Foreign Policy

America Is in No Position to Lecture Russia About Imperialism

Russia isn't the only country that regards its "backyard" as its playground. The U.S. acts the same way.


The conflict in Ukraine has prompted several level-headed commentators to point out that, of all governments, the U.S. government is in no position to lecture Russia about respecting other nations' borders. When Secretary of State John Kerry said on Meet the Press, "This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext … You just don't invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests," one of those commentators, Ivan Eland, responded,

Hmmm. What about the George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq after exaggerating threats from Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" and dreaming up a nonexistent operational link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks. And what about Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983 to save U.S. medical students in no danger and George H.W. Bush's invasion of Panama because its leader, Manuel Noriega, was associated with the narcotics trade?… More generally, Latin America has been a US sphere of influence and playground for US invasions since the early 1900s — Lyndon Johnson's invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and Bill Clinton's threatened invasion of Haiti in 1994 being two recent examples.

Indeed, Russia isn't the only country that has brutally regarded its "backyard" as its sphere of influence and playground. This doesn't make it okay for the Russian government to behave as it has, but as Adam Gopnik observes,

Russia, as ugly, provocative, and deserving of condemnation as its acts [in Crimea] may be, seems to be behaving as Russia has always behaved, even long before the Bolsheviks arrived. Indeed, Russia is behaving as every regional power in the history of human regions has always behaved, maximizing its influence over its neighbors—in this case, a neighbor with a large chunk of its ethnic countrymen.

Eland of course only scratches the surface in mentioning the U.S. government's unceasing program to control events in its sphere of influence. Some people understand that this program preceded the 20th century; it did not begin with the Cold War. The Spanish-American War, 1898, may come to mind, but I'm thinking further back than that. How far back? Roughly 1776.

Even the government's schools teach, or at least taught during my 12-year sentence in them, that America's Founders had—let us say—an expansive vision for the country they were establishing. Historian William Appleman Williams's extended essay, Empire as a Way of Life, provides many details. Clearly, these men had empire on their minds. Before he became an evangelical for independence from Great Britain, Benjamin Franklin proposed a partnership between England and the American colonists to help spread the enlightened empire throughout the Americas. His proposal was rejected as impractical, so he embraced independence—without giving up the dream of empire in the New World. George Washington spoke of the "rising American empire" and described himself as living in an "infant empire."

Thomas Jefferson—"the most expansion-minded president in American history" (writes Gordon S. Wood)—set out a vision of an "Empire of Liberty," later revised as an "Empire for Liberty," and left the presidency believing that "no constitution was ever before as well calculated as ours for extensive empire and self-government." As Jefferson wrote James Monroe in 1801, Jefferson's first year as president,

However our present interests may restrain us within our own limits, it is impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, & cover the whole northern, if not the southern continent, with a people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, & by similar laws.

Indeed, in the eyes of the Founders, the American Revolution was largely a war between a mature empire and a nascent one. (Many—but assuredly not all—Americans of the time would have cheerily agreed.) Their goal was to bring civilization (which was still identified with England and many of its institutions) to the New World's benighted.

As Jefferson indicated, this vision was more than continental, because South America was never regarded as permanently off limits. If expansion required conflict with the French and Spanish also, so be it.

The Indian Wars were among the first steps in empire building. The unspeakable brutality and duplicity — the acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide, as we say today—were crimes, not merely against individuals, but also against whole societies and nations. "Imperialism" was not yet a word in use, but that's what this was, as were the designs and moves on Canada (one of the objects of James Madison's War of 1812), Mexico, Cuba, Florida, the Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, the Northwest, and the Pacific coast (the gateway to Asia). The wishes of the inhabitants—who were "as yet incapable of self-government as children," as Jefferson said of Louisiana's residents—didn't count. (Lincoln's war is thus understood as an exercise in empire preservation.)

A good deal of this program was tied up with trade. For libertarians, trade far and wide is a good thing, but one must keep in mind that the expansion of trade in those days (as in these) depended on how strong the government was. By hook and crook, a constitution that denied the national government the powers to regulate trade and to tax—the Articles of Confederation—had been exchanged for one—the U.S. Constitution—that authorized both powers. (The libertarian Albert Jay Nock called the federal convention in Philadelphia a coup d'état. See my video lecture.) Trade meant trade policy, and that meant government activism, which included selective embargoes, such as those imposed by Jefferson's program of "peaceful coercion."

The Articles of Confederation were a poor platform for empire building; not so the Constitution. "Both in the mind of Madison and in its nature," Williams wrote, "the Constitution was an instrument of imperial government at home and abroad." (See my "That Mercantilist Commerce Clause.")

I don't mean to say that the liberty of Americans was of no concern to their rulers. I do mean, however, that liberty was to be subordinated (only to the extent necessary, of course) to national greatness, which was America's destiny. (I first heard the words "Manifest Destiny" in a government school. Do kids hear it today?)

