Stupid, or Evil: You Decide

February 5, 2010

(Click on the image to enlarge it to a more readable size.)

The crackpots around Lew Rockwell are not content with trying to get countries to eschew or eliminate nuclear weaponry. No. That would be rational. Instead, their preference (link to post imaged above) is for countries ruled by wacky tyrants actually to acquire nuclear weaponry with which they can threaten all of their neighbors. The criterion for properly acquiring nuclear weapons, according to such people? Being a perceived enemy of the government of the United States of America, the lineal descendant of the one that defeated the Confederate States of America.

What the crazies don’t understand is that being horrified at or opposed to the possession or use of such weapons by one state, or condemning its use 65 years ago, does not entail that one should endorse their acquisition (or use) today. The wacko response they will offer in defense of their craziness? “Iran hasn’t actually used any nuclear weapons (yet), but the US has, so it’s ok for Iran to acquire them and to threaten other countries with them.” (It’s the same response to people who point out the ugliness of Rockwell’s publication and promotion of work by such advocates of murder as the racist/segregationist Sam Francis and the advocate of stoning gay people to death [and prophet of the Y2K hysteria some years back] Gary North, one of their top writers; they haven’t actually lynched or stoned anyone, whereas Senator XYZ has voted for stealing or bombing, and so what’s worse than promoting racists and advocates of stoning gay people is to live in the same city as Senator XYZ or to talk with him or her, unless you’re a Texas congressman.)

That web posting is the face of evil. But it comes as no surprise when you consider the source.

Note: In the event the post is dropped, as happens often there when someone notices them, the two links in the post were to this and this.

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August 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

CWE February 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm

If we are using Carlo Cipolla’s definitions of ‘stupid’ and ‘evil’, then this would qualify as stupid, as ‘evil’ implies that that actor gains at the expense of the victim, and ‘stupid’ implies that both parties lose. If the actor neither gains nor loses, the act falls somewhere between the two ideal types.

Perhaps something along the lines of ‘eviloopy’ or ‘estupid’.

CWE February 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

That should have been “…‘evil’ implies that THE actor gains…”

Charles N. Steele February 5, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Elsewhere I’ve encountered self-proclaimed Rockwell supporters who endorse the “right” of Iran to possess nuclear weapons. There’s something very bizarre and unsettling about “anarchocapitalists” who insist that a totalitarian theocratic state has rights. That it is rights to WMDs to which they’re referring is shocking.

Tom Palmer February 5, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Once you understand that they are “anti-state,” but not “pro-liberty,” it makes sense, except that you have to add that they are opposed to one and only one state. All of the enemies of that state must, by their logic, be their friends and allies. And, if those states are enemies of peace and liberty, a more rational form of logic would conclude that those people are enemies of peace and liberty.

Brandon M Interested February 6, 2010 at 2:05 am

But what business is it of anyone else if Iran gets the bomb? Israel has it. Why not Iran?

Tom G. Palmer February 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Brandon, it’s frightening because this is about nuclear weapons that can kill hundreds of thousands of people, not the distribution of sweets among children or a dispute among siblings about which one has a bicycle. Having a weapon like that, one that inherently threatens the innocent, makes it the business of other people. The neighbors of Iran have very good reasons to fear the acquisition by that government of nuclear weapons. They also have reason to fear Israel’s possession. A nuclear-free middle east is one thing to promote, but nuclear proliferation is less stable than even the present order. A new equilibrium might emerge (one would hope), but only after going through a period of enormous risk. Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is nothing to welcome and definitely something to try to avoid.

Sandeep February 6, 2010 at 8:36 pm

It is puzzling how such ‘anarchists’ could find themselves endorsing the acquisition of such weaponry by a state. Logic, it would seem, is not their strong suit. As for myself, I would prefer a world free of nuclear weapons, most especially in South Asia and the Middle East. Arming yet another anti-democratic dictatorship with such weapons seems especially inauspicious.

Jude February 6, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Beyond Mr. Kramer’s woefully inadequate logic, his post also demonstrates the problem with looking at all States as if they are the identical in their make-up. A State is a State is a State, and all State’s are evil and immoral. And so, one State having nuclear weapons (the US or Israel, for example), is just as illegitimate as any other State possessing them (North Korea, or in this case, Iran). Or, in Kramer’s formulation, if the US can have one, why can’t Iran?

If one hates politics to the extent that the circle at LRC seem to, the distinctions between States probably doesn’t matter. But for most of us, horrible as nuclear weapons are, if they do exist in the world, we’d rather have them possessed by relatively free democratic societies, not by tyrannical and theocratic governments who possess a messianic worldview.

Iran and the US are both States, yes, but if we were to place them on a scale of “evil”, we would have to place Iran and the US on very different ends of that spectrum. And until one can do so with some clarity and judgment, one risks writing blog posts as scary and childish as that of Mr. Kramer.

RG February 6, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I don’t see how Kramer is suggesting that it would be good for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

It appears to me that he doesn’t like it that Iran’s government is caving to international (U.S.) pressure to send its uranium elsewhere for enrichment. That is, he doesn’t like it that the U.S. is ordering the rest of the world around, even an evil regime like Iran’s. (Remember, at this point, the issue is not whether Iran should have nukes or not — Iran does not have nukes, it’s just accused of wanting to have them.)

