September 12, 2013 by Anders Ingemarson
When arguing the moral case for separating state and the economy, it’s important to distinguish between Separate What, the areas that should be free from government interference, and Separate Not, the legitimate functions of government.
For the most part I focus my energy on Separate What but occasionally, when the opportunity presents itself, I venture into Separate Not territory. The Syrian situation fits the mold.
One of the three Separate Nots is State and Defense (the other two are State and The Police and State and The Courts). As I said a while back, the guiding principle for when and when not to get militarily involved should be self-interest; only when the individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness of Americans are threatened by foreign powers is military action justified.
In light of this, what do we make of the civil war in Syria? Is the self-interest of individual Americans demonstrably threatened? Nope. Maybe you could make the case that not intervening will strengthen Iran. But we haven’t dealt decisively with Iran since the Mullahs took over in 1979, so putting forth this argument at this time doesn’t ring true. And perhaps you could argue that the display of American weakness will only escalate the conflicts in the Middle East, and eventually reach our shores one way or another. To which I say that absent a rational foreign policy, any intervention is destined to be a half-measure at best and won’t stop the possible spreading of the Middle East virus.
Had we been guided by a rational foreign policy that put the self-interest of Americans first, we would have put an end to the Iranian theocracy 30 years ago. It would have spared us the pain and agony of seeing Marines slaughtered in Beirut, sailors assassinated aboard the USS Cole, innocent victims buried in the rubble of the twin towers, and soldiers without a cause sacrificed in the so called War on Terror. And it would have kept the rest of the Middle East in check.
But what about Bashar Al-Assad gassing his people? Don’t we have to intervene for humanitarian reasons? Nope. On a scale from least to most horrible weapons, gas obviously qualifies as the latter. But using horrible weapons doesn’t justify putting our servicemen’s and women’s lives at risk, absent threats to the self-interest of Americans.
Sometime ago, I argued that a case could be made for the President appealing for volunteers amongst our troops to go kick butt in Farawayland (assuming the recipients reimbursed us for services rendered). Apart from being good practice for our troops, it would put every dictator and despot on notice to get his house in order, and therefore promote transitions to friendly regimes in every corner of the world.
A commenter argued that a better solution is for Americans to volunteer their own time and money in support of foreign freedom fighters (the friends, not the foes of our country) leaving our government completely out of the picture.
I think this is an excellent proposal for the Syrian situation. I still like my kick butt idea but it requires having a rational foreign policy in place first, which we’re nowhere close to.
So here’s my suggestion. Let’s appeal for volunteers to support the good guys in Syria, whoever they are. Time, money, food, clothes, weapons—whatever Americans are willing to contribute. Who knows, perhaps millions, even billions of dollars in money and materials will pour in as an expression of what individual Americans judge to be in their self-interest. And maybe thousands upon thousands of our men and women will volunteer to fight for Syrian freedom for the same reason.
What? You think the response will be underwhelming? Well, so do I. And if we’re not willing to contribute, neither should our administration, senators and representatives on our behalf. They should not spend a single dime of taxpayer funds and not waste a single American life on another sacrificial cause.
In fact, the American people does seem quite united against American involvement in Syria. Consequently, the partisan battle lines in Washington are uncharacteristically blurred as our elected representatives try to figure out what foot to stand on. If the issue weren’t so serious, it would be quite an enjoyable spectacle.
Will they listen to us? Your guess is as good as mine. But if they don’t, maybe it’s time to take the Onion’s poll seriously and send Congress (and the administration) to Syria instead of our men, women and drones in uniform.