Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

The rEVOLution After Paul

With Congressman Ron Paul’s third presidential run and career coming to an end, what will become of his rEVOLution he inspired? Prior to the 2012 campaign, some suggested that former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson would be the “next” Ron Paul but with Johnson running as the Libertarian Party nominee after being mistreated by the GOP establishment in the primaries, it appears to me that that bridge has been burned and will likely never be rebuilt. Johnson’s activities in furthering the liberty movement will be done outside the Republican Party.

The new heir apparent to lead the rEVOLution appears to be the congressman’s son Sen. Rand Paul. Rand Paul has been one of a handful of voices of reason in the senate voting against renewing the Patriot Act, the NDAA*, standing up to the TSA, and speaking out against President Obama’s unconstitutional “kinetic military actions” in Libya and elsewhere to name a few. For the most part**, Sen. Rand Paul has been a consistent champion of liberty much like his father. Speculation abounds that Sen. Paul will make a presidential run of his own in 2016.

The rEVOLution and the greater liberty movement must be much larger than one person***, however. According to Brian Doherty, author of his new book Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired, Paul’s movement will continue long after Paul himself has left the political stage. Doherty summarizes the thesis of his book in the Cato forum (video below); David Boaz and Sen. Rand Paul also offer their thoughts on the future of the liberty movement after Ron Paul.

Mao Yushi: An Inspiration for All Who Yearn to be Free

Last Friday, the Cato Institute honored dissident Chinese economist Mao Yushi with the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Just a week prior, Mao, a consistent critic of Chinese government policies and advocate of both individual and economic liberty faced the possibility of being detained rather than being permitted to fly to Washington D.C. to receive the award in person and deliver his acceptance speech. By Tuesday, Cato confirmed in a press release that the Chinese government kept its word and allowed Mao to leave the country.

The first video tells Mao’s inspiring story:

The second video, the 2012 Milton Friedman Prize winner himself Mao Yushi delivers his acceptance speech.

Congratulations to Mao Yushi for earning this most prestigious prize for your life’s work in the advancement of human freedom. You sir, are an inspiration to us all.

Jon Stewart as a Voice of Sanity on Iran

The war drums for war with Iran on behalf of Israel are getting louder by the day. I wouldn’t have ever imagined that after experiencing the failure to find WMD in Iraq following the invasion along with the tremendous sacrifices of blood and treasure we would be having an almost identical conversation concerning Iran years later. I thought that as a country we learned the hard lessons about the folly of preemptive war.

Apparently, I was wrong.

The prospects of a nuclear Iran has been an issue I’ve been intending on writing about. What does it mean for the security of the world if Iran gets the bomb? Is war with Iran even avoidable given all the heated rhetoric on all sides?

Now enter a voice of reason: comedian Jon Stewart. One thing that Stewart points out in the first clip is that this is an election year, not only for the U.S. but also Israel and Iran! Could it be that the rhetoric is so over the top because politicians in all three countries want to talk tough to curry favor with voters?

In the second clip, Stewart plays even more rhetoric from the 2012 campaign. The leading G.O.P. candidates would have us believe that President Obama has said and done nothing whatsoever to help Israel stop Iran from getting the bomb. As Stewart demonstrates here, Obama’s rhetoric doesn’t differ that much from the G.O.P. field (sans Ron Paul, of course). President Obama’s rhetoric is much more hawkish than I am comfortable with to be sure.

While Stewart’s comic relief on this issue is very much needed, hopefully he gets his very serious message across.

Rick Santorum, The Anti-Libertarian

Until Rick Santorum’s recent surge in the polls, I didn’t consider him much more than a nuisance. Since the beginning of the campaign, I thought he had the most anti-libertarian agenda in the 2012 race but I didn’t think he was as realistic of a threat as say Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich. The best way to approach Santorum was to ignore him and not give him the attention he desperately craved.

But since Santorum is polling in the top three in Iowa, I think it’s time use his own words to illustrate why he is the most anti-liberty candidate in the race. He actually makes Barack Obama look like a civil libertarian (which is quite an accomplishment).

