Liberty won't be achieved by expanding this big, failed government program

Refugee crises, US-armed terrorists and funding state sponsors of terrorism. These are just some of the ramifications of President Obama’s schizophrenic foreign policy that caused the American people to turn to Donald Trump in a moment of stupendous blowback.

No, not everything about Trump pleased conservatives. But many viewed him as the Batman to Obama’s Joker; replacing a foreign policy marked by chaos and anarchy with the drive and firepower needed to decisively defeat America's enemies.

Part of making America great again was about empowering the military that Obama weakened. Surely this was the best way to put a stop to the international mayhem, right?

Well, not so fast...

It's important to remember Obama’s foreign policy woes were a result of too much intervention, not too little. If you think Detroit is suffering from excessive government meddling, then it’s no surprise what’s left the Middle East in such shambles.

By the end of Obama’s second term, US special operators were in 70 percent of the world’s nations, a 130 percent jump since the days of George W. Bush, with over half of 2016’s deployment heading to the Middle East. Obama also expanded the drone program ten-fold. He used his executive might to engage in undeclared wars in Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and dropped over 100,000 bombs across seven countries, with over 26,000 in 2016 alone.

Trump's strong-willed, tough-minded rhetoric on foreign policy and vow to reverse the backward eight years that preceded him made for an acceptable trade-off after the embarrassment of Obama.

Unfortunately, Trump has merely doubled down on the big-government mistakes of his predecessors. Americans should eye their executive’s job performance as any boss would examine an employee. With that in mind, let’s review Trump’s first year of foreign policy.

During his first year in office, Trump dropped almost 33,000 bombs on Iraq and Syria and 2,400 on Afghanistan. He almost tripled the number of strikes in Yemen to over 100. He greatly expanded each major overseas conflict America is engaged in. He also increased the government contracts needed to supply these bombs and the federal bureaucracy needed to drop them.

Trump called it a strategy to “bomb the sh*t” out of ISIS. Defense Secretary Mattis called it “annihilation tactics.” Voters looking to drain the swamp called it a satisfying delivery on one of Trump’s most important campaign promises. Weapons manufacturers probably called it a stimulus package.

Now, Trump calls on Congress to eliminate a seven-year old spending cap in order to increase military spending by $700 billion. Even though the military already takes up over half of federal discretionary spending and outranks the next seven largest military budgets in the world combined, Trump believes the department still lacks sufficient taxpayer funds.

Just like the war on poverty led to more poverty instead of less, the war on terror has led to more terror, not less. The same knowledge and incentive problems that plague the progressive regulatory apparatus also plague the military.

If life, liberty and property are the benchmarks by which to judge government action, US foreign policy is starting to look like one big, failed government program. Let's look at these point by point.

Is our foreign policy protecting life? While Trump promised to bomb “the sh*t out of” ISIS --- a murderous organization if there ever was one --- he has also bombed the sh*t out of innocent bystanders, providing ISIS more ideological fuel in the form of American resentment and grieving family members. According to Airwars, a group that tracks airstrikes, Trump is breaking records for killing civilians with his fast and loose approach.

If civilian casualties are unavoidable, shouldn’t we be sure Pentagon bureaucrats are working diligently to minimize them? Just like the post office and the public school system, however, military failures are rewarded with more funding and naive optimism, instead of less.

How about protecting liberty? The Iraqis or Syrians certainly don’t have the resources to show up and destroy our political and economic liberty. The US government is a bigger threat to the average person’s Constitutional rights than impoverished people on the other side of the globe. These campaigns haven’t protected the liberty of those abroad either. They have destabilized already-shaky political institutions and empowered extremists.

What about property? Certainly no Yemeni thieves are going to show up in America and rob the taxpayers to the tune of $700 billion if we stopped helping the Saudis. After all, the military has no resources of its own, only those it receives from the private sector. Not to mention the property destroyed abroad, like schools and apartments.

There’s a more accurate description for massive expansion of war abroad: socialism.

It looks like “bomb[ing] the sh*t out of” them has become a mainstay of US foreign policy. But there’s a more accurate description for massive expansion of war abroad: socialism.

What are America’s 700-plus military bases abroad, endless domestic weapons manufacturing, and engagement in reckless (usually undeclared) wars if not state socialism writ large? The constant insistence on using our bloated military to “just do something” is an enormous drain on taxpayers and promotes a sense of entitlement for arms makers and Pentagon busybodies. How many future Platos or Teslas instead become nameless cogs employed --- or worse, murdered --- by the military?

This state-sponsored squandering of human and social capital, here and abroad, must end.

There is no more fatal a conceit than America's attempt to centrally plan the entire Middle East geopolitical landscape. Ultimately, neither the Obama nor Trump foreign policies serve to protect life, liberty or property. The longer Americans worry about the creeping socialism of the welfare state but not the warfare state, the true nature and danger of socialism will be obscured.

Socialism isn’t always wearing a Che t-shirt and calling for a dictatorship of the proletariat. Sometimes it’s in a suit swearing to us that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction (or that Kim Jong-un is on the verge of using his).

There is no government activity more destructive to rule of law, property rights and free trade than military adventurism. There is no more powerful and devastating a socialist apparatus than the US military and there is nothing more destructive to liberty here and around the globe.

To provide a real alternative to the neoconservative establishment, Trump must, like Batman, find the wisdom to realize how similar he is to his enemies and adopt a less aggressive posture.

We should be trimming our bloated military, not enlarging another federal department.

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Cory Massimino is the Senior Academic Programs Chair at Students For Liberty, the Mutual Exchange Coordinator at the Center for a Stateless Society and a Young Voices Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @corymassimino.

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!