March 11, 2011
The Leftist-Libertarian Security Policy ProblemBy Adam Cassandra
The rift between conservatives and libertarians took a strange turn when Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and self-professed non-conservative, began calling for purges from the conservative movement.
"I am neither a conservative, nor have I ever been a member of Young Americans for Freedom," Preble wrote in The Daily Caller while engaging in what seemed to be a hastily written smear campaign against one of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)'s national board members.
Preble's editorial was a direct response to the explanation by Chris Bedford, national vice-chairman of YAF, of why YAF decided to boot Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) from their national advisory board during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year.
While YAF's decision to remove Rep. Paul dealt exclusively with the libertarian-leaning congressman's national security and foreign policy positions not measuring up to YAF's statement of principles, libertarian organizations across the country took Paul's removal as a direct attack on libertarianism itself.
And so it should be.
The popular libertarian movement in America today, of which Paul appears to be the de facto leader, adheres to a view on national security and foreign policy that can best be described as leftism wrapped in a Gadsden flag.
The message of limited-government constitutional conservatism espoused by Paul and his supporters, and popular among the Tea Party movement, has inspired thousands of young people towards activism in the last several years. But the leftist-libertarian security policy being marketed as an idea from the Founding Fathers is a threat to the future of the conservative movement and American security interests.
The leftist-libertarian view of U.S. security policy characterizes the numerous terrorist attacks against America and our allies as a reaction to American foreign policy; embraces the 9/11 Truther movement; thinks the CIA is a terrorist organization; and views George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld as war criminals. Code Pink would approve.
The threat posed by totalitarian Islamist ideology is also significantly downplayed under the leftist-libertarian national security policy. Despite the plethora of Muslim Brotherhood documents obtained from the Holy Land Foundation trial detailing the strategic plan by Islamists to infiltrate and destroy Western Civilization, the leftist-libertarian attitude towards Islamists is simply to leave them alone and they'll leave us alone. Unfortunately, simply ignoring the greatest threat to American liberty has no basis whatsoever in American conservative thought.
The United States has dealt with the forces of Islamism since our inception as a nation. Under President Washington, America's military power was weak, and the Muslim pirates of the Barbary States were paid off in bribes. But President Jefferson, whom libertarians claim as one of their heroes, was able to use the naval vessels constructed under the Adams administration to strike back against the Barbary pirates in America's first preemptive war.
Like Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld, Thomas Jefferson would probably be heckled as a war criminal by vociferous Ron Paul supporters were he to speak at CPAC today. There was no formal declaration of war when President Jefferson attacked the Barbary States. There was only a set of joint resolutions authorizing the use of force -- much like with the Bush administration's war in Iraq.
The case of the Barbary pirates is important in assessing a conservative security policy. Despite claims to the contrary, George Washington was no isolationist. Washington's oft-cited Farewell Address is just as often misunderstood as a treatise on isolationism. Washington knew that the United States did not have the military capability or the resources to engage in foreign campaigns at the time, but he wrote:
Washington and Jefferson faced the same threat from the Barbary pirates, but Jefferson chose force of arms over tribute. The actions of both Washington and Jefferson in dealing with their Islamist foes are consistent with a conservative foreign policy -- one that is prudent in protecting the just interests of the United States.
During the Cold War, international Communism was the greatest threat to American liberty. The Communists hatched strategic plans and utilized sophisticated networks to infiltrate the West with hopes of bringing down governments from within while using arms and projecting force across the globe. President Reagan knew that Communism was evil, and he implemented his own plan to defeat the communists via elements of statecraft including diplomacy, propaganda, economics, subversion, military display, and war.
America needs a similar strategic plan in dealing with the current threat of Islamists. Abandoning our overseas interests and downplaying the threat simply is not an option.
Organizations like Young Americans for Liberty, formerly Students for Ron Paul, and Campaign for Liberty that claim to represent the values of America's Founding Fathers do no such thing in terms of security policy. These libertarian-leaning groups that claim to be the voice of conservatism in America have made it clear that their true dedication lies in the promotion and protection of Ron Paul -- not of conservative values.
The conservative movement should welcome debate within its ranks, but the movement needs to completely reject policies that endanger the United States, our citizens, and our interests. YAF's rejection of the leftist-libertarian view of national security policy is only the first step in what will hopefully be an honest debate about the future of the conservative movement.
Adam Cassandra is an associate editor of The New Guard, Young Americans for Freedom's official magazine. He is also the Maryland YAF state chairman.