Friday, November 9, 2012

A few propositions

1. So I never had a problem with the existence of Guantanamo or holding prisoners indefinitely for the duration of the conflict. But I had a problem with a lot that went on at Guantanamo. A lot of people don't seem to get that difference. I think that if Gary Johnson were elected and on Day 1 said "look, there's nothing wrong with having a military prison and holding prisoners of war [I don't think Johnson is a pacifist... am I wrong?] as long as we are legal and ethical in how we do it", 90% of libertarians would get my take on this overnight and would protest vehemently if they were told they continued Bush's policies. Genuine pacifists wouldn't, obviously. The whole problem with Bush was torture and lack of due process, not the mere fact of holding prisoners of war or killing terrorists.

2. If there was a Democratic challenger that supported Obama on everything but all the war stuff you all worry about, I think that challenger would get a ton of support. He might not win - incumbency is a powerful force. But he'd make major headway. You guys are harping on a false choice. Romney is worse than Obama on all counts, and Johnson is better than Romney on some and worse than Romney on a lot of really important stuff (health reform, Social Security, environmental protection, social safety net, macroeconomics etc.). Seriously. I get why you guys think honest Democrats shouldn't vote for Obama. But who do you expect honest Democrats to vote for? Exactly what viable alternative is there? It sure as hell ain't Johnson or any other libertarian. If you bracket the weed/war/gays stuff, Johnson is worse than the most right-wing Republican. I don't understand why libertarians don't understand how important that is.

So that was a blend of proposition and rant but I really don't think a lot of people think through this stuff.

This is pinging a little off Brennan's post.

[UPDATE: 3. I've been curious what people think of this... I think if Ron Paul ran on the libertarian ticket they might have gotten the 5% they were looking for. Yes the man has baggage. But he is in an entirely different class of politican compared to Johnson. Anyway, I think he could have dramatically increased the LP vote. Which says two things: (1.) the libertarian movement is very personality cult/charisma driven, and (2.) is Ron Paul interested in the success of libertarianism or does he care more about using it to advance his own career and now just dropping it to ensure his son's career in the Republican party?]


  1. With regards to your update, let's say that the Democrats have two potential candidates: Obama and H. Clinton. The former would secure 60% of the popular vote and the latter 50%. Would you say that the Democratic Party is "personality cult/charisma driven?" If the answer is yes, then obviously all parties are "personality cult/charisma driven," in the sense that some candidates have wider support than others. There are probably core libertarian party supporters who vote LP all the time, and there probably those who would usually vote for the two big parties unless they particularly like someone from a third party.

    And with regards to #2 of your update, I think the correct answer is libertarianism. If he was primarily interest in his son's career, he wouldn't be trying to sell a largely unpopular set of views.

    1. To a certain extent, parties are always personality cult driven. But only to a certain extent. Center left and left American politics would always find someone to bring energy, but the ideas would draw who they would draw.

      Alternatively, modern political libertarianism seems strongly contingent on Ron Paul. Maybe I'm wrong about this. But I don't know of any Johnson rallies that drew them in like Paul rallies.

      There's a good and a bad side to this. If it gets people in there's no reason to necessarily reject that. Maybe personality cult is too strong and I should just say charisma, but if people think Obama has a personality cult then there is no doubt that Paul can be said to have one.

  2. On Guantanamo, I think it's important to realize that the abuses there were intrinsically linked to the location. Part of the goal was specifically to put the prisoners out of the reach of the courts by having the prison be outside US borders. Even today, a number of prisoners who were approved for release cannot be released largely because the prison is not in the United States. If the prison was in the United States, Congress would have found it very hard to block the release of cleared prisoners. After all, a release in the United States means not much more than opening the door. But because the facility is abroad, they can't just let them out, they need to fly them somewhere and Congrress was able to block that. (And it is disgraceful that Obama complied. He should have simply ordered the military to fly the prisoners approved for release to the United States and let them out. It's not as though he could not have found a bunch of people willing to defy Congress to stop doing something so horrid as what is going on today)

    In general, I don't have qualms about holding POWs until the end of the conflict. But there is a substantial difference here. Consider a foot soldier in the Wermacht in 1938. Sure, he might hate Allied powers, but the reason he fights is because he is part of a military under a state. If the state tells him to stop fighting, he will. The state and the military have reasons to exist beyond this war. This is not like AQ at all. AQ is effectively the fight. If the US made peace with AQ, AQ would in a sense cease to exist. Until somebody took up its mantle and the war would continue.

    That's why the criminal model works so much better for AQ combatants. A Wermacht soldier didn't do anything wrong. He was just on the other side and he will go back to baking, fixing cars or whatever it was he did as soon his state tells him to. On the other hand, an AQ fighter is fighting an ideological war. He is part of AQ because AQ is fighting. If you broker a deal with AQ, he'll just fight for someone else. There is something to reform in such a person. (or not) This is what the criminal justice system is all about: people who break the rules. POW status is for people who follow the rules but just happen to be on the wrong side of the rules.

  3. This is Hume. Cant sign in for some reason. As someone with libertarianish tendencies (I'm more communitarian when it comes to economic issues, but hypothetical in the sense that our strong moral requirements, those that are in addition to our general or "natural" moral duties owed universally to everyone, are much more localized and intimate than political boundaries suggest), I think that it's easy to get frustrated with Democrats (general, no one in particular) tendency to downplay these serious issues, matters of life and death, for reasons of political expediency. This frustrates me not because they vote for Obama (he was my preference) but because it takes the issue off the deliberative table and compromises the integrity of the position *in the public sphere*.


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