Fighting For Our Freedom?

iraq warTo even question the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the now-institutionalized worldwide military empire being maintained by the U.S. government draws tourrettes-like attacks from all who identify themselves as conservatives.  Not only are critics of U.S. foreign policy accused of being unpatriotic or even traitorous, but conservatives routinely go so far as to label them ungrateful.  The argument goes that critics of the empire enjoy the freedom of speech with which they criticize the government only because the military has fought to defend that freedom.  Therefore, those who oppose the present wars or our military presence around the world should be ashamed of themselves for “biting the hand that feeds them.”

Of course, this argument rests upon an assumption.  The assumption is that if the U.S. had not fought any of its past or current wars or had not maintained its military presence around the world, that we would have lost some or all of our freedom.  This fundamental assumption is never questioned (or I suspect even considered) by supporters of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that it completely disintegrates under even superficial examination.

Let’s give conservatives WWII for now, Pat Buchanan’s interesting arguments notwithstanding.  Is there any credible argument to be made regarding any of the major wars that the United States has waged since 1945 wherein one could conclude that not fighting it would have resulted in a loss of freedom for Americans?  What chain of events can any reasonable person construct whereby U.S. citizens would have lost their freedom if not for the invasions of Korea, Viet  Nam, Afghanistan, or Iraq?

The first two post-WWII wars were justified for ostensibly the same reason.  We supposedly had to prevent the communist governments of North Korea and North Viet Nam from taking over South Korea and South Viet Nam, respectively, because if we did not, communism would spread like a virus throughout all of Asia and eventually the world.  This was the so-called “Domino Theory.”  While anyone with a globe that is more or less correctly scaled can see through the ridiculousness of the argument in terms of Korea, one need not even resort to conjecture to refute this argument regarding the Viet Nam war.  History has shown in its case that the domino theory was completely untrue.

North Viet Nam did take over South Viet Nam.  The U.S. pulled out of Viet Nam in defeat and the very outcome that the U.S. had spent 14 years, the lives of 50,000 U.S. soldiers, and hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to prevent came to pass.  The communists took over all of Viet Nam.

Did American citizens lose any freedom as a result?  No.  In fact, as young men were no longer conscripted into the army to participate in this futile exercise, anti-war protestors were no longer being suppressed, and a huge chunk of government spending was eliminated (in theory, anyway), Americans were actually far freer once the war was lost than they were while it was being fought.

There is no argument to be made, no matter how far logic is stretched or how much disbelief is suspended, that Americans lost any freedom as a result of the loss of the Viet Nam war.  Therefore, the assertion that the troops fighting it were “fighting for our freedom” must be false.

Moreover, communism didn’t spread like wildfire beyond Viet Nam. After approximately 12 years, it imploded there just as it did in China at about the same time.  In the mid-1980’s, the Vietnamese began transitioning to a market economy, just as China did.  Today, both countries are arguably as capitalist as the United States, which unfortunately isn’t saying much.

As for Korea, the most generous conclusion one could come to regarding the “fighting for our freedom” theory is that the jury is still out – sixty years later.  U.S. troops are still stationed at the 38th parallel, supposedly keeping the communist barbarians from taking over South Korea as a stepping stone to the rest of the world.  Here speculation is certainly necessary, but not random speculation.  While it certainly would not be a postive outcome for South Koreans, can anyone seriously argue that if North Korea took over South Korea tomorrow that American freedom would be lost or even noticeably diminished?  How?

Fast forward 25 years and consider the present war in Iraq.  That war was started based upon on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that it was preparing to use against its neighbors to destablize the Middle East.  Let’s pretend for a moment that this assertion was not proven completely false.  Exactly how would another war in the Middle East, which would presumably resemble Iraq’s ten-year war with Iran, jeapordize the freedom of American citizens?  What cause and effect relationship could possibly be established between Middle Eastern politics and American freedom?  This question has to be answered before the “fighting for our freedom” assertion can be proven.

There is only one answer: none.  The Middle East has been unstable for thousands of years, and freedom has come and gone for countless western nations regardless of political devleopments in the Middle East, with the exception of the actual invasions of Western Europe by Muslim nations in the Middle Ages.  Those were ultimately defeated.  Certainly today the Middle Eastern nations pose no military threat to Europe, much less the United States.  To assert that Afghanistan could possibly threaten American freedom borders upon the absurd.

