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Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

Libya will be in worse shape than it is now? In worse shape than it was under Kadafi? (He sure could keep order.)

I have already spoken to much of what you are saying: Suppose your prophecies turn out to be completely right. Would it mean that we should prefer the bloody tyranny of terrorists like Kadafi? Isn’t this simple?

Perhaps, but we don’t know what would have happened to Ghaddafi if the US had stayed clear of this problem (which had nothing to do with national security or defense).

Civil war was inevitable, given the nature of the Libyan state, but introducing a superpower into the struggle has only complicated Libyan matters.

A civil war sometimes helps a people to iron out their differences. I think our involvement there only enhances the creases that need ironing.

What problem (singular)?

Civil war was inevitable? After forty years? You’re kidding, right?

Yo are almost forcing me to write an essay just for you about Arab tyrannies, 1960 – 2011.

What problem? The Libyan state falling apart.

Civil war was inevitable? After forty years? You’re kidding, right?

Um, the rebels and Ghaddafi’s henchmen went after each other in the wake of revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Ghaddafi struck back quite effectively, but the violence didn’t end after those first strikes.

Ghaddafi may have eventually won the civil war, but he would either have had to eliminate his rivals completely (which he was certainly capable of doing) or he would have had to come to some sort of agreement with some of the factions he was fighting.

Helping the rebels eliminate Ghaddafi only removed one faction from the fight for Libya’s future. Many, many different factions believe that Libya should move in their direction. Most of the efforts to come to some sort of agreement with each other are going to be wasted on other priorities, though – namely the influencing of Western powers to support their specific cause.

With the West out of the picture – or at least off to the side where neighbors usually reside – the Libyans would have to work together to come to some sort of agreement for their state going forward. This is unlikely to happen now. Instead, what we’ll see is a prolonged conflict that will look a lot more like Iraq rather than Tunisia, as each faction uses the hapless and naive West for their own purposes of attaining power over a massive, oil-rich state that has known nothing but rigid central control for almost a century.

I would love to read an essay on Arab dictatorship over the past half-century. Don’t forget to include the involvement of the West in the process. Name names and spare nobody from your rancorous wit!

Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

Brandon: You are a kind of expert on Libyan public opinion accessed in translation from Al-Jazeera with a software that can hardly translate “My father’s car…”? That’s in preference to statements made by a ramshackle but very broad coalition watched over by hundreds of Western journalists on the ground some of whom (the French) have Arabic as a first language. Strange!

I understand that the translations are not perfect, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand what they are saying. I never said I was an expert, either.

Western journalists – especially from the states that are essentially welfare queens of U.S. military strength – have a lot less clout than does the Arab street, in my opinion.

Time will tell, of course, which one of our predictions comes true. In two years time [October 2013 – bc], Tunisia, which did not get any help from the West, will be a functioning democracy with a ruling coalition of moderate Islamists in power.

The Egyptian military will be promising the public that elections are just around the corner, and Libya will be in worse shape than it is today. Two years from today, Dr. J, you will be issuing an apology to me and making a donation to the charity of my choice.

Since you are very good at avoiding the facts on the ground in the name of democratic progress, I think we should establish a measurement rubric by which to measure the progress of Libya. How about GDP (PPP) per capita as measured by the IMF?

Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

Brandon: For the most part, I am happy to let your comments stand. Together, we do a reasonably good job of clearing up issues about intervention. I don’t need to “win” the argument. However, however, I think you don’t pay enough attention to easily ascertainable facts: Your write: “I don’t think our involvement will be looked upon with graciousness by the peoples we are inevitably trying to help.” The Libyans don’t look on the NATO intervention, including the US, with graciousness?

Good point, good point. Here is my quick (or not-so-quick) take: the Libyans living in exile in the United States have certainly been gracious. The temporary government in power has certainly been grateful. The Libyans in Europe harbor very different views, though. They see this as an imperialistic adventure. They loathe the fact that NATO helped the rebellion in any way, shape or form.

The Libyans in Libya have even more disparate views on the subject. Some have turned their ire towards the tyrant of Algeria. Some are claiming that NATO intervened because of Libya’s oil, and they point to the Palestinian territories to ask why NATO hasn’t helped them. Some of them have been gracious towards the Arab monarchies that purportedly helped NATO in its bombing campaigns. Some Libyans have expressed thanks to NATO. Some Libyans have fixated on Israel. None of them, from what I have seen, have expressed any sort of graciousness at all to the United States of America.

