This year marked the 9th anniversary of 9/11, a day that will go down in infamy in our nation’s history. To this day we are still feeling its effects as we continue the Wars on Terror in the Middle East, the news networks run stories nonstop about the mosque at Ground Zero, and fundamentalist Christian pastors threaten to burn Korans. Yes folks, jingoism is still alive and well today in America and in the form of Islamaphobia. We have been playing right into the hand of Osama bin Laden, and are now in constant fear and pursuit of a boogeyman known as terrorism (call it Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, extreme fundamentalist Muslims, ect, ect.). America, a nation that once had no enemies, is now at the top of the list of countries most nation’s despise because of our role as the world police and sticking our thumb into everyone’s business. How did we come to this? How did a once humble and principled nation become a global bully?
Sadly, we have abandoned the principles of our Founding Fathers. Among them, Thomas Jefferson said that we should pursue a humble, non-interventionist foreign policy of “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Likewise, John Quincy Adams stated, “[America] 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. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benign’ sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” Sounds like the Founders were fortune tellers, but they were not. They knew what would happen if we abandoned our principles, and boy have we! We are now in over 160 countries around the world, subsidizing those countries that agree with us and bombing those who don’t.
People might say that times are different now and the ideas in the Constitution are antiquated and no longer apply to our current situation, but they are wrong. The fact that we don’t follow the Constitution these days does not mean that it is no longer relevant. In fact, our nation did have a terrorist threat back when we were founded, and they were pirates. For instance, the Barbary pirates were Muslims that would no only loot and pillage, but they would also take Christians captive as slaves. Since these pirates did not represent a nation or government, the Founders knew there would have to be a way with dealing them in the Constitution other than waging a national war. To do this, they used Letters of Marque and Reprisal (Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as one of the enumerated powers of Congress). This was a government license authorizing a private vessel to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts. No official Letters of Marque and Reprisal have been issued in this nation since the 19th century, but when we were attacked on 9/11 we could have defined it as acts of “air piracy.” To follow this point, Congressman Ron Paul introduced the Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001, which would have granted the president the authority to use letters of marque and reprisal against the specific terrorists, instead of warring against a foreign state. The terrorists were compared to pirates in that they are difficult to fight by traditional military means. Congressman Paul also advocated the use of letters of marque to address the issue of Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden in 2009. Sadly, both bills Congressman Paul introduced were not enacted into law.
Right after 9/11 it did appear we were going to do things right, sending special forces into Afghanistan to hunt down Bin Laden and other A-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the plot. Our response was quick and effective and we sent a message to the world that you don’t mess with the US. At this point Bush should have declared “Mission Accomplished,” with the caveat that we’d have special ops still hunting down Bin Laden.(1) But as everyone knows from history, we got a bit sidetracked in the Middle East and never caught Bin Laden. Bush, who ran on a platform as a “compassionate conservative” and believed in a humble foreign policy of no nation building, decided that national defense justified preemptive striking and pretty soon we were fighting wars on two fronts, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and engaging in nation building.
There was a key moment in the 2008 Republican national debates when Guliani and Ron Paul went back an forth on foreign policy and the cause of 9/11. Guliani, representing the neo-con camp, believed it happened because the terrorists hated our freedoms and way of life and there was no way we could have seen this coming. Paul, representing the liberty movement, believed it was caused by what the CIA terms as blowback. In other words, our foreign policy of meddling in the Middle East the past several decades resulted in unintended and unfortunate consequences, such as 9/11. Guliani shot back that Paul was blaming America and justifying the attack, once again showing his ignorance in the entire matter despite being the mayor of the very city where the attack happened. When a detective is trying to find a motive for a crime, the detective is not justifying the crime. Thus, Ron Paul was saying that if we don’t correctly learn why 9/11 happened and change our foreign policy, we are doomed to repeat it.
Unfortunately, the new administration hasn’t changed anything as far as foreign policy. We are still interventionist, meddling in everyone’s affairs, and playing world police. Our military is stretched thin across the globe and it’s not only bankrupting our nation, but making us less safe at home. A study on suicide bombing showed that the number one cause was because of foreign occupation. In Iraq, there was not one suicide bombing until we invaded the country. Now it’s hard to go through a week without hearing about one. Foreign occupation was also stated by Bin Laden as the main reason for the 9/11 attacks, and because of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan we are helping his cause even further. Al Queda didn’t even exist in Iraq before we attacked them, but they do now. It’s quite easy for Bin Laden to recruit new members when they can physically see the occupier on their own soil. Thus, it’s a never-ending cycle that goes on until we are bankrupt and our empire collapses. The Roman Empire suffered a similar fate, as did Great Britain and Soviet Russia. It’s silly how many still wonder like Guliani why we get stung when we go around the world sticking our hands into hornet’s nests. It’s time we change focus of our foreign policy from international offense to national defense. We need to bring our troops home and focus on protecting and building our own nation.
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