Alexander McCobin, the president and co-founder of Students For Liberty, wrote an article criticizing Ron Paul for his stance on the situation with Ukraine and Russia, and primarily the issue of Crimea. McCobin claims Ron Paul gets it wrong, and that Rand Paul gets it right.
Two articles at LewRockwell.com, one by Robert Wenzel and particularly one by Daniel McAdams, do a good job of ripping McCobin’s article completely to shreds, while also casting heavy doubt on McCobin’s alliances (and thus how his opinions may be influenced).
My own two cents on some of McCobin’s claims?
– McCobin insinuates that Ron Paul’s views are interpreted by some to be wholly representative of the libertarian movement.
First of all, this is a strawman, as i find it very unlikely that many libertarians are unaware of the existence of people precisely like Alexander McCobin, or the people at CATO, or the people at Reason magazine and so forth. It would be a better statement to claim that many libertarians may regard Ron Paul’s views on the Crimea issue to be the only legitimate ones. But this is a difference, it would turn the matter into a question of whom is right and whom is wrong; something that McCobin had yet to answer at this point of his article.
Second of all, it should be fairly easy to judge whether Ron Paul is at least more right on the issue than McCobin, or more right than the man whom McCobin uses as an example of who “gets it right”, Rand Paul. This should be easy to judge on the basis of the presentation (or misrepresentation as the case may be) of facts, notions on legitimacy, and generally held libertarian principle.
– So lets look at the Ukraine/Russia situation from the perspective of FACT:
The Ukrainian president was democratically elected and the elections were considered to be fair by international monitors. Nevertheless, a portion of Ukrainian citizens (it was not 100%) wanted rid of him and staged a coup. The questions here are first of all: why does the international political community suddenly support a coup against a democratically and fairly elected government? And support it they did, in the form of American politicians and diplomats, and in the form of European Union politicians, who agitated the Ukrainian people toward taking over from this democratically elected government. Surely this must be because they have their own reasons for supporting it. And they do. Democracy has nothing to do with, just as democracy has nothing to do with what the European Union stands for. Democracy is the furthest thing from the EU’s collective minds, just as human rights and individual liberty are the furthest things from the U.S. political elite’s minds.
The second question is, how can a libertarian claim the coup is, indeed, justified from a libertarian viewpoint when not ALL people may have supported it, but must now accept what is merely another government, one which they may not want and which they have not voted for? McCobin’s argument here is pro-majority, and anti-elections, and certainly NOT pro-individual rights. The coup has not led to more individual liberty. It has merely replaced an elected government with a non-elected government. And governments virtually never support individual liberty.
Another bit of info about the coup is that it was hardly supported by merely the kind of people in whose hands you can trust individual liberties. The coup was agitated for by virulent ultra-rightwing neo-nazi individuals and groups, and it was claimed by an Estonian minister that the sniper shootings were actually perpetrated by one such individual to further fan the flames of violence and stage the coup. In light of this, is it so baffling that this new government wants to ban the Russian language, a language spoken by many people in Crimea? Does McCobin wish to explain what this new government has to do with libertarian values? Does he wish to explain how the Ukrainian people joining the undemocratic and bureaucratic abortion called the EU has anything to do with libertarianism, knowing that ALL people in Ukraine, including those who don’t want it, would be forced to comply to its dictates?
McCobin utters a bunch of subjective insinuations about how the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine is illegitimate. He offers no evidence whatsoever, but in this lack of evidence does make clear whose side he prefers to come on: plainly on the side of the Ukrainian state, which wishes to keep Crimea tied to it. McCobin may have done better to wonder if so many Russians living in Crimea truly wanted to stick with a Ukraine that seems to be becoming more antagonistic to – among others – the Russian language. But instead of casting his lot with the people of Crimea who want something truly libertarian – secession – he opts to urge for a statist concept: forced association. How is this libertarian?
McCobin states that it is simplistic to suggest the U.S. is responsible for this crisis. Well, far be it from me to suggest the possibility despite the fact that American military bases are virtually surrounding Russia, or that it has a policy of surging closer to its borders through NATO, or that the U.S. has historically proven to have a wish to be present all over the world, and invade any place with policies that are not friendly to American foreign interests, or that the U.S. elite has clearly shown its desire for the coup and its separation from Russia’s sphere of interest (through open support by U.S. politicians such as John McCain (whose never heard of a civil right he wouldn’t like to crap all over) and leaked phone conversations by Victoria Nuland), and that none of these things apply to anything close to this degree to modern Russia. Russia has merely, ahem, “invaded” a piece of land that is just across its borders, which has a majority of Russians, which had just suffered a coup against a democratically elected government, and which may be used by U.S./Nato to serve as a backyard toward Russia. No, America’s hands are squeaky clean in this.
Speaking of this “invasion”, this “invasion” is no more than the presence of Russian troops, which are there legally as per agreement with a previous Ukraine government, and does not exceed the number of troops allowed there as per this same agreement. In other words, there was no “invasion”. And if there is, then by this same standard all U.S. military bases around the world are de facto invasions.
So, does McCobin’s viewpoint conform to the facts? Does it at least conform to sound libertarian principle? Not at all. Not even close.
– Does Rand Paul get it “right” where Ron Paul doesn’t, from the libertarian viewpoint?
McCobin seems to suggest that where Ron Paul gets it wrong, Rand Paul gets it right by condemning Russia. Let us forget for a moment the stunning hypocrisy in Rand Paul’s words about invasions and America’s “reluctance for war” (which i have discussed here)
McCobin doesn’t mention that Rand Paul is not merely condemning, verbally, Russia for its actions. Rand Paul also urges for economic sanctions. Does McCobin elect to ignore this because of how this would make his agreement with Rand Paul look in terms of libertarian principle?
After all, economic sanctions may not be military interventionism but they are interventionism nonetheless. It is meddling in another nation’s affairs through actions by the state. Is this libertarian? Is any non-defensive action by the state libertarian? To ask the question is to answer it. If only because tax payer money is always involved.
Now, in what ways are economic sanctions bad to begin with, beside the fact that they are interventionist in themselves? First of all, economic sanctions very often precede war. And if in this case it does, who would be the aggressor? What is America’s business in Ukraine? Would it be any different from America’s meddling in Vietnam? Second of all, Rand Paul is turning out quite the interventionist in this regard. He also wants economic sanctions for Iran for the supposed crime of possibly looking to build a nuclear weapon. Let me remind the reader that American has many, many of those things, and has been the only nation in history to use them, at the cost of thousands and thousands of innocent lives. This nation; this invasive, imperialistic, self-appointed world police now presumes to tell others whether they ought to have one, through the mouth of Rand Paul. Third of all, to those who think non-military sanctions are not all that bad, let me remind them of how sanctions against Iraq has cost the lives of about half a million children; something Madeleine Albright deemed “worth it”. Fourth of all, economic sanctions are anti-libertarian. The state simply has no moral right to forbid voluntary free market transactions of people and businesses at penalty of imprisonment. To intervene in people’s economic rights this way is both statist and authoritarian. Yet McCobin claims that Rand Paul has it “right” on Russia while claiming to be libertarian.
No, Rand Paul does not have it right. Rand Paul is a liar, a hypocrite, an interventionist, and an authoritarian in his foreign policy and economic views regarding Russia. Any libertarian supporting that would of course claim Ron Paul’s views do not represent him. It’s because on this issue, Ron Paul is a libertarian, and Alexander McCobin and Rand Paul are not.