- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An affirmative answer has been assumed without challenge at least since World War II. But too much is at stake in American lives and liberties to ignore the advice of Bertrand Russell: “In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

Daily news stories speak volumes about the United States conviction that its national security interests require a muscular military profile everywhere in the planet. The United States is evicted from Manas air base in Kryghyzstan in a cat-and-mouse game with Russia. The United States spars with Russia over a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend Europe from Iran. The United States provides covert assistance to Uganda to defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army. The United States dispatches Middle East envoy George Mitchell to the Gaza Strip to fashion an elusive resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and, special envoy Richard Holbrooke to Pakistan and Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda and to encourage democratic trappings there. The United States is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of preventing a caliph in Washington, D.C.

The United States sports military personnel in a staggering 135 countries, and, approximately 1,000 foreign military installations. To borrow from the Bible, no sparrow falls that escapes the national security eye of the United States.

For more than 60 years, unquestioned orthodoxies have insisted that a global empire is necessary to make the United States safer from foreign enemies, to make it richer from foreign trade, and to dominate the world (which is presumed to be a good thing). But all three propositions are dubious.

Suppose the United States redeployed its military resources that are abroad to the United States. Submarines and ships would continue to ply the high seas, and military aircraft based in the United States would continue to fly intelligence missions. No country would dare attack. Our defenses and retaliatory capability would be invincible. Esprit de corps would be at its zenith because soldiers would be fighting to protect American lives and American soil - not Afghan peasants.

The redeployment would end United States casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It would end the foreign resentments or enemies created by unintended killings of civilians and the insult to pride excited by foreign occupation.

President George Washington’s Farewell Address celebrated the day when the United States would be capable of defending itself with no foreign entanglements: “If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation.” That day has arrived. The United States does not need military personnel in 135 foreign countries to deter enemies who might threaten our sovereignty.

Neither is the projection of military force abroad necessary to a healthy U.S. economy. Trade is fueled by the insatiable passion for money and material possessions. It will flourish - either above ground or below ground - irrespective of government action.

The United States has expended stupendous sums to curtail international drug trafficking without result. No arms embargo ever defeated a belligerent. The black market is too clever and nimble. Middlemen will always appear to circumvent trade restrictions. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, the Arab oil embargo against the United States and the Netherlands failed because of resellers. The same resale market foiled the United States wheat embargo on the Soviet Union in retaliation for its invasion of Afghanistan.

Further, every commodity has a substitute. During World War II, the United States developed synthetic rubber when natural rubber supplies diminished.

Even with the pirates off the coast of Somalia, the United States has not thought it economically necessary to dispatch naval vessels to end piracy and lower insurance rates. The United States economy has never been confronted with ruination because it was denied access to an allegedly indispensable commodity.

Finally, the United States was not conceived to dominate the world or to intervene for alleged humanitarian objectives by the use or threat of military force. According to the Constitution’s Preamble, it was formed “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams captured the original intent of the Founding Fathers in his July 4, 1821, address: “[The United States] has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations, while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. … She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. … She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

The American Empire should be abandoned and the republic restored. The United States would be safer, freer and wealthier.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer at Bruce Fein & Associates, Inc., and author of “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy.”

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