Nicholas Sarwark: Open Letter to Rand Paul Regarding War

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Press Release

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An open letter from Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark to Sen. Rand Paul

Dear Sen. Paul,

We agree with you that Congress should obey the Constitution. We should never engage in foreign wars without a congressional declaration of war, a restraint on military action put in place by our Founding Fathers to ensure lawmakers never send our troops to war without deliberation.

But a constitutional war in the Middle East is just as bloody, destructive, and likely to incite terrorism as an unconstitutional war.

Our half-century of interventions in the Middle East have been a colossal failure. We have provided arms, military training, and subsidies to virtually every country in the region, inciting continual war and unrest. This has created a breeding ground for international terrorists that pose a real danger to our country and the world — one that would not have existed had we kept our noses out of the affairs of other countries.

U.S. military interventions have put our troops in harms way, separated them needlessly from their families, and led to tens of thousands of American deaths and casualties — plus many more losses for innocent citizens of foreign countries.

We agree with your father, Ron Paul, who for decades was a lonely yet brave voice in Congress for peace. He was right when he called for getting the U.S. military out of the Middle East.

Everyone knows that you’re posturing to get the Republican nomination for president in 2016. But for this long-shot hope of winning the nomination, you have endorsed a roster of hawkish Big Government Republicans — from Mitt Romney to Mitch McConnell. And now you’re calling for sending our troops back to Iraq, which will be a death sentence for many of them.

Just how much can your long-shot presidential bid be worth? Is it worth the lives of these young men and women? The Libertarian Party says, “Absolutely not!”

While we agree with your view that no funds should be allocated to an illegal war, a policy of non-intervention remains the only just and reasonable approach to dealing with the Middle East — a land halfway around the world where the United States does not belong.

Your bid for a declaration of war against ISIS is unjustifiable and dangerous. Please withdraw it immediately.

Respectfully yours,

Nicholas J. Sarwark
Chair, Libertarian National Committee

An open letter from Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark to Sen_ Rand Paul Libertarian Party

42 thoughts on “Nicholas Sarwark: Open Letter to Rand Paul Regarding War

  1. Andy Craig

    Bravo. Hopefully this will put a kibosh on some of them ill-informed “L.P. might back Rand Paul” reporting.

    I usually don’t fall into Ron vs. Rand comparisons, but here it really is telling. When Ron Paul introduced a declaration of war against Iraq, it was so he could make a point of voting against it and challenging pro-war reps to vote for it. Not because he actually supported the war.

  2. George Phillies

    No, no. We should want Paul to advance with his brain-dead declaration of war idea. That will convince Libertarians that Paul is in no sense a libertarian, and we should only support him into early retirement.

  3. Robert Capozzi

    Interesting message, particularly given RP2’s rep as the reported leader to L wing of the GOP. Helps to distance that perception with the reality that RP2 has called for war with ISIS. I certainly agree that should be exiting from these disastrous foreign wars, not starting new ones.

    Devil’s Advocate time: Does the LNC’s platform preclude war against a foreign organization that kills Americans off US soil? I don’t read it to preclude that, at least not explicitly.

    RP2 can probably wriggle out of this, as Congress won’t declare war, and he can still vote against half measures and remain consistent.

    I’m getting the sense that the Obama Administration is in such disarray now that I am concerned that anything they do now will be deeply conflicted and probably not well thought out. Despite the fact that RP2 added to the war drum beat, I hope he moves back to his anti-war lean, as he’s one of the few that has that as part of his thought system.

  4. Dave

    For reference, the RP forums weigh in on this article. http://www.ronpaulforums.com/showthread.php?463740-An-open-letter-from-Libertarian-Party-Chair-Nicholas-Sarwark-to-Sen-Rand-Paul Most seem supportive of him, though there is some dissent. Worth noting it is the Rand Paul part of the site, the part that backs him the strongest.

    I should first stress that I’m not a Libertarian. Not approaching issues from that political orientation, I’m curious when Libertarians believe we should use force? American citizens have been killed by Isis. And they were reporters and aid workers, not military personal. Is that a Casus Belli? If not, what would be?

    This is an issue I personally struggle with. I find Isis to be deplorable certainly,and can understand intervening against them more than most. But the world is never black and white, and we know that Airstrikes alone won’t destroy them. Which means we’ll need boots on the ground. As the past several decades have shown, these things rarely work out the way we want them to. Even assuming we can completely wipe out this organization, it will cost us significant life and billions if not trillions of dollars. The end result will probably only lead to even more resentment of us and the birthing of more enemies, doing nothing for our long term security. From my perspective, it just does not seem worth it.

