Refutations of Respectable Fallacies Concerning the Iraq War
The hard-line (and simultaneously mainstream) left-liberal hash, that has been recycled for four decades, in regard to American interventionism, economic interests, unilateralism, and policy toward totalitarian regimes which threaten national security is simplistic, wracked with loopholes even a five-year-old in his right mind can spot, and wrought from a sentimental/ ad miseracordiam/ ad hominem rather than a rational/analytical basis. As it takes no profundity of thought to discern its wanton and brazen fallacies, it need not even be examined by serious examiners of the moral and economic justifications behind the Iraq War. The aim of this essay shall be to address criticisms of the liberation campaign from sources more identifiable with rationality than screeching protest marches, namely, the so-termed paleolibertarian branch of free market thought, formerly led by world-acclaimed economists of the Austrian School, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, and currently spearheaded by Llewelyn H. Rockwell, Jr., President of the Mises Institute and a renowned economic scholar. The Mises Institute is a bountiful source of instructive information on the benevolence of the free market and masterfully debunks prevalent economic fallacies of the day. However, its stance in opposition to the recently triumphant campaign for a regime change in Iraq is seriously flawed and limited in scope.
Dr. Christopher Westley, assistant economics professor at the University of Jacksonville, thoroughly emphasizes the costs of the campaign and their expected long-term detriment to the American economy via accelerating inflation. He writes, “The money costs of this war will be great. Larry Lindsey, President Bush's former economic advisor, lowballed an estimate of $200 billion… Since off-budget spending is most often financed by revving up the dollar's printing press, it is likely that another cost of this war will be a general increase in the price level in years' hence, furthering the downward slide of real incomes that has been occurring over the last three decades. Years from now, you will pay for this war in the form of higher grocery bills.” This argument is echoed by the Mises Institute’s Adam Young. “Constant inflation, which has produced the bust and prolonged its effects for nearly two years now, will likely finance the war and ruin the economy even further. But we might see George W. Bush demoted from his position within the pantheon of successful "war presidents" and become, along with LBJ and Nixon, synonymous with inflation, stagnation, and rising domestic opposition.” Of course, this claim ignores the influx of oil trade that shall result from the Iraq War. Simply put, Iraq, even under the economically catastrophic sanctions regime, had been the source of eight percent of oil employed in the United States. With this oil reduced in price due to competition emerging in its extraction and export, unhindered by the monopoly of OPEC and the totalitarian inhibitions on trade from Saddam Hussein, prices are bound to plummet dramatically while American companies in the majority will profit from oil sales as opposed to an odious tyrant whose nation’s oil fortune was built not on ingenuity and innovation, but on expropriation from sovereign Western companies that had erected Iraq’s infrastructure during the 1950s. As American businesses profit, the taxes paid to the government off their income, absent a reckless statist expansion of domestic programs, will serve to fund the completed war effort, as well as the forthcoming reconstruction of Iraq. Will consumers’ real spending power plummet? Precisely the reverse shall occur in the market of at least one commodity, oil. A hypothetical worker earning a perpetually constant salary shall be endowed with the capacity to purchase more gasoline for his car for the same dollar amount.
Additionally, only a reckless politician without any heed to his own capital with the masses and his colleagues will deliberately spur on government-induced inflation. Mr. Young himself hints to the consequences of such a decision, and it is common sense that President Bush does not wish to be deemed as the aggravator of the present economic slump (which, by the way, has leveled off, at least as indicated by the stock market, during the two months following the Iraq War). If, despite revenue from oil company taxes, the costs of the Iraq War remain overwhelming, this will be but an imperative for the market-leaning administration to curtail disastrous black holes of public funds, Medicare, social security, and welfare. Nothing is as efficient as a tight wallet to revive the realization that the government is not the infinitely munificent benefactor of the “needy” nor a source of perpetual funds for any caprice designed to boost a bureaucrat’s favor with whining pressure groups. In short, Dr. Westley most accurately exposes the harms of any government-induced currency inflation, yet the assertion that it will necessarily be caused by the war is an absolute non sequitur. A multitude of other means of financing is available.
