Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Left and Foreign Policy

The more I look at what passes for "debate" today between "liberals" and "conservatives", the more I come to realize that such differences are superficial, petty, and all-but-nonexistant. Furthermore, it is apparently obvious to me that only truly fresh and unique perspectives on the issues of the day come from libertarian writers.

Take for example the War On Iraq. Many on the left have strong feelings in opposition to Bush’s war. Yet, their opponents on the right often and easily skewer many of their untenable positions, exposing their hypocrisies when they point to the fact that, just a few years ago when Democrats held the reigns of power, many of the same arguments that the current batch of Warmongers peddle to defend their Utopian schemes were being advocated by Left leaning politicians and intellectuals. I mean, we’ve all seen that chain mail that goes around where there are quotes from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and a bunch of others citing how Saddam was a bad man, with nuclear ambitions, and a threat to…well, everything under the sun, and must removed from power posthaste!

When the 2004 election came around, I was a bit surprised to find that the most hostility to libertarian candidates, and indeed, 3rd parties in general, came from self-identified Kerry supporters. The argument, as it seemed to be, was that people were so pissed off about the War On Iraq, that we needed to get Bush out of there. Kerry, supposedly, was the candidate put forward by "anti-war" voters. Unfortunately, when Kerry said in his campaign that, had he had the chance to do it all over again, he would not have done anything different than Bush had done, that position was conveniently ignored by anti-Bush, anti-War voters. And when the Democrats staged an over-the-top, militaristic national convention that in any other setting rivaled a rally at Nuremburg, few but the most principled anti-war advocates even batted an eyelash.

So, I’m stating the obvious, right? The Left is hypocritical, and intellectually bankrupt. There are no discernable principles beyond pure partisan interests which differentiate the "Left" from the "Right" these days. In which case, any self-identified "Liberal" is hard-pressed to explain the nature of his opposition to the slaughter of Iraqis in a way that anyone can take seriously. When I remarked to an anti-Bush War friend of mine, "well, you see what happens when you advocate big government?", the response was, "I’m not anti-big government, I’m anti-irresponsible government." (As if the two are really that different.) I guess this is what it comes to when political questions become a matter of "whose in charge", rather than a reflection on core principles. Ironically, such a view is inherently irresponsible, although I’m sure my Leftist friend would dismiss such a notion.

So I was pleased to see a cutting critique of leading Leftist intellectuals on matters of foreign policy in a recent article by Doug Bandow. While Left in practice strives to differentiate itself from the Bloodthirsty Warmonger crowd on the Right, Bandow exposes the Left’s contradictions, leaving any thoughtful reader to conclude that the Left really has nothing to offer. If you are anti-war, or at the very least, very concerned with our Nation’s role in global politics, then the ONLY alternative that exists is in libertarian proposals. (Libertarian with a small ‘l’, not necessarily the LP, which is becoming frighteningly more pro-war each day.)

After critiquing some specific writers and their proposals, Bandow notes:

Building a foreign policy for a free and virtuous people is challenging. Even if everyone everywhere were free and virtuous, there would sometimes be sharp differences between peoples, nations, and cultures. With many unfree states, and many evil people, the difficulties grow.

But the starting point should be that the U.S. government's primary responsibility is to the American people. That isn't because the lives of Americans are more important than those of others. It is because the government represents Americans, is funded and defended by them, and is entrusted with the protection of their lives. Moreover, it is they who are directly responsible for their government's actions.
The idea that the U.S. government should NOT intervene in every and any conflict it can find – real or imagined – is bound to be dismissed as "isolationism", or "unrealistic", or "naïve". Yet, how naïve is it to put your faith in Government to remake the world into a grand new Democratic Utopia?

Many Warmongers like to parrot the mantra that our soldiers are "fighting for our freedoms". Yet, the plain evidence of the matter is that as the Global March to Empire continues, our liberties are being systematically diminished at home. (Of course, Objective Reality means nothing to the War Crowd - what matters is mindlessly spouting the party line.) We are less free today than we were yesterday, last month, and last year. But as Lew Rockwell has pointed out, big government abroad is inconsistant with small government at home.

Which just goes to re-emphasize the point that there are no real differences between the Left and the Right. Both sides advocate violence as the means to creating a better world. While some Left-leaning people like to say they are anti-war, the left needs to realize that fundamentally, there is no real difference between their cause and Bush’s cause. As much as it pains me to admit, Conservatives are right when they dismiss those on the Left of simplistically being Knee-Jerk Bush-Haters, thus silencing any serious consideration of their anti-war voice. It’s a shame, too, because what we need today is a REAL alternative to hedonistic, terrorism-inspiring warmongering.

Bandow’s article is a must read. It’s not some pie-in-the-sky, Utopian daydreaming. There are numerous, practical solutions, derived from simple, core principles, that can guide our thinking on matters of foreign policy. And if the Left can wrap its brain around those principles, then I think the Left can put itself on better ground to offer a real alternative to the Right.

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