Foreign Policy

American Foreign Policy Only Puts Us In More Danger

We would be safer from terrorism without the U.S. government.

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Jeff Gates (outtacontext)/Flickr

American politicians frequently declare that the government's first duty is to protect us from foreign threats. If that's so, why have they embroiled us in the Middle East?

Instead of keeping us safe, they seem to strive to put us in harm's way by provoking one side or the other in sectarian, ethnic, tribal, and political conflicts. With one glaring exception—Israel versus Palestine—the U.S. government has been on almost every side of these complicated conflicts at one time or another, depending on the geostrategic context. Considering that record, maybe we should reassess this thing called government. Perhaps if we didn't have it, we wouldn't need it.

Following his predecessors, Barack Obama today has us ear-deep in the old conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as in the overlapping political friction between Arabs and Iranians (Persians) for regional dominance. What makes this all the more bewildering is that the Obama administration isn't firmly on one side or the other. In Syria it is officially against Shiite Iran's ally President Bashar al-Assad, a position that objectively helps Sunni ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliate, which also oppose Assad. But in neighboring Iraq, Obama is de facto allied with Iran and its Shiite ally-regime in Baghdad against ISIS. [George W. Bush's overthrow of Iraq's Saddam Hussein guaranteed that Iraq and Iran would be allies.]

The latest wrinkle is now occurring in Yemen, a country long plagued by sectarian, tribal, and political turmoil. The United States has aggravated the conflicts through drone warfare, by engineering the replacement of one leader with another, and by its intervention and distribution of arms throughout the region. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula did not exist before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Houthis, who practice a form of Islam, Zaidi, that in some ways resembles Shiism and in other ways Sunnism, have taken control of parts of Yemen. But how is that a threat to us? These opponents of al-Qaeda are said to be backed by Iran, though this is undoubtedly an exaggeration, if not a fabrication, because the dispute appears to be internal. Nevertheless, for the ruling elites in the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, Iran is the bogeyman, so it's threatening everywhere. Patrick Cockburn, a reporter familiar with the region, warns that U.S. backing of Sunni Arab intervention in Yemen could produce a self-fulfilling prophecy by driving the Houthis firmly into the Iranian and Shiite camps.

The question is: why must Americans be embroiled in this civil war as well as the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Libya? If Iran and Saudi Arabia want to contend with each other for dominance in the Muslim world, what business is that of ours? All we can do is worsen the violence. No wonder so many people wish us ill.

Some might reply that neglecting the region would create breeding grounds for terrorism. But it's intervention that breeds hatred of and possibly violence against Americans. Oil isn't a good answer either. Whoever controls the oil will sell it—if not to Americans, then to others who will then sell it to Americans in the global market. When you factor in the high cost of the American military, oil isn't so cheap.

And while we're questioning the sense of putting Americans in the middle of foreign conflicts, let's not forget U.S. policy toward Israel. Israel was founded mostly on land seized illegitimately from Palestinian Arabs—Muslim and Christian—and its occupation of additional Palestinian territory is now almost 50 years old. Whether American politicians have had self-serving or humanitarian motives, their policy, pushed by Israel's Jewish American lobby, has underwritten brutal injustice.

Thus U.S. intervention in the Middle East has made enemies for the American people, putting them at risk unnecessarily. This was blindingly clear on 9/11, the perpetrators of which cited America's alliance with Israel against the Palestinians among their grievances. Today we live with the threat (however exaggerated) that terrorism could again come to United States. This is a direct outcome of the American presence in a range of conflicts.

For this we may thank the largely unaccountable people who make foreign policy. We'd be safer without them.  

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  1. For the most part I agree we would be better without foreign entanglements.

    1. I think so too, and it would seem to be the general Libertarian consensus ideal as well, and this is a generally Libertarian site; but seeing as it was written by Sheldon Richman…

      RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!!!!!!

