U. S. Interventionist Policy a Failure in Egypt

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Topographic map of Egypt. Created with GMT fro...

Topographic map of Egypt. Created with GMT from SRTM data. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The naivete of U. S. politicians in foreign policy has always amazed me. From FDR and Truman’s beliefs that “Uncle Joe” Stalin could be reasonable to the Iraq War to the current disastrous interventions in the Middle East, the U. S. has taken bad situations and made them worse. Egypt is a case in point. Mr. Obama (as was Mr. Bush) were naive to believe that the Middle East could support a Western style democracy. Whenever something like a democratic system is instituted, Islamist governments have been elected. U. S. support of the (just ousted) Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt was especially egregious.¬† Thankfully Egypt has enough moderate Muslims who are also backed by the Christian minority to make a difference–and they have. True, the Egyptian Army instigated a coup to force Mr. Morsi out of power, but there seemed to be little choice when Mr. Morsi (true to his principles) did not give an inch on power sharing. Now Mr. Obama, also consistent with his disastrous policy to intervene in a sovereign state’s affairs, including giving military aid to the rebels opposing Former President Mubarak, is condemning the Egyptian military’s action and calling for a full restoration of civilian rule, The United States should stay out of Egypt’s internal affairs. Even before Mr. Nasser’s rule, Egypt was struggling against the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and this allowed a large class of moderate Muslims to flourish. To back the Muslim brotherhood militarily (as the U. S. has done in the recent past) and financially (which the U. S. has done until the current coup) is a foolish and short-sighted policy. It has led to vicious persecution of the Coptic Church and of other Christians in Egypt. It has led to more hatred of the United States in Egypt. Mr. Obama’s glow in Egypt has dimmed with the crowds opposing Mr. Morsi holding up anti-Obama signs and signs criticizing U. S. Ambassador to Egypt Patterson. It is as if the United States is hell-bent on acting against its own interests.

The United States should abandon its interventionist foreign policy in Egypt (and elsewhere, especially Syria). It should let the Egyptians deal with their own problems and stop providing financial support to Islamist groups. It should humble itself and stop its arrogant stance of “The U. S. knows best, and darn it, you’re going to go along with it or else.” Only then might the United States gain back the respect it has lost in Egypt and elsewhere.

The United States Should Stay Out of Syria

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No one can legitimately deny the brutality of the Assad regime in Syria. This is not atypical of many of the Middle Eastern states where ancient customs of absolute rule are slow to die. Some people, left and right, are calling for the United States to become involved in the Syrian conflict. This would be a mistake, even if it involves indirect help to the rebels.

The danger in any revolution, as George Orwell recognized in his book, Animal Farm, is that the end result of a revolution may be a government as repressive or even more repressive than the previous government. Are the Islamists who seem to be the majority of the rebels willing to set up a state that respects human rights? One would have to be naive to believe that. If the rebels win, Syria might get lucky and have a moderate Islamist government like the one in Turkey, if such governments can truly be called “moderate.” If the rebels are hard-line Islamists, then the state of the people in Syria may be worse than it would have been under Assad. One should be careful for what one wishes.

It is not in the national interest of the United States to become involved in the Syrian conflict. It may be in the national interests of Israel or Turkey to be involved, but the United States should allow the Syrians to fight their war and let the results be what they will be. Any military aid, or worse, sending special forces units (who may be there already–who knows?) or regular combat troops would be a disaster. The United States would gain little if anything and lose a great deal given the stress that the U.S. military is already under in Iraq and Afghanistan. Make no mistake about it, the “drawdowns” do not end U. S. military operations in those nations.

Corporations that make money off the welfare-warfare state will support intervening in Syria, but the unholy alliance between the United States government and large defense contractors helps the companies more than it helps the United States. Evangelical Christians, for all their good points, too often approach Middle Eastern politics thorugh the lens of a naive dispensationist premillenialist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. They strongly support American military intervention in the Middle East, believing that such is a part of prophecy being fulfilled.

Suppose the U.S. did get involved in Syria and a radical Islamist regime hostile to the United States was the result. The intervention would surely be said to cause more harm than good. War is a destructive force and often has unintended and bitter consequences that politicians do not invision from the safety of their air conditioned and heated offices. The United States should only go to war when the national interest is at stake. The claim of advocates of force that we would be fighting for human rights is a ruse since there are many countries with brutal dictators in which the United States does not intervene. The long tentacles of the Neoconservatives and war Democrats have slithered into the highest levels of U. S. foreign policy making. Congress needs to stand up to them and not fund unnecessary interventions into the internal battles of other countries. Both presidential candidates agree with the war party’s philosophy. That is unfortunate, for whatever the outcome of the November election, the United States will have a president who desires to continue the warfare/welfare state and its unnecessary interventions into disputes that are none of the United States’ business. If Israel or Turkey want to intervene in Syria–or Iran–that is their business. It is not our place to fight others’ battles for them.

