McCain’s Interventionist Policy
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: Obama
Leading America to War
(R-AZ) is still a senator and still ready, on principle, to commit
U.S. forces and American wealth to any conflict. In this case, it's
in Syria. McCain's reason is not national security. It's to help
victims and thwart genocide. He made this crystal clear in his
remarks of March 19, 2003 on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq:
States of America has involved itself in the effort to disarm
Saddam Hussein, and now freedom for the Iraqi people, with the
same principles that motivated the United States of America in
most of the conflicts we have been involved in, most recently
Kosovo and Bosnia, and in which, in both of those cases, the United
States national security was not at risk, but what was at risk
was our advocacy and willingness to serve and sacrifice on behalf
of people who are the victims of oppression and genocide."
The U.S. should
not work on the "principles" that McCain advocates. It should not
introduce its own force into civil conflicts throughout the world.
This has numerous bad effects. It directly heightens the violence
of the resistance forces in the affected country. It induces the
elite that runs that country into ratcheting up its own violence
in order to repress the rebellion and maintain its own control.
It immediately makes the U.S. into a political player in the politics
of this foreign land. This has its own set of negatives that include
upsetting the neighboring states in the region, creating long-lasting
enmities, risking failure, causing more civilian deaths, tying down
U.S. resources for extended periods of time, loss of flexibility,
delaying the reconciliation of the domestic parties or the resolution
of their differences, and possibly choosing the wrong side so that
the new outcomes are worse than the old.
doesn't admit that the McCain policy in Iraq was a disaster for
the Iraqi people. He does not mention the 105,000 to 115,000 civilian
Iraqi deaths. He does not reveal that the U.S. supported the Kosovo
Liberation Army against the Serbian rule and that this led into
the violent Serbian repression, so that the U.S. by injecting itself
into a civil war exacerbated it and encouraged ethnic cleansing.
McCain doesn’t see all the things that went wrong in Afghanistan.
He doesn’t see all the things that can and do go wrong. His "principles"
are not a sufficient basis for his policy of intervention.
of war in Iraq recognized that American lives would be lost. He
didn’t acknowledge how many American lives would not be lost but
ruined or badly diminished. He completely failed to recognize
the loss of Iraqi lives that was about to occur:
mission our military is about to embark on is fraught with danger,
and it means the loss of brave young American lives. But I also
believe it offers the opportunity for a new day for the Iraqi
aiding any group in Syria that is rebelling against the existing
government is likely to heighten the violence and heighten the government's
use of force to maintain its power. McCain's suggestion will probably
make things worse and lead to more death and destruction.
lovers will wonder where in the U.S. constitution there is a mandate
for the U.S. to choose a side in every civil conflict of every state
in the world because people are being killed. There isn’t any. No
such mandate exists. The U.S. was not created for that purpose.
the U.S. doesn’t go into every such conflict. It cannot be done.
The U.S. could not go into Chechnya or Sri Lanka or dozens of other
regions. In practice, the U.S. doesn’t follow McCain’s ideas. However,
it still intervenes for other reasons, and those interventions have
the same bad effects as interventions done for McCain’s principles.
the U.S. invasion of Iraq by pointing to Saddam Hussein’s killings:
is one thing I am sure of, that we will find the Iraqi people
have been the victims of an incredible level of brutalization,
terror, murder, and every other kind of disgraceful and distasteful
oppression on the part of Saddam Hussein's regime."
who run states quite often overtly murder, brutalize, and terrorize
the people under their control. They also do so covertly in other
ways. Most people who pay taxes are afraid of being punished if
they don’t. How are Americans to assess morally the state-led murders
in other countries in order to judge action by the U.S., that is,
the government people of the U.S.? My view of this is that what
each of us does is our own responsibility. What the U.S. government
people do is their responsibility. The leaders who run the U.S.
should answer for what they do.
