Randy Barnett has a, well, rather odd op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. Barnett is anxious to point out that Ron Paul’s strident anti-war stance is not shared by all libertarians, nor required by libertarian ideology, because it “would be a shame if this misinterpretation inhibited a wider acceptance of the libertarian principles.” WIth upwards of 70 percent of Americans favoring a full withdrawal by April, it’s a bit puzzling why Barnett thinks it will be a net gain for libertarians to play down this stance. It’s also a bit misleading, since the vast majority of libertarians I spoke to who supported the war did so on the premise that Saddam Hussein was likely to hand off weapons of mass destruction to his buddies in Al Qaeda.
More generally, while people within any ideological framework may disagree on policy based on different assessments of the facts, this does not normally prevent us from talking, in broad terms, about the “liberal” or “conservative” or “libertarian” position on an issue, the disagreement of a minority notwithstanding. And Barnett’s own characterization of the thinking of pro-war libertarians makes clear that they considered this case an exception to the general principle libertarians accept:
Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.
Finally, this closing is just cheap:
Still, there are those pro-invasion libertarians who are now following the progress of Operations Phantom Thunder and Arrowhead Ripper. They hope that the early signs of progress in this offensive will continue, so that American and Iraqi forces can achieve the military victory necessary to allow the Iraqi government to assume responsibility for protecting the Iraqi people from terrorists, as well as from religious sectarian violence. They hope this success will enable American soldiers to leave Iraq even before they leave Europe and Korea, and regain the early momentum that led, for example, to Libya’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program.
These libertarians are still rooting for success in Iraq because it would make Americans more safe, while defeat would greatly undermine the fight against those who declared war on the U.S.
By contrast, one is forced to suppose, with those of us who are hoping there will be no signs of progress, that sectarian violence increases, and that a spectacular failure leaves us less safe. Look, I’m “rooting for” success in Iraq too; I’m just not kidding myself about the odds. I’m hoping someone hands me a check for a cool million dollars next week also, but I’m not going to take on debt on the assumption it’s going to happen.