I guess I'm starting to live up to my name and might have to change my tagline at the top of the blog with these parables. I stole this example from Pat Buchanan on CSPAN's Booknotes (which I watched on December 4, but it may have been originally aired earlier). I've changed things in a number of ways to make it a better parable, but I'll discuss that at the end.
In 1820, the American government was invaded by the British and a small coalition. France and Prussia notably refrained. The threats of President Monroe against England for its being the Great Satan were getting too much to ignore, especially given Ben Franklin's claim to have invented a weapon to wipe out hundreds at a time, mass produced with the techniques of the industrial revolution to destroy centers of cities, synchronized all to happen at the same time so no city could warn another. British spies all had evidence of these weapons (though that intelligence turned out not reliable). Some of the weapons had been used on Indians in the past, and the abuses of the American government against the Indians were quite obvious to anyone in England (not that the English were perfect in their treatment of others, but they had progressed beyond taking whole people-groups and transplanting them to a new land against their will long before the U.S. had -- is 1820 too early for this? then make it a bit later).
It was unclear if the weapons had been taken to Canada when the English forces took over the colonial government and had begun searching for them. The French were not talking, even though there had been ties between high officials in the French government and the American leaders, including a suggestion of a promise that the French would keep the English from attacking no matter how great the threat appeared and including well-documented sources showing that the French were using the system designed to keep the Americans from misuing their technology to profit and to work against that very system. After the 1812 battle over the U.S. occupation of other territories, international sanctions were instituted to prevent further abuses, but French and Prussian leaders were privately agreeing to fight to remove those sanctions in exchange for money, saying it would never come to war. They agreed to put pressure against England's efforts.
The British had tried to negotiate to make sure weapons were removed. Monroe even allowed inspectors to try to find these weapons, but they found nothing. It still looked suspicious, because many of the sites to be inspected had suspicious activity the night before the inspections, and caravans had been seen heading into Canada before the inspections began. The French and Prussians were also too tied to the U.S. for such negotiations to get anywhere among the international community. After all this failed negotiation, and Monroe still made threats against England but not admitting to any illegal weapons, unwilling to admit to any wrongdoing while there was so much evidence (even if that later turned out to be undermined) that he was up to something. So it was left up to the British empire and what smaller countries were willing to aid them. In the aftermath, the intelligence turned out to be faulty. They only had a few such weapons (not that they couldn't have done serious harm with them) and had made contact with several individuals who could have used them but never with any real plans to do so. In fact, they were waiting for the sanctions to be removed before they would pursue mass production, so the sanctions were in this sense working, despite the French and Prussian arguments that they were just hurting the American people.
As I said, I got this example from Pat Buchanan. All he said was that an 1820 English invasion of the US because of the oppression of the Indians would be opposed by virtually every American alive today (though he ignores how many left-wingers would have been delighted at the effect of such a thing, even if the British empire should not have been the one to do it because of their own
status as a Western nation violations of human rights). I'm not sure Buchanan is right. When I heard him say that, I thought "why would that necessarily be wrong?" Then I realized that he hadn't made the example similar enough to the Iraq case, so I figured I'd make it more accurate. The WMD issue needs to be there, and it needs to be put in as parallel a way as possible. The negotiations and inspections need to be there too, as well as the corruption within the U.N. I tried to approximate all this as much as possible.
So what do we conclude? He says it's obvious no good American would support that sort of attack against the U.S. and would have taken up their muskets to defend. I say if that situation had taken place, the British would have been right to invade. The thing that I like about Buchanan's example is that many on the far left will think something is ok unless the U.S. does it and wrong whenever the U.S. does it, but they will agree with me that such a situation deserves retaliation when it is the U.S. doing it. It's just that they won't want to acknowledge that the Iraq situation is parallel enough to take the same view about that, even though the case I've designed is pretty much exactly that.
I just don't think Buchanan's charge is fair, at least with me. This has nothing to do with being willing to invade a country "over there" while being willing to admit that the same thing "over here" would be wrong. I really do think what I think here on principle, and I agree that if President Monroe had been doing the sort of thing up to 1820 that Saddam Hussein had been doing (and I didn't even get into the depths of the human rights abuses even against his own people) that the British would have been right to invade. That just seems obvious to me. Buchanan seems to be assuming some sort of isolationism in his argument, as far as I can tell. Otherwise I can't see how he'd say this.