December 7th, 2009

Why the New Anti-War Right is Wrong

photo credit: Digital Agent

Social networks buzzed last week with the publication of an article by Reihan Salam titled “The New Anti-War Right”, which praised the “conservative case for withdrawal [from Afghanistan]” promoted by Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. The author went so far as to designate Chaffetz as the “beginning of a wave”—that wave being the swelling ranks of “the new Anti-War Right”.

Salam summarizes the situation by observing that “grassroots conservatives” are concerned that the military is “too hamstrung by concern about civilian casualties and political correctness to wage an effective military campaign”, despicably bundling a (noble) regard for innocent life with a widely despised concession to neutered language and protocol. Since when did conservatives show a complete disdain for innocent life?

The answer to that question requires understanding just what the so-called “Right” embodies, as well as its historical evolution. Perhaps no better source material can be found than Justin Raimondo’s Reclaiming the American Right, an exhaustive analysis of how modern conservatism has changed its tune over the years. While shaped by many people and events, the assessment of modern conservatism can largely be summarized as follows:

Throughout the nineteenth century, the party which espoused classical liberalism (a rejection of intervention both domestically and abroad) was not the Republicans, but the Democrats. These fought for limited government, free trade, and no privileges bestowed upon business by government. The onset of the progressive movement in America knocked this libertarian-minded philosophy from its place of popularity, replacing it with a quest for “change”—a slogan popular in campaigns both then and now.

The depression gave way to FDR’s New Deal, which served as a catalyst to fuel the opposing ranks of long-lost libertarians; here modern conservatism was born. This was a broad coalition of conservative and Jeffersonian Democrats, libertarians like Mencken and Nock, and Republicans. As the Democrats intensified and championed the New Deal, this broad group of opposing political forces mostly united under the banner of the Republican Party. As Murray Rothbard has noted, this was an odd occurrence “since, from its inception in the 1850s, the Republican Party had always been the party of statism and centralized Big Government”.

Republicans united in their opposition to the New Deal and became the de facto disciples of classical liberalism and free markets, though these individuals had never really championed either of these causes previously. Their non-interventionist rhetoric became a staple of Republican conservatism—free markets and limited government—though their record in adhering to such ideals has rarely been a match. Rothbard likewise notes that this is a “grievous disjunction between high-sounding free market and libertarian discourses and actual statist practice that has marked conservatism ever since”.

The second World War really gave the “Old Right” its non-interventionist identity, but only after the anti-New-Deal coalition morphed with some changing alliances. By the end of the war, the Old Right was largely Republican and identified by its opposition to intervention both domestic and abroad. Senator Taft became the unofficial but visible spokesman for this wing of the Republican party, standing on the planks the Old Right became known for: opposition to war, the draft, foreign aid, and New Deal-esque domestic statism, and support and advocacy for free enterprise, sound money (the gold standard), and commerce and friendship with other nations.

The Old Right’s prominence was largely snuffed out with Taft’s loss to Eisenhower in the 1952 Republican convention, one of the closest and most heated political battles in this country’s history. Taft’s death soon thereafter, followed by the deaths or disappearance from the public eye of his political allies, largely solidified the implosion of the Republican faction opposed to foreign intervention abroad; on domestic policy, at least, the emerging New Right agreed—at least in campaign speeches and public statements. Eisenshower, Goldwater, and other figures became the symbols of the New Right which, far from having any pretense of anti-war principles, embraced warfare and international military intervention.

Rothbard notes the beginning of the solidification of the New Right as follows:

Since the thirties, the Right had suffered from a dearth of intellectuals; it had seemed that all intellectuals were on the left. A disjunction therefore existed between a tiny cadre of intellectuals and writers, and a large, relatively unenlightened mass base. In the mid-1950s, with a power vacuum in both the political and the intellectual areas, the Right had become ripe for a swift takeover. A well-edited, well-financed magazine could hope to capture the dazed right wing and totally transform its character. This is exactly what happened with the formation of National Review in 1955.

Raimondo’s book explains what happened next:

When National Review was founded in late 1955, [William F. Buckley, Jr.] and his circle initially refrained from criticizing or even differentiating themselves from the rest of the right-wing movement in this country. But it wasn’t long before the so-called “New Right” began to show its true colors. Whereas the Old Right had been a diverse and loose coalition of free-market libertarians, old Progressive isolationists, and the few remaining Jeffersonian Democrats, coexisting in a working alliance against the New Deal, Buckley and the National Review crowd soon put an end to this peaceable kingdom. In a series of polemics, they sought to purge American conservatism of every dissident group and subgroup. (p. 221-2)