Americans sensed that something exceptional was happening. And indeed it was, as Gordon Wood explains in his masterful The Radicalism of the American Revolution. To the dismay of the dominant Federalists, average Americans, exemplified by those whom Wood calls "plebeian Anti-Federalists," saw the revolution as having overturned hierarchical and aristocratic colonial society in favor of a democracy that facilitated personal and commercial self-interest. (This did not sit well with those who wanted America to be, per Wood, "either a hierarchy of ranks or a homogeneous republican whole.")

But even well-grounded exceptionalism can quickly turn dark by the perceived duty to enlighten—or , if necessary, exterminate—the benighted. And that's what happened. The Indian Wars were popular; so were the other imperial exploits. (This is not to say there were no dissenters.)

Williams notes that exceptionalism came with a feeling of aloneness. Thus, the quest for security and tranquility for the new nation—invoked in precisely those words—fueled these imperial exploits. The national-security state is nothing new; only the technology has changed.

Some American figures glimpsed that empire and liberty might not so easily fit together. (The unabashed empire builders were convinced that freedom at home required empire.) The problem was that even many who opposed empire, sometimes quite eloquently, wanted ends that only an empire could procure. Williams puts John Quincy Adams in this small camp. Secretary of State Adams's July 4, 1821, speech, declaring that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy," was "thoughtful, powerful, and subversive," Williams writes. "But for the time Adams remained enfolded in the spirit of empire and was unable to control the urge to extend America's power and influence." (As secretary of state, he supported Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson's seizure of Florida from the Spanish.)

Adams was the main author of the Monroe Doctrine, which announced not only that the United States would stand aloof from Europe's quarrels, but also that the Western Hemisphere was exclusively the U.S. government's sphere of influence: "The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers," for any such extension would be taken as "dangerous to our peace and safety [i.e., our national security]."

So keep out of our backyard, Europe, and we'll keep out of yours. Except, Williams adds, that President Monroe "then asserted the right of the United States to support Greek revolutionaries."

This history doesn't excuse Russia, but it does put Putin's actions in perspective. It also accounts for the less-than-awed reception for President Obama's and Secretary Kerry's sanctimonious utterances. To the extent that Obama and Kerry imply that Russia threatens our "peace and safety," they look like fools. "The worst pretense of empire," Adam Gopnik writes, "is that every rattle on the edges is a death knell to the center."

NEXT: A Drag Queen Beauty Pageant in Mazatlan

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  1. America also supported the handing over of Kosovo to Albanian nationalists and the subsequent Serbian ethnic cleansing through NATO bombing. If Albanian nationalists deserve Kosovo why don’t Russian nationalists deserve Crimea?

    1. When they delete Crazy Mary’s crap I will be first!

      1. No, because Aloysius replied to that tedious whackjob.

        1. Mr. Plissken will still have the first true comment. I’m just going to look stupid replying to a deleted post.

          1. Ah, that’s okay, I responded to Lyle (aka succor sucker) a few times in the Snowden thread. Even though he’s not a true troll / griefer, I should have known that was a lost cause.

            1. Me, too, but in our defense Lyle didn’t seem nuts at first. I’ve read plenty of his style of “Snowden’s a traitor and a hypocrite for going to those evul commies” on a number of right wing blogs.

            2. I read that last night. Lyle gave me a brain cramp.

              Hey look! Mary is gone.

              1. I love that I’m hurting your heads. It might lead to something thinking on your part.

                1. Sometimes things are obscure and confusing because they’re stupid.

                2. “I love that I’m hurting your heads. It might lead to something thinking on your part.”

                  Hi Tulpa! Still rocking Lyle as a sock I see.

      2. Why did they erase the first post ?

        It seems as though the old timers here recognized the poster.

        Is she just banned regardless of username account ?

        1. Is she just banned regardless of username accountbatshit fucking insane?


          1. I was once reading a thread here where a lot of posters were responding to someone they called American or Murican but the posts had been deleted.I gathered that his post were banned for being racist.

            Why does Reason ban anyone here ? Seems like it just adds to the spicy flavor of the comments here.

            1. As hard as it may be to believe, given the quality of comments that *aren’t scrubbed*, H&R actually has some standards.

            2. It’s when they users are actively malicious or destroying a site with dozens of meaningless posts in one thread.

              If you’re not arguing with anyone.

              If you’ve posted long diatribes about how you hate the commenters here and you’re out to get them.

              If the ONLY reason you’re posting–dozens of posts in every thread–is because you hate the commenters here and you want to be disruptive?

              Then why wouldn’t Reason step in and defend their property?

              They’ve put a lot of effort, money, and employee hours into making this site what it is over the years; why would they stand by, watch someone maliciously destroy it, and do nothing?

              They generally don’t take down other content, otherwise, unless they think it might subject them to a libel suit or unless it’s something like a physical threat, or something extremely, extremely, harsh against someone identifiable. But you gotta try really, really hard to accomplish that.

    2. ethnically cleansed?

      Anyway — a Russian-born (anti-Putin) friend of mine summed it all up the best:

      “All fronts are lining up, finally: North Korea – Iran – Venezuela (governments, of course) – Al Jazeera – Putin – Extreme Left – Alex Jones – Larouche – Le Pen -Hamas – Extreme Right – Ramzan Kadyrov, etc. TOGETHER against Maydan.

