Blogs > Liberty and Power > May We Infer that Silence Speaks Volumes? And if so, What Exactly Is Going On?

Jul 17, 2005

May We Infer that Silence Speaks Volumes? And if so, What Exactly Is Going On?

What’s up with Cato? The War in Iraq continues with its daily bombings and killings. Meanwhile there are many signs that some Democrats and Republicans in Congress are unhappy with the current situation and seek withdrawal. Yet the Cato Institute appears to have nothing to say.

Way back in December 2002, Cato published Why the United States Should Not Attack Iraq by Ivan Eland (now with the Independent Institute and a contributor to Antiwar.com) and Bernard Gourley. A year later Cato published Charles V. Pena’s Iraq: The Wrong War. Three weeks later Patrick Basham asked Can Iraq Be Democratic?. In June 2004 Cato published the Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda, the report of a task force sponsored by Cato and directed by Christopher Preble. In January 2005 Preble published an article, How to Exit Iraq, in the National Post of Canada. Unfortunately, Cato’s link to the article doesn’t work but you can get a sense of what it’s about by reading Justin Raimondo’s remarks here. Since then, apart from a commentary on monetary reform, there has been complete silence—at least as far as I can tell.

It’s therefore not unreasonable to ask “Where Is Cato Now on One of the Most Important Issues of the Day?” I can’t believe they’ve run out of things to say. Perhaps someone from Cato reading this post would defend their decision not to say anything since January. May we infer that Cato is deliberately keeping quiet on this issue? And if so, why? Is this part of a grand strategy not to detract from Cato’s other policy objectives? And/or is this silence reflective of divisions within Cato itself? I’m genuinely puzzled and intrigued.

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Aeon J. Skoble - 7/22/2005

I don't think Levy "left" the VC, he said he was taking a one-year hiatus, which should be ending soon. He may have changed his mind, but that's what he said at the time.

Tom G Palmer - 7/22/2005

Well, I'm persuaded!

Justin Raimondo - 7/22/2005

The numerically very few people during the Vietnam war era who supported "the other side" got lots of attention alright -- from the right-wing assholes who tried to impugn the rest of the antiwar movement (i.e. 99.9 percent of the people who took part in massive antiwar marches). And now that same focus is maintained by The Palmer and his neocon friends, including the hysteric Andrew Sullivan (who paints the antiwar movement as a "fifth column") and David Horowitz. These people, however, had no influence, except in the imagination of the pro-war Right. Just as Ward Churchill has no influence in today's antiwar movement.

The killing of Iraqi recruits to the Iraqi army is easily explainable: they are seen as collaborators with the Americans. Just as Afghan recruits to the "army" of the pro-Soviet Afghan government were seen by the mujahideen as collaborators with the Kremlin. Palmer can bemoan this fact all he wants, but any fool, including him, can see that it is true.

I fail to see how the Spartacist League, which hailed the Red Army in Afghanistan, is my "stylistic" "soul-mate" -- I think they are much closer to Palmer's views. They, too, "hailed" a foreign occupier as a "liberator," including the Soviet Union's "progressive" actions in re: the "liberation" of Afghan women. The Spartacists criticized anyone who said that the Soviets had to get out of Afghanistan on the grounds that this amounted to a "conciliation" and "appeasement" of Muslim "extremists" and "terrorists." The Sparts upheld the Red Army's war as an example of Western "modernity" struggling against the "medievalism" of the mujahideen, who employed suicide bombers and did pretty much what the "terrorists" are doing in Iraq today.

I reject the contention, proferred by Palmer, that any examination of Israel's pervasive influence in Washington, and on the current administration, is "peculiar" and necessarily tainted with bigotry. Is the Larry Franklin spy investigation, which has already come up with one indictment (with two more indictments waiting in the wings), an "anti-Semitic" conspiracy? If so, then the U.S. Justice Department is also in on it, along with an entire platoon of war critics, such as James Bamford, Michael Scheuer, Prof. Paul Schroeder, Vince Cannistraro, Robert Dreyfuss, and others too numerous to list here.

When one asks the question "why are we in Iraq?", and all the excuses offered up by this administration -- WMD, alleged "links" to Al Qaeda, and, finally, the imposition of "democracy" -- fall by the wayside, the search for an explanation must continue. What emerges from the facts, I contend, is a self-conscious effort by Israel and its American amen corner to draw us into this war in order to clear the way for Israel to dominate the region (by extending its influence into Kurdistan, as Seymour Hersh has shown), and fells Israel's foes (Iraq, Syria, Iran) one by one. The Palmer may think this is a bad idea, or a good idea: but he doesn't take a position, at least in public. Instead, he tries to smear anyone who holds this view -- without confronting any of the evidence. A typical neocon tactic, but, in this case, it won't work: too many people know what's up, and the evidence is too overwhelming, for it to be brushed aside by appeals to ethno-religious victimology and political correctness.

Palmer's efforts to smear me are backfiring: instead of discrediting me, he is discrediting himself. It's sad, in a way, to witness his hysterical fulminations. Yet it is also instructive: to anyone whose main concern becomes the prosecution of charges of "anti-Americanism" and nonexistent "bigotry", the consequences are clear. He has become an apologist for America's sickeningly immoral foreign policy, not only in the Middle East but around the world. A sad -- but instructive --end for someone who was once a libertarian and is now just a shrill shill for interventionism.

Tom G Palmer - 7/22/2005

for "changed 'Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win!'," please read "chanted."

Tom G Palmer - 7/22/2005

I note again that Mr. Raimondo equates himself with the antiwar movement. According to Mr. Raimondo, to criticize his very peculiar claims (e.g., most recently that "it is literally true" that Washington is "Israeli occupied territory") is to criticize "the antiwar movement." Extraordinary is far too weak a term to describe such arrogance.

I strongly recall antiwar protests from the 1970s that included people who changed "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win!" Mr. Raimondo evidently doesn't remember them and the harm they did to the cause. Similarly, during anti-draft rallies during the late 1970s and early 1980s the members of the Spartacist League (stylistically, at least, Mr. Raimondo's soul mates) would show up with 7 members and two huge banners reading "Victory to the Red Army in Afghanistan!" Naturally, those two banners got more attention from the media than the banners saying "The Draft is Un-American" and "Don't Let Them Take Your Sons and Daughters." Such behavior detracted from the message of the antiwar and antidraft movement and was harmful to the cause. In Mr. Raimondo's case, his conspiratorial obsession about "the Israelis" detracts from serious criticism of American foreign policy, as do his remarks about the killing of Iraqi police recruits and others. In regard to the latter, Mr. Raimondo insists, on every occasion, that all the evidence of his strange behavior be presented on every forum. That would take too much time and would tax the hospitality of the hosters of Liberty and Power, so I will merely direct him back to the documentation available at http://www.tomgpalmer.com/archives/cat_the_fever_swamp.php . Readers can search for terms such as "quisling" and follow the links and then make up their own minds.

Finally, Mr. Raimondo would do well to do some research before discussing the Iraqi electoral process. The Constitution must be submitted by August 15. If that happens, the referendum will be held on October 15, not in November.

Justin Raimondo - 7/21/2005

A great victory for Tom Palmer. A defeat for the rest of us.

Justin Raimondo - 7/21/2005

Oh please, Palmer. Talk about extravagant rhetoric: you're frothing at the mouth. It was you who wrote:

"Like too many of those who protested against the disaster of the Viet Nam war, some of those clustered around lewrockwell.com and antiwar.com have gone from opposing the war to hoping that the other side wins and calling for killing more American troops."

I can't recall anyone of any importance during the Vietnam war era -- not even the Socialist Workers Party, which dominated the organized antiwar marches -- that called for "the other side" to win. And as for that sentiment being expressed on antiwar.com: where? when? By whom? It's a lie, one that The Palmer has been spreading to anyone who will listen (which is not many, at least among libertarians).

Your smears are a) disgusting, and b) unconvincing. Anyone who cares to can check the record -- it's all on public display, 24/7, on the internet. So why don't you go play with Andrew Sullivan and your neocon friends, and leave us libertarians to carry on the fight against war and the Leviathan? You've quite clearly given up both fights long ago.

Mark Brady has rightly noted that Cato hasn't had a word to say about this war since January. I wonder why that is. And I daresay that Palmer has a *lot* to do with it. It's a pity that such a vicious liar has such influence on what used to be the greatest libertarian thinktank. But I guess we'll all just have to get used to it.

John Arthur Shaffer - 7/21/2005

The Congress certainly won't interfere with Bushs Iraq policy:


The measure, approved 291-137, says the United States should leave Iraq only when national security and foreign policy goals related to a free and stable Iraq have been achieved.

