Archive for March, 2012

This Notorious Quagmire

Posted on March 20, 2012 at 4.10 pm

On this ninth Iraqiversary, it seems important to pause a moment to take a look at the past, present, and future of this most notorious quagmire.

When we invaded Iraq in 2003, I was 15 and vaguely supportive of the war out of a naive assumption that if they said we had to bomb Iraq to keep from being nuked, then bomb Iraq we must.  Nine years later it is uncomfortably obvious (and indeed has been for quite a while) that I — and quite a few other people at the time who lacked the plea of youthful error — was wrong:  “The most popular argument to support the Iraq war in 2003 was the one about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)….All of it turned out to be lies. Iraq didn’t possess a single WMD. Far from being a military threat to the West, the country quickly collapsed in the face of invading forces.”

As it soon became clear that WMDs were nowhere to be found, the ostensible mission switched to “spreading democracy” — Saddam was a bad, bad man, and we must kill him.  A bad man he was, and kill him we did, but at what cost?

Madeleine Albright may have thought that killing 500,000 Iraqi children (let alone adults) through sanctions in the 1990s was “worth it” to bend the erstwhile Mesopotamia to our will, but I can’t agree.  I especially can’t agree in regards to the additional 600,000 to 1 million (or more) excess civilian deaths caused by the war following our 2003 invasion.  Proportionally, this is analogous to killing everyone in Texas or California.  If this is what it takes to spread democracy, can anyone honestly claim spreading democracy is a worthy cause?

With the inauguration of President Obama, we were promised a new, less militaristic foreign policy.  Candidate Obama successfully conned millions into accepting him as the “peace candidate” of 2008, and if he was not already an undercover warmonger at the time of his election as I suspect, once in office he quickly proved Acton’s adage about the corruption power brings.  I’m not sure which is worse.

Come December 2011, Obama took the stage at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to declare the war’s end, saying “the final work of leaving Iraq has been done.”  While the specifics claimed in his speech may have been technically correct, the claim that the war was over could not have been farther from the truth:  “How can the war [in Iraq] be over when Americans who just don’t happen to be wearing uniforms are over there by the thousands, and get killed right now, and we’re sending $3.5 billion over there?  That’s not over.  That’s not over by any stretch of the imagination.”

Meanwhile, with this faux ending of the war allowing most Americans to mentally check this war off our lists, the war machine is ramping up again as Washington hawks salivate for a swipe at Iran.  Not only would this be a sad repetition of our past mistakes in Iraq and unquestionably far bloodier and more costly than those pushing for war attest, but it is without doubt not a step toward progress or peace in the Middle East.

Consider the death tolls and destruction in Iraq — and the extensive violence and unrest which continues to be a regular occurrence.  Consider that our involvement in Iraq has actually expanded Iran’s influence there, and that an attack on Iran would likely produce the same effect with other unsavory states in the region.  Consider that, like Iraq, Iran has not actually attacked us, and that the vast majority of its people do not want anyone in their region to have nuclear weapons.  Then consider that it is those people, unable to control their tyrannical government, who are certain to suffer most should we let our itchy trigger finger slip again.

Nine years from now, it would (sadly) not surprise me if the US were still in some way intertwined in Iraqi internal affairs.  But at least let us not also mark an Iraniversary.

Liberty for Ladies

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 4.18 pm

Apropos to today apparently being International Women’s Day, I’ve got a new piece up at the Daily Caller about why women should be libertarians.

From the article:

Women tend to vote for Democrats and non-libertarian Republicans over candidates who more consistently advocate limited government. On an anecdotal level, it’s not uncommon in the youth liberty movement where I work to joke about how an upcoming event will be awesome because there will be “at least one girl for every 30 guys!” (We do actually have a much better ratio than that, I promise.)

Some of this discrepancy is perhaps due to a problem of messaging to which libertarians are especially prone: In focusing on the rights and value inherent to the individual, it’s easy for us to forget that the average citizen thinks of herself (and is thought of by those around her) as a member of a number of social categories: female, Muslim, middle class, Hispanic. And, for better or worse, these perceptions influence both the way a person thinks she “should” think about politics and the way others expect her to think about politics. So whether we like it or not, if the liberty movement seeks to continue to grow in popularity, libertarians must learn to speak to the many distinct audiences who may not yet support our message.

With women, many say, this messaging problem is particularly tricky because apparently “women are natural socialists”:

We want everyone to share and everyone to get along. We are nurturers, and we expect the “haves” to take care of the “have-nots,” the strong to take care of the weak, and the brave to protect the others. … We want everyone to like us and we want everyone to like each other. Men, to put it simply, are more independent in thought and action.

