13 April 2005

Foreign Policy's Growing Center (Update)

Pejman Yousefzadeh has a column in today's Tech Central Station which touches on some of the same issues as my post yesterday. As did I, Pejman is optimistic about the pragmatic movement amongst some libertarians to support a strong international presence; moreover, he argues (and I completely agree) that "pure" libertarians will need to accept the reality of world events into their philosophy -- introduce some "impurity", in other terms -- or find themselves completely excluded from serious foreign policy debate:
Speaking personally, I am . . . a realist with libertarian inclinations. For me, therefore, much of the doctrinal conflict is resolved. I want my government to be small in accordance with my libertarian-conservative principles, but I believe that when it comes to acting within the international system, the United States has to run an activist and internationalist foreign policy. Such a foreign policy does not entail any kind of hyper-aggression, but it does understand that we live in a Hobbesian world where life is nasty, brutish and short and that we should act accordingly. Much of my political philosophy stems from what I interpret the mandates of the Constitution to be (indeed, my admiration for the Constitution stems in large part from my perception that it expertly blends libertarian and realist principles), and there is a great deal of discretion left in the Constitution on how foreign and military policy should be conducted -- discretion that perhaps stems from the influence of realist Founding Fathers like Alexander Hamilton and which makes the Constitution impressively responsive to the dictates of the Hobbesian international order.

The libertarian minimalists will likely find my outlook to be anathema to their own. But in order to effectively respond to it, it is not enough to fashion an idealistic foreign policy. Libertarian minimalists must take the extra step to fashion a doctrine that debunks realism and supports their own foreign policy outlook. They must seek to explain how the international system is not a Hobbesian stage where the maximization of power is the central foreign policy goal, or that if it is, libertarian minimalism can somehow be consistent with the Hobbesian realist outlook. Unless they do so, libertarian minimalists will continue to be perceived as "not serious" about foreign policy.

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