Tom G Palmer - 7/21/2005

Mr. Raimondo has once again mischaracterized my views. No matter how many times he says something, the repeated saying of it does not make it true. (There's a name for that technique, one that characterizes so much of Mr. Raimondo's approach, which he merely dismisses -- when caught doing it -- as mere rhetorical excess or extravagance.) As to "smearing the antiwar movement," I presume that Mr. Raimondo is referring to himself as "the antiwar movement." Whether I have "smeared" him by pointing to his obsession with Israel and the kind of people who live there is one thing, but for him to claim that he "is" the antiwar movement is remarkable even for one so given to rhetorical excess and extravagance. (I should also point out that I am not aware of any other writers -- outside of antiwar.com -- who have referred to recruits to the Iraqi police forces as "quislings." Mr. Raimondo has done more to discredit the antiwar movement than any other living person; it is a kind of distinction, to be sure, but not one that other antiwar activists should honor.)

Justin Raimondo - 7/20/2005

The referendum on the constitution is being held in November, I believe, and the election to the new national assembly takes place at the end of the year. An orderly withdrawal would take six months. Ron Paul and three others have introduced a resolution calling for us to be out by the end of 2006, essentially. I could live with that.

The risk is that we'll be sucked into another war before then. And it's a moral obscenity that even one more person has to die so that the Islamic "Republic" of Iraq can exist.

Jason Kuznicki - 7/20/2005

I am afraid my position has been misunderstood.

While I do think we should leave Iraq as fast as possible, I do not define this as "the fastest that our tanks and planes can travel."

Just as we had an ethical obligation before the war to consider what damage the war might entail, so too we now have an ethical obligation to consider what damage our exit strategy might cause. I don't think that we have any duty to build a democracy in Iraq, but I do think that a decent respect for the lives of ordinary Iraqis is still incumbent upon us. (If anything like a liberal democracy emerges from the current mess, I will be genuinely--but pleasantly--astonished.)

With that in mind, I would favor a timetable for getting out of Iraq. It would aim to minimize the harm that might befall ordinary Iraqis from too quick a departure--while keeping in mind that our presence is likely a big part of the problem.

And, if Americans wish to advise Iraqis on the nature of any future government, it's my understanding that they should be free to do so. What little I've heard of the new Iraqi constitution, however, is all quite troubling.

Justin Raimondo - 7/20/2005

Tom Palmer wants more American soldiers to die for the "Islamic Republic of Iraq," and its "constitution," which will enforce Sharia law. He wants the U.S. to "liberate" other countries, while our own falls into slavery. He apologizes for the regime, smears the antiwar movement, and is helping to steer Cato away from its antiwar position and toward something more acceptable to his fellow neocons. The complete absence of any antiwar actitivity since January of this year makes it all too plain that he is having some success.

This isn't surprising. Although it is sickening.

He makes arguments about what is supposedly good for Iraqis. But what about what is good for Americans? I agree with Jason: U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is the best and only rational policy regardless of the consequences for Iraq. Sometimes the least bad option is not a good one, but it's the only one. This is one of those times.

The longer we live under a war regime here at home, the greater the danger to our liberties. And the longer we stay in Iraq, the more we are in danger of spreading the war beyond the boundaries of Iraq. There's just one solution: Out Now!

Palmer and his neocon friends may have neutralized Cato as an antiwar resource, and Reason magazine may be beyond hope, but we still have Antiwar.com -- and thank the gods for that.

Tom G Palmer - 7/20/2005

The relevant baseline necessarily involves a comparison of what happens with what would otherwise happen. If we pull out tomorrow, we'll know what happens. If we stay in, we'll know what happens. What would happen with the other policy? For every person who is harmed or killed under one policy, how many might under the other?

Regarding evidence, let's look at the following. Most of the killings by the terrorists have been of Iraqis, by a huge margin. Is there any reason to think that the terrorists would stop killing Iraqis were the U.S. to pull out? Would Sunni jihadi fanatics stop detonating bombs in Shia mosques or dropping mortar rounds on Shia pilgrims or blowing up the HQ of Kurdish political parties or assassinating mayors, council members, lawyers, doctors, nurses, water and sanitation engineers, until, at least, they had achieved their goal of getting the population completely within their power? What reason might one have for thinking otherwise? Were they merely attacking U.S. and other foreign troops, you would have a point. That would be evidence that the attacks and the murders and the beheadings would stop when the U.S. would leave. But the actual behavior of the terrorists clearly indicates otherwise. What reason can you offer for thinking that they would stop their deliberate targeting of innocent noncombatants, political figures, police officers, and their other victims?

(Note: I had intended for my most recent posting above this to follow Mr. Gregory's last posting; I don't know why they got out of order.)

Anthony Gregory - 7/20/2005

Dr. Palmer continues to misunderstand my point. Perhaps it is my fault in the way I explain it.

If there is US involvement, I'd prefer a three-country solution to a central state. I consider it the more attractive, of the two choices, in libertarian terms.

If there is no US involvement, I'd still prefer a three-country solution to a central state. I consider it the more attractive, of the two choices, in libertarian terms.

If the choice is between a US-imposed three-state solution, or a unified Iraq with no US participation, I'd choose the latter. I consider it the more attractive, of the two choices, in libertarian terms.

So, it is not case that my "second-best position" involves more US coercion than any third-best solution.

Tom G Palmer - 7/20/2005

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Kuznicki's point. Jumping off of the tenth floor of a building is a very unwise thing to do, even if one manages to land relatively safely. Similarly, if one does jump off of the tenth floor, it's wise to try to do as little damage, both to one self and to others, as one plummets. And if one lands intact, resolve never to do that again.

Mr. Gregory is, I think, wise to develop a multi-tiered approach. I'm afraid, however, that it's not entirely consistent with his concluding paragraph, for his second-best position, involving the U.S. "guiding" Iraq to a three state solution, surely involves some use of force. I don't think that such a serious and nuanced approach that incorporates second-best options is inconsistent with being a libertarian, but if Mr. Gregory thinks it is, then he would have to read himself out, as well as me.

Anthony Gregory - 7/20/2005

That sould read, "the murder of tens of thousands of people." Sorry, that is quite an embarrassing error.

Anthony Gregory - 7/20/2005

"I, on the other hand, would continue to claim that the U.S. invasion was morally unjustified, as well as being far too risky, even if Iraq were to become a peaceful democracy as of 9:00 AM today. It strikes me that this is the truer meaning of principled opposition."

Jason, all the antiwar libertarians I know would agree. The fear is not that we'll be "proven wrong" — that, somehow, the new Iraq will have justified the murder of tens of thousands of dollars, the destruction of hundreds of billions of dollars in property, the displacement of peoples and all the civil liberties violations that have occurred in Iraq and America due to the occupation. But if the common perception, in this world of utilitarians, is that it was worth it — that would indeed be a bad thing.

Of course, I don't think the US is doing much good there for anyone. I call for pulling out for moral as well as practical reasons. Palmer's insistence that I provide "evidence" that everything will improve after pulling out seems to me all bass ackwards. He should provide evidence that the continuing occupation is doing more good than bad. At any rate, it is unlibertarian to continue it, for it involves the initiation of force on Iraqis and Americans alike. You either believe initiated coercion is wrong and never justified, or not.

Anthony Gregory - 7/20/2005

Well, Dr. Palmer, I had a response all written out, about how prefering that the Iraqis split up into three countries is not the same as prefering the US stay there. If the US is to stay, I'd prefer it guide, not force, Iraq toward a three-state solution. If the US is to leave, I'd prefer Iraq split up on its own. Whatever happens, I prefer the US to leave. My whole point is that waiting for the US to help create a "tolerable" central government where there has never been one, to rule warring peoples, before we call for withdrawal, is absurd.

But perhaps I have argued myself into a corner. You're definitely winning the argument, so far, in the political arena. The US continues to be in Iraq, just as you think is best.

Let us see what happens as your preferred policy of continuing the occupation persists.

Bill Woolsey - 7/20/2005

The paleo-libertarinas had a strategy of reaching out to the paleo-conservatives. I don't believe that this strategy was called off four years ago. It started something like 15 years ago and perhaps was called off by Rockwell six months ago. At the time, I thought (and posted) "good!" I expressed skepticism that the new outreach to the left would be any more sensible or sucessful than Rothbard's approach in the late sixties. But giving up on the extreme right is great!

As I have said many times, the Rothbardians (and Rothbard) look for other people who hate the U.S. government, and it just doesn't work out too well.

It was only a few days ago that I looked at some commentators on LewRockwell.com, did a google search, and found racist and anti-semitic articles by some of them. Palmer has a point.

My opinion is that if the paleo-libertarians want to make an alliance with the far left in opposing imperialism, they are going to need to clean up their websites and get rid of all the whacked paleo-conservative stuff that is on there. It doesn't seem to have happen yet. But, that is their business. And I don't think an alliance with the far left is going to be very effective anyway.