Two Sources of Warmongering in the United States

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Bombs

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It is almost impossible to halt any rush to war in the United States. One reason is the power of the military-industrial complex, but there are other key factors involved in warmongering. A major factor is the pragmatic alliance between the “mainstreams” of both the Left and the Right. Members of both these classes support a warfare state–sometimes for similar reasons, and at other times for different reasons. The result is the same–the United States gets involved in yet another war. Neoconservatives have taken over the Republican Party, with Ron Paul being a rare holdout. Neocons have an almost pathological desire to spread “democracy” throughout the world, by force if necessary. “Democracy” becomes a substitute religion that, like religion in the past, must be imposed on people for their own good. Those who disagree will feel the brunt of American missiles and bombs, especially if the country is an easy target. Iraq, for example, was weak, its economy and military capacity devastated by years of U. N. sanctions and bombing. Although American occupation has not been peaceful, with over 4000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, Neocons believe that the price is “worth it” in order to produce a democratic Iraq out of a tribal culture that lacks a tradition of democracy. Supposedly a democratization of the Middle East and of Central Asia will help keep the region safe–but at times Neocons seem more concerned with keeping the region safe for Israel than with the national security of Israel than with the national security of the United States. But forced democratization in nations lacking a tradition of democracy will ultimately make the world more dangerous. The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over the government of Egypt is real. Hamas won on the West Bank, although they are now working with the Palestinian Authority. Do we know that Libya post-Khadaffi would be better off than Libya Khadaffi? We do not–what if a Muslim Brotherhood-like group ended up ruling Libya? What if Libya became open to Al Qaida establishing a base of operations in Libya? Would promoting “democracy by force” really create a safer Middle East? Most likely, such an action creates a more dangerous Middle East and kills hundreds, if not thousands, of people. In the tribal culture found in many Middle Eastern countries, this can produce thousands of suicide bombers bent on revenge.

The worst warmongers are, all too often, Evangelical Christians who are part of the religious right. Many are premillenialists who allow their tainted theology to determine their reaction to Middle Eastern affairs. They strongly support Israel and long for war against the enemies of Israel. I have been called “dark” for my opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–by a priest. Almost every conservative Evangelical I’ve known was hell-bent on invading Iraq. They would have been disappointed if the United States had not moved in and fought these nations. Some of them are absolutely bloodthirsty, wanting to “nuke” any country that “gets in America’s way.” I do not believe that Jesus would support such attitudes–certainly not the eagerness to go to war. This “God and country” Christianity is dangerous, reminding me of the movements by German churches in the 1930s to accommodate Nazi ideology. Every decision of the nation-state to go to war is supported, even if there are no good grounds for war. These “Christians” should be ashamed of themselves.

The Left is just as guilty of warmongering. The missionary-like zeal of Wilsonianism has long infected the left with the desire to “spread democracy” and to “nation-build.” Mrs. Clinton is an example of that kind of liberal warmongering ideology. Pro war Democrats outnumber anti-war Democrats in both houses of Congress. The only real debate was over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, not whether to fight them in the first place. Mr. Obama, sadly, has bought into the Wilsonian Democratic point of view–with the president and the majority of representatives and senators in both parties supporting the warfare state, the United States becomes more guilty of shedding blood and having the blood of its young people shed in war.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have opposed warmongering, as has Walter Jones of Tennessee. Paul and Jones are men of the right; Kuchinich is part of the old antiwar left. It will take such a coalition to overcome the combined power of Neocons, the Religious Right, and the Wilsonian Leftists in their path to war. The debt crisis may slow the drive for wars since wars are expensive. If Conservatives would behave as true conservatives; if the antiwar Left works together with them; and if traditional Christians would really follow the “Prince of Peace,” Congress would have no desire to expand the United States’ role in any of the current wars raging in the world. Changing people is difficult. Sadly, so is killing people. This needs to change.

Libya: Another Foolish U.S. Intervention

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President George W. Bush and President-elect B...

