Libertarian History/Philosophy

Is Reason's Foreign Policy "Morally Vacuous" and "Historically Ignorant"?

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Over at the excellent site Mediaite, the right-leaning Noah Rothman (watch him in this Reason TV interview) lays into libertarians generally and Reason folks specifically for their/our foreign policy. By which he means our lack of out-of-the-gates bellicosity.

Rothman notes that it is precisely the libertarian wing of the GOP that has kickstarted necessary and proper debates within a Republican party that needs a thorough reboot. And yet he titles his post, "The GOP Must Not Adopt The Moral Vacuity And Historical Ignorance Of A Libertarian Foreign Policy." Here's a snippet:

Libertarianism as a governing philosophy does, however, have its limits. The nearly two-year-long humanitarian and geopolitical nightmare unfolding in Syria has exposed one of those limits. The brand of libertarianism that rejects America's role in the world cannot be adopted by the Republican Party writ large. Why? Because it is incumbent on the United States to maintain the stewardship of a global order which has resulted in relative peace and stability since the end of the Cold War. The bulk of this great responsibility, which rests on the shoulders of America's lawmakers, cannot be shrugged. Libertarians outside the closed-door classified security briefings, to which the nation's elected officials are privy, do not have to confront the sobering reality of the many threats to global security. As such, they are free to proselytize for the most amoral, egocentric form of non-interventionism couched in the moralistic language common among peace activists….

This is a passingly strange paragraph to be writing on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—and a dozen years into America's occupation of Afghanistan. And a bit on from the President Obama's plainly unconstitutional intervention into Libya. You can argue that the since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, things have been relatively stable in the world (and that's even kind of a stretch) but to pretend that things have been peaceful is a bridge too far, I think.

Two days ago, for instance, on the 10th anniversary of the invsasion of Iraq, Reason.com published a "libertarian forum on the lessons of the Second Gulf War." It pulls together a bunch of Reason staffers as well as other voices and in most ways, it doubtless confirms Rothman's negative assessment of what a libertarian foreign policy would look like. I won't speak for other participants, but in my contribution I stressed two things that are relevant to Rothman's take.

First, we are already forgetting just how piss-poor the Iraq War—now expected to cost $6 trillion!—was both conceived and executed. Who knows? Maybe a generally libertarian, non-interventionist foreign policy would prove to be as big a disaster as what we've experienced since the end of the Cold War under both Republican and Democratic regimes (I noted that Bill Clinton dispatched more troops more times than Ronald Reagan did). What we do know for sure is that precisely the sort of knee-jerk, reactionary foreign policy exemplified by both George W. Bush and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Barack Obama has been an abject failure in securing peace or stability in our time. Rather than pooh-poohing out of hand an untried alternative, perhaps Rothman would be better served by explaining exactly how a less-interventionist policy could possibly be worse than what we've seen over the past dozen years.

Second, the one national politician who is talking about the need to build a consensus for an actual framework for the projection of American power in the 21st century is Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican from the land-locked state of Kentucky and a suspected non-interventionist. Paul's February speech at the Heritage Foundation pointedly embraced the need for American engagement in the world but it stressed economic and cultural engagement over military actions (though it did not rule those out either). If such a common-sensical formulation—derived from Cold War theorist George Kennan's original containment theory—seems morally vacuous or historically ignorant on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, I suspect that Rothman is simply not interested in having a serious debate about America's role in the world. Indeed, he shifts subjects quickly from Syria to potential threats from China and Russia, the better to boost the tempo of the drums of war.

When it comes to the Middle Eastern hotspot of the moment—the Syrian civil war—Rothman writes,

What is the libertarian response to this imminent and rapidly unfolding crisis? If one were to peruse the preeminent libertarian intellectual publication Reason Magazine as of this writing, the answer is nothing. Save for a few aggregated news reports regarding the disaster in Syria, that magazine's stable of bright, capable, and deductive authors have yet to weigh in. Doubtless, like the intellectuals on the left, when they do get around to addressing the crisis, their focus would be on the potential pitfalls that Western intervention in Syria would present for the intervening power, and not the suffering inside Syria and the threat that nation's civil war poses to the region as that conflict spills over Syria's borders.

