Friday, November 18, 2011

Non-Intervention In the Real World

I received a list of excellent questions from an Anonymous commenter on my last post, summarized by the first one: "How does non-intervention work in the real world?"  There are several followup questions, so I'll answer them here.

You write: "If we maintain a standing army, we keep it at home to secure our own borders"
So there is some discussion amongst non-interventionists as to whether or not the U.S. would keep a standing army? 

This is more a dispute between Libertarians in general.  Most non-interventionists (including myself) would not go as far as to completely disband the military.  However, we would significantly reduce it's size when not in times of declared war.  The details of the reduction (which branches get cut the most, what we do with the hardware in the meanwhile, how we keep people trained in it, etc.) would be up for serious discussion.

Would I be correct in assuming that “standing army” is a metaphor for all branches of the U.S. military? 


Does that mean no power projection b y the U.S. naval fleet in the Pacific or Persian Gulf?

In the Pacific?  No, since those waters directly touch our own.  The Persian Gulf?  Maybe.  This would be an area for discussion

Does that mean no forward military bases in Korea, Germany, etc?

Each base would need to be evaluated, based on several criteria, including consultation with the host government.  (I mean, we wouldn't like it if Germany just put some "forward bases" on American soil, would we?  No.  Sure, we let them use our bases, but we would absolutely object to them owning a base here.  Quid pro quo, I say.)

What does this mean for the countries that the U.S. has guaranteed their protection?

Why are we guaranteeing protection for countries?  Are they paying for that protection (by money, resources, etc.)?  Obviously, Israel is at the top of the list.  The solution to that is easy: leave them alone, and stop sending money to their enemies ("Foreign aid").

What happens if some country, say Iran, decides to block the Strait of Hormuz? Keep in mind that even the threat of a blockade would send the oil markets sky-rocketing and the U.S. and world economy into a free fall. 

The answer to this is multi-faceted.  The first thing to do is to ramp up domestic oil production by removing the suffocating regulations the EPA has placed on the oil companies, and by lowering (or eliminating) the taxes for domestic oil, while (potentially) raising the tariffs for foreign oil.  That makes the impact of an action such as you describe much smaller.

Next (maybe even at the same time), we lift the sanctions on Iran: stop choking them out, and start a vigorous trade and diplomacy with them.  Become a partner that they would not want to harm.  (This is the carrot.)

On the other hand (the stick), make it clear that such an action would be viewed as an act of war.  If they proceed, we will get the Congress to declare war with clearly defined objectives, go kick their asses until those objectives are met, then come home.

This is what I was getting at in my original post.  Isolationists would just close their eyes and say "none of our business".  Non-Interventionists are simply reluctant to get involved militarily.  If we must get involved militarily, we will, but we would really prefer to solve the problem through truly peaceful means.  Also, if we do finally pull out the guns, we do so by following the constitutional process, and we don't lie about our reasons.  We finally "grow a pair".  If we're going to war for oil, then say "we're going to war for oil, because we need it.  We've tried every other way to get it, and none of it's worked."  If Congress won't pass that, then we don't go to war.  It's that simple.

One way the U.S. keeps the peace is via its military power projection throughout the world. 

Even if this is true (I don't think it is), my point is that this is a flawed method of keeping the peace.  It does not work, long-term.  In fact, it's already starting to fail.

But why do I say it's not true?  Because if you look at the century of US power, you find the bloodiest century in the history of the world.  There was no peace in the 20th century.  What peace are we keeping, when we are constantly at war?

The US has followed the way of Rome, and has lasted even less time, even when you take the rapidity of modern life into account.  Non-Interventionists say that we ought rather to follow the way of Byzantium, which lasted just over 1,000 years, and was only brought down by the combined efforts of the other two superpowers at the time: the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim Caliphate.

To think that the greatest power in the world would simply walk away from its position is unthinkable. Especially since it would endanger its national security and economic stability.

Non-Interventionists don't advocate that we "simply walk away from [our] position".  That's what isolationists advocate.  This was my whole point: that we are not isolationists.  We are advocating, rather, that we solidify and strengthen our position by putting our military to proper use, and bringing the other engines of state back into the foreground where they belong.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Isolation vs. Non-intervention

Those conservatives who oppose Ron Paul's bid for presidency tend to do so because of his foreign policy.  The word "isolationism" is bandied about rather loosely.  To borrow a phrase from Inigo Montoya, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

The detractors accuse Mr. Paul of wanting to isolate the United States, to stop having anything to do with the rest of the world, to withdraw our entire world presence to within our borders, and "go dark", supporting ourselves and our way of life, and the rest of the world be damned.  That is isolationism.

There is another concept, which actually comprises Mr. Paul's (and my) actual stance: Non-Intervention.

What is Non-Intervention?  It is maintaining trade and diplomatic relations with the world, to further our national interests, while remaining free of entangling alliances and military action, as much as possible.  If we maintain a standing army, we keep it at home to secure our own borders.  We maintain peace through strong defense and being "good neighbors".  Non-Intervention is just that: not intervening in the affairs of others.

The warmongers would portray non-interventionists as isolationists, who want to become the weird guy in the house on the dead end of the street, who never comes out and never talks to anybody.  If he does come out, it's only to yell at the kids to get off his lawn.

That is far from an accurate picture.  We are currently acting like the neighborhood mafia don, with the idea that the world is our territory, we run the show, and if you don't fall in line, we're gonna break your fingers and/or blow out your kneecaps.  Non-interventionists just want to be good neighbors.

We want to stop being the bully of the world.  We want to be well-adjusted adults, trading and talking with our neighbors, and at the same time maintaining our own sovereignty.  The use of military force should be a last resort, entered into reluctantly (although decisively), with clear goals, and a clear declaration of war.  It should be ended as soon as possible.

Our platform is one of vigorous trade and open diplomacy, avoiding entangling alliances, in the fashion of old Byzantium, with military force available and decisive, but used only when absolutely no other option remains.

This is not isolationism.  This is non-interventionism.  Hopefully, you can now stop confusing the two.