(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Cain's world: Item IV
From the Iran Press Service:
Iranian ruling ayatollahs, seriously concerned at the perspective of being the next on the Americaís list of rogue regimes to be removed from power, paved Saturday the way for normalising relations with the United States, suggesting to organise a national referendum on the subject.Another take from the New York Times.
Friday, April 11, 2003
A War of Perceptions
Coming on twenty years ago, I had an idea for a novel that I've never yet written. It's about a war of invasion against a Janioist society, about how that civilization carries the war back to the invaders without seeming to do much of anything. The two central characters are assassins, and the story turns on who ultimately kills whom. Purely a for-fun kind of wish-fulfillment story, which is why I haven't written it yet. There was a short story I did at about the same time, "A War of Perceptions" that goes after the same kinds of ideas in a different way. The story is about a TV news crew who, unlike CNN, make a point of reporting the actual news:
"Some opposing viewpoint!," Quentin spat, not noticing that he had spoken aloud. He scowled at the glass of icewater before him, angry that his colleagues could be such dupes, angrier still that the president wouldn't say out loud that the United States has a right to defend itself from predators, and angry again that America could be smeared for mass murder to the benefit of actual mass murderers without anyone pointing out the injustice...The yarn is very much an encomium to Ayn Rand, and at the time I wrote it, I thought the tales of Quentin Clark's news crew would make a good television series: An ensemble of interesting, multi-cultural characters sticking their noses into a new hornet's nest every week. But this same kind of team, a kind of Navy-Seals-For-Hire team, would make the ideal squad of assassins in a fully-free society.
Free men don't fight the monarch's war
Billy Beck quotes me saying:
Libertarians will say that wars should be privately funded and should deploy hired men-at-arms. Perhaps so, although I think that, like most libertarian arguments, this ingests the current context in whole and changes only superficial details.He takes me to task over the word 'context,' but I don't think he understands what I meant by the 'context' the libertarians unthinkingly swallow whole. I agree that a voluntaryist army is very different from what we have now. The question is: In a fully-voluntary society, why would there be an army?
Wars fought by armies are monarch's wars. The idea is to inflict maximum damage on the opposing monarch's domain--while leaving him alive. Of all the people to be killed, the two who will not be killed are the warring monarchs. Why? So that they can negotiate a peace once dominance is established. The idea of war by armies--and the idea of the state as a fictional person--is a 'context' ingested wholly and without thought by the Founding Fathers of the United States. It is a bad error in a less-that-free society. But it is an error impossible to make in a fully-free civilization.
As I said later in the same post:
In the same way, the claim that states must not attack each other 'pre-emptively' is a monarch's argument: Me and mine, thee and thine. This has nothing at all to do with a society of individuals each one of whom is sovereign.Retributive justice makes sense only to monarchs, corporeal or fictional; he doesn't care if the victim is made whole, his interest is the 'King's Peace'. Non-pre-emptive warfare makes sense only to monarchs; what he does with his own property--that would be you--is no other monarch's business. And war-by-armies, leaving the sine qua non aggressor alive, makes sense only to monarchs.
An interesting thing about this current war is that it began and ended with the attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein. This is an expression of a new kind of warfare, as Billy has noted. But it is also a testament of faith by President Bush that he cannot be assassinated in return. In a truly-free society, there would be no autarch to be assassinated, which is why this is a perfect strategy. We take out would-be aggressors one by one until the Peter Principle promotes a leader who is incapable of being a threat, and they cannot respond at all.
The point is this: Libertarians, by failing to think about what else must change, if a society is to be composed solely of volunteers, tend to suppose instead that everything will be almost just exactly the same. This is false. Free men don't fight the monarch's war.
More from Steve Dasbach
Steve Dasbach has responded to my post from last night, and again I will quote him in full:
Greg,I have no huge quarrel with this. Of course not all libertarians hold the positions I lambasted in my philippic. I get a lot of sweet mail from those who don't, and some of America's very best libertarians are in Iraq right now. But the public posturing of published libertarians, with few exceptions, has been hideous--and, so far, unrepentant.
