I spent many years supporting American intervention in the middle east. I saw Afghanistan as a nation that harbored terrorists, Iraq as a country who assisted them, and even Vietnam as a war that was necessary to prevent the spread of communism.
When confronted with new information, a smart person will logically change their views. Admittedly, I supported the Iraq war because I didn’t know anything about the Iraq war. (In my defense, I was in my early teens at the time.)
We all have at least a bit of a confirmation bias. We seek out information that backs up our own point of view, and deliberately disregard information that is contrary to our deeply held beliefs. Keeping an open mind is easier said than done. I try to test my own beliefs as much as possible (although I still try to keep things within reason) and many books have lead me to the conclusion that American foreign policy isn’t on the right track.
Here are FIVE BOOKS THAT MADE ME QUESTION AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY –
Blowback by Chalmers Johnson
A question we all should ask is “why do they hate us?” While some politicians would presume that terrorists hate us because of our freedom, it doesn’t hold up to basic logic. Switzerland, for instance, is very free, yet it didn’t suffer similar 9/11 attacks.
Instead, it has been shown that the reason for American hatred around the globe can be explained by American foreign policy. Osama bin Laden made it clear that the reason for the 9/11 attacks was due to American occupation of Muslim holy land in Saudi Arabia. Politicians ignored bin Laden’s stated motives.
The term “blowback” was coined by the CIA to describe these exact kinds of attacks. Johnson’s book, which was originally published prior to the 9/11 attacks, virtually predicted increased terrorist attacks as a direct result of American interventionism.
Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky
Following Johnson, I dug into an author who for a long time I despised. I’m not a fan of Noam Chomsky; I haven’t been a fan of his in the past, nor am I a fan of his today. That said, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Chomsky is wrong about a lot of things, but conservatives/libertarians should take the time to read his works. Discover what you disagree with him on, and perhaps you’ll find some things that seem to make sense.
Hegemony and Survival is a book that turned me into a closet support of Chomsky. I still don’t agree with his “anarcho-socialist” philosophy, but he makes many solid points regarding American imperialism, and how a hawking foreign policy can destroy a country.
The Man Versus the State by Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer is one of the most profound intellectuals from the 19th century. He saw that new ideas in liberalism were drawing citizens to loyalty to the state, which would ultimately result in a new form of slavery.
Along with his numerous warnings about the very nature of the state to squelch liberty and the individual, he explains why almost no war in necessary for a people’s survival. Only in rare circumstances (an invasion, for instance) is war needed.
War grows the state which therefore hampers individual liberty. If a state IS needed, its reigns must be tightly controlled, even in times of conflict with other nation states.
Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs
An intellectual successor to Spencer is still alive and well today – Robert Higgs, who spent years and years researching the growth of government. He found that government grows fastest during times of perceived crisis.
Many will recall Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel saying “Never let a crisis go to waste.” This is exactly what Higgs was warning about decades earlier. Statists use crises, be they depressions, labor problems, or WAR, to grow itself. As government grows it will always encroach on the freedoms that we hold so dear.
Although this book focuses on crises in 20th century America, the lessons learned are fully applicable to our times and offer a wise warning.
War is a Racket by Smedley Butler
War doesn’t just benefit the state itself, but certain industries also benefit from increased government spending during wartime. We’ve all surely heard President Eisenhower’s warning about the rise of the military industrial complex, but there are more companies that benefit from war that arms manufacturers.
Major General Smedley Butler, a two time Medal of Honor recipient, goes into detail about how steel companies profited from war. Auto companies profited from the increased spending as well. Oil and coal companies profited from war. The list goes on and on, with statistics and proof to back it all up.
Whether people are taxed through direct taxation, through debt, or through inflation, it is ultimately the people who pay the taxes who get the bill, but carefully selected industries who make the money.