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Are Progressives Singing a New Tune on the Wars?

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Lawrence Samuels
Campaign For Liberty
March 30, 2010

Are progressives changing their view on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Until recently, I saw some reluctance among liberals to criticize Obama’s foreign policies. In fact, during one anti-war rally in 2009, we were asked not to display any “Obama-bashing” protest signs. But everyone still held a deep opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But that began to change when we planned a recent March 20 Peace Rally in Monterey. The protest was held to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. I had volunteered to organize the protest for the local Peace Coalition (comprising 23 member organizations). The event turned out well. Our keynote speakers were liberal Bill Monning, the California Assembly member from the 27th district, and libertarian David Henderson, professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School. Both were crowd pleasers.

But a problem arose when I went on a radio show to mention the Peace rally. For years, I had been a monthly guest on KRXA, a progressive radio station, to discuss war, libertarianism and liberty. A former affiliate of Air America Radio, KRXA 540 AM has always been supportive of anti-war views and activities. But this time I got a shock. During the show, host and co-owner Hal Ginsberg began to wonder if the Iraq War might now be justified. The question was: If Iraq does begin to act like a democratic nation in the next few years, then maybe President Bush might have been right to invade the nation. In fact, this line of thought had come from a recent /New York Times /editorial.

After explaining his position more, the host finally asked me what I thought. Of course, I said that it does not matter if democracy sprouts roots in Iraq. We cannot force democracy or freedom on people in any country. As a libertarian, I recognize no higher value than individual liberty. But under the non-aggression principle, I oppose coercive — even to impose something I value highly. Non-aggression is the essence of liberty. It would be hypocritical to use military force and government edicts supposedly to make people free. Only people have rights, not governments. 

I pointed out that in Iraq’s 5,000-year history, the people have never had a culture that supported a decentralized government of open markets and individual rights. The Iraqis have instead supported strong men and empires. But my radio host said he did not buy that argument. He indicated that democracy is so important that our government might be obligated to bring it to every nation. Of course, this was President Bush’s keystone argument.

It is discouraging to see progressives become fuzzy over our imperialistic wars. In fact, the /New York Times/ recently editorialized in support of Obama’s expanding war in Afghanistan.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

It was not long ago when almost every progressive leader and newspaper voiced harsh words for Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that Obama is in charge, that anti-war sentiment is changing. It appears that it is okay for a Democrat administration to engage in war, but not a Republican one.

As I have always said, we should always put “principles over party.” We need to be consistent supporters of peace, not distracted by political pragmaticism.

This article was posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 4:41 am

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