Afghanistan, Conservatives and Libertarians. Telling off the King.

There is an upsurge of hostility to the war in Afghanistan in conservative circles. Thus, the Independent Institute, an organization I have been supporting modestly but faithfully for years has a spate of statements against our anti-Taliban operations there. It’s understandable but disappointing.

Part of the reason for some conservative reserve is simply childish tit-for-tat: “You libs berated Bush about his war, in Iraq; the shoe is on the other foot and we will berate you about Obama’s war in Afghanistan.” It matters not to this mindset that it’s only Obama’s war in the trivial sense that he is not using his powers to withdraw.

The main cause of the upsurge of hostility comes from the strong libertarian component in our midst. Libertarians, by definition, dislike big government. They observe, correctly, that every war enlarges the importance and the power of government in relation to civil society, to society in general. They assert further that the taxation capability governments acquires in war time – largely with the help of the suspension of criticality occasioned by patriotism – is seldom rolled back. Thus, war means irreversible growth of the state and a corresponding shrinking of individual liberties. Hence, libertarians tend to be reflexively isolationists.

Of course, I think this is all true. However, this is only part of the story. It’s futile to ignore the concrete, short-term questions facing this country with respect to its involvement in Afghanistan. Here are three:

1 If we allow the Taliban, the same group that hosted Al Qaeda and refused to turn Bin Laden over after 9/11, to seize again Afghanistan, do we think they will not do it again? I did not make up the assertion that they are the same group. If they were not, they would have taken the trouble to call themselves something else. By the way, the Taliban top leader then is still the top leader now. If we pick up and go home, isn’t it undeniable that it communicates to our enemies the following message: “Do whatever you want to us; we will not punish you, at least, not much.” I mean by “enemies” first those who have asserted loudly that they will continue killing us because of who we are. I mean, secondarily, those who don’t quite want to blow us off the face of the earth but would enjoy seeing us much diminished.

In one word: Isn’t it the case that leaving our declared enemies alone is plain dangerous? Ben Franklin said it best, “If we make ourselves into sheep, the wolves will eat us.”

2 No one doubts that the Taliban, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and Islamists in general, want to implement barbaric policies and that they do implement them whenever they have a chance. (Remember, their harsh, extremist rule in parts of Iraq contributed to turning the Sunni population against them.) Among other rolling atrocities, the Taliban close, and often firebomb schools, overwhelmingly girls schools. They are overtly working on perpetuating obscurantism and the savage treatment of women that is undeniably common in much (but not all) of the Muslim world.

If you are a conservative, can your really read the short statement above, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “ I don’t care; none of my business”?

3 Is it not the case that a return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan would boost the morale and improves the material means of extremists Islamists in Pakistan next door. Such a development would have two unpleasant consequences, one strategic, one moral. An Islamist accession to power, or even an increase in influence of extremist Islamists in Pakistan would greatly enlarge the arsenal at the disposal of terrorists everywhere, including with portable nuclear devices. The resources of a large modern state at the disposal of those who hate us greatly threatens our existence, our democracy, and our ability to restrict the encroachments of our own government. Israel’s continued inability to deal effectively with Hezbollah, armed and trained by Iran, gives us a pretty good idea of what would happen if Islamists gained control of the much larger Pakistan.

The second consequence is this: India, facing a nuclear-armed Pakistan that it beat three times in war previously would not let Islamist terrorists come close to taking over the nuclear sites. It would probably strike pre-emptively. Hundreds of thousands would die because of our lack of enthusiasm for continuing the Afghan operation.

It’s not obvious that this chain of events would unavoidably unfold but are we willing to take the risk instead of committing the resources needed to wipe out our declared enemies in Afghanistan?

I know, I know, we are not the policeman for the world. Yet, when there is no police, armed vigilance is necessary. Would anyone argue that this vigilance is best exercised on the beaches outside San Diego, or in New Jersey, or in Chicago?

PS (9/16/09)   Our NATO allies are letting us down: Germany, Canada, and soon the UK. The Canadians paid their price, as usual. The Europeans, beginning with the Germans, lack courage. Theirs are aging and decaying societies, undermined by thirty years of social democracy. Social democracy German style is Obama’s model, I believe, not Soviet communism. Peoples pay a psychological and cultural price not often discussed for living in a nanny-state. (Perhaps the topic of another posting.)

