This morning I’ve been engaged in something of a discussion with a young man locally (whose name I will leave out of all of this). The discussion comes from a Facebook post. Here is his first post:
Here is the discussion that followed (edited to exclude names—except mine… “Person 1” is the original poster, “Person 2” is another young man—a Paul supporter--locally who jumped in briefly):
- Laura Ebke It would appear that overextending the state around the world is a part of that problem, as well. You can grow through imperialism for a while, but when the bottom falls out, you can lose everything, as well.
- PERSON 1: I personally believe that the problem arose when the British began spending so much on costly wars that they could no longer afford to maintain order abroad. The Boer War was a fantastic embarrassment for the Empire when they lost despite spending millions of pounds on the conflict. WW1 and WW2 were both victories but practically emptied Her Majesty's Treasury. It would appear in my opinion that the problem that led to the demise of the Empire was its inability to properly fund it's armed forces to put down colonists in the various colonies around the world following WW2. The depression also played a part in this. Not just war.
- Laura Ebke Empires always collapse. It's just a question of how long they can maintain before that happens. That should be a warning to other countries. Eventually, those who are being dominated get tired of it.
- PERSON 1: Yeah it's kind of a sad fact since I support the policies of Imperialism. If I had to pick 1 major culprit that sped the fall of the Empire it would be WW1 an entirely unnecessary conflict caused by ethnocentric attitudes on the behalf of the Russians and Germans.
- Laura Ebke Wow. I don't think I've ever talked to anyone who actually openly supported the policies of Imperialism. What policies, specifically, do you support?
- PERSON 1: I know it's a dirty word but I can't describe it any better. For example I believe America has the right to intervene in foreign countrie's affairs. If the regime over their isn't acting in our best interest we have the right to sponsor a regime change. America is the best country in the world and we have a right to make it a safer place for ourselves. Economically we have a right to be the major player in the world economy. I also think it was a horrible idea to give up the Panama Canal and the Philippines. Thank God we still own Puerto Rico
- PERSON 1: *over there
- PERSON 2: Person 1, if we have the ' right ' to basically invade countries to ' help ' that country, then in essence they should have a right to fight back and oppose such a rule
Laura Ebke So, does China have the right to intervene in U.S. affairs? If we're not acting in THEIR best economic interests? Does "might make right"? Did Germany have the right to march into Poland and Czechoslovakia? Did the Soviet Union have the right to control Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia?
It seems to me that imperialism is an inherently anti-American notion. The Founders fought to free themselves of the yokes of Empire, and to affirm the notion of individual determination.
- PERSON 1: Person 2: I never said they didn't. Of course that entails that we have the right to use everything in our arseanl to win. It doesn't have to be War either. Look at Chile we had the CIA help Augusto Pinochet launch a military coup to prevent the Chileans from going Communist. The Pinochet regime was on our side and no war.
Mrs. Ebke: which brings me to my next point American Exceptionalism we are an exceptional nation and we have the right to. Other nations do not. Unless they have our blessing like the Iraqis did in the Iran-Iraq war. We then took down Saddam when he was no longer in our best interests.
- Laura Ebke I just fundamentally disagree with you, PERSON 1. Even if we are an "exceptional" nation--and I would argue that historically, we have been, by some definition--that doesn't give us the right to run the world. That is an inherently unAmerican view, and in direct contradiction to the philosophy of the people who gave birth to the American nation. If our "exceptionalism" allows us to tell every other country in the world how to behave, then it would seem that we have an inherent disrespect for human liberty, and the Natural Rights of humankind.
- PERSON 1: How so? If our political clout guarantees those freedoms. England granted western parliamentary democracy and human rights to her colonies in the 1800's. we have often used our political clout to guarantee the freedom of the world. We liberated the Iraqis, the people of Western Europe after ww2, we are now in the process of making Burma reform to allow freedom and democracy. Our right to be the policeman of the world guarantees liberty to those we liberate. Don't misunderstand me: I am wholehartedly against any one world government nonsense. I believe other countries have the right to govern themselves in the manner in which they so please so long as it does not threaten the US, our interests or Israel
- Laura Ebke Where do we get the right to determine how others are going to behave? "American Exceptionalism" is a term that has been brought into common usage by the American Communist Party in the early 20th century to suggest that because of our resources, the rules of Marxism didn't apply to the U.S.
