Monday, March 22, 2010
I like reading Will Wilkinson, because I so often disagree with him. He is on the liberal wing of libertarianism, while I am on the conservative wing. His position, shared with Kerry Howley, that it is acceptable for libertarians to act (presumably with coercive force) against certain values held by people, such as sexism, is extremely problematic. And his willingness to see religious influence decreased, even if it will lead to more of a welfare state, is also disturbing.
Now, he has a post talking about the war on Iraq as a war of aggression, where the Iraqi people were left worse off. As usual, his liberalism is mightily on display, but his libertarianism is less clear.
To begin with, why was the war a war of aggression? Because the brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, did not consent to it? Why wasn't it a welcome event by a sizable, probably majority, of the Iraqi nation? We simply don't know what they all thought, although I am guess that the Shia majority and the Kurds welcomed the war in the beginning and would have consented to it. Wilkinson should admit that the moral notion of a war of aggression is not clearly applied here and this can be thought of as a war of liberation. No amount of rhetoric will change the fact that we don't know what the Iraqi people would have said ahead of time.
Wilkinson also suggests that the Iraqis have been left worse off by the war. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Even assuming the harms caused by the subsequent civil war are treated as attributable to the invasion, this judgment is questionable on two grounds. First, it looks at the short run, rather than the long run, effects of the war on the welfare of the Iraqi people. Second, it ignores that people may care more about freedom than welfare.