It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. … To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
The United States has a noble history of non-interventionism for the majority of our existence as a nation. President George Washington advised the country to "avoid foreign entanglements." Thomas Jefferson favored "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none." John Quincy Adams wrote that the U.S. "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."
In fact, in the 1930’s Congress passed a series of Neutrality Acts designed to keep the country focused on internal matters, especially after the Depression. The Acts were largely repealed in 1941 in the face of German submarine attacks on U.S. vessels and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which led to U.S. involvement in World War II. (This was the last time that the U.S. Congress actually declared War.)The unblemished history of non-interventionism lasted until April 6, 1917 when Germany sank seven U.S. merchant ships. After World War I the U.S. entered a long period of isolationism – trying to return to its Constitutional roots of not getting involved in foreign conflicts.
President Obama said that the military action of the U.S. and her allies in Libya “prevented a massacre.” It’s impossible to prove. Other prevention efforts haven’t been effective. Preventing Saddam Hussein from having Weapons of Mass Destruction allowed the U.S. for the first time in her history to attack another nation preemptively. Eight years later there have been thousands of deaths and more than $1 trillion spent on the prevention efforts that yielded not one WMD.
Ben Franklin famously said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Those who support the Doctrine of Interventionism (be it Obama’s, Bush’s, Clinton's, Kennedy's...) would believe that this quote supports their philosophy of preventative action. Instead the ounce of prevention is preventing war itself – and the best way to do that is to return to America’s roots and tradition of non-interventionism.