Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy

Summary of Study

The following is a summary of the main points of a podcast discussion.

Hayekian insights should be applied to foreign policy.

The problem of knowledge and the unintended consequences of actions could be even more important to consider with regard to foreign policy than domestic policy, since foreign policy necessarily involves violence and human lives. There is a cognitive dissonance on the right, which applies Hayekian principles at home but stops doing so at the water's edge.

Americans are far less willing to criticize the military than they are government bureaucrats.

This isn't necessarily in line with the attitude of the Founders' who were disdainful and distrustful of a standing army. However, it can possibly be explained by the "heroism" of the U.S. military in the early to mid-twentieth century. In other words, it's hard to question the military's ability to fix things if you think it was crucial in defeating the Nazis or Soviet Union.

We ought to distinguish between preemption and preventative war.

Preemption is self-defense. No one question's a country's ability or right to prevent an imminent attack. This is quite different from a country launching an attack in order to prevent a possible future attack. Prevention is, in a sense, indistinguishable from aggression. It also rests on a flawed assumption -- no country can guarantee that a threat will arise in the future, nor that their actions will actually prevent that threat.

World War II is a poor model for the effectiveness of force as a vehicle for liberty.

Americans look at the Second World War and see mass mobilization being used to defeat autocrats and spread liberalism and liberty to Germany and Japan. But World War II is a different case, most especially because it wasn’t a preventative war.

Listen to the podcast here.