Libertarian Party's Foreign Policy

According to the official website of the Libertarian Party (, their stance on foreign policy is basically not to get involved in entangled relationships with other nations. As an example, they cite the recent entanglements that the US has in Iraq, saying that they would not have gotten involved in the first place.

Editor’s Note: I am at work, and that cite is actually blocked. I am paraphrasing from my memory of the last time I visited the website, a few weeks ago.

I am a recent defector to the Libertarian Party. While I agree with everything else on the Libertarian platform, this I have a slight problem with. It just seems kind of wishy-washy. So, I am looking for a down to Earth explanation, in plain english, from any Libertarians here, of their take on the foreign policy issue.

Is it correct to say that the Libertarian’s stance on foreign politics is one of Isolationism? How would this be practiced?

And two hypotheticals:

How would a Libertarian President have acted after 9/11?

What is the Libertarian’s recipe to disengage some of these entanglements?

I don’t know whether the one and only Libertarian will reply since he rarely visits GD any more, but I think the general gist of his personal outlook is that there might one day be no such thing as “foreign” since freedom to cross borders at will would be an inalienable right of humanity.

Of course, if this in any way misrepresents him then I apologise unreservedly.

Here is the Lib’s response to the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.

Basically, they backed the action, but with the following caveats:

  1. Show the American people conclusive evidence that ObL was behind the 9/11 events.

  2. Congress should be the body that declares war (an Afghanistan) and should not cede that power to the president.

Libertarian’s brand of libertarianism (‘anarcho-capitalism’) had very little to do with the brand endorsed by the Libertarian Party (‘minarchism’). I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t hold the LP in particularly high esteem.

I think that if there was an LP president, backed by a LP majority in Congress that 9/11 may very likely have not happened as the US would have most likely completely pulled out of the Middle East.

Good point cckerberos. I’m trying to gain more information by playing the devil’s advocate here.

So how would today’s Libertarian party address the “mistakes” of past administrations?

True enough, our Lib generally thinks little of the formal party. Feel free to correct me, Lib.

I’m a Libertarian of the ‘minimalist’ mode, however.

I do think that our relations with foreign powers (acknowledging that ‘free passage’ is a pipe dream) should be minimal, explicit in their benefit of the collective good, and revisited often.

I’m a party member, and I wouldn’t agree with the platform on this issue. It is in the nature of all parties, especially small ones, that the true believers exert a disproportionate influence and are simply unrealistic about some things, foreign policy being one for the LP. (To steal from Lileks, they are the people who say “Don’t blame me, I voted for Ayn Rand.”)

If we were a small country, okay, maybe we could be isolationist. As it is, the US cannot totally abdicate its role without causing chaos in many parts of the world, which would eventually bite us in the ass. To steal from sombody else (I’m so lame): In the 21st century, even if we try to stay out of the bad neighborhoods, the bad neighborhoods will come to us.

Hence, this centrist libertarian generally supports the basic outlines of the current administration’s policies.

Yes and no. “Isolationism” is often used to describe a Pat Buchanan-style policy which includes (a) opposition to American involvement in the affairs of other nations; (b) protectionism–that is, high tariffs to discourage imports; and © opposition to immigration. The Libertarian Party agrees with (a), but not (b) or ©.

However, libertarianism in general ( as a philosophy ) is fairly unconcerned with ©. Libertarians in general would agree that a state has every right to control its borders and to ensure the safety of its own citizens at the expense of noncitizens, so controlling immigration is okay, but not necessarily required to any specific degree. In this sense, a libertarian government could pursue isolationist immigration policies.

Nearly all libertarians (and Libertarians, and even Libertarian) would oppose (b) very strongly, since it destroys the right of citizens to engage in unrestricted trade.

Yes, it’s isolationist, and I agree with isolationism in principle. However, we are currently entangled with the world, have been for over 60 years. We can’t exactly just stop, we have to disengage step by step.

But first, we have to set right what we’ve screwed up over the last 60 years. We’ve got dictators in place that we put there and funded. We’ve got allies that would likely be destroyed if we stop giving them aid, such as Israel and Taiwan and possibly even South Korea, Japan, and Eastern Europe. Defeat of any of those nations could jeopardize our national security.

So before we crawl back into our cave we have some things we have to take care of. A responsible LP President would get that process rolling.