Saturday, September 15, 2012

The World Without Us (2011)

I saw this on Netflix last night, but you can watch it online as well.  It is essentially an examination of what the world would be like if the most doctrinaire libertarian view of foreign policy were implemented: the U.S. withdraws all of its military forces from abroad, and no longer engages in foreign intervention, anywhere.

It presents a fair and accurate representation of the non-interventionist perspective--not a strawman, and not a cartoon version of it.  It points out why even the Europeans couldn't, or more accurately wouldn't, intervene to stop the genocidal war in Bosnia, or the attempt at it in Kosovo, until the U.S. did so.  It points out what the likely consequences would be of U.S. withdrawal of forces from South Korea, and the withdrawal of the Seventh Fleet from the Asia Pacific Rim area.

Niall Ferguson is one of the more prominent experts that they interview, and to Ferguson's credit, he admits that he completely blew it in the 1990s in his view of U.S. intervention in the Balkans.  He points out that peace is not the natural state of mankind, and in many parts of the world, as much as America gets a lot of hatred for its actions, the situation would be a lot worse without our involvement.  America is effectively paying a heavy price in treasure and blood for the fact that much of the rest of the world lacks the maturity to behave like adults.  Even after driving Israel into the sea, the Muslim nations of the Middle East would rapidly turn to destroying each other, because there are cultural problems there that are far larger than Israel.  Countries that have moved beyond the "me against my brother, my brothers against my cousins, my cousins against the rest of the world" idiocy, like most of Europe, unfortunately, seem to have fallen into a pacifism that makes them unwilling to defend themselves, or to defend innocents in genocidal wars.

I was also pleased to see them point out something that I keep trying to get across: very little Middle Eastern oil goes to the U.S.  It primarily goes to Europe and Asia.  Our interest in Middle Eastern stability (it's a bit much to expect sanity in that region) is driven not by our direct interest in oil, but our interest in protecting the economies of our principal trading partners.


  1. As David "Spengler" Goldman has said, when the cat is away, the mice kill each other.

    Although I believe there's enough of a global and fungible market in oil that keeping the spigots open in the Middle East is economically important to us absent reigning in the EPA. That oil doesn't go to us since it's cheaper for us to transport oil from Canada, Mexico, I presume the west African coast, etc.

  2. I haven't watched the video yet but I don't doubt us going to a zero involvement would be bad globally.

    On the other hand the extent of our current involvement in the world is bankrupting us so it seems to be a no win situation!

    Somewhere between the two extremes....

    If only we could get Europe and Asia to pay their fair share. Perhaps it is time to let Germany and Japan re-arm. I think they are no where near as aggressive as their WW2 ancestors--honestly I think the modern generation are likely wimps. Of course their neighbors wouldn't like that scenario. I doubt either country could or would spend the money though so will probably never happen.

    I fear we are not going to be able to counter a strong China military for the rest of this century should they be able to build and maintain one. I keep hoping they won't be able to pull it off because of their looming internal problems.

  3. You are correct--but how would we get the Europeans to actually spend like they were going to defend themselves? As the film points out, if the U.S. were to disengage from the Far East, Japan would probably rethink their "no nukes" policy--and China, because of both past bad history and desire to be the only dog on the block, might well give Japan the unfortunate distinction of being the only country to be nuked in two different wars.

  4. Thanks. Entertaining movie and delightful propaganda.

    Hearing a German complain that the US acts brutally is too hilarious. Only thing funnier would have been a Russian.

    We should withdraw from the world. Saving the EUropeans three times: from the Kaisers, from the Fascists, and from the Communists has won us few friends and many enemies. Let the EUropeans be EUropeans. We can't stop them. I don't think we should.

    The other problems of the world are perennial; they will always be with us. The US cannot remove brutal dictatorships in Korea or China; nor covert a billion followers of a crazed, anti-Semitic, tyrannical religion to peace.

  5. "the attempt at it in Kosovo": come now, the mass convoys of Albabian Kosovars did not provoke the attack on Serbia, they occurred after the attack was started.

  6. Since oil is fungible, we certainly have a direct interest in Middle Eastern oil. Any restriction in supply there will increase prices here, even if we don't consume a single drop of Persian Gulf oil.

  7. dearieme: The Serbian government had been messing with the Kosovars for years.

    Your explanation is very similar to a classic Nazi Holocaust rationalization: actual massacre of the Jews did not start until Nazi Germany was at war and under heavy attack, which the Nazis blamed on the Jews.

  8. Clayton and anon .. I don't think the issue is so much money as lacking a generation of trigger-pullers. Japan is on the brink of aging itself out of existence and Europe (except for the non-integrated Muslim contingents) is rapidly going to the same way. Even China is heading in that direction due to their one child policy combined with a preference for sons.

  9. Mr Rostrom, this is the first time on this site I've seen such a foul comment. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

  10. Before this turns into a flame war: let's try to avoid getting too personal. The Serbian government was not at all hostile to pretty aggressive enocuragement of genocide.