      1. It’s not the policy positions Richman takes (mostly), it’s the reasoning he uses to get there that’s the problem. According to Richman, no one outside of the US or Israel has moral agency. They’re just pawns to imperialism/Zionism and can’t be held accountable for anything they do. Then he doubles down on stupidity and argues the converse, that every American and Israeli who has any connection to national defense is irredeemably evil.

        There are evil people everywhere, and while it may be convenient for your argument to pretend otherwise, the reality of the world doesn’t conform to what is most convenient for you.

  2. Americans are just like Adam Lanza.

    1. This cannot be stated enough.

    2. maybe… All but the Libertarians, my friend.

    3. Sheldon Richman IS Adam Lanza. The corpse the cops got was a decoy.

  3. And perhaps we should also end our one sided affair with Israel as well. We have no national security interest in who occupies that land and as they are big kids now, let them take care of their own affairs, on their own.

    1. Anti-semite! /jk

    2. Stilgar — Ending “our one sided affair with Israel” can only be possible when our corrupt politicians stop taking whatever Israel is offering them, which is either money, power or both. Or the vast majority of Americans, who are basically stupid, starts paying attention. That’s never going to happen.

      IT’S ALL OVER FOLKS! And the socialists have won.

      1. I don’t see any socialists. What we have in the US is a Bismarckian state, where Welfare pays off and quiesces the lower orders while the elites go on military and imperial adventures. Which is what explains the interventionism.

        1. Anarcissie — I believe we’re splitting hairs here. It sounds like you’re describing the USSR with the exception that Bismarck was a devout Lutheran and loyal to his king.

          I exaggerate when I say, it’s all over and socialism won. We’re not quite there yet but I believe we are so far gone there is no going back — Socialism will win out in the USSA within the next 25 — 30 years. No one will question the fact that we are a socialist state at that time.

  4. I look forward to a thoughtful and reasoned discussion.

    1. I’ll start. SHELLLDOOOOOOOOONNN!

    1. So how does fanatical nutjobs killing Christians in Kenya have fuck-all to do with US National Security?

      1. The point.
        You missed it.
        Try again.

        1. Then perhaps you can elucidate.

          1. Well, riddle me this, Batman: how does the illegitimate Zionist devil state have fuck-all to do with Kenyan national security?

            I’m sure Sheldon would be able to tell you.

            1. And how does that have fuck-all to do with this particular article?

              Or are you just bitching about Sheldon for no good reason because that’s the “cool” thing to do on Reason.

              1. And how does that have fuck-all to do with this particular article?

                *sighs* Because, Richman’s “analyses” are consistently univariate, when in fact, the phenomenon in question is fiendishly multivariate. As such, Richman’s conclusions are always naive and oversimplified.

                Sorry if pointing that out gets your dander all up; cognitive dissonance can be a heavy cross to bear.

                1. So in other words “nothing”. Thanks for clearing that up.

                  1. Clearing what up? That you don’t have the mental alacrity to grasp the central premise of my criticism or that you’re just a mendacious fuck whose strategy is to dismiss any arguments that threaten your preconceived notions?

                    1. Wow, HM’s projection is truly Heroic.

                      He stumbles into the discussion with a non sequitur about ISLAMIC RADICALS in Kenya and when called on it’s relevance mumbles something about Zionism which was not the point of this article and when called again cursed and projects his own blunder.

                  2. Listen, you know what? I’m not even interested in your response. I’m not going to play pigeon chess with you; no matter how valid my argumentation, you’re just going to hop up on the table, knock down the pieces, shit on the board, and then strut around victoriously.

                    I’m walking away this interaction just as I’d walk away from a gibbering lunatic on the street.

                    1. That was predictable.

                    2. No, you’re predictable.

                    3. some people would pay to see bo crap on a table instead of a comment board…maybe do a little dance # or have a pillow fight with another harpy

              2. No, there’s always a good reason to bitch about Richman.

              3. Roswell — You sound like one pissed-off Jew. That’s probably the ONLY thing I approve of Obama doing — putting Israel where they belong! And nobody thought he had any cojones.

