The libertarian movement has always been a contentious arena: that’s the nature of the beast. After all, we’re talking about libertarians – individualists to a fault: getting them to agree on anything is often like trying to herd cats. Aside from this question of temperament, however, there have been some very substantial ideological differences over the years, and – not surprisingly – many of these internal conflicts have been over US foreign policy.
That’s because it’s relatively easy to ascertain the libertarian position on matters domestic: government spying on our emails? We’re against it. Higher taxes? We’re against all taxes, period. The National Endowment for the Arts? Abolish it.
Easy stuff. But when it comes to foreign policy – where historical context and knowledge of facts on the ground are decisive factors – it gets more complicated. And not all are up to the task: certainly Alexander McCobin, unelected “President” of Students for Liberty (SFL), isn’t. His article for the Panam Post, entitled “Ron Paul is Wrong When He Speaks About Secession and Crimea,” is an amalgam of misinformation and smears.
After waffling on about how libertarians have to be against “unnecessary wars” (although he doesn’t say which ones are or were necessary), and paying lip service to the idea that “our generation” has a “critical attitude toward foreign intervention” (only “critical”?), he finally gets to the point:
“While it’s important criticize misconduct of the United States and some of its Western allies exacerbating the turmoil in the Middle East over the past two decades, it is also important to remember that there are other aggressors in the world; Russia – with its ongoing wars in the Northern Caucasus, the invasion of South Ossetia, and it’s most recent annexation of Crimea – being key among them.
“Former Congressman Ron Paul, whose views are interpreted by many as wholly representative of the libertarian movement, gets it wrong when he speaks of Crimea’s right to secede. Make no mistake about it, Crimea was annexed by Russian military force at gunpoint and its supposedly democratic ‘referendum’ was a farce. Besides a suspiciously high voter turnout without legitimate international observers, the referendum gave Crimeans only two choices – join Russia now or later.”
McCobin is wrong about South Ossetia: like the Crimeans, the Ossetians held a referendum and voted to separate from Georgia’s central government. In response, Georgia invaded the region, sending in its troops before the Russians ever got there. They bombarded Tsinskvali, capital of the rebel province, deliberately targeting civilians, killing and wounding hundreds. According to Human Rights Watch, Georgian artillery fired directly into basements – where civilians were sure to be hiding. As the BBC put it:
“The BBC has discovered evidence that Georgia may have committed war crimes in its attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia in August. Eyewitnesses have described how its tanks fired directly into an apartment block, and how civilians were shot at as they tried to escape the fighting.”
McCobin hasn’t even bothered to do the most basic research: he’s simply swallowed the new cold war mythology whole. It’s easier that way.