This purge targeted members of the John Birch Society, the intellectual followers of Ayn Rand, libertarians, and all others who rejected the use of America’s military to intervene in the affairs of other nations and fight unnecessary wars. Indeed, any opposed to America’s global hegemony and military might were systematically decommissioned from the conservative movement, thus narrowly defining the New Right in the eyes of the masses, and drumming up support for a marked shift in conservative political ideology. Raimondo summarizes:

With the purging of these disparate heretics from the conservative “mainstream,” the betrayal and homogenization of the American Right was complete. Straining at the bit to get on with their holy war against the Soviet Union, the New Right was on the march and focused on a single goal: power. (p. 225)

Thus can be labeled today’s Republican conservatism: verbal homage to free markets and limited government, small statism and socialism when politically convenient, and a determination to vanquish any and every enemy who might threaten America’s “interests” around the world. Those Republicans who still oppose our wars of aggression and entangling alliances refer to those of the New Right (which is almost the entire GOP, these days) as neoconservatives (“New Right”), while sometimes labeling themselves as paleoconservatives (“Old Right”) in distinction.

And here, finally, we have our answer to the question of how such individuals can show such a disdain for innocent life; when the consolidation of power is your quest, all else literally becomes collateral damage. Of course, the party base is not built on this blatant disregard for civilian casualties throughout the world, and so the New Right’s imperial tendencies have always been publicly wrapped in flowery prose and laced with emotionally compelling justifications for “spreading democracy” and “opposing evil”. The New Right is, at their core, far from being the “compassionate conservatives” some portray them to be.

But enough of the Old and New Right, for now we have the apparent emergence of the “new Anti-War Right”, spearheaded by Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah—so says Salam, anyway. At first glance, one might expect this new anti-war wing of the GOP to be a throwback to their Old Right predecessors, but that’s already been done and refined by the Ron Paul Republicans. No, this supposedly anti-war faction led by Chaffetz is a far cry from the principled anti-war platform of the Old Right. Instead, it is political strategy and tactical practicality, perhaps better labeled as the “new Anti-War-When-The-Democrats-Are-In-Charge-And-When-I-Can-Score-Political-Points-And-Not-Really-Against-War-But-Just-Against-This-Specific-One-In-Its-Current-Form Right”. But labels that long don’t fit well on yard signs and logos, so the shortened and generalized (though misleading) “Anti-War Right” will be used. To do so, however, requires hijacking the true (and honest) anti-war faction of the Right, just as the pro-war neoconservatives hijacked the conservative movement half a century ago.

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative magazine explains why Chaffetz’s allegedly anti-war stance is, in reality, a complete farce:

The trouble with Chaffetz’s brand of “antiwar” stance is that he conceives of a “withdrawal” from Afghanistan being a prelude to the perpetual use of air strikes and targeted assassinations. His alternative of “going big” and eliminating strict rules of engagement is a pose of “freeing” the military from constraints that the top commanders themselves insist on having to give their mission the best chance of success. Barring the deployment of an even larger force with few constraints on how they operate, Chaffetz advocates a “withdrawal” from Afghanistan that will be as non-interventionist as Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. In this approach, we will reserve the right to launch attacks on their territory with impunity whenever we wish, but otherwise we will wash our hands of the place and the consequences of our actions. This will not only ensure the alienation of the population from any allied government that might still be in power, but it will contribute to the very radicalization and militancy that Chaffetz presumably would like to see weakened.

The Old Right would have said—and the current Anti-War Right does say—“go home”. Chaffetz’s “new Anti-War Right” (Orwellian doublespeak, perhaps?) says “go big or go home”, indicating an approval of foreign military intervention so long as goals are set, the desired people are killed, and our soldiers are freed up to inflict death as they see fit, free from politically-tied hands and politically-correct rules of engagement. This is not being anti-war—it is being anti-the current instantiation of war.

The real Anti-War Right opposes the never-ending military conflicts around the world on principled grounds, regardless of which party is in charge. Chaffetz’s brand cannot boast such a bipartisan stance. The real Anti-War Right does not riddle its opposition to war with numerous qualifiers as a cushioned fallback upon which they may rely should circumstances change, and war become politically expedient. This, unfortunately, is precisely what Chaffetz’s statement is all about. The real Anti-War Right has a fundamental principled objection to war and condones it only in the most exigent of circumstances, and when in legitimate self-defense. Chaffetz’s brand has no such foundation.

This clarification is not meant to reserve some elitist label of “anti-war” for the purists who refuse to swell their ranks with people who do not believe the exact same way and share such a principled objection. We of the Old Right and current (real) Anti-War Right happily welcome all those who wish to unite with us in opposition to war, empire, and international intervention. But we refuse to let our mission of peace and principle be hijacked by those would claim to be anti-war, yet who in reality are no more anti-war than Republicans have historically been champions of limited government and free enterprise. This is about the principle of true opposition to war; the dilution of that principle by those who would claim it as their own, and yet refuse to both understand and abide by its implications, is unacceptable and dishonest.

