Foreign Policy

Best Thing to Do in Foreign Policy is Nothing

Can't win if you play

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The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here's one Americans shouldn't miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict. The corollary is that when a president tries to manage it, things will usually get worse. Foresight is always defective, and tragic unintended consequences will prevail.

The foreign-policy "experts" in both major political parties, and the intelligentsia generally, think otherwise. No matter who holds power, we can expect the opposition to complain that the chief executive poorly anticipated and thus improperly responded to world events.

If this charge weren't so ominous, it would be comical to hear Republicans berating Barack Obama for failing to be "proactive," for repeatedly being caught by surprise, and for not exerting "American leadership" to keep the world's hot spots under control and, most important, in harmony with "American interests."

But contrary to what Republicans say (or what Democrats would say if a Republican were in power), the fault lies not in the president — at least not this fault — but in the mission itself: anticipating change and managing world conflict. No president can do that competently. Why not? Because the task is not doable, and danger lies in thinking it is. Moreover, the delusion that it is doable almost always makes situations worse than they otherwise would be — weapons proliferate, violence spreads, noncombatant casualties multiply — and all this creates enemies for the American people.

Who thinks that's a good thing? I doubt the American people would if they understood what their so-called leaders — misleaders and misrepresentatives are better terms — are doing to them, not to mention what the "leaders" are doing to the hapless subject populations abroad that suffer because of U.S.-supported machinations.

The world is complex. Specifically, individual societies are infinitely complex, historically, politically, and culturally, and thus beyond the full comprehension of any person or group. Even societies ruled and ostensibly planned by dictators have informal, hidden, and spontaneous aspects that no one can fully grasp, especially outsiders. Written laws are often irrelevant to the unwritten rules and customs actually governing a society. And each society consists of many moving parts (religious, ethnic, etc.)

Anyone who still thinks a U.S. president with expert advisers can determine the opportune moment to send armed forces into a country to effect regime change — or to arm a presumed moderate opposition — and have everything come out as planned fails to grasp this and hasn't been paying attention for the last dozen years. The same goes for anyone who still believes America's latest brain trust can smoothly dictate political events in another country, say Ukraine, from behind the scenes with money funneled through innocent-sounding organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy.

The problem with these grand plans is that there are human beings on the other end — people who have their own preferences about what should take place and who are likely to resent foreign or foreign-backed interference. Another stumbling block to presidential world-building is that historical regional powers — say, Russia or Iran — don't look kindly on the United States asserting its will in their neighborhoods, just as American presidents have not welcomed foreign influence in Latin America. To many people in the world, American exceptionalism means that the United States alone gets to regard every region as within its sphere of influence. Responses to American arrogance produce many of the "crises" that the chief executive will be accused of having failed to anticipate and preempt. But no one can hope to manage the world.

The basic failure is the intervention itself. There will be crises enough without a U.S. president helping to create them.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine/Israel, Ukraine and so many more in the past are all variations on a theme. Ignorant intervention begets bad consequences — unintended or not — perhaps not for American politicians or those who peddle war materiel, but certainly for those who bear the brunt in the target countries and the Americans who kill, die, and pay the economic cost.

Managing world conflict is beyond the power of any mortal. Don't demand that a president do it.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. They changed the Risk’s game pieces huh

    1. Orange is really messing up their troop placements.

      1. Western hemisphere is a better play

        1. We can accept that intervention has “bad consequences – intended or not”.

          The article fails to identify conditions under when is it justifiable?

          There is an asymmetry in behavior from “bad actors” that puts us “good actors” in a catch-22 situation if we only seek to avoid “bad consequences”.

          Yes, there has been plenty of folly in actions by the US and the west.

          The subtitle says “Cannot win if you play” … to which I’d say “Cannot survive unless you do play”.

          This article seems to be rather pollyannaish with its advocacy of ostrich behavior.

          The real question is just what kinds of “actions” are justified (trade, diplomacy, intelligence, arms/military)and against what kinds of “offenses”? And, can we proactively prepare for any of this, using foresight (even imperfect as it may be) or must we always wait for a bomb to go off on our soil?

          Sorry. This article is not at all informative nor convincing, even if I hold a similar sentiment about our past follies.

