Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Clear Case of Blowback

A major wave of violence against the United States has occurred within recent days. On the anniversary of September 11th, a mob descended upon the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Later that day, a militant group attacked the US Embassy in Libya, killing the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and a number of others. The violence continues to spread; the US Embassy in Yemen is the latest to get attacked.

While some pundits are quick to blame President Obama for the attack against the US Embassy in Libya for such trivial points as a failure of leadership or missed meetings, a more accurate cause goes beyond the President's role in Libya. The CIA has defined a term called "blowback": the unintended consequences for US actions in foreign nations. One textbook example of blowback is the Iran Hostage Crisis during the Iranian Revolution against the Shah in 1979, a reaction of the 1953 CIA/MI6-backed coup that first installed the Shah. Another is the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001, which was a response to the various deadly US interventions in the Middle East throughout the 1990s.

It is important to realize that the recent events of the Middle East likewise exist out of a historical context of US intervention.

  • The Egyptian people are still angry for the role of the United States in propping up and funding ex-tyrant Hosni Mubarak. More recently, the US had its nose firmly snug inside Egypt throughout the supposed "Arab Spring"; first the United States signaled support for Mubarak and then switched sympathies towards the rebels. The presence of the United States in Egyptian affairs was unwelcome - unless you were a dictator in need of financial aid.
  • The events in Libya stem directly from the significant role that the United States played during the War in Libya. Whether the attack on the US Embassy was committed by ex-Qaddafi forces or Al-Qaeda sympathizers both have their grievances that grew out of the interventionist policies of the United States. Clearly, the way that the US opened the door to the increased presence of Al-Qaeda in Libya did not prevent the death of Ambassador Stevens.
  • US drone strikes have been occurring throughout Yemen for some time; a United States citizen was even killed by a drone strike in Yemen without due process. Naturally, the people of Yemen do not want the United States bombing their country and a recent US drone strike that missed its target completely, killing 13 innocent people, has further angered the Yemeni people.

These events, especially the horrific violence in Libya, have prompted Americans to ask the question "Why?" Although the question "why do they hate us?" is often asked, rarely do those posing the question ever listen to the answers from the perpetrators. Terrorist violence is never, ever justifiable - but the motives for the evil acts are explainable. Root causes exist explaining why certain acts of terrorism have occurred and such things are necessary to understand if such acts are to be prevented in the future.

Where and when events like these take place is nearly impossible to predict in specific terms; however, the idea of a deadly attack committed against the United States is quite predictable due to the nation's interventionist foreign policies. Reacting to the Embassy attack by sending more warships and drones to Libya while continuing foreign aid to dictators (as Obama has) only exasperates the problem and exposes the government's lack of understanding of the situation. These interventionist policies anger the populations of the countries the US intervenes in; making it easier for the fringe lunatic groups to win converts to their evil cause and placing the population of the United States in greater danger. 

George Washington stated in his Farewell Address (regarding the role of the United States in European affairs at that time): 

"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. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

Thomas Jefferson echoed a similar statement in his First Inaugural Address:

"....peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none...."

The United States should emulate the foreign policy positions of its Founding Fathers if this era of blowback is to end. The American people and world as a whole will be much safer if the interventionist policies of the United States government are reversed and a policy of a friendship with all nations and border defense only is adopted. Remove the military bases on foreign lands (especially in those whose populations do not want them there), end all foreign aid and open trade with all nations. As it is right now, how can the United States defend itself from the policies of its own government?

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