      I kinda love it…”

  2. OT: From a Facebook post on an article about private philanthropy funding basic research:

    you could say it is the sign of a broken tax code that there is so much money left with individuals to spend at whim.

    It’s from a professional FB group, so not the place for me to get into a debate, buy holy shit.

    Here is the original article, which I only skimmed so far.

    1. FYI, it is worth reading, though long (I’m only half way through). It is also very encouraging to me as a libertarian and astronomer.

    2. *ahem*…..nt_4382232

    3. Most of the comments are of two types. How dare private individuals decide how to spend their own money and they shouldn’t have been able to get that rich in the first place. And they only want to increase their own personal interests(that will make them richer) and not the interests of the public.

      The first one is standard progressive BS. The second I’m fairly sure the commentators did not even read or understand the article. I don’t know how Gordon Moore donating money to build a telescope will make him or Intel richer. And another helped save a collider? I just don’t see a connection.

      1. I don’t know how Gordon Moore donating money to build a telescope will make him or Intel richer. And another helped save a collider? I just don’t see a connection.


  3. Richman, because he does not support the philosophical concept of intellectual property, vigorously protects his written work from theft and copying by writing such retarded tripe that no self-respecting person would ever consider appropriating it as his own.

    2 pages worth of historical deconstructionist wanking to say: tu quoque

    Checkmate, ‘muricans!

    1. Wasn’t aware of tu quoque. Thanks for the Latin lesson. Spot on example. Richman’s mealy mouth ends up purveying the fallacy by not naming it directly as you did.

    2. Re: PM,

      2 pages worth of historical deconstructionist wanking to say: tu quoque

      No, just to say: Don’t throw stones in a glass house.

      1. Okay so he went with false equivalency instead.

  4. “Give us Edward Snowden and I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

  5. New Anita Hill documentary…..=arts&_r=0

    1. Who gives a fucking crap about that pathologically lying nobody?

    2. I had to do some work with the movie. As best as I could tell, it was written and directed by Anita Hill, or maybe her husband. It is 100% Anita, 100% of the time. No opposing viewpoints, nothing from Thomas or anyone else, so far as I aw.

      1. This has total flop written all over it, no matter how much her supporters in the JournoList try to hype it up. She’s completely uninteresting, and no normal person wants to relive that garbage.

      2. Did she mention that she followed him from one job to another ( IIRC ) supposedly after the timeline of the start of the harassment ?

      3. Though relatively young, I remember a lesson from Clarence Thomas’s confirmation: Political Correctness Quantified.

        Bush sent a black guy up for confirmation, putting the Democrats in a bind because they couldn’t treat him like Bork.

        So, like a game of poker, the Clowncrats matched Bush’s token, then RAISED him a vagina. Now their behavior could be just as Bork-miserable with their talisman for cover.

        Can’t wait for some Republican, someday, to send up for nomination a wheelchair-bound LGBT black chick with AIDS; who also denies evolution, affirmative racism action, and Carbontology.

        What will the Clowncrats do?

    3. Maybe she’s looking for her own reality TV show.

  6. “Hungary law requires photographers to ask permission to take pictures

    “Those planning a weekend break in Budapest take note. From 15 March anyone taking photographs in Hungary is technically breaking the law if someone wanders into shot, under a new civil code that outlaws taking pictures without the permission of everyone in the photograph. According to the justice ministry, people taking pictures should look out for those “who are not waving, or who are trying to hide or running out of shot”….

    “… “This [regulation] is a nonsense and in my opinion impossible,” lawyer Eszter Bogn?r said. “I don’t think this is going to change the practice of photographing ‘normal’ people, because they don’t have the possibility to ID the person taking the photo, but it’s going to be more difficult to take pictures of policemen.””…..e-pictures

    1. Wasn’t this the premise of a Three Stooges episode?

  7. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

  8. The U.S. signed a treaty with Ukraine promising to protect it in the event of an act of aggression. To honor that treaty, the U.S., at the very least has to show it’s doing something in some way. Which should bring one to ponder, why sign such treaties? It can get you in all sorts of trouble.

    As for imperialism, has there ever been a civilization in history that with power and growth did not expand into becoming an empire? Most, if not all, societies lust for expansion and the grandeur it brings with it.

    Assyria, Babylonia, Athens, Rome, Incan, Mayan, Venice, England, France, Spain etc. – name it – they all started off as humble entities only to grow and become empires in their own right.

    I don’t know if it’s even possible to ever see a non-interventionist power. The problem with the USA is even if it wanted to ‘mind its business’ nations would be knocking on their door begging for help in some way – ie financially or militarily.

    I may be overlooking one example in history perhaps someone can argue otherwise.

    1. Couple of summer’s ago went to India and learned first hand how the Brits looted that country after they took over. Now, arguably India benefited in numerous ways under Brits influence, but the Brits did do their share of looting and if left them open to charges imperialism you reference.

      When has America actually been guilty of such wholesale looting of another country’s accumulated wealth after they took over? Generally the defeated enemy ends up being freer economically and becomes more affluent as a result–e.g.,Germany, Japan. Even when the US looses wars–e.g., Vietnam–the country ends up being more capitalists and wealth producing and arguably better off than before. Is this the imperialism you speak of?

