Imperialism, Human Rights, Chaos, and Peace - A Question for WSO

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Best Response
Dec 2, 2016

Let's hear what our new Secretary of Defense has to say on the matter:

Incidentally, I've never been more conflicted about a political appointment in my life. On one hand, you have the type of leader who only comes around once a century, a man for whom I would abandon my family and take up arms again if he asked. On the other hand, he's being appointed by a man into whose mouth I would not piss if his guts were on fire. I have the weirdest war boner right now.

The biggest problem with our foreign policy IMHO is our blatant inconsistency. I should probably start by saying that I'm personally against interventionism, having once been the metaphorical tip of the diplomatic spear. That said, if interventionism is your thing, you need to apply it evenly and it often requires several coats.

Where we get a black eye and a reputation for imperialism on the world stage is that we only intervene in situations where there is a direct political or economic benefit to us (most often around resources over the past several decades, though perhaps a bit less so recently). For example, we were all too eager to intervene on behalf of Kuwait, a country the size of Rhode Island with a total population of 2 million in 1990, yet we didn't lift a finger to end the genocide in Rwanda a couple years later, which claimed up to an estimated 1 million lives in a 90-day period in 1994. No oil? Sorry Rwanda, you're shit out of luck.

The same goes for (predominantly Islamic) terrorist states today. We're all too eager to go after the Muslim states we don't like, but Saudi Arabia? No way, you guys are aces with us. Nevermind the fact that you're among the most repressive regimes on Earth, your human rights record is abominable, and, oh yeah, you financed the assholes who flew planes into the World Trade Center. We're all good, just keep that oil flowing.

If you're going to be the world's policeman (bad idea) you absolutely must maintain the moral high ground. Sadly, at that we have failed miserably, repeatedly, and consistently.

To wrap up where I began, perhaps Mattis is a step in the right direction. Most of our recent SecDefs have had no military experience whatsoever, and of those who do, you have to go all the way back to Caspar Weinberger to find one who even achieved the rank of Captain. In other words, there hasn't been real military leadership in that role in generations. Is that important? Time will tell. But Mattis is keenly aware of the human cost of war and, as a rule, the baddest guy at the bar usually isn't the one starting the fights.

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Dec 5, 2016

I can tell you put a lot of thought into this but you're missing the same historical knowledge that plagues journalists. Sadam was testing the waters on the eve of the fall of the soviet union, to see what the dynamic would be like in this new world. The US was on the sidelines in the situation diplomatically before he invaded Kuwait (something we thought was a big bluff). He didn't think we would be eager to intervene after what happened in the Vietnam war, and he wanted to control 20% of the worlds oil. Containing Sadam was US policy.

Rwanda? Different story. We had a bad experience in Somalia. It was politically, Belgian's territory since it was formerly a colony. The UN already had a "peace keeping" force there.

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Dec 5, 2016

Exactly. One has to look at the historical context to understand the "inconsistency." John Bolton made this point recently in an interview with Tucker Carlson where Carlson was hitting him pretty hard on the Iraq War and how he's a neo-con and not a Trumpian, so-to-speak. Bolton made the point in his defense that nation-building and/or interventionism makes sense only in some cases, but in many cases it does not.

For me, I wholly reject the libertarian worldview that the U.S. should retreat from its perch and focus on itself, letting people fight and kill if that's what they want to do. In an ideal world, this libertarian, non-interventionist mindset seems to make sense, but the world isn't ideal. Take Syria, for example. Let me fully admit that 3 years ago I was a total non-interventionist on Syria (I think I may have even written on WSO that we should stay the f*ck out of Syria--it wasn't our fight). But look at the aftermath--there's a humanitarian crisis that is overwhelming Europe. The refugee situation is so bad that it probably led to Brexit and it may ultimately lead to the dissolution of the European Union. You bet your ass that Angela Merkel and David Cameron wish they had intervened in Syria when they had the chance.

The larger point is, when it comes to certain aspects of foreign policy, one needs to play chess--one needs to look ahead to the consequences of intervening and not intervening. The genocide in Rwanda, while abhorrent, simply did not pose an existential threat. The Syrian civil war, on the other hand, caused the whole region to meltdown, sending millions of refugees pouring into Europe, causing an existential threat to the survival of the European Union. Deposing Hussein in Iraq and Ghadaffi in Libya appear to have been horrible mistakes because of the resulting power vacuums. Especially in the case of Ghadaffi, this should have been apparent.

Dec 5, 2016

I'm speechless. For the first (?) time I agree with you. Also, another fun fact, under Gaddhafi, Libya enjoyed the highest standards of living in Africa and also - to a point - was another alteranative for immigrants from the Middle East. Now it's just Europe alone. Seems to me that a coordinated (NATO/UN) military intervention in Syria is the best solution now.

Colourful TV, colourless Life.

Dec 6, 2016

Not now man. We have ceded that responsibility to the Russians. There is a 0% chance of any NATO intervention.

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Dec 7, 2016

I don't quite see what historical knowledge he has missed? You appear to be making the exact same point as him? The point specifically being that an inconsistency exists because intervention is contingent on an economic or political gain?

From my understanding the US was quite happily backing Saddam when he was tilting the geopolitical tide in their favour, but they moved to "contain" him as you say as he went a bit out of control:

https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/08/26/exclusive-cia...

Dec 5, 2016

I'm with you on Mattis, as a jarhead I love him. he might scare liberals but the fact is he'll pull Trump's head out of his arse re: torture, among other issues, and I do think your last sentence is true and he'll temper any potential recklessness. Or so i'm really, really hoping.

Dec 7, 2016

This is a really great response. However, please permit me to disagree with a couple minor points.

