Foreign Policy

As Politics Get Shaken Up, a Peace Coalition Emerges

It's refreshing to see many conservatives abandon their kneejerk support for militarism, and nice to watch Joe Biden be held accountable for his support for the Iraq blunder.


After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 turned into a mess that led to an immense loss of life and years of violent havoc in the Middle East, the war's backers flippantly declared that "everyone" agreed on the war. The invasion's evolving justifications—Saddam's supposed amassing of "weapons of mass destruction" to his alleged ties to Al-Qaeda—were overblown, but if everyone was in agreement then who could possibly second-guess the military effort?

At the Editorial Board of the Orange County Register, we produced one piece after another questioning the war. We even got in a spat with one Fox News personality, who took umbrage at criticism of the war while the fighting was going on. That was somehow unpatriotic. But the United States has been involved in endless conflicts. If Americans held their tongues while bombs are dropping, then when could they ever feel free to air their concerns?

"There is no real threat to the United States, only a theoretical one based on faulty premises," I opined at the time. "It is unjust, in that it is not a war of last resort. It will run up tens of billions of dollars in costs, and it will lead to the limiting of civil liberties at home. Furthermore, America will be managing Iraq for years, perhaps decades, and our presence there is more likely to destabilize than democratize the region."

Those points largely were correct. (This column isn't about "I told you so," by the way, but about "look how far we've come.") Even the current GOP president has lamented that war. When Donald Trump recently called off airstrikes on Iran at the last minute, almost everyone expressed relief. It's a new world ideologically and our long-standing foreign policy consensus is, finally, up for debate again. It's taken long enough, but better late than never.

Many of us have serious concerns about our increasingly fractious political discourse, but it's great that old coalitions are falling apart, new ideas are flourishing, and we're seeing a rethinking of age-old international policies that have been off-limits to debate. It's refreshing to see many conservatives abandon their kneejerk support for militarism—and nice to watch a prominent Democratic presidential candidate, former Sen. Joe Biden, held accountable for his support for the Iraq blunder.

One recent Boston Globe column highlights how much the ground has shifted. Both sides have their billionaire bogeymen. Conservatives dislike George Soros and liberals dislike the Koch brothers. But Soros and the Kochs are "uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States," according to the article. They are working to end our "forever war" policies and "promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing." Bring it on.

The founding fathers were skeptical of empire. In his oft-quoted farewell address, George Washington warned against "the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." This has been a constant thread even in modern times. We all know that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a celebrated general, warned about the "military-industrial complex."

During World War I—another costly, unnecessary conflict that led to horrific unforeseen consequences—progressive writer Randolph Bourne warned that "war is the health of the state." Indeed it is. During wartime, the public becomes part of "the herd," he wrote. It is reluctant to criticize its own government, which always is the main threat to our liberties.

These days, many of Trump's supporters are paleo-conservatives, who have always looked askance at military adventurism. Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a member of Congress from Hawaii who served in the U.S. military in the Middle East and is a major in the Army National Guard, has been the most thoughtful Democrat on the subject.

She complained to National Public Radio about "leaders in this country from both political parties looking around the world and picking and choosing which bad dictator they want to overthrow." She opposes "sending our military into harm's way and then trying to export some American model of democracy that may or may not be welcome by the people in those countries."

These are unusual political times. We've got many evangelical Christians celebrating the "miracle" of a president who, let's just say, has a spotty moral background. We've got "limited government" conservatives championing government control of the economy through tariffs and "big government" Democrats espousing free trade. And yikes—we're even debating socialism again.

But the good news is things have gotten weird enough that Americans appear ready to consider a foreign policy based on peace and diplomacy. I didn't believe that was possible in 2003 when the United States was invading Iraq, but it's possible now—and that's heartening even if everyone isn't on board with it yet.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

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  1. The New Right has no interest in foreign intervention. That pisses off the left that used to hide behind the right’s militarism. It’s tough to form a one world governance without cracking a few eggs…

    1. or blood of tyrants, tree of liberty?

      1. That’s just for us

  2. “and nice to watch a prominent Democratic presidential candidate, former Sen. Joe Biden, held accountable for his support for the Iraq blunder.”

    If any Democrats voted in favor of the Iraq resolution, it wasn’t their fault. It was George W. Bush’s fault for tricking them.