While there are some paleo-conservatives who comment on anti-war.com, I grant that the commentary is very inclusive, with plenty from the far left and moderate left, different sorts of libertarians, as well as a few noninterventionist paleo-cons. I didn't criticize anti-war.com at all (except to state that I find some of Raimondo's commentary a bit over the top.) I know that Palmer does criticise anti-war.com pretty harshly. I think he has a point there too, though I didn't get into that.

Raimondo's criticism of Palmer--that it is he that is reaching out to the "extreme" neo-conservative right wing, is silly.

Palmer opposed going to War in Iraq. The neo-conservatives favored going to war in Iraq.

Many people who opposed going to War in Iraq and who are dead set against the neo-conservatives believe that now that the U.S. is in Iraq, we must "fix it." I would suggest it is the dominant position among intellectuals who opposed the war. Palmer is in the anti-war mainstream.

Those of us who support a rapid withdrawl from Iraq (like me,) are the minority of intellectuals who opposed going to war. Thankfully, the American people seem to be heading our way! Apparently, some who supported going to war now favor a rapid withdrawal.

I just finished reading a very interesting article on anti-war.com.


It reflects pretty much what I understand is going on in Iraq. Personally, I am less worried about the Iranian alliance with Iraq than the author of the article. I think that the Iraqi Shia won't put up with selling out Iraq to Iran. I don't think the U.S. should worry one bit about making sure that women's rights are protected in Iraq. I guess like just about every libertarian, I wish that the three communities would support "federalism." But I don't think the U.S. should push it on the Shia and Sunnis. The Shia won the election, let them run Iraq. It is their country.

Also, I tend to agree with Galbraith that the Shia government (and the Kurds too) can defend themselves against the Sunni insurgents. I find Juan Cole's scenario in which the U.S. withdraws and the insurgents just march in kill the elected politicians and start the genocide implausible. When Palmer made this claim here (this time it is the even more incredible claim that Zarquawi would take over rather than the Baathists,) I thought it was absurd. Still, I am fine with giving the government some time to get ready to take responsiblity for their defense.

I suspect that many libertarians here believe that South Korea should be responsible for defending itself against North Korea. Perhaps some believe that an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and end of the alliance would be best. I suspect that many of us would actually insist some kind of timeline. South Korea get five years and then it will be on its own.

During the late seventies and early eighties I supported an end to Nato and favored requiring that the Europeans take care of their own defense against the Warsaw Pact. I would have opposed, however, a sudden implementation of that policy. I would have insisted that the U.S. give the Europeans a deadline. We are turning responsibility over to you, and you have two, five, ten years, to get ready.

I realize that the Rothbardians insisted that the entire cold war was caused by U.S. agression. In their view, immediate U.S. disengagement would have ended all problems, because Communists love peace and aren't imperialist warmongers like the U.S. (and maybe the British.) But, not all libertarians agree. And I think having communism imposed on Western Europe by military force would have been really, really bad for the U.S.

Admittedly, I don't think having South Korea destroyed by North Korea would be nearly as bad for the U.S. But it would be eally, really bad for the South Koreans. And so, giving them a chance to prepare is the right thing to do.

In Iraq, it is even more hazy. The threat to the elected Iraqi government is less. The chance that the elected Iraqi government will behave badly is greater. Still, I think giving them some time to prepare is the right thing to do.

I don't think there is anything wrong with American libertarians "educating" the libertarian Iraqis (or more libertarian Iraqis) on constitutionalism. I don't think that those Iraqis will have much impact immediately and maybe never. But it is a fine activity.

Raimondo has asserted that Palmer was sent on a U.S. goverment mission to tell the Iraqi government (puppets?) what to do. And then Raimondo contradicts his orginal statement by pointing out that the Iraqis seem to be promoting a constitution implementing an Islamic state. (Obviously not following U.S. orders given by agent Palmer.) It is all so absurd. Palmer went and talked to some groups about Constitionalism. Either those groups don't have the dominant influence (surprise) or else they didn't agree with Palmer. I suspect it mostly the first, but surely some of the second.

Jason Kuznicki - 7/20/2005

I have been terribly reluctant to enter this discussion, in part because it mostly seems like more of the same from the comment thread I ended earlier. I will say this, however.

Tom Palmer writes, "I'm not asking for a numerically precise answer [about how much suffering justifies a longer stay in Iraq]... but some acknowledgement that consequences might matter."

It strikes me that many in the anti-war movement are actually quite afraid that they are wrong--and that they will be proven wrong if and when the U.S. intervention succeeds. Accordingly, they react negatively whenever anyone does anything at all that might help Iraq.

I, on the other hand, would continue to claim that the U.S. invasion was morally unjustified, as well as being far too risky, <em>even if</em> Iraq were to become a peaceful democracy as of 9:00 AM today. It strikes me that this is the truer meaning of principled opposition.

Tom G Palmer - 7/20/2005

I'll pass on Mr. Raimondo's typical invective. No doubt his references to "sissies," "butching it up," and "coming out of the closet" had no reference to sexual orientation. I'll also leave out his reading difficulties that caused him to infer that I was on an official visit, somehow organized by well, someone "official" (why not go further and suggest that President Bush himself set up the visit?).

Mr. Gregory actually had something interesting to say, so I'll address my remarks to him.

Mr. Gregory, your use of the passive "be divided up" implies that the division be done by somebody. Shouldn't that be up to Iraqis? But then, wouldn't that mean giving advice to them? And isn't that what is such a wicked thing? It certainly is in the opinion of your colleague Justin Raimondo. Or is it ok to offer advice from Oakland, but not from Baghdad? What you wroteabove implies that the decision be made by the U.S. to impose a division on Iraq, since it's in the form of a discussion of the best U.S. policy for Iraq, not the best Iraqi policy. I'll return to that at the end.

I don't think that the discussion of "no regard to the consequences" is too harsh. That's the clear thrust of your position. Is there some level of catastrophe that would cause you to consider whether U.S. troops should be there for six months? I'm not asking for a numerically precise answer (e.g., 413,277 innocent deaths would justify a 193 day stay, but 413,276 would not), but some acknowledgement that consequences might matter. My own position is based on an evaluation of the likely consequences. If it could be shown (again, with the precision appropriate to the topic) that continuing the U.S. military presence is worse than not continuing it, then I'd favor ending it forthwith. I don't see that as likely, partly because I don't believe that the suicide bombers who are attacking police recruits and crowds of children are going to stop because the U.S. was driven from the country; it's rather more likely that they would continue their attacks until they had succeeded in creating enough mayhem that they could impose their will on the entire population. The death tolls would be, I fear, staggering. That would be one of the many terrible consequences of the decision to go to war, and therefore yet another reason to regret that decision, but it would not be a good reason to withdraw today. The arguments against intervention in the first place and for immediate withdrawal after the fact are not isomorphic, which is something that you seem unwilling to consider.

Now to return to the issue of giving advice to the Iraqis. If you are offering advice to the Iraqis about what they should do, rather than imposing your own vision of a tripartite division on them, then you are implicitly relying on a process of division that would enjoy legitimacy, which implies support for the process that generates that legitimacy. The only likely candidate for such a process is the election of January (and denounced by your colleague Mr. Raimondo in quite lurid terms) and the formation of the Transitional National Assembly and the current government. Thus, you are offering advice to the constitutional revision committee and to the TNA (now the Iraqi National Assembly) and subsequently to the voters in the national referendum. That implies, however that those things take place. If they would not take place absent U.S. support, what does that imply about the timing for a complete U.S. withdrawal? He who wills the end wills the means, after all. I’m afraid that you’ve argued yourself into a corner.

Justin Raimondo - 7/20/2005

the first sentence should reading:

"drawing up the Iraqi constitution"

Justin Raimondo - 7/20/2005

It is absurd to say that paleo-libertarians are advocating an alliance with the "right." Isn't it Lew Rockwell who has attacked the contempoary neocon-dominated "Right" of being a proto-fascist phenomenon. I have expressed a similar view. It's interesting that the main charge against us coming from the neocons, i.e. David Frum, is that we are a "left-wing" subversion of authentic National Review-style conservatism. Why, we've even linked to Chomsky! John Pilger! To say nothing of the dreaded Alexander Cockburn!

Woolsey is at least 4 years behind the times. Antiwar.com is consciously reaching out to the left, while not, of course, neglecting the increasingly anti-war elements on the right. And we aren't tailing the left opportunistically, but challenging their economic and philosophical premises, as well as their prejudices, and debunking the entirely outmoded categories of "left" and "right" in the process.

We are demonstrating, every day, that libertarianism is *beyond* left and right. The "neo-libertarians" who want us to "stay the course" in Iraq are the ones reaching out to an extremist right-wing movement, which is neo-conservatism. Tom Palmer is well on his way to becoming the David Frum of the libertarian movement -- a position that is as self-contradictory and untenable as the Palmer-ite stance of fighting until "victory" in Iraq.

Justin Raimondo - 7/20/2005

From the postings on his blog, Palmer strongly implied that he was going to Iraq to advise the constitutional committee involved in drawing: that, at least, is the clear implication of the tone of self-importance he assumes. In any case, the earthshaking importance of his "mission" was announced as if it were some sort of officially sanctioned assignment, perhaps carried out under the auspices of the U.S. government. Now we read that this same constitutional committee is basing the founding document of the "liberated" Iraq state on Islamic law: these aren't budding Thomas Jeffersons, but little Sistanis who are establishing an Islamic state on the model of neighboring Iran.

Indeed, Prime Minister Jafaari has recently traveled to Iran, where he and his Islamic fundamentalist party received military aid and asylum for many years: Iraq and Iran have signed a mutual defense pact. Who needs the United States when "liberated" Iraq has the Iranian army, the Badr Brigade, and the fundamentalist militias, including the Sadrists, to enforce the (Islamic) "law"? I wonder if that great opponent of "anti-Americanism," General Tom Gordon Palmer, considers it an "anti-American" act to point out that we have conquered Iraq for the benefit of Iran. Instead of "whiskey, sexy, democracy," we have whippings, patriarchy, and theocracy. It is the Americans who have betrayed any Iraqi libertarians who might exist.

Palmer has a million reasons for not withdrawing from Iraq, but none of them, tellingly, have anything to do with the pursuit of American interests in the region. It is a purely emotional argument, similar to that made by opponents of deregulation and such programs as welfare reform or social security reform. Scare tactics meant to intimidate people out of thinking about a fundamental long-term solution to the problems of "blowback" caused by America's interventionist foreign policy. I'm sure that Palmer, being such a smart person and all, understands this quite well when it comes to domestic issues. When it comes to foreign policy, however, it's a whole different ballgame. It's okay to cut welfare mothers off of welfare without giving it a thought, but the Iraqi government is not to be given an ultimatum: get your act together, or get outta town.

I won't comment on the obviously crazy accusation that I am out to murder Iraqi libertarians. On the sissy issue, I'll also take a pass, except to note that calling someone a sissy is not necessarily "homophobic." There are plenty of heterosexual sissies, and it describes a mental attitude rather than a specific sexual orientation, but enough of that.

Speaking of "orientation," I think it's time Palmer came out of the closet as one of them newfangled "neo-libertarians" Nick Gillespie is always prattling on about. You know, the ones who think invading and liberating the entire *world,* a la Ron Bailey, is an idea whose time has come, and who take the President's rhetoric at its most Jacobin as their battlecry. Forget sexual orientation, for a moment, and let's talk about ideological orienation, the only sort that really counts (at least in this particular arena....).

Anthony Gregory - 7/20/2005

Dr. Palmer, I never "appointed [my]self Proconsul for Iraq, with the power to divide it into three regions." Nor did I "locate[] the power in the U.S. government to decide that Iraq will be three countries, and not one." What I said was:

"Iraq would probably be better divided up into three or more regions, as Ivan Eland has suggested."

The link is to a policy report by Ivan Eland, whom I've seen you cite as a respectful authority on foreign policy matters, and in it he does not recommend the US impose a three-country solution, and neither have I ever recommended this, either implicitly or explicity.

Now, you might be correct that if the US pulled out of Iraq immediately, there would be a lot of problems. This has been true of many places the US occupied or maintained an illegitimate military presence. It was arguably true of Viet Nam. That doesn't mean staying another second there would have made much a positive difference in the long-run.

To say that I am recommending immediate withdrawl with "no regard to the conserquences" is a bit harsh, don't you think? Or is the fact that you support the continuing occupation, until a "tolerable" government is set up, mean that you have "no regard to the consequences" of the continuation of the anti-US violence that this occupation is inciting?

Tom G Palmer - 7/19/2005

A quick note on an issue raised by Bill Woolsey that I had overlooked. The U.S., as the military power that initiated the war, has the positive legal obligation under military law to provide for basic security until such time as local or national authorities can do so. In that sense, simply coming in, smashing things up, creating chaos, and then leaving without providing for any security would, indeed, be illegal, as a matter of international law. Naturally, such doctrines cannot precisely answer the questions of how much security or for how long, but the principle is well established. Were the U.S. to withdraw precipitously and were the result an orgy of violence, the U.S. government would be in violation of international law.

On another matter, I wonder on what basis Mr. Gregory has appointed himself Proconsul for Iraq, with the power to divide it into three regions. That may be a good solution; it may be one that should be recommended to the leadership of the various Iraqi communities (as I have promoted robust federalism), but it seems remarkable that someone who so urgently -- and evidently with no regard to the consequences -- urges for immediate withdrawal also locates the power in the U.S. government to decide that Iraq will be three countries, and not one.

Finally, concerning Mr. Shaffer's point:
"Yet you admit my point, that US forces may precipitate at least as much terrorism as they prevent, might be valid and should be considered. I made the point not to say that it is true, but that there is great uncertainty here. Certainly enough uncertainty to prevent the humanitarian argument from simply dominating any discussion on a US withdrawal."
I admit that it may be true, not that it is true. It's one of the grounds on which a decision ought to be made. One can say that one is quite convinced that X or Y will happen if a policy is implemented and still be open to evidence showing the contrary. That's what debate is about. The alternative position, which seems to animate many who write on the topic, is that if one supports policy Z, then it is simply unthinkable that there could be any evidence to the contrary, so why bother looking for it. Instead, let's have a discussion of the evidence, which means looking to such things as the stated announcements of the various combatants, the nature of their targets, and the like. Some of the insurgents may be amenable to peacemaking; which ones and on what terms? (It's likely to be mainly the tribal fighters who have not in fact carried out suicide bombings, but mainly hit-and-run attacks and hijackings of valuable cargo; bringing them over is difficult, but possible, whereas it is unimaginable that the hard-core Ba'athists who want a return to full, tyrannical power are amenable to anything less, and similarly for the Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia group.) Such matters are the meat and potatos of serious debate and to invite a discussion of the evidence is not to "admit the point" that the contrary of my conviction is true, but to ask for evidence that it is not.

Mark Brady - 7/19/2005

“Evidence, Mr. Brady? How many radio and television interviews, for example? I commend all who are willing to speak seriously about serious matters. But Mr. Brady's evidentiary seems to be limited to blogging and internet activities; "It certainly seems to me" is a rather thin foundation for the kind of insinuations he has made. Readers of Liberty and Power deserve more.”

My original remarks stand. I pointed out that since January 2005 Cato has published nothing about Iraq, apart from a commentary on monetary reform. I made no insinuations. I asked some questions and suggested some answers. On the other hand, the Independent Institute continues to publish commentaries on the war in Iraq and its consequences. Only last week Ivan Eland asked Why Did Terrorists Strike London? and linked the London bombings to UK support of Bush’s misadventure in Iraq.

Bill Woolsey - 7/19/2005

Most of the Shia and just about all of the Sunnis support having a centralized Iraqi state. Both want to run it.

The Sunnis want to return to their past policy of ruling the entire country. A bunch of them had senior positions in a huge state aparatus. They want them back.

They have a practical difficulty of having most of the oil in a part of the country populated by Shia. The rest of it is in a disputed area with the Kurds. A centralized state that they control controls all the oil wealth.

I have no idea why most of the Shia want a centralized government. Iraqi nationalism? Not wanting the Kurds to leave? Power hunger?

The Kurds want an independent state, but are willing to accept a fig leaf of National Iraqi control.

Now, all of this is the conventional wisdom. Maybe it is wrong. But the burden of proof is one someone who wants to claim that the Sunnis and Shia would be willing to buy into a federal system.

Given the conventional wisdom, the Sunnis have to fight because 20% won't win elections. The Shia will win if they can maintain a democracy. So, the Sunnis are already fighting a Civil War against the Shia and Kurds. They emphasize opposition to the Americans because it is better propaganda. But they will still fight if the Americans go. They will start claiming that the Shia and Kurds are Persians.

Meanwhile, the Shia will seek to impose their will over the entire country--including the Sunni areas. It is like Abraham Lincoln!

I think the claim that it is the U.S. orchestrating all of this is false.

The U.S. hoped to run a puppet regime in Iraq. Sistani called mass protests. Instead of shooting the Shia down in the streets, the U.S. gave in. The destiny of Iraq is out of our hands.

In my view, Sistani has followed a very sensible patient strategy aimed at Shia dominance in a indepedent, centrally controlled Iraq. I think he will get his way in the end. I don't think that is good for Iraq. I don't know how good it will be for the U.S. What I'm pretty sure is that fighting it is hopeless.

The only question is do we fight the Sunnis for the Shia until the Shia want us to go, or do we tell the Shia we are leaving and they are going to be doing the fighting.

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

"If it is 'dubious,' then he should share with us his evidence that the Ba'athist and jihadi terrorists who are currently targeting civilians, police recruits, children in the presence of Americans, peaceful religious pilgrims, elected town council members, and more would stop their attacks on their fellow Iraqis and proceed to a constitutional regime."

So are all these "Ba'athist and jihadi terrorists. . . targeting civilians, police recruits, children in the presence of Americans" and so on doing so without a US occupation there to stop them? Or are they doing it despite the US occupation? Or, perhaps, they are doing it because of the occupation. From what I understand, a good number of the actual terrorists over there weren't in Iraq until the US moved in, blew up a bunch of infrastructure, and established police state-style checkpoints everywhere. The Shiites and Sunnis are primarily fighting because of a central state over there that shouldn't exist, that the US should have never had a hand in helping to build.

I don't understand the argument: I apparently haven't been watching the news because I don't seem to understand that there is a lot of violence over there? Or is it because I don't realize that such violence would multiply if the US left? To the first point, I say that I know there's a lot of violence there, and I think the US is a leading force behind it. To the second, I can only say that the question of what would happen if the US pulled out tomorrow cannot be answered simply from watching the news.

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

I didn't and wouldn't have supported the US assistance of Saddam, the first Gulf War or the sanctions that killed a million Iraqis throughout the 1990s, or the second Gulf War. If chaos and bloodshed have been unleashed and are only being kept somewhat at bay by the US presence there, withdrawal wouldn't be the thing to blame for such calamity; the interventions would be. Cessation of immoral intervention cannot be blamed for the problems that you think will inevitably result from pulling out. The US can't stay there forever.

As it is, I very much doubt that the "orgy of violence" would be worse than what is now unfolding with the US there. Many of your own colleagues, I thought, wanted to see the US withdraw as soon as logistically possible. Now, I think the US government's helping set up a this new central government with a new socialist constitution was not really the best course of action. Iraq would probably be better divided up into three or more regions, as
Ivan Eland has suggested. I am not very optimistic of Iraq having any sort of central state that approaches being "tolerable" for its diverse population. Iraq was put together imperially and artificially, and I do not think libertarians should call for withdrawal only after a "tolerable" government of that artificial nation-state appears on its way to being implemented.

I do not think that the US government presence is making Iraq better off.

Bill Woolsey - 7/19/2005

I believe this is the second time that John Shaffer has asserted that the Cato Institute should somehow dominate the U.S. government since the Republicans are in control. What an odd notion. Shaffer should explain why he would think that the Republican Party would follow Cato's direction on this or any other policy. While I think it is great that a Republican President has taken an interest in the sorts of Social Security proposals Cato has promoted for several decades, there are other think tanks--say Heritage, that work more closely with conservative Republicans. Cato's work on personal liberty and foreign policy has been far removed from nearly all Republicans (though not much closer to Democrats.) Of course, this administration appears to be more interested in what the AEI says about foreign policy. It almost seems that Shaffer has confused what I undestand to have been the relationship between the IEA and the Thatcher government with the relationship between Cato and the current or any past Republican administration.

Tom Palmer appears to accept the same position as Juan Cole on the likely consequence of an immediate U.S. withdrawal (or disengagement from the fighting.) That is, the Baathists (and/or Muslim fundamentalists) will just slaughter the elected government and assorted Kurd and Shia "traitors." It seems to me that the Baathists took a lot of damage from the U.S. invasion. They don't have tanks and helocopters. I don't see why the Kurds can't defend themselves. As for the Shia, they should be able to beat off an insurgent atttack easily. Of course, they aren't nearly as prepared as the Kurds at this time. But how long should it take? I'm not saying that the Shia could immediately occupy and control the Sunni areas. But I don't see why they couldn't survive in the areas they dominate and crush the Sunni Arabs in the long run.

Now, pro-U.S. Sunnis might have a tougher time. The Shia and Kurds might not be willing (or interested) in protecting them, especially if they insist on remaining in predominantly Sunni areas. Is that who we are talking about?

In another post, I wondered a bit about the so-called "illegality" of immediate withdrawal. Did Palmer just mispeak and have in mind "immorality?"

Or is there some kind of legal obligation as an occupying authority to fix everything up for the new government.

I do agree with Shaffer that the insurgents would have more difficulty recruiting for the goal of fighting the Kurds and Shia than fighting the Crusaders. I also think the elected government could be more committed support from the Shia if there was no longer the threat of the U.S. permanently dominating their country and there was the threat of a return to power of the Baathists or else Sunnis who favor persecuting Shia.

But, like I said, there is the "other hand," the Palmer/Cole theory that it is only American forces that prevent a bloodbath against the Shia and Kurds by a resurgent Baathist regime, or else Sunni fundamentalist regime.

Tom G Palmer - 7/19/2005

Mr. Shaffer might consider looking up the meaning of the word "ironic." It's might be equally "ironic to me" that Mr. Shaffer has also been unsuccessful at curbing the worst instincts of the American right and yet opposes (or so it seems) any attempts to foster libertarian thought in other countries. What is that point supposed to mean? What is the gentleman getting at? That until and unless we are successful curbing all of the antilibertarian impulses in America, I am somehow not to be allowed by Mr. Shaffer to attempt to foster liberty in, say, Bulgaria, China, or Russia? I find myself unable to identify either irony or logical coherence in the remark.

Mr. Gregory seems not to be following the news. What does he think would happen if all foreign forces were to withdraw tomorrow? A peaceful resolution of Iraq's differences or an orgy of violence? And if it were an orgy of violence, would that change his perspective or his preferred policy outcome at all? If withdrawal were to lead to, say, 200,000 deaths in Iraq, would Mr. Gregory later regret the decision? If not, then whether it is dubious or not is beside the point. If it is "dubious," then he should share with us his evidence that the Ba'athist and jihadi terrorists who are currently targeting civilians, police recruits, children in the presence of Americans, peaceful religious pilgrims, elected town council members, and more would stop their attacks on their fellow Iraqis and proceed to a constitutional regime, with no revenge exacted from the Iraqis who participated in the current elected government. Why does he find that "dubious," as opposed to a rather clearly predictable follow through on a promise to kill all of the "quislings" (as they have been termed by Mr. Gregory's colleagues) who are opposing them?

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

Yes, this idea that the US occupation is the only thing preventing hundreds of thousands of innocents from dying seems to me dubious, to say the least.

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

"I don't think that the U.S. violated the rights of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime. I don't think the U.S. owes them anything. Sunnis who hope against hope they they can continue to dominate Iraq politically--well tough."

Well, Saddam and his regime sacrificed their rights in their own criminal acts. But the U.S. did violate the rights of at least thousands of innocent Iraqis by killing them.

John Arthur Shaffer - 7/19/2005

As far as the other point, your position is one of certitude. That it not only would be bad policy, not in the best interest of the US, but would be IMMORAL to withdraw from Iraq. You conclude hundreds of thousands of innocents would die if such occured.

Yet you admit my point, that US forces may precipitate at least as much terrorism as they prevent, might be valid and should be considered. I made the point not to say that it is true, but that there is great uncertainty here. Certainly enough uncertainty to prevent the humanitarian argument from simply dominating any discussion on a US withdrawal.

Sidebar - it is ironic to me that CATO is working to foster classic liberalism in Iraq when it has utterly failed to check the totalitarian instincts of the right in the US, even though they should have influence among the party that now controls all aspects of government.

John Arthur Shaffer - 7/19/2005

You insist that a withdrawal from Iraq is both illegal and immoral. My point is that the invasion was likely illegal (there will always be debate on this point - the British Attorney General's Advice to Blair on Legality of Iraq War is a good starting point) and it would be strange that one would ignore international law on the way in but insist it must be followed before withdrawing an occupying force.

Bill Woolsey - 7/19/2005

The Iraqis elected a government. That government needs to take responsibility for governing Iraq. I don't think the U.S. has a moral obligation to make sure that the elected government turns out decent (or even stable.)

I am not sure what "legal" obligations occupying powers are supposed to have when ending the occupation. I doubt whether those legal obligations depend on whether the initial war was just or not. The thrust of these sorts of requirements usually have to do with protecting the civilian population.

Anyway, I wish the elections had been held earlier--as Sistani proposed.

But, I would have been OK with turning authority over to a provisional government (as was done,) even sooner.

The interim government (that ended up with Allawi) was remarkably representative. The parties that won the election and form the elected government--religious Shia and Kurd--played an important role in forming that government. Hey, let Sistani order mass protests against them if they failed to hold suitable elections.

I don't think the US should "pull the rug" out from under the elected government. That is, I don't think it is right to instantly change from the current policy of interfering in their internal affairs while providing an open ended commitment to their security and reconstruction to a new policy of respecting their indepedence and insisting that they take responsibility for their security and reconstrucion.

