What Do We Owe to People Whose Countries We Have Broken?

The case for offering victims of our foreign policy a chance to get out and start over.


"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all." According to legend, Secretary of State Colin Powell offered that pithy thought to George W. Bush in 2002 as they contemplated invading Iraq. As The Washington Post's Bob Woodward later wrote: "Powell…called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it."

Setting aside the wildly problematic idea of "owning" 25 million people, subsequent events in the region have demonstrated that Powell was onto something. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the post-9/11 invasions were followed by yearslong slogs. The citizens of both countries have been made meaningfully worse off by ongoing American military meddling—assuming they survived at all.

We don't "own" the people in the nations we have upended, but it's worth asking what we owe them.

What if the best way to discharge our debt to the victims of our foreign policy is to offer them a chance to get out and start over? The idea is not without precedent in American immigration policy.

The most modest form of this is the special rule that allows civilians who might be persecuted for assisting U.S. armed forces abroad to seek refuge here. That process is cumbersome and frequently requires high-level intervention, as Joe Coon described in our November 2017 issue, recounting his efforts to get his Iraqi interpreter out of the country. But it is an option. And its very existence shows that our lawmakers already implicitly acknowledge the moral obligations we're incurring with our foreign adventurism.

On a larger scale, we can look to the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975, a response to the chaos in Southeast Asia as the Vietnam War wound down. In the immediate aftermath of the war's end, more than 130,000 Vietnamese who had worked with American or South Vietnamese forces were evacuated to the United States. But the region continued to fall apart after that, resulting in the eventual resettlement of hundreds of thousands of "boat people" and others in the U.S. throughout the 1980s.

Unsurprisingly, this effort was controversial. It left many in refugee-camp limbo, sometimes for years. But again, underpinning the effort was the recognition that the U.S. had in some sense broken Vietnam—and had made the lives of those who collaborated with U.S. forces there especially untenable.

This treatment stands in contrast to Washington's more recent relations with the Kurds. This transnational population has been screwed over with special zeal by U.S. foreign policy, arguably going back to World War I. American leaders have repeatedly broken promises and left the Kurds to the mercies of more-powerful neighboring populations, most recently when Donald Trump exposed the Kurdish people to Turkey's reprisals. Kurds who have come to the U.S. have made a good life here, including the robust Iraqi Kurdish population in Nashville that Reason profiled in October 2017, but no such offer was made this autumn to the people who had been fighting ISIS and other Islamic militants alongside American forces.

These decisions to open our doors or slam them shut were highly political, and they were made at moments of crisis—albeit totally foreseeable and predictable crisis. In fact, until 1980, refugee populations were allowed in under presidential parole power. Even today, presidents typically behave as though they are responsible for and have wide latitude in such matters. Under President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. adopted a more formal understanding of what makes someone a refugee, but such strictures typically only last until the next crisis.

It is long past time to flip the script on legal immigration in the United States to a dramatically expanded system like the one described in James Stacey Taylor's "There Is No Line" (page 24). But even if we assume a system of continued artificial visa scarcity, people who wish to emigrate from nations we have broken have a unique claim on some of those slots.

If we could figure out how to make the Pottery Barn rule function in a more predictable and intentional way, it could create a virtuous cycle.

Many of those who favor a more aggressive foreign policy are also immigration restrictionists, a pairing most often found within the GOP. Why not yoke together some natural consequences? Automatically higher quotas for people from the nations where we have intervened would provide a useful reminder that we'd better not pick a fight unless we're sure it will make people better off or unless we're willing to welcome thousands or even millions of additional immigrants to our shores.

A possible corollary to the Pottery Barn rule is something voiced by 2020 hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii): "Before sending our men and women into harm's way, we're not hearing about what is the problem that we're trying to solve, and what is the clear, achievable goal that we're sending them to do?" she told Reason's John Stossel (page 44). "Without that, we end up with the result that we have, where we have troops who are deployed in these other countries without a real understanding of what they're there to accomplish, and at what point they've accomplished that and then can come home."

Let's call this the Target rule: If you absolutely must go in, you need a game plan. Otherwise, after spending much more time and money than you expected, you'll probably end up leaving without what you came for in the first place.

Realistically, it's probably too much to ask our policy makers and beribboned generals to become principled noninterventionists or even that they practice the most basic levels of humility. And that means the question of what to do once we've made the inevitable mess abroad isn't going away.

Since formal declarations of war duly approved by Congress are now considered a quaint anachronism, determining who would be eligible for whatever special treatment we decided on would be tricky. And people from many countries are suffering not as a result of a formal military incursion but simply as a consequence of the United States' global leadership in the brutal and pointless war on drugs.

The caravan that came to our southern border and dominated headlines for months was composed largely of people who hailed from such countries—places where violence is generated largely by the prohibition on cocaine. The long-term solution to this is clear: end the war on drugs. But in the short term, accommodations might be in order for people whose homelands are no longer hospitable thanks to Americans' hypocrisy about chemical pleasure.

Our immigration policy—and especially our policy for those seeking refuge—has moved the wrong direction in recent years, with lower quotas, metastasizing bureaucracies, and cruel enforcement. But our foreign policy has been even worse. We are standing in Pottery Barn smashing vase after vase while promising to make a beautiful new fruit bowl with the pieces.

During a 2004 presidential debate, Sen. John Kerry amended the Pottery Barn rule to "if you break it, you fix it." But as anyone who has ever knocked over mom's favorite lamp knows, sometimes it's best to 'fess up and make amends in other ways instead of trying to fix something fragile and complex that you don't really understand.

For many of the millions of people whose lives have been shattered by Washington's meddlesome foreign policy, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations change when their countries explode around them. They begin to think about a new life, perhaps across the ocean or north of the Rio Grande. We owe it to them to make that a possibility.

NEXT: Brickbat: Drink Up

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  1. The reparations crowd always ignores that accounting includes credits and debits.

    What does the world owe America for protecting it from the rule of imperial fascism and Marxism?


    I’ll take mine in gold or bitcoin.

    1. “What does the world owe America for protecting it from the rule of imperial fascism and Marxism?”

      The problem with this statement is does it really define what we are doing abroad. In many cases we appear to remove one authoritarian leader or group for a different one.

      1. So you’re saying there is no change no no reparations needed.

      2. Did or did not the US do that?

    2. Let me assure you where your arrogant stupidity leads.

      To four planes flying into skyscrapers in the US. Only wish you had been in one of those so you could received your payment and your thank you.

      1. JFree with the most arrogant and stupid thing written on the internet today

        1. Here’s the ‘last tweet and testament’ of the Saudi guy who shot people at Pensacola a few days ago. Chances are you won’t read that (or have his previous tweet activity translated to get inside his head) for comprehension. You are incapable of that. Just like you types didn’t try to understand AlQaeda’s fatwa before 9/11 when they declared war on the US and all Americans.

          As long as some pol gives you a handjob about how wonderful America is, you really have no interest whatsoever in holding any of those pols accountable for anything. You couldn’t find our troop locations and who they are fighting there on a globe. But hey – rest assured, they’re fighting fascism, marxism, bagism, shagism, ragheads, wogs, Eastasia, the Sith Lords, AND Satan hisself.

          Payment incoming.

