• Jameson Graber

    I prefer the term “anti-war” to “pacifist,” because true, principled, often religious pacifism has a long history, and I don’t really accept pacifism as such. The comments on Caplan’s post were depressing.

    • Sergio Méndez

      Wait just a bit. They will get depressing here too.

  • I’m interested in a discussion here, as I haven’t yet formed a view on the issue of Syria.

    I can see that the basic rights of others are being violated, so I feel that I have a moral duty to support an intervention.

    I believe that intervention should: 1. Aim to restore the rights of those being oppressed, to put them on the path of self-determination. 2. Have a reasonable chance of success at achieving those aims. 3. Should use violent force as a last resort, once political options have been explored. 4. Should have broad legal support across our allies.

    In the specific case of Syria, what is a BHL position? What diplomatic options are there available? Is it right to use force to remove Assad? and open to the door to what?

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      How can an intervention possibly help ? (1) neither side trusts us. (2) neither side likes us (3) We have limited intelligence. (4) we are not prepared to do anything more than bomb. (5) Even if we help topple the regime, what follows is likely to be as bad or worse for the people of Syria and certainly more unstable.

      • It doesn’t necessarily have to be a full military intervention.

        1. We can build trust. 2. Does this matter too much? 3. We presumably know a little more about what is going on in border areas (e.g. Turkey, Israel, Iraq) 4. We are presumably willing to protect our allies and may also be able to provide force-backed humanitarian assistance and stability in these border regions. 5. Probably true. So we need to define outcomes that would be more stable, and then work out how to get them. Does it involve force? Does it involve another type of intervention?

        • Les Kyle Nearhood

          That is a lot of ifs and buts there, Since good results are so problematic, why bother? The reasons for going to war ought to be overwhelming, not iffy at best.

          • Is there not a moral case for trying to defend the basic rights of others?

            The iffy bits are if an intervention would actually work to defend those rights.

          • shemsky

            There is a moral case for trying to defend the basic rights of others, but not with resources that have been forcefully extracted from unwilling individuals.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            I am not even sure about a strong moral case. The truth is that there are too many oppressed people on the earth to go around trying to protect everyone’s rights. An nation or group of nations who tries to do that will be over extended and will collapse. Is there a strong moral case to do the impossible?

          • shemsky

            There’s never a moral case for the state to do whatever they do with resources that have been forcefully extracted from people. But there is a strong moral case for (groups of) individuals voluntarily using their own resources to defend the basic rights of others. That is what I was getting at.

          • Are there not basic minimal state functions that it is moral for the state to do? Or are these functions morality neutral? Is a state capable of actions – or should we just view it as a collection of people acting?

          • shemsky

            I think you have to look at both how states are funded and what they do. If they are funded by coercive transfers of resources then they are illegitimate, regardless of what they do with those resources. If they are funded by voluntary transfers of resources then it still depends on what they do with those resources.

  • Benkarkis

    same question – what should we do about Syria? And why stop at Syria, how did chemical weapons only become the Cross the Rubicon situations, is death by chemical weapon any worse than death by air strike? And air strikes that kill civilians, shouldn’t other countries attack us? We do it all the time.

  • Sean II

    So, just to be clear:

    When Bryan Caplan makes this argument today: ” 2. To overcome this presumption [against war], you’d have to show that long-run benefits of a war are so wonderful than they clearly overshadow its grisly short-run costs. And you’d have to show that there isn’t any cheaper, more humane way to obtain these benefits.“, it’s awesome.

    But…when someone at LvMI makes the exact same argument about the Civil War, he’s nothing but a neo-confederate, racist, revisionist piece of shit.

    Consistency, how sticky you are.

    • j r

      Except that the neo-confederates for the most part aren’t pacifists, so your comparison falls short. No doubt that there are plenty of people who object to the Civil War on purely pacifist grounds, but Lew Rockwell ain’t Lysander Spooner. The problem with neo-confederates isn’t that they question the civil war; it’s that they are white populists.

      By the way, the idea that there was some other “cheaper, more humane” way to end slavery in this country if only Lincoln hadn’t been a bloodthirsty tyrant has no real historical basis.

      • Sean II

        “By the way, the idea that there was some other “cheaper, more humane” way to end slavery in this country if only Lincoln hadn’t been a bloodthirsty tyrant has no real historical basis.”

        Okay, but take that statement and swap out “slavery” in favor of “Bashar Al-Assad’s regime” and then replace Lincoln’s name with Obama. Next, change the tense.

        Then please explain the difference, if you can.

        • j r

          I’m not sure what the purpose of that exercise would be, but as usual you’re ducking the main issue to gripe about an aside. People don’t call out the neo-Confederates for being pacifists. People call out the neo-Confederates for being Confederates.

          If you are confused about the difference between pacifists and Confederates, the Confederates are the ones with the rifles and the slaves.

          • Sean II

            Hey, Jason – this is exactly what I was talking about!

