Home Columns Free Thoughts: Can we reclaim the anti-war position?

Free Thoughts: Can we reclaim the anti-war position?

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the author and Ohio University Students for Liberty. They do not reflect those of The New Political or its editorial team.

By: C.J. Fogarty

I used to view a military intervention as simply an isolated event with no negative consequences. I also used to believe that any regime change is good when the U.S. installs a leader allied with us. I was never a warhawk, but I assumed a group ideologically bent on destroying America must be destroyed first. More important to my lack of knowledge, however, was my assumption that the political left embodied the anti-war, and thus, anti-patriot, faction in political discussion.

My views were considerably dated, as politics on both sides appears to have evolved toward embracing an aggressive foreign policy. Rather than the youth-in-revolt, new left ideologues I had pictured, I encountered self-identified liberals and socialists claiming that our enemies must be destroyed through quick, violent action.

More incredulous to me, as I thought this solely a production of right-wing politics, these same people embraced the idea that American occupation and regime change are necessary to protect such countries against outside dangers.

An understanding of interventionism and its negative effects has led me to understand the implications of this foreign policy. With much of the authorization centralized with the president, anyone in the Oval Office appears free to further escalate the conflict through ordering drone strikes and bombings.

In all of this, the mobilization of a nationwide anti-war movement, comparable to the late 1960s, is not seen in the present day. A viable Democrat or Republican anti-war candidate has not appeared since Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012.

The scale of intervention only rose after the election of former President Barack Obama, which was celebrated as a victory for liberal principles with his health care and economic reform. When it became apparent that Obama was ordering more bombings and drone strikes than former President George W. Bush, I began to question what I thought politics represented.

What can be done to approach this apparent consensus? Who will be willing to take up the anti-war banner is probably subject to future circumstances. But where the narrative of forever war continues to dominate mainstream politics, the libertarian movement can gather those few on both sides who reject regime change as a viable option.

Libertarians can harken back to the anti-war position with its support for individual freedom, reminding our leaders liberty lies in the hands of those who would shape their society from within, and not ours. This issue should be approached with an emphasis on allowing all people to achieve political and economic freedom for themselves, and not by our coercion.

Accepting that people will always quantify the loss of life on one side against potential disaster for the other is instrumental if we are to challenge this idea. Regardless of how many lives were potentially saved, the physical and social dislocation surrounding American intervention can make not doing anything the safer option.

Communicating this will not be easy, of course. Libertarians must be patient, recognizing that the idea of government doing less is counterintuitive in this day and age. We must use wisdom, gathering enough facts and opposing views to craft a well-informed opinion. In the process, one might conclude that there is no way for nations to completely avoid conflict. There is a way, however, to avoid escalation, and hoping that our weapons will be used by the “right” people is a destructive gamble.

From now until the end of America, will we look back on 2017 as the year we brought peace to Syria, or the year we escalated a conflict in which we should’ve been involved? In other words, how many times will we rely on hindsight to determine the legitimacy of military action? Finally, take heart in that you are not alone, as libertarians around the world continue to fight for the same thing: a freer world which will sue for peace sooner than sending bombers to war.

Students for Liberty is a 501(c) nonprofit. While student members do not participate in political activity, they seek to educate people on Libertarian principles.

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