The Problems with Moral Equivalence – A Response to Geoff B.’s Perspective on Ukraine


[This is a guest post by Morgan Deane who is a military historian that teaches history for BYU-Idaho. He is an Mphil/PhD student at Kings College London and writes at and He has written a book titled, “Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon”, which will be released shortly. His guest post is in response to Geoff B.’s recent post: Perspective on Ukraine]

Every time the U.S. might take potential military action there are a variety of people who argue that these tyrants and dictators are little different from the U.S. This article in particular caught my eye, since it contained so many of the common moral equivalence errors. Despite the legitimate mistakes made in American foreign policy, America is a different and better country than Russia and our foreign policy is morally superior to that of Putin’s. The quotes are from this article from Geoff B.

The United States is currently occupying Afghanistan

Occupy is a loaded term with a negative connotation. We have troops there, but the most frequent criticism about Obama is that we are leaving too soon. We just left Iraq and the leverage we had there, so I’m amazed at how consistently America is attacked over “occupations” when we seem to be heading towards the exits like scolded gorillas. If we compare ourselves to things like the British Empire, we hardly maintain the territorial control for the length of time exhibited by that country. (Some argue that we have so many bases in so many countries that we are the same thing. But most of our bases are small refueling bases; the lack of relevant bases is why the U.S.S. Cole was exposed to a bombing attack in 2000 for example. We only have a significant number of troops in a handful of countries, and even those aren’t garrison soldiers to exercise direct control over a country similar to Roman or British soldiers.)

On top of that, only a handful of countries recognized the Taliban’s existence before 9/11. And that radical government actively supported even more radical terrorists who attacked us first. A democracy that wages war against a country that attacked us first, and then only stays with permission of the new government, is far different than a dictatorship gobbling up its neighbors.

At least a 1,000 civilians were killed during the Panamanian invasion

A democracy using its’ legitimate war powers[ref]When Harry Truman questioned the need for congressional approval in the Korean War Secretary of State Dean Acheson listed literally hundreds of instances where the President committed troops without that approval. The later War Powers Acts codified the president power to send in troops with the condition that he report to congress in 60 days, so military force is constitutional without an official declaration of war.[/ref], trying to follow the rules of war by attacking the rival military, using proportion and discrimination accidentally killing civilians is different than a dictator that seeks to maintain power by attacking its own people or its neighbors. All deaths are tragic, but only the latter is immoral.

Great powers have spheres of influence

Russian aggression towards the Ukraine is a pretty good example of Roosevelt’s sphere of influence arguments. But there is actually a conflict of influence. The Ukraine was moving towards west with items like the Orange Revolution, joint NATO exercises, and the long standing question of whether Eastern European countries should join. As one of my colleagues at Kings College London described, this is a tug of war between the pursuit of democracy and a respect for the rule of law, versus autocratic tendencies:

So instead of simply acceding Russian dominance, sphere of influence politics suggests that we should contest the Russian attempt to move the Ukraine in their directions. On top of that, this is also about Ukrainian independence. Ukrainians are united on that front, and as a beacon of democracy, we should be concerned about the rising tide of dictators.

The people of Crimea are greeting the Russians with open arms, just as the Panamanians did with us

There is no source for this but I assume he is referring to the many ethnic Russians that live in the Crimea. So of course the Russian separatists would cheer the Russian army. This historical example screaming in my mind, even though German analogies are overused is that of the ethnic Germans that longed to be reunited with Germany. Of course ethnic German minorities cheered the German army when they forcibly annexed territories like the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Many heads of state at the Munich Conference who then thought that Germany had a perfect right to do so and the Western countries shouldn’t stop it because of their own moral failings. And of course, ethnic Russians cheering the soldiers of a Russian dictatorship is far different than the soldiers of a democracy being cheered by the majority of the population.

