America was not, is not, and cannot be an isolationist nation. Our Founding Fathers did not create an isolationist nation; our Constitution does not advocate isolationism; and it cannot be otherwise.
During a recent Republican presidential debate candidate Sen. Marco Rubio accused Sen. Rand Paul of being an “isolationist.” The facts are Senator Paul has given no reason to believe he is an isolationist. While I have not yet made my decision who to support for president, I do have good reason to believe Senator Paul is very bad at communicating our Founding principles. On the other hand, I have doubts Senator Rubio even understands our Founding principles.
With all due respect to the conservative Senator from Tennessee, Senator Paul, I’ll indulge him a tip or two.
Contemporary topics of American foreign policy such as proxy wars, ongoing military hostilities, building coalition allies, confronting Islamic fundamentalists, engaging Putin’s growing influence, borrowing billions of dollars from China, energy dependence, etc. begs the question: What kind of foreign policy did our Founders intend, and is that possible in the modern world?
Many Americans claim we must have the most powerful military in the world, no matter the cost. That in fact, our Constitution compels such an undertaking. Senator Paul argued, bankrupting our nation on military spending is a greater threat to America’s security than threats we presently face from foreign enemies. Senator Rubio argued, we need not worry for bankruptcy if our country falls to a foreign enemy.
Here again, young Senator Rubio has some homework to do. America will never fall to a foreign enemy; if America falls, it will be from within. Just my belief, but I’m in good company on this score. The fate of America lies in the degree to which the electorate and the elected understand and embrace our Founding principles.
Was Senator Rand Paul right about bankrupting our nation with military spending? He was. But again, what a colossal missed opportunity for a teachable moment in front an ill-informed national audience!
To begin a discussion of America’s foreign policy as it was intended, we need to talk first about the underlying principles on which our country was founded: life, liberty, and property. Without these, our foreign policy has no little direction (Exhibit A: today’s rudderless foreign policy).
The right to one’s property is an unalienable individual right. Property includes one’s money, home, land, belongings, and one’s business, i.e. company. A business owner’s company is their property including the buildings, land, machinery, cash, patents, and contracts with trading partners. Trading partners may be domestic or foreign. Foreign.
Our Founders were sensitive to the liberties and property rights of individual business owners of U.S. companies. Colonial trade abroad was common and prosperous. Our Founders feared foreign alliances might hurt American export/import companies if the U.S. government goes around picking and choosing political allies. Given the many feckless and unpredictable policies of foreign nations, long histories of feuding rivals, as well as regime-changing uprisings, civil wars, and revolutions, picking and choosing permanent allies proves as futile as it is foolish; it also undermines individual property rights. Does the Constitution not limit the government from infringing individual rights?
When the U.S. government is picking and choosing political allies carelessly it is infringing on the property rights of individual American business owners, from mom and pop to large corporations. America wants prosperity, but not at the cost of individual liberty. We want national security, but not at the cost of individual liberty. The government NEVER gets to decide the cost of individual liberty without the consent of the people.
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” —Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Pennsylvania State Assembly, 1755.
Our Founders were not isolationists. Quite the contrary, they encouraged trade partner agreements and advocated diplomacy. Many of our Founders were owners of import/export businesses. Many of our Founders served as foreign envoys and diplomats. Our Founders were not isolationists; they believed in avoiding political and military entanglements. No permanent enemies; no permanent allies. If for the sake of immediate threats to our national security, temporary military alliances were tolerated if necessary.
But is this type of foreign policy antiquated and irrelevant in today’s modern world of mutually assured nuclear destruction, intercontinental ballistic missiles, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, cyber warfare, and Islamic fundamentalists on a suicide mission to initiate a world-wide apocalyptic Caliphate? It is not. And I’ll tell you why. (Afterwards, I’ll let George Washington tell you why.)
When our Founders codified the principles of our nation’s founding, those principles were based on the unchanging laws of human nature. This is the magic ingredient baked into our Founding. Human nature is always and forever unchanging. It is upon this foundation our Constitution rests—ever and always vibrant and compatible, as modern and relevant today as it was 240 year ago.
Hence, America is a nation with commercial trade allies, not permanent political and military allies.
Personally, I’d love to come to the aid of every nation under duress, tyranny, bullying, and persecution. When you have a powerful military, it’s easy to say, “Let’s go kick some a$$!” Or, “Let’s go bomb the crap out of them!” I get all that. But, let’s proceed with caution, reason, and consent. Not bravado. Let us be wary of the rights of millions of Americans whose property and livelihoods are infringed by such carelessness. Not to mention the very lives (life, liberty, property) of our sons and daughters in uniform.
As for ISIS. I believe they are an immediate threat to life, liberty, and property of our individual countrymen. Let Congress vote on a declaration of war. Then the Islamic fundamentalists, the Putins, the communist Chinese, Iran, and North Koreans will see the might and fury of the most powerful nation on the planet in a no-holds-barred machine of punishing destruction.
Let’s be honest, we are the most powerful nation on earth NOT because we have the largest military, but because our commercial PROSPERITY allows us to AFFORD raising and maintaining the largest military on earth.
Additionally, our individual liberties assure our country is virtually impenetrable to foreign military invasion. Frankly, I don’t think a Russian Army invading from our southern border could make it past Texas. America is absolutely amazing! I love her so. With that, I will turn it over to President George Washington…
“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exulted justice and benevolence.” (Excerpt, Farewell Address, 09-19-1796.)
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the others. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.” (The Writings of George Washington, 35:233. Ed. by John C. Fitzpatrick. 39 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-44.)
“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 engagement, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.” (The Writings of George Washington, 35:233. Ed. by John C. Fitzpatrick. 39 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-44.)
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