Has U.S. military power been a force for good or evil?

March 7, 2015
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Supposedly, the U.S. has…

  • Always defended freedom
  • Mainly been a force for good
  • Never fought wars of conquest

Alas, that’s all false. In truth. U.S. wars have…

  • Only rarely defended freedom
  • Made the world profoundly worse
  • Often been wars of conquest

In fact, most U.S. military actions haven’t even defended America. Instead, they’ve mostly endangered us by creating unnecessary enemies.
This article will demonstrate these claims. It provides a summary review of U.S. military history. Each point made below is backed by links to authoritative books and articles. You’re about to learn America’s true military history.
In the 19th Century…
U.S. politicians wanted to conquer Canada.

This was a prime objective for the War of 1812. Instead, the politicians got our capitol burned down.

U.S. politicians conquered a vast portion of Mexico.

Our 1846 war against Mexico conquered the lands that now comprise the Western United State. This war was also waged under false pretenses.

U.S. politicians conquered colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Our 1898 war with Spain was sold as a fight against empire, but its true purpose was to create our own empire. U.S. politicians did this by subjugating Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

Our 1899 to 1902 conquest of the Philippines was an especially dark chapter. American soldiers engaged in systematic torture and rape. Villages were destroyed. Civilians were incarcerated in concentration camps, and roughly 250,000 Filipino’s were murdered.

In short…

Most early U.S. wars were wars of conquest.

This set a bad example. The Japanese later used this example to justify their own wars of conquest in the 20th century. Even worse…

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt actually negotiated secret treaties with the Japanese encouraging them to create such an empire.

And so the worst was yet to come…
In the early 20th Century…
President Theodore Roosevelt urged Japan to conquer Korea.

In 1905 Teddy Roosevelt closed the American embassy in Korea. He then urged the Japanese to conquer that country as their first imperial colony. The Japanese promptly did so two months later. This began the Japanese drive for empire that led to Pearl Harbor. It also began decades of Korean suffering that still continue.

European politicians started a world war over nothing.

It’s not only U.S. politicians who misuse the military. All politicians everywhere do it. One of the worst examples happened in August 1914 when the empires of Europe started World War One (WW1).

This conflict pitted the globe’s largest imperial powers — Great Britain, France, and Russia — against the smaller empires — Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey.

This was a war about nothing. Neither side had any…

It was simply war for war’s sake. And American politicians soon joined the insanity…

U.S. President Wilson favored the larger empires.

When the war began President Wilson rightly advised Americans to remain neutral, both in deed and thought. But the President didn’t follow his own advice. He favored the larger empires against the smaller. For instance…

He honored the British blockade of U.S. shipping. This meant that America would feed, clothe, and arm the larger imperial powers, while providing nothing to the other side.

This eventually forced the Germans to wage submarine warfare against American shipping. And that led the U.S. to war with Germany and her allies. This had catastrophic consequences that are still being felt today…

U.S. politicians prolonged WW1 by intervening to break a stalemate.

The war had raged for two and a half years before America got involved. Neither side could gain an advantage. Progress was measured in yards, and quickly lost. The war was a draw. It should have ended with no victors and a negotiated peace. There should have been no punitive treaty of submission like the one Germany was forced to sign at Versaille. But…

Our April, 1917 intervention broke the stalemate, This created conditions that would lead to World War Two (WW2) and the Cold War, as described below…

U.S. policies fostered the birth of the Soviet Union.

Notice the chain of events…

  • Prompted by war weariness, Russian leaders deposed the Czar and created a crude democracy on March 2, 1917.
  • The U.S. entered the war on the side of Russia, Britain, and France roughly one month later, on April 6th.
  • Ten days after that Germany acted to counterbalance America’s involvement. They did this by sending Vladimir Lenin back to Russia on April 16. The Germans hoped that Lenin would stage a coup and then take Russia out of the war. This was eventually what happened.
  • Meanwhile, President Wilson was taking steps to keep Russia in the war. He sent envoys to offer money to keep the Russians fighting. This worked. And so Russia’s war misery continued. This created the conditions that would eventually lead to success for Lenin’s communist revolution a few months later, in November, 1917.

