What to Do About Syria: A Response to Pure Libertarians

As you know, I am one of those conservatives who would be a libertarian if mainstream libertarians did not appear to me to be pacifists. Pacifism is immoral; it’s even more immoral than it is unpractical.

I was asked what I would propose the US should do about the on-going massacre in Syria. I answered but I don’t know what happened to my answer. It may be on Crackpot’s new blog, at http://notesonliberty.wordpress.com/.  Here is my response to the question again, a little refined perhaps.

The Syrian people have been slaughtered by their own dictator and his professional army for more than three months. They use tanks on people. According to the UN, over five thousand civilians have been killed so far. Since it’s easy for a government to bury bodies and difficult for civilians to report their missing relatives in a country where the foreign press is banned, 5,000 is probably an underestimate. The population of Syria is about 25 to 30 million, less than one tenth of ours. Thus, the 5,000 Syrians killed by their government is about equivalent to 40,000 Americans.

For me, personally, the moral question about whether to intervene or not is easy: The current “President” Assad is slaughtering his people because they want representative government. (And yes, I know that “representative government” in Syria may ultimately mean “Islamist.” ) His father, from whom he inherited his fascist regime, killed Americans by proxy for thirty years. He, Assad the Younger, did the same as long as there were Americans in Iraq. It would be a pleasure to kill him. This does not mean that we should. Pleasure isn’t everything, after all.

I would begin by declaring war on the Assad regime though I don’t know how this would be done technically. Or, I would invite Mr Assad to make himself available to the International tribunal for Civil Rights in The Hague, or to any of the Belgian courts that claim universal jurisdiction. The charge would be crimes against humanity.

I would give an individual weapon and ammunition to any Syrian who asked. Right now, the armed forces and the security forces have almost all the weapons. Any additional weapon is almost certainly going to go to the opposition. When it comes to weapons, every little bit helps. Individual weapons can be distributed through Turkey and through our current friend in Lebanon, Christians and Druses. I would also provide many cheap radios.

I would then send planes to take out his tanks whenever it is easy or without danger. The more irregular the pattern, the less the pattern is a pattern, the better. You want Assad’s tankers to crap their pants at the sight of their own tanks. If possible and only if possible, I would try to increase the number of sorties to give government forces the impression that things can only become worse for them. You want to induce mass desertion or cowardice. Keep in mind that any aerial attack on Assad’s forces is better than none.

I would make back-door contact with Assad while all this is going on. I would offer him him and his extended family reasonable asylum.(I am thinking Caribbean.)

I would also make contact with the religious leaders of the large Alawite minority – who cannot all be offered asylum. They are Assad’s group. They have held high office under him and his father for forty years. They have good reasons to worry about the after-Assad. I would offer my services to help them negotiate the after-Assad with other groups. I would ask other Arab states with an army and who owe us to guarantee the agreement. Saudi Arabia and Iraq come to mind.

For libertarian purists who would argue that even those minimal efforts cost to much, I would propose that the US administration attempt to cover the costs through subscription rather than taxes. I would send a check for $100 right now to see even part of this plan implemented. At any rate, a subscription is a kind of vote, isn’t it?

How about the risk of inviting the military intervention of other countries? Russia would not risk to go to war with us on behalf of Syria because that country is just not important enough to the Russians’ game. Same, and more so, for China. Iran might try to intervene on behalf of its ally Assad and guess what I think about that possibility!

And yes, I have noticed also the silence of Israel on the Assad travails. You would think the Israelis would be overjoyed. Apparently, they are not. Wouldn’t it be a bitch if it turned out the both Assad were Mossad agents? A rumor worth spreading in any case, as part of an offensive against the Syrian fascist regime.

Our present neutrality in the Syrian conflict is disgusting, shameful. It’s a national moral failure. It reminds me of the Spanish Civil War.

About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
This entry was posted in Socio-Political Essays. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to What to Do About Syria: A Response to Pure Libertarians

  1. Martin Anding says:

    Once again you write a post mixing up a million issues.
    Please don’t assume the libertarians are pacifists. I know
    lots of libertarians who want the right to conceled carry
    to be used “just in case”. Doesn’t sound pacifist to me.

    And how did Syria get their hands on all those tanks to use on their citizens?

