Foreign Policy

America's James Bond Complex

The U.S. government acts as if it has a license to kill.

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Today, American politicians of both major parties — conservatives, "moderates," and so-called liberals alike — insist that the United States is an "exceptional," even "indispensable" nation. In practice, this means that for the United States alone the rules are different. Particularly in international affairs, it — the government and its personnel — can do whatever deemed necessary to carry out its objectives, including things that would get any other government or person branded a criminal.

This is nothing new. "American exceptionalism" goes back to the founding. When American politicians set their sights on Spain's North American possessions, they were driven by the same attitude. In their view the new "Empire of Liberty," as Jefferson called it, was destined to replace the old, worn-out empires of Europe in its hemisphere. They had no doubt that the Old World's colonial possessions would eventually fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, either formally or informally.

Acquisition through negotiation was preferred over war by a good number of presidents, secretaries of state, and members of Congress, but if war was necessary, they intended to be prepared and to let Spain and her fellow colonial powers know it. Thus the push for a global navy under James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams before 1820. Manifest destiny! (Congress's constitutional war power was a burr under the saddle for Adams and others, who thought war-making was properly an executive power.)

Today we see signs of the doctrine of American exceptionalism all around. U.S. foreign policy is not bound in the ways in which U.S. officials expect other countries' foreign policies to be bound. America is special, chosen. So the rules are different.

We might say America has a James Bond complex. In the eyes of many Americans, the United States has a "Double O." Bond said the Double O indicated "you've had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some assignment." As Ian Fleming's series went on, the Double O became a license to kill. Judging by how the U.S. government gets away with murder, terrorism and other horrible offenses, it apparently has a de facto license to kill. Although by the U.S. definition, nothing it does can ever qualify as murder and terrorism.

The signs can be perceived in Americans' pronounced lack of interest in seeing the country's governing elite held accountable for its aggressive wars, abuse of prisoners, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, sponsored genocide and occupation, and so on.

U.S. rulers have waged aggressive genocidal wars (against the Indians and Vietnamese, for example), have brutally put down colonial rebellions (against the Filipinos, for example), facilitated genocidal policies carried out by client dictators (in Indonesia, for example), underwritten repressive dictatorships and brutal occupations (in Egypt and Palestine, for example), and instigated antidemocratic coups (in Iran and Chile, for example).

When has an American official been placed in the dock to answer for these crimes?

Instead, officials from whose hands the blood of countless innocents drips are treated like dignitaries, even royalty. When 91-year-old Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state who presided over the deaths of countless Vietnamese and others, appears anywhere, such as a Senate hearing, he's accorded the reverence that parishioners pay to their priests — while peace activists, who want him held responsible, are called "low-life scum" by a fawning senator. When Madeleine Albright, a former UN ambassador and secretary of state, writes a new book, talk-show hosts climb over one another to interview her — never asking how she could have thought that killing half a million Iraqi children in the 1990s was an acceptable price for the Clinton administration's attempt to drive Saddam Hussein from office.

Will George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld face charges for their wars of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan? For their drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia? For their torture programs? Will Barack Obama ever have to defend himself against murder counts for his drone kills? Will former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bear consequences for the havoc she unleashed in Libya?

Of course not. The United States is the Double-O nation. Its rulers need not fear judgment. They have a license to kill.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. “Groooooooan…”

  2. Does Richman really not understand that there is no such thing as international law, and that nations simply act in accordance with what they perceive as their interests, to the extent they have the power to do so? The United States is not unique in this.

    1. I can’t speak for Richman, but I understand the concept. I just get tired of politicians and their media toadies being dishonest about it.

      1. I just get tired of politicians and their media toadies being dishonest about it.

        I agree.

        1. I agree, and would add to the list our fellow citizens who support “Team Blue” or “Team Red” no matter what they do (but are quick to criticize the other party when they do similar things or even the exact same things).

    2. I doubt he has a very developed sense of reality.

  3. Shorter Richman: United States of AmeriKKKa the worstest nation EVAR!!11!!!!!

    1. U.S. rulers have waged aggressive genocidal wars (against the Indians and Vietnamese, for example)

      Vietnamese….genocide?