In a perfect world, big countries would not invade smaller countries

This is so vague as to be almost meaningless. The size of a country doesn’t guarantee righteousness or victimhood. Germany was a lot smaller during the Soviet Union but it didn’t make them the sympathetic ones. Nor did it make German claims to “living space” at the expense of their neighbors any better for its neighbors. Nor did it make the small country of Panama, with its petty drug running tyrant, any less worthy on intervention. Perhaps the author meant this in terms of power more than geographic size; but that simply highlights the principles that the strong prey on the weak, and thus only another strong country, like the U.S., can deter it.

I don’t think there is much the U.S. can and should do. Russia will do what it wants there, just like the U.S. did what it wanted in Panama.

Again, there are vast differences between Russia and the U.S. Just consider if Russia is a stable democracy not run by a Czar, if they have a parliament that does not rubber stamp its policies, if they will allow free elections, jail and poison dissidents, and fight according to the rules of warfare. Obviously the character of the countries, the reason for intervention, the conduct and strategy of the armed forces are different. The conduct of their forces is still tbd in this case, but consider Russian action in Chechnya and the Russian puppet Assad’s used of chemical weapons in Syria for examples of how Russia has operated in the past and what they will likely do in the future. There are vast differences between the character and conduct of our forces. That is why we not only can do a great deal, but should do something.

America has a bully pulpit and I’ve already discussed the danger of Obama’s rather weak response. (!The-1930s-Called-/c1q8z/4E81AA1D-BCB4-4E29-93C5-581EA6BAC735) The U.S. can start economic sanctions, offer humanitarian aid to offer Ukrainians, and rally the force of moral opinion throughout the world. The promotion and encouragement of social media campaigns similar to ones in the Arab Spring can help shine a light on the abuses and topple dictators. The U.S. can ship arms to rebel groups. They can choose systems that counter specific Russian assets; and they can offer this on the condition of background checks so they can help prevent the arms from being obtained by undesirables. (This had the added advantage of increasing our intelligence and leverage while simultaneously hurting the Russians.) We can change the decision on the missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Moving towards the use of military assets, though I’m not sure anybody is suggesting we intervene directly, we can simply move two destroyers allowed by treaty into the Black Sea. Russia already has one docked in Cuba so this will be a chance to show our strength in return. Keep in mind that the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved when we closed our bases in Turkey (which borders the Black Sea) in return for the Russians removing their missiles from Cuba. Even if our forces are never used, and I assume we have no intention of doing so, a show of force matters diplomatically. On this matter we could simply cancel the planned reductions in the sized of the armed forces.

American credibility matters. America has been the greatest force for good in the world and a strong and active America promotes world peace. Even the author of the linked article recognized that Panama is a better place now because of American intervention. I strongly doubt anybody will argue that Ukraine and the Crimea will be a better place with Putin holding more power there. Due to the nature of government, the causes of the conflict, and conduct of the forces, the American’s use force is different than the Russian’s, and America has not only a right but an obligation to act.

23 thoughts on “The Problems with Moral Equivalence – A Response to Geoff B.’s Perspective on Ukraine

  1. Morgan Deane, I think this is a good, thought-provoking response. I think many M* readers will find points of agreement with you. I even agree with some of the points you made. Having said that, I think we mightily disagree on the use of U.S. force in general. More on that later.

    1)I don’t think the U.S. should do nothing. As I said in my post and in later comments, I think we should speak out for a peaceful resolution and for self-determination of the Ukrainian people. These are not steps that are strong enough for you, but I want to make it clear that there are things the U.S. can and should do. I reject economic measures and any military steps of any kind.

    2)The U.S. has a large problem in the moral equivalency department when U.S. officials, all of whom have sworn to follow the Constitution, refuse to comply with what it actually says regarding war. The Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to declare war and the executive the power to carry out war. In the case of every military action since WWII, there have been no declaration of war. This is a gross violation of the Constitution, and the United States simply cannot declare moral superiority when we fail to follow our founding document.