That is what happened in our world. But it’s easy to imagine a world in which…

  • Wilson didn’t honor the British blockade of American shipping.
  • The Germans didn’t wage submarine warfare against the U.S. merchant vessels that were supplying their enemies
  • The U.S. didn’t enter the war, or bribe Russia’s new democracy to continue fighting.
  • WW1 ended with a negotiated peace, either without the Germans sending Lenin back to Russia, or before Lenin had time to overthrow Russia’s new democracy.

There would have been no Soviet Union in such a world. 

And no Soviet Union means…

  • No Cold War
  • No Korean War
  • No Vietnam War
  • No Cuban Missile Crisis
  • And probably no Red China either.

Hundreds of millions of needless deaths could have been avoided, if only the U.S. had not intervened to break the WW1 stalemate. But the Cold War wasn’t the only disaster that resulted from that epic blunder…

U.S. intervention in WW1 also contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler (and bungling by the Federal Reserve did the rest).

Because the U.S. joined World War One on the side of Britain and France, those powers won and Germany lost. This allowed the larger imperial powers to impose a harsh peace on Germany.  President Woodrow Wilson collaborated to impose this peace.  This violated every promise he had made about what the peace settlement would look like.

The resulting Versailles Treaty crippled the Germany economy, and bred resentment among the German people. These conditions contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party. Then…

During the early 1930s the U.S. Federal reserve sharply reduced the U.S. money supply. This caused a harsh depression that affected the whole world, including Germany. This Great Depression, caused by bungling U.S. bureaucrats, created the final circumstances needed for Hitler to achieve total power. World War Two soon followed.

The Versailles Treaty also fostered the rise of the Islamist groups that terrorize us today.

The same harsh treaty that eventually aided the rise of Hitler, also created numerous cobbled-together countries in the Middle East. The borders of these countries were drawn to serve the interests of the imperial powers with whom the U.S. had allied itself, most notably Britain and France. These borders were imposed upon the native peoples against their will, in violation of solemn promises. The negative backlash is still being felt today, with the rise of Islamist resistance movements.

After World War One Japan resumed its quest to emulate the Western empires.

In 1931 Japan invaded China, thereby continuing the expansion advocated by Theodore Roosevelt (TR) in 1905. But…

TR’s 5th cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), objected to this expansion when he became U.S. president in 1933.

To defend China FDR tried to provoke a war with Japan. He did this by sending planes and ships to the area. When that didn’t work, an oil embargo did. Pearl Harbor followed. But…

The resulting war with Japan did nothing to help China, which instead fell to the murderous Chairman Mao.

U.S. politicians created an evil regime in North Korea.

As part of our war with Japan U.S. politicians actually invited the Soviet Union to invade Korea. This created the evil regime that still rules North Korea to this day. This moral and strategic blunder led to the Korean War a few years later. All of this was a consequence of the following…

U.S. politicians forged an alliance with Hitler’s partner in crime, Joseph Stalin.

World War Two (WW2) began when Hitler invaded Poland in September, 1939. But Hitler didn’t act alone. Joseph Stalin also invaded Poland at the same time. The two tyrants split the country between them. Stalin also conquered the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This raises the question…

If the invasion of Poland was a good reason for Britain and France to declare war on Germany, then why didn’t they declare war on Stalin too?

The same question applies to the United States. If Hitler’s conquests justified waging war against him, why didn’t we also go to war with the Soviet Union?

Many Americans assume there were other reasons to oppose Hitler (such as the Holocaust) while leaving Stalin alone. But Hitler’s mass murder of Europe’s Jews had begun in earnest only a few months earlier, and was not fully known in the West until later. By comparison…

It was already known that Stalin had killed millions of his own people, and was still doing so. Stalin was clearly just as evil as Hitler, but Western politicians gave him a pass. Even worse…

FDR made an alliance with Stalin against Hitler (who had turned against Stalin by invading the Soviet Union in June, 1941). The result of this U.S.-Soviet alliance was devastating…

U.S. politicians helped Stalin conquer Eastern Europe.

FDR sent guns, food, and supplies to Stalin, without requiring anything in return. This was a negotiating blunder of epic proportions.

