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Thomas Sipos (Libertarian Peacenik) and Lawrence Samuels (Libertarians for Peace) on ‘progressives for war’

Thomas Sipos at Libertarian Peacenik:

With some exceptions, all too many Americans will quickly betray whatever principles they profess if they think it’ll help their preferred political party’s chances in the next election. Libertarians ditch their “extreme” views to “get votes” for the Libertarian Party. Conservatives ignore the GOP’s reckless spending. And progressives forgive imperialist war-mongering — so long as a Democratic president is leading that war.

Monterey County libertarian peace activist Lawrence K. Samuels has now put progressives on the spot. Samuels drafted a resolution demanding that President Obama return his Nobel Peace Prize, both for escalating old wars and starting new wars.

Samuels tried to get local progressives (his Peace Coalition of Monterey County partners) to to sign his resolution, but for one excuse or another, they all balked.

Samuels says he’s not surprised. He’d long suspected that many of his progressive allies were more anti-Bush than pro-peace. Samuels adds that he drafted his resolution partially to test his progressives allies’ commitment to peace. And they failed his test.

Read Samuels’s full report:

Can Democrats support war without getting shot down in a hail of flak by the media and progressives?

That question has proven to be a thorny issue, but more evidence keeps accumulating to suggest that this is indeed the case. One example surfaced in the Monterey Peninsula area of California this month.

Libertarians for Peace, a member of the Peace Coalition of Monterey County, introduced the Give It Back Resolution in September 2011. It called upon President Obama to return his Nobel Peace Prize because his foreign policies have “continued old wars and engaged in new ones.” It was a simple and clear one-sentence resolution, but few took it that way.

In the last few years, the dirty secret behind the peace movement is the emergence of a double standard regarding which political party can conduct foreign wars of aggression.

For a number of reasons, it appears that Democratic Presidents can go to war, escalate troop strength, engage in torture, rendition, illegal wiretapping or harassment of whistleblowers and so forth, but Republican Presidents can’t employ the same policies. The Give It Back Resolution brought this controversy to the forefront.

When the resolution was first presented, a murmur of support rippled through the air. Many of the members seemed pleased over such a resolution. But within days of its submission, the chairperson of the Peace Coalition began to show his true colors. He objected to the resolution, arguing that it would be “demeaning” to the President and “frivolous.”

Of course, nobody in the Peace Coalition would have opposed this resolution if President Bush had been the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, I would wager that almost everybody in the peace movement would have lined up to sign a petition demanding that Bush give back any peace award immediately. That is a given.

But do most peace activists have an unbiased eye when becoming involved in party politics? Do they favor “principle over party” — or do they play favorites and look the other way when Obama acts like Bush on steroids? I was almost afraid to ask that question.

After spending years in the Peace Coalition, organizing dozens of peace rallies and “impeach Bush and Cheney” demonstrations, I was sure I would get a good deal of support for the resolution, even if it failed to gain the required 100 percent consensus. I had a feeling that most peace activists could see beyond party policies; that it did not matter which group of politicians were behaving like war-mongers.

A number of them told me that principles did indeed trump party politics, and that they were not beholden to the Democratic Party. Something was wrong somewhere, because the participants failed to live up to their claims of nonalignment.

The first roadblock erected against the resolution was a procedural maneuver. The chairman refused to put the resolution on the next meeting’s agenda. The excuse: all 20 member organizations that compose the Peace Coalition had to attend the meeting.

This was a silly argument, since the coalition has frequently passed all sorts of endorsements for rallies, speeches and events with barely a quorum. This was a bogus requirement.

Finally, this conflict was resolved through the diplomatic skills of David Henderson. The resolution was begrudgingly put on the agenda a day or so before the meeting.

And the results: disappointing. Not a single peace organization attending the meeting gave a thumbs-up recommendation. There was no vote. The Veterans for Peace and Green Party immediately came out against it. The National Lawyers Guild said that they might agree to it if some minor wording changes were made. The local Quaker organization abstained. The other peace group leaders just sat silently and watched. The resolution never had a chance.

