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The phrase foreign entanglements refers to the government of a country involving itself in the affairs of other nations, commonly by forming alliances.

In his farewell address, George Washington cautioned his fellow Americans against such engagements. He wrote "Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?" Similarly, Thomas Jefferson discussing the "essential principles" of his government in his first inaugural address, spoke of "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none".

In a modern context, entanglements may include alliances—such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), commercial and other treaties—including so-called "free trade" agreements, foreign economic aid or military assistance, covert or open actions such as economic sanctions and attempts to change the "regime" of another country, and other interventions short of military action or war.

Notable Topics

  • Imperialism - Domination or control, by one country, of one or more other countries or territories


9/11 Could Have Been Prevented, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Apr 2004
Counters the claim that Islamists hate the U.S. because Americans love freedom and suggests that a non-intervenionist foreign policy could have prevented the Sept 2001 attacks
If there is no way to stop a decentralized network of suicidal killers from murdering innocent civilians using low-tech means, that is all the more reason to stay out of foreign hornets nests. The Founders of this country were right. Intervention leads to trouble ... Americans will not learn the anti-interventionist lesson from their "leaders." So they'll have to learn it themselves. Their lives may depend on it ... whenever [Islamists] explain their hatred, they specify U.S. intervention in their societies. There is no reason to believe they would be attacking a free and noninterventionist America.
Again, the Isolationist Smear, by Sheldon Richman, 17 Jul 2014
Comments on the targeting of Rand Paul as "isolationist", by Rick Perry and other Republican hawks, based on Paul's stance about sending ground troops to Iraq while not ruling out air strikes
Someone who simply doesn't want Americans drawn into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. The proper word is "noninterventionist." "Isolationism" suggests withdrawal from the world. But noninterventionists don't seek that. The most principled noninterventionists ... promote the individual's freedom to trade and move across political boundaries without any government obstruction whatever. The wish to isolate the government from foreign wars does not translate into a desire to isolate the American people from commerce and other peaceful exchange ... U.S. aggression abroad makes enemies and provokes blowback.
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, by Murray N. Rothbard, Faith and Freedom, Apr 1956
Draws a scoreboard on the issues between the "Tweedledum-Tweedledee parties" in the 1956 elections, most of the rounds going to the Republicans, then wonders why Ike had only worshippers, but ends by leaving the door open for a Democrat win
Only the Middle East crisis will provide a genuine foreign policy issue between the two parties. The Republican policy is simply: keep the dollars flowing impartially to both Israel and the Arab states, hoping that both will be pacified. In a showdown, the Administration, lured by oil and air bases, would lean toward the Arabs. The Democrats, on the other hand, have always favored the Zionists, and will take a strong pro-Israel line in the campaign. Neither party will choose America's traditional policy of "no entangling alliances."
The American Disease, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 21 Mar 2014
Explains how U.S. government meddling in foreign countries (citing contemporaneous examples in the Ukraine and Russia) is generally counterproductive, even when genuinely attempting to advance liberty
If the purpose of U.S. intervention in the affairs of other countries is really to help suffering people, the program has a fatal flaw ... Opposition movements have a hard enough time fighting authoritarian regimes without the U.S. government's "help." After so many years of U.S. intervention throughout the world, one reasonably suspects that whenever opposition arises in a country not allied with the United States, that opposition is assisted by the American administration ... From Iran and Guatemala in 1953, to Chile in 1973, to Egypt in 2013, it was hardly the first time something like that happened.
Related Topics: Government, Rights, Russia, Ukraine
American Hawks Risk Escalating the Ukrainian Crisis, by Sheldon Richman, 5 Mar 2014
Discusses the potential expansion of the 2014 Ukrainian conflict due to those who advocate a "get tough" on Russia stance while claiming the U.S. has "retreated from the world"
The theme of the Obama-goading is that Putin wouldn't have dreamed of intervening in Ukraine had America not "retreated from the world." ... [T]his claim is ... utterly without foundation ... John Glaser commented, "I can't think of one single place in the world where the United States is withdrawing." Not only is the U.S. government exerting influence, however ineptly, in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, it's been heavily involved in the very location under examination, Russia's backyard ... NATO ... operates on the principle that an attack on one member is an attack on all.
