Foreign Policy

Let's Not Broaden the 'War on Despair'

Our Constitution envisions a narrower role for the U.S. military than one that would have it responding to "trouble alerts" worldwide.


Unwinding with one of my guilty pleasures recently—Spike TV's "Ultimate Fighter" reality show—I caught a couple of recruitment ads for America's armed services with an oddly touchy-feely tone.

The first showcased the Navy's new slogan, "A Global Force for Good." "I have heard the call to serve," the narrator proclaims, and he'll carry that call close to his heart until "the anguish of those less fortunate has been soothed."

The second featured a voice-over intoning that: "Marines move toward the sounds of tyranny, injustice and despair—with the courage and resolve to silence them … by ending conflict, instilling order and helping those who can't help themselves."

Noble sentiments, to be sure, but the War on Despair sounds even broader than the amorphous War on Terror that's consumed American blood and treasure for over a decade now. And "helping those who can't help themselves" is a far taller order than fighting "our country's battles" on air, land and sea. When did the U.S. military morph into the Peace Corps with guns?

That's something to ponder as Washington ponders yet another "humanitarian" intervention in a civil war that threatens no vital American national interest.

Last week, the usual senatorial suspects, John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.—who have rarely met a foreign war they didn't like—called for arming the Syrian opposition and launching airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"The only way to stop Assad's campaign of slaughter," the senators insisted, "is for the United States to take tangible steps with our friends and allies to help the Syrian opposition change the military balance of power on the ground."

Our "friends and allies" won't be much help. A confidential NATO report on the Libyan campaign, recently obtained by the New York Times, admits our European alliance partners lacked the technological capability to carry out such interventions unless the U.S. carries all the weight. American forces provided the vast bulk of some 7,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles showered on Libya during the intervention, which President Obama refused to call a "war" ("kinetic military action" was the preferred jargon).

Moreover, as American officials noted, it would be much harder to topple Assad via airstrikes than it was with Gadhafi, given Syria's superior air defenses. An attempt to stop the bloodshed in Syria could risk increasing regional chaos. As my colleague Doug Bandow points out, "Damascus possesses abundant supplies of biological and chemical weapons, including cyanide, mustard gas and sarin nerve agents. The consequences of their use by the regime and "leakage" to terrorist groups could be catastrophic."

Still, Obama's Pentagon has, somewhat reluctantly, begun contingency planning for military operations. Here we go again?

Not all of the rank and file are on board with the idea that the U.S. military should serve as the shock troops of international benevolence. A recent Navy Times article features sailors roundly mocking the "Global Force for Good" slogan: "'It sounds like a catchphrase for a bunch of superheroes,' said Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Randy Whitney, just one of the sailors who invoked the 1970's cartoon classic 'Super Friends.' 'Do they plan on moving all the Navy's Pentagon offices to the Hall of Justice?' "

Our Constitution envisions a narrower role for the U.S. military than one that would have it responding to "trouble alerts" worldwide. U.S. armed forces exist for "the common defence … of the United States," the better to secure the "blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," as the Preamble puts it.

"Global Force for Good"? What's wrong with "Don't Tread on Me"?

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute, the author of "The Cult of the Presidency," and a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where this article originally appeared

NEXT: 27 Percent Say Government Investments Made America Great

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


    Define “good”.

    1. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

    2. Clearly, Groovus, you dont want to do your fair share.

    3. Whenever ther was trouble somewhere in the world, I would be the first to arrive on the scene. Sometimes, I arrived before the trouble even began.

  2. Soooo … a global force for mission creep?

  3. What no prostitutes?

  4. How about the ‘Global Force For Hubris’

    Where politicans, military flag officers, government and NGO bureaucrates, and media flunkies can join together to stick their noses in places where the have no clue so they can make the situation worse and justify their next intervention.

  5. “Peace is our profession.”

    1. deterrence is the first mission yes.

  6. Long live the Empire!

    1. Darth Obama has a certain ring to it.

      1. Emperor Aspartame! This is what NutraSweet will name himself when he takes over, much like Octavian renamed himself Augustus.

        1. God-Imperious Aspartamus, Defender and Destroyer of the Realm

          1. Which month are you going to rename after your august presence?

            1. All of them.

              SugarFreeurary 2
              Reverse Ramandan, The Turkey Month brought to you by his Benevolence SugarFree


              1. I can definitely support Reverse Ramadan.

  7. You’d think a naval “global force for good” would apply itself to getting rid of piracy.

    1. We built a Navy to fight Japanese Carrier groups, U-Boat wolfpacks and Red Oktober missile boats. Not starving africans in shitty speed boats.

      1. Unfortuanately the billion dollar AEGIS destroyers they send have a little trouble spotting the wooden skiffs on their radar

        And if they do manage to catch them, the pirates can just dump their AK-47’s into the water and then claim refugee status and they will end up in the USA driving cabs

        1. they will end up in the USA driving cabs

          They’re probably less dangerous as pirates.

