Time For A Declaration Of Interference?

Someone I know and love recently shared a poster featuring Leutze’s majestic painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, 1776. The caption read “AMERICA,” followed by the words, “We will kill you in your sleep on Christmas.” My initial reaction to this sickening boast was similar to the first time I heard Toby Keith’s hit single, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue. It was a combination of disgust, sadness and grudging acknowledgement that the sentiment does indeed speak for much of America.

That last got me thinking. Maybe “a boot up …” really is the American way now. Maybe what I call Americanism is too 19th century. Maybe we need to articulate and embrace a new set of foundational principles, sort of like Romney’s “bedrock principles” – only those were attitudes. Anyway, since we have so carelessly trashed our founding principles as they appear in our Declaration of Independence, maybe we should trash the Declaration itself and replace it with a new and updated document, one that more accurately reflects our position in the world and our modern approach to international relations. I’ve tried to draw up such a document below. With a little editing by legal and PC experts, it should be something any modern patriot could proudly carry in their pocket.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes advantageous for one people to overstep the political boundaries which have separated them from another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, that supreme and arrogant station to which their economic and military prowess entitles them, a pretence of respect for the well-being of mankind requires them to set forth the consequences everyone else may expect from their ascension.

We hold these claims to be above legitimate debate: that America is exceptional; that we are endowed by the fact of our super-awesome existence with certain international obligations; that among these are global hegemony, full-spectrum dominance, and the responsibility to speak and act for freedom-loving people everywhere (whether they like it or not); that to fulfill these obligations, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of Uncle Sam; that, whenever any government becomes inconvenient for, or ill-disposed toward, America, it is our right, it is our duty, to overthrow such government, and to institute a new government; granting its powers to such persons, and organizing it in such form, as to US shall seem most likely to ensure our continued dominance. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that a nation in the enjoyment of peace ought not to engage in war for light and transient reasons; and all experience has shown that empires are more likely to fall prey to their own corruption, arrogance, and sense of invincibility, than to the dangers and bugbears by which they justify their continued expansion. But when a long train of abuses and interventions, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to enrich a few at the expense of the entire world, without provoking any career-ending electoral displeasure or unmanageable foreign crises, it is our habit to take such complacency for authority, and to embark on new adventures for our further enrichment. Such has been the long-standing experience of these states, and such is now the political climate which invites us to double down on our interventionist policies. The unique awesomeness of these United States is so significant that the lessons of history and prior human experience are insufficient to deter us from bossing you around at gunpoint. In this spirit of hubris, let warnings be presented to an increasingly skeptical world.

We may demand that your laws conform to our constantly changing standards, as the ultimate measure of what is good.

We may offer your leaders immense financial incentives to place the interests of the few above your interests and those of your nations.

We may overthrow your national governments when we see fit, by force or subterfuge, at our option.

We may neglect for a long time, after such overthrow, to allow new governments to be formed; the legislative powers meanwhile being left in the hands of ruthless and incompetent bureaucrats, and your national resources exposed to all the corporate interest groups and speculators that follow in our wake.

We may endeavor to make your leaders dependent on our will alone for the tenure of their offices.

We may invent countless new conventions, commissions, agencies, administrations and NGOs, and send swarms of bureaucrats to harrass your people and live at your expense.

We may keep among you, in time of peace (if you are that lucky), standing armies, bribing your leaders with foreign aid packages to ensure their consent.

We may keep our military independent of, and superior to, your civil institutions.

We may combine with others to subject you to the jurisdiction of the U.N. Security Council, or whatever jurisdiction we may invent at the time, giving our assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among you;

For protecting them, by secrecy, complicated regulations, and vicious prosecution of whistleblowers, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on your people;

For cutting off your trade with any or all parts of the world;

For imposing regulations and restrictions on you without your consent;

For depriving your people, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;

For transporting you overseas to be tortured for intelligence, or to rot away in prison without trial for alleged offences;

For abolishing long recognized individual freedoms in other nations;

For taking away your national sovereignty, appropriating your most valuable resources, and altering fundamentally the order of your societies;

For disbanding your civil institutions, and assuming the responsibility to redesign them for you according to our wishes.

