By Cathy Reisenwitz
Recently, SFL board member and Young Voices Advocate Eglė Markevičiūtė penned an op-ed for the Daily Caller calling for Western military intervention in Ukraine. I have great respect for Eglė, and must defer to her greater understanding of Eastern European geopolitics. However, as a libertarian and staunch non-interventionist, I must also present the case for not intervening militarily in Ukraine.
Eglė writes, “The West should show a military presence in the Black Sea, for example. This is the only way to stop Putin.” But this leaves unstated what a military presence would look like. “Limited military presence, such as an increased NATO presence in the Baltic States and Poland or troop deployment in Ukraine, is something that liberty-minded individuals should reconsider as a preventive measure to stop the spread of Putin’s conquests further into Eastern Europe.”
Eglė calls for “using limited intervention to secure Ukraine’s Eastern borders.” But limited by what? After initiating violence, there is absolutely no way to predict how deadly an engagement will be. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were both “limited.” Military engagement without a clear timeline or goals is deadly folly.
In this case, it’s simply impossible to predict how much bloodshed would be required to secure Ukraine’s Eastern borders.
And as Anthony Gregory recently pointed out, “NATO is not a benign organization.” Not even in Eastern Europe. In the course of trying to stop genocide in Yugoslavia, NATO bombs killed more than 2,000 civilians, including 88 children. Thousands more were injured. NATO airstrikes destroyed more than 300 schools, libraries, and over 20 hospitals.
As recently as 2011, NATO forces killed either hundreds or thousands of Libyan civilians, depending on which reports you believe, in the course of forcing regime change in the country.
Eglė writes that military intervention is the only way to stop Putin, but does not specify what invention would stop him from doing. She admits that his “moves are hard to predict, and his strategy is difficult to comprehend even for the most calculating Western politicians.” Western countries should not violently force an outcome in a situation they hardly understand, without knowing the outcome they’re fighting to prevent.
“The Western world’s lack of military action only encourages Putin’s regime,” according to Eglė. “A lack of military response could only be worse by encouraging further land grabs.” But these statements depend on the assumption that the West is responsible for Putin’s actions, and that inaction is action which encourages Putin’s land grabbing.
In actuality, Putin is responsible for the reprehensible, illegal, murderous actions of his regime. No one, currently, has responsibility for how he acts and which land he grabs other than him. Any responsibility borne by the West for Ukraine or Russia’s actions is a direct result of previous foreign intervention, and serves as a lesson in the folly of foreign interventionism, not as a reason to repeat yesterday’s mistakes.
To invoke Gregory again, “The primary libertarian reason to oppose U.S. wars, of course, is that they kill foreigners, that they divide people into tribes based on nationality, that they are acts of nationalist aggression.”
Libertarian ideology comes from a place of profound humility. Not knowing what’s best for people underpins our respect for individual liberty. We understand the beauty resulting from voluntary exchanges and peaceful interactions. But we live in a world where not all exchanges are voluntary and not all interactions are peaceful. The desire to force actors behaving badly to conform to our ideals is strong, and understandable. Libertarians must acknowledge that violence exists, and decry it in all forms, while resisting any temptation to engage in it ourselves.
To learn more about peace and libertarian non-interventionist foreign policy, pre-order 500 copies of SFL’s new book, Peace, Love, & Liberty today.
Cathy Reisenwitz is an Editor at Young Voices and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator.