James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Disagreement On Many Fronts, But Not the War

Randy Barnett's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that libertarians can support the Iraq War has generated many responses. Here's one more.

If Barnett is right, it is doubtful that libertarianism means anything of substance anymore; if there is disagreement among libertarians over this unprovoked war, perhaps there is no clear libertarian position on anything.

On many issues, that is already true. Assuming that all libertarians believe that liberty is the highest political end, that doesn't mean they are in agreement on priorities and means. One can be a libertarian and not understand economics the same way as another, causing differences of opinion in, say, tax reform. They may also disagree on the Constitution. Or the geo-political situation we are in. One can be a libertarian whose utopia is an agrarian society that may be almost anarchic in form, but virtually theocratic in practice. Another libertarian may be cosmopolitan and a champion of consumerism. The former may be more concerned with decentralization, while the other may rely on the federal courts to protect individual rights. One libertarian may claim we must abolish the welfare state before we open the borders; another may claim that the right to travel across national boundaries is a natural right.

That said, I believe Barnett is still wrong. There was and is no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with any real or supposed jihadist threat to America's national security. There may be legitimate libertarian disagreement on America's retaliatory response to 9-11, but not on Iraq. Libertarians may be all over the map on most issues, but when it comes to aggressive war they should be as united in opposition as they are united in support of freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.

1 comment:

  1. I look at the reality of "disagreements on many fronts" not only in libertarian politics, but in many other areas. And I wonder. Why do so many people think that there is only one way to accomplish something? There are disagreements on priorities and means. But why can't many different means and strategies, even if somewhat contrary, be used in conjunction?

    As a parent, I use my authority to train my children to not need me in the future as a parent. So why can't somebody use the federal courts to protect individual liberties to the point that the federal courts are no longer needed to protect individual liberties, which in one sense is contrary to the one who advocates decentralization, but in a practical sense, they both have the same goal. Just as in war, one strikes from the front, one from the rear. The division that strikes from the rear takes away from the ability of the frontal assault if both divisions struck from the front, but it might be more effective that way. I guess I'm arguing here for decentralization of strategy and means toward a common end.