First, I totally agree with the idea that our inconsistency is the biggest problem with our foreign policy. However, I disagree that it is an** inconsistency of application**, and instead submit that it is an inconsistency of execution. It is perfectly fine for the US to only exercise our moral superiority when it is in our interests. This is commonly referred to by foreign policy experts as* "American Hippocratic Power" and is hugely valuable to us as a nation. It provides us the ability to say one thing, do the opposite, and receive the full benefit of both. However, it is up to the executive to balance this power. War is necessarily an unpopular endeavor, and it must not be subject to political expediency. In other words it is up to the president to do what is right, regardless of what is *easy.

No example proves a better example of this inconsistency of execution than Vietnam (and it's predecessor Korea). These two wars also happen to be the progenitor of US foreign policy inconsistency, in nearly every situation besides perhaps Desert Storm. This was a war we should have easily and decisively won, quickly. What happened?** Foreign policy became hostage to the vagaries of domestic democratic opnion.**

Every four years the war effort was under intense scrutiny by people who didn't have the faintest clue about military operations. This caused the President (nearly all of which also had no clue about military operations) to use the military operations in Vietnam as a tool for political headlines; abandoning strategic locations for small, indecisive victories which resulted in a positive headline for them, then turning around and re-capturing (many times unsuccessfully) the previously abandoned strategic interest. Although the president is Commander-in-Chief, he has no business in the execution of a military campaign, especially if he is unqualified (ie civilian background)

As far as the middle east goes though, it's hard to make any sweeping generalizations. Nobody hates Saudi Arabia more than me, and it's a good thing I'm not president or I would nuke them immediately for their involvement in 911 (not to mention the benefits to the US oil industry). However, Saudi is a bulwark to Iran, and Iran is the biggest existential threat to mankind over the next 25 years.

Still, we can analyze what has been done: which is essentially the creation of a giant shit-show. This is an unpopular opinion, but I often argue that an Islamic state with rebel groups and state-sponsors perpetuating chaos in the region is actually a better position than a hostile Iraq *(even before you consider the national energy security threat). The result of Iraq II is a low-cost, low-reward improvement from Sadaam's regime. Unfortunately this result was not the goal. If it had been the goal, we could have achieved the low-cost portion of the equation, by "Pulling a Syria" and just droning the sht out of Baath party military structures (like we did to Baghdad)

What's even worse about engaging Iraq, is that we did so at the cost of Afghani occupation, where the terrorists we were hunting were, until they fled to Pakistan, where we were not willing to chase them. This again is the inconsistency of execution. We totally destabilized Afghanistan in our pursuit for bin-Laden, and as well we should have. However, Afghanistan itself was not our enemy (like Iraq was), and there was no benefit to destabilization, not even incremental. If we wanted to maintain our credibility in the world theater, we should have stayed and nation-built. Indeed, we gave it a half-ass attempt and failed through president Kargazi (or whatever the fuck his name was), but ultimately we totally failed to clean up our mess, and squandered the opportunity to create an ally, instead causing the middle-eastern world to double down and increase the funding for terrorists, rebels, and groups opposed to American interests. Part of the reason we failed is our total disengagement from the region, discussed below.

Here in the story "Along Came a Spider". President Barack Obama was elected promising an immediate end to Iraq. Due to the fickle nature of the American populace, and his inability to balance American Hippocratic Power (again, squandering the opportunity nation-build in a destabilized Iraq and instead of developing another anti-Iranian, oil-producing ally) we gave the keys to the kingdom, to any sand-shitting monkey with a Koran and a twitter account (and as much black-gold as they could steal). Meanwhile, the spider takes this democratic weakness and exports it to the Western World selling it as American Moral Superiority, when in fact, this was amoral. It was politically expedient, and monetarily cheap, for him and his coat-tails - no one else.

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Dec 5, 2016

Your point about American retreat is key. John Bolton, when pressed about his support for Iraq, rightfully noted that Iraq wasn't a singular decision--it was hundreds of decisions over the course of a decade. In my view, deposing Hussein in Iraq and nation-building was a mistake--it was the first critical mistake. But the most critical mistake was squandering a decade of progress by turning tale for political expediency--regardless if we should have gone into Iraq, the nation was relatively stable. With that move of political expediency alone Obama sealed his fate in history.

Dec 2, 2016

A couple of big issues:
- "National interest" is extremely hard to determine, because often the long-term unintended consequences of intervention are not taken into consideration or severely discounted. On top of that, they're obviously very hard to predict. On balance, our elections discourage this sort of long-term thinking.
- A hefty chunk of anti-American sentiment is produced by intervening (in certain cases/places (e.g. Iran, Cuba)), so it is not completely clear that combating anti-American sentiment is categorically a reason for intervention.

That's not really a thorough answer, but hopefully it contributes something to the discussion. A lot of this comes down to whether one is a "realist" or "liberal" in IR. I consider myself a defensive neoclassical realist and thus lean toward the heavy emphasis on determining what our national interest is and not trying to play world policeman just to sweep up other countries' messes. At the same time, I'm for the US driving international cooperation on various issues.

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Dec 5, 2016

On point.

Dec 5, 2016

Intervention should be a method of last resort, I think that is what has been forgotten. Over the past two Presidencies for sure and in numerous cases before since the end of WW2 we have had Presidents who have cared more for their own legacy regarding the perception of being on the right side of history from a human rights perspective but have given what appears to be little though to what could happen after. Removing a dictator in certain parts of the world where brutality is an ingrained part of life is a dangerous move. There are parts of the world where the enlightenment hasn't yet happened, they may have technology and live in a "modern technological world" but the populations of these countries are far from what the western world would consider with the times. It is sad but sometimes it really does take someone who is so dark that he could have people shot in the head in the middle of the street to keep order. It sounds horrifying but a single death to keep the thin fabric of society from completely falling apart and turning into modern Iraq, Syria, Libya, to some extent Egypt, Georgia, and possibly Turkey may well be in the good of the masses.

