Quotes on Active and Interventionist Positions on American Foreign Policy
"It must be thoroughly understood that war is a necessity; but that the more readily we accept it, the less will be the ardour of our opponents, and that out of the greatest dangers communities and individuals acquire the greatest glory."
"A PRINCE ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art. ...
A wise prince ought to observe some such rules, and never in peaceful times stand idle, but increase his resources with industry in such a way that they may be available to him in adversity, so that if fortune changes it may find him prepared to resist her blows."
"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."
"The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord.
Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and philosophic spirit? If this be their true interest, have they in fact pursued it? Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found that momentary passions, and immediate interest, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility or justice? Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the former administered by men as well as the latter? Are there not aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust acquisitions, that affect nations as well as kings? Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities? Is it not well known that their determinations are often governed by a few individuals in whom they place confidence, and are, of course, liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those individuals? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not been as many wars founded upon commercial motives since that has become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned by the cupidity of territory or dominion? Has not the spirit of commerce, in many instances, administered new incentives to the appetite, both for the one and for the other? Let experience, the least fallible guide of human opinions, be appealed to for an answer to these inquiries."
"The great question consequently is—What are the nature and effect of a defensive alliance? When does the casus foederis, or condition of the contract take place, in such an alliance?
Reason the concurring opinions of Writers and the practice of Nations will answer—'When either of the allies is attacked, when war is made upon him not when he makes war upon another.' In other words, The stipulated assistance is to be given to the ally, when engaged in a defensive not when engaged in an offensive war. This obligation to assist only in a defensive war constitutes the essential difference between a defensive alliance and one which is both offensive and defensive. In the latter case there is an obligation to cooperate as well when the war on the part of our ally is offensive as when it is defensive. To affirm therefore that the UStates are bound to assist France in the War in which she is at present engaged would be to convert our Treaty with her into an Alliance Offensive and Defensive contrary to the express & reiterated declarations of the Instrument itself."
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government ... the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them."
"America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. … Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence, has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign Independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force."
"It was stated at the commencement of the last session that a great effort was then making in Spain and Portugal to improve the condition of the people of those countries, and that it appeared to be conducted with extraordinary moderation. It need scarcely be remarked that the result has been so far very different from what was then anticipated. Of events in that quarter of the globe, with which we have so much intercourse and from which we derive our origin, we have always been anxious and interested spectators.
The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly in favor of the liberty and happiness of their fellow men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do.
It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers.
The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted.
We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere, but with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.
In the war between those new Governments and Spain we declared our neutrality at the time of their recognition, and to this we have adhered, and shall continue to adhere, provided no change shall occur which, in the judgment of the competent authorities of this Government, shall make a corresponding change on the part of the United States indispensable to their security.
The late events in Spain and Portugal shew that Europe is still unsettled. Of this important fact no stronger proof can be adduced than that the allied powers should have thought it proper, on any principle satisfactory to themselves, to have interposed by force in the internal concerns of Spain. To what extent such interposition may be carried, on the same principle, is a question in which all independent powers whose governments differ from theirs are interested, even those most remote, and surely none more so than the United States.
Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy, meeting in all instances the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none.
But in regard to those continents circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can anyone believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with indifference. If we look to the comparative strength and resources of Spain and those new Governments, and their distance from each other, it must be obvious that she can never subdue them. It is still the true policy of the United States to leave the parties to themselves, in the hope that other powers will pursue the same course."
"As soon as we are in possession of Cuba and have pacified the island it will be necessary to give aid and direction to its people to form a government for themselves. This should be undertaken at the earliest moment consistent with safety and assured success. It is important that our relations with this people shall be of the most friendly character and our commercial relations close and reciprocal. It should be our duty to assist in every proper way to build up the waste places of the island, encourage the industry of the people, and assist them to form a government which shall be free and independent, thus realizing the best aspirations of the Cuban people.
Spanish rule must be replaced by a just, benevolent, and humane government, created by the people of Cuba, capable of performing all international obligations, and which shall encourage thrift, industry, and prosperity and promote peace and good will among all of the inhabitants, whatever may have been their relations in the past. Neither revenge nor passion should have a place in the new government. Until there is complete tranquillity in the island and a stable government inaugurated military occupation will be continued."
"Every expansion of civilization makes for peace. In other words, every expansion of a great civilized power means a victory for law, order, and righteousness. ...It is only the warlike power of a civilized people that can give peace to the world."
"Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.' If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power. Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not which prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people. ..."
"The steady aim of this Nation, as of all enlightened nations, should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. There are kinds of peace which are highly undesirable, which are in the long run as destructive as any war. Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. Many times peoples who were slothful or timid or shortsighted, who had been enervated by ease or by luxury, or misled by false teachings, have shrunk in unmanly fashion from doing duty that was stern and that needed self-sacrifice, and have sought to hide from their own minds their shortcomings, their ignoble motives, by calling them love of peace. The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. The goal to set before us as a nation, the goal which should be set before all mankind, is the attainment of the peace of justice, of the peace which comes when each nation is not merely safe-guarded in its own rights, but scrupulously recognizes and performs its duty toward others. Generally peace tells for righteousness; but if there is conflict between the two, then our fealty is due first to the cause of righteousness. Unrighteous wars are common, and unrighteous peace is rare; but both should be shunned. The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right can not be divorced. One of our great poets has well and finely said that freedom is not a gift that tarries long in the hands of cowards. Neither does it tarry long in the hands of those too slothful, too dishonest, or too unintelligent to exercise it. The eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty must be exercised, sometimes to guard against outside foes; although of course far more often to guard against our own selfish or thoughtless shortcomings.
If these self-evident truths are kept before us, and only if they are so kept before us, we shall have a clear idea of what our foreign policy in its larger aspects should be. It is our duty to remember that a nation has no more right to do injustice to another nation, strong or weak, than an individual has to do injustice to another individual; that the same moral law applies in one case as in the other. But we must also remember that it is as much the duty of the Nation to guard its own rights and its own interests as it is the duty of the individual so to do. Within the Nation the individual has now delegated this right to the State, that is, to the representative of all the individuals, and it is a maxim of the law that for every wrong there is a remedy. But in international law we have not advanced by any means as far as we have advanced in municipal law. There is as yet no judicial way of enforcing a right in international law. When one nation wrongs another or wrongs many others, there is no tribunal before which the wrongdoer can be brought. Either it is necessary supinely to acquiesce in the wrong, and thus put a premium upon brutality and aggression, or else it is necessary for the aggrieved nation valiantly to stand up for its rights. Until some method is devised by which there shall be a degree of international control over offending nations, it would be a wicked thing for the most civilized powers, for those with most sense of international obligations and with keenest and most generous appreciation of the difference between right and wrong, to disarm. If the great civilized nations of the present day should completely disarm, the result would mean an immediate recrudescence of barbarism in one form or another. Under any circumstances a sufficient armament would have to be kept up to serve the purposes of international police; and until international cohesion and the sense of international duties and rights are far more advanced than at present, a nation desirous both of securing respect for itself and of doing good to others must have a force adequate for the work which it feels is allotted to it as its part of the general world duty. Therefore it follows that a self-respecting, just, and far-seeing nation should on the one hand endeavor by every means to aid in the development of the various movements which tend to provide substitutes for war, which tend to render nations in their actions toward one another, and indeed toward their own peoples, more responsive to the general sentiment of humane and civilized mankind; and on the other hand that it should keep prepared, while scrupulously avoiding wrongdoing itself, to repel any wrong, and in exceptional cases to take action which in a more advanced stage of international relations would come under the head of the exercise of the international police. A great free people owes it to itself and to all mankind not to sink into helplessness before the powers of evil."
"I am sure it is not the desire of the United States to intervene in the internal affairs of Nicaragua or of any other Central American republic. Nevertheless, it must be said that we have a very definite and special interest in the maintenance of order and good government in Nicaragua at the present time, and that the stability, prosperity, and independence of all Central American countries can never be a matter of indifference to us.
The United States cannot, therefore, fall to view with deep concern any serious threat to stability and constitutional government in Nicaragua tending toward anarchy and jeopardizing American interests, especially if such state of affairs is contributed to or brought about by outside influences or by any foreign power. It has always been and remains the policy of the United States in such circumstances to take the steps that may be necessary for the preservation and protection of the lives, the property, and the interests of its citizens and of this government itself. In this respect I propose to follow the path of my predecessors.
Consequently, I have deemed it my duty to use the powers committed to me to ensure the adequate protection of all American interests in Nicaragua, whether they be endangered by internal strife or by outside interference in the affairs of that republic."
"The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government's authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries. A Commission appointed by the United Nations Security Council is at present investigating disturbed conditions in northern Greece and alleged border violations along the frontier between Greece on the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia on the other.
Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The Greek army is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it is to restore authority to the government throughout Greek territory.
Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.
The United States must supply this assistance."
"If the Middle East is to continue its geographic role of uniting rather than separating East and West; if its vast economic resources are to serve the well-being of the peoples there, as well as that of others; and if its cultures and religions and their shrines are to be preserved for the uplifting of the spirits of the peoples, then the United States must make more evident its willingness to support the independence of the freedom-loving nations of the area.
Under these circumstances I deem it necessary to seek the cooperation of the Congress. Only with that cooperation can we give the reassurance needed to deter aggression, to give courage and confidence to those who are dedicated to freedom and thus prevent a chain of events which would gravely endanger all of the free world."
"[T]he United States through the joint action of the President and the Congress, or, in the case of treaties, the Senate, has manifested in many endangered areas its purpose to support free and independent governments--and peace--against external menace, notably the menace of International Communism. Thereby we have helped to maintain peace and security during a period of great danger. It is now essential that the United States should manifest through joint action of the President and the Congress our determination to assist those nations of the Mid East area, which desire that assistance.
The action which I propose would have the following features.
It would, first of all, authorize the United States to cooperate with and assist any nation or group of nations in the general area of the Middle East in the development of economic strength dedicated to the maintenance of national independence.
It would, in the second place, authorize the Executive to undertake in the same region programs of military assistance and cooperation with any nation or group of nations which desires such aid.
It would, in the third place, authorize such assistance and cooperation to include the employment of the armed forces of the United States to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid, against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism.
These measures would have to be consonant with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Charter of the United Nations and with any action or recommendations of the United Nations. They would also, if armed attack occurs, be subject to the overriding authority of the United Nations Security Council in accordance with the Charter.
The present proposal would, in the fourth place, authorize the President to employ, for economic and defensive military purposes, sums available under the Mutual Security Act of 1954, as amended, without regard to existing limitations."
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge--and more."
"Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people. And, so help us God, that is exactly what a Republican president will do with the help of a Republican Congress.
It is further the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the illusion that a world of conflict will somehow mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony, if we just don't rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression - and this is hogwash.
It is further the cause of Republicanism to remind ourselves, and the world, that only the strong can remain free, that only the strong can keep the peace.
Now, I needn't remind you, or my fellow Americans regardless of party, that Republicans have shouldered this hard responsibility and marched in this cause before. It was Republican leadership under Dwight Eisenhower that kept the peace, and passed along to this administration the mightiest arsenal for defense the world has ever known. And I needn't remind you that it was the strength and the unbelievable will of the Eisenhower years that kept the peace by using our strength, by using it in the Formosa Straits and in Lebanon and by showing it courageously at all times.
It was during those Republican years that the thrust of Communist imperialism was blunted. It was during those years of Republican leadership that this world moved closer, not to war, but closer to peace, than at any other time in the three decades just passed."
"As we meet here today, we stand on the threshold of a new era of peace in the world.
The central question before us is: How shall we use that peace? Let us resolve that this era we are about to enter will not be what other postwar periods have so often been: a time of retreat and isolation that leads to stagnation at home and invites new danger abroad.
Let us resolve that this will be what it can become: a time of great responsibilities greatly borne, in which we renew the spirit and the promise of America as we enter our third century as a nation.
This past year saw far—reaching results from our new policies for peace. By continuing to revitalize our traditional friendships, and by our missions to Peking and to Moscow, we were able to establish the base for a new and more durable pattern of relationships among the nations of the world. Because of America's bold initiatives, 1972 will be long remembered as the year of the greatest progress since the end of World War II toward a lasting peace in the world.
The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy peace which is merely an interlude between wars, but a peace which can endure for generations to come."
"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent -- and I pledge to you my country's efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides."
"The conservative brings to reflection about policy - foreign and domestic - an irreducible respect for individual freedom, 'a suspicion of government that distinguishes him (or her) from liberals, and an irreducible commitment to citizenship that distinguishes him from libertarians. The conservative understands that the tensions between individualism and patriotism, between self-love and love of country, between realism and idealism, are permanent. Because conservatives do not expect a revolution in human nature they do not expect that the future will be very different than the past in basic ways. A contemporary American conservative will be as skeptical as the American founding fathers about the probability of a future free of the problems that have dogged past generations."
"Proposing a controversial vision of ideological and strategic victory over the forces of international communism, Reagan called for an end to complacency in the face of the Soviet threat, large increases in defense spending, resistance to communist advances in the Third World, and greater moral clarity and purpose in U.S. foreign policy. He championed American exceptionalism when it was deeply unfashionable. Perhaps most significant, he refused to accept the limits on American power imposed by the domestic political realities that others assumed were fixed.
Many smart people regarded Reagan with scorn or alarm. Liberal Democrats still reeling from the Vietnam War were, of course, appalled by his zealotry. So were many of Reagan's fellow Republicans, especially the Kissingerian realists then dominant in foreign affairs. Reagan declared war on his own party, took on Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination (primarily over issues of foreign policy), and trained his guns on Kissinger, whose stewardship of U.S. foreign policy, he charged, had 'coincided precisely with the loss of U.S. military supremacy.' Although Reagan lost the battle to unseat Ford, he won the fight at the Republican convention for a platform plank on 'morality in foreign policy.' Ultimately, he succeeded in transforming the Republican party, the conservative movement in America, and, after his election to the presidency in 1980, the country and the world."
"...it is time once again to challenge an indifferent America and a confused American conservatism. Today's lukewarm consensus about America's reduced role in a post-Cold War world is wrong. Conservatives should not accede to it; it is bad for the country and, incidentally, bad for conservatism. Conservatives will not be able to govern America over the long term if they fail to offer a more elevated vision of America's international role.
What should that role be? Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the 'evil empire,' the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America's security, supporting its friends, advancing its interests, and standing up for its principles around the world.
The aspiration to benevolent hegemony might strike some as either hubristic or morally suspect. But a hegemon is nothing more or less than a leader with preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain. That is America's position in the world today."
"Conservatives these days succumb easily to the charming old metaphor of the United States as a 'city on a hill.' They hark back, as George Kennan did in these pages not long ago, to the admonition of John Quincy Adams that America ought not go 'abroad in search of monsters to destroy.' But why not? The alternative is to leave monsters on the loose, ravaging and pillaging to their hearts' content, as Americans stand by and watch. What may have been wise counsel in 1823, when America was a small, isolated power in a world of European giants, is no longer so, when America is the giant. Because America has the capacity to contain or destroy many of the world's monsters, most of which can be found without much searching, and because the responsibility for the peace and security of the international order rests so heavily on America's shoulders, a policy of sitting atop a hill and leading by example becomes in practice a policy of cowardice and dishonor."
"But American political leadership is obviously far more important than any one individual, even the President. We need to continue to assert our interests through existing alliances such as NATO, numerous bilateral agreements, and through the ad hoc, informal coalitions we can create confronted with unacceptable behavior, such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Leadership also requires, most importantly understanding first what our own interests are, as described above, and then persuading others to follow our lead.
Nonetheless, political leadership on behalf of U.S. interests also implies the willingness to act unilaterally (or essentially unilaterally) when appropriate. Acting alone may not always be the most attractive option, and it should not necessarily be the instinctive first choice for an American President. It would, however, be a leadership failure of the most destructive sort to lead the United States into a future where our ability or our willingness to act unilaterally was constrained."
- "Protect the US and prevent further attacks against the US or US interests.
- Support the creation of an international political environment hostile to terrorism to dissuade individuals, non-state actors, and states from entering into or initiating support for terrorism.
- Deter aggression or the use of force against the US, allies, friends and partners, and defend their populations, forces and critical infrastructures.
- If deterrence fails, defeat aggression or the use of force.
- Prevent or control the spreading or escalation of conflict.
- Assist other instruments of national power as directed to encourage populations dominated by terrorist organizations or their supporters to overthrow that domination."
"We know that true peace will only be achieved when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve their own aspirations. ... Peace — peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government. Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan train and develop its own national army. And peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works."
"Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.
The United States will stand beside any nation determined to build a better future by seeking the rewards of liberty for its people. Free trade and free markets have proven their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty—so the United States will work with individual nations, entire regions, and the entire global trading community to build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity."
"AND THEN, of course, there is foreign policy, the area of American politics where neoconservatism has recently been the focus of media attention. This is surprising since there is no set of neoconservative beliefs concerning foreign policy, only a set of attitudes derived from historical experience. ... These attitudes can be summarized in the following 'theses' (as a Marxist would say): First, patriotism is a natural and healthy sentiment and should be encouraged by both private and public institutions. Precisely because we are a nation of immigrants, this is a powerful American sentiment. Second, world government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny. International institutions that point to an ultimate world government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion. Third, statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the history of the Cold War revealed. The number of intelligent men who could not count the Soviet Union as an enemy, even though this was its own self-definition, was absolutely astonishing."
