How Dare I Oppose War Together With Libertarians?

I’m getting a lot more criticism for planning to speak at an antiwar rally at which libertarians will speak than I do for sitting around doing nothing. In fact, I get exactly no criticism ever from anyone for sitting around doing nothing, even though that’s far more dangerous.

I realize that sitting around doing nothing, or binge watching videos, is a top priority for millions of people. E’ dolce fare niente, there’s no doubt. I see packed sports arenas and vacation resorts, so clearly people who could go to an antiwar rally have other priorities. It just always seems strange to me, and has for decades, that avoiding going near people you disagree with is a higher priority than opposing war for people who claim they want to oppose war. (Perhaps for others, avoiding the nasty criticism of those people is a higher priority than opposing war.)

But why would I team up with or even be seen with people who oppose war because it costs money? We’re talking about mass murder, massive environmental destruction, the risking of nuclear apocalypse — isn’t it embarrassingly comical to oppose it because it costs money?

I guess, but I’d oppose war with people who opposed it because it starts with a “w.” If a crowd of people who hated war and water and walruses and Wisconsin invited me to speak against war at an event exclusively against war, I’d show up and speak  — with perhaps a nice water bottle and my Wisconsin Badgers shirt on, because the very point would be the widespread coalition agreeing on opposing war.

Yes, but opposing war because it costs money isn’t silly or random; it actually means something.

This is true, and one has to engage in some mental contortions to make it mean something decent. The fact is that the diversion of resources into war from human and environmental needs kills more people than the direct violence of war, and will until the wars go nuclear. But another fact is that libertarians oppose funding human and environmental needs too, just exactly as, or very similar to how, they oppose funding war. Perhaps libertarianism is motivated by misguided benevolence or by sadistic cruelty; either way it’s a horribly dangerous ideology.

But nobody is at an antiwar rally to promote libertarianism except for the bit against war. If they were, they’d be promoting what an array of people we have agreeing on opposing war. I’ve had organizers of this event on my radio show and agreed with everything they said. They’ve created a list of demands for the rally, and I’ve agreed with them all. At some point, don’t you have to criticize an event for what it actually says it is about, and not for unstated agendas?

Is there no limit then? If libertarianism were as unacceptable in the general society as racism or sexism or some other evil, as it damn well should be, would I appear beside libertarians?

If nuclear war were becoming more and more likely, and nobody else was lifting a finger, you mean? I think I would. I’ve spoken at rallies against drones with guys wearing NRA hats who didn’t mind drones murdering foreigners but didn’t want to be spied on. I’ve spoken at rallies against wars with people who opposed only one side of a war and supported the other. (In my view that’s slightly more acceptable and useful if done in the country whose side you are opposing.) In fact, I’ve never once spoken at a rally beside a single person I didn’t have some serious disagreement with. (At least, I know this to be true in many cases, and am certain it is in every case.) I’ve spoken at rallies with members of Congress whose actions I mostly opposed. I’ve promoted legislation sponsored by members of Congress whose actions I mostly opposed, whose motivations I entirely opposed, and whose political parties I considered criminal operations. I’ve spoken on media outlets owned by governments I considered criminal operations. I’ve spoken on media outlets whose criminal behavior outstripped that of any government.

What I’ve never done is alter what I have to say to appease any viewpoint I disagree with. Never once, with a speech, an interview, an article, or a book have I allowed another human being to edit or alter what I believed I should say in the slightest, except by convincing me that I was wrong.

Yeah yeah yeah, that’s all very noble and pure, but speaking at a rally with a bunch of nutcases makes you look like one too, which weakens your voice. It’s your choice. Why not speak at a different antiwar rally?

Maybe one of the things we need to work on is not calling people we disagree with nutcases. How do you expect to persuade anyone of anything if you call them names and avoid them? We’ve all believed things we later decided were nutty. And, more importantly: WHERE? What other antiwar rally? Identify it and if I’m invited I will speak. I speak offline and on at every opportunity I’m able, until I’m sick to death of hearing myself say the same simple obvious things over and over and over. But if you haven’t noticed, there are no big antiwar rallies in the United States, and I can’t just go to Italy or Peru every day. You come up with a plan for an ideologically improved antiwar rally, and I’ll do everything I can to help.

In the meantime, please recognize the sin of omission, and that special circle of hell of which it is worthy.

19 thoughts on “How Dare I Oppose War Together With Libertarians?”

  1. The caricature of libertarians as people who oppose war “because it costs money” strikes me as both factually false and counterproductive, given the people you’re trying to persuade. Libertarians oppose the use of violence, tout court. You may well disagree about whether the coercive siphoning of one person’s money to give to another person is theft (I myself consider dropping bombs far more sinister!)–and therefore an act of violence–but the primary reason libertarians oppose war is not because it costs money. It is because it always involves egregious and irrevocable acts of *violence*.

