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The Fascinating Interventionist Mindset

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I sometimes wonder why interventionists don’t donate their brains to science, after they die of course. It would be interesting to know whether they are born with interventionist mindsets or whether their mindsets are the result of the many years of indoctrination they received in the public (i.e., government) schools their parents were forced to send them to.

The situation in Egypt provides a perfect example of why the interventionist mindset is so fascinating and worth studying.

One faction within the interventionist movement fervently argues that Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected president, was an authoritarian who was making a big mess out of the economy, sort of like President Franklin Roosevelt was doing to the American economy with his New Deal, I suppose. This group of interventionists justifies the coup that ousted Morsi by saying that it was necessary to protect “national security” and to save the country. It’s necessary to “stand with Egypt,” these interventionists say, by continuing to fortify the military dictatorship with an annual dole of $1.3 billion in U.S. weaponry, no matter how much brutality the dictatorship is exercising to fortify its rule over the Egyptian people.

The other interventionist faction is just as passionate. It argues that U.S. foreign aid should be temporarily “suspended” until the Egyptian military complies with U.S. demands to restore democracy. Even here there is disagreement. Some of the interventionists say that to restore democracy, it’s necessary to restore Morsi to power. Others argue that it’s time to move on and have the military “transition” to democracy with new elections somewhere down the road.

Notice one fascinating thing, however, about the interventionist mindset: It never considers the possibility of simply ending foreign aid entirely to Egypt and, for that matter, every other country. It’s as if the interventionist mindset is compelled to think only in terms of intervention on one side or the other. The thought of not intervening in any way doesn’t even enter the mental processes of the interventionists.

We saw this phenomenon back in 1973 in Chile. The Chilean people had democratically elected a socialist-communist named Salvador Allende, whose economic policies were, not surprisingly, a total disaster. Allende was ousted from power in a military coup headed by military strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

What was the response of U.S. interventionists? They felt irresistibly drawn to intervening in Chilean affairs, just as they do today in Egyptian affairs. In fact, the CIA and the U.S. military even aided the Chilean coup, taking the position that a military dictatorship was better than a democratically government headed by an elected socialist-communist president. Again, the thought of simply leaving Chile alone to deal with its own problems never even occurred to American interventionists.

To this day, there are interventionists who defend the military coup in Chile, just as interventionists defend the coup in Egypt. Several weeks ago, the conservative Wall Street Journal published an editorial that stated in part:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

The Journal is referring to free-market acolytes of Milton Friedman whom Pinochet brought into his dictatorial regime. The problem is that Pinochet’s so-called “transition to democracy” involved one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, one that lasted some 17 years. During that time, tens of thousands of innocent people — including people who just favored democracy and hated military tyranny — were rounded up, incarcerated, tortured, raped, or killed. They included a young American man named Charles Horman, whom, evidence indicates, the U.S. national-security state helped to murder.

Commenting critically on the Journal’s editorial, Martin Pengelly pointed out in the Guardian:

Presumably, the WSJ thinks the Egyptians have 17 years in which to think themselves lucky when any who dissent are tortured with electricity, thrown from planes or – if they’re really lucky – just shot. That’s what happened in Chile after 1973, causing the deaths of between 1,000 and 3,000 people. Around 30,000 were tortured.

Consider this article that was published this morning on the website of Amnesty International. The title of it sums up what the article is about: “Life Under Pinochet: ‘We Still Don’t Know What Happened to My Brother.” If you’re a regular human being — that is, one who wasn’t born with an interventionist mindset or had one inculcated in you by the public-school system — there is no way that you can read that article and consider that the Chilean woman who still doesn’t know what happened to her brother some 40 years ago to be lucky.

Why not just leave Chile alone? Why not just leave Egypt alone? Why not just cancel foreign aid entirely, not only to brutal dictatorships but also to every other regime, especially during a time that federal expenditures continue to far exceed federal income? That’s a fascinating question. Unfortunately, it’s one that never enters the interventionist mindset.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.