The Middle East is in flames again, and for once, Liberty people seem unsure what to think about it. For years our only rallying cry was “no more nation-building – bring the troops home!” And for a while, that was enough. Our foreign policy ideals were so diametrically opposed to those in play for the last few administrations, we didn’t need to nail down all the details of our ideology. Mere assertion sufficed.
But the situation in Iraq has brought the Liberty Movement to a crossroads.
On one side, Ron Paul’s steady non-interventionism is what first drew many people to the Movement, and the case could even be made that these foreign-policy-first libertarians form the core of the Liberty Movement. These folks steadfastly believe that the United States should bring all military forces home and leave the world to its own devices, relying on free trade and free association to govern international affairs. But this group has fallen strangely silent in the wake of all the images coming out of Iraq: black flags, burned buildings, and mutilated bodies. Few voices other than Dr. Paul himself continue to speak against intervention by opposing further deployments to Iraq.
The second group, led by Liberty leaders and proud wacko birds Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, believe that ISIS poses a credible threat to the national security of the United States, and supports direct military action to defeat them. Those who take this position are willing to choke down their general distaste for foreign intervention to stave off what they see as an absolute evil that the United States has a moral obligation to confront.
Complicating things further are the presidential ambitions of the younger Paul and his Senate compatriot, Mr. Cruz. Many libertarian-leaning Republicans sense that the country is turning their direction, and they are sizing up the challenge of winning the presidency in the context of the foreign policy question – i.e., is a non-interventionist foreign policy politically viable when American citizens are being beheaded on video and their deaths broadcast to the world?
Caught in the middle, is the rest of the ideological amalgam known as the Liberty Movement. It seems obvious to many of us that there is a real difference between the threat of Saddam Hussein and the threat of ISIS, and judging by the polls, it’s not just Liberty people. The same American public that overwhelmingly opposed Syrian intervention last year now sees ISIS as a threat to the security of the United States. But even in the midst of our sympathy for suffering Iraqis and Americans trapped in this swelling tide of evil, we find it hard to justify expending more of our blood and treasure on yet another Mideast sand trap.
The Liberty Movement has been chased to the middle of a foreign policy teeter-totter, trying not to fall too far to either side.
On one hand, although throwing our weight behind Rand and Iraqi intervention would defuse the “isolationist” accusation, it would also deal a major blow to one of the foundational premises of the Movement – that the United States needs to bring our military home and end our overseas adventurism.
On the other hand, standing with Ron Paul and insisting that American forces stay out of Iraq forces us to look into the eyes of innocent American civilians beheaded by Islamic extremists and explain to the nation why these atrocities are an understandable and anticipated reaction to our aggressive foreign policy. It forces us tell the victims’ families why those responsible for these gruesome killings will not be held accountable. It forces us to tell the tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis hiding in the mountains choosing between starvation and the sword that their lives aren’t worth saving, and that, though we’re sorry about engineering the crisis that their nation is currently engulfed in, we are tired of being there and now it’s their mess to clean up.
And finally, holding to non-interventionism in the face of these horrific crimes will force the Movement to confront the specter of WWII and the Holocaust, and make the case to the nation that we, as the most wealthy and powerful nation in the world, have no responsibility to stop the wholesale slaughter of innocents when we have the ability to do so.
Holocaust references are so overused in our society that they are summarily dismissed in political conversation anymore – usually with a sneer. But there is a reason that people resort to such references: they awaken the deepest kind of horror and revulsion in the hearer. Even in an age when morals are adrift and right and wrong are up for sale, we can pretty much all agree that Adolph Hitler’s systematic elimination of Jews, Gypsies, political dissidents, and others, was one of the darkest moments in human history, and because of our role on bringing it to an end, it also became a pivotal moment in the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world.
In 1941, we went to war because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, not because Hitler was crowding Jews into death camps. But ever since our troops walked through Auschwitz and Buchenwald, our rationale for going to war as a nation has quietly shifted. Standing in the face of the horror that the Nazis unleashed on Europe, the people of the United States have largely embraced the role of liberator and protector, sending our sons and daughters to fight beside strangers in far-off battlefields, often with little to gain for ourselves.
If there was ever a chance of reversing that trend and returning to an age when the United States remained largely out of world affairs, that chance passed with the advent of the nuclear age and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. When one man can destroy a nation and one nation can destroy the world, everyone’s security becomes intertwined. Add to that a cultural acceptance of the premise that everything is permissible but violence, and it becomes immediately evident why we have so readily embraced the role of world police.
Written by: Guest Writer JOEL KURTINITIS on STEVE DEACE where you can continue reading this article