"The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost. The success of freedom is not determined by some dialectic of history. By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice. In the trenches of World War I, through a two-front war in the 1940s, the difficult battles of Korea and Vietnam, and in missions of rescue and liberation on nearly every continent, Americans have amply displayed our willingness to sacrifice for liberty."
"Of all of the different views that have now come to be associated with neoconservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the United States could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy, and go on from there to democratize the broader Middle East. It struck me as strange precisely because these same neoconservatives had spent much of the past generation warning … about the dangers of ambitious social engineering, and how social planners could never control behavior or deal with unanticipated consequences. If the United States cannot eliminate poverty or raise test scores in Washington, dc, how does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti-American to boot?"
"The bottom line is that the neo-conservative theory of international politics that moved the invasion of Iraq has a power-based strand which emphasises big stick diplomacy and bandwagoning logic, and an idealist strand that calls for spreading democracy across the middle east and maybe even the entire globe."
"The other ideological 'birthmark' of the Bush White House is its neoconservatism. There is much nonsense in the talk about the supposedly near-Bolshevik orthodoxy of the 'neocons,' their alleged 'philosophy,' and the unanimity of their views. Any objective observer would find all of this unrelated to reality. Neoconservatism is at most a sensibility, a set of general beliefs, not a coherent doctrine, much less, in James Q. Wilson's words, 'a program of action.'"
"Of course, neoconservatives are far from being the first to emphasize the connection between the spread of liberty and U.S. security. The link had always been a major theme of U.S. foreign policy, including Jimmy Carter's human rights crusade and Ronald Reagan's fervent and so effectively expressed belief in the eventual victory of freedom over totalitarian tyranny. This leitmotif's most powerful expression was President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address, in which he let 'every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.' But the Bush administration reemphasized the urgency of this goal."
"As a heretical offshoot of liberalism, neoconservatism appealed to the same values and even many of the same goals--like, for example, peace and racial equality. But neoconservatives argued that liberal policies--for example, disarmament in the pursuit of peace, or affirmative action in the pursuit of racial equality--undermined those goals rather than advancing them. In short order, the heretics established themselves as contemporary liberalism's most formidable foes."
"As for the neoconservatives, they have taken their lumps over the war in Iraq. Nonetheless, the tenets of neoconservatism continue to offer the most cogent approach to the challenge that faces our country. To recapitulate those tenets one last time: (1) Our struggle is moral, against an evil enemy who revels in the destruction of innocents. Knowing this can help us assess our adversaries correctly and make appropriate strategic choices. Saying it convincingly will strengthen our side and weaken theirs. (2) The conflict is global, and outcomes in one theater will affect those in others. (3) While we should always prefer nonviolent methods, the use of force will continue to be part of the struggle. (4) The spread of democracy offers an important, peaceful way to weaken our foe and reduce the need for force."
"Almost as far back into history as we can look, there have always been some people who preached the cause of peace. Yet their words and gestures seem to have had precious little impact on a bellicose world. Quite often the champions of peace, instead of sticking to their convictions through thick and thin, ended up advocating war for a cause they considered right; others were pacifists only because they knew that in case of need their countrymen would do their dirty work for them."
"The neoconservative vision of American foreign policy provided the theoretical and policy content of the Bush Doctrine, which in turn underpinned the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and depose the leadership of Saddam Hussein. Although hardly himself a neutral observer, Charles Krauthammer's declaration that 'the Bush doctrine is, essentially, a synonym for neoconservative foreign policy' is one that commands widespread assent across the political spectrum."
"Neoconservatives view American omnipotence and leadership as a prerequisite for an orderly and peaceful world. ...
In their advocacy of American hegemony, neoconservatives express their theoretical antipathy to traditional balance-of-power politics. A hegemonic order led by the United States is viewed as clearly superior to a balance-of-power order. ... Rather than a prescription for peace, as most realists maintain, neoconservatives view balance-of power politics as both unnecessary and a hindrance to achieving American national interests, while America's preeminent position in the world obviates the need for traditional balance-of-power diplomacy. Seeing American power as essentially benign, they argue that it is unnecessary for other countries to be concerned about the global imbalance of power and conclude that a return to a multipolar balance-of-power would be a direct threat to both American security interests and international order."
