By Bryan Caplan
I just cannot buy into pacifism as some libertarians express it. It
seems to me that some libertarians link arms with the far left as
blame-America-firsters, with scathing attacks on America’s military and
its foreign policy. I am not sure what constructive solutions come from
Actually, dissatisfaction with the “blame-America-first” mentality is what led me to abandon isolationism in favor of pacifism. As a pacifist, I urge all of America’s military opponents to abjectly surrender to it immediately. As the cases of Germany and Japan illustrate, abject surrender to the American military leads to much better consequences than resistance. It’s a no-brainer.
Of course, as a pacifist I also urge the American government to withdraw its forces from whatever warfare they’re engaged in. Its enemies are highly unlikely to abjectly surrender, and unless they do, the consequences of American military action are very hard to predict. This might seen like a weak case for cut-and-run, but think again. As I explain in my “Common-Sense Case for Pacifism”: (1) the short-run costs of war are very high, (2) the long-run benefits are highly unclear, and (3) for war to be morally justified, the long-run benefits must substantially exceed its short-run costs.
Sure, it would be great if nationalism and tribalism would
wither away, we could have open borders, and no wars. But that is not
the world we live in.
I think that one of my favorite Presidents for foreign policy was
Eisenhower, who kept us out of Vietnam and spoke out against the
military-industrial complex. But he believed in national defense, and
in an imperfect world, so do I.
I agree that the world’s imperfect. But this imperfection cuts both ways. In an imperfect world, the “good guys” often end up doing great evil, the bad guys often imagine that they’re good, and “standing up to aggression” often sparks deadly conflicts that appeasement could have avoided.
Arnold likes to say:
[A]t Chicago, they say “Markets work well. Let’s use markets.” At MIT,
they say “Markets fail. Let’s use government.” At GMU, they say
“Markets fail. Let’s use markets.”
Why then shouldn’t the pacifist answer Arnold’s “imperfect world” argument with: “Peace fails. Let’s use peace”?