Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Both libertarians and conservatives want to keep America safe. We differ on how best to do that. Most libertarians believe our attempts to create or support democracy around the world have made us new enemies, and done harm as well as good. We want less military spending.
Some conservatives respond to that by calling us isolationists, but we're not. I want to participate in the world; I just don't want to run it. I'm glad Americans trade with other countries -- trade both goods and people. It's great we sell foreigners our music, movies, ideas, etc. And through dealing with them, we also learn from what they do best.
On my TV show this week, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton will tell me why my libertarian skepticism about the importance of a "strong military presence" is "completely irrelevant to foreign policy decision-making."
Bolton thinks it's dangerous and provocative for America to appear militarily weak. He supported the Iraq War and says that if Iran were close to getting nuclear weapons, the U.S should attack. "I will go to my grave trying to prevent every new country we can find from getting nuclear weapons," because if they do, "it's going to be a very dangerous world."
He criticizes Presidents Barack Obama's and George W. Bush's failed attempts at negotiation with Iran, "negotiation based on the delusion from the get-go that Iran was ever serious about potentially giving up its nuclear weapon program."
That kind of talk makes Bolton sound like a hard-headed realist. Who wants to be naive like Bush or Obama? But hawks like Bolton ignore parts of reality, too.
They are quick and correct to point out the danger of Iran going nuclear. They are not as quick to talk about the fact that Iran has a population three times the size of Iraq's -- and the Iraq War wasn't as smooth or short as then-Vice President Dick Cheney and others assured us it would be.
If it's realistic to acknowledge that America has dangerous enemies, it's also realistic to acknowledge that going to war is not always worth the loss of money and lives, and that it makes new enemies. War, like most government plans, tends not to work out as well as planners hoped.
I asked Bolton if he thought the Vietnam War was a good intervention. "Obviously, the way it played out, it was not," he said, but, "it's always easy after the fact to second-guess."
Bolton also acknowledges that the Iraq War did not go well, but then adds, "Where mistakes were made was after the military campaign." The U.S. was unprepared for the civil war that broke out. The U.S. also failed to turn utilities and other state-run companies in Iraq over to the private sector, maintaining poorly run monopolies on energy production and other essential services, often squandering billions of dollars.
It might be seen as a harsh lesson in the importance of planning for the aftermath of toppling a bad regime. But we libertarians wonder: Why assume government will do better next time?
Occasionally government acknowledges mistakes in domestic policy -- but that doesn't mean it then becomes more efficient. It usually just spends more to try, and fail, to fix the problem. It's the nature of government. Politicians don't face the competitive incentives that force other people to make hard decisions.
Candidate Obama garnered support by criticizing Bush for costing money and lives through a protracted stay in Iraq. But that didn't stop Obama from putting more money and troops into Afghanistan.
In his first term alone, Obama spent about three times as much in Afghanistan as Bush did in two terms. Did we win hearts and minds? I don't think so. The Taliban may still retake the country.
Our military should be used for defense, not to police the world.
John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentary.
See Other Commentaries by John Stossel.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.