Putting the active wars aside for the moment, any objective observer would be even harder pressed to conclude that the U.S. military presence in the other 135 countries in which the U.S. maintains troops is contributing anything toward American freedom.  Can anyone seriously argue that if the U.S. government were to remove the 56,000 troops presently stationed in Germany that American freedom would somehow be jeopardized?  How?  The same question applies to  the 33,000 troops in Japan, the 10,000 in Italy, and so on.  There is simply no reasonable argument to be made that Americans would be one iota less free if all of these troops were to come home.

Warfare conducted for any purpose other than defending the borders of the nation does not make Americans freer.  On the contrary, it destroys freedom without exception.  More of Americans’ property is confiscated in taxes to support warfare.  Freedom of speech is curtailed.  Opponents of the war are rounded up and imprisoned or exiled.  Privacy is destroyed by the government in search of enemy spies or saboteurs.  These destructions of freedom have occurred during every war that the United States has ever fought, including all of the wars of the past 60 years.

Furthermore, America’s vast military presence in countries where no active war is being fought also results in less freedom for Americans.  Regardless of the public relations efforts of the U.S. military establishment, foreign troops are universally regarded the same way by the citizens of countries where they are stationed: they are resented.  This resentment breeds terrorism in some countries and other forms of protest in others.  Americans traveling abroad are much less free in what they can do, where they can safely go, and where they are welcome because of resentment born of U.S. troops stationed in foreign nations.

As Randolph Bourne famously observed, “war is the health of the state,” and the state is the enemy of freedom.  America was founded upon the idea that the state was “at best a necessary evil” and that there was an inverse relationship between war and liberty.  James Madison wrote that if “tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. No Nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  History has proven him correct.  In the post-WWII era, the wars have become more numerous and longer and government has grown exponentionally.  With the expansion of war and the state, freedom has diminished.

This is not an argument for pacifisim or against the actual soldiers.  We live in a world with other nations that pose a threat to our lives and liberty and there must be some means to defend ourselves against an aggressor nation.  Whatever their reasons for joining, the men and women who serve in our miltary do make a huge sacrifice.  The overwhelming majority of them serve honorably both on the battlefield and off.  They join believing that they are defending our nation and freedom and the blame for our foreign policy does not rest with them.  A military force cannot function with each of its members questioning every order before carrying it out.  They have an obligation to disobey an order which is obviously immoral, such as shooting a non-combatant or torturing a prisoner, but beyond situations like those they must carry out their orders without question.  They place a sacred trust in their civilian leaders to deploy them only when it is absolutely necessary.

It is those civilian leaders who have violated that trust over and over again for the past sixty years.  It is they who have not supported our troops, spending their lives like so much loose change in wars that have been fought for everything but freedom.  They have sent them to countries that pose no military threat to the United States whatsoever and then tied their hands with rules of engagement that, whether intentionally or not, have prolonged those wars for years and even decades.  There can be no greater insult to the honor of brave soldiers than to exhort them to give their lives defending freedom when in fact freedom is not at issue in the war.

The United States government is broke.  It has accumulated a debt that can never legitimately be repaid.  While entitlement programs are ultimately far more economically destructive, costing over twice as much as U.S. military adventures, the $700 billion annual military budget is the next largest contributor to the deficits.  Of that $700 billion, less than $200 billion is spent fighting the two current active wars.  An active war should represent the high water mark of government spending, yet most of our military expenditures go to support standing armies in places like Germany and Japan.

It is evident that the military could be downsized by orders of magnitude without jeapordizing U.S. security in the least.  In fact, the U.S. would be far more secure without troops in 135 countries inspiring resentment against Americans and fighting wars against nations that could not launch a military attack against the United States in anyone’s wildest dreams.  Most importantly, the lives of hundreds of thousands of our troops, their opponents, and the innocent civilians in the countries that they fight in would be spared.

The gargantuan U.S. military establishment survives because American soldiers and civilians continue to accept the assertion that it is necessary to preserve our freedom.  This assertion is at best a destructive delusion and at worst an insidious lie, told by people who care nothing for our troops or the civilians they defend.  It is time to stop believing the lie and to truly support our troops.  Bring them home.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

7 thoughts on “Fighting For Our Freedom?

