Military

Abolish Secretive Special Ops Forces

For our own safety, we must disband these squads of killers.

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Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

It's time to disband the Navy's SEAL Team 6 and all other secretive, unaccountable units of the U.S. imperial military. As is said about lawyers, if we didn't have these units, we wouldn't need them.

The New York Times reported recently:

While fighting grinding wars of attrition in Afghanistan and Iraq, Team 6 performed missions elsewhere that blurred the traditional lines between soldier and spy. The team's sniper unit was remade to carry out clandestine intelligence operations, and the SEALs joined Central Intelligence Agency operatives in an initiative called the Omega Program, which offered greater latitude in hunting adversaries.

Team 6 has successfully carried out thousands of dangerous raids that military leaders credit with weakening militant networks, but its activities have also spurred recurring concerns about excessive killing and civilian deaths.

Afghan villagers and a British commander accused SEALs of indiscriminately killing men in one hamlet; in 2009, team members joined C.I.A. and Afghan paramilitary forces in a raid that left a group of youths dead and inflamed tensions between Afghan and NATO officials. Even an American hostage freed in a dramatic rescue has questioned why the SEALs killed all his captors.

We are expected to trust the government that those operations kill bad guys only. But why should we, when it has done so much to earn our distrust? It has long downplayed the civilian deaths inflicted by drones, bombers, and ground operations.

The Times writes:

When suspicions have been raised about misconduct, outside oversight has been limited. Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees SEAL Team 6 missions, conducted its own inquiries into more than a half-dozen episodes, but seldom referred them to Navy investigators. "JSOC investigates JSOC, and that's part of the problem," said one former senior military officer experienced in special operations, who like many others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity because Team 6's activities are classified.

Even the military's civilian overseers do not regularly examine the unit's operations. "This is an area where Congress notoriously doesn't want to know too much," said Harold Koh, the State Department's former top legal adviser, who provided guidance to the Obama administration on clandestine war.

Here we have a super-secretive unit of killers that is protected from accountability by its own. William C. Banks, a Syracuse University expert on national-security law, told the Times, "If you're unacknowledged on the battlefield, you're not accountable."

Members of Congress pretend to keep an eye on the military to prevent criminal behavior—but in fact they are integral to the corrupt system: with eyes turned away, they keep it going with large sums of money. "Waves of money have sluiced through SEAL Team 6 since 2001," the Times writes, "allowing it to significantly expand its ranks—reaching roughly 300 assault troops, called operators, and 1,500 support personnel—to meet new demands." And this is just one unit—though it is the most glamorized, having conducted the raid that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.

The Times quotes James G. Stavridis, retired admiral and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, who said, "If you want these forces to do things that occasionally bend the rules of international law, you certainly don't want that out in public." By "bend the rules," Stavridis means, in the Times' words, "going into undeclared war zones."

So politicians need secretive military units to fight undeclared wars—which would seem to violate the Constitution.

The existence of secretive military units conducting private lethal operations should bother anyone who aspires to live in a free society. Their very nature offends common decency. Yet a propagandized population takes for granted that secrecy is legitimate and necessary for our safety in a terrorism-plagued world.

Beyond the obvious objections to secretive military units, there is also this: U.S. intervention in the Muslim world makes people want to kill Americans, as government officials widely acknowledge. Secretive military units allow the national-security elite to engage in actions that provoke violence against Americans confident that Team 6 and the Army's Delta Force will neutralize any retaliatory threat. 

For our own safety, we must disband these squads of killers.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

NEXT: Is Rand Paul Through? Or Only For Disaffected Outsiders? He Hasn't Given Up on Being the Reasonable About Criminal Justice Republican

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  1. I don’t think we should have our military overseas, but special forces are much more discriminating than a hellfire missile.

    1. “much more discriminating than a hellfire missile.”

      But unlike hellfire missiles, these SEALS will demand a share in Afghanistan’s thriving heroin trade, just like the Afghan security forces, the CIA and the Taleban.

      1. mrtrueman speaks from all of his vast military experience here, obviously.

        1. Yep, that’s why the Dread Pirate had to go up the river, so nooneworld be able to horn in on mtrueman and his compatriots’ business…

            1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

              ????????????? http://www.pay-buzz.com

        2. “all of his vast military experience ”

          Don’t let the uniforms and fancy badges fool you. Organized crime is what we’re talking about.

    2. ‘special forces are much more discriminating’

      Not really. From an Afghan perspective, every single person killed has been innocent. We are outsiders so everyone we kill is innocent. In theory, if someone had ‘I am a terrorist’ tattooed across their forehead, then killing them might actually be deemed ‘killing a terrorist’. In practice, we are outsiders so killing them is merely proof that we killed an innocent and then tattooed ‘I am a terrorist’ across their forehead.

      What is true is that special forces are boots on the ground. They are American lives actually being put at risk. That creates LESS blowback. Culturally and militarily, people can respond to ‘boots on the ground’ coming at them. Special ops things do lead to blue-on-green stuff – and jihadis going to Fort Hood for their suicide attacks. But not the broader sort of counterattack.

      When our applied force is missiles (coming in from a third country); locals cannot directly respond. So the blowback ends up being suicide bombers going after anyone and everyone they can indirectly attack. Further, it is those basing sites for missiles/naval/air attacks that creates the ‘occupying force’ that so offends locals.

      The blowback does not occur because of the action. It occurs because of the risks we are perceived to take. The more our pols prattle on about avoiding ‘boots on the ground’, the more likely it is that we’ll see blowback. The more we rely on missiles, the bigger our overseas footprint is.

      1. The same actually applies to ‘proxies’. Letting proxies do the dirty work seems to be a preferred MO for both aggressive hawks – and especially pious ‘non-aggression’ types. That creates HUGE blowback because not only are we perceived to not be taking any risks ourselves – we also become tied to whatever other crap those proxies are responsible for (and they are usually real oppressive violent scumbags – because those are the sort who are most willing to fight for proxy reasons).

