The Mantle. You still hold to that [fairy tale] after all that has happened? After this thing has consumed a million worlds?
Can't you see? Belief in the Mantle sealed our doom! Weakened our [protectorates], bred dependence and sloth. Our [so-called Guardianship] has stripped those we would keep safe of any capacity for self-defense! 
Were we such noble [Guardians] when we drew our line and abandoned billions to the parasite?
-- The Librarian, excerpted from one of the last conversations between the IsoDidact and the Lifeshaper; Terminal 2, HALO 3
Downfall of the Forerunners

In the HALO saga, the Forerunners were the most powerful empire in the galaxy. They believed that they held the Mantle of Responsibility- a sacred calling to defend and protect all life. Their interpretation of this responsibility, however, resulted in Forerunners using their military capacity to adjudicate in the affairs of all sentient races, resulting in galaxy-wide dependency upon Forerunner military technology and superiority to uphold the peace.

When the Forerunners encountered the one enemy they could not defeat- a virulent, pestilential hive-mind organism known as the Flood- the entire galaxy suffered the consequences, and trillions of beings were sacrificed to the tender mutagenic properties of the Flood. In the end, the Forerunners ended up activating a sterilisation measure so extreme, it wiped the entire galaxy clean of life.

The Flood won out in the end because the Forerunners, for all of their technological supremacy, their awesome power, and their great wisdom, could not foresee the logical consequences of their policy of galaxy-wide policing. And everyone who depended upon them suffered in the end.

There are lessons to be learned here- if only we were willing to pay attention.

The Globocop Foreign Policy

What, if anything, does the HALO universe have to do with American foreign policy?

Well, to answer that question, we first have to ask another one: what is an appropriate foreign policy posture supposed to look like for a global hyperpower?

See, the thing is, if you were to take a doctrinaire old-school conservative and stand him next to a paleolibertarian like me, you would at first be hard-pressed to find any real differences in matters of politics.

Both would argue forcefully for minimal government and maximal freedom. Both would wax lyrical about the virtues of a free people living under laws of their own choosing. Both would vociferously defend the inalienable rights of Man- including and especially the rights to self-defence, worship, freedom of speech and thought, and freedom of association. Both would strongly advocate a republican (note the small "r"), Federalist political system with all three branches of government set at odds against each other as much as possible. Both would believe with every fibre of their beings that religious institutions are to be left the hell alone to do as they please, as long as they seek only to convert through arguments and ideas, and not force and violence.

In fact, most conservatives and virtually all principled libertarians would have no problems at all with a country that looks and sounds like this:

Why, then, do conservatives and libertarians so bitterly oppose each other in matters of politics? And most especially so in the realm of foreign policy?

Libertarians are very often accused by conservatives- in my opinion with very good reason- of not having any sort of foreign policy beyond "don't get involved". And conservatives argue, again with great justification, in my opinion, that a lax, lackadaisical approach to foreign enemies and tyrants is not only stupid, but actively dangerous. They argue that America has not only the obligation but the moral duty to enforce a Pax Americana by virtue of its overwhelming military and economic power, just as ancient Rome and imperial Britain once did, and for the same reasons.

It is interesting, then, to see the results of a nominally libertarian-style foreign policy under Barack Obama.

Yes, I did just write that President Jackass has been taking a kind-of-sort-of libertarian approach to foreign policy. If you'll look out the window there, you may observe that pigs are now taking flight, cats and dogs are shaking paws, and if you turn on the TV news, there should be a report straight from Hell regarding extremely frigid weather conditions down there...

Think about it, though. The basis of the Obama foreign policy is... to do basically nothing in the face of massive global threats. He doesn't want to get involved, he doesn't want to deal with global security issues, and he doesn't seem to have the first clue about the massive threat posed by the resurgence of militant political Islam. (Which is militant by definition.) When it comes to America's allies, even its best friends such as the United Kingdom and Israel, his approach seems to be one of cold contempt mixed in with aloofness. He doesn't want to get his hands dirty with various global issues; he doesn't want to confront the Russian bear head-on; he isn't interested in putting boots on the ground to fight a very real threat in the form of the Islamic State now consolidating its power in the Middle East. He is more concerned with his image than he is with actually doing any good in the world.

To most conservatives, especially the so-called "neoconservatives"- who are really just socialists and Trotskyites given a fresh coat of paint- this is about as close as one would ever want to be to a "libertarian" type of foreign policy. After all, this is what libertarians like me want, isn't it?

The problem is that this gives Obama waaaaaaaay too much credit.

Friend or Foe?

