US Foreign Policy

A common belief among Americans is that our safety lies in building military strength, and projecting our will in the world. The thing is, we’ve been doing that for over 60 years, and, in my opinion, it’s made our world more dangerous, not safer.

There’s a word for the predominant theme of American foreign policy since World War II. It’s jingoism.

Jingoism is patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy. Jingoism also refers to a country’s advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, it refers to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others—an extreme type of nationalism. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jingoism

Since I retired from my full time job in 2014 (I’m an ardent capitalist, living off of savings), I’ve had time to study post WW2 US foreign policy. What I’ve learned makes me sad. We’ve behaved very badly. We’ve imagined enemies who didn’t exist, and meddled where we had no right. We turned away from dialogue, and embraced covert action. Many of our misguided and vigorous activities destabilized regions that still suffer today. And it was all due to jingoist attitudes, and a hasty disregard for examining the facts. I’ll share some examples later. For now, let’s recall the definition of jingoism, while we read what each lead candidate has to say about their foreign policies:

Ted Cruz (from https://www.tedcruz.org/issues/defend-our-nation) :

The United States of America is the exceptional nation, the nation other countries aspire to be like. … (W)e need to judge each challenge through the simple test of what is best for America. Because what is best for America is best for the world.

Hillary Clinton (https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/national-security):

I believe the future holds far more opportunities than threats if we exercise creative and confident leadership that enables us to shape global events rather than be shaped by them. – hillaryclinton.com

We came, we saw, he died. 

Mrs. Clinton repeatedly speaks of wanting to be “caught trying.” In other words, she would rather be criticized for what she has done than for having done nothing at all. –NY Times Article, “The Libya Gamble”

Marco Rubio (marcorubio.com) :

(Obama) has demonstrated a disregard for our moral purpose that at times flirts with disdain. From his reset with Russia, to his open hand to Iran, to his unreciprocated opening to Cuba, he has embraced regimes that systematically oppose every principle our nation has long championed. This deterioration of our physical and ideological strength has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office.

Rubio Doctrine:

• Undo the damage caused by sequestration by returning to Secretary Gates’ fiscal year 2012 budget baseline.
• Modernize our forces to remain on the cutting edge of the land, sea, air, cyberspace, and outer space domains.
• Empower our intelligence community by permanently extending Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Bernie Sanders (https://berniesanders.com/issues/war-and-peace/):

America must defend freedom at home and abroad, but we must seek diplomatic solutions before resorting to military action. While force must always be an option, war must be a last resort, not the first option.

Donald Drumpf. I can’t find a stated foreign policy doctrine on his website… so I’m using quotes from http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Donald_Trump_Foreign_Policy.htm.

If we’re going to make America number one again, we’ve got to have a president who knows how to get tough with China, how to out-negotiate the Chinese, and how to keep them from screwing us at every turn.

Few respect weakness. Ultimately we have to deal with hostile nations in the only language they know: unshrinking conviction and the military power to back it up if need be. There and in that order are America’s two greatest assets in foreign affairs.

Do you notice a theme here? Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Drumpf think America is an exceptional nation, better than all others. That leads to an unwillingness to be open to learning what works in other nations. It leads to a projection of power and will. It can quickly lead to approving hasty covert action.

Hillary, while perhaps not using as much jingoistic language, leans toward military action when the path is unclear. That scares me.

Bernie Sanders seems the most reasonable here. In my opinion, he’s been on the right side of most foreign policy issues since opposing our intervention in Nicaragua.

Does that make me sound like a commie sympathiser?  Well, if you’ve gotten your news from major media sources for the past five decades, I can see why you might think that.

Since the fifties, our government has often planted fabricated stories in order to shape public perceptions and manufacture consent.

  • Operation Mockingbird (“Operation Mockingbird had major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. The usual methodology was placing reports developed from intelligence provided by the CIA to witting or unwitting reporters. Those reports would then be repeated or cited by the preceding reporters which in turn would then be cited throughout the media wire services.”)
  • The CIA bought the rights to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and produced a movie that changed the ending to cast the pigs as communists and the other animals as righteous Americans. This was not the intention of Orwell.
  • Vietnam Propaganda (“In 1954, Col. Edward Lansdale, chief of covert action in the U.S. Saigon Military Mission, was assigned to oversee the early U.S. propaganda effort in Vietnam. Initially, he began the “Passage to Freedom” … his “psy war” team used gimmicks to swell the ranks of the refugees. South Vietnamese soldiers dressed in civilian clothes were sent North to spread unfavorable rumors such as two Chinese divisions allowed by Viet Minh had circulated throughout North Vietnam and Washington intended to launch an offensive to liberate the North after the last anti-communist Vietnamese had moved southThousands of fliers advertising that “The Virgin Mary Has Gone to the South” were distributed by Lansdale’s men throughout North Vietnam. In addition, large numbers of posters were pasted in Hanoi and Haiphong depicting communists closing a cathedral and forcing people to pray under a picture of Ho Chi Minh  – See more at: http://thevietnamwar.info/u-s-propaganda-vietnam-war/#sthash.3Xqs8rH7.dpuf”)
  • The Terror Network (“According to Melvin Goodman, the Head of Office of Soviet Affairs at the CIA from 1976-1987, the claims of a terror network were in fact black propaganda created by the CIA”)

