US Government Wars & the Like: Some General Thoughts
Recently, American libertarians have been debating the libertarian justification or lack thereof, for the various wars & military adventures the US govt has conducted. These debates have examined the excuses or reasons that American politicians & officials have put forward. Thus the discussions remain within the American universe. Here, I should like to put forward some general considerations.
The overwhelming bulk of the US govt’s wars & adventures have occurred thousands of miles away from the US. Why should that be the case? Why should the US govt have to send its troops thousands of miles to fight its wars?
For one thing, the Pacific & Atlantic Oceans. From Japan to California, is some 4000 miles. (The Hawaiian Islands are a minuscule proportion of the area of the US.) From Maine to Ireland, is some 3000 miles. Thus an enemy govt would have to send warplanes &/or warships thousands of miles before they could even begin to attack the US. And an invasion of the US would require supply lines crossing the same thousands of miles of open ocean -- under attack from the US Navy…By contrast, Germany shares borders with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic that now is. Thus the first reason why the US govt has to cross thousands of miles of ocean to attack or invade.
For another thing, Canada is so firmly within the US govt’s orbit, that the British general staff, before 1914, refused even to formulate a defence plan for the dominion. Their attitude was, Canada is indefensible against an American invasion. If the Americans want the territory, they can have it. Similarly, the Latin American regions would find it impossible to mount a sustained attack, let alone an invasion, of the US. And indeed, the US govt’s Latin American wars, invasions, & occupations, have been relatively minor. So again, the bulk of the US govt’s military invasions, etc., have occurred several thousands of miles away from the US.
Now furthermore-: A. Foreign trade (exports & imports combined) has always been a tiny percentage of American production & consumption. And the largest American trading partner is Canada. Hence a large part of American shipping consists of ‘inland’ ships on the Great Lakes. Latin America is likewise a large trading partner of the US. And American ships are only a tiny part of all ocean shipping -- they offer very little by way of general shipping services. Thus the US navy has never had to guard long, vital ocean supply lines, or protect half the world’s shipping tonnage -- as the Royal Navy had to do, even upto 1939.
B. Since the later 19th century, the US has been the most prosperous of the DCs (witness the massive immigration into the country.) And since at least 1914, it has been the world’s third largest country in terms of population.
So the US govt rules the world’s most prosperous DC, the third largest country in the world in terms of population, with a minute foreign trade, itself largely within the Americas & a minute share of world shipping. Yet it stations troops in innumerable territories around the world, fights wars, invades & occupies countries that are often far poorer, and with far smaller populations, thousands of miles away. Why?
Tim Sydney - 7/23/2007
The great Oklahoma satirist Will Rogers may have answered Sudha's question back in the 1930s when he quipped...
"“When you get into trouble 5000 miles from home, you’ve got to have been looking for it.."
General Charles De Gaulle commented on FDR's steps on the road to American hegemony too.
"President Roosevelt's conceptions appeared to me grandiose, as disquieting for Europe as for France. It was true that the isolationism of the United States was, according to the President, a great error now ended. But passing from one extreme to another, it was a permanent system of intervention which he intended to institute by international law. In his mind, a four-power directory - America, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, and China - would rule upon the problems of the universe. A parliament of the United Nations would give a democratic appearance to the power of the 'Big Four.' But, unless they delivered to the discretion of three of them the quasi-totality of the earth, such an organization, according to him, would have to involve the installation of American forces on bases in all the regions of the world, of which certain ones would be chosen on French territory."
"Finally Roosevelt counted on luring Stalin, into an ensemble which could contain his ambitions and where America will be able to muster good will. Among the 'Four', he knew that the China of Chiang Kai-shek needed his agreement, and that the British, sure to lose their Dominions, must bend themselves to his policy. As for the throng of medium-sized and small states, he would be in a position to act on them through foreign aid. Finally, the right of peoples to decide for themselves, the support offered by Washington, the existence of American bases were going to give birth in Africa, Asia and Australia to new sovereignties which would increase the number of states under obligation to the United States. In a similar perspective, questions proper to Europe, notably the fate of Germany, the destiny of the countries along the Vistula, Danube, the Balkans, the future of Italy seemed to him merely subordinate. In order to find a happy solution for them, he would assuredly not sacrifice the monumental conceptions of his dreams."
"I listened to Roosevelt describe his projects to me. How human it was for the desires of power to clothe themselves in idealism."
(I got that quote from Lawrence Dennis "Operational Thinking for Survival" (Ralph Myles, Colorado Springs 1969) page 91.
Sheldon Richman - 7/22/2007
We're America, that's why. We were anointed by history to bring order to the world. It doesn't hurt that it can be done at a profit for certain interests. Oh and we need external markets to dump our surpluses.