Conservatives argue that America can and should use its power for good in the world; and that this country can, and should, intervene where necessary in order to confront the forces of evil which even now are on the march across the world.

Yet honest conservatives must also deal with the other side of that equation. So let's turn it around and see what happens when America insists on a strongly interventionist foreign policy- one that produces dependency on aggressive American global power.

If, indeed, America can and should go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, what of the consequences of doing so? How are we to know who is evil, and who is not? How are Americans to pick and choose between various allies?

Take a look at what Patrick Buchanan had to say recently about the folly of trying to pick the right allies in the fight against Islamist aggression:
Joe Biden has been forced to apologize to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for saying at Harvard that both had been providing huge infusions of money and weapons to the ISIS terrorists who have beheaded Americans. 
But what was Joe guilty of, other than blurting out the truth? 
The terrorists of ISIS are today closing in on the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobani on the Turkish border, having overrun scores of villages. A hundred thousand Syrian Kurds have fled into Turkey. 
Yet though ISIS warriors are visible right across the border, and Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, with 3,500 tanks and 1,000 aircraft, the Turks are sitting on their hands, awaiting what may be a massacre. 
Why? David Stockman quotes Turkish President Erdogan this weekend: “For us, ISIL and the (Kurdish) PKK are the same.” 
Erdogan is saying a plague on both their houses. To Istanbul, the PKK are terrorists, as are the ISIS fighters the PKK is trying to keep from overrunning Kobani. 
The United States, too, designates both the Islamic State and the PKK as terrorist organizations.

Which terrorist organization do we want to win this battle?

Who do we want to win the war between ISIS and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra front on one side, and Assad’s regime, which Obama and John Kerry wanted to bomb in August of 2013? 
Whose side are we on in Lebanon?

This weekend, al-Qaida’s Syrian wing, Jabhat al-Nusra, lost 16 jihadists in an incursion into the Bekaa Valley. Who defended Lebanon and fought the terrorist intruders? 
Hezbollah, which we have declared a terrorist organization. 
Whose side are we on in the Hezbollah vs. al-Qaida war? 
In Yemen last week, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, whom the United States has been attacking for years, sent a suicide bomber in an explosives-laden car into a hospital used by Houthi rebels, who have taken over the capital of Sanaa. 
Are the Houthis America’s allies?

Probably not, as they have plastered Sanaa with their slogans, “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews, and victory to Islam.”
This is not the first time that America has butted in where it did not need to, either. For the past century the USA has played the role of global policeman, spending- or wasting, depending on your point of view- tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars to maintain the Pax Americana across the world.

Just like the Forerunners, America has maintained a massive empire all over the world, and just like the Forerunners, the interventions made necessary by the existence of that empire have bred sloth and dependency in its protectorates.

Some of those interventions where thoroughly justified. On December 7, 1941, America was unambiguously provoked with an open attack on Pearl Harbour by Imperial Japan, and promptly declared unconditional war on the same. Germany followed up, rather stupidly, by declaring war on America- and thus turned itself into a target. America had every right and every reason to go to war then.

But what about the Great War, in which America intervened pretty much as the war ground itself into a stalemate in 1917? What reason was there to go to war? As it turns out, not much of one, other than the sinking of the Lusitania- and the Germans maintained all along that the ship was carrying weapons and munitions in clear violation of America's stated policy of neutrality toward the war in Europe, thus entirely justifying its sinking as a military target. As it happens, the Krauts may well have been right.

That war was "won" simply because America intervened; without American involvement, the Great War would probably have ground on in bloody and terrible stalemate until the exhausted Powers finally agreed to come to the negotiating table. (I should really say that it was "concluded", because WWI was really just the awful first round of the much greater and even more terrible global conflagration of WWII, which finished what was started then.)

And what about the Vietnam War? It has been argued, quite convincingly in fact, that American involvement in Vietnam broke the back of Communist domination in Asia. No less than the founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew himself, famously wrote in his memoirs that he believed that American intervention in Southeast Asia stopped the advance of Communism dead in its tracks.

And one could indeed argue this, until one turns blue in the face. Which many historians have done.

Except... it didn't. When America finally completely abandoned Vietnam in 1975, Laos and Cambodia were already well on the way to becoming hardline socialist regimes, Myanmar had been a socialist republic for well over a decade, India was going to hell in a hand-basket, China was reeling from the after-effects of the Cultural Revolution, and the Philippines was under the grip of a brutal dictatorship.

American involvement and attempts at power projection had resulted in instability, weakness, collapse, and ignominious defeat.

The Shield World Strategy

It was not until America finally turned inward first, under Reagan, and began strengthening itself, that it was able to maintain peace without having to go to war halfway across the world. And it was at that point that the Flood of that day and age- namely, Communism- was forced to retreat in the face of American strength.