Hollow and politically-crafted anti-war rhetoric may generate media coverage, win a few votes, and be superficial enough to convince the ignorant and unprincipled. But at the end of the day, it is just a string of empty words void of any foundation, ready to be whisked away by the breeze of a new election, a new administration, and the control by one’s own party over the military.

General Douglas MacArthur once said that “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” Chaffetz’s anti-war policy is, seemingly, based on this factor and this factor alone: whether or not the war can be won. It is, then, anti-unwinnable-wars, and for this reason alone he has called for the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. We should, Chaffetz wrote to Obama, “give [the military] everything they need [to win] or bring the troops home.” No principle, and no across-the-board opposition to warfare. Instead, as Larison pointed out, Chaffetz’s supposedly anti-war stance is actually an advocacy for more war—just “better” waged war.

The “New Anti-War Right” is wrong both in description and mission. Their success ensures the continuing success of the New Right as a whole and the perpetuation of ongoing warfare, intervention in the affairs of other nations, and the use of hundreds of thousands of our troops, to say nothing of the costly expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars, for the pursuit of a policy that stands at odds with traditional, original, anti-war conservatism.

Ronald Reagan said that “History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.” It’s time Chaffetz and his “new anti-war” cohorts understood the real price of aggression in blood, treasure, and national morality. Perhaps then he will admit his anti-war policy for the fraudulent political doublespeak that it is, and embrace the principles that constitute a true opposition to war.

33 Responses to “Why the New Anti-War Right is Wrong”

  1. rmwarnick
    December 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    People like Rep. Chaffetz who like to talk about “going big” might want to tell us where the soldiers are supposed to come from. The entire U.S. Army consists of around 600,000 men and women. The active duty Marine Corps has another 200,000.

    Counterinsurgency doctrine requires 1 counter-insurgent for every 20 people (it also requires a legitimate host government, but that’s a separate issue). With 28.4 million population, that would mean 1.4 million troops, including Afghan army/police and NATO.

    American forces in Afghanistan have to be deployed halfway around the world, at a cost of $1 million per year per soldier. So “going big” isn’t a real option.

    The original Afghanistan campaign in 2001-2002 was brilliant, toppling the Taliban regime with fewer than 1,000 Americans on the ground supported by phenomenally accurate air power. The Afghan warlords who allied with us then are still around, reaping the benefits of power but doing little against the Taliban.

    Instead of further stretching our overextended ground forces by escalating this war, let’s withdraw and hand over the job to local militias. Even if they fail, I submit the adverse consequences to U.S. national security won’t be as great as commonly supposed.

  2. Jeremy
    December 7, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    Excellent article as always. I jsut have to nitpick a bit, hope you don’t mind. =)

    Just because Mr. Chaffetz is not presenting a long term, principled solution does not mean that he is presenting “fraudulent political doublespeak”. My impression is precisely what you’ve mentioned above: “This is not being anti-war—it is being anti-the current instantiation of war”. As a good friend would say (slightly censored, heh), do your business or get off the pot. Just because he isn’t going as far as the libertarian/Ron Paul camp and asking for a more principled solution doesn’t mean that he supports wars for power-grabbing either. He is addressing the current situation, no more no less.

    Now in my opinion the whole situation is a mess. Should we have ever gone over there in the first place? No. Have we mismanaged things with that war (and arguably everything in that area, not just this war)? Absolutely. Can we continue on as-is? Nope. I disagree with his position and the quote you have on his “Go big” results is quite frightening. However there’s a reason this quote is making waves. It appeals to the “make a decision” camp that many people are in. I don’t think he’s vying to fix things long term — I think he’s simply dealing with the immediate problem and moving on from there.

    From what I see there are no good options at this point — bad consequences are going to happen regardless of if we continue to fight, increase fighting or if we come home. Just walking away from the situation is arguably as irresponsible as perpetually being in a war there, but without becoming an expert there’s no way to say. Let’s hope that there are a few experts (self-created or otherwise) with integrity that help us clear up this mess, because that’s what it is, a mess.

  3. Clumpy
    December 7, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    Spot on.

    (Oops there’s been comments since – I’m referring to Connor’s original article and haven’t read the new comments yet.)

  4. Kelly W.
    December 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm #

    The history of the evolution of the two major parties was very interesting and enlightening. Thanks, Connor.

    To see how the two major parties have changed and evolved makes me think that there is a “shadow government” using the principles of Hegelian Dialectics to keep us corralled inside the fences of a left-right paradigm. The populace is kept within the corral by left-wing gatekeepers and right-wing gatekeepers.

