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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Still Making No Sense

Barack Obama says the Libyan intervention is necessary to save innocent civilians from slaughter. He also says that since Qaddafi is the source of the threat, he has to go. But, Obama adds, the U.S. military cannot directly effect regime change (no boots on the ground) because that would "splinter" the coalition (NATO and Arab League) that he takes so much pride in.

This makes no sense. Is the coalition an end in itself? Why should the humanitarian mission that Obama says motivates the intervention take a back seat to the coalition's preservation? If keeping the coalition intact means the deaths of many civilians, what kind of humanitarian mission is this?

That Obama's case for taking sides in this civil war is riddled with such unanswerable questions is a sign that he is not leveling with the American people. The reason he cannot level with them is that he's trying to do incompatible things: serve the interests of the Empire, create a legacy as a humanitarian, and keep his Progressive base in line. (The base might go for a humanitarian mission as long as it's part of an "international" effort.)

This intervention has nothing to do with humanitarianism -- which is not to say that would justify U.S. involvement. This is about the U.S. government's claim to be the ultimate keeper of order in the world, with "order" being whatever condition serves the political-economic interests of the ruling elite.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Antiwar Radio

Scott Horton's latest interview of me on Antiwar Radio is here.

Geraldine Ferraro: For the Record

Geraldine Ferraro was not the first woman nominated for vice president to win an electoral vote (or, Joe Lieberman, the first Jewish person to be such). That distinction goes to Toni Nathan, who was on the 1972 ticket of the Libertarian Party. The LP ticket of John Hospers and Nathan won a Virginia electoral vote when Roger MacBride, a Nixon elector, broke ranks and voted for them in that state's electoral college balloting. MacBride went on to head the ticket in 1976.

Rizzo on Libya

Mario Rizzo's "Libya and the Rule of Law" is not to be missed.

Rizzo makes many good points, and any self-described advocate of limited government who supports Obama's Libyan intervention must answer them or shut the hell up. As Rizzo notes, the NATO treaty signed by the Senate after World War II says specific things, none of which would make NATO an all-purpose global police force at the disposal of the American president whenever the humanitarian impulse hits him. This intervention is an outrageous breach of the rule of law that everyone pays homage to, and there should be legal consequences for the perpetrator. That means impeachment.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Problem

Many people -- maybe most -- have a presumption against war. The problem is that their ideological framework enables them to knock the presumption down with a feather.
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Unsorted Thoughts on Libya

Jacob Sullum put it well when he wrote, “Obama claims 'we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.' Yes, we can, and we often do."

I’d only add this: Some of “our” best friends have been tyrants (sometimes called prime ministers and presidents) who treat “their” people without mercy or justice. Must I really name them?

Empire apologist Jeffrey Goldberg excuse this under the label “strategic hypocrisy.” “We’re all he adults,” he says. In other words, those who demand principled consistency are immature.


Anyone who thinks that Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war is motivated by humanitarianism is clearly unfamiliar with the history of U.S. foreign policy. Please do some reading. I modestly suggest that here’s a good place to start. On Libya specifically see Pepe Escobar’s analysis. There’s plenty more at Antiwar.com.

Imagine that Abraham Lincoln were doing today what he did 150 years ago to prevent the South from breaking away from the Union. Would Obama (or another past president), as head of a hypothetical superpower, have intervened to stop him? Or would he have assisted Lincoln in his violence against the secessionists? It would have depended on the particular interests of the ruling elite.


Why do the media insist on calling what the U.S. government has done a “no-fly zone”? It was far more than that from day one, unless Qaddafi has figured out how to make tanks and soldiers fly.


The mildest thing you can say about the Libyan intervention is that it's unconstitutional. And the war powers act is a joke.


Republicans lie us into wars with the word "security." Democrats lie us into war with the word "humanitarian." That’s the two-party system: a choice between two rationalizations for empire.


A NATO war is a U.S. war. NATO has always been an American tool. The Supreme Commander, Europe, is an American admiral. This is not a handoff. It’s a smokescreen to serve Obama’s political interests.


The Arab League is a bunch of autocratic nations led by Saudi Arabia, one of America’s staunchest client states. The League’s request for a Western-imposed no-fly zone in Libya means little. It is reasonable to suspect the request was part of a deal involving the Saudi intervention on behalf of the king of Bahrain, who is violently putting down a popular majority Shiite uprising. Besides, most Arab leaders despise Qaddafi. He has insulted them in the past. He’s called some of them “women” because of their robes.


Pro-Obama commentators, the ones on MSNBC in particular, have disgracefully taken the easy way out. Instead of examining the issues involved in the intervention, they prefer to mock Republicans as flip-flopping hypocrites. Granted, they’re flip-flopping hypocrites (with one exception). But what about the intervention?! Rachel Maddow’s commentary was the most ridiculous. Obama is different from her predecessor, she said, because he was reluctant to intervene. How do we know? The White House keeps telling us, she said. Seriously! She also said that one of the best things Obama did was not to give solemn explanation to the American people from the Oval Office like all his predecessors did when they intervened in a foreign country. Really!

