Letters from the Old Republic: A basic overview of non-interventionism

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Justin Foard, Contributing Writer

 

Since the age of 14, I have been a proud, card-carrying member of what Hillary Clinton once described as “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” But over the last several years, I have found myself disappointed by the mainstream conservative movement’s neglect of a school of thought to which most conservatives used to subscribe: non-interventionism.

Non-interventionism is a philosophy that advocates an avoidance of military conflict unless and only if our national security is threatened. By “national security” I do not mean a monopolization of oil markets, nor do I mean the security of Israel or Taiwan. According to the dictates of non-interventionism, only if a nation has been attacked or is on the verge of being attacked should it resort to military action. The only exception would be in the exceedingly rare and grave circumstance wherein a vital strategic ally or nation in our sphere of interest is under assault.

Non-interventionists seek diplomatic relations with other countries. Also, they call for free trade and investment among the nations of the world, and they attempt to steer clear of meddling in the internal affairs of nations not their own.

Regrettably, most people confuse isolationism with non-interventionism; but non-interventionists are not isolationists. Isolationism shrinks from any sort of diplomatic dealings or pacts with all nations (think North Korea). In and of itself, an alliance or diplomatic accord is not problematic for a non-interventionist, so long as it serves to strengthen the nation against any future attacks, is not a pact or alliance that indefinitely ties one to military assistance, and does not serve as a catalyst for unnecessary, pre-emptive, offensive warfare.

Essentially, non-interventionists firmly believe that, even with the best of motivations, interventionism will inevitably entail unintended consequences, or what the CIA calls “blowback.” Consider the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East over the last several decades.

One, we erroneously seek to impose democracy on peoples who haven’t the slightest idea of Western notions of liberty. This is what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Needless to say, Iraqi Catholics have not benefited from this expansion of liberty.

Two, and in contradistinction to point one, we prop up brutal regimes, in part because we seek to acquire precious natural resources instead of competing on the world market. In 1953, we overthrew Mossadeq, a popularly elected leader, to install the more compliant, yet dictatorial, Shah Pahlavi. Naturally, Iranians were enraged over our role in the coup, and blowback came in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Today, instead of dealing with a secular leader like Mossadeq, we now have to deal with the Islamist Ayatollah Khamenei and his incendiary henchman Ahmadinejad.

Our intervention in Iran is just one example of how our intervention abroad tends to have a radicalizing effect on the occupied people and serves to show how interventionism tends to result in a more destabilized, less safe world.

Interventionism is also economically unsustainable. Our incessant warfare state has directly contributed to our current economic problems. 20 percent of the U.S. budget is devoted to “defense” spending: almost as much as every nation on earth – combined. This means that one of every five dollars in the federal budget funds activity that necessarily results in wealth-destruction, not wealth-creation. This is problematic from a military perspective, because a strong economy is needed to pay for a strong military. This is also problematic from a fiscally conservative perspective because we shouldn’t hold our $700 billion bloated defense budget as sacrosanct in a time of rising budget deficits, yet we have to in order to continue our interventionist policies. In times of economic crisis, the traditional fiscal conservative position has been to allow all budgetary options to be on the table as a way of forging a balanced compromise and restoring our nation to a path of fiscal solvency.

Throughout this coming year, I intend to closely examine both past and contemporary U.S. foreign affairs from a non-interventionist perspective. In doing so, I hope to make the case that the best hope for enhanced U.S. national security and a less destabilized world lies in the principally sound policy of non-interventionism. If you disagree, please write letters to the editor. The topic very much deserves a thoughtful dialogue.

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