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A Libertarian look at what is going on in Crimea

Current AffairsPosted by Nico Metten Thu, March 27, 2014 15:11:45

Everywhere in the media, Russia is condemned for annexing Crimea. We are witnessing a huge propaganda war on both sides of this conflict in which the truth does not seem to play an important role. Like always in political situations, the world seems to become black and white. Everyone is expected to take clear sides. Once you have picked a side you are supposed to praise everything your own team does and to condemn every action of the other side.

But from a Libertarian point of view there are no clear sides to take here. There does not seem to be a libertarian option in this conflict. Personally my biggest concern is that western governments, under which I am unfortunate enough to have to live, will get very involved in this conflict and therefore drag me into it. Why on earth do western governments think that it is any of their business what is going on in Ukraine? The country is not even part of the EU. However, it seems to be a fact that these governments are deeply involved in the situation. Even worse, they seem to have had their fingers in this game from quite early on. While the conflict between the Russian and the Ukrainian part of the country seems to be quite old and not an invention of the west, western governments have systemically supported the Ukrainian part of the conflict. The picture that is presented in our 'independent' media is that of the west caring very much about freedom, democracy and human rights. However, it very much looks to me like the major reason why there is so much outrage about the Russians is that their move has caused a major defeat of the west. How dare those Russians disobey the western empire.

Everyone who believes for one minute that the major motivation for western governments is human rights, disqualifies for a serious political dialogue right there. It is these governments who are currently supporting Al Qaeda in the fight against Assad. They are a dear ally of the tyrannical Saud monarchy in Saudi Arabia selling tons of weapons to them. They turned their eyes away when Bahrain's governments brutally crushed a pro democracy movement, although they would have had the power to stop it. They found it very hard to condemn the brutal military coup in Egypt last summer, in which over 1000 peaceful protesters where shot by snipers from roof tops and so on and so on. Most importantly of course they are operating their own secret torture prison empire and an outside of every law concentration camp in Guantanamo. No, there is no fight for freedom here, just nasty geopolitics in which ordinary people have nothing to gain and much to loose.

But let us have a look at Ukraine itself. The conflict there is a typical statist conflict. Different groups of people with different ideas of how to live their lives and with some hostility towards each other are being put under one government monopoly that tries to create a 'one size fits all' solutions. Instead of letting everyone have their way of life, they are now trapped in a game in which they are essentially have to fight for all or nothing. And like all 'all or nothing' fights, they have a tendency to get rather messy very quickly. But in the heated debate about this conflict, everyone seems to agree on one thing. You must not question the 'all or nothing' game. We are told that getting rid of the monopoly, or at the very least create a few more so that more options exist, is the one outcome that is absolutely unacceptable.

It is therefore an unfortunate fact that any solution for this mess has to be within the idea of a power monopoly, even though it is clear that it is this idea that is the main problem. It should be clear from this that from a libertarian point of view, it is wrong to look at governments from a perspective of legitimacy. Unless of course we are talking about a night watchman state, which we cannot find anywhere in the world, governments are never legitimate. They are a fact that you have to deal with. Thinking of governments in terms of legitimacy is like thinking of cancer as being just or unjust. But cancer is never just or unjust, it is a fact that you unfortunately have to deal with sometimes. Not that I want to trivialise governments by comparing them with cancer. Governments are of cause causing a lot more harm than cancer, but legitimacy has nothing to do with it.

So having come to the conclusion that we need to look at the situation purely pragmatically, what choices do we have on offer. We have a totally corrupt and brutal government in Kiev on the one hand and a totally corrupt and brutal government in Moskau on the other. Given these choices, it is hard to see why libertarians should care about which of them is controlling Crimea. However, we do know that the majority of people in Crimea are more hostile to the government in Kiev than the one in Moskau and the people in west Ukraine are more hostile to the government in Moskau than the one in Kiev. It is clear that if nothing happens, the Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine will likely get at each other violently to fight out who wins the 'all or nothing' game. This would definitely be the worst possible outcome for freedom. There is only ever a chance to improve freedom in peacetime. Given that we know this, Russia annexing Crimea looks to me like the better option. It comes a little bit closer to the 'everyone do as they please' option that libertarians would like to see. Russia is essentially putting a military wall between the two fighting parties so that they cannot get at each other. And this has so far been very peaceful. This does not seem like the worst outcome. Indeed given the choices that exist realistically, this is probably one of the best. That is why I am reluctant to join the Russia bashing crowd, even though I have little sympathy for the government in Moskau. In the meantime let us work to persuade people of the real solutions for these type of problems.







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