I'm personally against intervention I ascribe more to Theodore Roosevelt mantra of "speak softly; carry a big stick" This should be the governing rule of foreign policy. Do little but when you have to strike, bring the fucking thunder.

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Dec 5, 2016

@Eddie Braverman points out that the U.S. is inconsistent, but doesn't that bring us back around to OP's original question? The world traditionally looks at intervention as national interest vs. humanitarian relief. The U.S. is keen on being practical, so therefore we only opt to intervene for the former purpose. This is the world that was created post-WWII when we stepped away from isolationism. When Harriman, Acheson, Bohlen, and Marshall wanted to put together the Marshall plan, the language was very altruistic but in reality Harriman was a banker and wanted to be part of the team getting a piece of the market action. The Truman doctrine even had the appearance of getting involved in any country around the world where democracy was at threat of being defeated. At this point, everyone wanted to get away from this language, to ensure we didn't over extend ourselves.

So, now the U.S. has to choose between being stupidly suckered in to giving our men and other resources for serving other countries that are in turmoil or choosing a more practical path. I think that whether to intervene or not is a hard question to think about. Whose responsible for all of the casualties? Can the U.S. be the policeman for countries unable to defend themselves? Do you expend yourself with nothing in return? Why should we? If we can at least help out a little with a very modest approach and less activity, does that trump every other possible route?

For example, Obama was dovish on intervening so used less boots, more drones, less aggression, more diplomacy. I don't think he was wrong, even though a lot of suffering has been happening around the world in Syria, Gaza, and Iraq for example. If we chose to inject ourselves fully into these conflicts $3.6trillion could easily become $9t or $12t. Our first military death in Syria came just a week and a half ago when only one soldier died. We are using airstrikes and small numbers of men to fight in Syria and similar numbers in Iraq. In Gaza, no major military operations prevailed, just modest aid packages. Despite the high casualty and cost numbers, America is not highly represented in that. This is a question that requires us to think about the realities of these situations and to really focus on the security aspects of world turmoil versus how 'good 'of a country we can be as citizens. We can't be the good guys and a practical country that takes good care of its resources.

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Dec 5, 2016

The problem is that the US isn't protecting human rights. Otherwise n.1 on the list would be Saudi Arabia.

The US administrations since Clinton have been using the excuse of human rights abuse to invade countries whose leaders do not bow down to the American leadership. Serbia, Iraq.
Then the human cost became too high and under Obama they resorted to fund and arm mercenaries to take over countries, to replace their governments with groups willing to bow down to US interests.

So the US worked with communists Kurds and Salafists in Syria, nazis in Ukraine, Muslim Brotherhood for Egypt and Lybia, all groups whose human rights record is despicable but that's what the US found willing to cooperate with them.

All belong to the list of targets createdby Neocon ideologists Kagan and Wolfowitz (the 5th would be Iran) for the ''New American Century''.

The 4 in particular had a very standard executed plan:
-use US trained NGOs to start protests for democracy locally
-use extremist groups to start violence, thus forcing governments to crack down
-cry in Western media about ''human rights abuse against democratic opposition''
-gather consensus about military intervention and regime change

Now, military intervention was mostly rejected regardless because very few were willing to participate, regime change happened.

Most notable case the false accusation that Assad used Sarin gas against protesters, when it was protesters that actually used it.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22424188 Or that Yanukovich police sniped protesters at Maidan, when it was ''someone else'' who did it.
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31359021
Conspiracah? Well, not anymore.

Conclusion: it's not about human rights protection. It's plain imperialism, masqueraded as the former.

Kinda why I'm glad Trump will refrain from this misguided, chaotic and fallacious foreign policy.

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Dec 6, 2016

You sound very . . . Russian.

Dec 5, 2016

Nah, born, raised, residing in Italy.

And if I really have to align with someone's vision of foreign policy, that'd be Ron Paul.

I disagree with his view on ISIS as he'd let them be and that's one case I could justify intervention in case of lacking alternatives. Other than that, I'm quite the libertarian kid.

Then again, according to Washington Post, Ron Paul is a Russian propagandist...

Dec 6, 2016

Ok that makes sense.

Although re: the Washington Post, its funny that the Obama administration (democrats and media included) has ignored the Russian threat for 7 years while simultaneously adoring Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, and now that everyone realizes Wikileaks and co. is verrryyy close to the Kremlin, have decided they see Russia behind every member of the GOP. You can't make this stuff up.

Dec 5, 2016
whitecollarandsuspenders:

Ok that makes sense.

Although re: the Washington Post, its funny that the Obama administration (democrats and media included) has ignored the Russian threat for 7 years while simultaneously adoring Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, and now that everyone realizes Wikileaks and co. is verrryyy close to the Kremlin, have decided they see Russia behind every member of the GOP. You can't make this stuff up.

Oh yeah, and in light of the Carrier deal, the Democrats--I mean, WashPost and NYTimes--and their surrogates have become champions of free trade who oppose government intervention into the economy. You're right that you can't make this stuff up.

Dec 6, 2016

I love how people spin shit: liberals aren't concerned about government intervention in the economy with the Carrier deal, they are worried that companies can now hold the govt hostage by threatening to move jobs and extort the government into providing them tax benefits. It isn't so much about the free markets (although I believe it should be) but more about avoiding crony capitalism, which liberals definitely hate.

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Dec 5, 2016
BobTheBaker:

I love how people spin shit: liberals aren't concerned about government intervention in the economy with the Carrier deal, they are worried that companies can now hold the govt hostage by threatening to move jobs and extort the government into providing them tax benefits. It isn't so much about the free markets (although I believe it should be) but more about avoiding crony capitalism, which liberals definitely hate.

