Negotiating With a Libertarian About Foreign Policy

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Arnold Kling, whom I generally liked before this rant, takes a swipe at libertarians and “leftists”, and Will Wilkinson takes it seriously.

It seems to me that some libertarians link arms with the far left as blame-America-firsters, with scathing attacks on America’s military and its foreign policy.

The first part of Wilkinson’s response I like.

To my mind, the first question is whether America’s military and foreign policy deserve withering criticism, and the answer is, Yes, it does. This isn’t a matter of “blaming America first”. It’s a matter of honestly evaluating American policy and laying the blame where the blame is due.What does this kind criticism accomplish? What does telling the truth about anything accomplish? Ideally, when we square ourselves to uncomfortable truths about policy, we change our minds.

That far – with some editing on my part – I can agree. And then, there’s a lot of verbiage about nationalism and tribalism. I don’t recognize that world. I thought the world included the great conveyor belt in the Pacific cycling unfinished goods around until finished products caused people in the American Midwest to complain about China. I also thought an American military presence – some call it “an empire of bases” – kept the cycle running smoothly. Commenter “Lorenzo” echoes my thoughts.

A major reason why I find Will’s criticism intemperate (to echo DeepEmBlues) is that he seems to have an almost complete lack of sense of there being a global system. Whatever criticisms one might make of US military and foreign policy, the period since 1945 has worked a lot better than, say 1914-1945, and American foreign and military policy has had a lot to do with that. Retreating to “the Atlantic and Pacific as our big moats” policy of 1919-1939 is an experiment the world can do without repeating.

The world we live in, one some would characterize as “free trade”, is a marked improvement on the early twentieth-century tribal world. So, I have to ask Wilkinson, where is the justifiable line between guaranteeing free trade and “Massive, lengthy, non-defensive military occupations”?

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Filed under: Business/Economy, Military, USA Tagged: american foreign policy, arnold kling, empire of bases, free trade, libertarians


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