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Not Our Quarrel By Philip Giraldi 05/05/2009
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D. is the Francis Walsingham Fellow at The American Conservative Defense Alliance (www.ACDAlliance.org) and a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer.
The Founding Fathers recognized that faction had destroyed the great republics in the ancient world and in the Middle Ages. The US Constitution attempted to minimize the danger from faction by carefully distributing power and dividing authority between the states and federal government, making it more difficult for any interest group or political party to obtain a national ascendancy. George Washington also recognized the particular danger that would derive from the new republic's citizens becoming involved in other people's quarrels, creating factions that looked abroad for support and for causes to embrace. He was most particularly referring to those who were engaged in the affairs of Europe, where contending monarchies had created a state of nearly perpetual warfare, but he recommended that the United States disdain foreign involvements and cultivate friendship with all nations. George Washington would not now recognize the nation that he helped create. Today's United States is not divided by faction, though some might argue that the two principal political parties are in a state of permanent disagreement. It has, however, become addicted to nearly perpetual involvement in other people's quarrels. A bipartisan foreign policy consensus that does not serve the national interest endures due to failure of the two principal parties to disagree often enough on critical issues of war and peace. Substantial majorities in both leading political parties support an imperial America with a heavy worldwide military footprint used to support a democratizing and market driven agenda. There is not a whole lot of difference in the foreign policies of Republicans and Democrats. The US foreign policy is partially driven by tribalism, with hyphenated Americans eager to involve Washington in ancient disputes back in their home countries. The Israel Lobby has been most successful in that regard with the US willy-nilly endorsing policies of a series of right-wing governments. And there are many others, Armenians pushing to condemn Turkish genocide of a century ago, dispossessed Cubans seeking to punish Fidel Castro, Mexican irredentists hoping to recover the southwest, aggrieved Irishmen in Boston seeking a united Eire. The list goes on and on and, in almost every instance, there is not a genuine American national interest to be served. In many cases, the bad decisions that derive from tribal politics only serve to damage everyone involved. Israel is not forced to make the hard and necessary choices that it should be making because unlimited US support relieves it of that responsibility. Armenian genocide resolutions accomplish nothing and instead make more insecure the Armenians still living in Turkey. Only the Cuban people have suffered from fifty years of sanctions, not Fidel Castro and his government.
An interlocking complex of groups both government and NGO constitutes another less visible component that has kept the United States engaged in places where it should not be. These interventionists are funded by congress's Freedom Support Act and have an official presence at the State Department's USAID, but their principal instrument is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization that is little known to the public and which operates virtually independently in the many countries where it establishes democracy enhancement programs. NED, as the name implies, is dedicated to democracy promotion worldwide. It refers to itself as private and nonprofit, though it relies on taxpayer money as well as private sector contributions. Its private status is also a deliberate feature of how it operates, enabling it to fund programs without the usual scrutiny and safeguards afforded to government disbursements. NED is internally subdivided into two organizations that are far from apolitical. One, the International Republican Institute is controlled by the Republican Party, and the other, the National Democratic Institute, by the Democrats. Senator John McCain is chairman of the IRI Board of Directors, which also includes his chief foreign policy strategist and Georgian lobbyist Randy Scheunemann. The National Democratic Institute is headed by Madeleine Albright. Both Albright and McCain are ardent interventionists. NED is involved all over the world in selectively supporting parties that are engaged in what amounts to regime change, making it something like an ostensibly privatized though largely government-funded version of the old CIA. Most of the countries where it is active have left-wing governments or regimes that the US disapproves of. NED supports a number of programs directed at Iran, none of which have any real impact and which are best described as "doing something," sure to bring a smile to the face of every concerned congressman. It has had rather more impact in Eastern Europe, acting as a driving force behind many of the pastel hued revolutions that have rocked the region in the past ten years. When the Russians and others complain about outsiders interfering in the politics of their neighbors, they are frequently referring to NED, and the complaints about high handed and insensitive behavior are often justified. In its most recent foray into the unknown, NED was involved in the "twitter revolution" demonstrations in Moldava that took place during the first week of April. Thousands of mostly student demonstrators filled the streets to protest against the Communist party victory in national elections, an election that the Communists were expected to win and in which there was no evident fraud. The students were out in numbers summoned by "twitters" over iPhones conveniently supplied by the US government as part of a number of programs being funded, including one called "Strengthening Democratic Political Activism in Moldova." Now, I daresay that we Americans have particularly difficulty in seeing ourselves as others see us, but how would most Americans react if a foreign government supported foundation were to set up and fund something similar in the United States? NED and its affiliates were also active in Georgia's rose revolution, which helped bring to power the decidedly undemocratic Mikhail Saakashvili that almost led to a shooting war between the United States and Russia. Their hand was also evident in the orange revolution in the Ukraine, which also did little beyond dividing the country into pro-Western and pro-Russian camps. One might suggest that the pastel revolutions and the twitters are the latest iterations of the "rent-a-crowds" that the old CIA covert ops staffs used to specialize in. The interference in other people's affairs leads to the question of why Washington is doing it at all. Establishment of fledgling democracies in countries that have no tradition of genuine pluralism has accomplished little, particularly as the new democrats have generally continued the pervasive corruption of the old apparatchiks. Propping up our own autocrats to keep the other guy's autocrats out is an old game, and one that has rarely produced anything positive. As the Iraq experiment has proven, democracy and a Western-style constitution are very expensive to impose and they are in
and of themselves no guarantee of anything. The new sheriff in Washington has promised a kinder, gentler foreign policy, but there is little sign of any change at places like NED. Barack Obama would be well advised to ignore any impulse to change the world. He should instead go back to the sound advice of his predecessor George Washington and recognize that involvement in other people's quarrels is a trap that can destroy even the mightiest republic.
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