Yeah, liberals definitely hate crony capitalism...right.

With regard to the Carrier deal, you do realize that states and cities all over the nation utilize incentives to attract and/or keep businesses in their districts, right? Montgomery County, MD gave much larger tax incentives ($44 million) to keep Marriott in Montgomery County than Carrier got to stay in the U.S. The state of Texas has poached countless companies from California with incentives. The state of Kansas has poached countless companies from Missouri. But when Trump does it, all of a sudden there is now a "moral hazard"? Give me a freakin' break. At least try to have some intellectual honesty.

Dec 6, 2016

I realize states do that nonsense all the time and it doesn't get as much publicity because it isn't personally publicized by the president in a press conference. Since Trump used it as a photo op liberals are going to complain about it. In any case, doesn't change the fact that their reasoning for complaints weren't "let the free markets be free" as you tried to sarcastically imply but "this is crony capitalism".

Dec 5, 2016
BobTheBaker:

In any case, doesn't change the fact that their reasoning for complaints weren't "let the free markets be free" as you tried to sarcastically imply but "this is crony capitalism".

When people complain about crony capitalism, what on Earth do you think they're complaining about? That's a complaint about the government distorting the market by picking winners and losers.

In any event, technically speaking, it was Pence's victory, not Trump's, since the state of Indiana gave incentives to Carrier, something that states do all the time. But Democrats don't become capitalist purists until Trump (via Pence) uses the tactic.

Dec 6, 2016
BobTheBaker:

crony capitalism, which liberals definitely hate.

Thanks for the laugh. Needed it today.

"Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America."

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Dec 5, 2016

Oh come on, you don't really believe wikileaks is a Kremlin thingy?
That's just Maccartism.

Obama and co. were fine as long as wikileaks didn't leak anything compromising for them or leaked stuff on others like Russia. If you are impartial as wikileaks is, you leak on everyone and sooner or later it was Obama's administration turn. The difference is, when that happened, Obama tried to have Assange imprisoned. If you declare war on wikileaks, then it's obvious they'll fight back with even more leaks, which exactly happened.

Same SnowdenM he thought Obama would get rid of the mass surveillance, Obama didn't, Snowden blew0p+ the whistle, no US institution sided with him and he had to escape. There are few places that are safe if the US government wants you dead: Russia and China are the best options.

I mean, for a thread where I'm given the opinion that the US government isn't that all powerful or subversive, which to an extent I agree, I can't accept at the same time that a much financially weaker Russian government is even more powerful, influential and subversive than the US counterpart. That's just bullshit.

Russia is being brought up as a boogeyman by the Western establishment who have lived too much in its ivory tower, lost touch with reality, the people and their economic conditions, to the point they are revolting.
And instead of trying to fix problems, the Western leadership is denying that they exist to begin with, calls everyone racist, sexist, Russian spy, populist, fake news reporter, to demonize malcontent and isolate it.
Too bad that problems do not go away if you ignore them, they actually spread and so does malcontent.

Dec 6, 2016

In what sense is Russia a "boogeyman"? The fact is Russia is the biggest military threat to the west and they are currently run by a former KGB agent that seems to want a return of the USSR in some form, you can't get any more pertinent than that.

Dec 5, 2016
BobTheBaker:

In what sense is Russia a "boogeyman"? The fact is Russia is the biggest military threat to the west and they are currently run by a former KGB agent that seems to want a return of the USSR in some form, you can't get any more pertinent than that.

Russia is economically dependent on Europe.

The day Europe stops buying oil and gas, the Russian economy goes to shit. Even if they launched an invasion, they'd be bankrupt before they can reach Berlin.

thebrofessor:

a booming economy can mask a lot of issues bro

I agree but I'm not getting if you are referring to anything specific.

Dec 6, 2016

I'm not going to take the time to write a long-winded response to back up my claim, so you can shit on me for that, but Wikileaks is 100% a tool of Russian intelligence.

There are a number of ex-CIA and NSA guys who have written some very detailed and insightful pieces on this. This guy is my favorite:

https://20committee.com/ https://twitter.com/20committee

I've mentioned him before on WSO, and I would highly recommend following him on Twitter if you have an interest in foreign policy.

Dec 5, 2016
whitecollarandsuspenders:

I'm not going to take the time to write a long-winded response to back up my claim, so you can shit on me for that, but Wikileaks is 100% a tool of Russian intelligence.

There are a number of ex-CIA and NSA guys who have written some very detailed and insightful pieces on this. This guy is my favorite:https://20committee.com/

https://twitter.com/20committee

I've mentioned him before on WSO, and I would highly recommend following him on Twitter if you have an interest in foreign policy.

His sources are WaPo, which is the same people who called Ron Paul a Russian propagandist and The Observer, which isn't exactly reliable other.

Then there's a ''why Putin hates us'', also from the Observer and the author of the blog that makes various claims without evidence, just very biased opinions.
Now, I'm willing to accept that there aren't unbiased opinions in politics and thus I welcome biased opinions too, but they should be based on something substantial.

None of this ''Russian propaganda'' was ever brought up until the Western establishment realized malcontent was growing and people were no longer buying the mainstream media narrative. Now, because Brexit happened and Trump won they are in full fledged panic, are trying to find scapegoats to blame and a big boogeyman so that the crowd rallies behind the establishment against the evil foreign government, which would be Russia.

No thanks. Big bad Russia isn't the way they can manufacture consensus and let people forget about the mess they created.

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Dec 5, 2016

As someone who was born, raised, and is residing in Washington, D.C. and who knows A LOT of federal employees and people who work in intelligence, let me just say that you give WAAAAAY too much credit to the U.S. federal government's ability to coordinate a singular foreign policy strategy and to completely hide their intentions from everyone, and to maintain this deception from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican administrations.

