The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Monday, March 22, 2010

Will Wilkinson on Iraq
Mike Rappaport

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. 

https://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2010/03/will-wilkinson-on-iraqmike-rappaport.html

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Mike Rappaport
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Comments

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Posted by: Jordan Shoes | Mar 22, 2010 7:09:52 AM

So odd that someone who proclaims himself to be a so-called "libertarian" should be so ready to ally himself to those who strive to repress liberty at every turn.

I know little of this gentlemen. Obviously he is no veteran. Do we know whether he is or is not of the marrying kind?

Posted by: Lou Gots | Mar 22, 2010 7:10:21 AM

Wilkinson begs the question. He's like other libertarians who assert that wars they interpret as unnecessary or aggressive are immoral, without acknowledging that necessity is often a judgment call. For example, the argument that Saddam Hussein's WMD program and support for terrorists made him a significant threat to us, and thus justified our invasion as self-defense, seems worthy of consideration even if it turned out later not to be valid. Certainly this idea was taken seriously by people whose job is to evaluate threats to national security. Yet Wilkinson implicity dismisses it. With some libertarians, it seems as though no threat short of an invasion of the US mainland justifies a military response. I don't think their arguments are libertarian so much as idiosyncratic and reflexively anti-defense.

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