Every Sunday at my church, we are exhorted to pray, among other things, for peace in the world and for the men and women who serve our nation — i.e., the military and the CIA . Naturally, the priests who craft the prayer, along with most of the congregation, fail to see the irony of those two prayers. That is, they fail to see that it is the Pentagon and the CIA whose activities around the world, especially in the Middle East and Afghanistan, are a major reason that Americans live without peace and prosperity.
Suppose some federal agency was conducting tours in which they regularly guided people to walk through a bed of rattlesnakes. Every day, some people are bit by rattlesnakes and die. Imagine American churches, seeing this ongoing death toll, exhorted their parishioners every Sunday (1) to pray that people stop being bitten by rattlesnakes; and (2) to also pray for the bureaucrats who are guiding people through the rattlesnake beds.
Do you see the problem with that scenario? Yes, it’s true, God could work a miracle and make it so that people would continue to walk through the rattlesnake bed without getting bit. But there is obviously another solution, one that doesn’t involve asking God to deliver a miracle: Simply shut down the rattlesnake operation, dismantle the federal agency that is in charge of the rattlesnake tours, and lay off the federal bureaucrats who are running the program. That would put a stop to the daily death toll from rattlesnake bites. And it would save taxpayer money.
It’s no different with respect to anti-American terrorism. Yes, it’s true, God could deliver a miracle and make terrorist retaliation for what the US government is doing to people in the Middle East and Afghanistan disappear. If such a miracle were to take place, the troops could continue bombing, shooting, assassinating, torturing, and killing people in that part of the world, and everyone would respond with a smile. In a best-case scenario, the victims of all that violence and mayhem would express gratitude that the troops have chosen their country for death and destruction.
But there is another solution, one that doesn’t involve miracles: Simply pull the troops out of the Middle East and Afghanistan and bring them home. No more killing. No more bombing. No more assassinating. No more support of tyrants. No more meddling. No more regime-change operations. No more foreign aid. Just pick up and come home.
That’s it. That’s the way to eliminate what has become an ongoing threat of terrorist blowback from US interventionism in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
President Reagan learned this lesson. In 1983, the US national-security establishment stationed US troops in Lebanon as “peacekeeping” forces. There was one big problem, however — the same problem that bedevils the United States in the Middle East and Afghanistan today: There were people in Lebanon who didn’t like foreign troops stationed within their country. The position of these people was: Our country’s business is none of your business.
One day, this group of people exploded a bomb in an army barracks in Beirut that killed 241 US soldiers and others.
At that point Reagan had a choice: Double down and send more troops in to replace the dead troops, or withdraw the US troops who were still there.
I imagine that some of Reagan’s conservative advisers were saying things like, “We can’t pull out now. Our credibility is at stake. If we pull out, foreign regimes won’t respect us. They’ll think we’re weak. We have to stay the course.”
That’s not what Reagan did, however. Instead, he cut his losses and ordered the pull-out of all US troops from Lebanon. Since there were no more US soldiers left there, there were no more US soldiers killed there. After US troops exited the country, not one single Lebanese ever made his way to the United States and committed a terrorist attack in retaliation for US interventionism in Lebanon.
That’s what needs to be done in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Just bring all the troops home. Leave Iraq to the Iraqis. Leave Syria to the Syrians. Leave Libya to the Libyans. Just leave all those people alone to figure out the solution to their problems, most of which are rooted in decades of US interventionism in that part of the world.
Unfortunately, however, there is one great big barrier to bringing the troops home. That barrier is the national-security branch of the federal government, specifically the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA.
The US national-security establishment opposes noninterventionism with every bit of power and influence at its disposal. Why? Because it needs the crises and the chaos that come with interventionism in order to justify its existence. If the threat of terrorist blowback disappears, then where does that leave the old Cold War-era national security branch of the government?
Oh sure, they can still try to gin up crises with Russia and China, which they’re already doing, but suppose Russia and China decline to take the bait. Then what? Then Americans begin asking questions that the national-security establishment wants to never be asked: Why do we need a Cold War-era totalitarian apparatus known as the national-security establishment? Why not restore a constitutionally limited-government republic to our land, the type of governmental structure that the Framers envisioned for the American people?
That’s the last thing the national-security establishment wants Americans to ask. But if Americans really and truly want to live in a free, harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous society, those questions need to be asked.
Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.