    3)I would agree that the U.S. people are well-intentioned when it comes to the many military interventions over the years, but unfortunately war is very ugly and often results in immoral acts. I hope there is no need to recount the horrors of the Vietnam war, but I would remind readers that today the U.S. president feel empowered to personally order the assassination of people, including U.S. citizens, via drones and other actions. Again, it makes the U.S. claim of moral superiority ring hollow when our leaders carry out such actions in our name.

    4)Military actions are expensive. From a fiscal perspective, it is immoral and harmful to our children and grandchildren to continue to rack up massive debts that will have to be repaid by future generations. The more moral position would be to change our defense policy to be in line with what we see in the Book of Mormon, i.e. a purely defensive military policy. This would help us avoid extremely expensive interventions around the world.

    5)Every military strategist of any weight in the history of the world has recognized that nation-states have national interests and that not all areas are in the national interests of the nation state. The Americas and perhaps Western Europe are in the U.S. national interest. The Ukraine is not.

    6)Every military strategist of any weight in the history of the world has also recognized that nation-states have spheres of influence. The Unites States has a clear sphere of influence in the Americas and perhaps Western Europe. China and Russia, two other great powers, have other spheres of influence. There is no reasonable argument to make that the Ukraine is in any sphere of influence other than Russia’s. Challenging Russia on a situation that is clearly in their sphere of influence will ultimately be fruitless and could lead to a completely unnecessary war. We should concentrate our limited resources on areas that clearly are in our sphere of influence.

    7)The United States have proven incredibly naive over the years when it comes to military interventions. I am reminded of Reagan being forced to take the Marines out to Lebanon during the 1980s. Afterwards, Reagan was forced to admit that the situation in the Middle East was much more complex than he had ever imagined. The United States seems doomed to learn this lesson over and over again. Vietnam was much more complex than we imagined, as is the Middle East, as is the Ukraine. There are multiple political groups and ideologies and ethnic groups in the Ukraine. We simply do not understand all of the nuances. Our intervention there is doomed to involve us getting in bed with the wrong people. Please remember the horrible example of John McCain saying we should arm opposition groups in Syria, many of whom are linked to al Qaeda. We should not make the same mistake in the Ukraine.

  2. One last point: any threat of any kind needs to be backed up by the recognition of the other party that the threatened action will actually be carried out. In other words, the only way you get a bully to back down is to be willing, if necessary, to fight the bully. The bully needs to perceive that you will actually do something or the bully will call your bluff. In the case of the Obama administration, literally nobody in the world, including probably John Kerry, thinks the U.S. is going to get involved militarily in the Ukraine. The Russians have absolutely no reason to believe that U.S. rhetoric is anything other than meaningless schoolyard blustering.

    Morgan Deane would respond to this (and he has) by saying we need a more aggressive military posture. There is a huge problem with this: after 12 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is simply no desire among the U.S. populace to go to war with Russia. Putin knows this. So, we are forced into drawing red lines that nobody believes, including our own leaders. This makes us appear even weaker.

    I would argue that when we get involved in international affairs we concentrate on taking positions that we can actually carry out. We can and will defend the United States and the Americas. When it comes to places like the Ukraine, we will call for peace and for self-determination, but otherwise we will not get involved.

  3. I pretty much agree with Morgan’s take and analysis. His blog is outstanding. I take a rather dim view of libertarian foreign policy, for many of the implicit reasons as outlined above.

    That is not to say, I hasten to add, that I full-throatedly support the dreams and whims of neocons. That would be a mistaken assumption.

  4. I would point out that what I have outlined above is not a “libertarian foreign policy.” It is a foreign policy that would be supported, for the most part, by Reagan, Eisenhower and Russell Kirk. It is more of a “realist” foreign policy (mixed with some elements of my interpretation of the Book of Mormon) than a “libertarian” foreign policy. Most true libertarians would not support intervention in Western Europe, just to name one example. Just for the record.

  5. Eisenhower flew spy planes over the Soviet Union, Geoff, risking global stability. But he did it because he wanted to know what the Soviets were doing, for good reason. Reagan gave US warplanes new rules of engagement that would have authorized them to shoot down MiGs if they were threatened. He also bombed the hell out of Libya.

