David Beaver, 11/05/2016
During the 2016 Presidential Election, I read an article that seemed to suggest that many of Gary Johnson’s supporters are unaware of his policies other than his stance on legalizing marijuana. Well, it turns out this libertarian is. It would take the writing of a full-length novel to truly cover all of his policies as well as the reasons not to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. For the purpose of this article, I’ll focus on the policy of non-interventionism as a foreign policy. This is a concept not shared by the other two candidates.
In simplest terms, non-interventionism is America tending to its own affairs and living in peace with their neighbors rather than trying to be the policemen of the world. It is best defined by Thomas Jefferson who said, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations entangling alliances with none.”
It Prevents Blowback
Blowback is a term that has historically been used by the CIA to describe the unintended consequences of various covert operations. The term has also expanded to describe the unintended consequences of foreign policy as a whole, especially as it relates to our covert and military operations.
One example of the surprises produced by blowback came to us via the Reagan Doctrine, which sought to stamp out the evils of communism throughout the world. In the name of this well-intended idea, as well as to help bring about the demise of the Soviet Empire, the United States supplied weapons to anti-communist Islamic groups in Afghanistan during the Soviet Invasion of the country. Collectively known as the Mujahideen, these resistance groups eventually splintered into various factions. This would eventually lead to the rise of Al-Queda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, leading to many unpleasant surprises for the U.S in the years to follow.
An example of the blowback of our militarized foreign policy would also include the war in Iraq under the administration of George W. Bush. After winning this war we saw an Iraq that was fractured politically and religiously, leaving a void for ISIS to emerge.
Finally, we get one more example with Syrian Civil War, this one under the administration of Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, noted by some to the “most hawkish” member of his cabinet at the time. During the civil war, the U.S cooperated with Saudi Arabia to provide arms for the Syrian Free Army and groups moving for the overthrow of Assad. Later on, these same groups were found to be associated with ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups.
It turns out, however, that this isn’t just an American problem but a global one. Just ask the Israelis whose government, through their efforts to weaken the Palestinian Liberation Organization helped create one of their bitterest of foes, the terrorist group Hamas.
History both American and abroad is full of examples just like this. Examples where we seek to impose our will on the world, often with the best of intentions, yet time and time again we intervene only to make things better they end up worse. We toppled Saddam Hussein and traded him for ISIS. We seek to overthrow Assad and we might be supporting ISIS. We helped overthrow the tyrant Mubarak and aided the Arab Spring; now we have The Muslim Brotherhood.
It leads one to believe that this policy is clearly not working. Much like a hornet’s nest, the more we poke the more we feel its sting. When it comes to ideas and policies I tend to ignore the politics of it in favor of examining the results. Speaking as a former GOP hawk myself I can honestly say that history has shown time and time again that our interventions, military and covert, just aren’t working. Not only are they not working, but they’re making the world I live in a more dangerous place.
We Don’t Have the Money
It’s no secret that the national debt is still on the rise. Some of us are still old enough to remember when $6 trillion seemed like a lot. Now we are up to $20 trillion and the numbers are still rising. During his 2012 campaign, Gary Johnson cited the debt as one of the greatest threats to our country as a whole. So what does military policy have to do with this? Everything actually. While you’ll hear a lot of conservatives paying lip service to small government and spending cuts, you’ll never hear these same pundits, or anyone for that matter, advocate cuts in military spending.
Yet our military spending is over half of the overall U.S budget and we outspend most of the world on military expenditures. 800 of our bases are operated overseas, begging the question of why we need to subsidize the defense of Germany, Japan, and a number of other nations we essentially have on a military form of welfare. Is it worth the cost? The only thing that could justify the cost (other than the joy of sightseeing around the world for our military personnel) is an interventionist foreign policy that requires us to defend some of the people of the world while attacking others.
The simple fact is, however, we can’t afford it.
Lest Innocent Blood be Spilled
In Iraq alone thousands of civilian deaths have been the result of our military operations in the country. In just the year 2006 we saw civilian casualties of over 29,000. Each year from 2003 up until 2009 saw the numbers in the tens of thousands. Even today the casualties still remain in the thousands figure. This is one country and one conflict. Add to this the deaths of our men and servicewomen, and you have to ask at some point: is this worth it?
The return argument is often that there are always casualties in war, innocent bystanders that suffer as the result of a necessary action. This is true. But because it’s true we should exhaust every other option before going to war. Most of all, however, if we have to go to war we should have a discussion as a nation about it. This is precisely why the constitution requires a declaration from congress, a provision not followed in years, despite its reassertion in the War Powers Act.
I Am a Man of Peace
At the end of the day, I support non-interventionism because I’m a man of peace. I don’t want bloodshed performed in my name through my elected representatives unless it’s absolutely paramount to the safety of my loved ones and my country. I also don’t feel the need to tell others how to run their lives, much less the people thousands of miles away whom I may never meet how to run their countries.
Johnson, myself, and fellow Libertarians have been called isolationists as a result. What greater symbol of isolationism could be however, than a wall and massive tariffs? But I digress If being a man of peace makes me an isolationist, then so be it.
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