Related Topics: Russia, War
The American Heritage of "Isolationism", by Gregory Bresiger, Freedom Daily, May 2006
Criticizes the use of the word "isolationist" by the media, "internationalists" and other foreign intervention promoters, looking at the heritage of noninterventionism as exemplified by Washington's Farewell Address
Who are America's permanent friends and enemies? Should America have permanent friends and enemies? ... [T]his foreign-policy question is at the heart of any serious debate over what the United States should be ... Washington counseled flexibility. He criticized "permanent, inveterate antipathies" as well as "passionate attachments" for other nations.
The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.
Americans Should Be "Anti-American", by Sheldon Richman, 21 Jun 2006
Examines Robert Kagan's statement that the Iraq War "made anti-Americanism respectable again" and what "anti-Americanism" is supposed to mean
[A] succession of American presidents and their diplomatic and military minions have treated much of the world like slow, pitiable stepchildren ... If their governments are following unwise policies, have no fear: an American president will set them right. And if they elect the wrong leaders, he will come to the rescue with a timely regime change. From the Dominican Republic to Iran, it's happened repeatedly ... As ... satirist Tom Lehrer put it,
For might makes right,
And 'til they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'Til somebody we like can be elected.
Related Topics: Imperialism, United States
An Anti-Democracy Foreign Policy: Guatemala, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 11 Feb 2005
Describes the 1954 CIA-engineered coup d'état in Guatemala and the subsequent military regimes, also touching on the attempts to seek regime change in Cuba and the 1973 CIA-supported ouster of Allende in Chile
What if the CIA had not intervened in the domestic affairs of Guatemala? What if it hadn't violently ousted its democratically elected president? What if it had not installed a series of ... military dictatorships in Guatemala? ... Americans would be better served by studying the history of the U.S. government's foreign policy, including its anti-democracy "successes" in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile ... [T]he only solution to America's woes lies in a dismantling of the interventionist empire ... and in a restoration of a non-interventionist republic that guided the founding of our nation.
An Anti-Democracy Foreign Policy: Iran, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 31 Jan 2005
Discusses the history of Operation Ajax, the CIA-led 1953 coup d'état in Iran that removed the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, and which eventually led to the 1979 Iran hostage crisis
When Iranians took U.S. officials hostage in the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, Americans were mystified and angry, not being able to comprehend how Iranians could be so hateful toward U.S. officials, especially since the U.S. government had been so supportive of the shah of Iran for some 25 years. What the American people failed to realize is that the deep anger and hatred that the Iranian people had ... was rooted in a horrible, anti-democratic act that the U.S. government committed in 1953 [when] the CIA secretly ... ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran ...
A Bogus Libertarian Defense of War, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Oct 2007
Criticizes Randy Barnett's Wall Street Journal op-ed "Libertarians and the War" (17 Jul 2007) and his follow-up post "Antiwar Libertarians and the Reification of the State" (20 Jul 2007) at the Volokh Conspiracy blog
Anyone who accepts, as Barnett puts it, "the role of the U.S. government in defending U.S. territory" should insist that the government not endanger the American people by making foreign enemies. A provoked attack would not call for a counterattack, but rather a change in the interventionist policy that created the threat in the first place ... While it is true that the most substantial libertarian thinking about foreign policy embraces the principle of nonintervention in other countries' internal affairs, libertarian noninterventionism is not founded on the principle of national sovereignty.
The "Boomerang Effect": How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 26 Sep 2014
Reviews the essay "Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Controll" by Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall, published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Independent Review
[Coyne and Hall's] thesis is ... bold and well-defended: "Coercive government actions that target another country often act like a boomerang, turning around and knocking down freedoms and liberties in the 'throwing' nation." This happens when the size and scope of government increases as a result of foreign intervention. Advocates of foreign intervention—whether conservative or progressive—seem to believe that foreign and domestic policies can be isolated from each other and that illiberal methods used in foreign lands, such as bombing and military occupation, need not disturb domestic policy.
