“Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.”
So wrote the poet Byron, who would himself die just days after landing in Greece to join the war for independence from the Turks.
But in that time, Americans followed the dictum of Washington, Adams and Jefferson: Stay out of foreign wars.
America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own,” said John Quincy Adams in his oration of July 4, 1821.
When Greek patriots sought America’s assistance, Daniel Webster took up their cause but was admonished by John Randolph. Intervention would breach every “bulwark and barrier of the Constitution.”
“Let us say to those 7 million of Greeks: We defended ourselves when we were but 3 million, against a power in comparison to which the Turk is but as a lamb. Go and do thou likewise.”
When Hungarian hero Louis Kossuth came to request a U.S. fleet in the Mediterranean to keep the czar’s warships at bay, when Hungary sought to break free of the Habsburg Empire, Webster backed him.
But Henry Clay and John Calhoun stood against it.
“Far better is it for ourselves,” said Clay, “for Hungary and for the cause of liberty that, adhering to our wise, pacific system and avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore as a light to all nations than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of fallen or falling republics in Europe.”
When Hungarian patriots rose up against the Soviet occupation in 1956, Khrushchev sent in hundreds of tanks to drown the revolution in blood.
Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain, the Yalta-Potsdam line to which FDR and Truman had agreed. There were no U.S. troops on any Hungarian border. So Eisenhower did — nothing.
Indeed, that same month, Ike ordered British, French and Israelis to end their intervention in Sinai and Suez and get their troops out or face sanctions, including the U.S. sinking of the British pound.
Was Ike an isolationist?
Until the modern era, the idea of sending armed forces across oceans to kill and die for moral or humanitarian causes would have been seen as an insult to the Founding Fathers, an abandonment of a vital American tradition, and ruinous to the national interest.
Why are we in Libya? Why are U.S. pilots bombing and killing Libyan soldiers who have done nothing to us?
These soldiers are simply doing their sworn duty to protect their country from attack and defend the only government they have known from what they are told is an insurgency backed by al-Qaida and supported by Western powers after their country’s oil.
Why did Obama launch this unconstitutional war?
Moral, humanitarian and ideological reasons. Though Robert Gates and the Pentagon had thrown ice water on the idea of intervening in a third war in the Islamic world — in a sandbox on the northern coast of Africa — Obama somersaulted and ordered the attack, for three reasons.
The Arab League gave him permission to impose a no-fly zone. He feared that Moammar Gadhafi would do to Benghazi what Scipio Africanus did to Carthage. And Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power conveyed to Obama their terrible guilt feelings about America’s failure to stop what happened in Rwanda and Darfur.
This is the three sisters’ war.
But why was it America’s moral duty to stop the Tutsi slaughter of Hutus in Burundi in 1972 or the Hutu counter-slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994? Why was that not the duty of their closest African neighbors, Zaire (Congo), Uganda and Tanzania?
These African countries have been independent for a half-century. When are they going to man up?
The slaughter in Darfur is the work of an Arab League member, Sudan. Egypt, the largest and most powerful Arab nation, is just down the Nile. Why didn’t the Egyptian army march to Khartoum, a la Kitchener, throw that miserable regime out, and stop the genocide?
Why doesn’t Egypt, whose 450,000-man army has gotten billions from us, roll into Tobruk and Benghazi and protect those Arabs from being killed by fellow Arabs? Why is this America’s responsibility?
When Spain had its civil war in the 1930s, in which hundreds of thousands perished, FDR declared neutrality. A million Ibos died in Nigeria’s civil war from 1967-70. No one raised a finger to help them or the million Cambodians who perished in Pol Pot’s killing fields.
Since Bush I, we have intervened in Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya. Had Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman gotten their way, we would have been fighting Russians in Georgia and bombing Iran.
Add up all those we have killed, wounded, widowed, orphaned or uprooted, and the number runs into the millions. All these wars have helped mightily to bankrupt us.
Have they made us more secure?
Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. See his website.