Category Archives: Non-Intervention

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.

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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?

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.

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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.

Repost: Where Did The Anti-War Movement Go?

I wrote this originally on April 20, 2009 about Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Now with Obama’s undeclared war in Libya beginning, I feel this is timely so I’m reposting it.

In the American Conservative, Antiwar.com editor Justin Raitmando (whom I often disagree with) has a piece detailing some more leftist hypocrisy concerning their Messiah and his plans to expand the Afghan War

The antiwar rally at the University of Iowa was sparsely attended. The below 30 degree weather might have had something to do with it, but Paul Street, a local writer and one of the speakers, had another theory, as the Daily Iowan reported:

Before the crowd of fewer than 20, Street questioned why the ‘left’ locals and university officials aren’t doing more to help in the protests against the war. ‘The big truth right now, whether this town’s missing-in-action progressives get it or not, is that we need to fight the rich, not their wars,’ he said, citing big corporations for wasting their technology and funding on war.

The big truth is that the antiwar movement has largely collapsed in the face of Barack Obama’s victory: the massive antiwar marches that were a feature of the Bush years are a thing of the past. Those ostensibly antiwar organizations that did so much to agitate against the Iraq War have now fallen into line behind their commander in chief and are simply awaiting orders.

Take, for example, Moveon.org, the online activist group that ran antiwar ads during the election—but only against Republicans—in coalition with a group of labor unions and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. Behind AAEI stood three of Obama’s top political operatives, Steve Hildebrand, Paul Tewes, and Brad Woodhouse. Woodhouse is now the Democratic National Committee’s director of communications and research. He controls the massive e-mail list culled by the Obama campaign during the primaries and subsequently, as well as a list of all those who gave money to the presumed peace candidate. These donors are no doubt wondering what Obama is doing escalating the war in Afghanistan and venturing into Pakistan.

As Greg Sargent noted over at WhoRunsGov.com, a Washington Post-sponsored site, “Don’t look now, but President Obama’s announcement today of an escalation in the American presence in Afghanistan is being met with mostly silence—and even some support—from the most influential liberal groups who opposed the Iraq War.”

In response to inquiries, Moveon.org refused to make any public statement about Obama’s rollout of the Af-Pak escalation, although someone described as “an official close to the group” is cited by WhoRunsGov as confirming that “MoveOn wouldn’t be saying anything in the near term.” A vague promise to poll their members was mentioned—“though it’s unclear when.” Don’t hold your breath.

Another Democratic Party front masquerading as a peace group, Americans United for Change, declined to comment on the war plans of the new administration. This astroturf organization ran $600,000 worth of television ads in the summer of 2007, focusing like a laser on congressional districts with Republican incumbents. Change? Not so fast.

The boldest of the peacenik sellouts, however, is Jon Soltz of VoteVets, described by WhoRunsGov as “among the most pugnacious anti-Iraq war groups.” They came out fists flying, endorsing the escalation of the Long War.

According to Soltz, there is “much to like in the plan,” but his faves boil down to three factors, which supposedly represent “a stark departure” from the bad old days of the Bush administration. He applauds the administration’s recognition that “The military can’t do it all.” Yet we’re increasing the troop levels by some 17,000, plus 4,000 trainers to babysit the barely existent Afghan “army.” We’re going to send thousands more civilians—aid workers, medical personnel, and military contractors—to build the infrastructure lacking in Afghan society and promote fealty to the central government in Kabul. Schools, clinics, roads, and shopping malls will be built with American tax dollars in order to foster trust between the Afghans, their occupiers, and their government.

The so-called “anti-war” groups that popped up before the Iraq War were never anti-war. Many of their founders and leaders cheered on BJ Clinton’s wars in the Balkans and in Haiti. They were not completely anti-American or merely “on the other side” as some conservative and neo-libertarian bloggers accused them either. The “anti-war” movement was simply a rallying point for leftists and Democrat party hacks who needed to gain traction against a popular (at the time) President Bush. They needed to sow doubt about the Iraq War (the mismanagement of the war by the Bush administration helped as well) in order to have a wedge issue against President Bush. Naturally, they rooted for more American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and for American objectives to go unfulfilled, at least while Bush was president.

Now their Messiah has been elected and he wants to expand the Afghan War, possibly into Pakistan. What’s a leftist posing a peace activist supposed to do. Well, what all good leftists do, follow their leader, in this case the Messiah. He wants to send 17,000 more Americans into Afghanistan to bring democracy, destroy the Taliban, and put in chicken in every Afghan pot. He has not defined what “victory” is in Afghanistan, nor does he have a plan, short of nuclear war, to combat the Talibanization of Pakistan. If George W. Bush planned this, the so-called peace activists would have been the ones having Tea Parties on April 15.

Aren’t the so-called “peace activists” being just a tad bit hypocritical now that their Messiah is in the Oval Office and wants his little war?

Finally, I just want to point out, I do not intend to attack sincere opponents of US foreign policy and interventionism, like Justin Raitmando. I disagree with some of Justin’s positions and lot of his rhetoric. However I can respect Justin and most paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians as principled noninterventionists who oppose most if not all US military campaigns over the past two decades and longer.

It is the unprincipled hacks on the left who adopt the phony cause of “anti-war” when they’re out of power that need to be condemned.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

I Was Wrong About the War in Iraq

The following is a post I started a little over 2 years ago explaining my 180 concerning the war in Iraq. This is easily the most difficult post I’ve ever written because of the life and death nature of the subject matter and admitting being on the wrong side of this issue for so long. As tempting as it has been to continue to ignore this issue, I felt that I owed it to the readers of The Liberty Papers to finally explain myself before moving on to other posts.

I think that most Americans on both sides of the Iraq debate have the best interests of America at heart (to the extent there even is a debate anymore).

Much of the Iraq debate seems to be based on emotion rather than reason. Emotional talking points from the Left such as “Bush lied, people died” (though I do believe he over sold the threat), “Bush wanted to be a war time president,” and “the Iraq war is really about Halliburton” or “BIG oil” remain unconvincing to me. I took great exception to war critics who resort to calling anyone who supports any war for any reason a “war monger” or a “chicken hawk” (and I still do).

