Frank Gaffney Slams Noted Libertarian Isolationists Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

I missed this Frank Gaffney column from a couple of weeks ago:

I had an unsettling flashback last week listening to two of the Republican presidential candidates talk about foreign policy. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman espoused isolationist stances that called to mind one of the most preposterous public policy debates in decades.

As I recall, the occasion was a Washington, D.C. event sponsored in the early 1990s by a group of libertarians. A colleague and I were invited to rebut the following proposition: “Resolved, the Constitution of the United States should be amended to prohibit the use of military force for any purpose other than defending the nation’s borders.”

Our side of the debate pointed out that, however superficially appealing such an idea might appear, it was ahistorical, irrational and reckless.

After all, if history teaches us anything, it is that wars happen – as Ronald Reagan put it – not when America is too strong, but when we are too weak. In the run-up to World Wars I and II, we followed more or less the libertarians’ prescription, and disaster ensued.

It continues, but I’ll just home in on the best part: World War I happened, or was worse than it would have been otherwise, because America was following a libertarian — i.e., “isolationist” — foreign policy.

Now, in the 16 years before the outbreak of the Great War in Europe, the United States took part in the Spanish-American War, a savage occupation and counterinsurgency in the Philippines, and various smaller interventions in places such as Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, China, and Haiti. What this has to do with the Triple Entente, the Triple Alliance, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is anyone’s guess, but “isolationism” it isn’t.

But Frank Gaffney has been peddling this story for decades. When I was looking for something on his harrowing run-in with libertarians, the World War I thing popped up again. In his opening remarks at a January 1990 Cato Institute debate on foreign policy after the Cold War*, Gaffney said:

I think that it is equally evident that we have tried a policy of disengagement from Europe, a policy known in varying eras as “America-first-ism,” “isolationism,” what have you. And I think our experience is unmistakably clear. It has been a disaster every time it has been tried. The obvious, most glaring cases in point, of course, are World War I and World War II.

Later, in the Q & A portion, an audience member asked:

I have a single, simple question for Mr. Gaffney.

Mr. Gaffney, you suggested that America’s traditional pre-World War I policy of disengagement was an unmitigated disaster in part because it permitted wars on the European continent. In your opinion, at what date before World War I, 1898, 1870, 1848, 1815, whatever, should the United States have entered into formal military commitments to send and station troops in Europe?

To which Gaffney responded:

Well, it’s an interesting rhetorical question. I think that, obviously, at that particular juncture in history, let’s say, prior to 1914, the United States was neither terribly well equipped and certainly not disposed to be a world power. As was evident, starting with 1917, it had the resources to play a major role in restoring what I believe was the proper arrangement — the proper post-war configuration. Unfortunately, I think, in part because it once again withdrew[,] the proper order, the institutions of democracy that flourished briefly in the post-war period did, indeed, fall apart as Chris Layne indicated and gave rise to the seeds of World War II.

Actually, Layne had said that “one could make a very convincing argument that it was precisely the American intervention in World War I that prevented that war from ending in a compromise peace and that gave rise to many of the problems that led subsequently to the rise of Hitler and fascism and thence to World War II, and ultimately to the problems we’re facing now.” Rather different, no? But in Frank Gaffney’s mind, all of this could have been prevented if the United States had dispatched troops to Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Yes, there are actually people who think like this.

*Sorry, I can’t find a link online. I got this transcript off LexisNexis. Gaffney’s questioner was probably Michael Lind, though the transcriber wrote “Lindt.”

46 thoughts on “Frank Gaffney Slams Noted Libertarian Isolationists Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson”

  1. According to Wikipedia…"Isolationism is the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of
    other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic
    commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the
    entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at
    peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities."

    On the other hand Wiki says this about non-interventionism…"is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy,
    and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense. This is based on
    the grounds that a state should not interfere in the internal politics
    of another state, based upon the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination."

    I hope that clears this up for the masses of writers who continue to label Ron Paul as an "Isolationist". Language is important!

  2. Gaffney is in great error of assuming that all libertarians are isolationists. It's only the leftwing of the libertarian movement that supports Ron Paul's surrender to Islamism approach. Right-libertarians oppose Islamo-Fascism, and see it as no different from the Nazis of the WWII era. Right-libertarians see Islamists posing a severe threat to our civil and sexual liberties; most especially forcing our wives/girlfriends to wear ugly black burqas from head to toe, outlawing booze, gambling, restricting free speech rights, executive gays, and jailing marijuana smokers for life, ect…

    Gaffney needs to learn a little bit more about the full libertarian movement before he goes off spewing crap he knows nothing about.

    (I note David Horowitz is exactly the same. He thinks all libertarians agree with Ron Paul on foreign policy, and are isolationist/pacifist/surrenderists. These NeoCons need to do their homework on the libertarian movement, and be introduced to the concept of pro-defense libertarianism, ala Glenn Beck, Breitbart, Boortz, Dennis Miller, (deceased) John Hospers, and Ted Nugent).