Related Topics: The State, Technology, War
But Foreign Aid Is Bribery! And Blackmail, Extortion, and Theft Too!, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 26 Sep 2003
Comments on Ted Kennedy's observation that U.S. foreign aid was being used as bribery, expanding to discuss other perverse and destructive consequences of such aid programs
The plain and simple truth is that foreign aid is nothing more than an integral and perverse part of the U.S. government's morally bankrupt foreign policy, not only because its primary purpose is to bribe, blackmail, and extort foreign regimes into doing Washington's bidding, but also because of the enormously destructive consequences it has ... Consider also the large amount of military foreign aid ... which is sometimes used to brutalize foreigners as well as citizens. A good example entailed the biological and chemical weapons that the United States delivered to Saddam Hussein; they were used to kill both Iranians and Iraqis.
Related Topics: Turkey, Yemen
Did Team Obama Blunder or Conspire in Ukraine?, by Sheldon Richman, 20 Mar 2014
Further analysis of the 2014 Ukraine and Russia situation after the latter annexed Crimea, considering whether this was engineered by the Obama administration purposely or with unwanted consequences, as an example of U.S. meddling in foreign nations
While no one ever lost money overestimating the capacity of the U.S. government to blunder, we cannot rule out that American officials knew exactly what they were doing when they helped provoke the crisis in Ukraine ... Meddling in other countries' affairs is nothing new for America. We can learn much from Secretary Nuland's husband, neoconservative brain-truster Robert Kagan, whose 2006 historical work, Dangerous Nation urges Americans to realize that their country is an empire now and always has been ... Kagan wants us to embrace the empire with gusto. Instead, we should reject and liquidate it.
Related Topics: Russia, Ukraine
The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Jun 2014
Considers the effect of U.S. involvement in the Middle East in the past two decades, in view of the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner exchange, and reflects on the practical effect of killing Osama bin Laden
And what's to show for it? A growing and spreading movement of extremists who want revenge against Americans ... While reasonable people wouldn't call that success, bin Laden might have. Even in 2004, he pointed to "evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan." ... he had succeeded in drawing the United States deeper into the Muslim world, especially Afghanistan ... because that was right where he wanted America. Iraq was icing on the cake ... since it gave Arab jihadis a place to fight Americans and learn their trade, which they could later ply in Libya and Syria — strangely, with American assistance.
Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire, by Sheldon Richman, 25 Feb 2015
Comments on threats against Americans and Canadians from the Somali al-Shabaab organization and recounts U.S. intervention in Somalia since the 1990s
When the U.S. government invades and occupies other countries, or when it underwrites other governments' invasions or oppression, the people in the victimized societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge — against Americans ... when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) ... drove out the warlords and produced a measure of peace and stability, the Somali people were relieved. That should have been deemed satisfactory, except that the warlords and their American backers were unhappy with the new situation ... the Bush administration in 2006 backed a military invasion by Ethiopia ... which overthrew the ICU.
Related Topic: Somalia
Empire on Their Minds, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Mar 2014
First compares recent Russian and U.S. imperialistic behavior, then delves into the imperial tendencies of the Founding Fathers and early U.S. Presidents
[Ivan] Eland, responded, "Hmmm. What about the George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq after exaggerating threats from Iraqi 'weapons of mass destruction' and dreaming up a nonexistent operational link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks. And what about Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983 to save U.S. medical students in no danger and George H.W. Bush's invasion of Panama because its leader, Manuel Noriega, was associated with the narcotics trade? ... More generally, Latin America has been a US sphere of influence and playground for US invasions since the early 1900s ..."
Empire or Liberty: The Antifederalists and Foreign Policy, 1787-1788 [PDF], by Jonathan Marshall, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1980
Describes the arguments regarding foreign policy made during the period of ratification of the United States Constitution by the Federalists and the counterarguments, "largely ignored" by historians, from the Antifederalists
America would certainly become more susceptible to foreign corruption under a centralized system ... James Winthrop ... thought it no coincidence that some of the Federalist leaders had "formed pretty strong attachments to foreign nations," since their policies would soon sell out the republic ... And with the seat of government so far from the electors, members of Congress would be all the more able to cloak their treason. "We shall see ourselves bought at a publick market, in order to be sold again to the highest bidder. We must be involved in all the quarrels of European powers ..."
