There is a disturbing trend in some libertarian circles and among some libertarian organizations to be increasingly enamored with foreign interventionism and US government backed regime change overseas. For those focused on foreign affairs, this is particularly troubling as it is abandoning a key tenet of libertarianism: non-interventionism.
Not “your government 6,000 miles away must be changed… but I don’t support the US military doing it.” That is not non-interventionism.
Non-interventionism is accepting that others may wish to live in a way you may not approve of.
Non-interventionism in your neighbor’s affairs – whether he enjoys reading the Bible or lighting up a marijuana cigarette (or maybe both) – is really the sine qua non of the libertarian mindset: “aint nobody’s business if you do.” You do not aggress against your neighbor just because you disagree with his life choices that do not infringe on your person or property and you extrapolate that dynamic to where you demand that to the highest extent possible your local, state, and federal governments treat you as you would treat your neighbor.
The idea that this critical impulse somehow becomes null and void when it comes to international affairs is truly bizarre. In fact many self-described libertarians full-throatedly cheer when people are in the streets thousands of miles away trying to overthrow their governments. Somehow from this far distant vantage point they are just convinced that the mythical “free state” is about to break out somewhere.
And when someone points out that the semi-hidden hand behind these uprisings is the US government, which seeks to create overseas governments of subservient elites to prop up the (anti-libertarian) US empire, they accuse that person of being an extremist or a conspiracy theorist…or they get really lazy and stupid and just claim you are a “supporter” of the dictator of the day.
So, many US libertarians (who knew next to nothing about Venezuela) demanded our support for that great “libertarian” liberator of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, who turned out to be just another crook with zero support from Venezuelans (but a lot of support from the CIA!).
They ignored the murky ties of Guaido and his compadres to the US government and its nearly 20 year effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government.
In fact even Washington DC’s flagship “libertarian” think tank, the Koch-funded CATO Institute, is hosting “regime change” conferences aimed at the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. Just this week, for example, they hosted a “What’s Next for Venezuela?” conference where, sadly, the conclusion was not that we end sanctions and engage the country with trade and friendship – the libertarian approach – but rather it was the authoritarian approach that we must change the Venezuelan government.
As openly advertised, the aim of the CATO conference was to “discuss international efforts that can be made to put pressure on Maduro’s regime.”
Let’s get real: “pressure” = pain for civilians.
In other words, “libertarian” CATO is looking for ways to promote the same regime change that is demanded by the likes of Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, and the rest of the neocons. Funny how that works.
The policy? Squeeze the population, and if a few tens of thousands die because of US sanctions, well, in Madeleine Albright’s words, it’s “worth it” to get regime change.
Among CATO’s speakers were those funded by the US government through its regime change cut-out entities like National Endowment for Democracy and USAID. CATO is giving a libertarian fig-leaf to a thoroughly neoconservative foreign policy.
That Koch’s “libertarian” flagship organization is hosting regime-change conferences on Venezuela while Koch himself is being granted sainthood for funding an anti regime change think tank speaks volumes.
“Libertarian” malpractice in the area of foreign affairs unfortunately does not end there. All non-interventionists with any understanding of the Middle East will cringe – and worse – at an absurd recent article published by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which to be fair often publishes very good material. It’s understandable how sometimes bad articles can fly in under the radar and this is not a condemnation of the organization.
Provocatively titled, “Iran Wants a War; America Should Not Oblige Them*,” the author writes of “a dangerous upsurge in Iranian aggression, designed specifically to elicit a military response from the United States” without once mentioning the precipitating factor: US withdrawal from the JCPOA and a US policy of “maximum pressure” which is in practice an economic blockade – itself a unilateral act of war against Iran!
Translation: I punch you in the face and if you dare punch back you are the guilty party.
The author of this steaming pile of interventionist feces completely ignores the antecedent to recent Iranian actions: US aggression toward Iran – reimposing economic sanctions, demanding that others not trade with Iran so as to suffocate its citizens in the hopes that in their desperation they overthrow their government.
Instead, the Iranians just woke up one morning and decided to draw the United States into war!
In fact, in the author’s telling, it’s actually Washington that is the victim of those pesky Ayatollas: “Indeed, the Ayatollah is running a risky gambit, and that’s exactly why America must resist the temptation to respond in kind.”
No, Bolton and Bibi have done nothing! It’s the Iranians who out of the blue “desperately want to goad the United States into a fight, which is one reason too many not to oblige them.”
This is a loaded gun dressed up as an olive branch.
The only thing that gives one hope is the near 100 percent condemnation of the piece in the comment section, including this gem:
Here’s the bottom line: the murderous, parasitical machine of interventionism is setting its sights on libertarianism as its next host. Neocons demand that you don’t call them neocons because everyone understands that is poison.
There are plenty of dubious characters from abroad, flush with USAID money, claiming to be libertarian and seeking our support for their struggles thousands of miles away. Stick with the principles. If you really want to help country X, work to end US government sanctions against that country and to fully engage. Then they may eventually want to emulate us. If you sign on to a US-backed regime change that inevitably leaves the population worse off than the status quo ante (as it always does) and we continue to be hated as the arrogant empire that we’ve become, don’t pretend it’s someone else’s fault.
Hate socialism? Sign up to oppose military Keynesianism here at home.
Work to end the US empire.
*Note: This article has been edited to reflect that the FEE article has been removed from its website.