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Progressive Foreign Policy Fails Again

By Jim Ostrowski
Note: This is an excerpt from The Impeachment of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for High Crimes in Syria and Libya, by Michael Ostrowski and James Ostrowski (2016).
What happened in Libya and Syria is simply a manifestation of a very dangerous mindset known as progressivism. Progressivism amounts to a blind faith that government force can improve any given situation. It is usually associated with domestic policy but progressivism also operates in foreign policy. Progressives ignore costs and consequences. Progressives plunge into situations they do not understand, heedless of the consequences. When progressives fail, they invariably attribute the failure to not using enough government force. Thus, Obama, explaining his failure in Libya, stated, “I think we underestimated . . . the need to come in full force.”

Thus, it is not merely Obama and Clinton who need to be held responsible. Their underlying ideology also needs to be called to account. We need to impeach progressivism too lest that dangerous ideology leads us into an endless series of future foreign policy disasters as it has already led us into 100 years filled with them.

It is important to understand that a callous disregard of consequences is intrinsic to progressivism, whether applied to domestic or foreign policy. One consequence of foreign intervention which the progressives utterly ignore is blowback in the form of terrorist attacks in direct retaliation against the intervention. It is probably a Freudian slip that those who supported overthrowing Gaddafi and Assad were oblivious to the consequences as these men had few ties to terrorism in recent years. However, if all that was said about them was true, then they should have been concerned about such retaliation. There is no similar excuse concerning ISIS, however. And true to form, ISIS has delivered, in Paris, in the skies of Egypt and in San Bernardino and Orlando. As of November of 2015, ISIS had engaged in over 1500 terrorist attacks.

Another consequence of war that is rarely discussed in advance is the legal risk of engaging in war. When a state is attacked, it has the legal right to respond and defend itself. Such a response may include attacking any military facility in the attacking state. Obviously, any such attacks in modern war run the risk of civilian casualties. Since this is rarely if ever mentioned by politicians, they apparently expect us to simply put all of this out of our minds.

What is truly revolting is this. Obama and Clinton, who are protected by heavy security, have launched the United States into wars against parties likely to retaliate against innocent and vulnerable civilians, when the perpetrators of these illegal wars are utterly incapable of stopping such attacks or protecting such civilians. The only legal remedy for such moral depravity is impeachment.

Although foreign progressivism is a species of the same genus as domestic progressivism, it is important to understand that foreign progressivism is even worse. Foreign progressive intervention has several features that differ from the domestic variety. First, progressives know even less about foreign lands than they do about their own country where they still make huge policy blunders. They are particularly unaware of the age-old conflicts among racial, ethnic and religious groups. They bring with them a Western-style assumption, rooted in archism, that national borders are rational, just and sacrosanct. Thus, they are blind to the fact that the state boundaries in most parts of the world are unjust, arbitrary and usually imposed by imperial powers after violent conquest. Of course, as progressives (and archists), the notion that states need to be broken up into smaller parts that would allow the various warring tribes and groups to run their own nations, is loathsome to them. Centralization is a primary progressive value. So, for example, after the U. S. conquest of the artificial state of Iraq, they insisted on its continued integrity. It was thus predictable that the Shiite majority would control the entire state after elections and impose its will on the minority Sunnis and Kurds, leading to the inevitable civil war. Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq War, was herself blissfully unaware of this inevitability.

Second, people in foreign lands have never approved in any way the progressives’ intervention into their own country. Third, that being the case, while domestic intervention has a number of tools at its disposal, foreign intervention has only one primary tool, war. War involves killing people and destroying property. Not only does this directly engender resistance and retaliation but it also strips away the protective coating of propaganda that usually cloaks state action. For example, since most people comply with tax laws, the state only rarely has to use actual force to collect them. Thus, the violent nature of taxation is hidden underneath the usual avalanche of birth-to-death progressive propaganda. For example, it is based on voluntary compliance; it is the citizens’ duty, and it’s all good because it was democratically approved. While all these rationalizations are nonsense, it is not easy to cut through the propaganda when the audience spent twelve years in a government school being brainwashed. In sharp contrast, when a bomb blows up an apartment building and kills thirty people, the facts are plain and the ability of propaganda to make people think that black is white, is minimal. Naturally, they tend to react, resist and retaliate.

To sum up, progressivism fails in foreign policy for a number of important reasons. First, the progressives are pervasively ignorant about the countries they are invading and conquering. Second, such intervention fails to deal with the underlying causes of problems, usually being related to the preexisting culture and character of a people or the arbitrary borders into which disparate ethnic, racial and religious groups have been consigned. Third, such intervention sparks resistance and retaliation among the victims. Finally, such intervention usually results in unforeseen and unintended bad consequences.

Thus, the lesson of this book is not just that Obama and Clinton blundered by intervening into Libya and Syria but that, once again, progressives applied their utopian theory beyond the borders of the United States with the usual disastrous consequences.

Jim Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer in Buffalo, NY. He is CEO of and author of several books including Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America. Copyright 2016 by Cazenovia Books.

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