Blogs > Liberty and Power > Syllogism #2

Jul 23, 2007 2:44 pm

Syllogism #2

Randy Barnett is a libertarian.
Randy Barnett supports the war.
Ergo, there are libertarians who support the war.

I have been consistently against this war, but efforts to excommunicate war supporters is fruitless. Rand and Rothbard wasted much effort effort on defining people in and out of their respective movements. Let's not go down that road.

By the way, William S. Lind offers a thoughtful approach towards salvaging the Iraq mess in the current issue of The American Conservative.

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David T. Beito - 7/24/2007

It is true that that was his main point in the WSJ but it is a safe presumption, because of other sources, that he supports (or at least supported) the war.

To some extent, IMHO his current, and somewhat coy, silence on the issue is an example of trying to have his cake and eat it too. If he wanted to, it would be impossible to read antiwar libertarans out of the movement, since most prominent self-described libertarians are against the war. The reverse is not true.

Again, I am not arguing against Barnett's claim to be a libertarian (I consider him an ally in a general sense), only that that his support of the war represents an exception.

Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2007

He was doing more than that. He was arguing that it is not inconsistent for a libertarian to support the war.

Common Sense - 7/24/2007

Sudha makes good points. I do not know if the piece is "typical" of Lind, because I have no idea who he is or what he has written in the past. In addition, I recommended the article not because I agree with him overall, but because he makes some interesting points.

There is much that I dislike about the piece. In addition to Sudha's points, I found it disturbing that he says the war can be won and -- strangest of all -- that Vietnam was a US victory rather than a disaster for all involved. I actually made this latter argument at some length to my students last night.

I'm on record as being strongly against this war as soon as the tom toms started drumming and the balloons were floated and NR and TWS started laying the propaganda groundwork. (This was on the Moser List, the predecessor of this group.) Outside of the writing and teaching of history, however, I think it is time to focus on what to do NOW that we are in this mess. Lind proposes that we start withdrawing and seek detente with Iran. I think those are good ideas, and his rational for detente with Iran seems clever and new.

Common Sense - 7/24/2007

I agree with David except for one point. If we are talking strictly about the WSJ piece, then Barnett's main point was simply that not all libertarians agree with Paul on the war.

David T. Beito - 7/24/2007

Thanks. A key issue, as many have pointed out, is that Barnett's expansive use of the national defensive justiification is so broad that it can be used to justify just about any war. After all, nearly all wars in the last few hundred years have been justified by both sides as necessary for self-defense. Barnett's expansive definition would put virtually no constraint on a politician like Bush who claims that he is acting in national defense.

Common Sense - 7/24/2007

I agree with David except for one point. If we are talking strictly about the WSJ piece, then Barnett's main point was simply that not all libertarians agree with Paul on the war.

Sudha Shenoy - 7/24/2007

With typical arrogance, Wm Lind writes about 're-creating an Iraqi state', as if Iraqi political history began with the American invasion, four years ago.

There were strong, if subsurface, groups contending for power under Saddam. Many had to be suppressed more than once. These groups surfaced when Saddam fell. The power struggle can only be settled _after_ the American invaders leave. No group who has the invaders' backing can survive the invaders' withdrawal. Once that happens -- we'll see which _coalition_ of groups emerges.

There are regional as well as ethnic contenders for power, together with a number of Sunni & Shia groups, not to speak of the tribal leaders. Most were suppressed under Saddam. After the _interregnum_ of the US invasion & occupation, the political struggle will resume. That is all the Americans are -- _part_ of an especially bloody interlude in Iraq's political history.

Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2007

I had no intention of reading anyone in or out. That would accomplish nothing. I was identifying the facts of the matter about war and states and what libertarianism stands for. People are perfectly capable of being inconsistent.

Steven Horwitz - 7/23/2007

Thank you Dave. I think this is just right about Randy.

David T. Beito - 7/23/2007

I don't think it is productive to debate whether someone is, or is not, a libertarian because of their views on the war. Randy's support of the war does not define him out of the movement any more than Mises' support of conscription would define him out.

At the same time, I would argue that Randy's support of the war represents an exception to his overall libertarianism. Also, as I said, if libertarianism can't provide a guide on whether our involvement in Iraq is right (Randy's main point), what good is such a philosophy for finding answers in the real world?