Two years ago at around this time, we were all living our lives in a way that was considered "normal" up until then. Little did we know that just a couple of weeks later we would all be "locked down", for what was announced as "a few weeks to flatten the curve" but turned out to be much longer, with new rules and practices that destroyed whole industries, not to mention the disruption to our personal lives in ways from which we have even now only partly recovered.
And just a few weeks ago, we were all living in a world where the idea of a war between NATO and Russia was almost unthinkable to most people. For older Americans, fear of this was only a distant memory, while for younger people it was just history, something from the last century. But now, as I write this, Russian troops, armor, and aircraft are overrunning a major European country, the US and the EU are engaged in imposing all manner of "sanctions" against Russia, and NATO is moving its forces eastward.
These sanctions may not involve direct physical violence, but their whole purpose is to hurt Russia. And to the degree that "sanctions" really do seriously hurt a country, the target country may or may not make that distinction, between a military and other form of attack. Let's not forget that although the attack on Pearl Harbor is typically cited by Americans as what triggered the US involvement in World War II, that in turn was triggered by restrictions on credit, technology, and resources that were being imposed on the Japanese, which were in turn a response to Japan's invasion of neighboring countries!
Let's hope that history doesn't repeat in that way – that the current situation somehow can de-escalate, that both NATO and Russia can see a way to pull back and let the people in between work out their own destinies.
But even if we get through this crisis without any more countries getting involved (and without any nukes being launched), this won't be the last time that something like this will come up. The news is full of global "hot spots" that could quickly develop into something even hotter.
There isn't much we can say, as Libertarians, about how to get out of a mess like this once we are in it. Wars, once they get started, have a logic of their own. It's hard to discuss philosophy with people while their cities are being bombed. As human beings, we care about both the lives and the freedom of people all over the world, and we can hope that this situation gets resolved in a way that minimizes the loss of life and leaves people relatively free.
But we do have some important things to say about how to avoid getting into this kind of mess again. The Libertarian position with respect to US military policy is clear. It is not the responsibility of the US military, or the US taxpayer, to police and defend every country on this planet. It is not the job of a defensive alliance (which is what NATO claims to be) to intervene in civil wars, even if other countries are already intervening. And if the US is to go to war, at the very least our government should follow its own rule book, the Constitution, which requires a declaration by the people's representatives in Congress.
Furthermore, our principles don't just provide a guide for keeping out of trouble in the short term – they provide a permanent solution for the long term. Although nation-states can help people defend their liberty from aggression by hostile foreign powers, the preservation of existing nation-states is not a fundamental goal, in and of itself. The answer does not lie in the "sovereignty" of nations – which is a concept that can also be used by dictators and oligarchs to defend continued subjugation of their own people – but rather in the rights of the individual.
The people of Ukraine deserve freedom, and we wish them well in their efforts to defend themselves from domination by a country that is less free. But so do the people of Russia, and the rest of the world. So we also salute the many Russians, including members of the Libertarian Party of Russia, who have been speaking out against and publicly protesting the aggressive actions of their own government.
Our goal as Libertarians is, in the words of our national Platform, "". In the world we seek to build, based on respect for individual rights and the power of the free market, wars over national boundaries ultimately will become ancient history – because national boundaries simply won't matter enough to fight a war about.