    If Connor’s judgement of Chaffetz is correct, then Chaffetz is a right-wing gatekeeper.

    By trying to align ourselves with either the democrats or the republicans, we are still within the corral the shadow government wants to keep us in. We “think” we are free because we are granted the opportunity to choose either the left side of the corral or the right side. We fail to see we are still all a part of the same corral, and there are big fences keeping us travelling the path of Hegel’s dialectics.

    We shouldn’t listen to the gatekeepers. We should free ourselves of them.

    By going back to the “old” conservativism of Ron Paul, or say perhaps going back to the old intents of the Constitution, we are getting outside the corral.

  5. Edward
    December 8, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    I think your evaluation is true Connor. Another deep in the Chaffetz new-anti-war camp is Glenn Beck. Beck has upped the rhetoric ever since Obama’s announcement on Afghanistan policy. He has been saying the same thing of how we ought wage this war to win or just come home. I at first thought this new attitude was a step in the right direction and was glad that Beck was taking it. But as he further described his thinking he explained about how our military is too politically correct and “restrained” by all these rules about when they can actually kill people. So naturally, either these rules need to be done away with or we ought to just bring the troops home.

    For the guy who is all about “principles”, I thought it to be a very unprincipled approach.

  6. ldsliberty
    December 8, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    The current edition of “Reclaiming the American Right” has an essay at the end by David Gordon that discusses the views of J Reuben Clark about a non-interventionalist foreign policy. As a Latter-day Saint, I was very pleased to see that his views are still appreciated by those of the Old Right tradition. It’s a shame more Latter-day Saints don’t appreciate his teachings…

  7. Kelly W.
    December 8, 2009 at 9:02 am #

    Glenn Beck is one of the foremost right-wing gatekeepers today. What is most likely is that Chaffetz is just falling in line behind Beck and the other gatekeepers.

    After all, we really couldn’t allow one of our congresspeople to get outside the corral now, could we?

  8. jake Brown
    December 8, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    I consider myself part of the Ron Paul Revolution, and I disagree firmly with the war in Iraq. We were in no way provoked to go there unless you accept the empty threats of an almost insane dictator as true provocation.
    However, I think it is easy to lump those two wars together like George Bush did so dishonestly during his term. I agree with most of your article, but it would seem that you are arguing that ALL war is evil and unjust. I think it clear from Moroni, to Aquinas, to our late prophet, to Christ himself that war is at times justified.
    The question then becomes what justifies a war. I think the war in Afghanistan was justified. Osama and his supporting government the Taliban attacked us. Once we have been attacked we need to protect ourselves from further attack. So while I agree that we should never have gone into Iraq and should leave as soon as possible, we should be slow to lump that war with our war in Afghanistan. I do not argue that we should still be there (I have yet to make a firm decision on that), but I do think we should be slow to condemn all war just because some wars are fought unjustly. Because there are clearly times when it is necessary.

  9. Kelly W.
    December 8, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    “Osama and his supporting government the Taliban attacked us. Once we have been attacked we need to protect ourselves from further attack.”

    I disagree 100%. The attack on 9/11 was an inside job and Osama was only a patsy.

  10. Connor
    December 8, 2009 at 1:28 pm #


    Just because Mr. Chaffetz is not presenting a long term, principled solution does not mean that he is presenting “fraudulent political doublespeak”.

    Indeed, however the assertion that this specific position is the basis for a new faction w/in the GOP lends itself to the idea that this is more, to Rep. Chaffetz, than just a singular reaction to a singular event. It is a new brand of being anti-war, one that is laced with doublespeak. Unless I’m wrong in my assessment, which would be great!


    Another deep in the Chaffetz new-anti-war camp is Glenn Beck. Beck has upped the rhetoric ever since Obama’s announcement on Afghanistan policy.

    Coming from the guy who advocated shooting terrorists in the head as a method of rendering justice, this shouldn’t be surprising (unless one is drunk on Beck’s neocon koolaid).


    I consider myself part of the Ron Paul Revolution…
    I think the war in Afghanistan was justified.

    For your convenience, this would be the position of Ron Paul Republicans. In short, bring ’em home and end the imperial interventionist foreign policy. Paul addresses your specific point about “Osama and his supporting government the Taliban attacked us”, which is untrue.

  11. Jay
    December 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    The “war” in Afghanistan wasn’t a war. It was done under the constitutional clause of a letter of marque and reprisal. Ron Paul supported that. What we have going on in Afghanistan now is not about marque and reprisal.