    Those are just a few examples, there are many more, that can be used to show that Eisenhower and Reagan were not afraid to use a muscular and provocative foreign policy. Why? Because both hated Communism and both wanted America to lead the way.

    Obviously we live in a different world now, so perhaps using them as foreign policy trump cards isn’t entirely fruitful.

  6. The Soviet Union was an existential threat to the United States with a leadership intent on “burying” the United States. Crucially, the Soviet Union intervened in our sphere of influence in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc. Russia has no such interests. Eisenhower’s response to the Soviet Union was (mostly) prudent.

    Different policies for different times.

    Just a reminder that Russell Kirk would have supported a less aggressive foreign policy than being advocated by Morgan Deane.

  7. So if one happens to be born in the sphere of influence of an immoral despotic regime (China, Russia, North Korea, Angola, Zimbabwe, etc.) one just has to tough it out and hope for better in the after-life? What are the obligations and duties we has towards our spiritual brothers and sisters? Where do those stop?

    Requiring the US to adopt a “purely defensive” military policy seems to me to be at its core very selfish. I recognize that at a fundamental level the US is not going to be able to “right all wrongs” – but to suggest that we literally write off billions of people just because they weren’t born within the US’s sphere of influence seems to be a level of indifference that I just can’t square with the Gospel’s admonition to be a good neighbor.

    I agree there are no good/perfect solutions to an immoral country invading its neighbors, but that doesn’t mean that all of the remaining options are equally bad.

  8. “To suggest that we literally write off billions of people just because they weren’t born within the U.S.’s sphere of influence seems to be a level of indifference that I just can’t square with the Gospel’s admonition to be a good neighbor.”

    John, this is a classic straw man argument and, frankly, very silly. I don’t know of anybody anywhere who has ever made this argument, so to even phrase things this way is beneath your level of intelligence.

    You don’t “write off” people by arguing that it is not the U.S.’s responsibility to go bomb their country. We should trade with them, send them humanitarian aid, and of course send them to Gospel. What we should not do in the case of the Ukraine, is to ratchet up tensions so that more of them are killed in wars. If you are going to comment here, please concentrate on things that people have actually written rather than making up insulting arguments in your head (that nobody ever made). Thanks.

  9. Great points so far guys. I was worried this would get nasty. I still remember some bitter fights over the Iraq war, so it was good to see your ideas. I don’t know if I have time to respond your seven counter points Geoff, but they are worthy of attention. Thanks for the kind words in particular Michael.

  10. Responding to this post: Whether we use missiles or sanctions, drone strikes or “occupations,” isn’t it all coercion and force? Is there not always a backlash when we go “over there” to straighten out some perceived injustice.

    And I don’t think we can give all the credit or blame to Obama for anything he does with regard to foreign policy. Isn’t he just responding to the wishes of his mentor, Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski? It is his particular agenda and hatreds that need examination, don’t you think?

    Don’t “small refueling bases” fuel the expansion of empires? They are part of a greater whole, whose purpose fairly consistently has to to do with the acquisition of resources, just like the Dutch, the British, and the Spanish.

  11. Geoff, please let me gently submit that calling Harvey’s comment a straw man argument and then following it up with … a straw man…..isn’t the way to go.

    “You don’t “write off” people by arguing that it is not the U.S.’s responsibility to go bomb their country.”

    I don’t think Harvey meant that it is our “responsibility” to bomb folks’ country.

    I agree (cue the dogs and cats living together) with Harvey’s main thesis: that we have a moral responsibility to help folks that live in terrible conditions and who literally have no power to live lives of freedom and dignity. If, by military force, we can free millions of people from evil, despotic regimes, I’d say that actually tends to help the free trade and capitalism aspect that libertarians are eager to encourage.

    There is another angle: that the rights of humankind, as enshrined in the Constitution, are actually universal, natural rights. For America to divest itself of the responsibility to lead the free world is a treason against its own principles.

