Intra-Movement Split On Iraq War

The Volokh Conspiracy has posted an interesting article regarding the first political disagreement in the Friedman household. From the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. “What’s really killed the Republican Party isn’t spending, it’s Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression.” Mrs. Friedman–listening to her husband with an ear cocked–was now muttering darkly.

Milton: “Huh? What?” Rose: “This was not aggression!” Milton (exasperatedly): “It was aggression. Of course it was!” Rose: “You count it as aggression if it’s against the people, not against the monster who’s ruling them. We don’t agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don’t agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously–such as, I don’t want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out–but big issues, this is the first one!” Milton: “But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it.” Rose: “And we will!”

I don’t know the exact percentages of libertarians who are pro- or anti-war, but I would imagine that the anti-war side is most likely in the majority, given that the LP takes an anti-war stance. I’m anti-war. But I guess this article is a good reminder that the philosophy of liberty is bigger than any of our individual conceptions, and we ought to welcome all who believe in greater liberty.

  1. So called “Neo-Libertarians” are on the short end of the stick on this one. Neo-ANYTHING is bad news. I hope the big tent never gets so big that those on the wrong side of history
    (and it will be PAINFULLY evident very soon which side that is) that those who advocated for Bush’s war will be shown the truth….no matter that “neos” they are.

    The doctrine of “Pre-Emptive” war is not the hallmark of a free and republican form of government. It’s the hallmark of evildoers, and Bush need look no farther to see an evildoer than look in his Presidential bathroom mirror.

  2. I am in the same category with Joe Lieberman. There are many issues I disagree with the President, the Republicans and the Democrats. That is why I am a libertarian.

    I do not disagree with our tactics or aggression for fighting those anywhere, anytime that pose a threat to our nation. I am not going to Jew or Israel bash as so many do on this site. I am all for Israel (with our help) kicking the hell out of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran and any group or government that either supplies them or supports them.

    Once the position of Islamic radicalism crystallizes in the minds of the naysayers, they will understand the underlying philosophy:

    – all Jews must die and Israel must be destroyed.

    – Christians have one chance to convert to Islam by force. If one refuses, immediate death.

    – All other nonbelievers (infidels) must convert or die.

    It is the intent of our enemies to destroy us. Fight me on this one, but I have done my homework. Fight or perish are the choices.

  3. Why should WE support the war? Rose’s defense of the war is based around the word “WE.” WE is that is an illusion. It is the illusion of Rousseau’s (the proto-socialist) social contract and it is the illusion that has been used to excuse the worst atrocities ever witnessed by mankind. It is the basis of Marx’s “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need” and Hillary’s “It takes a village.” There is no WE unless every single person included has agreed to it. Each of us has different needs, wants and priorities. Her priorities indicate the war is preferable to peace. My priorities indicates that peace and that this war will lead to future war. The conclusion to be drawn is that, since she wants war in Iraq, she needs to get together with those who are like-minded, form or finance an army, and leave me and my money out of it. Everyone who supports this war has embraced collectivism at its worst. Funny thing is, they call themselves conservatives and libertarians.

  4. Being a libertarian or any other label wearer will be a moot issue if we have no nation to promote our philosophy within. Can one imagine going to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea or any other nation or group that is totalitarian and promoting our position with relative impunity? It would be sure death to libertarians.

    Now, imaging any or all of the above somehow seizing power here because we roll over or the antiwar activists get their way and implement their style of government, disarmament and pacifism, or at the least, wait until we are invaded at home (which happened on 9-11-01). I will support the total and absolute defeat of our enemies with unconditional surrender just as in WWII. I have not yet decided if we are in WWIII yet but it certainly could be the beginning.

    It is not over yet and is not going to go away quietly. I hope I am wrong and the antiwar pacifists are right in their beliefs but I don’t think so.

  5. Sorry Julian. Bush is going down, and taking the Republican Party to hell with him – which should make you glad rather than sad.

    having said that, I wont do what others usually do at this point and declare that you are a [statistnazicommunistsocialistbrownshirtgangsterrepublicanspy
    infideletcetcetc] and most importantly, NOT a libertarian and therefore YOU MUST GET OUT NOW. :)

    You’re wrong, but it’s not important to me to prove that to you. History will do that for me, it will just take longer.
    Keep believing in the LP though. There’s still room for you.

