America: Land of Exceptions?

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. -Matthew 7:3-5

Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also. -Alma 60:23

There are many aspects and perceptions of U.S. foreign policy I do not understand. Largely, the perceptions are related to America as an exception to historical standards. For instance, history would indicate a military presence of hundreds of thousands of troops scattered throughout the globe, on 700 bases in 130 countries, to be an imperial one. And yet, the mainstream Republican (or Democrat) may admit, “Yes, we have hundreds of thousands of troops in 700 bases in 130 countries around the world.” And yet they would insist, “We are not an empire.” I cannot understand how this type of military presence and force throughout the world is anything less than imperial. The establishment individual will point out we have not taken any land to ourselves, for our own use, like previous empires, be they British, French, German, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, or Babylonian. The astute observer will note that such an observation is not accurate. The United States has acquired quite a bit of land over its history. Not all of that has been from military conquest, but some has. For instance, the southwest is largely the spoils of the Mexican War. The American Civil War was fought to oppose the southern secession and maintain the Union. The Spanish-American War was fought 110 years ago, and we owe to that our continued military presence in the Philipines and Cuba, as well as our connection with Puerto Rico. And of course, our fighting two world wars and being one of the large players in the Cold War further expanded our global military presence. Most consider our presence throughout these decades justified. Perhaps it was. But why not call it for what is? How is it anything less than imperial in its global reach and dominant scope?

Another concept I cannot fathom: in 1990, when the iron curtain came down, why didn’t our troops come home? After all, the Soviet threat was near extinction. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved. Why not NATO? Why did we still keep bases and troops in Europe? What possible purpose does this solve?

The answer is usually that if we don’t take care of the world will our military might, who will? This implies that the world will fall apart unless the United States takes a leading “superpower” role, or that it will turn more hostile than it already is without our military there. I have a hard time with this idea.

I cannot fathom how the United States government supports democratic forms of government as the ideal to aim for, and at the same time, gives foreign aid to countries like Saudi Arabia. (Few acknowledge that we don’t really have a democracy, under the system the Founders set up. It was a democratic republic, not a democracy.) Nor do I understand the American intrusion into what type of democracy is created. Consider Lebanon, Palestine, or Iraq. Each has significant U.S. involvement. When the governments do as we like, we give them money. When they do not, we impose sanctions or authorize military force against them.

And yet, many view these actions as perfectly justified.  I do not.  I do not understand how they can be, when we would be so adamantly opposed to foreign troops on our soil, or economic sanctions imposed on us,  or (heaven forbid) state sanctioned military action!

It we want to solve the many international problems which according to the Founders are none of our business, I say “Physician, heal thyself.”  We need to examine the harm , including the potential harm, as well as the benefit of our government policies if we want to improve international relations.  An unwillingness to even acknowledge the possibility that our foreign policy, or even some aspect thereof, may have some negative, detrimental aspects is fantastical and ultimately destructive.

Yet, there is certainly reason for hope.  Ron Paul is running for President (yes, he’s still running as of today).  Murray Sabrin is running for a Senate seat in New Jersey.  A huge grassroots movement has started.  People have started re-thinking the status quo.  Even Glenn Beck recently had Michael Scheuer on his show.  Who knows what the end will be?  For me, one thing is certain: there is reason to hope for change.

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Filed under foreign policy, Libertarian, Personal, role of government, Ron Paul

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