    2. I’m sure Richman blames America for that.

      1. Anything that can’t be plausibly blamed on American Christians and/or Israeli Joos will simply be ignored, so don’t expect Richman to ever say anything about ongoing Muslim massacres of Christians in Africa. His Father Coughlin-era radar system just doesn’t have the kind of reach.

      2. Be sure to tune in next week, when Sheldon Richman explains how the Russian Revolution was “blowback” against America for the Louisiana Purchase.

  5. “While we’re questioning the sense of putting Americans in the middle of foreign conflicts”, why sweat the minor stupidity of getting involved in Middle East snake pit while ignoring the major stupidity of taunting a nationalistic, nuclear-armed bear?

    Seriously, why wasn’t Nato disbanded back in the early 1990s?

    The fact is that the US State Department is stuck on stupid. It is so incorrigibly reprobate that it cannot make a correct decision.

    1. Seriously, why wasn’t Nato disbanded back in the early 1990s?

      I wonder about this all the time. The only thing that makes sense to me is that Euro countries don’t want to pay for their own defense, and our State Dept. is filled with career retards.

      1. The only thing that makes sense to me is that Euro countries don’t want to pay for their own defense, and our State Dept. is filled with career retards.

        Close.

        Here’s the trade. We pay for the defense of Europe. In return, we get to be the only player on the block. We control every conflict. We involve ourselves in every conflict. We are the world police, making the US MIC the sole suppliers of all the war machines in the “free” world.

        Nifty, ain’t it? Unless, of course, you are moral.

        1. And of course it gives them a reason to continue to hold our currency in reserve, which in turn helps Uncle Sam dig the debt hole deeper than was ever thought possible.

        2. Alternately, in absence of actual ‘proof’ of your theory, it’s just a self-perpetuating bureaucracy like every other self-perpetuating bureaucracy.

          1. Ugh, agreeing with Cytotoxic on something other than CAGW. It’s been a bad day.

        3. Francisco — Right you are!

  6. “With one glaring exception?Israel versus Palestine?the U.S. government has been on almost every side of these complicated conflicts at one time or another, depending on the geostrategic context.”

    Much of those alliances are relics of the Cold War. We won the Cold War, in part, because of those alliances.

    When was the last time we were attacked by a government in the Middle East?

    To what extent has that had to do with our complicated arrangements changing depending on the “geostrategic context”?

    If you point out that one of the legitimate functions of government is to protect our rights from foreign threats, and you want to showcase a failure of that principle in our shifting alliances, then shouldn’t some of those foreign governments have attacked us at some point?

    Hell, the first time we attacked Iraq in 1991, all those shifting “geostrategic contexts” banded together in our our defense!

    1. When was the last time we were attacked by a government in the Middle East?

      Seriously?

      1. Yes! Seriously!

        Certainly you’re not going to point to George H.W. Bush voluntarily attacking Iraq as a failure of our alliance with Israel–when all the Arab states in the region joined into our coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.

        Certainly you’re not going to point to his son invading Iraq in response to 9/11 as a failure of our alliance with Israel, either.

        Why would the Bushes unilaterally deciding to do something be the fault of our alliance with Israel?

        Are you a vestige of one of the 70% of Americans who imagined that Saddam Hussein was personally complicit in 9/11?

        http://usatoday30.usatoday.com…..iraq_x.htm

        There’s been an update on that story. Turns out Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.

        1. What the hell are you even talking about? That comment might just be the non-sequitur of the year.

          1. I made the most plausible assumption possible given your “Seriously ?”.

            Which government in the Middle East are you talking about that we’ve been attacked by?

            1. Saudi Arabia on 9/11 for one.

  7. In terms of terrorist groups?

    Elements of what later coalesced into Hezbollah attacked our Marines in 1983, but apart from that/since then, when’s the last time Israel’s immediate enemies, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, attacked us directly and intentionally?