In retrospect, I suppose I was testing the Peace Coalition to see if my suspicions were correct. I had heard a number of complaints that the Peace Coalition had a strong bias towards the Democratic Party. Since the election of President Obama, the coalition had only sponsored three peace rallies compared to a dozen or more during the Bush administration.

Of the three antiwar rallies sponsored, two were spearheaded by Libertarians for Peace. I had to take charge of one because nobody else would volunteer. As this lack of activity became more apparent, some of the more libertarian peace activists began to wonder if the local Peace Coalition was actually putting “party before principles,” worried that if antiwar leaders protested too loudly against President Obama’s administration, he might lose reelection.

After the failure of my resolution became apparent, the chairperson told me to contact each organization separately, and try to convince them of my resolution’s merit. I asked for a roll call vote so as to have an official record of who favored or opposed the resolution — since a number of members had remained silent. That request was denied. I had a feeling that the chairman wanted no record of who opposed the resolution, since it might someday become an embarrassment.

It was now apparent that many of the Peace Coalition members were willing to let President Obama get away with whatever pro-war policies he wanted to pursue. This prejudice is in essence saying that Democrats are exempted from normal antiwar criticism, and that wars of aggression by them are permissible. I wish this partisan favoritism were not true, but actions speak louder than words.

The lack of support for this resolution has answered my questions. A large percentage of peace activists are indeed beholden to partisan politics. And this is a condemning indictment of those who proclaim to support the values of peace and non-violence.


L.K. Samuels is the co-chairperson of Libertarians for Peace of Monterey County along with David R. Henderson.

He is editor and contributing author of Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer and a forthcoming book, In Defense of Chaos: the Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action.

His website is

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  1. paulie paulie October 9, 2011

    Patroon at Conservative Heritage Times on a topic related to the original post:


    Obama Obsession Disorder (OOD) is part of a family of diseases, much like MD, involving recent Presidents of the United States, from Reagan Obsession Disorder (ROD) to Clinton Obsession Disorder (COD) which caused much sickness on the Right and Bush Obsession Disorder, which poisoned the Left. It’s initial symptoms are thinking constantly about the President of United States (no matter who is in office), putting all else aside. Then comes brooding about the President in darken rooms (It seemed Lucianne Goldberg used to do with with Bill Clinton. She would mutter to herself with the lights turned out “We’re going to get Bill Clinton. We’re going to to get Bill Clinton! WE’RE GOING TO GET BILL CLINTON!”) and then when the hate swells the person will engage in an activity or say something they honestly feel hurts the President or gains them attention in attacking the President and yet only winds up wrecking them.

    The example the damage the disease can cause in its various forms is numerous. It rendered an anti-war movement moot when the target of its ire went away. It nearly destroyed a magazine. It made a political hack, schemer, gossip and backstabber a needlessly famous person. Meanwhile the target of the obsession gets away scot free. Clinton has become an elder statesman whom concerts are held for, and whose wife is Secretary of State. The shrill attacks on Reagan have done nothing to dent his popularity and Bush II is cashing in on his memoirs and building his library.

    To some physicians who work as pundits during the day, the best way to cure this disease is to oust Obama in 2012. But the potential medicines a.k.a the Republican Presidential candidates, could easily be no better than placebos and even if they did work OOD could easily be replaced by ROD (Romney Obsession Disorder) or POD (Perry Obsession Disorder). A stronger medicine (called Ron Paul) could cure this disease but said physicians discourage its use because of the side affects.

    Perhaps the best cure is not one which requires political drugs but takes an organic, holistic approach. It requires a change of mindset. It requires a belief that maybe the Presidency really isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things and certainly doesn’t change the country as much as one would believe. What evidence do I have for this diagnosis? Obama himself, for much of what was policy back in 2008 is still policy as of 2011. We are still at war, we have questionable prison camps still open, we still spy on the American people and violate their civil liberties, we still practice Keynesian economics and our environmental policies are largely the same. For all the sound and fury about each Presidential elections being “the most [important] election of one’s lifetime” it never quite is. If the recent protests coming from the Left are indications persons are not waiting for their “messiah” to deliver them, then more power to them.[…]

  2. Steven Wilson Steven Wilson October 9, 2011

    Marx indicated clearly that communism was a call to action, not a philosophy. The people marching and protesting have no clear objective as a group. They might have a individual goal in mind, but protesting needs direction in order to get the message out clearly and to make sure it is efficient and effective at maintaining the message sent.