Reason's recent coverage of Syria—currently topped by a March 21 post titled "How America Will Enter the Syrian War"—is here. I leave it to individual readers to decide whether our coverage amounts to "nothing" (and as the editor in chief of Reason.com and something of a slave-driver, I will also rush to say that we can and should always be doing more and better work on every possible subject). Again, I won't speak for other Reason staffers much less all libertarians, but I'll note this much: I know that the Assad regime is evil and rotten; I know that many innocent people are being killed, tortured, and oppressed simply because they had the terrible luck of being born in the wrong time and the wrong place; I figure that many of the regime's opponents are true liberationists who are trying to create a better, freer Syria; and I'm certain that others would likely create a regime that would be even worse than the current one (this happened not so long ago in nearby Iran and places such as Cuba and Russia way back when). And I know that I don't off the top of my head have a workable idea of how to parachute into a foreign country and fix what's wrong with it and help it out in a way that doesn't ultimately cause more damage than good.

I suspect that even the nation's elected officials who are, Rothman observes, "privy" to "closed-door classified security briefings" don't have good ideas either. If they did, they probably would have tried them in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Certainly, when you hear supposed foreign-policy experts such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and various folks at The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute attack Rand Paul as "wacko birds" and latter-day Neville Chamberlains, it's hard not to conclude that many in the GOP are more interested in maintaining the status quo than in producing effective foreign policy. As of this writing, the U.S. government has not even been able to communicate whether chemical weapons were used in Syria and by whom. Most news accounts stress that very little is known about the various factions jockeying for power in a post-Assad Syria, though everyone assumes that various Iranian, Russian, al Qaeda, and other agents are spread throughout the resistance. It's easy to moralistically castigate libertarians for not calling for immediate military intervention, but such sentiments seem both misplaced and cheap.

Recognizing the United States' impotence when it comes to fixing Syria via a military solution doesn't make me (or libertarians or non-interventionists on the right and the left) morally vacuous or historically ignorant. It does mean that on at least some occasions I bow to reality and recent events, including battlefields whose human wounds are still soaking the ground all around us. Which is far from the worst thing a journalist can do.

Related: Earlier today, in response to a New York Times op-ed, I suggested that libertarians are not nihilists.

NEXT: Intelligence Agencies Have No Benchmarks for Measuring Success

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  1. I’m glad there are so many dickheads in the media coming out of the woodwork to tell me what I believe.

    1. If this were competitive debate, you could raise points of misinformation all day long.

  2. Why? Because it is incumbent on the United States to maintain the stewardship of a global order which has resulted in relative peace and stability since the end of the Cold War.

    Holy fuck. People accept this kind of circular fucking logic?

    I fucking hate coming here; it reminds me how much I hate everyone, and how much of a fucking idiot people are.

    1. Well, historically, is this untrue? Don’t periods of peace tend to coincide with the hegemony of one or more great powers? And in their decline or absence, aren’t there often more wars and instability? (Wars and instability which, it should be noted, work against libertarian goals.)

      I’d like to believe that a purely libertarian foreign policy would cure all ills, but I’m not convinced. Sometimes non-libertarian actions can advance libertarian goals.

      It seems like it’s in America’s DNA to periodically get ticked off enough that we intervene somewhere and kick some bad guy’s ass and try to help some oppressed people. It’s always messier than predicted, and it doesn’t always work, but I’m not willing to flatly condemn it, despite its non-libertarian nature.

      1. “Well, historically, is this untrue? Don’t periods of peace…”

        for example…

        1. Pax Romana anyone?

          1. It was a time of great internal stability, yes. But they didn’t button up the border and send all the legions home to their wives. There was non-stop fighting along the borders, most of it the locals trying to kick out asshole Romans, and some of it undoubtedly shock-and-awe shit to keep them in line.