  2. Terry Amburgey says:

    ^^^ Don’t confuse pacifism with isolationism. Mass slaughter outside our borders? None of our business. I like your notion of private funding for military action. It seems to have worked well for the IRA for years and years.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Terry: You are confused, if truth be told. Voluntary funding of national policies has never been tried. The IRS does not illustrate how it would work; it’s the repressive alternative to it.

      My abundant reading tells me that libertarians are reluctant toward military action even if there is a good chance they are threatened. That’ s pacifism.

      1030’s pacifists also said that what happened in China, and then in Poland, was none of our business. They were heard. Pretty good explanation of why the US armed forces on the day of Pearl Harbor were the size of Portugal’s.

      Beyond this, I make no mystery of the fact that I thin there is a moral duty to intervene. There is not much point in discussing it. It rests in different values.

  3. Bruce says:

    Here’s how we can help the Syrian resistance and not spend any more than we’re spending now. We should ground Michelle Obama and use the money saved to send weapons to help fight the fascist regime in Syria. I thought the Obama administration was all about leveling the playing field and fairness. Tanks against unarmed civilians? Give me a break. Wire guided missiles are the best anti-tank weapons for folks on the ground to use, but they’re expensive. Rocket propelled grenades are cheap and still get the job done. There’s even a the RKG-3 hand grenade that can neutralize a tank in a pinch. The range is limited to how far you can throw it but itseffective expecially in an urban environment. It’s not good to be around when it detonates and it’s harder to take good cover in a close range scenario. The tankers who are not killed instantly or cooked alive will want to exit as fast as they can. This is where the battle tested AK-47’s we provide them are brought to bear. If our Attorney General thought it was OK to provide the Mexican drug lords these weapons as a part of Operation Fast and Furious, why not innocent citizens whose lives are being taken by a fascist monster? Run them in from Turkey or small coordinated air drops. If it looks like they need a little morale boost, we can spring for a couple of air launched anti-tank guided missiles. They’re around a half million a copy, but can be fired from over 150 miles standoff. The SLAM-ER (Expanded response) uses GPS that could be dialed in based on intel then infrared imaging to impact. It would be payback to Boeing who the Obama administration screwed over trying to build a plant in a right to work state recently.
    As the saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Good practical suggestions all, Bruce. Good point about the Department of Justice’s possible contribution!

  4. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    First, the sampler.

    Bruce: two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, the U.S. government smuggled guns into Mexico. Was that a good thing? Did it produce good effects? Why on earth would you believe that such actions would have a good effect elsewhere?!?

    Now, the main course.

    Thanks for the shout-out Dr. J! However, I have not taken the time to address your sanctimonious cries to bomb Syria for the sake of Syria. I think that a common bumper sticker (plus the many beat-downs I have administered to you on your blog over the past year) rebuts your argument better than anything else: “bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity!

    Just a few quick reasons why I think you are still playing the role of an omnipotent God (with your morals, who can blame you!):

    The Islamist-dominated Turkish state has not cooperated with Washington in regards to military activity in the Middle East since 2003, when George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Coincidentally, the democracy of Turkey has only been dominated by Islamists since 2003, after George W. Bush invaded Iraq (without a declaration of war). Yet you would like to smuggle weapons into Syria from there? You would have to go through the Kurdish region to do it. How do you think that would play out? Better yet, you could skip Turkey (since they won’t play along) and just smuggle weapons to Syria through Iraq! That will look really good to the Muslim world.

    Do you really think that the Druze and the Christians in Lebanon would supply weapons to the Sunni Arabs in Syria? If the Sunnis gain control of Damascus the same way that the Islamists gained control of Iraq or Libya, there will blood in the streets, and it won’t be the blood of the Sunnis.

    If President Obama went to the Congress and asked it to declare war on Syria he would be laughed out of the session. This is why executives do not obey the law anymore. By their nature, commercial republics are peaceful and moderate societies. We are not fools and heroes. When given the chance, we leave those sort of endeavors to nations who believe themselves to be so superior to others that fruitless wars are looked upon as “civilizing missions” rather than for what they really are: a corruption of morals and a reflection of social decay.

    It is my hope, both in my heart and in my head, that the Syrian people will overthrow their dictator. If all goes well, Syria will look like Tunisia or Egypt. If the rebels lose, Syria will look like Syria. If the West intervenes, Syria will look like Libya, or worse, Iraq.

    Freedom can never be imposed from above.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Crackpot: I don’t have time to discuss every part of your lengthy a answer. Just two things.