My sources are the unscientific and spam-prone discussion boards on Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-speaking website and a couple of films that I have watched in some Anthropology classes. In fact, in one of the films there were calls for help from Egypt, Jordan, and Kazakhstan after Ghaddafi began fighting with airplanes, but nobody on the streets was calling for help from the West.

Libertarian Foreign Policy: A Dialogue on Imperialism

This is starting to feel a lot like shooting fish in a barrel Dr Delacroix. Since we both know exactly how Leftists argue, I think it would be pertinent to over your rebuttals point-by-point.

I am glad we agree on the US intervention in Afghanistan based on the fact that the Taliban hosted and refused to deliver the terrorist Al Qaida.

And it would have been nice if we had focused our resources and our energy on staying there and hunting down al-Qaeda. There is also something amiss here: Osama bin Laden was shot dead in a shootout involving our special forces underneath the nose of Pakistan’s version of West Point. As we both know very well, the Taliban and Islamabad have never been on friendly terms, yet both sides gave refuge to bin Laden.

My suspicion is that both factions harbored bin Laden because of his immense wealth, not because of ideological solidarity. Also, I am not sure that the Taliban would have even been able to retrieve bin Laden if they wanted to. Rule by the Taliban was no doubt cruel, but for the most part they relied heavily on regional strongmen and political alliances to maintain control of the state.

With all this being said, I don’t think we ever declared war on Afghanistan. I may be wrong, but I think we focused our efforts on toppling the Taliban regime and hunting bin laden rather than fighting the Afghan state. This is actually a logical outcome, if you think about it, because al-Qaeda was not sponsored by Kabul, and it most certainly was not sponsored by the impoverished warlords of the Afghan regions, either. I’m willing to bet that the Taliban were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Remember, al-Qaeda, or whatever is left of it after President Obama gets finished with them, is not the same thing as the Taliban. I would even say, with some confidence, that the Taliban knew nothing of the attacks being planned against the United States.

Either way, both factions are finished, and it’s time to bring our troops home after a job well done (thanks to President Obama’s strategy).

The “some press reports” statement regarding the Taliban blinding of little girls with acid shows what might be deliberate ignorance. The assertion was made by several responsible neutral sources, including National Geographic, not exactly a hawkish extremist publication. I suspect the Libertarian pacifist stance cannot be maintained without a broad practice of tactical ignorance such as you just demonstrated: Iran’s nuclear weapons? No problem.

My point wasn’t to discredit the press reports, it was to suggest that going to war with a state because a regime sometimes sponsors the throwing of acid into little schoolgirls’ eyes is a little bit silly. And where did the statement on Iran’s nuclear weapons come from?

Pulling stuff out of thin air to legitimate a point that was used to purposefully misconstrue the argument of your opponent is something only Leftists do, usually.  When are you going to come out of the closet, Dr Delacroix?  We’re all dying to know!

Your disquisition on the French Revolution simply ignores my question: Is the American revolution any the less valid because ti was helped by the intervention of a foreign power, France? When you seem to relate the Terror to this intervention, you are going out on a very thin limb. There is a conventional belief that the French intervention hastened the revolution in France by aggravating the public debt.

Ah. Here I think there is a miscommunication between us. If a revolution happens, it is valid regardless of who is involved and who it affects. Pretending otherwise is a waste of time. I brought in the French angle because today the United States IS France playing the role of interventionist in the Middle East.

How is relating the social, political, and economic upheaval of the Terror – which was aggravated by French intervention in the Anglo-American war – going out on a very thin limb? I did not suggest that we are on a crash course for violent revolution. I only drew some (quite pertinent) parallels between the two situations: supporting revolutions that have nothing to do with national security has never bode well for the states that do the intervening.

If you negative feelings, your apprehensions about the Arab Spring were all well-founded (were) should we then, as a country, continue to favor tyranny in those countries as we did for thirty years?

Ah. I have never said that I do not support the revolutions going on in the Middle East. Ever. What I have done is raise a flag of caution in the face of bellicose calls for more bombing, more involvement, and more intrigue on the part of Washington in the revolutions going on in the Middle East. Given that we have been supporting brutal regimes in that part of the world for the last half century, I don’t think our involvement will be looked upon with graciousness by the peoples we are inevitably trying to help.

Of course I support the revolutions going on in the Middle East, I just don’t support our government getting involved with them. When the dust clears, I think we should be the first state to stick out our hand and offer our friendship to the new governments.  I think the people of the Middle East would be inclined to agree with me.