Some supporters of the proposed intervention in Syria call it a genuine case of humanitarian intervention (see here and here).  In reply, critics may:

A) Deny the validity of the doctrine itself (if you fall into this category, you can safely stop reading), or

B) Accept the doctrine but deny that it can justify the intervention in Syria.

I have long defended the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, and have argued that a number of past actions may have been justified under the doctrine (see here). I would like to explain, therefore, why my position on Syria falls under B) above: the military action proposed by the Obama administration (limited aerial bombings) would not be justified under the doctrine. In contrast, a full-fledged intervention that would overthrow Al-Assad while neutralizing Al-Qaeda could be justified under the doctrine if it complied with the principle of proportionality. Given the predictable dire consequences of a full invasion for the region and the world, such action is unlikely to be proportionate, and therefore the United States should stay out.

(One word of caution. The legal humanitarian intervention doctrine differs from its moral counterpart. Most international lawyers require United Nations Security Council authorization as a condition for the lawfulness of action (not Congressional authorization, which is irrelevant to international law.)  I disagree, but mine is concededly a minority view among international law scholars. I do not think the UNSC will authorize the intervention in Syria, but, be that as it may, I will focus here on the moral version of the doctrine, just because I do not believe the authorization vel non changes the moral position.)

Any act of war, and therefore any armed humanitarian action, must have a just cause. The only available just cause is rescuing large numbers of persons from deadly attacks (by their government or others). A war to make a point, or save the nation’s prestige, or advance the national interest, or even punish a war criminal, is never justified. Killing for symbolic reasons is impermissible.

Does the United States have a just cause for a military intervention in Syria? Since only rescuing victims of massive attacks counts as a just cause, there are only two possibilities in the present Syrian conflict:

1) Broad Just Cause: The intervention is justified because The United States would join the right side in a civil war; that is, it would help secure the victory of the revolutionaries who are rising against Al-Assad’s tyranny. Some (myself included) thought that the 2003 intervention in Iraq and the 2011 intervention in Libya could be justified in this way. But in Syria we have reliable information that the rebels are not pro-freedom revolutionaries but groups intent on establishing an even worse tyranny. In the Syrian conflict, none of the opposing sides has a just cause. Surely, then, this rationale does not work: an intervention in a civil war to secure the victory of would-be tyrants cannot be justified as humanitarian intervention, even if it helps overthrow the incumbent tyrant. A humanitarian intervention aims at ending tyranny.

This kind of action can only be justified if the United States joins the rebels, deposes Al-Assad, neutralizes in some way the influence of the extremists in the rebel movement, and helps democratic Syrians organize free elections and enact a liberal constitution. But, even leaving aside the fact that this method does not seemed to have worked well in Iraq (at least so far), this broad humanitarian action can only be implemented, as I indicated, with a full-fledged invasion, not with limited bombings.

2) Narrow Just Cause: The intervention is justified because it would destroy chemical weapons, deter their use, or otherwise rescue innocent victims. Using chemical weapons against combatants is a war crime; against civilians, a crime against humanity. So if the military intervention destroys those weapons, or if it deters the regime from using them again, or if it rescues vulnerable civilians, then perhaps (depending on the cost, that is, on the satisfaction of the proportionality principle) could be justified under the humanitarian intervention doctrine. This rationale is unrelated to the tyrannical nature of the Syrian regime; rather, the intervention has the limited purpose of preventing the use of prohibited weapons.

This is the rationale chosen by the U.S. Government. The draft  that President Obama will submit to the Congress reads:

(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

The intervention is humanitarian in this narrow sense because preventing the gassing of civilians is a humanitarian objective: it saves those persons from terrible harm.

But what are the chances that the proposed bombings will do that?  Slim. For starters, the proposed action is caught in a dilemma. Either the bombings will weaken the regime or they will not. If they do, they will help Al Qaeda win. The (putative) humanitarian action will predictably open the door for something much worse for the Syrians and the world.  If instead the bombings do not weaken the regime, they would have served no purpose and would have been therefore impermissible under the humanitarian intervention doctrine, especially given the fact that the bombings would have killed innocent persons for no reason.

