Monday, October 21, 2002

I have breakfast with three fellows every Saturday for the last few months. One of them is a Dittohead, another quite liberal, the third a fellow libertarian who knows tons more about guns and war than I do. I had sent them the letter from Tehran I posted earlier and the liberal fellow of the group sent this reply (quoted in full).

Very moving - I feel for her (and her countrymen). But, what makes the US
responsible for bringing a better life to Iran? We fought and died for our
freedoms (and continue to do so). As I stated at breakfast, I don't believe
the US should intercede in every country and try to run the world. How can
libertarians support intervention??

Another point I meant to bring up: if we are right to export our beliefs
through violence because we believe we are right, why can't those who also
believe they are right (and we are wrong) export their beliefs through
violence? I DO believe we are right, but they are probably just as
convinced I'm wrong as we are convinced they're wrong. This is perhaps a
trite and superficial argument, but I believe it has validity as a
discussion point!

To which I replied: "We're not responsible for her, Burt. We're not going to be the world's policeman. There is clear and credible evidence that Iraq had a hand in al Qaeda. There is to me clear and credible evidence that Saudi Arabia is culpable -- more for financing than being the birthplace of so many of al Qaeda's membership. I asked the question if Iran should be next. My answer is: no. Not before Saudi. On that I think Bush was wrong to put Iran in the axis of evil. (I thought that of North Korea too, but maybe he knew then what we know now.) I fully understand that we don't put Saudi in there because of energy. We have competing interests -- our demands for energy and security are in conflict. Tradeoffs are part of reality, true since Man has fallen, and those who say "no blood for oil" are idiots trying to avoid inescapable choices. I know you're not one of those idiots.

"In Iraq's case there's no reason to believe that Iraq has stopped being a threat to us, and there's no hope that any other solution than action against him initiated by us will work. I'm very reluctant to say that, because we know with war comes the government's never-ending attempt to remove our freedoms. But the fact that the morons in Washington would pass the PATRIOT Act doesn't make it wrong to eliminate Saddam. We can and should undo PATRIOT. We can't undo the next terrorist attack; we can only do our best to prevent it. Indeed, if preventing terrorism before it happens isn't government's legitimate function, what the hell is?

"Being a libertarian means being against the use of government power to stop peaceful acts like gun ownership (we have laws against using them violently, but you seem not to want to stop there). It is not being against the justified use of force in self-defense, which includes preventitive measures. We have a right to our own lives; nobody should be made a sacrifice to be absolutely sure the enemy means us harm when the enemy has already given us clear evidence he means us harm. If I own a gun and someone breaks into my house, I don't wait for the intruder to come upstairs and fire the first shot. I kill him at the foot of the stairs. Can there be any doubt that Saddam is attempting to break into our house?"

Two days later, I still think that's right.