I have always had a certain sympathy for libertarianism and it has only grown during the Obama administration. Who could believe in big government living under the fiasco of this man’s presidency?
And I am certainly not alone. Libertarianism, if we are to believe none other than The New York Times, has become quite chic.
But paradoxically, during this same time frame, it has become perhaps even more evident that one of the apparent tenets of libertarianism — a kind of neo-isolationism — is, well, to put it bluntly, insane. In the era of the Islamic State (not to mention a dozen other similar murderous, increasingly global organizations we could name or are being invented as I write), anyone who believes we can roll up the gangplanks to create the perfect libertarian state and everything will be just ducky is living in dreamland.
But a fair number of libertarians are. As an example, one of the leading spokesmen for the movement (I’ll be gracious by not naming him, because he’s probably embarrassed at this point) was quoted as likening the problem of Islamic terrorism to herpes — I guess he meant an annoyance you can live with if you find the right partner (who doesn’t behead you).
Do those same isolationist libertarians think that one Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, current leader of the Islamic State, was kidding when he said “See you in New York” when let out of detention camp in Iraq in 2009? If not, what do they propose to do about it? Wait until he is in New York? Maybe Eric Holder will arrest him. Or maybe he’ll blow up the Stock Exchange and sink the free market. Or one of his now thousands of minions will. Do you want to sit back to wait to find out? And what about all the unknown unknowns lurking out there?
Some of this non-interventionism is based on the theory that if we reach some kind of domestic perfection, others will try to emulate us. That may have occurred in the past in some instances and still might. But the truth is our adversaries couldn’t be less interested in our internal politics. Do you think the Ayatollah Khamenei cares about the size of our social safety net, that if we shrink it proportionally and erase our national debt, he will stop leading the masses in chants of “Death to America?”
Ironically, this roll-up-the-gangplanks approach was tried before — by Joseph Stalin. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, as many will recall, based his argument with Leon Trotsky on Stalin’s preference for socialism-in-one-country as opposed to Trotsky’s continuous global revolution. A perfected Soviet Union would be an example to the world. We all know how that turned out.
Okay, it’s unfair to compare libertarians to Stalinists, very unfair, but it’s not unfair to take a serious look at the danger of adherence to extremely orthodox ideology in extremely dangerous times.
In other words, it’s time for libertarians to put on their big boy pants and give some serious thought not just to national defense but to global defense, because I have some news for them: The Pax Americana was the real deal. It worked for decades, saving myriad lives, and now it’s almost gone. We have seen that writ large for us in the last few years as never before. Obama’s non-existent, feckless, reactionary, confused, absurd (or whatever other adjective you want to pick) “leading from behind” foreign policy has brought the world to the brink of madness as nothing since WWII.
These days the man carrying the libertarian mantle most prominently — Senator Rand Paul — is off curing Guatemalans of eye disease. Laudable an enterprise as that is, I am less interested in what Paul can do for a few indigent Guatemalans as I am how he would respond to that other ophthalmologist/politician Bashir Assad. And not just Assad, of course, all of them.
It’s not enough to say we would respond as necessary. We live in a peanut-sized globe. What happens in Singapore redounds in San Diego and so forth. Paul has been a captivating candidate so far with some original ideas and approaches, but given the way the world is headed he is going to have to pull on his big boy pants and start articulating how he will deal with this escalating era of jihad.
And as for those libertarians who still prefer an isolationist approach, I can first remind them of Reagan’s advice about the necessity of a strong defense in order to have peace. If they don’t believe that, then I can promise them they will meet head on the famous prophecy of that same Comrade Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”