            In reality is parallels current foreign policy quite nicely. It’s 24/7 fighting on the other side of the world, but here in Starbucks land everything is roses. Easy to forget how brutish our military is.

      2. Well, historically, is this untrue? Don’t periods of peace tend to coincide with the hegemony of one or more great powers?

        I heard rule under the British Empire, Alexander the Great, Imperial Rome, etc, were all very peaceful times. Oh wait…

        1. The Roman empire, the British empire, and the Cold War were relatively peaceful times, correct? Not that any of them were libertarian utopias. But when there are one or two big dogs in the neighborhood, the smaller dogs tend to be on their better behavior.

          1. “The Roman empire, the British empire, and the Cold War were relatively peaceful times, correct?”

            Too bad the German Empire and that great peace dividend didn’t come about.

            1. The Third Reich coexisted with an American power, a British Empire, a Russian Empire and a Japanese Empire and it was those empires that went to war with each other. No one had hegemonic power in the way the Romans or the British did for extended periods.

              It’s true that the existence of a hegemonic power creates relatively peaceful and stable times. It’s just that we don’t necessarily have to constantly invade people to achieve that.

              1. It is really only peaceful for the hegemonic power.

                The vassal and neighbor states, not so much.

                Just ask the Irish about the British Empire or the German states about the French Empire or the Judeans about the Roman Empire.

                1. Again, you’re mistaking two points. It’s relative.

                  Saying ‘well lots of Irish died and also Zimbabwe!’ because of the British Empire has nothing to do with whether or not such periods are relatively more peaceful. Compare the peak of the Roman Empire with the chaos that occurred for centuries during its decline and fall. Compare the years where no one could compete with the British Empire to the years when the British Empire was declining relative to the Japanese, Germans and Russians.

                  What was more violent? British hegemony in the 1700s and 1800s or 1900-1950?

                  1. “British Hegemony in the 1700s and 1800s.”

                    1739 1748 War of Jenkins’ Ear
                    1744 1748 King George’s War
                    1754 1763 French and Indian War (Part of the Seven Years’ War)
                    1756 1763 Seven Years’ War
                    1758 1761 Anglo-Cherokee War
                    1763 1766 Pontiac’s War
                    1775 1783 American Revolutionary War
                    1779 1783 Anglo-Spanish War
                    1789 1799 The French Revolution
                    1803 1815 Napoleonic Wars
                    1804 1813 Russo-Persian War
                    1810 1821 Mexican War of Independence
                    1812 1815 War of 1812
                    1818 1828 Zulu Wars of Conquest
                    1820 1875 Texas?Indian wars
                    1821 1832 Greek War of Independence
                    1839 1842 First Opium War
                    1853 1856 Crimean War
                    1867 1875 Comanche Campaign
                    1899 1901 Boxer Rebellion
                    1899 1902 Second Boer War

                    1. I’ve left out the Wars that the Brits were not involved in directly. (The Comanche Campaign got left in by accident.)

                      Also left out is the Sepoy Rebellion.

                    2. Texas Indian War should have been left out, too.

                    3. Napoleonic wars shouldn’t count since that actually serves my point: France became more powerful relative to Britain, British hegemony was threatened, war occurred.

                      As for the rest, please. The Boer Wars combined had 20,000 deaths, a bad hour during WWI, and a single battle during the Napoleonic war. The Wars of 1812 and American Independence were incredibly minor wars that only matter if you’re an American. Obviously they were both important to later American power, but as wars they were nothing.

                      Several of those wars occurred well outside British hegemonic control. The Mexican War of Independence? Texas-Indian Wars? I must have missed the major British involvement in Mexico or Texas. Same with the Comanche campaign.

                      I’ll give you the Seven Years war since that was essentially a world war, but event hat occurred between competing alliances that were jockeying for power, with Britain, Russia and Prussia against Austria, France, Russia and Spain. You could actually argue that that war occurred during a time of declining Spanish Imperial power and rising British power, which would actually support my thesis.