      America is guilty of stupid, altruist wars, but imperialist is a smear term of its foreign policy as the dominate military power.

      1. Maybe Nicaragua in the early 20th Century. But all we did was make sure US fruit could do business there.

      2. When has America actually been guilty of such wholesale looting of another country’s accumulated wealth after they took over?

        Does the Cherokee Nation count?

        1. Yes. But that was 190 years ago.

          1. Re: John,

            Was there a time period implicit in the question? I saw none.

            1. No. It is just that it doesn’t matter.

              1. And the Cherokee were actually trying to assimilate into American style government, unlike say, the Comanche.

                1. No, most the 5 civilized tribes in the SE did not assimilate. Jackson only threatened to forcefully move those in the tribes that did not respect individual property land rights. Some did–they kept their own individual land holdings and were not forced to move. Those who did not recognize INDIVIDUAL property rights–which included most of the tribes were forced to move. Also, they refused to be transported by boats as the Feds offered because of superstitions, and thus, the infamous Trail of Tears.

                  I grew up in Oklahoma in the 1960s and this was the history taught. Later I confirmed it on my own.

                  1. Posted it below, but I’ll post it again – here is how the Choctaw who stayed in Mississippi felt how their individual rights were being respected in 1849:

                    “we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died.”

                    Again, I’m not claiming that pre-Columbian America was a paradise. But trying to twist history so that Europeans were not the aggressors in the colonization of the Americas, or that Native Americans were responsible for the Trail of Tears, is ridiculous.

        2. “Does the Cherokee Nation count?”

          If such a thing existed it might, but it didn’t so no.

          1. What?

          2. It is a bad argument. Stealing implies recognition of ownership. Most of the Cherokees did not recognize or understand the concept of property or property rights, so how can you steal it? Native Americans gained their lands historically by force by fighting intertribally. The Europeans came in and fought them, too and won. The set up property rights. Use to be taken for granted, now no longer discussed. The Indian Wars were all about establishing property rights and individual rights.

            1. This is absurd. First off, since when are natural rights dependent on anything other than one’s humanity? It’s ridiculous to say that the fact that Native Americans didn’t have conceptions of property ownership that were identical to those of Europeans (conceptions of property rights varied from tribe to tribe and from time to time – many did, at one point or another, have systems of private property), that Europeans somehow had the right to kick them off of land that they and their ancestors had lived on for thousands of years.

              “The Indian Wars were all about establishing property rights and individual rights.”

              Yeah, Indian Removal is a great example of property rights and individual rights being respected. Jesus Christ, are you a leftist troll trying to make libertarians look bad? And let’s not forget that European settlers brought millions of slaves into that territory, and after being forced to end slavery, those states implemented discriminatory systems that oppressed non-whites (including the Native Americans who remained) for another 100 years.

              Here’s what the Choctaw who stayed in Mississippi had to say in 1849 about how their individual rights were being respected:

              “we have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died.”

            2. To be clear, I’m not trying to say that North America was some paradise of peace, prosperity, and harmony before Europeans arrived. I am saying that trying to spin colonization so that Europeans were not the aggressors is historical nonsense.

      3. “America is guilty of stupid, altruist wars, but imperialist is a smear term of its foreign policy as the dominate military power.”

        If you look at the history of imperialism, as opposed to the general characterization of it, you tend to find that most imperialism does come down to stupid altruism. The Brits were as motivated by the desire to “civilize the wogs” as they were to extract resources from the subcontinent.

        1. Yeah. The idea that the British got rich from their empire, as opposed to because of their native industrial prowess is a bullshit Leninist myth that is sadly repeated by a lot of people should know better.

        2. Actually the missionary push was a strong influence on exploration (expansionist) policy of both England and Spain.

          1. Exactly. It’s why the presentation of imperialism as Snydely Whiplash plotting to steal the resources from the poor natives while twirling his mustache is counterproductive. Whenever the imperialist impulse comes around, it never really looks like that. It looks like people trying to save “those people” from themselves.

            1. And I guess I was going to say “WHAT resources?”

            2. This is bad overgeneralization, and ignores the fact that missionaries and “white man’s burden” were often little more than cover for the desire for power and wealth.

              1. There is one way USA is different, at least since mid 20th Century, than most empires: We do not keep what we conquer. Think how big USA would be if we kept the Philippines post 1946, kept France, Italy, Japan, Iraq, Kuwait, West Germany, etc.

                And the fact the United States of America does not play ‘for keeps’ – with the ruthless connotations therein – is why USA sucks as an empire.

                Rome would have dealt with, say, Fallujah, a little different: There wouldn’t be a fucking Fallujah anymore, and if there was any town left, it would be called ‘The Merciful Bush’s New City.’

                That’s old-school empire,

          2. Spanish Conquistadors would disagree with you, they did it to get rich and many documents survive where those involved openly stated such motivations.

        3. Good point. But the Brits did set some institutions in place that helped bring India into the modern age.

      4. Not sure what part of the comment you’re referring to. I was just keeping in line with the article in that the impulse for empire exists in all great civilizations. I was careful to, at least I tried, to not necessarily group the USA in that because there seems to still be a debate as to if it’s an empire.