under this moral theory, if U.S. leaders decide to enforce the rights
of Iraqis, they have to be prepared to answer for any invasion of
rights that they perpetrate in the course of their deeds. If they
kill Iraqis, they should answer for it. If they destroy Iraqi property,
they should answer for it. They also have to be prepared not to
invade the rights of those whom they accuse of crimes. There should
be trials and evidential procedures. To march in with guns and kill
is wholesale violation of rights. Second, even before U.S. leaders
decide to enter another country to end the alleged oppression being
caused by its leaders, the U.S. leaders have to answer for their
own right to force resources out of unwilling Americans in order
to conduct this endeavor. This they disallow and cannot do, so that
their supposed Good Samaritanism has a foundation of sand at its
root. The whole process is tainted. Third, what is even worse is
that those who run states quite often actively support regimes such
as Saddam Hussein’s. Between 1982 and 1990, the U.S.
supported Saddam Hussein’s regime. For this reason too, the
U.S. has no moral ground to stand on at all attacking Iraq as it
did, even though Saddam Hussein killed his own citizens.
is that McCain’s principle of state action to remedy perceived evils
within other states can’t be relied on as a moral principle that
rationalizes the use of a state’s armed intervention into another
system of states, bad as it is, can be made worse. This system cannot
legally handle the unilateral injection by the U.S. or any power,
major or minor, into the internal workings of states that are experiencing
civil conflicts. If the U.S. can do it, so can Russia, Brazil, China,
France, Libya and any other country. If this idea is followed out,
the world will be engulfed in heightened conflicts and wars. The
use of force to attack another nation will become a "justifiable"
thing under the pretext of coming to the aid of some rebellious
element in that nation. One nation can always supply support to
rebellious elements in another country and stir up civil conflict
to which it then responds by introducing its armed forces.
that McCain’s principle of introducing force in other lands in order
to counteract force cannot be relied upon as a universal legal principle.
This principle of his can’t be generalized without introducing even
more mayhem into the international order.
relies on the unstated assumption that the U.S. is a "good
guy". It assumes also that the U.S. knows the bad guys when
it sees them overseas. It assumes that it can get rid of the bad
guys without hurting the good guys. It assumes that the end result
will be better than not intervening at all. None of these assumptions
are necessarily true. And, as noted above, if the U.S. thinks of
itself as the good guy that can justifiably put down the bad guys,
so can other countries.
of states has produced only one international body (the UN) with
the authority to intervene, and then only under legal guidelines
that the states have agreed upon. This arrangement is unsatisfactory,
no doubt, but unilateral U.S. intervention is worse, because it
implies that any state can intervene anywhere.
U.S. attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been even worse
than intervening in foreign civil conflicts because in those cases
there was not even the excuse of an ongoing civil war. The U.S.
(and other NATO states) went in and created the subsequent civil
violence. It opened the door to strife and civil violence among
the peoples in those countries. It opened the door to terrorist
consideration of international law, there are all the pragmatic
negatives noted earlier of attempting to discern justice from afar,
introducing U.S. force into civil conflicts, and making the U.S.
a party to ongoing violent confrontations. There are very large
negatives in cases like Iraq where McCain and the warmongers would
attack because they discern oppression or genocide.
McCain had this to say:
did not go into Bosnia because Mr. Milosevic had weapons of mass
destruction. We did not go into Kosovo because ethnic Albanians
or others were somehow a threat to the security of the United
States. We entered into those conflicts because we could not stand
by and watch innocent men, women, and children being slaughtered,
raped, and ‘ethnically cleansed.’ We found a new phrase for our
lexicon: ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Ethnic cleansing is a phrase which
has incredible implications."
any right-thinking person. Genocide is simply horrible. As bad as
it is, that does not mean that we should reach for simple answers
like intervening with U.S. forces. That is because the unwise use
of force or other political measures can make a genocide worse or
even bring it about. The U.S.
bombing campaign in Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 led to Pol
Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-1979 and the Cambodian genocide.
Plus the U.S. encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. Western
policies toward Germany and toward Jewish
immigration contributed to Hitler’s Final Solution.
We have to
ask why there is a genocide in the first place. Before there is
a genocide, certain conditions may tend to occur. Let us understand
what they may be. We need to understand genocides in order to prevent
On this score,
Rummel has done a great deal of good work. He has documented
death by government. He has written "power kills, absolute
power kills absolutely."
people kill their own citizens for reasons. There are always rationales,
such as racial extermination, ethnic extermination, removal of political
resistance, removal of classes of people like landowners, removal
of genetically inferior, removal of diseased, removal of corrupt
elements, removal of religious groups, and on and on and on. Even
when government people do not kill but imprison, the government
people do so for reasons such as stopping drug use. There are, in
fact, all too many motives for using power to oppress others. As
Rummel suggests, it’s the power of the government people that is
the necessary condition for its imposition – for whatever reasons
the government people imagine to be "right" or "good".