        1. So where does all the blowback in Iraq come from? You know, that country where we risked hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground…

          1. What blowback in Iraq? ISIS hasn’t attacked the US in any serious way yet. They are focused on Syria/Iraq.

            1. I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about. Do only terror attacks on U.S. soil count? If that’s the case, then there have been only a few instances in history and I wouldn’t be comfortable making any general claims about this (no statistical power in small samples). I got the sense that you were talking about general retaliations against U.S. interests (military installations, troops, other interests). If that’s the definition, I would gladly argue that the Iraq insurgency more than qualifies as the sort of large-scale response that you’re talking about. Same with ISIS. Also, don’t forget that ISIS makes a future attack on U.S. soil an explicit part of their rhetoric.

              1. There is a big difference here and not sure what you mean by ‘US interests’. Attacks against military installations and troops is not blowback. It is simply an attack – or a continuation of the war. Preventing that sort of stuff is certainly part of a military mission but it is insane to not expect precisely that sort of counterattack when the military itself is on a mission.

                And yes I understand that ISIS is rhetorically at war with us – and will remain so forever. And they would probably welcome blowing up a kindergarten (or a McDonalds in the Phillipines if you want to define that as ‘US interests) as part of that. THAT sort of attack would be blowback. But in all honesty, I don’t see it moving beyond rhetoric unless we try to use Iran as a proxy to fight ISIS or as a consequence of us bombing them there so they have to counterattack somewhere else.

            2. If there is blowback in future, it is FAR more likely to occur because:
              a. we use ISIS as a proxy to fight Assad
              b. we use Iran as a proxy to fight ISIS
              c. we bomb ISIS from the skies and locals get pissed off at that

              We may have failed in some of our military mission in Iraq. ISIS’ support among Iraqi Sunnis because of our failure to leave an inclusive govt in the vacuum we created. And ISIS theft of US military equipment which seeded some of their capability. But that is not in any way shape or form ‘blowback’.

              1. because of our failure to leave an inclusive govt in the vacuum we created

                Biggest problem is Iraq is actually 3 countries. Just because the Brits thought drawing lines in the desert seemed like an answer to their problem doesn’t mean we should have continued their stupidity.

                (Marine, Haditha, Iraq, Civil Affairs, 2007-2008)

                1. While I don’t disagree that Iraq is 3 countries, the BIGGEST problem with Iraq is that we are there at all. The second biggest problem is that we are/were there without an achievable objective and without a credible exit strategy that defines victory. It is the US making ALL the same mistakes that we vowed to never make again after Vietnam.

                  1. True, but if you would have done what we did in Iraq (as dumb as it was, yes I condemn myself too) and it had actually been a real country, there wouldn’t be the constant civil war like there is now.

                    Say, do that in Jordan and it would have been… better, I guess?

                  2. ‘the BIGGEST problem with Iraq is that we are there at all.’

                    This is where I parted ways with a lot of people. I did think that Gulf War 1 WAS a legitimate use of American force. The first legitimate use of American force since Korea. And unfortunately we screwed it up – and that may have been inevitable. We got them out of Kuwait – but didn’t solve the underlying problem of the aggressor and allowed everyone else in the world to fuck off and leave us holding the bag.

                    The ‘bag’ in this case being our air bases in Saudi Arabia that were used after 91 to ‘keep Saddam contained’ – by bombing Iraq at whim. In this the blowback from that wasn’t Iraqis who got pissed off at that bombardment – it was Saudis who got pissed off that we were occupying Saudi Arabia to bomb Muslims in Iraq. So 17 of them could be recruited to be muscle for the blowback attack on 9/11.

                    At that point, it is obvious that we do have a problem that needs solving. The actual problem being ‘how do you get rid of the bases in Saudi’. Getting rid of Saddam permanently was deemed to be the solution.

                    It would have been better then if non-interventionists had had something more to offer than ‘I told you so’ (esp because none of them actually did).

                    1. Agree on GW 1 being legitimate.

                      Agree completely that Northern and Southern Watch CAUSED OBL to perpetrate 9/11. Perfect example of blowback. Attempting to contain Saddam was a fool’s errand. What were we going to do, force another nation to never fly again for eternity? There was no plan. We should have left it to the Arabs. Saddam CERTAINLY wasn’t going to re-invade Kuwait again with his military decimated. “We did what we said we’d do now we are leaving…don’t make us come back.”

                    2. The second time…had NOTHING to do with 9/11.

                    3. ‘The second time…had NOTHING to do with 9/11’

                      Yes and no. I agree that all the public discussion and justification and stuff was all crap and lies and irrelevant to 9/11.

                      But on April 29, 1993 – http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04…..-RUMS.html

                      Rumsfeld announced that the Saudi air bases would be closed. And they were. This is before Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ stuff. When Tommy Franks is still in charge of the fighting and Jay Garner is the ‘rebuild’ guy (pre-Paul Bremer and de-Baathification). So however quiet that announcement was, it was pretty clearly a key piece of the ACTUAL reasons for GW2.

                      And honestly, I don’t think that simply withdrawing from those bases (with Saddam still in place) would’ve been as simple and cost-free as people seem to assume. At minimum, those who did see those bases as the issue at the time should’ve freaking said something to make that part of the public discussion/justification for whatever action was to be taken. By saying nothing, before or even since, they simply abdicated the foreign policy decision-making to people who did have lots of other nonsense on their agenda.

                    4. At minimum, those who did see those bases as the issue at the time should’ve freaking said something to make that part of the public discussion/justification for whatever action was to be taken.

                      I’m not sure it could have been foreseen as the issue it became. The US likely had no idea that their presence in the region was pissing off the locals, as the people making those decisions have no idea about the cultures they are dealing with. I see the entire mess as a huge learning experience. It is the posterchild for blowback.

                      The lesson IS, when you meddle in the affairs of others, expect resentment and expect bad shit to happen. Stay home, shut the fuck up, walk softly and carry a big fucking stick.

                    5. ‘I’m not sure it could have been foreseen as the issue it became’

                      I kind of agree re the 9/11 attack specifically. But that wasn’t out of the blue. And after 9/11, there is no excuse.