But maybe this is too quick. Let us examine this rationale more closely. Someone can retort as follows: “The action will do just enough damage, or show just enough military might, to deter Al-Assad from using the weapons again, but without weakening him to the point of allowing Al Qaeda’s victory. Regrettably, there will be some innocent casualties, but they will be justified under the proportionality principle.”  This reasoning is problematic. Suppose the bombings deter the regime from further using chemical weapons.  The bombings will still kill innocent persons. Can we kill some innocent persons in order to prevent the gas poisoning of other persons? And how should we factor the disagreeable fact that some of the persons hit by the chemical weapons were not innocent civilians, but rather villains intent on establishing a brutal tyranny? Needless to say, using chemical weapons is never justified, even against villains, but does their use automatically create a casus belli? For consider: using chemical weapons is a violation of the laws of war. Why don’t other violations of the laws of war justify military action? Surely both sides in the conflict have murdered POWs. Does that fact alone authorize a third party to bomb the violators?

I have no easy answers, but my point is that becoming a victim of a ius in bello violation does not automatically give the victim a just cause. If it did, third parties in World War II (say, Switzerland and Sweden) would have had a right to bomb Britain following Churchill’s devastation of Dresden. The Soviet Army committed terrible atrocities against German prisoners. Did that give outsiders a right to intervene in defense of Nazi Germany? Hardly: a warrior with an unjust cause does not acquire a just cause merely by enduring violations of ius in bello by his enemies.

In Syria, the Al Qaeda members who were gassed by Al-Assad’s criminal regime do not thereby become just warriors. Just warriors may commit war crimes and unjust warriors may respect the laws of war. In Syria both sides are unjust warriors. If we take the position that a violation of ius in bello like the use of chemical weapons warrants intervention on behalf of the victims regardless of the cause embraced by those victims, we end up with the curious result that intervention is permitted on behalf of tyranny (which is what an Al Qaeda rule will be).

The narrow humanitarian intervention rationale only works, then, for innocent victims of the use of prohibited weapons, even though it is true that any use of those weapons makes the user a war criminal. Hence the bombings proposed by the President are justified under the doctrine of humanitarian intervention only if:

1) They surgically (i.e., at no cost) destroy the prohibited weapons, or

2) They deter further use of chemical weapons against innocent persons and they are proportionate, that is, they (regrettably) bring about the deaths of a limited number of innocent bystanders in accordance with just-war guidelines as formulated by the doctrine of double effect and the Geneva Conventions (I am conceding here the permissibility of collateral deaths in the pursuit of a just cause; many people deny this, in which case the bombings have no justification even if they achieve their humanitarian purpose.)

What are the chances that the bombings will do that? Alternative (1) is logistically impossible, because the weapons cannot be surgically destroyed from afar: only a full-blown invasion can do that. Alternative (2) is highly improbable. Either Al-Assad will not be deterred, as suggested by his tenacity in holding to power; or the bombings will likely kill an impermissibly high number of innocent persons; or, conversely, they will be so effective that they will help Al Qaeda win the civil war.

All in all, the moral and epistemic uncertainties are daunting. A full invasion to end tyranny in Syria could be justified in principle but it is almost certain to have disastrous consequences. Likewise, a limited bombing could be justified in principle but it is unlikely to achieve its humanitarian aim. The United States should stay out.

 

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  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    I would actually argue B+. Yes there are some cases that humanitarian intervention may be justified but they are so few and far between that you are not likely to see one in your lifetime.

    My threshold for a humanitarian intervention would be extremely high for many reasons. But chief among them is the law of unintended consequences. Which said law seems to work in overdrive in matters of warfare and international politics.

  • Bryan C. Winter

    I think Americans as a cultural measure have a sort of gut reaction to do something when confronted with bad things. This is to our credit as a people, and not a detriment, though in this case, as in others, that instinct may lead us astray at times in terms of the application of war power.

    In order to commit to a war justifiably, i would argue that you need a certain level of ruthlessness. Measured responses are often weak responses with little effect that introduce entanglements. Overwhelming, even immoral use of force is often the only way to win an objective. Roosevelts dictum about walking softly and carrying a big stick are apt here.

