A Tale of the Same Foreign Policy

One of the most concerning situation for the United States at present is the influence that Iran is wielding throughout the Middle East (and stretching into Venezuela). Iran is accused of training Iraqi insurgents and providing them with weapons. Iran has also been implicated as being the money and power behind groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. This influence into other countries using paramilitary and insurgent groups is a violation of the sovereignty of these nations.

However (you knew this wasn’t going to be a piece about how bad Iran is), the stance that the U.S. is taking regarding Iran’s foreign influence, although important for U.S. interest in the Middle East, is a very hypocritical position.

U.S foreign policy throughout the Cold War was not unlike the foreign policy being put forth by Iran. Our involvement in Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in support of insurgencies, military coups, training military personnel and financing paramilitary. The U.S. government is willing to pursue whatever means it deems necessary to accomplish its purposes. However, when another country pursues the same means to accomplish similar ends (to protect their own interests), we accuse them of meddling illegally in other states sovereignty. Until the United States returns to a foreign policy respecting the inherent rights of other sovereign nation, we cannot expect other countries to play by other rules than we are willing to operate under.

Understand, I am in no way condoning Iran’s method of operation. They have no business involving themselves in Iraq’s political situation (although whether Iraq is even a nation right now is unclear). I just hope that soon a critical mass of U.S. foreign policy planners will learn that it is completely asinine to expect a different set of foreign policy rules for different countries.

20 Replies to “A Tale of the Same Foreign Policy”

  1. Oh my! As you know, I rarely use strong language, so here goes my first attempt.

    You’re right, I’ve been gone from your blog for some time.

    You’re overly soft on Iran in that they are “accused” of training Iraqi insurgents. They are guilty of it, but enough said on that.

    You’re wrong to state that Iran’s current policies make them the same as the United States during the Cold War. To state that their pursuing “the same means to accomplish similar ends (to protect their own interests)” is disingenuous. The issue with Iran isn’t so much that they are meddling illegally in another states’ sovereignty. Of course, it doesn’t help that their meddling involves specifically targeting Iraqi civilians and American soldiers.

    The heart of the matter is very much their “interests” which they choose means to pursue. I don’t recall the time during the Cold War when the United States, meddlers as we may have been, attempted to maximize civilian casualties in any country, eliminate Israel from the planet, or kill the Great Satan (unless, of course, you count Communism as the Great Satan . . . which I wouldn’t necessarily argue with ๐Ÿ™‚ ). It doesn’t follow, for example, that, “it’s okay for Iran to have nuclear weapons because the United States has them and we used, in the past, have pursued our own interests just like they are doing now,” unless their interests are identical to ours. That is the point with which I wholeheartedly disagree. The goodness of America (not just Americans) is a topic for another post, but it exists despite many foreign policy makers.

    Iran has entered a more prominent place on the current stage for various reasons, not the least of which has been the functional elimination of their enemies (Taliban and Baathists) on the East and West respectively, which had previously kept them somewhat in check. This has allowed them to focus much more effort, and publicity perhaps, on their nuclear ambitions, growing and developing a much more powerful Navy, and fomenting unrest throughout the region. All of this has been largely a consequence of the actions of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. War brings consequences that cannot be completely foreseen and must often be dealt with subsequently. The fact that the Soviet Union became the prominent power in Europe after World War II (a bad thing, in my book) with all its subsequent problems, doesn’t make eliminating Hitler and his regime wrong.

    Now I’m ranting. See what you do to me!

  2. Rick,

    I think you misunderstood my point. I think that the path that Iran is pursuing is dead wrong. I don’t justify it in any way, shape, or form. That is why I have to point out the similarity in way, shape and form that U.S. foreign policy took in Latin America. For us to violate the sovereignty of a country by supporting a military coup or training paramilitary forces is wrong. There is no right about it. Ideology will never be defeated by military struggle, but only by better ideas more effectively taught. Hitler’s ideology would never have gained ground if the rest of Europe hadn’t already embraced significant portions of it (although they ended up implementing it differently).

