• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683. Note: This annoying box will disappear once we reach our fund drive goal. Thank you for your support!


The Danger Is Intervention


A lot of people are warning against America turning “isolationist.” We can dismiss the warnings—special pleadings, really—emanating from other countries, where people have free-ridden on American taxpayers for decades. If Europeans are worried about defending themselves, why are they cutting their military budgets? Not that we should mind if they do, but they should not look to us to pick up any slack.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are the latest to express concern that the American appetite for managing foreign conflicts is waning. In his West Point speech, Obama said the military is the “backbone” of American leadership, even as he claimed that force is not the first answer to every problem. And Hagel recently told some foreign-policy wonks in Chicago that it would be “a mistake to view our global responsibilities as a burden or charity.” How would he propose that we taxpayers view them? As a privilege?

Hagel said that withdrawing from the world would have a high cost. Has he checked lately on what military and political engagement is costing the taxpayers? The full cost of the military alone is over a trillion dollars a year. The U.S. government spends more on this than most of the rest of the world combined.

Hagel also said, “Turning inward, history teaches us, does not insulate us from the world’s troubles. It only forces us to be more engaged later—at a higher cost, at a higher cost in blood and treasure, and often on the terms of others.”

Hagel is wrong about history. When have American politicians ever disengaged from the world? Even James Monroe (of Monroe Doctrine fame) and his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, intervened in a Greek civil war. The entire Western hemisphere was seen as America’s concern by its rulers. The refusal to join the League of Nations after World War I was more an assertion of unilateralism over encumbering multilateralism than a rejection of engagement.

And surely Hagel can’t be referring to the period before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, because he must know that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did everything in his power to maneuver Germany or Japan, as Secretary of War Henry Stimson famously put it, into “firing the first shot.”

Many people think the al-Qaeda attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, resulted from disengagement, but that conflicts with the facts. Osama bin Laden said al-Qaeda was striking out against decades of brutal U.S. intervention, direct and indirect, in Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere in the Arab Muslim world.

Those high costs in blood and treasure were the consequences of intervention, not “isolationism.” That’s why the case for political and military disengagement is so strong. The butcher’s bill and the money price cannot be tolerated. America’s record of death, injury, and destruction has on net created enemies. The gross cultural and economic distortions from worshipful militarism have yet to be calculated.

And let’s not forget another cost: the toll on Americans ordered to kill and repress fellow human beings in other countries. (I don’t mean to relieve individual members of the military of their responsibility; they volunteered and chose to obey orders unquestioningly.)

President Obama says he will draw down forces in Afghanistan, and this upsets the militarists, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain and the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Yet under the plan, after 2015, a U.S. force will remain to support a regime that many Afghans don’t support. That is not disengagement.

Even people who are tired of Afghanistan after 13 years want Obama to intervene more directly in Syria. Have they learned nothing? There is no such thing as a clean and simple intervention with just the result sought. The war in Afghanistan, ostensibly intended to eradicate al-Qaeda, served to spread an intensified jihadist movement to Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. NATO’s air strikes in Libya spread arms and battle-trained jihadis into west Africa. The law of unintended consequences makes fools of so-called leaders.

Danger, then, lies not in “isolationism”—a misnomer if global trade and travel are freed. Rather, it lies in a rogue and delusional U.S. government that tries to police the world.

Sheldon Richman  is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog “Free Association” and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society.

October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Omar Kassem
Do You Want to See Turkey Falling Apart as Well?
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook is Listening to You
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria