Perhaps you’re weary of reading about Syria. So instead let’s speak of Libya. That’s the most recent country we attacked without provocation and “liberated.” Minus the evil dictator which NATO bravely bombed from orbit, Libya has returned to some native traditions: It is chaining up black Africans and selling them as slaves. Great job, President Obama! You really were a post-racial president after all! But in a totally different sense than most people thought.
Millions of “right-thinking” Americans have this weird idea: that our foreign policy is a form of virtue-signaling with deadly weapons. That’s why they are demanding the overthrow of yet another foreign government that hasn’t attacked us: that of Syria. (News flash: Trump’s targeted military strike, while probably unconstitutional, was limited. And now he is promising we won’t send troops to Syria.)
Are Americans who favor full-on “regime change” in Syria thinking through what would happen next to Syrians? What would happen to one million Christians if al Qaeda takes over?
No. They are watching news of an atrocity and demanding that “something be done.” What we do doesn’t really matter.
What happens to Syrians after we’re done with them? Not interested.
How will things be in Syria ten years from now? Boring. By then we’ll be busy in Myanmar.
Who will take over the country when we’re finished? Doesn’t matter. Talking about that is just a way of making excuses not to do… something … about an atrocity we saw on the news and thought about for ten whole minutes.
Occupy Wall Street. Or the Entire Middle East.
Ugly, sad images (like Syria’s chemical attack on al Qaeda that also killed civilians) make us really upset! So do something already, Mr. President, and make us feel better. Overthrow Syria’s government and replace it with … something. Make us feel strong, decisive, and freedom-loving. And make it quick: We have short attention spans. Oh look, a squirrel!
It’s probably too much to expect an administration to resist such a national tantrum. (Heck, we’re lucky that the Commander in Chief isn’t under pressure to blow United Airlines jets out of the sky.)
But as patriotic Christians, we’re supposed to at least make an effort to avoid fighting unjust or foolish wars that kill thousands of people and make things worse, not better. Right? Or am I being too moralistic here?
We Must Learn from King Kong’s Sad Fate
America is more powerful, relative to our rivals, than any empire on earth has been since the Roman Empire. The Mongols, Napoleon’s France, even Hitler’s Germany: compared to America 2017, they’re Liechtenstein waving a popgun.
We’re the 16-ton gorilla. All the more reason we must resist the impulse to act out like King Kong. We need to stop seeing countries that look interesting or sad, then picking them up to play with them — till we break them and leave them behind.
There’s just one way to make the average voter think twice about sending our troops to foreign shores: Bring back the draft. Today a tiny percentage of Americans defend all the rest of us. They bear the brunt of our bravado. Alas, most Americans don’t even know personally any serving soldiers or airmen. So it’s easy for us to treat them like foreign mercenaries and ship them off to distant shores, on a moralistic whim.
If voters themselves, or their own sons and daughters, might have to march off into the desert, you can bet they would think twice about joining the rush to war. Also, a draft today would get many thousands of sullen Millennials out of their parents’ basements. So chalk that up in the “plus” column.
Don’t Draft the People. Incentivize the President.
But the draft has many down sides. For one, it violates liberty. Only in the gravest national emergency should we force our citizens, on pain of imprisonment, to dress up in uniforms and follow orders. In peacetime, that’s literally un-American. (Germans, by contrast, will spontaneously dress up in uniforms and follow orders at the slightest encouragement.)
More importantly, a peacetime draft would never pass muster in Congress. We can’t even figure out how to make people repay their student loans, much less get them into fighting trim with decent haircuts.
So I have a better plan. It harms very few Americans, so it should be easy to pass in Congress. But it maximizes impact. I promise you: Pass such a plan, and the U.S. will never get involved in another poorly considered foreign war.
The Ultimate Presidential Retirement Plan
Congress must pass a law with these provisions: Any future president who invades and occupies another sovereign state that has not attacked America, with the aim of overthrowing its government will be subject to the following penalties upon leaving office.
He must surrender his U.S. citizenship, in return for citizenship of that country. He must relocate to live in it. If he leaves his new homeland for more than 30 consecutive days, his pension is permanently cancelled.
He will be granted no Secret Service detail or U.S. Marines to guard him. He must rely on the local police, like everybody else.
He will have to build his presidential library in that country’s largest city. Again, it will be guarded by the same cops who guard — or looted by the same mobs that loot — every other local business, school, or church.
His pension will be paid in the local currency, which may well have collapsed, or been replaced by some pre-civilized form of primitive barter. So we might have to pay it out in tethered goats or cartons of cigarettes.
If he has invaded and toppled more than one such country, he will not be granted a choice among them. (Talk about perverse incentives!) No, he will be granted citizenship in the one with the lowest Gross Domestic Product.
If such a law were passed then President Trump and every one of his successors would need to think very carefully about their decisions on countries like Syria. He would need to flout public opinion, if it was out of step with reality.
He’d have very strong personal reasons to tell senators like Lindsey Graham and John McCain and pundits like William Kristol what he thinks of their latest war of choice. He would face the same conditions that his policies left behind in a helpless foreign country whose citizens never voted for him. What could be fairer than that?
Where Would Dante Send Ex-Presidents to Live?
The Constitution forbids retroactive laws. Otherwise, such an act would demand that our recent ex-presidents reap the harvests that they sowed:
Bill Clinton forced to live in Kosovo, under the rule of increasingly radical Islamists who blew up its historic churches. They are also training al Qaeda and ISIS operatives for attacks all over Europe. He might not feel comfortable there, but Huma Abedin would, so at least poor Hillary would be happy (should she choose to join him there).
George W. Bush living in Baghdad, enjoying every day the exciting sights and sounds that his invasion and occupation of Iraq left behind. He might have trouble finding a church to attend, since most of the country’s 1 million Christians were driven out on his watch — precisely as antiwar conservatives had warned him would happen.
Barack Obama living in Benghazi. As a beloved elder statesman who holds a Nobel Peace Prize, he could certainly work out a diplomatic solution among the many violent factions — al Qaeda, ISIS, and a dozen tribal militias — which his bold, decisive action put in control of that country. But that might put a crimp in his golf game.
I hope that some statesmanlike senator, such as Rand Paul, will get behind this plan. We can call it the “Skin in the Game Act of 2017,” after The Black Swan author Nassim Taleb’s core principle of policy: Don’t let someone make major decisions for which he bears no personal risk.
Fear not! Presidents who fought countries that had actually attacked the U.S., or who didn’t spend trillions trying to bomb chaotic, hostile hellholes until they turned into Colonial Williamsburg, would go unpunished. (For more from the author of “A Modest Proposal: Deport Obama to Libya and Clinton to Kosovo” please click HERE)