Posts Tagged ‘Noninterventionism’
Posted on September 11, 2014 at 10.38 am
In a perfect libertarian world, the 2003 invasion of Iraq would never have happened; ISIS probably wouldn’t exist; and if it did exist, there would be no suggestion that we’re obligated to go on yet another war. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world—but I still don’t think more war is necessary or helpful.
Given the ongoing and inevitable fact that Washington is/will continue to be involved in trying to “fix” this mess, I’d rather food and medicine be the fix. Do I want government doing charity? No, of course not. But if we must act in Iraq, let’s at least try something that doesn’t kill people and make them hate us. (Emergency relief aid—not nation-building—would likely also be a heck of a lot cheaper.)
The extremist-fueled sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria are, by all accounts, unspeakably awful. ISIS has reportedly crucified people, buried women and children alive, decimated historic Christian communities, and even beheaded children.
And so here in the States, the clamor for President Obama to do something seems to grow louder by the day. That’s largely why President Obama unveiled a potentially multi-year plan of air strikes in a nationally televised address on Wednesday. Even those who tend to oppose military intervention, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, have argued that fighting ISIS is somehow different — that the president must take decisive action — that this, finally, is “the right war.”
In many less-hawkish circles, much of the desire to dosomething is motivated by the role U.S. foreign policy played in creating a climate in which ISIS can thrive. As Paul argued, “Our recent foreign policy has allowed radical jihadists to proliferate.” He’s right. The last decade of meandering, ill-justified war in Iraq in particular has made America complicit in ISIS’s rise. There would be no ISIS had America not invaded Iraq in 2003.
And while I appreciate Paul’s provision of a more measured response than has been supplied by the likes of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), I can’t follow him in his call for more war. Dropping bombs and trillions of dollars into a situation we clearly don’t understand and can’t control hasn’t worked yet, and it’s naïve to believe it will start working now. In the words of the Decider of the 2003 invasion, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — can’t get fooled again.”
Likewise, the refrain that ISIS, like past Middle Eastern monsters, is an existential threat to American security fails to convince. As Bruce Fein has ably demonstrated, it is laughable to suggest that ISIS could successfully make war on American territory — and it is equally ridiculous to listen to those very fearmongers who claim otherwise as they attempt to make further war inevitable.
Yet I, too, can’t shake the feeling of responsibility. Now, I never supported war in Iraq in any sense more meaningful than a 15-year-old’s ingenuous assumption that the president wouldn’t screw up so important an issue. Today, I (and a majority of Americans) deem the Iraq war a failure. But the long-term impact of American intervention can’t be negated by ignoring it or wishing it away.
So what can America to do help? And by help, I mean actually help, in a very literal sense of the word, not deploying drones for democracy or some such nonsense. What if, instead of sending bombs and weapons, we only sent relief aid: food, medicine, and evacuation opportunities? Indeed, continued humanitarian aid is a part of Obama’s strategy. But it should be the only part.
Posted on August 11, 2014 at 10.26 am
As ISIS commits atrocity after atrocity, it is easy to wonder if this tragedy might have been prevented had the 2003 invasion of Iraq never occurred—if we’d listen to the wisdom of Founding Fathers like Adams…and Washington, and Franklin, and Jefferson, and Madison, and more.
Adams’ explanation of the dangers of foreign intervention is now writ large in the violence in Iraq and the suppression of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism here at home:
[America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power.
She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
For more than a decade, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy has been marked by fighting for causes that are not our own—and mired “beyond the power of extrication” in the inevitable mess which ensues.
The basic posture of our government toward our citizens has changed from liberty to force, as anyone with knowledge of the National Security Agency alone well knows.
And rather than standing as a beacon of hope and liberty for the world, American foreign policy has too often become one of failed and bloody micromanagement, a bull in the china shop that is the Middle East.
I don’t know how to “fix” Iraq. But I do know that what we’re doing—what we’ve been doing for more than decade now—isn’t working.
Maybe we could start over with the advice of John Quincy Adams, and once again make our motto “Freedom, Independence, Peace.”
Posted on July 7, 2014 at 2.16 pm
My latest at Rare makes a fiscal case for cutting back the warfare state:
Consider the following:
- What if I told you there’s a government program which will cost taxpayers more than Obamacare will over the next ten years?
- What if that program was just one function of a sprawling government agency which has not been audited in two decades?
- What if that agency was the third-largest contributor to our $17 trillion national debt, which breaks down to $55,000 per citizen?
What if the same agency wasted tens of billions of dollars annually on projects and goods unrelated to its mission? (Like a study on “whether men holding pistols are viewed as taller, stronger and more masculine than those wielding objects such as saws, paint brushes and caulking guns.” Or “a conference that included a session titled ‘Did Jesus Die for Klingons too?’” Or “research on what the behavior of fish can teach us about democracy.”)
- What if it also regularly paid hundreds of times the market value for commonplace items?
- And squandered billions more on outdated equipment which just doesn’t work?
- And prioritized cuts in vital programs rather than big-budget flops?
- And lost hundreds of millions to waste and corruption in foreign programs?
- And destroyed valuable equipment rather than repurposing it?
- And blew big bucks on cross-promotions with superhero movies?
- And gave high-dollar contracts to companies known to engage in fraud—contracts totaling more than $1 trillion in the last ten years?
- And built buildings which will never be occupied?
- And reported to Congress that it simply couldn’t account for $1 trillion (yes, trillion) it had spent?
- And yet it still plans to spend the equivalent of the entire GDP of Sweden on a single purchase over the course of the next fifteen years?
What if this agency regularly and intentionally doctored the books to hide these wasteful practices from taxpayers?
For any fiscal conservative, the conclusion must be that this incredibly wasteful, deceptive, and nonproductive government agency is seriously overdue for audits, possibly criminal charges, and huge—massive—ginormous spending cuts. Right?
That program was the War in Iraq. That agency is the Department of Defense. That spending is war spending. And the DoD does indeed waste absurd amounts of money on unrelated projectsgalore, incredibly overpriced purchases, obsolete weaponry, poor prioritization, nation-building projects, destroying equipment, promoting the recent Superman flick, fraudulent contractors, empty buildings, unaccountable spending, and planes that cost as much as Sweden’s GDP. The DoD has been caught doctoring the books on a grand scale.
Yes, war really is just one more big government program: It’s costly. It’s wasteful. It’s poorly managed and rife with incompetence and fraud.