American History, American War, American Empire by David Gordon

American Empire Before the Fall. By Bruce Fein. Campaign for Liberty, 2010. Vii + 219 pages.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal...

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It is hardly news that George Bush’s Iraq War has been a disastrous failure and that Barack Obama, learning nothing from his predecessor, has renewed and expanded our crusade in Afghanistan. Criticisms of recent American policy have not been slow in coming, and Bruce Fein, in this excellent book, has given us one of the best of these. But he does more than this. He embeds his criticism of our current military misadventures within a full-scale account of the history of American foreign policy.

As Fein sees matters, our country began well. Washington and Jefferson rejected empire and instead sought to limit military action to the defense of the United States. Unfortunately, the lesser lights who assumed control of American foreign policy in the nineteenth century proved unequal to the task of upholding the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Fein sees an early portent of trouble in the Monroe Doctrine, which exceeds the bounds of strict self-defense. Matters really got out of hand with the Mexican War, clearly an imperialist venture; and since then our policy has abandoned restraint, culminating in the twentieth century with the pursuit of world mastery.

Fein raises a simple and devastating objection to the dominant thrust of our foreign policy. Why should we involve ourselves in foreign wars when victory for the party we oppose would pose no threat to us? Suppose, e.g., that the Taliban were to overthrow the Karzai government and regain power. Henry Kissinger, who evidently takes his sorry record under Nixon to qualify him to render further advice, warns of the dire danger posed by a Taliban victory. In a brilliant riposte, Fein says, “Kissinger is unable to articulate a single coherent national security interest of the United States that rides on the outcome of the Afghan war. He sermonizes that if [the] Taliban prevails, the fall-out will threaten Pakistan, India, Russia, China, and Indonesia — but the United States is omitted from the list.” (p.168, emphasis in original) Fein goes on to dispute Kissinger’s assessment of the threats to these other nations, but his fundamental point is that “enemy” control of other nations does not endanger the United States. Given the manifest costs of wars in death and destruction, not to mention their tendency to aggrandize the State and assault civil liberties, the case against our reckless policy of aggression is conclusive.

Fein again and again returns to this simple objection, applying it to one war after another. Against the alleged need to contain Soviet Russia during the Cold War, Fein remarks, “a nation expanding territorially though military aggression or otherwise ordinarily reduces its threat to American sovereignty. Military invasions routinely weaken the aggressor by squandering military and economic resources in occupying or controlling hostile populations. The Soviet Union’s domination of Eastern and Central Europe during the Cold War until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is emblematic. During that approximately 40 year interval, the USSR encountered uprisings or serious resistance in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Poland (1970, 1976, and 1980.)” (pp.107—08, emphasis in original).

Fein is entirely right that our current foreign interventions violate the dictums of Washington and Jefferson. Classically, Washington’s Farewell Address rejected intervention in the power politics of the Old World. “Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?” (p.59)…..


via American History, American War, American Empire by David Gordon.



About Gunny G

GnySgt USMC (Ret.) 1952--'72 PC: History, Poly-Tiks, Military, Stories, Controversial, Unusual, Humorous, etc.... "Simplify...y'know!"
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