    1. PS — The neocon GOP of the Bush years was still better than the alt-right white nationalist GOP of the Drumpf era. Because the Iraq War, while misguided, was nowhere near as depraved as Drumpf’s draconian war on immigration.


      1. You need a new gig.

    2. Kinda like how the Russians tricked Americans into voting for Trump?

  3. This column isn’t about “I told you so,” by the way, but about “look how far we’ve come.”

    Really?? Because you can spike that football if you want to.

  4. The wars were started out as a natural politician’s desire to ‘do something.’ We had been attacked, and someone should pay.
    We are still at war because of a longer lasting Progressive desire to nation build. The same impulse that outlaws plastic straws and vaping at home drives the will to make all people of the world into liberal copies of those in the USA. When we leave Afganistan, next year or in twenty more years, it will revert to the Taliban hell the Afganis apparently want.
    We should pull out now, from the Middle East and elsewhere.

    1. ^This^x1000…And let’s not forget that most wars of the 20th century were started or perpetuated by progressives. Nothing has really changed-I have no doubt that if Hillary had won, we would have ground troops in Syria and possibly Burma too.

      1. Every war the US has been in was started and/or escalated by progressives, Woodrow Wilson and World War I in 1917 through Barack Obama and Libya, Syria, Iraq again starting in 2011.
        And the motivation is always the same: war and destruction of nations is necessary to bring on and further international government of Global Socialism.

  5. We’ve got “limited government” conservatives championing government control of the economy through tariffs

    Tariffs are government control of the economy. Give me a fucking break. I sometimes think reason is secretly on Trump’s payroll and is a false flag operation to make the free trade and pro immigration side look like complete fucking clowns. That is almost certainly not true but as a famous woman once said, “what difference does it make”.

    1. What are tariffs then, if not government control of the economy? It’s pure protectionism. Go ahead and argue in favor of them if you want, but at least be honest about what policies you’re supporting.

      1. Exactly. Even Trump boasts that the point of his tariffs is to achieve an economic outcome that wouldn’t otherwise occur. If that isn’t explicit acknowledgement that he is trying to control aspects of the economy, then what is?

        Many are the first to demand that Reason stop reflexively bashing statements merely because of Trump. But this is a perfect example of someone reflexively bashing a statement merely because of not-trump.

        1. Might it not be better that the U.S. control its economy rather than China?

          1. Obviously I would prefer neither. But to the extent that China is going to control China’s economy, I would much rather the US let its citizens do what they want. If they want to go to a country where their IP is stolen and their capital easily confiscated, fine. If they want to buy goods at a cheaper rate, then fine. That is miles better than taxing americans and making their goods and services more expensive.

            1. Depends on your perspective, I guess.

      2. What are income and payroll taxes, if not internal tariffs on productivity/labor?
        Free market my ass – government policy stacks the deck to favor foreign production

        1. The correct response to that is to withdraw the taxes, not to impose tariffs in a doomed attempt at somehow canceling out the effects of the taxes. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          1. I’ve read your argument, and I’ve read Adam Smith’s.

            Your’s doesn’t fare so well.

      3. Government control of the economy?

        I haven’t noticed the tariffs at all. Also, I have freedom of choice regarding when and where to spend my money. As an individual. Not a collective victim.

  6. >>>”leaders in this country from both political parties looking around the world and picking and choosing which bad dictator they want to overthrow.”

    Tulsi fails to understand Establishment … wants to be in charge of Establishment yikes.

  7. As Politics Get Shaken Up, a Peace Coalition Emerges
    I wish I could be more hopeful but I distinctly remember a time when we all collectively learned the lesson of Viet Nam. In theory the U.S. would never again engage in wars where there was no real threat to us. Instead we got a high tech professional military and sanitized news coverage from a compliant media. The dominoes will surely fall on us if we don’t drop bombs on Yugoslavia or drone wedding parties in Yemen. If HRC were president I have no doubt we’d be in another war by now and public support would be well over 80% as long as she didn’t start drafting college kids. Trump, while far from perfect, does not seem to share Hilary’s raging erection for war. And aside from Tulsi none of the Democrats seems to have any interest. As long as we have free college and reparations who gives a shit. I may be proven wrong but at this point our best hope for peace seems to be another 4 years of Trump.

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