Farewell Address, by George Washington, 19 Sep 1796
Full title: The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States
Published in the American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia
Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. ... Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European Ambition, Rivalship, Interest, Humour or Caprice? 'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign World ... I repeat it therefore, Let those engagements. be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
Related Topic: Militarism
Foreign Policy, by John Bright, 29 Oct 1858
Speech given to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce; criticizes British militarism and imperialism, pointing out the effects of several 19th century wars on national debt, poverty and families
[T]he Minister of England conducting your foreign affairs ... offered his congratulations, and the support of England was at once accorded to the re-created French Empire. Soon after this an intimate alliance was entered into between the Queen of England, through her Ministers, and the Emperor of the French ... An alliance was entered into and a war was entered into. English and French soldiers fought on the same field, and they suffered, I fear, from the same neglect. They now lie buried on the bleak heights of the Crimea, and except by their mothers ..., I suppose they are mostly forgotten.
Related Topics: Imperialism, Taxation, War
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere, by Sheldon Richman, 17 Feb 2015
Examines the results of several decades of American intervention in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere
If one tried to design a foreign policy to embroil Americans in endless conflicts that would otherwise be quite remote, one could hardly do better than recent presidents of the United States ... the ruling elite feigns ignorance of the connection between U.S. intervention abroad and widening regional wars ... ISIS franchises are emerging throughout the Arab and Muslim world ... Meanwhile in Europe, the U.S.-instigated coup in Ukraine ... has not had the intended effect ... Unsurprisingly, the ruling elite has no incentive to reconsider the premise of U.S. foreign policy, namely, that America can and should run the world.
A Forgotten Day & a Forgotten Country, by Harry Browne, 28 Oct 2003
Reflections on the United States in 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was unveiled, and the current (2003) status
Foreigners were grateful for America's liberty ... In 1886 America had an open hand to the rest of the world. America didn't fear anyone and no one feared America. Today Americans live in a state of siege. The idea of invading the Philippines or bombing the Sudan or intervening in Nicaragua or overturning a government in the Dominican Republic or starting a war with Iraq would have seemed ludicrous to the American people in 1886. As John Quincy Adams put it, America didn't go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. Today America has troops in over a hundred foreign countries.
Free Cory Maye, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, May 2006
Further discussion and commentary on the case of Cory Maye (see Richman's article "More Drug-War Victims", Dec 2005) [Update: Maye's sentence was overturned in Sept. 2006 and he was finally released in July 2011]
Another horrendous aspect of prohibition is the pretext it provides for U.S. intervention in foreign countries. It is outrageous, not to mention criminal, for the U.S. government to bully farmers in Latin America and elsewhere and to eradicate their coca and poppy crops. They reasonably point out that they wouldn't grow the crops if Americans didn't want the drugs. No demand, no supply. All the bullying does is create enemies for America, driving aggrieved peasants into the waiting arms of terrorists and Marxists. (See what's happening in Bolivia and Colombia, for example.)
Freedom, Security, and the Roots of Terrorism against the United States, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, Oct 2001
Reflections on the 11 September attacks a few weeks after, discusses the reasons for the terrorist attacks and proposes certain measures to deal with the situation
There is only one way to end this cycle and that is to end the interventions. They must be repealed and abolished ... The U.S. government must stop providing political and financial assistance to governments or political factions in their lands. We must accept the fact that we cannot make over the world in our own image, if for no other reason than that the vast majority of people want to determine their own destinies ... As a nation we should ... try to serve as an example of a just and free society for others around the world, as we did in the 19th century when we avoided foreign entanglements in other countries.
Harry Elmer Barnes as Revisionist of the Cold War, by Murray N. Rothbard, Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, 1968
Contrasts Court Intellectuals with revisionists and the narrow with the broad revisionists, and then discusses Harry Elmer Barnes' contributions as a broad revisionist of the Cold War
Barnes praised the anti-Cold War writings of Lewis Mumford, who had returned to anti-intervention ... For his policy recommendations, Barnes recalled. "the traditional American foreign policy of benign neutrality, and the wise exhortations of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay to avoid entangling alliances and to shun foreign quarrels," and advocated a return to a "sane foreign policy, based on Continentalism, national interest, ideological coexistence, international urbanity, and rational co-operation in world affairs."