        2. NA is the best only three entrances and they are all good choke points, plus much better return than australia

  2. Just the sort of defeatist, un-American nonsense we’ve come to expect from Sheldon Richman. Clearly he doesn’t know that the United States is the sole, legitimate heir of the British Empire and the Pax Britannica (not like those bastard children, Canada and Australia), and the only nation fit to spread the peace and order of the Pax Americana to the entire world. The United States is also the greatest democracy in the history of EVER, giving us the moral superiority to impose our will on the ignorant masses of brown people who inconsiderately position themselves atop resources we could put to better use. Finally, our only true metric as a “big boy” nation is how many arms in how ever many nations can we twist into compliance with our stated aims for the duration of the present Presidential administration.

    To conclude, America: History, morality, and might are all on our side. Therefore, we must interfere.

    Thank you.

    1. That was awesome!

    2. John Bolton?

      1. Or a good facsimile there of.

    3. Pretty easy to see note and make fun of the disasters that Bush and Obama’s altruist interventions have brought. Apparently, though, it is beyond Sheldon’s vision to describe what a good foreign policy would look like.

  3. Expecting a President to master foreign affairs is distinct from expecting a President to manage conflict to at least some level. Yes, the complexity involved in attempting to fashion a new government or society abroad from scratch is enormous and should not be attempted lightly, if at all. OTOH, foreign policy is not as complex as all of that: it mostly involves a small clique of power hungry assholes in each country (and most of those countries aren’t very important). Rather than the millions of moving parts involved in society-building, you’re down to maybe a couple thousand. It is more complex than a game of chess, but more comparable to that than to, say, planned economies. The other thing? You only have to be better than the competition, not than an efficient market (since a market in foreign policy does not exist in practical terms).

    1. SO you can either, choose sides and piss off 50% of the people involved, or you can sit back and shut your fucking pie hole, trade with both sides and piss off no one.

      Newsflash. People hold grudges.

      1. choose sides and piss off 50% of the people involved

        What people? As I’ve heard it said here countless times, the impact that most people have on their government’s policies on a daily basis is minimal. I haven’t seen too many angry Mexicans in my time abroad.

        The only “side” we should be choosing is our own. If it aligns with that of other countries, then great. If not, then that’s what foreign policy is all about and it would be preferable to get libertarians to see it for what it is: a subject which involves dickering with a bunch of assholes, and not some peace ‘n love scenario involving the coming together of common persons living in those countries.

      2. “Francisco d’Anconia|7.25.14 @ 11:25AM|#

        SO you can either, choose sides and piss off 50% of the people involved, or you can sit back and shut your fucking pie hole, trade with both sides and piss off no one”

        Show me in history when “trading with both (all) sides” “pissed off no one

        Thanks

        1. Show me in history when “trading with both (all) sides” “pissed off no one”

          You’re asking to prove a negative. It happened all those times in history when no one wrote about the lack of conflict in the voluntary interaction they just conducted. So you know, most of the time.

          1. Let me help

            ” From 1803-1808, the US wanted to maintain trade relations with Britain and France, as well as maintain neutrality towards the renewed Napoleonic wars….”

            Whoops!

            1. A historical example proving what exactly? That the US should have taken some shots at Napoleon?

              1. Now you’re either being intentionally obtuse or are an idiot.

                no.

                The point was that we tried to have our ‘trade with all’, and it resulted in war. Because= see point below.

                1. I must be an idiot if I think trade is more advantageous than war, clearly. Good point as usual, Gilmore. You really put me in my place with a decisive combination of oversimplification and name calling. I yield, mercy please.

                  1. “Free Society|7.25.14 @ 2:36PM|#

                    I must be an idiot if I think trade is more advantageous than war,…

                    Again = either you don’t understand what is being pointed out to you, or you’re ignoring it.

                    We tried to be “neutral” AND “free trade” with 2 warring parties.

                    What resulted was the war of 1812.

                    So = your claim above
                    “”Free Society|7.25.14 @ 12:21PM|#””

                    where you think apparently this scenario was workable ‘most of the time’, in fact has never been the case, any of the time, and resulted in war the first time we tried it.

                    Thanks

                    1. Are you saying the War of 1812 scenario plays out every time foreign firms engage in trade with two warring parties? AND your going to tell me it was the first time that US merchants traded with foreign merchants in other countries whose governments were at war with yet still other countries, at the time?

