Where Libertarians Should Really Stand on Crimea

John Glaser’s blog post on Crimea is typically American – i.e. it is bathed in unconscious albeit ferocious nationalism.

He starts out by accusing me of excusing “the crimes and misdeeds of foreign regimes that Washington sees as antagonistic.”

The crimes of foreign governments are the responsibility of the people who live in those countries: my critique of their actions has no power to effect any change as far as they are concerned, and it would be pointless for me to tilt at those particular windmills. I live in the United States, which is currently the main danger to peace and freedom in the world. Glaser admits this later when he writes that Ron Paul is “correct, in my opinion, to place criticism of U.S. foreign policy as a priority over that of other governments.” Therefore my criticism is directed at Washington, and yes I do admit – nay, proclaim! – my “grave bias” against the undisputed champion of death and destruction worldwide. The “invasion” of Crimea produced zero casualties: compare that to what happened when we “liberated” Iraq.

The rest of Glaser’s piece consists of hand-wringing over the presence of Russian troops in Crimea – a presence agreed to by Ukraine. If “nobody knows exactly how many” came in after or before the vote, as Glaser puts it, then how do we know there are any “extra” troops present? Glaser doesn’t know, as he admits, yet he uses the word “extra” so as to sound like all the other Washington pundits who sanctimoniously condemn the “invasion.”

But this is just splitting hairs. The underlying reality is that if some past President of the United States had handed over,  say, Maine to Canada on a whim – as Nikita Khrushchev handed Crimea over to Ukraine in 1953 – would anyone in the US dispute the results of a referendum reintegrating it back into the Union?

Glaser whines that some voters weren’t sent mysterious “vouchers” enabling them to vote in the Crimean referendum, but this hardly invalidates the vote. Crimeans have voted repeatedly – when they’ve been allowed to do so – in favor of reunion with Russia, which has held Crimea since the days of Catherine the Great. The last referendum, called by the Crimean parliament in 1992, was stopped by Kiev’s threat of force. The recent referendum was Crimea’s revenge – and good for them!

Glaser continues:

“Crimeans do have a right to self-determination. And they very well may have voted to rejoin Russia even without Moscow’s meddling and military incursions. But it is just a fantasy to believe this is anything other than an interventionist power grab by Russia. Obviously, this doesn’t mean one ought to support U.S. intervention of any kind. But I think it does mean libertarians, when asked directly, should not defend Putin’s regime.”

This paragraph conflates several different issues. Defending the referendum as legitimate has nothing to do with defending “Putin’s regime.” This accusation is a typical smear tactic designed to discredit arguments that cannot be answered by any other means. Putin is a typical statist, but that doesn’t mean his every action on the world stage is to be condemned. For example, he opposed Obama’s plan to bomb Syria: is giving him credit for that “defending Putin’s regime”? By Glaser’s standards – yes. By rational standards – of course not.

Contra Glaser, everything that comes out of Washington is indeed “without merit,” i.e. it is mendacity unadulterated by any meritorious substance, the sole purpose of which is to justify American and European expansionism.

What’s important about Glaser’s contribution to the discussion – so far, at least –is what it leaves out: a years long systematic subversion of Ukrainian politics, with millions of US taxpayer dollars pouring into the coffers of groups and individuals who are little more than Washington’s sock-puppets. He doesn’t mention this at all – yet more evidence of the unconscious American nationalism distorting his view of the Ukrainian events.

The American people have had it with military intervention, and Washington is adapting to this with characteristic quickness: they’re switching to deploying “soft power,” which can be just as deadly as the hard kind.

There was nothing “perfectly respectful” about the vicious attack on Ron Paul by the “President” of Students for the State Department Liberty: like Glaser, he conflated support for Putin’s “regime” with support for the right of the Crimean people to join Russia if they so wish. This is the latest version of the typical neocon accusation that accompanies all their attacks on those of us who oppose their vision of an world dominated by Washington. That Glaser is echoing this pernicious nonsense is sad indeed.

This silly idea that we are obligated to equally condemn the depredations of all governments everywhere is rubbish: it posits a moral equivalence between some Third World hellhole that never respected human rights and never pretended to with a country — the most powerful in the world — that does much worse in the name of “freedom” and “democracy.”

UPDATE: I see here that Glaser is citing Anthony Gregory, who blogs for the Independent Institute, in his defense. But Gregory’s argument is fatally flawed: he cites Tom Paine’s maniacal peroration to the effect that “My country is the world!” A crazy — and completely untrue — statement. This is what the warlords of Washington believe — and act on. But Gregory’s country is most certainly not the world — not if the world has anything to say about it.

