The overwhelming opposition of the American people to President Obama’s bid to start another U.S. war — this one against Syria — helps light the darkness under which we are living. It is refreshing that the American people did not engage in a knee-jerk “defer to authority and bomb them” response to the president’s call for war, not even when the interventionist crowd brought up its old tried-and-true arguments for another war of aggression — e.g., patriotism, credibility, national security, appeasement, Hitler, WMDs, etc.
It’s of course impossible to know what motivated each person to oppose the president’s plan. It would be far too optimistic to think that people are actually beginning to question the entire concept of the national-security state apparatus — i.e., the military industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA — and to recognize that it is at the root of America’s woes.
But I do think there is a good chance that people are finally starting to see that the military adventurism is not a fun-and-games, cost-free exercise. My hunch is that people are starting to realize that there are oftentimes very high costs to bear whenever the national-security state goes off and conducts its military interventions.
The costs, of course, include the loss of life and limb for American soldiers. I think more and more people are starting to realize that the men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan have died for nothing, just as the 58,000 American men who died in Vietnam died for nothing. The same principle holds true for the soldiers who have returned without arms or legs or a normal mind.
That’s obviously a painful thing to confront and accept, especially for the family members of the soldiers who died. But reality is reality. What other rational conclusion can be drawn about the results of Operating Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom? Only the most deluded people continue to hew to the notion that Iraq and Afghanistan are now paradises of peace, prosperity, harmony, democracy, and freedom. The reality is that both countries are hell-holes, where violence, corruption, torture, and tyranny are the norm.
The costs obviously include money. Regular Americans are struggling to make ends meet. They save little money out of their incomes. They’d prefer a better way of life for themselves and their families. My hunch is that they’re starting to realize that it is they, as taxpayers, who ultimately bear the costs of the bullets, missiles, bombs, tanks, ships, planes, soldier salaries, and all the other extraordinary expenses associated with military adventurism.
President Bush was able to disguise the costs of his wars by borrowing the money from the communist regime in China and also by leading Americans into believing that U.S. troops could steal Iraqi oil after the invasion to help pay for the costs. Americans have learned that those debts to the Chinese communists need to be paid off and that it’s American taxpayers who must do the paying. They also learned that the stolen oil plan didn’t pan out.
The fact that President Obama’s hope for bombing Syria came about during the upcoming debt-ceiling debate didn’t help the president. Instead, it reminded Americans that the federal government is spending much more than what it is bringing in with taxes and that the difference is being borrowed, thereby adding to the total amount of national debt that ultimately must be paid off … by American taxpayers.
Perhaps most important, my hunch is that most Americans are now finally seeing the connection between U.S. foreign policy and anti-American terrorism. I think the “They hate America for its freedom and values” crowd have lost the argument to those of us who have consistently been pointing out that terrorism is the one of consequences of U.S. foreign policy.
Americans saw the terrorist attack in Boston. They saw the 9/11 attacks. They know that it is almost impossible to prevent that sort of thing, at least on a 100 percent basis. So, I think with Syria, they may have been saying to themselves that this just isn’t worth it anymore. Sure, the civil war in Syria is horrible. Sure, dictatorship in Syria is horrible. Lots of things that happen in the world are horrible.
But U.S. interventionism will only make it worse, not only for the people in the Middle East but also for people back here at home, who will then have to live under the threat of a pro-Syria terrorist attack, along with all the things that the feds then do to “keep us safe,” like massive secret surveillance of the Internet, our telephone calls, and who knows what else.
Of course, it’s impossible to know what President Obama will ultimately do about Syria. Unfortunately, we now live in a country in which the ruler wields the power to initiate war all on his own authority, notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution bars that. But at least Obama must now factor in his decision-making that when things go wrong in terms of money, death, destruction, and terrorist retaliation, the American people are likely to understand that this is the cost of foreign interventionism.
Ultimately, the only answer to all this chaos, crisis, and mayhem is to deprive presidents of their massive private army, so that they lack the ability to undertake military adventurism. That’s one reason that dismantling the Cold-War era national security state apparatus is so important. It’s one of the best ways to permanently put our nation on the road toward a peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, and free society.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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