James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Pro-War "Libertarian" Mentality

I subscribe to the digests of a few libertarian-oriented email lists. I don't keep up with them very much, but I notice that the rudest, most abusive members of the lists support the war in Iraq. The most annoying part, among two of these in particular, is that they throw their libertarian "credentials" in the face of everyone who disagrees with them: "You think the Iraq War was a mistake? Well I've written these award-winning books, and I've worked on these campaigns. What have you done, jerk? I say we must win in Iraq and you can go to hell!" They insist that their pro-war position is the consistent, pure libertarian position.

Why are people so eager to embrace and defend their labels? I differ from standard libertarian orthodoxy on issues of land, and on how to defend against what I perceive to be creeping global government. So if somebody tells me "that's not a libertarian position" or "you're not a libertarian," then fine. Must I change my honest opinions just to conform to somebody else's doctrines, just to "belong?"

I think this explains the hostility of these pro-war "libertarians." In their hearts, they know they are "apostates," that they are outside the libertarian tradition, but they are in denial. But what is it about 9/11 and Iraq that would turn previous libertarian activists into Bush-supporting warhawks?

Here's my conjecture. A certain personality wants absolutes in their lives. People with this type of personality, who are drawn into the libertarian movement, care less about expanding freedom in the present world, but want "liberty" as an absolute, perfect ideal. Liberty is their universalist morality, more important than life itself. So, the more they want to save humanity, the more contempt for real human beings they actually have.

Combine this with the "tribal" instinct all of us have to some degree. We all play favorites; I love my mother more than I love your mother, even though they are both "equal" in their rights. Such preferences cause us to discriminate, to favor some over others, to include some and exclude others, because we all can't "love" everyone in the world equally, and no malice needs to be intended against those we exclude.

But those who need absolutes have an attachment to their own group to such an extent that they view others with contempt, or as "threats" or enemies. When they replace natural attachments of community for an ideology, they become a certain kind of "purist." They develop a hatred of those who disagree with them, both within the movement and in society at large. For the libertarian of this bent, it often means contempt for the poor and religious. It also views civilians in other countries as attrition sponges. We must liberate them, and if they resist, kill them! Liberty as an ideal is worth fighting (i.e.,killing) for, and is more important than liberty in reality. Thus the seed of tension of the pro-war libertarian; normal libertarians understand that the right to life takes precedent over the right to liberty, because life is required to make liberty possible. But this view requires living in the real world, and it is the real world which those who crave absolutes want to avoid.

9/11 unleashed their latent hostility against those different from them. An attack from religious fundamentalists who are anti-liberty? From poor countries and a backward culture? Perfect! Force them to change, to embrace liberty. Then, they won't attack us. And if they are ungrateful for our liberation, kill them. "Live free, or die" indeed.

And smear the "traitors" at home who think this might all be a bad idea.


  1. Very good guess. I gotta hand it to you. But it's much more simpler than that.

    Many of us in the Pro-War on Islamo-Fascism Libertarian movement, simply want to protect our civil liberties, more specifically our sexual liberties.

    I support legalization of prostitution. The Islamo-Fascists want to stone prostitutes to death.

    I'm Pro-Choice. Islamo-Fascists hate abortion.

    I'm Pro-Tolerance of Gays. The Islamo-Fascists want to cut the genitals off of my Gay friends, before they slice their throats.

    I'm cool with people who watch adult pornography, like HBO Late Night, Lesbian Sex videos, and such. Islamo-Fascists had their way anybody who views Porn would be thrown in jail for life.

    I believe in protecting the Rights of Swingers, and am fiercely opposed to local governments closing down Swingers Bars. If Islamo-Fascists took over City Councils, they'd march Swingers off to the Gas Chambers.

    I'm also Pro-Marijuana Legalization. Pro-Gambling, and Pro-Booze. All vices the Islamo-Fascists want to rid the world of.

    I like women who dress scantily, and revealingly, show a little cleavage as a matter of fact.

    Yup, you guessed it. Islamo-Fascists want to cloak women in ugly black burqas from head to toe.

    Nice try. But you're way, way off base. Our comtempt for Islamo-Fascism and our support for the War on Islamo-Fascism has much to do about sex, and not about some arcane theoretical values.

    Eric Dondero, CEO

  2. Excuse my second post in a row. But I simply must address another point of yours. (You are welcome to return the favor by posting all you want at my Pro-War Blog at www.libertarianrepublican.blogspot.com

    You say that we Pro-War on Islamo-Fascism Libertarians are "out of step" with historical libertarian thought. Really?

    There's one single individual who could be identified as the Founder of the Modern Libertarian Political Movement and that is unquestionably Dana Rohrabacher.

    Dana is now a Republican Congressman from California. Dana has always been, and is to this day, Pro-War.

