Ukraine & Moral Outrage

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I have read quite a few articles by libertarians and fellow travelers who are understandably concerned about US intervention overseas. An article at highlights US hypocrisy in its stance toward the Putin regime, while other writers express the hope that President Biden will show the same restraint that JFK showed during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I am fully on board with those who point to the hypocrisy of the US government when it comes to the actions of other governments across the world.

But something more needs to be said.

In the wake of 9/11, as a New Yorker and a libertarian, I felt like a man without a home: I understood fully that US foreign policy had created a boomerang effect, which led to the deaths of 3000 people in this country. Among those were family, friends, colleagues, neighbors. (Ironically, the first attack on the World Trade Center took place 29 years ago on this date.) I was utterly horrified that some libertarian friends of mine could not understand my outrage at Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, whom I held responsible for that attack. I wanted justice, but I didn’t have a blood lust against an entire group of people—like, say, the Randians, who wanted to atomize the entire Islamic Middle East. I was against the Iraq War and the PATRIOT Act, advocated the withdrawal of the US presence in the Middle East, an end to US foreign aid and the US propping-up of regimes in that region, while simultaneously seeking justice for those who lost their lives on that horrific day.

It’s always important to keep context, but if you can’t see that the United States government is not the only entity on the planet with a record of human rights abuses and horrific policies abroad, then, well, you’re blind to the global context in which we live. This doesn’t imply anything about what the United States should or should not do with regard to Russia and Ukraine. But it does mean that those of us who are concerned about human rights should speak up—whoever violates those rights across the world. And my heart breaks for those in both Russia and Ukraine whose rights and lives are being trampeled as other global actors (Putin and company) act like the thugs they are. (And my heart breaks as well for all my Russian American and Ukranian American neighbors, who are deeply concerned over the current state of affairs; indeed, the New York metropolitan area has the greatest concentration of Ukranian Americans and Russian Americans in the United States.)

Indeed, in Russia, Putin continues to clamp down on dissent, with further restrictions placed on social media—something that I was warned about by Russian colleagues days ago—further proof, regardless of country, that intervention without leads necessarily to an erosion of human freedoms within.

Is there a wider context with regard to those actions by Russia, which reflect a history of bungled US and Western diplomacy? Of course. But that context does not change the moral outrage that so many of us rightly express, with regard to the actions of Russia in Ukraine.

Postscript (28 February 2022): Folks should take a look at Thomas Knapp’s take on this crisis as well. He is absolutely correct in expressing his sympathy for the noncombatants who get caught in the crossfire of this dispute between nation-states. Check out: “Don’t Look to Politicians for Peace.”

Postscript (7 March 2022): Also check out Doug Bandow’s discussion of “Whataboutism and Russia’s Attack on Ukraine” on

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