America Does Not Go Abroad in Search of Monsters to Destroy| filed under: International Affairs, International Politics, Editorial, Politics, Opinion, Adventurism
I wrote this on February 14, 2005, but it’s as true now as it’s ever been.
Has anyone checked the label on the prescription that we in the United States have been given to treat permanent tyranny around the world? The side effects are much worse than the cure.
The most important side effect is that until the population of a sovereign nation-state is ready to join the emergent worldwide free market economy, any attempt at imposing either democracy or capitalism will fail once external influence is removed. The blowback from this imposition and resulting failure is that the resulting system will be similar or worse than the preceding system, and when it comes to the global balance of power, the devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t.
On the 13th of February Meet the Press, Natan Sharansky debated Pat Buchanan over the book A Case for Democracy, about which President Bush admits he is passionate and which the White House intends to use as a foreign policy roadmap for the next four years. I have yet to read either Mr. Sharansky’s book or Mr. Buchanan’s controversial response, Where the Right Went Wrong, but I do have an opinion based wholly on the debate and the transcript of the debate.
I found myself in strong agreement with a lot of what Pat Buchanan recommended on foreign policy. For example, “In my judgment, what happened on 9/11 was a result of interventionism. Interventionism is the cause of terror. It is not a cure for terror.”
The President’s premise that domestic terrorism is the direct result of envy, jealousy, or insecurity is flawed. As Pat Buchanan states in the interview, “the United States was not attacked because we are free. Bin Laden was not attacking the Bill of Rights. We were attacked because the United–over here because the United States’ military and political presence is massive over there. Bin Laden in his fatwah, his statement of declaration of war on the United States, said the infidels were standing on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. They want us out of the Middle East. They don’t care whether we have a separation of church and state.”
All systems reject invasion, even our bodies. Even in the case of a transplanted organ which is welcome, one must continue taking medicine for life in order to keep the body from rejecting the invader, even though the invader is pink, healthy, not poisoned and dying like the original. Internationally, it doesn’t matter if our prescription, our pink and healthy liver, our strong heart, is going to cure what ails the world, because that just isn’t the point. Curing the world’s ills requires that we will need to make sure the patient is constantly taking its “for the rest of your life” anti-rejection medications. Even if this is delivered forcibly under restraint, “for your own good” and “it hurts me more than it hurts you.”
One of the obvious outcomes of this stated overt (and not covert) intention “to help democratic institutions in every region in every nation on earth is a formula for permanent war,” says Mr. Buchanan.
Buchanan went on to state very clearly that it is not in America’s best interest to intervene in affairs of sovereign nation-states, governments that are in fact recognized by the world. To again quote Pat Buchanan, paraphrasing John Quincy Adams, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the champion of freedom everywhere, but the vindicator only of her own.”
John Quincy Adams said it better himself, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
When it comes down to it, there is no legal mandate that we as a nation or as a member of the world government may aggressively pursue this sort of agenda. Again, Pat Buchanan, “where in the Constitution do we get the right to intervene in the internal affairs of countries that do not threaten us and do not attack us? If they don’t, their internal politics are their own business,” adding that “the president of the United States has no constitutional authority to do this.”
And even after all that, one might realize that the only form of government that can in fact be transplanted like an organ is an authoritarian dictatorship. In this case I will intentionally misappropriate Senator Charles Grassey’s quote when he said, in the same episode of Meet the Press, “I think that there’s a movement towards freedom that people are naturally born free, they want to be free, and you don’t impose democracy. Democracy is natural. You can only impose dictatorship.”
Even though we want to believe that all functioning systems need to have an emergent pattern that is democratic, this is not exclusively the case. Governments are really visible manifestations of their culture. There has never really been a long-lasting government that has been out of step with its mother culture. We know that a family’s culture is deep and very difficult to influence. A company’s takes either a lot of time or a total radical amputation to truly change the culture. Since nation-states are in fact artificial constructs anyway, it is almost impossible to make drastic changes without Draconian measures, the majority of which are morally and ethically offensive and more costly than their intended good.
My interpretation on this quote is that a Vanguard of Democracy is as futile as a Vanguard of the Proletariat. That imposing democracy is as futile and as temporary as imposing Marxist-Leninism, communism, capitalism, or even the free market. And when this Vanguard of Democracy and the free market system was imposed on Russia, the blowback was arguably the complete dissolution of realpolitik, resulting in an entire country run by the Russian Mafia in a very effective and complete power grab. Is this democracy? Where is the Nation-State in a country that can’t even contain its nuclear assets? The biggest weak link in the entire underground weapons-grade plutonium economy? A country that has a larger rift between haves and have nots than ever before, A true playground for the neo robber baron. Where the super rich can ignore traffic laws if they posses the official flashing blue lights on their Mercedes-Benz S600 sedans. In the case of Russia, we have a culture that has never known either democracy or freedom, from the Czars to the Communists. On a systemic level, the Russian system broke under this imposition.
And there are a surplus of sovereign governments worldwide unready or unwilling to accept an imposed “freedom,” “democracy” and “the free market” systemically from the top-down. These desires happen in emergence, through bubbling up from the bottom. From discontent, from desire, from education, and through participation in a global market and global economy. By willing hearts and minds legitimately as opposed to through heavy-handed coercion.
So, in that regard, Natan Sharansky’s naive comment, although correct on the surface, is not a very complex argument, “I believe that all the people, when given opportunity to choose between living in fear or living in freedom, choose to live in freedom,” What he forgot to mention is that his argument doesn’t include a very important missing piece, which is, “all things being equal.”
I agree with the following premise, “All things being equal, I believe that all the people, when given opportunity to choose between living in fear or living in freedom, choose to live in freedom.” But in developing nations, in nations that are still tribal or predominately rural, in nations that don’t have a history of education or are based on tribalism, monarchy, or religion, and in nations that have high scarcities or are under crushing debt, the resulting unintended consequences of imposing democracy, capitalism, or the free market economy usually results in a situation much worse, or at least much less predictable, than the original. I hate to use “better the devil we know than the devil we don’t” but the jury is out as to whether an Iraq with no boarders and a forced, unnatural, system of government will chomp at the bit until it is given an opportunity to revert to something similar but different.
Again, to quote Pat Buchanan in support of the above — the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t theory of foreign policy, “We cannot make the enemy the best of the good . . . we have had occasions, the last great crusade for democracy was Woodrow Wilson going across the sea with an army to make the world safer. We brought down all the monarchs and we got instead Lenin and Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler.”