Brian Doherty: Libertarian Gary Johnson Clarifies Foreign Policy Stances

Gage Skidmore via Foter.com/CC BY SA

Gary Johnson (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Anti-Iran deal but pro-trade, wants to encourage China to curb North Korea, and too experienced with the actual complications of governing to want to rethink World War II on the fly.

Johnson’s preferred description for his foreign policy outlook has been “skeptic” for at least a few weeks now, certainly in preference to “noninterventionist” or the usual insult of “isolationist” often attached to libertarians.

At the last debate between the Libertarian Party’s would-be presidential candidates, Johnson was happy to declare radical Islam a serious threat and merely to say he’d make sure it was fought in collaboration with Congress, not via unilateral executive action, that we “need an open debate and discussion on how we do deal with” the threat, and “that is something that has not happened.”

Some of Johnson’s positions were read ambiguously or mistakenly, by me or other reporters, after his comments at that C-SPAN aired debate with the other Libertarian presidential contenders that occurred a week ago in Orlando. (His answer about World War II seemed particularly controversial, more on which below.)

I took his precise comments on stage about North Korea—which came unbidden, he was not specifically asked about the rogue nation—to mean that he was prepared to ally with China to quash the threat they pose with military action. “The greatest threat in the world is North Korea,” he said at the debate. “At some point Kim will have intercontinental ballistic missiles that work. How about engaging China” to say “let’s do something about North Korea, let’s do something about Kim, unify the Koreas and be able to withdraw the 40,000 troops in South Korea.”

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