I’m Trying. I Really Am.

To be a nicer, more civil person.  I truly am.

Here’s the deal.  I left the Libertarian Party in 1998 largely over the LP’s complete illiteracy on foreign policy and defense.

Now, many “Libertarians” are drawn to the belief, and the party, by the reductionistic magical thinking that all of the world’s questions break down into binary, black-or-white answers.  The right answer to everything lies in unbending, unyielding adherence to “principles”, any deviance from which for any reason is an unforgiveable impurity.

Which is a fine and dandy thing, if your “principles” are so well-thought-out as to account for all of the myriad gray areas life, human nature and history throw into one’s path.  For example, the idea that some “libertarians” have that one is either an isolationist peacenik…or a “warmonger”, with nothing in between.  Too stupid to mock.


What I’m trying to do is figure out a way to write “if everything you know about history and foreign policy is stuff you read from the inside of Ron Paul’s anterior colon, you probably are not going to be a partner in a serious debate”.

And I got nothing.

I’m open to suggestions.

19 thoughts on “I’m Trying. I Really Am.

  1. Me: Hey, Libertarian, if Ayn Rand had had an army to protect her, she’d be alive today!
    Libertarian: Rand died of heart failure.
    Me: That’s what they want you to think!

  2. One can be non-inteventionaist without being isolationist.

    Yes, we obviously have interests abroad. But at the same time I feel it a bit absurd at best, arrogant at worst, to try to make each and every area of the globe into a US mini me.

    Believe it or not, there are many areas of the world that, for what ever reasons they have, denounce and want nothing to do with our culture.

  3. I don’t think that anyone is arguing that each and every part of the globe should be made into a US mini me, Adrian.

  4. Mitch, what would you say to Washington and Jefferson decrying entangling alliances? Obsolete thinking irrelevant to the modern world, or insightful warning to curb do-gooder impulses before they waste American treasure and blood?

  5. I don’t disagree. I think we’ve over-treatied.

    I think our nation needs to update its canonical idea of what “national interest” means.

  6. That’s right. US should not have entered into WWI and II. Should not have stabilized Japan and Germany after the IInd. Should not have fought proxy wars during the Cold War. Oh what a wonderful that would be! Nothing but peace and harmony. Kumbaya!

  7. A follow-up, Mitch, if you will: what about spending American treasure and blood in places where we have not previously agreed to fight?

    Where the President negotiated a treaty promising to go to war to defend the government of another nation if attacked and the Senate ratified it, that’s what Washington and Jefferson would have called an entangling alliance, because it drags America into other nations’ fights. NATO, for example.

    That’s different from defending ourselves when American interests are attacked, such as American ships sunk by German submarines in WW I and Pearl Harbor in WW II. Self-defense is not entangling.

    America also sends troops and money to areas where we have made no commitment and we haven’t been attacked, but we believe there is a threat of attack. At the time, everyone agreed Iraq was such a place, regardless of what many now believe about yellow-cake. Pre-emptive self-defense.

    I’m asking about sending American money and troops to places where we have no treaty and perceive no threat, places like Chad, Niger, Somalia. Or using American warships and troops for humanitarian efforts after hurricanes.

    Where would those efforts fit into the Mitch Berg Canonical Statement of Use Of Military Force To Advance American National Interest?

  8. “each and every part of the globe should be made into a US mini me”.

    Exaggeration on my part. My point being that non-internventionalism does not equate to isolationism any more than agnosticism equates to atheism.

  9. Adrian, I think that before deciding where to go, we need to know how we got here.
    After WW2, intellectuals and politicians (no slight intended) believed that they knew the cause of the disastrous wars of the first half of the 20th century. They worked very hard to form a consensus among the surviving nations to form a stable world order (the UN is part of this). The rules of the new order were:

    -Every nation has the right to self-defense.
    -Every nation will have territorial integrity.
    -No nation will use WMD against another nation.
    -The UN, through the UNSC, will be that active agent that enforces these rules.

    NATO can be viewed as an organization that is dedicated to these principles, and was formed to address a weakness in the “UNSC” as enforcer concept, namely that the USSR held veto power in the UNSC.

    The US has been the single most important enforcer of the post WW2 doctrine. The Korean War, the 1991 Gulf War, and the the 2003 Iraq War were fought to uphold its principles.
    If the US stops enforcing those principles, what will happen?
    I’m not completely opposed to the idea that the US should reduce or abandon its role as world policeman, I just want to be realistic about it.

  10. Mitch, what would you say to Washington and Jefferson decrying entangling alliances?

    I would say that both men were extremely fortunate that Benjamin Franklin was successful in persuading the French not to share the same philosophy otherwise they might have found themselves dangling from a rope instead of being engraved on Mount Rushmore.

  11. @PM – If we’re going to be the world’s 911, shouldn’t we get paid for it? It’s not like I give a rip about what the wogs do to each other, or that that has anything to do with me.

  12. Who would you rather have them call, mnbubba? Russia? The Chinese?
    After two horrible global wars we have been at peace, for the most part, for nearly seventy years. What model will replace the post WW2 order? Libertarians believe that free trade and open borders will make large scale war unthinkable. The world is not made up of doctrinaire Libertarians. Russia is acting against its economic interests by engaging in a 21st century version of revanchism. I think that is what Mitch meant when he wrote ““if everything you know about history and foreign policy is stuff you read from the inside of Ron Paul’s anterior colon, you probably are not going to be a partner in a serious debate”.”

  13. I’m with you mnbubba! Not that it matters in the grand scheme, but I’m one taxpayer that is sick of countries taking shots at us, then negotiating peace, then asking for aid. I’m also tired of aid to countries like Mexico, Pakistan, India and quite frankly, the sucking vortex known as the U.N. It’s way past time that we let everyone else deal with their own shit storms and quit paying for those things with the blood of our service men and women and our treasure. If that’s being isolationist, then I guess that I’m all for it. It will never stop though! As long as so many U.S. corporations have lobbyists paying off politicians to get their way, our money will be sucked into that vortex.

  14. This debate reminds me a little of the drug war debate. Some people (esp. Libertarians) believe the social effects of the drug war are so bad that legalizing drugs could not possibly be any worse.
    Some people, Libertarians but also paleocons (no offense!), believe that US engagement with the world is making both the US and the world a worse place, and if the US retreats from the world stage, it couldn’t possibly be worse.
    I think it could be a lot worse. If the lights go out around the world, it will be hard to keep our lights on. “Oceans apart” does not mean as much as it used to.
    Maybe it’s my dour scotch-Irish-German blood talking.

  15. There are nearly 200 “nations” in the United Nations, some of them no larger than my neighborhood, and with as much wealth and manpower. As a place to air grievances, the UN is fine. As a place to enforce solutions, it’s worthless.

    The world always has, and always will, be dominated by the strongest. Persian. Roman. Mongol. Islamist. British. American. The sun is setting on our empire, just as it did on all of theirs, and for the same reasons – decay from within. The question is: how much time remains?

  16. The US is the last, best hope of mankind, Joe Doakes. If our light goes out, it’s back to the template mankind lived under before July 4, 1776. somewhere between 5% and 20% of humanity will be the bosses, and the remainder will serve their needs, with no rights other than the bosses choose to grant them.

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