Embrace libertarian foreign policy


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If there were more libertarian influence in U.S. foreign policy, we would have been out of this war much sooner.

Constitutional use of the military, an end to welfare for foreign nations, and a pursuit of peace and commerce — that's the libertarian foreign policy platform in a nutshell.

The libertarian movement is one criticized as being soft on defense and global justice. Its resurgence in the 2012 presidential race is getting another swift beating by military-industrial hardliners. Candidates such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson subscribe to this philosophy, asserting that it's the creed that our Founding Fathers stood by. Is this true, and would it make America more secure?

Take George Washington's farewell address for example. In it, he demands that the leaders who follow him adhere to "history and experience," which "prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government." He also stated, "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world."

OK, but that's only one man. So then take Thomas Jefferson. He said in his 1801 inaugural address that we should have "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

There's also James Madison, who penned in 1795, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare," and John Quincy Adams, who, though not a Founding Father, said in 1821 that America is known not by its military prowess but its love for liberty.

I could find quotes for any of the early leaders if I wanted to. It's beyond clear that they had crafted the correct system — through extensive knowledge of the history of governmental structures — that would live on for many years.

Many will dismiss these great minds for being outdated. We can't possibly follow this thinking in the interconnected world we live, right? If we accept this argument, what other principles from that period should we abandon? Should we give up our rights to free speech or due process because times have changed? What of the rest of the Bill of Rights?

Paul said it best at his Ames Straw Poll speech in August: "If we got into this trouble by a lack of loyalty to our rule of law and our Constitution … all we have to do is restore the belief in freedom, restore the belief of what made America great, [and] restore our conviction that the Constitution works." He was preaching the same thing last weekend here in Iowa City.

It's hypocritical to dismiss certain founding principles simply because there needs to be a convenient solution to a political predicament. The values preserved in the Constitution should be just that: preserved. If anything, today's complex global structure cries out for the morality provided by a noninterventionist foreign policy.

See what I did there? The word to be used is "noninterventionist," not "isolationist," because it's definitely not the latter. Noninterventionism opens the gates to honest friendship with allies and free trade with all, while isolationism would deter those options. If we are attacked, Congress can declare war and defend us. There is no question that the libertarian notion of noninterventionism can keep us safe.

It's the solution to our problem in the Middle East. Believe it or not, many libertarian thinkers — such as Ron Paul — supported retaliation against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks. In a previous column, I explained Jefferson's war against the Barbary pirates. It was the 1800s equivalent of modern-day terrorism, and it shows that it's Constitutional to target individuals after they've committed a crime. What is not Constitutional is to waltz into any nation for whatever reason we come up with.

Noninterventionism and other aspects of libertarian foreign policy could bring about a new era in America's standing throughout the world. We're on the right track by leaving Iraq. When we bring home the rest, we will save lives, our principles, and a plethora of taxpayer dollars. This philosophy should not be dismissed.

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