    We shouldn’t seek to cause trouble, and in fact should actively avoid it and seek peace. When the choice to go to war is finally made, only a ruthless pursuit of a political objective will be successful.

    • Sean II

      “I think Americans as a cultural measure have a sort of gut reaction to do something when confronted with bad things. This is to our credit as a people…”

      Not sure I agree 100% with your cultural accounting there, Norm. The American instinct to “do something” about “bad things” is pretty clearly a leading and highly renewable source of policy madness.

      Confining myself only to notable American outbursts of the urge to “do something..about bad things”, one thinks of witchcraft, marijuana, heavy metal, acid rain, crack, dungeons and dragons, witchraft again in the 1990s, teenage sex, (and when that wasn’t scary enough) adults trying to have sex with teenagers – i.e. “sex offenders”, autism, not to mention the more immediately relevant Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, & Iraq.

      Okay, I’ll maybe give you the intervention in Bosnia as one of the good ones, but be it noted: in the history of American “do something” militarism, it would be hard to find a campaign that inspired less enthusiasm among the people. That episode was the product of elite meddling rather than good old American can-do-somethingism.

      I think our culture could benefit very much from a mild dose of fatalism. Personally, I recommend a strong bolus of “do nothing” right now, to be followed later by a steady regimen of “bad things happen”, ultimately leading to a healthy state of “not every problem has a solution, and not every problem is mine to solve.”

      • Bryan C. Winter

        American Can-do ism is still a good thing. Optimism is still a good thing for a culture. Fatalism leads to stagnation and decay, and this is something we have to much of already. It takes a can-do attitude to capitalize on an industrial revolution or an internet revolution, things that outweigh by orders of magnitude all the things your complain about.

        Silicon Valley Didn’t happen In Europe for a very good reason, and culture is part of that. In fact the only real difference between European culture and American culture is a sense of fatalism, and i think it’s killing them far faster than our attitudes about solving problems are killing us.

        However culture is not government. Culture is just an attitude of the people. Saying that the peoples spirit needs a dose of fatalism to prevent the expansion of government is like curing the patient of cancer by killing him. I still think problems need to be engaged directly … just through a distributed market mechanism as opposed to a centralized one. People who want to change the world for the better have the most success doing so through a company. Channeling that energy into private as opposed to public endevours would make the best use of something that for the moment, but perhaps for not much longer, is uniquely American.

        This of course says nothing about the war. My only point is that our culture is fine. The system is what is broken, but we still manage to do awesome things despite that brokenness over the long term.

        • Les Kyle Nearhood

          You are right about fatalism and nihilism. Those are not constructive things. On the other hand, what Americans could use more of is skepticism. and even a little cynicism. Those things are good in reasonable doses. Because they lead the public to look twice at the “solutions” proffered by politicians.

          • Bryan C. Winter

            I can accept a healthy amount of skepticism. But that quickly turns into knee-jerk reactions, if people aren’t careful. The posts this week on Facebook regarding Syria are hilariously uninformed, both left and right, validating my theory that political parties have opposite beliefs, but use the exact same strategy, and it is the strategy and not the belief that make them dangerous.

          • Sean II

            You can’t really judge fatalism apart from circumstances.

            The impulse that says “Argh. This page shouldn’t take so long to load. I’ll build something better.” is great and admirable, but…only because in that case the problem is actually solvable.

            Yet take the root of the same impulse and unleash it somewhere else (especially among people who don’t understand scarcity) and you get “Argh. No child should ever get hurt ever anywhere and there should always be a law for every case and if not that then at least there must be eleventy-billion dollars in punitive damages to anyone standing nearby when a child gets hurt.”

            You see what I’m saying? The lack of America fatalism makes us cool and innovative sometimes, and yet it also makes act like fucking idiots. And we shouldn’t just define fatalism as “anytime you accept fate but are wrong to do so”. The concept must also include all those times when there really is nothing to be done.