  12. jake Brown
    December 8, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    I mentioned my support of Ron Paul not to suggest that everything Ron Paul says becomes the bible for me, obviously I was not clear on that. I merely mentioned it to show that I am against unjust war and do not include “democratization” or “pre-emptive defense” as just war. That said I do not think Afghanistan is in either of these camps. As to the idea of /11 being an inside job unless you can support that with evidence instead of a statement it cannot be discussed. So given that…

    The exact ties between bin Laden and Afghanistan may be in question, but there is no doubt that some of the Taliban funds were used to support him and he was given shelter in their country even after the attacks. Even the war averse UN recognized that there were enough ties between Afghanistan and Bin Laden to support the war. Given those circumstances I believe it was just to go to war against a country who had supported an attacker.
    More generally when do you think it is just to go to war? It sounds like you are against ever going to war, but I assume that is just the feeling as you discuss these wars but what makes it legitimate if Afghanistan is not?

  13. Connor
    December 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    I merely mentioned it to show that I am against unjust war and do not include “democratization” or “pre-emptive defense” as just war. That said I do not think Afghanistan is in either of these camps.

    The Afghani government is a puppet one, supported, molded, and sustained through American support. We very much are there to “spread democracy” (as a stated goal, not a true intent) as this is one of the main planks of our supposed “success” over there. And the fact that one of the most prevalent current arguments for supporting the war in Afghanistan is that we are “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” betrays the assertion that this isn’t pre-emptive war. I believe it is.

    As to the idea of 9/11 being an inside job unless you can support that with evidence instead of a statement it cannot be discussed.

    Kelly/Jake/whoever, if you want to discuss that, please take it to this thread.

    The exact ties between bin Laden and Afghanistan may be in question, but there is no doubt that some of the Taliban funds were used to support him and he was given shelter in their country even after the attacks.

    Should we ignore the fact that America has given bin Laden funds, weapons, and training as well?

    Even the war averse UN recognized that there were enough ties between Afghanistan and Bin Laden to support the war.

    The UN is not war-averse. Their very charter is a war document, as J. Reuben Clark noted long ago:

    There seems no reason to doubt that such real approval as the Charter has among the people is based upon the belief that if the Charter is put into effect, wars will end.…The Charter will not certainly end war. Some will ask,—why not? In the first place, there is no provision in the Charter itself that contemplates ending war. It is true the Charter provides for force to bring peace, but such use of force is itself war.…The Charter is built to prepare for war, not to promote peace.…The Charter is a war document not a peace document. (Prophets, Principles and National Survival, p. 458)

    Given those circumstances I believe it was just to go to war against a country who had supported an attacker.

    Our CIA is riddled with professional “attackers” who overthrow governments, fund and train renegade resistance forces, and take out political targets. These attackers are supported by our government/country. Should we go to war against ourselves?

    More generally when do you think it is just to go to war?

    I support the Just War Theory, and thus only condone war when in legitimate self-defense against a country who has aggressed against us (not a rag-tag group of “terrorists”), with a strict and clear view of what victory entails, a careful and cautious respect for innocent life on both sides of the engagement, and an openness to diplomatic resolution at any time during the conflict. War should always be a last resort, not the easy continuation of the status quo botched foreign policy for the last several decades and the perpetuation of the ever-enlargening military industrial complex who are, at their very core, war profiteers.

    We have been involved in 70 covert or active military offensive actions since 1945. This is excessive, unnecessary, and detrimental to the very national security so many claim to uphold as our goal and purpose for the use of military force. Afghanistan is no different.

  14. Kelly W.
    December 8, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    Jake, I assume you are saying Osama was the one behind 9/11, and that is your justification for our involvement in Afghanistan. That is simply just a statement coming from you. There is no proof Osama was behind the attacks. In fact, the facts show differently. If you go to the FBI’s official website and look at what Osama has been charged with, you will find that he is NOT wanted for 9/11. If you then call the FBI personally on the phone and ask them why not, their response will be that they don’t have any proof of his involvement. Therefore, your statement about Osama is simply a statement that you have no facts about.

  15. jake Brown
    December 8, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    Like I said in my first post- I am not necessarily arguing that we should still be over there. We should have had a better exit strategy before we went in. But the fact that it has become a war for democratization does not mean that going to war in the first place was wrong. I think what it has become/reasons given for staying are not just, but that does not change whether it was just to go.

    And the fact that one of the most prevalent current arguments for supporting the war in Afghanistan is that we are “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” betrays the assertion that this isn’t pre-emptive war. I believe it is.

    I agree with you that this is not fair if it is the motivation to go to war. Again, this was the argument with Iraq and I believe it is wrong. I don’t think it is the initial reason we went to Afghanistan. If it was just to go at first the problem becomes how the war was carried out which is the second part of just war theory. I agree it has not been carried out correctly, but this does not make going in the first place wrong.
    Should we ignore the fact that America has given bin Laden funds, weapons, and training as well?

