Thomas Jefferson declared the American way of interacting with the world to be “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none.” However, over the course of at least the past seven decades, the US government has turned this admonition on its head.
Peace? The US government has waged wars of choice almost constantly since the end of World War II. It has distributed death and destruction around the world for nearly 70 years straight in overt wars, covert wars, coup d’états, assassinations, cold wars, drone wars, etc.
Commerce? Through sanctions and embargoes, the US government has carried out economic warfare against entire countries due to political disagreements with their leaders. This has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents who were denied the opportunity to buy goods and services from the US and the rest of the world. It has also prohibited the ability of Americans to travel and trade freely.
Honest friendship? The US government has cynically manipulated nations into serving its purposes for many decades. It has propped up foreign dictators when government officials deem that they benefit their own objectives. It has overthrown democratically elected leaders and installed puppets who will serve its agenda. It has created so many entangling alliances that the entire world is laid with tripwires that could pull the US into conflicts at any moment.
The complete abandonment of Jefferson’s foreign policy prescription has been devastating to Americans who value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just in the time since WWII, over 100,000 American soldiers died in foreign wars and hundreds of thousands more were wounded. Twenty-two veterans kill themselves every day at more than double the civilian suicide rate (this number includes almost one active duty soldier suicide per day). Nearly 3,000 innocent Americans were murdered on 9/11/01, caught up in blowback from their government’s foreign policy and the hatred it breeds.
War has steadily eroded American liberty and has nearly eliminated the Bill of Rights. The deceptively named Patriot Act led to the most expansive surveillance apparatus in world history. The NSA collects billions of phone calls, emails and cell phone location records every month without a warrant or even probable cause. The notion of being secure in one’s person and property from government intrusion is virtually gone.
The massive cost of war requires Americans to pay an ever-increasing tab. The Federal Reserve causes inflation to fund unaffordable wars, which secretly picks the pockets of every American. Each person in the US is tethered to an ever-growing $19.3 trillion in debt (much of it war related) and must pay for the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual interest on war debt. The US has still not paid off its debt from the first World War.
James Madison recognized the dire threat that war poses to a free society:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
He concluded by saying, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
It is in the interest of every American to understand why war is so dangerous to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Taking a stand against war, and particularly against unconstitutional, unnecessary, unjust wars (which are the only kind we have seen for seven decades or more), is very much in keeping with what it actually means to be an American.