          1. When was the last time you took a cab in New York?

            1. It wasn’t recent but by far the most amazing cab ride of my life was from LaGuardia into Manhattan via Harlem (due to traffic). As he announced our change in direction the driver flipped some switch and the sound of heavy bolts locking all the doors rang. I was as impressed as I was scared shitless.

        2. Pirates dump AKs into ocean – good.

          Newly ex-pirates claiming refugee status – who cares? That doesn’t mean our ships have to pick them up. Direct them to the nearest US Embassy. For once, our impenetrable bureaucracy can do us some good.

    2. Ummmmm, Tim? Try googling Barbary Wars. Your Naval history may need a reality injection.

  8. Imposing global peace.

  9. The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon

    A global force for good.

    Jedi nonsense.

  10. OT:

    Did you know that all that austerity the world has been trying is a failure, and thus Keynes has been proven completely correct?…..5.html?l=1

    1. Uh, Jimbo: IT’S OFFICIAL. It says so right in the title. That means it’s official. Can’t you read? I mean, it’s even in ALL CAPS. That makes it officially more official. Idiot.

    2. According to Keynesian “thought” it is simply impossible for an economy to recover without the aid of government.

      If economies fall into an unrecoverable death spiral without government intervention, how did any economic downturn right itself before Keynes came along?

    3. OT, my ass. The guy said WWII was the mother of all Keynesian stimulus packages. So what would be better for the economy right now than unleashing our Force For Good all over those Force For Evil folks?

      Those Force For Good ads just creep me the hell out – as bad as Homeland Security. It’s like these people had bionic tin ears installed to silence the screams of irony.

      1. True, I didn’t think of that. It isn’t really OT.

    4. Jimbo, isn’t “A Global Force for Good” what you call your dong?

      1. No, that’s just a Global Seeker of East Asian Pink. Which I consider to be a great good.

    5. Henry Blodget (born 1966) is an American former equity research analyst, currently banned from the securities industry, who was senior Internet analyst for CIBC Oppenheimer during the dot-com bubble and the head of the global Internet research team at Merrill Lynch. Blodget is now the editor and CEO of The Business Insider, a business news and analysis site, and a host of Yahoo Daily Ticker, a finance show on Yahoo.

      Blodget received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and began his career as a freelance journalist and was a proofreader for Harper’s Magazine. In 1994, Blodget joined the corporate finance training program at Prudential Securities, and, two years later, moved to Oppenheimer & Co. in equity research. In October 1998,[1] he predicted that’s stock price would hit a pre-split price of $400 (which it did a month later, gaining 128%).


      1. This call received significant media attention, and, two months later, he accepted a position at Merrill Lynch.[1][2] In early 2000, days before the dot-com bubble burst, Blodget personally invested $700,000 in tech stocks, only to lose most of it in the years that followed.[3] In 2001, he accepted a buyout offer from Merrill Lynch and left the firm.

        In 2002, then New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, published Merrill Lynch e-mails in which Blodget gave assessments about stocks which conflicted with what was publicly published.[4] In 2003, he was charged with civil securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[5] He agreed to a permanent ban from the securities industry and paid a $2 million fine plus a $2 million disgorgement.[6]

        via The All-Seeing Wikipedia

        1. Oh, and this tid-bit:

          Blodget’s later articles for the magazine have focused on the return-limiting actions of individual investors, including listening to analysts and the financial media, and relying on active management such as mutual and hedge funds. Blodget now recommends low fee index investing to capture the broad return, while focusing on reduced portfolio turnover to minimize taxes. His Slate articles about investing carry a seven-paragraph disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.

      2. Remember: sometimes, ad hominiem isn’t a fallacy.

        1. But he got a BA at Yale. Yale, damn you.

      3. Blodget received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and began his career as a freelance journalist and was a proofreader for Harper’s Magazine.

        Its not like there aren’t warning signs tattooed all over his ass.

      4. Oh, cripes, it’s a Henry Blodgett piece. You might as well just pull a few administration press releases and randomly string together a few sentances.

  11. “the anguish of those less fortunate has been soothed.”

    So the military is now a euthanasia program?

    1. That’s one way to look at it. Kind of a variation on “destroying the village in order to save it.”

      “Admiral, I can confidently report that the less fortunate in map grids A5 – A7 will no longer be experiencing anguish.”

      1. Look, the way I see it, we’ve got three factors here: unlimited anguish, a limited budget, and a very well-stocked armory of cruise missiles.

        The operation basically plans itself.

  12. So what purpose do american mothers serve if not to produce cannon fodder for the masters of the universe.

    1. the object is to make the other bastard die. jeesch civilians

  13. I wonder how much cheaper the US military would be if we just had a ‘National Force for Defending the USA’ instead of a ‘Global Force for Good’.

  14. I don’t understand what is so fucking noble about killing strangers for the benefit of politicians.

    1. tell that to the continental army, or the slaves, or the jews left alive.