    I understand that the US made some bad decisions with Afghanistan in the past. But I think that cannot control our actions of the present. Yes we gave them weapons/funds, but if they use them against us we still must defend ourselves.

    The fact that the UN charter allows countries to go to war does not show that they are not war averse. When it is a council voting on something it is the ideas of the different voters that makes them war averse or pro-war. I would suggest that over the decade we have had a war averse UN- but this really has little to do with whether a war was just. Point is the whole world saw the relationship between the Taliban and Bin Laden to be strong enough to make them both guilty of 9/11.

    I agree- what we have done with our CIA agents is wrong. It has hurt the places we have gone and in the end discourages democracy. But again whether we are perfect or not does not make our war in Afghanistan just or not. If we waited for perfection (or even close to it) before we defended ourselves we would have been dead a long time ago. And yes- if we go in with our CIA agents I think those countries have a legitimate reason for grievance against us. If they then wanted to try to solve it diplomatically and when that failed sent uniformed troops to try and fight our troops I would say they went to war for a just reason. I am not giving us any special treatment, anyone in our situation of being attacked by a group supported by a foreign government who was not helping when diplomatic means were attempted would have the same right to self defense as we did.

  16. jake Brown
    December 8, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    1) What you wrote in no way suggested that we were behind the attacks. All you wrote was the FBI did not have that listed on there website, instead it said “other terrorist attacks.”
    2) For the questions/doubts I posted above it doesn’t really matter if you want I will refer to Al Qaeda instead as they are known to be behind the attacks and they received support/protection from Afghanistan.
    3) Even if we just assume Bin Laden participated in only the bombing of the USS Cole as stated on the FBI website my argument would be the same. We were attacked first and that makes it a war of self defense.

  17. Clumpy
    December 8, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    We were attacked first and that makes it a war of self defense.

    I’ve gotta be honest – I totally understand this sentiment in principle, though in practice it seems to turn into just another war of escalation. Unintended nonmilitary casualties on each side, resentment leading to further terrorism or empire seem to be the result.

    And because, at least in the mind of insurgents their attacks are the result of OUR previous actions, this philosophy, carried to an extreme seems to justify neverending retaliatory war as a result of a single incident. Not good stuff.

  18. Doug Bayless
    December 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    Jake, Kelly, et al,

    The details of how involved Osama bin Laden was in the actual hijackings and bombings on 9/11 and the questions about whether or not there were domestic groups besides the 19 Saudi hijackers that gave him support are actually pretty interesting inquiries but, as Connor already politely pointed out, somewhat peripheral to this thread. It might be worth pursuing that discussion over on the post he indicated since there are a lot of other questions more pertinent to this post that will get sidelined if that is pursued here.

    I believe there is great pragmatism in being able to enter mainstream discussions of the Afghani question with a willing suspension of those other good questions. For instance, I was heartened that a good number of mainstream news sites were recently asking the question — ”hey wait, even if we accept the idea that the Taliban was becoming the de facto heavy in national Afghanistani politics [thereby representing a national government somehow], and even if we accept the idea that the Taliban committed an act of war by sheltering bin Laden [who we are also accepting as the master planner of 9/11 . . .], and even if we accept that therefore war was proper against the whole of Afghanistan somehow then. . . What is the aim of the war now that bin Laden is gone and the Talibani forces are estimated at less than 100?

    That is my primary concern now. I continue to find op-eds, “news” stories, and even my own Senators using frighteningly ambiguous explanations to justify our continued presence in Afghanistan with the threat of “The Islamists” . . . are these simply veiled calls for genocide? Will the U.S. remain in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan and Somalia (and move on to Indonesia, etc.) until every last citizen of those countries that practices Islam and/or prefers not to have a U.S. occupation of his nation has been killed? I mean what on earth are these pundits going on about? I’ve sometimes given up arguing about how we ended up there and simply been asking what we’re doing there now (ie, when we’ll be ‘done’).

    So, yeah, I agree with Connor’s disagreement with Beck and Chaffetz on this one. It’s not just about whether we are committing enough resources or the right mix of resources . . . it’s also about *what* we’re doing over there ‘big picture’ and those guys, at least, don’t seem to want to touch that with a ten-foot pole.

    Oh! and I just read Clumpy’s response which is right on the money. This is why I wish we were involved in police actions in an attempt find Osama bin Laden and hold him accountable (which might answer some of Kelly’s questions) instead of these all-out wars against entire populations of people — 99-100 percent of whom never opposed the USA until we took over their region and they got pulled into the fighting.

