Those viewing U.S. intervention as a vital force to the maintenance of global stability surely must regard it by some unorthodox standard, since our foreign policy exports have been anything but stabilizing. We did more in the last century to disturb the delicate ebb and flow of world politics than perhaps any other nation. I could write endlessly about our incursions in South America, our toppling of world leaders and our past misadventures in the Middle East. But this almost seems futile if some people can look at our current activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and with all sincerity fail to see the destabilizing fallout of those actions.
These people appear to be running under the assumption that interventionism incurs little consequence. Once again, there is a failure in understanding the basic nature of an interventionist foreign policy. Most of the troubles we now face from the Middle East directly result from our tampering with the internal affairs of other nations. The anti-American sentiment that emerged in the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was not born of a vacuum. It was the direct result of the frustration felt by Iranians when the Eisenhower administration overthrew their democratically-elected Prime Minister and installed a dictator in his stead. Our arms sales to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War set the stage for his invasion of Kuwait. Our interventionism during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to the creation of al-Qaeda, and our occupation of Muslim holy land in Saudi Arabia was cited by Osama bin Laden as a reason for his jihad against us. We continually fail to mentally connect the dots between our covert foreign adventurism and the unintended consequences of those actions, a concept our CIA labels “blowback.”
There is also little regard for the economic blowback that results from our foreign policies. Proponents of interventionism fall short of realizing it is an expensive business. Even if we had moral justification for intervention, the reality is we simply can’t afford it. We are running up a national debt that tops nine trillion dollars, and must resort to borrowing money to fund our military operations overseas. Our unsustainable foreign policy is a leading catalyst for the devaluation of our fiat currency, a crisis that will soon be felt by all as our dollar plummets and our savings become worthless in the face of rising living costs.
When discussing the issue of intervention, advocates speak in terms of a false dichotomy existing between their position and isolationism. Interventionism and isolationism are not the only two options open to us. Isolationism implies a rejection of the rest of the world, including the area of trade and political discussion. We should not be looking towards this sort of dead end. We should rather follow the constitutional position of non-interventionism, where we trade and talk openly with others, while avoiding foreign entanglements. People often confuse non-intervention with isolation, leading to the belief that intervention is the only choice we can accept in this modern day. But a policy of intervention is perhaps the worst choice when opposing isolationism, simply for the fact that our aggression abroad only leads us to increased alienation. For this reason, those who support the policy of unilateral interventionism are the true isolationists.
In the end, the issue of maintaining our global empire becomes a matter of hubris. But those who believe we should run the world and impose our ideals upon other nations through force of arms are in opposition to this country’s founding principle of liberty. And let it be made clear our nation is no empire, nor should we pretend it to be. We are citizens of a constitutional republic; the federal government has an obligation only to the American people, not to foreign interests. Rather than gallivanting about the world masquerading as a shining city atop a hill, we should follow the principles that once made us great, clean up our mess at home and lead the world not by force but by example.