          1. You believe the ranting of crazy people, then expect people to take you seriously.

            1. Tulpa tulpa tulpa – stole someone’s else’s sock again cuz you’re too chickenshit to make your own points?

              1. Awww you crying cuz I pointed out what everyone thinks about you???

          2. You’re a fucking moron, jfree.
            You bring up interesting and legitimate points sometimes, but your so emotionally invested in your own bullshit narrative that you respond with idiotic rants no matter the applicability or the poster.
            Yes, the US protects/ed the world from many threats.
            Yes, the US presents/ed the world with many threats.
            No, admitting one point doesn’t negate the other.
            Should the US meddle everywhere it has and is meddling? No.
            Will terrorist Islamism magically stop targeting the US if the US stops meddling and goes on an apology tour around the world? No.
            Does the US deserve appreciation as well as criticism for its global operations? Yes.
            Recognizing these truths is not politician-dick sucking.
            Get the fuck over yourself and playing the leftist “America sucks and makes people evil” bullshit narrative, and maybe you can contribute to an adult conversation

            1. Sorry bud you’re the one who can’t see outside your stupid little partisan pigeonhole. You are either a Nam-era boomer or you bought their forever-repetition of some 60’s culture war between ‘left’ and ‘right’. Makes you at best a fucking dinosaur by this point 50 years later.

              You don’t have to believe ‘we owe them’ anything. I don’t. We owe OURSELVES a foreign policy that exhibits just a modicum of even half-wittedness and semi-honesty. Something that is a bit more complex than ‘me perfect you all suck’. And turns out the side-effect of ‘we owe ourselves better’ is that we also deliver better results for them. THAT is what prevents a ton of blowback and problems by either our actions or our inactions – our interventions OR our non-interventions.

              But when you asswipes can’t even bring yourselves to exhibit half-wittedness yourselves – and instead go full-retard into defending tired old pol-created agitprop, then you make it impossible for the US to ever move up the ladder to even half-wittedness.

              It isn’t really that America sucks. Not at all. It’s that YOU and your rocksnot ilk do.

              1. And your dumb ass still misses the point.
                Enjoy yelling at clouds, old man
                (I was stunned the time when you revealed you’re in your 50s, as you have the emotional maturity of a 5 year old)

          3. Jfree is a counter tribalist who hates America, and decent American values. He’s with the terrorists.

      2. Note that you didn’t respond by challenging me on the facts.

        You just vented your hatred.

    3. This is a classic White Savior article.

      The brown people in the various countries mentioned had no agency whatsoever to determine their own fate. They had no skills, no abilities, no skin in the game.

      Their entire fate was dependent upon the White Saviors. And the White Saviors screwed up, like they usually do. So the rest of America must now pay for the White Saviors.

      1. Yup. Lefty ideology has a lot of helplessness, dependence and guilt woven through all of their narratives. It’s what they do,

      2. They dont teach about the concept of the white man’s burden in schools anymore. why it repeats.

      3. Care to ask the people of South Korea what they think about your “White Savior” bs? Same outcome was possible for South Vietnam if Democrat politicians hadn’t sold out to the leftist screed of the day.

    4. How about we stay out of other countries and quit spending our lives and treasure trying to convert them to democracies? Presto! No payback needed.

      1. The US will largely be withdrawing from the world.

        Thanks to the support for fracking from Republicans, the US is now energy independent. The US is food independent. We’re the least import dependent of major economies, and half of that is with Mexico and Canada.

        From both import policy and low energy costs, manufacturing is booming in the US, and will boom in Mexico too, as our natural gas pipelines come online there and we continue to shift our low skill manufacturing sourcing there.

        There’s little reason for the US to care if the Middle East burns. Or the rest of the world, for that matter. We’ll join the energy exporting world in *benefiting* from Middle East chaos.

        The main thing to avoid is having the Neocons and other pro Chinese globalists drive Russian weapons into the hands of the Chinese.

        Many around the world hate America for “imposing” Pax Americana. We’ll soon get to see how they feel when the US withdraws it.


        1. Indeed. How would Iraq have fared if Saddam had been left on charge over the last 17 years? At some point he would likely have died and the dictatorship would have passed to his even more vicious pups. And the Taliban were clearly benevolent rulers of Afghanistan. So much better off with them in charge.

  2. Ms. Ward, I don’t see where we owe anyone anything.

    I will say that Congresswoman Gabbard is right about articulating a clear goal, and staying away from regime change wars of choice.

    1. Even those who fought on our sides up until we withdrew leaving them to be slaughtered? The Kurds are a good example of that, but for Trumps last minute comment otherwise I’d expected Turkey to have a final solution to their Kurdish problem.

      What about our translators in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Syria and Lebanon and …..)? They and their families are only in danger because they helped us.

      Don’t we owe it to them, even if purely out to self interest to have more of them the next time they’re needed? If we always screw the “American collaborators” when we only engage in partial regime change pretty soon there won’t be any more American collaborators. And I really liked the guys that helped me – I’d take any number, and their families, into my home. And I’d bet just about everyone I served with would say the same.

      1. The Kurds, at least were fighting for their own state long before the US ever noticed them. We supplied them with a no-fly zone during the last part of Saddam’s rule, and with arms and training recently. That said, we didn’t start anything, and it will go on long after we leave. It is important to remember that the largest semi-military group among them are Communists.

        1. Most of the current set of kurd sympathizers knew nothing about then until they were told to be angry.

          1. Specifically, angry at Trump.

        2. You didn’t really read the article, did you. We’ve been screwing the Kurds since World War 1. The abuses go much further back than the no-fly zone and yes, we did kind of start it.

          If you want to learn more about that time in history, I recommend “A Peace to End All Peace” by David Fromkin.

          1. The people who screwed the Kurds since World War 1 can certainly take care of them.

            1. It’s a moronic assertion anyway the US was a backwater in WW1 and we hardly did anything.

          2. If by us, you mean the UK and France, then there might be a sort of shared Western culture guilt. The US stayed out of the discussions around the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. No US protectorates in the area might be a clue of our lack of direct involvement.
            Or, do you mean we are at fault because we did not get involved? That we should have been nation building?

            1. re: “The US stayed out of the discussions around the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.”

              Yeah, not so much. I will concede that in a measure of comparative guilt, our hands are less bloody than the UK, France and even Germany or Russia. But they are not clean. The US may have been a backwater at the start of WW1 but we were an acknowledged world-power by the end of it. And Wilson’s meddling was … significant.

              To JFree’s comment below, though – yeah, a better editor to that book would have been really helpful.

              1. The US was hardly a backwater. It was an economic powerhouse at the beginning of the 20th Century that simply lacked one thing the other “great powers” had–a large standing army and massive military reserves. That was solved rather quickly once we got involved in the war, and the sheer, rapid buildup that took place between the declaration of war and actually fielding combat units is evidence of how economically and technologically advanced we were at the time.

          3. That’s a good book. But damn the guy needed an editor and a ghost writer.

            1. Except you live by the rantings of crazy people so your opinion is a joke.

              1. You’re the one apparently letting me live rent-free in your head. So I guess joke’s on you eh?

      2. I think the Kurds are a non-example of a Turkish slaughter, Beckman. WRT the Kurds, our interests aligned for a period of time. Ok fine. Their interests, and ours changed. That aside, we owe the Kurds what? What thing of value do we owe them?

        That is the problem I have with this sappy-headed bullshit from Mangu-Ward. Owe? No, I don’t think so. Maybe she needs to tell Readership what she thinks we owe.

        1. Invoking ‘muh Kurds!’ is just a more creative way of saying, ‘Trump is incompetent!’

          I laugh every single time whenever they’re mentioned as if it all began in 2016.

      3. There are three distinct groups of Kurds. Two of them are worth supporting. The third group is a Marxist terrorist group. We made a temporary battlefield alliance with this group to defeat ISIS, but we owe them nothing. If anything, they owe us for helping them to defeat the mutual enemy.

        But the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

        Learn about the complexities of the Middle East before you sign us up for fighting more wars there.

      4. The US was the world’s policeman, saving everyone from fascist and communist totalitarianism. It’s a debt to the US the world will never repay.

        And much of the world hates us for it.

        People in the world are not in danger because of helping the US. They’re in danger because the world is a dangerous place, and will grow increasingly dangerous as the US withdraws Pax Americana.

        We don’t owe them. They owe us. And we’re cutting off their tab.


      5. “Even those who fought on our sides”

        They fought on *their* side.

    2. Afghanistan is an opium farm Russia wanted for sales to China and England sought to block as a threat to Raj opium prices. Many recent maneuverings have been struggles between religious fascism and godless communism using some drug markets to fund violence in ways that cannot be audited. The USA was just such a place from 1919 to 1934, when local superstition made a crime–not of violence–but of trade and production. But Roosevelt and Taft initiated the meddling by exporting prohibitionism to “protect” China and the Philippine Islands. LOOK at the murderers running both those places today!

  3. Bomb the world then import the survivors. It’s official. Reason has rounded the Neocon bend.

    1. #InvadeThemAllInviteThemAll

      1. Imagine how pro war Reason would become if the promise was open borders for the victims.

    2. Pretty sure the article is not saying that. It’s saying since we already bombed the world, we might have some responsibility to clean it up.

      1. Many of these regions they were already bombing themselves. Do they also get to help clean it up?

      2. And that by having a policy of responsibility, we might disincent some of the bombing.

        1. Bombing them and then offering them the opportunity to colonize the US is not responsible, it’s exploitative

    3. Liberals and democrats have the ethos that more money solves everything. a certain naive set of libertarians (generally located in liberal urban centers) believe open borders solves all.

    4. That does summarize the article. But the LP position since 1972 has been to NOT bomb the world. Remember National Socialism? Christian Socialist Europe had the GOP eating out of its hand until 1939. Then in May 1945 Denazification called for arresting NSDAP kingpins for trial and hanging. There is nothing wrong with handing GOP and DEM kleptocracy war criminals over to the People’s States for trial, the way Eichmann was tried in Jerusalem. I who have voted against them for 39 years disavow all liability.

  4. What do we owe to the people in the countries we choose not to invade – Venezuela – and they fall into despair?

    The same…..NOTHING.

    We OWE them nothing. If we choose to help, that’s our choice. The US government is not a charity despite the attempts of many to make it one.

    In this Trump ie right: America first. Our government only owes anything to its citizens.

      1. …of the people, by the people, for the people…


        1. I don’t really know what it’s for, but it’s certainly only of some people and by some people.


          1. Neither of your comments addresses anything .

    1. And when your “help” makes it worse? Do you still think you owe them nothing?

      Are you seriously arguing that we owe nothing even to the interpreters who served side-by-side with us in the field?

      1. Nothing.

      2. I’m an interpreter, and if I chose to help fascists murder communists or mohammedans murder other mystics or vice-versa, does that somehow give me a pass? One of the most obvious features of any altruist mixed economy is that it is guaranteed to be at least complicit in the initiation of deadly force. Perps can quibble over who started it and who Jesus is rooting for, but looters decided that violent aggression is The Way with no help or sympathy from me.

      3. Who is “we”?

    2. ‘My offer is nothing’.

      Michael Corleone to Senator Geary.

    3. PERFECTLY put…

      1) A Foreign country threatens us – we eliminate that threat… What do we “owe” them for threatening us?
      2) A Foreign country “begs” us for help – we help them… What do we “owe” them for “helping”?

      NOTHING…. It is rather humorous how “helping” someone could end up being “owing” them.. Must be that new moral rule that says if you ever “help” anyone you’ll now be held responsible for helping them for life.

      Only in a world where the USA is not in a war to “help” others or “protect” themselves would such a wild MISTAKE even render the idea of “owing”.

      1. “The minuscule European Duchy of Grand Fenwick is bankrupted when an American company comes up with a cheaper imitation of Fenwick’s sole export, its fabled Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. Crafty Prime Minister Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) devises a plan: Grand Fenwick will declare war on the United States, then surrender, taking advantage of American largesse toward its defeated enemies to rebuild the defeated nation’s economy. Duchess Gloriana (also Sellers) is hesitant but agrees to the plan. Mild-mannered game warden Tully Bascomb (also Sellers) is charged as Field Marshal to lead the Grand Fenwick troops, aided by Sergeant Will Buckley (William Hartnell).”


  5. Excellent article. Letting the victims of US foreign policy come here is the least we can do.

      1. Define victim. Are those we tried and failed to help victims of us, or of someone else? If we had fought Hitler and failed to free Europe, would the French or Jews be victims of the US? The Taliban were killing people in Afghanistan before we were involved, and will continue to do so after we leave, be it next year or a decade from now.

        1. Clearly, Iraqis and Libyan are victims of American foreign policy at least, since those countries were attacked unprovoked.

          1. Iraq was unprovoked? They kind of invaded a country. Then while in a cease fire continually violated the terms.

            Libya you have a better argument. But then it goes back to the point above, if we let Assad just chem bomb them, are those deaths now the result of foreign policy by the US?

            See the slippery slope yet?

            1. They kind of invaded a country.

              The original Gulf War? Yeah, but it was also not our country.
              The second war? What terms did they violate? And were those terms justly applied? I would say not, since the US had no justification to invade and force “cease fire terms” on them in the first place.

              But then it goes back to the point above, if we let Assad just chem bomb them, are those deaths now the result of foreign policy by the US?

              I guess I’d say here that there’s a difference between doing something and not doing something (beyond the obvious). It isn’t our responsibility to fix the rest of the world; if bad stuff happens because we didn’t stop it, that’s not our fault, just like the burglars in your city aren’t your fault because you failed to try to stop them.

              In any case I don’t support reparations for other reasons (such as that it takes money away from innocent people (most Americans, who had nothing to do with this). My point is more along the lines of having a more non-interventionist foreign policy.

              1. “What terms did they violate?”


                1. I ask because of the following question in my post–were those terms justly applied? Sure, they were terms of a “cease fire” from a conflict that the US was never justly involved in.

                  1. We all saw you move those goalposts.

              2. “”US had no justification to invade and force “cease fire terms” on them in the first place.””

                I wasn’t a fan of the US restarting combat operations on our own. But people seem to forget we were spending a fair amount of effort enforcing a no fly zone. Bill Clinton was dropping bombs in Iraq. How long did we plan to keep that going? Doing what was necessary to end that was needed. Should we have just walked away?

                1. Should we have just walked away?

                  Yes, that’s more or less what I am suggesting. Stop bombing people who aren’t attacking you.

              3. I honestly cant take you seriously if you cant be bothered to look up the vast multitude of conditions Iraq violated

              4. These States loaned money to the belligerents in WWI–on credit! When Germany successfully exported communism to Russia (already susceptible before the Russo-Jap War), the revolution left the Federal Reserve Banks looking like Irish bookies who had given long odds Trump would lose. A way was found to join that war in order to collect principal and interest on those loans. Arguably the war resulted from TR and Taft using the Hague to foist opium prohibition on the world, a plot foiled by a communist anarchist dupe in Servia, an opium exporter at the time. Talk about entanglements!