  6. Julian,

    A Presidential classification of “enemy” does not an enemy make. Those who have done us harm are certainly legitimate targets, but the whole preemptive ideology grants government the authority to declare anyone it chooses (heads of state or, as we have seen, American citizens) an enemy and do them harm in the absence of any proof. The specter of such authority should frighten even the most intransigent lover of war.

    And despite the width of your brush, the vast majority of people who are “antiwar” are not pacifists, they just oppose this war. I am no pacifist, but I feel that eliminating the policies that feed terrorism is as important as tracking down and killing those involved in the terrorist actions against us.

    And while I’m not about to bash Israel for defending itself, Americans should stop being forced to fund the conflict. In our alleged attempts at peace, the only tactic we haven’t tried is staying the hell out of it.

  7. Artus — Radical Islam is indeed the enemy of America.

    And America is its enemy. These two statements seem tautological in relation to each other, but it need not be so.

    What Julian fails to understand that you cannot eliminate an idea or a belief with weapons. You have to combat ideas with ideas.

    And the ideas we are using right now amount to: “Take this and suck on it because we can make you do it.” … which is precisely what we are hated for. The longer this continues the worse it will get.

    I dare say that at this rate, we are definitely in for a worse atrocity than 9/11 before Bush’s tenure is over.

    One might even go so far as to presume it is his intent/desire.

    That way there would be no election in ’08. (Unitary executive declaration; there shall be no election during the ongoing state of emergency)

  8. To put it as simple as possible: IMO there’s room for isolationists & there’s room for realists. Not for Neo-Imperialists.

    Concern for the security of the US is obviously reasonable. Whether you believe immediate withdrawal or a cautious maintenance of a strategic upper hand (read: keep the weapons but be way more reasonable in when we use them & why) is the key is fine. But the idea that for the harsher areas of the world the road to freedom is paved by US tanks is completely incompatible with libertarianism.

  9. “Now, imaging any or all of the above (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea) somehow seizing power here because we roll over or the antiwar activists get their way and implement their style of government, disarmament and pacifism, or at the least, wait until we are invaded at home (which happened on 9-11-01).”

    1) You’ve created a policy of military interventionism based on a laughable scenario.
    2) There a great many antiwar types (like me) who simply save the bloodlust for when our own land is invaded (at which time I will pull the trusty ole M1A out the closet and defend myself and family)
    3) The perpetrators of 9-11 are dead. They did not occupy the USA. None were Iraqi. None were Afgani.
    4) The leftist antiwar crowd are not pacifists. So don’t worry. If they come to power they’ll keep the military intact to kill people of their choosing.

  10. It strains the imagination to think that Iran, Syria or North Korea or even Saddam’s Iraq could conquer the continental United States. And, in any case, most antiwar Libertarians support maintaing a national defense.

    But the principle of non-aggression – the non-initiation of force, as Ayn Rand described it – indicates that the person that shoots first is the initiator of force, the aggressor, and so pre-emptive war is not really a strategy for defense.

    It is rather a strategy for maintaining continuous war and with it, continuous war spending, to the benefit of the mixed economy parasites that run the military-industrial complex.

  11. Such continuous war is a legitimate option against those who would dare behave in any manner the US government doesn’t like, according to the stated position of the PNAC.

    It is difficult to decide which is more frightening: the fact that these people who are instrumental in pulling the puppet strings of the Administration are so open about their desire for empire or that the American people don’t seem to give a damn.

  12. Timothy West

    You did what you said you did not do, name call and then denied it. Debate me, don’t bash me. I made a commitment to my son not to bash those that disagreed with me so you owe me the courtesy of defining your positions as I do. I am not a fan of Bush so how do you come to the conclusion that I am?

    Artus Register

    I can think for myself. I do not need the President to classify some person, group or nation our enemy and then blindly follow. I have drawn my own conclusions based on facts as I interpret them. I just happen to believe most of our officially declared enemies are in fact our enemies from independent research.


    How is it laughable that those that want to destroy you cannot achieve the goal? Do you believe we are somehow invincible?

    Gene Berkman

    This is as clear as I can make it. If you threaten me or my family and point a gun (missile) at me or threaten to kill (terroristic threats), I will surely pull the trigger first and kill you.

  13. The absurdity of classifying Milton Friedman — fiat currency/central banking fan and father of income tax withholding — as a “libertarian” notwithstanding, at least he’s right on something.

