Monday, April 05, 2010

Foreign Policy

I promised that after Lent was over I would reply to comments that Mike Foil left on my earlier post Is Obama a Man of Peace? Mike raises some very good points and asks some penetrating questions. To start with, he writes, quoting from me:
“What could quickly escalate into a proxy war against China." This, he concludes, is a result of the US selling arms to Taiwan. Just possibly, could it be that the US sold arms to Taiwan because China was already making aggressive actions toward Taiwan? China, for years, has claimed that Taiwan belongs to them, but Taiwan, claims to be an independent country. The US has a treaty with Taiwan. The US is in business to sell arms to friendly nations so they can defend themselves, to some extent, against an aggressor nation, such as China. China has been building a massive military might. They have threatened to physically take Taiwan. So, does the US honor the treaty or turn-tail and run due to a threat?”
I agree, Mike, the US should honor its treaties. But the whole point is that the United States should never have made those treaties in the first place. Let's not forget that in his Farewell Address, George Washington warned future generations of Americans against becoming entangled in the affairs of other nations. He said, “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.” In the early days of the American Republic, Washington’s advice was heeded. Thus, in 1821, America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, could reflect back and boast that [America] has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception...abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.... Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

You or I may disagree about the ethics of selling weapons to friendly nations so that they can defend themselves, but can we at least agree that this foreign policy is un-American and a departure from the vision of the founders?

"Not content with being the only nation with troops and military bases astride all five continents..." If the US is not defending freedom and liberty in other countries, who would? Who would be the deterrent to keep North Korea out of the south, if not US? Who would support Israel, if not US?”
Maybe no one, but that doesn’t make it our business to go in search of monsters to destroy. It is not the job of the United States to defend freedom and liberty across the globe. That doesn’t mean that there is no hope for these countries. On the contrary, the job of spreading freedom and justice throughout the world belongs to the church. The church accomplishes this through the work of missions., by baptizing and discipling the nations The internationalism that pervades America foreign policy is based on a false catholicity, holding up an eschatology of peace and justice which can only be attained through recognizing Christ, not America, as the world's Messiah. America is currently trying to do what only the church is commissioned to do, and thus it must fail. Even on a practical level it can only fail because it is stretching it’s financial and military resources so thinly, which was the mistake that all empires make, from Rome to Napoleon to Nazism. (For more about the way internationalism preaches a false gospel, see my article on the Messianic EU)

It was not our idea to start WWII, but when it was US who was instrumental in victory, should we not have remained in the area providing some stabilization? If US had not supported West Berlin and West Germany, who would have?
I never argued that America should have pulled out of Europe before bringing stabilization. But let’s not overlook the fact that WWII would probably have been avoided if Woodrow Wilson hadn’t tried to redraw the map of Europe following WWI and impose unjust sanctions on Germany. That was actually one of Wilson’s primary reasons for getting involved in WWI in the first place. America’s meddling in European affairs both during and following WWI were pivotal in setting the stage for the rise of Hitler (and guess who paid for Hitler’s public speaking lessons?). One of these days I’ll upload my lecture notes on the Versailles Treaty and the interwar period and you can see more of what I’m talking about.

Russia or China may not have troops in as many locations as we do, but there probably are communist troops in as many places. Add to the communists, Taliban, al Qaeda, other radical Islam groups, etc.; and there are numerous fronts to guard.
Since guarding these fronts is not making America safer but more vulnerable, one has to question the wisdom of such involvement.

But how do I know that America’s involvement against al Qaeda terrorists is not helping America to be safer? Consider that America’s expensive militaristic policies (financed almost entirely by debt) are threatening to destroy the very economic integrity of the nation – an integrity necessary for America’s safety in the most general sense. More directly, however, America’s interventionist politics have created unprecedented levels of what the CIA calls blowback. (For those who have read my previous article, please pardon the repetition.) Blowback is the violent, unintended consequences for military action directed against the civil population of the aggressor government. The bombings of 9/11 were a classic case of blowback, since they came as a reaction to the long-time presence of the American military in the Middle East. As Philip Giraldi, former counterterrorism expert with the CIA put it, “I think anybody who knows anything about what’s been going on for the last 10 years would realize that cause and effect are operating here – that, essentially, al Qaeda has an agenda which very specifically says what its grievances are. And its grievances are basically that ‘we’re over there.

