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November 28, 2007

Libertarianism And Non-Interventionism

by Doug Mataconis

Megan McArdle has a post up outlining the divide that developed among libertarians over foreign policy in the wake of the Iraq War:

A real non-interventionist has to accept that the United States should not have entered into World War II. Yes, Japan attacked us, but they did so because we were encroaching on their sphere of influence. Had we actually kept the navy within our territory, Japan would never have attacked, and we would never have entered World War II. And no, I’m not convinced by arguments that our intervention in WWI brought about WWII; our role, other than urging France and Britain to mitigate their vengeance, was fairly minor. Moreover, since we’re not starting from some blank, non-interventionist slate now, this is not a compelling argument against entering into World War II at the time of World War II.

Some libertarians do accept that (as does Pat Buchanan). Most, especially the more moderate breed nurtured post-Reagan, can’t accept a philosophy which means we should have allowed more millions to die in concentration camps, left the Russians and British to starve without lend-lease, etc. Their minds also turn to wondering how the American Revolution might have turned out had the French government adopted a similarly modest foreign policy.

If you are not willing to posit that Americans should stay home even when millions are being senselessly slaughtered, then you end up in sticky pragmatic arguments about the possibilities of inherently untrustworthy state power to counteract even more noxious state power, and how much in the way of cost we can reasonably be expected to bear in order to advance liberty. I don’t think there’s an inherently libertarian answer to those questions. Libertarians should be inherently more suspicious of the American government’s ability to make things better than other groups–but by the same token, it seems to me that they should be inherently more suspicious of repulsive states such as the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Keep in mind that when we use the word “intervention,” it can mean any number of things such as cutting off diplomatic relations, joining in international pressure directed at a regime that is repressing its citizens, leading or joining in an economic boycott against that regime, supporting an internal opposition aimed at overthrowing that regime, all the way up to direct military action. This is important because the answer to the “should we intervene” question depends, in no small degree, on the type of intervention we’re talking about.

The question that McArdle’s post raises, of course, is when, if ever, the fact that a state like Iraq is violating the rights of its citizens justifies intervention in their internal affairs. If the answer is that the existence of a repressive regime is per se justification for intervention, then you’ve basically adopted a neo-conservative/Wilsonian idea of foreign policy, with all the attendant disasters that come from it. And here I disagree with McArdle in one respect — the negative impact that Wilsonian interventionism had on World War I, or more specifically on the peace that followed, clearly did have an influence on the events that led to another World War less than 30 years later. If the United States had stayed out of World War I and not intervened in the peace negotiations in Versailles that ended the war, then the treaty that ended the Great War would have, most likely, been far less punitive toward Germany, and that alone could have prevented the rise of Naziism.

If the answer to McArdle’s question is that intervention is never justified unless the United States is directly threatened, and even sometimes not even in that case, then you’ve basically adopted the position of the isolationists prior to World War II, who would have apparently been okay with Europe falling under Nazi rule and every Jew being sent to their death.

I don’t think that there’s an easy answer to this question and, in part, it depends on the kind of intervention that is being talked about.

Absent a direct threat to the United States or its interests, military action against, say, Burma, would not be justified; but that doesn’t mean that it would be impermissible under libertarian principles for the United States to suspend diplomatic relations with the Burmese junta, or to impose economic sanctions against the country in retaliation for their repression of the pro-democracy movement. Similarly, though less convincingly, the no-fly zones that were imposed in the northern and southern Iraq from the end of the First Gulf War until the U.S. invasion in March 2003 were arguably justifiable as means to protect the Kurdish and Shiite minorities that had been terrorized by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

Since there are gradations of “intervention”, many of which fall short of direct or indirect military action, I don’t think it makes sense to say that “intervention” can be judged by a specific set of principles or that “intervention” is always per se unjustified. Again, if you make the former argument they you are essentially saying that the United States should have stood by and done nothing in the years prior to World War II while the Nazis rolled over Europe — because Lend-Lease would have been a violation of a policy of strict non-interventionism.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not an outcome that I could accept.

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54 Comments

  1. [...] thoughts on why not every libertarian agrees with Ron Paul’s foreign policy over at The Liberty Papers.   [...]

    Pingback by Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » Thoughts On Libertarianism And Non-Interventionism — November 28, 2007 @ 6:55 am
  2. …it seems to me that they should be inherently more suspicious of repulsive states such as the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

    Yeah, suspicious of him threatening the dollar hegemony. I can’t believe people are still talking about this war in Iraq outside of the context of why governments really go to war. First it’s WMDs, now it’s human rights…

    http://www.warisaracket.com/

    Comment by js290 — November 28, 2007 @ 7:10 am
  3. Even with Wilson’s blundering, the U.S. (in the form of Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon) had helped out with relieving the debt of the other nations while still getting them to pay. It was only when we got into a tariff war leading to the Great Depression that Hitler was given the opportunity for power. Economic sanctions can cause the same problems, most notably when supposed allies decide to ignore the sanctions in the name of helping the poor people who somehow never end up any better off.