I love that South Park episode about how George W. Bush was trying to get people to believe that the federal government was involved in 9/11 because it was better for people to fear the feds than to believe them to be incompetent (which they largely are).

Dec 5, 2016

Well I don't go as far as saying that the 9/11 conspiracy is a government conspiracy.

There is a degree of coordination but the results on the field are actually pretty bad. So I'm not exactly saying the US government is all powerful. Just active. And even when regime changes happen, the US strategy of nation building has been largely a failure.

Most of the strategy I described in my other post is taken from things like this:
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/... Long read, but certainly worthy to understand the mindset of US foreign policy strategist, from their own words and far from needing Russian aligned websites to tell me that.

Or you can just read the papers of Wolfowitz and Kagan.

Dec 5, 2016

Again, my main point is that there's not some sort of U.S. government conspiracy. What you have is a bunch of imperfect human beings--thousands of them at the State Department, CIA, NSA, DIA, Pentagon, etc.--in a largely decentralized manner, attempting through decades of trial and error to maintain an international order that avoids world war and allows for international trade that benefits the United States and her allies. Despite the countless foreign policy failures, it would be crazy--even demonstrably wrong--to assert that the U.S. has failed in its largest mission, which is to achieve peace and prosperity for the American people (and for America's allies). Therein lies the fundamental problem with the Ron Paul worldview--it calls for a completely new direction in U.S. foreign policy (that largely of disengagement) when the direction of much of the last 70 years since WW2 has been largely a success, despite innumerable small failures and the utter incompetence of America's leadership, from Obama to Bush.

Dec 5, 2016

I agree and disagree.
Agree at least until the 90s, because the world had clearly become safer and in general the prosperity of the Western field was peaking.

From the 90s and especially in the 2000s the number of mistakes skyrocketed and the mission partially lost touch with its original goals and we are moving towards a less safe world, while economically the system looks terminally ill, which in turn is causing a political revolution.

Dec 7, 2016

a booming economy can mask a lot of issues bro

Dec 5, 2016
Virginia Tech 4ever:

As someone who was born, raised, and is residing in Washington, D.C. and who knows A LOT of federal employees and people who work in intelligence, let me just say that you give WAAAAAY too much credit to the U.S. federal government's ability to coordinate a singular foreign policy strategy and to completely hide their intentions from everyone, and to maintain this deception from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican administrations.
I love that South Park episode about how George W. Bush was trying to get people to believe that the federal government was involved in 9/11 because it was better for people to fear the feds than to believe them to be incompetent (which they largely are).

This. I've worked in gov and people get wide-eyed about it wondering how did I make it out alive! In reality, people in government are just normal folks that want to get home to their spouses and kids everyday like the rest of us. T.V. and government leaders' incompetence is a combination that makes people really believe that there's some nefarious conspiracy, when they couldn't have that much power even if it was their true darkest wishes. Which it is not.

Dec 7, 2016

Completely agree with you neink. Incredible amount of misinformation in the mainstream media due to lack of education and changes in the media landscape. When i read the FT on foreign policy for example I just want to puke.

A couple things to add:
Freedom, human rights, democracy - all western inventions, and while the liberal agenda of spreading those aggressively may be in part well-intentioned, its mostly an excuse for US imperialism; applies only when it fits their national interest (e.g. SA, Kuwait, Qatar - some of the worst human rights violators on this planet, yet nobody bats an eye).

US has a democracy, which means the population has to somehow be bullshitted into spending money for things that are not in the immediate interest of the country.

Ideological foreign policy making (which has been incredibly ignorant and naive in the US's case) does not work. It seems noble on the surface, but its results are far worse than if you pursue a realist / rational foreign policy in accordance with international law, which for example (and most probably to the surprise of many of you) Russia practices. One cannot understand US foreign policy without reading Kissinger or Brzezinski "the grand chessboard" - both fantastic reads.

The arrogance of using this hypocritical attitude of 'the moral high ground' is beyond me. What bothers me most is not even that they breach other country's national sovereignty on a regular basis, which is understandable for a world leader to do, but the constant bullshitting and propaganda that flows our way rationalising it as ethical behaviour.

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Dec 5, 2016
Guggenbuhl:

Completely agree with you neink. Incredible amount of misinformation in the mainstream media due to lack of education and changes in the media landscape. When i read the FT on foreign policy for example I just want to puke.

A couple things to add:Freedom, human rights, democracy - all western inventions, and while the liberal agenda of spreading those aggressively may be in part well-intentioned, its mostly an excuse for US imperialism; applies only when it fits their national interest (e.g. SA, Kuwait, Qatar - some of the worst human rights violators on this planet, yet nobody bats an eye).

US has a democracy, which means the population has to somehow be bullshitted into spending money for things that are not in the immediate interest of the country.

Ideological foreign policy making (which has been incredibly ignorant and naive in the US's case) does not work. It seems noble on the surface, but its results are far worse than if you pursue a realist / rational foreign policy in accordance with international law, which for example (and most probably to the surprise of many of you) Russia practices. One cannot understand US foreign policy without reading Kissinger or Brzezinski "the grand chessboard" - both fantastic reads.

The arrogance of using this hypocritical attitude of 'the moral high ground' is beyond me. What bothers me most is not even that they breach other country's national sovereignty on a regular basis, which is understandable for a world leader to do, but the constant bullshitting and propaganda that flows our way rationalising it as ethical behaviour.

Oh yeah Brzezinski is another one I'd highly advise to read to understand the way of thinking of US FP strategists.
You could easily start quoting his work and people will tell you to stop copying from RT or Sputnik.

As for the high moral ground, the West lost it in the same moment the Soviet Union collapsed and thus it didn't need to be morally superior any longer. Cooperation with questionable groups or inviduals like Pinochet or Talibans was an exception, now it's the norm.