      1. I know, he really brought out the military-grade derp today.

      2. We apparently did a real shitty job – relatively speaking.

      3. Yet there was a not insignificant wave of immigration frm Vietnam to the US in the 70s. I don’t think people are either inclined to immigrate or are allowed to immigrate to a country that is trying to genocide them. Strangest genocide in history.

        1. All part of Nixon’s fiendish plan. Fortunately he was impeached before he could implement phase 2.

    2. Shorter WTF: I’m all for limited government until I’m not. USA! USA!

      1. Jordan, you have to admit that Sheldon seems to come back to the same focus of evil in the modern world in every article.

        Statism resulting in unaccountable killing is everywhere.

      2. Shorter Jordan: DERP!

        I never said anything about not being for limited government or in favor of various foreign interventions. But you already knew that.

        1. Hey, break it up you two! Don’t make me call Warty in here…

  4. There is no difference between James Bond and Adam Lanza.

    1. James Bond got laid. A lot.

  5. Thus the push for a global navy under James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams before 1820. Manifest destiny!

    Sure, it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the US had just fought a war against the UK to stop its sailors from being impressed into their Navy, nor with the fact that its first war after independence was against a pirate state whose strength largely derived from its fleet’s ability to extract wealth from merchant vessels.

    Nah, just good ol’ fashioned imperialism at work. You know how white people are.

    1. Let it go, he’s on a roll!

    2. Yeah, what an odd choice. Why didn’t he just go with TR’s naval push as his example?

  6. Um, no. American exceptionalism originally meant that America was the exception to the rule that peasants must ask permission and obey orders. American had a presumption of liberty. Had.

  7. Joooos.

    1. Er, isn’t Mr. Richman Jewish?

      1. So?

        1. Yeah. There’s a lot of self-hate out there.

          1. You’re into Clarence Thomas land now with that idea. Jews who question certain narratives are really anti-Semitic Jews just like blacks who do the same are self hating blacks. I find it hard to believe most Jews accused of being anti-Semites actually hate themselves and other Jews.

            1. Every time I think you can’t get any stupider, you prove me wrong.

              1. Thanks for the ipse dixit.

                1. I guess we know what was on Bo’s word-of-the-day calendar.

                  1. No he’s just a lawyer who likes to throw his Latin around to make him sound smart.

                    “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.” – Mario Puzo

            2. Yet progressives are driven by self hate. Hate of their own country, their own society, their history, down to the co,or of,their skin be they white.

              Just like how they embrace Islamic evil in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’.

  8. When has an American official been placed in the dock to answer for these crimes?

    Enough this wishy-washy equivocation. Tell us what you really think.

  9. NEEDZ MOAR UNSHAKABLE MORAL CETAINTYZ

  10. And this post just disappears from the main H&R page.

    1. I am dismayed to realize my donation has helped to pay for this sophomoric idiocy.

      1. I did not donate this year.

        1. I donate to keep the comments alive. I enjoy them more than the articles. Sorry Nick.

          1. Ah yes… the comments.

            1. Bah! Who reads them or posts them?!

              ….

              ….

              *quietly slips from room*

              1. Look! It’s Lobster Girl.

                http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_vu6T…..r_girl.jpg

          2. I can’t believe Nick publishes this guy’s bullshit. He really is a turd. Another example people point at at when they want to dismiss libertarians.

  11. I see I’m not the only person who watched Casino Royale last night.

    1. I love David Niven in that film.

  12. Sheldon’s problem is his black and white vision. Sure, Americans have committed genocide against American Indians since the beginning. But the Indians were killing each other before the Europeans got there, and Europeans had been killing each other and everybody else the same way; relocating to the Americas didn’t change anything. Everybody else had been killing everybody else too.

    US Manifest Destiny was no different from any other nation’s own version.

    US imperialism overseas was different from other nations only in being late to the game. That’s why the US insisted on an Open Door policy in China, because everybody else had gotten the good bits and there were none left for the US, so it insisted everybody else had to abide by new rules.

    Politicians suck. Claiming that US politicians suck more than others or are more hypocritical is a waste of electrons and keystrokes.