    Sooner or later, the libertarian movement is going to have to lance the war boil. Now’s as good a time as any:

    If you believe the stealing of money for the purpose of financing the invasion, conquest and occupation of a country which presents no credible, let alone existential, threat to the country or the people of the country whose government is doing the stealing/invading/conquering/occupying, while writing off the deaths of innocents killed in said endeavor as acceptable “collateral damage” to be a “libertarian” policy then you lack even the most rudimentary grasp of what “libertarian” means, and you aren’t one. Period.

  14. If you regard yourself as a neo libertarian, then what I say about them applies to you, or anyone else, who supports the Bush policy of preemptive war. It’s as unamerican as unamerican gets. If you support that, you support Bush in the most important way possible.

    The line was crossed when we left the hunt for Bin Laden, and started the phony war against Iraq, based on lies and half truths. I fully supported the mission in afghanistan to get Bin Laden and kill the Taliban. But our glorious military cant even do that either. We spend this obscene amount of money, and we cant even find Laden? What good is it? How is all this money wasted so badly?

    You cant support the #1 Bush policy of preemptive war without supporting Bush. Malcolm X said that you cant hate the roots of the tree without hating the tree. He’s right, stop kidding yourself.

  15. I can think for myself. I do not need the President to classify some person, group or nation our enemy and then blindly follow. I have drawn my own conclusions based on facts as I interpret them.

    Apparently not, Julian. You have always sided with war and gleefully supported the idea of new wars. To my knowledge you have never illustrated that a prostrate Iraq, riddled by sanctions and without nuclear or other WMDs presented any real threat to the Republic. If I missed your explanation of such, please humor me and repeat it.
    You say that you don’t need the President to classify our enemies, but I seriously doubt that if Iraq had never been an issue you would be banging a lone drum of war and be posting your demands for the invasion on HoT.

    I just happen to believe most of our officially declared enemies are in fact our enemies from independent research.

    Perhaps you would like tell us which officially declared enemies you do not agree are our enemies.

  16. I am a certified combat veteran, special ops unit, hunter/killer team, infantry, Vietnam.

    The best defense is a strong offense (preemptive strikes).

    I am alive today because I did not blink or flinch. My team (I was team commander) killed them before they killed us. We did not wait for them to shoot first. We shot first. Better them dead than us. The same applies on a larger scale, kill them before they kill us.

    When are some of you going to pull your heads out of the sand and look around? Our enemies want to kill you, me and our families. I cannot believe so many of you do not believe the threat is real. Oh, I forgot. Most of you are of draft age if it became necessary for you to take up arms and fight toe to toe, you just might be cowards. Now that helps with clarity.

    Take your best shot at me. I survived the vilification, insults, threats and hatred of the Vietnam era. You can’t match the insults of that era. Just try.

  17. Thomas L. Knapp

    Are you saying I and other libertarians that refuse to walk in goose step with you on every issue including the use of force are boils and must be lanced? I am sure I read that correctly.

    You can kiss my ass, you asshole motherfucker.

    Stephen VanDyke

    I broke my promise, son. I am not going to let assholes insult me here or anywhere. You know me well and know I come out fighting for what I believe is right. The problem with the antiwar radical element of the LP is they want no dissent within the ranks. They can kiss my ass. I am proud I am a member of the LRC and hope good comes out of it so maybe some of the neanderthal retards will quit and start another party, possibly called the “Party of Cowards”.

  18. Julian,

    Yes, Ba’athists and Islamists hate America.

    So what? It’s been idiotic US policy, at home and abroad, which has empowered them to DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

    If the US government hadn’t set troops all over the Middle East, subsidized various sides of fights that weren’t any of its business, etc., al Qaeda would never have amounted to more than a gaggle of goatherds bitching over the campfire about how they’d sure get a few punches in at Great Satan if ol’ nanny-goat out there wasn’t hot and ready for a roll. It took US government stupidity to get popular support and money behind those assholes.

    If the inalienable human and constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms hadn’t been illegally suppressed among air travelers, 19 thugs with boxcutters wouldn’t have even DREAMED of being able to hijack four planes and crashing them into things.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And you, sir, are insane.

  19. It is much easier to start a war with a faceless group (country, religion, party), than with individuals.

    The single highest service libertarians can perform for the world is to insist on respecting each individual’s unalienable rights.

  20. Julian,

    You write:

    “Are you saying I and other libertarians that refuse to walk in goose step with you on every issue including the use of force are boils and must be lanced? I am sure I read that correctly.”

    Actually, you read it incorrectly. I never said anything about “you and other libertarians.” What I said is that you (based on your statements) AREN’T a libertarian.

