Libertarian Isolationism: A Debate Continued

Haha! The bumper sticker is the symbol of the downfall of the West. At Cabrillo College I have seen a few stickers around that are decorated with a sickle and hammer with a phrase next to it saying “sharing is caring”. Only in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz…

Also, I feel like a ‘thank you’ is in order. I am currently taking a class in Political Thought at De Anza, and it appears to be a waste of time. Despite the name of the class, it is not really about thinking at all, so I am grateful to have a teacher like Dr. Delacroix who is willing to take time out of his life and challenge me to stretch the limits of my reasoning and my worldview.

[update 1/11/11: I have to rebuke my statement that the class is not making me think. I have a bad habit of condemning my classes after the first week, and I have yet to break this deplorable vice. It is obvious judging by the content of the first lecture this week that I will learn a lot in this class.]

On to the debate at hand! Dr. Delacroix’s arguments are indented and in italics, and my responses follow. Continue reading

Unconditional Peace: A Continuing Debate. (Part Four)

Note: I am exploiting Brandon Christensen to whom this response is addressed. I am using him as a proxy to have a debate with the many libertarians who I suspect, want to disarm the Republic The piece to which this is a response is can be found here.

Please, spread this series of exchanges around.

Dear Brandon: Your shameless flatteries area good start, for sure. Nevertheless, I need to bring a correction to the introduction of your rebuttal: I am not a really old guy. It’s still common for women to check me out when I walk on Pacific Avenue. Why, it happened less than three years ago!

Now, the rules of engagement I respect unilaterally:

  1. Good ideas must defer to facts;
  2. Many conventional ideas have no connection to facts (e.g. “catching a cold” has nothing to do with cold weather.)
  3. Nevertheless, some perceptions are so self-evidently correct that the burden of proof belongs to those who would question them. (e.g. bullets in the heart will kill some people.);
  4. Causal reasoning must respect the rules of logic enunciated by the Greeks before 500 BC;
  5. I don’t assert anything I don’t believe just to sound right. Sometimes, I speculate. I try to tell the reader/listener when I am doing so.
  6. If my viewpoint is defensible on its own merits, I don’t ever need to tell untruths to support it, not even little white lies. Same goes for everyone’s viewpoint
  7. Avoid smirking. (That’s the hardest rule for me to follow, of course.)

I will not follow your narrative point by point because some of them are not supported or do not deserve a discussion, according to me, of course. Some other points I have no big quarrel with.

First a confession for once and forever so we don’t have to waste time on it ever again:

I am fully aware that there is a seeming incongruity in both supporting libertarian ideas and being a hawk to any degree. There is no doubt that most wars enlarge the domain of the state, of the government, at the expense of civil society. Many such enlargements prove to be irreversible. Thus, wars usually reduce the freedom of those who win them.

First, you build a straw-man, hang a sing with my name around its neck and then you burn it. Of course, I agree that very few Muslims want to wage violent jihad and that the number of those willing to take the risk to do so is even smaller. I have never said or written anything else. I have commented at length about the silence of Muslims in general, of Muslim religious authorities, and of American Muslim organizations, with regard to atrocities committed in the name of Islam. I include atrocities committed against Muslims ( most of them). I include 9/11 but also the routine, grotesque sexual mutilation of little girls in Muslim countries (not an Islamic requirement I know, but practiced on a wide scale with the complicity of clerics.)

I am concerned about the handful of violent jihadists willing to engage in Islamist terrorism for two reasons. First, 19 of them can deliberately murder 3,000 innocent people and depress the largest economy in the world, and change our society for the worse in a lasting way. And, it would take fewer than 10 to blow up a dirty bomb on a major sports event. Second, the successes of the few often trigger imitation, sometimes on a large scale.

On the subject of Muslims in France, you just ought to defer to me, I think. I read French newspaper six days a week; I watch French television every day; I am in touch with intelligent French people in France and in North Africa; I go to France fairly often, and I know the language.

The working-class periphery of Paris is seething with resentment, as you say. This is exactly what you would expect in a society where 10% general unemployment has, for thirty years, been the norm, (20% for younger people), and a 1.5% growth rate in the economy is a cause for celebration. Expressions of this resentment are numerous, fairly violent and also ecumenic in who participates. They have never taken an Islamist form. So, France is in the line fire of violent Islamists in spite of its Muslim situation being the reverse of apartheid. In fact, it could be because of this. (The main firing is many kidnappings of French citizens, specifically.)

