Can NATO be Reformed with Libertarian Principles Rather than Abolished Entirely?

Imagine a world where the Libertarian Party sweeps at national elections and we succeed at having a leader (you) who stands with the principles of the enlightenment, respect to civil liberties, and a dedication to nonaggression. Nowadays, that sounds far-fetched, but we must prepare nonetheless for the libertarian paradise if we’re going to move towards it.

Now your staffer bursts into the Oval Office decorated with marble busts of Hayek, Mises, Locke, Paine, etc. They present you with an idea: a defensive military alliance consisting of  nations formed on classical liberal values that work to defend each other from communist totalitarian regimes that seek to increase their grip of authoritarianism in the international community while also advocating for the spread of democracy, civil liberties, and all principles of freedom.

Immediately you sign on. After all, what can go wrong?

Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan… the list goes on…

NATO is by no means pretty in the starry-eyed gaze of libertarians who envision a better world. But neither is our domestic government, and abolition is certainly not the answer for that. (See Jonathan Casey’s National Divorce article).

At its core, which I described to you in the libertarianism paradise scenario, NATO doesn’t sound too terrible. It seems more like it had a terrible execution — but the same can be said about communism so let me defend this position before you click off.

American Libertarians ought not to mute themselves whenever injustice rears its ugly head, even if it is not on our soil. We are blessed largely by the geographical size, population number, and historical orientation towards liberty. Other countries are not so well-endowed in these factors. In an increasingly globalized world where the fate of countries can be decided by trade, relations, or other politics on the international stage, our success as a libertarian perfect world is dependent on other countries.

Over time, especially after the collapse of the USSR, NATO has lost its way and moved away from being a purely defensive agreement.  I’m not advocating that we begin overthrowing all the sitting administrations of countries that demonstrate even the slightest bit of illiberalism. Instead, I emphasize that it is important to our survival that we not blind ourselves to the international dangers of the world and ensure the safety of other liberal nations that will also come to our aid when authoritarian forces invade our property.

My non-libertarian friend once joked about what a libertarian America would do if Ukraine fell to Russia, assuming we stopped pouring taxpayer dollars into their defense. My response would be that we’d continue business as usual. They responded by asking what if Eastern Europe also collapsed to Russia and formed a larger and more authoritarian USSR? Hesitantly, I gave the same answer. They then enlarged the question to ask what would we do if most of Europe became subjugated to Russia because of a lackluster response from America. Again, I had to give the same answer. Now what if they took Germany, France, or jolly-old Britain? Who would be the next target of the Russian war machine if so many countries that share our focus on classical liberal values were gripped by the authoritarian rule of Moscow? Would the United States of Libertaria still stand aside until Russia, their allies, and the zombie puppet states set up in the ruins of Europe began throwing stones at our door? We would certainly be too late by then, as we’d have to engage in a war with the rest of the world.

The scenario I described is an extreme exaggeration that requires several far-fetched assumptions, but it still invoked in me a small review of how a libertarian paradise, even if secured domestically, requires us to advocate and unite with other classical liberal nations if we are to protect our way of life. Call it minarchism on steroids, but it’s an objective reality.

I’ve demonstrated that there is a need for a defensive alliance like NATO, just not our current NATO. A libertarian NATO would instead consist of pure, or near pure, classical liberal states that each exercise their own set of libertarian principles. Expansion must be limited to these nations only, otherwise, they are not worth defending. Each country would have to contribute a fair portion to mutual self-defense.  Lastly, military action must be a last resort and utilized only when justified for the self-defense of any member. Never expansionary, nor retaliatory for political purposes.

I get the hesitation. A libertarian advocating for a large military organization is sketchy and not easily agreeable among fellow libertarians. We are, after all, a peaceful people. Even the Classical Liberal Caucus has taken a stance that America should leave NATO. But most of us own guns, some more than the average person. Ask any libertarian gun owner why they own guns — it’s for self-defense and protection of their rights. Why is it so far off to suggest the same for our nation, that we must arm our libertarian nation with an alliance with other liberal-oriented countries interested in the preservation of the free world? It is important to weigh the pros of alliance with the cons of blinding ourselves to international danger. There are things to consider on both sides, my point is that this issue isn’t a simple “NATO = Government and Government = Bad.” NATO, in the hands of a libertarian, would do good for the world and our self-interests.

This piece solely expresses the opinions of the author, and not necessarily the Classical Liberal Caucus as a whole.

The Classical Liberal Caucus is dedicated to promoting classical liberal principles, involvement, and professionalism in and through the Libertarian Party. Join and help us make liberty classical again.

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