      “Freedom cannot be imposed from above,” except, of course, in Italy, Germany, Japan, part of Korea and, arguably, France, Belgium,the Netherlands, and now Iraq, and Libya. The statement is plain absurd.

      “Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity” is a slogan I invited around 1969. I was wrong then, It’s wrong mow. See above.

      I don’t like those self-evident truths any more than you do. That’s not a reason to declare truth untrue.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      There is no much new to discuss. I think the war of choice in Iraq was right. I still think so. I remember the reign of Saddam Hussein well.

  5. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    P.S. shouldn’t you be, oh I don’t know, out collecting mussels or something?

  6. Pingback: Rebellion in Homs « Notes On Liberty

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      There is nothing wrong with my heart. It does not dispense poison. It’s often in full agreement with my head. Sometimes it’s ahead of my head.

      The belief that one acts according to strict reason is quite unreasonable, I think.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Brandon: There is much in our exchanges that must remain unresolved. It does not mean they are useless. We go further than anyone I know in discussing contradictions within the quadrant of political opinion we share. Other organs of opinion are much more sectarian, beginning with the Independent Institute (which I respect nevertheless).

      There are two thing that make pursuing many discussions with you a low priority.

      1 We have different moral compasses. What you called recently “piousness” (or was it “piety”?) is a kind of minimum of the ethical life for me. This sort of positioning is not, I think, amenable to logical argumentation. I believe the massacre of women and children in Rwanda in the 90s is so much my business that I am willing to use whatever parcel of political influence I have to get my polity to intervene militarily. You think (or feel) otherwise. End of story.

      2 I think you often construct ingenuous arguments on the basis of facts you know little about. For example,in a recent reply to a reply of yours, I mentioned the Druze (“Druse”). I got the distinct impression that you had just looked up the word in Wikipedia. One, it’s only an impression. I could be all wrong which makes it not important to discuss. Second, it’s better to look it up than not. Pursuing this sort of issue of raw knowledge is not a good use of my time or, equally, of yours. It quickly becomes tedious. It’s especially useless because, at some level, I must be right and you wrong, overall. However talented you are and quick-witted, and willing to inform yourself, there is a little chance that I spent thirty honorable years in academia and ended up knowing less than you in those areas in which we both have an interest.

      Note that I only refer to those areas. There is a possibility you know much more than I do about rock-and-roll, drugs, and of course, sex!

      Incidentally, I don’t care if anyone (say, your mother) judges me presumptuous. I am beyond caring about this sort of judgment because I am old, tired and ugly!

      Note also, that I did not volunteer this discussion. I was sort of forced into it.

      Again, our exchanges are useful and in good part because no one else seems to do what we do.

      • Why Dr. J, I am saddened that you did not take the bait…

        I found two interesting tidbits about your reply.  The first is an admission that I have seen a man have to tell himself he is an intelligent human being in such a public manner before!

        I have found that the most moral and skeptical arguments are predicated off of simple facts.  There are two concerning your dangerous advocacy of a war with Syria.  One fact that is largely prevalent among all arguments is the recognition that human beings are not omnipotent, and that even specialists know very little about their areas of expertise.  The best example I can find to illustrate this example is Delacroix’s call to bomb a single, state-owned radio station in Rwanda to prevent a massacre that occurred in the midst of a (still ongoing) regional war.  Indeed, a speculative dialogue on just what this proposal might entail has merited some interesting results (see: Foreign Policy and Human Ignorance for details). Or you could just point to the arguments for invading and occupying Iraq and the results that came from that endeavor.

        The second simple fact concerns the nature of governance in subdued or despotic states.  The tried-and-true method of an overlord or dictator not elected to office is to keep the power of the state in the hands of a small ruling minority.  The animosity that the majority will feel towards the governing minority is likely to be reciprocated with ease.  Thus my assertion:

        Do you really think that the Druze and the Christians in Lebanon would supply weapons to the Sunni Arabs in Syria? If the Sunnis gain control of Damascus the same way that the Islamists gained control of Iraq or Libya, there will blood in the streets, and it won’t be the blood of the Sunnis.

        Now, this may be a wrong diagnosis.  However, in order to prove that it is, you should be able to pick the assertion apart and explain to the author where and why he is wrong.  To simply inform him of his ignorance without an iota of evidence is to insult the intelligence of your readers.