Dr. Westley also mentions certain costs not comprising the official $200 billion of expenses. “These costs are the unmeasurables. For instance, resources that your local factory might otherwise use for business expansion can easily be appropriated to support military empire, and result in layoffs and reduced output. The irony is that many of those who are laid off or who otherwise cannot find work will be forced to join the military in order to continue to support their families. Since politicians on the left and the right are seriously considering military conscription, some may have no choice.” This was quite an Orwellian speculation presented a month prior to the war, but it has been refuted by hard, empiric facts. Democrat Charles Rangel’s proposal to reinstitute the draft had been prudently and unequivocally rejected by the Pentagon in mid-January (prior to Westley’s prognosis, which, apparently, had neglected to consider this development), and to date there have been no coercive resource appropriations by the government for the conduct of this campaign. Taxation is also not the cause of this alleged curtailment of business prospects, because, as Westley himself will be first to admit, war expenditures are not officially contained in the Bush administration’s budget. Hence, total cost to date of the Iraq War to any given U.S. citizen or business has been zero dollars. And, despite the fact that future taxes extracted from oil companies will be used for its funding, they do not alter the fact that those very companies shall incur a net profit from the war. Their payment to the government is merely the necessary payment a party must present to an organization whose only legitimate employment is to preserve the security of American citizens and remove any impediments to the unrestricted dynamic of free-market commerce. Hence, none of Dr. Westley’s “unmeasurable costs” nor the resultant layoffs have occurred or can be expected to occur, for the Iraq War shall provide either zero loss or a net profit to every American entity involved.
On a brief note is the refutation of a forecast cited by Dr. Dale Steinreich of the Mises Institute. “Speaking of the airline industry, it projects that the Iraq war will force it to lay off an additional 70,000 workers and sustain an additional $10.7 billion in losses.” First, this also has not occurred to date, despite the passage of three weeks since the conclusion of major military operations in Iraq. Second, this augury is founded on the false premise that the public will be more hesitant to fly as a result of increased fears of terrorist sabotage and hijacking during and after the war. This argument neglects in entirety the fact that, with the elimination of the Hussein regime, a major segment of the terrorist network has been nullified. Hussein’s ties to Al Qaeda are well known and affirmed by numerous sources. We must also retain in our considerations the fact that Saddam had served as a significant source of encouragement for Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel, endowing their families with lavish gifts of money and property in response to a systematic cleansing of innocent Israelis. Palestinian terror organizations, once the most vehemently anti-American and anti-capitalist, may moderate their violent fervor, having lost the bulk of the financial stimulus to maintain it. Those would have been the terrorists most willing and trained to inflict further damage on American civilian aircraft (due to the elimination of two of Al Qaeda’s pivotal state sponsors as well as the concerted struggle against it in Georgia and the Philippines). Seeing the safety net of international backing slip from under them, the Palestinian jihadists will be more inclined to embark upon a path of negotiations and concessions rather than sedition and violent fanaticism. Any thinking individual with any reasonable expectations of events to come will exhibit a greater comfort in flight, not a lesser one.
We proceed to confront yet another paleolibertarian assertion, the detriment of the campaign to international perception of the United States and the futility of the effort to institute democratic government and civil liberties in Iraq. Westley expounds his viewpoint: “The Constitution is further weakened whenever the president aggressively uses troops against countries that have not threatened us and whose greatest sin is the inability to disprove a negative. One billion Muslims will become even more angry and alienated, while the likelihood of future 9-11's in response to this latest effort at regime change increases exponentially. How many more liberties will a shaken public trade for security in future years? Essential rights are already shaky ground. Is getting Saddam worth it?” To refute this misconception, it is ideal to quote from a superb August 5, 2002, editorial by Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute: “…the choice between a terrorized free country and a less-terrorized police state is a false alternative. There is at root no conflict between the values of liberty and security. (Emphasis mine) Liberty and security are not opposing goals; to the contrary, the second is a means to the first. A proper government exists to protect the freedom of its citizens, by securing their individual rights. The security relevant in this context is the security from the only thing that can violate our rights: the threat of (initiated) force. A proper government uses its police powers—both domestic and military—to prosecute those who attack its citizens' liberty, whether the attackers are criminals at home or hostile states abroad.” What Dr. Westley seems to imply is that the Iraq War shall somehow spark more arbitrary spying or profiling measures at home against innocent Caucasian grandmothers, which is, again, a non sequitur. Has the Homeland Security Alert been raised during the conduct of the Iraq War? Indeed. Has this resulted in any unjustified arrests and persecutions, as well as additional suspicions and inhibitions directed at the general populace instead of discretely targeted terror suspects? Not at all.
