A few brief replies to my esteemed editor:
1) Refuting the myth that Osama Bin Laden was a CIA asset is indeed instrumental to prosecuting the war on terror. It is partly because of the publication of such refutations that this myth has failed to obstruct the war. The refutation I praised isn’t the first to appear, only the most recent. The first one I saw appeared in The New Republic shortly after 9/11. Still, the meme isn’t yet extinct – I’ve seen many libertarian anti-warmongerers repeat it in the past year – so it still bears repeating.
2) Yes, I would like to see Hamdi tried, convicted, & executed for treason, just like Lindh (unless he turns snitch and plea-bargains, as Lindh did). After he’s held as a POW for the duration of the War On Terror, that is. He didn’t have to claim his U.S. citizenship in an attempt to escape his detention as an enemy combatant, but once he did established his own positive obligations to the USA. But the good news is that the legality of detaining enemy combatants as enemy combatants in the War On Terror was upheld. Henry Mark Holzer has an exellent analysis of this decision. How my editor can fail to see the relevance of this decision to the War On Terror is beyond me, since Hamdi was captured in battle against terrorists. How could holding captured terrorists as enemy combatants not have anything to do with the War On Terror?
3) As for Pollack’s “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” I didn’t say that you had to read it to competently discuss the upcoming war on Iraq, I said that you had to be familiar with the arguments in it. That familiarity can be gained by ways other than reading it – some of them were already familiar to me before I read it, and many of those who were in the audience with me when I went to see Pollack speak at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco had not yet read it, but they became familiar with some of the arguments in it from his talk.
True, Pollack is less convinced of a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda than I am. However, his expertise is in Iraq, not Islamist terrorism, and since he’s been out of the government for a few years now he has not been privy to the latest classified intel about an Iraqi connection to Al Qaeda, as he admitted during the Q&A when I heard him speak. Those who are experts on Osama Bin Laden and do have access to the latest classified intel, like Youssef Bodansky, author of “Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America,” affirm that Iraq is a sponsor of Al Qaeda.
For me, the Iraqi connection to anti-US terrorism is the clincher, which makes it necessary to overthrow Saddam Hussein. There are a number of other arguments which have been made about it, such as the humanitarian argument about what’s good for the Iraqi people. It is those arguments which Pollack addresses quite nicely, and which I endorsed because they’re not sufficiently well-known.
My most fundamental criticism of Pollack is that he assumes that the US must play the role of global policeman & enforce the collective security of other countries. I reject that assumption. For him, there doesn’t have to be any connection between Iraq & Al Qaeda for it to be necessary for the US to overthrow Saddam Hussein; for me, there does.
As for using the State for this purpose, I would prefer to be able to hire private mercenaries out of my own pocket to overthrow Saddam, but unfortunately I live in a world in which that service has been monopolized by the State. So, I want to use the State for that purpose. The US government has shown itself to be capable of overthrowing foreign totalitarian dictators and ending the military threats from those countries on a long-term basis, as evidenced by the cases of Germany, Japan, & Italy. More recently, totalitarianism was ended in the Soviet Union & Eastern Europe in large part thanks to US policy. Time to do it again, I say.
Finally, I can’t go along with the blanket rejection of public policy as a “collectivist endeavor.” Does that include the public policy analysis of the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation, just to name two examples? There is such a thing as libertarian public policy, there is such a thing as working within the system. I’m grateful that I live in the territory of a State staffed by people who are heir to a culture of liberty like that of America, rather than a culture of authoritarianism like, say, Russia or China. The officers of the American State aren’t sufficiently libertarian for me, but the answer to that is to encourage them to be more so, by means including public policy debate. It is not the only means of defending & extending liberty, nor is it necessarily the best one, that doesn’t make it illegitimate.