September 5th, 2013

Are Foreign Interventions in America’s National Security Interest?

As talking heads and political elites manufacture support for yet another war, this time in Syria, they are employing the standard interventionist justification for military aggression. “It’s in our national interest,” we are emphatically and persistently told.

Almost every single supporter of the intervention has robotically repeated this refrain. While it has been sufficiently convincing over the years, embedding itself into the American psyche as a reference point upon which wars are now justified, it is fundamentally illegitimate.

To explain why, imagine applying the same standard to police work. What if, rather than requiring probable cause, law enforcement officers could detain and arrest people if it was in their “law enforcement interest”? What if judges and juries could determine guilt not as something being beyond a reasonable doubt, but based on the “interests” of the justice system?

It’s almost pathetic to even make the comparison, because of the disparity in severity between the examples. In law enforcement and justice work, with the “interest” standard, innocent people will likely become detained, arrested, and incarcerated. Occasionally, due to the militarization of police, the alleged suspects may be harmed or killed. But in cases of foreign policy, we’re talking about drones, bunker busters, and boots on the ground. Soldiers and their tools exist specifically to kill people—often large numbers of innocent people.

While the “interest” standard is clearly shown to be problematic in police work, it is horrendously immoral and unjust when applied to war.

How are these “interests” defined, anyway? What limits are imposed upon them, either naturally or arbitrarily? Because the worldwide network of allies and enemies is a convoluted mess, is there any example of a foreign nation’s turmoil that could somehow not be considered, indirectly and in the long run, in America’s “national security interest”?

Gone are the days when military might was employed as a defensive measure to ward off an imminent attack. Enabled by the NSA, and facilitated by the CIA, the federal government in our day intervenes around the globe on the mere basis of “interest”—a subjective and limitless standard to which almost any geopolitical event might, with a little propaganda and twisting of the facts, find application. With how easy it has become to wage war, we should expect much more of it in the near future.

11 Responses to “Are Foreign Interventions in America’s National Security Interest?”

  1. Richard
    September 5, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Your analogy between the police and the USA does not account for the absence of International Law. Should we as a sovereign country agree to a set of international laws? If not, then how can we expect other countries to? How do we agree to a set of international laws without giving up the freedom of the country and its citizens?

    Should we not try and stop massacres like Rwanda or others? If not, do we not give the message that such actions will not be met with justice?

    In our house the duty of washing dishes is assigned to the older children. Our rule is that is you empty the dish washer in the morning, people who use dishes should rinse them out and put them in the washer. The reality is that on a good day a half a dozen dishes get put in besides the parents. The more vocal children protest that it isn’t fair when they do not get the benefit of less work when they follow the rule.

    We have a large family, so if even each person decides not to put in 1-2 dishes for the day, it adds up to a lot of dishes. Everyone feels justified in not putting dishes in because no one does it on their day, at least from their perspective.

    If there is not an international law that is agreed to and enforced, then bad behavior can result? Will not punishing Syria for is chemical weapon use embolden others that would like to use them? Will punishing Syria make foreign relations worse for the USA because it is seen as a bully?

    Is there a third way to approach Syria?

    There are a lot of questions and not a lot of clear answers to me.

  2. Connor
    September 5, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    “Your analogy between the police and the USA does not account for the absence of International Law.”

    To the extent that “international law” (such as it’s loosely defined, and misguidedly referenced) binds the federal government to intervene in situations that do not directly and materially impact the lives of American citizens on American soil, then such laws are illegitimate. War does not become justified because a few high-ranking politicians long ago made an agreement on something.

    “Should we not try and stop massacres like Rwanda or others?”

    Who is “we”?

    If you’re referring to the military of the United States, then it should only be deployed in defense of its employers, the American citizens. It is not a humanitarian body, and the federal government should not go abroad looking for monsters to destroy.

    There have always been monsters. There always will be. (Many are within our own government…) We lack the moral authority and financial capacity to intervene around the world to knock down every bad guy that pops up.