Giraldi’s conclusion was confirmed by University of Chicago’s Robert Pape, who collected a database of 462 suicide terrorist attacks between 1980 and 2004. He found that the religious beliefs of suicide terrorists were less of a motivation for the attacks than has commonly been suspected. The primary motivation is a desire “to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland.” Commenting on this in his book The Revolution, Ron Paul points out that, "Between 1995 and 2004, the al Qaeda years, two-thirds of all attacks came from countries where the United States had troops stationed. While al Qaeda terrorists are twice as likely to hail from a country with a strong Wahhabist (radical Islamic) presence, they are ten times as likely to come from a country in which U.S. troops are stationed. Until the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraq had never had a suicide terrorist attack in its entire history. Between 1982 and 1986, there were 41 suicide terrorist attacks in Lebanon. Once the U.S.  France and Israel withdrew their forces from Lebanon, there were no more attacks. ...the longer and more extensive the occupation of Muslim territories, the greater the chance of more 9/11-type attacks on the United States."

This does not, of course, mean that terrorists are justified in their attacks, but it should serve to caution those Americans who assume that an aggressive foreign policy is needed to make the United States or the world a safer place. As an American, I do not sleep easier at night because I know Obama has positioned active missiles next to the border of Russia, provoking our former enemy into an arms race. Nor I do not consider myself particularly safer because America is engaged in dozens of undeclared wars in Africa. Neither will I sleep better knowing that America is involved in a proxy arms race (via Taiwan) with China. And I am certainly not safer as a result of the United States’ military being stretched almost to breaking point with bases in 150 different countries across five continents. If anything, such policies are making America less safe.
America's interference in the politics of Iran is another perfect example. In 1925, a soldier named Reza Khan overthrew the ancient Persian dynasty. Khan established himself as Shah (the Persian title for king) and oversaw the industrialization and modernizing of the nation. Khan’ son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, served as Shah of Iran, from 1941 to 1979. In 1951, and with the Shah’s approval, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected to the post of prime minister. An enormously popular prime minister, Mossadegh helped to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which had formerly been controlled by the British.

In an attempt for the West to regain control of Iran’s oil, Britain urged the United States to intervene in Iranian politics, but President Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, refused, urging that the British were “destructive and determined on a rule or ruin policy in Iran.”

It was not until General Dwight Eisenhower was elected President in 1953 that Britain had another chance to regain control of Iran’s petroleum reserves. Churchill put an embargo on Iran’s oil industry while the CIA began spreading anti-Mossadegh propaganda, hoping to convince the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh from the post of prime minister. At first the Shah refused to go along with the American plan to overthrow his democratically elected government (a plan known to the CIA as ‘Operation Ajax’). However, after continued pressure from America the Shah relented. The prime minister was then arrested and kept under house arrest until his death in 1967.

With the democratic government out of the way, the Shah’s rule became increasingly autocratic. While he made friends of America (granting US companies the majority of the country’s oil contracts, which had been the intended outcome of Operation Ajax), he steadily alienated his own people by crushing all political dissent. This set the stage for Iran’s Revolution in 1978 when the religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini helped to mobilize opposition to the Shah and his pro-American policies. The following year 98% of the country voted to replace the monarchy with an Islamic Republic, unaware that Khomeini was planning to use the new government as a front to rule as a dictator.

Since then Iran has suffered under a theocratic Shiite government and remains a focal point for militant Islam and one of the worst countries for the persecution of Christians. How much better it would have been had America never got involved in undermining the democratically elected government. Though there were other contributing factors, and though we want to avoid a simplistic cause and effect approach to history, nevertheless it does seem clear that the Iranian Revolution would not have occurred had America and England taken a hands-off approach to Iranian politics.
"America is now engaging in a curious and unprovoked military build-up along the Russian border." He mentions that the US is sending 4,000 troops to Eastern Europe and 100 more to operate the "Patriot missile battery". He mentions that this is not just a US move, but is "integrated with NATO". He does not mention that the Eastern European countries want the US to deploy a missile defense shield to protect them."
So what? It’s still an unprovoked military build-up?
Also, could this desire for protection and the need for missile defense capabilities have anything to do with Russian actions? Russia has not only been militarily aggressive against the break-off states from the former USSR (remember Georgia - which is probably still occupied by Russian troops), of which some border these Eastern European countries, but these same countries still remember the aggression by the USSR against them. Russia has been aiding Iran in their missile program and nuclear program, but has also been selling arms to Iran. Iran, in turn, has been developing the capability to launch missiles that can reach Europe. So, what is this "unprovoked military build-up"? It is defensive in nature and designed for protection against Russia, who is already a strong military might, and against Iran who wants to be.
OK, I see your point. But it is unprovoked in the sense that Russia has not provoked America. If America feels a responsibility to protect all the nations of the world from the bullies, where is it going to stop? Already, America has bases in more than 150 countries around the world, with 369,000 of its 1,379,551 active-duty troops serving outside the United States and its territories. This doesn’t just include the troops we always hear about (around 128,100 troops in Iraq and around 48,250 troops in Afghanistan); it also includes 42 troops in Kenya, 29 troops in Egypt, 27,014 troops in South Korea, 32,803 troops in Japan, 95 troops in the Philippines, 311 troops in Diego Garcia, 27 troops in Indonesia, 125 troops in Singapore, 96 troops in Thailand, 15 troops in Malaysia, 140 troops in Australia, 17 troops in Marshall Islands, 5 troops in New Zealand, 57,080 troops in Germany, 386 troops in Greece, 9,855 troops in Italy, 9,825 troops in United Kingdom, 1,286 troops in Spain, 81 troops in Norway, 12 troops in Sweden, 1,594 troops in Turkey, 1,328 troops in Belgium, 826 troops in Portugal, 579 troops in the Netherlands, 363 troops in Greece, 126 troops in Greenland, 411 troops in Qatar, 1,495 troops in Bahrain, 10 troops in Kuwait, 36 troops in Oman, 96 troops in United Arab Emirates, 2 troops in Antigua, 123 troops in Colombia, 3 troops in Saint Helena, 932 troops in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and 36 troops in Ecuador.
Conservatives who oppose Big Government should stand aghast at this huge augmentation of America's military might that has occurred so gradually over the past hundred years that now we just take it for granted.
But why is this a problem if these countries are being helped out by America’s foreign policy? In his book A Foreign Policy of Freedom, Ron Paul identifies a number of shortcomings in this internationalist approach. I quote:
“A casual look at the results of interventionist policies, both throughout history and in our American experience over the past hundred years, should convince a thoughtful person that the Founders' policy of nonintervention makes a great deal of sense. There are several reasons, of course, that nations cling to a policy of foreign entanglements. Political power is an aphrodisiac for most politicians, and too many of those with power develop grandiose dreams of world conquest. In the United States, private financial interests frequently benefit from foreign meddling, and foreign nationalistic interests also influence our policies and relationships in world affairs.
"Another reason people succumb to dangerous policies of war and conquest relates to the false sense of patriotism promoted by our politicians. Most Americans do not want to appear weak; they enjoy expressions of strength and bravado. They fail to understand that self-confidence and true strength of conviction place restraints on the use of force, that peaceful solutions to problems require greater wisdom than unprovoked force.
"Thus the missionary zeal to spread American goodness, always promoted as altruism by neoconservatives, gains public support. Military adventurism seems justified to many, especially before the costs, the failures, and the deaths are widely recognized.
"The unintended consequences of foreign intervention often are delayed for years, obscuring the direct cause/effect relationship between certain events. For instance, our unnecessary entrance into World War I was a principal cause of World War II and the subsequent Cold War. The CIA's removal of democratically elected President Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 significantly contributed to the rise of the Iranian Islamic state.

"Fear, usually orchestrated by government, is a powerful catalyst. Fear makes the people demand protection from every sinister evil lurking around the corner that's about to attack us. The embodiment of evil may well be a single demented individual, halfway around the world. Though incapable of attacking anyone, such an individual stirs up irrational fears and encourages policies that over time are not in our best interest.

"When the people of a nation are fearful and insecure, it allows bullies in government to throw their weight around with promises of safety. Confidence and true strength, by contrast, encourage humility. Americans should never lack confidence and feel insecure, since we can resort, if needed, to a large stockpile of weapons to protect us from any outside conventional military threat. What we need is more confidence in ourselves, and a stronger belief in our traditions, so that we never are tempted to initiate force to make others live as we do. If we truly have an economic and political message worth emulating, our only responsibility is to set a standard that others will want to follow."

 "The idea was a simple one: America will be safer if it is bigger and tougher." Is this statement a summary of official foreign or military policy around the beginning of the 20th century, or is this an opinion of the writer? 
Neither. It is, rather, the unofficial motivation behind the official policy.
Either way, I have no problem with America being safer if it is tougher. "Tough" does not necessarily mean a bully or the aggressor. "Tough" can just be the perception due to being a "super-power" who has been willing to demonstrate that we will use that power for good in the rest of the world and we will act in order to protect our own interests. What is wrong with that? Surely, the writer does not believe that we would be safer if we were small and weak. It is the small and weak countries that we are helping to protect by having our troops spread around the world.

I agree with you. I have no quarrel with America being tough. Tough is not bad. But toughness is bad if it leads one into unwise international conflicts. Tough is bad if it means that America ceases to mind its own business and begins minding the business of others.

