Given the fact that the US govt takes your money to pay for public schools, are you obligated to not send your kids to public schools?"

Not relevant to the argument. We should rephrase it like this:

"Given that fact that the US govt takes your money to pay for public schools, are you obligated to not support the government setting up public schools in other countries?"

I am going to ask you (and any other Iraq-war supporter) who uses "humanitarian/good samaritan" goals the following:

Do you support the use of force against innocents (in this case me the taxpayer) to help others?

Your answer should reveal a lot, because I think that a "yes" implies socialism.

Finally, there is a fundamental problem with person-to-state analogies that people here (and, ironically, many socialists) tend to make. Julian's first response is indicative. I mentioned State action and you reduced the argument to something about "drunk guys", or individuals. However, the State and the individual are very different beasts. Again, to your example:

You have every right to stop the drunk guy. However, can you start shooting indiscriminately into the bar to "save it" from him? Can you steal from the register to fund the operation? No, you can't.

I believe that the only legitimate libertarian argument that can be used to justify a war is a one based on defense. Any other is reducible to some socialist planning analogy that none of us want to find ourselves in. Brian's post (which this is supposed to be about) tries to do this...with what I consider a false dichotomy:

The options facing the US were not, as everyone keeps trying to assert in the back-and-forth on this issue, â??war or not war", but rather â??Continue the semi-explicit war on Iraqâ??s people (low intensity bombing and sanctions) vs. Escalate and make explicit war on Iraqâ??s state (high intensity ground combat operations).â??

Is this defense? I have a problem set to do...

Saddam the drunk has a long

Saddam the drunk has a long history of being boisterous and threatening his neighbors Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Does the Good Samaritan Corollary of the NAP not apply? If I see a man being attacked physically by another man on the street, can I not help defend him?

This metaphor as originally proposed by Julian and extended by Jonathan has two major problems.

1) Only bluster is directed at us, not aggression. Iraq had no ability to hurt the US. So what we have is a drunk guy who lives in the next state over who beats up his neighbors and makes macho statements about how we suck and someday he'll get us too. This is very different from getting in our face. The "same bar" metaphor is absurd when there is half a world between us and Iraq has no ICBM's and no long-range bombers.

2) Stolen resources are used to deal with the problem. Its not you helping defend someone. It's you stealing a credit card to fill your car with gas, stealing a knife, stealing food from your neighbor's fridge, and using the stolen gas, knife, and food to go to the next state and deal with the drunk guy.

In fact, we're not only stealing economic resources but human ones. When we get to the next state, we don't slap the drunk down ourselves. We find the neighborhood watch, who signed up to stop thieves and child molestors and help old ladies across the street. They were stupid enough to sign a contract which says that anyone with a badge can tell 'em what to do, and because we have a badge we force them to go deal with the drunk, even though some of them get killed doing it.

I was glad to see Brian recognize the horrendous incompetence of the US. It blows my mind to see libertarians advocating a massive government-run tax-financed boondoggle as the solution to a problem. I think one of the many powerful arguments against the war is that while we might wish for effective action against terrorists, when we have only the Village Idiots of the public sector to run it, it may be better not to act.

(FWIW, I'm an advocate of the "no sanctions, no invasion" policy, and I think the result of doing so would have been less violence against the US, not more).

"I realize most libertarians

"I realize most libertarians would support complete withdrawal, but after 9/11, what kind of message would have been sent to the nutcase dictators of the world if Saddam had won the power play?"

To Wilde.
You see it should not be a matter of â??what kind of message would have been sentâ?? but a question of what is the jurisprudent and constitutional course of action. Using 911 as an excuse for â??needingâ?? to invade Iraq without sufficient evidence to make the connection is unjustifiable, and criminal in nature. If Saddam had nothing to do with the WTC destruction then there was no need for a power play. Having to win a â??power playâ??, even if the opponent is not guilty of the accusations against him, is quite simply childish.

I was actually very careful

I was actually very careful in my analogy. Saddam-the-drunk has only been picking on on strangers and throwing threats your way. Doesn't mean the threats are plausible. Doesn't mean you can necessarily ignore them either. And if you back off, it's certain he'll continue being a bully.

Obviously, any analogy an be over-stretched. I agree that the resources used to conduct war were stolen, and I agree any regular war kills innocents, which is unacceptable. Still, if you'll reference my first post on the thread, I don't think war per se was the only or best solution - I prefer asassination, and that could have been done privately. Even if all the USGov had done was legalize posting bounties on dictatorial foreign leaders, that might have been enough. Private money could have been raised, private missions organized.