    The question then is, does a bad enough end justify any means? I don’t think so. If something is wrong, it is wrong. The situation doesn’t change its wrongness.

    Now go read my other posts. They will give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling (Start with the Freedom for Bread post).

  3. Mike,

    Let me see if I understand better. Rather than saying that Iran’s actions currently are okay because they are similar to actions of the United States in a different time, it seems that you are saying that the actions of the United States in a different time were wrong because they were similar to Iran’s actions currently. Is that better?

    I must disagree with your assertion, or my misunderstanding thereof, that it is always wrong to violate the sovereignty of a country. I, for one, am very grateful and remain supportive of the subversive actions of a paramilitary group of folks who violated the sovereignty of King George and Britain some two-hundred and thirty-ish years ago. A very nice treatise, with which I trust you are familiar, on the general principles (with many specifics germane to their particular situation) which justified their treasonous actions may be found here :
    http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm
    I must add that I also support the meddling of the French, in violation of the sovereignty of the British, in that particular situation.

    Does a bad enough (or good enough?) end justify any mean? Ask Laban . . . oh, wait, I mean ask Nephi. Okay, so please don’t infer that I think the U.S. foreign policywonks are, or have been in this century, acting on behalf of God to bring about His ends. The point is that, yes, some situations call for means that, in other situations, would be considered wrong.

    By the way, I also support the actions of Abraham Lincoln (which generally goes against my opinion of Federal powers) in disallowing subversives to challenge the sovereignty of the United States as a union and secede therefrom. Their ends did not justify means that, less than a century before, were justified.

    Finally, I am not defending any specific action in, for instance, Latin America by the United States. Although I would love to see how James Monroe or Teddy Roosevelt would have interacted with Hugo Chavez.

    Anyway, Go America! Down with the unfriendly and illegitimate (by our standards, not theirs) sovereigns!

  4. Rick,

    You are seeing in backwards (have the neocons taken your brain?;-)).

    The Founders of this country were not paramilitaries. They were not subversives. They were demanding their sovereign rights guaranteed by the fact that they were citizens of Great Britain. All they wanted was for the King and Parliament to live up to their obligations and grant them due representation. They were actually protecting their rights and their sovereignty from an oppressive government OF WHICH THEY WERE CITIZENS. They were defending their land against a tyrannical government. They were not going into another sovereign country and influencing that country. This is a huge difference (I think).

    As for exceptions to the rules–you have used an interesting example which I can totally agree with. The only time it’s okay to violate what is right is if God tells you to do so (which makes it right). Otherwise you are violating fundamental natural laws which consequences must be paid. My point is, as long as the U.S. settles for force in dealing with foreign policy problems, the results will continue to be as problematic as the initial problem was. Only by supporting freedom and sovereignty and attempting to win the battle of ideas with reason, passion, and honor will the U.S. continue to be that positive influence that it was fore-ordained to be.

  5. Does your view on “going into another sovereign country and influencing that county” bring your view on . . . say . . . absolute enforcement of our Southern Border more in line with mine? I must say that I agree with you completely when I look at it that way. Stay in your own sovereign land and fight the good fight with your own oppressive government/socioeconomic situation. Good luck with that, by the way.

    You didn’t address the French. Were they out of bounds in assisting the very non-paramilitary minutemen in their endeavors against their oppressive countrymen? If not, would we be wrong to assist others in their struggles against tyrannical regimes in their own countries? If so, weren’t they simply doing the work of the Lord in helping establish this God-ordained land?

    I agree that ideas and reason and passion and honor will win the hearts and minds of folks abroad . . . at least the hearts and minds that are left when the bullets stop flying! ๐Ÿ™‚

    It’s a good thing I like you. Otherwise, I might have taken that little “neocon” comment as an insult. I’ll tell you more about what I think on that matter as soon as Rush tells me so.