I also took great exception to those on the Right who would say that “you can’t support the troops if you don’t support the mission.” Such a claim is obviously ludicrous because some of the troops themselves do not support the mission. That would mean they do not support themselves! Arguments that individuals should not criticize the president because “we are at war” have always seemed Orwellian and scary to me.

Though I like to think of myself as a man of reason, reasonable people will fall into emotional traps from time to time; no one is 100% logical or reasonable 100% of the time on each and every issue. I fell into the emotional traps that many on the Right (and most everyone else for at least a short time) fell into in the aftermath of 9/11: anger, hatred, and fear.

Why I supported the War in Iraq

My immediate response to the aftermath of 9/11 was anger, hatred, and fear (and I’m sure I wasn’t alone). I was angry that these religious extremists attacked my country, I hated them for their reasons for doing so, and I feared more attacks would come at any moment. I wasn’t interested in justice for those responsible for the attacks, I wanted vengeance!

Though I never believed that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, I believed that it was time to rethink my positions on how America should deal with rogue states such as Iraq. While I would not have supported invading a nation, overthrowing that nation’s government, and rebuilding a nation prior to 9/11, it seemed that America needed to be proactive and “preempt” such nations from even the possibility of attacking America first. I supported the invasion because I truly believed the WMD threat was real and that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would lead to liberty spreading throughout the region and thus would make America safer.

For a short time, this theory seemed to becoming a reality. U.S. and coalition troops defeated the Iraqi forces in record time. The cable news channels showed Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue and in broken English saying such things as “Thank you America” and “Thank you Mr. Bush.” Shortly thereafter, President Bush made his infamous tail-hook landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln which had a large banner which read “Mission Accomplished.” I thought for sure that this meant the troops would be coming home and that the critics of the war had been proven wrong in their dire predictions. Sure, Saddam Hussein and his sons were still at large, there was still some violence in the immediate aftermath, and no stockpiles of WMD had been found but all these things would be taken care of in a matter of time. A few more months perhaps?

It all made a great deal of sense in theory but the reality seems to be quite different.

What Changed?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I began to realize the invasion and subsequent occupation Iraq to be a mistake. When weapons hunters failed to find the WMD in the first couple of years after the invasion, my thinking was that perhaps the “preemption” approach was wrongheaded but because the troops were already there, the damage had already been done. I believed that because American foreign policy lead to the chaos that followed the invasion, it was the duty of our government to clean up the mess (i.e. the “you broke it, you bought it” argument). I further believed that if coalition troops pulled out of Iraq “the Islamofascists will follow us home” unless the Iraqi government was stable enough to handle the violence itself.

The truth of the matter is my reasoning was clouded by fear. This post I wrote in early 2007 illustrates this fear . We could not afford to allow our enemies to claim victory in Iraq as they would become “emboldened” and be encouraged to carry out future attacks both on American soil and abroad. This is not a war we could afford to lose; failure was not an option.

But when I was challenged by readers and fellow TLP contributors define exactly what “victory” in Iraq would look like, I struggled in vain to find a satisfactory answer. I now realize that if American troops were to leave tomorrow, next year, or 100 years from now, the radical Islamists will claim victory no matter when the troops leave. They are master propagandists and those who follow their ideology do not allow facts to get in the way of their beliefs. Some of these people don’t even acknowledge that the Holocaust even happened despite all of the mountains of documentary evidence to the contrary.

The first thing that has changed in my thinking is the fear factor. The whole purpose of terrorism is to cause people to be terrorized. When we overreact and do such things as pass the Patriot Act, surrender liberties we otherwise would not, or send troops to fight undeclared wars against countries that might have WMD and may directly or indirectly use these weapons against the U.S. or her allies, the terrorist act has accomplished its intended goal.

The second big change is my understanding of contemporary history. My thinking was that America’s military might would be enough to transform the Middle East from a region of oppression to a region of freedom. These were people yearning to be free. All that needed to happen was for the despots to be deposed, the people liberated, and our world would be more peaceful as a result.

In the Point post “A Case for Non-Intervention,” Brad correctly pointed out the flaws of this logic of fatal conceit: that man can shape the world around him according to his wishes. By the time I wrote the Counterpoint to Brad’s post, I was already beginning to see the error of my thinking but still holding out hope that somehow we could avoid the “reverse King Midas effect” this time.

But why would this time be any different?

At least since President Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. has been intervening in internal affairs of other countries allegedly to “make the world safer for democracy.” But rather than making the world safer, in most cases it seems, American foreign policy has created more enemies rather than less. The conditions that led up to the adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan are in many ways the result of American foreign policy. The continued presence of American troops occupying and nation building in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere fosters resentment among these populations.

Lessons Learned

One argument I used to make was that leaving Iraq as a failed mission would mean that those troops who had died for the cause would have died in vain. I no longer believe this necessarily has to be the case if we as a people learn the right lessons of Iraq.

There were people who opposed the war in the very beginning for very principled reasons (and I’m not talking about the so-called anti-war Democrats who seem to have nothing to say about Iraq now that their guy is in office). Others like me, unfortunately, had to learn the lessons of Iraq the hard way. I was naive and trusted that the government was acting in such a way that would make its citizens safer but I now see the error in this thinking. Neither North Korea nor Iran seems to be slowing down their WMD programs as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And despite the anti-terror policies that have been enacted since 9/11 and despite this war, our cities are likely as vulnerable if not more so than before 9/11. Our own government is a much greater threat to our liberties than al Qaeda ever will be.

It’s really the open-ended nature of this “war on terror” and failure on the part of our government to define who exactly the enemy is that makes the concept of victory unobtainable. Who specifically is our enemy? Is it just al Qaeda and/or the Taliban or is it anyone and everyone the U.S. government calls a “terrorist”? If we cannot even define exactly who our enemy is, how is victory even possible?

Once the enemy has been identified, the congress (not the president) should debate whether or not to declare war on the enemy. Any declaration of war should include not only who the enemy is but define in precise terms the meaning of victory (as opposed to making it up as they go along). The idea of going into another undeclared war in the future should be considered a complete non-starter (and the notion of “preemptive” wars of choice in particular).

