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The Washington Post Is Wrong on Foreign Interventionism


Last Sunday, the Washington Post published an editorial on U.S. foreign policy that would astound any self-respecting libertarian. It sure astounded me! I found the piece to be absolutely incredible. If that’s the best reasoning that interventionists can come up with to support the continuation of a foreign policy of militarism, interventionism, and empire, they could be in deep trouble.

The title of the editorial is “America’s Global Role Deserves Better Support from Obama.”

The Post is concerned about recent surveys that show that a large number of Americans have grown weary of foreign interventionism and desire a less activist foreign policy.

The purpose of the editorial is to shore up support for the continuation of foreign interventionism and an activist foreign policy.

The editorial begins with an observation that since World War II, the United States “has shouldered the responsibility of global security guarantor” and that Americans should resist the “isolationist” temptation. Americans should be willing to continue paying “a heavy price, and bear heavy burdens, to secure the survival and success of liberty — and their own self interest.”


Pray tell: How much liberty was brought to Iraq with U.S. interventionism?

The original justification for invading Iraq was based on the notion of a preemptive self-defense attack against an imminent WMD attack on the United States by Iraq. Regardless of whether you believe that that justification was a bald-faced lie to disguise a war of aggression against a nation that had never attacked the United States or simply an honest mistake, what ended up happening in Iraq is, at least according to libertarian standards, certainly not liberty for the Iraqi people.

After all, wouldn’t most people recognize that Iraq is nothing more than a hell-hole of daily shootings and bombings and that it’s a nation that now has a government that does nothing different from what Saddam Hussein’s regime was doing? I’m referring to such things as arbitrary arrests, denial of jury trials and due process, torture, indefinite detention, secret surveillance without judicial warrants, and all the other things that any reasonable believer in liberty would consider to be antithetical to the principles of a free society and instead inherent to a totalitarian regime.

Perhaps the best evidence that U.S. interventionism produced a hellhole of death, destruction, and misery in Iraq, rather than a paradise of liberty and prosperity, is that no member of Congress and, as far as I know, no one who works for the Washington Post, has taken his family on a nice tourist’s vacation to Iraq, at least not since the U.S. invasion of the country.

The scariest part of all this is the possibility that the Post editorial board, along with U.S. officials, honestly do believe that Iraq is now a free and prosperous society. Why is that scary? Because if they really do believe that, then it’s entirely likely that they’d be willing to import that sort of “liberty” to our land.

It’s really no different with Afghanistan. It’s another hellhole that is no different from Iraq, with the possible exception that the Afghan government is 100 times more corrupt than the Iraqi government. Any American knows that if he takes his family on a wide-ranging sightseeing vacation in the country, he had better “embed” himself and his family in some well-fortified U.S. military force. And even that’s no guarantee given the distinct possibility of hidden roadside bombs or the distinct possibility that members of the Afghan military or police will suddenly turn their guns on occupation forces and the citizens of the occupying forces who go there for tourism or other reasons.

Why shouldn’t the American people be skeptical about more of this imperialist, militarist junk? Why should they continue to believe the false bromide that American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were just “defending our rights and freedoms” as Americans?

After all, that’s palpably false with respect to Iraq. That country never threatened the rights and liberties of the American people. Why continue to preach what is an obvious lie? The truth, as uncomfortable as it might be, is that U.S. troops who killed and died in Iraq did so for nothing, just as the troops who killed and died in Vietnam did so for nothing. There was never the threat of a WMD attack on the United States. Moreover, everyone knows that the invasion of Iraq produced nothing but a hellhole of death, destruction, and tyranny.

One thing is for certain: The hundreds of thousands of people that U.S. troops killed in Iraq did not achieve liberty. That’s because they’re dead. And neither did those who survived the U.S. onslaught of that country.

The invasion of Afghanistan was justified on the basis that al-Qaeda had committed the 9/11 attacks and was based in Afghanistan. But most of the people killed in Afghanistan over the past 12 years or so had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Those dead people, including those in countless wedding parties, are certainly not free. And, from what I can tell, al-Qaeda has branch offices all over the Middle East and Africa, notwithstanding  a 12-year brutal occupation of Afghanistan.