  6. As for the French, they were just helping a young country to start out…but you are right, what they did was in violation of the sovereignty of Britain, but their kings were all intermarried and the land had passed back and forth so many times, who know who really it belonged to…

    I understand the we act in ways that promote our self-interest (as individuals and as nations). What I am saying is that there is a better way and that I expect more from our country than the way we are operating. If we really are serious about democracy throughout the world, it must be accomplished via the battle of ideas because the bullets will just intensify the ideology and make winning the actual war that much more difficult. The only real way to win is by teaching true ideas. Anything else, including military force, is selling short the possiblities and creating future problems.

    Now go read the stuff you and I agree on.

  7. As for the southern border…No (I think). I believe that the only real solution to the problem is to increase dramatically the number of visas for workers and for permanent residents in conjunction with increasing the enforcement of the border against criminals and terrorists. Additionally, amnesty should be offered to all those who want to remain in the U.S. and become permanant residents and desire citizenship and to be Estadounidenses. If you want them to pay back taxes, fine. I think that most of them have been paying taxes, if they have been working with fake SSN their employers have been paying FICA, SS, Medicare taxes for them. And they pay their “fair share” of sales taxes and property taxes.

    So what if they broke a law that is about as enforcible as the 55 mph speed limit? Are you going to make it a priority to enforce the speed limit and go back and give tickets to everyone who ever broke the speed limit?

    I agree with securing our borders against terrorist and criminals, But I also agree that if someone want to be free and are willing to work, let ’em all come.

  8. I already read the Bread and Freedom thing. It’s about time that you are finally able to articulate something which I have done much more eloquently long ago. Welcome aboard.

    That’s crap about the French.

    By the way, I suspect you probably know me well enough to understand that, deep down, despite my contrary nature, I believe in ideas as the means to defeat ideas as well; especially my ideas defeating everyone else’s. However, bullets come in real handy at times, as well.

    If they come across our border without proper documentation, they are, by definition, criminals. If they do so with intent to perform terrorist acts, they are terrorists as well. The time for ideas is when they are still in their own country . . . maybe we could send some “military advisers”. Once they’ve invaded our sovereign nation, a few more bullets speak volumes to those who would follow. Nothing says, “Get a visa!” like your cousin’s carcass on the desert floor. (Did that sound extreme?) This discussion is for another post. I don’t want to turn this one into a border dispute.

    We should force them to have democracy . . . then maybe we wouldn’t lose one single soul . . . and the glory could be ours. Wait. Never mind. I think that one was already tried once.

    55 mph Speed Limit is a poor example of a dumb law. It’s the government overstepping its bounds I tell ya. We’re being oppressed by the system. My car goes way faster than 55. They’re just keeping me back because I’m a white heterosexual God-fearin’ guy, most of the time.

    Alright, I’ll have to read the rest of the posts because I’ve exhausted this one.

  9. Rick,

    One last thing. You can’t really believe that shooting illegal immigrants is a good idea!!!! I know (hope) that you were just doing your Michael Savitch impersonation.

    I don’t get how you don’t see the inconsistency in your approach to “border security” and the idea of freedom. If you want to be a jingoistic, “America is never wrong” guy, that’s fine. But don’t pretend to value freedom if that’s the case. Americans aren’t the only people in the world deserving of freedom and prosperity. And the only way we can spread that to the rest of the world is by not forcing them; once military force is involved to try to spread freedom the battle is already lost. If you are willing to use expediency (bullets) to spread democracy, then what is the problem with liberals using expediency (handouts) to spread prosperity??? Neither works. Expediency doesn’t work, long-term. Sure, bullets make people afraid of you and will bring them over to your point of view as long as you have a gun to their head; just like handouts will solve the problem of poverty for 5 minutes by using the fear of that bread being taken away. The bullets and the bread are the same thing: using fear and force to solve a problem that can only be solved by pursuing real freedom.

  10. You’re right, shooting illegal immigrants is not a good thing. It would never even be an topic of discussion, however, if immigrants never illegally attempted to occupy the same space (within a sovereign nation) as my bullet.

    I thought I was done with this post . . . but you keep talking nonsense.

