Libertarians oppose foreign intervention, unrelated to national defense, for such reasons as:
- Non-intervention tends to keep foreign disputes narrow and localized. World Wars, with their inevitable globally disastrous consequences, are avoided.
- An interventionist state is a large, powerful, and snooping state. It has a large standing army, inconsistent with the traditional republican reliance on a citizen militia. It requires heavy taxation to support the defense bureaucracy and tends towards repression of civil liberties since the warfare state cannot brook dissent.
- The warfare state leads inexorably to the welfare state as the apparent success of military central planning leads to demands for domestic central planning. Thus, from those who think society should be run like an army barracks, we get the "war on poverty", and the "war on drugs".
- Libertarians deny that such as Stalin, Clinton, Churchill, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson, already busy violating the rights of their own subjects, have any training, experience or competence, in coming to the rescue of those whose rights are being violated by their own hack politicians and dictators. These gentlemen’s humanitarian rescue missions resulted in Hitler taking power in Germany, Eastern Europe being enslaved by communism, genocidal chaos in Southeast Asia, bombing Serbia back to the Stone Age, millions upon millions of civilian and military casualties, and, by the way, the current mess in the Middle East!
- Foreign intervention leads to "blowback". Because, in the words of Frederic Bastiat, people are not clay, they always react and respond to the state’s use of power against them in ways that result in unintended and negative consequences from the state’s point of view. The widespread use of state power erodes private morality, as people learn from the state’s actions and rationalizations that it is acceptable to use force against others to achieve their goals. These two factors are the foundation of modern terrorism.
Why, however, do leftists oppose foreign intervention? I got a glimpse into a possible answer when I picked up the local alternative paper. It carried an article by "Michael Moore," not otherwise identified. Later, I was able to confirm on the web that he was the Michael Moore, the moderately successful left-wing film maker.
In a long article about September 11th, he criticized Jimmy Carter’s intervention into Afghanistan in 1979. I agree with him and am glad that Carter, who managed to pack eight years of incompetence and statist evil into one four-year term, gets some of the blame for recent events. Moore’s reasoning differs from mine, though. He quotes approvingly from a book by William Blum, Rogue State:
"Besides the fact that there is demonstrable connection between the Afghanistan war and the breakup of the Soviet empire, we are faced with the consequences of that war: the defeat of a government committed to bringing the extraordinarily backward nation into the 20th century. . . " (Emphasis added.)
Bringing Afghanistan into the 20th century is exactly what the Soviet-backed government did. The Black Book of Communism, in a chapter written by Sylvain Boulouque, described how this was accomplished:
"[R]epression of the old regime’s supporters led to the death of about 10,000 people and the imprisonment of between 14,000 and 20,000 for political reasons. . . . the government began an antireligious crusade. The Koran was burned in public, and imams and other religious leaders were arrested and killed. . . All religious practices were banned, even for the tiny 5,000-strong Jewish community. . . Faced with widespread resistance, the Afghan Communists and their Soviet advisers began to practice terror on a large scale. Michael Barry describes one such incident: [the machine-gunning of 1,700 males in one village with live burial of the wounded]. . . In Kabul…torture was common; the worst form entailed live burial in latrines…u2018One hundred and fifty [Afghans] were buried alive by the bulldozers and the rest were doused with gasoline and burned alive. . . Executions in the countryside, where the Communists sought to wipe out the resistance through a genuine reign of terror, including a bombing campaign, led to the death of approximately 100,000 additional people."
After the Soviets intervened with troops in December, 1979, things changed little, mass murder-wise:
"105 villagers [in Logar Province] who were hiding in an underground irrigation canal were burned alive by Soviet troops…the searching of villages was accompanied by acts of blind barbarism, with women and old people killed if they showed any signs of fear…. Women were thrown naked from helicopters and entire villages were destroyed to avenge the death of one Soviet soldier…. Villages were also systematically bombed to prevent the resistance forces from launching any sort of counterattack. . . All evidence suggests that poison gases were used regularly against the civilian population. . .
This description of the atrocities committed by the Soviets in Afghanistan continues on, page after page, in the relentlessly clinical style of the Black Book of Communism. I’ll spare you all the nauseating details. Every trick in the Commie playbook was utilized, including poisoned water supplies, 20 million land mines injuring 700,000 people, systemic rape, grotesque forms of torture, and mock executions. Ah, the 20th century, when the flight from reason crash-landed into the slaughterhouse.
If Michael Moore, or any leftist, was asked what he thought about these atrocities, he would probably point out the hideous tactics of the Mujahideen. Likewise, if Zbigniew Brzezinski, or any neoconservative, was asked what he thought about the hideous tactics of the Mujahideen, he would probably point out the aforementioned crimes of the Communists. Can’t anyone around here give a straight answer to a simple question? I say, "A plague on both your houses."
Libertarians do join the left in opposing America’s global military empire, but we do so free of illusions about the motives of our allies. The left has a different vision of the world — a 20th century vision, unfortunately.
October 19, 2001
James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at http://jimostrowski.com.