Charles Koch Institute

Let's Not Treat Koch's Libertarian Opposition to U.S. Military Action in Yemen as 'Unexpected'

Can we stop being surprised (or pretending to be surprised) at well-established critiques of interventionism?

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Charles Koch
Bo Rader/TNS/Newscom

Over at The Daily Beast, Spencer Ackerman takes note of the cross-ideological alliance trying to put an end to the U.S. military's participation in Saudi Arabia's deadly activities in Yemen. The alliance itself is not new. Libertarian-leaning Republicans like Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) and Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have long been critical of our involvement with and funding of military actions that have killed innocents, especially since we are not officially at war with any of the nations involved.

What's new, Ackerman notes, is that the Charles Koch Institute is briefing conservative lawmakers about a resolution introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.) that would direct the president to end all military action in Yemen that is not covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). To keep U.S. forces involved in the conflict, the White House would need to seek an explicit declaration of war from Congress.

The resolution has 69 co-sponsors right now, only three of which are Republicans (Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky among them). The Koch Institute and libertarian-conservative FreedomWorks are going to be pushing Republicans to try to get a vote in November, after the midterms. Whether such a resolution would actually change anything is a question that deserves our skepticism. Every presidential administration since that of George W. Bush has used the AUMF to justify military activity against any terrorist organization overseas.

The subheadline of Ackerman's piece calls the Koch Institute's involvement "unexpected." Media companies should be past this by now, particularly since they've obsessed over the Kochs for nearly a decade. The Koch Institute's foreign policy page is very clear that while it supports a strong military, it's opposed to the sort of interventionist adventures associated that have defined our activities in the Middle East for years now. Here's a blog post from 2016 expressing concern about military actions in Yemen and the negative consequences of our alliance with Saudi Arabia.

In fairness, Ackerman's reporting does not treat it like an unexpected development. He notes that FreedomWorks has been lobbying for a year on a failed effort by Lee and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Chris Murphy (D–Conn.) to force a vote on military action in Yemen.

But it's nevertheless frustrating that the headlines tend to treat the Koch brothers' very common libertarian attitudes toward a number of policies as surprising. We saw it happen years ago where people seemed to be surprised at David Koch's position in support of gay marriage recognition in 2012, even though he, like many libertarians, had felt that way for quite a while (before many Democratic leaders, in fact). Media outlets seem to frequently feign surprise that the Kochs favor criminal justice reforms, even though they've supported such efforts for years.

There's a tendency among some media outlets to approach the Koch's libertarian brand of conservatism as though the brothers' deviation from typical Republican stances are unusual for them. They're not. When media outlets write this way, it tells libertarian audiences that they know very little about the Kochs and what separates libertarians from conservatives. Disappointing libertarians may seem like small potatoes, but it also misinforms people who know little about what distinguishes libertarians from Republicans. I would argue that this is actually bad: It allows Republicans to pass as lovers of liberty even when they're not, and—perhaps in rarer instances—it allows libertarians to join ranks with Republicans when they shouldn't. Treat them as distinct, and you make it harder for both groups to say one thing and then do another without consequence.

Disclosure: David Koch sits on the Board of Trustees for the Reason Foundation, which publishes this site.

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  1. When life gives you Yemens….

    1. make Yemen aid?

      1. As long as the Yemen-aid is not lethal, please proceed… I will give my blessings, when Der TrumpfenFuhrer calls MEEEEE and asks for it…

        1. Well to be honest, that is, my top-most blessings are reserved for PRIVATE aid, not compelled aid, and, I really do think, the BEST aid is free trade! Sad to say, Der TrumpfenFuhrer seems to see things differently…

  2. There’s a tendency among some media outlets to approach the Koch’s libertarian brand of conservatism as though the brothers’ deviation from typical Republican stances are unusual for them. They’re not.

    Well maybe that’s the Koch’s fault. Their money goes 100% to GOP and if that resolution only has 3 GOP sponsors out of 69, then it’s pretty obvious that either their money ain’t buying much or the Koch’s don’t really give a shit about non-interventionism

    1. Which Democratic candidates should they fund?

      1. Perhaps the unicorn of a pro-market democrat. But they seem to have been pushed out of the party. Two-party politics doesn’t leave you with good options.

    2. They’ve always favored Team Red, but it’s never been 100%.

      But regardless of the party, there’s too much money to be made in killing people on the far side of the globe. As rich as they are, the Kochs can never hope to compete against the combined might of the military-industrial complex.

      1. As rich as they are, the Kochs can never hope to compete against…

        One could also argue that this demonstrates the futility of non-billionaire libertarians trying to influence the GOP from the inside of the tent. Esp if they ain’t arguing for some cronyist advantage.