                      Regardless that entire two hundred year period can hardly even compare to the 50 year decline of the British Empire from 1900-1950. It’s just comparable in regards to worldwide violence.

                    4. Oh, I see that you actually noticed my point and only left the wars in America in by accident. Disregard my third paragraph.

                      Also, last sentence should read ‘Just NOT comparable.’

              2. “It’s just that we don’t necessarily have to constantly invade people to achieve that.”

                That’s where you are morally-vacant, Libertarian. Invasions all over prove that we can do whatever the shit we want wherever on the marvelous blue marble called America.

                1. I personally think the reason there’s less violence during periods of hegemony is because the hegemonic power enforces free trade. That happened in the Roman Empire, it happened in the British Empire and it happened between Nato states during the cold war and the entire world now.

                  People don’t fight trading partners and hegemonic powers enforce free trade. I don’t necessarily think it has to do with anything military, since places we have no troops have become more peaceful over the same period of time.

                  1. The only thing messier than the history of the British Empire is the history of the Roman Empire. The history is getting a sound rewrite of late due to evidence coming to light that the trade routes did not begin with the empires which latched themselves to those routes, and most markedly out of line with traditional interpretation, did not end with the death of those empires.

        2. You’ve never heard of Pax Romana or Pax Britannica?

          Alexander died too soon, and his empire was split and at war for decades before stabilizing.

      3. It seems like it’s in America’s DNA to periodically get ticked off enough that we intervene somewhere and kick some bad guy’s ass and try to help some oppressed people.

        We can start with Cuba and the Philippeans and just go down the list and see whether places are net liberty or libertarian since we kicked out the other oppressors and tried to help the oppressed.

        1. If anything, when we invade and fuck up it turns people against us. There’s no reason Cuba HAD to become a Russian satellite or get isolated from worldwide trade.

          Since free markets actually tend to undermine dictators (such as what happened during South Korea’s military dictatorship or Chile under Pinochet) isolating Cuba from trade may have actually entrenched the Castro dictatorship.

          1. Well at least we’d never do that in the Middle East.

    2. And where is all this peace and stability? Mali, Libya, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Really?

      1. You are making my point. Most of those places were more stable and peaceful during the Cold War, or during the British empire.

        I am not making an argument for empire, nor claiming that “peace and stability” are goals superior to liberty. I’m just noting some of the complexities and paradoxes involved in foreign policy.

        1. You are making my point. Most of those places were more stable and peaceful during the Cold War, or during the British empire.

          Riight. Elphinstone’s Retreat and whatnot. The Mahdi and Chinese Gordon. The relative peace with which Bedouin tribes raided each other during the Turk Hegemony. Do you actually know any history?

          1. Jesus, this goes back to my point above. You guys seem to be saying ‘violence existed during times of one major power, therefore it’s not true that hegemony decreases violence!’

            Pointing out anecdotes of violence in those periods has nothing to do with whether or not they were peaceful relative to the times around them in which there was no major power.

            If you disagree that times are relatively more peaceful with one power than multiple, then disagree with that point. But you can’t just point out anecdotes of violence. The period of British hegemony was broadly peaceful except for two times:

            1. Napoleon
            2. The Decline of the British Empire which led to WWI and WWII

            In other words, during the period of the British empire, the only periods of major violence occurred when Britain had other major powers to compete with.

            1. I explicitly disagree. The Pax Britannica was no Pax at all. The French & Indian war? The 30 Years war? The Spanish Armada?

              Same thing with the Romans. They pacified a Italy and Gaul. Kind of. The Maccabes, a multigenerational war with Carthage, etc. There were no global or even hegemonic peaces.

            2. Pointing out anecdotes of violence in those periods has nothing to do with whether or not they were peaceful relative to the times around them in which there was no major power.

              Ok, we’re not allowed to cite any of the quite literally hundreds of examples throughout history where empires suppressed liberty on their constituents and waged wars on other nations, yet somehow you’re allowed to assert “EMPIRES PROMOTE LIBERTY, PROVE ME WRONG.”

