I’ve had an interesting day of foreign policy discussion, and I capped it off by reading Ann Coulter’s article at Human Events Online about President Ford and the Democrats inability to prosecute a war competently. I have to say, Ann Coulter is one of my favorite writers. She is very compelling, and if you have a conservative bone in your body at all, she knows how to appeal to you quite exquisitely.
Of course, bagging on Democrat foreign policy isn’t that hard. History is replete with Democrat screwups – from Truman to Clinton and a host of congressional idiots of all ages.
Libertarian foreign policy is harder to pin down. I spent a lot of today conversing with Susan Hogarth of the LRC (Libertarian Radical Caucus – a group of Libertarians who believe themselves to be the core of the LP). I’m a pretty strong LP supporter, but I’ve always had a hard time pinning down exactly what it meant to be libertarian in the realm of foreign policy.
Today, the opportunity arose for me to participate in a discussion with Susan that might illuminate it for me. The Green Party press release I discussed earlier today rippled throughout the LP discussion lists, and shortly after my post about it, it was brought up on the LRC discussion group by Susan.
It would be nice to have the LP issue a release something like the one the GP released[.] I guess our platform does not have a death penalty plank and as a Party there is some division on this question, but the other two points (dealing with the complicity of the US government in Hussein’s crimes) are still valid.
I’m just thinking the LP is not hitting the war issue very strongly. Where is the outrage against he war against Afghanistan, for instance?
I can’t speak for all LPers, but in Texas, especially, a lot of conservatives take refuge in the LP, and aren’t very strongly aligned against the war (not to say they are big supporters of it either). According to Susan, speaking for hard-line libertarianism, traditionally, the far-right wing of American conservativism have been opposed to foreign intervention for any reason, citing John T. Flynn’s World War II activism.
John T. Flynn opposed war and militarism on the precept that it was a job making boondoggle. Flynn was one of the founders of the America First Committee which opposed Roosevelt’s foreign policy. Flynn became head of the New York City chapter which claimed a membership of 135,000. The Committee charged that Roosevelt was using lies and deception to ensnare the United States into the war. It mounted campaigns against Lend Lease, the Selective Service, and other initiatives by Roosevelt.
Although Flynn scrupulously distanced the Committee from the ravings of extremist and anti-Semitic groups, such as the National Union for Social Justice, his old pro-war leftist allies cut him off and the New Republic pulled his regular column, “Other People’s Money.”
During the Cold War period, Flynn continued his unflagging opposition to interventionist foreign policies and militarism. He was an early and prophetic critic of American involvement in the Indo-Chinese War on the side of the French. He charged that sending U.S. troops would “only be proving the case of the Communists against America that we are defending French imperialism.”
Despite this ill-conceived association with McCarthy, Flynn remained fairly consistent in his foreign policy views. In 1955, he had a formal falling out with the new generation of Cold War conservatives when William F. Buckley Jr. rejected one of his articles for the new National Review. It had attacked militarism as a “job-making boondoggle.” Flynn retired from public life in 1960 and died in 1964.
Despite my strong beliefs coming into the LP long ago, I’ve had very little problem integrating my philosophy with LP philosophy. However, as I’ve said, militarism and waging wars have always been a problematic potential contention of mine in conjunction with Libertarian philosophy. Granted, most wars waged in modern times are boondoggles, it seems, but there has to be the allowance for the possibility that a war can be waged by America outside of simple self defense in today’s modern times. Capitalism can cure most things, but it can’t cure a madman dictator with a big red button – and we seem to have a few of those running around the world these days.
Digressing a little bit, however, one has to wonder how mad these madmen really are. I think most of us would agree that Saddam Hussein was just as mad of a dictator as any Jong-Il or Chavez or Mudeniajawhatever from Iran. As Saddam’s snuff film proves, he goes out like just about any of us would facing immenent death – praying to his God for salvation (in case you missed it, his last words words were: “There is no God but Allah, and I testify that His prophet is Mohammad”) .. one has to wonder if all the madmen of his ilk by inference are similarly afraid of death, and if so, are they as ready to start the Armageddon as they proclaim?
