George Washington was wrong

Related Post Roulette

57 Responses

  1. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    My understanding is that the SF advisers are there to teach the locals how to defend themselves, not how to fight for them. Big difference.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Are there any people in the US that need killing that our government has proven incapable of stopping and thus require a third party to set things right?Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

      yes. The fact that a goodly number of them are currently imprisoned in America does not mean that they weren’t caught/framed by a third party.Report

    • Creon Critic in reply to Jaybird says:

      The US =/= Uganda, our capabilities in intelligence gathering alone… Though I haven’t looked up how many spy satellites Uganda possesses. Also, the military advisers are by request of the governments involved. I recall an AP report from Ugandan government officials essentially saying “finally, we’ve been asking for this help for 20 years”.Report

      • AFP, not AP. Uganda welcomes US troops to hunt rebel leaders,

        Uganda and its neighbours hailed Saturday a US offer to send combat troops to help battle a brutal regional rebel force whose leaders are international war-crimes fugitives.

        “We welcome this gesture — it has been well overdue,” said Uganda’s acting foreign minister Henry Okello Oryem. […]

        “For 20 years, the government of Uganda has been pleading with our American and European friends to help in the LRA problem, because these are international terrorists,” Oryem said.

        “We wanted our friends to help in providing technical support — such as intelligence — because they have the best.”


  3. Joecitizen says:

    George was correct and still is. Few understand the conditions and wisdom gained in his strife.

    There is a vast difference between the questions of whether “we can police the world”, and “should we police the world”. His words echo justifiable caution.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Joecitizen says:

      what would Lafayette say?Report

      • Joecitizen in reply to Kimmi says:

        Considering he was wounded on foreign, and had to return to a crisis at home, he probably would say the same.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Joecitizen says:

          you mistake me. Our country would not exist without foreign entanglements, and the first discussion of secession was more about which entanglements rather than whether we ought to have them.Report

          • Joecitizen in reply to Kimmi says:

            Well each country has to draw the line between can and should. The resulting task can undermine the strength of the country.

            What would Gorbachev say about global ideological engagement?

            Even our allies rarely come out of our scuffles without near mortal wounds.Report

          • Scott in reply to Kimmi says:

            The frogs only helped us to screw the Brits, not b/c they really liked and why we were doing. Last time I checked the Dem quagmire in Vietnam started with a few trainers.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to Kimmi says:

            True enough, though it’s probably worth mentioning that the foreign entanglements that enabled the US to win its war for independence ultimately were a huge reason why the entangled government wound up getting guillotined a few years later.

            Those entanglements contributed to bankrupting the entanglee, resulting in higher taxes on the peasantry; plus it introduced Jefferson and Franklin to the entanglee’s intellectual elites, probably not a good thing for the entangled government.

            That said….it’s also worth mentioning that Washington’s reference to “foreign entanglements” would not have applied to Obama’s decision here. He wasn’t saying “don’t get involved in foreign wars.” He was talking about “don’t get involved in foreign politics; don’t make alliances that will commit you in advance to actions or inactions that may not be in your best interests.” The reason he thought this important is definitive here: ” In order to be able to “choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.” What he was talking about was, in essence, the need to avoid the type of alliance structure that would eventually lead to WWI.

            In the context of the LRA, it would seem that Washington’s position would have actually been quite similar to Creon Critic’s.

            As usual, however, Michele Bachmann’s understanding of history misses the mark. By a lot.

            [N/B: my personal view of foreign policy would probably require coming down on the non-interventionist side of things in most instances including this one, but in this case at least, reference to some founding principle seems out of place.]Report

  4. Joecitizen says:

    dang typo: foreign soilReport

  5. Joecitizen says:

    Hardly any of it holds water. Continuing to place U.S. boots in failed anomie states nearly without flaw generates hate against the U.S.

    The policies are generating the opposite of the desired effect. It may very well lead to the global war it is supposed to be preventing.Report

  6. Creon Critic:

    As referenced in my comment above, and accepting for the purposes of this comment your arguments for intervention, I don’t think you can say that Washington was wrong, because his farewell address would seem to basically agree with your view. By “entanglements,” he meant “alliances and commitments not already in existence at the time,” not “foreign wars.”

    As I mentioned above, a big reason for this was that he wanted the US to be able to pick and choose the wars it fought or didn’t fight, as well as the sides on which it would fight, “as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.” What one of your opinion should finding especially useful in this statement is that not only is he saying that the goal is for the US to make the decisions on whether to enter a foreign war or not (which implies that entry into such a war is an acceptable decision), but he’s also stating the “justice” is either the most important element of our national interest or is a precondition to determining whether something is in our national interest.

    So….taking your worldview as a given for purposes of this comment, the title of this post is inaccurate: Washington wasn’t wrong; Bachmann was.Report

  7. Tod Kelly says:

    I know you were going for the meta, C’Crit, but I can’t let the first part of this post,

    Michelle Bachmann cited George Washington, “I will tell you George Washington was right when he said in his farewell address, be careful of unnecessary foreign entanglements.”

    stand without pointing out the obvious, which is this: Had we not sent 100 troops in, Michelle Bachmann would have found a Washington quote to illustrate how badly we failed by not sending in anyone.Report

  8. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Washington would want a kickass military, that’s a fact. To Lafayette, 1786, elegantly relevant:

    “But let me ask you, my dear Marquis, in such an enlightened, in such a liberal age, how is it possible that the great maritime powers of Europe should submit to pay an annual tribute to the little piratical states of Barbary? Would to Heaven we had a navy able to reform those enemies to mankind, or crush them into non-existence.”

    As for “avoiding foreign entanglements,” I take it as not getting caught up in the musical chairs of centuries of European balance-of-power alliances, where today’s ally is tomorrow’s enemy because of treaty obligations.

    Come to think of it, a neo-con American Exceptionalism, the #1 military and arm’s length from allies obliging us to follow their schemes, fills the bill nicely.

    Heh heh. ;-PReport

  9. Robert Cheeks says:

    I’ma thinking George would see the need for nukes as a deterent (MAD) but would not support the idea of 600 or so military bases spread across the globe. I think he’d say let the Japanese, Germans, etc. be responsible for their own defense, and concentrate more on executing the laws of the land and his Constitutional obligations, like seeing to the apprehension of illegal immigrants.
    Re: the ragheads, I’m thinking Mecca and Medina would be glowing, softly in the crepuscular light, the House of Saud a distant memory, and American gas prices around $1.25/gal.Report

  10. MFarmer says:

    Our interventions usually create more enemies than they eliminate. Africa needs to develope as the different countries see fit. If we start manipulating in Africa attempting to guide the process our way, we’ll wind up wasting blood and treasure for centuries like we have in the mideast. Like Gates said, a lot of heads need to be examined. Bring our troops home and defend our borders, trade peacefully with the world, be open to cultural exchange, be helpful with technological advancements that promote economic growth and healthy societies, but don’t try to manage the world, and let the world know we’ve retired our Super-Police badge.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to MFarmer says:

      And hey, if an easily avoidable genocide or two happens, that’s life.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        There are rules you apply for general guidance, and then there are exceptions. You know this, but snark is so easy. To create a doctrine on rare exceptions isn’t too smart. A doctrine of non-intervention would include exceptions such as genocide, but the exceptions, as I said, would be rare and compelling.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

          You know this, but snark is so easy. To create a doctrine on rare exceptions isn’t too smart

          How about a doctrine simply based on snark?

          We wouldn’t need to think about whether to retaliate against Iran for their alleged assassination plot. We’d just have a stock of snark to launch against them.

          “Oh, brilliant, Mr. Ahmadinejad.”

          “What, Mr., A, have you been watching old episodes of Get Smart and thinking they’re documentaries?”