50 thoughts on “Where Libertarians Should Really Stand on Crimea”

  1. Justin,
    One of the few times in which I agree with everything you on virtually everything you have said in a post. You have hit the BULL'S EYE with this response. Professor McGriff one said that America's pathology is her denial. Too many people in this country think that as Amerikan's, they have to play these moral equivalence games and wave the flag everytime they are told to do so. Glaser and his ilk do not understand that by casting their lot with the neocon mass murderers that they are setting themselves up for future slaughter. While Putin is a statist as you point out, he did not invade Iraq, he did not invade Libya, (bombings and air strikes), and he did not start the civil war in Syria. Amerika did. This is the kind of fire and brimstone against the Neocons fascists that I like to see. Keep up the good work Justin!!

  2. While I am naturally glad for your support, it is not fair to say Glaser has "cast his lot with neocon murderers" — he's just wrong, in this instance.

    1. Well, we can agree to disagree on this point. Casting one's lot doesn't mean he is in bed with them on everything. But he is in bed with the neocons on this. But don't take my word for it. Put him to the test. See where he stands on the "RESET" on Russia relations. No sane, rational person would blame Putin for Washington's mess in Ukraine/Crimea. You can't be a Russophobe without casting your lot with the neocons, because it is the neocons who are pushing the inevitable showdown/war with a nuclear powered Russia………………..

    2. Is Antiwar.com about censorship like everyone else, including state run media? I replied to your response to my first post and it is gone. What gives Justin and Antiwar.com? I said that while Glaser is making common cause with the neocons on the Ukraine/Crimea imbroglio, you make the case that he has not made common cause with the neocons. I never said that Glaser agrees with the neocons on everything. He may not. But he is being Russophobic and therefore is in the same camp as the neocons on this. The neocons are the ones pushing for nuclear war with Russia.

  3. Imho: Very sharp analysis that takes into account all the facts and the big picture.

    Raimondo is right. Glaser is sadly very wrong on this.

    To just add another analogy: what if Putin (I know he wasn’t in at first) had annexed part of Iraq, with Iraqi majority request, no less, in the nineties to stop the US genocide, and had done so with no blood?

    That could have saved millions of Iraqis. But we would have to condemn that, too?

    Raimondo is using logic and reason in overall pursuit of humanitarianism, here. If the U.S.A.won’t stop its aggression, which it certainly won’t, there need to be deterrents.

    The USA and Russia are not equals. As the cognizant world recognizes, the U.S.A. is much worse.

  4. Raimondo tells me my country is not the world, while accusing Glaser of nationalism. Of course, I could come up with a hundred examples of Raimondo's nationalism, but they are unnecessary. Here's just one, from this blog post:

    "The crimes of foreign governments are the responsibility of the people who live in those countries: my critique of their actions has no power to effect any change as far as they are concerned, and it would be pointless for me to tilt at those particular windmills. I live in the United States, which is currently the main danger to peace and freedom in the world. . . . The 'invasion' of Crimea produced zero casualties: compare that to what happened when we 'liberated' Iraq."

    He didn't put "we" in scare quotes. Why not? I didn't invade the United States, even if the criminal institution known as the US government took my money to make the invasion possible.

    1. Valid points and I agree, but how can you and John ignore the Washington instigated coup to overthrow a democratically elected government in Kiev? It is the precipitating factor of this "crisis" and it was inevitable after those actions by outside powers that Putin was going to secure Crimea, which is predominantly ethnic Russian and voted to join them anyway. If you rush to unequivocally denounce the actions (including secession, independence and accession) in Crimea then you basically buy the narrative of the regime changers, warmongers, Russophobes, and the Ministry of Propaganda in the U.S. that's trying to revive the Cold War.

      Rothbard in "For a New Liberty" had a dispassionate analysis comparing the foreign policy of the two "super powers" and concluded that the U.S. was more aggressive abroad and thought it was provoking the Soviets. Is the archenemy of the state an apologist for the Soviet regime at that time?

      1. Rothbard was too soft on the Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe in that book, which of course is inconsistent with what many Rothbardians arguing about WWII and Yalta say.

        1. But Rothbard was against U.S. entry into WWII so your argument is fallacious. You still have not answered my point about Washington's financial support and organization of the coup in Kiev.

    2. Answering you would take a long essay, but suffice to say here Anthony that I've never heard of a nationalist who would accuse his own government of being the main danger to peace and liberty in the world.