                1. The February Revolt didn’t result in the Communist taking control, it did lead to the abdication of the Tsar but left a dual form of government in place with aristocrats from the Durma controlling administration and socialist controlling the people. This government continued to fight the Germans. The US declared war in April of 1917. The Communist didn’t gain sole power until October of 1917.

          2. Reason 100% supported intervention in Libya, as they do in Syria. So…

            1. Well, I don’t work for Reason, so I guess you’ll have to ask someone else. I can only represent my own opinions.

              1. Shut the fuck up Mike.

        2. Victims are those people who we enlisted to support our efforts. We enlisted the Kurds to help with the war on ISIS and have now abandon them. Do we need to help everyone in a country we are involved in no. We have an obligation to those who assisted us. Especially soldiers, translators, and others that directly help our effort and might now be targeted for retaliation. These people and their families should get a front spot in the immigration line.

          1. So you’re so clueless that you think the people who joined with the US didn’t have their own motivations and benefits for doing so? Pretty ignorant.

            1. Unbelievable ignorance.
              Better question: what do the Kurds owe the US for our help in fighting their enemy?

              1. That’s why the idea is alien.

                What is the US owed? Even asking it is fanciful because the US is never getting repaid under any circumstances. “What does the US owe?” Should be, and in fact is, similarly fanciful.

                1. A is attacked by B
                  C is attacked by B
                  A and C have a common enemy
                  A and C do not have common interests other than defeating B

                  1. Doesn’t matter who did what when. Nations don’t “owe” each other.

          2. Who is this “we” you keep referring to?

    1. Step 2 blame every foreign failure on US policy.

    2. eyeroller
      December.9.2019 at 7:39 am
      Excellent article. Letting the victims of US foreign policy come here is the least we can do.

      December.9.2019 at 7:48 am
      So I guess you’ll be offering up your homes to al Qaeda and IS members?

    3. So how many of them would you be taking in?

    4. How many spare bedrooms do you have to house these victims?

      Oh, you mean, other people will have to house them?

    1. Yeah, as a libertarian I had real trouble parsing the first-person plurals.

    2. Exactly right. But if there’s any “we” then why isn’t the obligation to “we”? Why would “we” be obligated to others? If there’s a “we” what happened to being loyal to “we”?

      If there’s no loyalty to “we”, then there’s certainly no “we”.

      1. But if there’s any “we” then why isn’t the obligation to “we”?

        I didn’t invade or bomb any countries. Did you?

        If there’s a “we” what happened to being loyal to “we”?

        When it comes to invading and bombing countries, unless you are part of the US government, then you are not part of the “we” that did. If you are, then you go be loyal to “we” all you like, but leave me out of it.

        1. Nations interact in a few different ways. War is one. Peace is another. None of these interactions creates any sort of formal or enforceable obligation from one nation to the other.

  6. “Since formal declarations of war duly approved by Congress are now considered a quaint anachronism”

    Tomato, tomahto.

    Agree or disagree with the rationale or mission, at least the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were preceded by Congressional votes on Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

    In an age were janitors are “custodial engineers”, a Congressional AUMF is pretty much a Congressional declaration of war.

    1. Agreed.

      I’d prefer an equilibrium where we used formal declarations of war (like: a certified and beribboned letter saying “we declare war!”) before meddling (and even better – no meddling), but the AUMF (and descendants) was pretty clearly under Congressional War Powers (and as such, needed no Presidential signature, but since it was also enabling legislation that part did).

      1. Armed meddling is a dodge for sending youngsters to their deaths with little chance of gamma-rays rendering Congressional lard into expensive leather upholstery. Though the LP made the looters move it to the back burner, the Selective Service Act is unrepealed and ready to again violate the 13th Amendment at the drop of an exchange rate.

    2. That is Congress’ fault for consistently not wanting to name the baby. Even with Obama not asking for a use of force authorization, it seemed Congress would have approved of one but did not want to be asked for even that.

  7. The saying is typically, “You break it, you bought it.” Is Woodward quoting Powell warmly and accurately?

  8. Stealing from one group (the american taxpayer) to pay off another will only convince the state that there are really no costs to itself

    1. How can there ever be costs to the state, absent heads rolling?

      1. I like where you’re going with this one….

  9. I would amend that to “you break it, you marry it.”

  10. “Without that, we end up with the result that we have, where we have troops who are deployed in these other countries without a real understanding of what they’re there to accomplish, and at what point they’ve accomplished that and then can come home.”

    That’s sort of thing is true of most government programs and agencies – what are the goals, how do we know whether the goals are being reached, when can we declare victory and go home? There has to be a point where making things better has to give way to making things good enough. (I’m looking at you, EPA.)

    1. Goal is generally to increase the size of government.

  11. We don’t “own” the people in the nations we have upended, but it’s worth asking what we owe them.

    Have you asked Great Caesar’s Ghost?

  12. Sorry, but I haven’t broken anyone’s country. Ms. Mangu-Ward and the other people who’ve broken countries (the “we” that are guilty), can all chip in to help fix them.

    1. I disagree. You’re a monster and probably Hitler.

  13. “What Do We Owe to People Whose Countries We Have Broken?”

    One of the problems with this outlook is that it’s the same outlook that gets us into foreign adventures in the first place.

    If we weren’t so concerned about helping the people of South Vietnam, the people of Vietnam would have suffered far less than they did.

    If we weren’t so concerned about helping the people of Iraq, the people of Iraq would have suffered far less than they did.

    The best thing we can do for other countries is to think of ourselves first.

    Vietnam was not in the best interests of the United States. The Iraq War was not in the best interests of the United States. Putting American troops on the ground in Syria was not in the best interests of the United States–and yet there were those here at Reason who were decrying Trump’s attempt to withdraw troops from Syria because of our so called “obligation” to help the Kurds?

    We could have avoided and have avoided all sorts of wars–by thinking about ourselves and our own interests instead of being susceptible to arguments that we’re obligated to help oppressed people all over the world. In fact, elitists telling us what we’re obligated to do for others is the sun and water that makes populism grow. Centering policy on the best interests of Americans–despite what the elitists say–is the antidote to all forms of populism.

    If you want to help the poor people of the world, there is hardly anything better you could do than use your influence to persuade your fellow Americans to think about their own interests rather than those of the oppressed people of the world. Perhaps the only thing better would be to encourage your readers to support politicians that focus policy on the best interests of the United States–rather than the oppressed people of the world. Telling your fellow Americans that our decisions on immigration, war, or anything else should be a function of our “obligation” to help others is the opposite of that. Get your priorities straight.

    1. Reason has traded their reasoning and logic ability to whoredom.

      1. “Reason is a social construct of the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy used to oppress marginalized peoples”

    2. On any given Sunday, half the pulpits in America are demanding Christians restrain the evil that encompasses much of the world’s nations. And the other half are decrying the fact that our leaders don’t promote peace. Give a few months or years and those pulpits have each reversed course when they see the consequences. God, of course, apparently continues to turn his back on the whole earthly situation.

      1. The Greeks had the right idea
        The Trojan War as nothing but entertainment for the Olympians

      2. “The Kingdom of God is within you”.

        —-Luke 17:21

        But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

        —-Matthew 5:44-48

        It seems to me that God’s influence is in our individual choices, and I don’t see anything in there that condones dropping bombs on the wicked. How can they justify using Christianity to drop bombs on wicked politicians? We can’t just sit back and do nothing? God watched his own son die on the cross, and he didn’t lift a finger to save him.