      You're right, Eric. Gaffney's real error is his ignorance of Glenn Beck/Ted Nugent libertarianism, though I think both of those guys may have their own problems with "executive gays." (You mean like David Geffen, right?)

      1. I hit the thumsdonw with a mouse slip sorry I meant to give you a thumbs in response that ass who thinks Glenn Beck is a Libertarian, ugh!

    2. Mr. Dondero,
      A voice of reason such as yours is sorely needed in these parts (surrenderist central, djimmi territory). Your contribution is most appreciated. Please stick around.

      1. How's Surrendertarian then? Non-interventionism equals Surrender to Islamo-Naziism. Hell, you all don't even acknowledge Islamism exists. So, let's just call y'all Surrenderists. Or, maybe White Flag wavers.

        gcallah? Got a girlfriend or wife? Anxious to see that pretty little thing that shares your bed every night covered in a black burqa from head to toe?

        1. Or maybe one might be somewhat ignorant as to why Islamic extremism exists in the first place? Do you even know what Libertarianism is rooted in; let alone why Glenn Beck and Tedd Nugent are only close, but not equal, to Libertarian?

  3. @Eric…So, you're afraid of Sharia Law? Why? Are you living in the United States? Let's look at your examples, Marijuana smokers in the U.S. are arrested and imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands, is 10 years in prison for smoking pot morally better than "life"? [Executive] Gays, I assume you meant "executing", how many people die from AIDS due to the lack of needle exchange programs? Restricting Free Speech, we now have "Free Speech Zones" where people are herded like cattle away from any contact with the ruling class. Gambling, outside a few states and Indian Reservations there are innumberable laws against placing a bet or engaging in games of chance for money. Outlawing booze, have you heard of Utah? And, I assume you mean by making women wear burqas they have no respect for women? You may be right but, in a country where 80 year old women with colostomy bags are forced to be stripped seached before boarding a plane I hardly think Sharia has cornered the market on abuse.

    Have a nice day.

    1. Howard County, Maryland, three weeks ago. 40 publicly subsidized swimming pools in the suburban County outside of Baltimore. The County Council just voted to make all the pools "Sharia-compliant." Pressure from Muslims at a local Mosque. Seems the local Muslim immigrants were afraid of those "evil American men," looking at their women in the pools. So they pressured the County to establish separate bathing hours for men and women.

      Latest word, New York State, and Toronto, Canada are following suit and will also have Sharia compliant public swimming pools. Communities in Ohio, instituted these Sharia compliant pools two years ago.

      Nah, can't happen here. Just scare tactics from those nutsos on the libertarian right. Paranoia from those crazy Ayn Randists like Pamela Geller. Move along now…. Nothing to see here…

  4. Dondero is a disgruntled fired former Ron Paul employee who in 2008 was trying to convince us that Rudy Giuliani was the libertarian choice (maybe because abortion is the key libertarian issue? i can't really say).

    Take whatever he says with a grain of salt, and/or 500mg of Lithium.

  5. Obviously, that was a typo. Meant to say "execute." Sorry guys.

    And thanks for the encouragement Rob. But I mainly hang out at Libertarian Republican.

    Eric Dondero, 1989/90 Florida Chairman,
    Libertarian Repubilcan Organizing Committee (LROC)

  6. Mark T. – Google "Howard County swimming pools Muslim."

    Just two weeks ago, 40 publicly subsidized pools in Howard County, Maryland went Sharia – compliant. Women and men can no longer bathe together at certain times, thanks to pressure from a local Mosque.

    Nah, Sharia, Islamism, can't happen here. Nah, just paranoia from the libertarian right and Anti-Jihad blogs.

    1. Oh my Allah! A county in Maryland created a twice-weekly women-only swim time at public pools! Aargh! Shariah! Mandatory clitorectomies are next unless we lock up all Muslims and bomb somebody!

      (Since Eric didn't bother, here's a non–Pam Geller link for those interested.)

      1. And you think that's a minor thing? My gosh. Please stop calling yourself a libertarian. If you think handing our country over to Islamists and their backwards-ass anti-freedom/sex-hating culture is nothing to worry about, than you're about as far away from a liberty-lover as you could possibly get.

    2. I recall when I was growing up the local country club had "woman's day" at the course — must have been pressure from Muslims. Also, the YMCA offers women's exercise programs. Sharia!

      If Muslims are acting to bring some sense of decorum back to American public life, then we need more Muslims!

      1. And you are a social conservative (read – prude), NOT a libertarian. That's okay, the Ron Paulist movement is loaded with social prudes like you who care little for sexual liberties. No wonder you Paulists feel warm and cozy with Muslim prudes who want to outlaw women wearing bikinis, execute homosexuals, jail marijuana smokers for life, and force our wives/girlfriends to wear ugly black burqas from head to toe. Goes right along with your social prudist conservatism doesn't it now gcallah?