        I agree it is not an imperial nation like we’ve seen from the likes of Britain. But it is, as I heard often during my time in banking, a financial empire and sometimes cash wields more power than bullets.

        1. America is a financial empire that extracts wealth from (most) of the rest of the world via currency manipulation.

          And frankly, it’s a good deal for the rest of the world. They get peace and prosperity at the cost of a percent or two of their GDP. Absent US hegemony they would spend a larger percent on their own militaries and suffer the destruction of occasional wars. Beyond that, they would also be less wealthy because of restricted trade.

          The problem for the overwhelming number of Americans, with the situation, is that the government wastes the surplus on quasi-religious pursuits of absolute safety and ‘fairness’.

          1. Its also worth pointing out foreigners loan the US a lot of money, and then US spends it on big, bad Death Star aircraft carrier that keeps local foreigner neighborhood safe at night, so to speak.

            The Saudis, for example, are getting their money’s worth from buying US bonds even if they never get paid back. Even the Chinese are building aircraft carriers using interest payments we send them – from us borrowing their money ironically to build much better ones.

            God the world is fucked up when you think about it that way.

      5. You obviously haven’t read about what the U.S. did in the Philippines.

        1. And now the Philippines and the U.S. are good friends. Oh the horror. Because after what the U.S. did in the Philippines during and after the Spanish American War, the U.S. helped the Filipinos kick Japan out of the country.

          Now we’re friends. History, ain’t it something else.

          1. Would you say that the Philippines enjoy the succor of the US ?

            1. They did. We no longer have a base their though. Although they let us dock our ships there still. And they would ask for our help if China came for them, I would imagine.

              What’s your problem with the word succor, by the way?

              Are you one of the group think libertarians here, or something, who can’t actually debate people that disagree with you?

              1. “What’s your problem with the word succor, by the way?”

                Your excsssive use of it yesterday, Tulpa.

                That’s the problem with it.

              2. Tell that to the over 200,000 dead Filipinos Lyle

                1. Tell that to the over 200,000 dead Filipinos Lyle

                  After about four years of Japanese management, the Filipinos loved the USA. And we still handed it off to them on time, despite WWII, in 1946.

                  Then we inflicted Marcos on them for forty years playing our Cold War games, but you know…hits and misses.

                  1. WWII was forty years after the Philippine-American War started, and more importantly, is Imperial Japan now the measuring stick we’re using? The USG wasn’t as bad as Japan, so everything’s good? Internment camps weren’t as bad as concentration camps in Europe, so Japanese internment was A-Ok?

                    I find it interesting that many libertarians seem fine using this logic to defend the US government’s actions abroad, but would never use it to defend their domestic actions. After all, despite all it’s awfulness, the US government is still nowhere near as oppressive as most governments in the world or throughout history – does that mean libertarians should just suck it up and stop complaining, since we have it a lot better compared to almost any other society today and in the past?

          2. Would you say that the Philippines enjoy the succor of the US ?

          3. we actually became friendly long before WWII, because General Macarthur Sr. was actually competent and managed to win their “hearts and minds” by (gasp!) negotiating. Something we should have done with the Taliban long ago. We were on such good terms by 1941 that the Phillipinos actually helped defend against the Japs, (the oppressive Jap occupation methods probably also had something to do with it)

        2. Jordan, if that was directed at me I’ll try and answer this way.

          Yes, true but again one can counter argue by saying relative to its power (and by extension, relative to the power of past empires) the Americans wield a much more docile stick.

        3. and what exactly was that? built up their agriculture, industry and infrastructure. stabilized the government, protected the country from foreign invasion.
          I would have to say that the Philipinos ended up with the better end of the relationship with the United States.

          1. Ditto for Puerto Rico. Which is why very few people vote for independence, they don’t want to end up like Cuba or the Dominican Republic.

          2. Why is it that imperialism (at least when done by white people) gets so many defenders on a libertarian website?

    2. Re: Rufus J. Firefly,

      The U.S. signed a treaty with Ukraine promising to protect it in the event of an act of aggression.

      An act that leads to an interesting question: How is the U.S. supposed to protect the Ukraine in case of an “act of aggression”? That sort of pact serves only to place the country making such guarantee in a place where “damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” unnecessarily.

      This is exactly what George Washington warned about in his farewell speech: No entangling alliances, precisely because it places the country in a difficult position of having to honor such pacts for which there is no political or financial wherewithal.

      1. They put themselves in a tight corner. Has anyone learned at how incredibly messy alliances can be? From Athens all the way down to the world post-Treaty of Westphalia until the First Great War.

      2. The Senate never ratified that treaty so there is no obligation on the part of the US.

        1. Ah.

          THAT I didn’t know.

          /smashes board.

    3. there are loads of civilizations that didn’t go off empire building… they were conquered.

      1. As were the empire builders.

    4. The US opted out of its obligations to South Vietnam in 1975, and the Budapest Memorandum isn’t even a proper treaty, so I don’t think any serious person can say it’s in any way more compelling.