          Only in exceptional cases would we use real troops.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

            I like it — The Snark Doctrine

            HEADLINES: The US made several snide remarks today toward Iran in response to news that Iran invaded Iraq over the weekend — WH officials report there were no American casualties resulting from US response and claim Snark Doctrine is working — an anonymous WH spokesperson was quoted as saying “President Obama will likely consult with Snark Czar, Jon Stewart, before a plan of action to further address this situation with Iran is finalized.”Report

      • Scott in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


        Perhaps you can tell how you can tell an easily avoidable genocide from a quagmire before we send our troops in? Can you also predict the stock market?Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Scott says:

          predicting the stockmarket is easy,if you know enough. It’s not getting greedy that’s tricky. The house always wins, ya know?Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:

            No. Research shows that it’s impossible to consistently beat the market. Predicting it is not possible. All that’s possible is getting lucky.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

              Your research makes assumptions that are not valid, I kinda figure.
              1) What type of trading is it looking at?
              2) How much information is the average person assumed to have?

              Isn’t it quite possible to beat a bear market simply by shorting?

              Consistency is not the game here — the game is to make enough 60/40 bets that you can come out ahead on a year to year average. Which is a different story. (note: i’m not talking 55/45. that’s a different game entirely.)Report

            • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

              … there was a guy back in the 1990’s, had an account — got sorta famous for picking things “before they got big”. The market adjusted to him being a “good stock picker”. Then he made the account disappear, before the SEC started investigating.
              Research is always about averages. I think that most people don’t know the market well enough to invest smartly. I’ve gotten 200% returns on some investments — it’s all in knowing what’s real and what’s fake. (which, again, is why I’m calling baloney on “markets fix everything by being perfect” theories. Some markets function as currency (not just money markets), and thus can deflate/inflate based on completely different factors — like margin calls on overleveraged banksters)Report

            • Eh, not my research. Research by academic economists who know that stuff considerably better than either you or I do.

              In a nutshell, it’s impossible to consistently beat the market because beating it is all about having the correct information. If you’ve discovered information that’s not being widely recognized and use it to get above average returns, others will pick up on it and when everyone’s using that information it gets built into the price of the stock and become useless for making above average returns.

              Isn’t it quite possible to beat a bear market simply by shorting?
              That’s not consistently beating the market.

              I’ve gotten 200% returns on some investments
              some investments. Random picking will get you great returns on some investments. But the issue is not just some investments, but whether over the long run your portfolio on net outperforms the market.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                *yawn* in a perfect market, yeah. But life ain’t exactly a perfect, ideal market. Most large players distort any stock they buy — and that’s just first-level effects.

                In a perfect market, with infinite time, everyone would know everything, and have equal access to good sources of information. I think we can see the overassumptions you’re making here.

                It’s possible for a select few to be rather well-connected (I’ve read bill gates’ internet musings — but I’d give you a beer if you could tell me where I read his haiku).

                The flaws with academic research is that they tend to look at 55/45 traders, not 60/40 or 75/25 traders. The games are very different.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:


                It’s delightful the way you just wave your hands at research you haven’t actually read. Not exactly impressive nor persuasive, but amusing in its own way.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                facts on the ground trump research. That’s not exactly that I’m saying the research is Wrong, per se, just that it’s applicability is limited.
                And you may see it as me waving my hands, but I flatly refuse to accept research derived off “buy and hold” or daytrading to normal trading.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:


                Empirical research is built on facts on the ground. But it involves a far more serious and structured look at the facts than your cursory overview of them does.

                To say that facts trump research is to demonstrate an unfortunate lack of understand of what research is.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                facts trump research when the research is dated, or in a different domain. I have pointed out serious methodological flaws that you have yet to counter. If you’d like, I can get started on the “dated” part of the picture.

                outliers exist in all research, as well. We haven’t even started to ask if they included “dumb money” in their research.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                is this not the type of research you’re looking for?
                In which case, I’d say that you’re looking at dumb money, and “dragged” money (with additional costs at the margins) and “buy and hold” money.
                [see? I eventually stop handwaving. nyew.]Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:

                I have pointed out serious methodological flaws that you have yet to counter

                You’ve not pointed out any methodological flaws. You can’t because you’re ignorant of the research.

