Donald Trump

Is Trump Winning the Middle East or Doubling Down on Previous Failures?

The Cato Institute's Christopher A. Preble lays out a uniquely libertarian approach to Iran, Iraq, and elsewhere.


Last week, the United States military took out Iran's top military leader, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran has responded by raining down missiles on two American bases in Iraq (no casualties were reported) and with promises to do much, much more. "We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani's path as firmly as before with help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to get rid of America from the region," vowed Esmail Ghaani, who now leads Iran's military.

Are we going to war with Iran? Is the flare-up a sign that President Donald Trump, who as a candidate said previous administrations "got us" into Iraq "by lying," charting a bold, new course in the Middle East or following the failed footsteps of Barack Obama and George W. Bush?

To answer these questions—and define what a uniquely libertarian foreign policy should look like—Nick Gillespie talks with Christopher A. Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. From 1990 to 1993, Preble served as an officer in the U.S. Navy on the USS Ticonderoga and he holds a Ph.D. in history from Temple University. He's the co-author of Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America's Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover) and the author Peace, War, and Liberty: Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy.

Preble says that two decades of failed wars pushed by Republican and Democratic presidents in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen have rightly made Americans, especially younger people, skeptical of the use of force abroad to secure the safety and interests of the United States. Increasingly, people want a foreign policy that is "skeptical of the bipartisan consensus" and predicated upon "peaceful global engagement through which [the United States] trades with the rest of the world, engages diplomatically with the rest of the world, and uses our cultural influence in a positive way." Preble also ranks the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in terms of foreign policy, evaluates the foreign policy legacies of Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and praises recent revelations about internal military dissent over the war in Afghanistan.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.