First, in this interview, Santorum says (among other things) that the pursuit of happiness somehow harms America.

Then, David Boaz writing for Cato@Liberty shares this quote from Santorum taken from a 2006 interview on NPR:

One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

Silly me. I thought the American Revolution and this grand experiment in republican constitutional governance was precisely about “radical individualism” and liberty. To the extent our society hasn’t succeeded is due in large part to moralistic busy bodies just like Rick Santorum.

As if meddling in the affairs of Americans were not enough, Santorum also wants to continue to meddle in the Middle East and elsewhere. Santorum told “Meet the Press” that he would bomb Iran via airstrikes if Iran failed to allow inspectors verify that the regime isn’t developing a nuclear weapon (essentially, Iran is guilty of developing a bomb until proven innocent). “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch” Santorum proclaimed.

It seems that Rick Santorum inhabits another planet from those of us who believe in liberty, small government, and a humble foreign policy. This might explain why in the debates Santorum has the look of bewilderment on his face when Ron Paul speaks (in a foreign language apparently) about common sense principles of life, liberty, and property.

If the idea of a President Santorum doesn’t frighten you, it should.

Quote of the Day: Isolationism Edition

Jacob Sullum @ Reason writes:

Reporters routinely describe Ron Paul’s foreign policy views as “isolationist” because he opposes the promiscuous use of military force. This is like calling him a recluse because he tries to avoid fistfights.

The implicit assumption that violence is the only way to interact with the world reflects the oddly circumscribed nature of foreign policy debates in mainstream American politics. It shows why Paul’s perspective is desperately needed in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Ron Paul CNN National Security Debate Highlights and Observations

For those of us who value our liberties, there were a plethora of things said in last night’s debate from candidates not named Ron Paul to be very distressed about. For starters, there was the debate about the USA PATRIOT Act and whether it should be renewed, strengthened, or abolished. Unsurprisingly, Paul explained how civil liberties have eroded due to the act and lamented how willing the other candidates were to surrender even more liberty in the name of security. Paul held up Timothy McVeigh as an example of a terrorist who was tried in the traditional criminal justice system and ultimately convicted. In response, Newt Gingrich said “Timothy McVeigh succeeded.” (How he would have stopped the OKC bombings is anyone’s guess but I can’t imagine it would have been inside the framework of the Bill of Rights.) Paul’s response was spot on.

Then Rick Santorum advocated the notion of racial, religious, and ethnic profiling. Paul once again brought up Timothy McVeigh as an example of someone who would not have fit Santorum’s profile and pointed out some of the “careless use of words” being used by the other candidates (i.e. “we are at war,” naming individuals “terrorists” without due process etc.) is further compromising our liberty.

Other topics included Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the foregone conclusion that the U.S. should intervene anywhere and everywhere there is a regime our government doesn’t like, the assumption that not a single penny should be cut from the “national defense” budget, and the drug war violence in Mexico (I really wish someone would have brought up Fast and Furious).

Overall, the debate was very unsettling but Ron Paul once again was the voice of reason and responded well to his challengers.

Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality?

Are you or someone you know a victim of what Glenn Greenwald calls “the drone mentality”?

[Emphasis original]

I was predictably deluged with responses justifying Obama’s drone attacks on the ground that they are necessary to kill The Terrorists. Reading the responses, I could clearly discern the mentality driving them: I have never heard of 99% of the people my government kills with drones, nor have I ever seen any evidence about them, but I am sure they are Terrorists. That is the drone mentality in both senses of the word; it’s that combination of pure ignorance and blind faith in government authorities that you will inevitably hear from anyone defending President Obama’s militarism.

If you are or have been a victim of this mentality don’t feel bad. I was once a victim of this mentality myself. I once believed that the government was completely incompetent domestically but somehow very efficient in its execution of the so-called war on terror.