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — November 28, 2007 @ 7:25 am
  4. I do not consider “non-intervention” to be a condition precedent for being a proper libertarian.

    There is nothing “unlibertarian” about, e.g., mutual defense treaties with proper allies. I cannot summarily dismiss the Lend-Lease Act, or NATO, as unconstitutional.

    So long as there is no draft, no rationing and no censorship of dissent, I am open to debate on the propriety of any particular “interventionist” military act, real or hypothetical, past or present — including the Iraq War.

    Comment by KipEsquire — November 28, 2007 @ 7:42 am
  5. So long as there is no draft, no rationing and no censorship of dissent, I am open to debate on the propriety of any particular “interventionist” military act, real or hypothetical, past or present — including the Iraq War.

    Isn’t military intervention inherently coercive?

    Comment by js290 — November 28, 2007 @ 7:57 am
  6. If, If, If, If, If . . .

    “Yes, Japan attacked us, but they did so because we were encroaching on their sphere of influence. Had we actually kept the navy within our territory, Japan would never have attacked, and we would never have entered World War II.”

    Who’s to say that Japan wouldn’t have attacked us, given that the Philippines were in the way of their plans to take Indonesia/Dutch East Indies?

    Hypothetical this, hypothetical that.

    I don’t think you can argue against a foreign policy by appealing to counterfactuals.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — November 28, 2007 @ 8:03 am
  7. One more thing . . .

    “Again, if you make the former argument they you are essentially saying that the United States should have stood by and done nothing in the years prior to World War II while the Nazis rolled over Europe — because Lend-Lease would have been a violation of a policy of strict non-interventionism.”

    At the very least, wouldn’t the ultra strict non-interventionist at least have opened the borders to Jews trying to flee Europe, unlike FDR?

    This is the problem with counterfactuals, it’s always easy to second guess and claim that policy X would have fixed problem Y.

    Comment by FreedomDemocrat — November 28, 2007 @ 8:07 am
  8. I tend to use non-intervention as a guideline. Justification for military action has to be based on national security. Countries that are militaristic can be national security threats even when they aren’t targeting us. Considerations should be given to strategic resources and proximity to the United States. When fighting back, the US should examine its own actions and dampen its own militarism in the response. The strategy and tactics should fit the threat.

    With the Soviet Union, its control over satellite states, presented a problem. The US is correct to establish a network of defensive alliances to counter the threat. The US should stand by its allies when the Soviet Union acts.

    Likewise, embargoes are acceptable to dissuade the Japanese militarism, and proxy wars are acceptable to dissuade German militarism. But I don’t understand why we ever sent aid to Stalin. That was so stupid.

    The US has gotten into the great trouble because we overreact and act just like the militaristic foes that we are trying to defeat. Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq are few of the major examples of overreacting. In short, the restraint that conservatives want to see in fiscal policy applies even more so to foreign policy.

    Yet none of this applies to individuals in the United States who should be free to participate in any conflict that they wish to or embark on any charitable journey they wish to.

    Comment by TanGeng — November 28, 2007 @ 10:08 am
  9. In a world where the US is the only superpower, there are rarely any threats big enough to be a big threat to national security. The US government always overreacts to the smaller threats. Now that the Soviet Union is gone and the iron curtain is down, NATO is looking more and more like an offensive-minded defensive alliance.

    Non-intervention today means far less activity than during the Cold War. There is much less need to meddle around the Middle East. Russia doesn’t threaten to swoop in there.

    Comment by TanGeng — November 28, 2007 @ 10:19 am
  10. Doug, U.S. interventionism was one of the root causes of the War:

    Aside from the disasterous way World war I ended, it is important to note that Japanese imperialism in the early 20th century was the result of the U.S. Navy’s gunboat diplomacy that ended the isolation of japan in the 19th century.

    Some influential Japanese looked at China and concluded that either they faced the choice of becoming an empire like the Europeans, or becoming a vassal of European empires like China. They chose to become rulers rather than the ruled.

    It was U.S. imperialism in the Pacific that both trigerred Japan’s imperial ambitions and also put the two empire’s on collision course as they covetted the same colonies.

    To use a tortured analogy, imagine a man who goes around keying the cars of people who piss him off. One day, he keys Mike Tyson’s car. A preacher observes him doing this and tells him about jesus’s proposal to turn the other cheek. As the preacher is lecturing the man, Mike Tyson comes up, and punches the man out.

    What the people who are arguing that World War II demonstrates the immorality of non-interventionism are arguing is that “turning the other cheek” doesn’t work because Mike Tyson punched the guy out, despite the fact that had the man followed that policy “before” keying Mike Tyson’s car, there would have been no fight.

    World War II broke up because two really evil men made a pact with each other to carve up Eastern europe between them. They had a falling out, and we allied with one against the other. I have always felt that as evil as Hitler was, Stalin was worse. This is, of course, a debatable point and there are many powerful arguments against my position. However, in the end, the U.S. survived both empires, and the way we handled the Soviet Union resulted in a far smaller loss of life and destruction of property.

    Had the U.S. not been following FDR’s muddled attempts to ape Musolini and Hitler’s economic policies as a way of getting out of the Great Depression, and had it encouraged the migration hither of all of the victims of those regimes, I suspect that Germany and Russia’s wars would have eventually banrupt both empires leadign to their collapse, and the world would have ended up a freer place.

    Before you argue that that equates to turning a blind eye to the massacre of Jews, I should point out that the death camps and industrial slaughters did nto realy start until Germany began to lose in Russia. Orginally they had planned on deporting Jews to the east, and abandoned that plan once it became clear that their chances of conquering Russia were nill.

    Comment by tarran — November 28, 2007 @ 10:46 am
  11. Well… at least Thomas Jefferson’s ghost threw his support in for Ron Paul: http://www.magoodnnews.blogspot.com

    Ha!

    Comment by David Goodman — November 28, 2007 @ 11:07 am
  12. How about the immorality in Darfur? It’s mass genocide. Sudan is protected in the UN by China.

    Comment by uhm — November 28, 2007 @ 12:26 pm
  13. Uhm,

    Like I said, these are not easy questions to answer.

    There are no American interests at stake in Sudan, and Sudan poses no threat to its neighbors so I would argue that direct military intervention would seem to be unjustified.

    However, means that fall short of military action may be just as fruitful.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 12:33 pm
  14. Sudan does pose a threat to it’s neighbor Chad.
    http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/02/16/chad12684.htm

    Comment by uhm — November 28, 2007 @ 12:44 pm
  15. this argument has already been made, and it was already pointed out that that was the ear of industrialized warfare, and a power like Japan represented a threat of the type that a non-interventionist would have acted to war.

    Comment by oilnwater — November 28, 2007 @ 1:16 pm
  16. Doug,

    The Sudan poses no threat to the national security of the United States. There is no reason for the United States to be involved. It is a matter left to the government of Sudan and its neighbors.

    However, there are no rules against individuals forming organizations to enact change in Sudan. They can help the people of Sudan on their own dime and on their own time. If enough people are outraged at Sudan, it should be easy to create and raise money for a organization that can be a counterbalance to the Sudanese government and stop the genocide.

    Comment by TanGeng — November 28, 2007 @ 1:17 pm
  17. Tarran,

    So deporting Jews is okay, then ? I don’t get it.

    Regardless of what American policies may have contributed to the state of the world in the 1930s, the fact of the matter is that we were faced with the world the way it was, not the way that we might have wanted to be.

    Based on the facts as they existed in 1939 and thereafter, I don’t think that it would have been wise or acceptable for any American President to act differently with respect to the situation in Europe and the Pacific than FDR did, as much as it pains me to admit that.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 1:34 pm
  18. TanGeng,

    And why wouldn’t it be acceptable for the US Gov’t to finance those self-same Sudanese rebels ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 1:35 pm
  19. Oilnwater,

    As you may already know, every noninterventionist alive at the time opposed American entry in to WW2 prior to Pearl Harbor — even though it had long before become inevitable that the U.S. would be drawn into the war at some point.

    And, they opposed Lend-Lease, which means that they would have been perfectly okay with a Nazi controlled regime taking control of England.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 1:36 pm
  20. Doug,

    Another article where you use non-interventionism with isolationism interchangeably with nary a distinction between the two. You know, it’s really tiring having this same argument with you over and over again when you obviously don’t pay attention when people point out the differences to you. But here’s a final stab in the hopes it’s not completely futile…

    “Again, if you make the former argument they you are essentially saying that the United States should have stood by and done nothing in the years prior to World War II while the Nazis rolled over Europe — because Lend-Lease would have been a violation of a policy of strict non-interventionism.”

    Lend-Lease would have been a violation of a strict isolationist policy, not a non-interventionist one because it was developed to cope with international aggression across international boundaries by an expansionist power that posed a military threat to the U.S. (plus, the Germans did declare war on us after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor). It wasn’t designed to interfere in the purely internal affairs of Germany because international conquest is not an internal affair!!! If you’re looking for a gray area to build this repeated straw man of yours, you could have at least cited Gulf War I, which would have merited legitimate discussion. But no, you had to use the inaccurate Nazi analogy to get your point across…probably because mentioning the Nazis usually serves to shut down serious debate immediately.

    “I don’t know about you, but that’s not an outcome that I could accept.”

    Misplaced guilt, same bullshit rationalization Bush has been using to keep us in Iraq despite the fact it was never in our interests to attack. Not a legitimate reason to intervene in another country’s foreign affairs at all.

    So what is your point here, Doug? Non-interventionism is a bad philosophy because it might have consequences that make us feel guilty down the road? Unless we were involved with Hitler running the concentration camps, that’s a pretty shaky connection to make. As another poster here pointed out, the thing we should feel guilty about is shutting off our borders to Jewish refugees and basically turning them back over to the Nazis. But that had nothing to do with non-interventionism…that had to do with isolationism and xenophobia.

    Oh well, at least you didn’t go and drag Ron Paul into this argument again in an attempt to inaccurately smear his foreign policy platform.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 1:46 pm
  21. Crawford,

    Yes, strict non-interventionism is a bad idea.

    As for the distinction, or lack thereof, between non-interventionism and the Isolationists of the 1930s…..well, frankly, I don’t see it.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 1:50 pm
  22. “Absent a direct threat to the United States or its interests, military action against, say, Burma, would not be justified; but that doesn’t mean that it would be impermissible under libertarian principles for the United States to suspend diplomatic relations with the Burmese junta, or to impose economic sanctions against the country in retaliation for their repression of the pro-democracy movement.”

    Sure, if you buy into the neo-conservative ideology that freedom and individual rights stem from government action, which I personally don’t being a libertarian. Or that tariffs, embargos, and sanctions actually hurt the people in charge of foreign countries or help the average people of those countries or exporters in the United States, which I again personally don’t, being a proponent of free markets. After all, how long have Kim Jong-il and Fidel Castro been in power? Hell of a job those economic sanctions are doing. Of course, in the case of North Korea, Bush made it infinitely worse by agreeing to supply Kim Jong-il with power, insuring that his government will be able to prolong its solvency by lessening the peoples’ incentive to revolt.

    Sometimes, Doug, it’s like you’ve never heard of the law of unintended consequences.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 1:54 pm
  23. Crawford,

    What, then, do you see as the difference between non-interventionism and isolationism ?

    The reason I ask is because pretty much every libertarian I’ve read who has claimed to believe in non-interventionism (i.e., Rothabrd, Rockwell, Raimondo, etc.) has also said that Lend-Lease was a violation of a strict non-interventionist foreign policy.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 1:55 pm
  24. Doug,

    NO!!! Strict isolationism is a bad idea. Strict non-interventionism is not. I’ve made that distinction very clear in previous posts and I’d appreciate you not changing my argument.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 1:55 pm
  25. You’re posting quicker than I can do a response, so forgive me if I’m a little off on them. I’m doing one up for your last question.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 1:56 pm
  26. As for the distinction, or lack thereof, between non-interventionism and the Isolationists of the 1930s…..well, frankly, I don’t see it.

    Check the dictionary. The difference has been pointed out to you many times already. You’re a lawyer, aren’t you? Do you really struggle to grasp the subtle difference between similar words?

    Comment by Jeff Molby — November 28, 2007 @ 2:00 pm
  27. Jeff,

    I know what I believe the definitions are, but what I’m asking is what Crawford’s definitions are.

    Quite honestly, when I read a non-interventionist like Lew Rockwell I don’t see anything fundamentally different from the people who were saying we should stay out of WW2 right up to the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 2:02 pm
  28. Quite honestly, when I read a non-interventionist like Lew Rockwell I don’t see anything fundamentally different from the people who were saying we should stay out of WW2 right up to the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

    You’re right, but you’re missing the other side of the coin. On that part, a non-interventionist and an isolationist would agree. In fact, they would probably also agree that a number of our actions leading up to the attack were also wrong.

    The difference, though, has little to do with the military. The difference between the two comes down to things like trade and immigration. The isolationist stance on those topics is just plain foolish.

    The key to understanding a non-interventionist is to realize that those differences exist and also realize that the non-interventionist believes those differences are what can make a relatively passive military posture feasible.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — November 28, 2007 @ 2:07 pm
  29. UCrawford:
    Serious question for you based on your definition of non-intervention, because your formulation seems a bit more nuanced than the definition often provided by the Rockwell folks (who, it must be acknowledged, are not official representatives of Ron Paul).

    If non-interventionism would have permitted involvement in a foreign country if that foreign country had requested our assistance and where the foreign country’s threat was external in nature, what are your thought on voluntary membership in international organizations? Specifically, do you think that membership in a properly formulated UN would be acceptable (key phrase being “properly formulated”- the details as to what that would mean are momentarily irrelevant)? Secondly, do you believe that membership in foreign alliances like Nato is acceptable and legitimate, provided that they are entered into voluntarily (unlike the Warsaw Pact) and that they are formulated entirely for mutual defense purposes?

    Comment by Mark — November 28, 2007 @ 2:11 pm
  30. Doug,

    There are no American interests at stake in Sudan, and Sudan poses no threat to its neighbors so I would argue that direct military intervention would seem to be unjustified.

    However, means that fall short of military action may be just as fruitful.

    Would you support arming the rebels in Darfur?

    Comment by Kevin — November 28, 2007 @ 2:16 pm
  31. Jeff,

    Two points:

    1. The distinction you make is one without a difference. We’re not talking about international trade here, we’re talking about direct and indirect diplomatic and military action. Lend-Lease was not about trade, it was about arming the English and, to some extent, the Soviets to the exclusion of the Germans and Japanese. It was not about free trade by any stretch of the imagination.

    2. Given your response, how do you feel about Ron Paul’s immigration positions ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 2:21 pm
  32. Kevin,

    I’ll admit to not knowing enough about the situation in Darfur to give an answer right now.

    On principle, I don’t think it would be objectionable to arm the rebels in Darfur. Unless, of course, one thinks it was unacceptable for the French to help a certain nation on the East Coast of North America about 200 years ago.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 2:22 pm
  33. Jeff,

    How would a non-interventionist foreign policy in the 1930s differed from what the isolationists adovated ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — November 28, 2007 @ 2:23 pm
  34. 1. The distinction you make is one without a difference.

    You can say it as many times as you’d like, but it still won’t be true. Once more, “the non-interventionist believes [trade and immigration] differences are what can make a relatively passive military posture feasible.”

    Lend-Lease was not about trade, it was about arming the English and, to some extent, the Soviets to the exclusion of the Germans and Japanese. It was not about free trade by any stretch of the imagination.

    I can’t speak intelligently about the extent to which Lend-Lease might have violated non-interventionism.

    2. Given your response, how do you feel about Ron Paul’s immigration positions?

    I basically agree with him, though I’d like to hear more about his plans for legal immigration. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem if we admitted the first 15 million to appear at the gate with proper documentation. We should probably do it more gradually than that, but my point is that I’m not afraid of legal immigrants and everything I’ve heard from Paul tells me he feels the same way. I don’t believe we should do any favors for those that flouted our laws, though. I wouldn’t be vengeful, but I sure as hell wouldn’t put them at the front of the line.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — November 28, 2007 @ 2:37 pm
  35. Doug,

    I was just looking for the response on principle alone. The only caveat I would have in supporting an armed indigenous opposition to a tyrannical government is to make sure they were truly fighting for a more politically more liberal government.

    Supporting the Afghan Northern Alliance after 9/11 and the opposition to Milosevic in Serbia met that above test.

    However, I would confine this strategy to tyrannical states that are a threat to American national interests unless in the case of genocide or something truly appalling on those lines.

    Comment by Kevin — November 28, 2007 @ 2:37 pm
  36. How would a non-interventionist foreign policy in the 1930s differed from what the isolationists adovated ?

    I can’t speak intelligently about that period of history.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — November 28, 2007 @ 2:39 pm
  37. One difference between isolationism and non-interventionism (at least as I’ve always studied it) is, as you’ve said, in where our direct interests lie. The point you’ve often erred on, however, is in not distinguishing between the purely internal affairs of sovereign nations and international aggression by that sovereign nation across borders.

    When a country engages in internal atrocities, such as civil wars, genocide, government repression these are often not a clear case of black or white…often both sides of the conflict have been negative participants in setting the stage and the violence itself is merely a symptom of a greater internal problem that has reached a point where it can only be resolved through violent means after all other responses have failed, and where armed conflict is the only thing that will make possible a long-term solution. At that point, other nations are usually ill-equipped to be able to mediate the dispute or achieve resolution because the interloper is often operating from a position of ignorance and the combatant participants are either unable or unwilling to come to a compromise via a peaceful process. Thus, forcible intervention on the part of an outside party tends to fail, not because the people “don’t want peace” but because the peaceful status quo is incapable of solving whatever underlying problem exists and the outside parties’ involvement often serves to insulate all sides from the consequences of their actions, lessening the incentive of those parties to come to a peaceful resolution (Iraq is a prime example of this) and further serves to create animosity towards the outside party for meddling. True non-interventionists (such as Ron Paul) recognize this and realize that the best way to achieve lasting peace is often to draw the line where we’re allowed to interfere at a sovereign nation’s borders. Once that nation gets aggressive outside of their borders, we’re free to pick and choose our battles based on our interests or form alliances with other nations to counteract the aggressor. That’s non-interventionism.

    Isolationism is simply saying that our line of involvement with the world ends at our borders…which is just stupid and short-sighted.

    Take, for example, the Nazis…many libertarians will argue that Lend-Lease was an interventionist policy, when it was really not. Germany had, by the time of the bill’s passage in March 1941, annexed Czechoslovakia and Austria, invaded Poland, bombed London, and attacked the Soviet Union. They had formed a military alliance with the empire of Japan that potentially threatened our western border. They had given every indication that they intended to conquer the whole of Europe (even countries that had not attacked them) and possessed a sufficient industrial and national base to eventually threaten us. Apologists can argue about the point at which Hitler’s expansion became actually coercive (since Austria did apparently choose to cede control to the Nazis, and Chamberlain basically gifted the Czechs to them) but at the point where Hitler crossed the Polish border in 1939 it can no longer be argued that his policy was a purely internal matter. Thus Lend-Lease was justified as a matter of self-defense and Hitler would not have been allowed to roam freely under a non-interventionist philosophy. He would have under an isolationist philosophy, but that’s not something Paul has ever advocated (as evidenced by his vote on Afghanistan).

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 3:03 pm
  38. Sorry for the delay, Doug…something came up at work. There was an interesting article written in Foreign Affairs awhile ago about how civil wars are often impossible to resolve peacefully, which fleshes out what was saying about underlying problems a bit more. Worth a read.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070301faessay86201/james-d-fearon/iraq-s-civil-war.html

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 3:05 pm
  39. Mark,

    “If non-interventionism would have permitted involvement in a foreign country if that foreign country had requested our assistance and where the foreign country’s threat was external in nature, what are your thought on voluntary membership in international organizations? Specifically, do you think that membership in a properly formulated UN would be acceptable (key phrase being “properly formulated”- the details as to what that would mean are momentarily irrelevant)? Secondly, do you believe that membership in foreign alliances like Nato is acceptable and legitimate, provided that they are entered into voluntarily (unlike the Warsaw Pact) and that they are formulated entirely for mutual defense purposes?”

    Short answers 1) I’m generally for it, and 2) yes, as long as “defense purposes” don’t include us getting involved in internal unrest in those countries. It’s common folly in foreign policy to confuse the will of the people of a country with the will of that country’s leaders.

    The problem I have with the UN (a voluntary organization) is that they often cross the line into interventionism and attempt to circumvent national sovereignty (often for political reasons not meant to be beneficial to the inhabitants of those countries), which tends to drag a lot of the conflicts they’re involved with out and prevent true resolution. There was another excellent article I read a long time ago about how the U.N. was ill-equipped (and indeed, never built) to engage in mediation of internal affairs and they should draw the line at international boundaries as well. The article was from 15 years ago or so, though, so I’ve no idea where to find it now…can’t even remember the author’s name or the publication that printed it.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 3:12 pm
  40. Mark,

    The problem I have with the U.N., though, is that I don’t think it can really be trusted with any meaningful level of power besides stopping clear international aggression. Once they move into interventionism and nation-building, then it’s an incredibly bad organization because everybody starts grasping for power. It can work as a reactive organization, but not a proactive one.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 3:17 pm
  41. Kevin,

    “I was just looking for the response on principle alone. The only caveat I would have in supporting an armed indigenous opposition to a tyrannical government is to make sure they were truly fighting for a more politically more liberal government.”

    If private citizens wish to contribute to the cause of arming people they believe are fighting for freedom against repressive government, that’s fine. Our government should have no part of it…partly because their contributions come from our tax dollars, partly because one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, mainly because they’re usually a piss-poor judge of who the “good guys” really are (Pinochet, Batista, Somoza, Duvalier, Fahd, Shah Pahlavi, Mobutu Sese Seko, a couple of South Vietnamese presidents I could name…plus, who can forget this little gem from the current Idiot-in-Chief http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/06/20010618.html )

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 3:23 pm
  42. Doug,

    About Sudan, there are no national security interest in Sudan. It is not the job of the US government to give any money to those rebels. Instead individuals that want to end genocide should donate their time or money.

    About the 1930′s, we should have repeal the tariffs, eased immigration, and began free trade with countries in Europe, especially France and England. I think that an economically stronger France and England could have put up a better fight.

    Lend-Lease, if successfully argued that the growth of Nazi Germany was going to be a threat to the national security of the United States and that Nazi Germany was destined to declare war against the United States, would be justified. I would argue against such an argument, and therefore believe that Lend-Lease was unjustified. The Atlantic Ocean is too big of a divide for Nazi Germany to overcome. But many Anglophiles went over to join the RAF and the British Army. That is acceptable, and I think many did.

    In absence of Lend-Lease, there is no guarantee that England would have fallen to Germany. Their amphibious assault of England would have been extremely costly. (Right now I don’t quite understand why the Germans choose to bomb London during the Air Battle of Britain instead of bombing RAF airstrips. I would think that securing air superiority was more important than inflicting civilian demoralization.) In the summer of 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Hilter, one great evil, maybe would have rid the world of Stalin, another great evil. We could have avoided the Cold War altogether. In addition, controlling Russian territory would have been difficult and soak up a lot of German forces. At that point, the US could join into the fight and still fight against a German force that was hobbled by its activities in Russia. There are tons of possibilities for the world without Lend-Lease.

    The benefit the US got out of the war was the numerous talented scientists that escaped from Continental Europe to the US. That was extremely helpful to technological development.

    Comment by TanGeng — November 28, 2007 @ 3:27 pm
  43. Doug,

    “How would a non-interventionist foreign policy in the 1930s have differed from what the isolationists advocated?”

    The policy in the 1930s was largely non-interventionist. We didn’t invade Germany. We didn’t invade Japan. We didn’t interfere in their sovereign internal affairs. Some people would argue that the reason the Japanese attacked us was because we were encroaching on their sphere of influence, but since their “sphere of influence” was not an international boundary but an area in which they were attacking other nations to expand an empire and, you know, since they did attack us first, I don’t consider that to be interventionist at all. Nor do I consider war with Germany interventionist since, you know, Hitler formally declared war on us. You could argue that our actions in the Pacific were somewhat imperialist, but that’s a red herring that provides no justification for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. People who trot those arguments out aren’t non-interventionists, they’re isolationists who are falling prey to the other side of the straw man argument you’ve fallen prey to.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 4:14 pm
  44. There is no clear answer to interventionism vs. non-interventionism.

    Non-interventionism had us stand by while Europe descended into a wider conflict before WWI. Then it kept us out of WWII while Hitler and the Axis conquered the continent.

    Similarly, intervention got us Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq.

    The rule is, commit the nation to the war. There is no way Americans would have accepted 600,000 dead in WWII if it was simply a pre-emptive intervention to stop Hitler. There had to be no other choice. Similarly, public sentiment goes sharply against conflicts that are relatively small in comparison simply because the people never saw the threat.

    We live in a Democracy, the people have to know why they’re fighting and they have to believe it.

    Comment by Thomas — November 28, 2007 @ 4:17 pm
  45. Kevin,

    You will not change Sudan by invading Darfur. See Rwanda, Somolia, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc. for examples. You’ll put up a good show, some bad guys (as we believe them to be) will die, but nothing inherent about the conflict will change. Change comes from within.

    My litmus test for intervention is

    Does sovereign country A attack sovereign country B where either sovereign country A or B is a stable, democratic country?

    Yes…assist in restoring peace, first through neogtiation, next by force.

    Guerilla operations suspected to be supported by a country warrant intervention through non-aggressive means by third parties.

    That is my opinion.

    Comment by Greg — November 28, 2007 @ 4:20 pm
  46. Greg,

    Where am I advocating invasion of Sudan over Darfur?

    I am merely advocating the arming of the victims of a genocide to put them on an even keel with their persecutors.

    Comment by Kevin — November 28, 2007 @ 4:27 pm
  47. Thomas,

    There’s truth in what you say about people needing to see the reason before they’ll accept commitment to a conflict (and the casualties it entails), but your argument about WWII is slightly off. We intervened at (I feel) an appropriate time with the Lend-Lease Act and private U.S. citizens were going over to fight for the Brits and the Chinese before then. Both of these things were not interventionist…they just weren’t isolationist. There’s nothing wrong with forming an alliance with another country to stave off an external threat. And I disagree with the assessment that the Germans were not a threat to us. Or at the very least I’ll argue that the assessment that they were a threat to us wasn’t irrational or unjustified given the information they had at the time (unlike with Iraq now, by contrast). Non-interventionism was very compatible with our pre-war actions in Europe and the Pacific.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 4:33 pm
  48. Kevin,

    If you’re saying that private citizens have the right to arm the rebels with their own funds and equipment or even go fight for them, that’s perfectly compatible with a pro-liberty position. If you’re saying that our government is the one who should be doing it in the interests of “spreading freedom” then you’re taking an anti-freedom position. Freedom derives from individual, not government, action…you can’t use government to fight tyranny in someone else’s internal affairs without imposing another form of it on them. That’s what the neoconservatives can’t wrap their heads around.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 4:37 pm
  49. UCrawford:
    I don’t think you’d get much disagreement that the UN as currently formulated is deeply flawed. It tends to be ineffective where it should be effective and exceedingly intrusive where it shouldn’t be. I don’t think there should be much disagreement that it must be dramatically reformed; I would actually advocate scrapping it entirely and replacing it with something akin to a league of liberal democracies, or at least of open economies. But in principle, I don’t think there is a problem with the idea of a voluntary organization of nation states dedicated to resolving disputes between member nations.

    As for defense treaties, I would generally agree that they should prohibit intervention in member-states’ internal political turmoil. However, I would make an exception for military coups of popularly elected governments (but not for military coups of fraudulently elected governments, or for popular uprisings against any government).

    As I said before, your view of non-interventionism seems far more nuanced than the so-called non-interventionism of the Rockwell Brigades (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Ron Paul himself). From what I’ve read on LRC, the Rockwell Brigades’ form of non-interventionism is completely indistinguishable from isolationism, particularly considering their apparent opposition to international institutions in principle rather than in practice. Your non-interventionism is, I think, distinguishable from isolationism and relatively coherent.

    Comment by Mark — November 28, 2007 @ 4:41 pm
  50. Greg,

    “Guerilla operations suspected to be supported by a country warrant intervention through non-aggressive means by third parties.”

    That’s a gray area where your argument has some validity but the “suspected” level of involvement requires a burden of proof a lot higher than “because the president said so” (which is pretty much the case with Iran, and Iraq, and most of the stuff that Bush does). And, of course, there’s still the issue of our own national interest…it’s not our job to go intervening in every war simply because our leaders don’t like one or both of the parties involved or because we hold the imperial attitude that it’s our world to mediate. The world’s not really all about the U.S.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 4:41 pm
  51. Mark,

    I’d agree with that, except that I think it’s impossible to keep an international government of any significance from overreaching the way the U.N. does. If people want to enter into alliances on a more local scale, I’m okay with that. As long as we’ve got the UN, I think it’s important to stay involved if just to keep our ear to the wall. But I’m no fan of the UN and wouldn’t be unhappy to see it gone. I also have serious doubts as to whether it’s possible to form another international body that would be better. If it’s not given the ability to override national sovereignty to some degree, it’ll have no teeth and most countries aren’t going to be willing to cede enough of their authority to make it effective (nor, frankly, should they).

    “As I said before, your view of non-interventionism seems far more nuanced than the so-called non-interventionism of the Rockwell Brigades”

    That’s because they’re usually deluding themselves into believing they’re not isolationists (which they are). I consider that philosophy to be as unrealistic as pacifism (pure pacifism, not just the “no aggression” kind). Just because I don’t think our government should be interfering in someone else’s internal affairs doesn’t mean I think there aren’t threats out there that our government needs to defend our country against. That’s just asking to be the victim. And just because I believe in a strong national defense doesn’t mean I think we should go aggressively using it every time it suits the government to do so. It is a fine line, and there are always gray areas, but true non-interventionism is not incompatible with maintaining liberty…in fact it enhances it by allowing other countries to resolve their internal matters on their own without us dictating terms. Allowing other people to find their own solutions to problems within their own country often allows better, longer-lasting solutions than what we’d find for them.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 28, 2007 @ 4:54 pm
  52. In a way, the League of Nations was the toothless UN. They always painted it negatively like a weaponless policeman – especially when Japan attacked China and then pulled out of the League.

    But that’s the best thing that could happen. The UN should only be a forum for discussion. There should be no disillusionment when people realize that it doesn’t have any power. It should merely be a forum for airing opinion from around the world.

    The UN shouldn’t be a substitute for bilateral or multilateral negotiations. Nor should countries count on the UN for military support. It would strengthen the desire of countries to secure defensive alliances against possible aggressors. It will stop all those people who cry out against genocide from wasting their time by going to the UN looking for peacekeeping force.

    BTW: The proclamation issued by the League against Japan was highly hypocritical. It was issued by imperial powers who’d already subjugated China against another imperial power that was in the process of subjugating it. It was eerily similar to the UN Human Rights Council passing resolutions against Israel.

    Comment by TanGeng — November 28, 2007 @ 7:41 pm
  53. TanGeng,

    I agree. And of course, let’s not forget that the League of Nations and the U.N. were both responsible for using the rule of law to violate the property rights of the Palestinians by creating the state of Israel because the prevailing opinion of the “international community” at the time was that Palestinians’ rights to sovereignty and their property claims didn’t merit serious consideration so the “international community” could give the land to who they wanted. Now, of course, the demographics have shifted so the U.N. seems to consist of people who’d be okay with throwing the Israelis out (which would be just as wrong) even though they’re often not the aggressors. Basically, the more the U.N. gets involved the more they usually fuck things up.

    Comment by UCrawford — November 29, 2007 @ 6:24 am
  54. Doug,

    So, do you care to discuss the distinction between isolationism and non-interventionism that I’ve laid out for you, or should we just look forward to more articles making the same mistake because you’ve got a jones for that particular straw man? Or are you one of those people who is simply incapable of admitting that you’re wrong so you’re not even going to bother to defend your essentially neoconservative position?

    Comment by UCrawford — November 29, 2007 @ 6:33 am

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