What is sufficient
to trigger the amplified use of power in genocide is less clear.
There is fruitful study that is being done to further our understanding
of death by government. For example, there is "State-Sponsored Mass
Murder: The Onset and Severity of Genocides and Politicides" by
that genocides frequently occur where there is civil conflict or
war. When civil resistance to the use of power by government people
occur, the elites in government can make concessions to defuse civil
resistance or they can use force. Where they use force, the result
can be genocide of the people they govern if and when the conflict
escalates. Unlike Rummel who emphasizes the concentration of power,
Krain points to the opening up of "political opportunities".
For example, there is a shift in power, as when Lenin was disabled
and Stalin’s rise to power began. Lenin’s persecutions were amplified.
The U.S. war in 1861-1865 provides a further example of the use
of terror that is closer to home. Sherman’s march is hard to imagine
without that civil conflict having been in place.
resistance to the U.S. government were to occur today, it would
be met first by a combination of concessions and force. If the concessions
didn't quell active dissent and resistance, more force would be
used. Under even worse circumstances, the government would resort
to wholesale killing, arrests, and genocide. It could happen here.
It can happen anywhere where there is an armed government force
that loses the support or the grudging acceptance of large segments
of the population.
is what states do. It owes to the existence of states themselves
and to government people with power. Consequently, it is natural
to find resistance in the population to the unjust uses of force
by the government people. There are at least four situations that
can lead to genocide. One is that government people take hold of
the power who have an agenda that calls for exterminating certain
groups of people. Second is that resistance to a regime becomes
more widespread and the regime ramps up its use of power to stem
resistance and maintain control. Third is that some states are so
unstable or are so oppressive or contain such diffuse elements that
their leaders employ violence against the people on a more or less
continual basis. Fourth is that government people break down the
controls that hem them in and augment their power.
Graham and John McCain have urged the U.S. to aid efforts to
bring down the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Both these senators
want to arm the opposition. Both are interventionists.
It is highly
doubtful that either one of them really knows what’s going on in
Syria. Neither knows what arming various elements may lead to on
the part of those now fighting one another. Neither one can assure
anyone that arming rebels won’t backfire and lead Assad to respond
with even greater force. They cannot assure anyone that one U.S.
step won’t lead to more and more such steps or to counter-steps
from Iran and Russia. They cannot assure anyone that what they recommend
won’t mean more civilian deaths, injuries and refugees.
these two senators comprehends that the U.S. has no authority for
such interventions, and that their supposed justifications are flimsy.
They are opening the door to the interventions of other states all
over the world.
Both men are
mistaken. Graham is thinking of Iran and national security. He says
Syria apart from Iran could be as important to containing a nuclear
Iran as sanctions. If the Syrian regime is replaced with another
form of government that doesn’t tie its future to the Iranians,
the world is a better place."
to remake Middle Eastern societies and politics, for no sound reason
relating to Americans at large that I can ascertain.
that are being massacred deserve to have the ability to defend
of this thought is as mistaken as Graham’s application of national
security. Yes, persons being massacred are worthy of having arms
to defend themselves, if they choose to. But that does not mean
that anyone else must supply them with arms, and it does
not mean that the U.S. government has a moral obligation to do so,
or that the U.S. government has any right on behalf of all Americans
to do so.
urge Senator McCain to create a voluntary organization to send arms
to those he wishes to, and to be prepared to answer for the killing
that they do with those arms.
rebel against government people have the moral high ground, but
the means by which they rebel are also important. Rebels who use
arms have to be prepared to face the retaliatory might of the government
people’s power. It is their responsibility to arrange their
military and political campaigns against their oppressors. They
do not have a moral call option on any and all Americans to join
in their fights with weapons via the might of the U.S. government.
interventionism makes for imprudent American foreign policy. Ron
Paul makes for good reading on this subject.
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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