        The second thing I found interesting is your insistence that you did not invite criticism for publishing something called What to do About Syria: A Response to Pure Libertarians.  It rather reminds me of Montesquieu.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon (alias Crackpot). You are repeating yourself and you are trying to make me repeat myself. And as soon as you give someone a reading assignment unsolicited, you have already half lost the argument.

        And, yes, I admit I am intelligent. No one could be that lucky. There had to be some natural talent to explain my life.

  7. David says:

    On the whole fucking for viginity thing…that’s what oral sex was made for. “It’s not actually sex…so I’m still a virgin, right?” Ironically, that’s been an excuse for religious people wanting to act in a non-religious manner. I heard it waaayyy too many times from people professing several different religions. (Most typically, Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Mormons.)

    As far as the Bombing for peace…it does work. You bomb the people who are causing trouble, they die and the rest of the country is able to live in peace; however temporary it may be.

    However, I do have a question for crackpot, what do you do with the people who use the guise of peace to deliberately slaughter civilians? That’s kind of a no-win situation for a person who doesn’t advocate military intervention.

    • David,

      Good question. I think military intervention should be beholden to the Rule of Law. The constitution decrees that only Congress can do one of two things: either declare war or issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal (siccing bounty hunters on bad people).

      These constraints tend to keep the executive in line and diminish the influence of pompous windbags who believe that their beliefs are so superior to everybody else’s that they have a right to impose such beliefs upon the whole of their society.

      • Also, I thought the French invented oral sex…

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        I don’t even understand what you are talking about!

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Old ground again. A joint resolution of Congress empowering the President to do the needful passed by a vast majority of both houses is a declaration of war. That’s what happened, with small variations, with respect to both the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq.

        The next predictable step is that you will say, “No, it’s not,” and I may be tempted to reply, “Yes, it is.”


      • David says:

        Actually, I would propose that an enterprising, intelligent, attractive young female hominid concocted the process oral sex to avoid undesired offspring, while maintaining her own gaggle of male hominids happy, who happen to bring her enough food to keep her stomach filled to her dying day.

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Excuse me. I am trying to make this a family blog!

      • David says:

        On the note of who can declare war on whom and how…regardless if there is an official declaration of war…congress continually funded the war effort, thereby giving implicit legitimacy to the military action in question. If congress doesn’t approve, it can just pull the purse strings. Part of the balance of powers.

  8. Hahah! Fair enough.

    Hey, I’m going to be in Santa Cruz sometime soon to check up on my harem and talk to my old boss.

    While I’m up there I think we should do magic mushrooms together. You don’t have to give me an answer right away, but think about it Dr. J!

  9. David,

    I understand that a lot of people (rightly) point to the Congress and say ‘look, those guys have continually funded these ways, so there is legitimacy’, but the lack of an official declaration is one of the reasons that these wars never seem seem to end.

    Like I asked Delacroix the other day:

    Perhaps a different angle can be used to illustrate my point on this issue: the Department of Education was created by an act of Congress, so does that make it constitutional? It’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question (unless you’re a liberal, of course).

    It goes without saying that these wars, in addition to breaking the law, are dishonestly financed (my co-blogger and prestigious economist Fred Foldvary has a very good article on this if you’re interested). It also goes without saying that many of our constitutional welfare state programs come in the midst of these undeclared wars…

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        I wouldn’t mind if the current Congress and the president did everything I propose after declaring war but, on whom, on what?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Brandon: Your insistence and that of mainstream libertarians that a war is illegal when it is authorized by Congress without ambiguity and continuously funded by Congress is simply absurd You don’t need to abide by simple rules of common sense but you have a right to know what this insistence does to your otherwise good credibility!

      The evil part of me can’t resist asking: Did the Constitution require that the US declare war on Al Quaida after 9/11?

  10. I feel as though I am talking to a Leftist in regards to ObamaCare. Is that constitutional? Congress has voted to fund it, after all. Is the Department of Education constitutional? Congress voted to fund it, after all.

    I have already debunked the pompous view that neoconservatives hold regarding the law and war here: Foreign Policy and Human Ignorance (speaking of which, I don’t think that referring somebody to one’s own work counts as “losing half the battle”).

    As for your question: no, the constitution requires that, since al-Qaeda is not a state, the Congress needs to issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal. I think that the events in both Afghanistan and Iraq have borne out libertarian warnings that a disregard for the Rule of Law will lead to erosion of freedom and wealth – no matter which party is in control.

