Modern American conservatives tend to support war. They may label it something else — a strong national defense or perhaps a “robust foreign policy.” But when you boil it down, they support war.

The problem is war isn’t conservative.

In fact, the old right tended to support a non-interventionist foreign policy. They held to the founding principles – as Thomas Jefferson put it, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” It was the progressives who wanted to spread their conception of American greatness across the globe – at gunpoint if necessary.

Now, you might be thinking, “But Mike, we have to live in the real world. It’s a dangerous place. We have to be strong, and prepared, and have a strong defense to deal with them!”

We can debate what that might look like, but I would argue that American foreign policy today has little to do with defense. It’s about “nation-building” and “spreading democracy” and “protecting our friends in the Middle East.”

You can tell me this is necessary in the modern world. But you can’t tell me it’s conservative. It’s the same mentality that motivates progressives to micromanage domestic policy. They want to make the world a better, fairer place. However good the intentions might be, government isn’t the tool to make the world a better place. It is bloated, populated with incompetent people, and even when striving for utopian ends, it leaves a trail of unintended consequences in its wake.

Hard fact: The U.S. government isn’t going to fix the Middle East any more than it’s going to fix healthcare.

I understand the mindset. I used to be the typical conservative who generally supported all of America’s foreign policy interventionism. I was one of those people saying, “I really like Ron Paul, but I can’t stomach his foreign policy.”

Do you know what changed my mind?

It was a speech by Tom Woods. He simply pointed out that the same awful people running U.S. domestic policy – the ones I considered ignorant, incompetent and in many cases downright evil – those same people were running the foreign policy. How could I believe that they suddenly became geniuses when they entered the foreign policy realm?

The answer to that question should be obvious.

Here’s another important truth to grasp. The wars always come home. The fruits of foreign policy always end up impacting the home front. I talk about that in the latest episode of the Thoughts from Maharrey Head Podcast.

Mike Maharrey

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