Now What?

Its time for the people of Iraq to decide for themselves what kind of future they want. Our brave soldiers have done the heavy lifting for far too long. Its time for our brave troops to come home to their families and let them move on with their lives.

Ditto for Afghanistan. The only troops that should be left behind should be those with the sole mission of hunting Bin Laden and his extremist followers. The nation building mission should be brought to an end.

Its time to completely rethink the American foreign policy of the last 100 years or so. Has the presence of American troops made the world, and more importantly America safer? Is it still necessary to our national security to have so many troops stationed around the globe? (Was it ever?) What ever happened to the “walk softly” part of “walk softly but carry a big stick”?

Its time to move beyond the Cold War posture and allow other nations to determine their own futures.

In the mean time, we should be doing all we can to secure our own futures and help our wounded war veterans put their lives back together.

It’s Still Charlie Wilson’s War

In the fantastic Tom Hanks film Charlie Wilson’s War, Hanks’ character is seen frequently bringing up the deteriorating post-Soviet situation in Afghanistan to his fellow congressmen. Having been active in funding the American involvement in combatting the Soviets during their invasion of the Southwest Asian country, Wilson found it very irresponsible to quickly abandon the country once the Soviet Union had fallen apart. Other lawmakers derided him as being the “congressman from Kabul” in the film. Given the events of 9/11, his maintained concern over Afghanistan seems quite prophetic.

The hard part in life is that there are no solutions, only trade-offs. Seemingly endless wars understandably are quite unaffordable, with record unemployment and enormous deficits. On Twitter, I caught Joe Scarborough saying “What is the end game in Afghanistan? What is our goal?” Not a bad question. I also caught O’TooleFan saying
“Does anyone seriously believe we’re ever going to be able to turn things over to the Afghan army?” Another good question, but one that needs to be coupled with consideration for long term responsibility and rational self-interest.

I am only a twenty something writer. I hardly know the answers. I do, however, have enough knowledge of history to know that troublespots in the world do not stop calling us just because we stop calling them. With Kurdistan showing considerable promise as a home for modernity in the Middle East and a strong amount of blood and treasure spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is foolish and irresponsible to think we can just abandon it wholesale. It would not be shocking to witness those whose familes or loved ones fall victim to the tyrannical dictators or roaming ethno-nationalists that will inevitably fill that sort of power vacuum blame it on America.

The strongest alternative, in my view, is to try to recruit the budding powers of the world stage who also share an interest in a stable and non-volatile Middle East to become involved. This requires a level of diplomacy that will require considerable improvement in ties with growing superpowers like Brazil and strengthening of ties with India. It may also, as Stephen Kinzer has suggested in his prescient book Iran, Turkey, America’s Future, require the courting of natural but untraditional allies.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

Where Did The Anti-War Movement Go?

In the American Conservative, Antiwar.com editor Justin Raitmando (whom I often disagree with) has a piece detailing some more leftist hypocrisy concerning their Messiah and his plans to expand the Afghan War

The antiwar rally at the University of Iowa was sparsely attended. The below 30 degree weather might have had something to do with it, but Paul Street, a local writer and one of the speakers, had another theory, as the Daily Iowan reported:

Before the crowd of fewer than 20, Street questioned why the ‘left’ locals and university officials aren’t doing more to help in the protests against the war. ‘The big truth right now, whether this town’s missing-in-action progressives get it or not, is that we need to fight the rich, not their wars,’ he said, citing big corporations for wasting their technology and funding on war.

The big truth is that the antiwar movement has largely collapsed in the face of Barack Obama’s victory: the massive antiwar marches that were a feature of the Bush years are a thing of the past. Those ostensibly antiwar organizations that did so much to agitate against the Iraq War have now fallen into line behind their commander in chief and are simply awaiting orders.

Take, for example, Moveon.org, the online activist group that ran antiwar ads during the election—but only against Republicans—in coalition with a group of labor unions and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. Behind AAEI stood three of Obama’s top political operatives, Steve Hildebrand, Paul Tewes, and Brad Woodhouse. Woodhouse is now the Democratic National Committee’s director of communications and research. He controls the massive e-mail list culled by the Obama campaign during the primaries and subsequently, as well as a list of all those who gave money to the presumed peace candidate. These donors are no doubt wondering what Obama is doing escalating the war in Afghanistan and venturing into Pakistan.

As Greg Sargent noted over at WhoRunsGov.com, a Washington Post-sponsored site, “Don’t look now, but President Obama’s announcement today of an escalation in the American presence in Afghanistan is being met with mostly silence—and even some support—from the most influential liberal groups who opposed the Iraq War.”

In response to inquiries, Moveon.org refused to make any public statement about Obama’s rollout of the Af-Pak escalation, although someone described as “an official close to the group” is cited by WhoRunsGov as confirming that “MoveOn wouldn’t be saying anything in the near term.” A vague promise to poll their members was mentioned—“though it’s unclear when.” Don’t hold your breath.

Another Democratic Party front masquerading as a peace group, Americans United for Change, declined to comment on the war plans of the new administration. This astroturf organization ran $600,000 worth of television ads in the summer of 2007, focusing like a laser on congressional districts with Republican incumbents. Change? Not so fast.

The boldest of the peacenik sellouts, however, is Jon Soltz of VoteVets, described by WhoRunsGov as “among the most pugnacious anti-Iraq war groups.” They came out fists flying, endorsing the escalation of the Long War.

According to Soltz, there is “much to like in the plan,” but his faves boil down to three factors, which supposedly represent “a stark departure” from the bad old days of the Bush administration. He applauds the administration’s recognition that “The military can’t do it all.” Yet we’re increasing the troop levels by some 17,000, plus 4,000 trainers to babysit the barely existent Afghan “army.” We’re going to send thousands more civilians—aid workers, medical personnel, and military contractors—to build the infrastructure lacking in Afghan society and promote fealty to the central government in Kabul. Schools, clinics, roads, and shopping malls will be built with American tax dollars in order to foster trust between the Afghans, their occupiers, and their government.