    The reason why war opponents, whatever their beliefs on other topics, should stop calling each other “nutcases” is that there is no more important topic than war. When you destroy human beings, you terminate the very possibility of debate on any of the other issues about which (live) human beings may disagree.

      1. Hmmm… probably written by John Brennan & Co., given that it’s a total straw man position. I’m sure that you recall Rand Paul’s thirteen-hour filibuster against the nomination of Brennan as head of the CIA in 2013. Senator Paul certainly does not oppose drone strikes because they cost money.

        1. As an anti-war proponent who roughly self-identifies as a (non-Third Way) radical centrist with strong geolibertarian leanings, I personally admire Rand Paul’s past filibuster opposing domestic drone strikes against US citizens in the context of John Brennan’s confirmation hearings in early March 2013 (and several of his other bouts of sometime policy heterodoxy).

          That being said, the fact that he was willing to abruptly turn around a little over a month later and proclaim that even someone robbing a liquor store on US soil could be an eligible drone target come the Boston Marathon bombings speaks volumes about his rather wanting consistency and integrity on vital civil liberties matters at times:

          “Last month, Paul spent 13 hours filibustering the confirmation of CIA director John Brennan because he said he was concerned that the United States could eventually target citizens on U.S. soil. Tuesday, Paul changed his tune, telling Fox Business Network that he would have approved of a drone targeting Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev [whose family connections are interesting and ironic, as an aside – see Daniel Hopsicker, “Boston Bombers’ ‘Uncle Ruslan’ was Halliburton Contractor,” April 24, 2013, and Hopsicker, “Former CIA Official Lied in Boston Bombing Cover-Up,” January 28, 2015].

          ‘I’ve never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on,’ Paul said. ‘If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash … I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.'”

          Jason Koebler, “Boston Bombing Changes Lawmakers’ Views on Drone Killings of Americans on U.S. Soil,” US News and World Report, April 23, 2013

          1. Thanks for following up on Senator Rand’s stance. I think that it can be coherently summed up as follows: Rand opposes the summary execution of unarmed suspects without trial.

            The scenario of a crime in progress by an armed person is certainly not what happened in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki. The government could have captured him and made him stand trial, but they preferred to silence him forever–precisely because he was an outspoken war opponent who inveighed against U.S. war crimes. Yes, he had been radicalized, and over the course of the first decade of the “War on Terror,” he did become a propagandist who praised jihadists, but no evidence of his *operational* participation in any perpetrated act of terrorism was ever presented to the U.S. populace who paid for his assassination. Instead, we were told that he was a “spiritual advisor” to a variety of terrorists who carried out or attempted to carry out violent attacks. All evidence of al-Awlaki’s concrete, personal complicity was redacted in the documents released under court order.

            In other words, the follow-up remarks by Senator Paul do not necessarily contradict his principled stance that unarmed persons, and persons not in the process of committing crimes, should not be summarily eliminated by the government.

            Thanks again.

            Here’s a link to my book on the topic:

          2. Thank you for sharing your book, Dr. Calhoun! I am sure it offers an even more thoroughgoing account of the different moral dilemmas surrounding targeted drone killings than you were able to provide in your response (and certainly more than I was able to offer in my own comment).

            That being said, while drones, like many other technologies and innovations, are ultimately just a Janus-faced tool that can potentially be used for well or for ill, I fundamentally disagree with Rand Paul that we should throw all preoccupation with the objectionability of weaponized drones on US soil to the wind in circumstances where they could be hypothetically useful against a suspect considered armed and dangerous who might otherwise be dispatched by other means (assuming police de-escalation tactics were not successfully prioritized and employed instead).

            Much like, e.g., Rand’s father inexplicably voting for the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act that was later used to prosecute CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou to Rep. Ron’s purported chagrin (see: Mark Ames, “How the ACLU, Ron Paul, and a Former EFF Director Helped Jail a CIA Whistleblower,” Pando, February 7, 2015), or former 2016 Libertarian VP candidate (and later 2020 Republican presidential contender) Bill Weld endorsing militarized counter-narcotic shootdown approaches under Reagan’s Justice Department that would end up culminating in the tragic April 20, 2001 Peruvian shootdown incident (see: Chris Calton, “Joe Biden: Father of the Drug War’s Asset Forfeiture Program,” Mises Institute, March 6, 2020), it seems shortsighted at best for Sen. Paul to not oppose adding a new technology that could compound pre-existing patterns of militarization in US society and be just as vulnerable to abuse via “mission creep” as weaponized drones have been abroad (as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki that you brought up, and even moreso in the case of al-Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman), or, for instance, no-knock SWAT Team raids have become at home.