        If you don’t want there to be a holocaust, choose not to follow orders. Resist however you can. If you don’t want there to be a war, don’t support one. God isn’t responsible for the choices I make, and the choices of politicians don’t morally obligate me to do anything either. Because I’m responsible for the choices I make, and it’s my choices that make me morally obligated. This is one of the essential reasons why we should all be free to make choices for ourselves.

        1. Diane 1:1-1

          Mind ye business and bugger off.

  14. How responsible are the people of those countries for their policies that our p ok policies were interacting with? US foreign policy does not happen in a vacuum. How much are the sovereign people of, say, Iraq responsible for the policies of Saddam Hussein?

    1. We might also ask, too, how do these collective obligations arise Because some politicians did something I opposed, I’m not obligated to do anything.

      Are talking about a collective obligation–like collective guilt?

      The people who were responsible for the holocaust were the individuals who orchestrates, perpetrated, and tolerated it. Their orchestration, perpetration, and toleration of the holocaust in no way indicts those who undermined, fought against, and denounced the holocaust–regardless of their nationality. Eichmann claimed he had no personal responsibility for perpetrating the holocaust on his victims because he was just following orders. The idea every American is obligated to remedy the evil perpetrated by our leaders is the flip side of the same argument–like Eichmann trying to deflect responsibility for his actions on the rest of the German people collectively. That’s bullshit.

      Each of us are responsible for the choices we make individually.

      1. //Are talking about a collective obligation–like collective guilt?//

        That is exactly what Reason seems to be endorsing.

        //The idea every American is obligated to remedy the evil perpetrated by our leaders is the flip side of the same argument–like Eichmann trying to deflect responsibility for his actions on the rest of the German people collectively. That’s bullshit.

        Each of us are responsible for the choices we make individually.//

        Open borders as a collective, guilt based policy. As individuals, we have no right to object to open borders. As a collective, we owe it to the world to open our borders.

        Open borders is always the end goal; the constant in an ocean of uncertainty.

        1. I support an open borders treaty with Mexico, to be ratified by the Senate in accordance with our Constitution, that would allow Mexican citizens to come here as easily as we can travel to Mexico.

          I want that treaty to establish restrictions on things like qualifying for government programs, etc., and that treaty should be predicated on Mexico establishing an ID system so that we can independently reject Mexican citizens who are convicted felons, haven’t been immunized against certain diseases, etc.

          I see such a treaty as being in the best interests of the United States, and I intend to continue to try to persuade my fellow Americans to support such a treaty–because it’s in their best interests to do so.

          I oppose any attempt to inflict an open borders policy on the American people over their objections, against their will, and without the full strength of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate voting for it and an American President that is willing to negotiate it and sign it.

          1. //I oppose any attempt to inflict an open borders policy on the American people over their objections, against their will, and without the full strength of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate voting for it and an American President that is willing to negotiate it and sign it.//

            And that is sensible. Of course, the treaty which you are proposing would never be broadly supported in Congress as it would, by its terms, eliminate the influx of illegal immigrants ripe for exploitation. For the business donor class, the illegality is a feature, not a bug.

            1. I didn’t think we’d ever see recreational marijuana legalized, not with all the vested government interests in keeping the drug war rolling.

              Persuade one person at a time. Dictators are scared to death of what their people are saying to each other–as well they should be.

              1. Marijuana legalization carries the promise of creating a profitable new industry, which is why support for it is growing across the board. Legalizing immigration would, broadly speaking, reduce profits since legal workers and laborers would have to be paid legal wages. Low wages can only be guaranteed by an influx of illegal immigrants.

        2. You enjoy the downstream fruits of America’s vast wealth and privilege, therefore you are complicit in its hegemony.

      2. “Are talking about a collective obligation – like collective guilt?”

        Of course. Race, global warming, income inequality, homelessness, are all appeals to a collective guilt.

        Next thing ya know, some guy who calls himself a “radical individualist” will come along to tell us all that this collective guilt is right and proper, and financial reparations are appropriate.


  15. The next phase of Reason’s open borders push. First, we owe it to the illiterate farm hands and laborers of Latin America to open our doors. Second, we owe it to the people of every failed state to open our doors. Third, we owe it to Koch Industries to ensure a never ending supply of cheap labor.

    Never stop Reason. Never stop.

    1. It occurred to me that what Somalia and other troubled African nations could use to improve their lot is a massive influx of Swedes, Frenchmen and Texans.

      1. Now THAT’S colonialism.

  16. Colonialism is still colonialism when it goes the opposite direction.
    Reason Magazine: fuck America(ns), progress uber alles

    1. Sure, but it’s colonialism tinted with the sweet scent of revenge; a cosmic comeuppance centuries in the making. Therefore, it is benign, beneficent, beneficial, and we should all be behind it. Cheap, exploitable labor has nothing at all to with it.

  17. Let’s destroy our country because our ancestors destroyed yours. Impeccable logic from the mental gymnasts at Reason. I’ll be expecting a pro-slavery reparations article soon. Oh, and how we should be able to sue gun manufacturers and big pharma and everyone when something tangentially related to us goes wrong.

  18. If you can find a way to make amends with these countries in a way that impacts *only* those who were in power at the time these countries were screwed over then go for it.

    If you feel private citizens should be footing any part of the bill? Then my answer is “we owe them nothing”.

    1. Oh and if those who were in power when a country was screwed over are all dead by now? Oh well, nothing for you.

    2. Yep. What do they mean, “our foreign policy”? These people should be solely the financial responsibility of the members of Congress, the Executive branch, and the war industry who created their problems.

  19. France got into this existential phase with Algeria.

    Quite a bit of colonial guilt went into allowing them into the country.

    I don’t know if connected but now the country has something like 40 Sharia Law courts.

    Stick a fork in France. They’re done.

    1. Meanwhile, the French welfare state is slowly, but steadily, collapsing under its own weight.


  20. Nations don’t transact that way. People transact that way in a society. Nations don’t form together into societies, in general. So nations aren’t governed by rules or norms designed to bring order to society.

    Sorry if this is confusing or emotionally unsatisfying. But it’s not about your feelings, it just is.

    Most of the rest of these posts will be about some historical event or another and someone’s emotional reaction to it. But at all points in history, nations always had all options open to them depending on their power. Their choices were never circumscribed by anything other than the limits of their power and their willingness to use it. No other limit exists.

    So the concept of something “owed” makes no sense. It’s a brand of national disloyalty unless intended to make your own nation strong — and then it’s a strategic choice, not an obligation.

  21. And then make them victims of our domestic policy?

  22. But even if we assume a system of continued artificial visa scarcity, people who wish to emigrate from nations we have broken have a unique claim on some of those slots.

    I don’t think it’s visas that are scarce.

  23. We could start by honoring the treaties our ancestors made with the Indians. They were the first people broken by America and have the most justified claims to be made whole again.

    1. Negative. The locals can fend for themselves.

      1. It’s a question of owing and living up to one’s word. It’s not about fending.

    2. Some of the treaty breaking was the US government’s fault but some of it was perpatrated by the Indian tribes as well. And as for the them having the land for themselves, which tribe gets first call? The Navajo and Apache were living in Canada until the 19th century, the Comanche in Wyoming and Idaho, the Sioux in Michigan and Illinois. The Cheyenne and Ogalalla didn’t conquer the Powder River basin until 1866, when they took it away from the Crow and Shoshone (despite a treaty they agreed to that forbid them from doing exactly that). The Seminole weren’t even a tribe until the 1820s.

