L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 327, July 10, 2005
LP Platform Ignored in LP's Iraq Exit Strategy
Exclusive to TLE
There seem to be some contradictions between the Iraq Exit Strategy (IES) of the Libertarian Party (LP) and the National Platform of the Libertarian Party, adopted in May 2004. The IES has over a page of endnotes (not bad for a six-page document), but none of the research seems to have touched on their own stated principles.
The first half of the IES is background on how the US got involved with invading Iraq in the first place, and the nature of the insurgency. This analysis will not dwell on that, as it is not germane to the question of whether the IES can be reconciled with the LP Platform. It is when the specific recommendations for the withdrawal are made that the authors depart from libertarian principles.
The authors propose "immediately to begin the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq." (Italics added.) They suggest a gradual pull-out, taking a year. They actually think that this will "bring the troops out of harm's way quickly," suggesting "increments of approximately 11,600 per month." Aside from the purely military/logistical problems I have with such a slow, telegraphed, proportional withdrawal, it leaves too long an opportunity for some event to occur that would prolong that withdrawal, perhaps indefinitely. My analogy for this is, do you pull an adhesive bandage off a healed wound quickly or slowly? Which way will hurt for a longer time? (Hint: get it over with as fast as possible.)
They go on to advise moving 30,000 of the troops to other Middle Eastern countries where the US already has a presence. This not only conflicts with some of their own background reasoning as to why some of the insurgents are fighting ("the history of the Middle East" should teach the lesson that they enjoy foreign troops, especially non-Muslims, about as much as Americans would accept UN troops running amok in our country), but contradicts item IV.D.2. of the Executive Summary: "We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid, guarantees, and diplomatic meddling. We make no exceptions." Having any U.S. troops stationed in countries other than the U.S. is an intervention. No exceptions.
The error is compounded when the authors note that the majority of the troops would return to the U.S. to "free up resources for the War on Terror." I'm not sure how this can be reconciled with item I.14. and I.15. They are, respectively, "We condemn the government's use of secret classification to keep from the public information that it should have." And "The defense of the country requires that we counter threats to domestic security; however, we call for repeal of legislation that violates individual rights under the color of national security." The War on Terror violates both of these principles. (I do, however, applaud the subtle pun in the last four words of the latter statement.)
The authors go on to project estimates of how many police the Iraqis can trained in that year, and that the withdrawal would "remove the insurgency's common enemy." But, as noted above, many, if not most, of the insurgents, especially the non-Iraqis, will not be any happier that American troops are increasing their presence in nearby countries. And having American troops in any foreign countries seems to me to violate their own statements in that regard. The detail of IV.D.2. states in the section of Transitional Action: "End the incorporation of foreign nations into the U.S. defense perimeter. Cease the creation and maintenance of U.S. bases and sites for the pre-positioning of military material in other countries. End the practice of stationing American military troops overseas. We make no exceptions to the above." That seems quite clear to me; why the authors of the IES were confused by it is beyond me. So the recommendation for stationing U.S. troops in the "other" Middle Eastern countries violates at least two planks of the platform.
This is followed by recommendations for "negotiations with nationalist groups not tied to the former regime" while the withdrawal is progressing. Aside from the poor negotiating position this places the American negotiators, how do the authors square this with IV.A.1. which states, "The important principle in foreign policy should be the elimination of intervention by the United States government in the affairs of other nations." Or possibly IV.A.3.: "We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights against governments or political and revolutionary groups." Obviously, there can be different interpretations of how this can be applied in different situations, but the authors of the IES don't make any attempt to address these issues.
The authors then recommend a "direct-aid program" to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. This contradicts IV.C.1.: "We support the elimination of tax-supported military, economic, technical, and scientific aid to foreign governments or other organizations." Adding new direct-aid programs, or even continuing old ones, whether the funding level changes or not, is not a step toward "elimination" of such programs. A platform plank should be a principle, not a "good idea" that can be pushed aside when someone judges that circumstances warrant. They add to the surreal quality of their policy suggestions by stating that "Safeguards will be put in place to ensure U.S. aid is spent efficiently and effectively." Just like here at home, eh?
They go on to state that, "Even though the direct-aid program will be a substantial cost to American taxpayers, the United States is now obligated to make sure Iraq becomes a stable, independent and functional country." Besides conflicting with IV.C.1., this statement assumes that the individual taxpayers are obligated by the actions of the individuals who began the Iraq invasion in violation of the Constitution. (Do you remember a declaration of war? Neither do I.) A better solution, both in terms of libertarian principles and getting the work done with the minimum of fraud and graft to influential multinational construction firms whose names begin with the same four letters as "halitosis," would be to have sympathetic Americans volunteer their time, labor and/or money to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by this military adventure. Given the response to the tsunami destruction, I think this would work quite well, if the new government in Iraq allowed it. And if they won't, then the principle of non-interference kicks in. I would feel sorry for the Iraqis, getting screwed by both foreign and domestic government thugs, but as the saying goes, "Utopia is not an option." Bending or even ignoring our principles in the name of pragmatism or expediency is a recipe for killing those principles, and the ostensible goals will still not be achieved.
In any event, direct aid will definitely not "give Iraq the best chance of becoming a stable, democratic, free-market-oriented country." Aside from the fact that such aid has never had this effect, you don't promote a free market economy with non-free-market means. It's like the old joke from the 1970s that "Making war to achieve peace is like making love to promote virginity." It is basic economic knowledge (as well as knowledge of human nature) that providing a crutch (direct-aid) will not only distort economic incentives, warping subsequent development, but retard the economic activity of people that do not have to work (or work as hard) because of that influx of money. Foreign aid is a bad idea in practice, and is also against libertarian principles. Why is it being suggested by the LP? They try to put a kindler, gentler face on it by advocating "giving the Iraqi government full control over the disbursement of aid funds," as if this was better than having the American government control it. Neither government, indeed, no government can be trusted in this regard. It also calls into question their admonition on the previous page that "An independent third-party auditor must be hired to perform an audit every six months until the program has ended." If there is an auditor, and "Safeguards will be put in place to ensure U.S. aid is spent efficiently and effectively," how is that compatible with full control by the Iraqi government? Or with their own platform?
I expect wishful thinking from Democrats and Republicans of all stripes. I expect a total lack of uncompromised principles from those usual suspects. I am outraged when I get these from an organization calling itself the "Libertarian" Party.