"Doesnâ??t mean the threats

"Doesnâ??t mean the threats are plausible. Doesnâ??t mean you can necessarily ignore them either. And if you back off, itâ??s certain heâ??ll continue being a bully."

Of course "the threat is plausible," it's a simple thought experiment. It doesn't follow that it is real.

Why can't we ignore him if he isn't threatening us?

There are a lot of bullies in the world (and when I was in high school), but I don't attack any of them unless they attack/threaten me first. You have the burden of proof here: why can you use the US gov't to attack Iraq because a "bully" was running the place?

If you think private assasination was the best option, then why defend the war?

Julian - I still feel that

Julian - I still feel that the "same bar" part of your metaphor was inaccurate. Iraq had the ability to invade Kuwait and Iran. That is very, very different from having the ability to seriously damage the US. Striking at that distance takes resources that Iraq does not have.

As Michael comments, the world is full of bullies. It seems to me we should restrict ourselves to the most dangerous, and I don't think Iraq is anywhere near qualifying. North Korea is far more of a genuine threat.

While assassination might be an effective solution, politically it is impossible. What world leader is going to promote a policy which says its OK to kill other world leaders? He'd much rather lots of citizens on both sides die than set a dangerous precedent which might earn him a bullet to the head.

Michael, I am going to ask

Michael,

I am going to ask you (and any other Iraq-war supporter) who uses â??humanitarian/good samaritanâ?? goals the following:

Do you support the use of force against innocents (in this case me the taxpayer) to help others?

No. But that's a different a question that has nothing to do with Brian's reason for hoping the US finishes the job it started in 1991. Your question is about the legal rules that ought to exist based on principles of ethics. However, when a legal rule exists that establishes policy going exist simple libertarian statements of ethics like "Don't initiate force", the question changes. Of course I wish that no legal rules existed that "inititated force" and if it's a question of "Do you wish to change legal rule X to be more consistent the NAP?" then by all means the answer is an emphatic yes.

However, the question changes when a legal rule exists that violates the NAP. The US government already initiates force by confiscating funds from Americans in order to pay for government schools. If the question is, "Ought government schools be abolished?" of course I would answer yes. But, the fact remains that government schools do exist, and the US govt takes my money from me without my permission. Am I obligated to avoid public schools? No. It might not be a good idea to use public schools, especially one wishes to learn how to think and not be indoctrinated, but nobody is obligated to not use them. A poor person can, with full ethical consistency, be both opposed to public schooling and send his kids to public school. They already took the money he would use to choose schools in a free market. His choice is not truely free.

Same with libertarians who use roads, doctors, cable TV, Federal Reserve Notes, and the post office. Same with the US govt's monopolization of military services. A world in which private military organizations existed to cleanly and efficiently dispose of tyrants, whether the purpose be self-defense or defense of others living under tyranny, would be a better, more ethical world. Yet, it does not exist today. If an army of full-blown socialists came rampaging across the Canadian Border, I would without remorse state my hope that the US govt defeated them.

Why canâ??t we ignore him if he isnâ??t threatening us?

Who is "we" and "us"? I certainly do not consider myself a part of the US govt collective. But I can see how you wouldn't understand Brian's argument if you see yourself as part of the US govt collective. The US govt is simply another gang, one that I have little affinity for as my daily blog postings show. It is the most powerful gang, but not nearly the most evil. It has been partaking in aggression against Iraqis since 1991. The question at hand was not, "Ought the legal rules change such that territorial defense is provided on the free market?", but rather "Given that Gang A is in a chronic act of aggression against people B as a result of unfinished aggression against Gang B which is run by an inhumane dictator which has tyrannized people B and has a tendency to aggress against other gangs an people around him, what do I, someone who considers himself a sovereign individual by right if not by law, and who has has little impact on the actions each gang partakes other than possible changing public opinion at the margin, hope the actions taken by the various gangs are?"

The answer to the former question is simple. The answer to the second question is much more complicated than a simple, "Don't initiate force! Don't inititate force!" Libertarian ethics in a world of egoists without a sovereign power is relatively straightforward. Libertarians ethics in a political world is not so simple. To try to apply the former to the latter is not as clearcut as some might believe, as the actions of libertarians in the second-best world of today indicate.

I am going to ask you (and any other Iraq-war supporter) who uses â??humanitarian/good samaritanâ?? goals the following...