The so-called “anti-war” groups that popped up before the Iraq War were never anti-war. Many of their founders and leaders cheered on BJ Clinton’s wars in the Balkans and in Haiti. They were not completely anti-American or merely “on the other side” as some conservative and neo-libertarian bloggers accused them either. The “anti-war” movement was simply a rallying point for leftists and Democrat party hacks who needed to gain traction against a popular (at the time) President Bush. They needed to sow doubt about the Iraq War (the mismanagement of the war by the Bush administration helped as well) in order to have a wedge issue against President Bush. Naturally, they rooted for more American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and for American objectives to go unfulfilled, at least while Bush was president.

Now their Messiah has been elected and he wants to expand the Afghan War, possibly into Pakistan. What’s a leftist posing a peace activist supposed to do. Well, what all good leftists do, follow their leader, in this case the Messiah. He wants to send 17,000 more Americans into Afghanistan to bring democracy, destroy the Taliban, and put in chicken in every Afghan pot. He has not defined what “victory” is in Afghanistan, nor does he have a plan, short of nuclear war, to combat the Talibanization of Pakistan. If George W. Bush planned this, the so-called peace activists would have been the ones having Tea Parties on April 15.

Aren’t the so-called “peace activists” being just a tad bit hypocritical now that their Messiah is in the Oval Office and wants his little war?

Finally, I just want to point out, I do not intend to attack sincere opponents of US foreign policy and interventionism, like Justin Raitmando. I disagree with some of Justin’s positions and lot of his rhetoric. However I can respect Justin and most paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians as principled noninterventionists who oppose most if not all US military campaigns over the past two decades and longer.

It is the unprincipled hacks on the left who adopt the phony cause of “anti-war” when they’re out of power that need to be condemned.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Responding to Piracy on the Somali Coast

Somali pirates have been in the news a great deal lately, and there is a great deal of controversy as to how to deal with them.  To date, the proposed solutions seem to be a simplistic calls for a) intervention to build a stable state in Somalia, b) send in various national navies to engage and destroy the pirates, c) arm merchant ships for self defense.

The reality is, though, far more complex, and much of the proposed interventions are actually counterproductive.  To understand the scope of the problem, we must understand first why there is so much piracy in and around the gulf of Aden.

Piracy and lawlessness go hand in hand.  Piracy arises pretty spontaneously wherever relatively unprotected and valuable cargos are being transported through an impoverished area, and the inhabitants have the weapons to pull off the raid and a reasonable chance of  getting away with it.

In the case of the Gulf of Aden, piracy has long been an issue.  But, the number of people taking up piracy spiked as a result of the recent U.S. backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia.  Many people have been driven off their land, or have lost their ability to earn a living due to the economic collapse that followed the invasion and the rise of an anti-Ethiopian resistance.  Moreover, the plundering of Somali fishing grounds by foreign fishing fleets has resulted in a large pool of desperate fishermen who no longer can feed their families through honest labor.

The poverty and desperation of the Somalis, their ready access to weapons, and the existence of shipping routes connecting the valuable markets of South and East Asia with the Mediterranean running right off their coastline have predictably encouraged many locals to take up lives of piracy.  There will be no simple solution that ends the threat of piracy.  Rather the problem will persist so long as the root causes are unaddressed, and merchants are prevented from adequately defending themselves.

The first step is to listen to the merchants themselves:

TYPICAL ATTACK PROFILES AND LESSONS LEARNT

1. During 2008 significantly increased pirate attacks on merchant ships occurred throughout the GoA [aka Gulf of Aden] and off the coast of Somalia. The majority were clustered around the northern side of the GoA
but some attacks have occurred further off the east coast of  Somalia.

2. Analysis of successful attacks indicates that the following common vulnerabilities are exploited by the pirates:

a. Low speed

b. Low freeboard

c. Inadequate planning and procedures

d. Visibly low state of alert and/or evident self protective measures

e. Where a slow response by the ship is evident

3. Commonly two or more small high speed (up to 25 knots) open boats/ “skiffs” are used in attacks often approaching from the port quarter and/or stern.

4. The use of a pirate “mother ship”, which is a larger ship carrying personnel, equipment and smaller assault craft, has enabled the attacks to be successfully undertaken at a greater range from the shore.

5. Vigilance should be highest at first light and last light, as the majority of the attacks have taken place during these periods.

6. To date no successful attacks have occurred on ships at 15 knots or more.

7. The majority of attempted hijacks have been repelled by ship’s crew who have planned and trained in advance of the passage and employed passive counter measures to good effect.

Reading discussions by mariners, it is pretty clear that what mariners want are options, and the access to experts who can defend them.     Many sailors complain that when they call for help, national navies are slow to respond.  Many countries limit merchant ships entering their ports from carrying any weapons other than a side-arm locked in the captain’s safe.  Moreover, the navies can be quite destructive, sinking ships that are not engaging in piracy.

There is a nascent security industry dedicated to protecting merchant ships.  The problem appears to be manageable for prepared crews.  If they transit the area quickly, they appear to be relatively safe.

Somali motivations into taking up piracy are quite complex.  Essentially they are the product of the unwillingness of surrounding nation states to accept the existence of a stateless inhabited portion of the world. Somali piracy started out as a response to the loss of access to the rich fishing grounds off the Somali coast.  Korean, European and Yemeni fishing vessels would haul in rich catches in Somali territorial waters, effectively denying the Somali fishermen who had homesteaded those fisheries from access to their property.  Deprived of their livelihood, they turned to opportunistic piracy, using the same system as that of the Barbary Pirates (with the exception that they treat their captives well).  Unfortunately, what started out as an act of desperation has mutated into an institution:  piracy rings have turned into big business.  Pirates supply wealth and weapons to various factions fighting the U.S. backed state. Members of the U.S. backed state are also on the pirate rings’ payroll.  The invasion has disrupted the traditional economy, making people even more dependent on piracy.