    5. “I may be overlooking one example in history perhaps someone can argue otherwise.”

      There’s the flip side of American exceptionalism!

      They want to deride us for thinking we’re exceptional, but then they also want to criticize us for not being exceptional.

      Just for the record, I’m not sure we should treat nations like individuals and use words like “hypocrisy” to describe them. Those are the kinds of words we should use to describe individuals, rather than collectives. The integrity of governments has been known to be garbage since before Plato’s noble lie and Machiavelli.

      And, besides, the moral argument that we shouldn’t call for other people to do the right thing (whatever that is) because we didn’t do the right thing ourselves is absurd…

      Is it hypocritical for Germany to denounce genocide? I don’t think so!

      If not, then why would it be hypocritical of us to denounce imperialism? If that’s technically what people mean by hypocrisy, then maybe that’s a kind of hypocrisy we should be engaging in.

      1. Richman is easily one of the worst and most simple-minded Reason contributors on staff. Probably the worst.

        He’s the kind of guy that if the Pakistani ISI loaded up flight 370 with a nuke and flew it into New York, London, or Mumbai, he’d say the victims had it coming because imperialism, blowback, blah blah blah.

        1. I don’t think so.

          I think his aesthetic rubs the right side of the libertarian spectrum the wrong way.

    6. Someone posted on Reason a couple of days ago that Clinton signed it but it was never presented to Congress.

      Congress is the only body able to ratify a treaty.

  9. Pope nixes peace talks:

    “[Jesus in the wilderness] doesn’t dialogue with Satan like Eve” did in the Garden of Eden, the pope said. “Jesus knows well that you can’t dialogue with Satan because he is so cunning.””…

    The New Yorker takes another view:


    1. Jesus does dialogue with Satan in the wilderness. Maybe the Pope just doesn’t understand what Jesus was saying.…..-chapter-5

      Or maybe he just doesn’t like what Jesus was saying.

      1. Saying, politely to be sure,”go piss up a rope” isn’t much of a dialog.

  10. When Secretary of State John Kerry said on Meet the Press, “This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext ? You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests,”[…]

    “… he bit his tongue and almost died of a hemorrhage right there.”

    1. Sort of like lying about mass killings as an excuse to bomb Serbia.

    2. If the administration wanted to really hurt Russia it should unleash all restraints on US exports of natural gas and begin OKing permits of LGN export facilities.

      But that would create too many jobs, make a serious dent in our import/export imbalance, and start the US on a path of economic solvency.

      And that’s a bad thing. Period.

  11. Another example of Reason fucking up a decent argument. There are few dumber arguments than saying that events nearly 200 or more years ago somehow affect US legitimacy now.

    The pathetic thing about this piece is that there is a more recent and actually relevant US action that undercuts our ability to lecture Russia, Kosovo. In 1999, the US bombed Serbia and threatened land invasion with no authorization from the UN or no right of self defense all to carve out an ethnic enclave within the sovereign territory of Serbia. And now we have the nerve to bitch at Russia over this? And oh by the way the Russians were deeply offended and angry over our bombing of Serbia. I guess our top men were too busy taking gender studies to know that Russia once went to world war over Serbia.

    Sheldon ignores that to bitch an moan about the Indian wars? Is Reason just afraid to attack Clinton?

    1. John, when you listen to Russian diplomats, pundits and manage to hear Russian perspectives, they are acutely aware of (and compelled to remind) of America’s own actions.

      So yeah. I think Kerry is shadow boxing here.

    2. The difference with Kosovo was that there were Serbs slaughtering Kosovar Albanians. It was a defense of other argument which Putin is using as well. The big difference is that Ukrainians aren’t slaughtering Russians.

      1. No not a big difference, we get involved in nonsense all the time preemptively.

        1. Not a big difference. Ukrainians aren’t killing Russians. What do you not understand about this?

          1. Why you keep running Lyle as a sock, Tulpa, that’s what I Don’t understand.

          2. And IIRC, we have thousands of troops stationed all around the world and in Europe.

            STFU imperialist.

  12. Maybe it’s me, but I really have a hard time getting all worked up about Russia in the Crimea. The Crimea is an area that has been under Russian control for centuries. It’s where their Black Sea fleet is stationed. The Russians were willing to hold back the old ruler of Ukraine on the condition that the Europeans hold back the revolutionaries. They were double-crossed and the revolutionaries took it as an opportunity to seize power. The Europeans, in turn, welcomed them with open arms. Now the Russians want to make sure that the Crimea, with the consent of the local population, doesn’t fall into the hands of Ukrainian nationalists with a hard-on against them.

    Am I missing something here?

    1. Nope. Like you said, it’s their backyard.

    2. No, you’re not missing anything that would bolster the pro-western case. Who in their right mind would want to live under fascist rule and IMF-imposed austerity? That’s effectively the promise from Kiev.

      1. Do you get paid in rubles per post or per word?

      2. Who would want to live under Putin’s one man rule ?

    3. You’re missing the part where Russia has no right to invade Ukraine and the part where its Crimea base was NEVER threatened by the new government.

