The current U.S. foreign policy is a disaster. For many Americans, this sounds harsh. Yet, it is something most of us can admit after examining our most recent foreign interventions individually.
The least disastrous foreign intervention we’ve been involved in is Libya, where U.S. aid to rebel forces helped depose Muammar Gaddafi. Yet, we now learn a radical Islamic regime is taking his place. Mission accomplished?
Then there is Iraq. President Barack Obama is crowing about bringing the troops home while downplaying the fact that the Iraqis are kicking us out. With over 4,000 soldiers killed, 32,000 wounded, and a price tag of $4 trillion, we leave behind a resentful and divided Iraqi people, an America-weary Iraqi government, and an empowered Iran.
Finally, there is our decade of war in Afghanistan, the longest in U.S. history. Almost 3,000 American soldiers have been killed, nearly 15,000 have been wounded, and trillions of dollars have been spent, and yet there remains no practical logic to our daily mission. Last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was practically installed by the U.S., said that if America went to war with Pakistan, his country would side with Pakistan.
Strangely enough, the only one of these wars that receives relatively high marks from the American public is Libya. However, a majority of conservatives don’t think President Obama should have intervened in that crisis in the first place. Conservatives believe that despite Gaddafi’s demise, intervening in Libya was still not worth the risk or cost. They are correct. However, the Libyan intervention remains popular with most Americans precisely because Gaddafi was removed from power and killed at a minimal cost.
On Iraq and Afghanistan, most conservatives find themselves on the complete opposite side of the same cost-benefit argument they make concerning Libya. They also stand against the overwhelming sentiment of the American people. In most polls, 60 to 70 percent of Americans believe both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were a mistake and that it is time to bring our troops home. Many American soldiers feel the same way, or as CBS News reported this month, “One in three U.S. veterans of the post-Sept. 11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that after 10 years of combat, America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems.” Even more interesting, a Pew Research Poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans published this month revealed: “About half (51 percent) of post-9/11 veterans say that the use of military force to fight terrorism creates hatred that breeds more terrorism.”
Many conservatives often say to me, “I like you, Jack, except for your views on foreign policy.” Usually, they take issue with my belief that our foreign intervention breeds more terrorism than it stops. However, according to the Pew poll, a majority of U.S. soldiers agree with me. More significantly, my belief that we should only go to war for clear and defined reasons is in line with popular public sentiment. The exception is Libya, where most conservatives side with me and against public opinion.
A majority of the American people agree with me on Iraq and Afghanistan, while my opposition to both of the wars angers many conservatives. When Republicans say, “I like you, Jack, except for your views on foreign policy,” what they mean is that they don’t like that I opposed Bush’s wars. Yet, when I apply the same non-interventionist philosophy to Libya, a majority of conservative Republicans actually agree with me, while most Americans don’t.
Who is being inconsistent here? And what does “I like you, Jack, except for your views on foreign policy” really mean? A crass but not entirely untrue answer would be that Republicans have no problem with Republican wars regardless of the reason for sending our troops into battle, the outcome, or the price, and that Democrats have no issues with Democrat wars, regardless of the reason for sending our troops into battle, the outcome, or the price. And the American people as a whole do not care whose war it is just as long as the outcome is good and the costs are low.
My foreign policy view is that we should always be extremely careful about interjecting ourselves into other countries’ business, and my consistent reluctance to go to war can be quite annoying when it clashes with partisan attachment or popular opinion.
But such is the nature of contemporary American politics and the current foreign policy status quo, however unfair it is to our soldiers, however costly it will be to future generations who have to pay for those wars, and however dangerous it is to our actual security. This isn’t political maturity. It’s entrenched madness. And for conservatives to still say they like me except for my beliefs on foreign policy at this late juncture is to continue embracing these troubling contradictions.
Jack Hunter is the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 WTMA.