                      There was an attack on Americans in Riyadh in 1995. There was a barracks bombing at Khobar Towers in 1996. The first AlQaeda fatwa was a couple of months later. The second AlQaeda fatwa was Feb 1998. The 1998 embassy bombing was a few months later.

                      At minimum, non-interventionists then – before 9/11 – should have been aware of the timeline, aware that it is spiralling out, aware that bases are the problem – and spent as much time on becoming situationally aware and putting together ‘nonintervention’ plans (eg how specifically do we withdraw without Saddam marching back into Kuwait) as PNAC/Albright did on their side. Because once 9/11 happens, platitudes don’t cut it. In a crisis mode, anyone who doesn’t have any actual knowledge but who is advocating policy is really advocating a foreign policy based on ignorance.

                    6. Replying before I’ve finished reading this nested discussion, but I would like to point out that there were other valid reasons for going to war with Iraq; ones that would have been much more honest. Saddam Hussein was flagrantly violating the terms of the peace treaty, or cease fire, or UN Whatchamacallit.

                2. “Brits thought drawing lines in the desert seemed like an answer to their problem doesn’t mean we should have continued their stupidity.”

                  You think reverting to Ottoman drawn lines is a better idea?

                  1. No, just let the people decide. They will decide with guns, but that’s par for the course.

                    1. “No, just let the people decide.”

                      You mean let the people with guns decide. Isn’t that already underway?

                    2. The equilibrium in the equation is that Iraq should be 3 countries. Those with the biggest guns still try to keep it together. They can succeed in the short-term, but eventually they will lose the money or the will to hold it out of equilibrium and it will return.

                    3. Well, they’re pretty indecisive. Or very decisive.

                  2. Yes, I do. The only thing that has ever kept that region peaceful is an Empire. Incidentally, to those who argue that we are an empire, I would suggest that, the fact we do not invest the resources necessary to pacify the Levant, proves that we are not yet ready for Augustus.
                    The Republic may be dead, but maybe we can make a Democracy work (this time, we’ll use the right Top Men.

                3. Yeah, the Brits really screwed the pooch re the Ottoman Empire all the way around.
                  BTW, never saw Lawrence of Arabia, but Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of my favorite books.

                  1. ” Lawrence of Arabia”

                    Great movie, not to be missed.

      2. Interesting viewpoint. Thanks

    3. No they are not. They are simply slower to get to target and easier on the infrastructure.

  2. We should get rid of the veil of secrecy surrounding the various special units, not the units themselves. They provide a good and cost effective force multiplier when used correctly although their use, and the use of the military in general, should be far more restricted than it is now.

    1. Agreed. It’s not about the tool. It’s about the assholes implementing the tools.

      1. Assholes using tools like wood chippers?!? Report for interrogation immediately!

        1. Please don’t particleboard me again!

          1. I’m debating a gaze that has been narrowed. Swiss! Can I get a ruling?

            1. Has the gaze been chilled? Say it ain’t so!

        2. I really jumped into that with both feet (first).

  3. I don’t really have anything against Richman, but i am super stoked for the comments.

    1. You don’t have anything against Richman????

      1. Take him out back

        1. And give him a warm cookie and a hearty handshake, right? RIGHT?!!

          1. *nods aggressively*
            He didn’t mean nothing. He was just funin’.

          2. DON’T TALK ABOUT THE COOKIES!

          3. You mean a laurel and hearty handshake?

          4. Mmm, cookies.

      2. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT RICHMAN.

  4. Uh, no. Time for some responsible foreign policy – yes.

    The line has always been blurred. At some point a Scout, once far enough ahead of our forces, is a spy.

  5. No.

  6. One of the dumbest things I’ve read here in a long time – and that includes comment threads.

    1. Careful, man – these comment threads are sinister threats to the order, stability, and continued good governance of the United States of America, apparently!

      1. So we are offering the world DISORDER?

      2. Well, Jazz Shaw certainly thinks so.

      3. They should ban comment threads- and wood choppers.

    2. No shit. In what fantasy world would any politician ever on any level put his name to such an imbecilic idea?

      The attack ads just write themselves all day long, FFS.

      Back to subreddits discussing the world of the Witcher 3, I think. More realistic things talked of in those parts than here.

    3. Yes, but Sheldon just wants to end the military. It’s a backdoor way into doing that

    4. Yes, but Sheldon just wants to end the military. It’s a backdoor way into doing that

    5. Yes, but Sheldon just wants to end the military. It’s a backdoor way into doing that

  7. Bring them home to fight the drug war.

    1. Seal Team 6 and other special ops forces are training programs for anti-government militias. Who do you think will be organizing the libertarian shock forces?* We need their special skills to force civilians to arm themselves, smoke pot, have butt sex with Mexicans, and do more squats.

      *THIS IS NOT A THREAT

    2. JTF-6 was a total success. Just ask Esequiel Hern?ndez.

  8. We are expected to trust the government that those operations kill bad guys only.

    I don’t think Richman quite grasps what war is.

    1. Isn’t the thing where our side gets all dressed up in their finest uniforms and lines up in a big long line opposite the enemy who is doing the exact same thing. And then we begin firing at each other like proper gentlemen?

      Strip all that radar absorbing coating off our jets at once!! Stealth is for cowards!

      1. You forgot the inspirational speeches and ceremonial challenges for single combat.

        1. Do you by chance know where one can find Zouave uniforms in Multicam?

        2. In all my time in the military, not one person accepted my challenge for single combat.

          (Full disclosure, I was in the Marine Corps and actually did challenge people to single combat more than once. That may or may not have been a violation of article 114…)

          1. This comment thread is why Reason is the greatest.

      2. As an Englishman, I approve of this message.

        Red coats and bearskin toupees for all. Now dress that line and prepare to receive fire.

  9. Is this guy just click-bait around here, or are we supposed to take his articles seriously?

    1. It’s mostly click bait, but he does have a point about accountability. The idea that we elect a congress, that declares wars after debate use to be kind of a big deal.

      1. The idea that we elect a congress, that declares wars after debate use to be kind of a big deal

        Ding, ding, ding! Winner.

        War is achieving a political objective through the use of lethal force without due process for the participants.