    To say blindly that you want to end the wall street world is gibberish.

    The fourth branch, K street, pays for the other three. Why would a politician cut off their main source of power?

  3. Jeremy C. Young Jeremy C. Young October 9, 2011

    I don’t know that I agree that progressives are watered-down Marxists. I think they borrow cues from some aspects of Marx, such as the idea of class-based advocacy, but for the most part I think they are utilitarian liberals. Having encountered some true Marxists, who can cite Das Kapital chapter and verse, I don’t think they have much in common with progressives.

    Here’s a key difference: Marxists believe in the violent overthrow of the middle class by workers. To them, government is always going to be untrustworthy until the revolution has happened, because it is controlled by the bourgeoisie. Progressives, on the other hand, believe the government is a good and beneficial force right now. They sometimes think it is overly influenced by corporations, but they want to reform it, not replace it with some fundamentally different government.

    I get why Marxists would oppose foreign intervention. I don’t get why progressives do. If the government is a good thing right now, then why not use it to its fullest right now to help people in other countries? Why, for instance, oppose the intervention in Libya, as many progressives did?

    Re: Bush, the inconsistency is that someone trying to use government to do good would support such things as affirmative action, gay marriage, and increased spending on education. There are good principled libertarian reasons to oppose those things. However, there are no good progressive reasons to oppose them.

    Either you believe government can solve problems or you don’t. I believe it can solve problems, so I want to use it to do that. Libertarians believe it can’t solve problems, so they want to minimize its power. I can understand and appreciate that position. What I can’t understand or appreciate is the inconsistency in traditional progressive and conservative views. A person who wants to use government, but only to help business and the wealthy, is a craven opportunist, not a responsible legislator. A person who believes that government is good, but doesn’t want to use it to help people simply because of where they live, is baffling and, dare I say, cowardly.

    This is why I prefer talking with Libertarians to talking with Democrats or Republicans.

  4. CommonTater CommonTater October 8, 2011

    I really don’t understand why so many progressives are anti-war.

    Progressives take watered down cues from Marxists. They are not so much antiwar as anti-US interests, since they see Americans as the bad guys on the world stage.

    Secondly, they often fall for a false “guns vs butter” dichotomy, on the idea that if less money is spent on the military, more would be available for social programs they support.

    There’s also the whole legacy of the 1960s, when the new left used antiwar rallies to recruit supporters. Many of those people and those who learned from there lead progressive groups now.

    They want to help people in the US, but not those who are unlucky enough to live in other countries?

    I think they do want to help people in other countries. However, their idea of help does not involve the US military-industrial complex. They often support indigenous independence and revolutionary movements, which are frequently Marxists or quasi-Marxist. They go for things like “live aid” as well. They support “humanitarian interventions” in places like Darfur.

    To me, it’s as inconsistent as a conservative like Bush bloating the government to promote democracy abroad.

    Bush bloated government at home, too, so where’s the inconsistency?

  5. Jeremy C. Young Jeremy C. Young October 8, 2011

    I am pretty clearly a pro-war progressive. And frankly, I think that is a position that makes sense, for the same reason that I think libertarians being anti-war is internally consistent. If you believe in small government that leaves people alone, then you should believe in leaving other countries alone as well. Conversely, if you believe in big government that intervenes to help people, then you should also want to intervene to help people in other countries.

    I really don’t understand why so many progressives are anti-war. They want to help people in the US, but not those who are unlucky enough to live in other countries? I don’t get that. To me, it’s as inconsistent as a conservative like Bush bloating the government to promote democracy abroad.

  6. CommonTater CommonTater October 8, 2011

    At the recent Occupy Kansas City rally on Saturday, as series of activists were interviewed for the Libertarian Enterprise.

    Wendy Hippy
    Wendy, who calls herself Wendy Hippy, is a mother and grandmother. She held up a sign on Main Street when I spoke with her. The sign said, “The banks got bailed out. You got sold out.” She was there, she said, to object to corporatism (which is Mussolini’s word for fascism), to protest endless war, and to favour liberty, Americans working together, alternatives to false media, death to corporatism, in her own words.