    1. “no different from any other nation’s”

      But this does kind of undercut the ‘exceptionalism’ argument, right?

      1. No. American exceptionalism came from the idea that the government has enumerated powers while the people have unenumerated rights. Granted that’s long gone, but that was the root of it.

        1. I’m not sure that’s how some of our pols understand and use the term.

          1. You mean our pols are dishonest and manipulative?

            I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you! Shocked!

        2. The term “American exceptionalism” was coined by Stalin, and referred to the idea that America may be exceptionally resistant to communism. The concept as understood today traces back to de Tocqueville, but even then, that isn’t really an accurate summation of his thoughts on the matter. Furthermore, in the early days, this concept of American exceptionalism was heavily tied to Manifest Destiny, which wasn’t exactly an exercise in libertarianism.

          And once again, this is an example of you (and some other people here) buying into an idealized past that never actually existed. Anyone who thinks that liberty in the US has been under a constant decline since 1776 or 1789 or whatever is ignorant of history.

    2. I wouldn’t argue that the U.S. government is worse than other governments in this regard, but I do cast a skeptical eye on arguments by U.S. politicians that the U.S. must intervene because it’s just so awful how these other governments do these things. And for that skepticism I am, of course, a traitor.

      1. I agree with you. Of course, it isn’t the internationalist conservatives who use that justification. It is the Progressives who do.

        What you are talking about is Wilsonian foreign policy; the idea that the US has a moral duty to maintain peace and order in the world, rather than act strictly in its own interests. That is a progressive idea.

        The government of the US owes its loyalty to the people of the US. It has a duty to act in what is in the country’s best interests. Sometimes that means standing up for other people. The US is better of for the world not having gone fascist or communist. That duty does not however extend to righting injustice for its own sake regardless of whether doing so is in our interests. At some point the world has to take care of itself.

      2. Allow me to throw in another facet to this discussion; Waco and the mass murder of 83 Branch Davidians by the federal mafia. No one was ever prosecuted for human rights abuses, but there was no difference between what the federal mafia did and what the Nazis did to the Jews. There was no outrage from the populace either. I attribute it to the “feeling” of amerikkkan exceptionalism in that the federal mafia can do no wrong.

    3. Pretty much this. The problem people like Richman have is that they either can’t or refuse to understand that there are degrees of wrong. Everyone is wrong in some way and every nation is guilty of something. That fact, however, does not mean all nations are equally bad. Some nations really are worse than others.

      Nothing the US ever did comes close to the evils of the USSR or even the Belgium Congo. Since Sheldon only sees black and white and no grey, he can’t see that.

      Richman is just a child. He doesn’t have any kind of realistic or serious view of these matters. This whole article is nothing but a middle school level cry about why can’t the world be more fair and why can’t everyone just be nice to each other. That is really all it is. Richman has convinced himself the US is just as evil as ISIS or the USSR or China because he can’t accept the reality that no nation is perfect and worse still no nation ever exists much less survives unless it is willing to do violence to make it that way.

      1. Is he saying we are equally as bad or just not exceptional?

        1. If we are not as bad, then we are exceptional. You don’t have to be perfect to be exceptional.

          1. Well, exceptional can mean “unusual” so in that sense I guess, yes, but it also means “outstanding” and I’m not sure we pass that bar.

        2. We were exceptional. We were exceptional because we were the only nation in the world that embraced liberty. Because of this, we accumulated great wealth, power and high a standard of living.

          Thing is, as liberty has eroded, so has the exceptionalism…everywhere but in the minds of power hungry politicians.

          An opinion.

          1. Yep. You nailed it 100% You’ve also nailed why Obama hates liberty, because it’s not fair that we’ve accumulated great wealth, power, and a high standard of living.

            Equality means the lowest common denominator. Rather than spread liberty around the world, we must destroy it at home.

            1. Bingo. You can’t guarantee equally successful outcomes, but you can guarantee equally unsuccessful outcomes.

          2. Indeed, America used to be exceptional in its embrace of liberty. And its people and its politicians did not have to go about proclaiming that America was exceptional because it was plain to see.