        We, as a country, provide due process for those accused of wrongdoing. We extend this notion beyond our own citizenship. That declaration of war suspends due process for those, non-citizens, (and only those) mentioned in the declaration. THIS is why a declaration is so important. Congress is giving the executive the authority to suspend due process against a group of people to achieve a political objective.

        It isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, nor should it be made by any one man. The duty/responsibility falls to Congress and they have been spineless weasels about accepting their responsibilities since December 11, 1941.

        (philosophical opinion only, not legal)

        1. “(philosophical opinion only, not legal)”

          Still felt threatening. Here’s your subpoena.

          1. Forget a subpoena. Throw him in a wood chipper.

        2. One guy. One guy can cost us trillions in dollars and many thousands in lives. Whether or not we benefit or otherwise agree with the war he gets us into, and whether or not we’ve been fully informed about the consequences of such a war.

          Allowing the usurpation of the war power is one of the greatest derelictions of duty committed by Congress. War is something most of us need to be behind, or we shouldn’t do it, even if the Stratego players think it’s critical to our future.

          1. Has anyone worth reading ever furthered a case that the military command has a responsibility to ignore illegal orders to use force absent a declaration of war? I guess since the president is commander in chief, the line of command would simply be refreshed until it towed the lion. Has it just never been tried because game theory says it won’t work?

            1. My guess would be that towing a lion wouldn’t deliver the desired results. Unless your desired results included a snuff-version of “Roar”.

              1. New guy, ‘ey? May your monocle be always polished, your pizza never be deep dish, and your reason always be impeccable.

                1. I’ve lurked for about 5 years, on and off, but I think I’m up to speed.

                  “Drink!”

            2. “Has anyone worth reading ever furthered a case that the military command has a responsibility to ignore illegal orders to use force absent a declaration of war?”

              No reading required. This is exactly why the United States refused to participate in the International Criminal Court. We have so many soldiers fighting and killing in so many places, that the US was concerned captured soldiers would be hauled before the ICC for “unjust” or “politically-motivated” prosecutions. This was the reasoning put forward by the US government for rejecting the ICC.

              Of course, perhaps a more legitimate way to avoid this “unjust” scrutiny at the ICC would be to simply have solid a legal basis for fighting somewhere…

              1. It’s not as though the ICC was going to send out a mass warrant because the AUMF was being stretched. They don’t care whether Congress approved the action, only whether the troops obeyed the laws of war while in theater.

                Given that the ICC comes from the same people who brought you the UN Human Rights Commission, I wouldn’t hold out much how for justice in their rulings.

      2. Yeah – but that really doesn’t have much to do with special forces units.

        By Richman’s logic, we should get rid of all airplanes in the military too. After all, dropping bombs is pretty damn indiscriminate and kills a lot more civilians than special forces. And that sort of videogame war from afar has done a whole heck of a lot more (see Afghan/Iraq in the 1990’s; see Kosovo; see Libya) to create blowback and executive-action wars than special ops.

        If he’s a pacifist and pacifism is a core element of libertarianism, then fine say so and stop couching it. I have a lot of respect for Mennonites and Quakers and such. But this nonsense about ‘non-aggression principle’ is just basically dishonest.

        1. Not to mention that sounding like Chomsky when it comes to foreign policy is really a good way to prove that one is a moron

        2. But this nonsense about ‘non-aggression principle’ is just basically dishonest.

          ???

          1. Non-agression doesn’t mean ‘no Military’.

            But what are you going to do when someone takes a swipe at you? Turn the other cheek?

            1. Also – ‘non-aggression principle’ is almost exclusively used to describe/analyze physical aggression – where pacifism is a much better descriptor. It is not used much to describe or oppose cronyism or other ‘legalistic’ theft.

              And it is NEVER used to describe the corruption of governmental policy to tilt the playing field when libertarians agree with the goal of that corrupting policy. For example – the deliberate attempts to screw people at the bottom of the ladder (whose only property is their labor) via unskilled/illegal immigration. Or the ‘global governance’ trade negotiations in the name of ‘free trade’ where the actual effect is to eliminate all accountability for multinationals while keeping individuals firmly under national government control.

              So yeah – i think its dishonest.

              1. And it is NEVER used to describe the corruption of governmental policy to tilt the playing field when libertarians agree with the goal of that corrupting policy.

                Um…bullshit.

                Show me a libertarian who supports cronyism.

                And your argument about immigration contradicts your cronyism argument, as prohibiting immigration is a non-market force that artificially drives up the price of labor (ie, cronyism). IOW…initiation of force.

                1. Well I separated cronyism from the immigration and ‘free trade’ stuff.

                  ‘free trade’ has NEVER actually existed on Earth. Neither has ‘open borders’. Those are both merely ideas/phrases that require government action to get from here to there. That’s important because governmental action to get from a current reality to a never-realized idea is not the same as a rollback of government to restore a previous status-quo. And the implementation of either of these means that you create individual winners and individual losers. Which means you are heading down the utilitarian (or majoritarian/etc) path. Of using ‘state’ to force a ‘good idea’ on those who are harmed by same.

                  I hope you can see the hypocrisy here. I can’t explain it more. But when we ignore the ‘non-aggression principle’ simply because we agree with the goal, we lose all credibility that we are any different in practice from the same-old-same-old FYTW that characterizes every other winnersvlosers decision that’s ever been made.

                  ‘Non-aggression principle’ really doesn’t even offer a damn bit of practical insight here. Who are the people who are expected to be ‘non-aggressive’ here? The winners? Or the losers? If the winners, then how can they justify creating losers from their imposition of the govt action (via say TPP or ‘comprehensive immigration reform’)? If the losers, then isn’t ‘non-aggression principle’ just FYTW?

                  1. Who are the people who are expected to be ‘non-aggressive’ here?

                    The government.

                    Using government force for anything other than protecting individual rights IS an act of aggression. That’s the whole point of libertarianism. Government has no business interfering with trade.

