As I enjoy the good fortune of greeting my 42nd new year's day, I've been ruminating on one sign of my good fortune: the safe, stable, well protected civil society we enjoy. That's no small thing.
This blessing has been backlit for me in the last couple of years while discovering and negotiating newly emergent differences about foreign policy issues with fellow Libertarian Party members. I've been involved with the Libertarian Party for nearly a quarter century now, yet it's only since 9/11 that we've had strong internal differences about foreign affairs.
Really, previously I was in a majority of Libertarians in de-emphasizing foreign policy. Not that it wasn't important, but that it was never really a critical area in our public life. We backed our basic principles of non-intervention and minimal government. Mostly, we didn't face any significant immediate threats to really even arguably justify aggressive military actions.
However, we mostly never really had any big heated debates on foreign policy, largely because we weren't facing any big immediate crisis and didn't have to think real hard about the particulars of the application of our broad principles.
How exactly do these non-initiation of force principles apply in dealing with an irregular enemy like Al Qaeda? There's no country openly supporting them, but they have presence with varying vague sources and degrees of support in a bunch of countries.
When and how are we allowed to go after them under our libertarian principles of justice? There's a lot of tough questions there. I note that my answers have been coming up at least a couple of standard deviations more hawkish than my party's mean.
What's most striking about all this to me now is how it underlines the underlying security that we enjoy as Americans. Even someone as interested in politics and public life as me could get to be nearly 40 years old without having cause to really consider the hard, practical points of war and peace. Even now, we're more in the position of nipping trouble in the bud rather than anything like an immediate fight for survival.
In this country, most of us have far more practical concerns about computer security than about our actual physical security. We've been blessed.