The United States relies too heavily on our military might in foreign policy. For more than a decade, our country has been waging active wars in the Middle East. This has left our military tired, with several thousand dead, and many more thousands wounded physically and mentally.
A decade ago, the United States entered into nation-building thinking that it would help improve corners of the world that terrorists find opportunistic. Sadly, some of the nation-building that our country entered into with genuinely good intentions has backfired. We now know that no matter how sophisticated our military is and no matter how much money we spend, nation-building is far more complicated than we originally thought. Additionally, it may likely create more terrorists than it quells.
Imagine if China had a military base in Montana. Or Russia had a military base in Texas. How would Americans feel about that? We would likely feel insulted, oppressed, and mad. Some Americans would likely seek to actively oppose those bases. And the escalation would continue. We have seen that in the Middle East with our involvement there.
Libertarians believe that war is justified only in defense. We are opposed to a draft. If a war is just and necessary, Americans of all backgrounds will volunteer to fight it. We believe that a draft enforced by law is no different from slavery.
Libertarians believe that American foreign policy should focus more heavily on developing communications among people and finding peaceful resolutions to disagreements. We believe in maintaining a military that can defend us well if we are attacked and we believe part of that is ensuring that our troops are not so war-weary as they have been in recent years.
Since its creation as a Jewish state in the late 1940s, Israel has been one of the main sources of tension and unrest in the Middle East. Now, more than 50 years later, Israel once again finds itself at odds with its Palestinian neighbors, forcing the hand of the United States to show where it stands on one of the most polarizing issues in modern history.
The tension between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East goes back thousands of years, and there is no easy solution to the issues in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. Many U.S. presidential administrations have tried to act as brokers of power or arbiters of peace without any success.
Libertarians aren’t foolish enough to think we have the answer to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. However, we do realize that steps can be taken by the United States to remove itself from injury in the conflict, and perhaps begin the process of long-term stability in the region.
The biggest of these steps is to eliminate all economic and military aid to Israel and all other foreign countries.
It’s the general opinion of Libertarians that as far as the U.S. government should be involved, Israel should look out for its interests so long as its actions are not subsidized by the American taxpayer and Israel does not look to the U.S. for assistance. However, because Israel is the top recipient of foreign aid (aside from Iraq), it is reasonable to assume that some of the money given to it by the United States in foreign aid is used to either directly or indirectly support Israeli military operations.
Therein lies the problem.
There are several complications with U.S. foreign aid going to Israel. One, it makes the United States culpable for the actions of Israel that many times come with international condemnation. Secondly, it opens up the United States to cries of extreme bias in favor of Israel—a main catalyst for terrorism against U.S. interests at home and abroad.
Critics of removing foreign aid from Israel cite that this is the United States turning its back on a staunch ally. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The United States is not "giving up" on Israel by removing foreign aid as much as it is adhering to a principle of non-intervention—in Israel and across the world as well. Israel will still be a trading partner with the United States, and will benefit greatly from this trade. Additionally, Israel has a strong and effective military along with nuclear arms to deter aggression.
The United States’ top priority needs to be the United States, and our billions of dollars of foreign aid to Israel have hurt our national security and international standing. "Contrary to the warnings of the do-something buffs, U.S. interventions in the Middle East have likely unleashed more anti-American terrorism and more pressure on energy markets than they have prevented," says Leon Hadar, a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.
In essence, the interests of Israel are not always those of the United States.
However, it is not an analysis of what we have gotten in return from our relationship with Israel as it is an adherence to the principle of non-intervention. There is great wisdom in remaining disconnected from the problems facing other nations, especially when these problems are complicated and have negative consequences for getting involved.
At issue for Libertarians in the current situation with Israel and Palestine is not so much who is right or wrong, but whether the United States should continue to support other countries with foreign aid. Libertarians may all feel differently on whether Israel is "justified" in invading Gaza, but Libertarians all agree that taxpayer-subsidized foreign aid to other countries is bad for business and bad for peace.
Treating Israel like any other country is not abandoning an ally, but freeing the United States from a cumbersome relationship of the likes George Washington, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson all warned against hundreds of years ago.
In the words of Jefferson, "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none."
In February of 1990 U.S. leaders journeyed to Moscow to make an offer to the Soviets. Then Secretary of State James Baker suggested that in exchange for a unified Germany, the U.S. would make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) would not expand “one inch Eastward.” Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe was starting to end, and the West was promising not to fill that vacuum with their influence. A few days later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin reunification talks. Despite the agreement, within only a few more years, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and others were ushered into the NATO alliance.
A few decades prior, the world was on the edge of its seat as a tense 13-day military and political standoff ensued between the Kennedy administration and the similarly nuclear-armed Soviet Union under President Nikita Khrushchev. The U.S. provided nuclear weapons to Turkey, and the Soviets reacted by bringing their own to Cuba, just 90 miles south of Key West, Florida. President Kennedy announced the presence of the missiles to the American public, commanded a naval blockade around Cuba and made it clear that the U.S. was prepared to use military force. However, tensions were broken when President Kennedy made an agreement with Khrushchev that the Soviets would remove the nuclear missiles from Cuba and in exchange the U.S. would not attack. In secret, however, Kennedy also agreed to remove the nuclear missiles from Turkey.
Fast forward now to November 2013. Widespread protests erupted in Ukraine in response to President Yanukovych’s failure to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union. This continued for several months and on February 20, 2014, the Maidan Revolution, also known as the Revolution of Dignity, took place in Ukraine. Deadly clashes between protestors and riot police further escalated tensions for over a month. The ultimate result was the ousting of President Yanukovych and the instatement of an interim government ahead of special elections. Russia considered the overthrow of Yanukovych to be an illegal coup and did not recognize the interim government. On March 1, Russian parliament approved a request by President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops to Ukraine.
For nearly eight years now, conflict has persisted along the borders of sovereign Ukraine and Russian-occupied territory just beyond. While the world has mostly ignored or forgotten about this conflict up until recently, we find ourselves now at DEFCON’s door as NATO is now putting more and more pressure on Russia to step back from its efforts to further annex Ukraine. A fundamental question must be asked here — are we willing to risk World War III over this conflict in Eastern Europe?
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” That was declared by George Washington in his farewell address at the end of a bloody revolution for independence. In his inaugural pledge, Thomas Jefferson opined clearly on foreign policy saying, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”
These were the words of our nation’s founders, who expounded the radical idea of a non-interventionist foreign policy. We must ask ourselves where NATO fits into this foreboding wisdom. Since the mid-1990s, NATO has continued to expand its western influence east. Under the banner of promoting democracy, the U.S. backs pro-American and pro-Western politicians in newly democratic states with their previous regimes toppled. Influence expands closer and closer to Russia’s doorstep, antagonizing a nation with no commitment to peace.
The Monroe Doctrine, delivered to Congress by President James Monroe in 1823, stressed the need for foreign powers not to meddle in the affairs of the Western hemisphere. The wisdom of non-interventionism precedes us, yet the growing precipitation of expanding alliances puts us at risk. Let us assume that Russia once again placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, and China did the same in Mexico, and meanwhile, they were courting Canada into an alliance with them. Would this not be perceived as a threat?
The United States’ involvement in NATO puts us in a compromising position; one which is compounded further by the fact that Congress no longer authorizes war and that our military is controlled by a small facet of unelected bureaucrats and what President Eisenhower named the Military-Industrial Complex. It is time for cooler heads to prevail and for Libertarians, and all wishing to avoid worldwide conflict, to call on the U.S. to cut ties with NATO and to end all other entangling alliances. Such entanglements are more cause for war than for peace, and the tit for tat relationships promote escalation and retaliation. Americans ought to abide by the wisdom of those who came before us, who learned the hard-fought lessons of war, rather than trust those who will never do the fighting to make the right decisions.
If humankind continues into the future without heeding the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat the grave errors of our predecessors, now with much higher stakes.
Libertarian Platform, 3.3 International Affairs
American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.
Our position is clear: non-interventionism is the answer to the Ukrainian crisis, and all future crises, because when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.