Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Monday, September 04, 2006

Reform Caucus debate

UPDATE: More posts below.

There's been considerable discussion on Libertarian Reform Caucus discussion lists about a short/tiny platform consisting of single sentence positions on 10-15 issues. I took exception to the foreign policy statement which reads as follows:

10. Bring our brave troops home from Iraq, maintain a strong national defense, and secure our borders.

Here's the rest of the discussion:

Robert Capozzi:

Including Iraq might become moot by 08. It will certainly date the document, whereas all the other points will probably be relevant for at least 10 years. We could go with this language, and – with any luck – adjustments could be made in 2010, if we’re out.

Anyone troubled by the Iraq inclusion?

David Aitken

Yes, I have serious, deal-breaker problems with #10. Whether or not you think Iraq is unpopular, in the real world there are real people who want to totally destroy western civilization, not alone because of our foreign policy, but because we, you and I, are not radical Islamofascists. Appeasement is not an option (and that's what you're doing by exiting Iraq), unless you want to be a second class slave for the rest of your life. Sometimes politicians have to do what's right, not what's popular.

Steven J Burden

I have been called a 'hawk' many times--it of course has nothing to do with the fact that I am retired military, speak Arabic, am considered a middle eastern expert by some, and was part of the UNSCOM inspections teams in Iraq--but even I can agree with this statement: I want my friends home, I support a strong defense and secure borders. As there is no timeframe specified, this statement is great to me because it allows all viewpoints and basic libertarian ideas.

David Aitken

I understand your viewpoint, but to me the statement ignores reality. I see that we have 4 options: 1) become second class citizens under Sharia law; 2) convert to Islam, 3) fight with everything we've got (which we are not doing) to preserve western values which, imo, are superior to other sets of values; and 4) die. Doing nothing will get you 1 or 2. If there are more options, I would like to know what they are.

Putting off the fight until some time in the future when it might be more popular is the cowards way out. The future is here, now. The fight, which we have ignored for more than 20 years, will be easier now than later.

IMO, options 1 and 2 will take a relatively long time to happen; you and I might not be around when they do. But if you love your family, and liberty as well, then I think you have an obligation to see that western civilization, and the values we love, survive.

My interpretation of any position that does not explicitly deal with the jihadist threat is that supporters are comfortable with options 1,2, or 4. I'm not, so, reluctantly, the only other option is to fight.

Steven J Burden

I can't agree more. I realize it; you realize it. But there are a lot of Cindy Shehan's out there. A lot of people don't want to know. Or they don't want the world to be that way. (not that I do, but hey, it is what it is)

The thing here is that the platform is not the place to put the 'fall on your sword' statements. That is reserved for your campaign. We are attempting to be as inclusive as possible, while still maintaining
libertarian concepts.

I agree, but there are a lot of people out there who don't. We are trying to build a platform upon which we can all base our candidacies.

David Aitken

Well, how about:

10. Preserve our western values of liberty and justice, maintain a strong national defense, and secure our borders.

M Carling

You have an implicit premise here that I don't agree with. Specifically, that fundamentalism can win in the marketplace of ideas.

Let's back up and take a look at fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is the belief that literal scripture trumps science. Good education is a vaccine against fundamentalism.

The war in Iraq is not a war against fundamentalism. We have replaced a secular tyrant who fought al qaeda at every turn with a democratically elected fundamentalist government that is sympathetic to al qaeda. There is no benefit to us from such a fight.

David Aitken

I don't think that fundamentalism can win in the marketplace of ideas either. Problem is, this is not a marketplace of ideas; it's a war. The jihadists don't negotiate; they don't listen to reason or science; they show up on your doorstep and blow themselves up. In some respects, they are more dedicated to their cause than we are to ours.

What Iraq has done is opened up a marketplace of ideas in the middle east. For the first time in hundreds of years, people are thinking about and discussing, and yes, fighting about the different ways to organize society.

Your preference for stability is implicit support for police states all over the world. Is that the side you want to be on?


That's where the debate stands right now. I realize my statements just above are a bit contradictory on the "marketplace of ideas" theme, but I haven't figured out how to deal with it. Any ideas?

UPDATE More posts:

Robert Capozzi

David, a coupla comments:

D: Intelligence on outside threats is, of course, necessary for the security of the nation. What is also necessary is a plan to deal with those threats.

B: I don’t disagree that a “plan” is necessary. I do, however, disagree that the PLATFORM is the proper vehicle for that.

D: In the last 20 years, the LP has never had any plan to deal with them, and given the sentiments expressed by a majority of the members, is not likely to have a credible one soon. Which means that the LP will not have any credibility when it comes to national security issues and will therefore not have any credibility in national election contests.