Improve the CIA? Better to abolish it, by Chalmers Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Feb 2004
Lists some of the countries where the CIA conducted subversive operations and recommends abolishing the agency
According to an internal CIA history, the éminence grise ... "Wild Bill" Donovan "saw intelligence analysis as a convenient cover for subversive operations abroad." ... Since the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, the CIA has engaged in similar disguised assaults on the governments of Guatemala (1954); the Congo (1960); Cuba (1961); Brazil (1964); Indonesia (1965); Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-73); Greece (1967); Chile (1973); Afghanistan (1979 to the present); El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua (1980s); and Iraq (1991 to the present)—to name only the most obvious cases.
UpdIn Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything Is the Thing to Do, by Sheldon Richman, 24 Jul 2014
Comments on the arrogance of those who believe the President of the United States should intervene in any crisis around the world
Anyone who still thinks a U.S. president with expert advisers can determine the opportune moment to send armed forces into a country to effect regime change—or to arm a presumed moderate opposition—and have everything come out as planned fails to grasp this and hasn't been paying attention for the last dozen years. The same goes for anyone who still believes America's latest brain trust can smoothly dictate political events in another country, say Ukraine, from behind the scenes with money funneled through innocent-sounding organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy.
Kerry's Entangling Alliances, by Michael Badnarik, 28 Oct 2004
Cautions antiwar voters (particularly Iraq War opponents) on voting against Bush and for John Kerry, considering the possibilities of the latter waging a more "successful" (and "more efficient") war
The Founding Fathers warned against entangling alliances. Jefferson and Washington made the point loudly and clearly. When countries tie themselves together in mutual defense pacts ... they end up participating in foolish wars out of diplomatic obligation, rather than limiting themselves to legitimate self-defense. One or two belligerents, so long as they are popular with enough other countries, can transform a regional squabble or a petty conflict into a global holocaust. This is ... what happened in World War I ... Getting other countries involved in defending and extending U.S. aggression is the wrong strategy.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq War
The Latest Defamation of Jefferson, by Thomas DiLorenzo, 31 Mar 2006
Criticizes a conference titled "Mr. Jefferson Goes to the Middle East" and implying that George W. Bush is somehow Jeffersonian, by contrasting Jefferson and Lincoln's (and by extension Bush's) policies and actions
... the Europe of Jefferson's time was comprised of "nations of eternal war," he wrote to James Monroe in 1823. Thus, "I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe." Jefferson wished "well to the progress of liberty in all nations," but still, "Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto," he wrote to Thomas Lomax in 1799. This flatly contradicts the theory put forth by neocons (and even a few libertarians) that America somehow has a duty to intervene militarily in the affairs of other countries in the name of preserving our liberty at home.
A Lesson from Vietnam, Part 3, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Mar 2004
Relates key events in Vietnam mostly from the start of the Kennedy in 1961 to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, and a few concluding paragraphs on this three part series
'Counterinsurgency' became the new American buzzword and Vietnam became the testing ground, with American leaders looking to apply its lessons elsewhere — for example, in Cuba. The Kennedy administration developed a policy which broke the containment of revolution into three stages: first, military aid programs; second, counterinsurgency by which American troops and money would suppress revolutionary movements; and, third, limited war ... America was stymied by the lack of a better replacement for Diem and so their relationship was redefined to mean simply that one party would not take action without consulting the other.
The Lethal Legacy of U.S. Foreign Intervention, by Sheldon Richman, 12 Feb 2014
Presents examples of the deadly lasting effects of U.S. foreign intervention: continuing sectarian conflicts in Iraq and unexploded bombs in Laos
Americans seem to believe that once the U.S. military exits a foreign country, its moral accountability ends. But the deadly consequences ... continue long after the last soldier leaves. ... arrogant American policymakers lumbered into a foreign country thinking they could remake it in their image — apparently without knowing anything about the cultural or social context. This is hardly the first time, which is why Eugene Burdick and William Lederer's 1958 novel, The Ugly American, still packs so much power ... Remember this the next time you hear ... American foreign intervention lauded as a blessing to mankind.
Related Topics: Iraq, Iraq War, Laos
Michael Badnarik Thinks You're a Libertarian: Texas' Other Presidential Candidate Talks to the Dig, by Joe Keohane, Weekly Dig, 30 Jun 2004
Quotes from and commentary on Badnarik based on an interview with a reporter of a Boston weekly newspaper
Asked how he would deal with the specter of terrorism, Badnarik points to a hostile environment crated by US intervention in the Middle East and speculates that were the US to abandon all our international entanglements, the threat of stateside terror attacks would disappear virtually overnight. "All Americans want to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit. And we as Libertarians believe that other countries are justified in doing the same thing, even if we do not agree with the way those countries are living their lives."