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Dec 5, 2016

Washington's Farewell Address would have served us good if we had followed it before our ME involvement. At this point we really can't go back into our shells because the ME hates us. Clean up the mess and get back to fighting battles we can win.

Dec 5, 2016

These discussions worry me. Too often people use the US' foreign policy as a justification for the phenomenon of global jihad.

Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, Iraq was clearly an awful idea. But what does it say about the culture in the ME, that you need a despot like Saddam to keep a lid on sectarian violence?

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Dec 6, 2016

Excellent discussion.

Dec 6, 2016

i worked with a politician once, i ended up paying for 2 lunches and 4 dinners

Dec 7, 2016

i think we should be like the old Roman empire - annihilate all trace of those who target our citizens. the war in Iraq was FUBAR from the get-go. Instead of fighting a war they wanted to win hearts and minds. this is why we had to go door to door in places like Fallujah twice. Several friends of mine fought in Fallujah (two didn't make it out) and they told me that the were not allowed to destroy buildings or mosques and properly target terrorists.

If they had let our boys off the leash the bastards would have felt the full might of our war machine and they would have been buried so far underground that they would have never come out again. Maybe that would have been overkill but you only need to hand that kind of ass whooping once to show you mean fucking business. the very threat of us invading would taper terrorist ambitions so we would need to be less physically interventionist.

we are a super power and should act like it. proportional response was the worst thing to happen to this country's security since WW2.

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Dec 5, 2016

Agreed that if--IF--you fight a war, fight to win. Fighting a half-hearted war is as absurd as the idea of being a little bit pregnant.

Dec 6, 2016

the idea that you think ideologues would somehow stop being ideologues because of crushing defeat is asinine. I can understand your perspective from the standpoint of intimidating China not to try some dumb shit but terrorists who blow themselves up in the name of a cause do not give a single shit about how "defeated" they are - if anything it would probably motivate them more. What you are advocating is the victimization of an entire country in the hopes that we kill all the terrorists who could possibly rise up, civilians be damned.

Dec 6, 2016

They would stop being ideologues because they would all be dead.

And I don't buy the "that would just create more anger/hate towards us" argument. We made an extremely imperialistic and warlike Japan our bitch.

Dec 6, 2016

we did that by murdering like 200 thousand civilians (which is a tragedy)... and, again, radical Islamic terrorism isn't controlled by a centralized (mostly) rational government. We could massacre Iraq and another cell pops up in Iran, massacre Iran and another cell pops up in Yemen, massacre Yemen and another cell pops up in Egypt. This isn't traditional military combat and treating it as such would likely yield terrible results and lead to terrible tragedies.

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Dec 6, 2016

Agree that it is not an apples to apples comparison; but what I guess I am trying to say is that we should not take a scorched earth approach (or whatever you want to call it) off the table. War is war. Civilians die. There is collateral damage. You do what you need to in order to win.

Also, while I may get some MS for this, just for the record, the bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely justified. Operation Downfall, among others.

That is one point I will argue with everyone and anyone over lol. When I hear someone regurgitate a revisionist opinion on the subject I get a gigantic boner. First I'm like "ooooooooh WWII history come at me bro" which typically triggers some rambling on how this isn't about history / it was morally wrong / it was illegal (seriously wtf?) / we were just doing it to show off yada yada. Then I hit'em with a verbal assault of historical facts and perspectives so vicious it would make the Wu-Tang Clan blush. They fall to their knees, overwhelmed by the sheer barrage of knowledge that has been unleashed upon them, as I demand they renounce heresy once and for all. Only once they have accepted the Truth can I then continue on my path, spreading the gospel of Little Boy and Fat Man, one convert at a time.

Dec 7, 2016

Incredibly naive argument to say that a scorched earth policy works. I can't tell if you are trolling or are just an armchair pontificator unaware of what the conflict in those countries entails.

Dec 6, 2016

Did you even read the post?

If so, try reading it again, and then tell me you are not blatantly putting words in my mouth.

Dec 7, 2016

Well lets see here. Further up in this thread you say, and i quote;
"They would stop being ideologues because they would all be dead."

You then proceed to say, and i quote again:
"Agree that it is not an apples to apples comparison; but what I guess I am trying to say is that we should not take a scorched earth approach (or whatever you want to call it) off the table. War is war. Civilians die. There is collateral damage. You do what you need to in order to win."

By saying we shoud not takw scorched earth approach off the table, you are directly implying there are circumstances where it will work in this conflict. I am arguing that is incredibly naive, and that bobthebaker chap has a point.

So if you would now like to try and explain where the blatant word putted into mouth has taken place, that would be useful.

Dec 6, 2016

Me: "we should not take a scorched earth approach (or whatever you want to call it) off the table"

You: "Incredibly naive argument to say that a scorched earth policy works."

Interesting line of reasoning; I state that a scorched earth policy should be an available option in a conflict --> you somehow conclude that I am making the sweeping generalization that a scorched earth policy always works.

The only way this might make some sense is if you believe that a scorched earth policy has never and will never work. Which is demonstrably false.

Dec 7, 2016

On the contrary, you are making the implicit yet sweeping generalization that 1) This conflict is similar to those where scorched earth has "worked" 2) Scorched earth is indeed a policy that works (i.e. worked in the past and may well work in the future). Well as you can probably tell by my posts I am not much of a believer in scorched earth policy.

So I will pose two simple questions to you that cut through all the crap and get to the heart of what I am saying. 1) Show me a conflict where scorched earth policy demonstrably led to the end of the conflict and 2) Demonstrate how this conflict we are discussing is similar to the aforementioned example you can construct.

Furthermore, suppose you are wrong, you pull the trigger on scorched earth in this conflict, are you so sure that the repercussions of undertaking this policy if ineffective will not lead to a worsening of the situation? One of the concerns I also have is that such a policy can have devastating second order effects, merely keeping it on the table increases the probability of said devastating effects exponentially.

You may well have a legit example to the questions I pose, which is fair enough as I am open minded, but I cannot think of how you can construct that example without some hocus pocus or leeway in reasoning.

Dec 5, 2016

I hate to say it, but a "scorched Earth" policy has worked in most conflicts where it's been attempted for thousands of years. It's incredibly effective.

Dec 7, 2016

It may have worked in certain instances but it certainly won't work here. There are a few reasons for this. First you have a relatively small enemy hiding within a civilian population. This is not some call of duty type death match where ur enemy conveniently spawns on the other side of the map so you know where they are. Theyd move in ans out of surrounding countries. So unless you wanna bulldoze about 20 surrounding countries, killing a bunch of civilians, you will fail to get at the enemy.

This isnt and island nation like Japan pre-globalization (i.e. WW2) type of scenario. Its a contiguous land mass which makes tasks much more difficult.

Second, Killing a bunch of civilans pisses people off and will increase global hostility. Hell, if you're a millitary ready to kill civilians I am not sure what kind of values are being upheld here.

I think there is a reason why millitaries do not pursue these somewhat outdated techniques of warfare currently, and we need to stop the armchair warriors above from pontificating and move to a more fruitful discussion.

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Dec 7, 2016

terrorists dont care for the people they hurt but if there was a new reality as described in my post above, i think the people around the terrorists: their neighbors, friends, acquaintances, hell maybe even family would be more vigilant and probably turn them in if they suspect them of something because they would know that if they start something, they would ALL pay for it. you might need to wipe out a neighborhood only once and that will send an example. And we wouldn't wipe it out just for fun but if terrorists are holed up in a mosque or building and we cant go in without casualties, we blow it up regardless of who is in there. If they have no respect for their culture and people, why should we? And if the people in there with them allow themselves to be slaughtered all in the name of protecting this person and their heinous crimes well then in my book they are just like them and they deserve no mercy.

I agree with @Virginia Tech 4ever" that we should be reluctant to get involved in wars but if we do we should fight like we mean it. knowing the consequences, people will police their countries, neighborhoods and homes a lot better and while we might not eradicate them all there certainly wouldn't be enough to go around to create armies and take on entire governments. history tells us that scorched earth policy is absolutely effective and only fools think that the sensible answer to people who do us violence is to join hands around the camp fire.

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Dec 7, 2016

I think your logic is self defeating, and I also find it slightly worrying that you talk with ease at wiping out "entire neighbourhoods" fully "regardless of who is in there". I am not sure what difference exists between you and the people you are attempting to hunt down? Because what you are saying is certaintly antithetical to my core beliefs (and most of the people who have written western law and millitary code of conduct). Does that mean we also fling you in with the sociopathic killers you want to eradicate? I get you're pissed off but totally disregarding higher order values (no this is not some bullshit) and going on a psychopathic rampage is definitely not the way to deal with this. In the end, if you converge to their set of values, you have to ask yourself the question, why don't we throw you in there when we "scorch the earth"?

Now to your other points (not necessarily in order).

1) These nutjobs are not protected by the local population in the first place. They represent a tiny minority the local population so are very hard to locate by the locals (noone goes around advertising what they are going to do). Furthermore they KILL more of the local population then I think you are aware.. So if we folllow what you are saying, the local population get a double whammy of being killed by these nutjobs, and also being wiped out a foreign millitary. This is evidently not a reasonable solution to the problem.

2) Scorched earth policy is not effective in this instance. In fact, there have been a number of "scorched earth" type conflicts within the middle east region, between sunni and shia parties that did not result in a resolution to the violence. They have been fighting for very long time. Your premise that somehow you can instil fear into these people is incredibly shortsighted. They don't give two hoots about self preservation. Such an approach is incredibly simplistic and is why noone in millitary command sees it as a realistic choice.

3) I agree with your point people should not be fucking around in other countries.

4) Your final paragraph is again incredibly simplistic. People have been killing each other since the beginning of time, regardless of whether their earth was "scorched" or not. Look at World War 1 and World War 2 as a direct example of Europe repeatedly fucking itself up. If history told us that scorched earth was effective, you would only need there to be one conflict where people were wiped out, which humanity observed and consequently led to people singing kumbaya around a fire. Well, we have had conflicts that have caused huge loss of life, and no, that has not stopped humanity killing each other.

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Dec 7, 2016

Rebuttal, point by point:
Prologue: Castle doctrine indicates that when a burglar breaks into your house you can shoot them (not exactly proportional response but still acceptable as they are the instigating party); i suspect your "higher order values" would require you to make them coffee and help them carry the items they are stealing. Ad for your "Sociopath" jab, the following quote comes to mind "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Some of us prefer to die standing up and that doesn't mean that we are indiscriminate murderers. If the desire to protect me and mine to the extreme makes me a sociopath then so be it. You poke the tiger with a spear, you are going to get your ass mauled.

  1. I am aware they kill quite a few but that is because the local population allows them to do it though either fear or by agreeing with the cause of the terrorists; if the whole neighborhood went up in arms against their invasion, their losses would be much lower than letting themselves be killed; this is a lesson that can only be learned the hard way thus my apparent lack of compassion for people who are willing to sit by and watch their family get killed.
  2. Your scorched earth example between shia and sunni is a terrible one; if they had gone scorched earth only one of them would have survived and since they are both still here, the clearly didn't scorch anything. The Roman empire on the other hand used this tactic very effectively and it kept them on top of the food chain for half a millennia. Modern examples? Here are two: Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Another one? Dresden. Maybe another? Berlin. I think I made my point.
  3. Agreed. I won't start a fight but you fuck with me by god you will pay for it.
  4. You seem to be one of those people who upon hearing hoofbeats thinks Zebras. Just because a solution appears simple doesn't mean that it isn't the best. Again, scorched earth works. We totally annihilated the fucking nazis in WW2 and while there might still be a few of them around, they are hardly more than a nuisance. And yes carpet bombing cities indiscriminately with thousands of bombs every night for months/years definitely qualifies as scorched earth. How are you not making/seeing these connections? Maybe you need to broaden your definition a bit?