"Other wars of territorial expansion." You may have to help me here, but I cannot think of 20th century wars that the US has gone into in order to expand our territory.
If you consider the long list of America’s foreign conflicts, you will notice that many of them were wars that resulted in increased American power in the geographical region in question. There are few foreign conflicts that have not ended in America having increased power in the territory in which the conflict occurred. In that sense, even WWII was a war of territorial expansion since the outcome meant that America had increased power in the territory and bases where the America flag still flies to this day. Okay, these territories may not be countries where the American flag is flying on every public building, but there can be no denying that American territory was increase in the practical sense that the geographical sphere over which America exercised influence and control was expanded. Who controls government in Iraq – I mean really controls it – if not the United States. It is part of America’s territory de facto but not de juro.
"No longer was the goal merely to make America a safer place: the goal was now to make the world a safer place. The result of this paradigm shift is that neither the world or (sic) America are actually safer. If anything, the opposite is the case: America's military internationalism has been putting the American people at a greater risk than ever." The writer appears to believe that if America would have just stayed home during the 20th century that everyone would be at peace and in perfect harmony. It was those darn Americans that started WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Cold War, First Gulf War, and the war with radical Islam. Oh, wait; it was the Germans, the Japanese, the Communists, Saddam, and al Qaeda. The ugly Americans just responded and came to the rescue in many of those cases, spilling American blood, yes, in order for the world to be a safer place.
I never made any claim about who started what wars, so this is a caricature of my position. Even though I believe America was responsible for helping to cause WWII (see my earlier comments) I would still say that Hitler "started" it. So this comment of yours is based on a misconception of my position.
I do think the world would have been better if America had stayed home and not got involved in most of those conflicts (see the quote from Ron Paul above), but at the end of the day, this is not the fundamental point. The fundamental point is not utilitarian (what works best to promote happiness on the earth) but theological (has God given America the responsibility to police the world?). I realize that I have hardly explored this theological point at all, and I hope my readers will pardon me for that.
 "Al Qaeda has an agenda...its grievances are basically that 'we're over there'." Does he really believe that if the US military were not in the middle east or any of the rest of that part of the world, that al Qaeda would not be in existence. If their agenda centers around American presence, to some degree, in that area; does he believe that the radical Muslims would be at peace with the rest of the world (oh, of course, except Israel)? The writer appears to assume that all of the unrest in the world is a direct result of American influence.
Again this is a caricature of my position. I only claimed that American presence in the Middle East accounts for most of the terrorist activity against Americans in the 20th and 21st century, and my argument was based on the research I already cited. This does not deny or diminish the significance of the larger issues of Islamic expansionism, which have traditionally affected nations on the borders of Islamic lands or nations with a large Muslim immigrant population like France, Holland and Britain. The larger issues of the Jihadic mindset may involve more than the concerns articulated by Robert Pape, but they certainly do not involve less.

I also have a problem with just accepting the findings by the Chicago professor as being the whole truth and nothing but the truth. "He found that the religious beliefs of suicide terrorists were less of a motivation for the attacks... The primary motivation is the desire 'to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland." If that were the whole truth, why is it that these same suicide bombers are recruited, to a large degree, from religious gatherings? Why is it that they are promised that they and their families will go to heaven if they carry out the attack? Why do they all shout some religious saying prior to blowing themselves up? For them, it is religious.
Your counter-argument pushes us into a false dilemma. You bet Islamic terrorists have religious motives and those religious motives drive them to fight against the enemies of Islamic and the reason they consider Americans to be the enemies of Islamic is because of the American presence in traditionally Islamic lands. These two aspects are mutually reinforcing and play off each other.

I haven’t explored Robert Pape's research methods when he was building the database, so if you discover anything unscientific in the way he gathered his statistics, please let me know. From what I've heard he has good scholarly credentials.

If it were all about America, they would be shouting something negative about the USA. Also, it is not just democracies that are attacked by these terrorists. They also attack other tribes of Arabs and other sects of the Muslim religion. How is that about America? In order to further prove his point, he quotes Ron Paul. "Two-thirds of all attacks came from countries where the United States had troops stationed." If the problem the terrorists had was just that we were in their country, what about the other 1/3 of the attacks made by terrorists where we were not in their country? "Iraq had never had a suicide terrorist attack in its entire history." First of all, I do not believe that anyone actually knows whether or not that is a fact. Second, there were plenty of attacks in Iraq prior to our presence, they probably were not by someone who was labeled as a terrorist. "Once the U.S., France and Israel withdrew their forces from Lebanon, there were no more attacks." Again, who would actually know if this were a fact? Second, when these countries withdrew, did that mean peace followed? No, there continues to be unrest, they just refocused on Israel and made suicide attacks on their soil.
Your point about Islamic terrorists attacking people other than Americans is well taken. As for whether Ron Paul has his facts right, I’m not able to comment on that without researching it further.

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