Blogs > Liberty and Power > What Is Going on at Cato?

Sep 23, 2005 7:43 pm

What Is Going on at Cato?

Over at Justin Raimondo pursues the question I asked here at Liberty & Power and which generated intense discussion at the time. Why has the Cato Institute not contributed in recent months to the debate on whether the U.S. should pull out of Iraq? It might seem that Cato is biding its time and waiting for the U.S. occupation of Iraq to collapse. Rather like the Democratic leadership is waiting on events to unfold. Which seems a shame for an avowedly libertarian public policy institute that should surely be leading the way forward. Is it perhaps seen as a way of keeping all the donors on board? This, of course, is a major consideration for such institutes. Inquiring minds wish to know. Thoughtful comments and insider information are solicited here.

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Bill Woolsey - 9/24/2005

As David mentioned, the website still has a heading on "exiting Iraq." The link goes to a book from a year ago that makes a case for withdrawal. There is a link to an op-ed calling for a withdrawal in about 4 months that was written in

Raimondo ignores all of this and
instead focuses of the failure of
Cato to impose ideological control--
that is, most libertarians aren't quite so interested in purges as the
oldline Rothbardians.

If there has been a change in policy, why hasn't that link been removed?

Perhaps there is just not much interest in progessively adjusting the proposed withdrawal date as the last one passes without official action?

Perhaps there is division about exactly how the U.S. should deal with the various factions in Iraq and especially the elected government?

My own view continues to be that the U.S. should support the elected government in Iraq with a clear timeline for an end of such support. But that is troubling since it involves the U.S. temporarily supporting a pro-Iranian theocratic government that is doing some pretty bad things.

Some libertarians continue to call for the division of Iraq into three parts. Aside from the Kurds, it doesn't seem that many Iraqis favor that approach.

The "theory" that Cato is now dominated by people who supported the invasion of Iraq and look to future invasions of other despotic
regimes is not the only explanation for a failure to see any new op-eds.

Mark Brady - 9/23/2005

Perhaps Cato should focus on domestic policy issues and steer clear of defense and foreign policy questions, but the fact remains that Cato doesn’t seek to stay clear of those issues. Indeed, it supports many full-time staff who research, write and broadcast in these areas. It is surely noteworthy that Cato has published very little about U.S. policy towards Iraq this year.

Shawn Klein - 9/23/2005

One thought to keep in mind is that libertarians (and I mean this term to include classical liberals, market liberals, Objectivists) are not all of the same mind on the Iraq War. I don't think one should make the assumption that a libertarian organization must be leading the way on an issue that divides libertarians. Moreover, CATO made its reputation by careful and thoughtful studies on primarily domestic issues. CATO is better suited for focusing on issues such as Social Security. Arguably such reform would do more for preserving and expanding individual liberty than issues surrounding the war. And its what CATO has focused on for 25 years.

Justin Raimondo - 9/23/2005

The point is that there is nothing since the beginning of the year. So if there has been a change in the line, that's an indication, along with Pena's departure.

I don't think it has much to do with contributors: you have to remember that Washington was hit on 9/11, and if you go back and look at the reactions of several prominent Catoites, they are -- understandably -- belligerent. I recall that one of their number wanted to invade ... Pakistan! And made the argument in an op ed piece. I think the problem is ideological, not just a matter of specific people applying pressure, financial or otherwise. These "neo"-libertarians really believe that they can export "free markets" via the U.S. military, and if it's going to happen anyway, they figure, why not hitch a ride on the bandwagon and make the most of it?

Aeon J. Skoble - 9/23/2005

Indeed. If one goes to this section of their website:, it's hard to argue that they're "silent" on this issue or "not contributing" to the debate.

David T. Beito - 9/23/2005

The Cato website still still features articles calling for an Iraq exit this might be overly alarmist.