“Millions in defense, not one cent in tribute” – Thomas Jefferson

Breaking up these crime rings will require a combination of concessions and steadfast resistance.  Merchant ships should be permitted to arm themselves as they see fit to defend themselves.  A few AK-47’s or .50 cal machine guns on board a maneuvering ship should be sufficient to keep small boats from closing to the point where they can board. Ships must be allowed to do what they need to do able to transit

However, the same should not be said for the large foreign vessels plundering the Somali coastal waters.  The fishing grounds are the property of the Somali fishermen who have, in a Lockean sense, homesteaded them.   Outsiders should respect those property rights.  This would not represent some dramatic special consideration given to the Somalis; under International Law, those fishing grounds are off limits to the foreign fishing fleets since they are Somali territorial waters.

The U.S. government should end interference in Somalia.  While there is nothing wrong with punitive expeditions against professional pirates, the conquest and subjugation of non-pirates who happen to live near pirates and the disruption of their farms and industries are absolutely unjustified and counterproductive.

By geography, Somalia should be a wealthy state.  It is well positioned to be an outlet of African goods being shipped to South and East Asia.  Its poverty is the product of the nearly continuous attempts by outsiders to impose external rule on a people who don’t want it – interventions that started when Mussolini sent Italian troops to conquer the Horn of Africa.

Early this year, the Ethiopian army retreated from Somalia.  The nation state that they left behind is now run by many of the same Islamist political factions that the U.S. government was trying to suppress when it arranged for the Ethiopian invasion and attempted to install a puppet state.  Accepting this ‘defeat’, and switching from a policy of nation-building to  working diplomatically with clan leaders to address and legitimate grievances they may hold against U.S. nationals, while refusing to accept crimes committed against peaceful vessels transiting the area would do much to improve the situation.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

New Freedom Website

There’s a new freedom-oriented website out there: Freedom Politics. From their initial blog posting:

Lovers of liberty, rejoice. Today, we’re launching FreedomPolitics.com, a site dedicated to the pursuit and protection of freedom.

We’re not the only ones who think freedom needs a hand, but as a Freedom Communications site, we follow the model of an exceptional defender of liberty, R.C. Hoiles. [snip]

With the support of more than 25 newspapers across the country, including that flagship, FreedomPolitics.com will be a hub of news and commentary dedicated to spreading R.C. Hoiles’ vision and the ideas of liberty of liberty he loved.

Right now we’re just getting started (consider this our soft launch), so don’t hesitate to let us know if something goes awry. The site will go fully operational on Inauguration Day with a slate of commentary from the top minds in the freedom movement.

The first set of articles are great. My fave is from former co-worker Doug Bandow, who writes about our “Return to Liberal Interventionism.”

Barack Obama is nothing if not a unique politician.  Despite his liberal background, he rushed to the center after the election.

Indeed, his foreign policy is starting to look like a slightly more reasonable version of Bush-McCain neoconservatism.  The result may be promiscuous military intervention, but only after Washington takes the usual diplomatic steps and rounds up the usual allies.

The most disconcerting sign of the future is the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.  True, when testifying before the U.S. Senate she sounded like the model of responsibility:  “We must build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.  Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology.”

I’m bookmarking the site and will be checking it out from time to time.

No Philosophy?

Several times over the past few years, well respected and well known people, have written that the reason liberty oriented people fail in the political arena, or achieve limited results that they cannot follow up on or capitalize on; is because there is no coherent philosophy behind the notion of liberty.

In fact, the common notion is that liberty is antithetical to philosophy; a notion reinforced by many peoples conception of Ayn Rands book “Philosophy, who needs it”; which is in fact a philosophical tract (as are all her books).

The thing is though, it isn’t true. There IS a philosophy of liberty. It’s internally consistent, complete, and comprehensive.

It’s also so simple, that many people ignore it, pass it over, or don’t recognize it as a philosophy. So it irks me that otherwise quite intelligent folks write that there is no philosophy, when I KNOW that people have been talking about it in front of them, or even with them, for years.

It’s called the non-initiation, or non-aggression principle, and it is the only philosophical framework and ethical system that doesn’t require either an appeal to divine authority, or appeal to collectivism… (actually perhaps it should best be stated as simply not requiring an appeal to authority at all), to be internally justified and consistent.

It is the core of libertarian thought and philosophy; and it’s completely simple:

  1. You own your entire self (body, mind, and soul).
  2. You have the absolute right to:
    • self determination
    • freedom of conscience
    • your own property legitimately acquired (which includes your entire self) and the employment thereof
    • the efforts, products, and outputs of all the above
  3. You have the absolute right to defend those things, and the product or output of them; up to and including lethal force.
  4. There are no other rights. All other privileges, powers, and immunities, are less than rights; and are either derived from, or in opposition to them.
  5. You cannot initiate force or fraud against any other to abrogate their rights; or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; but including defending those rights for others who either cannot defend themselves, or those who delegate that defense to you.
  6. None may initiate force or fraud against you to abrogate those rights, or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; including defending others rights from you.
  7. There are no rights, privileges, powers, or immunities which are not derived from the rights of the individual. A collective cannot arrogate rights on itself which are not delegated to it by individuals; therefore no collective may exercise more or different rights than any individual, nor may it exercise those rights which have not been explicitly delegated to it.
  8. You have absolute responsibility for all of the above. All consequences are yours, good or bad.

It’s very simple really; though as with so many simple things, it isn’t necessarily easy.

Unfortunately different people/groups have slightly different definitions of force or aggression, and slightly different definitions of initiation.

For example: is pre-emptive self defense ethical? If so, how do you separate that from the initiation of unjustified aggression etc… etc…

So, the various liberty oriented subgroups spend all their time arguing about angels and pinheads.

I have said many times in the past that I am not what I have called “a non-aggressionist”; which to an extent is true; however I do subscribe to the philosophy above.

I state in my post “The Politics of Liberty”:

“My beliefs on government are rooted in three core tenets.

  • The coercive restraint of human liberty is inherently evil. Control of ones person, property, and behavior should be the exclusive province of the sovereign man.
  • The only legitimate limitation of liberty is that which prevents transgression on the liberty of others, or which compensates those transgressed upon.
  • Without a disinterested arbiter, maintaining a monopoly of legitimate force with which it resolves disputes and enforces compacts between men, the liberty of the weak will be abrogated by the will of the strong”

And this is where my conflict with the non-aggressionists begins.

I subscribe to the philosophy of liberty, but exclude myself from the “non-aggressionist” description, because my definitions of “initiate” and “force” or “aggression”, are considerably different from those who consider themselves strict non-aggressionists.

For example, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to kill someone who is planning to kill you, before they ever pick up a gun. To a strict non-aggressionist, this is unethical and morally wrong.

I also believe that you are responsible not just to yourself, but to your wife and children for example; and that they are responsible to you. I also believe that it is perfectly acceptable for you to make choices for your kids to protect them, until they are able to do so on their own.

Again, the non-aggressionists think that is wrong.

In fact, they would strongly object to the way I wrote points 5 and 6 above; because they would consider defending someone elses rights an unjustified initiation of force, unless that individual specifically and explicitly delegates that right to you.

I believe that without governments, at least as voluntary collectives; the strong will inevitably violate the rights of the weak; until the strong are too powerful to be resisted, at which point they will enforce tyranny.

Non aggressionists believe that because no government can be perfect, according to their interpretation of the philosophical system of liberty; all government is therefore illegitimate and cannot be allowed to exist.

Personally, I believe that strict non-aggressionism is a voluntary mental illness.

(Oh and on a strictly personal basis, I’m a catholic… and I see no contradiction between Catholicism, and the philosophy of liberty. I’m also a veteran, and I see no conflict between voluntary military service, and the politics of liberty. Those two make most of their heads just explode.)

So, there must be some pragmatism involved; as there must be with any system of philosophy, morality, and ethics.

The problem with this philosophy of course is that it is SO simple, that it isn’t sexy or saleable. There is no hidden advantage. There is no tribal secret. There is no group to identify with.

Of course, that is the point.

It’s about individualism. Individual rights, individual responsibilities, individual rewards, and individual consequences. This is why I call myself a muscular minarchist individualist, and not a non-aggressionist; or even a libertarian.

Amazingly to me, at least on an emotional visceral level (I understand it to be true intellectually, and some of the reasoning behind it, I just think it’s absurd, or even obscene); is that this whole idea is uncomfortable, or frightening, or simply preposterous to many people.

I write, quite a lot, and I play games, and I instruct; and there’s something I’ve found common to all those activities:

Most people, when given a broad base of possibilities with limited restrictions, have difficulty in orienting themselves, and deciding what to do.

Being put into such a situation makes them uncomfortable, or even fearful.

This is the problem the philosophy of liberty presents.

Those people inevitably do better, the more strictures and structures are put up around them. It helps them orient themselves, and constrains their analysis. It gives them something to hold on to. They lose their fear in the reassuring embrace of “the system”. They get reassurance from “the system” that they are not at risk, and that they are doing “the right thing”.

The ultimate examples of this of course are Fascism and Communism; both philosophies based on totalitarian control; and both are very attractive to those who feel lost or frightened or paralyzed without such limitations.

It is my belief that there are essentially two types of individual: Those who do not wish to be controlled, and those who do.

The problem, is that those who wish to be controlled, almost universally have a desire to control others; or at the least to force all others to be controlled. The rest of us just want to be left alone; but by nature, the former philosophies grow stronger the more adherents they get, until they, inevitably, impose tyranny.

I also believe that those who wish to be controlled FAR outnumber those who do not; perhaps as much as 20 to 1.

They construct philosophies and ethical systems which conform to their own personal desires; and then justify their coercive actions against others within the framework of those philosophies; so that it becomes legitimate to use coercive power against those who do not subscribe to that philosophy…

…and so the beast is born.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

IEEE and U.S. Hegemony

In IEEE‘s flagship magazine, Spectrum, there is a fairly idiotic editorial warning Europeans against buying natural gas from Russia.

Why can’t the European Union just adopt a strategy of energy independence and wean itself from Russia and the “stans”?

Of course, there is no way for Europe to be “independent” with respect to natural gas. There aren’t sufficient reserves in Europe to meet the current demand. A reduced supply of natural gas will necessarily result in higher prices for energy. Higher prices for energy translate to reduced economic development and everybody being poorer. Why should the Europeans impoverish themselves?

Of course, the writer of the editorial, William Sweet, is not really opposed to Europeans purchasing gas from non Europeans; he praises a pipeline being developed to ship it from Nigeria.  Rather, he seems upset with people buying gas from Russian suppliers. Why?

Russia has repeatedly shown its willingness in recent years to cut off gas supplies for political reasons, basically to bring countries it considers its satellites to heel, notably Ukraine. Of course it wouldn’t dare cut supplies to a country like Germany, which gets about half its gas from Russia. But where German and Russian interests and values collide, Russia could manipulate markets to get its way and use the threat of its market power to ward off diplomatic or military action.

In other words, if Europeans are trading with Russians, they might refuse to back some third party who is contemplating some intervention targeting Russia. Hmm, I wonder who this unnamed party might be?

A recent survey by London’s Financial Times found that European mistrust of Russia has increased sharply in the past six months: the proportion of respondents who consider Russia the greatest threat to world stability rose from just a few percent in July to nearly 20 percent in September, putting it well ahead of Iran and almost as high as China. It may come as a shock to many American readers, however, that the United States still ranks in European minds as the greatest threat to world stability, scoring over 25 percent in September.

And here we see the problem. If Europeans are trading with Russians, they might not side with the U.S. in a dispute with Russia.

This article highlights why I have mixed feelings about my IEEE membership. The work it does in developing and maintaining standards is wonderful. But their consistent support for the American military-industrial complex gives me pause. Like IBM supplying Hollerith tabulators to the Nazis with no concern for what they were being used for – there is no U.S. military or security program, no matter how abusive of civil liberties or vulnerable to tyrannical misuse that IEEE won’t support. Normally the IEEE leadership concerns itself solely with the technical problems that are needed to enhance U.S. government power.  In this case, the Spectrum editorial board is going further and demanding that European politicians adopt policies solely for the benefit of the U.S. government (and to the detriment of people living in Europe).

