Justin Amash Provides a Libertarian Viewpoint of Trump/Putin's Helsinki Summit

in liberty •  last year 

After the Helsinki Summit, your timeline blew up with everyone on the left immediately defending the US Intelligence Community with everyone on the Right suddenly claiming that face-to-face diplomacy is better than risking war.

I distinctly remember the left blaming 'Intelligence Failures' for the Iraq debacle while the right shunned Obama for meeting with unsavory leaders, but who cares about that? It's Team R vs Team D, baby! Pick your side and find the nearest social media thread and start typing!

Michigan's 3rd congressional district Republican Congressman Justin Amash weighs in on the Libertarian viewpoint. Yes, he's a Republican, but he legislates as an open Libertarian. Think 'Independent Bernie Sanders', except not evil and capable of reading good books on Economics.

A thread for my fellow libertarians on the #HelsinkiSummit:

Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 19, 2018

We say diplomacy and dialogue are good. Few Americans would disagree with that. Peace and prosperity can’t be secured without communication and engagement.

For my part, I have urged presidents to meet with the leaders of Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and other countries to build better relationships. These interactions make it possible to change behavior, to turn foes into friends.

I believe that this aspect of libertarianism—the desire to seek friendship and peace whenever possible—is among its most appealing qualities.

We must not, however, fall for the logical fallacy that because diplomacy and dialogue are good, @POTUS’s performance at the press conference was good.

Yet, that’s precisely the false conclusion some are making. I’ve heard it said that anyone who disapproves of what took place at the press conference is pro-war or anti-Trump. No, some of us are just concerned about the bizarre behavior of our president at a press conference.

I suspect that many of the people defending the press conference performance did not watch it in its entirety—or at all. If they had, they would know that it didn’t achieve the desired effect of bringing America and Russia closer; in fact, it did just the opposite.

The impression it left on me, a strong supporter of the meeting, is that “something is not right here.” The president went out of his way to appear subordinate. He spoke more like the head of a vassal state.

Perhaps it was just the president showing insecurity, once again, over the legitimacy of his election. Perhaps it was a sign of a more troubling entanglement with Putin. Whatever the case, the press conference was counterproductive to the goal of improving relations.

Even the president ultimately recognized that the press conference did not go well, as he tried to correct his remarks that exonerated Russia. Oddly, it took him more than a day to do so. One wonders why the White House didn’t act more quickly if it were simply a misstatement.

To suggest that anyone critical of the president’s conduct opposes diplomacy is to employ a strawman argument. It’s virtue signaling, not libertarianism.

The virtue being signaled is opposition to all things “neocon.” If someone doesn’t like how the meeting transpired, it must be because that person is a Deep State anti-Trump neocon warmonger, etc.

When a libertarian’s political prime directive becomes “owning the neocons” (or “owning the libs”) rather than advancing libertarian ideals, then that person undermines libertarianism as a philosophy.

The general public are not more likely to see themselves as libertarian when, for the sake of “owning the necons,” prominent figures associated with libertarianism conflate libertarian-style governance and Trump-style governance.

People then connect our principles to the president’s failings, which have nothing to do with libertarianism.

Nor are libertarian values advanced when the effect of the president’s press conference—set aside the intent—is to further isolate our country from Russia.

The widespread reaction on Capitol Hill, for example, has been to rally around the intelligence community. People are proposing resolutions of support for the FBI, despite its dubious track record and unconstitutional activities, particularly with respect to the #4thAmendment.

Worse yet, thanks to the press conference, we’re likely to see more ineffectual sanctions bills and resolutions of condemnation against Russia, which will serve primarily to stunt further efforts at diplomacy and dialogue.

We libertarians need to be smarter and more effective in our approach. Acting like partisans—pushing demagoguery and tribalism—is a self-defeating proposition. Stand strong on your principles; you’ll find most Americans standing with you.


Politics is a Team Sport. When we do Stuff, Cheer. When they do Stuff, Boo!

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