"Libertarians and the war"
Excellent column by Randy Barnett in Opinion Journal. Please read the whole thing, an excerpt of which is here:
While the number of Americans who self-identify as "libertarian" remains small, a substantial proportion agree with the core stances of limited constitutional government in both the economic and social spheres--what is sometimes called "economic conservatism" and "social liberalism." But if they watched the Republican presidential debate on May 15, many Americans might resist the libertarian label, because they now identify it with strident opposition to the war in Iraq, and perhaps even to the war against Islamic jihadists.
During that debate, the riveting exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul about whether American foreign policy provoked the 9/11 attack raised the visibility of both candidates. When Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said that the 9/11 attack happened "because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years," Mr. Giuliani's retort--that this was the first time he had heard that "we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. . . . and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11"--sparked a spontaneous ovation from the audience. It was an electrifying moment that allowed one to imagine Mr. Giuliani as a forceful, articulate president.
The exchange also drew attention to Mr. Paul, who until then had been a rather marginal member of the 10-man Republican field. One striking feature of Mr. Paul's debate performance was his insistence on connecting his answer to almost every question put to him--even friendly questions about taxes, spending and personal liberty--to the war.
This raised the question: Does being a libertarian commit one to a particular stance toward the Iraq war? The simple answer is "no."
First and foremost, libertarians believe in robust rights of private property, freedom of contract, and restitution to victims of crime. They hold that these rights define true "liberty" and provide the boundaries within which individuals may pursue happiness by making their own free choices while living in close proximity to each other. Within these boundaries, individuals can actualize their potential while minimizing their interference with the pursuit of happiness by others.
But here is the rub. While all libertarians accept the principle of self-defense, and most accept the role of the U.S. government in defending U.S. territory, libertarian first principles of individual rights and the rule of law tell us little about what constitutes appropriate and effective self-defense after an attack. Devising a military defense strategy is a matter of judgment or prudence about which reasonable libertarians may differ greatly.
Please, read it. It's great stuff!