            Then the early progressives determined that they had a better way, that progress demanded an enormous expansion of government and diminution of individual liberty. Since then, American people and politicians have increasingly felt the need to proclaim that they are exceptional. So much so that such proclamations express either a pathetic nostalgia or a reasonable assessment of military superiority. The outside world is not nearly as impressed with America’s embrace of liberty as it was before the early progressive movement.

            Even though it is now neither the beacon of liberty nor the world’s largest economy, America is still exceptional in some ways. For example, it remains the only country to have used atomic bombs to destroy civilian populations. Since the US accounts for around half of the world’s military spending, the rest of the world had better pretend that it is still exceptional.

          3. Whatever else happens, we have the First Amendment and other nations do not. I’ll take that as exhibit A for American exceptionalism.

    4. US imperialism overseas was different from other nations only in being late to the game

      I think it’s also possible to make a decent, although not overwhelming, argument that imperialism never quite found it’s way into American culture in that same that it did in places like Britain & Germany.

      1. That is the truth. The US public has always been more inward looking and it never has felt any kind of “white man’s burden” the way Europe did. That part of imperialism is often forgotten. It wasn’t all just greed and glory. There was a whole lot of “we need to go out and educate and save the savages” going on too.

        Someone like Samantha Power’s desire for the US to intervene and stop a genocide in Africa or the civil war in Libya is just as “imperialistic” and springs from imperialistic ideas just as much as invading countries to obtain commercial concessions.

        1. “he US public has always been more inward looking and it never has felt any kind of “white man’s burden” the way Europe did.”

          Or did we just manifest that via our Contintental Manifest Destiny?

          1. No. We didn’t want to save the Indians. We wanted to colonize the continent. We wanted space and land.

            There was some of that going on with the Indians. The US government tried to forcibly get Indians to drop their culture and become Americans. But that is not what drove manifest destiny.

            Think about how the US treated its actual colonies outside of the continental US. We never tried to civilize Guam or Puerto Rico or the Philippines. We just ruled them.

            1. Of course regular European imperialism was often driven by a desire to occupy certain lands and resources and not to ‘civilize’ the natives there. Often that came later as an excuse to rule them.

            2. We never tried to civilize Guam or Puerto Rico or the Philippines. We just ruled them.

              This was pretty much the same attitude of the Romans back when they had an empire.

              The only difference is that the US had a modern, and much more profitable, method of extracting wealth from its colonies than the Romans had.

            3. “No. We didn’t want to save the Indians. We wanted to colonize the continent. We wanted space and land.

              There was some of that going on with the Indians. The US government tried to forcibly get Indians to drop their culture and become Americans. But that is not what drove manifest destiny.”

              That’s not really any different from European colonization (although the latter usually focused on resource extraction, not settlement, especially post-1800). “White Man’s Burden” was used as a justification but was never really the impetus for colonizing anywhere.

            4. I wonder if “The US government tried to forcibly get Indians to drop their culture and become Americans”, the indian wars, had anything to do with the cultural habit of carrying out raids.

              1. “I wonder if “The US government tried to forcibly get Indians to drop their culture and become Americans”, the indian wars, had anything to do with the cultural habit of carrying out raids.”

                Most of the stuff John is referring to primarily happened after the Indian Wars ended. Also, the implication that the Indians were the aggressors (overall) in the Indian Wars is ridiculous.

          2. Yes and no. Manifest Destiny argued for American occupation of the whole continent because America was destined to it (originally people thought it would happen by default rather than conquest). And some southerners argued for absorption of Mexico and Cuba along the same lines.

            However, post-Civil War, there was no significant voice for absorbing Cuba or the Philippines into America.

            1. “However, post-Civil War, there was no significant voice for absorbing Cuba or the Philippines into America.” Because making a bunch of brown people American citizens was not what many of the American ‘imperialists’ had in mind when they wanted colonies…

              1. There were also some peple who thought the Spanish-American War was fought to free Cuba from a bad colonial power and sought to make the US government live up to that rhetoric.

  13. I think Sheldon Richman would be a far better fit for Thinkprogress or Media Matters. Or maybe for some other progressive rag.

    1. Because you’re not that familiar with libertarian circles. This is not uncommon stuff there. There’s lots of ‘wings’ of libertarians.

