What Are We Supposed to Do?

John Quiggin posts that Glenn Reynolds no longer claims to be a libertarian. Quiggin argues that “the idea that a relaxed attitude to sex and drugs and support for economic policies that favour your own social class (note that “shmibertarians” happily square their anti-tax line with support for higher taxes on the poor) can trump the authoritarian implications of militarism, from Gitmo to collusion in government lies, is now pretty much dead.”

To which most of my Cato colleagues — one could probably count on one hand the exceptions and still have enough fingers left to smoke a cigarette — would say “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” The same number of people who would differ with that might give a fig what Glenn Reynolds’ reason is today for why George Bush is a heroic figure. But then, curiously, Quiggin goes on to argue that

The implications go further I think. Given that the Republicans are now definitively the war party (not that the Democrats have yet become the peace party, but that’s another story), it’s hard to see how libertarian Republicans can survive, any more than Dixiecrats survived Nixon’s Southern strategy. The recent decision by RedState to ban Ron Paul supporters is a pretty clear indication of how real Republicans think about this. This has big implications for a thinktank like Cato, which has opposed the war (but very sotto voce — a visitor to their website would be hard pressed to tell that there even was a war) while remaining within the Republican tent.

Emphasis and gnashing teeth mine. To this my (two, now three) colleagues in the foreign policy program at Cato and I would reply, “Have you read any of our work on foreign policy?” I’m sorry there was nothing on our front page yesterday about the war, but to say we’ve been sotto voce and that one would be hard pressed to tell, after looking at our foreign policy work, that “there even was a war” just shows that Mr. Quiggin may need a tutorial on how to use the intertubes.

Here’s our latest call (the first one was issued in 2004, as I recall) for immediately beginning to withdraw, having all U.S. troops out in six months. Here’s my boss Chris Preble assaulting two pro-war liberals in the pages of The National Interest. Humbly, here I am arguing that while getting out is going to be bad, that opponents have ridiculously inflated the costs to better make the case for staying. And factor into that roughly a gazillion conferences, panels, forums, interviews, talk radio and TV appearances, blog posts, talks with Capitol Hill folks, and sundry other think-tankery.

Now, we’re not posting articles every day about the Iraq war, it’s true. To be totally candid, I have very little left to say. It was a disastrous idea to get in, we should have gotten out immediately, we should still get out immediately. Full stop. We have precious little control over either the security environment over the long term or the political environment at all, so pouring money, men, or materiel in is throwing good stuff after bad. I imagine, although I’m not a soothsayer, that things will get noticeably worse for a time after we withdraw — but that this will happen whether we get out this year, next year, or in 10 years.

But in a nutshell, that’s about all I have to say. And I’ve been saying it to anybody who asks. Unfortunately, the New York Times hasn’t asked, and the Washington Post certainly hasn’t asked. For whatever reason, both op-ed pages remain more interested in what the neocons are saying. Probably that’s because they still have the president’s ear, and the papers want to run pieces that relate to policy options he’s actually considering.

Maybe it’s our absence from these venues that’s why Quiggin doesn’t know we’ve been arguing against the war. But to just parachute in to our site’s front page and declare our voices too soft for his liking is a bit much. For better or worse, we’ve been out there, lonely, arguing for withdrawal and against the ideas that spawned the war.

If I had to bet, though, I’d bet money that we’ll still be in Iraq in a meaningful way 10 years from now. Which is why, to my mind, it’s become all the more important that we don’t get the gang back together to play a reunion concert in Iran. Which is why, among other things, we’ve published a paper on what we should do now with Iran, a paper arguing that if a proactive policy fails, it would be better to live with a nuclear Iran than start another war, and a bunch of other stuff on Iran. Here’s a half-day event on Iran that we did that recently was mentioned in an Esquire profile of Flynt Leverett.

In short, I’m not sure what Mr. Quiggin wants us to do. If he has any sharp suggestions for stopping the war, I’m certainly open to them.