      And if your country is the world, then why not invade the world and make things right? That's where pulling quotes from the Jacobin Paine will get you.

      1. "And if your country is the world, then why not invade the world and make things right?"

        I'm an anarchist. I'm against state violence. And wars cause collateral damage, cost tax dollars, and expand the state. You don't have to be a patriot to agree with Rothbard's "War, Peace, and the State." Also, California is my state, that doesn't mean I want it to be invaded or run by any government, either.

        Also, as a libertarian, I oppose the existence of the US government, even if in an election 99% of Americans said they wanted to keep it.

          1. Exactly: Your problem with the US government is that they're internationalist instead of nationalist like your bad Old Right self.

            You accusing anyone else of being a "nationalist" is a howler, if for no reason other than pot/kettle/black reasons.

        1. I'm confused. Are you an anarchist or a libertarian? If you oppose the very "existence" of the USG, then you sound like an anarchist. I don't think the terms are interchangeable.

          1. We certainly don't want you to be confused. There are several "strains" of libetarianism, but they ALL adhere to the Non-Aggression Principle. The most "basic" form of libetarianism is the minarchist, like Ron Paul (this is most assuredly not a jab at the good doctor, who has helped me along my path of understanding). Then there is the anarcho-capitalist, like Murray Rothbard and Anthony Gregory. In some ways, what you are seeing here is an internecine squabble. But the NAP is at the foundation of beliefs of all the participants. We will all be shaking hands tomorrow.

    3. Gregory doesn't hold neo-con views on many subjects but he has similarities . If I remember correctly the neo-cons were following in the tradition of Trotsky who wanted to spread his vision of communism internationally. Today's neo-cons have their watered down version, social democracy if you will, that they want America to spread. Gregory and other "progressive" libertarians want to spread their vision of a mixture of positive/negative rights throughout the world. Same grandiose ranting.

  5. The conflict is between two predatory tribes concerning who gets to eat the Ukrainian sheeple for dinner. Why do people intellectualize and moralize animal territorial behavior? It is a proxy war between psychopaths. Does it matter as long as they don't rob the people the right to life?

    The Ukrainian people know they are screwed. I remember reading one Ukrainian say they were poor in Ukraine and they will be poor in Russia. Income inequality is the status quo there, and blood thirsty nations should take heed with what happens to countries that are corrupt with massive income inequality. Libertarians are having an abstract discussion about self actualization when Ukrainians are scraping the bottom of the barrel of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I bet if the Ukrainian population wasn't being screwed over none of this would have happened.

    1. The the Ukrainian people think they're being screwed over now, wait until the IMF and western bankers get their hands on them.

  6. Basically it comes down to this; Russia can never be right, even when or if it is objectively in the right because… well, because, Russia, man.

  7. FWIW. Data point:
    NICOLAI PETRO: "I was reading a little bit more carefully through some of the legal documents, and I was struck by something that doesn't seem to have been noted, although I do agree that the legal arguments are essentially moot at this point.

    But there is one aspect to this that hasn't been very carefully noted, at least in the Western press, and that is that when Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR, Sevastopol was not. So Sevastopol itself was always part of Russia. In 1992, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation rescinded this decision, finding illegalities. But then, a few months later, the now-Russian Supreme Soviet passed a resolution on the status of Sevastopol reaffirming its all Russian federal status. That is actually the status that Putin today reassigned to Sevastopol. So Sevastopol was always separate from the rest of Crimea in any case."

  8. Justin: I agree that Glaser is just on the wrong foot here but it is not really his fault. Blame it on government schools from KG to post-grad. I attended them in Canada, where the indoctrination is not less, just different. When I was in elementary school, the Queen's picture was on the front wall with the colonial version of the Union Jack, and the back wall had a world map titled 'The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire.' I had cousins growing up in New York State and when I saw them was horrified to hear their proud statements about $US or Old Glory.

    In recent years I have been substitute teaching at local high schools, my wife's idea just to get me out of the house a bit. After 10 years of state schools, the recitation of the pledge of fealty has a decided effect, same as my years in Canada, but there in Grade 11 my English teacher was running for Parliament for the CCF(Socialist) Party and I felt quite at home passing out flyers and balloons for her at the local malls.

    I try to stick to History, Economics, Government classes these days, and I especially like the AP classes. These are kids like me 50 years ago and I enjoy startling them. For example, in the first class after the pledge, I ask "Does anyone know what allegiance is?" There has never been a response. I put the words ' a liege' on the board, the French source for the word, point out that they have probably seen some flunky in a medievally set movie on his knees pledging allegiance to his liege Lord. Or I point out to an American history class that the Treaty of Paris recognized the 13 colonies as 'free, sovereign, and independent states.' What a saboteur to set kids thinking.