    But if by “we” you mean you and some like-minded friends, then by all means. You have the ability and moral authority to risk your own resources and life in defense of the downtrodden. However, you lack the moral authority to compel those who disagree with you to assist in your cause. Thus, the military should not be brought into the equation. Finance and outfit your own operation, and go fight for what you believe in. Don’t make me get involved, though.

    “Is there a third way to approach Syria?”

    That “third” way is nothing more than more of the same. More funding for the Pentagon? Like they need it. What they need is drastic cuts. And attacking Syria? Without an attack on Americans on American soil, there is no moral justification for military intervention.

  3. Richard
    September 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    So you would be OK if some private black ops group or someone else with cruise missile capability went in and punished Syria?

    Isn’t it the purpose of law to define when someone else has broached the rights of another?

    Should there not be a rule of law internationally, even in theory?

    If someone rapes one of your neighbors. Do you not have an obligation to see that justice is done?

    Is it more costly to appropriately punish the users of chemical weapons or is it more costly to not punish them and risk emboldening those that would use them again, possibly to our citizens?

  4. outside the corridor
    September 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm #


    You are assuming that those who have control over the military are ‘innocent’ here–

    There is a very good possibility that ‘black ops’ have been involved in Syria already–

    and in many countries in Africa (where there are so many wonderful resources) chaos has been instigated so that global corporations (including many based in America) can get to those resources–

    Have you ever seen this?

    There have been many, many (hundreds) of covert opertions by the CIA to create instability in places where IMF and other banking institutions benefit by the ensuing chaos–

    land falls cheaply into the ‘hands’ of these bankers–

    and, yes, there are usually local leaders (though sometimes it’s more like blackmail) who are willing to work with these ‘hit men’–

    These covert operations are not known to ordinary American citizens, which is why there is still an illusion that *we* can help other countries, when *we* or corporations the government assists with the military industrial complex–

    are often behind these tragedies–

    I became friends with an LDS woman who had a family member who was involved in some of these covert activities–

    in an unguarded moment, without revealing too much but revealing just enough to validate what I had read and believed from such things as what you read in the above link–

    she let me know that her family member had been in many, many places where most Americans did not realize there was ‘action’ until well after he had done his ‘work’ and returned home–

    It was chilling to realize that these things are happening, and, yes, LDS are sometimes involved.

    I don’t mean to sound offensive, but many adult LDS who are not naive about many things are terribly naive about what their government and those who are in league with their government and all its agencies are doing in the world–

    One of the things that is being very successfully kept out of the mainstream media at this time is the fact that police forces around the country are becoming more aggressive and more brutal–

    against law-abiding citizens.

    It is not easy to wake up and see the truth, but if you spend much time reading the Book of Mormon it becomes very obvious why that book is for *our* day–

  5. outside the corridor
    September 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    General Butler is a hero. It’s kind of sad that he waited to speak out when he was old, but–

    it’s hard to go against the system–

  6. Connor
    September 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    “So you would be OK if some private black ops group or someone else with cruise missile capability went in and punished Syria?”

    It doesn’t matter whether I would “be OK” with something or not. I’m talking about what I, and the government that claims to represent me, has the authority to do.

    “Isn’t it the purpose of law to define when someone else has broached the rights of another?”

    Within a specific jurisdiction, yes. Syria is not governed by the USA and its laws.

    “Should there not be a rule of law internationally, even in theory?”

    Are you arguing that the USA, or even the USA in conjunction with a few other countries, should police the world to enforce a certain legal standard?

    “If someone rapes one of your neighbors. Do you not have an obligation to see that justice is done?”

    Most definitely. I alluded to this in my previous comment. But in your example, I would not have the moral authority to compel my other neighbors to assist in dispensing justice. I would not be justified in putting a gun to their heads and forcing them to beat up the perpetrator, for example.