That strength built a military wall around America's shores. It broke the back of the Soviet military machine. It destroyed the ability of the Soviet economy to keep up. And it revealed Communism for the gigantic sham that it is. Most importantly, though, America's allies rediscovered their resolve, and realised that they too needed to buck up and join the fight in order to roll back the menace of Communism.

It is worth remembering these things given that today, we see the results of an activist foreign policy yet again. Afghanistan is a corrupt kleptocracy. Iraq is collapsing. Kurdistan, home to a people who are even more pro-American than the Israelis, is collapsing. Turkey and Iran are both watching very nervously from the sidelines. The entire Islamic world is trying to figure out who is worse- the hated Americans, or the even more hated hardliners. It's not as easy a choice as one might think.

And all of this was brought about because America refused to go to war solely for defensive purposes, and instead decided to embark on a damned fool mission of bringing the blessings of "democracy" to heathen shores, and of propping up those supposedly democratic regimes through wanton expenditure of American strength. Personally, I cannot think of a more idiotic thing to do, given that democracy is quite literally mob rule, and requires tremendously resilient institutions and cultural legacies simply to work in the first place.

What we are seeing today is not the end result of a non-interventionist foreign policy. It is the end result of decades of misguided intervention in the affairs of utter barbarians. The fact is that Obama's inept handling of the situation is due to the fact that he is inept; he doesn't have a foreign policy because he's just an empty suit. But he's dealing with the consequences of interventions that were planned and executed long before he got into office, that he carried on while he was in office, and that he lacked the nerve to follow through and close out properly by denying American forces the tools and the means to achieve final and ultimate victory.

And because of those endless interventions and foolish dreams of prematurely ending those wars, the very people who most needed to learn how to defend themselves, have not developed the capacity, the ability, or the will to do so.

The end result is that a totalitarian ideology, dedicated to the extermination of all things that oppose it, is now on the march. Like the Flood, it is infecting the minds of those stupid and gullible enough to believe the promises of a new and better world order.

Inheritors of the Mantle

America is and has always been a great nation, one with a manifest sense of destiny. But it has lost its way. Like all great empires before it, America has become convinced that it alone has the ability to arbitrate in world affairs to the mutual satisfaction of all- despite mountains of evidence, and mountains of bodies, telling us otherwise.

It is high time that America abandoned this role of protector and saviour. It is time to stop pretending to be the World's Policeman, to hand back the traffic whistle, and to get back to maintaining "peace through strength"- unquestionable resolve, undeniable power, and impenetrable defences.

The unstoppable force of Islam- the Flood of our time- will expand and grow and conquer until such time as it encounters the immovable object that it cannot subsume. That immovable object must be American strength- there is no other nation that can do the job, for all of the rest have been weakened without and eaten away from within. But America cannot do this if it is stretched thin militarily and economically, supporting an empire that is crumbling before our very eyes.

The Forerunners misinterpreted their mandate of the Mantle- indeed, they rose up against their creators and destroyed them when it became clear that Forerunners were not in fact the intended heirs of the Mantle, and they maintained a policy of armed aggression toward any species that even looked like it might attempt to usurp Forerunner supremacy.

There are lessons here to be learned for the proper uses of the American military: defence of the homeland, wrathful destruction of her enemies, and nothing else. Sending out American soldiers to die in defence of a half-baked concept of a falling empire is not only stupid and vainglorious, it is unsustainable.

We ignore the lessons of the Forerunners and their utter defeat at the hands of the Flood at our own peril. An aggressive, expansionist empire is no bulwark against the barbarians- it is an invitation to them to walk in through the front door.


  1. I agree - we should not be policeman for the world. That said - it's a pretty large gray area, because we need to protect our own interests, and they are everywhere. Simply protecting the sea lanes makes us de-facto world police, even if we only do it for us, and makes trade easier for everyone.

    Personally, I was wrong about the viability of nation building, but going into Kuwait was a matter of protecting access to our own resources, and not FINISHING the war with Iraq is what got us mired there as the perpetual target and scapegoat for the radicals. Then taking that mantle, we tried to rebuild the place the second time around.

    Somehow the lessons of previous settled wars - FINISH the damn thing, conclusively, then walk away or help at their behest, were lost. We dragged an ugly and pointless non effective cease-fire for over a decade. We showed yet again we weren't willing to commit to success, we finally went in again, and finally did win, we tried to run the place OUR way instead of walking back out with "and play nice or we'll be back"


Post a Comment

NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. Anonymous comments will be deleted.

Popular Posts