Do these people ever listen to themselves?


Why doesn’t Obama bribe Qaddafi to move to Afghanistan and make him president?


Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki apparently has Obama’s okay to violently put down popular protests against his regime. Democracy is in the eye of the beholder.


Why are the Chinese rulers willing to lend the U.S. government money to intervene in Libya (and all the other countries it’s intervening in)? Please stop!


I have an idea for a constitutional amendment. Before the U.S. government gets involved in any foreign matter, the public must vote on the name. Operation Odyssey Dawn is ridiculous. Someone said it’s the name of a stripper.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Op-Ed: Obama's Imperial Adventure

President Obama’s entry into Libya’s civil war can be criticized on many levels: The mission as explained is incoherent; Congress was not asked for a declaration of war as the Constitution requires; events in Libya do not affect the security of the American people; bombing another oil-rich Muslim country aggravates the conditions that create anti-American terrorism; killing innocent civilians is nearly inevitable; the rebels’ motives are unclear; mission creep happens; war unleashes unforeseen, uncontrollable forces; the government is already deep in debt, and more.

All these objections are valid — and any one of them should have been enough to scotch the plan.

The rest of the op-ed is here.

TGIF: A Victim of the State

Bernard von NotHaus is a victim of State oppression. One hopes his conviction is overturned and he remains a free man. I for one feel safer with him doing what he does than with Ben Bernanke doing what he does.
Read the full TGIF here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Freeman, April 2011

The Freeman marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War with articles by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Burton Folsom, Bradley Birzer, and Joseph Stromberg.

See the issue here.

Left-Libertarianism at Bleeding Heart Libertarians

The new blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians has two left-libertarians among its regulars: Roderick Long and Gary Chartier. Here are their opening shots:

"Whence I Advene" by Roderick Long
"Embracing Markets, Opposing Capitalism" by Gary Chartier

Good stuff!

Op-ed: Muslim Radicals Strike at U.S. Foreign Policy

U.S. Rep. Peter King's recent hearing on the domestic radicalization of Muslims was an act of misdirection. While King, a New York Republican, no doubt exaggerates this phenomenon, he might as well have held a hearing on why objects drop when let go. The answer is obvious. The violence the U.S. government inflicts on the Muslim world is the source of hostility to America. If it’s true of people in the Middle East and North Africa, why wouldn’t it also be true of Muslim Americans?
Read the rest of the op-ed here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

UN Authorizes War

"He who mounts a wild elephant goes where the wild elephant goes."

I thought of those words of Randolph Bourne, the Progressive who became disillusioned by his fellow Progressives' enthusiasm for U.S. entry into World War I, when I heard that the UN Security Council, led by the Obama administration, voted to authorize "all necessary measures" to protect civilians against Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

All necessary measures.

Advocates of liberty, not to mention of decency, wish the Libyan people the best in their courageous struggle against the brutal bastard Qaddafi, but that is no justification for U.S. intervention, even under UN cover. A hundred reasons could be cited, but two points should suffice: The government has no moral right to insert the American people into another Mideast war. Moreover, whatever the Obama administration does will have the foreseeable even if unintended effect of killing and maiming innocent people. When you go to war you release an evil, unpredictable genie from the bottle, and it's difficult to put him back in. In the meantime you do a lot of damage. We need no more enemies in the Muslim world. The U.S. government has wreaked enough havoc -- has spilled enough blood -- there to last a long while.

John Quincy Adams has been quoted in similar contexts countless times, but evidently not enough. America, the then-secretary of state said in 1821,
goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force....

She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....

If those words ever really described America, they certainly haven't for a long while. So let's work for a future in which that description applies. We must rise in protest to prevent the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president from making more war.

Friday, March 11, 2011

TGIF: A Revolutionary for All Seasons

If it hasn’t been done already, I hope someone is translating Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (particularly part 2) into Arabic. People rising up against dictators throughout the Middle East and North Africa should be reading that book; it will come in handy when they’ve driven the dictators from power (as in Egypt and Tunisia) and are wondering what to do next. (It wouldn’t hurt for Americans to read it.)
Read the rest of TGIF here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011

TGIF: Free the Children, Cut the Budget

Will School be separated from State any time soon? Unlikely. The public-school industry, including the unions and all the vendors selling things to school districts, is big, rich, and powerful. The education-industrial complex surely rivals the military-industrial complex in its capacity to consume tax revenues.

But if for no other reason, the dismal fiscal condition of the states makes this a good time to talk about separation. It certainly won’t happen if nobody ever mentions it.

Read the rest here.

Op-Ed: Stay out of Libya

American presidents have sought to police the globe for generations. What has it gotten us? Endless war abroad, and big government and economic hardship at home. Instead of being a beacon of liberty, the country is a symbol of militarism and death. Obama, the fraudulent peace advocate, has followed the same interventionist course. He should not be allowed to extend it to Libya.
See the rest here.

Ethics 101

No one has the right to bargain with thieves for a bigger share of the loot.