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The Failed Legacy of Interventionism

The New Hampshire Union Leader recently attacked Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s noninterventionist foreign-policy views, making the standard pro-empire, pro-intervention arguments that have come to characterize the conservative movement. The paper implied that the United States should continue meddling and intervening all over the world.

The paper harked back to interventionists’ favorite war, World War II, ridiculing the vast majority of American people who opposed U.S. entry into that conflict. Not surprisingly, the paper failed to mention why Americans were so opposed to entering into World War II: still fresh in their minds was the bitter fruit of World War I.

Ironically, the primary reason for entering World War I was remarkably similar to one of the reasons President Bush gave for the invasion of Iraq: to spread democracy or, as President Wilson put it, “to make the world safe for democracy.” While President Bush dreams of bringing peace to the Middle East, Wilson’s dream was more grandiose: World War I would be the war “to end all wars.”

Some 20 years later, Hitler’s totalitarian regime was waging war against Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. So much for “making the world safe for democracy” and the “war to end all wars.” So much for the more than 100,000 American lives lost in World War I.

The interventionists have described World War II as the “good war” – the war in which good prevailed over evil. Never mind that their concept of “good” includes the communist takeover of all of Eastern Europe and half of Germany. And never mind that it was U.S. officials who delivered Eastern Europe and East Germany to their communist partners.

And never mind that the interventionists soon discovered a new official enemy to replace the Nazis, one that could be used to justify the ever-growing budget of what General Eisenhower would later term the “U.S. military-industrial complex.” That new official enemy was, of course, the communists. Yes, the same communists whose World War II victory some interventionists still celebrate today.

The World War II victory was followed by more than 50 years of Cold War plus hot wars in Korea and Vietnam that took the lives of almost 100,000 American men, as well by interventions in countries all over the world, including Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Cuba, and Iraq.

In the Middle East, there was the CIA coup in Iran that ousted the democratically elected prime minister, followed by U.S. support of the brutal regime of the shah. There was the partnership with Saddam Hussein, which included the delivery of weapons of mass destruction for him to use against Iran. Later, turning on Saddam, there was the Persian Gulf intervention, followed by more than a decade of brutal sanctions. There was the infamous statement by UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the sanctions was “worth it.” There was the unconditional financial and military support of the Israeli government.

President Bush’s undeclared war of aggression on Iraq – a country that never attacked the United States – which has resulted in the deaths and maiming of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, is just one more intervention among many others.

Not surprisingly, all this meddling and intervention has produced terrorist blowback – i.e., the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the attacks on the USS Cole and the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and, of course, the 9/11 attacks.

“By their fruits you will know them.” Herein lies the legacy of almost a century of empire and interventionism: death, chaos, mayhem, and terrorism, not to mention out-of-control federal spending that is leading to severe monetary crisis.

The Founding Fathers warned us against empire, militarism, standing armies, and war. They pointed out that among all the enemies of liberty and prosperity, these were the greatest. That’s why they stood for a limited-government republic, one in which the federal government lacked the power and the means to go abroad “in search of monsters to destroy”; Americans in the private sector, however, would be free to interact with the people of the world while devoting their efforts to building a model society of freedom at home.

Today, with their nation mired in the sands of Iraq, Americans have ample opportunity to choose between conflicting paradigms – the morally bankrupt paradigm of empire and interventionism that will only bring more death, destruction, and monetary chaos – or the morally sound paradigm of noninterventionism and free commerce envisioned by our American ancestors.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is the editor of The Failure of America’s Foreign Wars.

 

 

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