B: Under the model we’re suggesting, David, “credibility” will largely be a function of the positions that candidates take. And, given how poorly the Iraq War is going, an articulate LP candidate COULD make the point that Iraq was a mistake, but that we should be eternally vigilant against the jihadists.

D: That's why Kerry lost and that's one reason why Democrats and Libertarians will continue to lose.

B: Maybe in Kerry’s case. I think he was a weak, waffling, double-talking candidate on a range of issues. Libertarians will continue to lose for a while, even if we reformers are wildly successful.

D: So, what's the LP's plan to deal with the next version of Hitler? Thinking voters want to know.

B: Now, here, David, I have to question the credibility of this view. I simply don’t see the jihadists as the sort of threat that Hitler was. I’ve seen no evidence of that.

David Aitken

I would agree that the platform is not the place for a full blown plan. But nothing I've seen about platform statements has even hinted that a plan exists. I would argue that the platform is a place to at least mention that we do have a plan, and what the major components of that plan are.

In the 20 years I've been a member, I've never heard any LP candidate say anything other than "bring the troops home". None of them have even acknowledged that jihadists even exist, let alone that they might be a threat.

Here's some information on the individual who might be the next Hitler: Column by Victor Hanson

Carl Milsted

I side with David on such things. We do need a credible anti-terrorist policy.
That said, there are tools in the libertarian playbook which can help:

1. Ending the War on Drugs would reduce the funding of many terrorist entities. (But we would need reassuring points to deal with the hard drugs: full legalization of marijuana, strict controls over cocaine and opiates, etc.)

2. Use a tariff on foreign oil to defund radical Islam (which is heavily funded by the Saudis).

3. Practice approval voting at home to set an example for use by countries which suffer from deep divisions.

These may not be sufficient, but they are extremely useful. They reduce the need for increased powers for the NSA, CIA, etc.

Steven J Burden

I tend to side wit David on this type of thing, too. But to me the platform is not the place to put the policy.

I have no problem with having a policy, but what I think might work, does not fit with the pacifist strategies we support in the LP…not as it stands right now. I have spent many a night discussing this with others who have a lot of experience in the Middle East. And we did it long before 9/11. 9/11 was the wakeup call for Americans; it was not the wakeup call for those few who had spent time in the Middle East. This threat has been there for a long, long time.

Couple of general observations:

1) Arabs (as distinct from Moslems) profess to love Americans and hate American policies and American power. They like it when America is idealistic or stupid or both (ala’ Carter) and they hate it when America is pragmatic and arrogant (ala’ Regan) Part is due to the basic selfishness of all people. They like it when we are weak and giving, and they hate it when we are strong and stingy. Arab males—who rule the society—are spoiled brats who always want it their way. If we let them come out on top—through stupidity or weakness—they like us. They are the real top dogs in their minds. As individuals they can feel superior, as a nation they cannot. That offends them. We are not Muslims; we are not the true superiors, since we are only people of the book, like Jews: By definition, second-class citizens. Arabs—as they are now—will never peacefully co-exist with anyone who they perceive as being more important, or powerful then they are. It is not a plot, it is just they way they have been programmed from the day they were born.

2) Since its inception, Islam is an aggressive religious and social belief system. It is not like modern-day Christianity or Judaism which have lost most of the social portions nullified. It always has had a much stronger social/legal system than either. Like Christianity, but unlike Judaism, it has also always had a strong element of conversion, in a typical, practical Arab way: Islam was to conquer an area, then institute a Islamic social and legal system, and allow other religions to co-exist—as second class citizens who where discriminated against and had to pay a special tax because until they converted, they could not serve in the military. If you ain’t Moslem, you ain’t shit.

3) The only ‘big boy on the block’ MUST be a Moslem. Thus the problem with Israel; and the problem with ANY other nation which is not Moslem. Never forget, it is in base a very practical belief system. If you are nice to them when they are down, they appreciate it at the time, but later they resent it. It just rubs their faces into the fact that they are not on top. The practical people that they are, they know they can use or oil dependence—and our public, 20 year old fear of the impact of that dependence—to control us. Regardless of the fact that the real impact on the American public was cause by the Nixon administration’s price controls. (Ever notice how the gas lines never happened in the 79-80 boycott, which happened in the 73 boycott?)

