Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere

It's well past time for us to think about what horrifies our rulers: nonintervention.

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If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States. What could you do that these men have not done to keep Americans mired in distant turmoil?

Signs of apparent failure abound while the ruling elite feigns ignorance of the connection between U.S. intervention abroad and widening regional wars. Despite President Obama's assurances that America's combat role in the unceasingly violent Afghanistan is over, we know it is not. ISIS expands under American and allied airstrikes, the best recruiting program the Islamists could want. There was no ISIS in Iraq or Syria before America invaded the former and called open season on the regime in the latter. In response, Obama seeks unlimited war power.

ISIS franchises are emerging throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Libya, which America and NATO "liberated" from Col. Gaddafi after prodding by then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, is in militia-ridden hell and is now a haven for ISIS sympathizers. Obama can't make up his mind about what his war on ISIS means for his opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who also opposes ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile in Europe, the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine, following the in-your-face expansion of NATO to the Russian border, has not had the intended effect of making Russian President Putin skulk to his corner in fear of the global hegemon. Instead, Putin capitalized on the explicit provocation to engineer the dubious annexation of Crimea and to aid separatists (or perhaps federalists) in eastern Ukraine, who are fighting neo-Nazis among others. Despite the current ceasefire, a war between nuclear powers Russia and the United States is not impossible.

Well done, Messrs. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, and on back. Each faithfully pursued the geopolitical and economic interests embodied in the idea of American hegemony. We see the results: slaughter and incineration abroad (often by remote control), humanitarian catastrophe for homeless survivors, and American deaths and injuries far outnumbering those of the 9/11 attacks—themselves a response to decades of U.S.-inflicted and -sponsored killing and upheaval in the Muslim world. And then there are the fiscal costs to Americans.

Unsurprisingly, the ruling elite has no incentive to reconsider the premise of U.S. foreign policy, namely, that America can and should run the world. It is "our" manifest destiny and not to be questioned. Obama occasionally looks like the reluctant emperor, but whenever he appears to waver, someone—Mrs. Clinton or Samantha Power or Susan Rice—keeps him from "going wobbly" (as Mrs. Thatcher did with George H. W. Bush in 1990 after Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.)

We must acknowledge, of course, that what looks like failure to us Americans outside the privileged elite may not actually be failure for our overlords. After all, turmoil is integral to the ingenious political perpetual-motion machine. Turmoil furnishes the "threats" that then can be called on to justify the very policies that manufactured those threats in the first place. How clever! We'll hear no more talk of a "peace dividend," that dangerous idea—dangerous, that is, to Pentagon and intelligence budgets and government-contractor bottom lines—that nearly ran amok when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance imploded, 1989–1991. That was indeed a close one. Imagine the world's only superpower without an enemy. People might wonder what's the point of it all. Thank goodness there were years of intervention in the Muslim world in the bank, compound interest accruing.

While failure may in fact be success for the empire's custodians and profiteers, the victimized foreign populations and American people have not been so fortunate, and there's no end in sight.

If those populations and the American people are to get any relief, U.S. foreign policy will need deep rethinking from outside elite circles. That won't be easy. As over two centuries show, American hegemony—"exceptionalism"—is in the nation's political DNA. Even the opening of foreign markets to American producers was always seen as a government program backed by a navy with global reach.

It's well past time for us to think about what horrifies our rulers: nonintervention.

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  1. Sheldon, the Chomsky schtick is getting a little old. You can be opposed to war without believing Kremlin propaganda about the rebels fighting neo-Nazis.

    1. Chomsky is the Joel Rifkin of war.

    2. Reason does its best to discredit the anti-war position by publishing Richman.

      Meanwhile in Europe, the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine, following the in-your-face expansion of NATO to the Russian border, has not had the intended effect of making Russian President Putin skulk to his corner in fear of the global hegemon. Instead, Putin capitalized on the explicit provocation to engineer the dubious annexation of Crimea and to aid separatists (or perhaps federalists) in eastern Ukraine, who are fighting neo-Nazis among others.

      If I worked for the Weekly Standard I’d link to this.

      1. the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine

        If you follow the actual story it was US-instigated. Or maybe you can say it was US-encouraged and US-enabled if you like.

        who are fighting neo-Nazis

        Dude, it sounds like you aren’t too up to speed on what’s going on in Ukraine. You might want to read up a bit before you go criticizing others.

