Last year I wrote an article for the Spokane Libertarian Examiner, critiquing President Obama's foreign policy. I pointed out that when American Presidents first began pursuing interventionist foreign policies at the close of the 19th century, it was ostensibly to make America a safer place. At the time the idea was a simple one: America will be safer if it is bigger and tougher. This was the idea that led America into the Spanish–American War and other wars of territorial expansion.
At around the time of Woodrow Wilson, however, a new justification for international war began to emerge. 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 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.
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. 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, tw o-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 terri tories, 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 (which you can read more about here). 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 and the world less safe. Only time will tell how true this is.
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