Introduction: Symposium on Foreign Intervention

Originally published in The Independent Review

What is the appropriate role of the state in matters of national security and defense? When, if ever, is it appropriate for government to use military force to intervene in other societies? What are the benefits, costs, and limitations of foreign interventions? These and related issues have always been contentious among libertarians and classical liberals. This was abundantly evident in the run-up to and subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq following the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2011. Some were staunchly against both interventions, whereas others were strongly in favor. Still others supported intervention in Afghanistan but not in Iraq. And even among those who considered themselves supporters of the invasion by the U.S. government, there was disagreement over the appropriate scope and scale of the military effort.

These disagreements did not end with Afghanistan and Iraq. Today there is a lack of consensus among libertarians and classical liberals over a range of foreignpolicy issues, including but not limited to the appropriate role of the national security state at home and abroad, humanitarian intervention, nuclear agreements, and the U.S. government’s drone program. The five papers in this Independent Review symposium engage various aspects of foreign intervention and illustrate some of the tensions and open issues associated with libertarian and classical liberal perspectives on foreign policy.