Pfc. Bradley Manning’s leaking of highly classified US documents is inarguably one of the worst acts of treachery in American history. Both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange willingly put innocent lives in danger because they felt a capricious urge to release top secret information. It is interesting to note, however, that libertarians and conservatives, who are ideological allies on most issues, particularly vis-à-vis economics, became so diametrically opposed to each other on this issue.
Even a week or so after the story broke, libertarians are still enthusiastically defending alleged sex-offender Assange.
It is my contention that libertarians, although excellent on most issues, peculiarly turn into unthinking liberals when it comes to foreign policy, inasmuch as they champion what I call “foreign policy with blinders.” Libertarians tend to drop their Henry Hazlitt economic mindset of thinking about the consequential impact of every action as soon as the topic of foreign policy is broached. These people who are brilliant thinkers in every other area—and can eruditely articulate the necessity of thinking beyond stage one—always seem to get trapped at stage one with foreign policy.
As kryptonite is to Superman, foreign policy is to the smart libertarian.
When the entire country should have been cohesively expressing repulsion and outrage at this craven act of treason, libertarians adopted the traditional liberal role of blathering simplistic and puerile inanities like:
“Well, it’s good for us to know the truth, and what journalist wouldn’t expose it!”
“Telling the truth shouldn’t be punished!”
When it comes to foreign policy, libertarians find it difficult to look at the bigger picture. They are so focused on freedom at the individual level that they fail to see that terrorists pose a massive threat to the world at large. Libertarians have difficulty understanding that there will be no such thing as a free society in which they can be obsessively punctilious about tackling the slightest breaches of civil liberties if America falls prey to a nuclear Iran. There’s no way someone can understand this yet still express ebullience when someone whimsically and intentionally jeopardizes the security of the United States. Contrasting the libertarian positions on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts, it’s safe to come to the conclusion that their approach is penny-wise and pound-foolish.
The sensible conservative approach (often disparagingly called “neoconservative” approach) is one that surveys the situation, assesses the threat, and does what needs to be done in order to secure American lives. The sensible conservative, like the libertarian, wishes there was a world with no wars. Conservatives wish there was no terrorism. Conservatives wish that everyone could live together peacefully. However, the difference between the sensible conservative and the libertarian is that the conservative is incisive enough to know that it can never happen.
The libertarian foreign policy is birthed from precisely the same Disneyland fairytale assumption that liberalism is predicated on: that man is inherently good and that if one side—America— stops violence and “imperialism,” the other side will automatically drop their weapons, which would lead to everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya,” with a rash of magical fairies dropping pixie dust and cotton candy from the skies at the sight of such peace.
It’s a nice thought, but it’s just not realistic.
In situations like this WikiLeaks scandal, it becomes abundantly clear how conservatism is superior to libertarianism. The foreign policy outlook of the libertarian is demonstrably myopic, whereas the conservative’s outlook is more expansive. The libertarian tends to be a civil liberties absolutist, whereas the conservative believes that civil liberties may have to take a backseat for the greater good and national security. The conservative believes that we can create peace through war—as history has indicated, whereas the libertarian believes that honesty and peace can solve all disputes.
In other words, with respect to foreign policy, conservatives think like problem-solving adults, whereas libertarians think like children formulating senseless Utopian dreams of eradicating evil by doing nothing.
The libertarian proclivity towards championing revolutionaries that act against the government is admirable. After all, some of the greatest democratic gains have been accomplished via the calculated defiance of rogue regimes. However, the incessant praise being bestowed on pusillanimous Assange is evidence of the fact that libertarians often become exceedingly irrational in their disdain for government and support for dissidents.
Domestically speaking, in the hands of a minuscule libertarian government, we’d all live in freedom with unbridled prosperity under free-market capitalism. But if there is no conservative around to handle the foreign policy in a libertarian state, it’s moot as to how long that freedom will last for.
Libertarians have an inchoate conceptualization of what it takes to defend freedom, which is why their foreign policy ideas are—at best—infantile and, at worst, disastrous.