Moreover, international Muslim stigmatization of the United States as “the Great Satan” is colossally overestimated and infests only the hard-core fanatics prepared to demolish feats of Western architecture. According to Dr. Noah Feldman, New York University Law School professor with a doctorate in Islamic Studies (which implies that his analysis of the matter has been in the greatest likelihood of ampler depth than Dr. Westley’s cursory comment), "Muslim anger at the hypocrisy of the United States may be wide, but it is not deep. It is a mistake to think that ordinary Muslims, or even Islamists, are inevitably or unalterably opposed to the U.S....Indeed, the very fact that so many Muslims say they are prepared to embrace democracy, a system they associate with the United States and its successes, provides striking evidence that anti-Americanism may be overcome if the U.S. loosens its embrace of rulers who do not respond to the needs or concerns of their people." And which ruler is the archetype of the totalitarian despot for whom the concerns of his people had been ranked below his son Uday’s whimsical urges to randomly rape the women he encountered in Baghdad hotels? According to any serious analysis of the present attitudinal situation in the Middle East, the invasion of Iraq has won and will continue to win the United States immense political capital with the mainstream Muslim world. One needs only view the videos of jubilant Baghdad denizens proudly displaying handmade posters which stated, “Thank you, President Bush,” to ascertain the validity of such a conclusion.
Furthermore, the inherent incompatibility of Iraq and its people with a democratic, rights-respecting government is an unsubstantiated myth. Let us first familiarize ourselves with Steinreich’s argument: “the Bush administration's own State Department recently rated Iraq's post-Saddam prospects for democracy as slim to nil. First, there's the huge problem of the Middle-Eastern ethos that heavily values conformity over individualism. Second, given the heavily anti-Western mass sentiment that will exist after the war, the electoral process (from those who participated) will yield more governments hostile to the West and Israel, which puts us right back at square one. An extremely costly process to replace Saddam with someone just as bad or worse is not exactly a great victory for liberty or the free market.” First, it should vex any consistent thinker that Dr. Steinreich would employ on faith a claim by the Colin Powell State Department and masquerade it as an evaluation by the Bush administration itself. The State Department had been the branch of government most cynical in regard to an initial invasion ever since the matter first emerged in the spring of 2002. To view its evaluations as congruent or even associated with the Bush administration is to blatantly disregard the political developments of the entire last year. Second, it is a brazen logical contradiction to claim that simply because the prevailing ethic of a region embraces conformity, the United States should retain in place a regime that had enforced conformity with nerve gas. Was Saddam Hussein not already as “hostile to the West and Israel” as could be conceptualized? Did he already not squelch any traces of individualism within his realm and hence aggravate the sociocultural milieu of collectivism that Steinreich describes? (And, as an aside, how can any humanly imaginable leader of modernity ever be dubbed “worse” than the genocidal, sadistic, mass rapist of a Saddam Hussein?) Moreover, nowhere in the liberation campaign agenda is implied the desire to hold elections immediately and rashly. General Garner’s transitional government has been established for the precise purpose of reviving the mindset of individualism within Iraq and re-instilling the principles of free trade, industry, and unalienable rights within its populace. Once Iraq abandons the presumption that the purpose of government is to redistribute handouts to pressure groups, then the sole pillar of Islamist popular appeal shall crumble to bits.
Ironically enough, it would be the Mises Institute that would leave Iraq to self-determination immediately after the conclusion of military operations and bring about the very perils Steinreich describes. Upon a visit to its website, http://www.mises.org, one finds the prominently featured title of an editorial: “A Plan for Iraq: Leave.” Perhaps the only event in which America would need fear Steinreich’s prognostication is if it follows the advice of Steinreich’s own boss and the author of the article, Rockwell himself. Rockwell seems to have hinged himself onto the opposition camp months prior to the initiation of hostilities, and has presented some of the most theoretical and wide-ranging objections to the war effort. It shall be within my hopes to use the information presented by Rockwell himself for the purpose of refuting his position.