      2. I thought it was well settled that the coup in Ukraine was instigated by the US. Why is this even controversial?

  2. Good points.

  3. Cue the neocon leaning libertarian whining…

    1. I am trying to figure out why there are so many warmongers at Reason. Is it because there is a disproportionate amount of Objectivists here?

  4. 9/11 attacks?themselves a response to decades of U.S.-inflicted and -sponsored killing and upheaval in the Muslim world

    Shorter Richman: It’s our fault and we deserve it. Legitimate grievances. If only they had jobs and opportunity.

    What useless dreck. Shouldn’t he be writing this drivel somewhere else?

    1. If you go around poking people in the chest, don’t be surprised when someone punches you in the nose. Does that mean you deserved it? No, not really. But it shouldn’t be a surprise.

      1. Given the proclivity for people in that part of the world to happily kill each other based on the most meaningless of transgressions, I’m not really sure that US sponsored or inflicted killing is what drove them to 9/11 and other acts of terrorism. They like to kill, they believe killing is the way to redress their grievances, so that’s what they do.

        To your point, they shouldn’t be surprised when, upon poking a hornets nest, they get stung. Very badly.

        1. If by “they” you mean our government, and by “hornets nest” you mean the Muslim World, then I am in total agreement.

          1. No, that’s not what I mean but I think you know that.

        2. Really? Sanctions in iraq killing half a million kids. Countless other interventions resulting in casualties and blowback. You are right, there would be crazy people who want to kill us if we hadn’t intervened in the region at all, but no one can honestly deny that our interventions have emboldened the crazies and driven up their numbers.

          1. This is weapons grade stupid. 1) The sanctions were at worst an incidental contributor to having and poverty in Iraq. Mostly those were caused by the corrupt, incompetent fascists governing the country. 2) Al-Qaeda’s well documented grossness with the US concerned our troops’ presence in Saudi Arabia. Those troops were doing precious little killing of anybody, and were there at the request of the Saudi monarchy. You can argue that getting involved at all in that region makes us a target, and i would even agree with you. But please don’t pretend that 9/11 was the result of some sort of moral transgression on our part. An action can be unwise without being immoral, and it can be dangerous without being unwise.

            1. Apologies for the wall of text. Squirrels ate my line breaks.

              1. Ah resembles that remark!!! If I did eat them, it was only because you MADE me do it, by making them taste sooooo good!!!

        3. “Given the proclivity for people in that part of the world to happily kill each other based on the most meaningless of transgressions, I’m not really sure that US sponsored or inflicted killing is what drove them to 9/11 and other acts of terrorism. They like to kill, they believe killing is the way to redress their grievances, so that’s what they do.”

          Tell me honestly, did you lift that from Ed Said’s book?

      2. Eh. US foreign policy is obviously stupid/misguided, but even in an alternate timeline where say the US maintained a Swiss-like neutrality, I suspect there’d be attacks here regardless.

        1. Probably true.

        2. Have there been any attacks in Switzerland?

          1. Yeah, there’s been attacks in/on Switzerland, e.g.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swissair_Flight_330

            I imagine a neutral, non-internventionist USA would be the recipient of many more, given its economic and cultural status in the world.

            1. So the US has lost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars and is not getting any better results then Switzerland which has not wasted either.

              1. Sure. And the case is easy to make that US meddling has made things worse by destabilizing/deposing what were fairly secular dictatorships which helped keep the religionists in check.

                In any event, rather than telling us a bunch of rhetorical shit we already knew, this would’ve been a more interesting + constructive article had it delved into a pragmatic Libertarian approach to these sorts of issues. One that doesn’t hinge on the naive assumption that they only fuck w/ the US because the US fucks w/ them.

          2. Could be the superiority of the Swiss cops? (OK, I laughed a bit typing that)
            http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/switz…..ck-1466994

            Only one I remember off the top of my head:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swissair_Flight_330

        3. Of course there would, because we have free speech in this country.

          Unless you’ve been living in an alternate-reality bubble these last few weeks, you know that a fucking cartoon is all that it takes to drive some of these guys into a murderous rage.

    2. Shorter Richman: It’s our fault and we deserve it.

      Restoras, go read what OBL said were his reasons for attacking the US. GO READ THEM. It has nothing to do with deserve or legitimate. That’s not what Richman said anyway. He said they were a response. And they were.

