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The PJ Tatler

by
Keith Farrell

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March 1, 2014 - 6:42 am

Last week, President Barack Obama issued a warning to the Ukrainian government that the international community would not stand for violence aimed at peaceful protesters, much to the chagrin of many libertarians. As strife in countries such as Ukraine and Venezuela captivates international attention, libertarians are quibbling over just what American policy towards such events should be. Prominent libertarians have condemned President Obama’s remarks and scoffed at any U.S. involvement in either nation. Ron Paul, former Republican presidential candidate and libertarian figurehead, warned that the U.S. should let Ukraine solve its own problems.

Political leaders in both Venezuela and Russia (in regards to Ukraine) have accused the US of meddling and fomenting anti-government dissent. Whether any US covert support is going to the opposition in either case is unknown, though the possibility does exist. What is surprising is how few libertarians feel the US should ever involve itself in situations where liberty is struggling to exist. From Lew Rockwell to the Future of Freedom Foundation, libertarian blogs have rejected US involvement.

It’s understandable for libertarians to be wary of intervention after more than a decade of military adventurism. Military interventions are costly, create collateral damage and blowback, and often leave unstable situations requiring prolonged military presence. Military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, has dragged on for over a decade and cost over $6 trillion. Libertarians are right to reject these kinds of interventions when US security is not being directly threatened. But, the military is not the only way to intervene in or influence foreign affairs. Diplomacy, rhetoric, and even trade limitations can be used to bring pressure to bear on repressive regimes.

When a political opposition emerges, the US can vocally support it, provide it with intelligence and may even work covertly to aid its ends. In 2003, the former Soviet state of Georgia experienced a bloodless revolution which ousted former Communist Party boss Eduard Shevardnadze. The Revolution of Roses, as it is known, was supported by non governmental organizations, civil societies and independent media funded in part by the US.

There are many libertarians who are strict non-interventionists. They maintain the US should mind its business. Is it really none of our business what happens around the world? Thanks to social media and technological advances, the world is more interconnected than ever. Libertarians should especially understand this, being staunch supporters of free trade. Liberty can bring people together or it can be used to maintain isolation. America ought not to aim to be the international equivalent of the angry old man at the end of the street who cries, “Get off my lawn!”

When autocratic regimes deprive people of individual liberty, it should be a concern to free peoples. When the Soviet Union collapsed, 300 million people were suddenly freer. Socialism had oppressed people and destroyed nations under the Soviet flag for most of the 20th century. In Ukraine, over 20 million people were starved to death as a direct result of Soviet policy. It is ironic how many libertarians laud Ronald Reagan yet would have been staunchly opposed to any counter measures against the spread of the Soviet system.

The US should not force nations to bend to its will and should not support unsavory or repressive forces simply because it shares an enemy. We have made such mistakes in the past. Each situation is unique and requires an assessment of potential benefit versus potential blowback. The world is not black and white, and libertarians do themselves a disservice pretending it is.

What if covert operations could have taken out Adolf Hitler prior to his invading Poland? Would libertarians support such an operation, or would it be seen as intervening in another country’s business? What if our intelligence community could provide internet access to protesters in a nation that restricts their access and limits their speech? Would libertarians really say this is an improper use of US power and influence? Is it more libertarian to allow repressive regimes to do as they see fit so long as they keep off our lawns?

When the President says that the United States is opposed to governments who use violence against peaceful protesters, libertarians should applaud. When people stand up against tyranny and say they are tired of starving, of not having medicine, of food shortages, of being denied free speech and access to international markets, Americans should applaud. If possible, we should help.

It is important to remember that if France had held such non-interventionist views, Americans would likely still be bowing to the Queen of England.

In regards to the United States, Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a state to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.” We are now, more so than then, an international leader. If we shirk from the cause of human liberty, who will come to its aid?

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Top Rated Comments   
Obama does not come to the aid of freedom and liberty abroad. He is far too busy crushing it at home. Obama has picked a side and chosen a team.

He did so at the knee of Frank Marshall Davis, in the living room of Bill Ayers and when he nominated Van Jones.

There will be costs. There already are.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (9)
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Be careful with any mention of France's "intervention" on our behalf during our Revolutionary War against Britain.
Britain and France had been consistent enemies for a long long time when the French saw that it was convenient to give us help against our then mutual enemy, Britain.
We, the new Americans, and the French were allies of temporary convenience. Franco-American relations cooled off later on, especially with the august Charles deGaulle having to be contended with. The French are great, universal critics of all things not French, and delight in being impediments at international meetings, beyond that they prefer the coy background, muttering among themselves about everyone else's stupidity.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Franco-American relations cooled off later on,....."

You are absolutely correct, Linus, and it was only twenty years after France became our ally in 1778, that the US and France fought an undeclared naval war from 1798 to 1800. In what was known as the Quasi-War, the fledgling American Navy decisively beat the French Navy.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is also important to remember that the government that made the commitment to support the American Rebellion utterly collapsed about a decade later under the weight of the resulting financial over-extension. If any moral debt remains from that intervention, our nation has repaid it many times over since. As for me, I see little to turn me off from the words of another contemporary of Jefferson's:

"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet on her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit. . . . Her glory is not dominion, but liberty."
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama does not come to the aid of freedom and liberty abroad. He is far too busy crushing it at home. Obama has picked a side and chosen a team.

He did so at the knee of Frank Marshall Davis, in the living room of Bill Ayers and when he nominated Van Jones.

There will be costs. There already are.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yup and the costs will be great. I used to be one of those people who thought "America is so great that nothing ever could really affect us and bring us down."

How wrong and foolish I was. I finally realized when I was about 19-20(29 now) that while America is the greatest nation ever we are not protected by a special bubble that keeps us safe from everything. It's funny too because I thought it would be an outside force that would cause our downfall, I never once guessed it would be by the people we elected to govern us.

Jokes on me.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good article. I often struggle with how I believe the US should conduct itself on the world stage, what I do know however is; this president sucks and has really screwed the pooch on how to handle international incidents at every turn and I never want to see America act like this on the world stage again.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a state to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.” We are now, more so than then, an international leader. If we shirk from the cause of human liberty, who will come to its aid?"

Who will? Love this quote, it says it all.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed. But we must come to the aid of the cause of human liberty wisely, so that our aid is effective and does more good than harm. Sadly, if we ever had really good foreign policy professionals, they are nowhere near the levers of power in this administration.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
It'd be interesting to have Maliki and Karzai right here, right now, on our panel about Americans coming to the aid of others' for the general good of all, ridding the World of Saddam and saving, for a while, the World's oil sources from his predations [invading Kuwait], and his gassing of the Kurds and wanting openly to have nuclear weapons. Observe how our "allies" in this case Muslim "allies", turn on us and become enemies after our temporary usefulness has been "used" up.

At what point do we Americans wise up and rebel against being so used by the likes of Maliki and Karzai?....some allies they are, huh?

We Americans should be very careful about our "interventions" on the behalf of "Freedom lovers everywhere". It has already led to tragic sacrifices of many, many young American lives and uncountable gazillions of U.S.Dollars.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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