This chapter presents an overview of how foreign military intervention undermines domestic freedoms. It introduces the theory of the "boomerang effect," which explains how coercive government military actions that target another country often act like a boomerang, returning home and knocking down the freedoms of those in the throwing nation. Preparing for and engaging in foreign intervention provides a testing ground for intervening governments to experiment with new forms of social control over distant populations. Under certain conditions, these innovations in social control are then imported back to the intervening country through several channels that expand the scope of domestic government activities. Also discussed is why economists often neglect the scope of government activities and why this matters for understanding the full implications of a proactive, militaristic foreign policy.
This chapter explores how the tools of social control developed for foreign interventions can return to the intervening country. Key domestic conditions that create an environment conducive to the boomerang effect are identified. These conditions create space for a government to expand its powers and adopt the techniques of state-produced social control it developed and honed abroad. With the door open for the expansion of government power, the methods of social control originally developed for use abroad can be imported for domestic use. This takes place through three related channels: the human-capital channel, the organizational dynamics channel, and the physical-capital channel. The chapter concludes by offering several caveats, which delineate the boundaries of what the boomerang effect framework does, and does not, include.
This chapter explains why America is susceptible to the boomerang effect. It considers the weak formal constraints, both domestically and internationally, on U.S. government officials in matters of foreign policy. The result is that preparing for and carrying out foreign intervention present a largely unconstrained opportunity for government officials to develop, test, and hone methods of social control. The significant slack in domestic constraints creates an environment conducive to the return of these methods as per the boomerang effect. The ultimate result is that with centralized power and limited formal constraints on its use of power, the U.S. government, when preparing for and engaging in foreign interventions, will tend to behave more like a despot than a constitutionally constrained republic. This has significant consequences for civil liberties.
This chapter examines the origins of the U.S. surveillance state. While the revelations by Edward Snowden have led many to associate surveillance with the NSA, this chapter explains how the roots of modern domestic surveillance go back well over a hundred years to the Philippine-American War. Utilizing the framework of the boomerang effect, this chapter illustrates how this conflict provided a testing ground for the development and refinement of new surveillance techniques. From this conflict emerged Ralph Van Deman, the "father of U.S. military intelligence," as well as the domestic use of many techniques developed for the social control of foreign populations. While the Church Committee would publicly reveal the extent of surveillance activities in the 1970s, subsequent constraints placed on U.S. surveillance activities have been largely ineffective.
Noting that the historical distinction between policing and the military has progressively eroded, this chapter explores the relationship between foreign intervention and the militarization of U.S. domestic policing. The chapter looks at the rise of SWAT teams and the adoption of military tactics and equipment and seeks to understand how these tools came to be used domestically by the police. The chapter examines the Philippine-American War and the subsequent work of August Vollmer, known as the "father of modern policing." Vollmer and other veterans laid the foundation for others to incorporate military tactics into domestic policing. The Vietnam War produced an environment favorable to the creation and subsequent expansion of SWAT teams. The perpetual wars on drugs and terror fuel the continued adoption and expansion of military technology by police.
This chapter analyzes how the use of drones in U.S. foreign interventions contributed to the domestic use of the technology. It provides a brief history of drone technology going back to the early 1900s. The chapter discusses the work of Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowksi and the Office of Force Transformation in the context of the boomerang effect framework. Utilizing his training in the Vietnam War, Cebrowski was integral in developing the institutional dynamics necessary for the integration of drones into the domestic operations of the U.S. government. The War on Drugs and the War on Terror provide an environment ripe for the extensive use of drones both abroad and at home. Concerns regarding illegal immigration into the United States, in conjunction with the aforementioned threats of drugs and terrorism, further engender domestic drone use by various agencies of the U.S. government.
This chapter explores the link between foreign intervention and the domestic use of torture by members of the U.S. government. Although torture is often associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the U.S. facilities at Guantanamo Bay, this chapter discusses the historical use of torture against U.S. citizens by their own government. The Philippine-American War saw the creation of various torture techniques, and it would not be long before these techniques would find their way back to the United States as per the boomerang effect. Although the end of World War II brought a renewed vow against torture, the U.S. government actively sought the expertise of former Nazi scientists with interests in various interrogation and mind-control techniques. The U.S. government employed these individuals to conduct experiments against U.S. citizens.
The Conclusion reiterates the central argument of the book: domestic life is not immune to the foreign policies undertaken by a country's government. Preparing for and engaging in coercive foreign intervention leads to refinements and innovations in state-produced social control that often return home to destroy liberties, as per the logic of the boomerang effect. The central implications of the analysis are as follows. (1) The costs of coercive foreign intervention tend to be understated. (2) Existing formal constraints are limited in protecting freedom from abuses of power associated with intervention. (3) Ideology can constrain foreign policy and is crucial to protecting against abuses of power. (4) An antimilitarist ideology is necessary to curtail intervention and its assaults on liberty. The chapter discusses the defining characteristics of this ideology and its importance of limiting the scope of government power, which threatens to undermine domestic freedoms.