      1. You have no idea what is familiar to me or not.

  14. You know who else thought their government had a license to kill?

    1. Every person since the dawn of civilization?

      1. *Hands participation trophy over Swiss*

          1. *cries and thanks the members of the Academy*

    2. Turkey?

  15. Of course not. The United States is the Double-O nation. Its rulers need not fear judgment. They have a license to kill.

    Looks like somebody discovered might makes right. Is it a policy that lacks morality? Of course, but that doesn’t change reality.

    1. That’s can’t be right. Violence never solves anything. I’ve been told so, by earnest and vehement people.

  16. OT: Jack Thompson was mentioned in the AM lynx. I had never heard of him, so I did some reading.

    In sending documents to opponents, Thompson would frequently attach a photocopy of his driver’s license, with a photo of Batman pasted over his own. Thompson said, “I have sent my opponents pictures of Batman to remind them I’m playing the role of Batman. Just like Bruce Wayne helped the police in the movie, I have had to assist the sheriff of Broward County.” He also wore a Batman wristwatch.[23] Thompson compared Campbell to the Joker.[24] Thompson also said, “I understand as well as anybody that the First Amendment is a cornerstone of a free society?but there is a responsibility to people who can be harmed by words and thoughts, one of which is the message from Campbell that women can be sexually abused.”[11]

    He is the Derp Knight.

  17. But wait! There’s more:

    Thompson first met Janet Reno in November 1975, when he applied for a job as an assistant State’s Attorney in Dade County, but was not hired.[15] In 1988, he ran for prosecutor against then incumbent Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno, after she had declined his request to prosecute Neil Rogers.[16] Thompson gave Reno a letter at a campaign event requesting that she check a box to indicate whether she was homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Thompson said that Reno then put her hand on his shoulder and responded, “I’m only interested in virile men. That’s why I’m not attracted to you.”[17][18] He filed a police report accusing her of battery for touching him.

    1. Thompson…Thompson
      6’8 weighs a fucking ton
      Opponents beware,
      Opponents beware,
      he’s derping, he’s derping.

  18. Protip: if you want to make something sound negative, don’t use metaphors that make it sound utterly fucking cool and badass. The RIAA ran into the same problem with online pirates. Pirates and international super spies have been romanticized since time immemorial for a reason. If online piracy were called “online coprophagia” less people might be attracted to it. But who the fuck doesn’t want to be a swashbuckling pirate?

    Maybe instead of a James Bond complex frame it as a Bluto complex. Or just go full Godwin right from the get-go and call it a Hitler complex. It’s all about the marketing.

    1. +1 Ministry of Peace

  19. Genocidal war against the Vietnamese?

    Huh?

    1. Don’t you see, FdA: trying to stop the South Vietnamese from being enslaved by communism by killing North Vietnamese soldiers is no different than genocide!

      Sheldon Richman herp de derp! Herpily derpily tum te terr! Until one day- Da derp da derp da deedily tum teedily too!

    2. Forget it F d’A, it’s Richman town.

    3. Huh is right. How can someone be that profoundly ignorant of history? Whatever you think of Vietnam, the fact is the US fought it by the Marques of Queensberrry rules while its enemies fought with no moral compunction whatsoever.

      Indeed, Johnson and McNamara’s greatest failure was their refusal to fight an all out war. They kept fighting a limited war with very strict rules of engagement thinking that the North Vietnamese would realize “this time we are serious” and crack. This accomplished nothing except to embolden the North and drag out the war longer. It wasn’t until Nixon finally unleashed the dogs of war in the Christmas bombings of 1972 did the North finally break and agree to end the war. Johnson could have done the same thing in 1966 or Nixon in 1969 and saved tens of thousands of lives.

      Sheldon Richman is offensively ignorant on these kinds of topics. Regardless of your opinion of the Vietnam war, only someone who is offensively stupid could call the us effort there a “genocidal war”. Shame on Reason for letting such a statement soil their pages.

      1. It would be fair to call it a genocidal war if you were referring to the communists. They massacred over 4,000 people in one night at Hue.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_at_Hu?