At the time this aid began to flow Hitler occupied vast stretches of Soviet territory. This meant that Stalin desperately needed our help. That should have been worth something. And there were many obvious things to seek in return for our aid. FDR could have asked requested…

  • A postwar return to the Eastern European borders as they had existed before Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland.
  • The right to control the post-war elections in those countries, with U.S. troops garrisoned there to protect the process.

FDR could also have offered security guarantees, to address Stalin’s fears about future Germany aggression. All of these strategic goals should have been painfully obvious negotiating points, but FDR used none of them. Instead…

FDR simply allied the U.S. with a murderous tyrant, and started giving him aid. Yes, that aid did help Stalin defeat Hitler, but it also helped him conquer Eastern Europe.  The U.S.-Soviet alliance contradicted the supposed purpose of the war. By helping Stalin to conquer Eastern Europe and North Korea FDR largely nullified what was achieved by defeating Hitler.

In short…

Every U.S. war fought in the early 20th Century was a moral and strategic blunder, or came about because of previous such blunders. And most would lead to even more disasters in the years ahead. Most notably, our ill conceived alliance with the evil Soviet Union led directly to…

The Cold War…
U.S. politicians created an institution that has caused worldwide harm.

To help resist the feared expansion of the Soviet Union, Congress created the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947. Sadly, there’s little evidence the CIA ever did much to thwart Communism. But there’s great evidence that the CIA caused disasters and created new enemies for the American people, all around the world.

The CIA committed a crime in Iran.

In 1953 the CIA overthrew the democratic government of Iran, and installed the Shah as a U.S. supported dictator. These events were the cause of the Iranian Revolution that came in 1980, including the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Iran has been a U.S. enemy ever since.

U.S. politicians supported evil regimes.

Throughout the Cold War U.S. politicians supported dictatorships around the world. This led to the rise of countless anti-American opposition groups including Islamist organizations that still threaten us today.

Bungling by U.S. politicians nearly caused the end of the world.

In 1959 the U.S. installed nuclear missiles in Turkey, on the border of the Soviet Union. This destabilizing quick-strike capability provoked the Soviets to install similar missiles in Cuba, to restore the nuclear balance. The resulting Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

U.S. politicians escalated their intervention in Vietnam under false pretenses.

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson used the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin incidents to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

U.S. politicians wrecked Southeast Asia, killing millions.

The U.S war in Vietnam soon spread to the surrounding countries of Laos and Cambodia. This created conditions that led to genocide in Cambodia.

The CIA ruined Lebanon.

In 1968 the CIA destabilized the government of Lebanon. That country had once been described as the Switzerland of the Middle-East, but after the CIA got through with it Lebanon descended into civil war. These events also aided the rise of Hezbollah.

U.S. politicians gave Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction.

In the early 1980s U.S. politicians gave chemical and biological weapons to Saddam Hussein for use in his proxy war with Iran. It’s possible that Hussein later used some of these weapons against his own people. Similar weapons (perhaps even the same weapons) were eventually used as an excuse to invade Iraq and depose Hussein in 2003.

After the Cold War…
U.S. diplomat approved Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

In 1990 U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie gave Saddam Hussein a green-light to invade Kuwait. This invasion was then used as an excuse by President Bush to invade Iraq.

U.S. politicians used false atrocity stories to justify war with Iraq.

The American people were told that Iraqi troops removed babies from incubators during the invasion of Kuwait. These stories were used to incite Americans to war. The stories were false.

U.S. politicians used fake intelligence to scare the world.

U.S. leaders told the world that Iraqi forces were massed on the border to invade Saudi Arabia. These claims were based on satellite photos faked by U.S. intelligence agencies. This deception led to the quartering of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which then inspired the criminal 9-11 attack against innocent Americans.

President H.W. Bush betrayed Iraqi rebels.

In 1991, after the restoriation of Kuwait to its dictatorial rulers, President Bush urged the people of Iraq to rebel against Hussein. The Iraqis promptly did so. President Bush then stood idly by as Hussein massacred the rebels. Some of these mass killings may even have involved the use of chemical weapons previously provided by the U.S.

U.S. politicians imposed huge burdens on the Iraqi people.

