A couple of days ago, the New York Times published a story about the brutal authoritarian regime of Aleksandr Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus. The article points out that after winning a “widely disputed” election three years ago, Lukashenko has crushed dissent and “ushered in a chilling era of repression.” According to the article, “even the smallest sign of protest can land a person in jail.” Security forces are rounding up critics, journalists, lawyers, and dissidents. People are even being arrested for wearing red and white, which are considered to be symbols of the protest movement against Lukashenko.
This raises an obvious question: Should the U.S. government invade Belarus to free the Belarusian people?
I suspect that most Americans, including even a large percentage of interventionists, would answer no. While we certainly can sympathize with the people of Belarus, we would not want the U.S. military to invade, attack, and bomb the country in an attempt to save the Belarusians from tyranny, especially since a large number of them would be killed or maimed in the process and have their homes and businesses destroyed.
However, an interesting aspect of this is that if the U.S. national-security establishment decided to invade Belarus to free the Belarusian people, a large percentage of Americans, especially the interventionists, would have a completely different mindset. In that event, they would immediately rally to the support of the Pentagon and the CIA and come up with all sorts of arguing points as to why it was necessary and beneficial for the U.S. to intervene on behalf of the Belarusian people.
In other words, a certain percentage of American citizens, especially the interventionist segment, automatically looks to the Pentagon and the CIA for their cue as to what they should believe, and they meld their mindsets to the sentiments of these two agencies.
Consider Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany were under the iron grip of the Soviet Union, which was ruled by a brutal communist regime. For some 45 years, the people of those countries had to live their lives in that way.
At no time did the U.S. government ever invade any of those countries to free them from communist tyranny. Moreover, the overwhelming sentiment of the American people, including the interventionists, was not to invade and free them.
But then consider Iraq in 2003. The people of Iraq had been suffering under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who ironically had been a partner and ally of the U.S. government. The U.S. government could have taken the same attitude toward that situation that it had taken with those Eastern European countries during the Cold War.
Instead, the Pentagon and the CIA initiated their invasion of Iraq. Immediately, a large number of Americans, especially the interventionists, melded their mindsets to those of the Pentagon and the CIA and came up with all sorts of reasons why it was necessary and beneficial to invade Iraq, including the need to “free” the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.
Consider Hong Kong. Ever since the British relinquished control over Hong Kong, China has relentlessly established ruthless totalitarian control over the people of Hong Kong. Yet, the U.S. government has never come to the defense of Hong Kong by invading. Moreover, notice that there is no widespread sentiment among the American people, including the interventionists, to do so.
But then compare that to Taiwan. There, the U.S. national-security establishment has made it clear that the Taiwanese will be treated differently than the people of Hong Kong. If China attacks Taiwan, U.S. forces are likely to come to their defense. A large number of Americans, especially the interventionists, have come up with all sorts of reasons why the U.S. should do so.
Consider Ukraine. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the national-security establishment could have stayed out of the conflict, just as they did with Eastern Europe during the Cold War and have done with Belarus and Hong Kong. Instead, the Pentagon and the CIA decided to come to the active assistance of Ukraine, which caused a large number of Americans, especially the interventionists, to immediately meld their mindsets to those of the Pentagon and the CIA and, in the process, come up with all sorts of reasons why the U.S. should intervene in Ukraine.
Our nation’s Founding Fathers came up with the ideal foreign policy, which was expressed in John Quincy Adam’s famous Fourth of July address in 1821 entitled “In Search of Monsters to Destroy.” Adams pointed out that there are lots of bad things — monstrous things — that happen in the world — tyrannies, dictatorships, famines, wars, invasions, revolutions, and the like. But the U.S. government, Adams pointed out, should never send its armed forces in foreign lands to slay these monsters, in part because inevitably the United States would end up becoming like the monsters it was slaying.
In other words, Adams was saying that the founding U.S. foreign policy of non-interventionism, which was applied to those Eastern European countries during the Cold War and that is being applied to Hong Kong and Belarus today should be the U.S. foreign policy across the board for all the monstrous things that happen in the world.
Given the dark-side totalitarian-like powers (e.g., assassination, torture, indefinite detention, and mass secret surveillance) that have come with America’s conversion to a national-security state, one that wields the omnipotent power of foreign interventionism, who can deny that Adams has been proven correct, especially given that the U.S. government, in the immortal words of Martin Luther King, long ago became the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, even greater than the monsters it slays?
Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.