    The fact that you and your readers have such a disdain for the the Rule of Law is telling. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of you, while professing to be conservative, are in reality conservative Leftists, much in the same way that the Stalinists ended up being conservatives in the old Soviet Union…

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Sorry, I did not not notice you were referring to your own writing. That’s legtimate.

      The comparison with Obamacare is self-defeating. What are you going to do when the Supreme Court declares it constitutional by a big margin? Me, I will still be against it. The issue of whether Congress funding it (which it did not, by the way, not really) thereby making it constitutional is a red herring.

      I respect the rule of law. (And why the caps?) the rule of law is not vested in your interpretation of two specific words regarding “declare war.” As a reasonable person, I think there are several ways for Congress to declare war. A joint resolution would be one.

      The wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan did not show me any of the things you said. I must be had-headed. What I learned is that the US as a polity does not possess the resolve it used to have. In truth, it’s difficult for any administration to show resolve when the military effort is undermined by both traditional leftists and by libertarian pacifists.

      David Theroux had already given me months ago the letters of marque argument. I love it; it’s so picturesque! And you and Ron Paul should be very happy because that’s has pretty much become US policy in Iraq where the Obama administration is leaving behind thousands of private military contractors. I know one element of the letter of marque strategy is missing: The contractors have not been invited to help themselves to Iraqi oil as remuneration. This might yet come except that we set up free elections there. Big mistake! That prevents us from treating Iraq like a hostile entity. We can change this with some greater influence from Ron Paul. I am thinking eye-patches.

  11. The comparison with Obamacare is self-defeating.

    Yes, but this doesn’t make its unconstitutionality any less true.

    The issue of whether Congress funding it (which it did not, by the way, not really) thereby making it constitutional is a red herring.

    No shit Sherlock. I’ll let you think about this one for a few days (incidentally, don’t forget about our magic mushroom thingy coming up!).

    the rule of law is not vested in your interpretation of two specific words regarding “declare war.” As a reasonable person, I think there are several ways for Congress to declare war. A joint resolution would be one.

    Where have I heard this sort of reasoning before? Oh yeah, on the front pages of the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel! “Any reasonable person can see that there are several ways in which this government program is constitutional, just not in a way that is outlined in the constitution.”

    What I learned is that the US as a polity does not possess the resolve it used to have.

    Ten years of undeclared, unresolved wars and you have the temerity to condemn the republic’s guts. If these wars had been undertaken in a manner explicitly outlined in the constitution, they would have been over long ago, as the will of the American people to defeat its enemies would have robust enough to do its job and the job itself would have had specific instructions on what to do. Instead, we have an ambiguous war on terror and the innocent blood of hundreds of thousands of people on our hands, with no end in sight.

    Your musing on the Letters of Marque and Reprisal is a straw man. I’ll let you figure out why.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Crackpot: As usual, I am only able to deal with some of your objections.

      “Innocent blood”? “hundred of thousands of people”? This looks like the front page of the New York Time when a Bush was president!

      Sorry if I am dense but you still have not told me if declaring war constitutionally requires exactly certain words. If it does, would you formulate those words? The problem is that I often don’t understand the implications for action of your arguments, such as they are.

      One such thing I still have not figured out: Was it proper for the US to demand that Taliban Afghanistan deliver Bin Laden and his crew after 9/11 and Bin Laden’s bragging about it? Supposing the answer is affirmative, next question: Was it proper for the US to attack and dispose of the Taliban regime when it declined to oblige?

      Those are simple questions, it seems to me.It should not be difficult to answer them, even to answer them tersely.

      Most readers probably (and rightly) don’t know what a “letter of marque” is. I doubt any has been used since about 1812. (Though I vaguely remember that the German Empire may have delivered three or four letter of marque during World War II. Vaguely.) Here it goes: It’s the permission granted by a state for anyone to commit official piracy on its state enemies and on those carrying the flag of the enemy state. So, if the US delivered letters of marque against Afghanistan, to take an example at random, the possessor of US letters of marque would be free (feel free?) to grab trucks full of dried Afghan apricots as long as the trucks had on Afghan license plates. Doing so under authority of US letters of marque would presumably protect the apricot grabbers from charges of piracy, what a relief! And what a fun way to finance war! And, yes, this method of financing would probably limit the ravages of war, at least so long as not too many trucks carrying prime Afghan opium were seized.

  12. Pingback: Turkey just shot down a Russian fighter jet | Notes On Liberty

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