              Shut up, Tony.

          2. If you were a Zulu or an Irishman back in the day, British hedgemony didn’t work out so great for you.

      2. How about Europe? Europe was in a constant state of sectarian violence for centuries, and they’ve been at peace for the entire period of United States hegemony. There will always be wars in some parts of the world, but there is relatively when less violence when one country is far and away the most powerful.

        There are only a few places in the world where war is common right now. In the early 1900s and throughout most of history, war was common everywhere.

        1. Know when europe got peaceful?

          About the same time Capitalism came about.

    3. Yes, the Pax Americana is real, and unlike the Pax Romana and the Pax Britannica and even the Pax Mongolica, we’ll do military and economic hegemony the right way.

      1. You’re right, there’s no guarantee we’ll do anything the right way, but that’s not my point, which is that it’s not absurd to think that a pure libertarian foreign policy might not be the best way to achieve libertarian goals.

        1. In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire!

    4. In the name of peace and stability, why didn’t we help more to maintain the Soviet Union? It seems to me things were more peaceful and stable during the Cold War than after.

    5. And not 3-4 sentences after claiming America Fuck Yeah, he dares call libertarians egocentric. Fucking clueless.

  3. Because it is incumbent on the United States to maintain the stewardship of a global order which has resulted in relative peace and stability since the end of the Cold War. The bulk of this great responsibility, which rests on the shoulders of America’s lawmakers, cannot be shrugged.

    Your libertarianism is getting in the way of our interventionism.

    1. But… TEH CHILDRUNZ ARE DYING! We must DO SOMETHING!!!!!11111one

      1. Like what?

        LIKE DRONE BOMBING THEM! THEY’RE BETTER OFF DEAD ANYWAY!

      2. And don’t worry about how much it costs or whether it actually makes the children better or worse off or if doing something else might be more cost-effective.

        Doing nothing costs nothing and doesn’t make anybody worse off, but it doesn’t allow you to demonstrate your caring and compassion. And once you demonstrate your caring and compassion, it doesn’t matter how much it cost or how much worse off everyone is because hey, our intentions were good, we meant well.

        OTOH, the guy may have a point – all of our non-intervention in the Middle East hasn’t led to peace and stability there, has it? Maybe we should try intervening in the Middle East. Overthrow a government or two, invade a country or two, ship a buttload of lawyers, gun and money to a country or two, see how that works out.

        1. Doing nothing costs nothing and doesn’t make anybody worse off

          Have you learned nothing from Tony?

    2. “Your libertarianism is getting in the way of our interventionism.”

      Yep, damn libertarians show up and suggest people be free by talking to them!

  4. Yes, the people who don’t want to fuck with other people or be the global cop/bully are the morally vacuous ones. Yup, that makes perfect sense. It seems projection isn’t just for TEAM BLUE.

    1. Shit, it’s INCUMBENT on us to spend our money and sacrifice our children’s lives and limbs to bring the light to every third world backwards shithole?

      I’m sure Rothman served overseas, he’s young enough to walk his talk. I’m certain he isn’t an upperclass intellectual sipping latte while others of his generation suffer and die to support his ideals.

      1. Just once I’d like to see one of these chickenhawk fucks put their money where their mouth is.

        1. I’m trying to think of warmongerers who’ve actually been in combat. John McCain of course. Anyone else have one?

          1. The dude from Hawaii who just died. John F’n Kerry.

          2. Bush I.

      2. “Shit, it’s INCUMBENT on us to spend our money and sacrifice our children’s lives and limbs to bring the light to every third world backwards shithole?”

        You took the words right out of my mouth. I can’t for the life of me understand how Republicans, who are at least nominally opposed to socialism, can justify the worst kind of socialism – socialism of people’s very lives. No matter how miserable much of the world may be (and it is pretty damned miserable), by what moral calculus do you decide to sacrifice the lives of your own citizenry for the well-being of others?