                Yesterday I was pretty nice about how you and I think differently. Today I can’t be nice about it. You’re just making shit up, believing it to be true while being too lazy to actually go find out whether there’s any basis for you seat-of-the-pants critique.

                Last word can go to you. I won’t waste my time engaging your determined ignorance.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:

                is this not the type of research you’re looking for?

                Hell, no. You’ve got a news article looking at a short-term outcome. That’s quite different from a serious academic study looking at log-term outcomes. End of story.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                Long term yes, still “dumb money” (which curiously resembles paying for health care using insurance).Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                also, still large investor, which tends to distort the market when buying and selling smallcaps.Report

  11. Jeff Wong says:

    Couldn’t Washington be taken literally? Being careful is almost always good advice. Also, he used the word “entanglements”. As long as you aren’t in an entanglement (or quagmire), it’s fine. If it becomes one, get out.Report

  12. Roland Dodds says:

    Another fine piece CC. I specifically liked this:

    “Humanitarian concerns are part of the national interest because others will not be concerned about our list of priorities if we are not concerned about their list of priorities. This represents a portrait of statecraft as reciprocity of interests.”

    The folly of “Realism” has always been its short sited approach that limits the variables included in deciding what is and isn’t an “interest”, and this line sums up why.Report

    • I think you mean the folly of “popular” realism. I don’t think there’s anything in realist theory that necessitates being short-sighted, focusing only on short-term interests, etc. If one of our national concerns is our list of priorities (which is, of course, true by definition), and showing concern about another state’s list of priorities is a mechanism to promote our own, that’s well within the realist approach.

      But there’s this popular idea that realism is about “our country’s interests and all else be damned, let’s screw the f***ers over.” But that’s neo-conism, which its adherents think of as “realist”ic, but which IR realists tend to think undermines a country’s real interests, and so, if it’s realism at all, is not very good realism.Report

      • You have to still differentiate between Classical Realism and Structural Realism if we are going to debate the finer points of “Realism” in IR. I have written many positive things about Morgenthau’s conception of human interaction, and often find the way Classical Realism sees mankind as valid. The colder, calculating realism that has developed in the decades after the war have demonstrated why I cannot follow along with such an ideology.

        Realism as defined by Morgenthau has a pluralistic vision of the affairs that govern man, attempting to explain a complicated set of relationships on everything from interpersonal relationships, to state affairs and international society (Morgenthau, Hans. 1962.“Love and Power.” Commentary, Volume 33, no. 3, p. 247-251). This broad approach cannot be placed in the same theoretical model that Structural Realists like Waltz propose. The “realism” perpetuated by the likes of Stephen Walt (and sadly, many of the folks perpetuating this ill-informed concept on this website) does measure “interests” in a purely measurable manner. If realism is going to stay viable, it needs to adjust to the modern world of reciprocity, or it will be just another idea in the dustbin of history.Report

        • Not that I particularly disagree with anything Roland says here, but my take on IR is that anyone who’s views are easily defined by a particular “ism” in the set that defines the field is a bit narrow.

          And I’m quite sanguine about the chances of realism’s basic insight surviving for the long term, whether under the same name or another. There is precious little in self-interest to suggest that humans don’t regularly prioritize self-interest, particularly when facing an out-group. How they determine those concerns is an on-going area of theory and experiment, but the earth will be a cold dark ball orbiting around a dead sun the day self-interest is just another idea in the dustbin of history.

          And let’s be sure to keep in mind that realism is used as both a descriptive theory and a normative theory. My hunch is that you’re primarily critiquing the normative theory that says “making state interest paramount to all others is good,” rather than the descriptive theory that says “states tend to make state interest paramount to all others.” I’m of the latter type, resignedly, and not of the former type.Report