Intervention’s costs vs. non-intervention’s benefits

In a world rife with examples of the damage done to the U.S. economy and our national security by Washington’s relentless and bipartisan overseas interventionism, two current situations can be cited to demonstrate the high cost of intervention, on the one hand, and the wisdom of national-interest-protecting non-intervention on the other.

The first deals with the growing likelihood of frequent and widespread attacks in the United States by Islamist militants, and the second deals with recent events in Syria and Somalia. The coming Islamist attacks in America will be the direct result of our interventionist foreign policy, while our failure to intervene — so far — in Syria and Somalia provides clears evidence that disasters, insurrections, and wars can occur in many areas of the world, have no impact on U.S. national security, and will cost us nothing in terms of lives, funds, or security if we simply refrain from intervening.

Domestic Islamist violence is the price of U.S. interventionism

On 3 August 2011, the White House issued a new plan to combat violent extremism in the United States. The plan urges an outreach program at the state, local, and community levels to “explain more effectively our [U.S.] values, ideas, policies, and actions internationally and support moderate voices willing to confront extremists and discredit radicals.” The federal plan says the bulk of our defense against Islamist militancy in America — the plan is aimed at Islamist extremism but never uses the words Islam or Muslim — will be handled through social-science-driven out-reach programs conducted at all non-federal levels of government, as well as similar efforts by private sector organizations.

The plan, of course, has no chance of success because America’s domestic fight against al-Qaeda and other Islamists has almost nothing to do with local, social, or economic conditions in the United States, or with policies that can be explained, controlled, or influenced by non-federal authorities. Not one of the U.S.-citizen Islamists who have attacked here in the United States — or who have been stopped before attacking — has had a “gripe” against American society. They have attacked or tried to attack because of their hatred for the impact of U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world. This same motivation has been found in U.S.-citizen Muslims who have gone overseas to fight in the insurgencies in Afghanistan, Yemen, or Somalia. These men, according to their own words, acted because they hate Washington and its foreign policy, not Americans, their beliefs, and their society. In short, they grew to hate and chose to fight U.S. interventionism.

Thus, there is almost nothing that state or local governments or citizen groups can do to reduce the chance of domestic Islamist attacks. No matter what “out reach” programs for U.S. Muslims are conducted by officials or citizen groups at the state, local, and community levels, they will have no impact. As long as the main motivation for Islamist militancy among U.S.-citizen Muslims is U.S. interventionism, Washington will be furiously creating domestic Muslim militants, while expensive state/local outreach programs will find no success.

The conduct and content of U.S. foreign policy is solely the federal government’s prerogative, and until current interventionist policies — especially aid for Israel and our military intervention in Muslim states — are tempered or abandoned, increasing numbers of U.S.-citizen Muslims will attack here in America and/or go overseas for paramilitary training and combat experience. To be clear: It is U.S. foreign policy that is inciting U.S. Muslims to violence, and it is that policy that will destroy peace and tranquility in communities across our country.

Overall, the new federal policy to counter domestic “extremism” shows that 15 years after al-Qaeda declared war on the United States no politician in either party has a clue that we are at war because of what Washington does overseas and not because of how Americans think and live at home. The plan released on 3 August 2011 would have to be much improved to rise to the level of sheer lunacy.

Syria and Somalia: No U.S. intervention … so far

While the BBC, CNN, and other major mainstream media beat the drum for U.S. and Western intervention in Syria and Somalia, Washington has not yet gotten us involved in either situation, each of which is sad, even heart-wrenching, but neither of which negatively impacts genuine U.S. national interests.

Now, there is no guarantee that this condition of non-intervention will endure; Mrs. Clinton yesterday again banged her war drum for Bashir al-Asad’s regime to obey Washington’s diktat and leave, and this morning Turkey gave Syria a cease-and-desist-or-else ultimatum that sounds like the Cameron-Sarkozy ultimatum to Gaddafi that provided cover for the Washington-led intervention in Libya.

But as matters stand, we so far have seen a pretty good example of how things can occur in the world that do not require U.S. involvement. The unrest in Syria began five months ago and the media is claiming that more than 2,000 people have died there, although they do not often note that 20-percent of the dead are security officials killed by what the media describes as resolutely peaceful demonstrators. And in Somalia people are dying from starvation in much higher numbers than they are from gunfire in Syria, but so far Washington has not intervened, save by contributing humanitarian funding our country can ill afford in its current state of bankruptcy. Nonetheless, no U.S. military forces are on the move toward either location — as best we know — and that is the best possible news. At the moment, America has no need for the disasters that would accrue from two more armed interventions in Muslim countries.

Years ago, Ralph Peters, one of America’s finest strategists, wrote that in the post-Cold War world Americans would have to learn to watch foreigners die with equanimity to avoid involvement in expensive, endless wars in which no U.S. national interests are at risk. That advice was wise then; it is even more sage today. Neither the price of bread, the status of our liberties, the baseball pennant races, nor the security of our shores has been adversely affected by our failure to ride to the rescue of the dying in Syria and Somalia. The foreigners die, life goes on, and America is not yet fighting a war in either country, which is as it should be as no national interest is in danger in either place. Washington’s failure to intervene or lead a Western intervention in Syria or Somalia may not be popular with the electronic and print media and cultural war-mongers like Obama and Mrs. Clinton, but for the rest of us it is a most positive failure, one that has paid dividends by avoiding additional wars with the Muslim world and the deaths and enormous monetary costs such conflicts would entail. Failing to intervene also helps domestic U.S. security by not sharpening the already deep-seated hatred of U.S.-citizen Muslims for their government’s foreign policy. In these ways, it seems clear that non-intervention protects Americans and their genuine interests.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.