In Response to Richard E. Berg-Andersson's Response to my 'vox Populi'
Dealing with War Powers
Saturday, September 21, 2002
by Kenneth Stremsky
When a country shows favoritism when it should not, it has more reason to fear. When a country hates a country more than it should, it has more reason to fear. I agree with you on everything you said in the following paragraph except for what you said about President Washington's comments in his Farewell Address:
"Fear is the antithesis of Liberty - for, if you fear, you cannot then be free. The essence of Liberty is the difficulty engendered by the need for self-control; the essence of Fear, meanwhile, is the too easy giving into control by others. I'm afraid that, in a world containing both intercontinental missiles able to deliver nuclear weapons and cells of terrorists able to hijack airlines and turn them into weapons of mass destruction, the foreign policy of George Washington's world and time no longer makes much sense!"
What President George Washington said in his Farewell Address, instead, makes perfect sense. He said our foreign policies should not be dictated by other countries. He said we should not be in the control of others. He thought it was stupid to hate a country a lot more than we should. Saying that Iran is part of the axis of evil increases the probability of attacks on our citizens and country. Treating Israel a lot better than we should when Israel has done wrong has caused many people in the Middle East and other countries to hate the United States of America.
I agree with most of The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002. People who read The Discourses by Machiavelli, The Prince by Machiavelli, and The Art of War by Sun Tzu should realize why most of it makes
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
President Washington's comments in his Farewell Address, as I've said, do make perfect sense-- for his time!-- but (alas!!) not for our own. The United States of America has, historically, had a choice to make- particularly after the turn of the previous Century (long after George Washington had made his remarks)- and that is this: does the USofA, or does it not, wish to be a World Power? If the USofA does not wish to be a World Power (and, yes, we Americans are free- through our own political procedures- to influence Our Federal Government- alone entrusted by the US Constitution to defend us from attack from abroad as well as to engage in diplomatic relations with foreign countries- to take just such a stand against foreign alliances and entanglements as Washington desired us to avoid, if we should so desire), then we Americans cannot much complain about- not all that long after making such a decision to no longer engage in world affairs- no longer having any real influence, economic as well as political, in the world at large.
Take the Cold War, for example: early in that era, the US Government made a conscious decision to favor certain countries (the Western European nations that eventually became part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) while- at the same time- showing antipathy to other countries (the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact): our Marshall Plan was taken up by Western Europe; it was not taken up by the Eastern European puppet states of the Soviet Bloc. Some will argue that at least we offered the Marshall Plan to the Soviet satellites in Europe: but does anyone honestly believe that this offer was in the least sincere?-- does anyone doubt that, if the Truman Administration had any inkling that Joe Stalin would have allowed his satellites to accept aid from the United States, we would actually have helped pay (with American taxpayers' money) to rebuild countries that were going to be- under threat of Soviet military intervention- our potential adversaries, it would not have been so offered?? We cannot forget that the Marshall Plan was the right hand, palm-up, to which the Truman Doctrine of Containment of Communism was the left fist! Containment surely does not equal Cooperation!!
Now, I suppose, we could have- if we had wanted to as free Americans- had our Government leave Western Europe to fend for itself in the wake of World War II: that is, no Marshall Plan, no NATO, hence no Containment... indeed, that is what George Washington would have had us do had we followed the admonitions of his Farewell Address to the letter: for, in order to have a Marshall Plan or a NATO, we had to first decide which nations we favored and which nations we had antipathy toward; Containment itself implies a Nation-State/Imperium to actually be, thus, "contained" and such a contained Nation-State/Imperium is certainly not one to which we are showing favor but, rather, one to which we are, indeed, showing much antipathy. In fact, we already had a very good, all too well remembered, lesson- only a decade old at the time, in fact- of what the alternative really was back in 1947: the then-only-too-recent rise of Nazi Germany itself! The United States- in adopting the course of "normalcy" in the wake of World War I and then, despite the strains of the Great Depression, continuing such a course- did absolutely nothing proactive to at all contain the regime of Adolf Hitler, with the result that Hitler came to dominate most of Europe even before the United States ended up entering the resultant World War II (and, even then, only because one of Hitler's Axis allies- not Hitler himself- had attacked a US military base operating on US territory!)
If we had, instead, turned our back on Western Europe back in 1947 on grounds that containing Stalinist Russia was showing favoritism to some nations and antipathy toward others (and keep in mind that these are Washington's key criteria in his comments on foreign policy in his Farewell Address), there likely would have been something of a repeat of what had happened as a result of the encroachments on Europe by Nazi Germany less than a decade before: in the wake of World War II, economically desparate voters in countries such as France and Greece and Italy would very likely- in the absence of a Marshall Plan and NATO- have more and more turned to their local Socialists and Communists in elections and- while these parties might have shown a certain autonomy from Soviet policies [even the Yugoslavia of Tito- from behind the Iron Curtain- ended up exercising such autonomy!]- there can be little certainty that this autonomy would not have eventually been undermined by various and sundry Soviet machinations; therefore, by the 1960s at the latest- if not earlier- all of Europe might have then been largely "Sovietized" as surely as that same continent would have been "Nazified" had World War II gone a bit differently for the Allies (particularly- though not exclusively- in the absence of American participation in that conflict and in that Theater of War). Would that scenario- in an age of intercontinental nuclear missiles and the jet warplane- have been a more desirable result for the continuing freedom of the United States than that which actually occurred?-- or, rather, would such a development have been much more a threat to that very freedom?? I myself posit the latter!
