Justifications for U.S. imperialism
By Walter E. Block
There are numerous arguments offered in support of U.S. imperialistic policy. It is not for nothing that America has about 1000 military bases in some 160 foreign countries. These justifications, although all of them specious, must have at least some significant power.
One case in favor of foreign interventionism is that the North American colossus must “export democracy” to the backward nations of the world. The difficulty with this is that soldiers are stationed in many nations that are fully democratic. Another awkwardness is U.S. policy toward Egypt. The Al Sisi regime overthrew democratically elected Mohamed Morsi. Did the U.S. sever all relations with Egypt; at least stop all foreign aid to it in protest? To ask this is to answer it. Of course not. So, democracy is merely a veneer for U.S. action. And, a good thing too, since Hitler (the real one, not any near eastern pretender) rose to power not through a coup de etat, but via a thoroughly democratic process. Also putting the kibosh on this argument is Hans Hoppe’s magnificent book, Democracy – The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order. Read that and weep, all those of you who support the U.S. military prancing all over the globe to bring democracy to the heathen.
Remember the hanging chads in the Florida? How would people in the U.S. like it if battalions from Albania, Argentina or Australia invaded our country in order to repair our pitifully low level of democracy? Not too well, but the powers that be in this country do not cotton to us placing ourselves in the moccasins of others, particularly those of foreigners.
Another defense of U.S. imperialism is that this country must be the policeman of the world. If it could be a good cop, then, perhaps, just maybe, there might be some reason to support this (at least for non-libertarians who do not oppose such busy-body behavior on principle). But, a tiny peek at the record would show this country instead taking on the role of Inspector Clouseau. Consider: the moderate Arab forces, the ones the U.S. is supporting, based on credible claims sold a person to ISIS for beheading for $50,000. ISIS is surging in its war with the pesh merga based on U.S. weapons it stole, bought, commandeered from, these self same “moderates.” The U.S. is the bitter enemy of Iran and Bashar Assad of Syria, and yet, who is fighting ISIS, the “Hitler du jour?” Yes, Iran and Syria. The U.S. drug policy has also undermined countries from Mexico all the way down to South America. There, drug gangs fight government military forces (ok, ok, also gangs) on almost even terms. And then there is the U.S. “protection” of nations such as Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq that have seen tens of thousands of innocents perish. With “protection” like this, the client states of the U.S. would almost be better off with its enmity.
Does anyone remember 9/11? Or the numerous occasions when the Drug Enforcement Agency invaded the wrong home and killed innocent children? How would people in the U.S. like it if regiments from Brazil, Burundi or Botswana invaded our country in order to protect us from this sort of abuse? Not too well, but the powers that be in this country do not cotton to us placing ourselves in the moccasins of others, particularly those of foreigners.
The U.S. military pokes its snout into hornets’ nests all around the planet. And then our chattering classes are shocked, shocked, when some of those insects come here to bite us. Ron Paul spoke truly to Rudy Giuliani when he called this “blowback.” They are here because we were there, spoke Congressman Paul to a befuddled ex Mayor of New York City. No truer words were ever said.
Then there is the claim that U.S. must place “boots on the ground” all around the world based on American “interests.” What does this mean? If domestic businessmen locate in foreign countries, and are mistreated, then the government of this country must step in to “protect our vital foreign interests” abroad.
Sometimes, this is couched in terms of oil. We need oil do we not? Of course we do. Therefore, when our oil companies go to foreign lands, U.S. armies must follow them, lest they come to any harm.
One problem with this is that there is no earthly reason to send troops abroad merely to ensure imports. Switzerland also imports oil. It does no such thing. Rather, it depends upon the self-interest of the oil exporters. Even apart from developing domestic oil, or importing it from a country such as Canada there is no case whatsoever to meddle in the affairs of other nations just to ensure oil availability. How many free market economists does it take to change a light-bulb? None, they leave it to market forces. How many soldiers does it take to ensure imports? None. This, too, can safely be left to market forces.
Another difficulty is that this argument in behalf of imperialism is impossible to generalize. If it is justified for U.S. troops to follow American businessmen to foreign lands lest they be mistreated, why does not the same apply the other way around? That is, suppose an entrepreneur from Cuba, or China or Chad set up a company in one of our 50 states, and armies from those nations entered our country on the ground that our judicial system might be unfair to them. How would public opinion in this country react to such goings on? Not too well, but the powers that be in this country do not cotton to us placing ourselves in the moccasins of others, particularly those of foreigners.
The problem here is one of overlapping sovereignties. National governments, not to put too fine a point on the matter, are like scorpions. Leave each of them alone on its own patch, and relative peace prevails. But put two of them in a bottle and shake it up, and what do you get? Mayhem, that is what. Similarly, if each scorpion-government tended to its own garden, and contented itself with exploiting its own citizens, then, at least, there would be a vast reduction in international war. But, let one of these scorpion-governments (I’m growing fond of this phrase) claim sovereign power in the territory of the other and the result is pandemonium.
No, the only sane policy is for each nation, up to and including the “home of the free, land of the brave” to tell its nationals something along the following lines: “Lookit, the world is a dangerous place. We, the government of the U.S. have sovereignty only over our own country. If you go elsewhere, say, to Denmark, or Dubai, or Dominican Republic, whether as a tourist or an investor or a businessman, you go at your own risk. We can only protect you on our own soil. Once you go abroad, you throw yourself at the mercy of whatever rules and regulations they have over there, and however they administer their legal system. Similarly, when people from other nations come over here, they place themselves under our rule, for better or worse.
Would be that every country followed such policies. If so, there would certainly be far less strife in the world.
P.S. Memo to the U.S. government: Suppose a tourist from Ecuador, El Salvador or Ethiopia took a vacation in the U.S. or a businessman set up a grocery here. If they were to follow policy blazed by the U.S., the armies from these countries would follow. How would we like them apples? Not too well, but the powers that be in this country do not cotton to us placing ourselves in the moccasins of others, particularly those of foreigners.