        1. Now do Soros or Steyer or the dozen other billionaire Dem funders.

    3. Where within the GOP makes all the difference though, as there is probably more difference between Thomas Massie and Mitch McConnell than between the mainstay of democrats. And that is just in one state. Not to mention the last non-interventionist promises from the left ended… poorly.

      Fact of the matter is the Koches are the favored whipping boy of the left for crony capitalism and all manner of corporate vice (the mirror image of Soros on the right), which may all be true, but the left hasn’t made a coherent case against them, relying on innuendo and whispering campaigns. Most are shocked to find the Koches were a significant funder of that right-wing propaganda machine, PBS.

      1. This is an important point. The prog narrative is that the Kochs are just crony donors cozying up to the GOP out of a desire to line their own pockets; they only try to pass themselves off as “libertarians” as a thin disguise for this. Thus, whenever discussing the revelation of a pro-gay marriage donation or whatever, they react with great feigned (or genuine, to the extent that they have become seduced by their own narrative) shock, as though this is the last thing one might expect from an uber-right-winger.

        That they have chosen such an impeccably cosmo-libertarian pair as the Kochs to hammer awkwardly into this mold is no surprise. The mold, whereby there is only one kind of eeevil Republican (with a bunch of stereotypes out of the 1980s all mashed together), is extremely important to them culturally. Even more important is the narrative that libertarianism itself is a scam, that no one really believes such things on principle, but it is just a made-up ideology to serve corporate interests by fooling some especially stupid limousine liberals into thinking that the most “extreme Republicanism” of all is really something they should consider intellectually respectable.

        I have not seen any allegations of opportunistic cronyism on the Kochs’ part that remotely stick.

        1. Everything you just said. That. Yes.

  3. Their money goes 100% to GOP

    Who knew the TDS flagship Reason magazine the Kochs support was GOP?

    1. Reason is totally TEAM #NeverTrump.

      Do you even read the shit that gets posted here?

  4. Reporters learn their political science from Saturday Morning Cartoons.

    There’s a Team of Good Guys who venture forth every week to fight the Bad Guys, who live in a skull-shaped castle called Castle Evil. This castle is perpetually surrounded by a thunderstorm. The Bad Guys have a new plan each week for destroying the world. Each week, the Good Guys thwart that plan.

    What happens when some of the Team of Good Guys decide that this week’s plan sounds pretty good, and join the Bad Guys, while some of the Bad Guys think that the plan is wrong, and join the Good Guys in trying thwart it?

    That just wouldn’t make sense.

    The Bad Guys are identifiable by their black armor, low sinister voices, and skull-shaped heads. The Good Guys are a diverse gang of endearing misfits with medium-range voices.

    How is it possible to mix up these incompatible groups?

    1. You jest, but that’s quite accurate. I lost count of the number of times I’ve read the Koch brothers referred to as “ultraconservative”, whatever the fuck that means. Simple demonization tactics.

      So if they’re not, then why do they frequently align with the GOP, as many of you can’t seem to figure out? Well, when I was doing research on candidates and issues for my WA ballot, I noticed a clear pattern of positions. Democrats would argue in favor of a more activist government in almost all avenues, while Republicans (and that one L on the ballot, Brian Luke, I like him) would at least pay lip service to reducing the size and scope of government/taxes/regulations. Any libertarian with knowledge of basic economics should understand that subsidies for abortions are not as important as making sure future generations don’t have to dive through dumpsters to feed their families, Venezuela style.

      1. “Any libertarian with knowledge of basic economics should understand that subsidies for abortions are not as important as making sure future generations don’t have to dive through dumpsters to feed their families, Venezuela style.”

        Whoa, Dude or Dudette, WAAAY agree with you there!!! I will subscribe to your newsletter any day, every day!

        Also nuclear war is NOT cool, let’s keep in mind that we MUST fend this off, for the next 10,000,000 generations and more…

      2. ” I lost count of the number of times I’ve read the Koch brothers referred to as “ultraconservative”, whatever the fuck that means. Simple demonization tactics.”

        Conservative is anyone that does not fully embrace the full progressive agenda. Ultraconservative is any “conservative” who attacks attention or might have a public voice.

        Fucking retatrds.

    2. I agree! Pay attention now!!!

      The GOOD guys have square jaws and their hearts and motives are pure!!!

      The BAD guys wear lots of dark eye shadow, and abuse their orphans, and do NOT support the USA-dictated minimum wage in nations that they have never visited, nor know a damned thing about!

      Bottom line: Your MOTIVES mean EVERYTHING, and “studying up on the real issues” merely pollutes your purity of your essence, so do NOT bother your pretty little head about REAL consequences of REAL policies in the REAL world!

      (And beware of falling anvils!!!)

      1. The motives are by far the most important aspect here. Even if someone has good ideas, and want to move in a direction I can agree with, if they do it for themselves then I will NEVER EVER vote for them.