                    1. ‘Government has no business interfering with trade’

                      Government has ALWAYS ‘interfered’ with trade. I’d argue that the reason government exists is because people in a specific area agreed that they needed some set of rules/processes; definitions of basic stuff like weights/measures; currency that would be accepted; some way to acknowledge and enforce property rights/claims. Those have always applied only to the areas that the government itself claims control over. By definition then, stuff that crosses those borders from one market area to another is being ‘interfered with’. Any government which has claimed ‘global authority’ has historically – correctly – been called an empire imposing its rules on people who don’t acknowledge its authority.

                      For most of our history, the argument for ‘free trade’ v ‘protectionism’ was whether tariffs should merely raise revenue for nightwatchman government (to avoid taxing and interfering with internal trade – which follows directly from Adam Smith) or high enough to distort external trade (to then fund other government ‘improvement’ projects or ‘hoard gold’).

                      The notion of a tariff-free world – enforced by supranational gvmntl entities accountable to nobody – is a recent notion. Say the early 1990’s when GATT turned into WTO. Supported by NOTHING in economic thought. It is more of a pseudo-religion that merely uses the term ‘free trade’ to coopt economists into supporting what is nothing more than cronyism for multinationals.

            2. Non-agression doesn’t mean ‘no Military’.

              Was that meant for me?

              You are perfectly justified in defending yourself against an attacker. I’m a big believer in having a very strong military.

              I was questioning JFree’s comment.

    2. I get excited every time I see a Richman article. I know it is going to be gloriously derpy!.

  10. Stupid Richman: We need special operators in the event rogue officers take over the USS Missouri in order to sell it’s “special” weapons to terrorist regimes. Can’t you see the logic!

    1. All you need is one good cook.

      1. You’re in the Navy, remember? It’s not a job, it’s an adventure!

        1. I thought it was a Global Force for Good???

          1. They shut that damned fool ad campaign down faster than the Army got rid of “an Army of One”.

            1. Army of One. That’s how the Shrike gets started.

        2. I was about 10 when I saw this movie for the first time. I watched it with my dad and uncle. When the girl jumped out of the cake with the hugest boobs I had ever seen my dad said: “she has some healthy lungs”. I have the best (worst?) dad.

          1. Erika Eleniak.

            *wistful sigh*

  11. Fighting soldiers from the sky,
    Fearless men who jump and die.
    Men who mean just what they say.
    The brave men of the Green Beret.

    Silver wings upon their chest,
    These are men America’s best.
    One hundred men will test today,
    But only three win the Green Beret.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5WJJVSE_BE

  12. Reason.com is getting national attention right now. Is it really a good idea to be publishing this bullshit, or anything at all by Richman?

    People are coming to the site for the first time ever today. Is this what you want them to see?

    1. People are coming to the site for the first time ever today. Is this what you want them to see?

      Absolutely. If they read the comments they might learn something about how the libertarians on this site think, and that is a good thing. Do you think Reason should change how it does business?

      1. How it does business? No. But maybe they could adapt to the current situation until it goes back to normal.

        When I read Richman, I’m not in what I’d describe as a thoughtful mood. Mockery is all I have.

        1. But maybe they could adapt to the current situation until it goes back to normal.

          I see your point, but disagree. I think they should carry on as usual as no-one here has done anything wrong. I know that doesn’t matter, but it is what it is.

          Mockery is all I have.

          Which is what I was referring to when I said people who read the comments could learn something. Sheldon should be mocked, and mercilessly. Just as the comment by F’dA above shows, libertarians on this site are very solid in their thinking, and it just might make one person stop and think the next time someone says something that might be considered “controversial.”

    2. Playa, we’ll just all have to do our part and turn the “Richman Excoriation Dial” up to 11.

      1. Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?

    3. Perhaps it is a cunning plan to show that the comments are less bizarre than the articles?

      1. They’re playing 3D chess with us!

        1. *Throws 3D chess board into chipper*

          Check mate.

    4. Maybe it’s a strategy of distraction? Or maybe by publishing it, they think that visitors who read Richman will think we’re all kooks and no one will take us and our comments seriously?

      But, yeah, it’s embarrassing.

    5. Richman is just a harmless old man *runs away*

    6. And Virginia Postrel thinks we make libertarianism look bad?

    7. They don’t come for Sheldon Richman, Cupcake.

      They come for the witty troll banter.

  13. Is this what you want them to see?

    Let’s ask some millenials..

    1. I am not sure Reason has any polling experience.

    2. Will they tell us if Reason is having a ‘moment’?

  14. In my, admittedly limited but nonetheless real, experience Spec Ops soldiers are an order of magnitude more moral and better grounded than the typical policy makers in the white house. It’s all very well to say “We shouldn’t need spies and assassins”, but it flies in the face of reality. I am far less concerned with the actions of Spec Ops soldiers overseas than I am with the behavior of ordinary police in the U.S..

    I think this all boils down to garden variety isolationism. That never had a chance of working, not in a free market, anyway, and it is high time that Reason’s writers gave it up as a bad job. We need to interact with foreign nations. I happen to think they we have been seduced into attempting a greater level of sophistication that the history of man supports. We ought to limit ourselves to trade agreements, and thumping those who annoy us. But pretending that if we don’t look at it the world will go away is stupid on a level I’ve come to associate with the Liberal Left, not the Libertarian.

    1. They are and Richman knows this. You have to remember, Richman is on the other side. He really is. No one is this stupid. Richman just pretends to be because he doesn’t want to admit that he wants America’s enemies to win.

      1. He’s not even smart enough to do a halfway decent job at pretending. His first sentence uses the phrase “U.S. imperialist military” – it sounds like something from North Korea propaganda

        1. *imperial military

      2. Richman wants America’s enemies to win: this is an epic overreaction to what he’s written. I suppose that anyone who questions the morality or efficacy of a given set of tactics is an America-hater? Don’t like waterboarding? You want the terrorists to win! Think that there’s too much secrecy? America-hater!

    2. ” if we don’t look at it the world will go away is stupid on a level I’ve come to associate with the Liberal Left,”

      Obama’s policies vis a vis Pakistan and Afghanistan are too isolationist? Is that what you are trying to say? You’d prefer to see him escalate the violence in the region while pursuing trade agreements with the governments.

