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What Foreign-Policy Debate?

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Barack ObamaMost everybody is commenting on how last night’s foreign policy “debate” wasn’t really a debate at all, given the extent to which Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have the same views on foreign policy. I don’t see how this could surprise anyone, not only because Democrats and Republicans have long shared the same overall philosophy on foreign policy but also because Obama abandoned his pre-2008 campaign promises on Guantanamo and civil liberties and essentially converted his administration into George W. Bush’s third term in office.

Most Americans living today have been raised under a vast military empire and what has become known as the national security state. As the noted scholar Chalmers Johnson pointed out, the U.S. Empire consists of almost a thousand military bases in more than 100 countries all over the world, along with what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, which consists of an enormous standing army, countless contractors, sub-contractors, and weapons suppliers, and hundreds of domestic military bases all over the United States.

The objective of the Empire is to impose its will around the world through influence, money, domination, and force. Foreign regimes, including dictatorial ones, who play ball with the Empire and remain loyal to it, inevitably receive foreign aid, which comes in the form of cash or weaponry. Those who remain recalcitrant by refusing to submit to the will of the Empire or who subject the Empire to criticism are subject to being targeted for a regime-change operation, either through the funding of opposition groups, military coups, embargoes, sanctions, assassination, invasions, and occupations.

Most Democrats and Republicans, including Obama and Romney, fully embrace this militarist and imperialist way of life. They’ve even convinced themselves, presumably, that that all this is necessary to keep Americans safe and free. They’re also convinced that military spending is the key to economic prosperity. It’s what they teach their children and what they expect public (i.e., government) schools to ingrain into the minds of everyone else’s children.

Thus, the dispute over foreign policy between Obama and Romney boils down to which one of them will be a better manager of the Empire. Which one will garner more respect from foreigners? Which one will better manage the military forces to bring submissiveness and obedience in the world? Which one will be the better commander-in-chief? Which one will be the more effective invader, occupier, intimidator, sanctioner, embargoer, torturer, foreign-aid provider, or assassin?

Needless to say, neither Obama nor Romney is ever going to challenge the paradigm of empire, interventionism, and imperialism itself. Both of their mindsets are mired within the paradigm. For them, the paradigm is a given, a now-permanent feature of American life.

Of course, the adverse consequences resulting from the paradigm, such as terrorism or out-of-control federal spending, are inevitably attributed to mismanagement rather than to the paradigm itself.

But it’s all a lie and a delusion. The empire of bases, the national- security state, the standing army, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, the NSA, and the rest of the foreign-policy establishment don’t compose a free society at all but instead are antithetical to a free society. They don’t keep the citizenry safe but instead do the exact opposite. And they play major roles in the out-of-control federal spending that is taking our country down the road to national bankruptcy.

Interventionism, militarism, and imperialism kill and maim foreigners or destroy their economic well-being. The victims get angry and retaliate with acts of terrorism. Those acts of terrorism are then used to justify the continuation and even expansion of interventionism, militarism, and imperialism, in order to keep Americans safe from the newly expanded list of potential enemies. Even worse, the Empire inevitably assumes extraordinary dictatorial powers that suspend the civil liberties of the people that are intended to be temporary in nature but in fact end up lasting indefinitely.

Meanwhile, military spending soars. When tax revenues fail to keep up with spending, the Empire borrows the difference and keeps right on spending. When the accumulated debt gets too high, the Empire debases the currency. Economic crisis inevitably ensues, which the Empire then uses to seize even more “temporary,” emergency, dictatorial powers over the citizenry.

Interventionism and imperialism have proven to be a disaster for every nation that has embraced this aberrant way of life, including the United States. It ultimately destroys a country from within. It corrupts the spirit, values, and conscience of the citizenry. It inevitably converts citizens into defenders and promoters of such aberrant and immoral policies as kidnapping, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, embargoes, sanctions, wars of aggression, invasions, and occupations or, at the very least, causes them to turn a blind eye toward such practices, oftentimes in the name of thanking the troops for their “service.”

Thus, Americans are in urgent need of a foreign-policy debate but they’re not going to find it with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Instead, Americans need to start looking to themselves and begin reflecting on the following debate resolution: “Resolved, that America should dismantle, not reform, its foreign empire of bases, its vast military-industrial complex, and its standing army, should abandon its philosophy of interventionism and imperialism, and should enact and enforce severe criminal penalties for state kidnapping, rendition, torture, assassination, and indefinite detention.

The solution to America’s foreign-policy woes is a systemic one — that is, a solution that rejects the interventionist, imperialist, militarist system under which Americans have been living for decades and embrace and adopt instead a system of non-interventionism and a limited-government, constitutional republic. That’s the only way to restore freedom, peace, harmony, and prosperity to our land.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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