        1. And murdered one quarter of the population of Cambodia.

      2. “the fact is the US fought it by the Marques of Queensberrry”

        Whenever I think of Marques of Queensberry rules I’ll now think of dropping napalm on villages…

        1. It is called the law of war. And to the extent the US did that, they did it because the North Vietnamese used those villages as human shields for their fighters and made them lawful targets.

          You can believe whatever fairy tale you like. The reality is however that the US fought in comparison to pretty much any other wary in the 20th Century, a very limited and humane war in Vietnam. It was about the furthest thing from a genocidal war as you are going to find.

      3. His ignorance of history is the most offensive thing about him, in my opinion. I imagine most of Reason readers don’t care as much what Sheldon’s views are as they do about the fact that he has less applicable knowledge on what he’s writing than the average high schooler.

        1. At least when I read some crazy revisionist bullshit from Oliver Stone, he makes it sound compelling. Even though it’s still utter bullshit.

  20. On a similar note…

    I’m in the truck yesterday and Hannity is on (yes, it’s a test to see how long I can last). Apparently, Jordan executed two ISIS prisoners in response to the pilot burning. And Hannity applauded the action.

    This is where we are as a nation. People have completely relinquished the moral high ground and stooped to the level once reserved for two bit petty dictators. No one has an issue with it.

    Absolute power…

    1. Spot the Not: Sean Hannity

      1. Let me tell you something: I stand with the president and our brave men and women in uniform. They defend our freedom.

      2. Why should one U.S. airman give up his life when our national security is not in imminent danger?

      3. Governor, why wouldn’t anyone want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, unless they detested their own country or were ignorant of its greatness?

      1. I say number 1, because Obama might have been the President.

      2. You’re a great American, Derpetologist.

      3. No more bets! No more bets!

        And the not is….

        1!

        Congrats to Bo Cara, who has been the sole victor of 2 rounds!

        Yes, he really 2. About the same time, he also said:

        “Slobodan Milosevic is a bad guy. He’s an evil man. Horrible things are happening. I agree with that. Is Bill O’Reilly then saying we go to Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan? Where does this stop? And when you look at sheer numbers, 2,000 — and I’m not minimizing death. It’s horrible. What this man is doing with ethnic cleansing is abhorrent, but sheer numbers — 2,000 killed in the last year versus hundreds of thousands, millions in some cases in other parts of the world. Are you saying the United States should go to all those places?”
        – Hannity, on “The O’Reilly Factor,” April 5, 1999

        1. *He really said 2.

          You may recall that a Democrat was president at the time. A cynic might get the idea that his position on war is totally based on which party pushes it.

          1. A lot of conservatives tend to trust Republican presidents with the military more than Democrat presidents. It might have something to do with the fact that most Democrat presidents actually loathe the military.

      4. You do have some sort of HAZMAT suit, when you handle derp of that strength, yes?

        1. No, a lifetime of training. Like herpetologist who injects himself with dilute snake venom to build up immunity.

    2. It is called a reprisal. It has a long history in the law of warfare. At some point we have to discourage people from murdering prisoners. Sometimes the only way to do that is by reprisal. If you don’t won’t your people murdered, don’t murder ours. Even the worst sort of savage can understand that.

      It is a very hard thing for sure. But war is hard. The problem is that ISIS is using its savagery as revenge porn and a way to attract recruits. So ignoring them won’t do any good. They want to do these kinds of things because it makes them more appealing to the kind of nuts they recruit.

      So the alternative is to kill their people when they kill yours. I bet they don’t kill another Jordanian pilot.

      You can only fight a civilized war when your opponent is civilized. If your opponent is just a savage and does things like burn prisoners alive for sport, there is no civilized way to deal with them, because they are not going to respond to reason or anything other than death or violence.

      1. We are America. We don’t do reprisals and we do not support those who do. We are better than that (at least we used to be).

        An exceptional nation captures, tries, convicts and punishes wrongdoers and the actions of others has no effect on that process. The second you let them, you go from being a just nation to being the thugs your enemies are (and want you to be).

        This is the same reason you don’t torture your prisoners. If you want to maintain your moral superiority, in the eyes of the world, you don’t stoop to the level of your enemy.