        1. I agree, and think that I know what you’re driving at, but am hard-pressed to pony up a good example. Too much sauce tonight already I guess…

          Bad motives, some often adroitly covered up, pollute EVERYTHING!!! I can appear to be trying to “do good” while secretly butt-fucking every victim that I can find!

          I guess that my fave example is the FDA that “protects” us from dangerous cheap plastic flutes!!!!

          DO NOT DO THIS, IT MIGHT BE ILLEGAL!!! But please note that I have added a new page, to tell you the details about how you should NOT make a homemade lung flute for yourself, at http://www.churchofsqrls.com/DONT_DO_THIS/

      2. I take great care of my orphans.

        1. But only as long as they do a good job of polishing your monocles?

  5. Not that I think Trump is a non-interventionist, or even campaigned on that much (although he presented himself as far less interventionist than the rest of the group sans Rand), but didn’t they give money to any republican that would try to take him down in the primaries and didn’t they basically say that Hillary was the better candidate?

    *It’s totally possible that I’m just misremembering all of this

    1. Your memory comports with mine, but I don’t have links to back it up. I seem to remember a fair amount of “why the fuck don’t they ever give any significant money to Libertarians but instead keep supporting Republicans?”

    2. I think he’s been okay as far as intervention goes. But feel he’s been sliding into worse and worse as time goes on. Originally that was the only real hope I had for him, that he would be non interventionist. I hope he can recover.

  6. Can’t Trump just veto it?

  7. Don’t you know, the Kochs are horrible people and die-hard GOP extremists!
    The idea of them ever getting out of lockstep with the GOP establishment is earthshaking news!

    /s

  8. libertarian-conservative FreedomWorks

    What does “libertarian-conservative” mean? I looked at FreedomWorks’s site, and I didn’t see anything I thought was inconsistent with libertarianism. As the site says, it’s not a think tank. It appears to primarily lobby Congress in favor of bills that reduce gov’t spending or protect individual rights, or against bills which have the opposite effect.

    1. I found “Support Jim Jordan for Speaker.”

      Oh.

      Never mind.

  9. The Kochs supposedly got involved in politics in a big way due to “outrage” over the size of the prescription drug plan George Bush pushed through Congress, which was expected to cost about $70 billion a year. When Paul Ryan proposed his corporate tax cut plan, the Koch political organization lobbied against the tax offsets that Ryan included to make the package revenue neutral, but made no proposals for new offsets, the result being that the Kochs worked aggressively to expand the national debt by $150 billion a year, thanks to the new cuts. Apparently, it’s bad to increase the debt to help ordinary people, but good to do it to help rich people.

  10. Why is Massie not mentioned when he’s sponsored more bills on this topic than Amash? In fact, Amash went silent on this topic when Russia Fever Dreams were being pimped? You don’t even mention Tulsi who has sponsored the majority of these bills and is far more anti-interventionist than Amash?

    This is why people are surprised, because the Koch groups are real selective in when they decide they’re against foreign interventionism.

    1. Whoops, I see Massie

  11. Let us not forget that the AUMF, as written, authorizes the President to declare war on any country simply by asserting that in his opinion, that country is responsible for a terrorist attack on the US. Thus if we want to put that power back in the hands of Congress, the AUMF needs to be repealed. Or overturned by the courts.

    Indeed, I’m surprised it hasn’t been overturned quite a while ago. Congress’s exclusive power to declare war is one of their most important powers; I should think that if any power cannot be delegated to the Oval Office it’s that one.

  12. Funny that Reason is mostly trolls and socks now.

    Trolls to keep non-lefties from taking over and socks to increase web traffic.

  13. As far as I can tell, most idiots that seem to dislike the Koch brothers do so without understanding their philanthropic work, or understanding their actual positions. Case in point would be groups like UnKoch my school which don’t really know anything about Charles or David. If the choices were ever just Koch or Soros, I’d go with Charles and David, simply based on the fact they appear to keep 100k plus employees engaged and happy.

  14. As far as I can tell, most idiots that seem to dislike the Koch brothers do so without understanding their philanthropic work, or understanding their actual positions. Case in point would be groups like UnKoch my school which don’t really know anything about Charles or David. If the choices were ever just Koch or Soros, I’d go with Charles and David, simply based on the fact they appear to keep 100k plus employees engaged and happy.

  15. Koch is a private citizen just like the rest of us, why should anyone care what he thinks? Oh, yeah, because he is richer than the rest of us.

    1. How about because he’s right on this issue?

  16. Reason hates Trump so much it’s reduced to sucking Koch.

  17. Amen! The Kochs are libertarians, not neoconservatives. Stupid liberals don’t understand the differences among conservatives. They think all Republicans are the same.

  18. “a resolution introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D?Calif.) that would direct the president to end all military action in Yemen that is not covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).”

    Funny how democrats only care about that stuff when a republican is president.

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