    Does the fact that they haven’t attacked us directly and intentionally in 32 years have anything to do with them being afraid that if they did attack us directly, we might let Israel off its leash?

    Our engagements in the Middle East have been strictly initiated by us. It wasn’t because of our alliances.

    Our alliances in the region (including with Israel) seem to have protected us from foreign threats to our rights. If we’re going to point our alliance with Israel failing to protect us from foreign threats, doesn’t there need to be an actual failure somewhere?

    1. Our alliances in the region (including with Israel) seem to have protected us from foreign threats to our rights.

      Yeah, I don’t see any evidence of that. The crew of the USS Cole and the occupants of the World Trade Center might not agree with you either.

      1. I don’t see how Israel was directly related to 9/11.

        9/11 was more about the U.S.’ relationship with Saudi Arabia than Israel.

        I’ll grant you this–having troops stationed in the Saudi Arabian “holy land” contributed to the animosity of Al Qaeda towards the United States.

        However, I’d argue that was more about Afghanistan and Central Asia than the Middle East.

    2. Hezbollah, Hamas, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, attacked us directly and intentionally?

      Hamas? 2004.

      Jus’ sayin’

      1. They caught somebody’s wife videotaping a bridge ten years ago?

        But there was no attack?

        Okay, so that means our alliance with Israel, and the implicit threat that presents, has no impact on why Hamas has never attacked us intentionally or directly?

        I don’t think so.

        I think there are a lot of people who imagine that if the United States withdrew its support of Israel, then Israel embrace the Palestinian terrorist groups as brothers, and peace would reign supreme. I happen to be of the opinion that (like with other countries in similar arrangements with the U.S.) that Israel’s concern for its relationship with the United States, that Israel might do to places like Gaza what the United States did to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, and Dresden. And that is why I believe that Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Exploding Martyr’s Brigade has gone out of its way to avoid attacking the United States intentionally and directly.

        Incidentally, in addition to Hamas having targets mapped out in the United States, I suspect our military has plans ready to invade and wipe out Hamas if that should ever become necessary. If our military doesn’t have such plans ready, then they’re incompetent. In the meantime, the fact is that we haven’t exercised those plans–and they haven’t either. …which sort of underscores my point about Israel being an effective deterrent, doesn’t it.

        1. Damn thumbs, tiny screens…

          “I think there are a lot of people who imagine that if the United States withdrew its support [from] Israel, that Israel [would] embrace Palestinian terrorist groups as brothers and peace would reign supreme. I happen to be of the opinion that (like with other countries in similar arrangements with the U.S.) [if not for] Israel’s concern for its relationship with the United States, that Israel might do to places like Gaza what the United States did to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, and Dresden.”

          Fixed!

  8. With one glaring exception?Israel versus Palestine?the U.S. government has been on almost every side of these complicated conflicts at one time or another, depending on the geostrategic context.

    Don’t we provide aid to Palestine?

    1. As part of an agreement between them, Israel and ourselves iirc.

      1. It worked that way with Egypt, too, although…

        When we became Egypt’s largest foreign donor, we supplanted the USSR for that title.

        It was always about the Cold War.

        Our historical support for Israel cannot be properly understood without considering it within the context of the Cold War.

        …like Russia’s historical support for Iran and Syria.

      2. My point is that it is not an exception at all. We are playing both sides of that conflict as well. And not just in providing aid to the Palestinians but many other countries in the region who are most certainly not on Israel’s side.

  9. And while we’re questioning the sense of putting Americans in the middle of foreign conflicts, let’s not forget U.S. policy toward Israel. Israel was founded mostly on land seized illegitimately from Palestinian Arabs?Muslim and Christian?and its occupation of additional Palestinian territory is now almost 50 years old. Whether American politicians have had self-serving or humanitarian motives, their policy, pushed by Israel’s Jewish American lobby, has underwritten brutal injustice.

    That is a refreshing insight I’ve never before read, especially not from Sheldon. Tell us more about how uniquely evil and manipulative those JOOOOOOOOS are.

