New Faces and Places in the War on Terror

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The U.S. government cannot resist taking sides in battles across the world between government and anti-government forces. It is easy for the U.S. to provide reasons for every intervention, but they are poor reasons that fall apart when examined. Looking back, the deficit of sensible explanations is confirmed by the disastrous results of the interventions. Their costs to Americans vastly exceed their benefits.

I will mention only a few such reasons and a few such costly interventions as examples. The false domino theory and fears of Ho Chi Minh’s communism were used to justify the Vietnam War. The expansion of the war to Laos and Cambodia was justified by unsuccessful attempts to cut off the sanctuaries of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. The false fears of Saddam Hussein’s might and intentions, his weapons of mass destruction and his arsenal of terror, were used by U.S. officials to justify attacking Iraq. The U.S. justified attacking Libya on the false rationale that Gaddafi was launching a terrorist attack on his own people. This war, prosecuted officially by NATO, has resulted in a rash of new forces in Africa and Libya, some of whom have traveled to Syria to fight there. Libya is so unsafe that 1,000 marines have just been moved closer to its shores for a possible evacuation of Americans. The U.S. launched a long, costly and futile war in Afghanistan to get one man and his close associates, creating an enemy in the Taliban government and bringing it down. This effort failed. We are told that the man was located and killed in Pakistan some years later.

The most general reason that the U.S. puts forward for any intervention is to kill or stop the “bad” guys, nowadays called by such names as insurgents, terrorists, rebels, militants, jihadists, and al-Qaida affiliates. The U.S. only has to call some group by one of these names in order to put forth the idea that it is morally justified in intervening or that it is doing the “right” thing. This idea is hardening into a doctrine called RIP or responsibility to protect. The word “right” is taken by the government to mean both morally right and pragmatically right.

The latest U.S. interventions are occurring in Libya, Mali, Niger and Mauritania. For 10 years, the U.S. has expanded operations across Africa, including in Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Obama dropped the name “war on terror”, but he continues it and expands it to new locations, even though his speeches contain references against military adventurism. He has sought to disengage from two of its wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) but he is engaging elsewhere. He is considering increased aid to fighters in Syria.

Obama is fending off warmongers in the Congress, but in his own ideology he has great difficulty in disengaging from the war on terror. He still wants the U.S. to do something about “crises” across the world. He won’t go all the way to the position that such crises are not America’s business, or to the position that interventions in these matters make matters worse there and in America. Obama wants to steer a middle course between “isolationism” and those warmongers constantly advocating military action. We are told “The president advised that crises around the world that don’t directly threaten Americans be met first with non-military options: diplomacy, sanctions and ‘collective action.’” But by still maintaining interventions in any form and responding to what he sees as “crises” in more and more countries, he is laying the groundwork for future administrations to conduct more wars if they so choose.

Within the system of states and their control of force, there is no viable middle ground between a policy of disengaged neutrality and one of continuous engagement. Once a crisis is called as such and once it is decided that it’s “right” to intervene and end it, what happens when diplomacy, sanctions and collective action fail to end it? The warmongers will then press for military intervention. The only way to prevent this dynamic is not to see every squabble, every bit of fighting, every terrorist attack, every anti-government attack, every rebel and separatist group as a “crisis” and as posing a national or international security threat calling for U.S. action. The U.S. has to stop playing world policeman, world prosecutor, world judge, world jury, and world enforcer of justice. The U.S. government is assuming each step in the judicial process on a worldwide scale that involves imposing its law and order in every country on earth.

These interventions are not sufficient to satisfy U.S. officials. Following up on Obama’s proposal, Secretary of State John Kerry has just announced a $5 billion anti-terrorist fund.

If the U.S. government had been around for the past 5,000 years, would it have seen fit to intervene in the thousands and thousands of conflicts that have occurred? Would it have chosen up sides, acted as judge, jury and enforcer in the ebb and flow of one empire after another up and down the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, across Russia, into Eastern Europe, into China and Southeast Asia, between the Romans and the Germanic tribes, and later all those battles among the European nations and within their current borders?

If the U.S. had intervened in that multitude of battles in those past eras and an intelligent alien from another planet had been observing the goings-on from a distance, would it have been possible to for him to conclude “Yes, those Americans are right. They should be taking the side of the Germanic tribes against the Romans. They should be taking the side of those Protestants against those Catholics, and those Romans against those Gauls, and those Romans against those Carthaginians. They should be siding with this Indian warlord against that one, these Europeans against those Mongols, the Japanese against those Chinese, The Russians against those Poles,” or reverse these configurations as you will.

Why would it have been right? Why would it have been right to intervene? To impose one’s own idea of what is just? It is an illusion to think that this can be done without at the same time advancing one’s own interests or those of the groups demanding intervention. It is an illusion to think that one can identify the right side and the wrong side in many such battles and conflicts. It is an illusion to think that this can be done without heavy taxation to support the extension of power, and consequently the undermining of the economy. Alternatively, if domestic taxation is not the source of funds, then it’s an illusion to think that one will not be extracting resources from the very peoples one is supposed to be saving and protecting.

The ultimate goal when any state imposes its idea of right on other states is an empire and beyond that it is world rule. The question has to be asked: Is world rule by one state or one system of government right for the world? Is the world better off with multiple governments or with one? Or if that is too ambitious a question, consider a more limited one. What happens to any state that attempts world rule? Why does every such empire fall? Why can there not be one government over the entire world? A world with one government would be so prone to the most severe oppression and would raise so many local disagreements and rebellions against its policies that it could not survive.

But while this prospect of a one-government world is not a reality, it sheds light on the thrust of U.S. policy. As the U.S. seeks such a world and moves in that direction, it is bound to encourage local differences and rebellions against its policies and against the controls that such a unified government imposes. The natives are going to become very restless.

The reality of human nature, human differences, human limitations requires a different vision. The one and the many need both to be present, and they cannot be present in any perfect form. There is no perfection in this world and no agreement on what is perfection. It is highly doubtful that agreement can ever be reached on what the purpose or purposes of this universe, this world and human beings are, or if there is any purpose at all. It’s doubtful that agreement can ever be reached on what a human being is, or where one’s identity or being come from, or what their importance are relative to those of others. I do not believe that the consequence is that agreement has to be imposed by the force of arms; I do not think this is even feasible because the human spirit will resist it. There has to be multi-polarity and room for differences, but with some degree of common or shared values, even if it’s only live and let live, so as to allow individuals to strive to achieve their aims.

If some person is abusing another person or if some ruler is abusing his subjects, the onus of third party intervention and responsibility for intervening and for its results has to fall on those who intervene. This will make them think twice about what they are doing. For this incentive to work properly, states cannot intervene on behalf of entire populations because such responsibility is neither affixed to the rulers nor to the citizens. If the U.S. and NATO cannot be held responsible for the consequences of their interventions, they will intervene too often.

The alternative is private action. Those who think that intervening in some situation is right can privately mobilize the resources and manpower to intervene, but they will have to face the consequences personally if they harm innocent people or have misread the situation and made a mistake. This argument for improved incentives in providing defense and justice leads to private defense and judicial organizations, not state monopolies on these activities.

8:34 am on May 30, 2014