Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson Lays Out a Sane, Coherent, Skeptical Foreign Policy

Libertarian candidate wants Congress to declare wars, interventions to have clearly defined goals, and an end to "War on Terror" victory fantasies.


Intervention skeptic
Screenshot/Youtube/Gary Johnson for President 2016

Gary Johnson laid out a very coherent, sensible, and "skeptical" foreign policy in a speech last week at the University of Chicago. In it, the Libertarian presidential candidate presented a worldview that is stark contrast to both "smart power" in the form of non-stop interventionism favored by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or the incoherent thuggery of the pro-torture and "bomb the shit out of ISIS" policies put forth by Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, the speech got very little coverage by the political press, which seems less interested in covering Johnson's actual foreign policy than it is in guffawing over his tough-to-watch "Aleppo" gaffe and other momentary brain farts of questionable significance.

Contrary to the view that libertarian foreign policy tilts toward "isolationism," Johnson invoked Ronald Reagan's maxim of "peace through strength," and noted that he supported military intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11/01. But he expressed dismay that after deposing the Taliban and essentially chasing much of Al Qaeda out of the country, U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan 15 years later.

For these reasons in particular, Johnson as president promised to be "the skeptic in the room" when it comes to "dropping bombs and sending young men and women into harm's way," adding, "I would be the president who would have to be convinced [military intervention] is absolutely necessary to protect the American people or clear U.S. interests."

This alone is a refreshing divergence from the two major party candidates, who never miss an opportunity to make grandiose statements that their particular plan—such as killing ISIS' leaders or bombing their oil reserves—is a fool-proof use of military resources.

Pointing to two instances where U.S. interventions contributed to the deposing of two brutal dictators, but also created power vacuums which left each country far worse off, Johnson said:

As for Iraq itself, well, it is obviously a tragic mess. Saddam was horrible, but is what we replaced him with any better?

Libya. Same song, different verse. We used our military to help overthrow Qaddafi. Again, a bad guy and, by most standards, a war criminal. But what took his place? Did we have a plan? Did we consider the potential consequences, with which we are living today?

I could go on, but the lesson is clear. Is it our fault that chaos has consumed nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, or that violent extremists have found homes in the wake of our interventions? No. It isn't our fault alone. We had good intentions, but we intervened with no clear vision of the outcomes, and frankly, with no clear vision as to the overall U.S. interest, which should be the guiding principle.

Unlike Donald Trump, who said he would only defend NATO allies if they contributed enough financially to the alliance, Johnson promised to "honor our commitments," but also noted, "other countries around the world have grown too dependent upon U.S. military power":

The U.S. military exists, first and foremost, to defend the United States and U.S. vital interests. If our actions sometimes help others, that is a useful byproduct. But it shouldn't be confused with the U.S. military's—and the U.S. government's—core mission. Instead, we should expect other countries to defend themselves and their interests. If they did so, they would have greater capabilities for dealing with local problems before they become global ones. We should want more countries who share our values to be acting to defend those values, not paying us to do it for them.

Today, U.S. military spending accounts for roughly one-third of total military spending of the entire world, exceeding the combined total of the next seven largest military budgets including those of Russia and China. Here at home, military spending accounts for almost half of all discretionary federal spending.

U.S. taxpayers are picking up the tab for far too many others around the world, and we simply cannot afford it.

Perhaps most significantly, Johnson has taken the radical view that Congress should do its constitutional duty and be the governmental entity that actually declares wars:

As for authorization, whatever happened to the constitutional notion that Congress should declare wars? The interventions that have cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars over the past fifteen years have been conducted on the basis of authorizations passed by Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. Congress has since allowed the president to conduct "executive wars" while avoiding their responsibility to place a check—or an approval—on those wars. Yes, they have continued to fund them, but as far as casting the tough votes to drop bombs or deploy our young men and women, Congress has been AWOL.

We need to honor the War Powers Act and force both Congress and the president to only engage in war with a clear authorization from both the Executive and Legislative Branches. As president, I will honor the War Powers Act, without hiding behind dubious legal opinions from my own lawyers.

Johnson concluded with a call to end the "naive and misleading" fantasy that there will ever be a "V-I Day" to celebrate a decisive military victory over ISIS or any other iteration of the "Global War on Terror." His plan for battling Islamic extremism focuses on "isolating" and "containing them," by "starving them of the funds and support they must have to mount large-scale attacks," rather than "dropping bombs" or putting "tens of thousands of boots on the ground."

Johnson concluded his speech by offering this sober assessment of American military power:

We may never know if and when we have won a "War on Terror." It simply isn't that kind of threat, and we need to deal with that reality. And we certainly won't win that war with a foreign policy that continues to contribute to chaos and vacuums of power across the globe.

Read the full text of Johnson's foreign policy speech here and watch video of the speech plus a Q&A with students below:

NEXT: John McCain's No Vulgar Boor, But Trump Is Right to Say He's a Hypocrite (UPDATE: Former FEMA Director Michael Brown Accuses McCain of 'Vulgar Boorish A-hole Treatment of Staff')

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  1. That’s crazy talk

    1. Had I been here at 4:20, I would have said that first!

      1. Priorities

        1. Yep and I didn’t even have proper 4:20 materials here.

          1. Could’ve stopped by

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  2. Johnson concluded with a call to end the “naive and misleading” fantasy that there will ever be a “V-I Day” to celebrate a decisive military victory over ISIS or any other iteration of the “Global War on Terror.”

