Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Are There Any Bleeding Hearts Here?

By Marko Marjanović on April 30th, 2014

Normally it is my expectation that anyone who would go out of his way to present himself as a “bleeding heart” would be a considerate, sensitive person who would be inclined to weigh his words and be careful not to give insult or come off as coarse. Imagine my surprise then when examining the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” blog I had the distinct displeasure of reading the following by one their contributors:

“It is unjust for our government to tax American citizens to try to help people who do not want to be helped and who, even after they have been helped, instead of thanking us for liberating them, they viciously turn against us for domestic political gain or some other spurious motive. Iraq and Afghanistan are cases in point. The U.S. and their allies helped them get rid of their tyrants, only to see the new governments posture about how bad Americans are. When this happens, our response should be simple and direct: we will leave you alone to lead your miserable lives. And if you dare attack us, we will kill you or bring you to justice.”

The author of the passage is one Fernando Teson who is such a “bleeding heart” that he has made it his life’s work to try to sell war to libertarians under the touchy-feely guise of “humanitarian intervention.” He had previously backed the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, but is now wiser for the experience and is having second thoughts about supporting the same in Syria. So in Teson’s reflection what was the problem with American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Apparently it is the fact Iraqis and Afghans turned out to be a bunch of ingrates who did not deserve to be liberated in the first place! Such people should rather be left alone to “lead their miserable lives,” but nonetheless threatened not to get any ideas about attacking Americans. Let us just say that “bleeding heart” is not at the top of my list of what I would call the author of such a boorish passage. A different part of the body would come to mind far sooner (it starts with the letter ‘a’).

The actual problem with the American war in Iraq was not that Iraqis were morally deficient and thus incapable of gratitude. The actual problem was that it was an empire-building exercise that ended up killing some 500,000 people (albeit of the ingrate Iraqi kind) and was thus amoral from the start and rotten to the core.[1] It did not help Iraqis at all, but instead tore apart and devastated their already traumatized country. It takes quite the anti-Iraqi jerk not to see this.

The likes of Fernando Teson tried to sell us the Iraq invasion on humanitarian grounds, but one wonders why anyone in 2003 would think Iraqis would have to be subjugated to American rule before they could be helped? Was it not the case that at the time millions of Iraqis would have seen a drastic and immediate difference in the quality of their lives if only the comprehensive UN sanctions against Iraq were repealed? The cause of a great humanitarian crisis in the country could have been eliminated totally without the need for the US armed forces to invade a sovereign country or exercise power over foreigners in their own land.

So much could have been done completely without the need to bolster the Pentagon’s standing and budget, hand over magnificent earning opportunities to Halliburton or spread American influence in the Middle East. Indeed reasons such as these may have been far more important to those who planned and ordered the invasion than any notion of doing a favor to the Iraqis. However, without the Iraq Invasion more than simply an apparent opportunity to further entrench American hegemony would be missed.

The major attraction of humanitarian interventionism is that it offers a glorious opportunity to engage in self-flattery. In 2003 the humanitarian interventionist narrative made Iraqis into pitiful victims of a foreign murderer-dictator and his totalitarian Arab regime. This made the Westerners involved in the invasion into supposed selfless heroes risking their own lives and spending their own means to save Iraqis from their own state. Such self-flattery! In fact the truth was almost the exact opposite.

In the 1991 Gulf War the international coalition assembled by the United States first thoroughly destroyed parts of Iraqi civilian infrastructure in air strikes. After that it pushed through the adoption of the most comprehensive trade sanctions instituted in the 20th century at the UN. With Iraq starved for capital and anyway prohibited from importing much of what it needed, the infrastructure could never be properly repaired and the country was kept in a state of a permanent humanitarian crisis. In the course of the decade the increase in mortality that was caused by the combined effect of the 1991 bombing campaign and the long-lived sanctions regime took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Children were particularly vulnerable. Child mortality doubled from where it had been in 1990 to reach the levels not seen in Iraq since the early 1960s.

By 2002 the United States had already been strangling Iraq for over a decade and had in all likelihood already caused the deaths of more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein had. Now it was amassing its troops in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in order to strike against Iraq and subdue it by military force, ostensibly in part for the good of the Iraqi people who would be freed of tyrannical dictatorship. The ensuing invasion resulted in a war that ultimately killed more than 500,000 of the Iraqi people and forced millions from their homes.

The Iraq Invasion was in fact profoundly anti-humanitarian. It was accompanied by and caused enormous levels of misery, destruction and trauma — as was only to be expected of an invasion conducted by a power that had already demonstrated a shocking level of disregard for Iraqi suffering and death prior to the attack. Iraqis have every reason to dislike the United States which was the major cause of their woes for over two decades. Rather than accept this fact Fernando Teson would like to pretend they are morally inferior ingrates. But how is this possible when Fernando Teson is such a “bleeding heart” that in 2003 he backed the United States to invade Iraq in order to save Iraqis from Saddam Hussein?