You are minimizing a great deal the bellicosity of Muslim Scriptures as if they were just a couple of zits on a beautiful face. The Koran and the Hadiths contain numerous warlike, inciting statements (and not only such, it’s true) against infidels, including permission to put them to death and to enslave them. Want to bet? I defy you to show me anything of the kind in the Gospels or any other part of the New Testament. It’s easy to find calls to jihad in latter and mostly forgotten Christian writings. The Crusades did happen, after all. And that’s part of my point: I understand Islamist aggression because those who have it on their mind are much like my ancestors (and yours) a thousand years ago. It’s a familiar ugly face, not difficult to recognize.

Connection between the role of the state and the role of Islam in a list of Muslim countries: I get your point. The answer is “no direct link” except in Saudi Arabia and formerly in Taliban Afghanistan. The sad truth is that today, the world, including us, seems to have a choice between murderous violent jihadists and modernizing fascist regimes in Muslim countries. That’s a subject worth discussing. Libertarians don’t. Myself, I chose the fascists because they are not as willing to die to kill us. Also fascist systems sometimes become more representative.

In general, I think you are in denial on two broad fronts. Either denial is enough to make your militarily isolationist position untenable, in my humble opinion:

You contend that we provoked violent jihadist attacks because of our military presence in the holy lands of Islam. Ignoring the fact that none of those places, save perhaps Saudi Arabia, are holy, have ever been holy except by Al Qaida pronouncement, you would have to defend the following propositions:

When violent jihadists murder Argentinean Jews in Buenos Aires, it’s because Americans have a military presence in Muslim holy lands;

When violent jihadists murder Iraqi Christians in Iraq, Egyptian Christians in Egypt, and Pakistani Christians in Pakistan, it’s because of American military presence in Muslim holy lands.

When violent jihadists murder other Muslims in Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, it’s because of American military presence in Muslim holy lands.

Your argument about “minorities” is special pleading and it does not stand the barest scrutiny: Kurds are much more numerous than Sunnis in Iraq; the victims of violent Islamists in Algeria were specifically not ethnic minorities. The slaughtered “minorities” of Pakistan have one thing I common: The are not Sunni Muslims. Could be a coincidence. Do you really think so?

Second front: You seem to say that war is futile as a solution to the problem of aggression by others, in general and in particular. If you are not saying or implying this, I stand corrected and then, nothing of what follows applies to what you wrote.

In general, historically war does not solve anything except: British despotism, Barbary Pirates’ exactions, slavery, Fascism, Nazism. and Communism (the later, to a large extent, was solved through the mere the mere threat of war). Yes, I stole most of this from a bumper-sticker.

Even if you were right that fighting violent jihadism militarily were ineffective, I would insist that we do. It’s a matter of dignity and it’s a condition of future safety. You can be sure other evil-doers and potential evil-doers are watching to see what happens when you kill Americans. I want them to think it’s risky, at least.

In the particular: You cast a disdainful look at Iraqi democracy, a pure product of President Bush’s war of choice, and a child of the US and allies’s military invasion. I think you need to do this lest nation-building appears not to be a silly endeavor. Here is what I see:

Iraq has a properly elected government. It results from Iraqi citizens voting in larger percentages than Americans usually do. Sometimes, they do this under threat of death. This democratic government is sure enough of itself to affirm that its protector and genitor, the US armed forces must leave. That is, it’s exactly like any other self-assured sovereign entity. There has been no coup, no attempted coup and the rule of law prevails there better than in most less-developed countries. (Obviously, terrorist actions against that government have nothing to do with my claim that it is applying the rule of law.) With all this, Iraq is not Switzerland. As far as corruption is concerned, it’s more like New Orleans or Illinois. In terms of representativity, it’s probably significantly better than either. All in all, it compares favorably with this Republic in 1785.

This success in nation-building should not surprise you because it conforms to what always happens when the US wins a war. It happened with Italy, with Germany, with Japan, and by the way, with France to an extent. It half happened with South Korea where we did not really win. It did not happen with Vietnam where we lost. Your sage doubts about whether or not the “Sunni factions” will continue to support democracy in Iraq does not cost you much. And the Republican Party might split into two or three factions, and the rational wing of the Democratic Party might join en masse the Republican Party. And, as the French say so colorfully, “If my aunt had balls, we would call her ‘Uncle’.” You can always hypothesize new catastrophes. It’s a Santa Cruz specialty: If the world does not come to and end in 2012, it will probably come in 2014. (And, here I am, smirking; I could not resist; I am ashamed!)

Your faith in the efficacy of clandestine operations, like your faith in high-tech weapons, leaves me non-plussed. Is it possible that we could do everything we need to do without boots on the ground and that our government(plural) have decided perversely to ignore alternative means?

