Twenty years ago, liberventionists (i.e., libertarians who favor foreign interventionism) were jumping on the Republican-Democrat bandwagon that was calling for invading Afghanistan. The few of us who were opposing the invasion were holding lonely ground. Those were difficult days for FFF. We were losing donors, subscribers, and even a member of our board of trustees — those who disagreed with our principled libertarian commitment to a non-interventionist foreign policy.
Today, many of those liberventionists are siding with President Biden, who recently asserted that “our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building.” Building on Biden’s words, liberventionists are still maintaining that the U.S. government was right to invade Afghanistan in the first place but that it should have just gone into the country, killed hundreds or thousands of al-Qaeda members and Taliban forces, and quickly returned home, while declaring to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, “Don’t do it again.”
Unfortunately, like Biden, the liberventionists still just don’t get it. They were wrong twenty years ago. They are still wrong today.
Let’s see how the Biden-liberventionist “in and out” strategy could have played out. After U.S. troops had killed a few thousand Taliban forces, the Taliban would still have been left in power. Moreover, al-Qaeda could have quickly reformed, easily able to gain new recruits owing to the anger rising from the surviving family members and friends of those people who U.S. forces killed, injured, and maimed in their quick “in and out” strategy.
One year later, there is another massive terrorist attack on American soil, this time on the Capitol, which costs the lives of hundreds or thousands of people and leaves the building in ruins.
What would Biden and liberventionists say then? Whatever they said would be muted by the outpouring of anger, rage, and indignation among the American people. “What were you thinking? You left the Taliban in power? You didn’t totally destroy al-Qaeda? Are you nuts? Don’t you realize that the terrorists hate us for our freedom and values? Did you really think they wouldn’t strike again? Now we have to go back in and finish the job.”
What Biden and liberventionists fail to realize is that the”nation-building” they lament was the only way to try to prevent the Taliban from regaining power. Of course, we all know now that it didn’t work. But twenty years ago, most every interventionist in the country, including libertarian interventionists, was convinced that it was the only way to install and keep a pro-U.S. regime in power.
We should also keep in mind that the Biden-liberventionist in-and-out strategy was employed in Iraq during the Gulf War. President George H.W. Bush ordered U.S. forces to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait but not to go to Baghdad and remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. In other words, “in and out.”
For the next 11 years, all we heard about, year after year on practically a daily basis, was how Saddam Hussein was coming to get us with his WMDs. During that entire time, interventionists were saying, “I can’t believe George H.W. Bush and the Pentagon left Saddam in power. Now we are left with extreme danger to our nation from his WMDs.”
That’s what the brutal sanctions on Iraq were all about — to remove Saddam from power after President George H.W. Bush had left him in power. But those sanctions, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, became a principal motivating factor for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993, on the USS Cole, on the U.S. Embassies in East Africa, and on 9/11. And let’s not forget that the 9/11 attacks were used as an excuse for President George W. Bush to redeem his father’s honor by invading Iraq and finally get rid of Saddam.
The most important lesson that both Biden and liberventionists still have not learned from all this is the motivating factor behind the 9/11 attacks. They continue to maintain either that the 9/11 attacks were motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values” or they simply remain silent on the matter.
Why is motive such a critically important factor? Why did we emphasize it so much after the 9/11 attacks? Because it was interventionism prior to the 9/11 attacks, not hatred for America’s “freedom and values,” that motivated the terrorists to attack on 9/11. Given such, invading Afghanistan would simply be throwing fuel onto the fire. It would constitute more interventionism, which would give rise to more anti-American terrorism. Moreover, the continuous nature of the occupation of Afghanistan would guarantee a perpetual supply of terrorists, not to mention the continuous destruction of American liberty, privacy, and prosperity in the effort to keep us safe from all this retaliatory mayhem and violence.
This is what we here at FFF were emphasizing over and over again after the 9/11 attacks (and ever since then). This is what Biden and liberventionists still just don’t get.
In the period after the 9/11 attacks, here at FFF we were getting inundated with standard, predictable diatribes: “You hate America. You’re blaming America. You love the terrorists. If you don’t like it here, why don’t you move to another country?”
Over time, however, our supporters were seeing that we were right. Donors began returning, understanding that the root cause of anti-American terrorism was foreign interventionism. They could see that with its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon had essentially produced what I have often called “the world’s greatest terrorist-producing machine.” It was one great big rotten racket, one that was enriching the military-industrial complex while, at the same time, destroying our nation from within.
Today, those same liberventionists who were supporting the invasion of Afghanistan twenty years ago and who are still defending that invasion today are now calling for “smart” interventionism — “in and out” interventionism — interventionism that really, truly is in our “national interest.”
But liberventionists were wrong to support the invasion of Afghanistan twenty years ago. They are still wrong in defending that invasion and in defending interventionism itself. The solution to America’s interventionist woes is to restore our nation’s founding foreign policy of non-interventionism.