Libertarians don't talk in public about tap-water and libraries, because, it they did, the fish would scurry away just like that: Kooks is kooks. But at the same time, libertarians slurp with gusto at the taxpayer's teat--and I can name much worse examples--belching out their dudgeon only when it suits them--and only when their rhetoric has zero chance of changing anything. They could be paper tigers--if they only had some substance to them.
Incidentally, the marketization of the East is by far more significant in the quest for liberty than anything libertarians will do. Free market economies, whether they are republics or not, tend to push each other in the direction of greater liberty--at least economic liberty--as a way of competing with each other. Social liberty follows, it can be argued, as these economies compete for migrating human capital. It may be that the market states have made a devil's bargain with Socialism that will never be satisfactory to libertarians. But surely the Iraqis will be better off--even if their economy is crippled with an equivalent of the Americans With Disabilities Act--when their government forebears to shred them alive as their families watch in horror. By inches do we scrabble toward the light--but only if we resolve to move at all.
And for the rest, as my Pappy says, "Hide and watch." It's a very busy time for the West, and the world is changing like dreams. People who care about the actual freedom of actual human beings should rejoice. Those who instead think that the pursuit of liberty consists of petulantly hating the government of the United States--they can eat sour grapes. At taxpayer expense, of course.
My best to you,
April 11, 2003
Cain's world: Item III
Charles Krauthammer in the New York Daily News:
Not only was the enemy different, so was the technology, and the doctrine. We can speak today of a surgical war not only because technology yields weapons of astonishing precision, but because the coalition war strategy has had one supreme objective: the surgical destruction of a totalitarian regime. This had never been done before.
Cain's world: Item II
From the Times of London:
What may have changed the outcome, though, was the rapid retargeting of a single B1 bomber which struck Saddam?s restaurant hideaway within 45 minutes of receiving word of his whereabouts. Near real-time precision has finally arrived. Any potential adversary must think carefully what this means.More:
In one battle, a US cavalry troop of about five tanks and four Bradleys detected an Iraqi force of 25 armoured vehicles in a prepared defensive position on their flank, and in a battle that lasted about ten minutes they destroyed every one of them while suffering no friendly losses. Surely even the doubters will take the lessons this time: quality, not quantity, is the key requirement for success in battle.Still more:
The campaign in Iraq illustrates the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military power, especially when buttressed by Britainís, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Donít try! And thatís not hubris, itís just plain fact.
Cain's world: Item I
From the Guardian Unlimited
"All the Arab rulers are now more than ever hated by the people," said Leila Qadi, a Lebanese researcher, "and when their turn comes their people will celebrate it just like the Iraqis did Saddam's. And I think some of them are now trembling on their seats."
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The petulant wallflowers pirouette
I got email from no less a personage than Steve Dasbach, formerly the head spokesmodel of the Libertarian Party. Out of kindness to the man, I'm going to present his text uneviscerated.
Greg,Now then, to the lists:
I have a way of thinking about this, and I'm grateful to Mr. Dasbach for letting me think about it with him, rather than some lesser light of libertarianism. What we need to do is distinguish The Way We Do Things Now from The Way Things Ought To Be Done, where the 'ought' is supplied by me or Mr. Dasbach or some other ideologue.
For example, no libertarian would argue against the idea of free-market tap-water. And yet virtually everywhere in the United States, tap-water is a coercive monopoly of the coercive monopoly state.
Likewise, no friend of freedom would insist that lending libraries must be coercive state monopolies, not with the Blockbuster Video at every strip mall proving that the Public Library's business model is a hopeless dinosaur.
But: What do libertarians bathe in, if not the stolen tap-water of the coercive monopoly state? What books do they borrow if not the books purchased for their benefit with funds stolen from the illiterate?
Whatever libertarians might have to say about The Way Things Ought To Be Done, it remains that they are active, even gleeful, fully voluntary participants in The Way We Do Things Now.
I did not support waging the pre-emptive war against Iraq that led to this liberationLuckily, because of The Way We Do Things Now, that support was not required. We delegate the authority to wage war at the ballot box, and majority rules. Surely not The Way Things Ought To Be Done, but do please burn your library card before you get too tetchy about it.
