If you rely on News Feed in Facebook to find my posts, you're missing most of them. On average, only 16% of updates in Facebook make it into News Feeds. Let me suggest that you subscribe to me in Facebook, follow me on Twitter (@ccengct), or use an RSS reader.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

An end to American adventurism

In my lifetime the American military has intervened in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Iraq (twice), Kosovo, Libya, Panama, Somalia, and Vietnam. The CIA has acted with force in Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Yemen, and heaven knows where else. I am fed up.

The unfortunate truths about these interventions, with a few exceptions:

  • They served no compelling American interest, such as retaliating for a direct attack against Americans or preventing a clearly identified, imminent attack.
  • The United Nations did not authorize them, and Just War theory did not justify them.
  • They turned out badly for the invaded country, the American foot soldier, or both.
  • They created generations of people that hate America.
On the whole, the pattern is one of recklessness and waste. The fact that there are serious problems in our world doesn't justify continuously and unilaterally calling the Pentagon to deal with those problems.

The Dept. of Defense spends $5800 per American household per year. The number doesn't include a long list of programs that fall in other budgets: nuclear weapons at the Dept. of Energy; the Dept. of Veterans Affairs; pension payments and healthcare coverage for military retirees, widows, and their families; interest on debt incurred in past wars; financing of arms sales and military training for foreign governments; the Dept. of Homeland Security; counter-terrorism at the FBI; and intelligence-gathering at NASA. Add those, and we spend $7000 per household per year or more. I hope that even if the carnage and ineffectiveness of our interventions do not bother you, their direct cost and opportunity cost do.

I am not a pacifist, and I support a reasonably sized military to defend the nation. But history shows that we overspend on the military and then are repeatedly tempted to use it for purposes other than defense.

The arguments in favor of attacking Syria, including President Obama's speech on Saturday, are unpersuasive; they arise primarily from liberals with whom I would usually agree. Read this counter-argument. I was delighted that the UK Parliament rejected action against Syria. I was happy when President Obama chose, or was forced, to lay the matter before Congress. And now I hope that Congress says No.