    Will a Johnson Administration at least promise me a mission accomplished banner?


    1. Pot-snorting surrender hippie!

      1. That motherfucker takes pot!

        1. If we aren’t attacking anybody who even looks at us sideways then we might as well be pacificists watching our wife get raped and murdered!

          1. Thankfully God is making sure we all don’t run around raping and killing whoever we choose. Too bad it won’t stop all those other people.

        2. Most everyone I k ow personally who has expressed an opinion on Johnson regards him as a joke candidate because of his admitted usage of potand being in a cannibis business. Being for legalization is one thing, but how many net vites are you losing because Johnson is an admitted user?

          Maybe that us somethong you don’t want a xandidate to emphathise in th he future?

          1. This is the glass-house election. Gary Johnson is a joke candidate in an election dominated by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

            I realize that one should aspire to being unimpeachable even in less shitty electoral circumstances, but if Gary Johnson’s the joke, I’m not sure the person laughing is paying attention to anyone else.

  4. Clearly defined goals are a tool of white patriarchal heteronormative oppression. Also, NOT FAIR!

  5. RE: Gary Johnson Lays Out a Sane, Coherent, Skeptical Foreign Policy
    Libertarian candidate wants Congress to declare wars, interventions to have clearly defined goals, and an end to “War on Terror” victory fantasies.

    These are logical and sane policies…and reasons why he won’t become president.

    1. Sane, Coherent and Skeptical is no way to go through American politics.

  6. Trump is offering up the GOP to the Democrats to further justify the ire of establishment Republicans, and his backers are more than ready to see it burnt down. Either they don’t think past November and don’t care how much damage unilateral Democratic power projection will cause, or like Trump they’re closer allies with progressives than they are conservatives. I hope they get what they want: Trump loses calamitously and takes Congress with him. Not only is nobody obligated to defend the chump, nobody remains in the governing right to take redirected blame for his crushing defeat. And the Dems go on to own the routine recession, fallout from the ACA, sliding jobs numbers, fiscal insolvency, bitter internecine battles over identity politics, Hillary’s countless lies and scandals, and a resurgent right wing, however it’s formed. And I hope it’s nothing but Trump clones promising more discord.

    1. The hole in your scenario is that it’s always the fault of the Republicans. Like the PP/ACA. It’s the fault of Heritage Foundation, Mitt Romney and obstructionist Republicans.

  7. I am interested how a non-interventionist foreign policy manages to starve terrorist groups of funding, especially when they are funded by foreign powers.

    1. In Aghanistan, the contractors supplying U.S. troops used to (and probably still do) pay protection money to the Taliban in order to ensure safe passage. It was a major source of income for the Taliban back when I was paying attention to that sort of thing.

      Similarly, a significant portion of the money and weapons the U.S. ships to non-Isis rebels in Syria is ending up in Isis’ hands.

      So ending involvement in those two locations would deprive those groups of money and support. Now if they then get funding from other powers, and continue to attack the U.S. that is a nut that can be cracked separately. But the U.S. government’s desperate attempts to look like it is in control and not flailing incoherently in those two theaters is resulting in U.S. taxpayers indirectly funding them.

    2. It would sure drop their recruiting propaganda in the bucket.

    3. I am interested how a non-interventionist foreign policy manages to starve terrorist groups of funding, especially when they are funded by foreign powers.

      “We’re non-interventionists, not pacifists. What that means, Abdul, is that we won’t mess around with your idiot funding of these nutters, as long as they leave us alone. Next time one of your nutters kills an American, though, we stop being non-interventionist, see? And we won’t waste our time dropping half million dollar smart bombs on nickel-and-dime goatfuckers, either. We’ll be coming after you, with an intervention hardon that would make a camel beg for mercy.”

      And, when the inevitable happens and a nutter kills an American, you take a look at your options, and go after their funders. Could probably do a shitload of financial damage to them without waking up a single Marine.

      1. That is fine. I think most of the writers here would go apeshit if such a policy were actually implemented, because they seems more committed to being anti-war than effective policy.

  8. Libya. Same song, different verse.

    You can’t ride in my little red wagon!

  9. If he actually got mainstream press coverage, the headline would be “Guy who doesn’t even know where Aleppo is tries to talk about foreign policy”.

  10. Hate on Gay Jay all you want, but I’d be curious to see the results of those two polls he coined in his very last sentence of the Q&A session.

  11. How do I go about buying Gary a teleprompter, a pop filter, and something a little better than an SM58?

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  13. That would have been a nice speech for August 7, not October 7. He did not run a coherent campaign. His obsession with the Debates was a one-dimensional strategy. There was no strategy. It would be good if he could hit 5%, but now it looks like he will not do that. Was he nominated because people thought he was “electable”? I wonder if that’s really the best criteria. If we are trying to get a message out to the country, we need a messenger. I don’t know what Gary is doing. Just Gary being Gary.

  14. I’m thinking that Gary Johnson will get some SERIOUS consideration from conservatives if ran as a republican in 2020. He’ll probably set new record for GOP support for a third party candidate this year.

    The LP can’t do anything for him. He’ll never appear in debates, air tv ads, or find venues that can fill thousands. Could he have served as governor of NM if he ran as a libertarian candidate?

    He’ll be nearing or past his 70’s come 2020. The GOP is NOT going to die, especially since voters have short memories and they don’t like Clinton. But it can be remade.

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