If you refuse to cooperate in our benevolent makeover of your nations, we will plunder your lands, blockade your coasts, bomb your towns, and destroy the lives of your people.

We will hire large armies of private contractors to assist in the work of subjugation, which will be conducted with a reckless disregard for innocent human life scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of a civilized nation.

We will incite domestic insurrections among you, and when our own people become weary of the costs of war, we will rely on our immense technological advantage to continue the fight with bombs, missiles and drones, whose known rule of warfare is an indiscriminate destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these operations we will pay lip service to diplomacy, democracy and self-determination in the most flattering of terms. Our repeated assurances should not be taken seriously. A nation whose policies are thus marked by such reckless ambition and brutality is best obeyed without question or complaint.

Not that we would be averse to achieving our goals through “soft power” when possible. We will print, from time to time, large sums of money to assist in making our uninvited meddling more palatable. We will remind foreign dictators of the invaluable assistance our military and information sectors can provide. We will appeal to their native lust for power and wealth, and cajole them by our common interests to connive at these usurpations. But if they prove deaf to the arguments of self-interest and influence, we must acquiesce in the necessity which requires our forceful intervention, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, targets in war, in peace, puppets.

We therefore, the representatives of these United States of America, in Washington, D.C. assembled, appealing to the inexhaustible credulity and imperturbable ambivalence of our constituents for the peaceable nature of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this nation, arrogantly publish and declare, that we are, and of right ought to be, the leaders of the free world; and that as such, we have full powers to levy war, conclude peace, impose treaties, obstruct commerce, multiply agencies, commissions, laws and regulations, and to do all other things which previous empires have in general done. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on our immunity from the laws of unintended consequences, we mutually pledge to each other your lives, your fortunes, and our sacred honor lol!

I expect all my patriotic, interventionist friends to be overjoyed at the prospect of a new founding document, one that encapsulates the new and improved relationship between America and the rest of the world, and can form the basis for our future prosperity as the successor to all the previous empires that most Americans have never heard of.

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What About Those Horses And Bayonets?

Ignoring countless legitimate problems with the Bush/Obama foreign policy, Mitt Romney criticized Obama last night for what he apparently feels is an insufficiently muscular and ostentatious military presence in the world. He didn’t mention the number of military bases worldwide (close to 800 in around 140 countries), or the nations we’ve bombed during the last 4 years (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Somalia … am I forgetting one or two?), or the amount we spend on our military each year (over 42% of the entire world’s military spending and more than Russia, China, Britain, France, Japan and the next 6 countries combined). But he did express particular concern for the shrinking size of our Navy, which, he says, is down to 285 ships from whatever numerical strength he thinks should have been maintained. Obama’s comeback (horses and bayonets) was necessarily superficial, because neither he nor Romney have anything to gain by honestly addressing the size and cost of our military.

Even if we suppose the number of ships to be a meaningful standard, Romney’s charge demonstrates ignorance and/or shameless opportunism. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, George W. Bush presided over the smallest navy since the 19th century (278 ships in 2007). But seriously, does any sane person believe that the United States Navy is less capable by any imaginable standard than it was in 1917? Is it less able to project power? Can it operate simultaneously in fewer places? Is there a navy out there somewhere that poses a greater threat to ours than Germany’s navy in 1917 or Japan’s navy in 1942?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then I’m not addressing you. The rest of us would do well to ask ourselves what it is Mitt Romney hopes to accomplish by such utterly meritless fear mongering. Does he really think that the comparative strength of our navy leaves us vulnerable militarily? Or was he just whistling to the dogs, trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of nationalist sentiment? If the former, he is absolutely unfit to lead the already monstrous war fighting machine he aspires to command; if the latter, he is a deceptive scoundrel and Republican voters should be ashamed of themselves.

Facts or Propaganda?

