Why a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy is Safer Than Nation-Building

Ron Paul has been catching a lot of flack from other Republican presidential hopefuls lately for his ideas about foreign policy.  It is no secret to those who have been watching the campaign with some degree of regularity that Ron Paul is not interested in policing the world.  He wants to wrap up Afghanistan immediately, bring troops home from South Korea and Germany, and end various other overseas engagements.  He has also taken a “soft” stance on Iran, saying that it is none of our business if they have nuclear capability or not.

Honestly, I have no idea how mainstream America really feels about this, because most of my friends are quite liberal and are directly in line with Paul’s thinking on this.  So am I.  I don’t believe we have any business starting unconstitutional wars or spending decades and literally trillions of dollars on endless foreign engagements.  For one thing it is foolish.  For another, we simply do not have the money.  There are plenty of Americans at home who need help right now, and because we are spending so much money on foreigners, we are unable to take care of our own.

Still, there are some people out there – I don’t know them, but I’m sure they exist – who fear the US taking a less aggressive military stance.  The argument is that if we “allow” Iran to have nuclear weapons, that they will surely use them on us.  Another argument, of course, is that they might destroy Israel.  In that same line of thinking, some people are religiously motivated to protect Israel at any cost.  The final argument is the one that seems to emerge most often and to me seems like nothing more than a scare tactic: if we go home, the terrorists will come out in full force and destroy life as we know it.  Let’s address these fallacies one-by-one.

There are several points to make about Iran generally and nuclear weapons particularly.  First off, the US is mainly taking a hard line against Iran because of Kish Island and the fact that Iran refuses to trade using T-bills.  In other words, Iran has refused to help the US monetize its debt, given the fact that the US has been sanctioning Iran since the 1970s.  As I’ve mentioned before, Saddam stopped trading in T-bills prior to the US invasion, and look how that turned out for him.  Gaddafi apparently had plans to create an African gold dinar, which would help bring wealth back into Africa and allow Africa to have some bargaining power in a post-petroleum world.  From a strictly common sense standpoint, this is not a bad idea.

Of course, we all know what happened to Saddam and Gaddafi.

On the subject of nukes, it is frankly none of our business what Iran or any other country wants to do with their military defense arsenal.  How would Americans react if suddenly Great Britain was threatening to invade us because we have nuclear weapons?  I don’t think most Americans would react warmly to that scenario.  In fact, I think they would be downright ticked off.  It is none of our business how Iran spends its money.

This is usually the point where people argue that Iran is planning to do bad things with its theoretical nuclear arsenal.  How do we know that?  What proof do we have?  Iran doesn’t have the capability to launch a missile all the way to the US.  In that sense, they are not a direct security hazard to Americans.  The next argument that usually pops up is that they are a direct threat to Israel.  What most people seem to forget is that Israel is armed to the teeth.  They have a sizable nuclear arsenal.  They are more than capable of managing their own defense without our help.  In fact, one might make the argument that giving Israel monetary and military aid only makes them beholden to another country, which directly undermines that country’s sovereignty.

People say that we have a religious duty to protect Israel.  I argue that in our country, according to our founding laws, there is a clear and distinct separation of church and state.  Our government is not allowed to endorse one religion over another.  Religious conflicts are none of our business, and by giving Israel guns to kill Muslims, we are effectively condoning the Hebrew faith and throwing Islam under the bus.  I know that Christians and Muslims don’t have the best history, all told, but we should not be endorsing religions with gun power.  It breeds animosity and puts American, Israeli, and other countries’ citizens in mortal danger.

Of course, the final and usually most vitriolic argument is that if we withdraw from all of these countries that we will be annihilated overnight.  I hardly think that will be the case.  Bringing our troops home means that our nations’ borders will be protected.  How about devoting some troops to the US-Mexico border to help crack down on illegal immigration?  I certainly support that over building a fence.  (The thing to remember about fences is that they can just as easily keep people in as out.)

Some think that by withdrawing from places like Korea and Japan that we will be more at risk from China, a country that is clearly on the way to becoming a formidable military power in and of itself.  I have a lot of faith in American submarines, and I believe that a strong submarine patrol will go a long way towards maintaining our national defense, in that respect.

Most neocons would never admit this, but we create more problems for ourselves by trying to force other countries to bend to our will.  The CIA has admitted that terrorist events are largely the unintended result of a foreign policy that tells everyone else what to do: what weapons they’re going to have, who their leaders will be, and what they’re going to do for us.  Contrary to popular opinion, most suicide bombers are motivated by anger and disillusion, not by religion.  Religious groups tend to be a lightning rod for disenfranchised individuals who are making a protest.  Think about it: would you seriously consider blowing up an embassy in the Middle East because you hate Islam?  Probably not.  Again, contrary to popular belief, Muslims are not completely insane, irrational people.  I would be willing to bet that they are far more angry about American drones blowing up their houses or their grandmother being shot to death by US troops.  That would be a far more likely reason to join a retaliatory group.

The fact of the matter is that most of these terrorist cells are not a direct threat to American citizens.  They have neither the means nor the know-how to carry off mass plots against the US.  The US government talks about “terrorism” as though it is a person, as though a particular group of people or countries directly embody “terrorism.”  Terrorism is a tactic, not a person, not a country, and not a war.  We will never be through fighting a war against terrorism, because there will always be terrorists.  The notion that we can defeat a tactic is foolhardy and dangerous.

Far more dangerous, at this point, is the US government directly intruding into the lives of US citizens in the name of “security.”  The TSA putting their hands down your child’s pants does not make any of us safer.  What is does do is instill the notion in our minds – especially in the minds of young people – that we are all criminals, guilty until proven innocent.  The sheer notion of doing these dangerous X-Ray screenings and invasive pat-downs rests on the fact that you must prove your innocence.  Our country was founded on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

A last point that I would like to make is from an extremely practical standpoint: we can no longer afford these lengthy foreign engagements.  As of the moment I wrote this article, the US national debt was tallied at $15,172,262,100,000, approximately (I can’t type quickly enough to keep up with it, actually).  The US debt per citizen is at about $48,000 per person and $134,00 for each taxpayer.  This information can be gotten from the US Debt Clock.  You may also be interested to know that over 47 million people receive food stamps, about 23 million people are unemployed, there are almost 67 million retirees/Social Security claimants, and 4.3 million federal employees out of a total population of 312,877,758 people in the US.  That means that 15% of the US population receives food stamps, 21% receive Social Security benefits, 1.3% are employed by the federal government, and 7.4% are unemployed.  Does that sound like a population that can afford to be building a new military base in Australia, keeping up an Iraq embassy bigger than the Vatican, and fighting on in Afghanistan, among other places?

From a philosophical standpoint, we shouldn’t be in these countries.  From a practical standpoint, we can’t afford it.  So why in the world are we there?  And why in the world are some of the Republican candidates beating the war drums against Iran?  What are they thinking?  Have they completely lost their minds, or don’t they know how to do simple math?  In either case, I worry a lot for the state of our nation.

At the end of the day, there is only one candidate who is talking about real change, and that’s Ron Paul.  He’s talking about getting out of our foreign entanglements, ending the perpetual monetization of our debt, and getting us back on the road to prosperity.  What are the others talking about?  Imposing their religious beliefs on others?  Attacking another nation for refusing to fund our credit addiction?  As for Obama, I think his record speaks for itself, particularly his willingness to sign off on the NDAA.

It is time for peace.  It is time to dial down the debt.  It is time for our country to have some good old-fashioned common sense again.  We will be infinitely better off for it.

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