With approval for entering another war at nine percent, the NY Times publishes an op-ed titled “Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal” featuring a jaw-dropping call for Obama to literally dictate law as it suits him.

‘Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria. This would be popular in many quarters, and I believe it’s the right thing to do.’

You certainly won’t find these same people making a moral case for lawbreaking when it comes to Snowden and Manning alerting us to government abuse, only in justifying it. These were the same arguments we heard for torture and indefinite detention, for drone strikes on U.S. citizens.

What’s happening in Syria is truly horrible. But there’s no reason to believe our involvement will mean less people will die. This isn’t a movie and we aren’t the saviors.

Political cartoonist Matt Bors, commenting on The New York Times’ editorial, “Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal”. For peace’s sake, let’s unleash bombs. It’s only moral.

“This isn’t a movie and we aren’t the saviors.”

This is echoing the pre-war drumbeats of military interventions both past and present. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, this should.
Iran Had a Democracy Before We Took It Away

Iranians do not need or want us to teach them about liberty and representative government. They have long embodied this struggle. It is we who need to be taught. It was Washington that orchestrated the 1953 coup to topple Iran’s democratically elected government, the first in the Middle East, and install the compliant shah in power. It was Washington that forced Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, a man who cared as much for his country as he did for the rule of law and democracy, to spend the rest of his life under house arrest. We gave to the Iranian people the corrupt regime of the shah and his savage secret police and the primitive clerics that rose out of the swamp of the dictator’s Iran. Iranians know they once had a democracy until we took it away. 

The fundamental problem in the Middle East is not a degenerate and corrupt Islam. The fundamental problem is a degenerate and corrupt Christendom. We have not brought freedom and democracy and enlightenment to the Muslim world. We have brought the opposite. We have used the iron fist of the American military to implant our oil companies in Iraq, occupy Afghanistan and ensure that the region is submissive and cowed. We have supported a government in Israel that has carried out egregious war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza and is daily stealing ever greater portions of Palestinian land. We have established a network of military bases, some the size of small cities, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, and we have secured basing rights in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. We have expanded our military operations to Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Egypt, Algeria and Yemen. And no one naively believes, except perhaps us, that we have any intention of leaving.

We are the biggest problem in the Middle East. We have through our cruelty and violence created and legitimized the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads and the Osama bin Ladens. The longer we lurch around the region dropping iron fragmentation bombs and seizing Muslim land the more these monsters, reflections of our own distorted image, will proliferate. The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that “the most significant moral characteristic of a nation is its hypocrisy.” But our hypocrisy no longer fools anyone but ourselves. It will ensure our imperial and economic collapse.

The history of modern Iran is the history of a people battling tyranny. These tyrants were almost always propped up and funded by foreign powers. This suppression and distortion of legitimate democratic movements over the decades resulted in the 1979 revolution that brought the Iranian clerics to power, unleashing another tragic cycle of Iranian resistance.

“The central story of Iran over the last 200 years has been national humiliation at the hands of foreign powers who have subjugated and looted the country,” Stephen Kinzer, the author of “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror,” told me. “For a long time the perpetrators were the British and Russians. Beginning in 1953, the United States began taking over that role. In that year, the American and British secret services overthrew an elected government, wiped away Iranian democracy, and set the country on the path to dictatorship.”

“Then, in the 1980s, the U.S. sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war, providing him with military equipment and intelligence that helped make it possible for his army to kill hundreds of thousands of Iranians,” Kinzer said. “Given this history, the moral credibility of the U.S. to pose as a promoter of democracy in Iran is close to nil.

Especially ludicrous is the sight of people in Washington calling for intervention on behalf of democracy in Iran when just last year they were calling for the bombing of Iran. If they had had their way then, many of the brave protesters on the streets of Tehran today—the ones they hold up as heroes of democracy—would be dead now.”

Washington has never recovered from the loss of Iran—something our intelligence services never saw coming. The overthrow of the shah, the humiliation of the embassy hostages, the laborious piecing together of tiny shreds of paper from classified embassy documents to expose America’s venal role in thwarting democratic movements in Iran and the region, allowed the outside world to see the dark heart of the American empire. Washington has demonized Iran ever since, painting it as an irrational and barbaric country filled with primitive, religious zealots. But Iranians, as these street protests illustrate, have proved in recent years far more courageous in the defense of democracy than most Americans. 