    Anyway, Glaser is a lot younger than I and I cannot fault his slow progress toward total liberty of thought. My progress has been much slower. Unless he suddenly gets a big money offer from the New York Slimes and accepts, I will continue as a fan.

    This whole Crimea event points out that either side is just the statist side. Don't forget that the the Central Bank of Russia (central bank is fifth of the ten recommendations of the Communist Manifesto) is a member of the Bank of International Settlement.

    1. As a teacher in a US gov't school, you showed a lot a bravery for even daring to question the almighty socialist "pledge" to your students. Unquestioning belief in US exceptionalism starts with its daily recitation. It's all brainwashing, not real education. I particularly gag at the word "indivisible." It's a wonder you weren't fired.

  9. It's wonderful to read libertarians going at each other hammer and tong. If it were a fight, Justin would have scored a first round knockout. I read Glaser and Gregory first, and was appalled by their rather naïve libertarian dogmatism vis-à-vis Moscow's actions. What good does it do for writers to always feel compelled to note that Putin is a bad man, as if his actions are somehow equivalent to US aggression? Those who condemn Russia's welcomed annexation of Crimea are, to this outsider, failing to consider the geopolitical reality that Russia is being encircled by the largest empire that the world has ever known and is fighting for its survival. At least Justin gets it.

  10. Rothbard and Hoppe are the standard of Libertarian philosophies on the State and war. The Libertarian philosophy is gaining steam and the Statists realize this. I have met more people in recent years who say they are Libertarians yet after talking with them it becomes clear they have any combination of progressive or neoconservative convictions when it comes to war and the role of government, particularly the federal government. They feign libertarians views and might spout some anti-central bank rhetoric but the Statism is clearly evident. This sort of “Libertarian Lite” is something that frustrates me because of how it might both turn others away from real Libertarianism and at the very least create a missed opportunity to inform. Good article.

  11. I agree with Rothbard on war, certainly when he was talking theory. Nothing I wrote is unRothbardian. Obviously. I’m a Rothbardian.

  12. This argument about Crimea reminds me of the arguments I used to get in with my ex. It would start when she would come up with something completely distorted about someone else and I would try to calm down the situation with logic. …"Why are you on their side"! would be her answer. and now I'm the bad guy….Whatever the case may be, the definitive argument should wait for facts from all sides…. While at present I see no good to the actions of either the West or Russia, I can ponder the logic of both sides. Putin certainly has the logic advantage on his side…right or wrong morally.

  13. An excellent column as always, But a limited demurrer on Putin as a "statist," to this extent:

    Russia has a 13% flat income tax. IBD: "Russia's flat-tax miracle has helped bring its budget back into balance. Its revenues from income taxes have more than doubled, since the single low tax rate was instated.”

    Putin has paid down his country's debt to less than an 1/8th of GDP, while the
    US debt stands at about 106%.of GDP

    Putin on welfare: “While a modern state must honor its obligation 'to take care of its population and ensure its social protection' or face the risk of collapse, European countries have been 'living beyond their means' and are now “witnessing the rise of a dependency mentality … [that] endangers
    not only the economy but the moral foundation of society,” Putin said. “It is no secret that many citizens of less developed countries come to Europe specifically to live on social welfare.”

    1. Why can't we get that kind of honest rational thought from President Obama and the rest of the DC clowns? Maybe we should allow their top economists to come over here and show us how to construct a workable government.

  14. Where should they stand? Anywhere the damn well feel like standing! It's none of my business, so I could not care less about Crimea.

  15. So was that "aggression"? Obviously not. Russia did not unilaterally invade Ukraine for the purpose of overthrowing the government – something the US does regularly. That's why we keep hearing in the MSM these speculations that Russia will "invade Ukraine" – it's the only way to make it seem that Russia is the aggressor were blogs

  16. But this is just splitting hairs. The underlying reality is that if some past President of the United States had handed over, say, Maine to Canada on a whim – as Nikita Khrushchev handed Crimea over to Ukraine in 1953 – would anyone in the US dispute the results of a referendum reintegrating it back into the Union?

  17. But this is just splitting hairs. The underlying reality is that if some past President of the United States had handed over, say, Maine to Canada on a whim a?? as Nikita Khrushchev handed Crimea over to Ukraine in 1953 a?? would anyone in the US dispute the results of a referendum reintegrating it back into the Union?

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