  5. Joshua Katz

    Bathrooms have killed Americans. Therefore, we need a war on bathrooms.

    As for platform, the Chair shouldn’t contradict the platform (and obviously doesn’t here) but not everything he utters in the name of the party needs to be mentioned specifically in the platform. The platform is certainly not inconsistent with opposing this war.

  6. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Dave, your question is a good one. Libertarians live by the Non-Aggression Principle, which should be fairly self-explanatory by its name. It would be acceptable to fight back when one is genuinely at risk, IMO, but that’s where things become subjective. I do not believe ISIL/ISIS has reached that level yet. Personally, I see waging war as being defensive, rather than being on the offensive.

  7. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    This is me speaking for myself, as opposed to speaking for the Libertarian party. I find it suspicious that this threat from ISIS is suddenly becoming a big deal from the media. I thought our big enemy was Al-Qaeda/Osama bin Laden. Oh, those bogeymen don’t seem to be scaring Americans much anymore, so now ISIS is the bogeyman. It’s hard for me not to think the threat is being overblown for the purpose of keeping us at war.

  8. Dave

    Jill, I’m inclined to agree. Especially because many of the people most supportive of intervention are the same ones who told us Iraq was a national security threat. It’s a bit hard for me to trust them. And unless I’m mistaken Isis only really came into being because of our previous intervention in the region. Given the success of our last adventure, i don’t see how another one would really solve anything.

  9. Robert Capozzi

    jk: As for platform, the Chair shouldn’t contradict the platform (and obviously doesn’t here) but not everything he utters in the name of the party needs to be mentioned specifically in the platform. The platform is certainly not inconsistent with opposing this war.

    me: Cool, although NS does say:

    ” Is it worth the lives of these young men and women? The Libertarian Party says, “Absolutely not!” ”

    My guess is that probably a majority, perhaps a super-majority, of the LP agrees with this statement, but my guess is some don’t. Not sure how that works…when a Chair can and should make such a sweeping representation. No particular agenda on my part…just curious.

  10. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    ” Is it worth the lives of these young men and women? The Libertarian Party says, “Absolutely not!”

    I find it close to impossible to believe that ANY Libertarian doesn’t feel this way.

  11. Robert Capozzi

    I do find NS’s comments quite insightful on the politics of this. It’s one thing if RP2 took the position that IF the US decided to go to war on ISIS, then it must be done with a formal declaration of war. I can even see if he said we should seriously consider making such a declaration. That would be good politics for him IN the GOP and at the same time would have integrity.

    INTRODUCING a declaration has a pandering feel to it. Surely he KNOWS that there will be declaration, that this is a stunt.

    It’s an easily seen through stunt.

    Great point, NS….

  12. Joshua Katz

    The policy manual grants the chair wide discretion in representing the party. Statements in the name of the party may not violate the platform, bylaws, or policy manual. Short of that, it’s at the chair’s discretion. I strongly agree with the chair making a statement in the name of the party against war.

  13. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    It’s beyond me that Capozzi takes the time to criticize this great lettter. Wow.

  14. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Here’s an an amusing quote from the Ron Paul forums::

    When asked “if you lose the primaries, will you run as a libertarian like your dad” he has a great comeback: “of course not, they keep writing open letters on how Im not libertarian enough”

  15. Robert Capozzi

    JP, it’s interesting to me that you find terms like “great point” to be criticism! Consider reflecting on that! 😉

    If I understand the prevalent Randian/Rothbardian (esp the latter) view of f.p., it seems that “governments, when instituted” can have a national defense (at least as a transition) and that national defense should be limited to the nation state’s borders, perhaps territories, perhaps embassies. Americans killed abroad are SOL; they knew the risks, etc., I’d think the argument’d go.

    Heretic as I am, I wonder whether the actions of ISIS are different, and that might be worthy of a rethink. A) ISIS is a paramilitary organization that wants to be a nation-state, as I understand it. B) They killed Americans for being Americans, and have made iirc vague threats against the US.

    Is that, then, an act of war? I don’t have a position, but I can see that argument.

    Would this be a situation of letters of marque and reprisal would be appropriate? Again, possibly.

    Of course, the context matters. Failed, ill-conceived war in Iraq looms large in this particular equation. M&R, however, may be an appropriate response, even in this context.