  5. Related: Earlier today, in response to a New York Times op-ed, I suggested that libertarians are not nihilists.

    This isn’t obvious to anyone with a brain already? By definition, simply believing in anything precludes being a nihilist.

    1. Fuck me, I keep forgetting; People don’t have brains.

    2. If I believe in nihilism, I’m not a nihilist?

      1. I used to believe in nihilism but then realized I just didn’t care one way or the other.

  6. “To maintain the stewardship of a global order to promote relative peace and stability” is right there in Article I. Silly libertarians must hate the Constitution.

    1. Seriously though, we need to keep looking on the bright side. The more we’re attacked, the more influential libertarianism has become and the more statists and warmongerers are frightened for their political survival.

  7. We must keep bombing until there are no more bombs!

    1. And no more targets! Then whoever is left will be forced to vote in a democracy!

    2. We’re going to free the fuck out of you!

      1. Sully, remember when I said I was going to free you last? I LIED.

  8. Allow me to refute Mr Rothman with this.

      1. I’M DISAPPOINTED

        1. Kevin Kline deserved two Oscars for that performance.

  9. Nihilists! Fuck me. Say what you will about the tenents of libertarianism, but at least it’s an ethos.

    1. and the trains children drawn carts run on time.

    2. But seriously, I don’t get it. Are we supposed to intervene militarily wherever people are suffering at the hands of dictators? If we’re supposed to go after Syria, why not North Korea? Cuba? Where exactly does it end?

      1. It never does. And if any of the people we were trying to “save” die in the process, it was justified because we’re the good guys, see?

      2. I’d take the Faith of Noninterventionism over this altruism crap. At least the former is cheap.

  10. We need a draft, for people like Rothman. You want to save the world, here’s your rifle-go fucking save it.

    1. Shortly before WWI, there was a proposed constitutional amendment that would put all declarations of war up to a national vote. If you voted for it, you were automatically volunteering for service.

      I like that. Put your money where your mouth is.

      1. not to say I don’t like the sentiment, but how would you know which way any one person voted? repeal the secret ballot? yuck.

        1. I don’t know how you would do it but damn I like the idea. If you are for war, then you are going to go fight it. You don’t get to be pro-war and then sit at home and watch the servicemen body count pile up from that war on CNN.

        2. Just for that issue.

          Even better, open a period of conditional enlistment, where people are allowed to enlist only for the war at question. If enough people “vote” by enlisting, the war is on. Otherwise, it’s a no-go and everybody is released from their commitment.

  11. Judging by the comments this post didn’t go over very well

    1. “This post” meaning the Noah Rothman post on mediaite.com

  12. “Because it is incumbent on the United States to maintain the stewardship of a global order”

    Question begging for $2000, Alex

  13. Morally vacuous? Morally simple-minded/perverse would be a better description. And ‘historically ignorant’ is bang-on for noninterventionists and apparently…

    Because it is incumbent on the United States to maintain the stewardship of a global order which has resulted in relative peace and stability since the end of the Cold War.

    Rothman too. I won’t play the false dichotomy of choosing between head-in-the-sand passivity and TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE.

    1. The only question I will ask on this thread.

      Morally simple-minded/perverse would be a better description. And ‘historically ignorant’ is bang-on for noninterventionists and apparently…

      How so?

      1. Believing that dictatorships have rights equal to America’s, that civilian casualties somehow invalidate intervention, that ‘non-intervention’ has ever been anything other than the historical equivalent of vaporware for a superpower.

        1. Believing that dictatorships have rights equal to America’s

          Countries don’t have rights, individuals do. In that sense, they are equally nil.

          Also, if we were to be judged collectively based upon our nation’s actions (domestically and abroad) rather than our intentions, just what “right” do we have to stand in judgment of others?

          that civilian casualties somehow invalidate intervention

          At what point do the deeds of others invalidate the rights of an individual?

          that ‘non-intervention’ has ever been anything other than the historical equivalent of vaporware for a superpower

          The failure of people who don’t agree with us to do what we want is somehow a strike against us?

