War Is Not Conservative; You Need Head Examined

by Pat McGeehan, former Hancock County Delegate
War Is Not Conservative; You Need Head Examined

This past May, I had the pleasure of attending my little brother’s graduation from the US Naval Academy. At the Commencement Ceremony in Annapolis, the primary guest speaker was then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He delivered an exceptional speech, and towards the end, he began to choke up a bit about the number of young men and women in our armed forces who had given the ultimate sacrifice under his tenure. In a press interview shortly thereafter, the outgoing Secretary of Defense—a Bush appointee—had this to say: “Anyone that thinks we need another war right now needs to get their head examined”. Robert Gates—a guy who can hardly be labeled as a “leftist hippy”—had realized the toll all of these undeclared wars have taken on our nation’s health.

Yet when you watch the recent Republican Presidential debates, nearly all of the candidates on the stage tout this dangerous rhetoric over and over. In the most recent debate last night, I listened to 6 out of the 8 candidates on stage (minus Ron Paul and John Huntsman) say that the United States needs to “further involvement” within the internal affairs of numerous Middle Eastern countries. Rick Perry said we should declare a no-fly zone over Syria. Herman Cain and Rick Santorum both implied outright that we should initiate an attack on Iran. Newt Gingrich said we should covertly overthrow the regimes of both of these countries. For Michele Bachman, nothing is off the table, especially military action. And Mitt Romney sounds like he would like to do all of the above. These candidates also have indicated that we need to stay almost endlessly in Afghanistan and Iraq to “see the mission accomplished”. What mission? And almost all of them again unilaterally endorse “crippling” economic sanctions on these same foreign nations, which of course, is another way of saying blockade—or an act of war.


Our country is currently involved in many overseas conflicts, and it has been for some time. But most disturbing is that ever since this pattern began, whereby our country goes to war when it feels like it—unconstitutionally, without a proper Declaration from the Congress (as mandated by Article I Section 8)—our nation’s government has practically been engaged in one long continual state of war for over 60 years! And this is seen today as nothing unusual!


Only a sugar-coated understanding of American history provides this wide-spread acceptance by the public that all of these endless wars are “good” and “just”. Much of this propaganda has been rooted in fear and emotion, and certainly not logic. These past wars have been sold to the public with warnings about the need to stop the world's next Hitler. The sales pitch runs something like this, “Well, there’s a boogey man out there, and you have to give us the power to stop him. Don’t believe us? Well, just take my word for it.” The latest boogey man has become the “Islamic Fascist”, the “Terrorist”, or the Iranian “Radical”.


And thus, a major question exists—when did the conservative position become the endorsement of war and fear mongering? If you look back in history, taking the nation to war actually used to be the radical, liberal position! Although the ideas of foreign intervention and Empire had already begun to foment, Woodrow Wilson became the champion of the tag line, “Make the World Safe for Democracy”. Wilson was one of the more significant leaders of the “Progressive Era”—a radical shift in American history that helped place the final nails in the coffin of the American Republic. Wilson’s foreign policy ideas of more intervention coincided directly with massive domestic intervention into the market economy. Woodrow Wilson presided over the establishment of the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve Banking System, centralizing power in Washington—permitting bureaucratic authorities to directly confiscate personal income, and giving the power to the federal government to debase, and counterfeit our currency. Wilson also championed the change in how US Senators were chosen, shifting the process from  one of appointment by the various state legislatures, to a direct popular vote from the public at large—ending one of the last true checks the individual state governments had over federal power and mob rule. Simultaneously, the Wilson Administration played national nanny, banning alcohol across the entire nation after it was deemed by bureaucrats as “immoral for the public” (giving rise to the organized cartels of the Prohibition Age).  It’s safe to say, these ideas are not “conservative”.


This domestic intervention, and the erosion of private property rights, gave Wilson and others like him only increased and ever-heightened power. The Wilson Administration went on to ignore the advice of our country’s Founders—who eerily warned of the entangling political alliances of Europe—and by 1917, the United States fell into the blood-soaked trenches of Europe. Over the course of just one year, 100,000 Americans had lost their lives during World War I. And for what?


If we look back on the prevailing thoughts of this day in age, the conservative opinion was to stay out of the war. Show restraint, show wisdom. After all, war is bad for the economy. Only peace, trade, and commerce brings prosperity. War can only bring the destruction of lives and resources. What’s more is that the entrance of the United States onto the battlefields of Europe ended the teetering back-and-forth stalemate, and provided a one-way victory for the British Empire: Winner take-all, and Loser pay-all.


It’s important to note that in this day-of-age, it was never a foregone conclusion that the United States would ever “side” with the British—or the French, in any war. In fact, many Americans had just as much in common with the Germans. By the end of the 19th century, a huge influx of immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe had poured into the United States. And up until this time, the United States was still very wary about the British Empire—just as Germany was (after all, we had already fought two wars against it).


It is very likely, that in the absence of American intervention, the European powers would have had to deal with a cease-fire and the end of hostilities in their own way. Resources and lives had depleted on both sides so severely, that neither was in a position to dictate any terms of surrender, and certainly not unconditionally. But this was not to be.


The “Woodrow Wilson-plunge” pushed one side clearly over the top—but needless to say; all of the European powers lay in utter bankruptcy after the war. Out of hatred and frustration, the Allies forced inconceivable war reparations onto the Germans—who were perhaps the most bankrupt of all. The war reparations—payments to the Allies for being the losers—were conceptually impossible for the Germans to actually pay from the get-go. In fact, a mere 5 years after these impossible payments were forced upon Germany—by none other than the full weight and force of American intervention—hyperinflation began to run its course through the German economy, as the German government had tried turning to the printing-press to finance its deficits. The German paper currency became utterly worthless. Piles of German Marks lined the streets and sidewalks of Berlin—simply discarded as worthless trash. Complex exchange came to a grinding halt. The German people were forced into localized barter to survive. Inflation had completely destroyed what was left of German commerce and trade—and in from the chaos and the starvation rolled the beginnings of the Third Reich. Blaming the Jews, and the Bankers for all of their miseries—Power had increased in Germany, it had not diminished. In other words, another boogey man was found.


But oh, how history has been perverted! You won’t find this interpretation of events in a school book today—and most college professors probably still lecture that World War I was America’s first step towards glory and taking our rightful place in the world, or something along those lines (though the real result was sacrificing our sovereignty at the altar of the soon-to-be United Nations). And those who dissent from these flawed policies of today are quickly scorned as “unpatriotic”—or perhaps a naive “isolationist”. But what truly isolates our country is the continual military intervention throughout the globe. Trade and commerce never isolates—sticking our nose in someone else’s business does. And our financial well-being depends on how quickly we can re-learn this lesson.


It is certainly true today that one's comprehension of our country’s history will likely determine one's present view on foreign affairs. So look at the results of nations from the past that started down the path we have already long followed—these consequences are not pretty. We cannot have a sane fiscal policy discussion without realizing that our foreign policy is unsustainable—and that the unintended blowback from our continual meddling in foreign affairs has manifested a strong resentment towards the American policy of intervention and dictation, one that is still being played out.


We can still choose a different ending—but it will take a shift in attitude and popular culture, along with a firm grasp of economics—to voluntarily correct our road towards peace, and prosperity. As James Madison wrote, “The loss of liberty at home will always be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.


Pat McGeehan is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He served in the House of Delegates from 2008-2010 and is currently the Chairman of the Republican Party in Hancock County. Pat is employed by Frontier Communications in Wheeling—he resides in Chester.

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