Here is the bottom line: I detest violence. I think it's ugly and all it has ever achieved was sorrow, pain and devastation on the human race. I don't wish it on anyone. But because I don't like violence that doesn't mean I will meekly sit there and let you inflict injury on people I care about. In fact I hate violence so much that if I am forced to use it, It will be so absolute, the effect so devastating, that I will not ever have to use it again, not only against the aggressor at hand but also against everyone else who bears witness as they will see what happens when I am provoked. That might sound paradoxical but I assure you that it is possible for those two ideas to coexist and be very effective. I've said a great deal here and if all that is not enough to broaden your view on this then there is nothing more left to say.

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Dec 7, 2016

"Prologue: Castle doctrine indicates that when a burglar breaks into your house you can shoot them (not exactly proportional response but still acceptable as they are the instigating party); i suspect your "higher order values" would require you to make them coffee and help them carry the items they are stealing. Ad for your "Sociopath" jab, the following quote comes to mind "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Some of us prefer to die standing up and that doesn't mean that we are indiscriminate murderers. If the desire to protect me and mine to the extreme makes me a sociopath then so be it. You poke the tiger with a spear, you are going to get your ass mauled."

1) You make a straw man argument. I never said we should NOT engage in combat (I cannot see how you reached that conclusion). I DID disagree with indiscriminately maiming and killing innocent civilians, which is what you were proposing in your posts above. It seems you find it difficult to distinguish between the enemy and civilians, which is precisely what I gathered from your post, and is something that needs to be called out.

Once you get past the emotional diatribe you posted, you haven't actually said much. You are not a rough man, in fact you are the very thing this world needs protecting against (someone who is willing to kill "me and mine" of other innocent people). You are not a tiger; braver men then you have fought in conflicts and managed to remain civilized. So your first paragraph has not really addressed anything that I had to say, save construct a false argument on my behalf and go on a bit of a rant.

"I am aware they kill quite a few but that is because the local population allows them to do it though either fear or by agreeing with the cause of the terrorists; if the whole neighborhood went up in arms against their invasion, their losses would be much lower than letting themselves be killed; this is a lesson that can only be learned the hard way thus my apparent lack of compassion for people who are willing to sit by and watch their family get killed."

2) Where is your evidence for this? The local population are generally the number one targets for these atrocities. You are demonstrating a significant lack of understanding of other countries. I am sorry, but you are lacking compassion for the very people that need it, i.e. people victimized by these nutjobs on a day in and day out basis. While you type away on a pc in the comfort of your home, look at Syria and what a hellhole it has become. So keep your lack of compassion to yourself thanks.

"Agreed. I won't start a fight but you fuck with me by god you will pay for it."

3) I am glad we agree on this point.

"You seem to be one of those people who upon hearing hoofbeats thinks Zebras. Just because a solution appears simple doesn't mean that it isn't the best. Again, scorched earth works. We totally annihilated the fucking nazis in WW2 and while there might still be a few of them around, they are hardly more than a nuisance. And yes carpet bombing cities indiscriminately with thousands of bombs every night for months/years definitely qualifies as scorched earth. How are you not making/seeing these connections? Maybe you need to broaden your definition a bit?"

4) I am not sure where to begin here. For your claim to hold you would have to demonstrate that this conflict is similar to WW2? My point is precisely that historical conflicts do not provide a valid point of comparison in this case, which is why scorched earth would fail. Furthermore, I am not even sure scorched earth policy was the reason behind Germany losing the war. I think the chief reason was they opened up too many fronts, one of which was against the Russians. The Germans practically annihilated c.20 million Russians yet they still lost. Also am not sure the Germans "were totally annihilated"; in fact Europe was pretty much "annihilated". Indeed much of the countries that took the heaviest brunt of the conflict (NOT USA or Britain, although anyone who was involved paid a heavy price) took decades to rebuild (although at a rapid economic pace). Lets look at total casualties to see where in fact most of the conflict was focused:

http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/f...
"Here is the bottom line: I detest violence. I think it's ugly and all it has ever achieved was sorrow, pain and devastation on the human race. I don't wish it on anyone. But because I don't like violence that doesn't mean I will meekly sit there and let you inflict injury on people I care about. In fact I hate violence so much that if I am forced to use it, It will be so absolute, the effect so devastating, that I will not ever have to use it again, not only against the aggressor at hand but also against everyone else who bears witness as they will see what happens when I am provoked. That might sound paradoxical but I assure you that it is possible for those two ideas to coexist and be very effective. I've said a great deal here and if all that is not enough to broaden your view on this then there is nothing more left to say."

5) Again a straw man. The discussion is around what constitutes a correct intervention. I have nowhere said that you should sit around and do nothing. I think you have become driven by hate, and well it isn't me that needs to "broaden their view", on the contrary, it is you. You have not really addressed much of what I said, so I guess we agree to be diametrically opposed on this point, for which I am incredibly thankful. Like you I have no more to say on this issue, so good luck amigo.

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Dec 7, 2016
Dec 7, 2016

Love your neighbor as yourself. The enemy is rarely the men in opposing uniforms.

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Dec 7, 2016
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Dec 8, 2016

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.