  • Mark Brady

    But the U.S. and the UK have been intervening for two years, as Brendan O’Neill explains today:

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/syria_latest1/13976#.UiUnPH-wkdU

  • Sean II

    “But in ______ we have reliable information that the rebels are not pro-freedom revolutionaries but groups intent on establishing a…tyranny. In the ______ conflict, none of the opposing sides has a just cause.”

    Hey, here’s a great indoor sport: if you’re a libertarian you can pretty much fill in the above blanks using any place name from any conflict festering in the Global South, and you get the same thrilling result.

  • Benkarkis

    I’m ok with it, when 260 countries don’t care and 1 does, I go with the 1.

  • An igyt

    Deterrence is achieved with a strike damaging enough that the Assad regime regrets the chemical attack. It is in no way shown to be improbable Al-Assad’s “tenacity in holding to power”. It is clearly in his interest to hold on to power; the point is to render it not in his interest to use this class of weapons. Evidence that someone is not an altruist is not evidence against his propensity to avoid punishment.

    This is not an easy military calculation. But if the strikes required to deter kill 500 innocents; and if without deterrence there will be another dozen chemical shellings in this war — say, 10,000 more dead — and more in future conflicts where a ruling minority is threatened — does that not pass your proportionality test? For it seems to me a not outlandish set of projections.

    • Fernando Teson

      Maybe. But a strike that is “damaging enough that the Assad regime regrets the chemical attack” can also be weakening enough that it helps the rebels win. And that would be disastrous under the current conditions (if the information we have about the rebels, that they are dominated by extremists) is accurate.

    • Sean II

      You have a couple of strange words in that comment.

      1) Regimes don’t “regret” things. That’s not how they operate. Failing to grasp the consequences of your own actions even when they stare you straight in the face is something dictators do quite naturally. If we bomb Assad the only lesson he will learn is “Shit, I just got bombed. Fucking Americans!” What he absolutely will not do is bring his team of lackeys into a meeting and say “Okay boys, level with me. I brought this on myself, didn’t I? No, no…don’t be shy, we’re all grown-ups here. I made a bad call with the gas attacks and I can admit it.” Not how this game works.

      2) If we’ve learned anything between the Allied bombing effort of World War II and today (and maybe we haven’t), it must be this: you can’t really “punish” the boss by bombing his drones. Not in any normal sense where punishment is taken to include personal infliction of pain, and thus future incentives to avoid it.

      The whole habit of speaking that says “we must punish Assad” or “we must make Assad’s regime feel the pain” is deceptive.

      If we’re honest, the only way to frame the question is: “Should we intervene in Syria by trying to massacre some of Assad’s pawns?”

      • An igyt

        “Regret” is short-hand for “update beliefs so that the next calculation tends to go the other way”. Certainly there will be no public statements of regret, likely not even a private sentiment. But there is no reason to believe these people are not rational calculators.

        • Sean II

          The thing about people surrounded by sycophants (e.g., starlets, high-school quarterbacks, dictators etc.) is that it doesn’t matter much if they’re rational calculators because they get shit for information.

          Assad isn’t going to “update his beliefs so the next…” because that’s not what he does.

          The best part of being a dictator is never having to update your beliefs.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            Considering the state of journalism in this country you could add presidents and members of congress to that list of people surrounded by sycophants

  • Sean II

    Surprised no one has said this yet (and sorry if someone did but I missed it):

    The whole distinction between chemical weapons and other means of killing people is…er, just a cloud of vapor.

    Poison gas is not more lethal or more painful than a 7.62 round to the thorax. It’s not more indiscriminate than a barrage of fragmentary shells fired into an urban apartment block. It’s probably not even more cost effective than other means of killing.

    Now, nukes have a truly gruesome economy of scale, so okay putting them in a special category. But the idea that chemical weapons belong in that category is a rather dated notion, cooked up by the same elites who brought you all the great things we libertarians associate with the years 1918 – 1939.

    So any discussion of this should start with: of course Washington has been aching to intervene in Syria since day one. Chemical weapons are just an excuse…and one with which we should in no case play along.

