The Spell of Interventionism by Shane Smith

In his biography of Thomas Jefferson, Old Right bohemian Albert Jay Nock had this to say about Jefferson’s seemingly unyielding faith in the benefits of education as a check against authoritarianism:

“Throughout his life, Mr. Jefferson consistently maintained that “the most effectual means of preventing the perversion of power into tyranny are to illuminate so far as possible the minds of the people.”  He had no doubt that “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.”  He seems never to have suspected, however, the ease with which mere literacy is perverted, and that it is therefore quite possible for a literate people to become much more ignorant than an illiterate people – that a people of well-perverted literacy, indeed, is invincibly unintelligent.”

This seems to clearly describe what those who are antiwar encounter when making the case for noninterventionism: someone we know and respect as highly intelligent, with solid opinions on every aspect of life, who will yet hold sentiments that nevertheless align with an interventionist foreign policy.  It usually has the tone of what I’ve heard most often, that goes something like, “the problem with Vietnam was that we pulled out too soon”, or “our troops were too constrained by the rules of engagement to fight effectively”, or “it’s our duty to help that group that’s about to be massacred”.  They may not even be of the militantly pro-war persuasion, but their casual acceptance of interventionist rhetoric by the politicians they support leads them to perpetuating the war machine.  The consistent thread through all their thinking on foreign policy seems to be that something always SHOULD be done.  To do nothing never occurs to them, and if it does, it is equated with “the enemy wins”.

It’s as if we’re speaking a foreign language, and the looks on their faces range from incomprehension to rage.  It seems as if they will remain forever beyond the reach of noninterventionist arguments.  What causes this?  Why do those who we regard as the best and brightest in society lend their support to enhancing the Health of the State?  The less educated among us support the War State as well, when wrapped in the gold leaf of Nationalism.  By why the educated?  Is it because of the deluge of pro-interventionist material when one even attempts to gain a slight understanding of world affairs?  Is it the interventionist propaganda that we are subject to from our first day in school? 

When you think on it, though, it becomes apparent that coming to the cause of non-interventionism is no easy step.  Support for interventionism, on the other hand, is second nature.  To start with, everyone around you already supports interventionism to some extent, and the antiwar are ridiculed.  To intervene also satisfies our instinctive inability to trace out the secondary consequences of military action.  It is only by a Herculean act of moral transformation that most of us come to the cause non-interventionism in the first place.  Many grew up associating interventionism with our national symbols, as well as associating “Anti-American” with all those damn America-hating war protesters.  It’s cultural, but it’s also egged on by the State that feeds on it.

As militarism continues overseas, law enforcement continues its transformation into a domestic military.  The implicit aim of law enforcement transforms from protecting the people, to protecting the State.  This is intertwined with our foreign policy.  But in our modern, present-oriented culture, tracing this back to militarism is impossible for most.  And it clashes with the prejudice in favor of intervention.

The entire article can be read here.

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