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The neoconservatives, nation-building liberals, and a few pseudo-libertarians are whining about the opposition to another foolish U. S. and European intervention–against Qaddafi in Libya.¬† “We’re just trying to overthrow a cruel dictator,” or “We’re trying to save innocent people” are the excuses such individuals give for bringing the United States into another Middle Eastern conflict. The U. S. only removes dictators it finds inconvenient–it does not remove the authoritarian regimes in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. The U. S. did not militarily intervene in Pinochet‘s Chile when he was in power murdering his people, nor in the semi-dictatorial China. The sheer hypocrisy of American policy is nauseating. Long-term, that is how those in the Middle East, even those who appear to support the U. S. intervention, will view the United States. The direct involvement of France, which sent fighter jets, will not help matters–the old North African colonial power strikes again. Despite claims of limited U. S. involvement, pressure will mount for further bombing and eventually for the introduction of U. S. ground troops. Hopefully Mr. Obama will at least fight that suggestion. He has followed the warmonger Hilary Clinton‘s advice too much already. Mr. Obama has become, in effect, George W. Bush II. Not only has he intervened in Libya, he has not brought back most of the troops in Iraq, and he has expanded U. S. intervention in Afghanistan. He has not renounced the use of torture in the treatment of prisoners held by the U. S., and he has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The United States has become a permanent warfare state–and wars cost not only lives on both sides, but also money. Although it may be a matter of time before U. S. national debt is so large that the U. S. imperium will collapse, much harm can occur in the meantime–and is occurring. It is long past time to stop the influence of warmongers on the left and on the right as well as the influence of the military-industrial complex on United States foreign policy.

Arrogance and Hypocrisy in U.S. Foreign Policy

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Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States...

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President Obama has chosen to lecture Egyptian President Mubarak on the issue of human rights. This is another instance of American arrogance and hypocrisy, as traditional conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and libertarians such as Ron Paul, as well as some on the left, have pointed out. The U.S. has a shameful history of violation of rights and, regarding the American Indians, genocide. The U.S. Army engaged in brutal tactics during the Philippine War in the early twentieth century. In World War II, the U.S. forced thousands of Japanese-American citizens into what de facto were concentration camps–the fact that they were not as brutal as the German camps does not make what the United States did morally right. The U.S. engaged in saturation bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, killing over 100,000 people with the firestorm created from gasoline-laden bombs. The U.S. is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in combat. The U.S. and its allies, violating centuries of just war theory, demanded unconditional surrender of the Axis Powers in World War II. In Vietnam there were multiple instances of abuse by U.S. Army personnel against the Vietnamese people; Lt. Calley’s unit was not the only one to engage in rape or kill civilians. In Iraq and Afghanistan, torture was the official practice of U.S. military intelligence personnel as well as regular army personnel. The U.S. has not eschewed the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict–not even with President Obama in power. And domestically, neither the FBI nor the ATF have clean human rights records, as FBI surveillance of American citizens and the ATF disasters at Ruby Ridge and Waco show. Now many countries engage in similar behaviors or worse–it may be the case, as blind patriots claim, that the U.S. has a better record on human rights than most other countries. But this does not justify our actions, nor does it justify the arrogance of President Obama in telling Mr. Mubarak how to run his country, especially since democracy in the Middle East tends to lead to radical Islamists coming into power. Perhaps Mr. Obama (and Mrs. Clinton) would prefer the Muslim Brotherhood to gain power in Egypt. If that happens, the powerkeg that is the Near East may explode.

In addition, U.S. policy holds that democracy is the best form of government for all nations. But as Aristotle recognized in his Politics, the best form of government for any state is going to depend on its history and traditions. But the U.S. continues to follow the neo-Puritanism of Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy and try to export “democracy” to the world–at the same time democracy is dying a slow death in the U.S. The rest of the world sees U.S. hypocrisy and hates us for it. The U.S. can do better than this–it can clean up its own house and avoid sticking its nose into every other country’s business. I hope such reform happens–but the secularist Puritan strand in American foreign policy is ingrained that I am pessimistic. We need more Ron Pauls, more Pat Buchanans, more true liberals such as Nat Hentoff, to join together in an effort to both stop U.S. abuses of human rights and also to encourage a “more humble” (as President G. W. Bush said in his pre-911 days) U.S. foreign policy.

Premillennialism’s Poisonous Influence on U.S. Foreign Policy

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John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

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No rational person would deny Israel a right to exist. However, this does not imply that a rational person should support Israel blindly, ignoring historic atrocities against Palestinians, including destruction of Palestinian homes, denial of their basic human rights, and new Jewish settlements into Palestinian territories. In addition, rationality does not demand that the U.S. do Israel’s bidding and go to war with Iran. One of the largest groups backing blind support for Israel are Christian premillennialists. Premillennialism had its beginnings in the nineteenth century with the doctrines of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). His dispensationalism was the ancestor of premillennialism, the belief that Christ will establish an earthly kingdom and reign for a thousand years in Jerusalem. According to premillennialism, an essential part of this process was the reestablishment of the state of Israel. The problem with premillennialism is that it is based on a fundamentally flawed method of interpreting Biblical prophecy, especially the Book of Revelation.