Exceptionalism shouldn't be interpreted to mean superiority (although many neoconservatives seem to want to interpret it that way)--it means that we're "different".
If life for the British colonies was so good, why have they all--beginning with the United States--chosen to fight for independence in some manner?
How are we guaranteeing anyone's "freedom" when we destabilize governments, and demand that they replace it with a government of OUR choosing?
What you are talking about IS essentially a one world government, though. If people have the right to govern themselves as long as they do what we want them to, and face violence from us if they don't, how is that freedom?
Our success at "liberating" is still in question, I would argue.
- PERSON 1: Only 2 colonies ever declared their own independence from England, Rhodesia and us. Other countries have the right to self-governance if Germany for example wants to be a welfare state so be it but if Germany suddenly wanted to for example say attack England then we have the right to implement a regime change to protect our ally and our interests. That doesn't have to be through war either though. Like Chile we could have our special forces or the CIA go and support a bloodless coup there. They can do whatever they want internally so long as it does not affect us in a negative way externally. I am aslo a neo-conservative.
- Laura Ebke Then they can not do what they want internally, because we will always be able to find excuses for saying that someone else's internal politics affect us negatively.
I'm a big believer in the Golden Rule, and I just don't think that we ought to be imposing our will on other countries--I think we ought to set a good example for them, and welcome their friendship. A strong defense is one thing--to protect ourselves from invasions, or to exact punishment for military attacks. Intervening in the internal affairs of other countries has--arguably--resulted in more danger to us, though, as people and nations consider us a threat to their way of life, and harbor vast resentment toward us. Financially, if we wish to continue extending ourselves too far into the affairs of other countries, then we're going to fall off the fiscal cliff--we can't continue to have a massive welfare state at home, and a massive warfare state world-wide.
PERSON 1: We do welcome their friendship now: England, Canada, Israel, Australia, Most of Western Europe. We never have to mess with any of them because they are our allies and we are theirs. Now if you look at the middle east, and some of Asia and Latin America, we have enemies there and we need to remove them, liberate the people and convert them to the proper way of thinking along the lines of Western Parliamentary Democracy. We cannot just pursue a foriegn policy of "you don't mess with us, we won't mess with you." The British tried that with Neville Chamberlain who regardless of his amazing domestic policy achievements, his horrible foreign policy that attempted to prevent war while allowing the Nazis to grow stronger
Laura Ebke Chamberlain vis a vis Hitler in the late 30s is very different than anything we have today. There is no real threat to "us" in the world, other than terrorists. No state in the world (at this moment in time) has interest in attacking us--because anyone who did could be immediately blown off the map.
PERSON 1: Iran has a interest in attacking us as does North Korea. Terrorists would not be able to offer the fierce resistance they do if it were not for terror sponsoring states such as Iran and North Korea. Cuba may be one to we don't know. I suggest you checkout Red Horizons by Ion Mihai Pacepa: A former Communist Securitate General from Romania who defected to the west in the 70's. He offers amazing insight into the Eastern Bloc's funding of terrorist organizations, China and North Korea's funding of the same organizations and Cuba's involvement with drug trafficking.
Laura Ebke Terrorists will likely continue to have interests in targeting us, as long as we continue to give them reasons for resenting us.
North Korean and Iran, I'm not sure why they would want to attack us (or, for that matter, HOW they'd attack us). It may be that their nuclear arms development is a result of being considered a pariah in the international community, and our constant threats against them. Regardless, what would they gain from attacking us? Literally, if they attacked us with nuclear weaponry, we could eliminate their entire region in a matter of hours. They wouldn't have a chance of attacking us conventionally (ala Pearl Harbor)--given our air and naval might--without us intercepting them.
We're just going to have to agree to disagree, PERSON 1. If you want to enlist and risk your life for foreign adventurism that (maybe) is only tangentially connected to American security, that's fine by me. I'm just not willing to sacrifice my children and their cohorts for military actions that I have a real difficulty seeing how they protect us, and which may actually be putting us in more danger, and ultimately are diminishing our freedom as we build a larger police state.
PERSON 1: Well I would agree with you on that we are gonna have to agree to disagree on this issue.
OK, where did I go wrong—what should I have said to this young man? Tell me, and I’ll send him over to our comments section.