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Political Frivolity (maybe)

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

On Alliances and Foreign Intervention


Like Judas of old
You lie and d
eceive
A world war can be won

You want me to believe


But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my
drain

-Bob Dylan-


“My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” –Chinese Proverb


The American Revolution may have dragged on and quite possibly could have been lost if not for the involvement of the French. They supplied warships, supplies, and troops, but more importantly gave full recognition of the American colonies as a free and independent country. The irony here is not (15) years before, the very same French were fighting the colonists for dominance in the Northwest Territory (current mid-west).


The French were soundly defeated and humiliated during the Seven Years War by the British. The war was fought on multiple, global fronts including the American Colonies. During the French and Indian War, both the French and the British were able to form temporary alliances with native tribes that historically hated each other, otherwise known as friendships of convenience.


At the conclusion of the American Revolution, and the subsequent ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, the Federalists had taken over, Jefferson was in self-exile, and was being referred to as a “Francophile”. Alexander Hamilton had the stage, and was supporting the re-establishment of relations with Great Britain. This, of course, meant hanging France out to dry. Enemy, friend, ally, friend, and then estrangement. Although Washington himself was an independent supporter of the Federalists, a quote from his inaugural mirrored Jefferson’s:


“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”-George Washington from the 1796 Inauguration


“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none”.-Thomas Jefferson from the 1801 Inauguration


“My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”


Winston Churchill detested Communists. The United States were isolationists, and had shown no fervent interest in actively involving our military in the early stages of WWII. But for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we may have remained on the sideline, and continued to provide advisors to assist the British logistically. The alliance with Stalin was born out of necessity after Hitler reneged on his promise of non-aggression with the Soviet Union.


"If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons"-Winston Churchill


In the early days of the Nazi invasion of Poland, FDR stood his ground, maintaining the issue was a European one, and they should deal with it themselves. In the late 1930’s Prime Minister Chamberlain had “negotiated” a deal with Adolf Hitler, much to the chagrin of the Conservatives in Parliament. “Appeasement” took on a whole new meaning, allowing Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia, leaving him wide open for his conquest of Europe.


Fast forward to 1945, the Red Army invaded Berlin, and the Cold War was on.



“My friend’s enemy is my enemy.”


The U.S. eventually normalized relations with Germany, and the new enemy was our former ally, The Soviet Union. Japan became a trading partner, but remains arch enemies with China. The Chinese backed North Korea during the Korean War, so another former ally becomes an enemy.


“My enemy’s friend is my enemy.”


Consider the relationship with the Shah of Iran. After he was deposed and the U.S. embassy was attacked, all of a sudden we are supplying Saddam Hussein with weapons for his war against the Ayatollah. Look ahead a few years, and we are running Saddam out of Kuwait.


The U.S. supplies the Mujahideen in Afghanistan with Stinger missiles to knock Soviet helicopters down, and, next thing we know, these former freedom fighters are running airplanes into the World Trade Center. It would seem that even these temporary alliances or friendships of convenience come back to bite us time after time.



“My old friend is my new enemy.”


Jefferson had it right. It may be that temporary alliances are necessary, but in Jefferson’s world, they must be avoided whenever possible. His philosophy of neutrality made the most sense (see Switzerland). Being directly attacked complicates neutrality, but it is still sound policy. Our problem is feeling compelled to solve everybody else’s problems. A non-interventionalist policy is good policy. Engage in global commerce with no limitations, but back off entirely with foreign deployments that have little or no impact on us as a nation.


Does this sound like too much idealism? It made sense (70) years ago, and most certainly did (200) years ago. While I am not proposing total isolationism, foreign military intervention hasn’t had any real positive impact since WWII. Protect our shores and borders, engage globally, and allow us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Pretty catchy, huh?


“My friend’s friend is my friend.”


Not always.


“My enemy’s enemy is my enemy.”


Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, oh man, never mind.............maybe a discussion for another day.





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