I find it absolutely fascinating how the president, along with his national-security state apparatus, can instantaneously throw the entire nation into crisis mode, this time with everyone in angst over whether the president should or should not bomb Syria. It’s a perfect demonstration of the power and influence that the U.S. national-security state and its military empire around the world have over the American people and how easy it is for this apparatus to keep the American people in a state of perpetual chaos, crisis, fear, anxiety, and turmoil.
Take a look at the Swiss. Do you see them in turmoil over Syria’s civil war? Do you see them pacing the floors, worrying about what to do about Syria? Do you see them having a national debate over what to do about the Syrian government’s purported use of chemical weapons?
No. You don’t see any of that. That’s because the Swiss government’s foreign policy is much like the foreign policy on which the United States was founded — a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other nations. In Switzerland — just as in the United States for more than 100 years after America’s founding — there is no foreign aid, foreign military bases, embargoes, sanctions, torture, indefinite incarceration, Guantanamo Bay, military tribunals, war on terrorism, coups, support of dictatorships, and other aspects of a pro-empire, pro-interventionist way of life.
Instead, the Swiss government is entirely devoted to the defense of Switzerland. Unlike the U.S. government, it stays out of the affairs of other nations.
In a Fourth of July address to Congress, John Quincy Adams pointed out that America does not go abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.” His point was that lots of bad things happen all over the world. There are brutal dictatorships, famines, oppression, and tyranny. The U.S. government will not go abroad to save people from any of these, Adams said. Instead, it will simply devote itself to defending the United States, just as the Swiss government does today.
Does that mean that our American ancestors didn’t care about the suffering of people in foreign countries? Of course not. It simply means that they didn’t believe that it was the role of the U.S. government to serve as the world’s international policeman, jury, judge, executioner, and welfare provider. Indeed, they believed that if the U.S. government were to serve such a role, it would only make matters worse, not only over there but also here at home, especially by converting the U.S. government into a “dictatress,” the term employed by Adams in his Fourth of July speech.
Does that mean that Americans did nothing to help foreigners suffering under tyranny, oppression, or starvation? No, it does not mean that. In fact, that was one of the things that open immigration was all about. With their policy of limited government and open immigration, our American ancestors effectively sent the following message to the people of the world: “If you are suffering under tyranny, oppression, or starvation, our government will not come and save you but if you are able to escape, you can come to America and you will be free to stay. With our open-immigration policy, our government will not forcibly return you to your country of origin.”
Moreover, private Americans, on a voluntary basis, were free to donate their money, their time, and even their lives to any cause anywhere in the world, and they often did.
Today, thanks largely to the adoption of the Cold War-era national-security state apparatus, that founding vision of our American ancestors has been turned upside down. We now have a federal government that claims the authority and has the military capability of going abroad in search of all sorts of monsters to destroy. At the same time, it tightly regulates the borders to “keep us safe” from the enemies it engenders with its actions overseas, even to the point of excluding people from the nations it purportedly is trying to save from tyranny, oppression, and starvation. And it punishes Americans who help foreigners in violation of the U.S. government’s ever-expanding programs of sanctions and embargoes.
In the process, today’s Americans, unlike our American ancestors, live lives of perpetual crisis, chaos, anxiety, fear, and turmoil.
President Obama is asking Congress to debate whether to approve his plan to bomb Syria.
It’s time for the American people to be debating a much larger issue: Has the time come to restore America’s founding principle of non-interventionist foreign policy?