Libertarians in blinkers 7

Where we part company with Libertarians is over the hugely important matter of defense.

Like them, we want a free market economy, small government and low taxes. And we too hold liberty to be a supreme value.

The article we quote below is by John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart of the libertarian Cato Institute in America. It was published by The Guardian in Britain on February 24, 2015.

Libertarians and The Guardian are not on the same side. Libertarians are for the freedom of the individual. The Guardian is for socialism, statism, big controlling government interfering in every individual life.

But The Guardian is also pro-Islam. And that is what brings these Libertarians and the collectivists of The Guardian together. Not that the Libertarians are pro-Islam. We have observed that, as a group, they know nothing about Islam and don’t want to. They obstinately refuse to learn what’s going on politically in the wider world, believe Americans have no need to take notice of foreign affairs, and should never go to war unless America itself is attacked. To them, the aggression of 9/11 did not qualify as a war-provoking attack. That’s why they want the (badly named but ever more urgently needed) “War on Terror” to be stopped. And that’s what got these two into the columns of The Guardian.

Terrorism Poses No Existential Threat to America. We Must Stop Pretending Otherwise

One of the most unchallenged, zany assertions during the war on terror has been that terrorists present an existential threat to the United States, the modern state and civilization itself. This is important because the overwrought expression, if accepted as valid, could close off evaluation of security efforts. For example, no defense of civil liberties is likely to be terribly effective if people believe the threat from terrorism to be existential.

At long last, President Barack Obama and other top officials are beginning to back away from this absurd position. This much overdue development may not last, however. Extravagant alarmism about the pathological but self-destructiveIslamic State (ISIS) in areas of Syria and Iraq may cause us to backslide.

The notion that international terrorism presents an existential threat was spawned by the traumatized in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York at the time, recalls that all “security experts” expected “dozens and dozens and multiyears of attacks like this” and, in her book The Dark Side, Jane Mayer observed that “the only certainty shared by virtually the entire American intelligence community” was that “a second wave of even more devastating terrorist attacks on America was imminent”. Duly terrified, US intelligence services were soon imaginatively calculating the number of trained al-Qaida operatives in the United States to be between 2,000 and 5,000.

Also compelling was the extrapolation that, because the 9/11 terrorists were successful with box-cutters, they might well be able to turn out nuclear weapons.

Who on earth said such a silly thing? What was said is that jihadists might become nuclear armed. And in fact the Islamic theocracy of Iran is becoming a nuclear-armed power, and repetitively threatens Israel, America and Europe with destruction. Why don’t these writers know that? Or do they know it and choose to ignore it?

Soon it was being authoritatively proclaimed that atomic terrorists could “destroy civilization as we know it” and that it was likely that a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States would transpire by 2014.

Many a terrorist attack that could have been devastating (how devastating it’s impossible to know) has been averted because sensible people – which category does not include Obama – have worked hard to prevent them, and so far have largely succeeded.

But no, okay, it is not “terrorism” that threatens Western civilization, it is Islam, using the method of terrorism to an unprecedented extent.

“Atomic  terrorists” –  namely Iran – could destroy civilization as we know it. Especially as atomic war against us will be accompanied by the Islamization of Europe – which these authors are above noticing.

The sneering scorn they pour on the menace makes their arguments all the more inapposite.

No atomic terrorists have yet appeared (al-Qaida’s entire budget in 2001 for research on all weapons of mass destruction totaled less than $4,000), and intelligence has been far better at counting al-Qaida operatives in the country than at finding them.

But the notion that terrorism presents an existential threat has played on. By 2008, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff declared it to be a “significant existential” one – carefully differentiating it, apparently, from all those insignificant existential threats Americans have faced in the past. The bizarre formulation survived into the Obama years. In October 2009, Bruce Riedel, an advisor to the new administration, publicly maintained the al-Qaida threat to the country to be existential.

In 2014, however, things began to change.

In a speech at Harvard in October, Vice President Joseph Biden …

Of all people! A man no one in their right mind would look to for insight, accurate analysis, or the most basic comprehension of what’s happening even if it’s going on under his own nose …

… offered the thought that “we face no existential threat — none — to our way of life or our ultimate security”. After a decent interval of three months, President Barack Obama reiterated this point at a press conference, and then expanded in an interview a few weeks later, adding that the US should not “provide a victory to these terrorist networks by over-inflating their importance and suggesting in some fashion that they are an existential threat to the United States or the world order”. Later, his national security advisor, Susan Rice, echoed the point in a formal speech.

Obama also said that al-Qaida was defeated, when in truth it has grown bigger and has spread further. Obama constantly signals that he loves Islam, so he would say those things. Libertarians ought not to be unaware of that.

And for them to quote Susan Rice, the notorious lie-retailer of the Obama administration, is absurdly ingenuous.

It is astounding that these utterances … appear to mark the first time any officials in the United States have had the notion and the courage to say so in public.

Whether that development, at once remarkable and absurdly belated, will have some consequence, or even continue, remains to be seen. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have insisted for months that ISIS  presents an existential threat to the United States. …

And General Michael Flynn, recently retired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been insisting that the terrorist enemy is “committed to the destruction of freedom and the American way of life” while seeking “world domination, achieved through violence and bloodshed”.  It was reported that his remarks provoked nods of approval, cheers and “ultimately a standing ovation” from the audience.

Thus even the most modest imaginable effort to rein in the war on terror hyperbole may fail to gel.

“Rein in the war on terror hyperbole”? They mean, of course, do nothing about the jihad.

What is most remarkable about the article is that these two believers in the value of individual freedom ignore the tragedy of individuals who have been captured, tortured, and killed by terrorists inside America and in the Middle East – and we are speaking specifically of Islamic terrorists, Islam being the ideology that is posing a serious threat to the Western world and its civilization. They seem to have neither an instinctive nor a rational desire for justice. They consider only the collective of the nation in their assessment of existential danger. Of course the USA is not immediately threatened with destruction as a nation by Islam with its favored method of terrorism.

It is, however, being slowly destroyed by Leftist, statist, collectivist, redistributionist government which puts no value on civil liberties. And jihadis iterate often enough that America is their target, that they will replace the Constitution with sharia law, and that Americans will be given the choice of conversion, subservience, or death. So when Europe, much of Africa, all the Middle East, and a very large part of the Far East are Islamic; and when the US has abandoned its own Constitution, disarmed its citizenry, and allowed the population to be cowed by threats and demonstrations of horrific murders, how long will it take for the jihadis’ aim to be achieved?  

Perhaps Mueller and Stewart seem to feel that they themselves are somehow immune from terrorist attacks, such as the one people experienced in Boston when bombs exploded in their midst as they watched a marathon race.

And perhaps an unwillingness to consider such a possibility can explain why they are not concerned about the deaths by terrorist violence of thousands of individuals.    

No wonder The Guardian liked their article.

  • A.Alexander

    It would be strange if the “scientific” Libertarians who hate Israel,American foreign policy and loves the Muslims, realy posess the complete,scientific ideology.Ayn Rand hated libertarians first for their nihilism in the State role evaluation in an interior and a foreign policy.M.Rothbard`s “development” of the Von Mises ideas toward the anarchism explains the shaky base of their ideology as a whole, and explains the coexistance of the extream left and extream right Libertarians.

    • liz

      Interesting. Explain more about the differences between Rand and Rothbard.
      The libertarians who wrote this article seem to be living in a fantasyland.
      Hard to imagine how they can be so completely oblivious to reality.

      • A.Alexander

        Ayn Rand -the great woman -thinker invented the philosophy of the common sense -a kind of the reasonable egoism,that attracts millions now and in future.Libertarians of M.Rothbard, being individualists and free trade supporters, are entangled (and confused) in Market-State relations.Their theory suffers of the nihilism+dogmatism simultaneously that characterizes many “revolutionary” theories.Libertarians: right -Glenn Beck,Pat Buchanan; left – N.Chomsky.

        • liz

          Thanks. I am studying Rand (a genius in my opinion) and have read some of Rothbard. They agree in many ways but libertarian views seem to be all over the map. Such as the two who wrote the above article.
          And from what I’ve read of Chomsky, I thought he was a complete far left wingnut, who couldn’t possibly be considered a libertarian. Rather confusing.

        • Pat Buchanan is not a Libertarian. His obsessive anti-Semitism (he doesn’t say the word “Jews”, always uses “neocons” as his euphemism, the way nineteenth century anti-Semites used “cosmopolitans”) does not in itself exclude him from Libertarian ranks, as there is a faction of Libertarians, historical revisionists, who are especially keen on denying that the Holocaust happened. But Buchanan is in fact just a narrow-minded religious conservative. Glenn Beck is for liberty, and is often very good on many issues – although he too is religious. The case of Chomsky is complicated. He is vile in his anti-Americanism, but interesting on other subjects. He rightly argued against the French intellectual frauds, Foucault and Derrida. I wouldn’t describe him as a Libertarian. He is decidedly on the Left, and the Left is against individual freedom. The Left is by definition collectivist. We very much approve of Ayn Rand. Our frequent commenter Don L admires Rothbard as an economist. I am less of a fan. But Don L and all of us here at TAC are convinced followers of the great thinkers of the Austrian School of Economics, especially von Mises and Hayek.

          • A.Alexander

            My Libertarians` example are the people on the flanks of the movement not very typical. I`ve always think that the Jewish anti-semite can`t be the real scientist like Marx.I see the adores of Chomsky`s language theories vanish permanently. Anarchism is so discredited in all social branches that I don`t believe in Rothbard theory.

            • When you say “like Marx”, you mean Marx was a Jewish anti-Semite (which he was) and not a real scientists (which he wasn’t)? If that’s what you mean I agree with all you say here.