      1. Comparing those things to being world cop is a false equivalency, and exactly what I would expect from a moron like yourself.

  15. “But she [America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

    Secretary of State
    John Quincy Adams

    1. Who is this Adams guy, sounds like a troublemaker.

      1. Some dead white dude who lived, like, over 100 years ago. Who cares? Isn’t American Idol on tonight?

      2. If he was Muslim and in NYC, he would have been prosecuted for that speech.

        1. Yeah, because that’s totally what Muslims who’ve been prosecuted for attempted terrorism have been saying…

      3. He sounds like a fag.

  16. I believe there was a movie about this.

    1. Triumph of the Will?

    2. America! Fuck, yea! (Or something like that.)

    3. The Crusades?

  17. If the US army is the worlds policeman, does that also mean that the rest of the world gets to have a say on what should be policed ? Clearly not, I see the US army nothing more than a government jobs program.

    1. Not anymore than you or I get a say in what gets policed. Drugs? Shut the fuck up, it’s for your own good.

    2. You’re thinking a World Civilian Review Board?

  18. Someone might attack us some day, therefore we must invade the entire world first. There is no middle-ground between total pacifism and having to take over the entire world. This is reality.

    1. so our defense after being actually attacked is what?

      1. I don’t know, since Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan etc. did not actually attack America. But if it were up to war cunts such as you, you would probably want to launch all the nuclear bombs, just to make sure.

        1. dodge n weave
          weave n dodge
          take ur partner
          and dos si do

        2. He’s only pro war for as long as Obama is in office.

      2. Uh, well, after the one time it actually happened we seemed to do the job pretty well.

        1. remember hugh, an attack on an ally is an attack on us

          1. So somebody can attack you with impunity?

        2. We’re actually more like 1 for 2 (War of 1812, Pearl Harbor) or even 1 for 3 (depending on how you count Pancho Villa).

    2. The Constitution is not a suicide pact!

  19. ” A Global Force for John McCain’s Ass.”

    1. They’ve had that motto under ice for a long time, but it was impossible to use it with a straight face within thirty years of McCain’s retirement.

  20. Something that is amusing.

    I was in the Air Force 20 years ago when the Navy’s recruiting slogan was “It’s not just a job; It’s an Adventure!”

    Given that I was stationed at an airbase safely inside US borders and the prospects of an actual shooting war with ANYONE forget anyone who was actually a threat to our airbases we would constantly joke that the Air Force was not an adventure, it was really just a job because pretty much everyone worked 9 – 5 just like the civillians did.

    1. Remember when the Army ads used to say we do more before 9am than most people do all day? They always neglected to mention that that was because you had already been at work for 4 or 5 hours.

      1. Hehe there is a reason I went into the Air Force and not one of the other branches.

        That plus if a shooting war ever did break out, in the Air Force the officers all go out and do the fighting and dying while the enlisted men sit back on the base in air conditioned comfort and play cards waiting for them to come back. In all the other branches it is exactly the opposite.

        1. The submarine Navy is pretty much equal opportunity. Either everyone lives or everyone dies. Doesn’t have to wartime either, just ask the crews of the Thresher or Scorpion.

          1. What about the Squalus?

            1. The survivors & casualties are listed by an old way to list rank/rates, so I may have not interpreted it correctly. But, I figured 20% of the officers died and 42% of the white hats died. The distribution of causalities probably had much to do where the flooding occurred and where the causalities had their watch station.

              I bet the flooding was aft, for it looked to me that it was at snipes (engineering rates) that took the relatively greater number of casualties.

        2. With the obvious exceptions of PJs and CCTs.

  21. Then let the rest of the globe pay for it.

  22. Anytime there is a major disaster, virtually anywhere in the world, you can count on one thing. The US Military will be there the next day flying rescue helicopters, providing manpower to rescue efforts, and providing food and medicines to those who need it.

  23. Recruiting strategies have changed since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed…

  24. Meanwhile at the Legion of Doom…..

  25. As a member of the US Navy, I am incredibly embarassed by this ridiculous slogan. It can’t go away fast enough. I’ll go sit in the corner now…

    1. Never mind the embarrassment, at least you are not air force.

  26. This article is arrant nonsense. The stakes in Syria have little to do with ‘humanitarian’ concerns and everything to do with the regime in neighboring Iran, which uses Syria as a catspaw against Western interests.

    Iran’s fixation on getting a nuclear weapon is leaving NATO and Israel with little choice but regime change. For that, getting rid of Iran’s vassals in Syria is a critical first step, but it is wholly dependent on Turkey’s cooperation, which is not forthcoming.

    This nation’s military interests, as conceived by its ruling class, have extended around the world since the early 19th Century. There has not been a decade in our entire history in which we have not been engaged in some military adventure or other far from the homeland. There is nothing new here.

    A “come-home-america”/fortress-america military stance might be desirable, or not, but it would most definitely be unprecedented.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.