  19. jake Brown
    December 8, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    I agree with you completely Doug. I think we went in there justly, but it is an entire different question about what we are still doing there. An even bigger question is, what do we do about it. It is easy to say that we went in and did our work and now we should get out. But how? Do we just a leave a vacuum and a small police force looking for Bin Laden? That seems dangerous to the police force and all the Afghan people. I readily admit that I do not have an answer to this question.

  20. Clumpy
    December 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Doug, I was just remembering the time you called into BYU’s Office of IT and I helped you with an issue regarding this site on the campus network. What were the odds of that?

  21. Doug Bayless
    December 8, 2009 at 5:24 pm #


    yeah that made me smile. I think it was actually a problem with getting emails through from ‘Connor’s list’ or ‘Liberty Lunch’ or something, but you were like “wait, ‘Connor Boyack?’ — I read his blog” 🙂


    i don’t know that i’m convinced that when we went in with guns blazing into Afghanistan that it was just in any sense . . . it sounded better to me before I understood as much as I do now about it. (i do agree — and it seems like Connor and most people that comment here do too — that there *is* such a thing as a just and defensive war . . . out of context, I can see how you could respond to Connor’s post with a concern he wouldn’t support any war *ever*, but that simply isn’t the case)

    it’s a tough question for a common citizen like me to properly address exactly how we clean up our mess in Afghanistan but my limited knowledge thus far convinces me that any ‘bad’ effects of a supposed ‘vacuum’ resulting from a hastened US departure are far outweighed by the continued ‘bad’ effects of our continued “missions” there.

    What *really* concerns me is that the leaders we elect who seem to keep rubber-stamping our continued foreign policy (House Reps, Senators, the President, etc.) often seem to have incredibly thin reasonings and postures on these questions. I think we have some sort of civic duty to get through to Bennett and Hatch and Chaffetz and crew though. I guess I’m glad that Chaffetz is any less ‘hawkish’ than he used to be — even for the probable poor reasons that Connor points out. I’m still hoping it’s a positive step towards something more principled.

    Finally, another thing that scares me are all the detractors that think the regular citizenry has ‘no right’ to question our military objectives and foreign policy. The ones who seem to suppose that good and wise people always have it all figured out but just aren’t allowed to explain any of it (ever, I guess) to the masses. The last ten years have convinced me that simply isn’t the way things work. Evidence persuades me that we didn’t elect ‘good, moral, thoughtful, enlightened’ people to govern us *before* 9/11 . . . why does anybody suppose they all turned into super-wise, super-informed paragons of virtue the day after?

    Unless regular citizens like Connor keep peppering our elected officials with thoughtful questions, I don’t forsee any positive changes with foreign policy. It seems heavily weighted towards ever-expanding, perpetual warfare in the absence of any serious political opposition.

    In this century we had a brief reprieve of sorts from large-scale Imperial warfare with the revelations of the Church Committee Report which is one of those amazing things a country based on the principles ours is might still be capable of producing (an honest self-evaluation of domestic and foreign interventions) but man, oh man! it sure seems like the vast majority of our populace have completely forgotten the results of that report.

    I wish more people knew about that report. [I only learned about it a couple of years ago.] The report detailed a great many surprising, illegal FBI domestic surveillances of citizens and a great many of the illicit, terrible ‘unforseen consequence riddled’ CIA-sponsored foreign activities as well. Amongst it’s chief opponents: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Big surprise that we’re so deep into those types of activities again, I suppose.

  22. Kelly W.
    December 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    Bin Laden is dead, and there are less than 100 al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan.

  23. Kelly W.
    December 9, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    This is a great article that reports on the probable death of Osama bin Laden.

  24. Connor
    December 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    Raimondo, who I quote in this post, has his own article out today on this topic which is worth reading.

    Towards the end, he makes this point about welcoming Chaffetz’s stance:

    Unlike Larison, I am willing to give advocates of withdrawal such as Chaffetz the benefit of a doubt, for two reasons. One, it is clear that a great many conservative Republicans are undergoing a transition: faced with the consequences of eight years of dangerous and debilitating militarism, some are beginning to question the basic premises of interventionism, as Chaffetz does with his insistence on limiting the goal of the “war on terrorism” to simply taking out al-Qaeda.

    Which brings us to the second reason for cutting Chaffetz a little slack, and that is the political importance of an emerging anti-interventionist caucus in the GOP, especially at the congressional level. The political rationale for Democratic hawkishness is always that the Republicans will supposedly beat up on Obama and the Democrats in Congress if they show “weakness.” With a strong anti-interventionist tendency in the GOP, the Democratic Leadership Council and its “centrist” allies will have to come up with a different excuse.

