Okay, this one is a little long, but it’s a topic that needs a lot of explanation. Hope #4 for President Obama is that he will seek a traditional American foreign policy of neutrality and non-intervention unless our vital national interests or national security are inherently connected. What does this mean? This means no more world policing and no more state building! Under Clinton our policy was one of policing the world; Under Bush our policy was one of reforming the world. When the President puts his hand on the Bible for the oath of office, he swears to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. He does not put his hand on that Bible to swear to uphold any other nation than our own, and he certainly doesn’t swear to spread democracy throughout the world. As preferable as it would be to see democracy pull down and end all tyranny, it is not the job of this nation to spend ourselves into trillions of dollars of debt (mostly owed to foreign nations) and sacrifice the blood of our best and bravest sons on the battlefield to “make the world safe for democracy.”
You may say, “but this isn’t our foreign policy is it?” Let President Bush answer that question: "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” This may seem harmless, but is it? To understand this policy you have to be familiar with an idea called “the democratic peace theory.” This has gained popularity in recent years, but has no historical support. What it claims, in a nutshell, is that democracy is inherently peaceful, and that democracies do not fight other democracies. Therefore, the theory states, if you make all nations in the world a democracy, there will be world peace. The basis for invading Iraq was built on this theory. The belief was that if we could establish a democracy in Iraq that Iraq would become an instant friend to all Western Democracies, and moreover, that democracy would spread throughout the rest of the Middle East. Not have we seen so much utopian fervor in an ideology since Marxist socialism’s claim that socialism would lead to world peace. Unfortunately, as with all utopian ideas, they always work better on paper than they do once placed up against the natural forces of history, culture, religion, and human nature. And unfortunately, like other utopian ideals of its kind, it takes far more violence to bring about the utopia than is experienced in the absence of the utopia itself.
Some have falsely branded the Bush foreign policy as “conservative”. However, the policy, in truth, is the antithesis of conservatism. As a conservative, the very comparison makes my skin crawl.
I don’t believe that that President Obama will continue the Bush Administration’s neo-conservative experiment. After all, he did vote against the invasion of Iraq. However, I don’t believe he did so on a healthy skepticism of state-building. President Obama falls in line more with the Clinton police state model for America—that our role as a nation is basically to be the muscle behind the UN. This is equally as foolhardy as the Bush team policy. I truly hope that President Obama doesn’t fall into this category, but with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, herself quite hawkish, it seems very likely.
What should our foreign policy look like then? Former Conservative Senator Robert Taft, who almost beat Eisenhower for the 1952 Republican Nomination, gave a very great prescription in his 1951 book “A Foreign Policy for Americans”.
“War should never be undertaken or seriously risked except to protect American liberty. Our traditional policy of neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war...Nor do I believe we can justify war by our natural desire to bring freedom to others throughout the world, although it is perfectly proper to encourage and promote freedom."
Yes, it is proper to encourage and promote freedom abroad, but as Taft is saying here, we can and should do that without getting involved in foreign conflicts. In fact, that is part of what it means to be John Winthrop’s “Shining City on the Hill.” We should always be the first to promote freedom, but we should not do so with the sword.
Don't be mistaken. I'm not advocating of policy where we never go to war. What I am advocating is that we use all available means so as to make war our last option. The world is a chessboard, and America must always endeavor to be the Queen. We do this by having the best military in the world, by having a shrewd President and foreign policy team, exercising skilled diplomacy, and by using our economy strategically. The key is to projecting a temperament that says to the world “Don’t tread on me.” This is the thought that I will close on.
Among some of our early revolutionary flags was one that had a snake in the center on a yellow background and which read, “Don’t Tread on Me.” This flag was an adaption from Benjamin Franklin’s wood carving of a snake cut into eight pieces representing eight early colonies. Benjamin Franklin later described in an essay what he believed to be the representative significance of the snake.
“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretentions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenceless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?” –Benjamin Franklin-