Yes, the Russian government has imperial ambitions. Yes, Putin’s government is a fascistic one. However, if Russians are trading with Europeans, if the Russian economy integrates with the European one, the likelihood of of a Russian millitary attack of Europe is much lower.  Increased economic integration between Europeans and the people living in former Russian satellites will also reduce the likelihood of conflicts between Russia and the satellites as well (especially since it would lead to greater Russian/former satellite integration as well).

Bastiat’s dictum applies:

If goods don’t cross borders then armies will.

The U.S. government’s global hegemony is ending. If IEEE wishes to retain its technical leadership in a multipolar world, it should stop viewing itself as a unofficial arm of the U.S. government and stick to its valuable work in developing standards.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

Don’t Forget to Study Before the Final!

I just received my mail-in ballot a week or so ago. The ballot, with multiple choices with arrows to be filled out next to each choice, reminds me of taking standardized tests back in the day. Some tests were easier than others but I knew that if I did not study, one of two things could happen: (1) I could get lucky and answer enough of the questions correctly to pass or (2) I could possibly fail.

In a way, the general election is a final exam. Whether one “passes” the exam or not depends on whether s/he votes according to his or her principles. In order to increase your chances of voting according to your principles, you must study.

I am disgusted with the Republican and Democrat parties. When going over my ballot, my first instinct was to vote Libertarian in every race with a Libertarian candidate. I had studied all of the ballot measures and was satisfied that I could make intelligent choices there, but I hadn’t researched the candidates below the presidential level*. In the U.S. House race, I found three choices: the incumbent Diana DeGette (D), George Lilly (R), and Martin Buchanan (L). I knew that DeGette supported the bailout so she was never an option. Buchanan is a Libertarian and his positions he posted on his website are indeed Libertarian.

So why not just support the Libertarian you ask?

Regardless of how much I despise the Republican and Democrat parties, I make an effort to learn about the individual candidates and their positions before making a choice. Much to my delight and surprise, I found the Republican, George Lilly to be a “Ron Paul Republican.” I knew that there were such individuals running in this election but I never thought I would have had an opportunity to vote for one!

Now, I know that an endorsement from Ron Paul is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be but take a look at Lilly’s positions posted on his website:

Please join me in RESTORING the Constitution, and together, let’s:

1. RESTORE the economy — free up business from onerous outdated regulations.

2. RESTORE proper use of the military (136 nations have U.S. military presence.)

3. RESTORE integrity to the treaty process to protect America’s interests first.

4. RESTORE individual privacy and say “no” to the Real I.D. Act.

5. RESTORE high quality medical care at affordable prices.

6. RESTORE checks & balances — the executive branch has gotten too powerful.

7. RESTORE integrity in the campaign financing process.

8. RESTORE integrity to the dollar — re-institute the gold standard. Watch this YouTube video!

9. RESTORE integrity to the tax system — rein in the I.R.S.

10. RESTORE and retain rights to unregulated health supplements & the Internet.

The following will be my top priorities in Congress:

1. Create a level playing field for Americans who receive the benefit of Workmen’s Compensation, mandatory health insurance, retirement benefits, taxes, OSHA, EPA etc. and calculate that into the cost of the products manufactured so that any foreign country not providing the same benefits to their employees would have to pay a tariff on their imported products to equal that amount.

2. Support a bill that calls for a single subject on all spending bills.

3. Oppose unconstitutional spending in the form of corporate subsidies.

4. Oppose unconstitutional spending in the area of education so that “No (every) Child Left Behind” is abolished.

5. Hold the Federal Reserve to account for their corruption of the dollar which has driven up the price of everything way beyond what any normal person can even consider affording!

While I have some concern about his #1 priority being a little on the protectionist side, I certainly applaud his willingness to stand up for the Constitution and against big government**. He’s not purely libertarian but in my estimation, he’s at least as libertarian as Ron Paul.

Having learned about George Lilly’s positions, most of which I agree with, I am very glad I had taken the time to make an informed choice. Now my choice was between the Ron Paul Republican and the Libertarian. Who should I choose?

Most things being equal, I decided to support Lilly. As a practical matter, the Republican Lilly would have a much better chance of unseating DeGette than the Libertarian Buchanan. I have not seen any polls regarding the District 1 race, but I suspect that in a district which seems to worship the ground Barack Obama walks on, DeGette will be difficult if not impossible to beat. If most of the libertarian vote goes to Buchanan, we’ll almost certainly re-elect a tax and spend Democrat to another term.

This is why I urge everyone to study each race before casting a vote***. Put emotions aside and “think the vote.” Though the electorate as a whole may fail the exam, we should each make the effort to pass individually.
» Read more

Analysing John McCain’s Foreign Policy Wish List – No Ponies For Little Girls

Calvin\'s Christmas ListJohn McCain must hate little girls. It is one of many inescapable conclusions that arise from reading his National Security position paper, which promises all things to everyone – well almost everyone. His foreign policy plans promise more submarines, more ships, more aircraft, more divisions, more security, more military assistance for allies, more attacks on enemies, more purchases from the military-industrial complex. About the only thing he does not promise in the document is to give every little girl in America a pony. I presume that this is not an oversight. Sen McCain is very focused on foreign policy and military matters, and I cannot imagine that the omission of free ponies was anything but intentional.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s go through the document together and we can look at all the things he does promise, and you will see the glaring omission of ponies for little girls in this fantastic proposal.

In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. scratcccccchhhhhh

Wow, one sentence in, and I can already see Sen McCain’s famed courage – I see this was published without being reviewed by an editor who knew how to write English well! This is the public relations equivalent of going commando. Just as charging recklessly at the pillbox can get you shot needlessly, Sen McCain has opened himself up to an attack – Do we really want a president who wishes to defend that national security apparatus of the United States? What happened to defending American’s who are not involved in national Security? Of course, this attack is unfair. Rather, Sen McCain or a staff member merely screwed up the topic sentence of one of his more high profile position papers.