The article continues [Emphasis original]

As it turns out, it isn’t only the President’s drone-cheering supporters who have no idea who is being killed by the program they support; neither does the CIA itself. […] Obama’s broad standards for when drone strikes are permitted, and noted that the “bulk” of the drone attacks — the bulk of them – “target groups of men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” As Spencer Ackerman put it: “The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups”; moreover, the administration refuses to describe what it even means by being “associated” with a Terrorist group (indeed, it steadfastly refuses to tell citizens anything about the legal principles governing its covert drone wars).

Kill ‘em all, let [insert deity here] sort ‘em out…is this the policy for combating terrorism now? Is anyone else reading this disturbed by this?

[T]he internal dissent [inside the U.S. government] is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region (there’s that primitive, inscrutable Muslim culture rearing its head again: they strangely seem to get very angry when foreign governments send sky robots over their countries and blow up their neighbors, teenagers and children)[…] Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life.

Nah, that can’t be it. They hate us because of our freedom. Just ask John Bolton, Rick Santorum, and the rest of the Neocons who are chomping at the bit to start a war with Iran.

How is it that this drone mentality persists and what is the cure?

This is why it’s so imperative to do everything possible to shine a light on the victims of President Obama’s aggression in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere: ignoring the victims, rendering them invisible, is a crucial prerequisite to sustaining propaganda and maintaining support for this militarism (that’s the same reason John Brennan lied — yet again — by assuring Americans that there are no innocent victims of drone attacks). Many people want to hear nothing about these victims — like Tariq — because they don’t want to accept that the leader for whom they cheer and the drone attacks they support are regularly ending the lives of large numbers of innocent people, including children. They believe the fairy tale that the U.S. is only killing Terrorists and “militants” because they want to believe it…

For far too long, I believed this fairy tale myself. I couldn’t handle the truth but I eventually saw the error of my thinking. Government is just as blunt an instrument on foreign battlefields as it is in virtually every domestic aspect of our lives but even more destructive and deadly.

How about you, can you handle the truth?

The truth (according to sources cited in the article) that between 2,359 and 2,959 people (nearly 200 of whom were children) have been killed in 306 documented drone strikes, 85% of which were launched during the administration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama?

If you are willing to confront the drone mentality head on, I would strongly encourage you to read the rest of Greenwald’s article.

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1
Part 2

The challenge of creating an economically sound, simpler, and more just tax code, be it the existing code, 9-9-9, a flat tax, or a sales tax will remain an impossibility if tax revenues is the only focus of any reform. The problem that dwarfs any notion of how tax policy is implemented is how the money is spent by the government.

As I write this, the national debt is approaching $15 trillion. That’s $47,810 per citizen or $132,927 per tax payer.

Even more staggering, the sum total unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare is just over $116 trillion. The prescription drug part of Medicare is over $20 trillion by itself!

Other than the Federal Reserve creating money out of thin air, what tax policy can possibly begin to support this kind of spending? It seems stupid to even pose the question.

Yet the only answer the Obama administration seems to have to pay down the debt or turn the economy around is to raise taxes on the wealthy and continue the reckless spending. The Republicans for their part offer modest tax cuts and modest spending cuts that will have no noticeable impact on the debt.

It’s high time that we as citizens tell our public servants that the out of control spending has to stop. We must demand serious structural reforms to entitlement programs or phase them out over time.

We must also recognize the difference between military spending and true national defense spending. We can no longer afford to police the world. It’s time to tell Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan, and others that they are now responsible for their own national defense and domestic security.

That’s just a start; there’s a great deal more spending that should be cut. But before any significant cuts can be made, we need to decide just how much government we want in our lives and what we are each willing to pay. For those who believe that individuals who make under a certain income level should be spared from paying any taxes at all (i.e. too small to tax) maybe it is you who should be out front in demanding a whole lot less government.

Peter Schiff to OWS: “I Am the 1% Let’s Talk”

Here’s a very fascinating video taken at New York’s Zuccotti Park where Peter Schiff has a dialogue with some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Schiff brought a sign that read “I Am the 1% Let’s Talk,” and talk they did.

