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Interventionism’s Out of Control Spiral into Death and Destruction


The New York Times reports that the Pentagon and the CIA are preparing plans to target suspects in the murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and two colleagues in Libya with assassination by drone. The process is a classic example of how interventionism spirals out of control.

Notice that it wasn’t a Swiss ambassador who got attacked. It was an American ambassador. Was this simply a coincidence? Of course it wasn’t. The reason that it wasn’t the Swiss ambassador who got attacked and killed is because the Swiss government hasn’t intervened in Libya and the rest of the Middle East. It doesn’t maintain military bases in other countries. It doesn’t police the world. It doesn’t engage in regime change. It doesn’t invade and occupy foreign countries. It doesn’t kidnap people, torture them, incarcerate them without trial, or execute them. It doesn’t sanction or embargo other countries. It doesn’t try to force other countries to bend to its will. It doesn’t bribe foreign regimes into doing what it wants. It doesn’t enter into partnerships with brutal dictatorships. The Swiss government minds its own business. It devotes itself to the genuine defense of its own country.

Not so with the U.S. government. It maintains a vast overseas military empire consisting of bases, ships, planes, and troops. It intervenes in the affairs of other countries. It engages in regime change operations. It invades and occupies countries, killing and maiming multitudes of people in the process. It bribes foreign regimes, including dictatorial ones, with foreign aid. It kidnaps people, renditions them to friendly dictatorships for torture, incarcerates them without trial, tortures them, and executes them without trial by jury. It maneuvers and manipulates foreign regimes into doing its will. It sanctions and embargoes other nations, inflicting massive pain and suffering on the citizenry of those nations. The U.S. government doesn’t mind its own business. It devotes itself to interfering in the affairs and conflicts of other nations. And it does this all under the fake and false rubric of “national defense.”

How can it surprise anyone when there is retaliation, as there was in the case of Ambassador Stevens?

Consider the country where Stevens was serving as ambassador — Libya. When the brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi was president, the U.S. government, through the CIA, tortured some of Gaddafi’s opponents and then worked with him to forcible repatriate them to Gaddafi so that he and his goons could torture them too.

Imagine that. U.S. officials torture people who oppose a brutal dictator. Then, after torturing them, they send them to the brutal dictator himself to be tortured again.

In fact, that’s the big reason the CIA rushed into Libya when the Gaddafi regime fell. It was hoping to grab the secret files detailing the CIA’s torture partnership with Gaddafi so that the American people wouldn’t find out. Alas, Human Rights Watch beat them to the files.

How can the U.S. government’s behavior in Libya not anger people? It would certainly anger the people who are being tortured, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it also be likely to anger friends, relatives, and allies of the victims?

At a later date, the U.S. government turned against its friend and ally Gaddafi, just as it did when it turned against its friend and ally Saddam Hussein. That involved bombing campaigns against Gaddafi’s forces and, most likely, secretly furnishing of weaponry to the insurgents. Those bombs and guns killed and maimed people. Those victims have friends, relatives, and allies. Aren’t they likely to become angry at the U.S. government, notwithstanding the fact that the insurgents who benefited from the ouster of Qaddafi might be happy with the U.S. government? When you give guns to one side of a conflict, isn’t it probable that the other side is going to be angry?

So, now they had a second group of people who were angry at the U.S. government — those who were aligned with the Gaddafi regime who lost friends, relatives, and allies to U.S. bombs and bullets.

Now what? Well, the U.S. government reacts the way empires throughout history have reacted. It’s now going to bomb or assassinate anyone it suspects committed the attack. No arrests. No trial. No due process. They’ll just figure out who they think probably did it and drop the necessary bombs in their vicinity.

Sure, there might be women and children nearby. And sure, the targeted people might, in fact, be innocent. But what matters is the good faith of the Empire. It’s going to bomb or assassinate only people it is convinced are guilty.

And what about the friends, relatives, and allies of the victims of the bombs and drone assassinations? They’ll be angry. They’ll retaliate. And the whole process just keeps spiraling out of control, with the losers being not only the victims of U.S. foreign policy, but also U.S. diplomats like Christopher Stevens, and the American people themselves.

What would the Swiss government do if one of its diplomats got murdered in Libya or some other country? Well, we know what it would not do. It would not invade or occupy the country. It would not engage in assassination attempts or bombing campaigns. It would do its best to find the malefactors and bring them to justice. If it was unable to do that for whatever reason, it might simply withdraw the rest of its diplomats or better defend its personnel in its embassies. It would wait out the malefactors, hoping that at some point they might turn up but knowing that they might never be punished for their crime.

Unfortunately, that’s not how an empire behaves. An empire gets indignant. It must strike, bomb, kill, torture, maim, destroy, kidnap, rendition, incarcerate, or sanction. Otherwise, it will be perceived as “weak.”

That is precisely what the national-security state — i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA — is now planning on doing, thereby ensuring the continuation of interventionism’s out-of-control spiral into death and destruction.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.