      1. “Some of the treaty breaking was the US government’s fault but some of it was perpatrated by the Indian tribes as well. ”

        I’d say most of it was. The US government also bears most of the responsibility for massacres, land theft and forced population transfers. The Canadian government were no slackers either, if that’s any consolation.

        “which tribe gets first call”

        Why not let the tribes work that out among themselves? I don’t really need a say in the matter.

        1. If you say most of it was you are ignorant of history. It was common place for tribes to sign treaties they had no intention to follow. For example, the Ogalalla agreed to stop raiding settlers along the Platte River and the Emmigrant trail and as soon as the army withdrew, resumed the raiding almost immediately. Many treaties were broken simply because most tribal cultures lacked a centralized government and one band did not recognize the authority of the treaty signatories as binding them. Study the Red Cloud wars for a wonderful example of how tribes viewed treaties. It wasn’t with respect or any intention of following them.
          As for most of the massacres, again this is historically inaccurate. According to most historians who have studied the issue, Indians killed more unarmed civilians then whites did in combat. Most Indian deaths were the result of disease, which little to no evidence exists were ever deliberately introduced. The one incident is from the French-Indian war and involves a British commander proposing using small pox to break a siege – however, the fort being besieged was already infected with small pox and the nature of 18th century siege warfare makes it likely that the infection of French and Indian fighters was unintentional. This is further supported by the fact that small pox was already present in the French camps before the British commander made the proposal. In fact some historians believe the French forces may have been the original reservoir for small pox because the British camp was disease free before the French and Indian forces arrived.
          And let the tribes fight it out amongst themselves? So, the ones who allied themselves with the US to avoid aggression from other tribes (e.g. the Crow) can go fly a kite?
          The Indian Wars were a terrible thing and the government’s treatment of Indians, especially after conquest, is hardly praiseworthy. But to pretend like the Indians were blameless is complete pollyandish nonsense.

          1. ” It was common place for tribes to sign treaties they had no intention to follow. ”

            It’s not common place for nations to enter treaties they had no intention to follow. The reason why we have treaties in the first place is because parties take pains to follow them at least according to the letter. If the US government owes anything to anyone, surely it’s to do right by the treaties it signed with people within its own borders.

            As for massacres, can the Indians top 300 dead, 200 of them women and children, plus numerous dogs? The US government was so pleased with this operation they awarded 20 of the participants with the congressional medal of honor.

            1. One example and try the Comanche Great Raid of 1840 and others that Buffalo Hump led. These were specifically aimed at settlers and civilians. How many settlers were killed by raids on the Emigrant trail? Or the Apache raids on Southwest settlers? Or the Sioux wars in Minnesota during the Civil War?
              As for nation’s not entering treaties, you are looking at it in a Eurocentric manner. The Indian tribes didn’t see themselves as nation’s per we, but as bands that may or may not necessarily agree to the treaties. Some bands would some would not. Also, few tribes had a strong central government that could force all the bands to follow the edicts of the treaty. You have a narrow view of a very complex subject. Which is par for the course.

              1. So the Indians can’t top wounded knee. I didn’t think so. It was a trick question. Wounded Knee is by no means the largest massacre of Indians. Some 10000 Indians were killed by non Indians in California in the decades before and especially after the gold rush.

                I can help you with your terminology. Bands are simply what Canadians call tribes. There are other differences. Not reservation but reserve, for example.

                1. Please lecture me on terminology. I grew up on a reservation and bands is not simply what the Canadians call tribes. Tribes are made up of different bands, e.g. the Sheepeaters are a band of the tribe Shoshone. Wounded Knee was a battle that the first shots were fired by Indians not the cavalry.

                  1. The Turtle Mountain band of the Ojibwa is another example. The Pens Oreille band of the Kalispell. Almost every American Indian I know will identify themselves both by their band and their tribe.

                  2. I appreciate the potted autobiography, but it has nothing to do with the treaties the US government signed then broke with the Indians. You are going well off topic here.

                2. The 10,000 number were mostly from disease not deliberate hostile actions. Keep trying.

                  1. The Spanish brought European diseases to California in the 16th century. The Indians who were killed in California at the time of the gold rush were killed in hundreds of wounded knee like incidents, though the army wasn’t involved and congress awarded no medals to the killers.

                    All this is irrelevant to the question of the treaties which the US government signed, sealed then ignored.

                3. And Wounded Knee is considered one of the worse incidents of “massacres”. It isn’t easily topped, at least not in US history (the Spaniards topped it in their conquest of Meso-America likely but we are talking about the US and Canada).

  24. wasn’t Powell the reason Iraq wasn’t “fixed” in 1991?

  25. Whoa. Is KM-W arguing that Iraq and Afghanistan WEREN’T broken before we got involved? Seriously?

    “Yeah, Afghanistan was a backwards repressive medieval society run by bloodthirsty goat-buggering warlords, but things didn’t get bad until the Marines showed up.”

    1. Things can always be made worse. Just because it wasn’t broken before doesn’t mean US intervention didn’t make it worse. Arguably Iraq become much worse–at least in the sense that the groundwork was laid for ISIS.

      1. I would argue that Iraq is at best no worse off today than it was under Saddam, and if you take his military adventurism into account, things are better overall in 2019 than they were in 2003.

        ISIS didn’t arise under Saddam because he would have imprisoned, tortured, and executed their leadership as soon as they started getting froggy. Or he would have done it anyway to keep them from getting any ideas. Not to mention he would have likely gassed their supporters like he did the Kurds.

        Your point is valid only if Iraq were a functioning liberal democracy before we got involved, not a brutal totalitarian state.

      2. So what if someone thinks it is worse?

  26. how about we simply stop all current and future bullshit and leave everyone alone?

    1. No can do. Better to keep meddling in every country in the world but allow the developing world’s population move to the developed world, no questions asked.

    2. “Cut your losses and run”?

      Probably not the worst option. But we’d have to stick to the “leave everyone alone”, otherwise it transforms into “run away from responsibility, but keep causing messes”.

  27. We may not have known what we were doing when we went in, but it sure seems we know exactly what we’re doing now that we’re there.


  28. Individual citizens are not morally responsible for the poor choices made by their leaders.
    That is just as true for Americans as it is for foreigners.

    1. “That is just as true for Americans as it is for foreigners.”

      America’s leaders are accountable to the people who vote them in. It’s the people in non-tyrannies who bear ultimate responsibility for the actions of their leaders.

      1. //America’s leaders are accountable to the people who vote them in. It’s the people in non-tyrannies who bear ultimate responsibility for the actions of their leaders.//

        This is absurd.

        1. This is representative democracy. I never claimed it wasn’t absurd.

          1. Generally, people do not openly concede that their positions are absurd.

            1. You’ve got a lot to learn, sunshine.

      2. Moral “responsibility”? Maybe. Your morals aren’t your business.

        Practical responsibility is only to your countrymen, and if not to them, then to no one at all.

        1. You’re not a Judeo-Christian I take it.

          1. I don’t believe in someone forcing his neighbors to live according to his personal interpretation of his religion.

            Be charitable with your own resources, not your neighbors’ resources.

            1. It’s a question of how to dispose of the country’s resources. The we in the question is the country, not me and my neighbor.

              1. Countries don’t own resources. Individuals do.

                1. “Countries don’t own resources. ”

                  All countries are poor countries? We’re just as broke as the poorest in the world? Is that where you want to take us?

      3. Nope. Meaningless elections for a one party (the war party) state does not equal consent.

        1. It equals responsibility. It’s the American people who are responsible for the sorry state of the body politic. Nobody else.

          1. so ALL of the German people should have been put on trial at Nuremberg?

