The following is a letter I sent to a conservative friend of mine who disagrees with a non-interventionist foreign policy.
Most people as I do recognize the heroic nature of those in uniform who work for the defense of ones country. The conflict arises from deciphering what is offense and what is defense.
Only defensive war is just. The legacy of just war theory in Western Civilization derives from the writings of Cicero, St Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, Over the ages the writings of those philosophers have been refined into the following principles for the justice of war:
1.having just cause;
2.being a last resort;
3.being declared by a proper authority;
4.possessing right intention;
5.having a reasonable chance of success;
6.the end being proportional to the means used
The Western tradition of the primacy of the individual and certainly the legacy of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, versus those political philosophies of collectivism, such as Communism, Socialism, fascism or nationalism, requires one to look at indiscriminate war as the most vile form of collectivism, a destruction of the rights of an individual. To wage war without the paramount value of refraining from the killing of innocent civilians from an American viewpoint is simply, morally wrong.
Pre-emptive war such as that waged against Iraq can never fit into the category of a just defensive war. First, it wouldn't be by definition a last resort, but instead, a first option. War wouldn't be declared by a proper authority since surprise is a necessary aspect of pre-emptive war. There would be no declaration of war. The ostensible reasons for war will have not been vetted sufficiently, since the requirement of pre-emption naturally hastens the move to war. And, of course we now know that the haste to get into that war without realizing the truth or falsity of those "weapons of mass destruction" resulted in execution of war without justification as all the charges of 'weapons of mass destruction" were false.
If every nation on earth held to the same philosophy of pre-emption during the twentieth century, there would be nothing human left on earth. Surely, both the Soviet Union and the United States of America would rationalize that since missiles are pointed at each other, better take out the one side before the other side attacks. Mutually assured destruction. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. An aspect of the traditional view of just war set up more limited wars by proxy in the third world. But now that the US believes it enjoys a virtual monopoly of force on the rest of the world, not moral considerations, but the presence of pure naked power, has enabled the US to posit the theory of pre-emptive war. Having the power to wage pre-emptive war certainly doesn't justify that war from any moral aspect that the great philosophers of the ages painstakingly developed through just war theory.
One can understand that if one is waging a truly defensive war and going after true military targets, some "collateral damage" may be unavoidable. But in the perils of a "war on terror," where the enemy is elusive and hard to identify, major collateral damage is unavoidable. Getting beyond the fact of its immorality, the utilitarian aspect of this is bankrupt. Every time innocents are killed, the mythical hydra snake multiplies as once moderate Islamists become instantly radicalized by virtue of the fact that their loved ones have become "collateral damage." If you doubt the occurrence of this, ask yourself this question, If you had a Chinese family living next door to you who were really freedom fighters, subversives plotting to overthrow the tyranny in China, while living in the US, what would your reaction be if the Chinese brought in a drone to wipe out those Chinese terrorists. They succeed, but unfortunately some of your loved ones become collateral damage in the process. How long would it take you to become radicalized against the Chinese?
Even non-violent acts of war such as the Clinton sanctions against Iraq may have killed up to 500,000 innocent children. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, when asked about this, said, "We think it is worth it." This fatal conceit and hubris of the elite has blown back at us, to far greater extent than most would want to admit. How many moderate Islamic people were radicalized by that quote which was broadcast all over the Arab world? To answer that question you must ask yourself how many Americans would become radicalized if a foreign country imposed economic sanction on us that resulted in a half million of our children dead. Hell hath no fury, . . . But even if those sanctions didn't result in raising one more radical, the step must certainly be considered morally wrong. Certainly the end is not proportional to the means used.
