The Heretics: Global Dominance at Any Price

Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

American foreign policy remains in the grip of heretics. They believe that the Prince of Peace is actually a god of war. They believe America is strengthened by entangling alliances (think here of our so-called alliance with Israel). They believe in constant war as a recipe both for dominant power and greater freedom and democracy throughout the world. They believe that spending roughly a trillion dollars each year on weapons and war is a wise “investment.” And they believe they are the toughest and truest of patriots, the ones who see further, the ones with the guts to get things done, no matter how poorly America’s wars have gone from Korea and Vietnam through Afghanistan, Iraq, and today’s proxy wars.

There used to be a different America, a much less militaristic and bellicose one. The American tradition is rich and complex; it contains multitudes, as Walt Whitman might say. Why are we so stuck on warmongers, thieves, and vainglorious simps of empire?

As an American, I’m very much a part of my country’s complexity and richness. And the America that speaks to me contains elements and lessons such as these:

George Washington’s prescient warning about the dangers of entangling alliances with foreign powers.

James Madison’s warning that constant warfare is the direst of enemies of liberty, freedom, and democracy in America.

General Smedley Butler’s confession that “war is a racket” and that he had often served as a “gangster for capitalism.”

The Nye Commission in the U.S. Senate that investigated arms manufacturers and weapons makers as “Merchants of Death” that profited greatly from war.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “cross of iron” speech and his warning about the growing power and insidious nature of the military-industrial complex.

President John F. Kennedy’s powerful peace speech in which he extended an olive branch to the Soviet Union.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful speech against the Vietnam War and the perils of militarism, racism, and materialism in America.

Of course, America has always had its dark side, with slavery and the genocidal treatment of Native Americans being at the top of the list. Yet America also has had its triumphs of wisdom and goodness. That is the America we should be embracing and celebrating. I believe it’s captured in the words of Washington, Madison, JFK, MLK, and so many others who’ve fought for peace and sanity, people like Dorothy Day, the Catholic activist who fought against war and all its awful excesses.

All that said, sometimes cartoons can express truths in ways that are as powerful as they are simple. In the cartoon below, the heretics of U.S. foreign policy are so many Calvins, spreading destruction and employing nukes in the name of manly seriousness. They are wrong. They are heretics. And if we continue to allow them to rule, they will surely lead America (as they already are in Gaza) to mass graves.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools. He writes at Bracing Views.