Archive for December, 2011
A short and incomplete summary of why our foreign policy cannot continue as it has for the last decade.
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 6.32 pm
As is now (hopefully) increasingly common knowledge, our numerous occupations in the Middle East and Africa were not sparked by those countries attacking us. Rather, with the possible exception of the War in Afghanistan — which has lasted an outrageously long time with huge costs of both blood and treasure, our 5+ wars are unwarranted wars of aggression rendered unconstitutional by their lack of official declaration by the Congress and unaffordable by our $15 trillion national debt.
The CIA estimates there are fewer than 100 members of al Qaeda left in Afghanistan, and yet we linger with tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of billions of dollars spent. Recall also that many of the people we’re fighting there we were training just a few decades years ago, possibly including even bin Laden himself.
We’re finally pulling out of Iraq, left unstable and arguably more dangerous than we found it — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of excess civilian deaths our intervention has caused there.
In Libya, we’re not really sure who we supported or if the new government will even be friendly to us. Many of the rebels we helped are backed by al Qaeda, our enemies just a few countries away.
In Pakistan, our drone operations are permitted to kill 50 civilians — including women and children — for every one terrorist they get, and no one is required to report to the public who is killed.
In Somalia, we’re engaging in covert operations in a dangerous and morally dubious situation which is none of our business and stretches our military — already posted in 900 bases in more than 130 nations around the world — almost thinner than it can stand.
Now, one might argue that it’s somehow OK for the U.S. to engage in this kind of global military expansion, because we’re the good guys, right? But, as I’ve shown, in many cases we haven’t the foggiest clue who the good guys are, and often end up doing more harm than good to our own defense in the long term. Perhaps more importantly, how would we like it if we were on the other end of our clumsy, bloody, and expensive foreign policy? A little consideration of the golden rule might go a long way.
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 5.12 pm
Q. Hello, I’ve followed your blog for a while and I want to say that I admire your intelligence and your values. I’ve liked Ron Paul for a while, and this blog is partly responsible for that, but I’ve been seeing some talk from other places that troubles me. I wanted to ask, then, if you could tell me Mr. Paul’s stance and voting record on issues of marriage equality and abortion? As well as what you think of allegations of him being racist and sexist. Thanks! — butterfly-effect, from tumblr.
A. Thank you very much for your compliments — I really appreciate it. Now, let’s dive right in.
Ron Paul on gay marriage: His position here is that we should let the individual, not the government, decide if they’re married or not. I don’t have to recognize your marriage, and you don’t have to recognize mine.
In practice, this would look like no marriage licenses from the government; instead, people who wanted to be married would take care of the matter themselves. The ceremony could be performed by a church or other religious organization, or it could be entirely nonreligious.
It would be entirely up to the people getting married, and neither churches nor the gay community would be able to use the force of the law to impose their views on the other group. See Dr. Paul discuss the issue here. See longer arguments from me on this matter here.
Ron Paul on abortion: As you no doubt know, Ron Paul is himself an OB-GYN, a fact which I would argue makes him more qualified to speak on this subject than the rest of the presidential candidates. He is pro-life, and reached that conclusion while actually in med school [video here]. Though he has voted in favor of some federal abortion legislation, he has long said that this should be dealt with by the states. Read an excerpt from his discussion of this matter in his book, Liberty Defined, here — but I’d really suggest just buying the whole book for full coverage of this and 49 other issues.
Charges of sexism and racism: These are preposterous, and only make sense if you assume two things:
- Opposition to abortion is inherently sexist.
- To avoid being racist or sexist, you have to support the government forcing everyone to think the right things.
On the first count, this simply isn’t the case. Being pro-life would be sexist only if someone wanted abortion to be illegal not because they thought it was morally wrong and a criminal act of aggression (as Ron Paul does), but because they just want to be able to control women and tell them what to do.
On the second count, most charges of Ron Paul’s supposed sexism and racism come not from his stance on abortion but from his opposition to certain types of civil rights legislation. Take the matter of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as an example: Ron Paul has said he would have opposed the bill had he been in Congress then. Is this because he was happy with Jim Crow laws? No — far from it. He supported the repeal of those laws. What he opposed was the new power the law gave the federal government over private business transactions.
In fact, both racism and sexism are incompatible with libertarianism, for these gross stereotypes function by viewing people as members groups with supposedly predefined attributes rather than as individuals. Libertarianism is fundamentally about the rights and value of the individual. As the risk of being accused of committing the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, show me a libertarian who is racist and I’ll show you someone who isn’t actually a libertarian. I’ll close by linking you to this post covering those newsletters from back in the day, and by letting Ron Paul explain for himself why he isn’t, and couldn’t be, a racist:
Posted on December 14, 2011 at 6.15 pm
This piece is published as an original, featured article at Campaign for Liberty.
Suppose you were a humanitarian relief worker. You spend your time at home and abroad bringing food aid to those whose lives have been devastated by disaster. You feel like you’re devoting your life to a good cause and truly helping your fellow man.
Then the U.S. government sends you to jail. Without a charge or trial. Forever.
When the War on Terror is over, you’re told, you might have a sporting chance of getting out. Because the War on Terror is totally going to end any day now, right? Dream big, detainees!
If that doesn’t strike you as a good scenario, your instincts are correct. It is, however, a conceivable situation if the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, or S.1867) is signed into law. Under the bill’s Section 1031, the federal government will claim the authority to indefinitely detain anyone, anywhere, if it deems them a threat in the fight against terror. Indeed, the NDAA “designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland,” as Senator Lindsey Graham, as strong supporter of the measure, has put it. And the qualifications for being a terrorist threat are vague—so vague, in fact, that a “relief worker could end up in indefinite military detention without charge or trial for giving food or medical assistance to someone who turns out to have been a Taliban member or supporter.”
To say this is a scary bill is to utter a massive understatement, and it’s no wonder that civil libertarians of all political persuasions have been up in arms as the NDAA passed the Senate with a whopping 93 percent approval rating from our “representatives.” So here are five reasons to join the fight against the NDAA:
1. It’s easily abused. As Jon Stewart cleverly pointed out, the NDAA’s language in describing potential detainees is so broad that a case could be made for indefinitely detaining President Obama. Senator Rand Paul reported that other people who could be considered potential terrorists are those missing fingers and those storing seven or more days of food store in their house. At least the connection with the seven days of food thing is obvious; everyone knows the road to terrorism is paved with canned goods and Sam’s Club membership, right?
In short, as the example I gave above also illustrates, the NDAA creates a giant highway for the government to take toward abuse some of our most basic rights…and then declares that all land everywhere might be highway. (more…)