    Though I have harsh words of warning against this pseudo-anti-war stance, I agree with Raimondo: Chaffetz’s opposition to the war should be embraced and welcomed (though ideally assisted in growing some principled roots so it extends to other and future scenarios). I made this point in the above post as follows:

    We of the Old Right and current (real) Anti-War Right happily welcome all those who wish to unite with us in opposition to war, empire, and international intervention.

    Inasmuch as Chaffetz is willing to bring our troops home and pursue a more humble and constitutional foreign policy, I support him. I just hope that he picks up steam along the way and broadens his anti-war views a bit.

  25. M
    December 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    I agree with the comments regarding Chaffetz merely following Beck’s lead. Beck has been talking like this for a while. On the surface, the rhetoric of the ‘Go Big or Go Home’ strategy sounds very appealing. But that is the problem; this thinking is fuzzy and shallow. It is not founded in Christian/Constitutional ideals. However, I don’t believe either of them is intentionally being sinister (unlike Harry Reid). The unfortunate part is that good intentions don’t change the results of fuzzy, shallow thinking.

  26. SpecKK
    December 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    In these terms, I suppose I am not so much opposed to war as I am opposed to tyrants and self serving oligarchs. I suspect most readers here would agree with that statement when applied domestically, but deciding when to get involved in foreign conflicts is tricky. Unfortunately it’s difficult to remove tyrants without a new one taking their place or becoming one yourself.

    While there is value in the none-of-my-business/non-interventionist arguments, at another level, we are all members of a global community. Tyrants by their very nature are always seeking more power, and cannot continue long without reaching beyond their borders. Unstable nations harbor terrorists and pirates who attack us and our people.

    It is absolutely in our interest to diplomatically promote good principled governance in all nations. Our Declaration of Independence certainly gives us the guiding directives to support any large group’s desire for natural rights and self governance. We should use military force to defend our coasts and borders. We may choose to use it when requested by a group of people from another nation. We might also choose to use it against an immediate threat.

    It is unfortunate that our executive lied about Iraq being an imminent threat. We need to fix our government to prevent the executive from twisting intelligence and meddling with the media before we can ever attack another nation again. Of course this is as much a part of our duty as citizens to hold our elected representatives accountable as any laughable attempt of government to control itself .

    As for Afghanistan, like our failed banks, it’s time to stop throwing good money after bad. As we push the corrupt central government into autonomous provinces, we find ourselves promoting one tyrant over another ( ).

    I don’t blame Chaffetz for being against THIS war, especially if he were generally against long term foreign entanglements . I do blame him for ignoring natural rights. All men are created equal, so taking the gloves off and counting foreign life less than our own certainly puts him on the path to tyranny.

  27. Reach Upward
    December 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    I don’t have time to read all of the comments right now, so this might be a repeat. I just wanted to say that I appreciated the post. Nice clarification.

    Since the President’s announcement, I have been bothered by much of the rhetoric coming from both the pro and con factions. Most of it has seemed to be based on nothing but loyalty to a party or faction within a party. Your post has helped me understand my unease.

  28. Edward
    December 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    “Non interventionist” is a label affixed by opponents–I don’t think it describes this political thought very well. Anyone correct me if I’m wrong, but the political doctrine called “non-interventionism” is in truth more about a different kind of intervention. I don’t think anyone is arguing that we shouldn’t do anything on the world stage. The debate is very much about WHAT should be done to encourage or discourage certain ideas and movements around the world. Much could be accomplished in setting a pure example before expecting change in other countries. Beyond that, I don’t believe there is anything in the “non-intervention” doctrine that opposes lending support to factions within a oppressed country fighting for freedom. But this can be done without sending an invading army.

    All this without even mentioning the idea of private citizens promoting change throughout the world through charitable and other organizations. I think we would be doing so more often if we weren’t waiting around for the government to fix all the problems.

  29. Kelly W.
    December 10, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    U.S. now admits Osama bin Laden is dead.

  30. Jeff T.
    December 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm #


    I have seen several people link to this article.

    Not once in the article does the U.S. admit Osama is dead. The article simply claims that current leaders don’t talk about him anymore.

    Don’t mislead people with propagandistic statements such as, “U.S. now admits Osama bin Laden is dead,” unless they have actually, clearly, admitted such.

    Else you are just playing the same “twist the information to fit my political agenda game.”

    Even if you are right.

  31. Kelly W.
    December 11, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    yep, I was twisting it my way. But, the author has definitely entitled his article by saying that the US admits.

    But really now, everybody outside the USA knows he’s already dead and that the name Osama bin Laden is just a boogey man, to use like in Orwell’s 1984 novel.

    I really do believe him to be long since dead, as most other non-Americans do.

  32. Kelly W.
    December 12, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Kucinich makes a speech in the House about the war in Afghanistan.

  33. Connor
    December 13, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    Here’s a video that highlights the issues raised in this post:

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