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Taliban Victories Explain Wisdom of Withdrawal

As I write this column, the Taliban are on a roll. They’ve taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in a single week, including the country’s second and third largest cities (Kandahar and Herat), and Ghazni, which sits astride the main highway connecting Kandahar to the national capital of Kabul.
The U.S. occupation’s puppet president, Ashraf Ghani, blames his government’s debacle in progress on the “abrupt” withdrawal of US forces. Apparently 20 years of the US doing his heavy lifting – contributing not just troops but money, training, and support for his own army – followed by 15 months’ notice of withdrawal, then a three-month extension of the withdrawal deadline, just didn’t give him time to prepare.
American hawks aren’t complaining about the “abruptness” of the withdrawal timeline. They’re appalled that the U.S. would ever, under any circumstances, consider withdrawing at all.
The fiction they’d have us subscribe to is that until and unless Afghanistan becomes a western-style “liberal democracy,” withdrawing means that the 2,500 Americans killed there will have “died for nothing.”
Not true. Those men and women did die for something – something the hawks would rather not talk about. They died to keep the hawks’ campaign coffers (and, via insider stock trading and revolving-door job opportunities, personal bank accounts) full of money from U.S. “defense” contractors.
They did, however, “die for nothing” if the goal was to turn Kandahar into Kokomo. That was never going to happen. And the current situation explains why.
The Taliban’s march down the road toward Kabul didn’t come out of nowhere. The Taliban didn’t wake up one morning, realize U.S. forces were withdrawing, and start planning to take over. They’ve been fighting to re-establish their rule of Afghanistan for two decades now, and for most of that time they’ve been winning.
Even at the heights of the U.S. occupation and its “surges,” Taliban forces have controlled significant portions of the country and enjoyed the support of significant portions of the population.
The Taliban’s impending victory isn’t a function of “abrupt” U.S. withdrawal. The U.S. was always going to leave sooner or later, and the Taliban were always going to be in good position for a final offensive when it did.
The only question is, and always has been, just how much more blood and treasure the U.S. is willing to waste before acknowledging that fact of reality. And the answer to that question should have always been “no more.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

Don’t Expand Draft Registration, End It

In a rare moment of moral clarity, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) points out that “America’s daughters shouldn’t be drafted against their will.”
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the usually bellicose Cotton voted against advancing the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act after committee chair Jack Reed (D-RI) added an amendment requiring women between the ages of 18 and 25 to register with the Selective Service System.
It’s good to see Cotton on the right side of an issue, as happens occasionally (very occasionally). And the NDAA, being mostly unrelated to anything resembling actual “national defense,” deserves to go down hard for many, many reasons.
But where’s Cotton’s opposition to requiring men to register for the draft?
In the early 1970s, the U.S. armed forces transitioned to an “all-volunteer force” after drafting 2.2 million men into its Vietnam war machine between 1964 and 1973.
About 1.5 million Americans were drafted for the Korean War, 10 million for World War II, and 2.8 million for World War I. Draft registration ended in 1975, but resumed in 1980.
Fortunately, even during the darkest days of the “nation-building” fiasco in Afghanistan and the naked aggression of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Congress quailed from reinstating the draft and allowed the military to lower recruitment standards instead (perhaps explaining how a sociopath like Tom Cotton became an infantry officer).
But nearly a half-century after the last involuntary induction, the shadow of potential conscription still looms over young Americans.
In fact, many states have moved against the ability to resist draft registration as a form of civil disobedience (as a brave handful of Americans, including prominent libertarian commentator and personal mentor Paul Jacob, went to prison for doing in the early 1980s) by automatically registering males who apply for driver’s licenses or state ID cards.
Both of my kids received postcards from Selective Service “thanking” them for registering, even though they never did so (the state of Florida did so “for” them).
Supreme Court rulings to the contrary notwithstanding, conscription is clearly unconstitutional under the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
And even if it wasn’t unconstitutional, it would still be slavery and slavery would still be wrong.
Instead of registering women for potential slavery, draft registration should be ended, entirely and permanently.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