  5. Pretty much.

    1. Yeah, I’m kind of thinking Richmans’ right, basically….

      *shudder*

      Never thought I’d utter those words.

      1. Yup, Jimmy Carter… ruthless American Hegemon?

        1. Well, OK, not Carter, but…:)

          1. How clever! We’ll hear no more talk of a “peace dividend,” that dangerous idea?dangerous, that is, to Pentagon and intelligence budgets and government-contractor bottom lines?that nearly ran amok when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance imploded, 1989?1991. That was indeed a close one. Imagine the world’s only superpower without an enemy. People might wonder what’s the point of it all. Thank goodness there were years of intervention in the Muslim world in the bank, compound interest accruing.

            OK, it is just a massive conspiracy … of some sort…

            PENTAGON MIND FUCK!! KKKORPORASHUNZ AND ELITES KONSPIRING!!!

            What happened to arguing “These policies are not in our interest. Our interventions often turn out for the worse, and should be avoided if at all possible”?

            Why does it have to devolve into spittle flecked conspiracy raving?

            1. I just agree with the overall point that we’re into too much shit in other countries. Agree with you that Richman’s overwrought drama is sometimes a bit much.

              But I’m agreeing with the overall point (message versus messenger maybe?)

              1. If he could dial that crap down, it would make it a lot more persuasive. Is there not plenty enough evidence to make a forceful argument, without dipping into paranoia?

                1. Yeah, his message would def. go over better if it didn’t seem to devolve into conspiratorial raving.

                  1. Also the preachy moralizing typical to this particular author could stand to be toned down quite a bit. Pretty sure that sort of things tends to alienate readers, no matter their existing political inclinations.

                  2. “devolve”?

                    That suggests it is starting from a position that makes lots of sense, then eventually boils down to a sticky residue that smells faintly like (whisper) “the JEWS control it all!”

                    instead, he leads with the crazy, and piles some extra-stupid on top.

                    Underneath all of the froth is a basic idea that is appealing…

                    (*if* you can strip the philosophical-purist horseshit away from it and actually concede that it isn’t actually useful as *policy*)

                    …however, the ‘non-interventionist’ magic seems hopeless when he’s got such a fuzzy conception of what ‘intervention’ actually entails.

                    He regularly (and consistently, to his credit) includes ‘diplomatic relations’ and ‘trade’ as examples of our nefarious Hegemonic empire-mongering.

                    If abandonment of the entire framework of international relations is what actual ‘non-intervention’ requires, its not foreign policy = its ‘magical thinking’ that is useless outside of philosophy-dorm where people like Richman hide from the real world.

                    1. Admittedly I didn’t read the article that closely, as it came off as a fairly standard Sheldon screed, but the initial paragraph or three seemed to be saying little more than “hey guys US foreign policy sucks and has yielded unintended consequences.” Not an entirely unreasonable position, albeit a trivial one.

                      From there the article lunges into some kind of weirdness about US-instigated neo-Nazi coups in Ukraine, followed up by more rhetorical babbling about ~the ruling elite~, interspersed with annoying moralizing.

                      So yeah, I thought ‘devolve’ was an alright descriptor for this textual trainwreck.

                    2. fair enough.

                      I think i just used that word as an opportunity to riff on how much i hate the richman-cookie-cutter approach.

            2. “PENTAGON MIND FUCK!! KKKORPORASHUNZ AND ELITES KONSPIRING!!!”

              You are missing the point. There is no conspiracy, and Sheldon doesn’t refer to one. That is your contribution. Institutions, even government institutions like the pentagon, have an inbuilt inclination to grow and expand their reach. That’s what this is about.

      2. ” I’m kind of thinking “

        You’re kind of not.

        If we’re a hegemony, we’re obviously doing it wrong.

  6. ISIS franchises are emerging throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

    They’re selling franchises? Are they looking to branch into the US? Cause I think there’s money to be made here…

    Do you know how many Arabs live in fucking DEARBORN, MI?

    Ima be rich!

    1. If you thought the McDonald’s franchise agreement was restrictive…

  7. Good article.

  8. Do not tune into the POTUS speech if you value your sanity and blood pressure level. Just don’t.

    1. He’s giving mainstream America the combination middle finger/thumb in the eye, and of course he’s doing it on purpose, like he does everything.

