The Liebertarians

DIGG THIS

Ron Paul’s candidacy has sparked a lot of controversy amongst so-called libertarians who continue to back American imperialism under the guise of “defending” us from evil brown people who talk funny and hate freedom. It’s not clear that they are racists, but their rhetoric tends to be directed at those who harbor such tendencies. New terms and nuances to discredited ideas have been hashed and rehashed since the neocon influence over Washington D.C. was solidified after the 2000 elections.

One of my favorites is “Islamo-Fascism” — a meaningless term meant to associate any Muslim to Hitler. How beautifully ironic. The Iraq war itself is being prosecuted by the DOD in conjunction with one of the largest suppliers of mercenaries and corporate expertise in Iraq — Halliburton. This sort of corporate/government cooperation is the very definition of Fascism according to Mussolini.

Is it that strange then that some of the most vocal proponents of U.S. intervention in Iraq call themselves libertarians? Nay, they want to own the term and marginalize anti-war libertarians. These same misguided or lying pundits of American hegemony are totally transparent when you view their claims in light of true libertarian ideals, not the faux libertarianism with which they attempt to pummel their detractors.

These faux libertarians — liebertarians (lahy-ber-tair-ee-uhns) — seek to convince us that “rogue” nations are subject to licensure and aggressive measures if they do not comply with our ideas of “liberty." Strong nations are not subject to these rules. The liebertarians advocate the initiation of aggression or “preemption” against weaker nations under the premise that this is really a matter of “defense." Offense = Defense. As in, “the best defense is a strong offense.” This is a lie of course. Whoever first coined that phrase had an agenda the wrong end of which you want to avoid.

For quite a few of these pundits, many of whom misspell liebertarian as libertarian, the concept of justified preemptive war appears to stem from an Ayn Rand essay called "Collectivist ‘Rights’" which can be found in The Virtue of Selfishness.

“Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the non-existent ‘rights’ of gang rulers. It is not a free nation’s duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.

“This right, however, is conditional. Just as the suppression of crimes does not give a policeman the right to engage in criminal activities, so the invasion and destruction of a dictatorship does not give the invader the right to establish another variant of a slave society in the conquered nation.”

I think Rand was wrong — though I am not sure that Objectivists who use this passage as justification for foreign intervention are considering it properly — selfishness is not a virtue, for one, but more importantly, Governments do not possess rights. They are granted powers, derived from the natural rights of the individuals under their jurisdiction. Governments do not possess some collective notion of a “right” which allows them to act in a manner emulating a real human. Beyond that, the initial compact between the citizenry and the government it elects to represent them — in our case the U.S. Constitution — is for the purpose of the individual citizen’s defense. Defense of life, liberty and property.

The liebertarians posit that because Saddam Hussein was a dictator, the U.S. government had a “right” to attack as long as it established a worthy replacement government afterwards.  However, this ignores the inconvenient fact that in order to prosecute the war, the government must exercise powers individual citizens do not themselves possess.  This is known as fraud in most circles. The U.S. founder’s belief that only individuals have the right to abolish or institute governments must also be conveniently ignored. A government using force to form a government is a fraudulent use of power. The other missing element here is due process which liebertarians refuse to even acknowledge as an issue. The President was given war powers to be used in cases where an imminent threat to the U.S. was evident. There isn’t anyone, including the President, who has been able to demonstrate that such a threat to the U.S. existed in 2003 (or in 1991).

Those who posit that Rand’s assertion can be used to justify U.S. intervention, generally defend the concept by explaining that individuals have the right (but not the obligation) to stop a crime in process. Assuming this is true, a person taking action to stop the crime would be, according to the Objectivist view, performing the act to satisfy self-interest. However, A does not equal A here. It doesn’t even equal B. For the examples to truly be equivalent, a citizen would first begin to thwart the crime by stealing the property of his fellow citizens. To prosecute this war, our government has committed to spend 1/2 trillion dollars, much of it yet to be collected from the citizenry since the source of the funds have been obtained through borrowing. What right do you or I have to take out loans in order to “thwart crime” and then demand our neighbors pay the interest and principle –  claiming they owe the debt because the act was taken on “their behalf”?  What’s happening in Iraq, though presented as a gift to the Iraqi people and a defense of U.S. “interests," is a fraud and an offense against both Iraqis and Americans.

For example, one of the first acts the U.S. military undertook once initial hostilities had subsided, was to send troops door to door to confiscate firearms of individual Iraqis. This is in direct violation of Rand’s caveat – invaders have no right “to establish another variant of a slave society in the conquered nation” — as well as the U.S. Constitution. The war is being prosecuted without a formal declaration, and attacks directly the rights allegedly protected by the same constitution.

 The liebertarians would either have to respond that rights are only to be recognized within U.S. borders, a concept repugnant to liberty, or that the Iraqis can petition the new puppet government for license to bear arms. Either response is an indictment on their motives.

For Leonard Peikoff, Wayne Allen Root, and other like-minded liebertarians, the caveats and specifics of this war’s execution are irrelevant. If they were to actually examine the war’s prosecution in detail, they would have to conclude that there is no justification whatsoever for U.S. foreign policy in Iraq. But it gets worse. Historically we can examine similar actions, both covert and overt, and see that not only does this not qualify as a defense of the country, it causes ill-will and future plots against us wherever we are vulnerable to attack. It cannot be said with any credibility that such foreign interventions are even remotely defensive in nature or that they make U.S. citizens any safer. Yet the liebertarians continue to assert that fighting terrorists “over there” prevent us from having to fight them “over here."

The liebertarians also, apparently, do not even consider what might happen were the U.S. military to turn its attention to a domestic city that might be “harboring terrorists."

Coalition soldiers break into each and every dwelling in the city using dynamic entry tactics. They use explosives like C-4 to decimate outside walls and entryways. Fragmentation grenades blow apart rooms. Soldiers are scaling walls and bridging houses with ladders as they are cleared. Platoons report running out of shotgun shells after blowing open door after door after door.

Or do they? Could it be that the liebertarians would be happy to have U.S. troops and police agencies “defending” us domestically, the same way that we are being “defended” abroad? Is this what some mean by claiming the mantle “Pro-Defense” libertarian? Whatever their ultimate intentions, it is clear that they have, either due to cowardice or avarice, rejected libertarian ideals while pretending that their views are a part of the legitimate debate amongst libertarians. Unfortunately for the liebertarians, they lost the debate before it began.

August 4, 2007

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts