I expect liberals to be against most wars except those they start themselves (most of them, historically). Such opposition stands to reason because much liberalism is based on a vague feeling of collective guilt: Whatever bad thing happens, it must be “our” fault. I am disturbed therefore to recognize signs of growing military isolationism among my libertarian friends. Some of it is just disguised defeatism coming from increasing Afghan War fatigue. Much more is based on moral concerns that I think are usually misplaced. Below is an exchange I had with a young libertarian recently. He is much younger than I am. Like me, he lives in the People’s Socialist Green Republic of Santa Cruz, California. The mere fact that he professes libertarian opinions in that environment makes him a man of substance and a man of honor. His communication begins right below. My inter-spaced comments and are in bold letters.
[Brandon Christensen on foreign intervention Email circa 12/14/10]
…Speaking of which, I think I am going to take a shot at convincing you of the hopelessness of global interventionism and nation-building as a tool for preventing jihadism. While jihadism is indeed a problem, I don’t think its a global one. I think that perhaps there are some jihadists who believe in resurrecting the Islamic caliphate of old, but even then that old caliphate never reached the shores of the New World.
Your view of the Caliphate does not begin to cover the motives for jihad. Jihadism does not mean “re-conquest” of what was once Muslim but conquest or domination of the whole world. (See the Hamas Charter). The only acceptable outcomes are conversion or living as dhimmis, second class citizens, for Christians and Jews. Pagans – that would include Santa Cruz Buddhists, as well as Hindus – can be slaughtered freely or reduced to slavery under Islamic law. In fact, any Muslims man can seize any “pagan” and make him or her a slave. Female slaves are called “concubines.”The Muslims scriptures thus clearly condone rape. The rational Muslims I know will say, “ That was a long time ago. We would not do it now.” In the meantime, the permission to act in this manner remains on the book. It can be invoked at any time and is. I don’t know for sure but I would bet that there is not a singlefatwa condemning any of these outrageous acts. Want to bet?
I think that for the most part jihadism is a regional problem, and one that the Republic is embroiled in only because of the military assistance (and occupation) that we are providing to the corrupt, ruthless, and negligent Saudi regime (and now the Iraqi and Afghani regimes as well – both of which are equally as corrupt and negligent as the Saudi one).
So, why the terrorist attacks on the French? On the Spanish? On Sweden right before Christmas 2010? Why the kidnappings and executions of journalists of all nationalities?
Being as how our beef with the jihadists stems from our occupation of Islamic holy lands, i think it is only logical that we bring our troops home and leave the peoples of the Old World to their own affairs. If this were to happen, the jihadists would either turn inward on themselves (which I suspect is the most likely outcome), on Israel, or on the weak and dying welfare states of Europe.
What “Islamic holy lands?” Is Afghanistan holy? Since when? Are Kurdish and Sunni Iraq holy? Why was Algeria attacked for ten years, with about 100,000 deaths: no American troops there? By the way, no American troops in Saudi Arabia for ten years. When American soldiers were withdrawn from the holy soil of Saudi Arabia, terrorists attacks increased. Al Quaida and its buddies did not say, “Alright, we are all squared away now.” Your good reasoning seems to rely on misinformation.
The state of Israel is strong enough to handle its own affairs, and I, unlike many of my peers in Santa Cruz, actually support their actions against the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah (though I do recognize Hamas’ election victories and think that the West is shooting itself in the foot by not recognizing them as such). Besides, I don’t think that all of the various factions within the Middle East are worried that much about a liberal democratic state in the region. I think that everyone over there is much more worried about a nuclear Iran than anything else. There are also many tribal rivalries, sub-state rivalries, ethnic rivalries, and religious rivalries that are likely to spring up in the absence of an imperial presence, all of which are much, much older than the relatively new beef with the Israeli state.
Hamas ‘election was one of the cleanest in the Middle East. Let the Gaza Palestinians assume the burden they put on their own backs by electing Hamas fair and square. The states and factions of the Middle East ought to be worried more about Iran than about Israel. It does not mean that they are. It does not mean that they can divest themselves soon of the mental habit of blaming everything on Israel (That includes Egyptian journalists’ blaming shark attacks on tourists in the Red Sea on Israel! -Would I make this up?)
And until Europe ends its Apartheid-like “multicultural” policies on immigrants, and ends the rest of its ridiculous domestic social policies, then Europeans will continue to live in fear of their own shadows.
French society is a very good example of integration of Muslims. It’s at the antipodes of what you could legitimately describe as apartheid. French Muslims are in construction, in retail trade, in government, in teaching, in the police and in the Cabinet. It does not stop anything as far as violent jihadists are concerned.
One of the best things the American people could do for Europeans is to get out of the region and let them learn how to defend themselves again (it would also save taxpayers here millions of dollars).
Your perception of the costs of “defending” Europe is probably dated. It’s only true in the sense that we maintain somewhat larger armed forces. We would in any case. Yet, your point is well taken, the Europeans are not doing their share and the Canadian armed forces number fewer than …60,000.
How are they ever going to learn how to live again if we don’t let them walk – wobbly knees and all – on their own two feet?
I don’t see how any of this is isolationist. Bringing our troops home would ensure peace from the ravages of Old World affairs, but it would not mean an end of relations with the peoples of the Old World either. Commercial, educational, scientific, religious, and other such relations would continue, and, to top it off, the world would once again have an example of what to emulate when it comes to governing the affairs of their own. And if there was an imminent threat by a terrorist on foreign soil against the Republic, well, that’s what we have satellite technology and laser-guided missiles for. I don’t know where you get your trust in high-tech defense; I wish to share it.
… In any such case, the current occupation of foreign lands has not done much to stem the violent rise of jihadism,
How do you know? And how do I know, admittedly? Yet, killing those who have declared they want to kill you and have done so repeatedly seems like a good general policy.
and I would argue that a position of neutrality towards the region would actually do more to eliminate the threat of jihadism than nation-building “exercises.”
The causal linkage you make about violent jihad and US occupation of Muslim countries is based on defective facts so, your remedy cannot be credible.
Your faith in military technology is misplaced, I think. (I could make a U-turn on this one.). As a result, you want to defend American society on the Jersey Shore and on the beach in La Jolla. That’s defend against both violent jihadism and North Korean and Iranian adventurism. That’s isolationism.
The concept of an “Old World” may play a strange role in your reasoning. It seems to be the linchpin of your wholesale rejection that I think of as “isolationism.”I believe it’s a completely artificial construction. The UK and Turkmenistan are both parts of your Old World, I would guess. But what do they have in common? The big gap is between societies where fairly legitimate elections take place frequently, accompanied by alternance in power and where the rule of law prevails much of the time, on the one hand, and gangster states, on the other hand. I could draw you a list of the latter easily. Gangster states often turn aggressive because they are mostly economically unsuccessful. A successful gangster state such as China is less likely to turn violent.
I have not addressed your objections to nation-building. (You raise too many good points.) Just a question: How many democratic polities are there in the Mideast now? Who gets the credit (blame?) for the latest?
[Editor's note: this essay first appeared on Dr. Delacroix's blog, Facts Matter, on January 5th 2011]