A hint may be found in that as stated humanitarian intervention rarely has anything to do with humanitarianism. It is instead capturing the opportunity to engage in self-flattery. Therefore there is no contradiction in the fact someone who thinks so little of Iraqis would have at one time argued for the need to save them from their government. Even jerks like to give themselves a pat on the back sometimes! It also explains why humanitarian interventionists like Teson show so little concern for what their wars actually bring about. Once you are in the business of self-flattery the reality of the situation simply does not matter all that much anymore. Whether you conduct an actually humanitarian military intervention that saves lives, or else one that screws up the country you intervene in does not matter all that much. You can always lie to yourself about what took place and give yourself a pat on the back anyway!

I propose Libertarians should be more sensitive than that. Also, preferably they should not refer to themselves as “bleeding hearts” — such self-flattery! And in Teson’s case — unearned!

1 According to the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study published in the PLOS Medicine journal in 2013. The study concluded there were about 500,000 excess deaths in Iraq 2003-2011 attributable to the war. Of these two thirds (333,000) were violent deaths and one third (167,000) were indirect deaths due to deterioration of living conditions brought about by occupation and war.

Data from one survey method (household reports) of the study suggests at least 35% (117,000) of the violent deaths were inflicted by the US-led coalition forces. Data from the second survey method (sibling reports) suggest US-led coalition forces inflicted at least 27% (90,000) of all the violent deaths. Additionally either at least 1% (3,000) or at least 3% (10,000) were killed by the forces of the new American-backed Iraq government. Either at least 11% (37,000) or at least 8% (27,000) were killed by criminals and criminal gangs unleashed in the chaos and desperation. Either at least 32% (107,000) or at least 44% (147,000) were killed by the various Sunni, Shia and Kurdish militias. According to the responses given in the household reports women accounted for 10.5% (35,000) of the violent deaths and coalition forces were the single biggest cause of violent deaths for women.

[image credits: The Sunday Times]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jeffrey Tucker’s War Against Sin

By Marko Marjanović on April 17th, 2014

The first thing that jumps out about the recent Jeffrey Tucker “Against Libertarian Brutalism” essay, which continues to make waves on the libertarian scene, is its confusion. With all due respect to Mr. Tucker, his argument is less than fully clear throughout and threatens at times to cross over into complete incoherence.

For example, Tucker explains that ideological brutalism is the tendency to push the most fundamental parts of an ideology to the foreground, coupled with a categorical refusal to go beyond these (that is to qualify, nuance or compromise them in any way). Yet at the very same time Tucker proposes a libertarian brutalist will be drawn to defend an arrangement where a “fundamentalist sect” takes over a town and “forces women into burka-like clothing.” But why should this be so?

In actuality, since non-aggression is a core libertarian principle, anyone who is dedicated to fundamental tenets of libertarianism can not but oppose such coercion against women. It is then logical to expect that people who are as devoted to core libertarian principles as Tucker’s “brutalists” supposedly are, could only surface among the strongest and most dedicated opponents of such coercion on the part of the aggressive sect.

Tucker likewise states that liberty “protects human rights of all against invasion”. What is more he counts this as a worthy reason to battle for liberty. In other words he appropriates this motive for the “libertarian humanitarians” who want to bring about liberty for good, positive reasons. Yet there is no escaping the fact that “protecting rights against invasion” is very much a core libertarian tenant, one that Tucker’s brutalists, if they are to fit his definition at all, have to be unflinchingly devoted to.

So on the one hand Tucker salutes libertarians (supposedly “humanitarians”) who want to bring about a libertarian system specifically because they are devoted to rights and non-aggression. But on the other he riles against “brutalists” who emphasize only the value of fundamental libertarian principles — albeit the respect and the protection of the rights of human beings is precisely one such core libertarian principle, and perhaps the defining one!

Tucker damns “libertarian brutalists” because they aspire to liberty so that they may freely live out their lives as boors. He specifically singles out racists, anti-Semites and misogynists, but he could just as easily be talking about people who are intolerant of believers or prejudiced against proletarians. In Tucker’s view it is not quite enough for libertarians to want to bring about a libertarian system. He asserts that because liberty allows for a great many practical outcomes that may be inspiring as well as ugly, it is likewise important what the supporters of liberty intend to do with their freedom.

