Why Our 'National Interests' Shouldn't Be Protected
he Department of the Navy has a Naval Historical Center and its website includes a page entitled "Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad, 1798 - 1993" http://www.history.navy.mil/wars/foabroad.htm
Therein you will find 234 events in which the U.S. military has gone "abroad in search of monsters to destroy" (as John Quincy Adams put it).
I miswrote (a word meaning I put my foot in my mouth
while typing at my computer) when, speaking of
foreign policy, I said in my Journal for February 22
If liberty-loving people ever again gain control
of the U.S. government, we must bind down future
Presidents with new chains for the Constitution -
depriving the politicians of the power to commit
the mayhem that has been perpetrated by 13 of the
last 16 Presidents.
Several people wrote to ask who the three Presidents
were that hadn't committed mayhem.
My thought had been that Harding, Coolidge, and
Hoover were the only Presidents since Wilson who
hadn't stuck America's nose in other country's
affairs. Certainly every President since World War II
has either instigated or condoned gross violations of
the sovereignty of other countries. And Franklin
Roosevelt - well, his name is enough said.
The 1920s American foreign policy is an area I've yet
to investigate. But in contemplating the inquiries
about the three "good" Presidents, I thought I'd
better take at least a cursory look at what the
American military was doing in the 1920s.
The Sad History
The Department of the Navy has a Naval Historical
Center and its website includes a page entitled
"Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad,
1798 - 1993"
Therein you will find 234 events in which the U.S.
military has gone "abroad in search of monsters to
destroy" (as John Quincy Adams put it).
Just for the record, here are is what the U.S. Navy
says were the ways in which America intervened abroad
during the administrations of the three presidential
exceptions I had in mind:
1916-24 - Dominican Republic - May 1916 to
September 1924. American naval forces maintained
order during a period of chronic and threatened
1920-22 - Russia (Siberia) - February 16, 1920, to
November 19, 1922. A Marine guard was sent to
protect the United States radio station and property
on Russian Island, Bay of Vladivostok.
1921 - Panama - Costa Rica. American naval
squadrons demonstrated in April on both sides of the
Isthmus to prevent war between the two countries
over a boundary dispute.
1922 - Turkey - September and October. A landing
force was sent ashore with consent of both Greek and
Turkish authorities, to protect American lives and
property when the Turkish Nationalists entered
1922-23 - China. Between April 1922 and November
1923 marines were landed five times to protect
Americans during periods of unrest.
1924 - Honduras - February 28 to March 31,
September 10 to 15. U.S. forces protected American
lives and interests during election hostilities.
1924 - China - September. Marines were landed to
protect Americans and other foreigners in Shanghai
during Chinese factional hostilities.
1925 - China - January 15 to August 29. Fighting
of Chinese factions accompanied by riots and
demonstrations in Shanghai brought the landing of
American forces to protect lives and property in the
1925 - Honduras - April 19 to 21. U.S. forces
protected foreigners at La Ceiba during a political
1925 - Panama - October 12 to 23. Strikes and rent
riots led to the landing of about 600 American
troops to keep order and protect American interests.
1926 - China - August and September. The
Nationalist attack on Han brought the landing of
American naval forces to protect American citizens.
A small guard was maintained at the consulate
general even after September 16, when the rest of
the forces were withdrawn. Likewise, when National
forces captured Kiukiang, naval forces were landed
for the protection of foreigners November 4 to 6.
1926-33 - Nicaragua - May 7 to June 5, 1926;
August 27, 1926, to January 1933. The coup d'etat of
General Chamorro aroused revolutionary activities
leading to the landing of American marines to
protect the interests of United States citizens and
interest. United States forces came and went
intermittently until January 3, 1933. Their work
included activity against the outlaw leader Sandino
1927 - China - February. Fighting at Shanghai
caused American naval forces and marines to be
increased. In March a naval guard was stationed at
the American consulate at Nanking after Nationalist
forces captured the city. American and British
destroyers later used shell fire to protect
Americans and other foreigners. Subsequently
additional forces of marines and naval forces were
stationed in the vicinity of Shanghai and Tientsin.
1932 - China. American forces were landed to
protect American interests during the Japanese
occupation of Shanghai.
Obviously, I should have referred to "the mayhem that
has been perpetrated by 16 of the last 16
In the above summary, you'll note several examples
wherein the American military was sent abroad to
protect "American lives and interests." That is a
very poor use of the military, but it is one very
good way to light the fuse leading to war.
Americans who decide to live and/or work abroad
should do so at their own risk. The same is true for
American companies that decide to establish branches
abroad. They all make their own decisions, and it
isn't right to make 200+ million Americans vulnerable
to death and destruction as a result of the decisions
made by a handful of Americans or American companies.
American companies located abroad can hire private
mercenaries to protect their interests. There is no
reason to put the rest of America at risk because of
Protecting the Oil Supply
This is especially true with regard to oil.
Protecting America's sources of oil in the Middle
East should not be the responsibility of the U.S.
government. There are two very bad consequences that
can come from the government's protection of the oil
First, any foreign intervention by our government can
lead to war or terrorist attacks on America - and
undoubtedly has already.
I have trouble reading the minds of American
officials (especially the dead ones), but it seems
clear that American interventions in overthrowing the
democratic government of Iran in 1953 (installing the
tyrannical Shah) and in prosecuting the Gulf War of
1991 comprise at least two examples of war,
destruction, and killing that resulted from the
desire to keep the oil flowing to America.
Should America do the same to keep the supply lines
open for French wines, Asian rice, Central American
fruit, Japanese cars, Thai computers, Canadian
entertainers? Where does it end?
It seems obvious to me that the companies who
manufacture or buy their products in foreign
countries should provide and pay for the protection
necessary to keep their goods flowing to America.
Knowing the Price
And that brings us to the second consequence of using
the American military to protect "American interests"
This causes part of the cost of a product to be
buried in the Defense budget, rather than being added
to the product's selling price.
For example, we have no idea what the true cost of
foreign oil is. Lately on the open market, the price
has been bumping around $50 a barrel. But that
doesn't allow for the huge amounts of money that the
U.S. government has spent in order to keep the oil
flowing from the Middle East to America.
Some people maintain that the entire $200 billion or
so spent on killing people in Iraq was solely for the
purpose of grabbing Iraq's oil reserves. I don't know
whether that's really true, but there's no question
that such practices as cozying up to the Saudis can
be explained only by the desire to keep the oil
flowing to America.
If we paid the true price of oil when buying gasoline
or using electricity, entrepreneurs would know
whether it's economical to plow money into
alternative sources like solar energy or hydrogen
New products come onto the market to a welcoming
reception when old products become too expensive to
use. But so long as part of the cost of oil is buried
in the Defense budget, there's no incentive to
develop alternative sources of oil (such as in the
Arctic circle) or to develop alternative products.
In other words, our government is subsidizing one
form and one source of energy at the expense of all
other forms and sources.
The result may be that some day American meddling
abroad will cause the entire Middle Eastern oil
supply to be shut off all at once - causing havoc in
the American economy because we're unprepared to use
This is just one more way government intervention can
create dire problems in the U.S. economy.
And it is one more reason that we must get the
government out of all areas not authorized in the
Constitution - confining the military to defending
American soil and nothing else.
Harry Browne, a best-selling author of 12 books that
have sold more than 2 million copies, is the co-
founder of the Downsize DC Foundation. He is also the
President of FreeMarketNews.com. You can read this,
and other columns, as well as his frequently updated
journal at www.HarryBrowne.org
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