    • TracyW

      But those elites had come through WWI where they or their sons had been subject to chemical warfare attacks. The British junior officers were almost entirely from “public” schools such as Eton and suffered horrendous casualty rates (http://m.lep.co.uk/news/book-review-six-weeks-by-john-lewis-stempel-1-2740540), and of course British “public schools” dominated the policy-making establishment of the 1920s and 1930s, so policy was being made if not by the surviving victims themselves then by their fathers, brothers, uncles, etc . Hitler fought and was gassed in WWI and refused to use chemical weapons in WWII against “Aryan” troops though he was willing enough to use chemical means to kill those he regarded as subhuman and to use conventional weapons to kill Allied troops. (I’ve also heard that Churchill ordered chemical attacks against Arabs in the 1920s – obviously there’s always a diversity of views amongst people including policymakers, I’m just speaking of general attitudes here).

      So, while I can see the logic of “why should chemical weapons be regarded as particularly bad?”, it does strike me that the people who were subject to both did make a distinction and their choices do imply it was an important one.

  • CFV

    “and helps democratic Syrians organize free elections and enact a liberal constitution.”

    In my view, part of the problem lies in the idea that humanitarian intervention could somehow be justified to ‘spread democracy’ (American-style). Check out, for example, what the most eminent scholar on Middle Eastern studies says about (traditional) Islamic government:

    It is a complex world, Fernando…

    Cheers!

  • http://grero.com/ Grero.com

    To quote Charlie Brown, “Good grief.” If you want to go join the Syrian rebels using your money, be my guest. Can all you do-gooders leave me out of it?

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      No, they never will.

  • http://knappster.blogspot.com/ Thomas L. Knapp

    You left out condition (3) for the intervention being justified: The intervenors don’t get to rob other people to pay for their anti-social hobby.

  • steven johnson

    Quickly recapping the arguments for humanitarian intervention, as applied to the US, just as a reframing device to help us assess their validity:
    Legal just cause: The UN Charter and the Nuremberg precedents establish that violations of sovereignty and crimes against peace are against international law. The US has repeatedly engaged in acts of war against numerous states and launched repeated wars, none in decades occasioned by self-defense. It is true that the US role in the UN Security Council means that the official enforcement procedure cannot be followed. But to insist on this is to insist on form over substance. Humanitarian intervention against the US government also partakes of self-defense, allowable under UN charter.
    Broader moral just cause: Humanitarian intervention aiming at regime change in the US would remove a rogue state that is actively violating the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan; covertly supporting insurgencies in Syrai; supporting or even directing invasions of other states by client regimes, such as Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia or France’s invasion of Mali; murdering citizens of Iran, Yemen, Pakistan. and indeed citizens of the US itself; organizing military threats, alliances, a network of forward assault bases against China and Russia. This would require a full invasion but as a one-time democracy the US has traditions that need only be revived to return it to a proper role as a law-abiding state.
    Narrow moral just cause: A limited surgical strike, say on a famous residence, would eliminate the person responsible for drones deliberately targeting children and first responders to its previous assault. An arrest and trail before the ICC is impractical inasmuch as the ICC only targets US approved targets. Feasible and justified.
    I must say that when it’s reframed, I find that as much as I hate the US foreign policy, this is an insanely cruel, and just plain insane, line of argument.
    Fernando Teson, why do you hold to belief that would justify the assassination of President Obama or the invasion of the US?

  • JdL

    critics may:

    A) Deny the validity of the doctrine itself (if you fall into this category, you can safely stop reading)

    Because the author sure as heck isn’t going to offer any justification for why “humanitarian intervention” (meaning, bombing a country to do it a favor) is anything other than an oxymoron.

    Worse, this column implicitly assumes that society is a collectivist assembly that can, and should, take collectivist actions, including trans-national interventions, if they’re “good”, that everybody has to pay for. It apparently never occurs to the author that individuals should make such decisions for themselves (“shall I go to Syria and fight for one side or the other?”).

    Mr. Teson, you may be many things, but you are no libertarian. And neither, apparently is this site, to judge from other, similarly nonsensical columns I’ve seen posted here.