                      Gee wiz. And all I have to do to prove you wrong is add up all the recorded non-wars that took place in history. The history books are just full of those. Sounds legit.

                    2. Thanks for playing.

      3. Since you’re going to come up short on that question anyway, let me be more specific =

        What happens when 2 ‘third party’ nations that we trade ‘equally’ with and have no ‘entangling agreements’ decide they have a dispute and wage war against one another.

        We trade with both. Since there are no agreements preventing or guaranteeing any kind of relationhip with one vis a vis the other, we supply both with military and non-military goods = food, energy, weapons, etc.

        One party starts to “lose” in this particular battle. Yet they have fairly robust independent resources to wage war, while their enemy relies almost entirely on trade to support their continuation of the conflict.

        What happens? = countries trading with their enemy must now be either convinced to STOP supplying their enemy.

        When the matter reaches an issue of existential national survival, your ostensible “neutrality” in the issue is meaningless from a practical point of view. And your “neutrality” is a de-facto source of their troubles. If you’d only be a friendly chap, help a brother out, and stop delivering bombs to Bob, then they’d be oh so grateful and would agree to provide you with extra-special advantatges in return.

        Saying “No” because you’re a principled non-interventionist isnt the way you “avoid conflict” at that point.

        And never has been.

        1. Also = some interesting reading.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…..rld_War_II

          and ask yourself, to what degree was Swedish ‘neutrality’ a choice, versus simply a series of self-preservation measures. Was it really ‘neutrality’ at all?

          1. Being neutral in a war against fascism isn’t exactly taking the high ground, especially when the conflict is fought in your backyard.

            That said, Sweden would’ve eventually been a target had the Axis been able somehow to continue the war.

            1. Being neutral in a war against fascism isn’t exactly taking the high ground, especially when the conflict is fought in your backyard.

              Considering the bloody wastefulness of WWI, of which WWII was merely a continuation of, it’s hard to assign anyone a moral obligation to participate.

              1. This isn’t a question of “Moral obligations”

                The example was to point out the utter meaninglessness of the “neutrality” you think seems so attractive in theory

                Sweden chose neutrality not from any particular moral POV but out of the same calculus all nation states do = what serves their interests the best.

                They did what they did out of self preservation. And while they did that, they did plenty of other stuff giving lie to the theoretical concept of ‘non-intervention’.

                1. You failed to read that I was arguing against the claim that there exists a moral obligation to make war with fascist states.

            2. Who said they were taking the “high ground”

              I’m pointing out that even “successful” examples of ‘neutrality’ aren’t very neutral, and are in fact situations that involve multiple highly dubious entanglements/interventions simply to maintain the status of ‘non belligerent’ at any cost.

              Never mind the parts how they were spying for the Allies and providing all sorts of military concessions to the nazis at the same time.

        2. oh hey they kinda sounds like both world wars

        3. When the matter reaches an issue of existential national survival, your ostensible “neutrality” in the issue is meaningless from a practical point of view. And your “neutrality” is a de-facto source of their troubles. If you’d only be a friendly chap, help a brother out, and stop delivering bombs to Bob, then they’d be oh so grateful and would agree to provide you with extra-special advantatges in return.

          WRT the highlighted…who cares?

          If your point that not interfering will still lead you to conflict (which I don’t agree with, BTW), then you get to the same place in the end.

          1. Why not profit by selling to both in the meantime?
          2. Being drug into conflict is NOT inevitable, only slightly more probable. Why not sit back and see, rather than jumping in and spending trillions and wasting the lives of the innocents you kill?
          3. Why not take the high ground, be principled and wait to actually be attacked before attacking? Particularly in matters where we have absolutely ZERO national interests.

          1. Now you’re assuming an alternative “attack mode”?

            No. I’m pointing out that the general policy of this ‘free-trade neutrality’ is doomed to inevitable conflict.

            This is why no one in the world has ever really done it*

            And which is why realpolitik doesnt start with a nonsense set of principles other than looking to your own interests first.

            (*the switzerland exception is notable for its exceptionalism)

          2. FWIW, your flippant attitude regarding the real-world applicability of this ‘non-interventionism’, and appeal to the idea of ‘being principled*’ for its own sake – and not for its utility in producing desirable outcomes – seems to be extremely common in the libertarian ‘Foreign Policy’ discussions.