President Bush then used these events as an excuse to impose a trade embargo on Iraq. These policies were later expanded under President Clinton, and included regular bombings. The impact on the Iraqi people was devastating, while Hussein himself continued to live the high life.

U.S. politicians inflamed Islamic radicals by stationing troops on holy ground.

A no-fly zone was imposed over Iraq. This required the retention of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia over a period of years. The presence of these troops on “holy soil” was the major complaint of Osama Bin Laden’s fatwa that preceded the 9-11 attacks.

The fatal consequences of the U.S. embargo further inflamed Islamic radicals.

An estimated half million Iraqi children died because of the U.S. embargo and air attacks. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright accepted this estimate, and judged it a cost “worth paying,” during an interview on 60 Minutes. This too was mentioned in the fatwa that preceded the 9-11 attacks.

A new round of disasters…

On September 11, 2001, many chickens came home to roost. Osama Bin Laden, a one-time U.S. ally in the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, directed an attack against the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington.

The CIA-invented term blowback, accurately describes this event. 9-11 was not only a great crime against innocent people, it was also blowback for decades of disastrous meddling in the affairs of other countries.

Even the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board sees a connection between U.S. overseas interventions and acts of terror. Robert A. Pape, the world’s foremost authority on suicide terrorism, comes to the same conclusion.

The nature of politics…

Groucho Marx once observed that…

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and then applying the wrong remedies.” 

So it has been with U.S. foreign policy in general, and the response to 9-11 in particular. Consider…

Afghanistan and Iraq…

It certainly made sense for U.S. politicians to go after Bin Laden in Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks. But it made no sense to do so with forces insufficient to the job. It made even less sense to then use the military to reform Afghanistan. But…

Our politicians actually doubled-down on that error by invading and occupying Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. Fraudulent scare stories were once again used to incite the American people to war hysteria. In this case, the scare story was about weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be non-existent. And now…

Both Iraq and Afghanistan remain bleeding sores on the face of the world. And the blunders continue…
A recently declassified Pentagon document shows that the U.S. has actually supported the rise of ISIS, in order to have a Sunni state in Syria to offset the Shia Muslims in Iran and Iraq. So, the next time you see videos of ISIS beheadings, please understand that once again U.S. politicians have played a pivotal role in screwing up the world.
In conclusion…
Please recognize that the above summary is indeed only a summary. Dozens of other interventions would be cited in a full history, most of them likewise disastrous. Many of the smaller ones are covered in the memoirs of General Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated solider. Butler came to regret the conflicts he had fought in, and took to calling himself “a gangster for Wall Street.” All told…

A full view of the historical record provides overwhelming evidence that the popular perception of our military history is self-serving myth.

In reality…

  • U.S. politicians have repeatedly used the military establishment to invade other countries for purposes of conquest
  • U.S. politicians have rarely, if ever, been friends of freedom or democracy.
  • U.S. interventions have not made the world a better place. They have made it profoundly worse.
  • These interventions have not defended America. Instead, they have constantly endangered us by creating unnecessary enemies.

All of this suggests that…

  • Giving politicians the use of a military establishment is self-destructive to the safety and prosperity of the people.
  • We should return to the wisdom of the Founders, who saw standing armies as dangerous, and who warned against entangling alliances and foreign interventions.
  • This is not to presume that no one should ever intervene to aid foreign peoples in need, but rather, that such intervention should be done on a decentralized basis, and not by politicians managing major national military establishments.

In other words…

  • We need to separate intervention and state.
  • We need a diverse set of institutions, along the lines of Amnesty International, to innovate various ways to intervene for the protection of foreign peoples.
  • These institutions should be consumer-controlled, rather than politically managed.

Consumer-controlled institutions are subject to regulation by their donors, who can withdraw funding for ineffective strategies, or expand funding for interventions that actually work.
This approach might involve various non-violent tactics. It could also include providing arms to individuals for a guerilla defense against predatory states.
Such a strategy would avoid the pitfalls of politically managed intervention that relies on violence-based funding (taxation). Violence-based funding removes the element of consumer-control, leading to perverse incentives that actually give increased funding to failed policies.
This, I think, is what the lesson of history teaches us.


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