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By Matthew Rosen

The United States just launched missiles into Syria for the second time in two years. As a response to a chemical attack led by Assad on his own people, the coalition of the US, Britain, and France decided to send him a message to not defy our demands.

How could a non-interventionist who voted to end America acting as the world police, such as myself, be in favor of the April 13th missile strikes on Syria?

Well, this is a multi-variable and a complex answer. The simple answer, which is the cornerstone of my political ideals, is that Non-Interventionism is not the same as not having a foreign policy. According to my political theory, there are certain unique conditions that can allow the United States to become involved with the international stage without it being an interventionist policy. I aim, in this article, to use a political science approach to create a theory of how international actions can be justified, “America First,” and still non-interventionist by nature. This article will also assume that US intelligence is correct, and that the gas attack was not a false flag operation.

What are the variables that are necessary for the United States to attack without it being an interventionist policy? What conditions make an attack justified and “America First?”

  1. If the United States is directly attacked, such as Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, this can warrant any action all the way up to a war if necessary.
  2. If an ally is directly attacked, giving aid to our ally or fighting alongside them (if extremely necessary) to subdue the attacker is justified. Alliances are important and give the United States benefits. So if Japan is ever directly attacked, protecting them is crucial. If an ally is unreasonably threatened, aid without troops may be provided.
  3. If the devastation or reach is so large that it could hurt the United States, attack can be justified. This would include groups such as ISIS or countries that we believe will attack the United States. Both of these are dangers to the US, so fighting them is America First, rather than interventionist. The more dangerous and iminent the threat is, the more use of power is justified. A crazed dictator who we believe is about to bomb the United States deserves more power, and probably more troops, than a dormant terrorist cell. Either way, both justify attacks, without being interventionist in nature.
  4. If the United States’ hands are tied, action can be justified. This is a concept in political science where if a leader says something, they must stick that or else credibility is lost. This includes the fact that promises to help an ally or promises to punish an enemy must be kept. The hands tied criteria DOES NOT justify war or soldiers. Only an attack can justify use of soldiers. Hands tied does justify other means of interacting abroad such as aid, missiles, rhetoric, sanctions, etc.  This is because credibility on the world stage is one of the most important aspects of foreign policy.

This condition must also guarantee that war will not come as a direct consequence, and there is some sort of reasonable basis. This means that the United States cannot demand that Putin step down or we will fire missile at him, as it is not reasonable. If the United States followed this threat to Putin, it would not only be stupid, but interventionist in nature.

  1. If geopolitical loss is iminent, action can be justified. This condition is tricky, because it is not always concrete, but it is definitely a large factor in determining foreign policy. For example, certain trade agreements with Southeast Asian countries have been aimed at combating China’s sphere of influence, and growing the United States’. This is very good foreign policy, as keeping allies and partners, while containing ideas we don’t like, such as authoritarian or anti-American ideas, is important. Notice how I used the word “contain” and not “defeat.” That is the important distinction between non-interventionism and becoming the world police. Making a trade policy with SE Asian countries is aimed to “contain” China’s sphere of influence, while invading China would be aimed to “defeat” China. Sovereignty is one of the most basic and most important ideas on the world stage, which allows China to do whatever they want inside its own country. Defying that would be interventionist; however, policy aimed at containing a dangerous or overpowering anti-American sphere is not interventionist by nature.

The geopolitical strategy criteria also DOES NOT justify war or soldiers. Only an attack can justify use of soldiers. Geopolitical strategy does justify other means of interacting abroad such as aid, missiles, rhetoric, sanctions, etc. This condition must also guarantee that war will not come as a direct consequence, and there is some sort of reasonable basis.

  1. A non-military international presence is allowed and encouraged no matter what the conditions. Non-threatening rhetoric, trade policy, sanctions, diplomacy, etc will never mean interventionism by themselves, which is why I call this the “never clause.”
  2. Certain things are and always will be interventionist by nature and some things are always a bad idea. That is why condition seven is more of a side note, or as I call it, the “always clause.” Neocon ideas such as nation building and forced westernization will always be interventionist policy. Condition 1 is required to declare war and conditions 1-3 can allow troops. Declaring war without condition 1 or prolonged attacks or aid without conditions 1-3 also will always qualify as an interventionist policy. Pulling out of an unstable area is also always a bad idea. Even if you realize you made a mistake in the past, and now you don’t want to be involved in a conflict the you are already in, you should not pull out until it is stable. Vacuums of power are even more dangerous. This is why pulling out of Iraq was a bad idea, and why pulling out of South Korea would also be a bad idea.

How does this apply to Syria?

In order to make a presence on the world stage, and still be qualified for non-interventionism, the attack must be justified and proven to be America First. As discussed above, if your attack follows those seven conditions, then it is America First and justified. Does President Trump’s attack on Syria qualify? Can you be a non-interventionist, be against the US as the world police, but still believe that this attack was justified and America First? Yes.

Condition 1 doesn’t apply, conditions 2-3 could be argued to be met, 4-5 are met, condition 6 is never broken, and it does not violate the “always clause” (condition 7).

Condition 2 can be argued to be met because our allies are threatened by the Shia Crescent (Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon). Since no attack was made on Israel, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia (our allies), troops aren’t justified. Aid or missiles are justified, however, in order to protect our allies. This condition is weak by itself, as threat would have to be proven. If condition 2 were the only one satisfied, then it would fall to whether you believe our allies are in imminent danger. Condition 3 can also be argued to be met, as the Shia Crescent has threatened the US, is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, and has hurt the US and its allies with refugee problems and more terrorist groups.

For conditions 4-5 alone, it is important to remember that the US cannot directly start a war, cannot add troops, and cannot be there for a long period of time. And guess what? The US did not directly start a war, did not add troops, and will not be there for a long period of time. President Trump confirmed this in his addressing of the nation on April 13th. Also remember that this article is assuming that US intelligence is correct, and the gas attack was not a false flag operation.

Both conditions 4-5 are also met, where actions without troops is justified and America First. Personally, I believe that the “red line” that President Obama drew (and President Trump kept), is stupid in the first place. The “red line” refers to the US’s threatening rhetoric. It claims that if Syria uses chemical weapons, the US will be forced to act. We never should have drew the red line. Doing that in the first place IS BY ITSELF an interventionist policy advocating for the US as the world police. However, at the time of the gas attack, the red line was drawn, and the US’s hands were tied. Credibility in the eyes of Russia, the Shia Crescent, and our allies would be shot if we did not act. Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia wouldn’t trust our word to have their back, and Russia, Iran, and Syria would learn that they are unchecked and continue to defy us, knowing there are no consequences, thus satisfying condition 4.

Syria and the rest of the Middle East is a huge strategic point for the entire world stage as it has spheres of influence from all over the world. The US has an interest in containing and stabilizing it. A stable Middle East where anti-American actors such as Iran, the Shia Crescent and Russia are balanced by our allies is a reasonable foreign policy. In fact, the US has been trying to contain its sphere of influence long before chemical weapons were a problem,. Disabling Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons is definitely a containment policy that is America First, thus satisfying condition 5.

Similar attacks on North Korea, Russia, China, Iran, etc would not be “America First and justified,” would not satisfy the conditions, would be interventionist by nature, would be the US as the world police, and I would be against that. If you believe that the missile attack does not satisfy the conditions, then I would even encourage you to be against the strikes. I just gave my quick reasoning on why I believe it does satisfy the conditions. Remember, I too voted for “no more stupid wars.” This is not a war, but a message that I believe follows the conditions of engagement.

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