Limited government conservatives are prone to rely on the founding fathers for advice as to how to approach public policy. The Constitution is often quoted. And conservatives lament when "liberals" read into the Constitution powers that are not there or powers that derive from a "living Constitution." ( A living Constitution is where two people are playing poker, one has two pair, the other, three of a kind. The one with two pair says "The rules have changed in this modern era. Two pair now beats three of a kind.") Why is it then that those who believe in an aggressive foreign policy become cognitively dissonant concerning Constitutional powers in this field? The Constitution is very clear. Article I, section 8: "Congress has the power to declare war." Nowhere does the Constitution allow the Congress to delegate this grave responsibility. To believe so is to walk the path of "liberals" who read so much power into the Constitution that they take the position that Congress through the commerce clause can tell individuals what vegetables can or can not be grown on their own property for their own consumption. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn) This is, of course an absurd proposition, but no less absurd than the notion that Congress can delegate their responsibility to declare war onto the Executive branch. On this point alone, foreign intervention since World War II has been and is illegal, unconstitutional and wrong.
Those of us who believe in limited government are fond of quoting the founding fathers on a variety of issues. Why is it that those who believe in an aggressive foreign policy choose to ignore the admonitions of the founders on the points of foreign policy? Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in his farewell address preached of a foreign policy of non-intervention. They called for free trade with all and entangling alliances with none. But times are different, now, you say? Listen to yourself--that is exactly how liberals sound as they run roughshod over the Constitution. Fundamental principles do not change.
And we need not turn to the Eighteenth Century to garner support for non-interventionism. In the Fifties, "Mr. Republican,' Robert Taft, had this to say on war, "War by its very nature tended to concentrate power in the hands of the central state, and thus threatened the cherished American ideals of limited government and separation of powers." And of course, President Eisenhower, in his farewell address prophetically warned of the power of the (Congressional[He used this word in the first draft; it was eliminated by speech time]) Military Industrial Complex. Eisenhower also believed that the use of nuclear weapons against Japan was unnecessary. Said Eisenhower, " in [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.
"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..." (http://www.doug-long.com/quotes.htm) General Douglas McArthur, Herbert Hoover and Admiral William D. Leahy (among other foreign policy leaders) had similar misgivings.
If an alien from another planet came to earth and studied war history over the past seventy years observing that the US is the only nation on earth to use nuclear weapons, would the alien not think it rather hypocritical for the US to deny other nations' right to have these weapons for their security, i.e., Iran?
As one who believes in limited government, I firmly believe that fundamental principles don't change. Those principles include that human beings have the right to life, that in order to promote life, they have the right to produce and to keep those products of their labor and expertise. They have the right to choose, to make decisions in any manner controlling their life as long as they don't infringe on the equal rights of others to do the same. This is the essence of being a free human being. Extrapolating this into foreign policy requires one to realize that for one country to intervene into another country's business is wrong and immoral. Entangling alliances such as NATO or the United Nations violate this principle.
But what about true national defense? If 911 was an invasion, then the perpetrators should be brought to justice. Since the perpetrators of 911 didn't represent a nation state, the response becomes a little more problematic. But the answer is yet in the Constitution. In Article I, section 8, it provides for the use of "Letters of Marque and Reprisal." This process commissions a group of people (on the seas historically, they were privateers) to go after specific individuals for crimes committed against the US. After 911, Congressman Ron Paul called for the use of letters of marque and reprisal to go after Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida. The value of this approach is that the killing of innocent people being killed is minimized, the actual perpetrators are punished instead of innocent civilians being killed because of collective guilt by association.
Instead, to call for a perpetual war against a concept, "terror", is a recipe for a burgeoning police state. I actually predicted this after the first gulf war. (www.freedomrings.net/html/writings/essays/Lessons_of_the_Persian_Gulf_War.htm) Randolph Bourne had it right, "War is the health of the state." From time immemorial, government has used war as an excuse to take away citizens' natural rights. During the War Between the States, (I actually prefer the phrase, "The War of Northern Aggression"), Lincoln did all of the following:
Took away the right to habeas corpus;
Interned thousands of people without charging them of a crime including many journalists;
Deported A Congressman;
Took away the natural right and the unalienable right as professed in the Declaration of Independence, to secede;
Introduced fiat currency backed by nothing of value which is nothing less than theft through inflation;
Introduced the draft to this country--really a form of slavery;
Introduced for the first time in this country, the income tax, another form of theft and/or slavery.