    3. When did Richman argue that we don’t need to interact with foreign nations? He never said anything about trade, immigration, etc. In fact, IIRC, he is pretty in favor of free trade and open borders. Richman is talking entirely about violent conflicts with other nations, not about economic interactions.

      Regarding your comment about “isolationism” and free markets: if you mean cutting ourselves off from the world, then you’re right that that such a thing could never work. If you’re talking about willingness to engage in violent conflicts, that’s a far more open question. Most ancaps argue that a free market in defense associations would lead to far fewer violent struggles, as wars are extremely expensive and private defense associations would have trouble raising the necessary funds and have little to gain. I’m not sure if the ancaps are right, but the status of war in a free market is anything but a settled question.

      At any rate, Richman is only talking about defense here. I’m not sure where you’re getting this notion about isolationism and completely cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world in all respects. It’s just not an argument that Richman (or probably anyone at this site) will ever make.

      1. Note: I disagree with Richman on a lot of things. Just don’t think that this characterization of his position is even close to warranted.

      2. “I’m not sure where you’re getting this notion about isolationism and completely cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world in all respects.”

        This notion about isolationism doesn’t come from anywhere in particular. It’s simply a reflexive, knee-jerk response to those who question the wisdom of adventurism as a matter of foreign policy course. It’s nothing more than a rhetorical device to avoid an argument.

      3. ” I’m not sure where you’re getting this notion about isolationism and completely cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world in all respects. “

        Richman in the past has characterized renewed US Trade with former soviet satellite states as ‘antagonistic provocation’ which threatened Russian ‘spheres of influence’

        When you’re constantly declaring US activity abroad – be it diplomacy, military action, security or trade agreements, etc – to be ‘unwarranted intervention’….that’s pretty much the dictionary definition of “isolationist”.

        Or can you actually point to an example of Richman’s open-minded view on any particular international relations topic?

        1. “Or can you actually point to an example of Richman’s open-minded view on any particular international relations topic?”

          No, but honestly, I don’t care much one way or the other about Richman’s views. Your statement about his recognition of a Russian ‘sphere of influence’ is interesting though. I’d argue that it’s not really an indication of isolationist leanings, but rather realpoliltik straight out of the Cold War. Think Soviet sphere of influence rather than Russian.

  15. …Afghan paramilitary forces in a raid that left a group of youths dead…

    Paramilitary raids typically lead groups of young people dead.

  16. No. Don’t eliminate the tools. Eliminate the tools who are using these tools.

  17. War is achieving a political objective through the use of lethal force without due process for the participants.

    We, as a country, provide due process for those accused of wrongdoing. We extend this notion beyond our own citizenship. That declaration of war suspends due process for those, non-citizens, (and only those) mentioned in the declaration. THIS is why a declaration is so important. Congress is giving the executive the authority to suspend due process against a group of people to achieve a political objective.

    It isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, nor should it be made by any one man.

    We don’t need any of your War College mumbo jumbo, PEACENAZI.
    We gots Badguyz to kill.

    1. We do have a form of due process, albeit very collectivized. We determine in Congress whether a country or group is so threatening as to deserve the unleashing of lethal force, which, in practice, can mean the fairly indiscriminate killing of the declared enemy’s people and destruction of their property and infrastructure. While this isn’t ideal, it’s at least a practical control. And we’ve also self-imposed or have signed and ratified treaties further limiting what we can do while in a state of war.

      Of course, without formal declarations of war, we don’t have all of those controls and limits.

      1. Controls? Limits? Why do you want our enemies to win?!?!?!?!?!? Aaaauuuggghhhhhh! *spittle*

        /John

      2. Ceding the authority to the President is just a collectivization of the collectivization. We the people have already vested control of that decision in the Congress. Then Congress vests control to the President. It’s just a matter of scale.

        /sarc

        1. Yeah, pretty much. He’s the symbol of America.

  18. Is Richman a Progressive Luddite? Why would he otherwise want to do away with such an effective tool as Special Forces? Would Richman have done away with the Greek hoplites?

    1. “such an effective tool as Special Forces?”

      What have they accomplished that has so impressed you? Botched hostage rescue missions? Peace and stability, finally, in Afghanistan?

      1. You, sir, are an uninformed ignoramus and I will not waste my time educating you.

        1. So, nothing they’ve accomplished has impressed you. Must be those nifty uniforms with all their ribbons and badges. Have to agree with you there. They look mighty impressive.

      2. You obviously know nothing about the winning of the Afghan war (before Obama screwed it up). Do you understand that it was special forces (alone) with local militias that turned out the Taliban?

        Probably not.

        1. ” that turned out the Taliban?”

          The fall of Kabul was a rout. The Taleban were turned out of Kabul by a bombing campaign, were they not? They haven’t been turned out of anywhere since.

  19. “The team’s sniper unit was remade to carry out clandestine intelligence operations,”

    I’m imagining a sniper hunkered down in a sweet hiding spot with a great vantage point. I’m imagining him seeing some cool and interesting enemy stuff and reporting that information back to his bosses. But I’m not seeing the problem.

    Next, I’m imagining a sniper who is known to be very skilled at finding and hunkering down in sweet vantage points. I’m imaging him being sent (gasp) to do that very thing in order to see some cool and interesting enemy stuff (not even with the primary task of sniping anybody), and then reporting that information back to his bosses. And I’m still not seeing the problem.

    1. And were said “clandestine intelligence operations” conducted by personnel in uniform, concealed uniform, or mufti, because your implication is that the sniper was no longer a sniper, but a spy.

      Military forces who don’t fight according to the Geneva Conventions (GC) don’t discriminate between the two, and I see no reason why in opposing them, we need to apply distinctions that are unimportant to our enemy-de-jour,

      If the opposition are signatories to the GC, then yes, there may be a significant technical difference between an embedded advance recce team and a nest of spies, but I doubt that distinction is important to Richman. We see him for what he is.

      FWIW, I’m only mildly hawkish, and I hate international agreements like the GC, but the US is a signatory nation.

      I think if someone starts a fight with you and gives you a bloody nose, you have every right, once you identify who did it, to break their legs, sow their land with salt and force them to polish your monocles and work in your Masonite factories.