"But I think what it is, it's an ideology-it's really an idealistic approach to things. But it's a combination of idealism and, if you will, brute force."
"The Founders fervently welcomed opportunities to promote liberty in the world, but they judged those opportunities in light of America's legitimate national interests and obligations and recognized that the success of liberty ultimately required stable institutions of constitutional government—what today we often refer to broadly as liberal democracy. Likewise, while it is important to understand the universal and even revolutionary implications of our principles, as a nation with sovereign responsibilities, it is not our objective—or our responsibility—to intervene in every case when our principles are invoked or to impose liberal democratic forms on the rest of the world.
When opportunities for advancing liberty arise, the United States is entitled (even obligated) to make prudent distinctions about commitments (such as cost, time, and manpower) relative to our interests and sovereign responsibilities, including the larger cause of liberal democracy. The principal duty this nation has toward the world is to remain strong and independent so that the United States can maintain the freedom to advance and, when necessary, defend freedom in the world.
The Founders sought to advance liberty not directly by imperial expansion or by using force to change other nations, but indirectly—even secondarily to our primary obligations and interests as a nation. America should promote and assist democracies and even prevent others from intervening with or imposing nondemocratic governments (implied in the Monroe Doctrine when the United States agreed not to intervene in Europe in exchange for Europe's not establishing European-backed monarchical regimes in South America). Otherwise—with strong encouragement and general support for the spread of liberal democracy—it should let particular peoples determine their own fate. This approach reflects our historical understanding of how best to uphold and vindicate the universal principle of human liberty."
"It is often said that the American Founders were isolationists and that the principle of their foreign policy was to withdraw from the world in favor of focusing solely on the home front. This fails to distinguish between a particular policy conditioned on the times and the permanent principles that underlie the policy and inform changing circumstances.
The Founders were neither utopian idealists—they strongly disagreed with the 'visionary, or designing men, who stand ready to advocate the paradox of perpetual peace' and hoped to 'soften the manners of men,' as Hamilton put it in Federalist 6—nor vulgar realists, relegating justice to the whims of the strongest. ... Theirs was a worldview that was both principled and practical, where the preeminent virtue of statesmanship was prudence: the practical wisdom and ability to relate universal principles to particular circumstances.
By implication, the Founders rejected modern approaches in American foreign policy represented in what today is called power politics, isolationism, and crusading internationalism. Instead, they designed a truly American foreign policy—fundamentally shaped by our principles but neither driven by nor ignorant of the place of necessity in international relations."
"Defining neoconservatism is no easy task given that its exponents deny that it's a systematic political philosophy. Neocons such as Irving Kristol prefer to characterize neoconservatism as a 'persuasion,' a 'mode of thinking,' or a 'mood.' At best, they say, it's a syncretic intellectual movement influenced by thinkers as diverse as Plato, Trotsky, and Hayek. Daniel Bell captured the syncretic nature of neoconservatism when he described himself as a 'socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.' On one level, neoconservatism certainly is a syncretic 'mode of thinking,' but I shall demonstrate here that neoconservatism is in fact a comprehensive political philosophy shaped most fundamentally by the ideas of Leo Strauss via Irving Kristol."
"...C. Bradley Thompson is certainly correct to reject the neoconservative claim that there is a principled gulf between philosophy and politics. Human beings can learn about what is true, good, and right and take actions to make their lives, societies, and political institutions better. But it is nonetheless possible to reject the claim that there is an unbridgeable gulf between philosophy and politics and still say that the philosopher should realize that the world might not ever listen. In other words, one can admit that, while it is possible for philosophy to change hearts and minds, it may nonetheless fail to do so. This admission does not justify neoconservatism, but it still should cause the theorist to be circumspect."
More About This Topic...
- American Foreign Policy: Interventionist Positions
- American Foreign Policy: Less-Interventionism Positions
- "A World League for Peace" Speech
- Second Inaugural Address
- Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine
- Contemporary Quotes on Noninterventionist and Isolationist Positions on American Foreign Policy
- Progressive and Liberal Positions on American Foreign Policy
- 20th Century Quotes on Noninterventionist and Isolationist Positions on American Foreign Policy
- Founding Quotes on Noninterventionist and Isolationist Positions on Foreign Policy
- State of the Union Address 1972