At a glance, one might think from the headline at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians’ blog post titled “We Should Not Intervene in Syria” , that author Fernando Teson is taking a solid libertarian, non-interventionist stance.
Not so fast!
Teson makes it clear right away that he is not against foreign intervention:
As some of you may know, I have long argued that humanitarian intervention is morally and legally permissible (see here). I stand by those arguments, and that is why I firmly believe that we should not intervene in Syria. I have several reasons, but two are prominent.
Now that he’s established that he has no moral problem with military intervention in foreign countries, just what exactly are Teson’s objections to intervening in Syria? He cites two:
1) A justified intervention must be on behalf of those who have a just cause. In Syria, the available evidence shows that neither side has a just cause. The government is your standard Middle Eastern oppressor, while the rebels are dominated by Al Qaeda and similar sinister characters.
This is a common argument that progressives use when justifying State action, which is funded by money taken by force from the taxpayers. As long as the cause is “just”, well then march on!
But who determines what is “just?” The individuals who had the money taken from them in the first place? (No.) Teson himself? (No again.) It is the politicians that decide such things, not based on whether or not a cause is “just”, but by whether or not a State action will benefit them politically.
Let’s see if Teson’s second reason lies on any firmer moral ground (emphasis mine):
2) It is unjust for our government to tax American citizens to try to help people who do not want to be helped and who, even after they have been helped, instead of thanking us for liberating them, they viciously turn against us for domestic political gain or some other spurious motive. Iraq and Afghanistan are cases in point. The U.S. and their allies helped them get rid of their tyrants, only to see the new governments posture about how bad Americans are. When this happens, our response should be simple and direct: we will leave you alone to lead your miserable lives. And if you dare attack us, we will kill you or bring you to justice.
Teson is certainly correct when he says “it is unjust for our government to tax American citizens…” but he should lose the qualifiers and stop there. All taxes are taken from citizens by force, and by an reasonable definition taxation certainly qualifies as theft. Just as it matters not if a mugger robs me at gunpoint in order to pay for his grandmother’s cancer treatment, it equally matters not if the government intervenes on behalf of people who “want to be helped” or not.
The reasoning is irrelevant; it is the actions of forced taxation and military “intervention” that are immoral and should be rejected by all libertarians on this ground, not simply due to “who” the recipient of the financial and military aid may be.
Teson’s reasoning goes from bad to just plan despicable as he collectivizes the citizens who happen to live within a set of borders with the State who controls those borders. If a bad State actor attacks “us” (the U.S. government, in Teson’s view), then this “bleeding heart libertarian” Teson will be happen to punish the entire population of said State with U.S. military might.
Of course, I’m happy when anyone agrees with the libertarian stance on an issue, but problems arise when those that take that stance use the moniker “libertarian” and then proceed to use decidedly un-libertarian reasoning in order to arrive at their conclusion.