Contrary to your musings in your introduction, you could change my mind or, at least, create a line crack in my conviction, but it would have to be done with logical assertions based on good facts. I think you have not done so. Too many of your facts are putative and too many of your reasonings are tortuous and too gratuitous (though not necessarily illogical). Show me good, direct stuff enough and I will eventually turn around. I will do it publicly. As I said as an opening statement, my position lacks consistency. It’s uncomfortable. The cohabitation of facts and ideology often is.

In the final analysis, whether we persuade each other may not matter much. Others are reading this exchange. Some may be induced to think about those issues, or to think differently. You and I are doing the fine stitching of democracy.

Again, the rebuttal of an earlier piece to which this is my reply is here.

Libertarian Isolationism: A Rebuttal

I am floating on air. I had recently added Dr. Jacques Delacroix (Ph.D. Sociology, Stanford) as friend on Facebook, as I had come across his insightful writings in the pages of Liberty, a libertarian publication. I was especially amused by his article on UCSC LUG’s, and was pleasantly surprised to see that he was a mutual friend of a fellow Santa Cruz libertarian.

He is an immigrant from France, and, as you can see through his writings, he bears much resemblance to another Frenchman who once wandered through our curious and inventive Republic.

A rare breed not only because he immigrated here from France (and loves it), Dr. Delacroix is also, quite curiously, a libertarian hawk. That is, he believes that the United States military can and will effectively run an operation that eliminates the threat of terrorist networks aimed at destroying the Republic.

I was fortunate enough to have piqued his interest one day, and the exchange that ensued led him to reply, quite thoughtfully, to my responses. In other words, I am swimming with the big fish now!

Because Dr. Delacroix is much wiser than I, the burden falls on me to convince him of the error of his thought. It has often been said that the older you get, the less likely you are to change your thoughts or your “ways”. I don’t expect to change Dr. Delacroix’s mind (not because he is “old”, either!), but because his mind is still very, very sharp (which is why I am so perplexed at his hawkishness on this issue), I must respond and give the best response that I can.

Below you will find my first argument from the Facebook exchange in italics, followed by Dr. Delacroix’s arguments (which will be indented and in bold), and my replies will follow. I hope y’all learn something from this. I know I have. Continue reading

Peace At All Costs: Growing Isolationism Among Libertarians

I expect liberals to be against most wars except those they start themselves (most of them, historically). Such opposition stands to reason because much liberalism is based on a vague feeling of collective guilt: Whatever bad thing happens, it must be “our” fault. I am disturbed therefore to recognize signs of growing military isolationism among my libertarian friends. Some of it is just disguised defeatism coming from increasing Afghan War fatigue. Much more is based on moral concerns that I think are usually misplaced. Below is an exchange I had with a young libertarian recently. He is much younger than I am. Like me, he lives in the People’s Socialist Green Republic of Santa Cruz, California. The mere fact that he professes libertarian opinions in that environment makes him a man of substance and a man of honor. His communication begins right below. My inter-spaced comments are in quotes.

…Speaking of which, I think I am going to take a shot at convincing you of the hopelessness of global interventionism and nation-building as a tool for preventing jihadism.  While jihadism is indeed a problem, I don’t think its a global one.  I think that perhaps there are some jihadists who believe in resurrecting the Islamic caliphate of old, but even then that old caliphate never reached the shores of the New World.

Your view of the Caliphate does not begin to cover the motives for jihad. Jihadism does not mean “re-conquest” of what was once Muslim but conquest or domination of the whole world. (See the Hamas Charter). The only acceptable outcomes are conversion or living as dhimmis, second class citizens, for Christians and Jews. Pagans – that would include Santa Cruz Buddhists, as well as Hindus – can be slaughtered freely or reduced to slavery under Islamic law. In fact, any Muslims man can seize any “pagan” and make him or her a slave. Female slaves are called “concubines.”The Muslims scriptures thus clearly condone rape. The rational Muslims I know will say, “ That was a long time ago. We would not do it now.” In the meantime, the permission to act in this manner remains on the book. It can be invoked at any time and is. I don’t know for sure but I would bet that there is not a single fatwa condemning any of these outrageous acts. Want to bet?

I think that for the most part jihadism is a regional problem, and one that the Republic is embroiled in only because of the military assistance (and occupation) that we are providing to the corrupt, ruthless, and negligent Saudi regime (and now the Iraqi and Afghani regimes as well – both of which are equally as corrupt and negligent as the Saudi one).

So, why the terrorist attacks on the French? On the Spanish? On Sweden right before Christmas 2010? Why the kidnappings and executions of journalists of all nationalities?