Starting again:

In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. scratcccccchhhhhh

Does anybody remember the strategic surprise of the Russians capturing that airport in Kosovo? Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora? The first attempt to smash Fallujah? The U.S. military gets away with a lot because they have an overwhelming amount of firepower, and have faster communications than the little tin pot dictators or rudimentarily armed militias they’ve been fighting. If the U.S. military has the best officer corps in the world, then we must be entering into a new age of prosperity and peace since all the other militaries must be officered solely by incompetents without a single officer of average intelligence amongst them.

But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.

John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth – and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.

And here we go!

The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country’s vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wow! It seems that the United States taxpayer must take part in every fight on Earth! Let’s review the conflicts:

The occupation of Iraq

The occupation of Iraq is a purely discretionary exercise. Iraq does not, nor did it ever pose a threat to U.S. citizens living within the borders of the United States. If the United States were to withdraw all its forces as fast as possible, it would be decades, if ever, before whatever gang took over and proclaimed itself as the government of Iraq had mustered up the firepower to launch a significant attack on the people of the U.S.

It did however threaten the Saudi monarch, and John McCain understands that preserving freedom at home requires sending U.S. soldiers overseas to die to prop an unpopular king on his throne.

The occupation of Afghanistan

Many people consider this to be required to defend the U.S. from attack. Certainly, if you accept the need to fight a global war on terrorism, the occupation of what was Al Queda’s rear areas is a requirement. Of course, this occupation is going badly; Slowly but surely, the United States is controlling less and less territory there. Occupying Afghanistan so weakened the Russian military that it collapsed. the U.S. army’s experience is similar to the Russian one – an seemingly easy early conquest followed by a slow war of attrition that saps men and wrecks equipment. Every month is harder than the previous one.

The Taliban who were bankrolled by the Saudi King (the guy U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to protect), the Pakistani government (who were trying to counter Iranian influence in Afghanistan) and increasingly by the lucrative heroin trade (high profits courtesy of the U.S. War on (Some) Drugs. The Taliban were also bankrolled by al Queda which purchased their protection.

The War on Al Queda

Al Queda’s mission is the overthrow of the Saudi king (whom U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to defend). They targeted the United States because the United States loans soldiers to defend the Saudi King, builds the bases he uses to secure his territory and supplies him with weapons, ships and aircraft. The leadership of al Queda, many of whom survived the vicious Egyptian security forces (funded and trained by the United States) who viewed the religious conservatives as a threat to their power (the Egyptian rulers being old school pan-arab socialists who were bankrolled by the soviet Union until the U.S. government offered to give them taxes collected from U.S. citizens), have developed a hatred of the United States for bankrolling their attackers.

Iran

The Iranian government is unpopular. It levies heavy taxes on the population, harasses young people looking for love, meddles in school curricula, and has pursued an inflationary monetary policy which is wrecking the economy. And like every powerful government that is screwing up domestically, they try to play up external threats. They make noises about how they are surrounded by enemies and that other governments pose a threat to the Iranian people, in an attempt to awake nationalist feelings. And they can easily make this case; their substantive negotiations with the U.S. state department in 2002 were shut down by the Bush administration. Most of the nations bordering Iran have U.S. bases with combat troops stationed in them. And the U.S. government, which initiated a war against Iran in 1954 has been obligingly threatening to bomb them… with nuclear weapons…

Officially, the purpose of this new proposed war is to keep the Iranian government from using nuclear weapons (which they don’t possess) against Israel.

Did I mention that Iran has a population that is much larger than that of Iraq? And that the terrain is pretty mountainous. And that they have the capability to cut the southern supply lines of the U.S. army occupying Iraq (in order to help prop up the Saudi King on his throne?

North Korea

North Korea tried to build a nuclear bomb. It didn’t work. They flooded most of their farm land and now have a permanent famine going. They pose a threat to … South Korea. Except that South Korean soldiers are better fed and have more modern weapons and have prepared defenses, and have a larger population to draw upon. If the United States Government would quit subsidizing the government with food aid, it would probably have collapsed already.

China

Having largely abandoned central planning, the Chinese economy is booming, allowing the government to levy the taxes to build ships, submarines and aircraft that would have been modern in the late 1970’s. the Chinese people do allot of business with people living in the United States. They have territorial ambitions over a few sections of Central Asia and over Taiwan, and have absolutely no interest in attacking the United States.

Russia

The Russians have loads of natural resources and little else. While their government is moving in a fascist direction, their territorial ambitions are focused on “defending” slavic peoples’ hegemony in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

The Equipment Needed When Seeking Out New Enemies

To take on all these enemies, which do not directly threaten the citizenry, McCain proposes a massive arms build up to “modernize ” the U.S. military. he proposes increasing the size of the U.S. military dramatically. He proposes expanding benefits offered to veterans. He promises that the U.S. will prop up more governments that face popular rebellions, thus increasing the number of people who view the U.S. people as enemies fighting against them. He promises to increase intelligence gathering world-wide – more spies, more expensive spy satellites, more payoffs to local insurgents to provide the U.S. with intelligence (payoffs which all too often fund terrorist attacks against U.S. enemies).

Who Pays?

John McCain famously commented that he didn’t know much about economics, and this paper proves it. These new divisions, their equipment, the aircraft, ships, submarines and satellites, the bombs and ammunition required for this adventure in world domination will not be produced by elves working at Santa’s workshop on the north Pole. They will be paid for either by taxes on the U.S. citizenry, or by debasing the U.S. dollar. Unless John McCain is going to eliminate medicare, the U.S. citizenry will be paying for these things at a time when they have little wealth to spare. rather than producing consumer goods or other forms of wealth, the labor of people making or shooting the weapons will be wasted economically speaking.

Fantasy

There is one word to describe this proposal: fantasy. this plan will never happen. The United States economy will implode well before McCain has raised half of the divisions he needs to put his plan of world domination into action. and since John McCain is throwing unrealizable wishes left and right in this paper, it’s a shame he decided not to throw in a pony for every little girl in the U.S. Who knows, that is one wish that Santa might have granted…

The rest of the paper.

The rest of the paper continues banging the drums of war in much the same vein as what has already been commented on.I am therefore going to leave reading the rest as an exercise to the reader.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
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