      He decided he was going to spend the rest of his presidency doing this as much he possibly could on the night of the midterm election. The next two years are to be payback time for all the historical sins he feels we haven’t sufficiently atoned for.

      1. I kept getting the feeling we are going to be ass deep in another full on, decade long war in the ME by summer time. All this speechifying is starting to look like political cover for the geopolitical hissyfit POTUS is getting ready to throw.

  9. Signs of apparent failure abound while the ruling elite feigns ignorance of the connection between U.S. intervention …

    Unsurprisingly, the ruling elite has no incentive to reconsider the premise of U.S. foreign policy, …

    We must acknowledge, of course, that what looks like failure to us Americans outside the privileged elite may not actually be failure for our overlords.

    Come on, Richman; you’re among friends here. You don’t have to obfuscate, we know you mean the “lizard people”.

    1. BUT WHO IS BEHIND THEM, HM??!?!?! WHO?

      *roots around for more foil*

      1. Who’s behind them? The Masons.

        Duh!

        *plays with Mason ring on right hand*

        1. I KNEW IT!!!

          *runs from room, holding foil hat down with both hands*

        1. I always liked that those books said something like, “The theory that has never been disproved!” on their covers.

  10. semi OT: Top Iranian Nuke Negotiator Ordered to Stop Screaming at Kerry

    http://freebeacon.com/national…..-at-kerry/

    If it is our fault, letting Iranian diplomats scream at John F’ing Kerry is a good start at reparations. Scream on, scream harder.

    1. I’d replace Kerry with a Jewish woman – the guy would die of apoplexy.

        1. Oh, I just noticed she left the post 2 years ago.

          1. Dang, that would have been perfect!

            1. “Say, can we borrow your Ambassador?”

      1. It’s a shame that Joan Rivers passed away.

  11. It’s well past time for us to think about what horrifies our rulers: nonintervention.

    “Nonintervention” is code for “isolation”, the position American Nazi sympathizers took to prevent FDR from stopping Nazi Germany from building a pure Aryan empire in Europe.

    Are you a Nazi sympathizer, Sheldon???

    /end prog

      1. Hey murray = since Bo is both too lazy and too stupid… maybe you can have a crack at actually providing a retort to this

        I’d like to hear it.

        (warning = There will be a secondary score for ‘degree of intellectual-honesty’ or lack thereof)

  12. Yay! Sheldon Richman Cookies!

    nom nom nom

    needs more hegemony

    ‘Even the opening of foreign markets to American producers was always seen as a government program backed by a navy with global reach.'”

    must ensure ‘free trade’ is included in ‘intervention’, right? because otherwise this “Empire” word he keeps using would make absolutely *zero* sense.

    I also like how we’re now at the point where we can refer to the popular-rebellion in the Ukraine as a “US-instigated Coup”

    Because the decade between the Orange revolution Never Actually Happened. Nope. And the 4 years of Yanukovych rule were awesome and popular. 10s of thousands of people were just waiting for their American Masters to give the signal to start their “faux protests

    Quick show of hands who thinks that line of thinking will really convince sane people to vote libertarian?

  13. “”themselves a response to decades of U.S.-inflicted and -sponsored killing and upheaval in the Muslim world.””

    Pure drivel. Bin Laden and the other mujaheddin were perfectly happy with US “intervention” when it served them well against the Soviets. It’s their desire for power that drove, and drives, the past and current acts of terror.

  14. So, skimmed the comments, maybe others have said this:
    America was doing good. Then WWII happened, which really wasn’t our fault. Since every other manufacturing/power center OTHER than the U.S. was destroyed, we naturally inherited the role of world power. We did alright for while: kept the seas open, etc.
    But right from GO we had to deal with the USSR and the cold war. Mistakes were definitely made, but the general idea was Western Europe and the US against the Commies.
    We did alright. Mistakes were made. We propped up horrible people, but in the face of a much bigger threat.
    IMHO, shit fell apart with the Soviet Union. We no longer have a totalitarian state to point to, empowering our government to acts in ways that would never happen when we were fighting the Commies. Back then the cry was “This isn’t Russia or East Germany, THIS IS AMERICA!” The existence of a total state was useful as an argument against allowing OUR state such powers. Without that example of what could go wrong, our own state has grown tremendously. It’s almost like the old story from Lovecraft: I’m happy that the people of the once USSR are freer than they were, but I was freer when they were kept in total misery.

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