Iran – The Libertarians’ Isolationist Case

September 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm (tWP) (, , , , , )

Having often found much ignorance on foreign policy in debates with Libertarians, this post is aimed at them. A number of flawed Libertarian arguments are here counter-argued:

  • War is not a legitimate tool of policy

Considering aggressive war as a legitimate tool of foreign policy is not ideological, it is empirical. No state or society having rejected the prerogative of waging war has ever survived. No one can claim to govern and defend the national interest of one’s constituency without reserving the right to go to war to defend that same interest. This defence has never been made exclusively at home and indeed it cannot in a globalised world.

  • Iran does not need to be deterred since it is a peaceful state who has never attacked anyone. Iran is not irrational, at least no more than any other state.

Iran does need to be deterred. It has been attacking and undermining American, Jewish and Western interests since 1979:  Iran gave up a profitable partnership with the US in favour of isolationism in 79 and this should be a good indicator of its rationality. Iran has been interfering in the internal affairs of Lebanon in an attempt to export its own revolution, it has moved assertively to claim oil resources in the Caspian, projected its terrorism as far as Buenos Aires just to be able to kill Jews. Iran hopes the SCO will become an anti-NATO, it instigated regime change wherever it would have hurt the West and criticised where it benefited it.

It is stunning that Libertarians who readily accuse the US of exceptionalism and adventurism (which is true), are so blind to a completely irrational and destabilising theocracy.

Without a Western presence in the Middle East one of two things would happen: either a protracted conflict between Iran and Turkey and instability in the oil markets for decades to come, or Iranian supremacy and extortion.

  • There is no merit to attacking Iran

Iran works against western interests and it is not in the interest of the West, the Arabs or any other regional stakeholder to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons. This would endow Iran with nuclear deterrence against conventional attacks. If right now Iran doesn’t project more financial or military resources to Syria or Lebanon, it is also because it has to concern and burden itself with homeland defence. Endowed with nuclear deterrence, an exceptionalist, universalist and revisionist regional power would be able to devote more resources to exporting its revolution abroad.

  • War is not worth the lives of innocent people

There is a difference between valuing the lives of innocent people and believing everyone is innocent… the latter is but totalitarianism.

  • Iran needs a nuclear deterrence because it feels threatened and encircled by US bases

This is a straw man argument: the bases in Afghanistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan as well as the ones in Iraq before the withdrawal, were not set up against Iran and because many of these are simply logistical hubs or are directed at different problems such as the war against the Taliban, they would actually be more vulnerable to an Iranian attack than they would be useful for an attack on Iran.

The only bases capable of sustaining an attack on Iran are the ones in the Arabian peninsula. Most of the US outposts in Afghanistan are sustaining a war in which American troops are bogged down. The bases in central Asia are basically transport hubs and the US does not have the right to station aggressive formations. NATO’s bases in Turkey could be used for an attack on Iran but if Turkey didn’t authorise their use against Iraq, odds are they’d never be considered for an attack on Iran.

  • To invade Iran is budgetary folly

Yes, it is which is why no one advocates an invasion of Iran but merely a surgical bombardment of nuclear sites; an expanded version of Israel’s raid against Iraq’s Osiraq reactor.

  • Israel is the real cause of instability in the Middle East

Israel has never done anything gratuitous to bring instability. Israel has ever only acted in self-defence. It did not endanger the supply of oil to the West. Iran on the other hand has tried to export its own values and socio-economic model to Lebanon and Iraq, and has also propagated terrorism in the region which Israel has never done.

Israel has been persistently threatened not only with war but also with annihilation which is why it requires a nuclear deterrence but Iran does not since no one wants to destroy Iran but merely to contain it. Iran is an exceptionalist, expansionist, millennial, apocalyptic, self-proclaimed anti-western and anti-liberal.

Israel never invaded anyone. Every single war it fought was defensive, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Iran have all waged aggressive war against Israel for no rational reason. Israel has not responded in kind.

  • If Iran is economically and militarily crippled it cannot project power beyond its borders

Agreed it is but lets see, it is helping to prop up the regime in Syria, it has helped to carve out a state within a state in Lebanon (one by the way which is capable of defying Israel, one of the world’s foremost military powers). Plenty of projection power for an economically and militarily crippled third rate power.

  • Iran is only a threat to the US

It is also to the Arabs – they are Iran’s neighbours who provide us with oil and who own much of the American debt – to Israel and countries such as Turkey, Russia or Pakistan have no interest either in seeing Iran go nuclear.

  • How many foreigners has Iran killed since Israel has existed?

Iran has killed thousands. Not just in Lebanon or during the tanker war with Iraq but also by sponsoring Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorism throughout the world as well as interfering in the Balkan wars.

Israel however has not interfered in the affairs of other states nor did it sponsor terrorist groups unless the target state  had previously declared war on it. Israel does not declare to want to exterminate or expel other ethnicities or religions. Israel allowed for no entity to use its territory to attack Lebanon, or other countries. Others allowed this against Israel. Israel actually has borders with Lebanon, it needs to care about what goes on in Lebanon lest it not fall victim to military invasions or terrorist raids. Iran is thousands of kms away and has no conceivable interest or need to do so.

Regardless, one cannot measure a country’s negative impact by the sheer number of deaths its direct actions cause. The US and the UN coalition who expelled Iraq from Kuwait killed more Iraqis than Iraqis killed Kuwaitis but that is easily explained by the differences in technology and means available to each side. But that doesn’t mean that Kuwait should not have been liberated.

  • Iranians are being targeted; not just scientists but the entire population

The conflict between Iran and the West was unilaterally started by Iran. If Iran has the right to produce nuclear power, the West also has the right to declare embargoes. The fact that most of the world agrees that Iran should be sanctioned proves that the concern is not solely Western. Iran is and has always been intransigent in regards to its nuclear programme so its motivations are dubious. Iran doesn’t even try to establish a dialogue with opponents like Israel and is in fact antisemitic.

Targeting scientists also proves that the target is not Iran as a country and not even its regime but just its nuclear programme. Far more principled approach than indiscriminate terrorism.

  • The world is not divided into good guys and bad guys

No moral judgements involved. The West tries only to defend its interests; some states can help and others can get in the way. US and Israel are ‘good’ simply because they defend Western interests in MENA.

  • Iran broke its alliance with the US because of US support to the Shah’s repressive regime

Yes the US was supportive of the Shah but that support was not conditional on the Shah’s repression. The US wanted and needed an ally in the region. They didn’t care what kind of regime was in place; The West tried to befriend Iran. It tried to do so under the Shah and under Khomeini. Besides the Islamic Republic is much worse than the Shah and it is not richer or more influential.

Israel did not interfere in Iran and it was discriminated against. Arab states and Russia did interfere and they were not considered ‘satanic’. It is not like Iran itself did not meddle in other states too.

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