      Maybe in that order.

      1. Poorly put – I’m challenging Richman’s quote, not Copernicus’ response,

      2. “I think if someone starts a fight with you and gives you a bloody nose, you have every right, once you identify who did it, to break their legs, sow their land with salt and force them to polish your monocles and work in your Masonite factories.”

        You don’t need special forces to do this. You want to bring the Afghans to heel? Simply destroy their economy, burn their opium fields, and any other crops they attempt to grow, herd them into camps where they can be clothed, fed, disarmed, deloused and hired out as cheap labour to anyone willing to take on the risk of employing them.

        Seems to me that ‘special forces’ only come into the picture when you turn away from the above tried and true methods of conquest and concentrate instead on nation building.

        1. “Special Forces” may or may not be the tool you use, It would be foolish to limit your options to a drone, a nuke or an Armored Division.

          “Special Forces” are precisely what you don’t need when you’re “Nation Building”. There’s a limit to how successful you’ll be at building a nation if the only techniques you use are delivered by guys whose core competencies are “killing people” and “blowing shit up”. The Marine Corps has about 100 *other* MOS’s with personnel far better qualified to do that kind of job.

          Maybe the problem here is that you imagine that “Special Forces” are something other than (relatively) small units containing specialists in warfighting. These (almost universally) men do not have a lower THAC0, more hit points and magic weapons.

          1. “”Special Forces” are precisely what you don’t need when you’re “Nation Building”.”

            US and NATO have been nation building in Afghanistan since late 2001 – building schools, training local security forces, organizing elections etc. I’d say that special forces come into the picture when it’s necessary to assassinate opponents, protect assets etc. Conventional military units may not be ideal to accomplish these tasks. They would be much more comfortable burning opium fields and herding refugees into camps.

            1. So – what’s your real beef with Special Forces? They’re special? Or they do stuff secretly?

              They’re just one kind of tool in the US military’s toolbox. They’re deployed to do stuff that they can usually do easier and more effectively than (for example) an infantry division. They’re deployed to achieve tactical objectives in support (one would hope) of a coordinated strategic aim.

              Some of the tools in that toolkit are controversial, but they’re available for use if it’s deemed necessary.

              The issue is what the guy who’s using the toolkit is attempting to achieve, whether his motives are acceptable (I hesitate to say “noble” – these are politicians, after all) , and if he’s competent to use it.

              Shit leadership, shit outcomes.

              1. “So – what’s your real beef with Special Forces? ”

                Nothing in particular. I just tend to be anti-militarist in my thinking. Seeing as how the US military is without question the most communistic organization in the country, I find it amusing to see the ‘libertarians’ here falling over themselves to sing the praises of these collectivist careerists.

    2. In the Marine Corps they are called “Scout-Snipers” because they are good at sneaking around. Sometimes they just let other Marines know what’s happening (intelligence). Other times they shoot people.

      I don’t understand the point of this complaint. They weren’t shooting enough people to keep their sniper ‘cred?

  20. My classmate’s step-aunt makes $61 hour on the internet . She has been fired from work for nine months but last month her pay check was $12801 just working on the internet for a few hours. try this out.
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  21. Of course, without formal declarations of war, we don’t have all of those controls and limits.

    What we now have (certainly post 9/11!!!!!!) is the functional equivalent of a baying lynch mob led by the town bully, who is motivated, more than anything, by self-aggrandizement. Anybody who says, “Wait- let’s talk about this,” gets shouted down.

    1. Not really you’re just a crybaby.

  22. I will also say, having consulted my moral slide rule, that small scale targetted special operations exercises are less evil than such notable military “triumphs” as the wholesale destruction of Dresden or Nagasaki.

    1. But those “wholesale” destructive old-style military confrontations, similar to the Redcoat attack on Lexington and Concord, are somehow more dignified. Damn those revolutionary militia fighting in an undignified, ungentlemanly way!!!!

      Richman is a leftist luddite.

    2. They can’t be ‘less’ evil than Nagasaki for Dresden because those weren’t evil at all.

  23. What’s the point of agitating vs. this sort of thing? If the ops are secret, clearly whoever’s in position to command them & still wants to do them will do them.

  24. The author is using the argument that being armed invites hatred. To experimentally prove his point, he should hire several young woman, arm some of them and have all of them walk through the most dangerous neighborhood in his city at night wearing their best clothes. If the author is correct we would expect the unarmed women to be treated with respect and the armed ones to be attacked. I suspect that the unarmed ones would be raped and killed, and their identities stolen and their empty homes robbed, while the armed ones would kill their attackers and be called bitches by the attackers that got away. Suddenly, being hated doesn’t seem so bad. The experiment might be enlightening, but wait, hasn’t France already tried it? How is that working out!

    1. And next morning, who would the neighborhood hate? Those they could rape and rob at will or those who fought back and killed a bunch of their homies? The “Boston Massacre” would seem to favor hating the armed interlopers.

  25. Richman, you are so wrong on this one.

  26. Armed forces are our weapons of self defense. These operatives are among the best in the world as warriors. I can’t agree with the idea that we should not have devastatingly effective methods of self defense (including special ops).

    These people are some of the strongest, smartest, fasted reacting people in the human population. They can stay awake for days, go without food, survive almost any of the crazy locations all over the world that are probably not too savory to the rest of us. They go after some really bad people in some really bad places. Personally, I have known a couple of these people. I just dont see them as being unaccountable kill squads.

    Furthermore, they dont define the targets. They do a job that has been defined to them.

    The author should blame those giving the orders. Not the ones who follow them.

    Keep in mind, these people also do a lot of good. They get pirates on the high sees, free hostages, run security in tough scenes at times for high profile issues…

    1. Ragnar Danneskj?ld was unavailable for comment

    2. “These operatives are among the best in the world as warriors.”

      A guy on TV told me so. Ignore the fact they’ve been beaten by dope addled Afghans who can only afford to fight when they aren’t up in the mountains herding goats for half the year.

      1. They’ve only been ‘beaten’ because the government in charge of them is inept and ties their hands. In actual combat they always win.

