In the spirit of Veterans Day, this felt like a good time to have a legitimate and respectful discussion on the subject of Libertarian Veterans, from a Libertarian Veteran. I have attempted to do this previously many times through direct replies to your many Facebook posts calling soldiers and veterans “thieves” and “murderers”. However, as your responses seem strictly reserved for either those who agree with you or those who disagree entirely with the libertarian positions on foreign policy, I will just have to hope that you happen to see this somehow. Obviously, I cannot speak for everyone who has served, but it’s my hope that maybe sharing my own journey through military service en route to libertarianism will help educate you on a topic you obviously know nothing about.
Being a little more “anti-authority” than even the most rebellious teenager growing up, I never considered the military as an option for me after high school. It literally ran against everything I personally stood for, as being told “what to do” and “when to do it” was pretty much a non-starter for me. However, being lower-middle-class Midwesterners, mommy and daddy weren’t going to be paying for my college, and I had neither the grades to obtain a scholarship nor the skills to find employment at any higher than minimum wage. Knowing that, if nothing else, I could at least acquire useful skills and wrangle a little money to further my education when I got out, I took the plunge and enlisted the day after I graduated high school.
While the popular view in certain circles of the Libertarian Party is to picture a bunch of mindless automatons blindly following orders to enslave the world, the reality of what I discovered was an ethnically and religiously diverse group of men and women who weren’t too different than me. Most came from the lower rungs on the economic ladder and were looking for an opportunity to better their lives. No one I met was there with the express purpose of killing anyone, and while most people believed in the “mission” (I enlisted around the time of the first Gulf War), none believed anyone anywhere in the world was less entitled to liberty and freedom than we were as Americans. Of course, there were the exceptions, but no more or less than you’d likely find in any other walk of life.
I’ve often told people that the time I spent in the military was the most educational period of my life. Not only did I obtain skills I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to acquire elsewhere, I learned a lot about the world itself that I couldn’t have got in a classroom. Being stationed in Europe taught me that the rest of the world didn’t necessarily view my country the way I’d been taught it did growing up, and over time I was able to learn and understand why that was. In addition to learning about the true cost of American foreign policy, the tremendous amount of waste I witnessed on a nearly daily basis helped plant me firmly on the path towards libertarianism.
Not that every lesson was a negative, however. The military is the single greatest melting pot of people you can ever imagine. I served alongside blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, men, women, straight people, homosexuals (yes, most of us knew soldiers who were gay; no, we didn’t care), Republicans, Democrats…you name it. Despite our differences on the surface, we were able to look past them and work together for something larger than ourselves, an experience that so many could use today. The truth is that the years I spent in the military are as responsible for bringing me to where I am philosophically today as anything else. They informed my opinions better than any textbook or political theory class ever could, and I wouldn’t trade them (or the lessons I learned) for anything.
I must admit I find it terribly ironic that a libertarian who correctly preaches that banning guns will not stop crime somehow thinks that the complete absence of a military will somehow make the world safer. In the world, as it stands now (not where we want it to be, but where it is in reality right now), we need defense. What we don’t need (and should be focused on eliminating) is the disastrous foreign policy our country currently employs which puts us more often than not on the offensive. Strangely enough, if you listen to them as opposed to preaching to them, you’ll find most veterans actually agree with the libertarian viewpoint on military adventurism, and many can articulate the reasons average Americans should be on board with our philosophy better than even you can. They know it because they’ve actually lived it.
What disappoints me most about your verbal assaults on people you don’t even know is that, as a Think Liberty contributor, I have heard your interview with our own Joshua Smith and know there’s so much more to you than the wannabe Internet Edgelord you often portray yourself as on Facebook. That said, the blatant hypocrisy of you saying people who serve in the military or teach in public schools are worthy of contempt for their willingness to be a part of the State while you yourself are seeking election to the very halls of corruption in the U.S. Senate is an embarrassment to you and the party you represent. As a big “L” Libertarian working hard to help grow our party, I can promise you that seeing the Vice-Chairman of our party continue to intentionally bring negative attention unto us all is discouraging, to say the least.
Look, I do not expect you, or anyone else for that matter, to thank me for my service. To be honest, I really don’t want you to. In fact, I would venture that if you asked most veterans, they feel the same way about the culture of “military hero worship” currently infesting our country. I just want you to stop disrespecting us; not as soldiers or veterans, but as human beings who very much believe in the cause you and I both support. We both know it’s our foreign policy that is making the world less safe; let’s work on fixing that without running off the troops we require to complete the mission.
Don’t be like these silly sons of bitches who think it’s more important to score political points on Facebook than to actually change the world. Our party, and our country, desperately need honorable leadership. Be a leader, Arvin.
Be a leader.
A Libertarian Veteran
You can read more from Matthew McGowan on Think Liberty here.