promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

Posts Tagged ‘nonintervention’

What ever happened to the anti-war left?

In foreign policy, protest, war and peace on March 31, 2010 at 1:45 am
 
 
When President George W. Bush spoke of spreading democracy to other nations during his second inaugural speech, liberals cringed. In 2005, many on the left realized what most on the right did not — that such rhetoric was nothing more than a thinly veiled declaration of an aggressive foreign policy. But that was 2005.
 
How I long for the liberals of those days: anti-war, noninterventionists, skeptical of their government.
 
Sadly, as libertarian author and editor Lawrence Samuels points out, most former anti-war liberals have abandoned their posts.
 
It was not long ago when almost every progressive leader and newspaper voiced harsh words for Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Samuels said. Now that Obama is in charge, that anti-war sentiment is changing. It appears that it is okay for a Democrat administration to engage in war, but not a Republican one.
 
Are libertarians the only consistent voice of anti-war opposition? What ever happened to the angry protesters, celebrities, and progressive media railing against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars? Perhaps their moral convictions changed with the new administration.
 
 

Ron Paul: The anti-war left has just left (5:37).

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Understanding libertarianism part I

In liberty and rights, politics on October 19, 2009 at 4:45 am

Before we can debate, we must first know what we are talking about. In an age of disinformation where anyone can become a news source via the Internet, its more important than ever to research before we regurgitate.

Point in case, the word libertarian.

In my recent post, I attempted to point out the contradiction and deceitfulness of conservative, pro-war radio personalities such as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity declaring themselves libertarians.

However, some of the post’s commenters argued that libertarianism and an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy can coexist — claiming there is a distinct difference between uppercase Libertarians and lowercase libertarians.

The difference between uppercase and lowercase libertarians is this: one is a proper noun and the other is not.

Libertarians with an uppercase L refers to members of the Libertarian Party. Lower case libertarians adhere to basic libertarian philosophy. Although I am not a member of the Libertarian Party and do not describe myself as a libertarian, my political philosophy would undoubtedly be categorized as libertarian by others.

So then, we must understand what basic libertarian philosophy is. To do this, it is important to understand the history of libertarianism.

Unlike the Libertarian Partys Web site which starts its history in 1971 when the party was founded, libertarianism goes back much further. Today’s libertarianism has its roots in classical liberalism and the enlightenment ideals of early America. Namely, individual liberty and limited government.

However, modern libertarianism began in the 20th century with the formation of the Old Right. The Old Right arose from Republicans and even progressives who were in opposition to FDRs and the Democrats New Deal. 

Former dean of the Austrian School of economics and founder of libertarianism, Murray in Rothbard, describes the Old Right in his article The Life and Death of the Old Right:

The Old Right was firmly opposed to conscription as well as war or foreign aid, favored free markets and the gold standard, and upheld the rights of private property as opposed to any sort of invasion, including coerced integration. The Old Right was socially conservative, middle class, welcoming people who worked for a living or met a payroll, and was the salt of the earth. [They were] opposing statism at home and war and intervention abroad.

However, the 1950s and its red fever saw the demise of the Old Right and its noninterventionist ideals. The New Right, as described by Rothbard, was determined to crush isolationism, and to remold the right-wing into a crusade to crush Communism all over the world, and particularly in the Soviet Union.

Understanding libertarianism part II

In liberty and rights, politics on October 19, 2009 at 4:26 am

Fast forward to the 1960s where the beginnings of what is now the modern conservative movement were taking hold. Conservative founding fathers such as William F. Buckley Jr. and Barry Goldwater were preaching a more aggressive foreign policy.

The ideological split today between conservatives and libertarians can be illustrated by the split between conservative and libertarian youth at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention in St. Louis.

Nick Gillespie, senior editor of the popular libertarian magazine REASON, describes the events and underlying ideological differences leading to the split in his article The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics:

By the late ’60s, the ideological divisions in YAF between conservatives — who, heavily influenced by people such as Buckley in-law and Goldwater speechwriter, L. Brent Bozell, saw the state as a means to achieve a return to a “traditional” society — and libertarians — who championed individual liberty above all else — could no longer be masked over by an overriding commitment to anti-communism. The Vietnam War — or, more precisely, the draft — effectively split the organization. Conservatives felt the Cold War legitimized conscription; libertarians saw the draft as slavery.

Gillespies last line, libertarians saw the draft as slavery, is key to understanding the libertarian view on war and force.

Libertarians subscribe to a non-interventionist foreign policy. Why? Because libertarians do not believe in force and coercion unless they are in defense of an individuals liberty. The only time libertarians believe government, a surrogate power, has the right to use force is when infringement on an individuals liberty has occurred. Thus the government is only doing what the individual already has a right to do herself, and nothing more. 

If one expands the libertarians view on individual sovereignty to the world abroad, it becomes clear that a noninterventionist foreign policy is the only logical conclusion for the libertarian. For how can one nations government, the surrogate power of that nations peoples, force itself on the government and peoples of a foreign land?

Not only does a libertarian consider foreign intervention unconstitutional, he considers it outside the rightful jurisdiction of the American government. For the American government represents the American people and the American people alone. Only the America people are subject to its force.

However, the libertarian does allow for self defense, as it is the inherent right of the individual. Once an infringement on an individuals liberty has occurred, the individual then has the right to defend himself. In the same manner, the American government, acting in place of individual Americans, has the right to defend the nation.

Harry Brown, former Libertarian Party presidential candidate and libertarian philosopher, discussed libertarian foreign policy in his May 2003 article, Libertarians and War. Brown was surprised to see some self-described libertarians supporting the Iraq War, either arguing that A) Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat that demanded preemptive action, or B) the Iraqi people deserved to be liberated from such a dictator.

Brown concludes:

Government is force, and libertarians distrust force. On every count of libertarian principles, we should demand that the use of force against foreign countries be reserved for response to direct attacks — not to be used for “regime change,” not for “democracy-building,” not for pre-emptive attacks, not for demonstrations of strength.

It is possible to be a libertarian and believe in preemptive war and interventionism. But it is not libertarian to believe so. 

For further reading and understanding of libertarianism, check out REASON TV, Lew Rockwell and The Cato Institute.