One of the things that occurred to me watching this was how little true discussion is going on between the OWS movement and their critics. Notice how some of the protesters say things like “you rich people” or “you Republicans” etc. Just as its unfair for these protesters to lump everyone into these groups is a mistake, I think it’s also a mistake to assume that all of these protesters are clueless and don’t have some legitimate grievances.

Kudos to Peter Schiff for going out among the protesters and having this much needed conversation. There seems to be some common ground concerning these grievances; the real differences are what the solutions should be.

Ron Paul Unveils “Restore America” Plan

LAS VEGAS – Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul unveiled his economic “Plan to Restore America” in Las Vegas Monday afternoon, calling for a lower corporate tax rate, a cut in spending by $1 trillion during his first year in office and the elimination of five cabinet-level agencies.”

[…]

Paul does get specific when he calls for a 10 percent reduction in the federal work force, while pledging to limit his presidential salary to $39,336, which his campaign says is “approximately equal to the median personal income of the American worker.” The current pay rate for commander in chief is $400,000 a year.

Based on Dr. Paul’s speech, there’s not a whole lot not to like. Cutting $1 trillion of government spending in the first year would be a very good thing IMO.

As a Gary Johnson supporter, I can’t help but get more than a little annoyed each time one of Paul’s supporters, member of his campaign staff, or the congressman himself makes the claim that Dr. Paul is the only candidate in the race who would balance the budget. Gov. Johnson has promised a balanced budget, not merely in his first term but in his first budget in virtually every debate, interview, and speech he has given since he announced his candidacy.

That criticism aside, I hope this plan is given serious consideration by the primary voters and debated among the candidates.

10 Years of Failed Nation Building Policy

Last Friday marked the 10 year anniversary of the U.S. attack and subsequent nation building in Afghanistan. Most Americans, myself included, felt the attack on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan was a perfectly legitimate response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I doubt that most Americans would have supported a nation building mission creep that would continue a decade later, however.

This policy has cost a great deal in blood and treasure; how well has it worked? The foreign policy experts in the first video below from the Cato Institute report on where things stand right now in Afghanistan. Their conclusion: 10 years is enough.

The second video below from the Ron Paul campaign deals with nation building more generally and asks a very provocative question: How would Americans respond if the Chinese or some other foreign power started occupying our country with troops with their own nation building program?

Gary Johnson and Ron Paul CPAC Speeches

The 2012 G.O.P. candidates each gave speeches at CPAC following the debates. Below are the speeches from Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. The first video is Johnson’s presentation before perhaps the largest audience he has had in awhile. Johnson spends a good part of his presentation introducing himself before giving an overview of his proposals. In the second video, Dr. Paul who is no stranger to CPAC, gets right into his prescriptions for fixing the economy and restoring lost liberty.

Quote of the Day: Jon Huntsman on Foreign Policy/Interventionism

As reported in Politico:

“I can’t think of too many tribal countries with which we’ve been involved — Afghanistan is another one — where it’s easy to extricate yourself once you get involved,” Huntsman told reporters here after finishing a cruise with Republicans on northern New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. “So it might sound like it’s a tangential supportive role at the beginning even if it’s just a no-fly zone. But you’re making a commitment … and sometimes those things become very hard to unwind.”

[…]

“We’re deployed in some quarters in this world where we don’t need to be. It’s time we take a look at the map and we start to clean it up,” he said, arguing that both national security interests as well as financial costs should affect the decision.

And in addition, “we need to do a better job of identifying who our friends and allies are around the world,” Huntsman said.

Gov. Johnson Takes on Hannity

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary “Veto” Johnson made a recent appearance on Hannity last week (see video below). I have to say I was pleasantly surprised both with how Sean Hannity conducted the interview and how Gov. Johnson responded. I haven’t really watched Hannity since before the “& Colmes” was dropped a few years ago; from what I remembered he didn’t normally allow guests he disagreed with explain their position (especially on topics like drug legalization). I was also happy that he gave Gov. Johnson 20 plus minutes of some very valuable air time on a program widely watched by Republican primary voters. There’s just no way Gov. Johnson will ever be given that much time in a primary debate.

