Monday, January 30, 2012

A Libertarian Foreign Policy

At one point or another, everyone in the liberty movement has had to discuss foreign policy with other people. I'm always amazed at how much the theme of bringing the troops home and withdrawing from the political/military affairs of other countries is such a hard sell. Ron Paul supporters in particular take a lot of heat for this. We're labeled largely as naive isolationists who have a simplified view of world politics. The prevailing wisdom is that there's no world problem so big or small that it doesn't deserve some sort of active response from the United States government.

I've come to realize that our government's foreign policy is a carbon copy of its domestic policy- the policy of threatening to do what they say, or face state violence (the guns in the hands of the cops who will take you to jail for committing any number victimless crimes are the same weapons our president threatens to use against foreigners for not giving in to his demands- only scaled down). As such, it will achieve no more of its objectives abroad than its domestic policies do here at home.

What strikes me as simplified is the idea that people (and governments) in other countries will do what our government wants, provided they're threatened with enough violence. Naive is believing that threatening Americans with jail time for smoking marijuana will keep people from smoking it. It's at least as naive to believe that, say, the Iranian government will abandon its nuclear program (or roll over in some other way) just because they're threatened with sanctions, or that bringing democracy to the Middle East is just a few military invasions away, or that we can kill terrorists without innocent casualties. Perhaps it's not naive at all. Perhaps it's lunacy.

Still, there are many ready-made excuses for our ever-growing military presence around the world, one of which I will address here. I'm unsure of the details, but it goes a little something like this: There are radical suicidal Muslim fanatics who will stop at nothing until we're all dead or the world has been turned into an Islamic theocracy. Therefore, we must continue to send troops around the world to contain this threat (details omitted).

Let's take it for granted that there are people on the other side of the world whose sole purpose in life is to destroy the United States. Let's assume further that they cannot be reasoned with or paid off or appeased in any way. If there are such people (and I do believe there are), I don't think there's any practical thing we can do about it. Really. It's simple to say we should just hunt them down and kill them, but I've seen one too many SWAT raids at the wrong address to believe that that's in the cards. The precision with which such an operation would need to be carried out is FAR too great for government to handle. The mightiest military the world has ever seen is utterly powerless to do what I just described. They can throw all the money they want at the situation and wait as long as they like, but the truth is that government will not solve this problem (if a solution even exists). It's naive to expect that it can, let alone will.

Which brings us to the libertarian policy- free, unlimited trade and diplomacy with all nations, military and political alliances with none (including the European countries), coupled with an absolutely limited domestic government. It's not perfect, but far and away the best weapon we have against terror is, like so much else, liberty.

Why? Because everybody who hasn't already had his mind poisoned does want to live in freedom. The appeal of living under the oppression of a dictatorship is no match for the appeal of living in a free nation where people can work, trade, and behave as they wish. To live free is a natural, instinctive desire of all human beings- even the children of suicidal terrorists. Giving that instinct a place to develop is the only effective way to combat terrorism. We won't be able to to change the minds of jihadists, but by restoring strictly limited government, by seeking ways to minimize the use of force in society, and by adopting and showcasing the philosophy of liberty to the world, we can prevent new ones from appearing. The bad news is that there's no hope of penetrating the minds of the younger generations on the other side of the world unless we lead by example. Indeed, it will take far more than merely closing a few military posts in foreign countries. In short, it will take a revolution in the way we view government's role not only regarding foreigners, but ourselves.

That is the rationale behind the libertarian foreign policy. Call it simplistic, slander it as isolationist, tell me how naive I am, pretend that men like Obama and Gingrich and Romney and Santorum have the slightest clue as to what they're talking about, do whatever you have to do to condemn it, but it's still the only shot we have at a return to normalcy. It is also the only policy befitting to a nation that's referred to as the Land of the Free. The alternative is to just let government run with it- which will leave many people dead and property destroyed, sacrifice long-term goals for fleeting short term victories, and guarantee a more violent world for ourselves and our children.

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