President Obama’s many wars
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 00:02
When President Obama was inaugurated for his second term, he proclaimed that a decade of war was ending. That same day, a drone strike ordered by his administration killed three people in Yemen, just east of the capital, Sanaa.
These types of incidents are not out of the ordinary. In fact, some estimates report as many as 2,600 deaths, occurring as the result of drone U.S. strikes in Pakistan alone since Obama’s first inauguration.
Though it is difficult to find an entirely accurate number, as the U.S. government usually under-reports the casualties of these strikes, if they report the numbers at all.
What’s important to understand about these casualties, deemed necessary by our government as it pursues terrorists and national security interests, is these kinds of policies make Americans less secure – both in the traditional sense and the financial sense. Moreover, they would have been entirely avoidable by following a strict policy of non-interventionism.
If you’ve had an economics class, you’ve heard of the "law of unintended consequences" wherein economic policies, even if implemented with the best intentions, often create situations worse than what was experienced before the new policy was enacted.
In other words, the medicine is worse than the disease.
But this bit of economic insight doesn’t apply only to the economy. It also applies to foreign policy and foreign relations. The unintended consequences of violent, usually covert, foreign policy is known as "blowback."
Blowback usually manifests itself when a seemingly random act of violence occurs against a populace as retaliation by another group of individuals for the foreign policy of the aforementioned populace’s governing body.
These incidents seem random, because the attacked populace is far and wide ignorant of its governing body’s actions abroad.
A classic case of blowback was the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis during which the American embassy was taken over by Islamist militants in Tehran who held 52 hostages for 444 days. The rescue operation was dramatized in the recent Ben Affleck film "Argo."
The Iranian hostage crisis was, of course, retaliation against America for Operation Ajax, in which the CIA, in conjunction with MI6, overthrew the popularly elected government of Iran in 1953 and replaced it with a brutal dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
American foreign policy has been defined by blowback for decades, just as it continues to today, and will define it for the near future.
The Obama administration has worked quickly to get involved with the crisis in Mali. Although officially, United States involvement is limited to transportation and intelligence sharing, the Obama administration refuses to answer media questions about whether special forces, drones or paramilitary units are being used.
Nevertheless, the current conflict in Mali is blowback resulting from the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, in which the U.S. played a role.
For a time, the Gadhafi military had been training Malians living within the country’s borders. After he had been overthrown, the Malians returned home with sophisticated weapons and the desire to overthrow the government in Northern Mali, prompting France to get involved.
Further ramifications include the bombing of a BP oil well in Algeria by radicals angry at its government for permitting foreign military forces to fly over Algeria en route to Mali.
This could lead to its own crisis.
Blowback is demonstrably costly. It prompts further violence, forcing a nation to fight wars it otherwise would not need to.
The financial cost is immense, as well.
Since 2001, America has seen an explosion in defense spending. Adjusted for inflation, defense spending in this country almost doubled from just under $400 billion annually to slightly more than $700 billion annually.
The "War on Terror," as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom are both the result of blowback and two of the largest financiers of the debt crisis.
It is crucial to understand the most vital aspect of blowback is that it is avoidable.
Blowback, by definition, is retaliation. It is wholly avoidable by adhering to a foreign policy of non-interventionism.
By adopting a policy of non-interventionism, the country avoids financial problems as well as national security problems that it otherwise would not face.
That isn’t to say that there would never be another war, or that peace would be eternal, or anything as hopelessly optimistic as a Congress competent enough to pass a balanced budget.
Nevertheless, the citizens of this country are demonstrably wealthier and safer with a strict policy of non-interventionism.