The biggest and most important issue of our time is what the role of the federal government should be in foreign affairs. With the election of Donald Trump, the debate on this issue is coming out into the open. The issue is interventionism vs. non-interventionism — that is, should the U.S. government continue to intervene and meddle in the affairs of other countries or should it be prohibited from doing so?
Of course, that’s not to say that President-elect Trump is a non-interventionist. We all know that he isn’t. But because he made critical comments of various aspects of the interventionist paradigm during the presidential campaign, the interventionists are terrified that their decades-long paradigm is experiencing some cracks. To get a sense of the fear that is pervading the interventionist movement, see, for example, an op-ed in today’s New York Times by William S. Cohen and Gary Hart, entitled “Don’t Retreat into Fortress America.”
During one of the Republican presidential debates, Trump pointed out that George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on a bogus and fraudulent WMD scare. In the eyes of interventionists, that is a super no-no. When it comes to national-security state operations, everyone is expected to adhere to the official narrative. No “conspiracy theories” allowed.
Or consider Trump’s statement that any member of NATO that doesn’t pay its fair share of NATO expenses might not get defended by United States in the event of war. Obviously, simply forcing member nations to fork over more money to NATO isn’t a non-interventionist position but instead just a complaint about how NATO is operating. Nonetheless any criticism of this Cold War apparatus is enough to send interventionists into a complete tizzy.
Time will tell whether interventionists have anything to fear from Donald Trump. So far, judging by the people he is nominating for secretary of defense (Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis) and for CIA director (Congressman and former army officer Mike Pompeo), it seems like Trump is setting the stage for four more years of Bush’s and Obama’s perpetual warfare in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
But interventionists have much more to fear from people other than Donald Trump. They have to fear the American people, the vast majority of whom appear to be rediscovering and embracing America’s founding heritage of non-interventionism. In an excellent op-ed published last July 4 in the Los Angeles Times entitled “For U.S. Foreign Policy, It’s Time to Look Again at the Founding Fathers’ ‘Great Rule,’” Texas A&M professor Elizabeth Cobbs points out a statistic that would throw any interventionist into paroxysms of anxiety and terror. She writes:
In 2013, for the first time since the Pew organization began polling Americans on the question five decades earlier, the majority (52%) said the United States should “mind its own business” and allow other countries to get along on their own. Today, Pew finds, the number has risen to 57%.
And why not? After 25 years of continuous death and destruction in the Middle East and Afghanistan, what could any reasonable person find redeeming about the U.S. government’s never-ending interventions?
Despite the fact that they lived under a brutal dictatorship, the Iraqi people had a relatively high standard of living. And then came U.S. interventionism, beginning with support of Iraq in its war against Iran, followed by the Persian Gulf War, followed by the more than a decade of crippling and deadly sanctions, followed by Bush’s invasion, followed some 10 years of the Bush-Obama occupation.
The result? Iraqi is an absolute hell-hole of violence, civil war, conflict, chaos, and tyranny. And that’s for the people still living. Think of the tens of thousands of Iraqi people who are dead, owing to U.S. interventionism. Or think of those who are alive and now penniless, or limbless, or homeless.
Or consider ISIS. It is a direct result of U.S. interventionism in Iraq. Before the interventions, no ISIS. After the interventionism, ISIS, which is now being used as the excuse for even more interventionism.
Or look at Libya, another nation mired in a violent and vicious civil war owing to U.S. interventionism. Or Syria. Or Yemen. Or Afghanistan, where U.S. troops continue to kill and die for no meaningful purpose whatsoever.
Indeed, consider the gigantic refugee crisis in Europe. That’s a consequence of U.S. interventionism also.
One problem in this debate is that the interventionists oftentimes conflate the government sector and the private sector. Decrying Trump’s wall, his plan to deport illegal immigrants, his anti-Muslim sentiments, or his coming trade wars against China and other countries, the interventionists decry “isolationism” and argue that it’s better if the U.S. government continues bombing and killing people in other countries.
They just don’t get it. That’s because in their minds, the federal government and the private sector are one and the same thing. They are not. They are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon confirmed by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country from the federal government.
Thus, the ideal is to restrain the federal government and unleash the American people in the private sector. That would mean bringing all the troops home from everywhere and discharging them. It would mean a dismantling of the entire Cold War apparatus known as the national-security state, or what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. It would also mean a total dismantling, not a reform, of the Cold War apparatus known as NATO. It would mean no more butting into the affairs of other countries by the U.S. government.
Non-interventionism would mean normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. government and all other regimes in the world.
At the same time, the American private sector would be liberated to interact, travel to, and trade with all other nations. No more embargoes, sanctions, or trade wars. No more travel restrictions.
What interventionists also just don’t get is that foreigners, by and large, love Americans. They just hate the U.S. government, including the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, and its policy of foreign interventionism. To get a sense of why foreigners feel this way, imagine if some foreign government invaded the United States or fomented a coup here that installed a brutal dictatorship into power, one that killed countless Americans who resisted the regime-change operations and that threw the entire nation into a violent and deadly civil war.
The interventionists are right to fear the American people. What happens if that 57 percentage continues rising and gets to, say, 70 percent? That could well mean that the American people would be on the verge of one of the biggest breakthroughs to freedom and limited government in history. That would be exciting to see. It would also mean that the country would finally be back on the road to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world.