Since the days when Edward Bernays started working with Washington, CIA leadership seems to have had no qualms about lying to the American public.  So, whatever fast and hard cold war beliefs you have – I ask that you investigate to what degree they’re due to CIA sponsored propaganda.

The smoking gun lies not in our propaganda, but in our verified and documented history of hastily meddling with sovereign nations when we had no right, and very little justification. We had all that power, and we abused it. We were prone to seeing enemies where there were none, and we acted badly. I’ve mostly been reading about Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan, but it seems every president has at times blithely used the CIA’s secret powers. Before Truman, the predecessor to the CIA was limited to gathering intelligence. Under Truman, the National Security Act expanded their powers to include processing and evaluating that intelligence. It included a clause that could be interpreted to mean that the CIA could undertake covert actions. Truman resisted that power, but Eisenhower, weary of overt war, embraced it.

Here are some examples of us abusing that power. Imagine the higher ups at the CIA, and State department as misinformed, opinionated, gossipy beehived busy-bodies. Because, apart from the hair-do, that’s what they were:

  • 1953, CIA operatives overthrow the prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh. MI6 essentially duped the CIA into ousting him by claiming that he was an agent of Moscow. It was not true. Mossadegh had led a protest against the development plan negotiated by Allan Dulles on behalf of Overseas Consultants. Mossadegh was also western educated, and largely a fan of US democracy. But his opposition to the OCI deal made him Allan Dulles’s enemy, and as CIA director he used his power to oust Mossadegh … even though his Iranian agents all opposed that action. That brought in the Shah, who Iranians hated, and led to revolution in 1979. I fully understand why Iranians shouted Death to America. it wasn’t because they abstractly ‘hated our freedom’, it was because we killed their president in 1953, and installed a murderous dictator in his place.
  • 1954, Operation Fortune ousted democratically elected Guatemalan president Arbenz, mainly because he was nationalizing unused land, taking it back from the Dulles brother’s clients, United Fruit company. The CIA used all manner of propaganda, hiring Edward Bernays to orchestrate a breathtaking operation of misinformation in the American media. Arbenz was overthrown, and in his place, Castillo Armas, the CIA’s chosen ‘liberator’ was installed. He immediately suspended the constitution, banned illiterates from voting, and dissolved Congress.
  • In 1954, the Dulles brothers considered overthrowing democratically elected Costa Rican President Figueres, but decided against it because Figueres had abolished the army, and so the CIA had “no instrument through which to carry out a coup.” (The Brothers: JFD and AD, page 158). I find it ironic that the thing that saved Costa Rica from the CIA’s meddling, was *not* having an army.
  • The mid fifties opposition to Ho Chi Minh was all snubs and undermining. The CIA assumed that Ho Chi Minh was an agent of Moscow, and so sought to overthrow him. Their unwillingness to investigate reality, engage in dialogue with embassador Zhoe Enliai, ultimately led to the Vietnam war. It was a pointless war that took upwards of a million Vietnamese lives. 58,000 Americans lost their lives too, including my Uncle Bob Arvin, who I never got to meet.
  • 1955, the Eisenhower administration regarded any countries that embraced neutralism as being enemies. They assumed ‘neutralist’ countries were in fact agents of Moscow. That led them, tragically, to not attending the Asian African summit in Bandung Indonesia, led by president Sukarno of Indonesia. By not talking to these countries, we assumed the worst, and kept up a policy of meddling. If we had attended, we would have possibly understood that most of these countries did not wish to be swept up into the cold war, and wished to simply be left alone. Nope. A reporter for the Economist wrote, “China’s Zhou behaved very humbly and put the six hundred million people of China on the same level, say, as Ceylon or Laos. … Bandung has been compared to the Magna Carta, and the Gettysburg address.” And we didn’t attend because we regarded the conference as a “communist road show.” (as Time magazine called it).
  • 1955, the CIA worked with Belgium to remove Congo’s president Lumumba from power. Mr. Lumumba, an idealist, and somewhat naive of the force of the cold war, wound up dead, dissolved in acid. The Belgians killed him, but the Americans conspired with them. Like Mossedegh of Iran, Lumumba was western educated and a fan of US democracy. But the CIA decided he was too sympathetic with Russia, and that was enough to assassinate him.
  • 1955. President Sukarno of Indonesia, after visiting the US, had the audacity to visit China and USSR, and then later, accepted a development loan from the USSR. He allowed a small representation of communists in his congress. That made him a marked man. Despite the US ambassador’s protestations, the CIA mounted a campaign against Sukarno called “Archipelago”. But the operation failed, as the CIA found it hard to convince Indonesians to kill other Indonesians. In desperation, the CIA financed a pornographic film, called Happy Days, but Sukarno didn’t care. In the end, the CIA failed to oust Sukarno. But never fear, he was eventually ousted in a coup in 1970, CIA sponsored.
  • 1957, the CIA rigged the Lebanon election so that Camille Chamoun would win.
  • 1960 – Fidel Castro takes Cuba. What I find most interesting is that his top advisor, Che Guevara, largely developed his hateful attitudes toward the US by observing CIA activities such as the ouster of Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. He saw that the CIA capitalized on the free press – they used it to project anti-Arbenz propaganda. So he advise Castro to kill all open freedoms, because, to him, those were the very things that the CIA could use against them. The CIA’s willingness to lie to the free press, indirectly influenced Castro’s heavy handed governing philosophy. Incredible.
  • 1968, Henry Kissinger scuttles the Paris peace process in Vietnam for political reasons – to get Nixon nominated for repub candidate. It worked.
  • 1973, CIA pays Army leaders to oust Chile’s democratically elected Allende, and the brutal Pinochet comes to power.
  • 1975, Henry Kissinger sponsors the invasion of East Timor.
  • 2003 – invasion of Iraq – I don’t think I need to explain this one.
  • There’s so much more – But that’s enough for now.

