Do We Need a Foreign Policy?

Amid all the brouhaha about how the downfall of Hosni Mubarak would provide the oh-so-scary Muslim Brotherhood with an opening to create an Islamic theocracy along Iranian lines, take a look at what’s happening in US-occupied Iraq:

“The Iraqi Ministry of Education has banned theatre and music classes in Baghdad’s Fine Arts Institute, and ordered the removal of statues showcased at the entrance of the institute without explaining the move, but some of the students mull religious reasons as the real motive. “Students have also fears that the ban will extend to include other arts such as photography, directing, sculpting, and drawing.”

Hat tip: Zeyad, an Iraqi doctor whose “Healing Iraq” blog was promoted by war-blogger Glenn Reynolds and others in the run up to the Iraq war, and then abruptly dropped when Zeyad’s cousin was murdered by US troops and he had the bad taste to make a big deal about it. Zeyad also notes:

“Yesterday there was a story in the Western press about Iraq’s dying classical musical tradition which had survived the last five centuries. ”Last week the authorities shut down all casinos, bars, nightclubs, social clubs that serve alcohol, something ‘even Saddam did not dare to do,” to borrow the words of an angry Iraqi writer. A few intellectuals and writers staged a poorly covered protest a few days ago.

“I guess the government of the Islamic Republic of Iraq must be really worried about all those drunk Iraqis who flock out of bars and social clubs every night to blow up innocents in churches and markets, or those radical musicians and actors with their instruments of mass destruction.”

Never mind Egypt, which will go its own way in any event – what are we creating in Iraq? What have we created?

The same people who are screeching about the coming of a Muslim “caliphate” are the same people who were organizing “support President Bush” rallies when we went to war with Iraq – and the end result, as we have seen, is the coming of Sharia law to that “liberated” country.

Gee, does this mean Glenn Beck is part of the New World Order Conspiracy, too? Aha! I thought so!

It’s amazing to watch as the panorama of human folly unfolds before us, and the neocons stumble about, wondering what to say about the Egyptian upsurge. My own favorite is Douglas Feith [.pdf], former Secretary of Defense for Policy, who resigned – somewhat abruptly and mysteriously – while Bush was still in office. He says he’s for the protesters, but

“Promoting political freedom may be accepted as an important goal of U.S. policy, but it does not always trump all other U.S. goals. To defeat Hitler, after all, Franklin Roosevelt allied with Stalin. Human-rights specialists often present all-or-nothing arguments from the standpoint of moral purity, but officials with broad responsibilities are forced by circumstances to make tradeoffs among important interests.”

Yes, a pity about the Gulag, but, hey, you can’t make an omelet without

There’s always some reasonable-sounding justification for the US government’s appalling immorality: if we don’t prop up Stalin, Hitler will conquer the world, as Feith and the remaining Stalinists on earth would have it. If we don’t prop up Mubarak, “chaos” will ensue, as Hillary Clinton would have it. If we don’t invade a country that has never attacked us and couldn’t even if they wanted to, then we’ll be zapped by “weapons of mass destruction” – and “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” now do we?

This kind of moral calculus, when engaged in by individuals, is called sociopathic (or criminal) behavior: when engaged in by governments, however, we call it “foreign policy.”

Ordinary Americans shy away from foreign policy issues for the simple reason that they know what they don’t know – and know enough to keep their opinions largely to themselves. This is admirable, but it leaves an important matter to the self-proclaimed credentialed “experts,” who are more than ready to state all kinds of opinions without having the slightest idea of what they’re talking about. Unleashed on this territory, bereft of morality and objective standards, these “experts” don’t hesitate to back tyrants with your tax dollars, and arm murderers with weapons paid for by peaceful, law-abiding US citizens, all in the name of “realpolitik,” or some such ideological construction.

The US government feels obligated to comment on – and intervene in – every event, no matter how small (or fearsomely large), from Tehran to Timbuktu. Has an election occurred in Ukraine? Well, then, surely it is our sacred duty to ensure it is “free and fair.” Have the Nepalese people overthrown their monarch, and installed a parliamentary democracy? Well, then, surely it’s part of our obligation as a Great Power – nay, the Greatest Power – to check and see if they’re doing it right. During the 1980s we “tilted” toward Iraq, in order to contain Iran, and during the Bush II era we “tilted” against Iraq – and now there’s no music, or theater, being taught (or enjoyed) at Iraq’s premier school of fine arts. Just like in Iran.

