By Tibor Machan
Since early in its history America has been a world power and has been called upon increasingly by other nations to fight on their behalf.
World War I, for example, would not have turned out as it did without the United States’ role in it, and many in Europe wouldn’t have it any other way; even more so with World War II.
Korea was a bit less clear, but even then most civilized nations supported America’s entry, whatever one might think in terms of proper foreign policy. Vietnam, too, was full of difficulties, and arguably America might have stayed out of that quagmire, but many nations acted in ways that could be taken as supporting the kind of policy American followed there — consider that a great many nations had no armies to fight the Soviet Union and its allies had they decided to attack anyone anywhere.
After the Vietnam War it seemed like America would learn to resist the temptation — and other’s urgings — to enter into anything but defensive military conflicts. But that didn’t last long. Panama was attacked merely because we didn’t approve of its leader’s drug policies. Grenada was threatening to build a runway that Cuba might have used, yet certainly no credible threat existed against the citizens of the United States from that tiny place.
Those excursions seemed to restore America’s reputation as a kind of world police. I used to see, back in the early ’90s, bumper stickers that read: “The U.S. Marines: The 911 of the World.” And even more, the military was being deployed to fight the war on drugs, to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and then to clean up the mess in the Balkans after the collapse of Yugoslavia. So the idea that we should stick to defending ourselves with our own military forces pretty much went out the window. There were many who asked for even more and complained that the U.S. military only helps Caucasians, no one in Africa. And it was widely said that all that humanitarianism was actually phony, along with foreign aid, because what was really going on was the government supporting various business interests abroad.
After Sept. 11, which was a frontal attack upon the United States, a great many who hailed the various rescue missions the U.S. military conducted suddenly didn’t want anything done. Why? Well, my hunch is that the one thing many people do not want is for America to do anything in its own interest. Humanitarian wars, OK; striking at out-and-out enemies, hey that’s mean. When Kuwait was attacked by Iran this attitude meant ambiguity, again, since Kuwait’s oil did serve American interests but, of course, Kuwait was in need of help, too. So, America’s critics were in a lurch.
But with U.N. support the problems were overcome — after all, if America is doing the U.N.’s bidding, then it cannot be acting in its own interest, can it? (Except there were those who insist that America controls the U.N. So, there is just no way for the U.S. to win.)
The most recent war against Iraq was undertaken by George W. Bush, and he was hated by nearly all academics, pundits and related America-bashers, so the fact that millions of oppressed Iraqis may benefit from a victory there simply didn’t suffice to make this one of the humanitarian wars. What was wrong with it? Few people could give the right answer by now, since they have accepted America as the world humanitarian cop, namely that unless the country is attacked, its military has no business going into action. So, the reasons given for why the current Bush war is wrong were generally incoherent, considering that it had objectives not much different from others for which the United States got accolades.
Even as we speak the critics are having to square some circles because now there is a widespread call for the U.S. military to go into Liberia and fix things. No, no one in Africa has attacked us, but what can you do once you have volunteered to be the world cop, even if whatever you do will bring critics down on your case.
Lt. Colonel Charles Dunlop wrote an interesting piece for the military journal, “Parameters,” a while back, about a military coup in the United States in 2004 or so, if I recall right. He imagined that this coup would be explained by its leaders as follows: “Well, they kept asking the military to solve every problem in the country and abroad, so we finally thought, hey, we might as well take over the government and do it right all around, just as they seem to think we can.”
This is not a welcome prospect, but it’s certainly one possible result of America’s current domestic and global military policies.
Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at Machan@chapman.edu