  12. There is another aspect here too. I hear folks talk about “blowback” and unintended consequences for the actions we take in other countries. Yes, fair enough. But I never hear these people, ever, talk about the “blowback” or unintended consequences of *inaction*. Not taking an action is itself, an action, and also bears consequences that deserve to be debated.

  13. I’ve learned in my studies as a historian (I used to use the Air University’s library and articles by the War College, etc., in my research), that when you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other end.

    Every president and Congress has had to calculate what they would do. Going to war against the Soviet Union and Red China by proxy in Korea and Vietnam is very different to directly opposing the USSR when they stopped free elections in Poland or sent tanks into Eastern Europe. We were not ready for WW3, and so allowed the Soviets to maintain their sphere of influence for decades.

    The question is, how far are we willing to go to protect Ukraine and others from tyranny? Are we willing to start a new Cold War, or worse, a hot war with Russia? Are we willing to see large chunks of Europe decimated as conventional and non-conventional weapons are deployed in the area? Are we ready to have Alaska and California invaded? How do we maintain a long war when our major sources of fuel are next door to Russia, and Russia would quickly turn off the spigot to us and Europe?

    I studied the Vietnam War with the Air Force’s expert on southeast Asia. He had home movies and slide shows of the killing fields of Cambodia, among other tragic things. Are we willing to endure like we did in WW2, or will we seek to back out as we have in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, after politically losing the wars?

    I think we have more national interest in Ukraine than in Iraq. I personally am attached, as I have distant cousins in Odessa (not far from Crimea). However, I think we do best when we “walk softly and carry a big stick.” Lately, we’ve been walking loudly all over the place, annoying the heck out of natives in other lands, and yet never willing to pull out the really big sticks in our arsenal. They no longer believe we will be the world’s police force.

    As it is, there is a delicate balance between encouraging freedom throughout the world, and imposing our brand of democracy on the world. I think in the last 15 years, we’ve tended towards the latter. Reagan promoted freedom. George W Bush promoted his form of America, which increasingly had less and less freedom. Why trust America, which has huge issues with NSA, IRS, EPA, spying on friends, etc., which leave it looking no better than Putin’s Russia?

    I see good points from both Geoff and Morgan. I don’t mind us standing up for Ukrainian independence. However, I think we do need to look at American policy, both foreign and domestic, and how it impacts how the rest of the world looks at us. While we may not technically be occupying nations, the appearance of evil is apparent for many. We have been pushing our weight around for a very long time as the only world power. Forgotten is the vigilant cry for liberty, sadly replaced by a growing fascism that no one else wants or trusts.

  14. Michael Towns, whether or not is is the “responsibility” to bomb folks’ countries, it is nevertheless always the result of military intervention. Witness: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Libya, etc, etc.

    I am not saying that you or Morgan Deane are arguing for military intervention, although Morgan Deane does mention some military “solutions.” I am also not saying that U.S. people, who are mostly good-hearted people, favor killing people. I am simply saying that you cannot “free” people through military means without there being collateral damage, including the killing of many civilians (in most cases, thousands of civilians). In general, it is preferable for people to free themselves rather than counting on some foreign power to step in. But again, my main problem was with the clearly straw man argument that people who don’t want military intervention don’t care about the people who are suffering. It may be that you care about them more if you don’t want a foreign intervention.

  15. Geoff,

    I am not sure how we really measure caring and concern, anyway. In some quarters, for instance, you care about people only if you support a bloated, corruption-riddled welfare state. Obviously, there is a difference between rhetoric and the actual emotion of love existing in the human heart.

    “whether or not is is the “responsibility” to bomb folks’ countries, it is nevertheless always the result of military intervention. Witness: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Libya, etc, etc.”

    Well, using a military means that you are going to use bullets and bombs. No doubt about it. It’s a decision that needs to be carefully considered and weighed, noting the trade offs and risks. Sending men and women into harm’s way is no joke; I have been deployed myself, and so I do know a little bit about it.

