Interventionism Will Lead to Breakdown—in Iraq or at Home

Spiked has published a powerful indictment of the West’s contributions to the current slaughter in Iraq.

Watching Iraq descend into mayhem, liberals blame Bush and Blair’s ‘hubris’ in 2003 and their refusal to wait for a UN mandate for toppling Saddam, while right-wingers blame President Barack Obama, claiming his early withdrawal of US troops was an act of ‘criminal negligence’ that allowed Islamist militants to return. Both of these responses suggest that the lethal instability in Iraq is a product of Western politicians’ mishaps and miscalculations rather than of Western interventionism per se.

I found myself agreeing almost entirely with this assessment. Lost in the petty war of party politics and professionally-crafted talking-points is the fact that countless Iraqis have been made into refugees and/or slaughtered, and it is our intervention that initiated it—we have blood on our hands.

Equally as stunning is that I recognized a cautionary tale for the United States, illustrated by the situation between identity groups within Iraq.

In their context—as in almost all of the world’s history–government has not been a tool to guarantee God-given freedoms for all, but is a blunt instrument of coercion to reward friends of those in power, and punish “outsiders.” While Iraqis may choose bloodier ways to carry out retribution, I find little comfort that our means are currently less lethal, but similarly vindictive.

Today’s power plays usually involve lost opportunity and financial plunder, yet it doesn’t take much imagination to envision an escalation in the penalties exacted for being on “the wrong team.” Humans have historically endured only so much injustice in outward peace, before turning to means that color the streets red.

The key to American Exceptionalism was the exaltation of the Rule of Law to produce an equal playing field, not anyone’s biased interpretation of “fair” results—it was an outworking of “live and let live.” Increasingly, however, government is used to force others to heed our personal vision of the way things should be.

It is no longer sufficient to patronize and encourage businesses of like mind. Many seek ways to close down those with different views—even to the point of intimidating others to violate their personal beliefs and conscience. Alternate views are not tolerated, they are banished.

If we continue to countenance this current trajectory in government, it will not be long before the streets of America look like the streets of Iraq. Interventionism based on human ideas is the ultimate expression of pride–“I know what’s best for you, and I’m going to force you to like it.”

If we are not content to let our neighbor—with his different ideas—live in freedom, there will soon come a day when people like that neighbor take power, and decide it’s time for retribution. In fact, I think we see that day has already dawned in America, and we had better seek ways to return to the path of freedom, before the evening comes, and darkness falls.