            Its a weird combination of passion for a particular ‘policy’ stance – and yet a disinterested and dismissive attitude towards the real effects of foreign policy in general. Everyone seems to like the idea of this ‘non-intervention’ thing, but when it comes down to any real detail of how this sort of stuff ‘works’, people kind of shrug and dismiss the practicalities as being irrelevant to their ‘moral’ position.

            I think the Sweden case linked to provides a useful case study in how historical ‘neutrality’ still ends up necessitating all sorts of uncomfortable ‘entanglement’ that is generally unavoidable.

            As far as your use of the term ‘attacking’ in your comment – i have no idea what that’s even in reference to. in my example, i’m simply pointing out that ‘neutrality’ begets conflict just as easily as having treaties/agreements/a ‘side’ in a fight. By itself, it is not a ‘better’ default stance.

            1. Everyone seems to like the idea of this ‘non-intervention’ thing, but when it comes down to any real detail of how this sort of stuff ‘works’, people kind of shrug and dismiss the practicalities as being irrelevant to their ‘moral’ position.

              My position:

              The US takes NO military action unless first attacked. We will trade with all who wish to freely do business with us. We will not involve ourselves in the issues/conflicts of other nations unless our national security interests are directly impacted.

              You tell me where such a policy fails.

              WRT Russia/Ukraine…tell me why we need to be involved. How are we negatively impacted? Is Japan involved? Is China? Italy? Zimbabwe? Why us?

              The arrogance of our government to believe that nothing can be done in the world without US approval is astounding. Put the shoe on the other foot. How would you react to another group of nations telling us what to do? Suppose Australia told us they would impose sanctions against us unless we banned handguns, or abortions, or the death penalty, or get out of Afghanistan? Would you not think that arrogant and have disdain for them?

              1. The US takes NO military action unless first attacked.

                In all cases? I’d agree in general… but it would certainly depend on what we mean by ‘attacked’ – only our own sovereign territory? our forces? Our civilians? Our overseas embassies? etc. see what i mean?

                ” We will trade with all who wish to freely do business with us.”

                Trade… in *what*?

                Do we sell arms to everyone?
                Do we financially support regimes whose governments are outwardly hostile? Who may support others who are? etc.

                We will not involve ourselves in the issues/conflicts of other nations unless our national security interests are directly impacted.

                Again – in general i think what you’re saying here is in fact the very basis of *realpolitik* – not ‘non-interventionism’. simply that what you call ‘intervention’ have direct positive impact on our own national security interests.

                We would agree on all broad-strokes=The devil is in the details of what you define as ‘issues’… and how those things bear on our ‘national security’, specifically.

                The way you generally work these things out is “point by point”, and not in any broad-principle way. Which is why this idea of the ‘principle’ of non-intervention is generally unworkable beyond the theoretical sphere.

                1. but it would certainly depend on what we mean by ‘attacked’

                  Any and all of what you mention. Attacked = rights violated

                  Trade… in *what*?

                  Governments don’t trade. People trade. Simply don’t restrict it. Weapons? Not sure why we’d supply weapons to ANYONE? Another nation needs weapons, they can spend the fucking money and develop them themselves and defend their own goddamned country.

                  not ‘non-interventionism’

                  Directly impacted. Like we are about to be invaded.

                  NOT in 30 years something bad MIGHT happen. Perfect example is a nuclear Iran. We are telling a sovereign nation what weapons they can develop? Because they might use it at some point in the future? Where do we get off? What if some country had done that to us?

                  1. “Directly impacted. Like we are about to be invaded.”

                    You really think that, short of ‘invasion’ there are simply no conditions that merit military action?

                    We can end there if so.

                    1. I didn’t say (mean) that. Invasion was an example. I was more pointing to the probability of something bad actually happening. As opposed to some vague perceived notion of what might happen in the future.

                      An example: Iraq might have WMD. Saddam is a bad guy, so he MIGHT give his WMD to other bad guys, and those bad guys MIGHT use them on us. Therefore, in the interest of national security, we’re going to invade Iraq to make sure our improbable scenario does not occur.

                      Sure there are instances requiring military action beyond defense of the borders. But military action needs to be an option of ABSOLUTE last resort. We are talking about killing people without due process here.

