Friday, June 08, 2007

Incredibly Stupid Statement of the Day, 06/08/07

Today's Incredibly Stupid Statement of the day is a doozy ... all the more so because it appears in one of the libertarian movement's foremost publications. It's also the first "hat tip" ISSotD ... thanks to John Markley of The Superfluous Man for nominating it.

The publication: Reason magazine. The article: Left, Right, and Wrong.". The author: Michael Young. The statement:

[I]n the absence of a serious critique on how to address deficiencies in freedom overseas, libertarians, "realists," and those on the political left ceded vital terrain to the neoconservatives around President George W. Bush in the post-9/11 period. Only the neocons, it seemed, had an explanation for why 19 young men from the Middle East had decided to kill thousands of innocent civilians for no apparent reason. The neocons claimed that a major problem was the dearth of democracy in the Arab world, which had turned frustrated youths into mass murderers.

One might dispute the neocons' interpretation, and condemn its outcome, but the fact is that when decision-makers in Washington were looking for insights into what had happened and tried to do so, like most Americans, by explaining the individual motivations of the hijackers, libertarians, political realists, and much of the left had little to say.

In point of fact, libertarian writers began dealing with the question of "why 19 young men from the Middle East had decided to kill thousands of innocent civilians" within hours, if not minutes, of the 9/11 attacks.

Harry Browne, September 12th, 2001:

The terrorist attacks against America comprise a horrible tragedy. But they shouldn't be a surprise.

It is well known that in war, the first casualty is truth -- that during any war truth is forsaken for propaganda. But sanity was a prior casualty: it was the loss of sanity that led to war in the first place.

Our foreign policy has been insane for decades. It was only a matter of time until Americans would have to suffer personally for it.

One might disagree that US foreign policy explains the motivation of the attackers, but there's no doubt that it was offered as an explanation for the motivation of the attackers.

Here's my own take, also published on September 12th, 2001:

In a libertarian America, our government would not have its troops stationed around the world, putting out other people's fires and making enemies of those with whom we have no legitimate argument.

A libertarian America would not cheer as its bombs rained down on passenger trains in Belgrade. It would not apathetically accept the deaths of Iraqi children due to the epidemic of cholera caused by our bombing of Baghdad's sanitary facilities, nor would it endure the spectacle of its own young men dragged down the streets of Mogadishu or the broken bodies of its Marines being carried from a barracks in Beirut.

A libertarian America would not cheer, apathetically accept, or endure these things because these things would not happen. A libertarian America would not regard its troops as an international police force. It would not treat them as human sacrifices to some misguided ideal of internationalism, and it would not pile more of their bodies on the altar when the ideal fails to materialize -- as it will every time.

And, consequently, a libertarian America would not face the constant prospect of attack at the hands of those whom it has injured in vain attempts to realize that ideal.

Hell ... libertarians were explaining the motivations of the terrorists before 9/11. Here, for example, is a bit of Lew Rockwell's "Memo to Terrorists," published on December 24th, 1999:

Because of its foreign policy, imperial military reach, and global arrogance, the U.S. government is the most hated in the world. It's not surprising that some of you might want to vent your anger. But before you do so, you should consider this: what the U.S. government has done to you and to everyone else in the world has nothing to do with the American people. Don't blame us for the actions of the government.

You are undoubtedly outraged at the bombings and ongoing sanctions against Iraq. It's true that these actions are grossly contrary to morality. It's also true that tens of thousands of civilians have died because of them. But these actions were undertaken by the dictatorial executive branch, and with only the tacit approval of the Congress. No one asked the American people if we wanted this.

I'm trying to make a very narrow case here: That libertarians were engaged in answering the question of "why 19 young men from the Middle East [decided, or might decide] to kill thousands of innocent civilians" before, and immediately after, 9/11. I believe I've just incontrovertibly demonstrated, with quotes from the full range -- two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate, a major non-party libertarian figure, and an exceedingly minor libertarian writer -- that yes, we were.

We can argue -- as we have for nearly six years now, and as we should -- over whether or not the libertarian answers quoted here are correct. I'll even concede Young's main point regarding a need for libertarians to address freedom across borders ... but it's sheer silliness, on the same scale as Giuliani's patently ridiculous "I've never heard anything like that before," to suggest that there is no corpus of libertarian counter-explanation to the neoconservative "it's lack of democracy, stupid" line.

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