Why do you assume I am an Iraq war supporter? If you look at the sidebar under "popular entries", the first post you will find is my main reason for opposing the war. I just dislike bad arguments against the war. The number one reason why more libertarian-leaning conservatives aren't libertarians is not because they are "dirty neocons", but rather because they see so many bad libertarian arguments against the war.

i oppose this war because

i oppose this war because its a false war. it had nothing to do with 911 or terrorism. its a facade in order to illegally wedge troops/weapons systems physically between iran and israel. the distance between the two future combatants is too short for comfort. they'll go at it anyway, but the US administration is trying to preempt that outcome. i oppose the obvious falsehood of the popular media delusions about this war, not the idea of preempting the probable welterweight nuclear championship of the world. tell it like it is, thats all.

Jonathan- You missed my

Jonathan-

You missed my point with the schools thing again, bring up a false analogy. Here is my rephrased question that I think says it all:

â??Given that fact that the US govt takes your money to pay for public schools, are you obligated to not support the government setting up public schools in other countries?â??

No, you aren't.

You write: "Am I obligated to avoid public schools?"

No, you aren't. The roads, police, etc too. But here is an example on par with the Iraq one that illustrates you are using a false analogy

1. Taxes bad (get that out of the way)
2. The US uses tax money to fund the DEA.
3. The DEA does bad things.

Are you obligated to avoid using the DEA? Yes, if by use you mean exactly what I mean by "using" US military intervention. i.e. you don't "use" public schools in the same way the US "uses" military intervention. I hope that is clear.

"Given that fact that the US

"Given that fact that the US govt takes your money to pay for public schools, are you obligated to not support the government setting up public schools in other countries?"

No, nobody is obligated to not support it. You are conceding my point.

1. Taxes bad (get that out of the way)
2. The US uses tax money to fund the DEA.
3. The DEA does bad things.

Are you obligated to avoid using the DEA? Yes, if by use you mean exactly what I mean by â??usingâ?? US military intervention. i.e. you donâ??t â??useâ?? public schools in the same way the US â??usesâ?? military intervention. I hope that is clear.

You have changed the argument. Earlier in the thread, you were claiming that while territorial defense and help to those suffering tyranny were just, the taxation that funded them were wrong, and thus one cannot be a libertarian and support the war. You are now claiming that the actions taken by the US govt after taxation are morally wrong. That's a whole different argument, and the "confiscating your rake and axe to help Jim fend off Jones" argument no longer applies.

You see it should not be a

You see it should not be a matter of a "what kind of message would have been sent" but a question of what is the jurisprudent and constitutional course of action. Using 911 as an excuse for "needing" to invade Iraq without sufficient evidence to make the connection is unjustifiable, and criminal in nature. If Saddam had nothing to do with the WTC destruction then there was no need for a power play. Having to win a "power play", even if the opponent is not guilty of the accusations against him, is quite simply childish.

What exactly makes deposing Saddam "criminal"? What makes him "not guilty"?

Saddam is one of the biggest criminals on the planet and is guilty of crimes against humanity on a scale rarely surpassed in history. I find it appalling that some (not most) libertarians defend this bastard so that they can fit the square facts into the round holes of their ideology that "war is always wrong".

While the US govt are not angels, they are angels compared to the Ba'athists. It's naive to think that the US leaving Iraq wouldn't have changed Saddam's stature in the Arab world and empowered him to be even a greater criminal. But hey, thinking about things like that is just "childish", so let's not do it.

Saddam is one of the biggest

Saddam is one of the biggest criminals on the planet and is guilty of crimes against humanity on a scale rarely surpassed in history.

This doesn't sound like the planet I'm familiar with. Saddam doesn't even compare with people you've written about in May Day. How many people has he killed? Even if we blame him for all the deaths in the Iran-Iraq war, that's less than a million. Our sanctions and bombing, which were ineffectual at removing Saddam, killed more Iraqis than that. Let alone the Khmer Rouge, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and a number of African leaders whose names are less famous.

Yeah, he was a politically repressive dictator. History is full of them. This doesn't make it right, but I've seen no evidence to make him stand out from the large crowd of murderous tyrants.

Its not criminal for you to depose Saddam. It is criminal for you to do it with my money.

This doesnâ??t sound like

This doesnâ??t sound like the planet Iâ??m familiar with. Saddam doesnâ??t even compare with people youâ??ve written about in May Day. How many people has he killed? Even if we blame him for all the deaths in the Iran-Iraq war, thatâ??s less than a million. Our sanctions and bombing, which were ineffectual at removing Saddam, killed more Iraqis than that. Let alone the Khmer Rouge, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and a number of African leaders whose names are less famous.

Estimates vary, but the tally is anywhere between 1 million and 2 million. That is essentially the same number as the estimates for the Khmer Rouge. He is one of the biggest butchers in history. He has gassed, tortured, and buried alive.