It should be first noted that libertarianism is an extremely poor choice of political philosophy for a boor worth his salt to pick up and champion. As statists, boors who despise, say, gays and hillbillies may work to pass repressive laws against them or conscript them into a terrible war. As a libertarian they will be striving to eliminate all political power and by extension working to end systemic injustice against everyone, including individuals from the segments of the population they may personally hold in contempt. It seems then that as long as there are boors and bigots it is highly desirable that they be libertarians. In fact, none are more likely to profit from the libertarian orientation of bigots than the very people they are bigoted against. They will have lost a potentially significant enemy and won a functional champion of their rights.

Additionally we should note that boorishness is only one of countless human failings. We could also name timidity and cowardice, a lack of generosity, excessive judgmentalism, hedonism and miserabilism and countless others. Therefore, as long we are bringing matters of taste to the forefront why stop at demanding that libertarians privately do not give in to boorishness? What about other libertarians who dress badly, do not give out candy for Halloween or have an atrocious taste in music? What about libertarians who lack the personal courage to rush to the aid of their neighbors in an emergency such as a fire, or others who would never contemplate dedicating a penny to charity? Do we also condemn such libertarians for “missing the bigger point of human liberty” and for not being sufficiently dedicated to human cooperation and their fellow-man? Where does it stop? What human failing, if any, can we as libertarians tolerate, and why some and not the others?

Clearly the answer is that as libertarians we can tolerate any human failing. It is not our goal as libertarians to stamp out human failing. Advocating virtue is the work of priests, gurus and other moralists. Our job is ending systemic oppression and building a system that delivers equal justice to all. Libertarians are not in the business of making judgment calls and deciding the virtue, taste or beauty of actions, but only their justice.

In as much as we are true to libertarian theory the worst of us, as well as the best of us are striving for the exact same thing as libertarians — a world without systemic oppression and injustice. Freedom and justice for all. That humans would use this freedom to showcase their failings as well as their virtue, and their good taste as well as their bad taste, is a given. Yet this is not our concern as libertarians. The right of humans to be free of oppression and injustice does not diminish with their human failings. Every human being is fully deserving of full human freedom whatever their aesthetics may be. For libertarians justice for the boorish can not be a less urgent goal than justice for the tolerant, kind and well-behaved.

A libertarian who is without libertarian failings is as true a libertarian as any other. His human failings are his own matter, between him and his god. Indeed since a libertarian system delivers the maximum amount of freedom and justice it must maximally mitigate the impact of human failings on the lives of others. Thus even the most personally flawed libertarians are nonetheless working to contain the negative effects of bigotry, boorishness, hatred, meanness, miserabilism and so forth.

Nonetheless, we are not battling against human failings, but against systemic failings. We strive for an optimal system, not an optimal human being, society or outcome. Ours is not the quest for a perfect world. As libertarians, we want a world without systemic injustice, not a world without sin.

[image credits: Nerd Fighters]

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Libertarian "Humanitarianism" is a Dangerous Deviation

By Marko Marjanović on April 4th, 2014

Recently it has come to my attention that there are self-professed libertarians who want to bring about a libertarian society for reasons other than to give every man and woman, child and pet, the right to hate Disco. The leader of these “humanitarian” libertarians instead sees the value of libertarian society in increasing human cooperation, beautifying the human condition and ending all aggression against rights. Always alert we recognize these high-flying phrases for what they are — codewords for stuffing Disco down our throats.

We Rock ‘n’ Rollers for Core Libertarianism reject this new deviationist notion of libertarianism being about human rights, and remind everyone the core libertarian principles are really about celebrating some of the most obnoxious and juvenile music to ever be recorded, as well as the freedom to make life miserable for everyone who does not. We caution libertarians to remind themselves the core of our common idea has never been about rights and peaceful interaction, instead for many of us it has mostly been about bringing about a world built on the base instincts of an AC/DC fist-raiser.

The only true libertarian utopia is a society where beer-guzzling degenerates driving motorcycles, pick-ups and VW Golfs subject passersby to an unending barrage of UFO and Slade, where all the streets are named after Robert Halford and the only songs are about parties, women and breaking the law. A society where flannels and sandals are shunned, whiskey is served straight and shorts may only be worn if combined with a tie. A society that freely and collectively sneers at Disco, hippies and Grunge and ostracizes anyone over fourteen who does not spend his Friday nights throwing up and driving under the influence.

With this in mind, in closing we Rock ‘n’ Rollers for Core Libertarianism once again call on libertarians to reject the pleas of these dangerous, supposedly “humanitarian” deviationists to artificially fasten onto core libertarianism (which has always been about the freedom to hate) the ill-fitting notion of holding human rights sacrosanct and never sacrificing them to matters of personal taste. Actually, we know that libertarianism is all about taste and the underlying motive for support of freedom and justice! And our motivation is better and more appealing than yours! Scrawny “humanitarians” you are wrong! True libertarianism is not about beauty, it is about Rock ‘n’ Roll!

[image credits:]