While libertarians often disagree with one another, there is broad agreement among them about the need to change American foreign policy. They believe the United States should pursue a political-military retrenchment by forswearing intervention in the affairs of other states and exiting the alliances it has formed since 1945. By doing so, libertarians believe the United States will be at war less and a free society will flourish as a result. The size of its military would shrink, they argue, which would in turn reduce the financial burden it places on American taxpayers and the threat the national security state poses to individual liberty.
However, using retrenchment as the basis for a libertarian foreign policy is unlikely to serve libertarian ends. Retrenchment ignores the relationship between the international political environment and domestic political order. At the same time, libertarian advocates for retrenchment have overestimated the benefits it will provide for a free society, while overlooking the risks it presents. Instead, libertarians should embrace a grand strategy of engagement that maintains America’s core military alliances while pursuing reforms that will constrain American leaders’ tendency to use military force recklessly.
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