“The expansion of markets and the division of labor is always a wonderful thing. The more people involved in the overarching business of economic life, the greater the prospects for wealth creation. But force is hardly the best means to promote the co-operative and peaceful activity of trade, any more than it is a good idea to steal your neighbor’s mower to improve lawncare on your block. Bitterness and acrimony are never good business, to say nothing of death and destruction.” To extend Mr. Rockwell’s analogy, what if that hypothetical neighbor were a sadistic homicidal maniac who employs his mower to first shred his family, then expands to assail his neighbors, all the while constructing a gargantuan nuclear dirty bomb (using an engine he had purchased from a French power plant) which, within several years of construction, threatens to eliminate the entire community? This was essentially Saddam’s undertaking, employing oil revenues in order to enhance his weapons of mass destruction arsenal. Would, then, the lawn mower (and its real-life parallel, Iraqi oil), not be more benevolently used to improve American lawncare/oil prices? Mr. Rockwell’s allusion to peaceful free trade implies the willingness of all parties to conduct it and a mutual respect present for the liberties of every individual involved. Under such circumstances, it is indeed optimal to obtain a neighbor’s goods by voluntary consent and mutually beneficial exchange, but once any entity (in this case, the Hussein regime) crosses the line between non-coercive barter and the initiation of physical force at home and abroad, market means of response are no longer efficient. The dollar is impotent against the gun. Moreover, Mr. Rockwell, what effect did Saddam’s genocide have on the existence of “more people involved in the overarching business of economic life”?
In his attempts to refute Charles Conant, the late nineteenth-century American policy analyst who claimed that military and economic expansion are essentially compatible and mutually reinforcing, Rockwell quotes the thinker: "An enlarged field for [a company’s] product must be discovered, and the best source is to be found among the semi-civilized and barbarian races." Rockwell does not effectively demolish this proposition, but he grants supporters of the Iraq War optimal opportunities to expand it and derive its logical implications. The mark of a “barbarian people” is not an inherent biological inferiority, but rather a forced material deprivation. All countries of backward economic condition in the history of man have been such due to the expropriation and terrorization conducted by totalitarian governments. Upon liberation their denizens become imbued with the right to dispose of their career prospects and finances as they wish, hence seeking a dramatic upsurge of their standard of living. And here are foreign companies to provide them with goods of a technological sophistication they could not beforehand imagine! This explains the immense appeal of television sets, Western clothing, and musical compact disks in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. What follows is the classic mark of a free-market economy, plentiful gains for all parties involved, for the “conquered” peoples, an influx of goods, a reduction in their price, and an exponential boost in purchasing power, for the “conquerors,” ample new opportunities for sales, profits, and financial prosperity for both particular companies and the general economy (not to mention the government which will likely hoard more tax money from the overall economic revival of Iraq than is necessary to fund the war twice over). This is not to mention that Conant’s theory has abundantly manifested itself throughout history. The Great Age of Imperialism, from circa 1860 to 1914, has resulted in the most dramatic improvement of living conditions in the non-Western world as well as the most prodigious acceleration of European and American economic prowess ever witnessed.
The final principal contention advanced by Rockwell seems to espouse a fundamental compatibility between free trade and dictatorial regimes. “The problem in Iraq is not that Iraq is somehow withholding its oil from the market. For ten years, and even before the first war on Iraq, its oil supplies have been available to the world. In one of the great ironies of modern war history, the first Bush administration waged war, it said, to keep Iraq from withholding its oil resources from world markets. The U.S. then proceeded to enforce a decade of sanctions that withheld most of Iraq’s oil reserves from the market.” Mr. Rockwell seems to deem it sound economic policy to trade with a regime which will expropriate oil revenues rightly belonging to private businesses (and Western businesses, too, as the entirety of Iraq’s oil infrastructure had been developed by the United States, Britain, and France) in order to invade its neighbors, bombard America’s most valuable allies with scud missiles, gas potential contributors to a free market economy, just so that pipelines may flow in the short run and America may be incinerated by a nuclear strike or gradually torn down by recurring terrorist acts in the long run. Any approach to a reign of brute force other than one of force is not merely spurious; it is devastating.
The most respectable and sophisticated arguments in opposition to the Iraq War have in actuality turned out to be false. This commentary should serve as a friendly admonition to the scholars of the Ludwig von Mises institute and to their followers from an intense admirer. Instead of advocating isolation and gradual self-subjugation to ever-magnifying threats of barbarism, brutality, and totalitarianism abroad, paleolibertarians should join the ranks of Objectivists and neoconservatives in advocating the only tangible path toward economic globalization, the removal of menaces such as Saddam Hussein, who would suppress it at all costs.
G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, former weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov’s new blog, The Progress of Liberty, offers a combination of commentary, multimedia presentations, educational materials, and suggestions for effective activism in favor of individual freedom. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on Associated Content. Mr. Stolyarov has also written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at email@example.com.
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