The Pro-war Libertarian Quiz

How far are you willing to go to win the War on Terror?


By now, we all know the pattern:

1) A new revelation is published or broadcast about a controversial new policy or by-product of the War on Terror. (Abu Ghraib/torture, extraordinary rendition, the outing of Valerie Plame, an alleged plan to attack Iran, secret propaganda in Iraq, FISA-free NSA surveillance of Americans, and so on.)

2) Some supporters of Washington's foreign policy wonder whether the reporter or news organization or leaker who revealed the information might be guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy.

3) The media, Democrats, and anti-war activists are criticized for piling on, for ignoring worse crimes committed by the enemy, and for hysterically exaggerating the underlying issue.

4) Think-pieces are written about how this controversial or possibly illegal policy should actually be legalized and embraced.

5) Some self-described small-government conservatives and libertarians exasperatedly ask if critics of the policy understand that we're at war, and explain how this latest kerfuffle illustrates why libertarians should never be invited to the grown-ups' table when discussing foreign policy.

I bring this up not necessarily to criticize supporters of George Bush's Executive-Power grabs, nor to play quien es mas libertarian (a game I generally lose), nor to belittle the real contributions to the debate they may have made during the previous go-rounds.

But rather, I'm interested in breaking the cycle for a moment, stepping back, and asking the Glenn Reynoldses and Thomas Sowells of the world one question: How far is too far in the War on Terror? I figure since their approach certainly has more resonance within the White House than mine, the answers would provide a more accurate weathervane than my feverish imagination. And given the eternal foreign policy divides within the libertarian big tent, it may help clarify the differences between camps.

The question is a bit open-ended, so here are 10 yes/no hypotheticals. My answer to every one is "no":

1) Should the National Security Agency or CIA have the ability to monitor domestic phone calls or e-mails without obtaining judicial approval?

2) Should the government have the ability to hold an American citizen without charge, indefinitely, without access to a lawyer, if he is believed to be part of a terrorist cell?

3) Can you imagine a situation in which the government would be justified in waterboarding an American citizen?

4) Are there American journalists who should be investigated for possible treason? Should Sedition laws be re-introduced?

5) Should the CIA be able to legally assassinate people in countries with which the U.S. is not at war?

6) Should anti-terrorism cops be given every single law-enforcement tool available in non-terrorist cases?

7) Should law enforcement be able to seize the property of a suspected (though not charged) American terrorist, and then sell it?

8) Should the U.S. military be tasked with enforcing domestic crime?

9) Should there be a national I.D. card, and should it be made available to law enforcement on demand?

10) Should a higher percentage of national security-related activities and documents be made classified, and kept from the eyes of the Congress, the courts, and the public?

My belief, crudely summarized, is not only that you do not need to imitate totalitarians to beat them, but that it doesn't actually help.

But that's just me; before the next scandal cycle of bloggery bickering begins, I'd love to know where my pro-war friends draw the line.

I'd love to know.