Here’s the thing, the recurring theme is hasty adoption of ‘us vs them’ thinking coupled with a willingness to act with an utter lack of integrity. That’s exactly the kind of behavior we don’t need. We need open honest engagement, not covert assassinations and propaganda campaigns. If we truly believe, as I do, that a capitalistic democracy is the best form of government, then let the results speak for themselves. Don’t stoop to propaganda. Don’t stoop to meddling in the affairs of foreign nations.

I wonder what the world would look like today, if we’d sent 50 delegates to Bandung in 1955, or never attempted ousting Arbenz, Mossadegh, Lumumba, Sukarno, Allende. I think it’d look a whole lot different.

What if another nation did that to us? What if they planted propaganda, paid a handful of military generals to stage a coup, assassinated our democratically elected leaders and brought in a brutal dictatorship? Would you hate that country? Would it be for some abstract reason, like, “we hate their freedoms?” Or would you hate them because they meddled in your affairs, and killed your leaders? Would you hate them, because they’re the incarnation of a beehived bully of a busy-body, armed with assault weapons and cash, willing to lie as needed to achieve whatever misguided goals they capriciously imagined were important?

I invite you to study any and all of the above-listed events. Our CIA regularly sacked the ambassadors and CIA agents in the regions who knew the most about the countries they were in, because those knowledgable people advised against overthrows. Our leaders willingly disregarded reality, imagined boogie men, and fatally meddled in the affairs of sovereign nations. I want LESS of this behavior, not MORE.

So please, read the foreign policy pages of each of the candidates for president. Ask yourself, which one will give us more of the same, and which will act like adults of integrity, and consider the facts before acting?

Personally, I don’t want a commander in chief with a “moral purpose” to meddle in the affairs of other countries, and snub them at global summits. I don’t want leaders who think “what’s best for the US is best for the world.” I don’t want a leader who, when the path is unclear, simply chooses action.  No, we are not better than everyone else. We are hurling through space on a rock with 7 billion other people. It’s time we started regarding them as equals, and respecting their rights.

So, I ask you, do you still believe that our safety lies in building military strength and projecting our will in the world? Now that you know how quick we are to compromise our own integrity by toppling democratically elected leaders, and make up media stories to dupe whole populations?

I love my country, and I stand for freedom. We have a history to be proud of, from our formation through harrowing internal struggles. Like so many of my countrymen, I reject communism, and am skeptical of big government. But I think we can let other countries who choose that path see what results they get, free from our meddling.

I expect better from our leaders. We need someone who breaks this cold war thinking. We need someone who rejects covert action, and embraces a free press, even when reporters write things our leaders don’t want to hear, or want us to know. I can only think of one candidate who even comes close to qualifying for president of the US. It isn’t any of the Republicans.

Edit: Some light bedtime reading material: The Church Report. I <3 The Freedom of Information Act.