Going “abroad in search of monsters to destroy” is making more monsters

The Obama Administration announced plans Monday to send weapons to the Kurds in Iraq. The Kurds are a stateless people group in northern Iraq who are fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants, whom the State Department says “has obtained some heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms and we’re providing those.”

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What the State Department representative conveniently left out is that the “heavy weaponry” ISIS has so mysteriously “obtained” includes hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of arms and other equipment which the United States military brought to Iraq following its 2003 invasion.

These materials were given to the Iraqi army, but have since been captured by ISIS terrorists.

So our government is arming the Kurds with American weapons to fight ISIS, who are also armed with—you guessed it!—American weapons. And the American weapons possessed by ISIS are being destroyed by still other American weapons in the airstrikes recently ordered by the President.

If that sounds like insanity, it is. As Vox writer Max Fisher summed up in his report:

The absurdity runs deep: America is using American military equipment to bomb other pieces of American military equipment halfway around the world. The reason the American military equipment got there in the first place was because, in 2003, the US had to use its military to rebuild the Iraqi army, which it just finished destroying with the American military. The American weapons the US gave the Iraqi army totally failed at making Iraq secure and have become tools of terror used by an offshoot of al-Qaeda to terrorize the Iraqis that the US supposedly liberated a decade ago. And so now the US has to use American weaponry to destroy the American weaponry it gave Iraqis to make Iraqis safer, in order to make Iraqis safer.

How did this happen? How did we get into this mess? Why didn’t anyone warn us?

Well, we actually were warned. A lot.

And for a very long time.

In 1821, then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams delivered a foreign policy speech that should be memorized by every State Department official today.

The United States “does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” he said in his most memorable line. “She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Today, the exact opposite is true. America is constantly abroad, constantly seeking monsters to destroy—monsters which, like the hydra of mythology or Marvel, only seem to multiply as we launch war after endless war.

As much as we may want to say, “America is coming to help,” it’s never that clear-cut, and innocent civilians too often pay the price.

As ISIS commits atrocity after atrocity, it is easy to wonder if this tragedy might have been prevented had the 2003 invasion of Iraq never occurred—if we’d listen to the wisdom of Founding Fathers like Adams…and Washington, and Franklin, and Jefferson, and Madison, and more.

Adams’ explanation of the dangers of foreign intervention is now writ large in the violence in Iraq and the suppression of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism here at home:

[America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power.

She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

For more than a decade, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy has been marked by fighting for causes that are not our own—and mired “beyond the power of extrication” in the inevitable mess which ensues.

The basic posture of our government toward our citizens has changed from liberty to force, as anyone with knowledge of the National Security Agency alone well knows.

And rather than standing as a beacon of hope and liberty for the world, American foreign policy has too often become one of failed and bloody micromanagement, a bull in the china shop that is the Middle East.

I don’t know how to “fix” Iraq. But I do know that what we’re doing—what we’ve been doing for more than decade now—isn’t working.

Maybe we could start over with the advice of John Quincy Adams, and once again make our motto “Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

What do you think?

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If John McCain and Lindsey Graham are so worried about ISIS–why did they want to arm them?