by Michael Maharrey
We are a political society primarily driven by our own, narrowly defined special interests. Not general principles.
Nowhere is that more evident than in U.S. foreign policy. We intervene in Libya to “protect civilians” and turn a blind eye to similar dynamics in Yemen because we consider that nation a reliable ally in the war on terror.
At some point, we need to develop some solid guiding principles, instead of relying on pragmatism to tug us around the international maze.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been struggling to redefine my views on foreign policy. As a former neo-conservative, I enthusiastically embraced the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I readily accepted the notion that military force serves as a legitimate tool for nation-building. And I still get goosebumps seeing projections of military power. I love fighter jets, tanks and big guns. Maybe that’s just a guy thing.
But it doesn’t take a doctorate in foreign relations to understand that U.S. policy has forged a tangled mess of contradictory alliances and obligations, and created a much more dangerous world. I’ve gradually come to accept that military intervention in foreign affairs typically causes more damage than good and that the whole concept rests on morally dubious grounds. Who am I to point a gun at another man’s head and demand he practice “democracy”?
This does not make me a pacifist. I believe in a vigorous defense. If attacked, respond with overwhelming force. As I tell my kids, avoid a fight if at all possible by every means at your disposal. But if you get forced into a position where you have to fight, fight to win.
This does not make me an isolationist. Non-intervention differs greatly from closing yourself inside a box and avoiding interaction with the world around you. I favor vigorous and open trade. This stands in direct contradiction to the concept of isolationism.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, I bought into the conventional wisdom on Ron Paul. He was pretty good on domestic policy, but a “nut-job” when it comes to foreign policy. But as I’ve really listened to what he says, as opposed to the media spin, and studied the world I live in today, I find he makes much more sense. Do I agree with him 100 percent? No. But I can no longer simply discount his foreign policy as quackery.
I hear this mantra all the time today. “I like that Ron Paul feller, except for his foreign policy.” I’m not even sure many who say that really understand his foreign policy positions. In fact, they line up pretty closely with stated positions of another president revered by most Americans – George Washington.
I wonder if Washington could get any traction in American politics today with this kind of foreign policy thinking? The following comes from his Farewell Address, delivered on Sept. 17, 1796.