Tripling down on failure

This is a piece that has to be read… and then mocked loudly and often:

For my entire professional life, I have been a limited-government libertarian. The just state should, in my opinion, protect private property, promote voluntary exchange, preserve domestic order, and protect our nation against foreign aggression. Unfortunately, too many modern libertarian thinkers fail to grasp the enormity of that last obligation. In the face of international turmoil, they become cautious and turn inward, confusing limited government with small government.

Sounds good to start with, but it becomes clear that while this person purports to be a “limited government libertarian,” in the words of Inigo Montoya, “I doona think that means what you think it means…”  To wit:

(Senator Rand Paul’s) argument… is that the United States should not have sought to degrade Bashar Assad’s regime because that effort only paved the way for the rise of ISIS against whom Assad, bad as he is, is now the major countervailing force. Unfortunately, this causal chain is filled with missing links. The United States could have, and should have, supported the moderate opposition to Assad by providing it with material assistance, and, if necessary, air support, so that it could have been a credible threat against Assad, after the President said Assad had to go over three years ago.

OK, Mr Self-proclaimed Libertarian: under your theory of limited government, unless the nation has been attacked, what gives the US the right and/or obligation to go around determining which world leaders “need to go?”  It is just that sort of arrogant self-importance in foreign affairs that has led the US to stick its nose into just about every hornet nest imaginable around the world.  That highly interventionist approach is not only NOT ‘libertarian,’ it is directly responsible for the significant loss of US prestige around the world, the creation of large numbers of people who hate us not for our ‘freedoms’ but for our actions, and the creation of a large Security State here at home that is antithetical to the liberties we claim to be defending by galavanting around the globe.  But hey, you’re apparently OK with that kind of State:

Senator Paul errs too much on the side of caution. He would clamp down, for example, on the data collection activities of the National Security Agency, which allow for the better deployment of scarce American military resources, even though NSA protocols tightly restrict the use of the collected information. It is wrong to either shut down or sharply restrict an intelligence service that has proved largely free of systematic abuse. The breakdown of world order makes it imperative to deploy our technological advantages to the full. Sensible oversight offers a far better solution.

Are you freaking kidding me?  “Tightly restrict the use of collected information.”  You mean in the same way that taxpayer info is confidential and never abused by the IRS?  And as for ‘sensible oversight’ of the NSA… let me suggest you Google the words “Edward Snowden.”  Whatever you think of the man himself, the reading that Google search will generate should disabuse you of any notions that the NSA is naught but a benign public servant of good.  I don’t believe I’m in any danger of the “No true Scotsman” fallacy in saying that any professed ‘libertarian’ who so easily dismisses the threat of the modern National Security State is either seriously confused or being disingenuous with their labeling.  Whichever it is, they are no true libertarian.

This is a propaganda piece, nothing more, intended to get Americans to ignore the rising voices (of which Rand Paul is but one) warning that we need to change the course this nation is on both at home and abroad.  Paul is not the simpleton or naive dove the author makes him out to be.  In response to ISIS’ multiple beheadings of Americans and clear declaration of intent to harm the US, Paul stated that as President he would convene Congress to request authorization to destroy the organization militarily.  As the Washington Post noted, this is another reason why it’s wrong for anyone to try to put Paul in a narrowly labelled box.

That tendency toward oversimplification and dismissive labeling is, of course, is what is wrong with most of our politics and policy making today.  It’s as if nobody understands the concept of principled but situationally driven leadership.  Despite the charge of pacifism Mr “libertarian” Epstein throws at Paul, it’s clear the Senator acknowledges ISIS as a threat to be confronted.  Unlike Epstein, however, Paul is willing to say that while this is a reluctant necessity, maybe it’s time America acknowledged that a lot of these messes are either of our own making, or were significantly boosted by our blundering about in the world.  That willingness to assess our own actions and possible culpability in today’s crises du jour is a real danger to the Statist interventionists whose delusions of grandeur have put us where we are now.  Thus it has to be attacked and discouraged, lest it infect the population and cause them to question the wisdom of our would-be rulers.

So who is the real libertarian here?  One who would have us triple down on years of intervention in Iraq and the broader Middle East (Libya, Syria, etc, ad nauseum) in just another knee-jerk reaction, or the one who admits we may have to use force yet again, but perhaps we should consider recent history so we don’t once again make a bigger mess than the one we’re trying to solve?  The one who would have us unquestioningly accept the role of the modern NSA, or the one who publicly decries the intrusion of the national security state into every facet of American life?

I still haven’t made up my mind about Senator Paul, but I’ve seen enough to keep me watching and evaluating for now.  On the other hand, I know very little about Mr Epstein.  Having read his philosophically incoherent article, though, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to be looking him up in “Who’s Who.”  I know all I need to about him at this point.

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