A Noninterventionist Revival

by Michael R. Allen
Editor, Spin Magazine
December 24, 1998

Though the United States-Britain alliance has halted its air strikes in Iraq, and the issue of war may seem deferred at present. As Christians celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace on Christmas, irony sets in: over 60 Iraqis are being buried and the count continues to rise.

American politicians have attempted to brush aside the issue or downplay their real opinion of the Clinton foreign policy to celebrate "support for the troops" (a rather cowardly phrase that is used to discredit opponents of war). A meek resolution supporting the troops and the continued condemnation of Iraq's President, Saddam Hussein, passed the House 417-5.

Both Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) opposed the air strikes, but both muted their stands to play politics. Lott came out to support military action under certain conditions, and Conyers defended President Bill Clinton from impeachment even though he supported impeaching Presidents Nixon and Reagan for their acts of war. The only politicians to articulate firm anti-war stands lately have also been a trio representing two different political ideologies. One is unreconstructed liberal Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who issued a press release on her vote against the resolution, stated boldly: "I oppose any resolution that suggests that another sovereign government should be overthrown."

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) properly criticized recent American presidents who "have run roughshod over weak-kneed congressional leaders." And, as usual, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) -- who is described by the America First Committee as "the Congressional leader of the new antiwar movement" -- blasted what he described as "jingoism and militarism" and called for the President's resignation.

Some other politicians became less eager to support continuing the Clinton administration's military policy after the failure of the air strikes was evident. In response to a question from me, Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) said that while he supported a UN resolution urging the removal of Hussein from power, he "questioned from the start what we hoped to accomplish with this bombing." Former Republican Congressman Jack Kemp surprisingly question our whole foreign policy in a letter to Sen. Lott, and urged Congressional hearings on the bombings. More formidable opposition came with condemnations from the Vatican, Iran, Cambodia, Russia, and China.

Yet the whole bombing campaign ended as suddenly as it started. However, a positive side effect is that again there seemed to be a revival of the military isolationist movement. The old coalition of peacenik liberals, nationalist conservatives, humanitarians, and libertarians was reunited, as it was earlier this year when Iraq was also an issue. As it did in 1991 at the onset of the original Gulf War, the motley group included voices as divergent as Howard Zinn and Pat Buchanan.

If the issue of war is to remain deferred and peace and freedom are brought to earth, then the old policy of isolationism deserves to be re-examined. So far, the United States has for decades not followed the military isolationism coupled with free trade that would best serve US interests. Most conservatives see aggression as a needed deterrent in foreign policy, while those on the Left have gone from promoting nearly no military to protecting the enshrined military establishment.

There are few who think that the US should protect itself and abandon its foreign assistance programs. The US ought to maintain its economic standing among the nations of the world while withdrawing its resources as to protect its own lands. With all of the conflict in the world, US involvement only complicates what are generally local situations. Theoretically, conflicts are solved by the parties involved either through warfare or political doctrine. Thus, third parties like the United States (generally partial in most situations) are only intervening so that they can manipulate the outcomes in the world's wars.

The Clinton administration's treatment of Haiti and Bosnia clearly shows how the State Department can ensure their control in these nations. Though not quite as serious, this system of "satellite" nations takes power away from a small nation's people and puts it in the greedy paws of large countries. It is vital to a peaceful world that each nation be allowed to set its own goals and determine the best route to attaining them without being forced to comply with another nation's idea.

Yet it is so typical of American interventionists to believe that they know the best for everyone else; this is apparent when even other nations begin to take US armed forces for granted. It is all but announced that any peace agreements in the Israel-Palestine conflict will require American "police action." Which side receives more aid is uncertain; Clinton has continued to send millions of dollars to Israel (which launched its own air strike on Syria a few days after the Iraq bombings, resulting in three deaths) but has been all to eager to tacitly endorse the recreation of a Palestinian state. Regardless of
that outcome, our nation can only do harm under its present intervention. The United States has deeply disturbed the Middle East with a strategy sometimes protecting oil interests and other times pandering to special-interest groups. Of late, the continued military persecution of Iraq -- while Serbia and China are handled diplomatically -- has shown how duplicitous the policy is in that region.

A noninterventionist can only applaud an orderly and peaceful world, but must also realize that decisions are best left to the individual nations. Realistically, UN intervention only temporarily halts worldwide conflicts. Foreign aid of any kind is a misguided attempt to supplicate to rogues that have no respect for our country.

Private-sector aid is preferable in every case as it is a genuine gift with little political strings attached. Free trade and private investment are commensurable with peaceful, docile nations. Military and monetary deployments are not only anathema to the true sovereign rights of nations but are also explosive ways of enraging belligerent nations while encouraging some to become subservient to the protector.

A destructive influence on foreign policy has been a group of foreign policy experts who assume that it is our right to tell other countries what to do (with a disorderly opposition that invites ridicule). These "experts" range from academic types to businessmen and quasi-capitalist bankers, who fill the rolls of organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations. All aim for one-world government, as it is easier for them to prescribe their narrow solutions to the world en masse than on a country-by-country basis. Many people have called these people part of a conspiracy, which they might be if one is to use the denoted definition of "conspiracy." However, it is to be noted that they have not assumed control of the world, they merely have been invited to the
upper posts of influence. Since constitutionalists and libertarians do not wish to have an activist government foreign affairs apparatus, they generally avoid working in such positions. Thus, those who wish to continue the direction of the world's foreign policy are the only ones willing to work for their own creation.

On a semantic matter, I wish to stress that my use of the term "isolationist" refers to military isolation, not the sort of protectionism that seeks to impede the voluntary trade contract. Free trade is the only option in the free society. As a matter of fact, to trade freely is a right of free individuals that has been respected since the days of ancient history. Though few ancient civilizations can be called free, one of the reasons cultures blended so swiftly to bring about the global communication we enjoy today is due to the exchange of goods between cultures.

As important a medium trade is for cultural exchange, it also is a voluntary compact between two parties. If property ownership is a right originating from man's self-ownership and his attachment of ownership rights to anything he freely accepts or legally acquires, then the exchange of that right in a trade relationship can only be degraded if there is a tariff, or embargo, or sanction. There are sanctions against Iraq which are far more threatening than any bombing campaigns or petty dictators. These sanctions might be thought to unravel the noninterventionist coalition by splitting its protectionist and libertarian wings. Yet, even Buchanan -- who has a less-than-friendly attitude toward free trade -- asks "if constructive engagement was the right policy for the Evil Empire, why is there no other way with Iraq than total sanctions?"

If the coalition can hold fast as President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair ask for tighter sanctions and as military conditions, and as further conflict with the Iraqi leader occurs, there may be hope for a rebirth of an America that is neutral in all things foreign. While certain elements of the foreign policy establishment, such as the International Monetary Fund, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the United Nations, may be impossible to abolish outright, a change in policy would lead to these agencies' being unnecessary to the United States.

Discredited since World War II, the military isolationists may hope to regain their dignity and win a few arguments if US foreign involvement continues to produce bad results. The morality of World War II was politically unable to be questioned. Fortunately for those who seek a noninterventionist foreign policy, today's US involvement lacks the patriotism of that war. Most of it also lacks the urgency of American presence and outward support from the American public.

Hopefully, these factors will work in favor of the revival of noninterventionism -- and produce some policy shifts.

(c) 1998 Michael R. Allen

Michael R. Allen
Editor, SpinTech Magazine: http://www.spintechmag.com
Columnist, Strange Disposed Times: http://users.anet-stl.com/~sdtimes/