TAMPA, August 19, 2013 – At least 64 more people died in Egypt Friday as fighting erupted between Muslim Brotherhood-led supporters of ousted president Mohmmad Morsi and armed civilians who oppose them. Police officers were among those killed, some possibly fighting out of uniform with vigilante forces.
The Brotherhood has called for daily protests “until the coup ends,” meaning that the democratically-elected Morsi is returned to power. With chances of that close to zero, there is no clear pathway to an end to the carnage.
Egypt is in flames. It is a perfect metaphor for U.S. foreign policy.
Yesterday, President Obama announced that he was canceling joint military training exercises with the Egyptian military. “Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” the president said.
The civilians are being killed with weapons purchased with U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.
Just two years ago, the Obama administration materially supported the “pro-democracy” revolution against Hosni Mubarak, but has refused to condemn the Egyptian military’s deposing of Morsi.
If the administration were to recognize that as a coup, it would be legally required to cut off military aid.
Meanwhile, the administration is supporting a rebellion against President Assad of Syria. That has strained relations with Russia, a longtime ally of Syria and supporter of the multi-generational Assad regime. Russian president Vladimir Putin has publicly questioned why the United States is supporting rebel forces in Syria that include Al Qaeda after fighting extended wars against Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The tension may have influenced Putin’s decision to grant asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden. In response to that, Obama cancelled a scheduled meeting with Putin.
The failures are not confined to the Obama administration.
The Bush administration reacted to 9/11 the way FDR reacted to Pearl Harbor. It attempted to wage conventional war against an unconventional enemy.
“Mission accomplished,” declared President Bush in May, 2003, after U.S. forces had marched into the Iraqi capital, the traditional measure of victory in a conventional war.
The problem was that Saddam Hussein’s forces weren’t the real enemy. Eight years later, the U.S. left Iraq a nation in chaos, its infrastructure razed, two million refugees displaced, an ancient Christian community destroyed, and a government with strong ties to Iran.
“No one in his right mind speaks of a U.S. victory in Iraq these days,” wrote former Congressman Ron Paul.
Paul also noted that the Taliban has recently opened an office on Doha, Qatar, where it will negotiate with the U.S. on ending the war in Afghanistan. Few doubt that the Taliban will be a major influence in Afghanistan, if they don’t eventually return to power altogether, after the U.S. withdraws.
The entire, twelve-year U.S. adventure in the Middle East has been an unmitigated disaster, using any of the measures of success offered by its proponents.
It did not neutralize weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They didn’t exist.
It did not permanently depose the Taliban.
It did not eliminate or even reduce al Qaeda, which filled every vacuum created by U.S. arms.
It has not made the Middle East more stable.
It certainly has not made Americans freer. The Patriot Act, the TSA, NSA collection of phone and e-mail data, indefinite detention without due process and the presidential kill list have all accompanied the war on terror. While military intervention did not cause these domestic policies, it has done nothing to reduce the perceived need for them.
The U.S. has learned nothing from the Cold War. The two significant military interventions during that period were its only failures. The U.S. left Viet Nam in defeat. The Vietnamese largely abandoned communism on their own in the decades that followed.
The U.S. prevented North Korea from taking over South Korea, but still finds itself entangled in the six decade standoff that followed it. North Korea is one of the few truly communists countries left in the world, largely because an outside threat unites people behind the government.
It’s time to give serious consideration to a noninterventionist foreign policy. The results of trying to police the world and export democracy have been exactly the opposite of what was intended. It’s a lot like when the government intervenes into the economy. When it puts price controls on food to help the poor, it results in food shortages and the poor starve.
It is often said that if the United States did not have its massive military presence around the world, other powers like China would fill the void. Let them.
The idea that there is something to fear from potential rivals “controlling resources” is based upon economics as spurious as those employed by the price controllers. Natural resources are worth nothing if not sold to all potential buyers. Oil is not sold from government to government. It is sold to major exchanges and from there to the highest bidder.
While the United States is bankrupting itself blowing up bridges and then rebuilding them in Middle East backwaters, China is investing in resources in Africa and elsewhere. They do not appear worried about their security despite the absence of military bases outside their borders.
The interventionists would do well to read the inauguration speeches of the first 22 U.S. presidents. Regardless of their differences on domestic policy, their comments on foreign policy play like a broken record.
Nonintervention worked. It’s no coincidence that the United States rose from one of the poorest economies in the world to the mightiest economy in human history while this was its foreign policy. Being the world’s policeman has played a large part in reversing that trend.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.