Where were we when our election was stolen from us in 2000 by Republican operatives and a Supreme Court that overturned all legal precedent to anoint George W. Bush president? Did tens of thousands of us fill the squares of our major cities and denounce the fraud? Did we mobilize day after day to restore transparency and accountability to our election process? Did we fight back with the same courage and tenacity as the citizens of Iran? Did Al Gore defy the power elite and, as opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has done, demand a recount at the risk of being killed?

President Obama retreated in his Cairo speech into our spectacular moral nihilism, suggesting that our crimes matched the crimes of Iran, that there is, in his words, “a tumultuous history between us.” He went on: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.” It all, he seemed to say, balances out. 

Read more…
Non-Interventionism is No "Mistake"

Yesterday, executive board member Clint Townsend published a blog post warning of “5 Mistakes Libertarians Should Avoid.” While most of his article soundly advises to avoid stupidities like grammatical errors and conservatism, Clint gives one pointer that I firmly believe is detrimental to the liberty movement—namely that “The principle of foreign non-interventionism is not a precondition to being a libertarian.” Citing Cato fellow Brink Lindsey’s advocacy of the Iraq War , Clint argues that being anti-war is not a litmus test for being pro-liberty….

“It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationsists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seek change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example.”

Ron Paul, an American medical doctor, author, Republican United States Representative, and a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination. He has been an outspoken critic of American foreign and monetary policies, recognized for sharply opposing his own party on many issues. Since 1997, Paul has represented Texas’s 14th congressional district, which covers an area south and southwest of Houston that includes Galveston. Paul serves on the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Financial Services, and on the Joint Economic Committee, as well as chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology.

I don’t hate the West. As a matter of fact I like the West. I pretty much spent my entire educational career in a Western context, so I understand where a lot of this shit is coming from. The sentiments are in the right place, it’s the methodology that is flawed, and more than a little dangerous.

I think a lot of these armchair activists who jump on the advocacy du jour train need to spend a lot more time reading up and studying the underlying cultural and socio-economic contexts of other countries before offering solutions and being all “Imma gonna save the children.” It’s old, it’s tired, and frankly it’s just a rejiggering of the old white man’s burden schtick that has been oh so destructive in the past.

Being all academic for a second, Margaret MacMillan said that “If you do not know the history of another people, you will not understand their values, their fears and hopes or how they are likely to react to something you do. There is another way of getting things wrong and that is to assume that other people are just like you.”

Basically, learn about other cultures and their historical context. Understand why their country is the way it is and what it actually is like right now. Listen to them. Don’t try and relate, don’t be all “I feel your pain.” That’s just demeaning. But try and learn from them, be open to their experiences. Respect where they are coming from.

All you have to do is look at the history of Western interventionism to understand how profoundly misreadings of a people’s culture and history can fuck them up for decades. I live in a country that was the victim of that.

Most in the developing world do. That should give everyone enough to pause whenever military interventions are declared as necessary and immediate. Work with the people to come up with solutions, that’s key and that is the critical ingredient that is often forgotten. We know our countries, we don’t need saving and we don’t need rescuing. What we do need is help on our own terms.

I have encountered that a lot, people coming to the Philippines and immediately telling us what is wrong with our country and how to fix it; all the while making sad eyes and telling us they ‘understand our pain.’ Really? You do? How wonderful for you. Want a cookie?

In other words, listen, study, and learn about other cultures and countries. It’s a novel idea.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
—  Smedley Butler

Analysis: Ron Paul, Iran, and Israel

On no other foreign policy issue since the Cold War’s end has the truth been so easy to establish on the basis of hard facts but so hard for Americans to see…that Muslim hatred is motivated by U.S. interventionism more than any other factor.
—  Michael Scheuer, former CIA terror expert
Foreign policy is being driven by two wings of interventionism: the human rights interventionists, largely Democratic, who wish to use military force to liberate oppressed people; and hegemonic interventionists, largely Republican, who wish to use military force to achieve political dominance in the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. The vast majority of Americans, however, are by nature cautious about sending troops and ships here and there willy-nilly. They are not isolationists. They are realists. They know the lessons of history more than right and left ideologues.
—  Gary Hart
“Cohen maintains that the message the Libya intervention should send to any dictator is this: 'Your people are not yours to kill.' He’s right of course that they’re not. But Libyans are not NATO’s to kill either.” ("Anti-Interventionism Is Cold Indifference?" by Gary Chartier)
In the end, I think interventionism is inextricable from the American idea. If the United States retreats into isolationism, it ceases to be itself — a nation dedicated, however much it falls short, to a universalist ideal of freedom.
—  Roger Cohen, on the defeat of Mummar Gaddafi in Libya, in the NYTimes