For Gov. Johnson’s part, I thought he communicated his message very skillfully. His cost/benefit approach that he is campaigning on, especially on issues that the G.O.P base generally disagree (ex: non-intervention and drug legalization/harm reduction) will be helpful in advancing libertarian positions in the long run (much as Ron Paul did in 2008 and since). When Hannity finally broached the war on (some) drugs, Johnson was able to get Hannity to concede that marijuana ought to be considered in a different category from harder drugs (i.e. heroin, crack, etc.). This in of itself is very encouraging.

Gary Johnson to President Obama: “Time’s Up in Libya”

The “limited kinetic action” (don’t call it military force or war!) in Libya has reached the 60 day mark; the statutory time limit a president can use military force without congressional approval according to the War Powers Act of 1973. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot about the goings on in Libya in the news these days with Obama deciding what another sovereign nation (Israel) should do about its borders*.

Not everyone has completely forgotten about Libya though. Former New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Gary Johnson wrote an opinion piece today in The Daily Caller pointing out that the president’s authority to use kinetic action in Libya has expired today.

This blatant disregard for the law must not go unchallenged. As several senators did this week, Congress must demand an explanation for the fact that, with no declaration of war, no authorization from Congress, and certainly no imminent threat to the U.S., our forces are today engaged in what is clearly a military conflict halfway around the world in Libya.

Specifically, the War Powers Act requires that the use of American forces in a conflict must be ended within 60 days of commencing — unless Congress expressly authorizes otherwise. In terms of our current engagement in Libya, Congress hasn’t authorized anything, nor has the president asked them to, and today, May 20, is the 60th day.

[…]

[The War Powers Act] was carefully crafted to allow the commander-in-chief to respond to attacks and otherwise take whatever action necessary to protect us. At the same time, it was obviously crafted to limit precisely the kinds of ill-defined and costly uses of our military that we are witnessing in Libya right now.

[…]

To be fair, this president is certainly not the first to disregard the War Powers Act. Some have even questioned its constitutionality. But until the courts or Congress deem otherwise, it is the law of the land — and in my opinion, a good one.

This is yet another example of President Obama’s lack of respect for the rule of law when the law isn’t compatible with his policy.

Hope n’ Change you can believe in.

» Read more

Counterpoint: Democracy Doesn’t Mean Collective Responsibility

This is part of The Liberty Papers’ continued Point/Counterpoint feature. Specifically, this Counterpoint is the response to Jeff Molby’s post yesterday suggesting moral equivalency between Arabs cheering in the streets after 9/11 and Americans cheering Sunday night at the killing of Osama bin Laden.

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A lot of what Jeff said yesterday made sense. We have been intervening militarily in the Middle East for many decades. I’m not going to give a Rudy Giuliani response and act as if blowback doesn’t exist, nor that his charge that it’s a long line in the “Hatfield-McCoy” ongoing feud between cultures is incorrect. I’ve become a non-interventionist over the years not because I think other countries are behaving well in the world or to their own citizens, but rather because I don’t trust government to actually accomplish what they intend on the world stage.

In short, while I doubt that the long-term safety of Americans from terrorist acts is meaningful affected by the death of Osama bin Laden, I found myself filled with an internal cheer on Sunday night. I’ve never been the type to go jump up and down in a crowd over such things, but I had much of the same motivation in my heart that I believe they do. And I don’t consider the response to be rationalizing away a bad emotion — I believe the emotion is justified. Further, and to the point, I believe the emotion is justified in a way that those in the Middle East cheering after 9/11 cannot claim.

Jeff’s essay contains what I consider to be a fundamental error of collectivization, and it was on that basis only that I worked with him when he submitted his post to make it a Point/Counterpoint. The response is too much for the comments section.

It is never moral to cheer the deaths of innocent people. I think we can all stipulate that Osama bin Laden appears to have full guilt as the mastermind of Al Qaeda for perpetrating 9/11, and that anyone working to continue to keep him hidden in that compound was complicit in the guilt as well. We’re not talking about a collateral damage problem here.

