This week Donald Trump dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on the nation of Syria at a cost of about $500,000 each, undoubtedly provoking more hostility against the United States, a possible war of aggression with the Syrian government, as well as a rise in the pressures between the United States and Russia, whose government considers Syria an ally.
This is the application of a failed foreign policy that continues back through presidents of both parties for decades. Foreign policy “experts”, the media (see here) and ill-advised chief executives push for wars that never achieve their stated goals, never make the situation better, and never always costs vastly more lives and treasure then they predict. Indeed it looks like Donald Trump’s airstrikes killed children under the false flag of saving children. Instead, interventions just like this one and what is coming, have put this nation into bankruptcy (at this point it is just a matter of noticing the fact) and costs the American people a good share of freedom, from their airports to what they say on their cell phones.
The War in Iraq is a textbook example. Initial predictions of the cost to the U.S. were around $21 billion. It cost $800 billion for just the war itself, and the oil revenues never materialized to help the funding. Over 36,000 were wounded and killed. In the beginning it had a strongman suppressing its people but who was largely benign to the interests of the United States. At the far end it helped create ISIS, a more militant group than Hussein, which is still to this day battling us in the region. Some $800 billion for a lot of blood, no oil, and no goodwill.
Recent history is filled with similar tales. In Libya, we brought down Muammar Qaddafi only to revert the nation to chaos and ungovernable bands, leaving it worse–for us and them–than it was before. The same in Afghanistan. Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak fell, which Barrack Obama celebrated, even as the Muslim Brotherhood rose from the supposed Arab Spring, leading to an eventual military overthrow and a government as questionable as the one it began with.
The same experts would have us defending Ukraine on the other side of the world, attacking Iran and battling every perceived humanitarian wrong in the world before they can be investigated. Indeed, the attack on Syria by President Donald Trump was supposedly the result of an alleged Syrian-government gas attack on his own people, one which makes no sense for it to have done. See here.
And make no mistake, this is an attack. Indeed, for one nation to cross the borders of another and bomb them is historically referred to as war. What else could it be called?
Why? Ask our generals.
Outgoing President Eisenhower, a former general, in 1961 noted that: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
At the beginning of our nation general and President George Washington defined the job of the military as our vigorous defense, and stressed avoiding foreign entanglements that might lead to us into wars. The early presidents did the same. Somehow between here and there, though, America’s policy has changed to all but constant foreign intervention.
This is not a question of being for or against the military. The vast majority of those in the military are heroes who should never be denigrated (as occurred after the Viet Nam War). Rather, we should give them the respect of carefully reviewing whether we really need to put them in harm’s way for any reason other than to defend America. Nor is it a question of isolation, it is a matter of thinking things through. Washington himself urged commerce over war, because more often than not commerce creates more peace in the longer term. Not to mention the enormous cost on the treasury, mortgaging the future of our children to chase around the world righting perceived wrongs.
More than just a political issue, there is a longstanding moral standard to be considered, called the Just War Doctrine (a good article on it being here, and they are well set out in Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraphs 2307 through 2317.).
While all nations have the right to self defense, defense is often sadly just another term for war itself. To be just a military action must meet particular conditions:
1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
3. there must be serious prospects of success;
4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. the power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
Few of our recent foreign entanglements meet these conditions. Here there is no threat to the community of nations, who seem unable to even identify the “bad guy” in the Syrian conflict. Other means to solve the problem remain on the table, and the solutions was as bad as the problem–killing innocents to take revenge for killing innocents.
Rather than following the lead of politicians and “foreign policy experts” who are never called to account after their predictions fall apart, but rather are brought back again as experts, the American people should take it on themselves to ask whether the talking heads calling for intervention are correct by objective standards such as the Just War Doctrine or even by their own sincere review of recent history.
In looking to that history we should ask ourselves whether Washington was right to advise us not to entangle ourselves in other country’s causes. We should ask whether Eisenhower was right that our leaders may have motivations other than patriotism in mind when they want us to march into another country. We should ask ourselves whether it is worth our country’s blood and money to protect the interests of foreign powers.
And we should conclude, far more than we have in recent years, that the cost is not justified unless we ourselves are under real attack.
John D. Pierce, Esq.