by Jacob G. Hornberger
Among the big choices facing Americans is the role of the U.S. government in foreign affairs.
Should the U.S. government have military bases in foreign countries … have a navy patrolling waters thousands of miles away from American shores … provide money and armaments to foreign regimes … effect regime change in foreign countries with coups, assassinations, or invasions … involve itself in the electoral process in other countries … kidnap, incarcerate, and assassinate people in foreign countries … sanction and embargo other nations … invade and occupy foreign nations?
In other words, should the U.S. government have an overseas military empire and a foreign policy of interventionism?
Or to put it another way, should it be the role of the U.S. government to be an international policeman, judge, jury, executioner, intervener, meddler, fixer, helper, and interloper?
One thing is for sure: America’s Founding Fathers ardently opposed such a role for the U.S. government. Their position was that the U.S. government should stay out of foreign disputes. They wanted the U.S. government to be limited to protecting the United States from foreign invasion.
In fact, that’s one big reason that the Founding Fathers fiercely opposed a professional, standing army. They knew that if the president had such a force at his beck and call, he would inevitably use it to involve the United States in endless crises and wars. The other reason they opposed a standing army is because they considered it to be a grave threat to the freedom of the domestic citizenry.
So, there is no question but that the current system under which we live is directly contrary to our nation’s founding principles. It’s also beyond dispute that this revolutionary transformation of the federal government was accomplished without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment and the discussion and debates that would have come with the proposal for such an amendment.
The U.S. government has been extremely successful in convincing Americans that if it were not permitted to maintain an overseas military empire, the world would devolve into total chaos and war. Even worse, that it would enable some imaginary gigantic force, such as communism or terrorism, to take over the United States and subjugate the American people.
It’s all nonsense — nothing more than an extremely clever device founded on fear to maintain the military’s and the CIA’s iron grip on the lives and fortunes of the American people.
Would there be tyrants in the world? Of course. Would there be disputes between nations? Of course. Would there be starvation? Of course. But those things exist notwithstanding the U.S. government’s imperial role in world affairs. One big problem is that the U.S. Empire and foreign meddling make things worse than they otherwise would be.
Consider Switzerland. It maintains no military bases in foreign countries. It has no CIA operating overseas. When it comes to foreign affairs, the Swiss government minds its own business. Its foreign policy pretty much mirrors the founding principles of the U.S. government. The government focuses on genuine defense of the country, not the type of imperialistic “defense” that characterizes the U.S. government.
No one jacks with the Swiss. No nation would dare to invade Switzerland, no matter how much gold is in those Swiss banks. The reason is that invading Switzerland would be like swallowing a porcupine. The Swiss are probably the best trained and best-armed people in the world.
Moreover, consider the root of the anger and hatred that exists among so many people of the world against the United States and the American people. No, that root is not hatred for America’s freedom and values, as U.S. officials like to claim. The root of the anger and hatred — and resulting threat of terrorism — is the imperialistic and interventionist role of the U.S. government in foreign affairs.
Thus, by dismantling the U.S. government’s vast foreign empire, the threat of anti-America terrorism disintegrates. That in turn would mean an end to the “emergency” dictatorial powers that the president assumed after the 9/11 attacks — i.e., the power to arrest suspected terrorists without warrants, incarcerate them forever without trial, torture them, execute them after a kangaroo tribunal, or assassinate them. It would mean a restoration of the civil liberties of the American people.
The dismantling of the U.S. Empire would also mean a tremendous savings of money, which would help relieve the endless upward pressure on taxes, debt, and inflation. Don’t forget what conservatives used to always remind us — that Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviet Empire by making it spend its way into bankruptcy. Like it or not, the same principle applies to the U.S. Empire.
We can debate all the day the issue of how large a domestic military establishment is necessary to protect the United States from a foreign invasion. But that’s a separate issue from the one at hand: whether the U.S. government should be permitted to extend its military dominion around the world through foreign bases, foreign aid, coups, assassinations, invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, and the like?
What about foreign citizens suffering the ravages of tyranny, economic destitution, or war? Is there nothing Americans can do to help them except send U.S. military forces to assist them?
Actually, there are three ways.
One is by freeing Americans to travel overseas and join up with the resistance in such countries. In that way, Americans have the opportunity to take personal responsibility for the dictates of their consciences. A good example is the Spanish Civil War, when lots of Americans traveled to Spain to fight for the republic.
A second way is by voluntarily sending money, goods, and services to people whom Americans want to help.
A third way, one that characterized our American ancestors, would be to simply open the U.S. borders to open immigration. The message to the world would be: If you are suffering tyranny, starvation, oppression, or war, our government will not send military or intelligence forces to help you. But if you can get out, know that there will always be at least one nation that is willing to accept you — the United States of America.
Historically, we have now had two different roles for the U.S. government in foreign affairs.
The first role — that of a limited-government, constitutional republic — brings a society of freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world.
The second role — that of a giant military empire — brings death, destruction, loss of liberty, economic chaos, and financial bankruptcy.
After a century of war, invasions, occupations, coups, torture, assassinations, foreign aid, sanctions, embargoes, death, destruction, crisis, chaos, taxes, debt, debasement, and infringements on liberty, isn’t it time to go back to our nation’s founding principles in foreign policy?
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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