Foreign Policy & War

The Economics of Foreign Policy

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Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher Coyne (Stanford Economics and Finance 2013), 272 pages. In the aftermath of the carnage wrought by World War II, Harry Truman committed America to humanitarian action. In his 1949 inaugural address, he pledged to “continue our programs for world economic recovery” and “embark on a bold new ... [click for more]

TGIF: Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War

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From 1898 to 1931, Smedley Darlington Butler was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time he retired he had achieved what was then the corps’s highest rank, major general, and by the time he died in 1940, at 58, he had more decorations, including two medals of honor, than any other Marine. During his years in ... [click for more]

The Noninterventionists Told You So

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Contrary to popular belief, there is no satisfaction in being able to say, “I told you so.” This is especially so with Iraq, where recent events are enough to sicken one’s stomach. Yet it still must be said: those who opposed the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — not to mention his father’s war ... [click for more]

TGIF: We Were Warned about the Rise of Empire

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American critics of U.S. foreign policy (as well as some neoconservative supporters) often refer to the United States as an empire. This is not an emotional outburst but a substantive description of the national government’s role in the world. But what exactly is an empire? This question is all the more relevant today with Iraq is being consumed ... [click for more]

Sgt. Bergdahl and the Fog of War

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The “fog of war” is a reference to the moral chaos on the battlefield as well as the rampant confusion. Individuals kill others for no other reason than that they are ordered to. Things deemed unambiguously bad in civilian life are authorized and even lauded in war. The killing and maiming of acknowledged innocents — in particular children and ... [click for more]

TGIF: Trivial Dispute: Obama versus the Interventionists

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American politics is largely a series of debates over unimportant details. These debates are conducted far above the fundamental level because the supposed contenders share the same premises. Where they disagree is at the level of application, and so the disagreements end up being fairly minor, especially if you think the premises are wrong. This is an especially pronounced feature ... [click for more]

The Danger Is Intervention, Not “Isolation”

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A lot of people are warning against America turning “isolationist.” We can dismiss the warnings—special pleadings, really—emanating from other countries, where people have free-ridden on American taxpayers for decades. If Europeans are worried about defending themselves, why are they cutting their military budgets? Not that we should mind if they do, but they should not look to us to ... [click for more]

More U.S. Intervention in Libya?

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Except for the 2012 deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya has dropped out of American news coverage since President Obama and NATO’s so-called humanitarian intervention in 2011. The American public has been led to believe that except for that terrorist outburst, things have been going pretty well in the country formerly ruled ... [click for more]

Broken

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They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars — The Untold Story by Ann Jones. (Haymarket Books/Dispatch Books 2013), 191 pages. Members of the American armed forces are props. They wave from convertibles as Independence Day parades make their way down Main Street U.S.A. They are trotted out at football games to bless the proceedings as some ... [click for more]

Foreign Aid Clobbers the Third World

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The U.S. government loves to preen about its generosity to the world’s downtrodden. However, a long series of presidents and their tools have scorned the evidence that their aid programs perennially clobber recipients. Nowhere is this clearer than in the sordid history of U.S. food aid. Food for Peace was devised in 1954 to help dump abroad embarrassingly huge crop ... [click for more]

The Death of Empires

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Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America by Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane. (Simon and Schuster 2013), 296 pages. One of the perennial questions historians address is why empires fell. In his 1987 bestseller, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Yale historian Paul Kennedy theorized that every empire reaches a tipping point ... [click for more]
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