Gary Johnson: Neo-Con, Liberal, or Libertarian Foreign Policy?


“I think we should act in our self-interest. As I understand it, I think Eisenhower was a pretty good role model for that. Morally, you can justify almost anything we do by saying that we’re doing it for the sake of others.” Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson seems like a great candidate on the surface.  Most of his views are in line with the Libertarian party, especially on issues such as civil liberties and the Second Amendment. He is serious about cutting spending, and is very interested in ending the drug war, and wants to reform the tax code.

Most Libertarians and even some Republicans are starting to listen to what Johnson has to say. He has some great ideas, and his running mate, Judge Jim Gray, is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition,  (LEAP).  However, there are some areas that are a little murky, and that leads to an important question: what about foreign policy?

Johnson’s foreign policy is, well, strange. It is also contradictory. On the Gary Johnson 2012 website, it states that Johnson wants to bring home the troops from Afghanistan, reevaluate deployments in Europe, and to make better use of military alliances. He wants to make sure that prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay are allowed due process, to end torture, and to allow prisoners who are unjustly incarcerated to have the ability to redress and seek compensation through the court.

However, as recently as April 2012, Johnson told the Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein that, although he wants to end the war in Afghanistan, he would be open to leaving bases behind in the region. He would also consider continuation of drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen, even though he believes that they create more enemies.

“I would want leave all options on the table,” Johnson said.

This is a stance that is very much against the ideas of many Libertarians and far more resembles a neo-conservative view on war.  Johnson wants to cut the defense budget by 43%, but he believes that the United States should maintain occupation in the Middle East. He would not want to intervene in other countries, yet he believes that it is necessary for the United States to engage in war for humanitarian reasons.

Johnson opposed intervention in Libya, yet he was okay with sending troops into Uganda. Take a look at this video from Fox News in July:

It makes no sense that Johnson wants to cut defense spending by 43%, yet he would still engage in war for “humanitarian” reasons. All military interventions cost money. We don’t receive a discount for “good intentions”. Sending troops to capture Kony and fight the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa is no different from sending troops to Afghanistan to find Bin Laden or fight Al Qaeda. The Constitution outlines the role of government as providing for a common defense for the people of America. It is not our business, nor our responsibility to use taxpayer money to defend other nations. It is not the role of our military to create nation-states.

Sending in troops for humanitarian reasons sounds more like a Democratic stance than a Libertarian one.

The Libertarian party’s website outlines their party view on foreign policy. These are  excerpts from their position statement:

The twin pillars of a sane foreign policy are:

(1) Building positive relationships, with an emphasis on free trade, and

(2) Avoiding negative relationships, with an emphasis on military non-intervention.

On terrorism:

The best form of anti-terrorism insurance is to remove all troops from the Middle East, stop attempts to either preserve or change their current governments, and end all government-to-government aid.

On Iran, Johnson’s position is more informed, but really just as odd. In this video, he discusses the idea that bombing Iran would create more enemies, and that Iran’s nuclear development would not be deterred by an American attack. However, he states that as president, he would advise Israel not to bomb Iran. Do we now make Israel’s military decisions for them?

In an interview with Robert Siegel on NPR,  Johnson had a completely different view on the subject of Israel and Iran:

“I also happen to think that Israel, you know, we were responsible for the creation of Israel and that was through the United Nations; that they’ve been a strong military ally, that they will remain such, ” said Johnson.  “I do not think a military threat right now exists from Iran, but we should be vigilant to that. And I think it’s naive to think that Israel is not going to act in their best interests should there be weapons of mass destruction showing themselves.”

When asked if he believed that the U.S. should support an Israeli military action against Iran, Johnson replied, “Well, I would argue that would probably be in our best interest. And to have them do that is a better situation than U.S. men and servicewomen engaged in the same.”

Johnson told the Daily Caller, ““Iran launches a nuclear warhead they can be assured that they will no longer exist.”

“None of their country will be left to stand and that will be from Israel.”

Johnson has also stated that he would use his presidential power to keep Israel from bombing Iran. In an interview with Scott Holloran, he had a different view. “I think Israel is an important military ally and I support that alliance,” said Johnson. “I think Iran gets dealt with by Israel, which is likely to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

“I think it’s wrong for our government to presume to tell Israel what to do.”

A decidedly Libertarian stance. So, we have gone from neo-conservative drone attacks and leaving bases in the Middle East to Democratic ideas on intervention for humanitarian reasons. Johnson said that he would use his influence to keep Israel from bombing Iran, which is a mixture of Republican and Democratic policies. However, he also stated that the U.S. has no right to tell other nations what to do, which is a non-interventionist, Libertarian view.

Johnson seems to be confused on his own positions.

“The most important element of a free society, where individual rights are held in the highest esteem, is the rejection of the initiation of violence. All initiation of force is a violation of someone else’s rights, whether initiated by an individual or the state, for the benefit of an individual or group of individuals, even if it’s supposed to be for the benefit of another individual or group of individuals. Legitimate use of violence can only be that which is required in self-defense.”

Ron Paul

About angiedavidson75

mama,political activist, cat lover, free thinker
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5 Responses to Gary Johnson: Neo-Con, Liberal, or Libertarian Foreign Policy?

  1. Draw for Liberty says:

    Angie this is brilliant and answers so many questions I’ve been mulling about over the past week. I assume many other liberty lovers are too. You have so clearly illuminated what is effectively a cloud. There are many arenas wherein I could tolerate such a deviation or confusion from libertarian values, but foreign policy isn’t one of them. For all our sakes I pray he educates, decides, and loudly proclaims PEACE. Otherwise the liberty movement behind him will founder for the precise reasons outlined above.
    Thanks for a great article!

    • I am just unclear on how you can spend less money and be a non-interventionist when you believe that it’s okay to fight for nation states. I like Johnson, except for his foreign policy (sound familiar?) 🙂

  2. iamrising says:

    Agreed with Draw for Liberty – it sounds to me like Gary might be trying to figure out how to word his position in such a way as to not offend the pro-war-fantatics. If you’ve got a massively deluded public out there that still believes 9/11 was an act of EXternal terrorism, that anyone with scarves instead of baseball caps are evil-doers, then you’re not going to listen the rest of this guys sentence when he tells you he doesn’t believe in imperialism and exploitative adventurism. I think he’ll get his presentation polished up over the new few weeks, and hope to see such a well-written and logical mind as yourself holding his cards up. Overout, I’ll be back!

    • I hope so. I would really like to see him get it together. I don’t think he’ll pull enough to beat the other two, but it would be nice to see third parties get some recognition on this round.

  3. SRQ tad says:

    C’mon, now… The action was asked for by congress. (Letters of marque and reprisal.)
    A strike force is an in, done and out situation.
    The LRA is NOT a sovereign nation and the sovereign nation(s) affected were on board. (Were they not?)
    Lybia, a sovereign nation with a legit Gvmn’t in place, is a completely different situation.
    Iran Israel is different yet and to “urge Israel not to bomb” goes along with whether or not Iran actually shows Nukes.
    Different situations require different actions.
    Keeping options on the table is nothing more than smart diplomacy.

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