NATO binds us, the Europeans and others, in a mutual defense pact. The effeminate western Europeans pretend to have forgotten the US protected them from barbarism for forty years. Among the “others” in NATO, are the Turks. They are the ones we need in Afghanistan: very tough, uncomplaining, not wussy, and mostly Muslim. Why are they not there in large numbers?

Libertarians keep avoiding this sort of debate. They tend to respond to the kind of arguments  about the necessity for extended defense I make above with straight statements of dogma. That’s one of the reasons the Libertarian Party does so badly in national elections, I will bet. There are many more libertarians outside the Libertarian Party than inside.

The liberals keep showing their childishness by keeping alive the pseudo-arguments of racism in connection with Congressman’s Wilson’s vituperation during the President’s nth health care reform speech.

Here is their logic: I yelled at a woman who allowed her dog to crap on my lawn and made no move to pick up. “You must hate women,” she asserted.You call, a black criminal a criminal, you must be a racist. You call a liar a liar, there must be some other agenda, one impossible to defend.

Congressman Wilson accused the President aloud of lying. Fact is, the President made several statements inconsistent with the truth, according to the Congressional Budget Office, among others. Whether the President lies habitually or whether he is indifferent to hard facts is a matter of debate. The first is certainly a logical possibility.

The underlying outrage concerns some imaginary “disrespect” for the President. Of course it’s disrespectful to call any man a liar to his face, and in public. Since when is there an obligation to respect the President? He is not a king by divine right. He is a politician who won because about 1% of all Americans gave him their vote which they denied to his competitor. That’s not exactly God’s mandate! Incidentally, I am not questioning the results of the elections, in spite of the support the President received from the ACORN gangsters.

In a democracy, disrespect for the President should be considered a morally mandatory attitude among citizens. The English started western democracy by beheading a king in 1688. The French followed through a hundred years later (and made a better spectacle of it, as you might expect.) Let’s remember that those were the cultural and psychological antecedents to popular sovereignty.

Yes, there are people tenuously in touch with reality on the conservative side, and extremists. Of course, such people don’t exist on the left side of the spectrum. Here is a rare exception culled from Facebook. (I will not publish the author’s name but I will give the proper references for purposes of verification to almost anyone who asks.)

“I know XXXXX. I was like finally! Go Rocky! Fight, fight! Stop trusting those fools. Hell will freeze over before they do something good fro this country. Enough is enough man. Damn. They all need to be euthanized or shot in my opinion. Something radical :)”

Note: Nothing edited except the name of the addressee which I removed. JD.

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12 thoughts on “Afghanistan, Conservatives and Libertarians. Telling off the King.

  1. I was reading and enjoying your article until I came upon the remark, ” No one doubts that the Taliban, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and Islamists in general, want to implement barbaric policies and that they do implement them whenever they have a chance. ” This knee-jerk reaction to comparing the Taliban to “Islamists in general” is like stating that all Catholics are pedophiles because a handful of priests are. Once I read this naive and xenophobic, racist remark…there was no need to finish your article. it lost all credibility. Be careful when writing political overviews that you contain your arguments to salient facts and not let your personal hatred of Islam color your commentary.

    • Is Shari’a law not part of Islam? And does Shari’a law subjugate women [misogyny], all non-believers [bigotry and intolerance] and offer the death penalty for apostates and people with different ways of living as a result of nature as opposed to nurture? [hate and intolerance at its highest level]. Aside from giving men and boys the right to beat women and use their wives and daughters like playthings or farm animals, what does Islam offer that is comparable to a life free of religion? Some Priests are pedophiles, others are child rapists, all are hypocrites who preach love while advocating unequal rights between men and women and no rights for children per se other than the unborn to whom they grant more rights than they allow for their potential mothers. Feel free to list my non-salient facts.

      • Fact: Not all Islamists practice Shria law
        Fact: Not all Islamists are Taliban
        Fact: Many priest are staunch advocates for equality for all.
        Fact: You don’t have a clue what you are writing about.

      • I didn’t ask if all Islamist practice Shari’a law. I asked if Shari’a law was part and parcel of Islam. Can Islam exist without Shari’a? Shari’a law is a code of law based upon the Koran, which is to say it is the equivalent of the Ten Commandments based upon the bible. Neither are optional unless one is a false believer or an apostate.