                    2. I find that in almost every discussion of “non-interventionism”, there is an initial criticism of ALL forms of Foreign Policy, including

                      – diplomatic relations
                      – exclusive trade agreements/treaties
                      – security alliances
                      – multilateral actions of all kind, including economic sanctions
                      etc.

                      But when anyone steps up to suggest that having any kind of international relations at all at some point requires these things, the person then acts as though all they were criticizing was Military Force, and that the discussion is in fact solely about Military Force and its appropriate use*(which is STRICTLY DOMESTIC DEFENSE)

                      Given that this ‘strict domestic defense’ itself is easily made problematic, we then go to the point you made, “Military Force is ABSOLUTE LAST RESORT”

                      At which point your original strict “non-interventionism” principle has been diluted down to “dont get involved in Wars *as easily as we have in the past*”

                      which isnt really the same thing, is it?

                    3. No, not just war.

                      Don’t strongarm other nations with the threat of force.
                      Don’t threaten sanctions to get your way.
                      Don’t overthrow governments and support revolutions.
                      Don’t install puppet regimes.
                      Don’t take sides in other people’s conflicts.
                      Don’t sell arms to ANYONE.
                      Don’t set up military alliances.

                      These types of actions are short of war, yet (most) are still initiations of force and lead to long term resentment by the unsupported groups.

        4. “When the matter reaches an issue of existential national survival,…”

          If that’s what your argument comes down to, then it’s not one designed to successfully appeal to libertarians. I don’t think a notion as vague and collectivist like ‘national survival’ is something people get too worked up over here. Unless I’m mistaken. individual freedom trumps national survival just about every time.

          1. Then you’re not engaging in foreign policy = you’re dismissing it as non-existent because you don’t care for the issues of nation-states in the first place.

            How you get to ‘individual freedom’ sans any nation-state context that protects it, i don’t really know. Sort of like demanding eggs but opposing the oppressive domestication of chickens.

            1. “sans any nation-state context that protects it,”

              If you have been reading this board carefully, you must have noticed the contempt for the ‘protection’ that the nanny state offers. It almost always comes up in discussions of health issues, but rarely in foreign policy discussions. But what is foreign policy if leaders conniving to control the movement of goods and people, for their own good.

              Once you talk seriously of something called ‘national security’ you’re well along the collectivist road. That’s guaranteed to alienate the readers here.

              1. “If you have been reading this board carefully…””

                yeah dude, I’ve just been glossing over things here… for the last 10 years. Apparently i’ve never grokked the *essence* you are so hip to.

                i already pointed out once that you’ve effectively written off the topics of “nation-state”/”foreign policy”/and now “National Security” as hopelessly non-libertarian topics… unworthy of your serious-thinking about. I got it the first time. It hasnt gotten more interesting.

                Enjoy your eggs.

      4. Trade with both sides? What can you buy from Hamas, suicide vests, perhaps, high school rocket club munitions?

        1. Hamas Hummus = Now with 10% more concrete powder.

      5. Yes. People hold grudges and your nonsense solution of ‘trade with both sides and piss off no one’ is guaranteed to piss off just as many people as the present alternative.

        In practice, ‘trading with both sides’ means selling weapons to the most aggressive/powerful side. They don’t want beanie babies or McDonalds or Disneyland – and the weaker/passive side doesn’t have much money (and what they do have is likely gonna get stolen).

        Not surprisingly, that is identical in practice to the current ‘interventionism’ (where there is a conscious decision to identify/pick whichever side is less psychotic or more ‘friendly’).

        Further, moving from the current ‘interventionism’ to ‘noninterventionism’ (without thinking about the consequences – which libertarians never do) will tend to make things much worse. Power vacuums DO NOT exist in nature. And they tend to get filled by the most unscrupulous power-hungry sociopath. If the US ‘retreats’, then the world’s sociopaths will advance into that vacuum. PERIOD.

        I swear you libertarians are blinded by your arrogant kumbayah nonsense. At least PRETEND to make an effort to try to figure what will ACTUALLY happen if the US changes its foreign policy. Otherwise, you deserve to be ignored and mocked.

        1. How’s that interventionism workin out? We avoiding any wars? What are we up to, 4 in 25 years?

          Power vacuums DO NOT exist in nature. And they tend to get filled by the most unscrupulous power-hungry sociopath.

          And how did supporting the mujahidin or the Iraqis work out for us? How did those “efforts to try and figure out what will actually happen” do?

