Consequences of an Interventionist Foreign Policy
The attack on the US consulate in Libya and the killing of the US Ambassador and several aides is another tragic example of how our interventionist foreign policy undermines our national security. The more the US tries to control the rest of the world, either by democracy promotion, aid to foreign governments, or by bombs, the more events spin out of control into chaos, unintended consequences, and blowback.
Unfortunately, what we saw in Libya last week is nothing new.
In 1980s Afghanistan, the US supported Islamic radicals in their efforts to expel the invading Soviet military. These radicals became what is known to be al Qaeda, and our one-time allies turned on us most spectacularly on September 11, 2001.
Iraq did not have a significant al Qaeda presence before the 2003 US invasion but our occupation of that country and attempt to remake it in our image caused a massive reaction that opened the door to al Qaeda, leading to thousands of US soldiers dead, a country destroyed and instability that shows no sign of diminishing.
In Libya we worked with, among others, the rebel Libyan Fighting Group (LIFG) which included foreign elements of al Qaeda. It has been pointed out that the al Qaeda affiliated radicals we fought in Iraq were some of the same groups we worked with to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya. Last year in a television interview I predicted that the result of NATO's bombing of Libya would likely be an increased al Qaeda presence in the country. I said at the time that we may be delivering al Qaeda another prize.
Not long after NATO overthrew Gaddafi, the al Qaeda flag was flown over the courthouse in Benghazi. Should we be surprised, then, that less than a year later there would be an attack on our consulate in Benghazi? We have been told for at least the past eleven years that these people are the enemy who seeks to do us harm.
There is danger in the belief we can remake the world by bribing some countries and bombing others. But that is precisely what the interventionists – be they liberal or conservative – seem to believe. When the world does not conform to their image, they seem genuinely shocked. The secretary of state's reaction to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was one of confusion. "How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?" she asked.
The problem is that we do not know and we cannot know enough about these societies we are seeking to remake. We never try to see through the eyes of those we seek to liberate. Libya is in utter chaos, the infrastructure has been bombed to rubble, the economy has ceased to exist, gangs and militias rule by brutal force, the government is seen as a completely illegitimate and powerless US puppet. How could anyone be shocked that the Libyans do not see our bombing their country as saving it from destruction?
Currently, the US is actively supporting rebels in Syria that even our CIA tells us are affiliated with al Qaeda. Many of these radical Islamist fighters in Syria were not long ago fighting in Libya. We must learn from these mistakes and immediately cease all support for the Syrian rebels, lest history once again repeat itself. We are literally backing the same people in Syria that we are fighting in Afghanistan and that have just killed our ambassador in Libya! We must finally abandon the interventionist impulse before it is too late.
Editor's note: Daily Bell Chief Editor Anthony Wile similarly addressed the consequences of US imperialist arrogance in his editorial dated Saturday, September 15th, "Rising Middle East Violence a Precursor for US-Based Internal Combustion."
Posted by dotti on 09/18/12 11:33 AM
Dr. Paul! Thanks for your concise and informative article.
I have read that the Treaty of Westphalia brought a level of peace to Europe never seen before. It may be a very long and complicated treaty in reality, but the imperative is easy to understand: Clear and Present Danger are required for the intervention in the arrairs of another sovereign nation.
Even if we take the objectives of our national leaders at face value--which would be reason enough to question our own sanity--our altruistic goal of spreading the "gift" of democracy among other peoples of the world is and should be illegal. For the more cynical--or I prefer the term realistic--of us, it is meddling--or even worse, empire building. We are trying to create nation states that benefit us in one way or another. Sometimes the benefit is to have the nation as a "friend". But at other times, it is beneficial to create an "enemy" that can be used to enhance our position. Sometimes we prop up an evil dictator; other times we support rebels--as with al Qaeda--in one situation and fight them to the death in another.
In Libya, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, perhaps many others, including Syria, we have intervened in sovereign nations affairs--in my opinion to the detriment of the citizens.
By our interventions are we creating a kinder gentler world? Is this our mandate as a nation?
The reaction to the book that insulted muslims seems way out of proportion to the insult. Not knowing much about islam, I would imagine that much of the violence incited as been building over a period of time. The United States is seen as a predatory nation who intervenes in its own self interest while acting the role of savior of the oppressed of the world. We are above international law. We can torture because it is for a good cause.
While it is hard for me to favor a policy that would stand by while any country abuses their own citizens, I do not believe that we as a nation have a mandate to convey fairness to the citizens of the world.
Could we please reinstate the Treaty of Westphalia?
Posted by dotti on 09/18/12 11:38 AM
I just reread my post.
I don't want to come across as anti-American. Our leadership, both those we can identify as leaders and those who move behind the scenes, have established plans and methods that are inciting anti-American sentiment.
The American people continue to be good, kind people who want to help in ways that they can.
Posted by fabien on 09/18/12 02:45 PM
I don't think that these attacks are consequences. They are the designed result of a strategy which goal is to keep the military-industrial complex thriving and growing. Peace is the worst outcome for these people.
Posted by dimitri on 09/18/12 04:55 PM
What a boob Ron Paul is! According to him in this write up 9/11 was the result of Al Qaeda "turning on us most spectacularly." This also happens to be the consensus pushed by the thoroughly discredited government 9/11 report. Yet mountains of evidence exist to prove that 9/11 WAS an inside job and could hardly have been orchestrated and synchronized as effectively as it was by a band of Islamic misfits living in the mountain caves of Afghanistan.
Libertarians and others were correct in positioning Paul as a "good" presidential candidate. Many of his positions seemed genuine and caring. But his yielding to the whims of the Republican Party and this embrace of the skewed government version of 9/11 gives him away as ultimately being a worshipper of authoritarianism.
Posted by sommers on 09/20/12 04:29 AM
I'm sure Ron Paul knows all about 9/11. He was trying to win a presidential campaign. Give it some thought. He was being called kooky by the MSM already.