More U.S. Intervention in Libya?, by Sheldon Richman, 22 May 2014
Discusses the situation in Libya in 2014, three years after Obama's "humanitarian intervention" that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the subsequent attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi
The threat of civil war is not the only result of Western intervention in Libya. The overthrow of Gaddafi is a lesson in the dangers of interfering with other countries. He was a brutal dictator, of course, and the people would have been justified in kicking him out. But outsiders can never know what will follow their intervention. In this case, regime change produced a flow of weapons ... that in turn led to violence in Mali and the horrific abductions in Nigeria by Boko Haram ... The first rule governments should follow is, "Do no harm." The second rule is, Assume that intervention will do far more harm than good.
Related Topic: Libya
Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism, by Alan Fairgate, Reason, Feb 1976
Examines writings of critics of imperialism that are not based on Marxist analysis
It should be noted that the five critics of America's interventionist foreign policies discussed above were consistent in their criticism of both U.S. involvement in World War II and foreign policy in the cold war. They were unanimous in denouncing the vast system of 'entangling alliances' which U.S. policymakers had constructed in the postwar period and, in particular, they vigorously criticized the U.S. role in the Korean War. In contrast, many other isolationists abandoned their earlier position in favor of active support for U.S. cold war foreign policies.
Open Letter to Barack Obama, by Walter Block, 16 May 2008
Explains why foreign policy is more important than economics or civil liberties when it comes to choosing between the major presidential candidates and offers some advice to then Senator (and candidate) Obama
I think you are the least likely to utilize nuclear weapons against a country (Iran? China?) that has not attacked us. I think you are the most likely to withdraw our troops from Iraq most quickly and expeditiously ... Foreign policy in my view is more important than either economics or civil liberties. For it is in wartime that rights in these two other areas are typically abrogated ... Getting out of Iraq? Good. No, excellent! But why, pray tell, go into Afghanistan? ... We have some 700 plus military bases in over 100 different countries. Does that sound like defense to you?
Related Topics: Economics, Barack Obama
Out of Iraq, Etc.!, by Sheldon Richman, 13 Aug 2014
Examines the origins of the arbitrary country subdivisions in the Fertile Crescent after World War I and the continuing problems in the region
It's no exaggeration to say that virtually every current problem in the region stems at least in part from the imperial double cross and carve-up that took place after the war. And the immediate results of the European betrayal were then exacerbated by further acts of intervention and neocolonialism ... History alone does not tell us what, if anything, outside powers should do now; there's no going back in time. But we can say that without foreign interference, even a violent evolution of the region might have been far less violent than it has been during the last century.
Related Topics: Imperialism, Middle East
Road to Empire, by Justin Raimondo, 28 Nov 2007
Discusses the "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America" signed on 26 Nov 2007, after the U.S. Congress went into recess
So you don't believe the U.S. has any business stationing its troops in 100-plus countries? What are you, some kind of isolationist dinosaur? Don't you realize that we have a moral obligation to be "engaged" in the world? It scarcely merits mentioning that this sort of "engagement" means a policy of perpetual war, and that, in particular, the neoconservative dream of a remade Middle East is a prescription for a regional conflict that would dwarf the current level of conflict in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. Which is why it is never acknowledged, at least in "mainstream" venues, yet that is the future being mapped out for us.
Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Jun 2014
Reviews U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler's writings, particularly War Is a Racket (1935) and the constitutional "Amendment for Peace"
Noting that "until 1898 ... we didn't own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America," [Butler] observed that after becoming an expansionist world power, ... "we forgot George Washington's warning about 'entangling alliances.' We went to war. We acquired outside territory."
It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people—who do not profit.
