Which countries are of US interest?

I was reading my news stream when I noted a blog post from the Cato Institute discussing the silliness of adding Montenegro to NATO. I don’t disagree per se. I certainly don’t see the value of adding Montenegro to NATO, if the purpose of NATO is to protect the US. Nor do I disagree with the general US-libertarian belief that the US has over extended itself in terms of military alliances.

I do wonder though what countries US-libertarians should desire to maintain a military alliance with. A North American military alliance, ranging from Canada to Panama and including the Caribbean, makes sense to me. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are our greatest defenses, but I welcome military cooperation from our geographical neighbors.

Beyond there though it gets tricky. Western Europe is certainly rich enough to protect itself. The main reason I am hesitant to leave NATO altogether is the nuclear question. France and the UK are the only European powers with nuclear weapons, but several others are part of NATO’s nuclear sharing program. Should the US leave NATO would these countries seek nuclear weapons for themselves? Would the UK/France provide substitute weapons? Ending military ties with Europe would likely be the easiest option in terms of cutting down on allies.

Japan and South Korea are likewise rich countries, but here too the nuclear question arises. Japan has a cultural aversion to nuclear weapons that I do not see it overcoming in the foreseeable future. South Korea may be willing to use nuclear weapons, but its strained historical relationship with Japan leaves me concerned about the future possibility of a Korean-Japanese alliance to counterweight China PRC. I believe that Japan should be encouraged to modify its constitution to allow its military greater freedom in action and to consider acquiring nuclear weapons of its own. Other nations in the region, such as the Philippines, are outmatched in conventional weaponry or, in the case of Australia, too far away geographically to be of much use in restraining China PRC’s influence in east Asia.

I am hopeful that within my lifetime China PRC will transition to a liberal democracy, but till then I am skeptical about allowing it free reign in east Asia. For the foreseeable future it is hard for me to consider an east Asia without a significant role for the US. Nor would I be particularly against offering South Korea and/or Japan statehood in a United States of the Pacific.

Thoughts? I admit that international politics is not my area of expertise and I more than welcome other’s thoughts on the matter. I also admit that I am not viewing these issues from a pure libertarian perspective but with a splash of nationalism.

As readers may know our own Brandon is playing around with creating a NOL foreign policy quiz similar to the Nolan libertarian quiz.

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6 thoughts on “Which countries are of US interest?

  1. Interesting post. There are several thinks I’d like to discuss, but one at a time…

    “I certainly don’t see the value of adding Montenegro to NATO, if the purpose of NATO is to protect the US.”

    As a US citizen, protecting the US is of paramount importance. As a permanent resident of Canada, and an academic with numerous friends and colleagues in Netherlands, France, Germany, Finland, and Britain I think the purpose is larger.

    • How larger though? Do you, for example, consider the protection of North Africa worth expending resources on? What about Taiwan?

  2. Thanks Michelangelo. This post actually warmed my heart a bit.

    I’ve got only a five few scattered thoughts to share at the moment. I will use this post as a platform for further thinking, though.

    Firstly, the purpose of NATO is not to protect the United States. NATO was founded as a military alliance between the US, Canada, and a number of West European states in order to counter the military power of the Soviet Union after World War 2. After the Soviet Union collapsed the alliance came up with a number of excuses to keep itself alive, most of which center around the doctrine of humanitarian militarism, or Responsibility To Protect. The “protection of the US” argument is thus a red herring; it’s a red herring usually used by proponents of NATO, but it can also be wielded by opponents of the alliance.

    Bandow’s criticisms are certainly valid, but I would appreciate them more if Bandow and others like him at least acknowledged that their criticisms come from a certain point of view: namely, from American citizens with a libertarian-conservative viewpoint.

    Secondly: A splash of nationalism is okay! Check out B-Stock’s musings on why Scotland should not separate from the United Kingdom. (I don’t agree with him, but I am trying to avoid digressions.)

    My third point may be considered pedantic, but I think I need to elaborate a bit more on it anyway. A Pacific Union would not be a merger of 3 states (the US, South Korea, and Japan), but a merger between the states in America (50, plus DC), the prefectures of Japan (47, plus a couple of metro areas), and the provinces of South Korea (9, plus some metro areas). This is a big deal, conceptually. To repeat: the United States of Brandonia in the Pacific would not be 3 states merging into one, but roughly 115 states banding together to form a federal republic under the Madisonian constitution currently in use by the 50 states of the US.

    Ultimately, my argument in this regard is powered by not only my serious commitment to individual liberty but my realization that IR is still a game of pragmatic statesmanship. The key to more individual liberty is to use American military strength in a non-coercive manner; i.e. to get polities to want to become closer to the US not only militarily but economically, culturally, and politically as well.

    My fourth (and last) thought here ties in loosely to my third one. F.A. Hayek notes in his 1960 book The Constitution of Liberty that international relations is “completely lacking” a “moral foundation for a Rule of Law on an international scale.” (According to my notes this insight can be found in chapter 17, section 7, but page numbers vary depending on edition of book so I can’t give you precise page numbers.) Not much has changed in 55 years and I am thus trying to work this puzzle out. I think the US constitution that emerged from the need for protection against Spain, France, the UK, and still-powerful Indian polities has much to offer in this regard.

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