"It is our true policy to steer clear of entangling alliances with any
portion of the foreign world." George Washington
I have written before about the critical need
for Congress to reassert its authority over foreign policy, and for the American
people to recognize that the Constitution makes no distinction between domestic
and foreign matters. Policy is policy, and it must be made by the legislature
and not the executive.
But what policy is best? How should we deal with the rest
of the world in a way that best advances proper national
interests, while not threatening our freedoms at home?
I believe our founding fathers had it right when they argued for peace and
commerce between nations, and against entangling political and military alliances.
In other words, noninterventionism.
Noninterventionism is not isolationism. Nonintervention
simply means America does not interfere militarily, financially,
or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations. It
does not mean that we isolate ourselves; on the contrary,
our founders advocated open trade, travel, communication,
and diplomacy with other nations.
Thomas Jefferson summed up the noninterventionist foreign
policy position perfectly in his 1801 inaugural address:
"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations
entangling alliances with none." Washington similarly
urged that we must, "Act for ourselves and not for others,"
by forming an "American character wholly free of foreign
Yet how many times have we all heard these wise words without
taking them to heart? How many claim to admire Jefferson
and Washington, but conveniently ignore both when it comes
to American foreign policy? Since so many apparently now
believe Washington and Jefferson were wrong on the critical
matter of foreign policy, they should at least have the
intellectual honesty to admit it.
Of course we frequently hear the offensive cliché
that, "times have changed," and thus we cannot follow quaint
admonitions from the 1700s. The obvious question, then,
is what other principles from our founding era should we
discard for convenience? Should we give up the First amendment
because times have changed and free speech causes too much
offense in our modern society? Should we give up the Second
amendment, and trust that today's government is benign and
not to be feared by its citizens? How about the rest of
the Bill of Rights?
It's hypocritical and childish to dismiss certain founding
principles simply because a convenient rationale is needed
to justify interventionist policies today. The principles
enshrined in the Constitution do not change. If anything,
today's more complex world cries out for the moral clarity
provided by a noninterventionist foreign policy.
It is time for Americans to rethink the interventionist
foreign policy that is accepted without question in Washington.
It is time to understand the obvious harm that results from
our being dragged time and time again into intractable and
endless Middle East conflicts, whether in Iraq, Iran, Syria,
Lebanon, or Palestine. It is definitely time to ask ourselves
whether further American lives and tax dollars should be
lost trying to remake the Middle East in our image.