What Can We Do about Terrorism? Part III of III

Preventing Future Terrorism

by Harry Browne

October 31, 2001           


Government's role shouldn't be to police the world or even to win wars. Government's role should be to keep us out of wars to protect us from foreign enemies, not create them.

In fact the main reason most people tolerate high taxes and invasions of our liberty is because they hope the government will protect them from domestic criminals and foreign problems. And yet, despite a $2 trillion budget, our government protects us from neither.

A libertarian foreign policy would rest on a simple principle:

We're always ready to defend ourselves, but we threaten no one.

Such a foreign policy should have four elements.

1. Non-Interference

Our government should never interfere in other countries' disputes, never arm nor aid foreign governments, and never give terrorists a reason to pressure our government.

When the politicians drag us off to someone else's war, they offer plenty of reasons. The reasons usually include: stopping the conflict from spreading, heading off the emergence of a new Hitler, protecting our allies, doing the moral thing, and ending violations of human rights.

But rarely do they come even close to achieving any of the goals.

Any American who wants to volunteer to fight for a foreign government or revolutionary movement, to negotiate its peace, or to send money to help it should be free to do so. (It is currently illegal for you to help a foreign government or revolutionary movement.) But our government should stay out of such battles.

2. No Foreign Aid or Military Assistance

The Constitution grants our government no authority to use your money for the support of foreign governments.

Not only is it unconstitutional, it is unfair by almost any standard. As Fred Smith pointed out, foreign aid taxes poor people in rich countries for the benefit of rich people in poor countries.

Foreign aid originally was justified as a way of arming countries against Communist aggression. But Cuba, China, and Vietnam all became Communist after receiving American money and weapons.

And so much money and military hardware have been given to Israel's enemies that it allows the politicians to say we have to give massive aid to Israel to keep it from being destroyed.

Every American should be free to send money or weapons to any government in the world. But you shouldn't be taxed for the benefit of any foreign government.

3. Security against Attack

How could the bad people of the world conquer America?

They'd have to pulverize American cities to the point that we submit to being occupied or they'd have to threaten to do that.

In 1983 Ronald Reagan made the most sensible military suggestion of the past 50 years that America should protect itself against missile attacks. Unfortunately, he gave the job to the Department of Defense which is really the Post Office in fatigues. And so 18 years later we're no closer to being protected than we were in 1983.

We should rely as little as possible on politics and bureaucracy to achieve anything. The government should simply post a reward say, $25 billion to go to the first private company that produces a functioning, fool-proof missile defense. With such an offer, we'd probably have a missile defense within five years.

Will that make us perfectly secure? Of course not. Nothing will.

But it will make us far safer than we are today and eliminate a principal excuse for meddling in other countries' affairs.

4. Target the Aggressors, Not the Innocent

Even with a missile defense, suppose America truly were threatened by a foreign ruler.

A Libertarian President would target the aggressor himself. He wouldn't order bombers to kill the aggressor's innocent subjects.

He would warn the ruler that an actual attack would trigger the posting of a reward of, say, $100 million for the person who kills the ruler. Everyone would be eligible to collect the reward including the ruler's guards and wives.

This response would spare both innocent foreigners and innocent Americans. Only those who try for the reward would be at risk. Americans wouldn't be drafted to fight and die invading a foreign country nor taxed to pay for volunteers.

This isn't a way to force dictators to change their spots or submit to U.S. dictation. It's only a way to discourage a direct attack on America. If the dictator withdrew his threat, the U.S. would withdraw the reward.

With a libertarian foreign policy, it's unlikely any foreign ruler would threaten us. So such a reward probably would never be posted. But if a foreign ruler were tempted to threaten us, the fear of assassination would be more of a deterrence than the threat to bomb his civilian subjects.

If you don't believe assassination is a nice way to handle this, what's the alternative? Would you rather kill thousands of innocent foreigners and innocent Americans?

Peace for All Time

When America can defend itself against missile attack, the politicians will lose their best excuse for butting into the affairs of other countries and making demands upon you.

And when our government no longer interferes in other countries with military adventures and foreign aid, foreign terrorists will have little reason to threaten your city.

If some foreign leader still tried to make trouble for America, we should target the leader for assassination, not target innocent civilians for bombing. But an American government that minded its own business and had a secure defense isn't likely to need to resort to assassination.

The policies I've outlined are the only ones that will produce a strong national defense, instead of a strong national offense, and leave terrorists with no reason to attack us.

Once they're in place, we must find a way to keep politicians away from loaded weapons forever.

Here's a start a proposed constitutional amendment:

Section 1. The United States shall be at war only after a declaration of war, naming the specific enemy nations, is approved by the President and by a two-thirds vote of the eligible members in both houses of Congress.

Section 2. The only members of the House of Representatives and the Senate eligible to vote on a declaration of war are those who are between the ages of 18 and 35, or who have children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren between those ages.

Section 3. In the absence of a Congressional declaration of war, the President may deploy the military to repel an invasion of United States territory, but may not deploy troops or engage in hostilities outside the United States.

Section 4. The United States shall enter into no treaty with any nation or organization if such treaty could oblige the United States to be at war without a declaration of war by Congress, and the United States shall not be bound to engage in war by any action taken by any organization of which they are a member.

Section 5. Except in time of war, as specified in Sections 1 and 2, the United States will provide no weapons or other resources to foreign governments, will engage in no military action outside the borders of the United States, and shall deploy no military personnel or weapons outside the boundaries of the United States except that at any one time up to one thousand members of the military may be outside the United States for no longer than thirty days.

Section 6. Upon any violation of this article by the President, Congress shall institute impeachment proceedings within 14 days.

Sections 3 and 5 don't preclude a missile defense or any other kind of defense of this nation. It requires only that the President wait before attacking a foreign nation until a declaration of war has been issued. Even if some incapacity prevents Congress from making a declaration quickly, America could still defend itself. It just couldn't attack anyone else.

War is too dangerous an enterprise to leave in the hands of people who routinely lie in their own self-interest.

I welcome any suggestions for making the Amendment more precise.

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