Some of these violations stayed with America, others temporarily went away only to come back to haunt us because of the precedent.
The war on terror has accelerated this process. The Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act completely violates the principles in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Our Founding Fathers fought a revolution against the processes that these laws permit. After passing the Stamp Act, King George needed a way to enforce the act so he used writs of assistance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writ_of_assistance). These writs enabled tax collectors to go into homes without any search warrant signed by a judge. These were general warrants. Officials could violate privacy and property rights for any whim at any time. The ratification of the Fourth Amendment was a direct answer against the use of Writs of Assistance. Our Fourth Amendment gives no exception for times of war. Moreover, no war has been declared. As the Constitution in the Fourth and Fifth Amendment refer to persons or people, not citizens, military tribunals and the holding of persons indefinitely is also un-Constitutional.
These acts, as bad as they are, now pale in comparison to recent events. The President has asserted the power to assassinate American citizens based solely on the claim of the Executive branch, with no transparency. Any fair-minded individual should see the danger in this. This is a recipe for totalitarian rule. To prevent this sort of thing is why the Bill of Rights was enacted. To make matters worse, in the recent case where President Obama carried out this murder of Awlaki, he also murdered his son who hadn't been declared an enemy combatant. Very reminiscent of how the Mafia does business. Better kill the son, too, or he might come back to retaliate. And now, the Congress has just passed a law that completely takes away the Constitutional rights of American citizens claiming that the military can pick up any citizen in the world, including in the US, which has now been declared a battlefield, and hold them indefinitely, and assassinate them. Any future president now has this power. Anyone who doesn't see the danger of this, has his head totally in the sand. One might as well call me an enemy combatant, because I believe any government official who supports this, in essence is guilty of treason. I am an enemy combatant against those who have subverted the Constitution turning my country into a police state. Gitmo, or worse, here I come.
To destroy our freedoms in order to save them is completely Orwellian.
Interventionism becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. the United States' problems with the Middle East hasn't happened in a vacuum. Adapted from Iraq, Iran, and September 11: A Chronology, by Jacob G. Hornberger, December 19, 2002)
1951 -- Iranian people democratically elect Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh as Iranian premier.
1953 -- U.S. government, operating through the CIA, ousts Mossadegh in favor of shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, a cruel and tyrannical dictator who, with U.S. government support, brutalizes his own people for the next 25 years.
1979 -- Iranian people revolt and oust the shah of Iran from power and take U.S. officials hostage in anger and retaliation against the United States. U.S. government is outraged over the ouster of the shah and the hostage-taking.
1981 -- Iranian people release hostages to the United States.
1980s -- U.S. government enters into partnership with Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, to retaliate against Iran. U.S. government furnishes chemical and biological weapons to Saddam.
Late 1980s-- With U.S. government support and assistance, Saddam uses U.S.-government-supplied chemical weapons against Iranian troops.
1986 -- U.S. government enters into partnership with Osama bin Laden and other Islamic radicals to resist Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. U.S. government furnishes partners with weaponry, including U.S.-made Stinger missiles.
1991-- Soviet Union falls and Cold War ends. NATO faces abolition and U.S. military-industrial complex faces massive reduction in budget and influence.
1991 -- Saddam contends that neighbor Kuwait is stealing Iraqi oil through slant drilling and is also violating contractual agreements in OPEC. Saddam signals partner U.S. government of intention to invade Kuwait to resolve dispute. U.S. government, through U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, expresses no objections, stating, “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.. . . Kuwait is not associated with America.”
1991-- Saddam invades Kuwait to resolve slant-drilling and OPEC dispute. President George H.W. Bush turns on partner Saddam and declares him to be a new “Hitler” effectively dissolving the long partnership between U.S. government and Saddam. Bush declares intention to attack Iraq with UN assistance to repel Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
1991 -- Persian Gulf War. UN forces, led by U.S. government, defeat Iraq and oust Iraq from Kuwait. UN and President George H.W. Bush leave Saddam in power but require him to dismantle his nuclear facilities and chemical and biological weapons.
