- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The United States needs a new foreign policy that uses military force as a last measure, not as a way of exporting democracy to Iraq and other nondemocratic nations, Doug Bandow says.

“People have been very critical of social engineering at home and of big-government programs at home. Now, we’re trying to social engineer in other countries,” Mr. Bandow says, mentioning Iraq, Haiti and Kosovo as examples. “We’ve lost the central tenet, which is to protect our own society. Now we’re trying to reorganize the globe.”

Mr. Bandow’s latest book, “Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire,” compiles a collection of articles he wrote on foreign affairs, terrorism, and military and humanitarian intervention to spark debate while promoting a more restrained, noninterventionist policy.

“I advocate in this book a more traditional approach to foreign policy,” Mr. Bandow told a crowd attending a book party last month at the Capitol Hill home of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

“The current policy that we’re following is unnecessarily dangerous and is really inconsistent with the founding principles of the United States,” Mr. Bandow says. “This is the moment to step back and rethink our strategies and policies.”

Mr. Norquist, an influential conservative activist, said Mr. Bandow’s prescription “combines the foresight of George Washington’s warning against foreign entanglements and Ronald Reagan’s insight that wars are very expensive for taxpayers and other living things.”

In his book, Mr. Bandow urges a commitment to “friendly political relations,” engaging in free trade and welcoming immigrants fleeing political persecution or seeking a better life.

“Global problems, from the environment to poverty to refuges, warrant global cooperation that preserves liberty and property as well,” he writes in the book’s introduction. “In this way, the U.S. can advance the interests of its own people and of those who share our humanity across the globe.”

Mr. Bandow, who served as a special presidential assistant to Mr. Reagan, is vice president of policy at Citizen Outreach, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, limited-government public-policy organization. His views on foreign policy, while critical of the Bush administration, are shared by some other conservatives.

Positive changes are achieved not by force of arms but by commercial, cultural and diplomatic exchanges, said Michael D. Ostrolenk, national director of the American Conservative Defense Alliance, an educational and advocacy group that supports a conservative national security and foreign affairs policy.

“The exchanges need to be both ways. If we want regime change in Iran or Syria or Cuba, we should trade with them, exchange ideas, art, sciences, music, food and sports and show their respective peoples that their political systems are not sustainable and are anti-human,” Mr. Ostrolenk said. “If we want to empower people throughout the world, we need to do so by setting a good example and modeling what is so great about our country and our people.”

Mr. Bandow’s book critiques U.S. foreign policy for subverting domestic interests and the foundational principles of security in favor of democratizing the world. He questions the size of the nation’s military — the U.S. accounts for half of all military spending worldwide — saying that military intervention should be a last resort after other coercive tools, such as sanctions, are used, and only if national interests are at stake.

The author of several other books, including “The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology,” Mr. Bandow says he plans to write a companion volume on the nation’s domestic policy.

Foreign policy, Mr. Bandow says, requires the country’s interests to be at stake before forced intervention is undertaken.

“Democracy is a good thing, but the belief that we can reach beyond our boundaries and ignore other traditions and cultures is an extraordinary mistake,” he says.

Saddam Hussein, who led Iraq from 1979 until his overthrow by U.S. forces in 2003, did not threaten U.S. national interests, Mr. Bandow said. Alternatively, Josef Stalin, general secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, posed a far greater threat than did Saddam, he says.

The Soviet Union, aided by Maoist China, provided a hegemonic worldwide threat while building up its nuclear arsenal, he says, but the terrorists did not have that capacity to destroy civilization.

“The difference between the Cold War and now — the Soviet Union, as Ronald Reagan said, was an ‘evil empire’ and killed tens of millions of people, stamped authoritarian regimes around Eastern Europe and engaged in subversion around the globe,” Mr. Bandow says. But President Bush has treated Iraq like a superpower — though the world is filled with plenty of horrible regimes — and ignored the war’s aftermath, Mr. Bandow says.

“We have uncontrolled sectarian breakdown in Iraq and increased terrorism around the world as a result of that war,” he says. “We needed the military to take out Afghanistan, but the military is not necessary in Iraq. The military can be useful, but fighting terrorism is not primarily a military exercise. There is so much more in terms of intelligence, international cooperation and finance.”

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