Spreading Freedom

As we say here at Antiwar.com, the best way to spread the best parts of the American way – the rights of the individual, free markets, self-government and so forth – is by example. That when we export our way with force, we lose our own liberty and, by killing people overseas and setting a bad example for those who would like to emulate us, we make matters worse for the average foreigner.

As John Quincy Adams put it in 1821:

“[America] has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

“She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

“She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

“The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….”

Here is an anecdote from an Antiwar.com reader in the comment section at my blog Stress. It seemed honest enough to pass on to the rest of ya’ll and a good way to illustrate the larger point:

“Did you know that the Malaysian government used America’s pre-emptive strike policy and Guantanamo Bay as an excuse/example when they decided to detain people indefinitely wihout trial? Their reason: ‘If America, the leader of the free world could do it, why not us?'”

Nice, huh?

(Note: I realize that “spreading freedom” as the driving force for the American empire has always been a bunch of propagada for children and the weak-minded, but still, the point is worth bringing up – if only to knock it down.)

Comments welcome at Stress.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.