If Bush would suddenly have a change of heart, or if someone willing to implement a reasonable policy were to suddenly take over from Bush, then the Iraqis should be given a decent interval to adjust.

I don't think it is wise for the U.S. to invade countries to try to end tyrannies, hold elections, and then take our chances with the new government. But, if the U.S. foolishly invades a country and ends a tyranny, then the best thing to do is hold an election and take our chances with the new government. The approach of continuing to occupy the country until the people elect a good government is a very bad policy.

I don't think that the U.S. violated the rights of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime. I don't think the U.S. owes them anything. Sunnis who hope against hope they they can continue to dominate Iraq politically--well tough.

I think the vast majority of Iraqis are glad that Saddam Hussein and the Baathists are gone. The U.S. did them a favor.

Of course, few of them want the U.S. to remake their country into a little America. They want the U.S. to go. Perhaps they want the U.S. to rebuild the infrastructure and crush the Baathists and Sunni fundamentalists.

But I don't think we have to give them all that. Just a decent interval for them to get ready to take care of their own needs.

Tom G Palmer - 7/19/2005

Evidence, Mr. Brady? How many radio and television interviews, for example? I commend all who are willing to speak seriously about serious matters. But Mr. Brady's evidentiary seems to be limited to blogging and internet activities; "It certainly seems to me" is a rather thin foundation for the kind of insinuations he has made. Readers of Liberty and Power deserve more.

Tom G Palmer - 7/19/2005

Well, at last a decent internet connection!

Where to begin with Mr. Raimondo's remarks? First, of course, he suggests that there are no libertarians in Iraq. He's wrong. I wouldn't name them anywhere that Mr. Raimondo might hear for obvious reasons. If I'm willing to go to a country where the people are under daily attack from murderous terrorists, I'm not likely to be afraid of either Mr. Raimondo's absurd threats to "make me pay come the revolution" or his vicious homophobic rhetoric (calling a gay man a "sissy" is the oldest trick in the books and as dignified and self-respecting as a house slave calling afield hand "boy"), but I have no doubt of what he would do were he to discover the itinerary for my next trip to Iraq or the names of the libertarian Iraqis with whom I work. That information would be on the internet in a trice, placed there in hope that it would lead to people being killed; anyone who has followed Mr. Raimondo's career would be in no doubt about that; his malice and hatred are boundless. Fortunately, he won't ever get the chance.

So let's turn to his remarks on the issues. By his logic, Rep. Ron Paul is a flaming war hawk, since he has called for withdrawal on a date more than 11 minutes in the future. The same would go for David Beito. The position is absurd.

There is, on the other hand, no logical absurdity in opposing a war, losing the debate (as Mr. Raimondo did; his rhetorical style may seem exciting and play well in some quarters, but I doubt that it moves many to change their positions, which is how real-world debates are won), and then recognizing that the situation has changed. What is the best position now is not the same question as what was the best position beforehand. Merely asserting otherwise is not an argument. Let me add another topic that bears serious thought: all of the American soldiers in Iraq volunteered to put themselves in positions where they could be ordered into combat, something that is not true of the Iraqi people, who did not make any such choices. That seems a relevant fact. To begin a pell mell rush for the exits that would (assuming that the jihadis in fact merely accepted their victory, rather than using it as an occasion to inflict more casualties, which is much more likely, given their motivations and psychology) result in fewer deaths of American troops but almost certainly result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis poses serious moral and legal problems . They deserve more attention than they are given. The correct answer is not obvious to me; how much should risk should American troops be exposed to in order to avoid harm to Iraqi civilians?

Mr. Shaffer should be, I think, more careful in using the term "illegal" to describe the war. If one asserts that a policy is unjustified or immoral or stupid for reasons W, X, and Y, it does not follow that it must also be unjustifed for reason Z. Gulf War I was not sanctioned by the UN, but few would argue that it was illegal under international law. International law either means something or it doesn't. If all wars are illegal under international law, then the term has been drained of meaning. A serious debate that is likely to engage people and change their minds, as opposed to simply making some members of one side feel more righteous, is one in which such terms are used properly.

Mr. Shaffer's strongest argument is his concluding point: "there is a reasonable argument that can be made that the US troop presence is causing more terrorism than it prevents." But notice that invoking a reasonable argument suggests that it is not merely true by definition (as seems to be the case in his invocation of "illegality"), but that it requires that the case be made. It may be true. If so, the evidence should be gathered and presented.

Perhaps Mr. Raimondo should admit (I'll avoid his fag-bashing invocation of "coming out of the closet," which preceded his calling me a "sissy"; come now, Mr. Raimondo, your Uncle Tomish hatred of gay men should be a bit more subtle than that) that he would prefer that libertarians in Iraq be killed because he would rather that the policy be the biggest failure possible, in order to vindicate himself. I menton that, not because it is a reasonable inference from what he has written above, but because it is the mirror image of the risible claims he has written about me.

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

I consider any step in the right direction to be good. What I fear is making withdrawl contingent on the establishment of a "decent" government in Iraq in the midst of occupation and civil war.

David Timothy Beito - 7/19/2005

Sure....I'd begin immediately and prefer to get them all out within 24 hours. But....heck I'll "compromise" by having them all confined to base right now and the last ones removed by the end of the year.

Frankly, any timetable at this point would be a step in the right direction.

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

But you would like to start pulling out immediately, right? Is it really "grossly immoral" to pull out before the US government manages to implement a "viable and tolerable" government in Iraq? How long are we willing to wait while the US attempts this amazing feat? How many more Americans will die while the government carries out its "moral obligation," and since when can the immoral, illegal and incompetent acts of politicans bind the rest of us to pay for their mistakes, and some of us to continue to die for them?

It seems to me that supporting the continuing occupation is supporting the continuing bloodshed on all sides. If someone thinks that's worth some sort of utilitarian gain for the greater good, I guess I can agree to disagree. But I don't see why anyone would consider it odd that libertarians would want to see the US pull out as fast as possible.

Justin Raimondo - 7/19/2005

I don't know how Tom Palmer manages to conflate the Iraqi government with nameless "Iraqi libertarians," but to the rest of us there is clearly a difference. By arguing against withdrawal -- until, at least, the future "destruction" of "the terrorists" -- coupled with his role as an "advisor" to the U.S.-installed Iraqi government, clearly makes him an active supporter of the war and an interventionist foreign policy. To claim to have been against the war, and to defend the occupation, as other posters here have pointed out, is an untenable position: furthermore, on his blog Palmer has engaged in a campaign of defamation against libertarian war supporters, while uttering hardly anything but a few perfunctory words of criticism against the authors and supporters of this war. Why doesn't Palmer come out of the closet, so to speak, as a war supporter and be done with it?

It is really hard to believe that Palmer is sitting there trembling at the thought that, "come the libertarian revolution," I and my legions of Libertarian Revolutionaries are really going to knock on his door demanding repayment of the tax dollars used to provide his security in America's not-quite-conquered Iraqi province. Does he really believe that this rhetorical extravagance amounts to a "threat of personal violence"? *No one* is that much of a sissy. Butch it up, Tom -- the sight of a grown man making such a fool of himself in public is painful to behold.

Getting back to the real topic of this thread, however, I would note that Cato is not a bastion of what us antiwar libertarians call "libertventionism" -- at least, not yet. I prefer to be optimistic on that score, and give the Catoites the benefit of a doubt.

Mark Brady - 7/19/2005

“It seems that Mr. Brady’s query is formulated on a questionable premise, and that is the assumption (common among bloggers) that to be outspoken is to blog.”

My remarks concerned just the Cato Institute. David Beito raised the question of Volokh.com.

“By the standards that Mr. Brady sets out, the Cato Institute has been far more outspoken on the issue of the war in Iraq (and the possibility of it widening) than any other institution in the classical-liberal/libertarian universe.”

Certainly the Cato Institute has published a book, several policy papers, and articles. My question concerned the absence of much of anything in the past few months. It certainly seems to me that in recent months the Independent Institute has been more outspoken on the issue of the war in Iraq (and the possibility of it widening) than has Cato.

David Timothy Beito - 7/19/2005

It doesn't have to immediate. I'd be happy with a very fast timetable (which is more practical). I don't think it would be too difficult to negotiate a temporary cease fire and/or pull back the troops to protected bases so no more die needlessly, and then pull them out (along with the bases) by the end of the year.

Anthony Gregory - 7/19/2005

Yes, is it really "illegal and grossly immoral" to pull out immediately from this illegal and immoral war? Are all the libertarians calling for immediate pullout either naive or willfully advocating illegal and immoral acts? And how long should we give the U.S. government "to take steps to install a viable and tolerable government in Iraq"? Is such a government — viable, tolerable, and Iraqi — possibile to install amidst an illegitimate foreign occupation?

