Earlier this year, I mentioned that I have been working on a paper on libertarian foreign policy; the Niskanen Center released that paper today. The focus is on the type of grand strategy that best serves libertarian ends, and the role U.S. military power plays in that strategy. Libertarians of different types generally suggest that the United States should pursue a political-military retrenchment because they believe that narrowly focusing on America’s physical security will decrease the size of the military, will reduce the burden the national security state places on American society, and the United States will be less likely to get involved in unnecessary wars.

I argue instead that the United States should pursue a grand strategy of engagement whereby U.S. military power serves libertarian ends through participation in security institutions. These institutions deter aggression and reassure allies in ways that encourage cooperative behavior among them.

There are a number of things I hope come across in this paper:

  • I believe libertarians need to think more broadly than national self-defense when discussing U.S. foreign policy;
  • We need to think about the relationship between the international order and domestic political order and how changes to the former may prove detrimental to a free society; and
  • We need to consider these risks when assessing the costs and benefits for a free society that alternative grand strategies might produce.

Taking these things into account, I believe that a grand strategy of engagement serves libertarian ends better than retrenchment. However, libertarians should not be satisfied with the status quo and should continue to work to impose constraints on the ability of American leaders to use military force recklessly.

Read the entire paper here.