    Your point about collateral damage is well taken. It’s a sobering issue. Of course. But see what I wrote above about the damage resulting from *inaction*. Why paralyze ourselves with fears of collateral damage when the potential for even greater human misery is at stake?

    Collateral damage cannot be predicted. As a percentage of killing, it’s actually decreased enormously from the WWII and Vietnam eras. Does that make it right? No, of course not. However, using collateral damage as an excuse to forbid military intervention, or to take the military option off the table (thus rendering toothless the vast majority of diplomatic initiatives) is feckless.

    The future cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. It cannot even be reasonably predicted with near-certainty. Thus using the excuse of *potential* harm is rendered void by the fact that inaction could also lead to *potential* future harm.

    Perhaps it’s clear (hopefully) that instead of what *might happen*, we need some other value or metric for discernment in matters of military force, interventionism, and war. But please sympathize with me when I constantly see folks who tilt libertarian constantly railing against *every* *single* *potential* for using the military as a tool of power and influence. It makes me smirk a little bit to consider the fact that were it not for France’s “interventionism” in the Revolutionary War, Great Britain absolutely would have won a war of attrition against Washington’s army. So interventionism can’t always be bad, all the time, forever.

  16. I would point out one possible area of agreement: the best thing Obama could do to push pressure on Putin regarding the Ukraine would be to open up federal lands for more oil and gas drilling and fracking. This would lower the price of oil and gas, thereby decreasing Russia’s main source of funding. But of course Obama would never take this common sense step.

  17. I totally agree with you on that! One of the reasons the USSR broke up is that Reagan took extreme steps (within a free market framework) to lower the price of oil during his administrations. He ended up compounding the Soviets’ financial problems. Their revenues shrank enormously.

    The USA has an incredible stockpile of natural oil and gas that we can’t touch. We should all be benefiting from it. And using it to humble Putin.

  18. Sorry to be so slow in responding. Thank you to Michael Towns (and others) for attempting explaining my point of view in my absence – I appreciate it. Let me reduce my view point down as far as I can to avoid any straw man/hyperbole type arguments.
    1. Countries led by (and possibly to a significant extent populated by) evil immoral people exist.
    2. These evil immoral leaders/people do very bad things to both the citizens in their own country(ies) and often to other countries/citizens.
    3. Other (non-evil/non-immoral) people and countries have to decide how to respond to such acts when they occur.

    I think (based on what I’ve read above and my general life experience) that where we disagree is on what constitutes help, and what responsibility we have to extend different types of help when we are capable of doing so.

    I agree with Geoff that: “We should trade with them, send them humanitarian aid, and of course send them to Gospel.” I also agree with his statement that: “In general, it is preferable for people to free themselves rather than counting on some foreign power to step in.”

    So I think the disagreement comes from whether “a purely defensive military policy” can be squared with (what I view as) the obligation to act *IF* one has the means to do so. I believe that the United States has been “tasked” (in the sense it is part of God’s plan for the country and the Church head quarter here/there) with being the primary means of:
    1. Being the base from which spreading the Gospel occurs (which unfortunately requires a very strong country to provide protection to missionaries throughout the world – meaning that if the world remained the same as it does today and the Restoration had happened somewhere other than the USA I doubt the Church would still exist, or if it did it would be some tiny unknown sect); and,
    2. Being the means of helping to spread the concepts of economic, mental, and spiritual freedom (self determination); representative/republic forms of government; and both allegiance to, and requiring fair application, the rule of law.

    My guess is that in broad general terms those ideas are not objectionable to most here (but a few specifics probably are objectionable). Where the main disagreement sets in is how far we should go in terms of involvement.

