« Prime-time executions | Main | Thresher shark: mmm, good! »

Protectionism and national security

Via Prof. Bainbridge, Dan Oesterle distinguishes between national security and protectionism:

The argument against the Dubai acquisition is old fashioned protectionism in the guise of national security. National security is a legitimate concern and we should be able to block acquisitions in the name of national security but national security can also be a false front for raw protectionist sentiments. At issue here is, first, whether the national security concerns are legitimate and, second, the government's mechanism for deciding such cases [emphasis added].

When Prof. Oesterle asks whether the national security concerns are legitimate, he misses exactly half of the question. The other half, of course, is whether the protectionist concerns are legitimate. Oesterle seems to think that our national security is always consistent with global free trade, or at least that the two have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. But to assume that the sources of our goods and services and the way we distribute these goods and services among us is irrelevant to to national security is to define "national security" much too narrowly.

President Bush himself takes a larger view of national security when he acknowledges that our dependence on foreign oil should be resisted. His call for fighting our addiction to oil is a national security argument. But it's also, simultaneously, a "protectionist" argument. Unfettered global trade, unbalanced by any prudent "protectionism" whatsoever, threatens our national security by leaving us utterly dependent on others for necessary goods and services.

Wendell Berry asks the questions that Oesterle doesn't:

We thus are elaborating a direct and surely a dangerous contradiction between our militant nationalism and our espousal of the the international "free market" ideology. How are we going to defend our freedoms (this is a question both for militarists and for pacifists) when we must import our necessities form international suppliers who have no concern or respect for our freedoms? What would happen if in the course of a war of national defense we were to be cut off from our foreign sources of supply? What would happen if, in a war of national defense, military necessity required us to attack or blockade our foreign suppliers? We have already fought one enrgy war allegedly in national defense. If our present policies continue, we may face wars for other commodities: food or water or shoes or steel or textiles [The Failure of War (1999)].

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)