    Her family started a business in 2000 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri where they bought dilapidated homes, rehabilitated them, and sold them. The business crashed in 2007, and they lost the family home in 2008. They now rent in Independence, Missouri. Wendy is at Occupy KC because she has completed her nationally registered certified medical assistant (NRCMA) training and cannot find work. Her husband drives a tow truck. Their two adult children also live in the home. The older daughter, 26, is a student of cosmetology. The 21 year old son is in Job Corps where he was studying culinary arts, but is now studying welding.

    Wendy has attended all the general assemblies of the Occupy KC event, including a series on the web and one in-person General Assembly last Tuesday as well as one last night (Friday night) at the occupation site. The group plans, she says, to be there until their demands are met.

    Jennifer and Brandon
    I interviewed Jennifer who says, “I have three children that I won’t ever be able send to college.” Her boyfriend has an $18/hour job, at 40 hours a week, with which they barely make ends meet. She cannot afford to take any of the minimum or near-minimum wage jobs available to her because the family would pay more for day care for three children than she could possibly earn.

    I asked Jennifer when things started going bad. She said they went bad in 2008 when her husband lost his job as an RV tech. People are apparently not buying recreational vehicles, as they cannot afford them or the high prices for fuel. Of course, the wars have generated those high prices for fuel, to the delight of the big oil corporations which have lobbied for more wars. The family also lives with her father at home, in the Sugar Creek area of KC.

    So, I asked why they were there. Her first answer was “People not corporations.” She said, “The one percent make money off the 99%.”

    Bones About It
    I interviewed a woman named “Toni Bones,” and her friends Sean, Kaitlyn, and Autumn. They were carrying Ron Paul 2012 signs they had made, and were representing Kansas City NORML – the national organisation for the reform of marijuana laws.

    Toni’s first comment to me was “The Federal Reserve is counterfeiting. All this money is counterfeit. They get away with it because the government says they can.” She was there to protest about independence, against the wars, in favour of hemp. We discussed how William Randolph Hearst and his wood pulp paper mills benefited from the elimination of hemp paper production in the United States.

    We spoke about police brutality, FEMA camps, the Federal Reserve, civil rights, the fact that the constitution has become “not worth the hemp it was written on.” Her friend Sean’s sign said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. ~ JFK.” We talked about peaceful people being put in cages – about 86% of the USA prison population is now reported to be non-violent “criminals” convicted of things like possession of some plants.

    There were about 50 people at any one time at the occupation, plus others out holding signs near busy streets, plus others coming and going. A crowd of tables was available for making signs, with many signs available to those wanting to join in. There were blankets, tents, and other evidence of overnight stays. Food was available, and many people were coming in with supplies.

    Chalk the Police
    A great activity was scheduled by “Cop Block” for the first of October. It is called “Chalk the Police.” You take chalk to your neighbourhood police station, or wherever you see the pigs frequently, and you chalk about injustice. One photo I’ve seen shows the chalk on the sidewalk “187 on Cops” referring to the police radio code for homicide. Elsewhere, “Cops Kill” with an outline of a body.

    At Occupy KC, many other slogans were chalked. Many peace signs, anarchy symbols, including the new anarchy heart were in abundance. “End the Fed, go for gold or silver” was chalked in several places, along with “have chalk, will hopscotch” and at least one hopscotch board. I saw many slogans calling for the end of the wars, the end of the drug war, the end of red light cameras in KCMO – a petition was being circulated for a ballot initiative on that topic – and other slogans, including “Google voluntaryism” which I thought was fun.

    Liberty Club
    Earlier the same day, Cisse Spragins invited her “first Saturday” crowd of individualists and liberty enthusiasts to her factory in North Kansas City. Apparently there were the fewest RSVPs and the most people, ever. At least 25 folks showed up, including the director for the Centre for a Stateless Society,, Brad Spangler, general contractor Josh Carter, and the founder Jim Davidson of Individual Sovereign University, and many others. Greg and Wendy Terry were there representing KC NORML, and also showed up at the occupy Kansas City, along with the others mentioned here. One of the organisers for “Chalk the Police” in attendance was Shaun Lee.