    Of course, I don’t have any more control over how words are used than anyone else — I define them as I see them and try to persuade others to define them similarly. You’re perfectly free to try to twist the meaning of the word “libertarian” into something that covers your preferred brands of thuggery if you want — and I’m free to say that that’s exactly what you’re doing (although I’m giving you the benefit of doubt and assuming that you’re a loon rather than a liar).

    Kiss your ass? Which part? You’re all ass.

  21. I’m by no means across the board antiwar. I think we should seek out and kill Bin Laden and all that support him.

    But Iraq did not and does not come even close to meeting the standard of using the military only for the defense of America. It was instead used in a offensive manner. We turned a nasty corner in doing so.

    Not insulting you. But my country, wrong or right, is not right. When your country fucks up, you’ve got to make it right.

  22. I was about to thank you for your civility and restraint, Julian. And then you start behaving like you old self and attacking people over insults you’ve dreamed up.
    The fact that you would rather break said promise than continue to engage in dialogue and instead choose to hurl angry profanity when no one has insulted you should indicate to you that you may benefit from some quality couch time.

    And yes, we all know you were in the war and you killed people and the lessons of Vietnam apply to every aspect of human existence. Since that war worked out so damned well I don’t understand why those policies aren’t applied to the current situations.

  23. By the way, are you hearing voices? Because no one here ever said there was no threat. We do insist, however that Iraq was never that threat. For all your alleged support of the military you certainly aren’t very eager to have them focus on eliminating the real threat and coming home. Perhaps you’d change that attitude if the President changed his.

  24. Friedman is a libertarian even if the purity police say he isn’t. A different take on the “split” in the Friedman’s can be found at It argues that the split is very one sided because the article ignores other vocal family members like David and Patri who are both antiwar.

  25. Thomas L. Knapp

    Are you so all knowing and arrogant that you think anyone that disagrees with you is automatically wrong, stupid and close minded? That is my take on you.

    Get REal squarely hits the nail on the head about libertarian purity police. You are a purist and really don’t give a crap if libertarians are ever politically successful.

    Don’t insult me by talking down to me as if you are some kind of guru. No wonder the LP has been a joke forever. You self-proclaimed party philosophers and all knowing wizards of perfect libertarian knowledge are in the way of progress. Move or get run over by winners.

    Fighting amongst ourselves will eventually prove to be healthy for the Party because those intolerant of change and progress, such as you, will eventually leave and start whatever loser party you want to promote.

    Again, LOSER, get out of the way or we will bulldoze your ass out of the way with new ideas.

  26. The war is not just anti-Libertarian. It is anti-American!!

    It is an excuse to bring the whole world under a police state, and America will soon cease to be a nation. The North American Union will bring us regional government, just like the rest of the world.

    Stand up for America NOW, Julian, and others, or America will cease to exist!

    Ready for your microchip?

  27. Julian,

    “Are you so all knowing and arrogant that you think anyone that disagrees with you is automatically wrong, stupid and close minded? That is my take on you.”

    Have whatever “take” you want. I reach conclusions and take a stand on them. Don’t like it? Tough.

    “You are a purist and really don’t give a crap if libertarians are ever politically successful.”

    Yeah, sure — that’s why I’ve actually WON elections and why I’m actually IN public office.

    “Don’t insult me by talking down to me as if you are some kind of guru.”

    I’m far from a guru, but I’d have to lower myself considerably to talk any way BUT down to you. That’s your problem, not mine. If you want to be a libertarian, be one. If you don’t want to be a libertarian, it’s not my job to flatter you by pretending that you are.

    “Again, LOSER, get out of the way or we will bulldoze your ass out of the way with new ideas.”

    Okay, “winner,” put up or shut up. Precisely what it is that you’ve “won?”

  28. Thomas L. Knapp

    Why waste your time and words on a little guy like me?
    If you are in office, don’t you think you should be spending your time serving your constituents instead of wasting your time here? You must be like the rest of the self-serving politicians, serving and promoting yourself.
    How much narcissistic time do you spend in front of a mirror?

  29. I hope everyone read the comments thread at Volokh Conspiracy.

    It was a much more intelligent discussion.

    There’s also now a follow-up post at VC.

  30. Julian,

    You write:

    “Why waste your time and words on a little guy like me?”

    I don’t regard humoring you as “wasting time and words.” I made what I saw as a reasonable statement (non-libertarians aren’t libertarians). You got your knickers all in a twist about it. No biggie. There was always the possibility that you really wanted to actually be/become a libertarian instead of just gravy-training on a cool label, so I spent a few minutes in good faith repartee with you against that possibility.