The fact is that George Washington, in his Farewell Address, was expressing a hope- in retrospect, something of a vain hope (much like that expressed by yet another General-become-President, Dwight Eisenhower- in his Farewell, that we could somehow rein in the American Military/Industrial Complex)- that America could ever avoid foreign entanglements; Washington even had political descendants- the Isolationists- who continued to express that hope as they opposed US participation in the League of Nations in the immediate aftermath of World War I and then fought for American Neutrality during the 1930s... unfortunately, the legacy of these Isolationists was to be the appeasement of Hitler and World War II... the very mitigation of that rather sorry Isolationist legacy was Containment, the Marshall Plan, NATO and, yes, the other events of the Cold War which would- however fitfully- eventually lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Empire and today's continuing development of an increasingly democratic, free market-based Russian Federation!
No one can, of course, fault General Washington for any of this: he was, after all, a product of his own time, stating for the record that which he clearly believed and most sincerely opined was best for the Nation. Elsewhere on this website, I have written extensively of the rather vain hope the Framers of Our Nation's Constitution (of which Washington himself was, of course, one) that their Electoral College, for instance, would work to effectively keep "faction" (what we today would call Party Politics) out of their new Federal System; in my opinion, Washington's comments in his Farewell Address- as quoted in his 'vox Populi' previous to this one- have to be read in the same context as when one reads the Framers' expectations, as expressed on the floor of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, for the Electoral College they created as part of their then-new document. Assumptions were made that did not play themselves out in the due course of History. The plain and simple fact is that the United States of America is- today- an early 21st Century continentally-based World-influencing Superpower; it is no longer the late 18th Century isolated seaboard-hugging largely agrarian constellation of fiercely independent States that the Framers knew-- not recognizing this salient fact while perusing Washington's remarks would be a serious mistake! Not, in addition, realizing that the Framers (including Washington), for the most part, well understood History and that the America of a few centuries later might be- even if their bold experiment in national self-governance, as embodied in the Constitution of the United States, should survive that long (as it, indeed, has!-- at least so far!!)- as different as, if not more different than, two centuries before they were taking up their work would also be a serious error!!
Having said all this, let me make some brief points before closing this response to Mr. Stremsky:
First of all, I am not at all- through my using the comparison above between how America handled the Cold War in the aftermath of World War II as compared to how it handled the rise of Hitler prior to that war- by any means condoning everything that was done by the USofA (my own country, after all!) in the name of the Cold War. Much of what we did- in response to perceived threats from those we ourselves (rightly or wrongly) defined as part of the 'Communist bloc' (whether such threats were real or imagined or even merely alleged)- was rather ineffective if not counterproductive, where not 14-carat wrong, where not even also as evil as the evils (Stalinist or Maoist governance as counterpoised to our own conceptions of Liberty) that we so earnestly sought to thwart: as Mr. Stremsky himself pointed out in his 'vox Populi' previous to this one to which I am now responding, there is- among many, many similar examples one could so easily cite from the entire history of the Cold War- the Mossadegh affair in early 1950s Iran... how much of US involvement in the Shah vs. Mossadegh was our undermining a potential Soviet ally (in the form of Mossadegh) to better protect ourselves here at home from a Soviet Union thereby otherwise so easily gaining yet another satellite state and how much of this was merely our undermining an ardent Iranian nationalist virulently opposed to foreign influence in his country to better protect narrow (as well as narrow-minded) American economic interests?-- how much of this was our making the world safe for Liberty and Democracy as opposed to our making the world safe for McDonald's- not to mention McDonnell-Douglas?! Truth be told, it was much of both!
Secondly, I have not- myself- yet made up my own mind (as an American citizen who continues to maintain my audacity to think I am, indeed, a free individual) as to whether or not a war against Iraq in the near term is justifiable, let alone desirable. All I have opined, within all the verbiage of my recent Commentaries, is the following:
1. that there is a doctrine of Anticipatory Self-Defense that has long been within the history of US Foreign Policy (my quoting from both Chancellor Kent's Comentaries on American Law as well as Daniel Webster while he was John Tyler's Secretary of State were- much like Mr. Stremsky's own extensive quotation from Washington's Farewell Address- illustrations of the history behind a given position) but that I am not at all certain that any justification, right now- as of this typing, for a war with Iraq falls under that doctrine in the same way that going after Al-Qa'eda and the Taliban in Afghanistan could be so justified.