          Who cares if some shithole is being run by a sociopath? Until he attacks us…I don’t give a fuck. When he does, THEN you bloodthirsty fuckers can go kill him.

          1. Don’t mistake me for someone who likes what we’re doing now.

            I just don’t see much of a difference between a foreign policy run by smugly ignorant ideological assholes (the current one) and a foreign policy runs by smugly ignorant ideological assholes (the one you propose).

            1. Not all ideologies are created equal. I dare say that we could use an ideologically libertarian president, regardless of his level of smugness about it. At least with libertarianism any hypothetical smugness is justifiable as compared to every other ideology or philosophy in existence.

              1. I would love to see libertarians or non-interventionists get some influence in foreign policy. But only if they bring true Hayekian knowledge – ‘the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active co?peration.’

                Unfortunately, libertarians have zero interest in actually being involved in the foreign policy debate. Or at least in displaying any specific knowledge that would compel people to listen and incorporate that knowledge into better decisions. Critiquing someone else is easy. Especially when the critique is based purely on some pie-in-the-sky idealism. Libertarians should KNOW that.

  4. When was the last time an American politician said, “It’s none of our business?”

    I, for one, would find that refreshing.

    1. Rwanda?

    2. “When was the last time an American politician said, “It’s none of our business?””

      W.H. Taft, and Truman said it was.

    3. Coolidge I expect. That is if you could get him to comment on something that wasn’t federal business to begin with.

  5. “The only winning move is not to play”

    1. Nice play on the hacking post.

  6. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine/Israel, Ukraine and so many more in the past are all variations on a theme. Ignorant intervention begets bad consequences ? unintended or not ? perhaps not for American politicians or those who peddle war materiel, but certainly for those who bear the brunt in the target countries and the Americans who kill, die, and pay the economic cost.

    We intervened in Ukraine in the past (or now)?

    1. There is an argument – one that I don’t fully buy – that the West (EU/USA) helped topple the elected president.

      1. Butterflies also cause tornadoes. True fact.

        1. Moths cause derechos.

    2. Sheldon considers extends ‘intervention’ to things like ‘maintaining diplomatic relations’, or ‘intelligence ties’, or whatever suits his fancy.

      If something bad is happening, its because INTERVENSHUNS.

      Whereas, there is no example on earth of a nation ever having benefited from any form of 3rd party diplomacy, military support, treaties, etc. Never happened. Everyone who lives with a bag on their head knows this.

  7. The same goes for anyone who still believes America’s latest brain trust can smoothly dictate political events in another country, say Ukraine, from behind the scenes with money funneled through innocent-sounding organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy.

    “Ukraine is game to you!?!?”

  8. You can’t just react to crisis and call that an effective foreign policy. You can’t just prepare to respond to up-coming crisis and call that an effective foreign policy.
    Understanding the power you have, knowing how to use it effectively, and having a plan that puts you in a position to avoid situations detrimental to your country/economy are a good start. Also, you can’t have a kick ass foreign policy if your domestic policy is shit. Power comes from a strong economy, a vision of how to use power and goals that the power use supports.
    Foreign policy shouldn’t be the fire department.

    1. Has there been a politician since Bismarck who behaved as GregMax correctly says that policy makers and executives should?

  9. Ask Neville Chamberlain how “peace in our time” worked out. Not intervening when bad guys are building up their power is not good. At this time Putin is doing exactly what Hitler did from 35-39. If we don’t check him now it will be much harder to stop him later.

    1. ffs Chamberlain didn’t create the conditions for Hitler and WW2. The Treaty of Versailles and liberal interventionism 20 years prior did that.

      The fact that you beat the war drums for war with Russia of all countries makes you aptly unqualified to offer your opinions about foreign policy. Take that public school version of history back to your teacher and get your money back.

  10. Right now, Americans are tired of war and they have issues at home they’re concerned about.

    But it’ll be less easy to say “Just do nothing” as the world around them burns. Almost 300 people died when Russian separatists show down a rocket. Do nothing, even if Russia ordered them to do so and provided resources? That would be a sovereign state carrying out the attack, not a terrorist organization.

    Let’s suppose America’s enemies take down one of our planes. Or they commit a terrorist act in our soil. I would bet that the public eventually discovers that it was preventable, yet the government did nothing. The Russians warned us about the Boston bombers, yet the older brother wasn’t deported despite a history of domestic violence. They lived on taxpayer support.