    Barry Goldwater could also be considered a Founder of the Libertarian Movement. Again, Barry was Pro-War.

    It was only in the middle 1970s when Rothbard, Raimondo and their Radical Caucus too over the Libertarian Party platform committee that the Pro-Defense position of the Libertarian movement started to change. In fact, Rothbard and Raimondo whitewashed Rohrabacher right out of the libertarian history books.

    So, in essence you are a victim of Left-wing Libertarian propoganda.

    The proper Libertarian position is Pro-Defense of America, not the Pro-Wussy Girly Man position taken by many Libertarians in recent years.

  3. One of my deviations from the pure libertarian (i.e., anarchist) line is I believe that if "Islamo-fascism" is a real threat to the U.S., then cut off immigration from Moslem countries, and to head off the terrorism threat, by all means cut off student visas from Moslem countries. Dondero's deviation is he would fight what he calls Islamo-fascism (btw, people who use "fascism" in this context don't know what fascism is) by invading and destroying countries that never attacked us and never posed a threat to us. Somehow, this will reduce the number of anti-American Islamic radicals, instead of increase it.

    Dondero also doesn't recognize any libertarian tradition that pre-dates an organized libertarian political movement. But Rohrbacher abandoned the movement long ago, whereas Goldwater is considered a father of the modern conservative movement. Furthermore, the libertarians who supported him in 1964 tended to back Eugene McCarthy in 1968. Is McCarthy also a father of the movement?

    The libertarian tradition I'm referring to is that of Ludwig von Mises, Frank Chodorov, Albert Jay Nock, and H.L Mencken, that continued through the pamphlets of the ISIL and the writings and speeches of people like Harry Browne. This tradition understands laissez-faire, personal freedom, and non-intervention to be consistent and mutually-supporting principles, so that abandoning one of these principles leads to the abandonment of the others.

  4. Whoa. You've got your facts completely wrong there buddy. Rohrabacher never "abandoned" the libertarian movement!!

    Let's recap, shall we:

    Rohrabacher had famed Libertarian Party member and his close friend Don Ernsberger as his Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill for many years in the late 1990s.

    Rohrabacher was the Co-Sponsor of our Libertarian legislation in Congress to repeal the Military Draft.

    Rohrabacher has had and currently has NUMEROUS Libertarians on his Congressional staff.

    Rohrabacher is close friends with the Orange County Libertarian Party and the OCLP's Chairman Bruce Cohen.

    Rohrabacher has been an Advisory Board member for the Republican Liberty Caucus for over 12 years.

    Rohrabacher signed fundraising letters in support of fellow libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul for his tough reelection battles.

    Rohrabacher consistently places 2nd and 3rd in the Liberty Index published by the RLC which essentially means he is one of the Top 3 Libertarians in the US Congress. I believe, (off the top of my head), that he actually won the Number One spot One year. I do know that for a year or two he actually scored better than Ron Paul. Of course, Jeff Flake always beats both Ron and Dana, these days.

    Check the facts before you start spouting off nonsense like "Dana Rohrabacher left the Libertarian movement years ago..."

    Just because he isn't a Keynote Speaker at the Libertarian Party National Convention doesn't mean he's "left the movement."

    The LP only represents a small portion of the entire libertarian political movement. And these days, the RLC is overtaking the LP as America's premeire libertarian political group.

    Eric Dondero, Founder
    Republican Liberty Caucus

    Fmr. Senior Aide, US Congressman Ron Paul


  5. I didn't mention the LP, so I don't know Eric you brought it up.

    But I would consider a "movement" libertarian to be involved somehow in small-l libertarian organizations, and to speak at freedom-oriented events and conventions. That Rohrabacher remains friendly with some libertarians and may have employed a few whom Eric considers "libertarian" doesn't disprove my point that he left the movement long ago. Moreover, even if he is still considered part of the movement (and only Eric thinks he is), he should be booted out. Looking back on Rohrabacher's votes the past couple of years:

    - he voted for REAL ID Act;
    - he voted against H.R. 2862 that would have stopped federal law enforcement officials from being able to easily seize library and bookstore records.
    - Vote against H.R. 2863, a ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees held by U.S. forces and requires the military to follow the Army field manual for interrogations.
    - Voted for warrantless spying (H.R. 5825)

    - he voted for the Constitutional amendment authorizing Congress to ban "desecration" of the American flag.

    These are not the votes one would expect from a libertarian. If the RLC ignores these votes, and concludes that voting for something like CAFTA is the "libertarian" position, then it's no surprise Rohrabacher might come out ahead of Paul. But I've looked at a lot of roll calls recently, not just "key" votes, and if Rohrabacher's a libertarian, he would be voting "no" on a heck of a lot more bills than he does. He should be right there with Flake and Paul. He's not.

    Also, since this is a big deal to Eric, I should also point out that Rohrabacher's 100% pro-life.