Now, this “women are natural socialists” line is one I’ve heard a lot — and one which I don’t find particularly helpful in this or any political debate. After all, if the gentler sex just can’t help loving big government, why bother their pretty little heads arguing with them about it? No use fighting nature, and anyway, dinner will boil over while she tries to think!

But the modern liberty movement was actually founded by three (or four?) women, so theoretically libertarianism shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for women today. What’s good for the gander should be good for the goose, and a visit to any Ron Paul rally will make clear that the ideas of liberty appeal to a very wide range of people from all walks of life — all social categories, if you will.

Read the whole thing here.

You say “Iran is evil.” I say “What is ‘Iran’?”

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 4.55 pm

Q. War should be the last option, but we can’t pretend that Iran isn’t evil. Are we supposed to wait til they blow up Israel to react? I do agree with you in that we do need to get out of nation-building during war. Hit the facilities and pull out. — redbloodedamerica, from tumblr, in reply to this post.

A. “Iran” is evil, huh?  See, there are a couple pretty major problems with that statement:

  1. The government of Iran is not the same as the people of Iran.  And when we sanction and bomb Iran, you know who’s going to suffer?  I’ll give you a hint:  Not Ahmedinejad.  It would be one thing if Iran had a legitimately representative government, but we know they don’t.  Why should the civilians suffer for their government’s errors if they don’t even support those errors?
  2. Because they don’t, you know — support those errors, I mean.  Polls,like this one from 2007 (at which time we were basically in exactly the same “are they or aren’t they; should we or shouldn’t we” situation with Iran), show that the Iranian people do not want their country to have nuclear weapons.  Nuclear power, yes.  Nuclear weapons, no.  71% said they wanted a nuclear weapon-free Middle East, and 68% said they’d like to see the elimination of all nukes.
  3. But while we’re on the subject of nukes, recall the post which spurred your comment, and one of the facts I cited there, sourced to a report from the New York Times about the Senate testimony of the director of national intelligence:   “American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb” — in fact, that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weaponry is “the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.” This is hardly some fringe opinionating from a a rabid antiwar activist.

So how exactly — specifically — is Iran “evil”?  Is it the government or the people?  The people don’t want nukes, and they’re the ones who will suffer most from our attacks.  Meanwhile, our best intelligence agents all agree that the government doesn’t have nukes.  Where is this evilness of which you speak, and how do you propose to punish it without also punishing those who neither want nor can do anything to stop it (if it actually existed)?

Now, let’s take a look at Israel.  Unlike Iran with its decrepit army which could in reality do comparatively little damage to Israel, Israel has nukes.  I don’t know if anyone is still pretending they don’t, but let’s stop that now, because it’s silly.  Israel also has mandatory conscription for everyone once they hit 18, and about 50% of the population actually does serve in the military.  Oh, and the United States has been sending $3 billion in aid to Israel every year for decades.  The practice stopped in 2007, but appears to be resuming again as President Obama requested $3 billion in specifically military aid to Israel for 2011. Israel is hardly undefended.

But, to continue this conversation, let’s suppose a number of false things, namely that:  Every man, woman, and child in Iran is evil and should be punished; Iran has nukes; Iran has a modern and legitimately threatening military; Israel does not have a modern and legitimately threatening military.  Again, all of these statements are false.  But let’s pretend they’re not and ask:  Even if all of that were true, why should America be involved in this situation?  

Last I checked, Israel is not America, which means that at a basic level, it’s not our problem (politically — what you personally support is another issue).  If our alliance with them is supposed to be promoting peace or democracy or something in the Middle East, it’s failing miserably.  If it’s supposed to be helping us make friends in the Middle East, it’s failing even more miserably.  We’ve already thrown literally tens of billions of dollars at Israel and gotten — what?  A bad reputation among all of Israel’s neighbors, at whom we also throw billions of dollars?  And all this while we’re $15 trillion in debt?

All that to say:  This is a murky situation at best.  Going to war in Iran is going to cause a lot of strife, death, and hatred.  It is not a step toward peace in the Middle East, and it is not a cut and dried situation in which we can charge in yet again — always the guys in the white hats! — and kill the bad guys as we fight alongside our favorite little sidekick, Israel.  War with Iran is neither justified, necessary, nor wise, and we would do well to be a little more thoughtful about the situation than blatant claims that “Iran is evil” allow us to be.