LR07: Foreign Policy

LR07-Foreign Policy

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Liberty Revealed Episode 07 Show Summary

This episode addresses our foreign policy and the failures thereof.

Listen to Liberty Revealed Episode 07


Liberty Revealed Episode 07 Show Notes

Hello everyone and welcome back to Liberty Revealed, the show that focuses on teaching you about personal liberty and the adjacent issues that are affected by it. My goal is to teach concepts that are important to society and help you understand how these concepts are linked together into an important ideology. It is my personal belief that too many in our society simply follow the herd without any understanding why. I would love to see all of you listening vote Libertarian in elections, but that desire is balanced against my need for you to be informed and understand the issues our society is facing.

Liberty Revealed was born from a desire to help all of you understand the issues. It came about from my own experiences on the campaign trail speaking with voters and seeing just how many follow a particular party and don’t understand why. Foreign policy is one area that most people don’t have a great understanding. It can be a very complex issue to some, but to me it is pretty straightforward. There is a need to have a measuring stick and that’s what I hope to provide you in today’s episode.

The United States relies too heavily on our military might in foreign policy. For more than a decade, our country has been waging active wars in the Middle East. This has left our military tired, with several thousand dead, and many more thousands wounded physically and mentally. This then begs the question–what have we gained from this decade of active wars?

A decade ago, the United States entered into nation building thinking that it would help improve corners of the world that terrorists find opportunistic. Sadly, some of the nation building which our country entered into with genuinely good intentions has backfired. We now know that no matter how sophisticated our military is and no matter how much money we spend, nation building is far more complicated than we originally thought. Additionally, it may likely create more terrorists than it quells.

Imagine if China had a military base in Montana. Or Russia had a military base in Texas. How would Americans feel about that? We would likely feel insulted, oppressed, and mad. Some Americans would likely seek to actively opposed those bases. And the escalation would continue. That is what we have seen in the Middle East with our involvement there. We have emboldened the terrorists and they are now using our interventions as excuses for attacking innocent people. The argument can be made that our own aggression as a country has lead to a spread of terrorism in the Middle East. What started under the guise of making a region more stable has evolved into something that has destabilized that region.

Libertarians believe that war is justified only in defense. We are opposed to a draft. If a war is just and necessary, Americans of all backgrounds will volunteer to fight it. We believe that a draft enforced by law is no different from slavery. As lovers of personal liberty, we do not believe in forcing people to do things they would not normally do on their own.

Libertarians believe that American foreign policy should focus more heavily on developing communications among peoples and finding peaceful resolutions to disagreements. We believe in maintaining a military that can defend us well if we are attacked and we believe part of that is ensuring that our troops are not so war-weary as they have been in recent years.

How much better would the world be if the United States used its influence to encourage dialogue and open discussions? Can you imagine what would have happened had the United States used its influence to bring Saddam Hussein to the negotiating table rather than invaded Iraq? Perhaps the terrorist organizations could have had a voice in those discussions, which would have kept them from escalating the conflicts that were already happening?

Unfortunately, the United States, as far back as World War 2, has used military intervention to bring permanent militarization upon our economy. It is true that even Libertarians are at odds with each other when it comes to military intervention. Some prominent Libertarians supported the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Still others supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Pew Research Center even found (in 2014) that Libertarians were just as divided as the rest of Americans on the issue of foreign policy. Let me cut to the chase here.

The US policy of interventionism has been at tremendous cost. The costs in terms of blood, treasure and prestige have taken their toll. The American public at large is growing weary of this policy of intervention. Adam Smith taught that “peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice” were the essential ingredients of good government. War is the exact opposite of this.

It also subtly alters the citizens’ view of the state. “War substitutes a herd mentality and blind obedience for the normal propensity to question authority and to demand good and proper reasons for government actions,” the late scholar Ronald Hamowy writes in The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. He continues, “War promotes collectivism at the expense of individualism, force at the expense of reason and coarseness at the expense of sensibility. Libertarians regard all of those tendencies with sorrow.”

Some might claim that a particular threat to freedom from abroad is greater than anything we could do to ourselves in fighting it. But that is a hard case to make. Even the post-9/11 “global war on terror” — a war that hasn’t involved conscription or massive new taxes — has resulted in wholesale violations of basic civil rights and an erosion of the rule of law. From Bush’s torture memos to Obama’s secret kill list, this has all been done in the name of fighting a menace — Islamist terrorism — that has killed fewer American civilians in the last decade than allergic reactions to peanuts. It seems James Madison was right. It was, he wrote, “a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

But surely, some say, the United States is an exceptional nation that serves the cause of global liberty. The United States pursues a “foreign policy that makes the world a better place,” explains Sen. Lindsey Graham, “and sometimes that requires force, a lot of times it requires the threat of force.” By engaging in frequent wars, even when U.S. security isn’t directly threatened, the United States acts as the world’s much-needed policeman. That’s the theory, anyway.

In practice, the record is decidedly mixed. This supposedly liberal order does not work as well as its advocates claim. The world still has its share of conflicts, despite a U.S. global military presence explicitly oriented around stopping wars before they start. The U.S. Navy supposedly keeps the seas open for global commerce, but it’s not obvious who would benefit from closing them — aside from terrorists or pirates who couldn’t if they tried. Advocates of the status quo claim that it would be much worse if the United States adopted a more restrained grand strategy, but they fail to accurately account for the costs of this global posture, and they exaggerate the benefits. And, of course, there is the obvious case of the Iraq War, a disaster that was part and parcel of this misguided strategy of global primacy. It was launched on the promise of delivering freedom to the Iraqi people and then to the entire Middle East. It has had, if anything, the opposite effect.

Libertarians should immediately understand why. We harbor deep and abiding doubts about government’s capacity for effecting particular ends, no matter how well intentioned. These concerns are magnified, not set aside, when the government project involves violence in foreign lands.

In domestic policy, libertarians tend to believe in a minimal state endowed with enumerated powers, dedicated to protecting the security and liberty of its citizens but otherwise inclined to leave them alone. The same principles should apply when we turn our attention abroad. Citizens should be free to buy and sell goods and services, study and travel, and otherwise interact with peoples from other lands and places, unencumbered by the intrusions of government.

But peaceful, non-coercive foreign engagement should not be confused with its violent cousin: war. American libertarians have traditionally opposed wars and warfare, even those ostensibly focused on achieving liberal ends. And for good reason. All wars involve killing people and destroying property. Most entail massive encroachments on civil liberties, from warrantless surveillance to conscription. They all impede the free movement of goods, capital, and labor essential to economic prosperity. And all wars contribute to the growth of the state.

This is Libertarian foreign policy at the core. We want civil liberties protected. We want goods, capital and labor to have free movement in order to create economic prosperity. We want smaller government that focuses on its true purpose–defending our safety from direct threats and being the arbiter of our rights when there is a conflict. That is what government is best at and it really should avoid the things it is not good at.

Give this some thought. Really get into the core of the matter and understand why you feel the way you do about it. If you support the massive war machine that is the United States foreign policy at the current time, at least be able to enumerate why. I am personally OK with any viewpoint as long as it can be adequately explained.

This concludes today’s discussion on foreign policy. I hope you have learned something from this discussion. Should you have any questions, please head to and submit your question. I will get back to you in a reasonable amount of time. Any question is welcomed.

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