  16. Andy Craig

    It can not plausibly be the responsibility of the American government to avenge the death of any American that happens anywhere on Earth, even in volatile war zones that the State Department has explicitly advised Americans not to visit. Given the plethora of US nationals who flood into any war or crisis zone- journalists, NGO workers, etc.- you would be hard pressed to find any conflict on Earth where an American hasn’t been “aggressed against” by that standard.

  17. Robert Capozzi

    AC, yes, I tend to agree. Notice that I’ve thrown out 2 standards, not one.

    And I’d have to say that it appears that many/most disagree with your phrase “can not plausibly be the responsibility of the American government….” since iirc most Americans want a response.

    Mine is a semantical point, but I would think that the idea is that Ls should make the case that it is not the US government’s responsibility, rather than just assuming that “responsibility” is an objective matter.

  18. Andy Craig

    Most Americans want a response (maybe, the support for these things always declines over time and might well be below majority at this point), but as a matter of principle policy-makers should be considering the implications of what standard we’re setting. And the only standard that can justify intervention in this case, is an extremely broad one that would equally justify an impossibly-large range of missions. Even if you concede an American military involvement in rescuing individual US citizens, that is much narrower than swooping in to “destroy” the nation/group supposedly responsible.

    And I would say, recognition or no, ISIS is a “state” for all intents and purposes. They control a swath of territory with, as libertarians are prone to pointing out, a “monopoly on the use of force.”, and in a more traditional sense are exercising all of the powers of government in those regions. Which means a level of response under a standard appropriate for engaging in war against states, not limited action against a small criminal actor.

  19. Andy Craig

    We did not, for example, send in the Marines to overthrow Berlusconi and rescue Amanda Knox.

  20. Robert Capozzi

    ac: s a matter of principle policy-makers should be considering the implications of what standard we’re setting.

    me: 100% agreed

    ac: And the only standard that can justify intervention in this case, is an extremely broad one that would equally justify an impossibly-large range of missions. Even if you concede an American military involvement in rescuing individual US citizens, that is much narrower than swooping in to “destroy” the nation/group supposedly responsible.

    me: “Only” is a red flag for me. I haven’t personally conceded anything. I’m highly biased against foreign military adventures of any kind. I just wonder whether there may be circumstances in which I might support one.

    ac: And I would say, recognition or no, ISIS is a “state” for all intents and purposes.

    me: Sure, why not.

    ac: They control a swath of territory with, as libertarians are prone to pointing out, a “monopoly on the use of force.”, and in a more traditional sense are exercising all of the powers of government in those regions.

    me: Not sure it’s accurate to say that ISIS is a “monopoly” at this stage.

    ac: Which means a level of response under a standard appropriate for engaging in war against states, not limited action against a small criminal actor.

    me: Right, although I don’t think ISIS is quite a state at this point. It’d be nice and neat if the situation were nice and neat, but it’s not, near as I can tell.

  21. johno

    Rand Paul is more Republican than his father was. He has less libertarian instincts than Ron Paul does. So I’m not shocked that he’s a hawk.

  22. Andy Craig

    The only argument that can distinguish ISIS from any other rebellion/civil war is that we supposedly have some special responsibilty in Iraq, because the US helped create the mess. Colin Powell’s “pottery barn rule” if you will. But this logic also suffers from a serious lack of a limiting principle, since anything that ever happens in Iraq for the next century and beyond can be traced back to the 2003 invasion in some sense. The failure of the al-Maliki government to build a stable, secular, non-sectarian state is not the responsibility of the American taxpayer.

  23. Robert Capozzi

    ac: The only argument that can distinguish ISIS from any other rebellion/civil war ….

    me: Apparently, you are a big fan of the absolutist word “only.” I’m not a fan, to be clear. If there were an ISIS-type outfit in, say, Malaysia, and they were killing Americans because they were Americans, I would consider whether letters of marque & reprisal or possibly even declaration of war might be justified. I would also be heavily biased against either action.

    Fail, for me.

    That doesn’t make you “wrong,” but it does mean you need to be VERY careful with your absolutism. At least, that’s my strong suggestion.

  24. James Babb

    “We should never engage in foreign wars without a congressional declaration of war…”

    It may seem like nitpicking, but Libertarians should know not to use possessive pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’ when referring to the actions of the government. They are not OUR troops. They are not OUR wars. Let’s not perpetuate the essential statist myth that WE are the government. It’s THEIR wars, THEIR troops… Don’t take ownership for evil.