      1. Blockading the Ukrainian bases in Crimea is an act of peace, too.

      2. What the hell do rights have to do with geopolitics? Nations don’t have rights. Individuals do. Are you suggesting the Ukrainian nationalists have a “right” to control the Crimea against the will of the local population?

  13. Obama: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
    Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Obama is just doing exactly what he thought he was secretly promising the Russians when the idiot didn’t realize there was a hot mike there. He is slowly but steadily using the increased flexibility his re-election gave him to reduce America’s position as the preeminent actor in international affairs and help reverse the results of the Cold War. Richman should be happy with how things are proceeding in that area.

    1. I think the important question is =

      *if he’s a commie robot*, will the someone come back through time at the last minute before he suddenly drops the Berlin-Space-Wall he’s been building secretly with NASA? And is bruckeimer involved in this? Because he should be.

  14. if we’re an empire, we’re doing it wrong.

    1. Yeah, it’s the worst of both worlds.

    2. Yeah, I didn’t have a single native servant mixing me gin and tonics…

      All I did was go and get shot at, live in tents or wooden huts and not loot any antiquities or anything for that matter…. Man, I was doin’ it wrong.

  15. you could say it is the sign of a broken tax code that there is so much money left with individuals to spend at whim.

    Nice. Extra credit for honesty.

    Bread lines are what this country needs.

  16. if we’re an empire, we’re doing it wrong.

    No kidding. Where’s my $.19/gal premium gasoline?

    1. Evil Emperor BushCheney’s plan was more evilly eviler than anyone could have imagined.

      He’s destroyed all the oils in the middle east in order to make us all buy corn-ethanol and Tesla cars. because Halliburton!

      1. Do you think Papa Bush ever said to himself afterward.
        “hmm maybe I should have taken that $10/barrel oil deal”

    2. What is impressive is what I just said there makes about as much sense as Sheldon Richman

    3. Speaking of gasoline, anyone else notice that it’s beginning to rocket up again? Something close to twenty cents in just the last week.

      1. I predict Iran will be an early signatory to the Eurasian customs union that Putin’s building, then western sanctions won’t hurt them so much anymore, either.

        We may well achieve energy independence in the next decade or so, which would be great for the nation, but as the Brazilians can tell you, it won’t be cheap.

        1. Removing the cap limits on US exports of natural gas and OKing permits for LNG export terminals would be the strongest blow against the Russians that the US could take.

          It makes no sense to me that this administration will not allow US companies to export as much gas as they are able.

          Gas sell for about 3 or 4 times as much outside the US as it does domestically.

  17. My question is, with the decades of evidence that post-colonial governments are highly prone to kleptocracy and genocide, what do we still automatically consider “Imperialism” a BAD thing?

    1. Star Wars.

      Darth killed it for everyone

    2. Libertarians should get the bug out of their ass regarding ‘Empire’. The British Empire might have been the greatest force for civilization and freedom the world has ever seen. Can do a lot worse than Empire.

    3. As if those things are/were completely unrelated?

  18. He’s destroyed all the oils in the middle east in order to make us all buy corn-ethanol and Tesla cars. because Halliburton!

    It was right there in front of me, the whole time!

  19. “No indication of terrorism. It must be terrorism.”

  20. Stupid Sheldon Richman thinks the Russian invasion of Crimea is the same as recent U.S. interventions abroad. Jesus Christ those are dumb comparisons. Was the U.S. trying to take land and colonize it with Americans? Is the dictator Putin trying to knock down a dictatorship? I wish Christopher Hitchens was around, with words he’d fucking cut your cock and balls off Sheldon Richman.

    And what the fuck are libertarians doing defending an authoritarian dictatorship’s expansionary acts? Seriously, stop defending Putin you fucking stupid people!

    1. With Words!!

    2. I still personally find it kind of disturbing that many of the same guys who were so damn gung-ho about the “Arab Spring” appear to have little or no support for those Ukrainians who want to break away from the Russians once and for all.

      1. They are non-interventionists. If they are to be non-interventionists they can’t offer help, but just best wishes against the dictator with the better military. Foolishness.

        1. No buddy, it means stop using force to make people donate to your dumbshit causes.

          You have more misses than hits bro, look at recent history.

          1. And non-interventionists are why Putin has so easily occupied Crimea and why the Syrian civil war carries on to this very day.

            What a record you have to hang your hat on. Oh, and there was the “Arab Spring” too.

            1. Good, I’m tried of your dumbfuck extraction of charity at gunpoint.

              If you care so much about it then donate your money buddy. I don’t care what cause its for, forced charity is bullshit. Intervention doesn’t secure anything either, look at Vietnam genius.

              All over the world people are starving horrible to death, yet you’re here in America eating your disgusting burgers, aren’t you? Why aren’t you helping them out, are you selfish? GTFO.

              1. *horribly

                That’s what I thought, you’re all talk. Very cute of you to ignore that you want to start a war with a major superpower, not exactly the most pleasant thought.

        2. The non interventionists bombed Libya?

          Who knew ?

    3. I’m pretty sure violent interventionism over a longer period of time is just as bad, if not worse. Stop hypocrite.

      1. How could the United States ever exist without long-term violent intervention across much of North America?

        Tell me hypocrite.