    3. Maybe government should get out of the "Aid to Dependent Swimming Pool Owners" racket. If they are private this is none of anyone's concern except the owners and their patrons.

      1. Or, maybe we should kick these Islamic "immigrants," out of our country?

        If you do not wish to assimilate into American culture of tolerance, open sexuality, and freedom to live as you please without a nanny-state telling you how to live your life, than why in the bloody hell are you here in the first place?

        1. Thanks for the neo-Nazi perspective. Ze undermesch must ze ELIMINATED, no? Do you have an odd like mustache Eric?

  7. Islamist are doing very well thanks to American foreign policy. Frank Gaffney is part of the paranoid fantasy community.

    Hold on a second! What if Eric's right:

    Steve Jobs is an Arab so what does that make Apple? Is it a terrorist cell? Shakira, Salma Hayek, and Yasmine Bleeth have Arab ancestry so they must be tempting young men into joining Islam. They do stir up passions within me. I didn't know those passions were Islamic. Oh no, I've always heard the soviets would defeat us through music. Then there is Frank Zappa, the Arab. If you play his records backwards you will hear jihadist messages. Oh the horrors, they've been high up in our military and government. Ford, Morgan Stanley, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and even in a health institute. They are already embedded! RUN FOR THE HILLS!

    1. Danny Thomas was a Lebanese Christian. Yes, he was Arab, but not Muslim. it's not the Coptic Christian or Lebanese Christian culture that we on the libertarian right oppose. It's the 11th Century anti-libertarian culture of Islamism, that wishes to cover our wives/girlfriends up in ugly black burqas from head to toe, jail marijuana smokers for life, outlaw booze and gambling, execute homosexuals in the town square, and ban all free speech particularly that which is offensive to the pedophile goat-f*cker Muhammed.

      1. Libertarain right pfffft you are big statist neo-cons who want a giant imperialist state to take over the middle east for oil companies and ISRAEL. You closer to national socialists than any kind of real Libertarian.

  8. Hey all you Islamic Terrorist deniers out there, some breaking news….


    Nah, just a religion of peace say the Ron Paulist deniers. They wouldn't have attacked if the U.S. didn't have Troops stationed in Saudi Arabia say the left-libertarian non-interventionist/pacifists.

    1. @Eric Dumbdero
      Likely this is politically motivated by the recent deal-brokering between the Flem and Walloon factions. Why is it everything that happens is presumed by nutbags such as yourself to be muslim terroristas?

  9. “Right” libertarians support war against Muslims to protect our sexual liberties, wearas “Left” libertarians (like Ron Paul?) are doves because they are socially conservative? Hmm… interesting paradigm you’ve articulated.

    1. I'm a "troll"? Really??? I was Justin Raimondo and Eric Garris's Florida Coordinator for the since defunct Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee way back in 1989. Long before there was such a thing as

      Oh, and incidentally, that was back when Raimondo, at the time a male prostitute, was yelling and screaming at Ron Paul for being an "Anti-Gay Homophobe Rightwing Fanatic."

  10. Hey all you Islamophobes… "The gunman was named as Nordine Amrani, a 33-year-old Liègeois who was known to be a "gun freak", according to the police. He was given a jail term of almost five years after police officers raided his metal workshop three years ago and found a dozen firearms, including an AK-47 machine-gun, and 9,500 gun parts. He was also found guilty of drug dealing after cultivating 2,800 marijuana plants." That's more Ted Nugent than Muslim.

    1. Of course, that is pure unadulterated leftwing media spin. Where'd ya get that news? The NY Times? CNN? MSNBC? Daily Kos?

      Turns out Amrani WAS a flaming Islamists. Check out the Grendel Report.

      1. From the notoriously Islamofascist Telegraph:

        His family lawyer, Abdelhadi Amrani in Brussels, who is not related to the killer, said that he had grown up in foster homes after being orphaned at an early age.

        "I remember a man deeply marked by loss of his parents. He lost his father and mother very early. He was marked by fate. I would add he was a very smart boy, gifted. Nordine often spoke of his desire to start a family. He was to be married in Liege with a nurse," she said.

        Miss Amrani, the lawyer, dismissed any possible terrorist motives for the attack. "He did not feel at all Moroccan. He did not speak a word of Arabic and was not Muslim. What he said is that he felt a Belgian," she said.

        I see absolutely nothing about the attack on the dubious site you mentioned.

  11. Are any of you guys going to promote and support Ron Paul's money bomb on Friday? Being he's the only anti war candidate running for office. Please consider.

    1. I certainly am. I don't agree with all his policies, but heaven help us if anyone else on the R side gets nominated…

Comments are closed.