            To my mind, one need only look to the sordid history of domestic airstrikes on US soil in cases such as the 1921 Tulsa massacre, the 1921 “Battle of Blair Mountain,” and the 1985 MOVE bombing (the latter of which in particular shows the collateral damage that it is easy to picture ensuing should weaponized drones be used against the likes of armed liquor store robbers in the United States), or more recently, the disturbing casual remarks of MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace (see: Debra Heine, “MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace Paints Trump Supporters as Domestic Terrorists; Points Out That Americans Were Droned During GWOT,” The Tennessee Star, February 7, 2021), to be stirred to absolute opposition against supplementing already problematic lethal approaches and techniques with weaponized drones on the “home front.”

          3. I am very sympathetic with your concerns about slippery slopes and misuse. One case which suggests the potential for disaster in the homeland is that of Micah Xavier Johnson (the Dallas cop killer). PTSD-afflicted Johnson was literally blown up in 2016 using a robotic device. The suspect had in fact killed people, but the question *why* he went ballistic was simply erased from the public domain by blowing him up, even though there was an obvious alternative to summary execution/obliteration, which I discuss here:

            More generally, the use of robotic devices to slaughter people through the perfunctory push of a button leads to what I refer to and diagnose as “The New Banality of Killing.” I agree with you that, in a context of police hyper-brutality, where suspects and even nonsuspects are already being killed (not simply debilitated) as a matter of course, no one should want to make that even easier to do than it already is.

  2. Libertarians oppose wars because wars destroy lives. Wars also destroy everything of value that individuals have built, with their individual lives and as collaborative groups. What is money? It is a portable means of exchange of value, and money is created by expending one’s time, energy, and a piece of their life. Wasting life on war is a crime against humanity, the most immoral act humans can undertake. Writing that off by claiming Libertarians are against war because it costs money is a despicable distortion of the most noble reasons why Libertarians oppose war: because it costs human lives. Individual human lives! Libertarians also oppose other social practices that exploit, enslave, deprive individuals of their freedom to gain and keep the values they have invested their lives in creating and building, which is the true meaning of justice. Libertarians are the standard-bearers of individual rights, freedom, and justice. No wars, no force and violence, no fraud. Who would want to oppose that?

      1. That’s not all you find, and it is an out-of-context, limited statement. It should not be taken as the total and only objection to war, thereby wiping out all the other reasons to be against war. Some people may even claim that war is good for the economy, a dreadful fallacy that distorts Libertarian ideals. Get the full story before writing off the Libertarians as your best allies in the anti-war camp.

        1. Hard to believe, perhaps, but libertarians are nearly the only principled, consistent (somewhat organized) political opponents to war left since Obama and Sanders fairly well gutted the progressive antiwar bloc. Just look at the so-called progressives in congress: doling out billions to Ukraine instead of tending to the domestic problems with which they claim to be concerned.

          I take my allies where I can find them, and at this moment in time, the libertarians are the most articulate antiwar group around: consistently and persistently opposing escalation to nuclear holocaust, not because it would cost money, but because it is insane.

  3. In speaking for peace at a peace rally I’m speaking in support of peace and not a single other thing, certainly not everything I have ever thought or said or done; much less am I there to support and celebrate every last detail of some other speaker I’ve never heard of. Why don’t people panic when someone gives a quote to the New York Times, than which there can be no entity that has done more damage? Hell, peace groups spend enough to hire two fulltime organizers funding the NYTimes with ads and nobody bats an eye. Would you give an interview to CNN? Have you seen what CNN has done to the world? Is there a single peace activist who can be found who wouldn’t drop everything to get a member of Congress who’s backed dozens of genocidal wars to show up and oppose a current war at their event? I think the guilt by association drama is highly selective.

    1. When you run billboards (and I have contributed to that effort) to drive home the point that 3% of military spending could end homelessness, then you are enacting the very principle for which you smear the Libertarians: that war wastes money that could be better used to help civil society, or, as they say, “the poor”. Those billboards are the very message how wrong it is to waste money on wars.

      It isn’t Libertarians’ frugality that is the target of progressives’ criticism. It is Libertarians’ opposition to socialism/communism/redistribution. The very name, “libertarian”, speaks of individual freedom as enshrined in the Constitution: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Within this principle is included the right to property. Libertarians oppose the taking by force (government force) the property (money) of individuals who earned it and giving it to those who did not. That is a form of slavery when those who have worked and earned their wages are forcibly deprived of their rightful property to give it to groups favored by government.

      The so-called “rich” have become the most hated group, no matter how honestly they earned their wealth through hard work and productivity that has benefited the rest of us. Fueled by envy and hate that is encouraged by the so-called progressive philosophy, the whole concept of “social justice” has been perverted, an emotional virus. So it is money, after all, that anti-war idealists recognize as the most important to remove from the military. The only point on which they and the Libertarians do not agree is who should get the money instead.

      1. But another fact is that libertarians oppose funding human and environmental needs too, just exactly as, or very similar to how, they oppose funding war.

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