Coming back to the topic at hand, though, for us as Libertarians to come out against the war at this point in the game is a little bit like a ‘me-too’ syndrome. If it’s not something we’ve been championing as a party for the last several years, then why do it now, unless it’s to be disingenuously capitalizing on current political trade winds?
I expressed these sentiments to Susan, and she responded by saying: “That reminds me of the people who say they were opposed to the war, but since the US is *there*, it might as well be conducted ‘right’. We might as well get out!”
I’ve always been a foreign policy wonk, even before I came over to the LP, and I must admit that this brand of logic appeals to me (that we must do it right since we’re there) – most of the chaos and violent repercussions in history have been resultant from either bad decisions of hasty retreat, end or otherwise cessation of conflict when it isn’t a direct result of an evil madman’s plan for world domination. Getting out of a bad situation the right way is very important in my view. For further exposition on that, see what Ann Coulter has to say today.
As the discussion wore on, it became clear what the policy was. Hoggarth termed it as non-interventionist, and suggested that she would take up arms personally, as other citizens of a libertarian nation would, against threats against American security.
I oppose wars of aggression because they are aggression. I oppose government-led wars at all levels because taxation in the pursuit of
war is aggression against a government’s own people. When such an occasion arises, I’ll be there with my SKS.
My contention is that with rogue nations and unstable nations running around with world-destroying weapons, we won’t feel threatened until the shadow of the nukes loom overhead. India and Pakistan threaten each other daily with nuclear attacks. China regularly threatens Taiwan with nukes. North Korea regularly threatens America, as does Iran threaten Israel and America, and both nations purportedly have nukes. Chavez may not have nukes now, but he has openly declared war on America and has aligned his nation with other nuclear powers.
We have been threatened, is the point. The average American won’t take up arms, and the administration is too busy conducting war on their personal vendettas to pay attention to these threats. All it takes to end it all is for one of these nations to follow through. What makes the situation even more frightening is that most of these nations mentioned don’t have sufficient checks and balances on the process of engaging nukes – so a rogue faction can come into power within the military and decide to end it all on behalf of that military’s president or nation.
Susan said: “Perhaps [those that [you] have talked to with a clear image of their ideal foreign policy, it didn’t seem sufficiently well thought through] is simply because you disagree with them?”
Perhaps so. I’m not advocating any particular foreign policy in mentioning all this – I’m more in search of a foreign policy I can adopt and advocate. My problem is a self-defense or non-interventionist policy doesn’t take into account these types of modern-world situations, things I deem as real threats to American and world-wide security.
Heck, I don’t even know that a use of force against these countries to forcibly remove the red button from their cold dead fingers is even the answer – I just know that at any moment it could all end because we as a country failed to see the contingencies and results of our actions in decades past… Nuclear proliferation by Reagan, Carter, Nixon and Ford during the Cold War as a result of poor judgement from President Truman in deciding what parts of the world the Europeans and Soviets got to keep, as a result of getting involved with a world war by Roosevelt….
It’s well and good to say that someone is against war – it’s like being against abortion, or against killing. Sure, it sounds great to say “Let’s get out of Iraq now!” But like death, abortion, or any major hotbutton issue, its impossible to have a black and white policy on such topics.
For example – killing is wrong (except when in self defense, or when it’s defending the defenseless in your care, or in certain cases defending your property). Or another example: Abortion is a woman’s right (except if you believe that killing is wrong and that a fetus is a defenseless human under your care, in which case, see killing (except if the woman’s life is in danger, in which case the mother’s life takes precedence).
My point is that there are almost always caveats. These caveats mentioned above don’t necessarily reflect my viewpoints, but a number of viewpoints that conflict with one another that must be reconciled for the plurality of America to agree with a policy on what should seemingly be a black or white topic.
The grey areas must be thought about and discussed, or else it’s just rhetoric.
Anyone out there have any input? Let me know.