John Arthur Shaffer - 7/19/2005

How can it be both a mistake to have booted Saddam and now a necessity that the Bathists be prevented from retaking power with American blood and treasure? The war was illegal (according to international law) so how can it be illegal to pull out now?

The terrorism there is imported (there was not a single suicide terrorist attack in Iraq before our intervention) and it is simply making the Bush Administration's case when one simplistically calls all insurgents terrorists. Under these conditions there can never be victory as long as there's any terrorism in Iraq. There seems to be an alliance between Bathists and suicide terrorists but it is a marriage of convenience, not ideology.

Besides, there is a reasonable argument that can be made that the US troop presence is causing more terrorism than it prevents.

Tom G Palmer - 7/19/2005

It seems that Mr. Brady’s query is formulated on a questionable premise, and that is the assumption (common among bloggers) that to be outspoken is to blog. By the standards that Mr. Brady sets out, the Cato Institute has been far more outspoken on the issue of the war in Iraq (and the possibility of it widening) than any other institution in the classical-liberal/libertarian universe. What other organization has produced extensive policy papers, books, newspaper and journal articles, and interviews on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, BBC, NPR, and so on? If a group-blog posts a two-paragraph blog entry on Iraq every day, is that blog group “more active” than a group that produces on the same topic a book a year, hundred of media interviews, and several 50-page policy papers? In general, such items take more time to research, write, review, edit, copy-edit, and produce than a blog entry.

(I should add, with regard to David Beito's note, that Jacob Levy is indeed an insightful thinker and writer, and also that Mr. Brady would be quite unlikely to find his views very congenial.)

Tom G Palmer - 7/18/2005

Well, I'm commenting on a poor internet connection from Bulgaria, so I'll be short before this goes out again. To infer, as Mr. Raimondo does, that one is "for the war" because one goes to Iraq to work with Iraqi libertarians and to advise people who are working on a new consititution is to rest one's claims on a logical fallacy. Further, there is a great difference between opposing U.S. interventionism and hoping that the jihadi/Ba'athist side is victorious. I hope that the Iraqi government manages to defeat the terrorists who are deliberately targeting children (when anywhere near U.S. troops), police recruits, Shia pilgrims, women in politics, and others. Does that make me a supporter of an interventionist foreign policy? No, it doesn't. Furthermore, after having made the foolish decision to boot out Saddam, the U.S. government has a legal obligation to take steps to install a viable and tolerable government in Iraq. The various discussions of how to disengage should recognize that just rushing for the exits, after having created the conditions for total chaos, is both illegal and grossly immoral, as it would lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, who would be left to the tender mercies of the terrorists. It is disingenuous of Mr. Raimondo to claim that a policy that envisions longer than a 5 minute stay means that one is "actively FOR the war." It is also openly dishonest to claim (as Mr. Raimondo has done) that any visitor to Iraq who meets with Iraqi libertarians and who promotes toleration and constitutionalism among media, religious, and political figures has taken a "$35,000 taxi ride to the airport," on the grounds that since he had read an article (http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0502-29.htm) in which it is claimed that "there is a firm" that will charge that sum. (I'm sure that there is, if anyone would pay it.) More chilling, however, was his personal threat to me:
"I hope he enjoyed his taxpayer-funded $35,000 cab ride from central Baghdad to the airport – because, come the (libertarian) Revolution, we're going to make him pay back every penny of it, with interest." http://antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=5936
Mr. Raimondo's claims are remarkable, not only for their lack of correspondence to the truth, but for the threat of personal violence.

David Timothy Beito - 7/18/2005

Too bad that Levy left. I think his interest in international relations would have broadened the discussion.

Jason Kuznicki - 7/18/2005

Bill, You've more or less summed up how I feel about the situation. Thanks.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/18/2005

I agree: I wasn't looking for an equivalence in importance, but in irrelevance.

Admittedly, I don't read the Conspiracy often, so I might have missed their move to a general interest blog, or I might just ignore it because I don't care enough about the Conspirators to care what they think about general topics. Just because they're discussing irrelevancies doesn't mean they should discuss all irrelevancies. That said, I do wish they would address some of the relevant legal issues: war powers, UMCJ, foreign policy power, anti-terror law, etc.

Anthony Gregory - 7/18/2005

Justin, here's the Lew Rockwell article on "regime libertarianism": http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/regime-libs.html

Justin Raimondo - 7/18/2005

I think a great deal of the support for this admnistration from alleged "libertarians," especially inside the Beltway, is due to what Lew Rockwell trenchantly calls "regime libertarianism." I would link to the article, but it isn't handy at the moment....)

Cato seems infused with a pecular form of political correctness, in which any view that has been deemed "outside the mainstream" in the corridors of power is immediately dismissed as Beyond the Pale, at least by the Cato bigwigs. I have to say, though, that Justin Logan's weblog is excellent, and, while he is not exactly a Bigwig, I think it's fair to say that views on the war over at Cato are mixed.

Cato's strategy -- to pursue a course of gradual "regime change" in Washington by cultivating the elites in government, journalism, and academia -- is naturally given to caution. That's why they actually seem to be falling behind the popular sentiment against the war and for some kind of rapid withdrawal.

There are a few over there, however, who are actively FOR the war. Without mentioning any names, I'll just note that a prominent Cato scholar has visited Iraq in his capacity as an advisor to the Iraqi government, and has conditioned his alleged opposition to the war on the "destruction" of the insurgents. Not good. But to tar Cato's very fine foreign affairs department with this brush would be unfair: they do good work, when they do it, and, yes, I find their recent silence to be troubling. Does it mean that they are shifting toward a more pro-war position? I can't say that I know anything about that, since I am hardly in a position to know. If anyone else has concrete information, they ought to share it with us....

Even more troubling, however, is Reason magazine, which has featured the nutty Ron Bailey, their science correspondent, front and center on the Iraq war issue. His position, which he has elaborated on at length in a series of articles, is the equivalent of "libertarian" Trotskyism -- i.e. we can't have libertarianism-in-one-country because ... well, you figure it out. The closest I can come to understanding his rationale is that he mixes Fukuyama with some equally abstract (and dubious) innovations of his own and comes up with a doctrine of "libertarianism" (embodied by the U.S. government!) as the Church Militant. Also, as Matt Barganier has pointed out, the antiwar people over at Reason have been relegated to the sidelines on this issue, and neocons like Michael Young, Bailey, and others have been given free rein to mouth the latest pro-war talking points as if they were consistent with libertarianism. Meanwhile, editor Nick Gillespie thinks that the war issue is "debatable," while his favorite hobbyhorses -- cloning, drug usage, abortion, etc. -- are not. Libertarianism, as he said in a (pathetic) interview with John McLaughlin, is a "lifestyle," not a political philosophy.

I might add that David Boaz, participating in that same interview, came across as solidly libertarian, including (from what I can recall at the moment) on the war issue.

Bill Woolsey - 7/18/2005

I read anti-war.com first thing every day. I don't always agree with the commentary, but I like the "headline service." I read Raimondo's column regularly. Sometimes I find it over the top, but I must find it useful. Some of the other commentary is better.

I read Juan Cole's "informed comment" next. I don't always agree with his take on it. Lately, I wonder if his plan for the UN to run the place doesn't color his commentary.

I can't accept strict noninterventionism (at least not Rothbard's version of it.) But I don't support imperialism either. I don't think anti-imperialism means you have to support the "Butler Amendement."

I think there is a lot of good stuff at Mises.org. Rothbard wasn't always wrong, and the Rothbardians aren't always wrong. Hey, maybe they are often right!

I think there is a lot of good stuff at Cato.org. I don't agree with all of it.

Generally, I support the "Cato" strategy of pushing the envelope.

Generally, I oppose the strategy of simply "holding high the banner of principle" which I associate with the Rothbardians who dominate the Mises Institute.

However, I don't have any problem with people doing libertarian work and advocacy on a variety of levels. What I find troubing regarding the Mises crew is the invective against those "pushing the envelope."

I also find hypocracy irritating. For example, I don't support unrestricted immigration, except as a kind of long term ideal. So, I can understand the Rothbardians associated with the Mises Institute compromising on that issue too. That they try to pretend that they still hold high the banner of principle is irritating.

I reject the strategy of the leadership of the Mises Institute of building bridges to the extreme right. You know, paleo-libertarians working with the paleo-conservatives? I think Tom Palmer has a point about how some of those paleo-con allies are racists and anti-semites. I don't think that alliance is useful. I think it hurts the good name of libertarianism.

I reject the notion that Cato's "push the envelope" approach does anything harmful to the "good name" of libertarianism.