I assume that you did.I support the war, but not in pursuit of the liberation of the Iraqis as a primary objective. The primary objective of this war was and is to avoid much more deadly wars--with Islamism in the near term and Communist China further out. I have written about this at length:
War with Iraq: The Cain Doctrine:
1. The 'wrest' of the story
2. Taking a better grip
3. Why the Bush Doctrine will prevail--and fail
4. A Just and Libertarian war...
From your article, I assume that you believed libertarians should have actively supported the use of force (i.e. war) by the U.S. governmentYes. This is The Way We Do Things Now.
to overthrow Saddam's regime and liberate the people of Iraq.Among other, more important objectives.
Do you believe libertarians should actively support the use of force (i.e. war) by the U.S. government to overthrow the rest of world's despots and authoritarian regimes?In The Way We Do Things Now, they don't ask me what I want the government to do. I don't even want there to be a government. But if we're going to have one, and we are, at least for now, having a government that overthrows despots and frees slaves would be by far preferable to having one that nationalizes the hospitals.
Do you believe the U.S. should use its military might to liberate all the world's enslaved people?Choo-choo! Here comes the Cluetrain: It just did.
Why Iraq? Because it provided the best demonstration. Why this way? Because of the demonstration provided. What was demonstrated? That the true democracies, the seeds of Locke and Jefferson, will not permit any other seeds to flower on the Earth.
There is no End of History, and there is no War to End All Wars, but you just saw the best first-strike at both. There will be no more state-sponsored terrorism. There will be no more malignant states, and the surviving monarchies will race death in the pursuit of acceptable benignity.
It will take a while for all this to become obvious, but the United States is raising the bar on minimally-acceptable conduct among nation-states, with the result that you just watched--none so blind!--the United States "use its military might to liberate all the world's enslaved people."
I truly hope that our actions lead to a free society in Iraq, and not simply the replacement of one dictator with anotherEven stipulating this, it argues that all dictators are equally rapacious, which is surely not the case. From my own jaundiced point-of-view, I had presumed that Iraq would be beset by a Rotarian Kleptocracy, if for no better reason than this is The Way We Do Things Now. In the hazy light of the end of the war, I'm wondering if I might be too cynical.
Part and parcel with all the other libertarian moral equivalency theories--all dictators are equally rapacious, all nation-states are equally vile--is the claim that all presidents are equally corrupt. I don't think that's so. For all its faults, the Reagan Administration destroyed the Soviet Union. The Spymaster, George Herbert Walker Bush, may have stuck us with the Americans With Disabilities Act, but I think he is a man of strong and decent character--most unlike his successor in office. And I think the current Bush Administration is composed of truly amazingly decent people, savvy and learned and wise people who are committed to using their wits in the service of what they see as the good. That I might see the good differently matters to me less than my conviction that they are not seeking to do ill.
This distinguishes them greatly from the realpolitik pragmatists who imposed dictators like Saddam Hussein on innocent populations. Only time will tell what form the new government of Iraq will take, but if I'm being too cynical, you are surely reckoning without accounting for the difference between George W. Bush and John Foster Dulles.
But what about The Way Things Ought To Be Done? Libertarians will say that wars should be privately funded and should deploy hired men-at-arms. Perhaps so, although I think that, like most libertarian arguments, this ingests the current context in whole and changes only superficial details. In the same way, the claim that states must not attack each other 'pre-emptively' is a monarch's argument: Me and mine, thee and thine. This has nothing at all to do with a society of individuals each one of whom is sovereign.
If I have the right to intercede in a mugging, then I have the right to intercede in mass torture overseas. If I have that right--and what libertarian will say I don't?--then my agent can execute that right by delegation. In the real, actual, genuine Way Things Ought To Be Done, libertarian wars will be fought by assassins. But in the make-believe world libertarians seem to live in, the difference between The Way We Do Things Now and The Way Things Ought To Be Done is a dispute about how to effect proper delegation.