        This line of thinking used to be the standard assumption. Now, it’s become a joke.

        1. That is great Fansisco and generally I agree. The problem is sometimes your opponent leaves you no choice. And worse, sometimes your humanity actually encourages inhumanity on the part of your opponent.

          Let me give an example. For centuries anyone caught fighting on a battlefield not wearing a uniform was summarily hanged. That was a harsh rule for sure. It was done because if soldiers didn’t wear uniforms, it was impossible to not target civilians.

          Then after World War II the world decided that wars of national liberation were really good and since those could only be fought by partisans, not wearing a uniform wasn’t that bad and summarily hanging those who didn’t was too harsh. You know what happened? People stopped wearing uniforms because it now paid not to. And we had enormously bloody and nasty partisan wars in the last half of the 20th Century were before we didn’t. And now we have terrorism. Why not be a terrorist? If your a soldier you can be shot on sight or if captured held indefinitely without trial. If you are a terrorist, you can’t be shot unless you are actually fighting and if you are captured you get a trial and might go free.

          You get more of what you reward. Sometimes taking harsh measures reduces harm and acting humanly only encourages more.

          1. You’re forgetting something. Uniforms identify soldiers as government employees. Many of the wars fought since WWII were not against what is normally referred to as a government. That is certainly true of the fight against terrorism and radical Islam. There is not central authority with which to negotiate peace since the fighters aren’t fighting on behalf of a central authority.

          2. The problem is sometimes your opponent leaves you no choice.

            But they haven’t. We aren’t anywhere near such a point.

            Sometimes taking harsh measures reduces harm and acting humanly only encourages more.

            Sometimes. But more likely it only serves to degrade your morality.

            People didn’t turn to terrorism because people stopped executing un-uniformed combatants. They turned to terrorism because it’s a tactic that allows an inferior force to defeat a vastly superior one. AND IT WORKS.

            So you can do one of two things. You can abandon your principles and become the shitbags that they are.

            OR

            You can choose to go to war when your enemy truly, as you say, “gives you no choice.” In the meantime, you treat these ingrates as the criminals they are. Which means you capture the perpetrators, try them, convict them and punish them. If that’s not possible, you kill them (and only them).

            Going to war with an enemy you cannot find/kill/defeat, plays right into the terrorists playbook. You expend vast quantities of national treasure with ZERO ROI. Eventually, the population tires of war and waste, and then guess what? The terrorists have won.

            1. I’m not sure you’re “the shitbag that they are” if you didn’t initiate the violence, but are instead responding to continued provocation, and respond with whatever measures are necessary to end the provocation. If that can be done in a limited and humane way, so much the better, but “limited and humane” should take a backseat to victory. Otherwise, the self-imposed limits may come back to bite you in a few years.

              It seems like the pendulum has shifted to where the objectives of war are seen as impossible if innocents are going to be killed. If we start with the limitation of “no collateral damage,” instead of starting with “destroy them,” then we’ve set ourselves up for failure.

              1. If that can be done in a limited and humane way, so much the better, but “limited and humane” should take a backseat to victory.

                My assumption is you meant to say should not take a backseat to victory.

                I don’t disagree. If you decide you need to go to war, you need to fight it to win it. However, answer me one single question:

                What is your definition of victory in a war against a tactic?

                Part of your decision process in whether or not to go to war, is whether your objectives are achievable. You need to define what winning means BEFORE you strike. If not, you get what we have right now. Same as in Vietnam. An open ended quagmire that goes on and on without end because no one has defined what the end is.

                1. Thanks for the correction.

                  Yeah, I don’t disagree with any of your response. I suppose I only take issue with the idea that it debases the respondent to resort to inhumane methods, if that is what is required to defeat the enemy.

          3. For Jordan, executing those prisoners was an admission of weakness. Had it been an American pilot in that cage, we would have been carrying out bombing raids, sending in special forces, and going after ISIS finances with a vengeance. Jordan doesn’t have the military capability to make successful punitive strikes against ISIS, so they had to lash out at the only members of the group that they could reach.