Which pretty much says it all when it comes to the fruits of American foreign policy ever since we emerged, stupidly, from the fortress of our post-World War II “isolation.”

Think about it. Everything good that has happened abroad in the modern era has occurred in spite of, not because of the actions of the US government: the fall of the Soviet Union (brought about by the economic impossibility of socialism), the democratization of the Philippines and the Asian “tigers” (which we only acceded to, reluctantly), and now the pro-democracy movement in Egypt, which US officials wish would just go away and expire in silence.

On the other hand, everything bad has been the direct result of US government actions abroad: the Iraq war, the Afghan conflict, and the ongoing invasion of Pakistan have brought us “blowback” in the form of a terrorist wave that makes us less safe than we’ve ever been. To say nothing of the death and destruction it has visited upon those unfortunate countries. And don’t even get me started on our wartime alliance with “Uncle” Joe Stalin….

All of which raises the question: why do we even need a foreign policy? After all, having such a policy has only brought us – and many others – a lot of grief. Our policies have subjected the Egyptians to decades of tyranny, of the sort that most Americans can’t even begin to imagine – and they’ve done the same for countless people all over the world.

The world outside America exists: no one denies it. It is a world ruled, for the most part, by dictators and “democratic” crooks, roiled by political and religious fanaticism, and mired, to a very great degree, in poverty so grinding and intractable that the effort to ameliorate it would exhaust and impoverish us if ever we undertook such a thankless task. What “policy” could possibly keep all these demons at bay? What set of clever formulations could contain them, and neutralize the political poisons they emit?

No, there is no real defense against the perils of intervention except for one: a refusal to intervene. As John Quincy Adams put it:

“Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

“But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

“She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

“She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

There’s just one problem, however, and it is this: the monsters that live abroad, a good many of them, are our very own Frankensteins. Mubarak is our creature, and his regime bears the indelible mark of our parentage. So it just doesn’t do to say “oh, but we can’t intervene,” which is what the Obama administration is saying about Egypt. It’s too late for that – and we continue to intervene by subsidizing the Egyptian state to the tune of $1.5 billion every damn year.

The administration’s attempt to preserve Mubarakism without Mubarak will backfire spectacularly, sooner rather than later – yet another testament to the glories of our vaunted foreign policy, which has brought us nothing but trouble. No matter which faction we support in Egypt, an upsurge of anti-Americanism in one sector of society or the other is the inevitable consequence.

There is only one solution to the problems posed by American foreign policy: abolition. If ever we get a half-rational administration in the White House again, the President should issue a single statement regarding world affairs at the beginning of his term, which will mark the beginning and the end of our foreign policy. That statement would consist of an announcement that we are cutting off all “foreign aid,” both military and “humanitarian,” and withdrawing all US troops from foreign soil. We’ll trade with anyone, but American companies making investments abroad are on their own: the US army will no longer serve as their own private police force. As for all those dictators, both tinpot and gold-plated, whom we have succored and propped up over the years, a simple message: Goodbye, and good luck!

In short: let the world go to hell in a hand-basket, for all we care, because we’re out of the business of world-saving.

Oh, but this would lead to “chaos”! I can hear the protests rising from the interventionist peanut gallery even as I write. To which my answer is: what do you think we have now? Chaos in Egypt I can live with. What we have to fear, given the deepening economic crisis, is the prospect of chaos a lot closer to home.


I want to welcome Glenn Greenwald back to the blogosphere, now that he’s gotten over his bout of – yikes! – dengue fever. I was quite taken aback when I heard news of his illness, and I know I’m just one of his many thousands of readers greatly relieved by his recovery. Now I can once again brave’s fearsomely intrusive ads, every morning, and read my favorite non-libertarian (but coming along nicely) commentator. His prose lights up an otherwise darkening sky.


I see Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, is whining that he did not drop Zeyad, as I wrote above, and that

"Actually, I played a big role in drawing attention to what happened to Zeyad’s cousin, and continued to link to him regularly for years afterward until he came to the States, as a simple search for "Zeyad" in my archives will reveal. I actually hadn’t realized he was back in Iraq and blogging again. I haven’t paid enough attention to what’s going on in Iraq lately, but over the past couple of years I’ve been preoccupied with disasters closer to home, alas.

"Anyway, if Justin has any decency, he’ll retract and apologize. I’m not holding my breath, though."