In any case, American libertarians are one-hundred-percent committed to The Way We Do Things Now in virtually every aspect of their lives. They talk a good game, maundering on and on about The Way Things Ought To Be Done. But they never actually do anything about any of it. The rain it raineth every day, but not one of them will put a cistern in the yard to collect bathwater and stop their insistent encysting of the taxpayers by even that little bit. They won't have anything if they can't have everything all at once, and they won't stop stealing from others until those others stop stealing from them. They don't prize liberty, they hoard it, denying its best to those who need it most. What could be more petulant?
Even so, so what? The libertarians are irrelevant to the battle for human liberty. The battle that matters is the war within the minds of the people who have managed, with a little help from their true friends, to pull their skulls out from under the boot of tyranny. What those people do matters. And what the libertarians do or say or shout or spout or seethe or cry--that matters nothing at all. They had their chance to be friends of freedom and they blew it--just like the last time. Sic semper tyrannosauris.
I wish you peace,
April 10, 2003
This page is linked to today from Setting the World to Rights, a very witty, very literate, very unconventional libertarian weblog:
Many eschew the “libertarian” label because of the moral bankruptcy they see in the anti-rational, anti-war, unconsciously statist wing of the libertarian movement. But things are changing. The deathist, statist, anti-war strand of the Libertarian movement is unravelling. It is a laughing stock. It is our hope that Setting The World to Rights will be at the forefront of the new, more rational libertarian movment.The author is Sarah Fitz-Claridge, owner of a very subtle, supple mind. For a fine example, see her politics.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Dance of the petulant wallflowers
They were dancing in the streets of Baghdad today. It was the libertarian moment, the defining event, the sine qua non of freedom. Blathering jackass libertarian theorists will insist that there is no such thing as a 'consent of the governed,' but anyone who watched television this morning knows this is false: The governed of Baghdad withdrew their consent en masse and chaotically choreographed liberty was the consequence.
And where were the libertarians in this magic moment? Elsewhere, of course. Where else?
For to be a libertarian, to be a public defender of human freedom, seems to carry with it the obligation to be as irrelevant to actual liberty as, say, feminism is to the interests of women.
Where were the libertarians on Iraq? With but a few exceptions--most of those equivocating exceptions--the libertarians were firmly on the side of slavery, tyranny, deception, torture and terrorism. Where else?
With all the relevance of Martha Burk at the Augusta National Golf Club, they worried that Attorney General John Ashcroft might be sniffing at their ratty underwear. But they were too busy mingling with actual, undisguised Communists to protest the torture and murder of Iraqi dissidents, the rape of their women, the imprisonment of their children. That would require a commitment to principles, not rhetoric.
A nation of millions was beset by the ugliest tyranny the world has seen since the fall of Moscow, perhaps since the fall of Berlin. And where were the pretend friends of liberty? Standing in opposition to the overthrow of that tyranny. Standing passively, inactively--libertarians rarely do anything that requires exertion or courage--but in opposition.
Standing around like the perpetual wallflowers they are. Libertarianism is a political doctrine born in fiction, and many of its adherents seem never to be able to escape the world of fantasy. To argue hard, measurable, inarguable facts with them, when the facts contradict their dogma, is futile. They persist in imagining themselves as active, violent people, when they are in fact overwhelmingly slothful and timid. They indulge themselves with the thrill that the Federal Government seeks to persecute them, when in reality the Feds can't even trouble themselves to laugh at their ridiculous posturing. The very last thing Hillary Clinton fears is a mass rebellion of the corpulent, near-sighted, perpetually petulant quibblers who call themselves libertarians. Wherever the action is, you may be assured the libertarians will be elsewhere. Where else?
I am for human freedom, and because I am, I am disgusted to call myself a libertarian today. Government is a fiction. It persists only because people choose to pretend to believe it, even though they know it is a fiction. This is the actual 'consent of the governed.' Governments fall in the libertarian moment, when the people decide to stop pretending to believe the fiction of the state. It happened in Baghdad today. Someday it will happen in America.
And where will the libertarians be, when it does?
Elsewhere, of course. Where else?