    • Sean II

      Four things I love about your comment:

      1) I admire the way you didn’t hysterically overreact to a non-committal post by summarily condemning the author and his blog-mates as traitors to the cause of freedom. Great work there.

      2) I like how you didn’t use the concept of collective entities in one sentence (“bombing a country to do it a favor”), before denying the existence of that same concept in your very next paragraph. Pure class.

      3) I simply adore the fact that you didn’t make a totally disingenuous argument about how the real problem with a possible intervention in Syria is that it would require forcibly collected tax funding, as if that could possible matter when the state is already spending billions every hour. Nice.

      4) Fuck you.

      • shemsky

        You didn’t write “fuck you” to me a few weeks ago when you took issue with one of my comments.

        I feel insulted, Sean.

        • Sean II

          Naturally I was tempted, but a thing like that loses its impact if used too casually, or too much.

          I’m really glad I held back then, to save up for a moment like this. The worst possible Shemsky on his worst possible day couldn’t deserve those words half as much.

      • Irfan Khawaja

        Edifying.

        • Sean II

          Taste is a funny thing. On the one hand you have this guy who wanders into a room with a topical opinion he probably formed six days ago, hiding behind what may well be a troll-and-burn profile (total comments = 100), and aggressively announces that anyone who doesn’t share his opinion without reservation is ineligible to call himself a libertarian – and not just him, but his friends and co-authors and readers as well.

          On the other hand you have me, offering the gallery a reply it deserves (find that in items 1 through 3), and then giving the speaker arguably more than he deserves (item 4).

          The odd thing is that somehow he will not be thought guilty of a faux pas, whereas in the eyes of many I am become rudeness, the destroyer of decorum. You must admit this makes little sense, even if the same can be said of so many social rules.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            Yeah, he sure as heck was aggressive. I mean, when you get a guy who wanders into a room, expresses “topical opinions,” and uses words like “heck,” you know that it’s time to tell him to fuck himself. You wouldn’t want things to get out of hand.

          • Sean II

            That was actually kind of funny.

            But notice that even after my little explanation above, you persist in the hard-to-break habit of defining aggression in terms of magic word triggers – “heck” vs. “fuck”, etc.

            In doing that you somehow fail to notice, or perhaps you simply do not mind, the hysteria and hostility expressed by a commenter who doesn’t hesitate to declare us all less than libertarians on the basis of a single disagreement…indeed, even on the mere hint that in this case a disagreement might be permissible.

            But he didn’t say “fuck”, so…you know, I guess it’s like he just stepped out of a New Yorker cartoon brimming with class and charm.

            BTW – Read the dude’s brief but abundantly revealing comment history. I did, before I wrote what I wrote. You may conclude that I was too kind, after all.

          • shemsky

            I didn’t see anything objectionable in JdL’s previous comments. In fact, I thought that most of them were pretty much spot on. I went back about 30 comments. Can you elaborate?

          • Sean II

            I thought you’d never ask. The overall quality of his comments, with which the above specimen is entirely consistent, is one of breathless political adolescence. The libertarian version of puberty has got hold of him, and god-damn-it he will NOT be told to calm down, least of all by any alleged libertarian wise-men who claim to share his values. In other words, he’s a central casting figure for the type of simplistic, doctrinaire, shrill, sermonizing libertarian people here strive not to be.

            But let’s allow the evidence to speak for itself. Here are some of his comment history highlights:

            1) “Even George Orwell never imagined what the U.S. is rapidly becoming today.”

            2) “To state the obvious: if justice does not come through official channels, it will come via back-door means. In saying this, I’m not advocating extra-legal violence; I’m merely saying that it’s inevitable, and that criminal government thugs will have only themselves to blame.”

            3) “If the U.S. really is going down the path of Nazi Germany (and I’m afraid it is), then…”

            4) “Do you expect to be taken seriously if you can’t master elementary rules of grammar? “It’s” means “it is” or “it has”. Is either of those applicable to your sentence?” [This, the universal mark of the dickhead]

            5) “Wow! You don’t care if a hospital harvests your organs, or the organs of your loved ones, before you, or they, are dead? Then go for it, woman. You’ll get what you deserve.”

