A Very Ad Hominem Christmas
Yesterday, a blogger became so fed up by my posts on the subject of Ron Paul’s newsletters that he posted a libelous ad hominem attack about me on his blog. That it was libel is clear: the blogger has been following my blog for approximately two weeks, offered no citations for his charges that I was “a partisan hack,” and utterly ignored (or perhaps simply never read) all of the evidence that runs counter to his position. I wouldn’t ordinarily have seen the post, especially since I was traveling much of the day, but another blogger read it and wrote a thoughtful defense. The crux of the matter is two-fold: first, he is deeply wounded that I have slandered Ron Paul by discussing his newsletters because, second, Ron Paul is the only candidate who loves peace. Thus, I’m a war-mongering hypocrite.
But here’s the problem: I have nowhere claimed to know whether or not Ron Paul is a racist; in fact, I have explicitly said that I don’t know whether he is or whether he simply associated with racists. My main interest, especially at first, was simply to note that the defense often heard from a young, vocal subset of Paul fanatics — that libertarians can’t be racists so Ron Paul isn’t a racist — is just a bad argument. What’s more, regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve criticized Rick Perry on the death penalty, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain on torture, and Barack Obama for targeted killings. In short, I think I’m a pretty equal opportunity critic when it comes to human rights issues. And second, I’m not much of a fan of war. As someone who writes extensively on the topic of human rights, this shouldn’t be much of a revelation. But perhaps I need to explain, since I didn’t, for example, criticize President Obama for the NATO intervention in Libya.
At bottom, this boils down to the question of pacifism and, as I’ve written before on this blog, I’m not a pacifist. If someone takes my non-absolute position on war as war-mongering, well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Here’s what I wrote back in March, when I was writing about Libya:
I think that most of our problems should be solved diplomatically … but I don’t just throw up my hands and say “Shucks!” when diplomacy fails.
This isn’t because I think that war is good and that, in the end, everyone comes out a winner. It isn’t because I won’t curse or because I somehow view the world through rose-colored glasses. But I also don’t believe for one second that just because people are killed by war that we should somehow prefer to let people be killed by our insistence on not-war.
A lot of people were killed in Syria in 2011, for example, and none of them were killed by agents of the United States. Are pacifists cheered by this fact?
Again, here’s what I wrote back in March:
The choice is between people being killed and people being killed. I don’t want to sugar-coat that at all. In both instances, people die and it’s violent and bloody and awful. But in one instance — when we eschew intervention — the people who generally die violently are those who are attempting (and failing, due to inferior military capabilities) to throw off a tyrant. In those instances, it’s my position that to fall back on pacifism because war is awful amounts to something of a moral failing insofar as it amounts to siding with the tyrant.
At the end of the day, I think an anti-war position is a terrific one. But, insofar as I also live in the real world where people have to make difficult decisions that aren’t black and white, I recognize that the sort of head-in-the-sand isolationism preached by Ron Paul and his acolytes doesn’t automatically mean that they have a monopoly on the moral high ground. When it comes to military intervention on humanitarian grounds, which is what I’ve been talking about on my blog all year and which the blogger mysteriously equates with war-mongering, the choice is between people dying and people dying. Choosing not to involve ourselves in what happens elsewhere doesn’t mean that people in Libya or Syria will suddenly be safe and happy and alive; it means that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we won’t have any blood on our hands. Maybe that makes the pacifist blogger and Ron Paul feel better when they go to sleep, safe and secure in the United States, but it doesn’t help people who are being tortured and massacred by security forces overseas. Pretending that this is somehow the most (or only) moral position to hold is farcical. It represents a shallow understanding of morality, and a narrow and unrealistic understanding of global affairs.