        1. Yeah I like Europe just fine, so your point is nonsense to me.

          Canada seems more Libertarian many times, you’ve got jack.

    4. “And what the fuck are libertarians doing defending an authoritarian dictatorship’s expansionary acts.”

      I’m sympathetic to this!

      But I think this piece is addressed to the libertarian choir.

      We’re dealing with two issues, here:

      1) A lot of average Americans have been conditioned (over the last 15 years) to interpret majority sympathy with an oppressed people as a cause for war, and because a lot of libertarians are sick of war, they’re become, in some ways, knee-jerk critical of sympathy with other peoples.

      2) I don’t think he intends it that way although that’s the way it comes across. He’s not saying that we should support Putin because he’s doing the same thing we’ve done; isn’t he saying that we should never do things like Iraq becasue it spoils our ability to call out people like Putin?

      1. I hear you. You make two good points.

        1. We already have a presence all around the world, that’s not exactly working out.

  21. I wonder which handle Tulpa is posting under… Anyone want to place some bets?

    1. Let’s see, in favor of force and authority…

      Rhymes with Kyle?

      1. “Rhymes with Kyle?”


  22. The west is a dying empire. Now it’s the east’s turn again. I’d rather see Russia at the helm of a new global hegemony than any of the alternatives, say Islam or China.

    1. Russia can’t even keep Ukraine under control sans an invasion.

      How are they going to helm a new global “hegemony”?

      1. Russia can’t even pacify the Caucuses.

        1. Hegemony is when you do it under the shadow of your military power–if you actually do it with your military, it ain’t “hegemony”.

          If you have to invade your neighbors, you’re weak.

          We don’t get a whole lot of argument from Mexico. Yeah, politicians can score points, there, by railing against the hegemon, but our substantial disagreements are few.

          It should be noted that there are two big reasons why Putin is doing this:

          1) Personal prestige at home. He got his ticket to power by massaging Russians’ offended sense of being a great nation. It’s hard to keep projecting yourself as Russia’s big man champion of greatness, when your national greatness won’t even travel as far as Kiev.

          2) All those other client states in Central Asia, the Tajik-, Uzbek-, Kyrgz-, Turken-, all those “-stans”? They’re run by dictators like the one in Ukraine was, and if they think Putin will leave them to twist in the wind like the would be dictator in Ukraine–then they’ll turn to China for protection instead of Putin.

          In other words, Putin is concerned that what little hegemony he has is crumbling.

          1. I think Russia has some economic issues right now so uniting the people on some foreign adventure is a time honored way of getting them to ignore the problems at home.

            1. If the US would remove it’s limits on natural gas exports Russia would have some serious economic problems and lose serious bargaining power against Europe.

              The are more than a couple of pluses domestically as well.

    2. Be careful what you rationally wish for.

  23. False Equivalnce: The Article.

    Sheldon’s typical Derp.

  24. “It also accounts for the less-than-awed reception for President Obama’s and Secretary Kerry’s sanctimonious utterances”
    If that was the point of the article a person doesn’t need to look much further back then the Syrian “crisis” to understand the why of that quote.

    1. Is Richman suggesting that if a nation without a history of expansion — Switzerland, perhaps — condemned the taking of the Crimea, Putin would back down out of shame?

      I suspect that the “less-than-awed reception for President Obama’s and Secretary Kerry’s sanctimonious utterances” has more to do with the absence of a credible military threat to back the utterances up than it does to our seizure of Florida from the Spanish nearly 200 years ago.

  25. “Imperialism” is one of those words that makes me instantly doubt the intellectual veracity of what I’m reading. Maybe because it’s used with equal fervor to describe Nazi Germany and Plymouth settlers.

    1. It’s a broad term, and the fact that two things may both fall under it (such as your two examples) does not mean those two things are exactly morally equivalent. I agree that many critics of imperialism should remember that, but likewise many who defend imperialism seem to take the view of “well it wasn’t as bad as Hitler, so quit whining!”

      1. That’s not what they’re saying at all, that’s disingenuous.

        1. And his comparison wasn’t? Look through this very thread, and you have people justifying the US’s actions in the Philippines because they weren’t as bad as Imperial Japan.

  26. Iraq and Ukraine are apples and oranges. Saddam Hussein had WMD ambitions, and he invaded another country in the early 90’s. The rest of the world was involved in bombing his weapons factory and other sites for years. For all the intelligence blunders, Bush didn’t invade Iraq to to add a piece of land. We were attacked on our soil. The circumstances are radically different.

    This is the sort of lazy, ready made argument the left uses to shame the opposition. If the war in Iraq and AFG never happened, they would say something like “what about slavery, the Vietnam war, the first Gulf War, Jim Crow, etc.” You’ll always see the amnesty crowd and the dolphin lovers bring up the Mexican war and Japan’s imperial past.

    We can sit on the fence on this issue because Russia isn’t bombing Ukraine to submission. They were allowed to walk in and take over without a single shot. If NK invaded SK tomorrow and Sheldon and his friends saw double standards in our indignation because of our own “imperial” past, they’d be ran out of town.

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