    “Convincing” people to follow your point of view by holding over them the specter of hunger (ie. “if you support me I’ll feed you, but if you don’t I won’t”) is absolutely not the same thing as using bullets to spread democracy. Bullets are not (or, should not be; this is, of course “the Idealist”) used to convince people of your point of view. They are used to end the discussion. When bullets are used, the time for convincing is over. Bullets eliminate people who stand in the way of freedom for others who, after the elimination of their enemies, remain more able to pursue their freedom unhindered, or less-hindered. I would wager that the liberated Jews appreciated the use of bullets in Germany in the 1940’s much more than they would have a weekend conference with the Third Reich, full of wonderful ideas and essays.

    “Americans aren’t the only people in the world deserving of freedom and prosperity.” This doesn’t follow with the part of the discussion involving meddling in sovereign nations (which is, I believe, the real issue with this post.) That being said, I couldn’t agree more with your premise. Perhaps I should move this over to the Bread and Freedom post because it may pertain more to the proper role of government stuff there. However, just because all other people deserve freedom and prosperity, doesn’t mean they should be allowed to come here illegally to get it. If they want to, great, obey the law and come. (This is not, by the way, an endorsement of current policies regarding visas and legal immigration.) People deserve the same chance to be free and prosper wherever they live. In fact, I would argue that it would be better for everyone if all people were free and able to prosper in their own countries. Your solution seems to be to disregard our border and allow anyone able to come and pursue prosperity here. Mine is that the motivation to come here should be lessened (or eliminated) by improving the lives of people elsewhere.

    I know you’re familiar with the Farmer A and Farmer B stories. If farmer B has a poor harvest, it’s not right for him to move his operations to a quarter of the fertile ground belonging to farmer A. Farmer A could rightfully defend his land. That does not, however, mean that Farmer A could not pay a visit to Farmer B and teach him how to rotate his crops, for example, and increase his yield on his own farm. Also, if discovered that Farmer C was diverting irrigation rightfully belonging to Farmer B, or, even worse, sabotaging the land so as to decrease his growing capacity, it would be acceptable for Farmer A to lend Farmer B his rifle and teach him marksmanship to “convince” Farmer C to knock it off (This would only happen after all efforts to discuss the issue with Farmer C had been exhausted.) Our efforts to influence sovereign nations is not always unjustified simply because they are sovereign nations. I’m for helping Farmer B prosper on his own farm and keeping Farmer C from hindering that . . . else, eliminating him.

    “Jingoistic”? I don’t think so. I am certainly not an “America is never wrong” guy. I mean, hey . . . uh . . . well . . . I think slavery wasn’t all that good. That was a wrong thing. See, I can admit bad stuff.

    So, let me summarize (with my best Michael Savage hat on, of course) so you don’t get confused . . . again.

    1. Come to our country all who will, legally.
    2. Do not come to our country illegally.
    3. If you’re a sovereign nation, behave.
    4. If you run an oppressive or dangerous nation, you should be either quickly convinced to change, or be shot. ๐Ÿ™‚ (I had to get bullets in there somehow.)
    5. If you’re hungry, don’t expect me to buy your bread . . . if I did, how could I afford more bullets?

  11. And the only way we can spread that [democracy] to the rest of the world is by not forcing them; once military force is involved to try to spread freedom the battle is already lost.

    But what about a situation where a political party (or individual) has such a stranglehold on a nation, that the ideas cannot get taught properly? If the government controls everything, including the traversal of information, how will ideas help if they (the people) never hear the ideas?

  12. Rick, you may not like this comment though:

    However, just because all other people deserve freedom and prosperity, doesnโ€™t mean they should be allowed to come here illegally to get it. If they want to, great, obey the law and come. (This is not, by the way, an endorsement of current policies regarding visas and legal immigration.)

    I would agree with this comment in most circumstances. However, there are situations where defying the law is required. What would this country be like if we didn’t have a Rosa Parks or a Martin Luther King, Jr. People who defy laws (or traditions) that are wrong in order to get those laws corrected.

    In this instance, the law is wrong. People are trying to save themselves and their families. To do so, they are defying an incorrect law. I have to agree with Mike on this one… let the immigrants come.