So we’re left answering a question on which Jeff and I disagree:

So were the 9/11 victims innocent?

Lest anyone try to twist my words, let me be absolutely clear that the responsibility for the 9/11 attacks lies entirely with the perpetrators of those attacks. That does not make us innocent bystanders, though. We choose our representatives and give them a ton of money with which to do our bidding. We are responsible for the countless civilian deaths that our government has caused over the decades. You. Me. The 9/11 victims. Every American old enough to work and vote. It takes hundreds of millions people working together to great the largest killing machine the world has ever known. We did it together and most of us were proud of it every step of the way. Many of you are probably furious with me right now because you’re still proud of the weapon we’ve created.

The fact that America is a representative democracy does not make us all complicit in everything our government does. This is true for multiple reasons:

  1. Electoral party politics are a package deal. One cannot vote for a specific basket of political positions. One must pick and choose which are most important, and every-day domestic concerns will always drive decisions more than abstract foreign policy.
  2. Jeff mentions that the last President & Congress to NOT engage in foreign war was Hoover. It seems that the non-interventionist position was not exactly on the table.
  3. One can claim that the non-interventionist position WAS on the table. Yet George W Bush was voted in on a policy that he wasn’t interested in nation-building. Obama was voted in as an ALTERNATIVE to GWB — Hope and Change. Yet he’s doubled down in both Iraq and Afghanistan and embarked on a whole new war in Libya.
  4. The people who voted for the policies 20, 40, or 60 years ago are not the same voters today.
  5. Some of victims didn’t vote for the winners, they actually voted *for* the [losing] anti-war candidates, or their candidates won but were outvoted in Congress.

Democracy doesn’t mean that Americans are all the same, nor that we are all complicit in the guilt for a history of Hatfield-McCoyism. Some of those killed on 9/11 were undoubtedly in favor of the military-industrial complex. Many were not. Some were Americans who had voted for politicians embarking on those policies. Many had voted for the losers in each of those elections. Some of those killed on 9/11 were Americans. Many were not — meaning they had no ability to influence American foreign policy.

Americans cheering at the killing of Osama bin Laden were cheering for a specific, concrete act of retribution against someone who was a stated enemy of us as a collective [the Great Satan] and as individuals [infidels]. It would be the same as Muslims cheering at the killing of specific Americans who suggest that we should wipe Mecca off the map because Islam itself as a religion of death. Both are be acts against individuals who had proven their desire to kill high numbers of people.

But that’s the minority. Most Americans and most Muslims are peaceful people trying to make their way through the world, working towards a better life for themselves and their families. At the end of the day the questions aren’t really who to vote for, the questions are how to budget for college and get the kids braces, how to put food on the table and afford the rent or mortgage.

Americans know, for the most part, that they have almost zero control over their government, and act accordingly. While Jeff tries to paint the brush that “the government is us”, Americans have internalized that what “those guys in Washington” do is not exactly “us”. Muslims watch their governments (who they have much less control over than even Americans) oppress the people, and throw up their hands in despair while they try to live. They get tarred with the “Osama bin Laden is a Muslim, therefore all Muslims support terror” brush too often, and I don’t believe it’s much appreciated.

I’m not saying we’re the Bad Guys. I’m just saying we’re not the Good Guys either. We’re simply active participants in a Hatfield-McCoy-esque feud whose root cause is long since forgotten. We’re wrapped up in a nasty affair with enough blood to cover everyone’s hands.

American politicians and the leaders of the Muslim world are engaged in this feud. Regular Americans and Muslims are distant cousins who left the county decades ago and look upon those Hatfields and McCoys with opprobrium. The fact that these politicians were voted into office over the years doesn’t mean a majority of Americans support the specific foreign policy measures that made this a Hatfield/McCoy event, much as the rebels in Libya today are not responsible for Gadhafi’s terrorist attack on American interests 30 years ago. We even see today that there appears to be internal disagreement within Pakistan’s government (the civil government vs. the Pakistani military) over the hiding of bin Laden. It is quite possible that the military or ISI knew of his existence but was keeping it a secret from the rest of the government. Is all of Pakistan responsible for those internal interests that were working to hide Pakistan?