            6) “The author(s) and/or editor(s) need to learn the difference between “loose” (adjective) and “lose” (verb).
            These criminal government thugs who try to run people’s lives need to be checked by whatever means prove to be necessary.” [I love the way he combines pedantry with the rhetoric of revolutionary violence here!]

            7) “The premier self-proclaimed fascist, Mussolini, had as his motto, “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”. That seems perfectly to describe the United States today…”

            And that should do it. The point is ultimately that a guy like this adds nothing to our conversation here. Every one of us can simply run a “Jdl” emulator in his head, if we ever need (and why would we?) to guess what he might say.

            Our minds contain punks like that as a subroutine, left over from the less mature stages of our own political maturation. The internet is full of places where we might go to wallow in that immaturity (but why should we?). BHL just isn’t meant to be one of them.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            OK, I get the principle. If someone describes you as “less than libertarian” on the basis of a single disagreement, that’s aggressive. Whereas if you keep a running tally of all the stuff the guy has said, then call forth your resentment of that whole list of comments to judge a single disagreement that calls your libertarian credentials into question (or well, not really yours, but Fernando Teson’s), and *then* say “fuck you,” it’s not aggressive. Not aggressive–even if the point of saying “fuck you” was to retaliate against the guy was for saying what he said. It kind of sounds liked a fucked up rationalization to me, but what the heck do I know?

          • Sean II

            That’s an interesting word, “rationalization”. Typically used to describe what someone does when trying to rescue a conclusion to which they have hastily or mistakenly jumped.

            As in “Irfan clutched his pearls upon hearing the words “fuck you”, and then despite a detailed and lucid account as to why those words were fit for the occasion, he stuck to his original position, conjuring up stubborn rationalizations along the way.”

            And by the way: of course I checked laughing boy’s comment history before saying such a thing. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t simply having a bad day. I wanted to make sure that comment above was typical and accurately representative of his output. That’s a virtue on my part, not a vice.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            That’s pretty hecking low, picking on my cross dressing like that. Sorry, for the aggressive response, but now I’m really mad.

          • steven johnson

            Again, I had to hit the like button. Again, it’s because it so neatly showed something fundamentally flawed about libertarianism: It’s inability to confront real thought. It’s not just the peculiar sense of entitlement that turns a public forum for discussion into someone’s room. JdL may not be one of the mystical owners of this imaginary room but he is still a self confessed libertarian, and his views are still really wholly incompatible with Fernando Teson’s. Libertarianism has no intellectual integrity if the libertarians can’t call out bullshit.

          • Sean II

            Oh, don’t you be that kind of barn owl!

      • steven johnson

        I had to add a like. But it was because this post is very good at revealing how untrue the website title is.
        You see, 1) was outright false. Teson was quite clear in committing himself morally to an open-ended war for regime change, i.e., invasion and conquest. Liberty demands the freedom to conquer other countries! Nothing to overreact to there, no sir!
        2) was a totally disingenuous argument facilely misrepresenting the very nature of language. Yes this is the kind of phony logic it take to be a classy libertarian!
        3) presumes the moral gravity of an issue depends upon the size of the taxes collected for it. Thus, welfare is a greater offense to liberty than mass murder by warfare? Truly, the souls of libertarians are marvels to behold!
        4) well, yes, I must admit this is incontestably a full and true expression of the fundamental spirit of libertarianism! Inevitably, like, like, like!

        • Sean II

          Bittersweet…because I’ll never really know if I got that vote from you, or from the bout of amoebic meningoencephalitis that is even now robbing your speech of all coherence.

          But I suppose in the end, a vote is a vote.

  • Harry Schell

    War is not the worst thing, but bombings to save “credibility” or show off nice missiles, or enforce a “red line” now disavowed….can’t get there from here.

    This raid is a completely absurd if not evil idea from lightweight politicians and credentialed idiots. I would hardly be surprised to find the malfeasance intentional. Nobody can be so good at incompetent , if they intend some other outcome, than the current political leadership.

  • Ted_Levy

    With friends like Sean II, BHL does not need enemies…

  • Guest

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