            1. There’s a loophole for tyrannies.

    2. Not legally responsible? Sure, I’d agree to that.
      Not morally responsible? Hell no. If you want to wash your hands of what your political leaders do, go find a nice dictatorship to live in. We’re a democratic republic, our leaders are empowered to act on our behalf because we empower them, and nothing else. Ultimately, everything they do, they can only do because we chose them.

      So while we may not be legally responsible for what they do on our behalf, we most certainly are morally responsible.

      And if you don’t like that? Go find a dictator to live under or an island to live on.

  29. This is a tough one. To be sure the US should not have intervened in other nations most of the times that we have, but was it our fault that those nations had fundamental problems in the first place? Problems that predated our military intervention? I am not so sure that it was our fault. A root cause analysis is in order. The People in a given nation are ultimately responsible for the government that they end up with.

    1. The People in a given nation are ultimately responsible for the government that they end up with.

      And are the People in a given nation then also responsible for what their government does?

    2. “The people in a given nation are ultimately responsible for the government that they end up with”.

      That’s a non starter. Cannot be acknowledged. Because if a nation is a reflection of its people, then we must ignore the conditions of these nations to make the argument that a massive influx of people from these nations is a positive for us. “Don’t believe your lyin’ eyes” is apparently the message to the unenlightened.

      And if that doesn’t work, there’s always guilt.


  30. Expected a Shikha when I saw that headline.

    I haven’t broken anyone’s country. Some statist entity on the coast might have, but I didn’t.

    I owe nothing.

    1. A lot of the problems that these nations had predated US military intervention.

  31. The argument that Republicans and Democrats have no business helping “our” tinpot sumbitch dictator “friends” murder and rob their citizens is well taken. The smear by association that non-anarchist non-communists who understand the definition of government are the same as fascist Republicans bombing and invading the other half of the planet is pathetic. KMW ought to either make the case for uninspected entry by ebola jihadists driving hoof-and-mouth infected cattle into These States–or for a laissez-faire government that defends the individual rights of its own citizens. These are legally and logically distinct ideas, one bad, the other good.

  32. I love these types of narratives. They tend to lay blame in only one direction and purposely ignore any and all contrary history. It is similar to the idea that the Europeans were the only aggressors in the Indian Wars and that the tribes had occupied the same area for centuries in peace. Of course nothing can be further from the truth. For example the Navajo and Apache are Athabascan speaking people originally from Canada who migrated south in the 18th century. The Sioux were Great Lake tribes who invaded the Dakotas starting in the 18th century as well, and they (and their Cheyenne allies) didn’t conquer the Powder River basin until the 1860s (but they claim it as ancestral land, despite them having taken it from the Shoshone and Crow by conquest). The Comanche were part of the Eastern Shoshone until the 18th century and resided in Wyoming and Idaho at the time. The fact is that few American Indian tribes as we know them had occupied the land they claimed for much more then a couple of centuries and only were able to conquer the lands they claim because European diseases, technology etc gave them an edge over their enemies.
    The idea that Europeans (and Americans by extension) is somehow uniquely responsible for the Middle Eastern problems ignores millenias of history. And much like some tribes of American Indians allied with US and Europeans, for their own good, different fractions have allied with the US and Europe today, solely for their own gains.

    1. Good points. The enemy is the initiation of force itself. Our ally is freedom from coercion.

    2. “For example the Navajo and Apache are Athabascan speaking people originally from Canada who migrated south in the 18th century.”

      How is this blameworthy in any way? There were no international borders, no national borders and no big beautiful steel slat fences to stop Indians, buffalo or other mammals from taking advantage of their god-given freedom and settling where they pleased. Somehow it seems you wish to hold these migrations against the Indians.

      1. The Navajo and Apache didn’t migrate they conquered the peublo people’s living there. The same for the Comanche and the Sioux. These weren’t peaceful migrations but bloody conquests. They didn’t settle they conquered.

        1. The point is the pueblo claim against the Navajo doesn’t exist outside your head. That’s what makes it different from the Navajo claim against the US government.

          1. What? That is complete bullshit. It is well documented that the Navajo attacked and subjugated the Hopi and other Peublo peoples. It isn’t even a matter of debate. The Spanish already had missionaries and settlements in the area and recorded it extensively. You are now trying to argue that the Navajo didn’t conquer land held by the Hopi and other Peublo peoples? What the fuck? So now you ignore the actual fucking history to further your ignorant argument.

          2. Where did you get the idea that the Peublo claim doesn’t exist outside my mind? The archeological evidence is indisputable, as is the written history kept by Spanish settlers and missionaries in the region and the oral history of the Hopi and other tribes.

            1. “The archeological evidence is indisputable,”

              That’s not enough. You need living, breathing bodies to press a claim. Everything else is opera.

              1. Bullshit. That is a very large reach even for your poor level of sophistry.

              2. And there is no living breathing examples of the Indian Wars. There are their descendants but for your argument to even bear any resemblance to logic you can’t count them as evidence since the Hopi still live as well, victims of aggression by the Navajo and Apache.

                1. “There are their descendants ”

                  You seem to have stumbled across the answer without me to help you out.

                  It’s the descendants of those with whom the US government signed treaties with that are owed.

                  Again, I’m not aware of any Hopi claim against the Navajo or Apache, outside your head.

      2. There were no international borders, no national borders and no big beautiful steel slat fences to stop Indians, buffalo or other mammals from taking advantage of their god-given freedom and settling where they pleased. Somehow it seems you wish to hold these migrations against the Indians.

        You’re welcome to cross any borders, imaginary or real, you like. What you can’t expect, however, is that other people won’t exercise their God-given freedom and remove you by force, or simply shoot you.

        1. How nice to enjoy our freedom by shooting each other.

  33. Invade the world hence we invite the world, no thanks

  34. Ah, that took longer than I thought, but it had to happen that Reason’s obsession with open borders would be mashed up with the anti-war message to come in firmly behind one of the most vicious moralizing imperatives of the modern Left: we *owe* them.

    Well, wake up, Katherine, the US, had it been an isolationist paragon these many years, wrapping its citizens in a protective blanket of exemplary free market practices, would *still* fucking owe it all on the mere basis that it was free and wealthy and they weren’t.

    What an enabler.

  35. Sorry, Katherine, but this is horrible logic. I first heard this argument a decade ago from the wife of a Stanford professor. She felt that with all our intervention in Latin America, we owed it to them to open our borders. Jeez. Can’t we just mind our own business? Part of the spirit of liberty is allowing people of other nations to determine the future for themselves. For me, thinking of America as the savior of the world is simply the flip side of imperialism, and the notion that we’re in charge of the world.

    1. Can’t we just mind our own business?

      We’re almost two hundred years too late for that†.

      Part of the spirit of liberty is allowing people of other nations to determine the future for themselves.

      That’d be the part we’ve repeatedly and vigorously violated like a two-bit hooker in a dark alley.
      †Monroe Doctrine goes back to 1823.

      1. “We” (as in the American people) generally object to foreign wars. It is intellectuals and politicians who start these wars and invasions, and who meddle in foreign affairs, against the will of the people, again and again.

        How about we sentence the last few presidents, VPs, and cabinet members, who started wars to death for murder.

        Once a few heads roll, maybe they next crop of politicians will think twice before getting us into a war.

        1. …making the world a fertile place once again for wars to spring up all over the globe.

          Bring on the 1930s once more. Non-intervention worked out so well back then, and this time it will be even better since every tin-pot dictator has access to nuclear weapons.