  13. Hi Everybody,

    Rick you wrote, “People deserve the same chance to be free and prosper wherever they live. In fact, I would argue that it would be better for everyone if all people were free and able to prosper in their own countries. Your solution seems to be to disregard our border and allow anyone able to come and pursue prosperity here. Mine is that the motivation to come here should be lessened (or eliminated) by improving the lives of people elsewhere.”

    There’s a quick term for that: “separate but equal.” But it doesn’t hold much water these days.

    You can’t make all the statements you have made and pretend like they exist in a vaccuum; the U.S. economy runs on the sweat of illegal immigration. The U.S. has no more economic incentive to stop immigration that Mexico has to stop emigration. Until policy is brought into line with economic reality both sides are right, but they’re arguing about completely different things.

    I’ll make another comment about the original issue of this post.

  14. I think Mike’s point is that the U.S. loses moral authority by criticizing other countries for doing what we have done (and continue to do). We can’t pretend that everything we do is justified simply by the fact that we are the U. S. of friggin’ A. We have to take into consideration the long-term consequences of our actions. For example, in the Middle East the short-term objective of removing Saddam Hussein has been fulfilled with force (bullets). However, long-term it has had many unintended consequences which professors, analysts, taxi-drivers, and hair-dressers warned about before the (illegal) attack on Iraq began: 1) strengthening the less-friendly Shia (Iran) in the area; 2) galvanizing anti-American sentiment among the 1 billion Muslims in the world; 3) driving away former allies in Europe and elsewhere; 4) driving traumatized youths into the comforting arms of idealistic and violent terrorist groups; 5) putting ever action of the U.S. under a microscope, by which we have lost a lot of moral authority (read Abu Graib, extraordinary renditions, Gitmo, secret prisons in Europe, etc.). All of these result of an apparent success weaken the U.S.

    If, on the other hand, the U.S. had chosen to spread democracy more democratically, it would have been more lasting. You brought in Cold War communism, which eventually fell not by the sword (bullets) but by internal struggle. And although there are some who pine for the good ol’ days of central planning, those states will not soon return to communism. Contrast that with Iraq. Because “democracy” was not fought for and won by the demos, they don’t care for it (like buying your 16-yr-old a car). They are headed right back where they started, toward the might-makes-right government favored by Saddam Hussein, but this time without all those pesky professors, engineers, entrepreneurs, illuminati, bureaucrats, etc. to foment rebellion and freedom.

    Even when bad means seem to produce a good end, they will eventually betray the rot of their roots and decay and fall.

  15. Hi Dave W. I’m not sure I like you, yet, either. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m not buying the assertion the the U.S. Economy is dependent upon the sweat of illegal immigration. I will grant that, if I had my way and the border was really (and I mean really, really) closed, there would be some discomfort in certain sectors of the economy. However, that’s a price that may have to be paid to provide the impetus to make meaningful change in legal immigration policy. The topic of illegal immigration is only relevant to this discussion in that it represents a violation of U.S. of friggin’ A sovereignty.

    I would also content that deploying those Pershing II and Tomahawk missiles (bullets . . . sometimes you don’t actually have to fire the weapon) to Germany helped push the internal struggle along.

    I would once like someone who prefaces their description of the invasion of Iraq with the word “illegal” to explain that assertion.

    As far as consequences of invading Iraq:
    1) Iran is stronger: Agreed. Bad consequence. I would argue that they were already a problem, and identified as such by the current administration, long before 2003. They are, and have long been, a central player in the larger war against islamism.
    2. Galvanizing anti-American sentiment among Muslims: I don’t think that’s limited to Muslims. This is where we are likely losing the war of ideas and is where, I think, the biggest failures of the Bush administration lie. It’s not a show stopper for the war, it just means that we must make our case better both domestically and abroad.
    3. Driving away former allies in Europe and elsewhere: Do you mean the French and Russians? I don’t care. They were already playing with new friends behind the trailer anyway. They’re mostly just mad because they can’t launder all that oil-for-food money anymore.
    4. Driving traumatized youth into the comforting arms of terrorists. I can’t argue that this happens some. However, I am convinced that there are plenty of youth, traumatized or not, in Iraq who understand the issue and are resolved to fight for and win their “democracy”.
    5. America under a microscope: I don’t think that’s new. Even if so, I don’t have a problem with it as long as the same microscope is used to examine both sides of the conflict/issue. Putting panties on prisoners in Abu Ghraib received far more negative press than does sawing off the heads of pesky professors, physicians, aid workers and entrepreneurs.