    Otherwise, a nice letter. Rand couldn’t care less, but it differentiates Libertarians well, as a clear voice against more war.

  25. Joe Wendt

    It’s well written, but flawed. Granted, I think going to war in the Mid-East is a very bad idea and Rand Paul’s proposal is a bad idea, but look at our previous nominee. The LP nominated Gary Johnson, who wanted to go after Kony (who also poses absolutely no threat to the US) for some bizarre reason. To me, it just feels like the pot calling the kettle black.

  26. Thomas L. Knapp

    Joe,

    I disagree. It’s a GOOD SIGN that LPHQ is putting out libertarian communications instead of following the last two Republican pied pipers the LP nominated for president. Gotta start living that idiocy down some time. No time like the present.

  27. Andy Craig

    I don’t know why you’re so allergic to the word “only”, but among those who speak the English language that’s not what “absolutism” means.

    The word “only” can also be used if you have considered the options, and only one fits. For example, I have three pairs of shoes. Only one of them is blue. Hopefully you have your semantic EpiPen at the ready, because it’s the only thing that will save you from your acute allergic reaction to certain words.

    Particularly when you misunderstand my point, and actually demonstrate it in attempting to rebut it. You don’t accept the Pottery Barn Rule- you think an ISIS-like group might justify intervention even if it was somewhere else. Which means you fall under my previous point, that *without the we-broke-it-we-bought-it theory*, there is not a clear way to draw a line that separates this civil war/rebellion from any other one, leading to a standard which authorizes an endless list of interventions any time an American gets hurt or killed anywhere on Earth.

  28. Robert Capozzi

    ac, I see your point on “only.” It seems if one acknowledges options and other ways of looking at things, but one is chosen because it works best, given all the information, that’s not absolutism. Wanting to set pre-determined standards to handle all cases starts to feel a bit absolutist, though. The world is just not that simple and cut-and-dried, I’d suggest.

    There is a difference between “principles” and “rules.”

    But, on this: “…leading to a standard which authorizes an endless list of interventions any time an American gets hurt or killed anywhere on Earth.” that’s not what I said. I said IF a paramilitary organization threatens the US AND kills Americans for being Americans, that starts to look like provocation of a nation (in this case, the US), and I can see why a nation might be justified in responding in kind or in some form or fashion.

    Personally, I do not believe that the USG should respond with force whenever an American is killed overseas. Of course, I don’t think anyone is talking about that, L or not.

  29. Andy Craig

    “…for being Americans” is awfully vague and malleable, and for a variety of reasons almost every insurrectionist group out there is at least somewhat anti-American.

    I actually agree with your point about letters of marque and reprisal, or some sort of modern equivalent, as being a possible reasonable answer to this sort of thing. But I do not think *waging a war* is justified by such events, which is what is being proposed.

    I think you also create an incentive problem, where any rogue state or militia group looking to bolster its local credibility, can seize or kill a couple of US citizens they find, and suddenly become an “enemy of the United States.” Much the same problem when the Kim gang in North Korea gets an American celebrity or ex-President to visit every time they hold an American hostage every couple of years. Having a few ineffective bombs dropped on you is a small price to pay for tripling your number of recruits.

  30. Andy Craig

    Ultimately though, people who travel to dangerous parts of the world against advise must do so at their own risk, not with the backing of hundreds of millions of American taxpayers. The funny thing is, most of them actually accept that, but the political pressure once they’re taken hostage is too great to ignore.

  31. Robert Capozzi

    ac: I actually agree with your point about letters of marque and reprisal, or some sort of modern equivalent, as being a possible reasonable answer to this sort of thing. But I do not think *waging a war* is justified by such events, which is what is being proposed.

    me: Yes, if pressed, given the information I have, I would favor an M&R response as well. In my case, I would oppose a declaration of war BECA– USE of the history, i.e., the Iraq War, which in my estimation was a complete and utter disaster. Going to war vs. ISIS would be going in the wrong direction.

    I just happen to believe that it’s better to be open-minded rather than dogmatic about issues in the public square, and anything else, for that matter.

  32. Joe Wendt

    I agree it’s a good sign, but until the LP starts nominating Libertarians instead of the piles that the GOP rejected, it seems a bit hypocritical.

  33. William Saturn

    Rand Paul also calls for a complete repeal of Congress’s 2001 and 2002 authorizations of force. Paul wants to make it more difficult for the executive to involve the United States in war. Requiring a formal declaration each time the president wants to engage militarily would significantly reduce the number of military conflicts involving the United States.

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