        From Al-Jazeerah’s Info Space:

        “Islamic Shari’a (Islamic Law) represents a major component of God’s Message of Guidance to humanity, as revealed through His Books and taught by His Messengers, for thousands of years.

        In fact, the entire religion of Islam is God’s Shari’a or body of laws, which are intended to guide humans in how to live happily on Earth and be also rewarded with God’s content in the Hereafter. Thus, those who look for understanding Shari’a can find it contained in the Islamic teachings, in the Holy Quran and the Sunna”.

        I never said that all Islamist were Taliban. I did say that Shari’a law demands that a man keep his wife, daughter, grand-daughter, etc., honorable and obedient.

        All Priests are advocates of equality for all, except, as Napoleon once said,
        “At Animal Farm, all animals are equal. But some are more equal than others.” As long as one is subservient to some mystical god or other entity grown out of superstition and fear, equality is a term of relativity far removed from specific quantification.

        As to clues, I’ll leave them for the reader to pick through.

  2. (Charles I was beheaded in 1649, not 1688 😉 )

    Good article! I, for one, feel it’s the moral duty of an any developed country to help poorer nations; nations which, through their poverty, frequently host some pretty vile ideological cultures making military action inevitable. That would certainly include the Taliban – it simply won’t do to pretend it isn’t our problem.

  3. I think this piece explains well the failure of the GOP to win influence in national elections over the past 12 years. Thanks!

    Libertarians don’t “avoid” the debate over NATO. We’ve made our case plain and simple: get out. The Soviet Union is long gone. The Balkans and Afghanistan have been complete, abject failures. None of this is surprising. Imperialism is a government program, after all.

    The desire of imperialists (on the Left and the Right) to conflate the Taliban with Islamism is telling. Oversimplifying a situation in the name of a government program has never bode well for anybody involved, including the con artists doing the oversimplifying (see my point about about the irrelevance of the GOP in national politics above). Scaremongering (nuclear war between India and Pakistan if we leave Afghanistan? Really?) within a democratic society is often described as ___________ (fill in the blank).

    –Rick: your question about Sharia being part and parcel of Islam is a good one. The answer is ‘no’ there would be no Islam without Sharia, just as there would be no Judaism without its religious laws. I think what dmchale is trying to get at is that Sharia is not really a set of laws, but more of a set of guidelines for how to live piously. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation (like the Bible in Christianity).

    It does not follow, therefore, that Sharia law necessarily means imposing the explicit word of the Quran upon a populace. There are too many people with too many different interpretations of Islam for this to ever be possible. The fact that some Muslims attempt to impose their will upon others through the use of force, and in the name of Islam, does not necessarily mean that Islam is responsible for the violence. Was Christianity responsible for the violence in Northern Ireland, or was that just a convenient rhetorical weapon for terrorists and imperialists alike?

    The origins of Islamism, by the way, can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century. I wonder why?!

  4. I wonder when we will become enlightened enough to stop imposing our values on other cultures. Regardless of my opinion about covering women from head to toe, if the people of that culture support that practice, who am I to tell them any different?

    The only criteria I would use is whether the actions of another people affect me. In that case, would the relatives of the innocent civilians killed during drone strikes have the same rights to retribution as the US does for the loss of its innocent citizens?

  5. […] The improvement of the state apparatus in Islamic countries led to a momentous change in their forms of social control. Under traditional despotism, government rule in those countries was relatively benign, not by design but because of government’s lack of effectiveness. You could easily get beheaded if you displeased the ruler but the chance was remote.** Almost all could live in peace and even in prosperity far from the ruler’s eye. When modern states came to be in the region, many more activities suddenly fell within the province of government at the same time as government’s reach grew exponentially. The savage Savak of the last Shah of Iran, for example, was hardly a freak. It was soon replaced by the equally effective, more intrusive and even more savage secret services of the Islamic Republic. So, in the end, what DB is pleased to call “Enlightenment” resulted in the reduction of private freedoms in most Muslim societies. And, incidentally, and while we are at it, the most deeply colonized such societies were, the less the above statement seems to hold. (I am thinking Tunisia and, especially, of Senegal, vs Iran and Afghanistan.) […]

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