At the end of the day, Arabs who cheered the 9/11 attacks on the WTC were cheering against the deaths of individual innocent people who had no direct relationship to the long history of warfare and strife between the American government and governments/terrorist groups of the Middle East. Americans who cheered for the death of Osama bin Laden were cheering for retribution against someone who was directly involved in planning, funding, and organizing the event that killed innocent people.

To claim that representative democracy makes those situations morally equivalent is a false application of collectivism, and it deserves not to remain unchallenged.

Point: You Cheering In The Streets Is No Different Than When They Do It

The following is a continuation of The Liberty Papers’ “Point/Counterpoint” series. In this feature, two contributors (or, as in this case, a contributor and a guest) of semi-like mind debate a specific point of view. Today’s Point is provided by regular reader and commenter Jeff Molby, who wrote in response to a friend and offered to submit it here as well. Tomorrow Brad Warbiany will present a Counterpoint (now available here).

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After posting a Facebook link to this article which disapproves of the American jubilation in response to the news of Osama’s death, a friend of mine made the following comment:

“There is a BIG difference between groups cheering when innocent Americans have been killed and cheering when the person responsible for killing those same innocent Americans has been killed.”

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t condone any of the violent acts by either side. I condemn our efforts to install and arm puppet governments. I condemn the terrorist attacks. Both have been going on so long that I don’t even give a damn which one “started it”. Like a couple of pissed-off five year-olds, you either have to send them both to their rooms or step back and let them duke it out.

Personally, I think we’re way overdue for some de-escalation. I understand that many others think we need to do just the opposite, but for the purposes of this conversation, we can just agree to disagree on that point.

My only point in all of this is that this is an old, nasty conflict and there’s a ton of blood on everybody’s hands. It’s been many decades since we’ve had any sort of moral high ground when it comes to our involvement in the Middle East. 9/11 could have changed that if we had responded magnanimously, but instead we resorted with the same base reactions that we condemn our enemies for.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t acknowledged that the civilians killed in the towers were “innocent” and therefore different. In a way, they were. In a way, they weren’t. You can call them innocent because most of them never touched a gun in their lives and wished no harm on anyone. At the same time, though, our government has done much harm in our name and here is the double-edged sword of democracy: we elect our government and we are responsible for its actions.

Do you know who was the last President that didn’t engage in overseas warfare? Hoover. The last 13 Presidents and 44 Congresses — with every permutation of Republicans and Democrats you can imagine — have all steadily cultivated the military-industrial complex that has shed the blood of innumerable innocent individuals that we blithely refer to as “collateral damage”.

At every step, we rationalize it. It’s easy to do and we have to do it; we’d be unable to consider ourselves human if we didn’t. “We do our best to minimize ‘collateral damage’, but it’s impossible to avoid it completely and we have to kill them before they kill us.”

It sounds good and logical until you confront the fact that our enemies use the same rationalizations. They look to their lost fathers and mothers and seek vengeance just as we do. They look upon the deaths of enemy non-combatants with the same feelings of righteous self-defense and inevitability. They feel they have to kill us to protect themselves.

And so we swim in the bloodiest of whirlpools.

So were the 9/11 victims innocent?

Lest anyone try to twist my words, let me be absolutely clear that the responsibility for the 9/11 attacks lies entirely with the perpetrators of those attacks. That does not make us innocent bystanders, though. We choose our representatives and give them a ton of money with which to do our bidding. We are responsible for the countless civilian deaths that our government has caused over the decades. You. Me. The 9/11 victims. Every American old enough to work and vote. It takes hundreds of millions people working together to great the largest killing machine the world has ever known. We did it together and most of us were proud of it every step of the way. Many of you are probably furious with me right now because you’re still proud of the weapon we’ve created.