    Going back to Morgan Deane’s original points, I think it can be fairly concluded on *net* that the US has been a positive force for good in the world. However, I absolutely agree the ledger has a huge amount of negative as well (some of the examples raised by Geoff, Rameumptom, and others are significant, real, and incontrovertible). The net is NOT an overwhelming surplus. I think that fact augers well for Geoff’s reluctance to have the US barge in guns blazing. So I think my angst comes down to whether I think the response of: “. . . trade[ing] with them, send them humanitarian aid, and of course send[ing] them to Gospel.” is an adequate response when considering significant aggression (an invasion or a coup for instance). I really don’t think it is. I recognize that view point is not universally held. I also recognize the implementation would be fraught with error, mistakes, outright fraud, and innocent dead; BUT I think many of the alternative courses of action result in even more bad stuff happening over a longer period of time. So the question (I think) is one of real political calculus – what price are we willing to pay to avoid those undesirable outcomes? I think Geoff and i may disagree more on the price than anything else. And since we don’t pay those prices solely as individuals – rather a society commits to impose them arbitrarily on its citizens both individually and collectively – I think it is reasonable that there is a fair bit of disagreement about what price our society “should” be willing to pay.

    I’m pretty sure we disagree about both the expectation of what happens if we don’t active oppose Russian aggression in this specific case (through some significant means which will impose a real cost on Russia), and how much responsibility we (meaning the USA as a society) would bear for later “allowed atrocities” in the case of our being capable of doing something to help but choosing not to extend that possible help.

    I’ve tried to avoid hyperbole and straw. Hopefully the reasoning behind my desire to see the USA do more than talk and trade has been illuminated. I have no expectations that the exercise has changed anyone’s mind.

  19. In any conflict there are going to be winners, losers and collateral damage. The question we need to ask prior to entering into any conflict is: does the potential win in the conflict outweigh the probable risks and death that will occur?

    In WW2, with Hitler slaughtering millions, we knew it would require a massive war with massive collateral damage to win it. But few today would argue on the necessity of fighting the war. Dropping 2 nukes on Japan slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians. However, it ostensibly saved millions of lives that probably would have been lost had we chosen a land invasion.

    There are certain realities. First, if you are going to go to war, you must be “all in.” You have to take the greatest force you can and quickly pulverize the enemy. While there will be casualties, there will be less long term negatives than if one slowly drags the conflict on – as we did in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Had we done to Hanoi and Baghdad what we did to Dresden Germany, we would not have had long failures that turned millions home and abroad against us.

    If you aren’t willing to be General Sherman marching to the Sea, then take your troops and stay home.

    That said, prior to engaging such warfare everywhere, we have to count the overall cost as best we can. We cannot be the world’s police force on every street corner. We can ensure that the big kids on the block play nicely with the smaller kids. We can also promote freedom (not just democracy or capitalism, which you can have without freedom), by only sending monetary and other assistance to nations that agree to move towards freedom. There are many non-military options available.

    Of course, making ourselves independent of other nations on issues like fuel, is a must. Only then can we make choices without extortion from tyrants. If we drilled for sufficient fossil fuels, we could supply ourselves and all other free nations, allowing them to move out of the sphere of coercion caused by only having Russia, Venezuela and OPEC as sources of fuel.

    Of course, anyone learning under the Common Core principles (or is a proponent) will not understand any of this stuff. All I ask of them is to ensure they are watching their favorite television shows when it comes time to vote during the next election….

    BTW, I AM a libertarian. The potshots taken above are not necessary. Not all libertarians are alike. Many of us are for a strong military, but just are against intervening in anything and everything that happens overseas. If we cannot take care of an ambassador in Libya, then we obviously are spread too thin elsewhere, and need to re-prioritize. Either move people where we really need them, or move out of those areas completely. Afghanistan doesn’t want us there? No problem. We leave, with a warning that if they start housing terrorists again, we’ll come in and hit them so hard it will take them years to make it back to the Stone Age….

    If terrorists attack us, we find out where they are from and wipe out a town/city that is 10 times the number of people we lose in the terrorist attack. So, with 9/11, we would wipe out a terrorist breeding city (or portion of a city) of 30,000 just to get their attention. We will be sad we have to slay innocents. It is not a happy thing to kill anyone. However, we first must protect our own. Eventually, others will learn that we wish for peace, but if forced to strike, we will deal a heavy and harsh hand.

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