4) In the practical sense, there is a lot we can do to mitigate this attitude:

a) Cut Israel loose; they are the big boys on the block in the region; let them do what they think they need to do. Sell them any weapons we wish, but give them nothing.

b) Stop applying the Carter Doctrine. Since oil has become a commodity; it is traded on the spot and open markets, we no longer need to consider threats to the middle east a strategic threat. (Carl, tariffs to control the free market is one of the reasons I am an L…please don’t start tossing that word about!)

d) Stop interfering in other countries—economically or militarily—unless they are supporting or present a threat to the US homeland or those countries with which we have treaties. So we need to re-think our treaties. Iraq was supporting Al-Qieda via money and training back as far as 1992. They were paying the families of suicide bombers between 10 and 25 grand if they died attacking our ally, Israel. Sorry, but true. We destroyed TONS of biological weapons and components to Nuclear weapons up until I left as an inspector in Feb 1997. That was a real threat, from a realist, Saddam, who understood America was hamstrung by the belief that we needed the international community (the UN)—ie, consensus—to validate if we were in the right or not.

c) Realize we can never get the pacifists--US and European--to defend themselves via aggression. And of course, when they are rudely awakened with a bullet in the head, we would go down with them. So develop a missile defense system ASAP.

5) But the really, really big thing we need to accomplish, is to somehow or another, get the American people to get real, and the laugh the MSM pacifist propaganda machine out of business. If we lose the will to fight (which we have) we will ALWAYS lose the fight. Even a voluntary military cannot do it. They love to fight, that is why they joined, but if we don’t show the same will, even though we don’t suffer the actual consequences, they will lose. As they are now. We have to have to balls to suffer the body bags because we believe in what we—as a nation—are fighting for—if we lose that, we need to stop being the big boy on the block.

a) Bush was right, but he misjudged the will of the American people. Everyone was pissed after 9/11. We won Afghanistan because it was short, it was obvious, and we were united. Good stuff.

b) He outlined the ‘Axis of Evil’ Iraq, Iran and North Korea. I have played out many operational plans in the military, and of the three, tactically, Iraq was the easiest. None was a direct threat to the US homeland other than through support of Terrorist opertions: NK was only threatening its neighbors and totally looney. Iran was only threateneing Israel via Hizbollah (Started by the Iranian Pazdaran Special Ops forces in the Bekaa Valley after the last time the Israeli’s got pissed about getting rockets and such fired over an international border) I can tell you a lot about the Hizbollah. The other issue with Iran is that it is a nightmare for invasion. Iraq wasn’t. It was tactically the easiest, as well as being both a threat to both the US and the Israeli’s via its well know training, equipping and funding anti-us and anti-israeli forces.

Larry Nicholas

Surprising to find another L with the same views that I have. We have a few in my county of like mind. Today's world is not the world of 225 years ago. There are threats to our country that aren't close to our borders.

I also have the view that in today's world, we can't tolerate so much of the world's population living under dictators who don't feed their people and maintain power by force. I don't know the answer to all the world problems, and maybe we need to slap Europe and get them to do their part, but I'm certain that our actions in the middle east are absolutly necessary and a big jump in the right direction. It may take years, decades but it's worth it.


Blogger goyishekop said...


There are many points made, by many people, in this post. I have opinions on some of them.

It's always tempting to jump into intricate arguments over how many virgins can dance on the head of a jihadist, but I'll hold myself back. I will, however, volunteer one opinion.

First, a little logical reasoning.

At this point, there are three, possible, foreign-policy platforms about Iraq:

(a) Win the war in Iraq.

(b) Lose the war in Iraq.

(c) Insert ambiguous policy statement here about Iraq that doesn't offend

Option (c) is awfully tempting because -- Allah/God/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Buddah knows! -- the Libertarian Party would never want to offend anybody. If it did, the Libertarians might not win the next election, which is still too close to call.

But if, for some reason, you skip that one, "win" and "lose" are now our only choices. And no matter how you weasel-word it, folks will see which one the party's chosen.

The war may end by the time the platform is used.

"I say we drop '... all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved' from the Declaration. General Washington's army may be either defeated or victorious by the time this is circulated through the colonies."

If the war isn't over by the time the platform's used, people will care where the Libertarian Party stands. If it is over we'll have either won or lost, and people will care where the Libertarian Party stood. Whom do you want to appeal to then -- Glen Reynolds or Cindy Sheehan?

Then again, perhaps the party should take a more disengaged position, and just await Islamofascism's loss in the marketplace of ideas.

Q: What goes "Ha Ha Ha Thunk"?

A: Nick Berg laughing his head off.

Okay, then. My opinion is that the Libertarian Party should choose "(a) Win the war in Iraq."

I was going to say "unsolicited opinion," but you made the awful mistake of asking.

9:33 PM  

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