Lela on Why We Aren’t Better than That   1 comment

Last week Thom Stark gave an impassioned defense for restraint in interventinism. This week I agree with him! Sort of …

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedYou’re right, Thom, we should be better than that. Unfortunately, we’re not … at least not anymore.This is one of those rare instances where you and I are in total agreement. I want to clean up a couple of points and then come back to the main topic.

A writer can be right on some ideas and wrong on others. Hitchens represented that truth. The art for the reader is to glean the wheat from the chaff. In this case, Hitchens is not the only writer to have noticed our entanglement with England in those years nor will he be the last. I could list about 25 academic articles on the subject, all of them pretty dry and boring. The United States and England have long historical ties to one another, obviously, but we were testy with one another from the Revolution right into the end of the 19th century. For most of our history, the US had a strict policy of neutrality. We were willing to export any product to any country and thus avoid war all around the globe. Winning the Spanish American War gave us delusions of grandeur because we suddenly found ourselves with a nascent global empire. Britain was just about the only European power that supported us in that war, by the way. We returned the favor In 1900-01 by joining England to suppress the Boxer Rebellion.

Still, we were all dressed up with nowhere to go if we didn’t assert our strength into global politics.

So, we did — first by chasing Germany out of the Caribbean (TR even threatened war) and giving preferential treatment to England in the collection of war reparations from Venezuela, and then with World War 1, which was the first time a non-European power interfered in a European war. It didn’t really matter which side the US supported. That hop across the pound served its own ends. It didn’t make Europe any safer for democracy, but it proved to the United States that we had the power to affect world politics. Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt before him believed we should take a substantial role in the world than we had previously claimed. Wilson’s stroke followed by the election of McKinley, quickly followed by Coolidge prevented us from becoming the world policeman in 1920, but that was only an intermission.

Every US president since World War 2 has largely operated on the premise that the US is boss of the world. You can’t blame any particular political party. Democratic presidents got us into World War 2, Korea, Vietnam and the Balkans. Republic presidents got us into Desert Storm and Afghanistan/Iraq. Our current Democratic president has insisted we meddle in Syria and Libya. While neocons are popularly associated with the GOP these days, they were originally Democrats who, frustrated with their historical party’s anti-war stance post-Vietnam, jumped ship to Reagan’s big tent. Neocon warmonging is a trans-partisan issue.

It might be helpful to better explain what that term “neoconservative” means. It predates the current political party platform configurations, but really the media sort of throws the term around in such a loose fashion that it’s difficult to catch a meaning.

“Neocons” believe American greatness is measured by our willingness to be a great power through use of vast and virtually unlimited global military involvement. America is the world’s top authority, so other nations’ problems invariably become our concern. When people like myself (a fiscal conservative) point out that the US cannot afford to be the world’s policeman, neoconservatives say we have no choice because “Our world needs a policeman. And whether most Americans like it or not, only their indispensable nation is fit for the job” (Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe). This is essentially the Republican equivalent of Woodrow Wilson’s “keeping the world safe for democracy.” Wilson was a Democrat, Bush was a Republican … both danced to the neocon tune. As a non-partisan conservative, it’s been illustrative to watch our Democratic president dropping drone strikes across the globe even as many Republicans (Marco Rubio aside) began to question the old neocon foreign policy consensus that dominated Bush’s GOP. It’s not a partisan phenomena. The Democrats just justify their warmongering under humanitarian language while the Republicans point to national security.

“It is a traditional conservative position not to want the United States to be the policeman of the world,” Jimmy Duncan (R) said in 2003, promptly to be shouted down by his party because Republicans at the time didn’t see Iraq as “policing the world”, but as a legitimate matter of national defense. Hindsight being 20-20, they (or really, the “tea party” contingent that has increasingly replaced the old guard in recent years) now recognize we needlessly created another country’s civil war and destabilized an entire region.

That’s always what neocons do, by the way. They see America’s wars as valid simply because we are in them. “As long as evil exists, someone will have to protect peaceful people from predators” (Max Boot, historian). Boot snidely asked the GOP when they declined war in Syria if they wanted to be known as the “anti-military, weak-on-defense, pro-dictator party”. Oddly, that is exactly what the Republicans said about Democrats for opposing the Iraq War. John McCain famously declared Republicans who oppose intervention in Syria as “isolationists”, but really there is a difference between supporting a strong national defense and opposing policing the world in the guise of national defense. We can have a strong defense without posting our army in every country of the globe or meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

And we do need a strong national defense because there are many in this world who do not see our national behavior as friendly.The Czechs protested our troops in their country back in April, Russia is protesting our training maneuvers in Ukraine now. Islamists are currently the most active, and while they do not pose a direct threat to the American mainland at the moment, 911 should remind us that they have those aims. I don’t fear a direct military campaign, but we are so weak in so many other areas — economically, socially, ethically — that another 911-type attack will likely be used to justify a further restriction of civil rights by our own government. That is something we should fear, because we’ve seen that our government is not “better than that,” and is quite willing to ignore the Constitution under the guise of “protecting” we the people.

As for the Islamic State, it seems more interested in securing its territorial gains in the Levant currently, but both they and Al Qaeda (which controls substantial landscape as well) still have the long-term goal of a worldwide caliphate. To the extent that they would impose their ideal by regimenting society under a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, bent upon severe economic and social regimentation with forcible suppression of opposition, Islamists show a great deal of similarity to fascists. That it is motivated by religion rather than nationalism won’t really matter in our daily lives if they gain an upper hand. We will be miserable nonetheless. As long as Al Qaeda and ISIL fight among themselves, the US (if not Europe) is probably fine for the time being, but if they return to pooling their resources …. But I think that our fighting them in the Middle East only helps with their recruiting there … and here.

Thom StarkUltimately, though, our real danger comes from ourselves … from our government — both the elected tyrants an ill-informed electorate keeps putting into office and the unelected tyrants who populate the regulatory agencies, prisons, police forces and social work fields. We think our government is ourselves — what we have chosen to do collectively — but on a whole host of issues, the American people hold vastly different views from the elites who rule us, which suggests that we the people are not in control any longer. While people with short vision would like to blame GWB or Obama, the fact is that this has been in the works since at least President Wilson. Our failure to understand that is why 90% of the voters can say they oppose the US playing “policeman” around the world and yet our supposed employees in the US military still are fulfilling that role.

Yes, we should be better than that … but we aren’t, and sadly, I don’t think our government aspires to be better, though people like you and I might.

The question is — if we the people really want to be better than that — how do we make our government do what we want? I don’t think the solution will be found in partisan politics.

 

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author of Transformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

One response to “Lela on Why We Aren’t Better than That

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  1. Reblogged this on That Mr. G Guy's Blog.

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