The prophetic books of the Old Testament as well as the Book of Revelation in the New Testament were primarily directed to the people of the time period in which the author lived. No audience would preserve a book that had no meaning for them. One must examine the historical context of a book to determine its original message. The Book of Revelation is part of Apocalyptic Literature, which also includes the Book of Daniel and other parts of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. This literature was written to people in crisis–either under attack by enemies militarily, or under attack via persecution by state power. The message of apocalyptic literature is that God will win out over the evil enemies of His people. This message was designed to comfort those being persecuted. The Book of Daniel, which was set in the period of the Babylonian Exile but was actually written in the second century B. C., was written to comfort the Jewish people who were being persecuted by the Greek king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes. The Jews rebelled and eventually won their independence, but before that time the saw their religion attacked and paganism introduced into the Temple in Jerusalem. The Book of Daniel affirms that God is over all kings and will eventually destroy those who persecute God’s people.

The Book of Revelation was written in a similar situation. Christians were being persecuted by Roman authorities. The message of the Book of Revelation to its original readers is that God will overcome the Roman Empire–in the meantime Christians should wait patiently for God’s vengeance. Numbers in the book are symbolic; multiples of seven or ten or twelve refer to completion or perfection (thus “1000 years” is not meant to refer to a literal period of time). “Six,” which is seven minus one, meant lack, and therefore a symbol of evil–so “666” refers to evil times three–there is no fancy meaning hidden behind the obvious symbolism. To take the Book of Revelation as referring to events in the Middle East today is absurd, an example of an ignorant method of Biblical interpretation. What is frightening is that ignorant people who do not know any better (and some people who should know better) are influencing the foreign policy of the most powerful nation on earth. Such Christian premillennialists may end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back, pushing the United States into a needless war with Iran. Christianity is a powerful force in the United States, and when well-meaning Christians who are ignorant of the most basic principles of historical-critical Biblical interpretation influence the nation to blindness in its dealings with Israel, this becomes¬† a dangerous situation.

The more rational course is to ignore those whose interpretation of the Bible is based on false premises and do not allow them to influence U. S. foreign policy. Like its dealings with any other nation, the United States should base its treatment of Israel on what is in the national interest of the United States. This does not mean that Israel cannot continue as a friend to the United States, but it does mean that the United States should seriously consider the legitimate concerns of Palestinians. This is not to claim that Palestinians have been saints, but merely that a group who was forced from their homes that they had lived in for hundreds, or in some cases over a thousand, years should have their legitimate concerns addressed. United States foreign policy should be focused on what is good for the United States, not on making the world safe for Israel. A first step in creating balance is to put the Christian dispensational premillennialists in their place and not allow their influence to twist U. S. policy in the wrong direction.

The Push for War with Iran–Please, No More Warmongers!

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The push by both parties in Washington for war with Iran is the continuation of the insanity that began with the invasion of Iraq. No watchdog agency believes that Iran has the capacity to make nuclear weapons at this time, nor will it have that capacity for a number of years. This is not to say that Iran is not considering making nuclear weapons as a counterweight to U. S. involvement in the region. Even if it did gain nuclear weapons, it will not be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons–Israel has quite a few, and Israel did not sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (Iran did). It is ironic that the United States effectively destroyed Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, with a pro-Iranian government now in power in Baghdad, and not wants to extent its aggression into Iran. The stupidity of American hubris knows no bounds.

Do those people in Congress consider the risk of strikes against Iran? American troops in Iraq would become more vulnerable, and the United States itself would most likely be subject to Iranian-instigated terrorist attacks. Wars are costly, and in a time of massive budget deficits wars only compound the nation’s debt. The cost to the civilian population of Iran would most likely be as high or higher than the cost to the civilian population of Iraq.

The war in which the United States is most active, Afghanistan, is a quagmire. Although the casualty figures are not nearly the level of the Vietnam War, they are bound to rise. If only the United States had followed the initial CIA plan of sending small units into Afghanistan to hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts, the conflict would have been limited to the police work it should have been in the first place. Now Iran is a larger country than Afghanistan with more resources, including military resources. And if the United States were to destroy Iran’s formal military, it could engage in an effective guerrilla war for decades. The war party could argue that an attack on Iran would be limited to air strikes, but does anyone believe that the war could be contained to air strikes or that air strikes could destroy Iran’s entire nuclear program.

It is long past due time that the American empire unraveled itself and formed a more humble foreign policy without the endless wars that drain U. S. resources and result in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths as well as thousands of deaths of U. S. servicemen and women. It is not too late to change for the better. One way to change is for both conservatives, moderates, and liberals who oppose endless wars to put aside their differences in other areas for the moment to find candidates who oppose the endless war machine of the military-industrial-government complex. Each political party needs to clean house on this issue–lives depend on it.