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Pacifist Isolationism

November 16th, 2004 · No Comments

From Ryan Sager, on “the future of libertarianism,” we get:

The main problem with libertarians right now, frankly, is their inability to have anything serious to say regarding foreign policy. Pacifism combined with isolationism, as preached more or less by many at Cato and Reason is neither the popular nor the correct answer to the threat of global terrorism.

Now, usually, the charges of “pacifism” and “isolationism” come from people whose conception of the live policy option consists of a stark choice between full-blown invasions on the one hand and docile acquiescence to the implementation of Shariah in the U.S. on the other. It is, at any rate, a profoundly silly inference from opposition to the war in Iraq, which is really the most one can gather from Cato or Reason, both of which (to the extent Reason takes institutional positions… which is minimal) supported the actions in Afghanistan. As I recall, the purportedly isolationist argument against action in Iraq involved the (now clearly enough accurate) observation that it would be both a distraction from and a drain upon efforts to consolidate the power of the new regime in Afghanistan and neutralize it as an Al Qaeda base of operations.

The alternative to war isn’t pacificism, it’s the boring but notably less catastrophic project of squeezing your existing enemies without unnecessarily creating new ones through the kind of “isolationist” international cooperation that the Iraq war has made so much more difficult. And while I think “clash of civilizations” rhetoric buys too much into Bin Laden & company’s eschatological conception of what’s going on, it’s truly startling that someone who so fully endorses it would simultaneously see the battle as one to be won primarily through crude force of arms rather than the slower but more necessary process of selling western liberalism in the Muslim world.

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