    Okay, I know this has been just a rant, and it probably doesn’t even make much sense. Oh well.

    In summary, I understand Mike’s point about the U.S. losing moral authority by criticizing others’ actions which are “the same” as ours. My disagreement is that motive must be considered when attempting to draw moral equivalence between the actions of differing countries/persons. The end must be considered along with the means in such a judgment.

  16. Reluctant.

    What is our role in the closed society of China? Should we attack China and depose their leaders just because they don’t allow their people access to all the information in the world or because they force people to do things they don’t want? What about Saudi Arabia, a country very oppressive of women and alternative thought?

    These problems are always best dealt with by slow, but more persuasive and profound and long-term processes like Voice of America accomplished in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Additionally, a city set on a hill cannot be hid. If the USA were the beacon that the Founders envisioned (I know that Rick still thinks it is, but the luster has definitely dimmed due to reasons previously described) people of the world would want to be like the US because of its liberty, not just for the “luxury” that we portray to the world.

    Here comes another quote, (sorry Rick for reading so much), with one from Cato quoted by Augustine (describing the degeneration of the Roman Republic):

    “I do not think that it was by arms that our ancestors made the republic great from being small. Had that been the case, the republic of our day would have been by far more flourishing than that of their times, for the number of our allies and citizens is far greater; and, besides, we possess a far greater abundance of armour and of horses than they did. But it was other things than these that made them great, and we have none of them: industry at home, just government without (the point of this entire post), a mind free in deliberation (our media creates our paradigm in which the discussion can occur), addicted neither to crime or to lust. Instead of these, we have luxury and avarice, poverty in the state, opulence among citizens; we laud riches, we follow laziness; there is no difference made between the good and the bad; all the rewards of virtue are got possession of by intrigue. And no wonder, when every individual consults only for his own good, when ye are the slaves of pleasure at home, and, in public affairs, of money and favour, no wonder that an onslaught is made upon the unprotected republic.”

  17. What is our role in the closed society of China? Should we attack China and depose their leaders just because they donโ€™t allow their people access to all the information in the world or because they force people to do things they donโ€™t want? What about Saudi Arabia, a country very oppressive of women and alternative thought?

    My comment wasn’t a criticism. It was a true question? If ideas are the solution, then what do we do when ideas can’t penetrate the borders? Do we continue to allow all the atrocities that usually accompany these dictatorships? Do we wait for it to become another Nazi situation with another Hitler at the helm?

    I’m not too worried about China. I think they will come around because they are starting to allow certain “western” thinking in already. Mostly surrounding economic matters, but eventually the rest of the ideas will trickle in. In Asia, I’m more worried about about North Korea, where they are locked down pretty hard. And with additional sanctions, it just makes things worse.

    In the Middle East, I’ve no clue what to do there?

  18. One last point here.

    What is the motivation of the U.S. in its foreign policy and what it the motivation of Iran?

    I think that fundamentally the U.S. is pursuing the same foreign policy purposes that it has for the last 60 years: to expand economic influence and access to markets through whatever means possible.

    Iran’s motivation: to control the region religiously.

    History has shown that religious totalitarianism (tyranny if you like) is almost always more violent and oppressive than commercial oppression. So Iran’s motives are more ominous. However, that doesn’t excuse the U.S. I am still convinced that anything accomplished by force comes back with worse consequences for the forcer. The only real changes are accomplished with persuasion.

    Now understand, the force is different from righteous defense.

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