  7. CommonTater CommonTater October 8, 2011

    From blog on Occupy DC:

    On Wednesday, for instance, I chatted with Jack Zwaan, a self-described “Tea Party Libertarian” and Ron Paul supporter who had flown in from Little Rock, Arkansas, to attend the demonstration. Zwaan wielded a humongous Gadsden flag—yes, the kind of flag commonly seen at Tea Party protests.


    Seth McElvey talked with more DC protesters including one who said the Ron Paul fans and the Occupant crowd were “probably agree on 70 percent of all the issues.” But, writes McElvey:

    Calls to end the wars overseas, corporate bailouts, and the Federal Reserve, along with other libertarian-friendly causes were in evidence as well.

    These rays of hope were in no way the majority, of course. For every cardboard sign demanding justice in Guantanamo Bay, others asked for the government to pay back their student loans for them.

  8. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi October 8, 2011

    8 p, that’s one way to look at it. Another is to say there are two teams, two sets of assumed loyalties, but they are essentially the same.

  9. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp October 8, 2011


    I saw a couple of End the Fed signs at Occupy St. Louis.

    The only war-related stuff I noticed was of a state-leftist nature, i.e. “use the money being spent on the wars for public education and single-payer healthcare instead.”

  10. paulie paulie October 8, 2011

    LP should be at Occupy Wall Street with banners that say End The Wars, End The Bailouts, End The Fed.

    Small l libertarians already are. And yes, the LP should.

  11. paulie paulie October 8, 2011

    Yep, there are teams, basically only two teams, and lots of loyalty and hypocrisy all around.

    There is basically only one team, the welfare-warfare state of corporate-government collusion, and the Red and Blue “teams” are like its two hands.

    The hands are quicker than the eye, and keep people distracted while their pockets are being picked, their legs bound in irons, their mouths gagged, and lethal injections are administered to them one by one.

    At their origins, the peace protests, occupy movement and tea parties are all set out against some aspects of the welfare-warfare state of corporate-government collusion. However, by only seeing part of the beast, many of them are prone to being captured by other parts of it to do its bidding.

  12. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi October 8, 2011

    I would not be shocked is spending and taxes increase if Ron Paul is elected! It’s almost impossible for one person, even a prez, to bend the curve THAT much. Some TPers, in this highly unlikely event, may well object if RP brings the troops home as quickly as he says he will.

    I do sense that the TP would have objected to McCain if he had won. I suspect, however, that they would not have been as energized as they are with Obama.

    Yep, there are teams, basically only two teams, and lots of loyalty and hypocrisy all around. Deal with it.

  13. Questions Man Questions Man October 8, 2011

    Will you be just as shocked if, say, Romney gets elected, increases spending and taxes, and the Tea Parties remain silent or make excuses for him?

  14. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz October 8, 2011

    I am shocked, shocked to learn that the “antiwar” movement has primarily been an anti-Bush movement.

  15. Marlon Lacey Marlon Lacey October 8, 2011

    “Not a single peace organization attending the meeting gave a thumbs-up recommendation. There was no vote. The Veterans for Peace and Green Party immediately came out against it.”

    Wow. Absolutely shameful.

  16. CommonTater CommonTater October 7, 2011

    LP should be at Occupy Wall Street with banners that say End The Wars, End The Bailouts, End The Fed.

  17. Tom Blanton Tom Blanton October 7, 2011

    This article by Lawrence Samuels was posted by AntiWar.Com about 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t picked up by a lot of “progressive” websites a quick google search reveals. Not a big surprise.

    Robert Higgs has a piece in the fall issue of the Independent Review apt to rile some of the “big tent libertarians.”

    An excerpt:

    Although I generally eschew quarrels with fellow libertarians over doctrinal matters—my crucial dispute is with the government, not with other libertarians—I draw the line at the question of war and peace. In my judgment, this issue is fundamental; it well nigh defines a genuine libertarian ideology.

    He goes on to explain why hawkishness and libertarianism don’t mix. The only bad thing about this article is that it wasn’t written years ago. Although, this is certainly not the first time these ideas have been written about.

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