        2. I’m curious how you think those politicians get into the position to make those choices.

    2. The US WAS a non-interventionist nation all through the runups to the First and the Second World Wars. History teaches us that non-intervention while imperial aggression was starting wars of conquest all over the world was exactly the wrong thing.

      Timely diplomatic AND military push-back against aggressive powers, especially Germany and Japan, would have saved tens of millions of lives and untold destruction and suffering.

      Doing nothing is sometimes the right thing, but when doing nothing is not the right thing, the consequences are horrible.

  36. Stop the NONSENSE about reparations. People have been fighting for thousands of years over everything you can imagine so if you want to talk about reparations then all of the land should be returned to the Neanderthals. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    1. #NeanderthalLivesMatter

  37. An article about moral and philosophical responsibility and duty to other people?

    Yeah, that was going to go over well in this crowd.

    1. “muh moral preening”

    2. I didn’t do it.

      But aren’t you awesome, though?


  38. “We don’t “own” the people in the nations we have upended, but it’s worth asking what we owe them.”
    There is no “We”. There is the U.S. government. Put the blame where it belongs and keep it there. The rest will take care of itself. No one supports a universally identified murderer.

  39. I think the emphasis on “owning” is misplaced. Powell was simply making a point, not actually positing that the U.S. becomes owners of a population.

    Second, the reference to “beribboned generals” as somehow not “principled noninterventionists” makes a nice turn of phrase but is a cheap appeal to a stereotype. Combat soldiers, including generals, are often quite hesitant about the application of power BEFORE the action starts. Maybe because they understand how truly horrible it is. Once it starts, professionalism requires an all-out effort, which is not the military’s fault.

    1. “Once it starts, professionalism requires an all-out effort, which is not the military’s fault.”

      I agree, but there are incentives that favor aggression. Promotion for officers is hastened by experience of combat, for example. There are also bureaucratic imperatives that drag minor conflicts over decades like Afghanistan. This is not to disparage service persons, because I agree with your main thrust.

      Owning means taking responsibility for, as in owning up to a mistake.

      1. And “taking responsibility for” entails what? Guilt stricken people get to set the terms for the people who never wanted anything to do with “our” foreign excursions? I disagree.

        1. “And “taking responsibility for” entails what? ”

          If you need to ask the question, maybe you shouldn’t be invading in the first place.

  40. “The most modest form of this is the special rule that allows civilians who might be persecuted for assisting U.S. armed forces abroad to seek refuge here.”

    That’s too bad. These people were traitors to their country and, besides, the US government’s foreign policy is so evil, that anyone supporting it deserves to suffer. Leave them to rot in their own countries; it will deter others from seeing the US favorably.

    1. There are Americans, obviously including yourself, who will never see the US favorably.

      There are Americans who believed that the US government’s foreign policy during the cold war was evil, that the USSR should have been accommodated, cooperated with, live-and-let-live. That all Eastern Europe would still be under totalitarian rule and the USSR would be a superpower doesn’t upset such Americans at all.

      There are Americans who were so opposed to intervention during the Rwanda and Bosnia massacres that they are morally responsible for the lateness of US intervention. The unnecessarily high death toll rests on them.

      There are Americans who advocated the US stay out of all the Cuba-inspired communist insurrections in Latin America during the 1970s and 80s. Those Americans were quite happy to consign those countries to Cuban-style communist dictatorships.

      There are Americans like wootendw who just blame America for every bad thing in the world.

  41. “But again, underpinning the effort was the recognition that the U.S. had in some sense broken Vietnam—and had made the lives of those who collaborated with U.S. forces there especially untenable.”

    Yes, the US government broke Vietnam. But I didn’t. I was a draft dodger. Those who supported the war can pay for it, if they’ll admit it. But they won’t admit it; they’ll blame the war’s result on draft dodgers.

    So the cost should be on Vietnamese who collaborated with US. That will teach others, such as the Kurds, not to commit treason on behalf of the vile regime in Washington.

    1. “That will teach others, such as the Kurds, not to commit treason on behalf of the vile regime in Washington.”

      The Kurds will learn no such lesson. They’ll simply take up with another vile regime. Like the one in Moscow.

      1. I don’t doubt it. The Kurdish people are resilient and formidable. Someday they will get what they want. What is amazing is that they have kept their identity and culture alive despite everything.

        Israel is friendly with the Kurds although there is not much they can do. It made me think of the history of Jerusalem and conquests. Goes something like this:

        Greek Selucids
        Byzantine Christians
        Arab Muslims
        Muslims (this went back and forth few times)
        Jews again

        So you never know.

  42. We don’t “own” the people in the nations we have upended, but it’s worth asking what we owe them.

    Nothing. Those nations were “upended” before “we” invaded.

    More importantly, most Americans opposed this crap anyway. If you want to bill someone, bill the Clinton, Biden, Bush, and Obama families, and the families of their crony cabinets and corporate sponsors. Taking away their ill-gotten gains should net a few billion dollars.

    What if the best way to discharge our debt to the victims of our foreign policy is to offer them a chance to get out and start over?

    So that they can wreck the US in the same way they wrecked their own countries? So that US tax payers are forced to pay for the consequences of Clinton’s and Bush’s idiocy? I don’t think so.

    The idea is not without precedent in American immigration policy.

    No doubt. It goes right up there with the bad idea of invading Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.

  43. Pottery Barn? Target? Seriously?

  44. There’s no doubting that the US, usually pushed by the arrogant CIA, has interfered way too much, especially during the cold war. It’s also true that many times the results were not what was intended.
    But it’s also true that we didn’t break the pottery. Those countries were at best either dysfunctional shitholes at the time, or on their way to communist dictatorships. It is only in hindsight that we can know whether our intervention made things better or not.

    All the countries of the Middle East with the single exception of Israel are way, way below Western standards of civilization, and were so long before the US involved ourselves. No one can say Iraq was a better place to live under the Hussein dictatorship than it is today. All evidence is to the contrary.
    Kennedy’s attempt to intervene in Cuba was grossly incompetent, but failing to intervene led to two decades of Cuban destabilization and guerrilla insurrections in Latin America. If the US had kept hands off Latin America in the 1970s and 80s, there would be more Cuba-lite countries there.

    Blaming the US for the current conditions in those countries rests on the conviction that things would not have been even worse if left alone. Not interfering much earlier in Rwanda or in Bosnia was a huge moral failing, and by finally interfering conditions are vastly better for all concerned.
    We interfered relentlessly in Eastern Europe all through the cold war, and conditions there now are vastly better.

    We can only do our best and hope for the best, and learn from our mistakes. Would everyone please just stop automatically blaming America for everything?

  45. No one can say Iraq was a better place to live under the Hussein dictatorship than it is today.

    Iraq was a better place to live under the Hussein dictatorship than it is today.

    1. You got something against suicide bombers?

  46. Some interesting points in this article, I guess, but it’s simply fantasy to pretend that changing drug policies in the US will cause peace and harmony to descend upon Central America. I’ve really never understood the Libertarian obsession with drawing a straight line between whatever problem they’re looking at and drug policies.

    1. We didn’t draw the straight line, we just pointed it out.

  47. You broke my shithole!! Pay up!!

  48. Well first, don’t invade. But if you do, offer them the same deal we should offer ever Mexican state and Canadian province: if you accept the entire Bill of Rights as the law of the land, you can join the USA as a new state.

    1. Isn’t that how conquest works in general.

      Problem with empires is they are not that hard to get they are just difficult to govern and keep.

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