The Tea Party Gives Big Government a Pass

The Tea Party has struck tremendous blows against expanding government power. After decades of big spending and over regulation, the people have finally awoken and have taken a stand against the unintended (and sometimes perfectly intended) consequences of well-intentioned government programs.  We have recognized that the government does not have all the answers and it is incapable of managing the economies of thousands of localities and hundreds millions of citizens across the country without significant negative economic blowback.

It is curious then that while the Tea Party understands the lack of effectiveness from bureaucrats in DC when dealing with the economy, it still believes in Washington’s perfect omniscience in matters of foreign affairs.  In fact, to point out failures in foreign policy which have lead to unintended consequences for the American people, has been elevated to near treasonous levels.  In the minds of many Tea Partiers and so-called conservatives, the federal government is a massive idiot savant able to exact the precise formula for dealing with a global military empire, but is reduced to a drooling state when called upon to enact even a mildly beneficial fiscal policy for America.

Most illustrative of this point has been the reaction to those, like Congressman Ron Paul, who have attempted to shed a light on some of the reasons why 3,000 of our fellow citizens where brutally murdered on September 11, 2001.  The prevailing propaganda piece of the decade has been, “they hate us because we are free”.  Most recently this has been touted by former Senator Rick Santorum at the last GOP debate in Tampa.  This most nuanced and intellectual argument is one which I used to believe as well and thus am sympathetic to those who have not, after 10 years, been able to shake.  Besides being almost completely inaccurate, this argument also happens to be completely unhelpful when it comes to creating a strategy for preventing future attacks.  Let us examine this further.

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, President Bush took to the airwaves and informed us that not only did “our very freedoms” come under attack, but also “our very way of life”.  Visions of Al Qaeda watching Friends and spitting at the TV danced through our collective neo-conservative heads.  A distant and mysterious organization attacking us because we choose to sexualize teenage pop-stars and pay $5 for a cup of designer coffee was enough to have us screaming for blood as I imagine the crowd did at the Coliseum in ancient Rome.

While the reason was wrong, the sentiment was not.  Even those of us who understand the reasons behind the attack were happy to oblige those in Afghanistan who begged to be martyrs.  We will always be happy to grant that wish when the United States is attacked or when there is a clear and present danger of imminent attack.  We do however want to fully understand the nature of the attacker in order to defeat the attackers or at least in order to protect ourselves.  “Know your enemy” is not some nouveau liberal pacifist mantra after all; it is warfare 101.

If we are in fact to believe that Americans were killed because we are free, we have to ask ourselves a few questions.  1) Are we freer or less free ten years later? Any honest observer would have to say less.  Therefore, can we deduce from this fact that the terrorists have won?  That’s not something I want to concede.  2) Why did the major attacks begin in the 90’s if we have been free (and more free to boot) for centuries?  3) If they attacked us because of our freedom, how do we stop the attacks?  Do we give up our freedoms?  Do we fight an endless war attempting to wipe out every last terrorist and their descendants?  It is clear that this reason for the attacks is too simple to be accurate.  The best advertising agency could not have dreamed up a better slogan.  Muhammad bin-whatever over in Saudi Arabia, a violent government we support, did not decide to kill himself in an effort to kill us because our freedoms just bothered him oh so much.  A person running for President of the United States, who believes that, does not have the foresight and/or intelligence to run the world’s last superpower effectively.

To understand the actual reasons, one simply need only give a cursory review of American foreign policy since World War 2.  Let us first look to Iran, the source of much Islamic extremism.  In the early 1950’s the CIA helped organize a coup against the democratically elected popular Prime Minister of Iran.  Prior to this coup, the Prime minister had worked to and succeeded in cutting off British control of the Iranian oil markets.  Something that the UK was not particularly fond of and something in which the U.S figured it had an interest.  After an effective propaganda campaign and threats toward the Shah, the Prime Minister was ousted and arrested by the Shah’s military court. The American and British choice for Prime Minister was installed and they each gained an enormous share of Iranian oil profits.  We continued to support the Shah until the revolution in 1979.  Through that period, we funded his military and his secret police force.  Something that the Iranian people were keenly aware of and as one could imagine, something on which they were not very keen and so they revolted.