    “If you are in office, don’t you think you should be spending your time serving your constituents instead of wasting your time here?”

    The discharge of my duties of office comes to a few hours a year unless Congress approves a draft pursuant to the Selective Service Act. My constituency is liberty, and here’s as good a place to serve that constituency as any at the moment.

  31. ‘the only friedman who is is their son David.’

    David Friedman would disagree. He thinks his father is a libertarian.

    A true ‘purist’ would deny David Friedman is a libertarian. He supports taxation for national defense in some circumstances.

  32. Thomas L. Knapp

    Who put you in charge of determining whether I am a libertarian or not? I make that decision. Is the libertarian movement for elitists or is it large enough for those that may not agree with every nuance of the Party line? If there is not enough room for me, then there is not enough room for success because you are missing the point, new members.

    You egalitarians will be holding meetings in a shoe box because that is how small the Party will become with some on the attitudes expressed toward the rest of us.

    Again, FUCK YOU. I am not leaving.

  33. Julian,

    You write:

    “Who put you in charge of determining whether I am a libertarian or not?”

    Nobody had to put me in charge. Everyone already is in charge of classifying existents with reference to the definitions they believe are applicable.

    That said, I’ve actually been running the latest variant on an ongoing trial balloon, with you as the unwilling and unwitting guinea pig. Sorry, it doesn’t work otherwise.

    The experiment has to do with whether or not there’s sufficient consensus to automatically define supporters of the Iraq war as non-libertarians/anti-libertarians, or whether, such a consensus still lacking, allegedly libertarian supporters of the Iraq war should continue to be thought of as libertarians who have simply fallen into grievous error.

    So far in this thread, you’re the only guy who seems to be arguing that stealing and murdering innocents for the purpose of killing “enemies” who have not attacked you is “libertarian.”

    Tom Knapp

  34. I consider the non-aggression principle to be a ‘first approximation’ to a civilized ethics, requiring a few exceptions for ‘hard cases’. This follows from a combination of consequentialist arguments and my personal ethical intuitions.

    I don’t claim to be able to prove that my intuitions are universally valid in any objective sense. If anyone ever accomplishes that feat of ethical philosophizing, I am confident it will be someone much smarter than I. I am satisfied that neither Rand nor Rothbard did so, though they both deserve much credit for trying.

    I would call ‘libertarian’ anyone whose public policy views are consistent with my first sentence above, even if they are based on different ethical views. IOW, I take ‘libertarian’ to be a political label, not an ethical one.


  35. (Continued from # 40)

    One of the ‘hard cases’, is taxation for national defense. The public good problem is real. Rothbard’s argument against it is fallacious, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere.

    I don’t think it follows that all, or most, or even very many public goods should be bought with taxes. There are arguments against doing so that don’t depend on denying the problem.

    National defense is a very special case. In the event of a failure of national defense, the least that can be expected is that the conqueror will impose higher taxes than would have been required to prevent the conquest. As David Friedman put it during the Cold War, ‘I would rather pay [taxes] to Washington than to Moscow – the rates are lower.’

    I wouldn’t try to rationlize that such taxation isn’t theft. It is theft. I can only conclude that in this case theft is a lesser evil.


  36. (Continued from # 41)

    Given a minarchist, ‘nightwatchman’ state that levies taxes to pay for national defense, we require that it provide the desired level of security at the lowest possible cost.

    One proposed policy option, is to go on a crusade of preventive wars against the world’s tyrannies. The expected outcome would be a world of stable liberal democracies, enjoying peaceful relations into the indefinite future. This would permit negotiated disarmament down to police levels, saving enough in foregone national defense costs to more than cover the costs of the crusade. Assuming this policy ‘works’, that it achieves the expected outcome, it could easily be the lowest cost option.

    A person who expects such a policy to work would be, in my opinion, a naive person.

    A person who advocates such a policy in the expectation that it would work, need not be a non-libertarian. He could be a naive libertarian.

  37. David Tomlin

    I agree with the hypothesis as being plausible but probably not testable. It is a philosophical belief system that should not disallow a person from being a libertarian. It is not an exact fit for my belief but has all the elements.

    I do disagree with the last two sentences. I do not believe I am naive nor am I uninformed on forming my decisions.

    At the very least, you are not hell bent on driving me out of libertarianism. It might be better that folks like me be your ally, not your enemy.