Does the United States really need to intervene frequently around the world in order to safeguard its security? As public debate of Americas role in the world intensifies during this presidential election season, national security and U.S. defense policy expert Ivan Eland critically examines the growing interventionism and militarization of U.S. foreign policy in THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (The Independent Institute, October 2004).
Most Americans dont think of their government as an empire, but the United States has been steadily expanding its control of overseas territories since the turn of the twentieth century, says Eland, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. U.S. national security policy, particularly since the end of the Cold War, is contrary to the principles of both liberals and conservatives and actually undermines American security and civil liberties, argues Eland. In THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES, he examines the history of U.S. military interventions around the world from the Spanish-American War to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the steady expansion of the U.S. overseas empire and its military bases since the turn of the 20th Century.
In THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES, Eland argues that conservatives should be against a U.S. empire because overseas wars harm the domestic economy and are the principal cause of expanding governmenteven in the non-security realm. Imperial overextension, which the United States is now experiencing, has caused the demise of many empires throughout history and may even result in Americas decline as a great power, à la Great Britain, says Eland.
Liberals should be against a U.S. empire, he points out, because many humanitarian wars are really fought for ulterior special-interest purposes and end up being neither effective nor humane. In addition, overseas wars lead to the erosion of civil liberties at home and increased corporate welfare being slathered on defense contractors.
And all Americans, Eland concludes, should be against empire because it reduces security at home by causing blowback terrorism, creates an imperial presidency, and distorts the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution.
"U.S. foreign policy has been imperial under many U.S. presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, even though Americas own colonial subjugation, at the hands of the British, has bequeathed an anti-imperialist self-image. Although the current Bush administration is more overtly hawkish than any U.S. administration since Ronald Reagan, all post-World War II administrationsincluding the Clinton administrationhave tried to maintain U.S. dominance in the world, says Eland. He examines a multitude of failed policies of nation building, humanitarian missions, and peacekeeping in Afghanistan, Serbia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as U.S.-backed disasters in Lebanon, Somalia, and Iraq.
In THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES, Eland traces the roots of the Founding Fathers original policy of military restraint. For almost 175 years of its 225-plus year history, the United States, with a few lapses, stayed out of major foreign wars, Eland points out. By keeping its military small and at home and government spending low, the country grew into the worlds largest economy and individual liberties generally flourished. Even after World War II, the United States quickly demobilized the bulk of its temporarily vast military. It was only during the Cold War, says Eland, that America finally and fully abandoned its traditional foreign policy in favor of containment of the Soviet Union and began creating alliances that spanned the globe and marked the beginning of a global U.S. empire.
However, those worldwide alliances, argues Eland, should have ended with the Cold War. Instead, he says, the United States expanded NATO in both territory and mission, enhanced East Asian alliances, became mired in the previously non-strategic Balkans, erected quasi-permanent bases in the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union, reinvigorated the U.S. alliance with the Philippines, tightened the informal alliances with Israel and Taiwan, and invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of fighting terrorism.
In THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES, Eland advocates a return to the original U.S. foreign policy, which emphasized international commerce and cultural exchange with severe limitations on U.S. military intervention worldwide. He warns that further blowback terrorism of the September 11th variety, which results from U.S. entanglement in overseas ethnic and religious civil wars, will create a climate of pervasive fear at home. In that climate of fear, he says, the intrusive powers of the state could expand at the expense of the republic itselfperhaps the most pernicious effect of a U.S. empire.
THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. FOREIGN POLICY EXPOSED
By Ivan Eland
Published by The Independent Institute
Date of Publication: October 2004
$24.95 Hardcover * ISBN 0-945999-98-4 * 6 x 9 * 294 pages