Hands off Haiti! The U.S. has done enough

An Associated Press headline on July 8 read, “Biden with few options to stabilize Haiti in wake of slaying.” Following the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse, AP reports, “the U.S. is unlikely to deploy troops.”
Nonetheless, the American political and media establishments seem to blithely assume that Haiti’s internal affairs are very much America’s business. State Department spokesman Ned Price said “It is still the view of the United States that elections this year should proceed.”
An “electoral timetable” proposed by Moïse was “backed by the Biden administration, though it rejected plans to hold a constitutional referendum.”
Imagine, for a moment, that Russian president Vladimir Putin announced his support for the U.S. holding 2022 congressional midterm elections, but denounced a proposed constitutional amendment.
Haven’t American politicians spent the last several years kvetching about supposed “Russian meddling” in U.S. elections? Is there some particular reason why “election interference” is bad when others do it to us, but good when we do it to others?
The United States has intervened in Haiti’s internal affairs for more than 200 years, almost always with poor results for both countries’ populations.
After Haiti’s slave population rose up and overthrew their French masters, Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton recognized Toussaint Louverture’s new regime and encouraged independence. (Louverture maintained the colonial relationship with France until 1804.)
Under Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. withdrew that diplomatic recognition under pressure from slave owners who feared a spread of Louverture’s rebellion to the American mainland, and refused to recognize Haiti’s independence until 1862.
Subsequently, Washington intervened militarily in Haiti multiple times, occupied the country from 1915 to 1934, and supported the dictatorships of Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier from 1957 to 1986 on the Cold War logic that Haiti could be a Caribbean “counterweight” to Communist Cuba.
Since the fall of the younger Duvalier, the U.S. government has continued to intervene in Haitian affairs, dangling and withdrawing aid, engaging in economic blockade, and intercepting and repatriating U.S.-bound refugees, based on who’s in charge in Port-au-Prince and whether they toe Washington’s line.
While it’s simplistic to conclude that the US government is responsible for all of Haiti’s many problems, Washington certainly bears a great deal of responsibility for those problems. The way forward and out of that culpability is less, not more, interference in Haiti’s affairs.
If the U.S. government really needs a “Haiti policy,” that policy should include two elements: free trade and welcoming refugees. Beyond that, hands off Haiti!

Thomas L. Knapp is director at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

Rumors of Cryptocurrency’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

Elon Musk is a man of many skills. He didn’t just make electric cars sexy, he sent one to space. Perhaps chief among his talents is the ability to roil markets by running his mouth. Lately, he’s aimed that talent at cryptocurrency.
In February, one of Musk’s companies, Tesla, announced that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin. In March, he announced that Tesla would accept Bitcoin for purchases of its cars.
Then, in mid-May, Musk announced that Tesla was suspending vehicle purchases in Bitcoin over “increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions,” while mentioning that “we are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use less than 1 percent of Bitcoin’s energy transaction.”
Naturally, the price of Bitcoin in dollars crashed back to the terrible old level of February, only twice what it was worth in December.
And, naturally, the cryptocurrency naysayer chorus emerged from its groundhog hole to yell “told ya so,” just like they’ve been doing every other week since May 22, 2010, when Laszlo Hanyecz paid 10,000 Bitcoins (current value, nearly a half- billion dollars) for two pizzas.
Sorry guys, Bitcoin’s probably not going away, and cryptocurrency in general certainly isn’t.
Yes, Bitcoin mining, the computer activity involved in processing transactions, is energy-intensive.
No, not all Bitcoin is mined using fossil fuels. In fact, many serious mining outfits specifically look for locations with cheap, plentiful hydroelectric power.
And no, not all cryptocurrency mining is nearly as energy-intensive as Bitcoin mining.
So what’s Musk up to? Is he just having fun upsetting apple carts? Or is there business method behind his madness?
Financier and former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci thinks he knows. Scaramucci suggests, with a small hypothetical wager of 1/200th of a Bitcoin, that Musk’s next big cryptocurrency play will be to send Tesla’s energy subsidiary into “super clean” Bitcoin mining.
That would be a smart move from both directions. It would reduce the financial and environmental costs of mining, while giving solar and wind power a boost in their fight to displace fossil fuels generally.
The technology underlying cryptocurrency is sound. It will survive, and it will become dominant. The only question is whether it will completely displace, or be at least partially co-opted by, government monetary schemes.
Hopefully the former. Getting government out of the money business would be a gigantic leap for human freedom and prosperity, and maybe even a step toward getting government out of business entirely.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

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