I’m not saying we’re the Bad Guys. I’m just saying we’re not the Good Guys either. We’re simply active participants in a Hatfield-McCoy-esque feud whose root cause is long since forgotten. We’re wrapped up in a nasty affair with enough blood to cover everyone’s hands.

As I said earlier, I think it’s past time for the violence to come down, so I can’t share in the celebration of another death. For those of you that disagree, I understand your viewpoint and I won’t begrudge you your victory celebration. I just want you to realize that it’s no different from the celebrations your enemies hold when they win a battle.

Where You at Now, Joe?

You know, as much as I disagree most of the time with Dennis Kucinich on so many issues, I respect him because he is principled and consistent regardless of who happens to be occupying the White House. That’s a hell of a lot more than what I can say about Joe Biden.

So where are you at Mr. Vice President? Are you going to prove us wrong and show us you are a man of integrity? Will you join Kucinich and the handful of other principled Democrats in questioning President Obama’s authority to bomb targets in Libya without any congressional approval of any kind?

So You’re A Dictator Who Wants to Remain in Power…

Besides the fact that the current regime in Libya is not a threat to U.S. national security, the role of the U.S. military ought not be engaged in strictly humanitarian missions, will likely lead to future humanitarian interventions, and can in no way be argued that such actions in Libya are somehow part of a greater “war on terror,” why else is military intervention in yet another Middle Eastern country a terrible idea? I will answer in the form of another question: what kind of message are our leaders sending the rest of the world when they decide to attack a country that has actually cooperated in the past?

This is exactly the point Jonathan Schwarz makes in his article in The Huffington Post:

In all the discussion about the current U.S. bombing of Libya, something important has gone almost unnoticed — the lesson the United States is teaching the government of every country on earth. That lesson is: no matter what, no matter the inducements or pressure, never ever give up chemical weapons or a nuclear weapons program. Doing so will not ensure that the U.S. does not attack you — on the contrary, it will make it much more likely.

[…]

In Libya’s case, Muammar Gaddafi announced in December 2003 that it was renouncing all WMD — Libya possessed chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapons program — and invited international inspectors to certify its compliance. The U.S. declared that this “demonstrates that, in a world of strong nonproliferation norms, it is never too late to make the decision to become a fully compliant NPT state,” and that Libya would be “amply rewarded.” From the perspective of many governments, Libya is now receiving its reward, in the form of hundreds of Tomahawk missiles and the likely downfall of the regime that agreed to disarm.

I’m no more a fan of Muammar Gaddafi than I am Hugo Chavez, Kim Jung Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Robert Mugabe and I hope they will each have to answer to their own people someday. But even as despicable as these individuals are, they aren’t stupid (though arguably crazy in some instances). If you were one of these dictators, how do you think you would respond if you witnessed from afar the U.S. using its military might to topple a fellow despot who gave up his WMD program to satisfy the nonproliferation policies the U.S. had long pursued in the region? Would you be more or less likely to pursue a WMD program?

How could the Obama administration not recognize that this could undermine these nonproliferation efforts?

Schwarz believes that none of this was lost on those within the administration but was part of the calculations.

But here’s what no Americans know: the current attack on Libya is not an unforeseen glitch in our efforts to get them to disarm. Instead, it was the explicit policy of the U.S. to get countries to disarm so that we would be able to attack them.

This may sound ridiculous to many Americans. After all, no president ever puts it like that. Instead, they say: our enemies must disarm because they threaten the precious lives of our citizens! But in fact when talking to each other, U.S. government officials say it over and over again: we don’t oppose countries like Iraq, Libya and Iran having WMD because we’re scared they’re going to attack us with them. Instead, we oppose them having WMD because that would allow them to deter us from attacking them.

From there, Schwarz cites examples from a 2001 memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and several paragraphs from a paper entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” written by a Neoconservative group called Project for a New American Century.

I don’t know how much this sort of thinking is in place in the Obama administration and couldn’t say if this attack on Libya is a result of such thinking or just plain old shortsightedness. Either way, this intervention is a horrible mistake and will have negative repercussions even beyond Libya itself.

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