In an article at PJMedia.com, writer Keith Farrell suggests that libertarians should support foreign interventionism and specifically takes The Future of Freedom Foundation and LewRockwell.com to task for opposing foreign interventionism. Acknowledging that some U.S. interventions have proven to be absolute disasters, Farrell feels that libertarians should nonetheless be supporting U.S. foreign interventionism in selected cases.
Farrell is wrong. Not only is foreign interventionism contrary to libertarian principles, it inevitably produces destructive results for both the targeted nation and for the American people.
We begin with a mistake Farrell makes that is common to those who advocate foreign interventionism — his conflation of the private sector of American people and the U.S. government. Actually, they are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon best evidenced by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the American people from the federal government.
I think it’s great that Farrell feels a moral duty to help people suffering tyranny and oppression overseas. He raises Venezuela as an example.
But one great big glaring question immediately arises: What is Farrell doing here at home? Why isn’t he instead in Venezuela, standing with the protestors and fighting for change, rather than sitting here in the United States talking about how concerned he is about the people of Venezuela? The same applies, of course, to Ukraine, another area that Farrell is concerned about.
Farrell is a young man. He appears healthy enough. Nothing prevents him from boarding a plane and flying off to Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Vietnam, or anywhere else people are suffering oppression, starvation, or tyranny.
Individual responsibility is partly what libertarianism is all about. Libertarianism doesn’t prevent people from expressing concern for the plight of others. It also doesn’t prevent people from standing for their beliefs. But it holds that people must take individual responsibility for their beliefs.
Instead of taking personal responsibility for his beliefs, Farrell wants to delegate the task to the federal government. He wants the government to help the Venezuelan people, perhaps with troops, bombs, missiles, and bullets or maybe with just cash that the IRS has forcibly extracted from the pockets of the American people or maybe by simply supporting a violent and vicious coup in the country, as the U.S. government has done in such countries as Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Egypt, and others.
In addition to traveling overseas to help foreigners, is there anything else private Americans can do? Sure, they can also send money, food, equipment, or other items to foreigners — that is, assuming that it’s not illegal under U.S. law to do so, as it has been with sending money to victims of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iraq, and Iran.
But there is another libertarian principle involved here, one that Farrell, interestingly enough, doesn’t even mention: Open borders, which sends the following message to victims of foreign oppression, starvation, or tyranny: “We will not send our government into your land with troops, missiles, bombs, and bullets but be aware that if things get to such a point that you wish to escape your plight, you can be assured that there is one country — the United States of America — that you can come to whose government will not deny you admission and which will not forcibly repatriate you to your homeland.”
Given Farrell’s concern for foreigners, surely he doesn’t take the same position as conservatives: “We love you foreigners enough to send you money and weaponry but don’t even think of coming here to live. We don’t love you that much!”
One of the best ways to help others around the world to achieve a free and prosperous society is by bringing such a society to our country, to serve as a model for the world, except that there is one great big problem: The warfare state that exists to police the world provides an insurmountable obstacle to achieving the free and prosperous society here at home.
And this brings us to a major point: that the governmental instruments to fix tyranny abroad are also the instruments of tyranny here at home.
That’s the point that Farrell seemingly fails to recognize: that the U.S. national-security state that was brought into existence to oppose communism and the Soviet Union have ended up costing Americans their freedom and prosperity.
That’s because such Cold War apparatuses as an enormous standing army, an overseas military empire, a vast military-industrial complex, CIA, and NSA are characteristic of totalitarian regimes and antithetical to the principles of a free society.
The national-security state that is tasked with policing the world is why we now live under a government that wields the omnipotent power to round up Americans, incarcerate them indefinitely in military dungeons and concentration camps, and torture them. That’s what the Jose Padilla case confirmed. It’s also why we live under a government with the omnipotent power to secretly spy on us, record our telephone calls, read our emails, and monitor our Internet visits. That’s what Edward Snowden revealed to us.
That’s as far from a free society as a citizenry can get. That’s what goes on in totalitarian regimes. That’s what the national-security state has done to America.
Even worse, they have succeeded in convincing all too many Americans that it’s “freedom” when the U.S. government does these things and that it’s only tyranny when foreign regimes do them. The plight of many Americans is summed up in the immortal words of Johann Goethe: “None are more hopeless enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
I would also be remiss if I failed to point out the dark side that the national-security state has led America — toward such evil and immoral practices as assassination, torture, and support of brutal and vicious totalitarian regimes. Who would have ever thought that the United States would be debating — much less embracing — such evil and immorality? But that’s the inevitable result of a government tasked with the mission and the power to police and rule the world.
Farrell suggests that it wouldn’t have been a bad thing if the U.S. government had assassinated Adolf Hitler before he invaded Poland. But pray tell: Once such an assassination program is put into place, how does the government decide which foreign rulers are going to do bad things and which ones are not? Is there a secret trial? Who gets to make the final decision as to who is on the kill list? Do the targeted victims get to make their case? Does the government enlist psychics and fortune tellers in the process? Equally important, do all other regimes all over the world get to wield the same power?
I wonder if Farrell is familiar with Operation Condor, the official assassination program run during the 1970s and 1980s by brutal right-wing Latin American military dictatorships, in partnership with the CIA. One of the Condor assassination victims was former Chilean official Orlando Letelier, who Condor agents assassinated on the streets of Washington, D.C., along with his young American assistant Ronni Moffitt. Would Farrell defend Letelier’s assassination, given that he potentially could have become another communist president of Chile who could have led an army in the communist conquest of the United States? Would Farrell justify defend the assassination of Ronni Moffitt as unfortunate “collateral damage” in the “war on communism”?
Oh, and while we are on the subject of Hitler, let’s not forget that it was U.S. interventionism in World War I that brought about the conditions that gave rise to Hitler. Alas, interventionists don’t like to take personal responsibility for that catastrophe any more than they like to take personal responsibility for the devastation they have wreaked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Guatemala, Egypt, Chile, and so many other parts of the world with their “well-intended” interventionism.
Finally, let’s not forget the economic consequences of foreign interventionism. The warfare state, in tandem with the welfare state, is bankrupting our nation. The out-of-control welfare-warfare state spending is leading to ever-increasing debt, with inflation right around the corner. Surely Farrell understands that foreign empire and interventionism are not cheap.
It’s time to toss empire and interventionism into the dustbin of history, once and for all. They have brought nothing but death, destruction, anger, hatred, resentment, and animosity abroad and a loss of liberty, privacy, and prosperity here at home. It’s time to lead the world out of the statist morass in which it is mired. Who better to do that than the American people? Who better to lead the way than libertarians? But we’ll succeed only by hewing to our principles, not abandoning them.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Reprinted with author's permission.