        2. When was this the standard assumption? Not during the Civil War.

          Here in Missouri, which was a union state, by the way, the Union executed a bunch of prisoners because of guerrilla activity.

          Basically said, turn yourselves in or we will kill these people. And when they didn’t, they killed them. Except for one, whose wife slept with the head of the prison.

      2. I agree. If Jordan hanged every ISIS prisoner as a result of this, I would have no problem with it. Unfortunately I doubt it would have a deterring effect. These fanatics are hell-bent on martyrdom.

        1. I’d be ok too if, after running out of ISIS prisoners to hang, they went out and got some more.

          1. Screw taking prisoners.

        2. It will have a deterring effect on the hanged.

          I wouldn’t mind if they hung every one of them and their families as well, i.e., “If the violence from your family, friends, and community spills over into ours, then your family, friends, and community are going to find ours spilling into yours. And if you don’t like it, snatch up your miscreants and make sure their violence doesn’t touch us again.”

        3. “These fanatics are hell-bent on martyrdom.” This “don’t give them what they want” meme has gone too far.

          “The last thing they want is to live and conquer other people like their religion tells them to.” So let’s help them win! That’ll learn ’em.

    3. Killing two people already sentenced to death = moral ground of dictatorship = Hannity saying unkind things about his enemies.

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    1. Normally, I’d want this flagged as spam, but maybe Sheldon will bite and take the job.

  22. I’ve thought a lot about why Reason wants to employ a writer like Richman and my best guess is they believe the correct position on foreign policy to be as cut and dry as the correct position on economics. That is the only explanation for why they employ someone with such terrible research skills. To them, Sheldon has the right point of view and that’s all that matters. But while that framework could work with economics….even a child with a lemonade stand can appreciate the importance of a free market, it doesn’t take an econ degree….does it work with foreign policy? Only if you take the controversial point of view that history can be ignored as long as you have the right opinion. Not me. I believe that knowledge of history is so important in understanding Middle Eastern affairs that I would always rather read a historians take on the middle east, even if I disagree, than someone I agree with with no reference point for anything.

    1. I’ve thought a lot about why Reason wants to employ a writer like Richman…

      Or, perhaps, you could take their motto, Free Minds, Free Markets at face value and say they value ideas that are not in the mainstream as they aid in discussion.

      I think Richman is a fucking moron, but I can see why they use him as click bait. He’s essentially Tony. They do run the risk, however, of turning away those they wish to attract when he goes nuclear stupid as he did the other day, comparing soldiers to Lanza.

      1. Freedom isn’t an excuse to encourage and reward idiocy

      2. The Lizard People control the world isn’t in the mainstream, but I don’t see Lonewacko or whomever writing for Reason either.

        1. Put it this way. I called for his head the other day with the Lanza thing. But if they fired him, they’d be accused of (rightly or wrongly) not walking it like they talk it. The whole, “dissenting opinions welcome” thing would be put in jeopardy.

          I do agree, however that there is a line between being a forum that allows differing opinions and endorsing raving lunacy. Richman has been, very much, flirting with that line recently.

    2. How is Richman any different from Ron Paul?

  23. Damn, I started reading this before I noticed who wrote it. Waste my time reading a whole paragraph before stopping.

    Note to self: READ the byline first and you won’t waste time reading Richman’s drivel!

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  25. Hey Reason, Fire this tard.

    People advocating for pacifism and isolationism are generally viewed as being well meaning but ignorant and naive. If you insist on advocating for foreign policy along those lines then fine. It is not the worst thing.But this idiot shouldn’t have a job outside of Pravda.

    Throwing absurd accusations of genocide around immediately invalidates everything you say because people will rightly regard you as an idiot at best. If you guys really think the world would be better served by other powers filling the vacuum we would leave then fine, craft some good arguments along those lines.

    Mindlessly pointing out the negative consequences when we screw up while totally ignoring the good our presence achieves or pretending like less scrupulous powers replacing us won’t have any negative impacts makes it impossible for serious people to take you guys seriously on foreign policy.

  26. The US is the global hegemon, and as such they pretty much do make the rules. Just like how the UK and Rome made their own rules at the time of their respective hegemonies. The global international system is anarchic.

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