1991-- U.S. government attempts to oust Saddam from power through UN-enforced military-economic blockade, also known as “sanctions,” against the Iraqi people, which continues to the present. According to UN officials, sanctions contribute to the deaths of multitudes of Iraqi children, with estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to a million.
Early 1990s -- U.S. government establishes illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, resulting in a continuous U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq. Illegal bombing campaign kills hundreds of Iraqi people.
1993 -- U.S. World Trade Center terrorist bomber cites death of Iraqi children as a motivating factor in bombing attack.
1996 -- Osama bin Laden turns against former partner U.S. government and declares war against United States, stating in part, “More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression imposed on Iraq and its nation.”
1996 -- U.S. government, through U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright, announces that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children resulting from the military-economic blockade against Iraq have been worth it.
1998-2000 -- High UN officials resign posts in protest against deaths of Iraqi children from sanctions.
2001 -- September 11 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon. U.S. government declares perpetual “war on terrorism” and begins indefinite campaign to restrict rights and freedoms of the American people. NATO is reinvigorated, military spending soars, and military-industrial complex expands, all for the indefinite future.
2002 -- President George W. Bush repeats President George H.W. Bush’s 1991 declaration that former U.S. government partner Saddam is a “Hitler” and that therefore he must be ousted from power, 12 years after the Persian Gulf War. Bush claims that former partner Saddam hates America for its “freedom and values.” Bush cites former partner Saddam’s acquisition of nuclear components and biological and chemical weapons (including those obtained from the United States) as proof that Saddam presents a dire threat to the United States.
2002 -- UN Security Council, prodded by U.S. government, requires Saddam to file updated weapons report fully accounting for nuclear components and biological and chemical weaponry.
2002 -- Saddam files updated nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons report with the UN Security Council.. U.S. government objects to public release of identities of suppliers of nuclear components to Iraq. UN turns report over to United States, which releases censored summary that deletes identities of nuclear suppliers, but information on suppliers nevertheless leaked to press. United States among suppliers of nuclear components to former partner Saddam.
2002-- Bush administration announces that former partner Saddam is in breach of UN resolutions by providing an incomplete accounting of nuclear components and biological and chemical weaponry, possibly on the basis of a comparison between the nuclear, biological, and chemical weaponry that the U.S. government originally furnished Saddam and what he has accounted for.
If radical Islamic fundamentals attack us for our freedoms, why is it that Switzerland and Canada never get attacked? Could it possibly be because those countries take a neutral stance on foreign policy? You say it is because America is the leader of the free world? Leader of what? The world certainly isn't free and if Osama bin Laden's goal was to destroy our freedoms, he has succeeded, because our freedom has been destroyed from within, ostensibly to save it. And, really, the only thing we are a leader in now, is military spending, spending as much as the rest of the world combined, and currency debasement as the dollar is still the world's reserve currency. But even now, that is changing as more countries abandoned the dollar as it becomes worth less and less.
Which brings me to my final reason, we need to abandon our aggressive foreign policy. Our country is bankrupt! Counting unfunded liabilities, it is over 100 trillion dollars in debt. We simply can't afford to have 900 military bases in over 140 countries in the world. We can't afford to be the world's policemen. We can't afford paying for the defense of Germany, Japan, South Korea, or any other nation for that matter. The increasing bankrupt nature of our economy is the largest security threat to the US.
In conclusion, the American aggressive foreign policy violates the long-standing Western view of just war theory. It runs contrary to our heritage and the views of the Founding Fathers. It violates the logic of conservative limited government philosophy. It destroys the Bill of Rights, and turns the US into a police state playing right into Islamic fundamentalists' hands. It has created ill will throughout the world that makes interventionist philosophy a self-fulfilling prophesy. It has bankrupted our nation, both economically, and morally. It has turned me, and other freedom fighters who love the foundation of our country more than anything else, into enemy combatants. The last nail in the coffin containing freedom has been set. The rest, I fear, will be history that may rival the atrocities of Hitler's Germany or the Soviet Union. My only hope is Ron Paul.