As I said before, I am not part of the "we" that killed Iraqis. I had nothing to do with it. I opposed those actions and the first Gulf War, and the current Gulf War.

Yeah, he was a politically repressive dictator. History is full of them. This doesnâ??t make it right, but Iâ??ve seen no evidence to make him stand out from the large crowd of murderous tyrants.

I'm not making him "stand out". I'm an equal opportunity tyrant exposer. I'm simply appalled at some libertarian arguments that give this guy "sovereignty" and call his deposition "criminal".

Its not criminal for you to depose Saddam. It is criminal for you to do it with my money.

"I" am not doing it with your money. A gang called the US goverment has already taken your money. Yes, it is criminal for them to do this. I'm just a guy who similarly has had his money taken from him who writes on a blog. All I can do is try to determine what consequences will result from the actions funded by our already stolen money after the crime has been committed and try to see which actions by this gang will yield less crimes in the future. It's not as simple as "Don't initiate force!" If it really was as simple as that, then libertarians would also avoid public roads, the post office, tap water, and FDA approved drugs. Force has already been initiated, and the best outcome (by my standards) is all I can hope for.

You're right about the

You're right about the "them/you" distinction. I will rephrase: it is not wrong for them to depose Saddam, it is wrong for them to do it with our money. (And possibly for them to kill civilians while doing it). And I agree with you that it is foolish for a libertarian to consider him sovereign or his deposition criminal.

But as for Saddam's murderousness, the source you cite includes 500,000 deaths due to the US's economic sanctions following the Gulf War. I don't think its fair to lay this at Saddam's door rather than the US's. In addition, America directly backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, ie from Wikipedia:

Starting in 1982 with Iranian success on the battle field, the United States changed its less announced policy of backing Iraq to a clear direct support, supplying it with weapons and economic aid, and normalizing relations with the government (broken during the 1967 Six-Day War). In particular, the United States, along with its allies (among them Britain, France and Italy), provided Iraq with biological and chemical weapons and the precursors to nuclear capabilities. The United States also engaged in a series of naval battles with Iranian forces in 1987 and 1988. The cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with the loss of all 290 passengers and crew on July 3, 1988. The American government said that the airliner had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat which had been in the same general area as the civilian plane shortly beforehand. Perhaps the most important support for Iraq was allowing the neutral oil tankers heading to Iraqi ports to fly the American flag, and thus be safe from Iranian attack, guaranteeing Iraq's revenue stream for the duration of the war.
[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-Iraq_War ]

It looks to me like the US is responsible for some of the war deaths also. Would the war have dragged on for so long without oil revenue? I doubt it - wars are expensive and oil is the main source of Iraqi wealth. So the totals for which Saddam is responsible I think are well below a million. As for the "gassed, tortured, and buried alive", that does not distinguish him among tyrants in the slightest. Torture has been part of the tyrant's modus operandi for millenia.

Yeah, he was a tyrant. But he was no Stalin or Mao or Hitler...

Yeah, he was a tyrant. But

Yeah, he was a tyrant. But he was no Stalin or Mao or Hitlerâ?¦

Mao and Stalin controlled vastly larger populations. Based on the number of people under his control, he is comparable. I can't think of any modern-day dictator who might be worse other than Kim and Mugabe.

But as for Saddamâ??s murderousness, the source you cite includes 500,000 deaths due to the USâ??s economic sanctions following the Gulf War. I donâ??t think its fair to lay this at Saddamâ??s door rather than the USâ??s. In addition, America directly backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, ie from Wikipedia:

The economic sanctions were from the UN, so the US govt is not solely responsible for them. So are the nations of the UN. But as I said before, I did not support either the sanctions or the first Gulf War.

People seem to be misunderstanding my point about the relative 'badness' of the Ba'athists and the US govt. I don't 'support' either one. I just find some of the arguments against the war unimpressive. It's not that I think that the US govt is pure and unblemished. I just think given the fact that we live in a world of gangs, a argument can be made that one gang beating up another gang isn't the worst thing that can happen. But simple statements like "Don't initiate force" and "the US govt is conducting warrantless searches" and "the US govt did something bad 5 years ago" are not helpful without comparing to the alternative.

Blogosphere Challenge -- The

Blogosphere Challenge -- The Final Links:
Last week I asked the prowar blogosphere to respond to three questions I had about Iraq. Here are the three questions:First, assuming that you were in favor of th...

Blogosphere Challenge -- The

Blogosphere Challenge -- The Final Links:
Last week I asked the prowar blogosphere to respond to three questions I had about Iraq. Here are the three questions:First, assuming that you were in favor of th...