Being as how our beef with the jihadists stems from our occupation of Islamic holy lands, i think it is only logical that we bring our troops home and leave the peoples of the Old World to their own affairs.  If this were to happen, the jihadists would either turn inward on themselves (which I suspect is the most likely outcome), on Israel, or on the weak and dying welfare states of Europe.

What “Islamic holy lands?” Is Afghanistan holy? Since when? Are Kurdish and Sunni Iraq holy? Why was Algeria attacked for ten years, with about 100,000 deaths: no American troops there? By the way, no American troops in Saudi Arabia for ten years. When American soldiers were withdrawn from the holy soil of Saudi Arabia, terrorists attacks increased. Al Quaida and its buddies did not say, “Alright, we are all squared away now.” Your good reasoning seems to rely on misinformation.

The state of Israel is strong enough to handle its own affairs, and I, unlike many of my peers in Santa Cruz, actually support their actions against the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah (though I do recognize Hamas’ election victories and think that the West is shooting itself in the foot by not recognizing them as such).  Besides, I don’t think that all of the various factions within the Middle East are worried that much about a liberal democratic state in the region.  I think that everyone over there is much more worried about a nuclear Iran than anything else.  There are also many tribal rivalries, sub-state rivalries, ethnic rivalries, and religious rivalries that are likely to spring up in the absence of an imperial presence, all of which are much, much older than the relatively new beef with the Israeli state.

Hamas ‘election was one of the cleanest in the Middle East. Let the Gaza Palestinians assume the burden they put on their own backs by electing Hamas fair and square. The states and factions of the Middle East ought to be worried more about Iran than about Israel. It does not mean that they are. It does not mean that they can divest themselves soon of the mental habit of blaming everything on Israel (That includes Egyptian journalists’ blaming shark attacks on tourists in the Red Sea on Israel! -Would I make this up?)

And until Europe ends its Apartheid-like “multicultural” policies on immigrants, and ends the rest of its ridiculous domestic social policies, then Europeans will continue to live in fear of their own shadows.

French society is a very good example of integration of Muslims. It’s at the antipodes of what you could legitimately describe as apartheid. French Muslims are in construction, in retail trade, in government, in teaching, in the police and in the Cabinet. It does not stop anything as far as violent jihadists are concerned.

One of the best things the American people could do for Europeans is to get out of the region and let them learn how to defend themselves again (it would also save taxpayers here millions of dollars).

Your perception of the costs of “defending” Europe is probably dated. It’s only true in the sense that we maintain somewhat larger armed forces. We would in any case. Yet, your point is well taken, the Europeans are not doing their share and the Canadian armed forces number fewer than …60,000.

How are they ever going to learn how to live again if we don’t let them walk – wobbly knees and all – on their own two feet?

I don’t see how any of this is isolationist.  Bringing our troops home would ensure peace from the ravages of Old World affairs, but it would not mean an end of relations with the peoples of the Old World either.  Commercial, educational, scientific, religious, and other such relations would continue, and, to top it off, the world would once again have an example of what to emulate when it comes to governing the affairs of their own.  And if there was an imminent threat by a terrorist on foreign soil against the Republic, well, that’s what we have satellite technology and laser-guided missiles for.

I don’t know where you get your trust in high-tech defense; I wish to share it.

… In any such case, the current occupation of foreign lands has not done much to stem the violent rise of jihadism,

How do you know? And how do I know, admittedly? Yet, killing those who have declared they want to kill you and have done so repeatedly seems like a good general policy.

and I would argue that a position of neutrality towards the region would actually do more to eliminate the threat of jihadism than nation-building “exercises.”

The causal linkage you make about violent jihad and US occupation of Muslim countries is based on defective facts so, your remedy cannot be credible.

Your faith in military technology is misplaced, I think. (I could make a U-turn on this one.). As a result, you want to defend American society on the Jersey Shore and on the beach in La Jolla. That’s defend against both violent jihadism and North Korean and Iranian adventurism. That’s isolationism.

The concept of an “Old World” may play a strange role in your reasoning. It seems to be the linchpin of your wholesale rejection that I think of as “isolationism.”I believe it’s a completely artificial construction. The UK and Turkmenistan are both parts of your Old World, I would guess. But what do they have in common? The big gap is between societies where fairly legitimate elections take place frequently, accompanied by alternance in power and where the rule of law prevails much of the time, on the one hand, and gangster states, on the other hand. I could draw you a list of the latter easily. Gangster states often turn aggressive because they are mostly economically unsuccessful. A successful gangster state such as China is less likely to turn violent.

I have not addressed your objections to nation-building. (You raise too many good points.) Just a question: How many democratic polities are there in the Mideast now? Who gets the credit (blame?) for the latest?