As the final debate between Obamney approaches, I am bracing for what will likely be the undoing of the warm feelings I have been dutifully nuturing toward our candidate. Governor Romney’s blissful ignorance of America’s place in the world, constitutionally and in reality, remains the biggest obstacle to this conservative’s support. And his efforts to reassure voters by promising to defer to his military advisers are anything but comforting. The only thing the founders feared more than an executive with unchecked war-making powers was an autonomous military. James Madison must be digging out of his grave by now.

Not only does Romney fail to understand both the mess that is the American empire and the relevant constitutional law, he doesn’t even seem to have a coherent position of his own. In his much hyped VMI speech two weeks ago, Romney identified the “bedrock principles” of the Romney doctrine: “America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might.” But as Gene Healy points out in an excellent piece in the Washington Examiner, “…those are attitudes, not principles. And if jut-jawed self-assurance that we know what we’re doing in the Middle East was the key to victory, we’d have a little more to show from the last 11 years of war. Hope is not a strategy, but hubris isn’t either.”

Worse than the over-confident and under-informed arrogance, however, is the deliberate deception and propaganda constantly peddled by both campaigns and the war lobbyists they work for. Nonsense about Muslims hating us because we’re free, idolization of Syrian “freedom fighters” with no acknowledgement of their terrorist connections, and fearmongering that borders on psychosis with regard to Iran are all examples of the schizophrenic foreign policy jumble that both candidates embrace. And the voting public seems tragically complacent about the utter lack of meaningful distinctions between Team A and Team B.

Several days ago I was reading a Foreign Policy article about the radicalization of rural Pakistani youth, and specifically the techniques employed by terrorist groups in recruiting teenage boys for suicide attacks. I was stunned by the sickening methods used to convince these uneducated and ignorant boys to kill and die. Without repeating the claims made in the article, I will only say that one cannot help seeing even a suicide attacker in a different light after the author’s description of their indoctrination.

As my wife and I were discussing the article, my oldest son arrived home from school. He greeted me with, “Hi dad, Mrs. – says Iranians are dangerous people, is that true?”

Oh boy, I thought, here we go. “Why does Mrs. – say so?” I inquired.

“She says they are building a nuclear bomb to launch at us.”

“And why does she think they would want to launch a nuclear bomb at us?” I persisted.

“Because they don’t like that we’re over there defending our oil.”

Now, in fairness to Mrs. -, who I genuinely like and admire, I’m reasonably certain that she wasn’t quoted verbatim. It is entirely possible that my son’s impression of her comments differed substantially from her intent. Be that as it may, the timing of his question, coming as it did while the deceptive propaganda of Islamic jihadists was fresh in my mind, was an uncomfortable, but inescapable, reminder that both sides are equally guilty of using rank propaganda and deception to motivate and gain the support of the masses.

The problems with such ridiculous claims (which, regardless of whether my son’s impression was accurate, are widely believed by rank-and-file conservative voters) ought to be obvious. First of all, to describe “Iranians” (or any other ethnic group) in such sweeping terms demonstrates a pitifully two-dimensional view of the world, not to say of human nature. Secondly, our own intelligence agencies have been unanimous in their opinion that Iran is not, at present, building a nuclear weapon. Nor are they enriching uranium to the level required for such a weapon. Thirdly, if Iran did succeed in building a nuclear weapon, they are clearly unable to deploy it via ballistic missiles that would threaten the US. Fourthly, if Iran ever did develop intercontinental nuclear capabilities, what motive could they possibly have for a first strike? And lastly, while it is undoubtedly the height of insolence for Muslims in general and Iranians in particular to live on top of our oil, the evidence does not favor our appetite for oil as a pat explanation for Iranian animosity toward the US.

But its been a long time since evidence was last allowed to get in the way of the military-industrial complex. I expect Romney to differ from the President tonight only in the violence of his rhetoric. I would love to see him advocate a more humble and constitutional foreign policy, one that would present voters with a real choice to deal with the national debt, stop alienating allies and manufacturing enemies, and put James Madison back to bed. He has changed his position on most other issues, so perhaps there is reason to hope.

But, alas, hope is not a strategy.