Related Topics: Corporatism, War
UpdStates, United States: America's James Bond Complex, by Sheldon Richman, 4 Feb 2015
Argues that the doctrine of American "exceptionalism" means U.S. officials appear to have a de facto licence to kill and wonders why officials are treated so deferentially instead of being brought to judgment for their aggressive actions
[American politicians] had no doubt that the Old World's colonial possessions would eventually fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, either formally or informally ... U.S. rulers have waged aggressive genocidal wars (against the Indians and Vietnamese, for example), have brutally put down colonial rebellions (against the Filipinos, for example), facilitated genocidal policies carried out by client dictators (in Indonesia ...), underwritten repressive dictatorships and brutal occupations (in Egypt and Palestine ...), and instigated in antidemocratic coups (in Iran and Chile ...).
They Don't Mean Well, by Sheldon Richman, 15 Jan 2014
Reviews Barry Lando's article "The American Legacy in Iraq", which describes U.S. government intervention in Iraq since 1990 as well as Lando's interview with Scott Horton discussing earlier meddling
Americans have a strange need to believe that their "leaders" mean well. Nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy. Even when the horror of some government operation is revealed (usually after being kept from the American people), solemn pundits and elder statesmen will drone on about unintended consequences and the fog of war ... Yet when one examines the U.S. government's bloody record in foreign affairs, it is tough to come away thinking that the long trail of death, mayhem, and devastation is anything but the result of malevolence in the pursuit of political and economic interest.
Related Topic: Iraq
Thinking about Foreign Policy, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Dec 2006
Analyzes why most people, even libertarians, tend to think about foreign policy as if it were decided upon by "the people" or at least with their interests in mind, rather than the "ruling elite" and its desire "to preserve and augment its own power"
When governments intervene in affairs of other countries, they make their own populations less safe by creating enemies. Even measures intended as defensive can appear to be offensive to the other side ... America's geographic position and wealth made nonintervention highly practicable and low-risk, yet successive governments refused to abstain from meddling in foreign affairs, which served only to endanger the people they claimed to protect. Keeping in mind ... how foreign policy is formulated, we can easily see through the popular fallacies that undermine so much thinking about war and peace.
Trapped in Lies and Delusions, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 20 Nov 2006
Predicts that U.S. troops would not withdraw from Iraq for at least two more years, because it was politically implausible for Bush and Cheney to backtrack on their positions, and laments American attitudes towards the war and countless interventions
But it's all a life of the lie ... that has refused for decades to confront the brutal and hypocritical role of the federal government in the affairs of other nations, including ouster of democratically elected leaders (e.g., ... in Iran and ... Guatemala), assassinations and miltary coups (e.g., Vietnam and Chile), the support of brutal dictators (e.g., ... Iraq, ... Iran, and ... Pakistan), brutal and deadly sanctions and embargoes (e.g., Iraq and Cuba), foreign aid to socialist or authoritarian regimes (e.g., Israel and Egypt), the teaching of torture ... at the School of the Americas, ...
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Ethics, Iraq War
Trivial Dispute: Obama versus the Interventionists, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 May 2014
Examines Barack Obama's speech at the 2014 West Point graduation and points out the scant differences between him and those advocating military intervention, in arguments for continued U.S. meddling in other countries' affairs
[Obama] tried to position himself in what he likes to portray as the reasonable center. On the one side is "isolationism": "It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option. We don't have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders." ... Isolationism—the appropriate term is noninterventionism—does not naively suppose that what goes on in the rest of the world is of no possible interest to those of us who live in the United States. Rather, it is based on the understanding that U.S. government entry into other people's conflicts can be counted on to make things worse ...
Understanding the Paris Violence, by Sheldon Richman, 14 Jan 2015
Examines the statements of Amedy Coulibaly, the man who, in the wake of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack, killed four people and held others hostage at a kosher supermarket in Paris
[We] will never comprehend the reasons for the slaughter of 17 innocent people in Paris as long as we ignore the history of Western violence against the Muslim world ... After demanding an end to NATO bombing in Iraq and Syria ..., Coulibaly said, "I was born in France. If they didn't attack other countries, I wouldn't be here"— by which he presumably meant in the store holding hostages ... Muslims and Arabs have legitimate grievances against the U.S. government and its allies ... The way to end Muslim violence in the West, therefore, is for the West to end its violence against Muslims.