          Shit, if this was in any way a valid complaint, then we all might as well give up now with this whole “libertarianism” thing and become a team player for one of the major parties.

    2. TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE perfectly describes you.

      1. That was my thought too.

      2. You’re as fucking clueless as Shriek.

        1. Where’s John’s Shriek video when you need it? It’s the perfect bookend for your posts.

    3. I agree with this.

  14. I’d sure like to see a citation on the $6 trillion number.

  15. Mr. Rothman is free to live his convictions and go over and fight in the Syrian civil war himself. Nobody’s stopping him.

    Oh, it’s *your* children he wants to put in harm’s way in the name of “global stewardship,” not his own sorry ass? Well then, he can just go screw himself. There’s nothing lower than a chickenhawk.

    I’m not a pure pacifist and am more than willing to advocate military action when it’s in our national interest (mostly defense, but not always). But “global stewardship” is the biggest bunch of horseshit ever perpetrated.

    There was a time when conservatives understood this.

    1. Not disagreeing but trying to get a handle on this issue myself. If a Syria-type situation was happening in Mexico, would there be a justification for US involvement? That is, would a destabilized Mexico be a large potential threat to the US & so warrant intervention?

      And, yes, I know Mexico is in a condition of violence b/c of the drug war. But, I’m saying if there was a full-blooded, civil war.

      1. It might be. Historically, we’ve pretty much let the Mexicans duke it out amongst themselves, such as in the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

        Obviously, we’re a much more interventionist bunch than we were then, and there’s also a much bigger potential for spillover effects on our side of the border–refugees, economic effects, etc.

        The reality is that what happens in Mexico affects the USA way more than what happens in Syria. The US has almost no national interest in which group of shitheads end up presiding over the Syrian ruins. Israeli security is not really a US national interest, and frankly, the Israelis themselves don’t seem to be too eager to get involved.

      2. I suspect we’d be there in a minute. We get a pile of our oil from Mexico.

  16. Libertarians outside the closed-door classified security briefings, to which the nation’s elected officials are privy, do not have to confront the sobering reality of the many threats to global security.

    “We know better than you. Shut up and accept the word of your betters.”

    1. WTF is “global security,” anyway? There’s always some bullshit little war going on somewhere. Always has been.

      Rothman’s spending too much time around fatcat defense contractors, methinks.

    2. Neither does he (have to confront the sobering reality, I mean). Unless he’s trying to tell us he has Top Secret + clearance and sits in on all top-level Pentagon and White House military briefings?

      1. Even then, there aren’t many threats out there that only “Top Men” know about.

        Plus they always leak the most inflammatory details and interpretations in order to drum up support for their wars.

        1. Meh, the TOP MEN still aren’t really confronting reality unless they are gearing up along side the troops to go in and fight the war they have initiated.

  17. Rothman’s an asswipe leftover product.

    The ‘world police’ shit is not our job.

    Keep in mind, ‘classified national security briefings’ are authored by folks professionally trained to be as paranoid as possible, and get kudos for framing things in the worst possible outcome possible, while passively aggressively suggesting ‘something’ be done. Otherwise, they’re generally dry as toast and boring as shit.

    Code Pink was actually right on one point with their ‘no blood for oil’ chanting. Iraq ultimately was about oil – when Saddam seized Kuwait, he also seized a significant percentage of proven reserves in the region. THAT is what made the mess ‘our national interest’. Good reason to build Keystone, actually.

    Speaking of oil and national interest – Syria? No oil, not our problem.
    Rwanda? no oil. Only a problem after Billy Jeff took a shellacking for not caring enough.
    Somalia? no oil, but we didn’t go there to do anything except watch the backs of Blue Helmets trying to pass out food. Shit started when Billy Jeff decided we were the new sheriffs in town. Dumb.
    Bosnia? no oil, more Billy Jeff’s lip chewing, to show he cared.
    Libya? oil. And a greasy motherfucker that killed Americans and generally was a pain in the ass.
    Afghanistan? no oil, but, see ref to greasy motherfucker that killed a LOT of Americans, and a pain in the ass.

    And yes, I, with many of my personal acquaintances were participants, not observers pontificating from relative safety.

    1. The third paragraph reminds me of almost every anti-nuke I have ever met/a good portion of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Except, in the case of the typical anti-nuke, they are aggressively suggesting something be done.

  18. More photos of dead children please. It really brightens up my day at work.

    But you need to work a little harder. I grew up with photos of naked girls burned by napalm and our allies executing enemies out on the street.

  19. I find it really infuriating that the neocons so condescendingly patronize non interventionism (which they call isolationism). Based on the concept in this article about how those who are in charge are privvy to info the rest of us don’t know, they act as if therefore their aggression and nation building are justified. You know, the whole spreading peace and democracy BS we’ve been hearing for years.

    1. The wolf is always at the door if there’s a defense contract or nonprofit grant at stake.

  20. ” What is the libertarian response to this imminent and rapidly unfolding crisis? If one were to peruse the preeminent libertarian intellectual publication Reason Magazine as of this writing, the answer is nothing. ”

    What is to be done? Nothing is sometimes the right answer.

    Conservative like Victor Davis Hanson and Thomas Sowell stress this point. The world is an imperfect place. Conservatives are not supposed to be utopians, believing that we can fix all problems by “doing something”.

  21. Clearly Rothman is sure that our Top. Men. our on the job, they know more than us, and we should shut the fuck up and let them get on with saving the world.

    Rothman is a sad little man.

    1. are* on the job…

      Seeing stupid people writing stupid shit, and knowing they’re getting paid to be condescending asswipes, makes me too mad to proof-read.

  22. I suppose it would be easier for Libertarians to defend themselves on these points if their foreign policy didn’t amount to throwing up their hands and saying, “Fuck, I don’t know what to do. Let the world burn.” But that’s how they’re perceived, and comments here (and this article) don’t do anything to change that. Libertarians aren’t being castigated for “not calling for immediate military intervention” but for not offering any substantive approach to foreign policy *at all.*

    Hell, I consider myself a Libertarian on just about every issue, but the lack of at least some guiding principle on foreign policy besides “fuck it all” is a major stumbling block for Libertarians running for national office. Libertarians tend to be good at foreign policy snark, but not good at, you know, actual policy.

    1. I don’t know what to do. Let the world burn

      Yes. Rather than let the world burn, let’s blow it up instead.

    2. The notion that Top. Men. are ill equipped to be in charge of every aspect of our lives domestically lends pretty naturally to the idea that they do not magically become experts when exercising the same, and greater, powers on the other side of an imaginary line.

      The alternative to “We don’t know what to do, so let us do nothing” is “we don’t know what to do, yet we must do something” which is no less destructive when applied somewhere else than when applied here.

  23. Because it is incumbent on the United States to maintain the stewardship of a global order which has resulted in relative peace and stability since the end of the Cold War.

    This really is the central premise of everything I’ve seen quoted from Rothman, so far. And it is a wildly aggressive position. So far, I’ve yet to see anything from him that actually supports this premise.

  24. My problem with Reason’s foreign policy views is that is dead-set on non-interventionism over liberty. Libertarians should have a liberty first approach to foreign policy, and instead Reason is keyed in on non-interventionism as if that is the reason for all the ills in the world (very ignorant view of history if true). Liberty requires physical protection at all times and in the anarchic nation-state world we live in that means free countries like the United States helping out where it can or at the very least where United States’ or its citizens’ own liberty interests lie.

    The United States of America, itself, probably wouldn’t exist but for certain European powers helping it out with either fighting the British or supplying trainers to teach Americans how to kill the British. Let’s appreciate that and respect this historical fact.

    And do nothing is equally as problematic as doing something. Both positions have consequences. Look at Cuba for example. Has reason alone toppled the Castro regime. Not yet!

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