Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Human Nature Never Changes

One thing that irks me is to hear someone say, "Non-interventionist foreign policy may have been fine 200 years ago, but this is a different day and age.

Horsefeathers. I was reading Doug Masson's latest blog entry, called "War is a Racket". It featured a couple of lengthy citations about war, and the motive to transfer wealth from the Treasury to the businesses making war materiel.

This war in Iraq is foolish. Iraq was a threat to the USA? Iraq was hardly a threat to Iran, let alone the USA. It certainly wasn't planning to do anything to us, which is why we should have left Iraq alone. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a nasty, brutal dictator. That's our problem? Not a chance.

The longer this drags on, the more I begin to wonder why we're there.

Anyhow, Masson's quotables are from WWI, and Mark Twain. The idea of cashing in on war is not new. Human nature doesn't change. That's why ideology can be applied across eras, and why pragmatism is more like sticking your finger up in the air to see which way the wind blows.

I was also reminded of the great Dead Kennedys bit "Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round".


varangianguard said...

What hurts Libertartians here is the perception that any intervention is off the table - ever. Unfortunately, that isn't a valid strategy when one is playing with others who don't like Marquess of Queensbury's rules.

Mike Kole said...

Well, how do you define intervention? I expect that this term has a wider meaning than we take for granted.

varangianguard said...

Intervention is a tool of government policy. It is usually military in nature when one is talking about foreign policy, but it doesn't have to be.

The problem, for Americans, is that government policies shift with the political winds making for little cogent, long-term standards that can be used as comparative metrics when considering specific policy applications.

It's like a penduluum. Right now, interventionism is swinging near the extent of being used too freely. Libertarians want the penduluum to be at the other end of its swing, where there is no interventionism. Extremes of either kind don't seem to be very viable to me in the world we have to work with.

Anonymous said...

Would you agree that intervening in the conflict in Europe was necessary?

Anonymous said...

ww II that is

Mike Kole said...

OK, I agree with your definition of intervention, VG, and would add financial (as in our support for the KMT in China in the late 40s, e.g.), etc.

WW2. That's the classic example by which the outcome defines the pre-disposition we were supposed to have had. I love hindsight theorizing.

Let's not forget a few things about WW2:

1. FDR was an interventionist. He wanted to intervene as early as '37, when Italy invaded Ethiopia. Congress was isolationist, and passed law blocking FDR from acting. Congress had public support, FDR did not. This isolationist sentiment eroded over time, and we ended up involved with lend-lease prior to official involvement. We never fully went back to isolation, even though keeping ourselves out of wars allowed us to prosper while other nations drained their treasuries beating the crap out of each other.

2. We officially entered the conflict in response to Japan. No Pearl Harbor, possibly no US in WW2.

3. We entered war against Germany in response to Hitler's declaration of war against the US, in response to our declaration of war against Germany's ally, Japan. Again, no Pearl Harbor, possibly no US in WW2.

4. When we 'intervenened' in Europe, we didn't know the extent of the Holocaust. We weren't intervening because of it. We were

I think there are two large factors that allowed the USA to exit the war in a dominant position: 1. The oceans that seperated us from Japan and Germany, and 2. Our decision to enter the war late.

This latter allowed the USA to not suffer casualties almost 3 full years later than the other countries. This allowed our morale to swing high (as always happens at the beginning of wars) when other nations were suffering lowered morale. It allowed us to fight wars that the public would not allow us to fight today. Come on, interventionist: You want to tell me that a public that freaks out about losing less than 5,000 soldiers over five years (as in Iraq) could tolerate the losses of a Normandy Invasion, that was just a part of the war? I don't think so for a minute. 1,400+ dead in one day? What would Cindy Sheehan have to say that the MSM wouldn't dote on?

But Mike- 6 million dead, that's not worth it?

Well, if it was, then how come we weren't at war with the Soviet Union for the 30 million Ukranians Stalin eliminated? If it's all about the numbers in favoring intervention, then certainly we should have been there, no? Why was the Rape of Nanking not on FDR's radar in '37, when Italy & Ethiopia was that same year? Why were we not there to defend the Armenians? Shouldn't we be in Darfur right now? And Tibet? And Rwanda? A stout interventionist humanitarian would have to say 'yes, absolutely'.

Ironic, that the interventionist humanitarian is essentially an advocate for continuous war, then.

There are dictators and atrocities being carried out across the globe somewhere at all times. If you are a strict interventionist on humanitarian grounds, you are essentially committing the USA to endless and constant war.

If you are in support of some interventions and not others, what are the grounds for such decisions? Are not all people worth the intervention? Are some more valued than others?

Because constant endless war is not sensible, and because the lives of one group of people cannot be valued over that of another, non-intervention has to be the course of rational policy.

Other nations must be left to their own devices in dealing with their dictators. It simply isn't our job to deal with it. The proper role of our federal government is to protect the people of the United States from foreign invasion. It is not the proper role of the American federal government to wage war in other nations on behalf of those foreign citizens.

Said like that, doesn't it ring like utter nonsense, the policy of foreign intervention? I think it does.

varangianguard said...

Can't let your WWII conclusions pass unchallenged.

1) FDR was "interventionist" is the fact that by 1940, he had clearly concluded that Nazi Germany was a long term threat to the US, and wanted to fight the fight away from US shores as much as possible. FDR was also a shameless political opportunist. He certainly played up non-interventionism when it suited his short-term political goals.

2) No US entry into a war against Japan, in the short term, but only the dates would have changed in the long term. Japan was changing the politcal landscape in Asia, and not to the liking of the US.

3) Legally, yes. But FDR had been collaborating with Churchill for nearly two years concerning the European Axis, and FDR would have entered the war against Nazi Germany and her allies at some point, no matter what. WWII would have happened to the US, sooner or later. Only the details and dates changed. Nazi Germany or the Soviets would have eventually gotten around to us had we sat on our hands like the isolationists wanted us to do. The inability to recognize that fact continues to dog isolationists to this day.

4) That first part, isn't true. The US had clear indications about just what was going on with Nazi Germany and the Jews. It is one of the sorriest political let downs for me in US history. Still, we did not enter the war to prevent the Holocaust.

Your conclusion about we the US ended up in a predominant position isn't quite right either. The two oceans helped to protect the US from land or aerial assault on the whole, and we did have many fewer military casualties than some of the other belligerents but, I think rather it was mainly the result of having the most powerful military-industrial complex running full tilt, an economy that was very strong, especially as compared to those of most other belligerents, along with being in posession of large areas of foreign territories that gave us the edge when it came to political dominance in the world. Of course, it didn't hurt that we solely possessed the techonology for a devastating weapon that we had shown we were quite willing to use either.