2. that the President, in my opinion, needs to get a formal Declaration of War from Congress to- given what is generally known about current Iraqi capabilities and intentions- legitimize any near future military action against Congress; at the same time, I am not so naive to believe that an Administration that has to so often go to the Dictionary to find out the definitions of words such as "openness", "transparency", "right to know" and "civil liberties"- among others (an Administration that seems to be so incapable of carrying around the definitions of such words in their own hearts)- will even bother to follow the constitutional requirements for any pre-emptive military movement against Iraq!
A few words, before closing, about some related issues Mr. Stremsky has brought up in his most recent 'vox Populi':
First of all, he states that "[t]reating Israel a lot better than we should when Israel has done wrong has caused many people in the Middle East and other countries to hate the United States of America". Doubtless, there are a quite a lot of pretty ticked-off people in the Middle East, in the Muslim World in general as well as among Arabs in particular... however, let us not at all confuse the largely legitimate aspirations of Peoples made angry at being consistently under the thumb of what they themselves see (in many cases, rightly: though, in more than a few cases, wrongly) as American-inspired, where not American-supported, economic and political exploitation- if not outright oppression- with the aims of those who accept the basic philosophy of groups such as Al-Qa'eda. As I myself noted in my previous response to Mr. Stremsky: "I do agree with Mr. Stremsky in his comments regarding Our Nation's tendency to so often back undemocratic, where not outright oppressive, regimes around the world simply to preserve our country's own ofttimes rather narrow interests: I myself, on this very website, have decried- and will continue to decry- this tendency born largely of complacency where not also of certain evils. If America has a mission, it should be that of promoting Liberty around the world".
But Al-Qa'eda, while it portrays itself as the best possible alternative to the many ills and woes suffered by the Peoples of the Middle East, is not at all interested in bettering the conditions in this world of those who might be suffering in that much-too-often-suffering region of the Globe. After all, they can't! The whole sociocultural/religious and politicoeconomic philosophy of extremist Islam (including Al-Qa'eda itself) is almost wholly based on the concept that one's station in life is the immutable Will of God and that one should, threrefore, accept it without complaint- a far cry from the promise of upward mobility much better provided by Libertarian Democratic Republicanism! The hatred of Al-Qa'eda is, in the main, not at all based on alleviating the suffering of the Arab or Muslim masses which, yes, might cause many within those masses to hate the United States (just ask most of the Afghans who lived under the yoke of the Taliban: was their political and economic position better than it might yet be right now? and how many of these Taliban were native Afghans as opposed to Arab interlopers??), though Al-Qa'eda is so obviously not above exploiting such hatred for its own separate purposes... the terrorists who carried out the September 11th were, after all, not people living in the abject poverty of the Middle East!-- they were comfortably middle-class people who were studying to be professionals in the much more economically advanced West!!
No, the hatred of Al-Qa'eda is so much more the hatred of Liberty itself, which is- indeed- the antithesis, the polar opposite, of that group's own sociocultural/religious/politicoeconomic doctrine! The attacks on America of 11 September 2001 had nothing- absolutely nothing- to do with the local perception of United States-condoned political oppression and economic exploitation in the Middle East!! Can any objective observer of the scene truly believe that an Osama bin Laden "regime" would, in reality, be an improvement in the political and economic welfare of the Palestinians, the Iraqis or the disenfranchised masses who live in Sa'udi Arabia??!! Give me a break!!!
Secondly, I want to speak about the National Security Strategy of the United States that has been promulgated recently because it has a direct effect on the current Bush Administration's proposed wording of the Joint Resolution they wish Congress to adopt- in lieu of a bona fide Declaration of War against Iraq- in order to then have what the Administration would wave about as due congressional authorization of military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Among other things (and I only want to take up this one example, though I could cite others), the Administration's draft opines that the United Nations itself gives the United States the right to engage in military action against Iraq absent a direct attack by that country...
what a bunch of underdone baloney!
Here is the exact text of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter (keep in mind: a.) to which the United States of America is, of course, an original signatory and b.) which has the status of a Treaty [to quote Article VI, clause 2 of the US Constitution: "This Constitution... and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land..."]):
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in otder to maintain and restore international peace and security.
The key words here are "if an armed attack occurs" (not 'well-- if, perhaps, maybe an armed attack could- you know, like- quite possibly occur'). President George W. Bush talks about how the United Nations should take steps to avoid its becoming irrelevant, that the UN has to decide whether it is the United Nations or the failed League of Nations-- yet, in almost the same breath, he then opines that the United States has the innate authority- under the UN Charter. mind you!- to act on its own absent the actual occurrence of an armed attack (which is, on its face, a complete twisting of the wording regarding the authority contained in Article 51) which, of course, would be the Administration itself rendering the UN irrelevant (no action- or inaction- by the United Nations would be necessary to accomplish such irrelevancy). This is why we most need a Declaration of War- and not some mere Joint Resolution- from Congress: to make sure that the imprimatur of the American People is clearly stamped on any military action against Iraq that is not in response to actual armed attack against the United States-- unfortunately, the current Administration seemingly has no patience with such niceties as legality- whether national or international. Instead it appears as if America will fight Saddam by going so far as to use Saddam's own tactics- including the blatancy of unilateral abrogation of Treaties!