Okay, let’s take a look at the archives. Hmmmm…. Here what is Glenn had to say about poor Zeyad and the fate of his cousin – drowned by sadistic US troops in occupied Iraq – and I quote:

"July 02, 2004

"THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE: For quite a few months now I’ve been harping on a story of U.S. troop misconduct originally broken by Iraqi blogger Zeyad. (Most recent roundup, with links to earlier accounts, here; original post here). And now we see something is happening:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army has charged four soldiers, three of them with manslaughter, over the drowning of an Iraqi prisoner while a new report criticized U.S. military detention policies, officials said on Friday.

Newspaper reports in Colorado, where the soldiers were based, said they were accused of forcing two Iraqis to jump off a bridge in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, on January 3. The men had been picked up for violating a curfew.

One of the Iraqis swam to the river bank but the other drowned, according to the reports.

"For a while it looked as if there might be a coverup. I’m glad that turned out not to be the case. I don’t know whether this case would have come to the attention of the authorities without Zeyad’s blog, but I certainly think that it’s helped to keep the pressure on. So far, Zeyad hasn’t posted anything about it on his blog, but I imagine that he will. 

"UPDATE: Read this." 

Yes, "something" was happening, alright, and it was precisely a cover-up, but Glenn never acknowledged that. His "spin" was revealed in the last link, which takes us to something called "The Mudville Gazette," wherein Mr. Mud avers: 

"Must note, however, the linked Reuters piece alternates paragraphs of this story with bits of a report on mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. Not really the same story, except that both involve Soldiers …" 

But of course it is the same story: the brutality and outright evil of the US military occupation. And as for Glenn’s hailing this incident as an example of how there will be no cover-up, check out what he has to say when the verdict comes in, six months or so later:

"January 08, 2005

"HERE’S AN UPDATE in the case involving Zeyad’s cousin:

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Army sergeant took the stand and tearfully apologized to his family, commanding officers and subordinates Saturday, a day after being convicted of aggravated assault for ordering his soldiers to throw Iraqis into the Tigris River.

"If I had to go back, I would definitely do something different on those days," Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins said, wiping away tears.

Perkins, 33, was convicted Friday of two counts of aggravated assault, a charge of assault consummated by battery and a charge of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in the alleged drowning of one of the men. . . .

Perkins and another soldier were accused of ordering soldiers to push the two Iraqis into the river in Samarra in January 2004. Prosecutors say Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out the river.

Marwan Hassoun testified that he tried to save his cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful current swept Zaidoun away. Marwan said the body was found in the river nearly two weeks later.

"I don’t know whether this verdict is just or not, but at least the matter wasn’t swept under the rug. Directory of earlier posts on this subject here. 

UPDATE: The story I link above has been updated, and says that the sentence is 6 months, which seems to me to be very light." 

So these thugs are essentially let off, with only one being charged with "aggravated assault" – and acquitted of manslaughter – and we are told by Reynolds "I don’t know whether this verdict is just or not." In his view it could be "just," but he’s not sure, or, perhaps, he’d rather not say. After hearing the sentence, though – six months for a senseless murder – he opines that it "seems" to him to be "very light." Oh, and don’t forget: there was no cover-up

And that’s the last we ever heard on Instapundit of Zeyad’s murdered cousin, and Zeyad, for that matter, a blogger who was formerly held up as an example of a "pro-American" (i.e. pro-invasion) Iraqi, and abruptly dropped not only by Señor Reynolds, but also the "war-bloggers" who did all the cheerleading for the "war on Islamo-fascism" in the early days of the invasion. We, of course, did not drop Zeyad, but pursued the matter a bit more vigorously than Zeyad’s former friends here, and followed Zeyad’s acerbic observations on the invasion he had once wholeheartedly supported here.

"I haven’t paid enough attention to what’s going on in Iraq lately," avers Glenn, "but over the past couple of years I’ve been preoccupied with disasters closer to home, alas." Of course he hasn’t paid attention: if he did, he’d have to admit that the war he wanted, agitated for, and hailed as a great triumph was in reality a monstrous crime.

"DO NOT TRUST CONTENT FROM JUSTIN RAIMONDO" – That’s the headline the clueless Instapundit gives to his whining, complete with the all-caps. Well you can hit that all-caps button all you want, Glenn baby, but it won’t do you any good.

If anybody ought to be in retraction mode, it’s The Instapudit, whose insta-moral judgements reveal a lack of any moral sense. He ought to retract not only his stupid attack on me, but also his support for the Iraq war, which installed a repressive regime in Iraq of the very sort Reynolds and his ilk supposedly abhor. But, as he would say, I’m not holding my breath.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].