David Timothy Beito - 7/18/2005

I think you are right that this silence is relatively recent. I don't know what this means, perhaps growing doubt (if true, a positive sign from my standpoint). Back in 2003-2004, most postings which took a stand were pro-Iraq war though Jacob Levy was "turning" before he decided to leave.

Mark Brady - 7/18/2005

"Perhaps I am mistaken, but I read Brady's initial post as being one of those attacks on Cato by Mises Institute partisans. Cato deviationism from the true libertarian plumbline, selling out to the government."

Yes, Bill, you are mistaken. It really wouldn't be correct to call me a "Mises Institute partisan." I've never contributed to the Mises Institute. I call myself an Austrian economist but on, say, monopoly, I'm Kirznerian, not Rothbardian. I view the Mises Institute as a useful resource, especially for its back issues of libertarian journals. I'm on friendly terms with many of those associated with the Mises Institute. And that's about it.

What explains my post about the Cato Institute, my other posts on the subject both here and at Tom Palmer’s website, and my support for Antiwar.com, are my firm antiwar convictions. Although I’m not much surprised, I’m hugely disappointed that so many self-identified libertarians seem either to ignore the pro-peace and anti-imperialist strands in classical liberal thought or to have never been introduced to them.

Roderick T. Long - 7/18/2005

On my own blog I used to comment on Iraq a lot. Reading this post made me realise I haven't written anything about Iraq for quite a while either. Maybe it's "outrage fatigue," or just that I have nothing new to say that I didn't already say before.

Bill Woolsey - 7/18/2005

I went to Volokh and did a search. Massive number of hits on Iraq. A bit of spot checking and I saw a long discussion about how the French and Russians support for further inspections would be counter-productive. (Inspect and Inspect and we will never force them to get rid of those weapons--whoops!) Some stuff from 2004 pointing out that the Democrats also claimed that Al Quaida was connected to Iraq.

Then I looked at 2005. Not much at all. The most recent was in May and was a technical analysis of two different measurements of deaths in Iraq.

David Timothy Beito - 7/18/2005

Thanks for the sites.

Bill Woolsey - 7/18/2005

Here is link to Prebles January article
It worked for me.


It calls for withdrawal by Jan. 2006

Here is an article by Preble from last month. While it reiterates support for withdrawal, it is pretty friendly to Bush.


"The current crisis in manpower did not begin with the occupation of Iraq, but it was made worse by it. The handover of security responsibilities to the Iraqi government should continue, and the Bush administration needs to make firm its pledge to reduce and eliminate the military deployment in that country."

Maybe Brady got Preble to get busy today:


"Lindsey's "upper bound" has already proved not high enough. The U.S. Government has spent over $200 billion in Iraq, and the Department of Defense is now spending an additional $5 billion every month. According to the Congressional Budget Office, war costs might reach $600 billion by 2010."

"Today, over two years after President Bush declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq, the United States has almost 140,000 troops in Iraq. Many observers believe that is not nearly enough, and most Americans assume that U.S. forces will be in Iraq for at least several more years. Perhaps Gen. Shinseki had it right? "

"When George Bush signed Sarbanes-Oxley, he declared, "This law says to every American: there will not be a different ethical standard for corporate America than the standard that applies to everyone else." But America's chief executives are in fact held to very different standards. What remains to be seen is whether the standards are too high for company CEOs, or whether they are too low for the nation's Commander in Chief. Or both."

Of course, neither of the two more recent articles really emphasized policy regarding Iraq.

David Timothy Beito - 7/18/2005

Why is to late to stop the war (in the sense of U.S. involvement) any more that it was too late to stop the Vietnam War (U.S. involvement) in 1968?

I know that the folks at Cato must be very frustrated. If Gonzales is appointed, I suspect that this will lead to a general depression (and for good reason).

David Timothy Beito - 7/18/2005

My comments were primarily addressed to Volokh, not Cato. I don't really know about Cato's current position to comment intelligently.....except to say that Iraq does not appear to be much of a priority and that I am disappointed by this. Don't misunderstand me, however. I think that Cato is an excellent organization which contributes in a major way to the advancement.

Bill Woolsey - 7/18/2005

There is an heading on the Cato Website called "Exiting Iraq."

I would figure that Cato's position is unchanged. They still think the U.S. should never have invaded Iraq. They think the U.S. should be out of Iraq already (as proposed a year ago.) They think the U.S. should leave rapidly (Which was Preble's point in his op-ed last January. To late to have left by January 2005, but we should get out rapidly.)

I find the title of Beito's comment inappropriate. While it might accurately describe the Volokh Conspiracy, I see a suggestion that Cato's failure to repeat its long standing position is some kind of "conspiracy of silence." Nothing has changed in the last six months that should make Cato change its position (or at least, I don't think so.)

Contrary to some of the replies to Bieto, there has been a good bit about Iraq and the War on Terror on Volokh. Yes, most material there is the sort of thing one might expect from libertarian constituional lawyers, but sometimes they go far afield. Generally, they were pro-war. Generally, they took the line that the Islamo-fascists hate us for our freedom and that we must defeat them all. I found little difference between the positions on the Volokh Conspiracy and some of the more extreme neo-conservative positions. If changing conditions in Iraq have caused them to change their mind, perhaps they should say so.

All that said, apparently most Americans believe Iraq is the most important issue facing the nation. Something like 63% want all troops out within a year. Those favoring "as soon as possible" is in the mid-forties. I have seen figures between 37% and 13% for immediate widrawal. I would think some Op-eds by Cato experts on why a time line is a good idea (or not.)

The Libertarian Party came out with what I think was a slightly amateurish exit plan for Iraq. When I first read it, I was thinking, why didn't they just adopt something from Cato. Low and behold, the last detailed work by Cato was a year ago. Hopefully, something will new will appear soon.

I would note that within the context of believing that the U.S. shouldn't have invaded Iraq and that it should already have withdrawn, and that it should withdraw quickly, there is possible for debate about what to do exactly right now. Stay in bases? Move to "safer" areas in Iraq? Draw down numbers and do what is being done now with progressively fewer U.S. soldiers?

And there is possiblity for debate regarding what Cato should propose--should it endorse a time line pointing to the future? (What a large majority of Americans appear to support?) Or should it stick to its position that the U.S. should have already withdrawn and now it should go as soon as possible. (Something a substantial minority supports?)

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I read Brady's initial post as being one of those attacks on Cato by Mises Institute partisans. Cato deviationism from the true libertarian plumbline, selling out to the government.

And Beito's "conspiracy of silence" title, reinforced that impression.

David Timothy Beito - 7/18/2005

I disagree. Volokh focuses on law but the range of topics which the conspirators discuss are very wide ranging. Look at the current postings, for example. They include musings on Harry Potter, evolution, Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel, an exploration on how Winston Churchill's insights can shed light on the motivations of suicide bombers, a discussion of the recent poll of Arab countries on Bin Laden.

I don't think that Iraq (daily headline news) is on the same par with dolphin-safe tuna.

Jason Kuznicki - 7/18/2005

Really, it's a bit late to stop the war, or even to criticize someone for failing to be antiwar enough. I know I'd certainly fail by this standard, though every single day I find myself saying, "I told you so..." and shaking my head.

Seems to me the only thing that can be done--barring time travel with a current issue of any daily newspaper--is to channel the harm, make the suits think they've accomplished something, and get us out as fast as possible. Does this mean rebuilding Iraq? Here's another question entirely, and one where the boundaries clearly don't fall quite where the pro- vs. anti-war line once fell.

And speaking as an outsider, the folks at Cato must be really frustrated these days. In theory, Republican administrations are supposed to listen to them, at least once in a while. Here, and unfortunately, they probably realize that they haven't got a chance.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/18/2005

I can't speak to the Cato institute, but the Volokh blog is a bunch of libertarian constitutional lawyers. They never have anything to say about foreign policy, that I've noticed, and I wouldn't care a whit if they did. You want to pin them down on something, look at what they've said about the USA PATRIOT act, but this is like criticizing L&P for not taking a stand on dolphin-safe tuna.

William Marina - 7/17/2005

Yes, David, there have been a number of Americans and organizations rather silent on Iraq, I don't mean on daily specifics, although that is also the case, but rather with respect to some larger critique of American Imperialism
Contrast this, as you are well aware, with the Anti-Imperialist response after 1898.
The United States has become the world's great counter-revolutionary power, as virtually the rest of the world recognizes.
Can you imagine the response today of the great historian, Mercy Otis Warren, who, in 1805 published a history of the American Revolution becasue she thought the post-revolutionary generation was too preoccupied with the quest for wealth and had abandoned republican ideals? She even criticized her cousin Abigail's husband, John Adams, for his monarchist pretensions, and they discussed this in an exchange of letters.

David Timothy Beito - 7/17/2005

Cato is not alone. The Volokh Conspiracy can also be called the Volokh Conspiracy of Silence when it comes to Iraq.