          • j r

            Nice non-response. Let’s just wrap this up by bringing it back to Syria. Here are two possible objections to U.S. intervention in Syria:

            1. What’s happening in Syria is terrible, but we have no power to intervene in a way that will not increase the amount of death and suffering. Therefore, we should not intervene in Syria.

            2. The Assad government is the rightful political authority in Syria and has every right to defend itself from terrorist rebels. Therefore, we should not intervene in Syria.

            One of those is a pacifist argument and one of them is not. Likewise, the neo-Confederate argument is not a pacifist position. That has nothing to do with cultural signifying and everything to do with plainly stating facts.

      • Les Kyle Nearhood

        Not everyone who argues against the value of the Civil War is a neo confederate. And the second part of your argument is incorrect. In fact every western nation except the US ended slavery without a war.

        • j r

          1. I haven’t argued otherwise.
          2. See Sean II below

    • Jason Brennan

      Hey, did you know that there are like a good dozen or so authors on this blog, and that we don’t all agree?

      “You said something inconsistent with something someone else said!” isn’t a really interesting criticism, is it?

      • Sean II

        Of course, which is why I didn’t direct that remark at anyone in particular. The blog has a voice, and is self-consiously trying to evolve into a school of thought, or whatever else you want to call it. As it does so, any contradiction found within or between the various authors becomes very interesting indeed. If you wanted to speak only for yourself, this would be bleedingheartbrennan.ru, but its not.

        You could have chimed in back when the neo-confederate thread was happening, to say “hold on a minute” but you didn’t. And it’s not that silence necessarily implies agreement between one author and another…it’s just that silence on a conspicuous point long and loudly debated here tends to suggest, at least, the lack of strong disagreement.

        The fact is, the moment has passed and it’s too late to find out. The time to say “Wait, the alleged neo-confederates are saying exactly what we say about contemporary foreign policy: don’t use war to end an injustice that can be ended by other means”, that time was then. But no one said it. Not you, not Levy, not anyone I recall among the authors or the commenters. I didn’t even think of the analogy until this morning.

        So I think that, far from being uninteresting, the trouble with my comment is that it’s troublesome, because it draws attention to the way that BHL is sometimes less a school of thought and more just a statement of cultural fashion.

        • Jason Brennan

          I hardly ever comment on anyone’s threads except my own.

          • Sean II

            Okay again, but that doesn’t change these points:

            1) The blog has a shared voice, or else it wouldn’t exist.

            2) In light of that, contradictions within or between authors are interesting.

            So what we have here are two possibilities. Either you agreed with whoever posted that post about how “the libertarian movement needs to purge itself of Civil War revisionists”, or you didn’t.

            If you agreed then, you pose a problem by agreeing with Caplan’s post today. If you didn’t agree – i.e. if you think there is a case to be made for Civil War revisionism on pacifist grounds – then you could…I’m just spitballing here, but you could say so…right now?

          • Jason Brennan

            Sure. I’m skeptical that the North should have invaded the South, for the reasons Caplan gives above, even though slavery is a grave evil.

          • Sean II

            Cool. Me too, although it’s taken me a long time to come by that skepticism. I also have a difficulty picturing the counter-factual, where slavery ends peacefully in the American South. The mere fact that it did elsewhere does not prove it would have here. Also, when I look at the history of Jim Crow, sharecroppers in debt bondage, etc…I just think it’s just intellectually sloppy even to say “slavery ended in 1865”, if that is taken – and it usually is – to imply some big, meaningful change in the status of blacks. My Civil War revisionism extends to the point of noticing the war didn’t really do what it’s often claimed to have done.

            By the way, and this is a snark-free and dead-serious comment: thank you for giving me a real answer. The usual internet move would have been to do anything but that. One gets so accustomed to the non-responsive response, it’s almost shocking to see someone do what you just did.

  • TracyW

    On the other hand, it’s ghastly for the innocent people caught up in Syria’s civil war.

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    McHale wants an intervention that will “1. Aim to restore the rights of those being oppressed, to put them on
    the path of self-determination. 2. Have a reasonable chance of success
    at achieving those aims. 3. … use violent force as a last resort,
    once political options have been explored. 4. … have broad legal
    support across our allies.”

    You won’t be wanting an *American* intervention then.

    • I would be supportive of an *American* intervention, provided it met the criteria I set out. I’m not someone who automatically casts US interventions and power as inherently bad.

  • Irfan Khawaja

    Caplan: ” In the modern world, there are no wars of “self-defense.” ”

    Is Pakistan’s war against the Taliban not a war of self-defense?

    • Irfan Khawaja

      While I’m asking questions that no one is answering: does anyone know when “the modern world” began?

      • Sean II

        Yes, it was 1823. On Tuesday. About 6:30pm.

        • Irfan Khawaja

          Thanks. I guess someone’s got to carry out Bishop Ussher’s work, and it may as well be you.

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    *American* intervention is the victory of hope over experience.

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