    “Is it more costly to appropriately punish the users of chemical weapons or is it more costly to not punish them and risk emboldening those that would use them again, possibly to our citizens?”

    Cost is not a legitimate factor in determining whether military actions are justifiable.

  7. outside the corridor
    September 5, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Sorry, Connor–

    I can’t resist–

    I have a big mouth–


    This would be like asking the rapist to console the neighbor who had been raped–

    or asking the rapist to turn himself in and then not do anything else about it–

    when the ‘police’ (or military or CIA) are the criminals, then who administers justice?

    I realize, of course, that not every incident in the world has the CIA behind it. But there are many documents; it is well known to political scientists and other academicians–

    that most of the mess in the middle east began in 1953 in Iran when the CIA overturned that government–

    and it was purported to be done by ‘insurgents’–

    how often have *we* heard the word ‘insurgents’–

    2 or 3 decades ago I remember thinking to myself, “why are all these third world countries and their leaders so insane?”–

    Well, generally speaking, they are not. I became suspicious–

    most of my ‘friends’ continued to believe that America and a few of ‘her’ allies were the only sane nations in the world–

    and that all other nations were filled with people who were self-destructive, and, if it weren’t for America, the world would self-destruct–

    that’s called exceptionalism, by the way, and it has kept Americans from realizing what is happening–

    because Americans are taught to pat themselves on the backs and say, “if it weren’t for us, the world would self-destruct”–

    (pride cycle)–

    and then I began to realize that huge global corporations WERE getting richer, and then was when I grew suspicious–

    and then I began reading about the economic hitmen and the CIA rogues–

    who were at first justified by U.S. presidents–

    sponsored by them, encouraged by them–

    but they’ve gone rogue now. Not all CIA agents, of course; there are a few around who are not shadow mafia–

    enough to convince everyone to go back to sleep–

    once you begin thinking about this, it makes sense, and there is plenty of proof out there–

    your feeling of security about being an American, however, will be lost forever, and you will find yourself, if you are LDS (or any other religion) seeking your God–

    and reading the Book of Mormon or other sacred texts, looking for meaning–

    exceptionalism is a poor substitute–

  8. iimx
    September 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    OTC, exceptionalism sounds remarkably close to Manifest destiny or perhaps white man’s burden. Is it just a repackaging of the central idea?

  9. Walter Reade
    September 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi Connor,

    Your statement is wrong: “You have the ability and moral authority to risk your own resources and life in defense of the downtrodden.”

    Just a reminder – the US government arrests those who try to join the Syrian rebels.

  10. outside the corridor
    September 16, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    iimx, yes, I believe it is just a repackaging–

    good observation–

    however it is put it’s audacious!!!

  11. Candace B.
    October 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Very well said Conner. I sometimes have a hard time with this concept because I do hate to see such horrible things done to my spiritual brothers and sisters. But you are right. As I have been reading more and more about Syria, the more I am learning about our governments involvement in that, in supplying rebels (who are most definitely tied to terrorists) with weapons and fomenting war in those countries. I too have read about Iraq and the CIA and its involvement. I believe it was recently that there were classified documents that were unclassified giving us a window into that. These wars are not about helping people and even if they were i’m not sure, like you said, if we would have the moral authority to go in there and clean house so to speak. These wars are about gaining power and control, fundamentally changing the world. If these wars were about helping people like they claim and freeing them from oppressive regimes like is so often said, then why are all our wars in the oil rich middle east? Why is no one in Korea, or Africa or other nations that are in just as much trouble but not as oil rich?
    Our Leaders are Not innocent in any of this and I do not know how long these insurgencies caused by us have been going on but it really makes me sick. Were so busy focusing on a politically created war that we can’t even see our own freedoms being snatched up from us. Great points about the militarizing of the police as well, i am very worried about that especially when i hear of the homeland security buying millions of bullets and of police forces with mini tanks. There is only one reason i can think of that our country’s police force and security force would need those kinds of weapons, and that is to use them in the subjugation of her own people.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.