    1. Re: The Immaculate Trouser,

      Is there doubt that the policy pursued by the government of Israel towards Palestinians and the occupied territories is not in part the result of American foreign aid?

      1. True. Israel would certainly be harsher and less compromising with the terrorists running the WB and Gaza without US aid.

    2. I just wish when people made the ‘land seized illegitimately from Palestinian Arabs’ they’d at least be consistent. Of course there’s no ‘brutal injustice’ in, say, the expansion, occupation and Arabization of the Levant by the Rashidun Caliphate and its successor states. Apparently as long as you invade and occupy a territory and hold it for an extended period of time that apparently legitimizes your claim for all of history (and by this logic, Israel merely needs to hold onto its land for a couple hundred years before its ‘theirs’). Why do the Turks have no claim to Israel? They’re the most recent long term occupiers, and apparently long-term occupation is what justifies statehood. If the Jews have no legitimate claim to the land that is known as ‘Israel’ than the Arab Palestinians sure as hell don’t have a claim either if you’re applying your principles consistently. The only difference is time.

      1. ‘land seized illegitimately from Palestinian Arabs’

        If memory serves, the land was “seized” from Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. The Egypt part was returned, except for Gaza, which the Egyptians don’t want. Likewise, Jordan doesn’t want the West Bank back, either.

        1. Jordan is Palestine and no they don’t want the West Bank because it’s continued limbo status and the continued refugee status of the Arabs known as ‘Palestinians’ only helps keep the conflict with Israel alive.

          It’s the same reason why Palestinian refugees living in Jordan aren’t allowed to gain citizenship or integrate with Jordanian society, their pent up anger makes them useful and their anger has proven to be unswervingly directed to the evil jooooos.

        2. Jordan and Syria during the period that ‘land was seized’ to form the Mandate of Palestine were also currently under the management of the British and French as vassal states after the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Previously both states and Israel’s land had been under Ottoman control since the early 1500s. Before that it was under the management of various regional powers and Arab dynasties, everyone from the Umayyads to Seljuk Turks to Egyptian Mamluks to the Christian crusader states. Before the Arab conquests in the late 600s it was part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Basically, the entire history of the Israeli Levant region is of the land being ‘illegitimately seized’ by regional powers, be they Roman, Arabic, Turkish, Christian, Muslim, etc. Arabic claims are just as illegitimate as Israeli if we’re consistently applying the ‘illegitimately seized’ argument, and not arbitrarily to recent events while ignoring historical ones.

          1. Admittedly I don’t believe any state has a right to exist as an entity anymore than any criminal gang has a right to exist. As far as illegitimacy is concerned, I find fault with the seizure of private property of Muslim Arabs by the Israeli government. That however, lends no legitimacy to the claim that Palestine should have the West Bank, or that there should essentially be a second Palestinian state carved out of the Israeli borders. (There already is one called Jordan.) Nor does it lend credence to the claim that the Israelis should be deported and/or have no legitimate claims of their own en banc.

  10. The question is: why must Americans be embroiled in this civil war as well as the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Libya?

    It may be that at one point, playing empire with Risk gets boring and our politicians want to have at it with the real thing.

    For this we may thank the largely unaccountable people who make foreign policy. We’d be safer without them.

    That is my opinion as well. But you know how these minarchists are…

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  12. What is happening in the Middle East would be happeing whether we were involved or not.

    http://www.generationaldynamic…..0.home.htm

  13. All the territorial possessions of all the political establishments in the earth–including America, of course–consist of pilferings from other people’s wash. No tribe, howsoever insignificant, and no nation, howsoever mighty, occupies a foot of land that was not stolen.When the English, the French, and the Spaniards reached America, the Indian tribes had been raiding each other’s territorial clothes-lines for ages, and every acre of ground on the continent had been stolen and re-stolen 500 times.

