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A Libertarian’s Guide to Foreign Policy

“War, and the threat of war, is big government’s best friend.” – Ron Paul

A quick review of the association between libertarianism and foreign policy in the media shows just how the public, media, and politicians frame this issue.  Last month ran an op-ed about foreign policy with a main thrust of convincing “libertarians to reject their isolationist tendencies.” During the 2016 Republican Primary Donald Trump referred to the libertarian leaning U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) as: “Weak on the military, Israel, the Vets and many other issues.”

Much like other political debates the ability to frame your opponent’s argument without their consent is a key to victory in the battle for the minds of voters concerned with foreign policy.  Generally, it is accepted that Libertarians prefer an isolationist foreign policy because the public has only been informed about the issue by the opponents of Libertarians.

In order to have a conversation about Libertarian foreign policy, we must move beyond the now infamous “What is Allepo?” gaffe, which tainted Gary Johnson’s relatively successful campaign for president.  What is Libertarian foreign policy as it relates to the military?  

The official position of the Libertarian Party regarding the military is that, “[Libertarians] support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world. (Libertarians) oppose any form of compulsory national service.”  

Looking at this platform plank it is easy to see that the Libertarians are not isolationists, pacifists, or even contentious objectors.  The plank clearly indicates support for national defense.  Therefore, Libertarians are simply defense supporters, who want to cease occupations in foreign lands and prevent involuntary servitude in the military.  

The real radicals of the foreign policy debate are Republican and Democrat leaders who have for decades, in concert with private contractors, legally extorted taxpayers using the specter of unending war as a justification for transferring wealth from the private sector into what is the largest military budget in the world.  

Just after 9/11 the new fear of terrorism invoked a military response in Iraq which destabilized the Middle East and eventually resulted in the ISIS threat and Syrian civil war. Today Americans are still fighting the war against terrorism. The Democratic Party is no longer interested in peace.  Libertarians understand that the difference between terrorism and the constant murdering of innocent civilians by U.S. military drones is that the United States has determined when the U.S. military kills innocent civilians in the pursuit of political aims it has done so legally.  

Why would any Libertarian want to support the aggressive pre-emptive war position?  The authoritarian statists of the Republican and Democrat Parties claim that the United States acts as a stabilizing force in the world.  Powerful nations exporting their culture, occupying foreign lands, and imposing a cease to hostilities is nothing new in the history of humanity.  

Like the Greek Empire, Roman Empire, and British Empire the more subtle American Empire imposes its political and economic will with about 800 military bases in more than 70 countries, the sun never sets on the American Empire.  Americans coincidently do not view themselves as imperialists and generally fail to concern themselves with foreign affairs. If saying the United States should not have 800 military bases is being an isolationist then the framing of the foreign policy debate has been based upon insanity or stupidity.

Ron Paul once said: “War, and the threat of war, is big government’s best friend.”  The $20 trillion national debt is the result of decades of excessive spending on the programs proliferating within various agencies, social welfare transfer payments, economy crippling regulations, and the constant need to spend on the military expansion related to wars.  

It is unethical to spend a nation into bankruptcy in an effort to pay for unnecessary military aggression and occupations.  The constant drum beat for war has crippled this America financially and ultimately the insolvency of U.S. sovereign debt will create more instability and suffering than any unprovoked military attacks would have caused.

The recent testing of missiles by the Communist North Korean military is a perfect exhibit for considering the difference between Libertarian foreign policy and the interventionism of others.  
A debate among authoritarian Republicans and Democrats occurred recently on whether or not President Trump will be forced strike North Korea after it demonstrated its ability to launch and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).  

The premise of the authoritarian debate begins with assuming the question to answer is: what will the government need to do to solve this issue?  The Libertarian answer to that question is almost always: nothing.  

Therefore, the foreign policy debacle occurring on the Korean peninsula would most easily be solved if the U.S. informed South Korea that it would be pulling its troops out of the nation and that South Korea would be responsible for its own defense.  Americans do not rely on any occupying forces to provide defense against invasion.  Why would any average American insist that other nations receive our protection if the very notion of a foreign occupying force providing protection to your community seems absurd?

Prohibiting the initiation of force in an effort to advance a political or social agenda is the very principle of liberty which will save the United States from future foreign policy blunder.

Anson Knowles is the host of the Alabama-based radio program The Anson Knowles Show Live, Local, Liberty Oriented Talk on 92.5FM/770AM WVNN and

Anson Knowles is a radio show host and libertarian political activist from Huntsville, Alabama. He was a 2014 candidate for the Huntsville, Alabama school board and served formerly as the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Madison County, Alabama. His writing has appeared also on, and his radio program takes place each Saturday morning.

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