        1. How are their hands tied? They are part of the largest, most lavishly equipped, and generously funded military in the world. If anyone can claim they suffer hardships and lack of resources, it’s surely the Taleban, not the SEALs.

    3. The author should blame those giving the orders.

      If your goal is to stop the extralegal use of these units, which is more likely to achieve your goal?

      (A) Completely change the ruling class of this country, or

      (B) Get rid of the units.

      I think those are your only options.

  27. this is beyond arguing with. Just beyond stupid.

    1. Yep. Richman has abandoned reason and voted for submission.

  28. “DUR DUR GUNZ BAD KILLING BAD DUR DUR BLOWBACK” /self-parody of an article

    I’m starting to wonder if Richman is actually on the other side and trying to discredit Reason’s peacenazis with these patently retarded articles.

    1. PEAS NAZIS MUST DIE

  29. Here’s the problem.

    Having these units provides a temptation to use them extralegally.

    If you don’t trust our government to only use military force after a declaration of war, or perhaps pursuant to a treaty actually ratified by the Senate, then the only way to stop the illegal use of these units is to abolish them

    We don’t trust people who are convicted of violent crimes to own a gun. Do we trust the people who give orders to our military to have special ops units? If not, the only solution is to get rid of the units.

    The same analysis goes for SWAT teams, really. We have seen enormous mission creep for these SWAT teams. If you want to stop SWAT teams from being used to serve warrants, for unnecessary “dynamic entries”, etc. I think you just have to get rid of the damn SWAT teams.

    1. “Having these units provides a temptation to use them extralegally.”

      Couldn’t agree more, but why is this uniquely a problem isolated to Special Forces. If I can’t trust the preznit to deploy a section of SEALs responsibly, why should I trust that he can deploy the 10th Mountain Division, or 12th CAB responsibly? (I don’t, btw, before anyone asks)

      All the same temptations are there, except at the moment, the public has serious wood for guys with black guns and makeup *IF* they’re paid out of the taxpayer’s pocket.

      So you appear to align yourself with them, “being there” when they terminate public enemy #1 meaning you get instant and undeserved credibility. If Obama (or any of the Bushes, or Cruz, or Hillary etc) could have had their hologram present, appearing to fire the fatal shot, do you think they wouldn’t have? (Shouting “yipee-ki-yay mutherfucker” strictly optional)

      Can’t believe this conversation is happening at Reason. I need a drink.

      1. So you appear to align yourself with them, “being there” when they terminate public enemy #1 meaning you get instant and undeserved credibility.

        You lost me on this turn. Where did I say that?

        1. You didn’t say that – I was trying to cram in a separate point; simply that the main reason dogs lick their balls is – because they can. We’re talking about politicians here.

          Your point about hiding a deployment made downthread is fair, but really do you really think any of these bastards in DC is worrying about visibility? To today’s politicians, a high visibility “smash and kill” is every bit as acceptable as a covert deployment, if it’s successful.

          No, the only benefit of using covert over overt action is *deniability* if it fails. And with the proles’ attention spans nowadays, even publicized failure isn’t that damaging.

  30. If I can’t trust the preznit to deploy a section of SEALs responsibly, why should I trust that he can deploy the 10th Mountain Division, or 12th CAB responsibly?

    Visibility and ease of use. Its a hell of a lot harder to deploy a division than a SEAL team, and impossible to keep secret or pretend that its not actual warfighting.

  31. Close, Richman, close.

    Abolish the standing army and close all foreign bases and that’s what I’d call a good start. And while we’re at it, we can ask thieves to stop stealing and the state and federal govs to stop taxing.

  32. Better – let’s eliminate the Air Force, Shelly. It’s not in the Constitution, so it’s gotta go

  33. What are going to blast the enemy with instead, Richmond? Country music?

  34. Anarchist wants an end to government. Yawn.

  35. Even an American hostage freed in a dramatic rescue has questioned why the SEALs killed all his captors.

    Can you say, “Stockholm Syndrome”?

    For the most part, I agree that we need less military. We have as much military spending as the next 16 nations combined – most of whom are allies. But I’m doubtful that Seal Team Six is the place to start cutting.

    How about eliminating 95% of the 800+ US bases around the world? They don’t seem to do much except get us into trouble. Osama bin Laden’s main reason for the 9/11 attacks was U.S. bases located in Saudi Arabia. Rapes of Japanese civilians by US military personnel are perennial headline-grabbers and US bases are a thorn in the side of US-Japanese relations. In Germany, it was routine for beer halls to ban US service personnel because they were so ill-mannered. Our bases there don’t seem to be winning us friends. And then there’s the cost in taxpayer dollars. For what benefit? We have the capability to deploy anywhere in the world in 48 hours from the US. Do we need to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on bases?

    OTOH, ST6 seems to be the “pointy end of the sword”. We don’t live in a perfect world. Until we do, ST6 seems to be necessary for the security of America.

  36. Is this author on drugs? Has he ever served in the military or have most of the people here who have made stupid comments? I mean really you think a bunch of highly educated, highly trained people who sign up to defend our country are a danger to us?

    Do you think they are not schollled in the rules of war and the rules of engagement?

    This is a perfect example of people talking about something they know nothing about.

    I guess also you think it is perfectly resoanble to let the CRAZIES of the world blow up the world cultural heritige, kill women and children, and burn gays by the hundreds thousands?

    I mean do you really think they are going to only do that in the Middle East or have you forgotten Boston and New York already…

  37. Mr. Richman,

    I know several of these so called “secretive” members and they are so far from what you describe it makes you look uninformed. You quote the Times? A British Commander? And Afghan villagers? (the guys often growing poppy plants for Heroin)

    These individuals are so scrutinized and monitored live, while in operations, little goes on that is on video. Now if you want to clamp down on the governments use of these strike units that’s one thing, but to disband the very people that kill the terrorists “before” they release nerve agents, blow up buildings, or themselves in a crowd could be dangerous to our safety..

    It’s just not a perfect world sir. People actually do want to kill us.
    A dog with no teeth cannot bite. I believe we need more of them, not less.

  38. Dumb idea. You should be working to get rid of the militarized law enforcement units

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