Islam watch: "We shoot them down like the morons they are"
The Sydney Morning Herald on the ferocious Jihadi warriors who have gone to Iraq ro defend Islam from the Crusaders:
Hundreds of Muslim fighters, many of them non-Iraqis, were putting up a stronger fight for Baghdad than Iraq's Republican Guard or the regular army, a top United States military officer said yesterday.
Cain's world: Fidelity to principle
I was moved yesterday by this UPI commentary from The Washington Times. But today, reflecting upon the calumnies directed at the Bush Adminsitration, it seems that much more poignant:
Something fundamental has happened to the British and U.S. media during this war. Those who have spent time on the front lines with the coalition troops, whether embedded with individual units or traveling independently through liberated Iraq, have learned to love the military.The people executing this War on Terrorism, from the lowliest foot soldier to the president himself, are plainly decent. I do not agree with much of their political philosophy, but it is beyond disputing that they hew to their creed with a fidelity bordering on fervor. Again and again, small-minded people have accused them of base motives, and again and again, often on live television, these accusations have been proved false. The best state is no state. But, having a state, we could do a lot worse--and we recently have done a lot worse--than the state we have now.
Sky doesn't fall; Chicken Little counsels renewed vigilence
John Kennedy, who says he would commit murder in response to theft, nevertheless objects to disproportionate "justice":
This is now being done to citizens with arab or muslim backgrounds, but there only need to be a couple more bombings of domestic origin before many hardcore libertarians and anti-statists start looking good for enemy combatant status...He is reacting to a Christian Science Monitor piece. The six Yemeni Al Qaeda members from Lackawanna, N.Y., were torqued into a plea-bargain by being threatened with enemy combatant status.
Evidently, this is the first Kennedy has heard of prosecutors using dire threats to coerce plea-bargains. Even so, his 'sky is falling' paranoia is absurd. The Lackawanna Six are not citizens, and they are members of an Islamist terrorist organization. The only bombing "of domestic origin" that matters, Oklahoma City, was not done by a Libertarian, but it may yet turn out that it was funded by Iraq. I resent being put in the position of defending the Bush Administration, but their scruples seem impeccable when compared to those who make vicious, rash, entirely unfounded charges against them.
Addendum: The Lackawanna Six in fact are born-here American citizens. My mistake. This changes nothing of the argument, of course. Kennedy can cite zero instances of American libertarians being prosecuted by the Bush Administration for being libertarians. This is the kind of sleazy game the liberals run...
Since Kennedy has already used a quibble about a detail to evade self-awareness, I will repeat the above charge: I resent being put in the position of defending the Bush Administration, but their scruples seem impeccable when compared to those who make vicious, rash, entirely unfounded charges against them.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Ahem: "Freedom is something to be wrested, not received"
This is from AFP, by way of South Africa's news24.com:
More than 100 children held in a prison celebrated their freedom on Tuesday as US marines rolled into northeast Baghdad amid chaotic scenes which saw civilians loot weapons from an army compound, a US officer said.
Islam watch: The war on Iraq is a war against terrorism
From a very interesting article in Malaysiakini:
What most of us politically-repressed Malaysians don't understand is that the Americans value their freedom above their own lives. It is fundamental to the founding of their nation and their very definition of being American.
Cain's world: The strong horse
Daniel Pipes in the New York Post:
As bin Laden himself put it, "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." An allied victory will establish who the strong horse is, diminishing the ardor of its enemies to fight.
Monday, April 07, 2003
Kennedarchy in action: "I only use my gun whenever kindness fails"
From the Arizona Republic:
A dispute between two Scottsdale neighbors that apparently began over a barking dog ended Sunday with a man dead from a gunshot wound and police searching for the gunman.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Cain's world: A much safer world
From Sunday's New York Times, a hint of a glimmer of an inkling into The Cain Doctrine. The Times still doesn't get it, but they're catching a clue:
North Korea's diplomatic broadsides at the United States have been toned down in recent days. No one has seen Kim Jong Il, the country's reclusive leader, in months, and some experts say they believe he may be staying out of sight for fear of his own personal security. So far, at least, the country has not made good on its threat to restart a plutonium reprocessing facility that has the capacity to to produce fuel for a half-dozen nuclear bombs this year. American intelligence agencies had expected him to do so by now.