“The American nation needs the tonic of a serious moral adventure.“
Ayn Rand once referenced this quote by Herbert Croly from The New Republic in describing the roots of war. Upon first publication, this quote was an endorsement of Wilsonian thinking at the dawn of the twentieth century. Like any line of statist thought, Croly called for the selflessness and sacrifice of Americans in the Great War on the amorphous claim of “protecting democracy.” Particularly since the end of the Cold War, both liberal Democrats and the entrenched neoconservative establishment on Capitol Hill have taken Croly’s sentiment to heart. Understandably, it has wrought havoc in the foreign affairs of mixed economies. Rand and a handful of others, are guilty of prescience.
Policymakers insist that it is in the American interest to promote democracy, to spread our institutions to anyone and everyone; regardless of the cost. Libya is the latest example of this overly aggressive policy. The debate, however, did not focus on whether the premises for intervention were legitimate. Rather, the body of the debate was structured around how much intervening the United States should do. Some wanted more airpower, some wanted boots on the ground, but everyone agreed that it was the world’s responsibility to save the innocent civilians from Qaddafi’s primordial ways.
This is merely a smaller component of a much larger dilemma that surfaced from this military action. Many have alluded to the “leading from behind” philosophy as the emergence of an “Obama Doctrine.” Like the premises for the intervention, all are lauding the president for his promotion of the multilateral approach. Not only had the president waged a strictly limited war for strictly limited ends, this administration cannot be more outspoken about the fact such action was deemed legal by the United Nations. This is the true nature of the Obama Doctrine, it’s Wilsonian Idealism pursued to it’s logical end.
When the executive branch of the federal government seeks to utilize military assets for combat purposes, the executive branch must first seek the consent of the governed; the legislative branch. Article One Section, Eight of the U.S. Constitution makes the bold stipulation that only Congress has the power to declare war. Dennis Kucinich aside–why hasn’t anyone in Washington with an understanding of morality and constitutionality, taken the appropriate actions that would have inevitably triggered a constitutional crisis?
Since the close of World War II, arguments such as “armed humanitarian intervention,” arguably an anti-concept, have mutated the basic nature of what a war actually is. Meanwhile, pundits are left debating the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 instead of recognizing the obvious: the War Powers clause of the constitution is a check, a separation of power from a potential tyrant. If the president seeks to place American soldiers in imminent danger and spend taxpayer wealth to do so, the president must make his case before the states and the people.
President Obama and his ilk have rejected this rational logic. Like his predecessors, Obama delights in expanding the role of government and increasing the power of the executive branch. Unfortunately, most critics only focus on how quickly the government grows and not whether it should be growing at all. Furthermore, this president has, unsurprisingly, embraced the Croly sentiment for the “serious moral adventure.” The Libyan people have a “need” and “we” must provide it. The most alarming aspect of this policy is that Obama has subjected a substantial amount of American sovereignty and wealth to the United Nations to make his vision a reality.
Following the fall of fascism, the United Nations was built on the premise that all nation states are created equal. Proponents argued the scourge of Hitler through Europe had little to do with a population that rejected man’s rights in favor of collectivism. No, it was because the more civilized nations sought to “isolate” and “persecute” Germany and her people. Never mind the atrocious Munich Agreement or the “Obsessive Kaiser Disorder” that was both potent and latent following the close of World War I (which was supposed to protect democracy but, for whatever peculiar reason, ushered the rise of fascism and communism instead).
As an institution, the United Nations resembles a mixed economy. It’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is practically an equal distribution of freedoms of individual action and material goods owed to you by the labor of others. This irrational thinking persists in the actual personnel working within the U.N. For instance, the Human Rights Council was represented by none other than Libya, among other rights violating states. Apparently, reality could no longer be evaded when Qaddafi’s thugs began the mass slaughter of Libyans on open streets, in broad daylight.
This lack of logic does anything but discourage the Obama administration. On top of making the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. a Cabinet level position, Obama has collectivized his foreign policy aims. The American soldier, the American taxpayer no longer have their interests or rights represented through Congress. Instead, Americans are subject to the will of the global interest. America is no more superior than the tribes, socialists, and dictators represented in the United Nations. This is the most perilous aspect of the Obama Doctrine. It is as much a rejection of the republic as it is a rejection of man’s rights.
Additionally, the goals and the mission are as equally amorphous as those of “protecting democracy.” Who are the Libyan rebels? Is the aid we’ve supplied to them, in fact, helping former insurgents who killed and maimed American soldiers in Iraq? Will this force shatter into militant factions? Will there be prolonged civil war? If there is a civil war, who will win; the liberty loving secularists or the Islamist totalitarians? Neither Obama or the U.N. have the answers to these questions. Since the United Nations is essentially a contradiction in itself, this is the chaotic foreign policy any rational person should expect. Garbage in, garbage out. Thus far, Obama has only been met with silent obedience.
There remains a glimmer of hope. Republicans in the House of Representatives are in the process of drafting a bill that would aid in reversing President Obama’s foreign policy thinking. According to Bloomberg.com:
The bill by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would demand that the UN let countries decide how much to pay and which programs they will support, rather than assessing payments based on a formula. It would end funding for Palestinian refugees, limit use of U.S. funds to only purposes outlined by Congress and put a hold on creating or expanding peacekeeping operations until management changes are made.
While, technically, the funding would not be “voluntary” due to the nature of taxation, Republicans are taking the necessary steps in the right direction. This bill will more than likely find itself in the “round file” of Harry Reid’s office but this is one critical piece for crafting a vision of what ought to be. If Republicans choose to reject the liberal, neoconservative tendencies that have monopolized foreign policy, then they must articulate and define a policy in accordance with liberty.
As the United States edges closer to the decade following the September 11th attacks, many will find our foreign policy accomplishments lacking. Osama bin Laden’s death seems to have occurred in a vacuum surrounded by a stronger Iran, more determined Islamists, and instances of sexual assaults on literally every age at American airports. This bill, however, provides a promise that American foreign policy can become rational, once more.
Critics of a more selfish approach to foreign politics argue that isolationism is naive and dangerous, that multilateralism promotes the American interest and the world’s. When America was most rational, it was never purely isolationist. When Americans favored a more proper government, the policy was to isolate ourselves from global events that did not interfere or endanger the life, liberty, or property of citizens. What is un-American is attempting to reshape the world to one’s liking, to use soldiers as a means to an arbitrary end (i.e. a balancing of power approach), or waging welfare wars with limited ends and unlimited funds.
If Americans are as serious about changing the people in Washington as they are about changing the ideas, then perhaps statism can be rolled back. The time has come for collectivism and the morality that promotes it, to be wholly condemned. As a philosophy, it has and continues to destroy the righteousness of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. While the road ahead will be arduous, standing firm on a set of principles remains the critical factor in what determines success. If one can rationally question the validity of the United Nations, time may prove that the rest will unravel.