Moreover, the death and destruction wrought on the Afghan people succeeded in accomplishing what all the pre-9/11 interventionism had accomplished — more deep anti-American anger and hatred that manifested itself with a never-ending threat of terrorism.

That never-ending threat gave rise to the war on terrorism, which, conveniently, replaced the war on communism as the dire threat of the day. And that brings us to the liberty of the American people.

Although the mainstream press doesn’t like to talk about, the fact is that the war on terrorism has fundamentally altered the American way of life. We now live under a federal government that wields the power to have its military forces round up people, including Americans, throw them into military dungeons or concentration camps, torture them, detain them indefinitely, and even to assassinate them—all without judicial interference or review—and all without having to justify it to anyone.

That’s a direct result of U.S. foreign interventionism. Is that what the Post calls “liberty”?

Maybe the Post should talk to the Egyptian people, whose national-security state apparatus is now in the process of exercising all those extraordinary powers against the Egyptian people. Or are we supposed to believe that Egypt is filled with “liberty” simply because it is the U.S. government that helped build up, fortify, train, and support Egypt’s military tyranny with billions of dollars in cash and weaponry?

What the Post apparently fails to understand is that U.S. empire and interventionism are not about liberty. Just ask the Iraqis, Afghans, and Egyptians, or, for that matter, the Iranians, Guatemalans, Chileans, Ukrainians, Cubans, Venezuelans, or anyone else that has been targeted to receive U.S. foreign aid or intervention. It has never been about liberty. It’s always been about hegemony and control. Just consider the many regime-change operations, including invasions, foreign aid, and assassination, in which the Pentagon and the CIA have ousted democratically elected officials and replaced them with brutal unelected tyrants who were pro-U.S. government.

What the Post also fails to understand is that if the American people choose to continue maintaining a military-intelligence apparatus sufficiently big and powerful to serve as the world’s policeman, judge, and executioner, Americans can kiss any hope of a free society here at home goodbye. That’s because a government that is sufficiently powerful to wreak death and destruction overseas inevitably ends up destroying freedom here at home, if for no other reason than to protect us from the enemies its policies abroad are producing. Our Founding Fathers understood this. Just Google and read John Quincy Adam’s Fourth of July address to Congress in 1821 that people have entitled “In Search of Monsters to Destroy.”

Finally, in its declamation against “isolationism” the Post makes the standard statist mistake of conflating the U.S. government and the private sector of Americans. In making the case against “isolationism,” the Post says that it would be a giant mistake to shut down trade with the world.

Who’s talking about shutting down trade? Certainly not libertarians. We’re the ones who oppose such barriers to trade as sanctions, embargoes, tariffs, import restrictions, protectionism, immigration controls, travel restrictions, and all the other statist devices that isolate the private sector from the rest of the world.

What we need to do is rein in the government and unleash the peaceful activities of the American people. That means bringing all the troops home, discharging them, and dismantling the old Cold War national-security state apparatus. It means, at the same time, a unilateral lifting of all barriers to trade that isolate the American private sector from the rest of the world.

Many Americans are obviously no longer blindly accepting the statist perspective on foreign policy. No longer are people automatically believing the lies and deceptions. Many of them are sick and tired of the death and destruction wreaked on foreigners by empire and interventionism. They’ve grown weary of seeing U.S. soldiers die for nothing or return without arms of legs or all screwed up in the head, for nothing. And they’re no longer willing to see their own liberty and prosperity sacrificed in the name of “global security.”

That’s doesn’t mean, of course, that they’re suddenly ready to accept the libertarian perspective on foreign empire and interventionism or that they’re ready to restore a free society and a limited-government republic to our land.

But it does mean that they might be willing to think about it. And that possibility is obviously scaring the Washington Post, and no doubt other interventionists, to the core.

Postscript: Sheldon and I talked about the Post editorial in last Monday’s issue of Libertarian Angle, the video of which is now posted on our website,


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.