After the revolution, Iranians were under strict control of the Ayatollah.  The Ayatollahs have been a powerful force in spreading anti-American Islamic extremism.  Even with this very basic summary of events in Iran, one could plainly see that but for our involvement with it, we may be facing a very different and perhaps friendlier Iranian government today.  People do not forget when a foreign power interferes in their affairs especially when it leads to secret police forces, brutality and death.

The CIA refers to this type of unintended consequence as “Blowback”.  This occurs when decisions made by Washington, lead to those consequences which negatively affect Americans or other interested parties.  Another prime example of this can be found more recently in Afghanistan.  During the 1980’s the United States trained, funded, supplied and fought alongside who we referred to then as Afghan “freedom fighters”.  These forces were fighting against occupation by our sworn enemy the Soviet Union.  We thought it a noble and completely rational cause back then to fight against the occupation of a foreign power.  Times have changed.  It is no secret by now the freedom fighters of the 80’s are the terrorists of the 90’s and 2000’s.

But what has changed in their minds that has lead them to kill innocent Americans?  The answer: nothing.  All that has changed is their target.  When the USSR was occupying them, the Mujahedeen (read Al Qaeda) was attacking them.  When we began occupying and interfering in Middle Eastern countries and their affairs, they attacked us.  This is not to say that Americans “deserved” to die on 9/11.  That is a straw man argument that deserves little acknowledgement as only a few radicals (mostly leftists) believe that.  It does however begin to paint a different picture as to why we were attacked.

Reviewing the statements put out by Al Qaeda regarding the U.S, one would find the following examples of reasons:

“You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon.”

“Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis;”

“Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures.”

“You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down.”

“We also advise you to pack your luggage and get out of our lands. We desire for your goodness, guidance, and righteousness, so do not force us to send you back as cargo in coffins.”


These are the words of Osama Bin Laden after 9/11/2001.  For sure there is some hateful language in there, however in the reasons why we were attacked, I do not see once that it is due to the likes of Britney Spears dancing on stage half-naked or that our women are permitted to vote.  There are those who believe looking to his words constitutes taking sides with him.  However, how do we know our enemy and attempt to formulate strategy to beat it, without discovering the reasons they give for why they fight us?

No less than the head of the Bin Laden unit for the CIA, Michael Scheuer has told us that the notion that our freedoms were the motivation for the attacks is false.  He said:

“The idea that has been pushed by President Clinton, President Bush, Mr. Cheney, Barack Obama and Senator McCain that America is being attacked because of those things is a disservice to the population of the United States”


The 9/11 commission has also cited blowback as the part of the motivation behind the attacks and even included this in its recommendations:

“Where Muslim governments, even those who are friends, do not respect these principles, the United States must stand for a better future. One of the lessons of the long Cold War was that short-term gains in cooperating with the most repressive and brutal governments were too often outweighed by long-term setbacks for America’s stature and interests.”

For conservatives, it should not be a stretch to imagine that the government is incompetent when it comes to handling our affairs, domestic or foreign.  While Washington’s domestic policies are bankrupting us, its foreign policy is killing us.  Americans are not to blame. Neither are our freedoms.  It is Big Government bureaucrats who make decisions based on an interest in expanding their own power and wealth that are to blame.  It will take a long time for us to clean up their mess.  We will have to fend off and fight terrorists at times; however we also need a change in foreign policy if we ever wish to stop the threat.  We will need a policy that does not permit the U.S to police the world on our dime.

To leave the 130 or so countries we are in, including those in the Middle East; to cut off aid to all governments, including those brutal dictators in the Middle East and elsewhere; to end our intervention into the political affairs of sovereign nations would not be as some believe, complying with the demands of Al Qaeda.  It would in fact, be complying with the demands of our Founding Fathers.   Here I thought that was what the Tea Party was all about.


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