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From the Archives: Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces

Libertarian reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces
May 2, 2011 9:25 AM MST

In response to a request for a comment from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, retired U.S. Air Force colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who is challenging incumbent Representative Bob Goodlatte for the 2012 Republican nomination in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, said with regard to the killing of Osama bin Laden this weekend:

“I tend to share the views of former President George W. Bush, recalling Bush's March 13, 2002, press conference, where he acknowledged that we hadn't heard a lot from Osama bin Laden (even nine years ago) and that the US does not believe bin Laden is ‘at the center of any command structure.’"

‘Bring the troops home’
Dr. Kwiatkowski, who has been a popular speaker on the libertarian lecture circuit, added that “it was interesting that late Sunday night President Obama indicated we had the body, and then by Monday morning we hear that the body was buried at sea. I expect that this sudden lack of a viewable corpse will be a point of debate for both those who support the Bush/Obama policy in the region, and for those who oppose it. I encourage the President and the Congress to use the published death of Osama bin Laden as a real opportunity to bring the troops home from both Afghanistan and Iraq, and to use those billions and billions of tax dollars to truly defend our borders, and to balance our budget at home.”

libertarians osama bin laden death cato institute
Kwiatkowski was one of several prominent libertarians who have reacted to the news of the al-Qaeda founder’s death in Pakistan. Here is a sampling of their opinions from around the World Wide Web.

Wayne Allyn Root, currently the chairman of the Libertarian National Congressional Committee and the Libertarian Party’s 2008 vice-presidential candidate, issued a brief statement late Sunday that said, in part (emphasis in original):

“I want to congratulate the Navy Seal Team that tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden. I feel blessed for their courage.

“Congratulations are due for all American military and intelligence on their RELENTLESS decade long battle to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

“Tonight there is no politics, or partisan divide. This was a victory for America and all Americans.”

‘Establishing more liberal societies’

Christopher A. Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, wrote on the Institute’s blog, Cato@Liberty:

“Bin Laden’s death does not end the threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates, but it goes a long way toward delivering justice for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and al Qaeda’s other acts of terrorism. Importantly, the operation appears to bear resemblance to earlier operations that captured the 9/11 plotters Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh. The details should remind us that some of the most effective counterterrorism techniques do not rely on tens of thousands of troops stationed indefinitely in distant lands.”

Preble’s Cato colleague, director of information studies Jim Harper, argued in a separate blog post:

“Osama bin Laden failed to reach any of his geopolitical goals. He did not topple any Middle East dictator toward the end of establishing a Muslim caliphate. Indeed, the people of the Middle East have begun toppling their own dictators toward the end (we earnestly hope) of establishing more liberal societies.”

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said simply in a news release:

"I commend our troops, the intelligence community, and the military leaders involved in both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for their perseverance and courage in pursuit of this most grievous enemy of the United States of America."

‘Rethink our foreign policy’
Dave Nalle, national chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, wrote on

“Even though it's basically meaningless, let's all pretend that killing bin Laden makes all the difference and puts the specter of 9/11 to rest. Let's say ‘mission accomplished’ and move on the way we should have when Bush first made that declaration. This shouldn't be a milestone in the War on Terror, it should be the gravestone which marks the end of that ill-conceived venture which has been as bungled by this administration as it was by the previous one.

“Let's call it a turning point and an opportunity to rethink our foreign policy and what our objectives ought to be. This might be the time to return to a model of foreign policy which doesn't rely on the failed Wilsonian vision of being everyone's big sister and forcing obedience where we can't buy affection. We've tried that approach and we can no longer afford to try to out-tyrant the tyrants and out terrorize the terrorists. That's a game which no one wins.”

‘Intelligence gathering’
Writing at the Nolan Chart, libertarian blogger Evan Mazur noted:

“Yes, America finally killed bin Laden and that's something everyone can be grateful for, but his death was not due to the presence of tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, but from intelligence gathering and a surgical strike in Pakistan that reportedly involved no civilian casualties. Such a focused strike was exactly the plan former Congressman and 2008 Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr had in mind. Congressman Ron Paul, who originally voted in favor of the use of force in Afghanistan on the condition that troops would be used to focus on the terrorists, came to regret that decision because the nature of the mission changed from that of terrorist hunting to nation building. Like Barr, he wanted to focus not on conducting a war in Afghanistan but on Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cohorts.”

Finally, Jeff Frazee, chairman of Young Americans for Liberty, pointed out in a widely-quoted Facebook status update:

"Only government can fail for 10 years and spend trillions of [your] dollars over budget and still be cheered and celebrated after it finally accomplishes what it originally set out to do."

As this article went to press, neither of the two libertarian-identified candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination – Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson – had commented publicly on the death of Osama bin Laden.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 2, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

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