    Not every action taken have to be an outright war. How Americans would support pulling funds for Israel’s iron dome? Closing down the military base in Korea? I’m for the government acting smart, which involves not intervening if you don’t have to. But if you just sit and watch, you’ll get hit.

  11. “Managing world conflict is beyond the power of any mortal. Don’t demand that a president do it.”

    Bullshit. There are some situations where inaction is stupidity, and postponing action results in even more instability. What do you do when small-scale regional conflicts like Nigeria (Boco Haram) and Afghanistan (Taliban), start looking like cross-border, multinational Rwandan massacres? When do you act? Do you gamble that it remains a regional conflict and won’t directly affect us? Do you take action before the conflict spreads to an entire continent? Do you just say “fuck it, it’s not our problem?”, until it does become your now unmanageable problem?

    If China were to invade Canada, would we support our ally and fight the Chinese even at great cost to ourselves, or would we abandon our ally and neighbor and wait until China builds a large force on our Northern border and attacks us directly?

    Possibilities like this exist in real life, and that’s why we pay billions for The Department of State, the Intelligence Community, and a Military capable of Force Projection.

    Managing world conflict isn’t an exact science, and it isn’t always successful, but to state that it’s “beyond the power of any mortal” is shear bullshit. It does become easier if you spend less time on vacations, fund-raising, and golf, and more time reading intelligence reports.

    1. Lichtenstein has a duty to send military forces to fight Coco Ham in Nigeria, because people want their girls back and stuff.

    2. “What do you do when small-scale regional conflicts like Nigeria (Boco Haram) and Afghanistan (Taliban), start looking like cross-border, multinational Rwandan massacres?”

      An interesting list of conflicts. However, over the past 20 or so years, the bloodiest war has been in the Congo. It still continues today. Would this be an example of a conflict where inaction isn’t stupidity? Since you choose not to mention the Congo, I’m inclined to think you think inaction, or more precisely ‘business as usual’ is appropriate.

      Why the concern over Nigeria and not Congo?

  12. Do you just say “fuck it, it’s not our problem?”, until it does become your now unmanageable problem?

    What, exactly, is an unmanageable problem? WWII lasted 4 years. Our preemptive war in Iraq lasted three times that long. Which one was unmanageable?

    1. WW2 was begat by liberal interventionism to begin with. So when people cite it as an example of why non-intervention is bad, they’re really working against their own point.

    2. “WWII lasted 4 years. Our preemptive war in Iraq lasted three times that long. Which one was unmanageable?”

      Neither was “unmanageable”, but both were poorly managed.

      WWII was an “all-out” war that killed roughly 2% of the World’s population. Had we intervened earlier, that wouldn’t have been the case.

      Iraq was a clusterfuck precisely because of mismanagement. Dismantling the Iraqi military and police had entirely foreseeable consequences.

  13. I think the problem with this debate is with the term “non-intervention” which would imply a total disengagement from international issues, instead perhaps a more realistic terminology would be minimal-intervention or minimal-neutrality,
    It is unrealistic to think of nations of being able to be neutral in its foreign policy in totality, it is unrealistic for us to be able to avoid the myriad disputes and conflicts that inflict this world, however we can minimize becoming involved in disputes/conflicts,
    The Swiss seem to be able to do a great job of avoiding international problems, but even they aren’t totally immune from angering other nations who for example coerce them into revealing information of depositors of Swiss banks for tax collecting purposes, the Swiss reluctantly cooperated, but did so out of their national interest even though it went against their neutral stance,
    There are other nations as well who do a good job of avoiding to a minimum international issues, Why can’t we?

  14. Intervention in 1933 could have helped save millions of lives and limit the ambitions of Hitler and his psychopathic buddies. The problem is that we almost always intervene too late, when the costs in both human lives and dollars grows exponentially. So sure – let’s not do anything about our borders, the spread of radical islam, Putin’s ambitions of restoring empire, etc. Let’s just bury our head in the sand, print more dollars and food stamps, cripple our markets and our military, fret over GMOs and climate change, and hope that when the time comes, we can save ourselves and our country by dialogue, diplomacy and appealing to the nobler instincts of those who would bury us.

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