  1. Randy

    >Great article, Tom. I'm hoping you somehow find the time to write more! Always enjoy your articles and your book is one of my all time favorites. Looking forward to more.

  2. Jim Getten

    >Again, Tom presents a solid argument. The Military/Industrial Complex (or whatever they called it in the 60's) has always been successful in keeping the war machine well oiled. Remember the Vietman era slogan, "War is good business, invest a son"?

    Perhaps the combination of financial calamity and unbridled corruption in government will be the catalyst that finally changes US foreign policy. Americans must take the country in a new direction in November. The only real hope & change for America will come from The People.

  3. liberranter

    >The gargantuan U.S. military establishment survives because American soldiers and civilians continue to accept the assertion that it is necessary to preserve our freedom.

    As Jim Getten points out in his post, the gargantuan U.S. military establishment exists because wealthy and politically connected entities grow rich and powerful from its perpetuation, always at the expense of the nation and its citizens. That these entities have managed to convince the unwashed hoi polloi that the perpetuation of the military establishment is in their best interests, despite the fact that it is bankrupting them and destroying their posterity's future, speaks both to the manipulative abilities of the Reigning Establishment (through both the mainstream media and the "public school" system) and the breathtaking ignorance of the majority.

    As for the "the troops fight to preserve our freedoms" mantra, I believe I can say without reservation that not even the brainless neoconservative pseudo-Evangelical "Christian" GOP stalwarts who most frequently parrot this verbal vomitus actually believe it. What they REALLY believe, subconsciously, but will never bring themselves to say publicly, can best be summed up as "Amerika Ueber Alles!" "Freedom" is the least of these creatures' concerns – unless, of course, someone threatens or takes away their freedom to bully and dominate others who do not believe as they do.

    No, what the average Amerikan today believes is that the rest of the globe and its inhabitants are fit only to serve as slaves of the Amerikan Empire or as sources of natural resources to exploit for the preservation of Joe and Jane Sixpack's unearned (and ultimately unsustainable) middle class lifestyle. The visceral stimulation of unthinking minds by militarized violence serves as an opiate that diverts focus away from the dull drudgery of modern Amerikan existence and that enables Amerikans to blame others for the socioeconomic implosion within their own society that is strictly of their own making.

    Finally, if Amerikans truly cared about or understood "freedom," a concept that most of them wouldn't recognize if it smacked them in the face and wouldn't know what to do with if they had it, they would not only NOT be praising "our troops" for "defending our freedoms," but would be demanding that said troops converge on the Imperial Capital of Rome-on-the-Potomac to "throw the criminal bums out" of the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court Building and every other extra-Constitutional "executive agency" headquarters for which that sick city is home. That there has been no populist call for "the troops" to take such action (which demands a popular recognition of "domestic enemies" of the Constitution) tells us all we need to know about how the majority views "freedom."

  4. fred

    >very well written article. I agree that we need to bring the troops home, but doing so would lead to much higher unemployment in the short term and have such a negative impact on GDP growth that I don't see the politicians voting for it anytime soon, unfortunately. As a result, I think we need to continue to raise support for politicians like Ron Paul and the few other ones that respect and follow the Constitution. Until then, the only other way for people like us to protect themselves from all the negative consequences of the military-industrial complex is to try to accumulate wealth, because money buys votes in this country. And I think the best way to do so is to continue to invest in gold because of the government's policies of printing money to solve all of our economic problems, which is going to lead to much higher inflation. I read a good article about the consequences of the government's actions here:

  5. NFT

    >just got around to reading this one; fantastic, fact-filled piece, Tom – gives a sound and serious argument against all these occupations, while simultaneously being very respectful and even compassionate towards the men and women in the military.

    Excellent comments by the liberranter as well –

    glad I finally got around to catching up on some of your longer blog posts. You always make it worth the time – great thoughts, great information, great writing.

  6. GLOBO

    >This is 1 of the blogs I've read all year! Our troops are suffering, the government has forever used(I DON'T MEAN IN A GOOD WAY) the citizens to gain wealth. Tom you are a great writer, keep up the good work. Looking forward to more

  7. Heavystarch

    Tom your articles are so articulate, insightful and refreshing. I truly appreciate the time you take to research, analyze, polish and present these ideas. Keep writing so that I may keep learning. Thanks for all your time and effort!


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