Related Topic: France
U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Shambles, by Sheldon Richman, 7 Jan 2014
Examines the 2014 status of United States foreign policy in various Middle East countries
McCain and Graham, who never saw an opportunity for U.S. military intervention they didn't like, continue to operate under the absurd illusion that American politicians and bureaucrats can micromanage something as complex as a foreign society. Their hubris knows no bounds, but, then, they never pay the price for their foolishness. Who pays? The Americans they cheer off to war, but even more so, the people in foreign lands who are on the receiving end of American intervention ... If you haven't noticed, American foreign policy is a shambles. Iraq and Afghanistan are engulfed in violence ...
Related Topics: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq War, Israel
Warfare-Welfare in Yugoslavia, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Jun 1999
Criticizes U.S. involvement in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) during the Kosovo War, viewing it as continuation of the American warfare-welfare empire that stretches back to U.S. entry in World War I
More than 80 years ago, the United States entered World War I with the express purposes of ... making [it] the one that would end all future European wars. The intervention was a radical departure from the foreign policy that George Washington had enunciated in his Farewell Address and which had been followed by the American people for more than 100 years—stay out of European conflicts and instead let America be a beacon of freedom, peace, and prosperity for the world. Even the most ardent defenders of foreign wars and foreign intervention admit that World War I was a waste of American life.
Washington, George (1732-1799), by Jonathan Rowe, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
During his presidency, he cautioned against America's becoming involved in foreign entanglements. The advice Washington gave in his Farewell Address underscored his presidential policies of neutrality and diplomacy: 'The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. ... The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.'
UpdWe Were Warned about the Rise of Empire, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Jun 2014
In light of calls for U.S. re-intervention in Iraq, revisits Garet Garrett's 1952 essay "The Rise of Empire" discussing Garrett's five traits that are "the true marks of Empire" and their applicability to the United States in 2014
The subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy is accomplished by claiming that without national security, nothing else matters. So domestic concerns must take a back seat to foreign affairs ... Americans are not only obliged to cough up billions of dollars each year in armaments and cash to support ... alliances [with satellite nations], they also must be prepared to go to war to defend countries throughout the world ... Thus the American people are on call should most of Europe up to the Russian border, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and other nations find themselves threatened ...
Wilson in the Mirror, by John M. Peters, 23 May 2006
Compares George W. Bush to Woodrow Wilson, drawing multiple parallels between the two
Both [Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush] campaigned upon slogans which promised no foreign entanglements. Wilson's re-election campaign slogan, "He kept us out of war," is credited with his narrow re-election victory. Campaigning for election in 2000, George Bush promised not to send the armed forces abroad for what he called nation building, a direct criticism of Clinton's armed interventions in Somalia and Yugoslavia. Instead, Bush promised to bring troops home from their many foreign deployments, leaving nation building up to the people of those nations.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, War, Woodrow Wilson


The Antiwar Republican, by Ron Paul, Scott Horton, 4 Apr 2007
Transcript and MP3 audio recording; topics include foreign policy principles, isolationism, the Bush Doctrine, the "war on terror", the British sailors captured by Iran, presidential authority over state National Guard units and Guantanamo Bay detainees
Paul: ... [A]long with the advice of not getting involved in entangling alliances and into the internal affairs of other countries, the Founders said–and it's permissible under the Constitution–to be friends with people, trade with people, communicate with them, and get along with them–but stay out of the military alliances ... I claim the policy of those who charge us with being isolationists is really diplomatic isolationism. They are not willing to talk to Syria. They are not willing to talk to Iran. They are not willing to trade with people that might have questionable people in charge.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iran, Terrorism, War


Peace and Freedom: Foreign Policy for a Constitutional Republic
    by Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute, 2002
Partial contents: U.S. Security Strategy After 9-11 - Responding to Terrorism - Balkan Policy - NATO Policy - Relations with East Asian Allies - Relations with China - Relations with the Soviet Union and Russia - Middle East-Persian Gulf Policy


Bush Speaks the Truth (Election 2000 Debates), by George W. Bush, 2000
Audio clips and photos of then Governor George Bush during the Presidential debates, particularly about nation building and a "humble" foreign policy

Leonard Liggio: A History of Foreign Policy from a Libertarian Perspective, by Leonard Liggio, 1981
Lecture at the Laissez-Faire Supper Club, New York City, about the history of foreign intervention from Enlightment England to the Cold War