    -Mark Twain

    1. Mr. Clemens always had a way with putting things into perspective…

  14. Does Nick look at this turd’s work and think “Impressive stuff. Reason has to publish this.”?

    1. Nick should be fired just for that.

  15. From the wiki article on Houthis:

    The group’s flag reads as following: “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam”. This motto is modeled on the motto of revolutionary Iran.[52] Commenting on the meaning of the slogan, Ali al Bukhayti, the former spokesperson and official media face of the Houthis said: “We do not really want death to anyone. The slogan is simply against the interference of those governments.”

    See, no need to panic. “Death to America” is just their version of “have a nice day”.

    1. Death to you, Derpetologist my good man! How’s the family, may God wipe their unclean filth from the earth?

  16. The Israelis made a very generous offer in 2000 for peace: the Palestinians would get all of the West Bank and Gaza as well as a big chunk of Jerusalem. Arafat’s response was to launch a new intifada.

    The Israelis are not the ones to blame.

  17. It’s not an accident that there hasn’t been a world war in 70 years.

    1. But the world is more dangerous as a result of USG meddling! That’s why terrorist attacks against Americans are…dropping as Reason likes to tell us. Narrative fail.

    2. exactly. you could say it is MADDening.

  18. With one glaring exception?Israel versus Palestine?the U.S. government has been on almost every side of these complicated conflicts at one time or another, depending on the geostrategic context.

    CONTEXT

    Yes, Richman, ‘context’ that thing that seems to elude you, hence you possess the foreign policy and moral sophistication of an 8-year old.

    By the way, Richman is lying (what’s new) about Israel-Palestine. America has thrown tons of money at the PA and Colin Powel even chastised Israel for having the temerity to fight back against Palestinian aggression in the early 2000s.

  19. A couple of points;

    1) No party has even managed to keep us entirely free of “foreign entanglements” (gotta love the classics), and the one President who ran on a platform of “He kept us out of War!” was a lying scumbag who got us INTO the war in questions soon as he thought he could get away with it.

    That’s Woodrow Wilson; Progressive Saint and all around despicable human being, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the sonofabitch.

    2) I have been listening to this “If we would just leave them be, they would leave us be” drivel my whole adult life. I have never heard it n a context where I considered it believable, but it is regarded by its adherents as The Clincher. Of course a lot of those same people are prone to saying “Violence never solved anything” and BELIEVING IT.

    3) That said, I have never seen offered as a policy the course of action that would be my preference; Tell the various Islamic turds “If you think the Palestinians are oppressed, take them in. Otherwise shut up. Beyond that, do whatever the hell you want in your own countries. Annoy us, and we will make you very, VERY sorry.

    Briefly.

    1. Woodrow was an evil bastard. Dbags like him is why I want all political parties either abolished or increased to more than 2.

  20. Richman,
    Please show us a map that shows the fictional country “Palestine”. Thanks.
    I’m all for non interference in the rest of the world, but a strong America sure has some good points that people forget about. For example: some shitty government being the top dog pushing it’s weight around.(just ask Ukraine) For all the moaning and groaning of “‘Murica is evil, they cause all the world’s ills,” this planet would be a dark pit of misery if the Commies or some other evil shithead were running things. I don’t like everything the USA does, but it’s the best form of gov we have to date.

  21. Yeah Sheldon I’ll trade the minuscule risk of terrorism for the stable, prosperous world of the past 70 years.

  22. In general agree with what he is trying to say. Constant military intervention in others foreign affairs will not make the world safer for Americans. With that being said, I also can’t fault the Israeli’s for looking out for their best interest.

    Trying to play connect the dots with eveything in between is tiresome and probably not helpfull to any true answer to the question of: “when should we use military power abroad.”

    It’s probably okay to sit a few out in the Middle East every once in a while. The world will continue to spin and we always have keystone …

    (Tosses grenade in the room and runs)

  23. Something about the Barbary Pirates goes here…

  24. Congress involves us in sectarian, ethnic, tribal, and political conflicts, but most of these are at root euphemisms for religious conflicts. Surely politicians stir up enough of those in These States already.

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