It’s not obvious to this libertarian that he’s wrong to be upset by that, or to think that the U.S. doesn’t have clean hands or much moral authority in lecturing other countries about nuclear weapons. Maybe one could make a respectable argument to the contrary (i.e., that despite the U.S.’s past wrongdoing, it is good if the U.S. takes actions to prevent Iran from having nukes), but Kramer’s apparent view here is not stupid, evil, or crazy.

Murray Rothbard — who I think we can agree is far more revered at LRC than Sam Francis has ever been — thought all countries, including but not limited to the U.S., should disarm immediately. I don’t know if that’s Kramer’s view, but I would assume that it is unless he clearly indicates otherwise, which he hasn’t done here.

Jude February 7, 2010 at 12:31 am


The alternative to “caving to international (U.S.) pressure” is for Iran enrich its own uranium domestically, which drastically increases the odds that it can create highly enriched uranium. Would this be a good thing?

So by protesting the UN deal, Kramer is revealing his preference for an increased likelihood of Iran producing enough highly enriched uranium to build a nuke. Now, given the option of having the UN enrich the uranium or Iran doing so, which would you prefer? Despite the flaws of the UN, I would prefer that they handle this, not the crime syndicate that is the Iranian regime.

You write that “It’s not obvious to this libertarian that [Kramer is] wrong to be upset by that, or to think that the U.S. doesn’t have clean hands or much moral authority in lecturing other countries about nuclear weapons.” This again goes back to my point above: does it really matter if the US has the moral authority here? Having Iran’s uranium enriched outside of the country seems to me a very reasonable and, dare I say, peaceful alternative to having Iran move closer to possessing a nuke.

That the US invaded Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan 65 years ago, etc. doesn’t tell us much about what the US government should do now, in regards to Iran’s intention to gain nuclear weapons.

The alternative, I suppose, is for the US to take a time out in the corner of the classroom for, say, 40 years until it’s sufficiently been punished for its past sins.

How about instead we libertarians criticize US foreign policy where it is bad (trade wars with China, potential military operations in Iran, blundering in Iraq), but at the same time, support policies that could possible avert war (facilitating the enrichment of Iran’s uranium outside of the country).

RG February 7, 2010 at 1:58 am

Jude, my purpose wasn’t to debate whether Kramer’s position is correct. The point is that it is well within the range of respectable libertarian views for one to think that the U.S. government shouldn’t meddle *at all* in the affairs of other countries in the absence of an imminent threat against the U.S.

It is also perfectly appropriate, from the perspective of many libertarians I think we all would agree are respectable (e.g. Robert Higgs), to call attention how much mass murder the U.S. has committed and continues to commit, and to point out, for some perspective, how the crimes of other regimes or terrorists are relatively small by comparison.

Perhaps Kramer shouldn’t have combined these points (all meddling is bad; the U.S. is guilty of great evil in its foreign policy), if only to avoid giving the (almost certainly inaccurate) impression that he thinks Iran should have nukes. But nothing about his post suggests he is stupid, evil, or crazy — especially if we’re going to be charitable in interpreting our fellow libertarians (in the big-tent sense), as I think we should be. (Yes, LRC people are often uncharitable in their interpretations, too, which they should not be.)

Will February 7, 2010 at 2:18 am

I read LRC occasionally and Kramer is representative of the hard-core over there. I vote “Stupid”, since you’d have to be pretty evil to want Iran to get nukes. But it was a hard choice. Try as I might, I just cannot get myself into quite the frame of mind to interpret Kramer as charitably as RG does. He expresses disappointment (or shock) that Ahmedinejad agreed to send uranium outside of his country for enrichment. So he must prefer that it stay in his country. If it does, it means the creation of a nuke-capable industry. So a logical analysis tells me that that’s what Kramer wants. But that would be evil. I mean, really evil. So I vote “Stupid,” because there is some chance that he has failed to see the logical implications of his preference.

Jude February 7, 2010 at 3:52 am


Not to go round and round on this, but by titling his post “Say it Ain’t So, Ahmadinejad”, Kramer is stating that he wishes the Iranian regime would not have its uranium enriched by a UN-affiliated body. I really don’t see how one could read this any other way.

So Kramer wishes that Ahmadinejad had not “caved in” to the UN and agreed to have its uranium enriched somewhere else; somewhere that makes it less likely that Iran will possess a nuke in the near future. Where does this leave us? What is the likely outcome of Kramer’s preferred alternative?

If Kramer meant something other than this, I cannot say for sure. He’s welcome to clarify. Of course, Kramer has a long history of writing some fairly, um, wacky things, so I really wouldn’t be surprised if he’d lost the ability to distinguish between North Korea and Iran on one side, and the US and the UK on the other. (To this day, Kramer still thinks Bin Laden was not behind the 9/11 attacks.)

Amanda February 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I think I have to go with “Evil”. Still, I agree with Will on one thing. It was a hard decision.

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