Justin Raimondo on the lies, smears, and distortions aimed at opponents of empire:
The idea that the United States government should not intervene in the internal affairs of other nations is heresy. After World War II, both political parties and nearly all the nation’s elites agreed on one thing: we have an “obligation” to pursue and maintain a position of “world leadership.” Without the US to guide them, it was inferred, the nations of the globe would soon sink into a maelstrom of malevolence and violent conflict, the sea lanes would be threatened, and International Anarchy would be the inevitable result.
There were, to be sure, a few skeptical voices that continued to be heard, but they were either drowned out by the interventionist din, or eventually browbeaten into silence. In the Washington, D.C. of today, to even question the right and obligation of the US to meddle in the affairs of nations the world over is to be considered an Unserious Person, relegated to the fringes, and unceremoniously tuned out. The foreign policy Establishment’s success in policing the discourse has been astonishingly successful, given the First Amendment. This success is due to the sheer weight of years of propaganda emanating not only from the Washington think tanks, but from the organs of popular culture: novels, television, films, and the popular media in general, constantly reinforcing the message, which is that the Empire is a Good Thing.
That this message is contradicted by the other major theme of imperialist propaganda – which is that America isn’t an empire, after all, and never was – is but a bothersome minor detail. After all, this is the same country whose political and intellectual elites rhapsodize over its alleged benevolence whilst in the same breath justifying the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a moral necessity, the same nation that boasts it’s “the land of the free” while imprisoning a greater percentage of its population than Communist China. Hubris-induced blindness not only allows such contradictions: it thrives on them.
Lately, however, those long-silenced voices of dissent have been revived. Two unwinnable wars and a third in the making have provoked a reaction, on the right as well as the left, and the Establishment is once again up in arms about the growing “danger” of “isolationism.” This is a longstanding complaint among our elites, whodisdain the “provincialism” of ordinary Americans which causes them to hesitate when confronted by yet another US-induced “crisis” supposedly requiring our intervention. Don’t those rubes – who don’t even have passports, most of them! – realize we have a Moral Duty to Fulfill our Responsibilities – that we have a “responsibility to protect” which it would be morally irresponsible to protest?
Americans, they’ve decided, have to be protected from their own narrow-minded and selfish inclination to mind their own business, and so the campaign against “isolationism” has begun. This is the first common fallacy about anti-interventionism that calls out for refutation: the charge that anti-interventionism is “isolationism.”
The “isolationist” canard first arose in the run-up to World War II, when the War Party deployed it against those who saw no American interest in bolstering the Soviet Union against National Socialist Germany, and preferred to let Stalin and Hitler fight it out until both collapsed from sheer exhaustion. The “isolationists’” advice was ignored, however – and what followed was fifty years of a “cold war” as the world teetered on the brink of nuclear annihilation.
The charge that opponents of our policy of global intervention are “isolationists” is a non sequitur: that is, it does not follow from the anti-interventionist premise, which is that our interests are best served by steering clear of foreign wars of aggression. To rule out military aggression is not to abjure other, less intrusive relations: trade, for one. Indeed, a warlike policy would seem to rule out expansive trade relations with a great part of the world outside our system of alliances and protectorates. Besides that, however, there is no such ideology as “isolationism”: not even the North Koreans, who pursue a policy of engagement and even close cooperation with China, can be so labeled.
Another charge that comes up whenever anyone utters a protest, however mild, at our endless efforts to make the world safe for Goodness and Light, goes something like this: So, you’re defending the regime of (Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, or whatever Hitler-of-the-month is in our sights at the moment)? Why, that guy is a moral monster! He has murdered and repressed his own people: he’s killing them in the streets at this very moment!
This is another non sequitur: to oppose intervention in, say, Syria, says nothing about one’s attitude toward the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the country’s hereditary dictator. Yet, in spite of its illogic, this is always the first charge hurled at the antiwar protester. As evidence that even the most specious fallacy will find some adherents, a few opponents of interventionism have embraced the “logic” of their ostensible opponents and become defenders of the indefensible. To blindly defend whatever tinpot dictator the regime-changers have targeted is to set oneself up for deserved marginalization: in the event alleged atrocities come to light and are verified, the anti-interventionist case is discredited – to say nothing of the moral opprobrium that comes with defending a tyrant.
In the case of Syria, it’s undeniable the regime has killed many in an effort to quash the rebellion, just as it’s pretty clear armed “protesters” are doing much of the killingthemselves. What of it? People are killed all over the world by their own governments for no good reason other than the authorities can get away with it: to intervene in even just the worst cases would lead on an endless wild goose chase and soon exhaust our limited resources. Proponents of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine – a recent variation of the “humanitarian” interventionism favored during the Clinton years – protest that while we cannot intervene everywhere, we must intervene on occasion when it is practical and morally imperative that we do so.
However, this argument evades the essential issue at the core of the foreign policy debate, which is: what’s a foreign policy for, anyway? Is it to Do Good, or to defend the country? Which leads us to the next charge leveled against us anti-interventionists: Don’t we have to preemptively take action against our enemies before they take action against us – and wouldn’t a non-interventionist foreign policy preclude such a “defense”?
The answers are no and no. It is hard to imagine under what circumstances a threat could be so potentially devastating that it would justify preemptive military action. After all, the United States is in no danger of being conquered by a foreign power: and, in spite of Rick Santorum’s paranoid ravings about Iran’s plans to invade South America and march on the Alamo, it shares no border with its antagonists.
For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that such a threat exists, and is discovered: a non-interventionist commander-in-chief would have no principled reason to hesitate, short of verifying the nature and extent of the threat – since attacking the enemy would be a defensive act. As I headlined an early editorial on the 9/11 attacks: “Kill ‘em – And Get Out!” (Emphasis added.) A decade later, however, we’re still there, “nation-building.” In allowing ourselves to be drawn into the ongoing Afghan civil war we succumbed to the dangerous slippery-slope logic of interventionism: if a little intervention is necessary, more would be better, the best defense is a good offense. Except it just isn’t so.
The fallacies about anti-interventionism are legion, and refuting them all in a single column is just not possible, try as I might. Among the more absurd: anti-interventionists are “pacifists” (refuted by the above), “unpatriotic” (supporters of the Founders’ foreign policy are the real patriots), and heartless realists (although the interventionists’ heedlessness when it comes to the casualties of war is left unmentioned). These are all canards that have been refuted many times over, and yet they keep popping up whenever the War Party is on the march.